The Storyville of life…

We’re more than half way through the 5o days of celebration and the mood has changed…   This is now a celebration of quite a different kind. Of coming to an understanding. Of a realising of personal truths.

I recently watched a couple of chilling but interesting episodes of Storyville, both of which obliquely reference my novel Brand LoyaltyGoogle and the World Brain is about as close to a description of my fictional Ultimate® Corporation as I’d like to come  and We are Legion is just the sort of thing I envisaged The Immortal Horses as being.

Of course, when I published Brand Loyalty in 2010 after some 15 years of trying to find ‘the medium’ to display the message through – having been told in the 1990’s by Channel 4 that it was ‘too dark’ a view of the near future,  nothing happened. I sold the best part of 100 paperbacks but hey, that’s not going to change the world now is it?

In 2012 when I published it as an ebook I did derive some pleasure in achieving the dizzy heights of reaching #1 in political fiction both in US and UK on Amazon– though I did have to give the book away to achieve this.  I got several hundred downloads.  It felt for a moment though like I’d struck a blow into the heart of the evil empire.  It was a personal ‘Star Wars’ moment.  But one cannot live on such victories when one knows (because George Orwell has told us)  that we are all doomed from the moment the clock strikes 13.  After all, who knows how many people actually read it.  The pigs in the trough tend to love to download for free but that doesn’t mean they’ll read what they download.  I’ve had largely good reviews (and those things called reviews on Amazon) and a few interesting personal discussions out of it.  And life goes on.

I tend to live in the moment and so I don’t revisit ‘old’ work’ when it’s ‘finished.’ But from time to time things come back at you. And Storyville, as well as giving me the chills, did remind me that Brand Loyalty had a point beyond the personal and is not that far off the mark from where we are now.  Time to batten down the hatches. Time to remind myself that my position on all this is ‘I’ve checked out.’ That the most radical thing you can do is be a non-participant.  Here at home we remind ourselves of  this daily with the mantra ‘never leave the mountain.’

Tennyson in his great poem Ulysses, which I find a great comfort to me on many levels, wrote ‘I am a part of all that I have met’ and I find that whatever one ‘meets’ in the sphere of  what one might loosely call ‘culture’ or perhaps ‘creativity’  acts as a kicking off place to something else, and through watching Storyville I found out about an H.G.Wells story that tempts me.  It seems like it may be akin to Dennis Potter’s last works in the sense of a kind of ‘railing against the light’ (is that Dylan Thomas?) So now I’m on the hunt to unearth more of the later writing of H.G.Wells, specifically ‘Mind at the End of its Tether’ which (because Wells is still in copyright till 2016) isn’t an easy thing to get hold of cheaply.  In my final research for Brand Loyalty I read the complete 20 volumes of George Orwell (correspondence, journalism, diaries and fiction) to try to get to grips with the mind of the man who wrote Nineteen eighty four.  I found a lot of interesting ‘by products’ from this research.  Particularly in terms of vegetable growing! And views on the broadcasting media. And how little really changes over time.  Which became central to Brand Loyalty.  The Ultimate® world may be bright and shiny on the surface, a haven of consumerism which seems completely unlike the grim dirty world of Nineteen Eighty Four but the totalitarianism of consumerism (and indeed of global capitalism) are fundamentally the same.

With my interest in Wells reignited through Storyville, now I need to look back and see what Orwell and Wells thought of each other. I am somewhat disconcerted by the fact that most of the writers I respect and value seemed, at the end of their lives, to have given up all hope on society.  Orwell and Dennis Potter had both signed the death knell for optimism of a society that could work and now Wells seems to have joined the happy crew.  Under their influence I suppose, I have come to this position (I hope) long before my death and sometimes it’s hard to live ‘in’ the world with that feeling. Well, it’s pretty much impossible, which is what Brand Loyalty is about I guess.  Its central tenet is that freedom only exists outside of society and when you keep your head below the parapet. That living in a world of isolation with only memory for reality is actually a better option than being a ‘participant’ in modern society.  That there is a substantial difference between personal and social identity and we’d do well not to forget it. That ‘reality is what you choose to believe.’

So what conclusions can I draw from all of this? Simply I suppose that the impact and influence of fiction/literature (because I believe the distinction is somewhat contested, contextual and political) on my life have and continue to be immense. And that’s why I write. It’s why I blog. It’s why I want to communicate with other people.  It’s why I use Facebook and Twitter (when I have to) as ‘tools’ rather than as ‘social media’ I am not a social being. I am an individual. Well, most of the time now I’m an ASIN in my dealings with the outside world. But behind all that, dear reader, there is a real person.  And who I am as a real person is tied up with my reading and writing. That’s the way to get to know me.

My goal in the 50 days of celebration was to put myself ‘out there’ one last time, to see if I could ‘hack it’ as a social being. As I hit the 25 day mark half way through the ‘celebrations’ I realised how pointless this was. It wasn’t working. I wasn’t ‘making new friends.’ It gave me a wobble for a moment then I realised it was actually the answer to a deep question I’ve been asking for a while about ‘social media’ and the construction of social identity.  Social media is not for me as an individual. I resist ‘constructing’ myself into an internet/social identity. I’m the original wsiwyg person.  No side, no artifice, no agenda, I’m the same person online as I am in the flesh. And as such I find I’m pretty uninteresting to those who are social media types. (if there is such a type!) It seems to me that online (and perhaps in real life) most folk only want to engage with you when they are pulling you into ‘their’ narrative. You become a part of their ‘story’ for a while. A bit part player in their drama. Me, I want to know my friends. I care about them, I want to work with them, help them, enjoy their company for who they are, not as part of my personal story.  I know the difference between their lives and mine and I see them as more than manifestations of my own sense of self.  (or human resources to help me on my way!)

The fact that very few people want to engage with me in cyberspace should be depressing, but after watching Storyville I actually find it quite reassuring. I needed to remember that blogging as much as everything else on the internet is essentially publishing and therefore I now plan to stick with F.Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum ‘write because you have something to say, not because you want to say something.’  It’s a good rule of thumb.  Even for social media I think.

Who I am is tied up with what I read, what I think and what I write.  Only a few people are interested in that combination.  Which is fine. I’m no longer going to try and reach out to the others. I’m going to stay up on the mountain and read and write and think and live my own life. And when there’s something worth saying, I’ll publish it on an appropriate medium.  And people can read it or not.  I will be the butterfly flapping its wings in the forest. The rest of you are the world. It’s not for me to say what the impact short or long term of my wing flapping will be (or through Guerrilla Midgie of my ‘buzzing’). My only job in life is to be myself.  And be true to that person not to recreate an identity to suit ‘the market’ or ‘the times.’   I wonder what would Orwell have said of the internet?  Or H.G.Wells? What will the future say about this present when it is the past?

To my mind we are all like ripples in the water, as insignificant yet  part of a vital  life force, and if we’re not in the main flood of the tide we are still valuable though we don’t create as big waves.  As Martin Luther said ‘Here I stand, I can do no other!’ How true Martin, how true. That most forgotten of Romantic poets John Clare said something similar ‘I am yet what I am none knows or cares.’    I’m still here. You know where to find me if you want to know who I am.

To find out more about Brand Loyalty click on the novels tab at the top of this page.  Remember, ‘in the Ultimate® world reality is what you choose to believe.’ 


About callyphillips

5 Responses to The Storyville of life…

  1. Jan Needle says:

    if you had an arm like mine, cally, you wouldn’t be able to write so much! it’s a lot better today, but still dicey, so i’ll be brief. is not the real lesson of social media perhaps the wonderful title of that welshman’s novel (i can’t remember his name, which is infuriating) ‘The World Cannot Hear You’? but some people do hear, almost by accident sometimes, and that might be what it’s all about. i can hear you, and have been enriched by it (jesus, that sounds like the guardian!). so keep it up, old bean, if only for me. wow, there’s selfish.

    i’m glad you liked my present – i hope you like the books. hornblower would have hated them, as you’ll find out pretty soon, and that was the starting point. h/b and his clones were all fourteen year old blonde and courageous midshipmen, of amazing nobility, who became nelson. i wanted to start with a blonde and courageous fourteen year old midshipman in a brutish and brutal world to see what really might have happened. sex too. nelson fell in love with a woman who trekked from cheshire to london to make a viable life through whoring of one sort or another. and when he died, despite ‘leaving her to the nation’ she was kicked out of society, and left to die in the gutters of calais. wait until you meet William’s Deb.

    ah, social media. i didn’t understand your comment on my facebook wall, which just goes to show how far i am behind the curve (guardian again; they’re cliche crazy in a pompous sort of way). i must have made a comment in the wrong place, i suppose, but i can’t remember what it was so i’m totally cornswoggled.

    (and i still don’t understand what flash fiction is…)

    (but i have just finished reading my first hilary mantel book – beyond black – which is astonishing. she doesn’t care. she’s ORIGINAL. there’s always someone, isn’t there? and wells is out of copyright soon. now that’s a thought)

    keep writing, ms phillips. you’ve made my arm hurt!

    • fear not Jan. Nothing will stop me writing. I may just stop telling people about it (which the majority will doubtless be very happy about!) I’m still here, they just need to make the effort to come find me. Keep taking care of the arm. We’d hate you to become armless!!

  2. Mari Biella says:

    Cally, this pretty much sums up my own feelings about social media and the thing called ‘networking’. I haven’t been doing it long, but I’ve found endless ‘contacts’, some ‘acquaintances’, and only a small handful of people I’d consider ‘friends’ – people who I’m genuinely interested in, who are saying something that I really can engage with. Making friends is a slow process, but it’s far more rewarding than having hundreds or thousands of faceless, unmemorable ‘contacts’.

    Twitter, for me, is like one big echo chamber. Facebook is little better. This doesn’t bother me anymore; I’ve embraced my own insignificance. We can only do what we feel we have to do; it’s not worth worrying too much about what other people will make of it, or of us. ‘Here I stand, I can do no other’ sums that up perfectly!

    • Totally agree. I’ve kissed enough frogs on the internet to know that handsome princes are few and far between. BUT one can find ‘real’ friends virtually as well – one just has to look hard and apply real life rules! Good to know you.

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