Keep away from the Congolese…

IMGP3092Is the message which sits in front of my daily calendar and is a piece of good advice I’ve given myself (and taken) over the last month or so.  The practical consequences of this mean that I’ve been away from blogland. Silent but busy. Achieving a virtual/real life balance.

But I thought it was time to explain myself on this a bit more. Who are the Congolese? (you might be asking) For me, at the moment, the Congolese are those people (or places) real (or virtual) who are draining of time and energy and cannot fully be trusted to be working towards the same goals as me.  For a deeper understanding of Why Congolese? you need to read some history. Che Guevara to be precise.


Much of my life and many of my ‘plans’ are influenced by one Ernesto rev-layingGuevara de la Serna (better known to you as ‘Che’ – meaning ‘Buddy’) and it came to me recently that my online life was becoming like a guerrilla campaign and that in those terms I was in The Congo.  I shouldn’t be. I should be in Cuba. (Earlier posts explain this for those who are interested) So I’ve spent the last wee while in Cuba, and very nice it is too.

But I’ve broken radio silence just a) to remind you all that I am still alive and living in the real world and b) because I’ve been ‘active’ in a few online places that you might have missed. So if you have missed my contributions to virtuality – here’s a way to fill your boots without taking any more of my valuable time up!

I was ‘in conversation’ with Sue Price at her Nennius Blog – talking about my writer’s ‘journey’ in broad terms. You can find that HERE 

I’ve been semi-active in the launch of McVoices which is a new ‘wee kid’ on the blog block – a disparate (possibly at times desperate) collective of Scots and Scots based writers who hope that by adding their wee shout to the sum of blog shouts we may achieve a Hampden sized roar one day for the unvoiced Scots writer. (By which we mean those who do not get the mainstream contracts or marketing hype but nevertheless live and in some cases die by the pen – or keyboard!)  The idea was chewed over for some months by myself and the inestimable Mr McStoryteller Brendan Gisby, but when I went into the jungle he got his act together and DID SOMETHING about it.  Good old Brendan who achieves the Che Guevara accolade for May/June  ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant’    He’s tempted me out of the jungle on a couple of occasions to spread the word and my own thoughts on diverse issues.  And is generally working hard (as ever) on behalf of others to get voices HEARD.  Possibly because I had my head turned, he managed to take the ‘theory’ and convert it into practice and it seems to be working thus far.

Apart from that, as usual, I’m all work and no play and thus quite a dull fellow I expect.  But what can you look forward to from me in the near future?  Free sample of a work in progress called JOCK TAMSON’S BAIRNS for Learning Disability Week in June.  And then, before we all know it, it will be August and the eBook Festival will be upon us again.

Places where I’m ‘lurking’ at the moment include HoAmPresst Publishing,  Guerrilla Midgie Press and eBook Festival 2013 And since these are all virtual places, I’m always only a click away. If you tire of the fare on there – hey, you could always read on of my books. There are a good 20 out there one way or another. Something if not for everyone, then at least for most people.

bigalogoIn my ‘real’ world the launch of Ayton Publishing comes ever nearer.  I’m nearly 11 volumes into my first 32 volume collection of ‘Forgotten Fiction’ – copy editing, introduction writing and general obsessing over publishing and history on a daily basis.  I still can’t say whether the ‘launch’ will be this side of Hogmanay, or as late as February next year – that depends how firm I stick by my own advice of Keeping Away from the Congolese.


Reviewing the review…

An exercise in reflexivity?

Because I was a bit concerned about posting The Care Home review – see PREVIOUS POST –  (being as how it might not seem as upbeat as my usual ones) I contacted the author Lee Carrick (something one can do in this exciting revolutionary world) to get his permission  to put it out.  There’s nothing more destructive to a young writers confidence than a review out of the blue which they feel either misinterprets or simply damns their work, and because I feel that Lee has some real potential as a writer, lacking perhaps a bit of direction, I didn’t want him to be thus crushed. I know had I received such a review 30 years ago I would have gone and hidden (if not sulked) for a good few days.  But the inestimable Mr Carrick got straight back to me, thanked me for my review and advice, explained to me the circumstances in which this novel came to be written and generally was a good all round egg about it – showing great insight and never once telling me to bog off! Which is great because now I know more about his process and his goals in writing.  I know that his influences are not works I’ve read, so that I was potentially on sticky grounds suggesting it wasn’t ‘working’ for me.  It may ‘work’ for fans of Bukowski etc and who the hell am I to say it doesn’t fully work ‘for me.’ What does my view count for? It’s something I think we all have to think about as readers now.  I recently read a comment on a 19th century novel where the ‘reviewer’ baulked at how it wasn’t written as well as a contemporary novel, but once you get past that it’s interesting.  What rubbish.  Context is everything.  To be as ignorant as to condemn a work from 100 years ago because the grammar, style etc are not ‘a la mode’ of today is reminiscent of all the ‘blah’ that goes round saying all indie writing is ‘rubbish.’  It depends on your expectations folks.

So now I’m reflecting upon ‘reader expectations.’  I’m personally not a huge fan of the ‘new indie’ concept of ‘publishing’ work and then getting feedback and then making it better. Using a paying readership as your editor seems somehow to be going arse ways round to me.  When I invest time and/or money in a work I want to know I’m getting a) the best the author can write and b) their intentions (as far as they understand them.) But equally, given the opportunities of publishing afforded to the new writer, what else should they do? The Care Home reminds me that the writing ‘journey’ does take time.  Lee has already moved on from this story and adapted his writing style and developed in many of the ways I suggested – but he’s happy for my criticisms of the work ‘as it is’ to stand. He’s not about to go and rewrite it, (certainly not to order to my ‘expectations’)  but he’ll use the lessons learned to write something else, something more mature and coherent, something that will probably knock our socks off. And The Care Home will stand as a debut indie novel.  In the same way as the early Orwell isn’t a patch on the mature Orwell (I’m talking depth, coherence, purpose – Down and Out and 1984 are both great but one IS more complete/mature than the other) so Lee Carrick will develop beyond The Care Home. But he wanted to be published. Reasonable enough for a young writer in these days.  I mean, anyone can publish so why shouldn’t he?

My current assessment of ‘reader expectations’ in the indie ‘marketplace’, is thus (and will probably keep changing) that it is a place for everyone. In fact it is many places. It’s a place for young writers to experiment. It’s a place for oldies like me to put out their backlist. It’s a place for ‘niche’ or controversial or non mainstream writers to finally gain recognition from like minded folk.  It’s many, many things and expectations of the reader should be tailored accordingly. If you are looking for heavily edited, mainstream traditional accepted work, go THERE for your reading matter. If you are in ‘indie’ world/s you need to be a bit more proactive. It would be nice if price could be your guide (it can to an extent) I’ve noticed that as the market ‘matures’ many new writers put their work out really cheaply. This is because they lack confidence and perhaps experience and accept this and just want ‘a readership’ but don’t want people to feel they’ve wasted their money. That’s another reason for putting work out for free.  Experimental or off the wall writers also use this pricing structure, where the most important thing for them is to make their voice ‘available’ rather than try to cash in on the process.  It can be a political act, a social act or an act of personal confidence.  How is the reader to judge?

Many more writers are coming to understand that if you are working in the non-mainstream environment you will NOT become a multi millionaire. Some writers (usually genre writers or those with a following from previous traditional publishing) are making a decent living out of ebooks at the moment.  Many, many more are not. Some don’t care. Some are deeply angst ridden by this fact because they see ‘indie’ as a short cut to the fame and fortune which has eluded them by never getting ‘picked’ off the slush pile (or perhaps never entering the slush pile.)  A right to publish does not come with a right to fame and fortune and I think that most writers who engage in the indie process are fooling themselves to imagine it will.  We need to wake up to the hierarichical ‘market’ system and realise that most of us are at best foot soldiers.  Trying to replicate or hang onto the coat tails of the mainstream ‘market’ is not what it’s all about.  It’s about giving a voice to those who otherwise are silenced.

And this I think is a great thing.  But I still feel that a writer should have written the work to the best of their ability before they publish. That’s my personal view. I have read (and reviewed) a couple of books which, after feedback (and an amount of success) from many readers, the author has decided to re-version or re-edit.  Will I go back and read them again?  Maybe. But will I be happy to do so? No. Because when I read something I work on the basis of ‘author intentionality’ that the author has entered a pact with me and if I come back a year later to find a substantially ‘different’ or ‘corrected’ work then I just feel like they pushed the publish button before they should have. If I’m to be a ‘beta reader’ or a ‘guinea pig’ I’d like the chance to know that before I buy thanks.  Getting editorial feedback by stealth seems wrong to me. It also seems counter-productive.  I can re-read books I’ve loved time and again. But I don’t want to go back and read a ‘different’ version of something I’ve already read.  I’m not talking about typos and cleaning up grammar or whatever here, I’m talking about the ‘story’ or ‘narrative’ changing from one version to the other.  I just feel uneasy about that. I’m sure there are reasons for writers to do this, but I feel that in many cases it undermines the author. There are enough voices calling for indies to be ‘properly’ edited and authors using the paying reader to provide editorial comment – I find that somewhat odd and distasteful.

But maybe that’s just me. I accept there may be all kinds of reasons why authors ‘republish’ and ‘reversion’.  All well and good.  It’s just that for me time is valuable and I like to think I’m getting the ‘finished’ product.  I’m not as flexible as many other readers that way. Maybe I need to adapt my expectations. And to an extent I have.  Adapting my expectations in what I read has led to a real renaissance in my reading habits but I, like everyone am trying to work out how to gauge what I’m going to read in advance. The look inside feature is great, but increasingly one can find the beginning is great and then the ‘whole’ doesn’t live up to it. This is exactly what I used to find when working as a script reader. Writers were told that script readers only read the first 10 pages of a screenplay. So they made that 10 pages brilliant. And all too frequently the rest tailed off. That, to put it bluntly, really pissed me off. I always read ALL of every script and nothing annoyed me more than someone who clearly COULD write as their first 10 pages showed me, but who got lazy and didn’t complete the job. I’d rather have the honest try-hard than the lazy genius any day.  Starting a work (script or fiction) is not the same as completing it. Having a good idea is not the complete narrative. And the reader deserves the best the writer can give them ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

I may shrug my shoulders these days if I’ve got the ebook free (I rarely do this any more, I’ve been bitten too many times by the starts well, finishes up wasting my time syndrome) or under a quid, but I’m beginning to worry about pricing my own work this cheaply. I know there’s lots of good free/cheap writing out there but it’s getting swamped by the ‘other’ stuff.  And it seems the market which is more than saturated with free and cheap work  is selling itself as much less discriminate than the ‘market’ I want to reach. I want to reach readers who actually value the writing experience and expect depth, coherence and want to know that the author ‘intended’ what they wrote and could defend their position in a discussion about it.  If I place myself square in the middle of a market filled to the busting with works that are less ‘complete’ (to avoid the quality debate) then I’m not doing myself any favours am I? I’m not that bothered about the ‘royalties’ because I’m not a mainstream writer so I do not expect a ‘living’ wage from the work I publish. But I don’t want to sell myself cheap.  I don’t want by being ‘cheap’ to give the wrong impression.  The worker should be due his hire.

It is a very interesting debate. And an ongoing one.  Brendan Gisby, who runs McStorytellers and who published The Care Home, has a different and deliberate model. He prices cheaply so that voices are heard. He publishes work by those who would not find a mainstream publisher for a variety of reasons (none of them because the work is substandard). He is good at finding ‘voices’ that deserve to be heard and his own voice is worth much, much more than the 77p he charges you for one of his ebooks.  You are getting a bargain with McStorytellers. I understand why he does it.  And in fact maybe he has a smart model because you can buy the ebook and paperback version of most McStoryteller publications for under a fiver. And for those of us who still love paperback it offers the possibility to ‘try’ the ebook and if we like it also ‘buy’ the real book.  My main point though is that I think we need to be more transparent and educate readers as to pricing issues.  What price is free? What value does the author/publisher place on their own work and why?

While McStorytellers as publisher is championing ‘new’ and ‘unheard’ voices, I think that many writers who have been on the margins (or beyond the margins) of publishing for years, feel a bit sick about underselling their work as ‘bargain basement’.  It’s not about the money, by more about placing oneself   into a ‘market’ as wide as mainstream, but a market with less discrimination and the reputation for lower ‘quality’  that makes us think twice.  For sure it’s absolutely ridiculous to be selling ebooks at £5 or more but I think that that £3 mark is more acceptable and potentially this price point shows that a writer has ‘confidence,’ ‘experience’ and expects to be taken seriously.   Yes, their work may be niche, but that doesn’t mean it’s rubbish.  And it’s how the non mainstream author positions their work out there which is interesting to me.

As I said, my views on this constantly change. But I think reader expectation goes beyond the actual text.  Readers are becoming more ‘savvy’. Some just fill their boots with free because that’s what they like to read. Some are happy to pay for what they perceive as either ‘quality’ or something that accords to their own non-mainstream reading habits.  And the publisher (which is what the writer becomes when they press SEND on their file transfer) needs to work out which ‘readership’ they are aiming for.  Trying to do sums which say if I give them all away for a while then people will hear of me and loads will buy, or if I price it too high everyone will avoid me, are spurious.  We are all victims of the market. None of us can ‘predict’ it. This is a ‘free’ market. There is no ‘fair trade’ in writing. Perhaps there should be. I think the best that indie writers/publishers can do is to work out their pricing based on their principles and place their work in the pricing points they feel happiest in. Not where they hope to hit pay dirt, not where they feel ashamed and embarrassed or that they are selling themselves cheap.

Some great writers offer their work for free because of their unease at the whole ‘capitalist’ marketplace. I have great sympathy with these people.  But equally, writers who have earned a professional living and now turned indie may find it inordinately hard to justify writing and publishing time out of a life if they ‘give it away.’

Daoism teaches us that ‘the way that can be named is not the way’ and that each person’s path is individual so I’m not advocating anything for anyone, just opening the debate for each indie writer/publisher to think and re-think their publishing ‘strategies’ which includes pricing, visibility strategies etc.  I guess my ‘dream’ is that some indies would get the courage of their conviction and form niche groups which set price structures deliberately and can explain clearly to the reader why they do this.  At the moment the big boys have us running scared. They can put out ‘mainstream’ work at £7 or £8 for ebooks or they can drop the price to 49p. It’s very hard for the reader to work out what they are getting either by price or by visibility.  And the ‘indie’ who publishes before they are ready and then charges actually makes it hard for everyone. Indies need to try to protect the reputation of non-mainstream media. And we need to be our own gatekeepers. How hard that is when you are a new writer I can only imagine.

But on reflection I think it’s positive that McStorytellers published Lee Carrick’s ‘The Care Home.’ It got a monkey off his back, it gave him the chance to ‘enter the fray’ and sundry other opportunities including being subjected to my ‘views.’ At 77p I don’t think anyone should be asking for their money back.  And this is ‘voicing’ the unvoiced. Which is a good thing.   Would there were more publishers like McStorytellers who are committed to this rather goal than to making a buck and flooding the market and peddling unlikely dreams.  We have a long way to go in this revolution. Everyone needs to play their part. We need to keep talking about it. Not about ‘quality’ and ‘bad writing’ but about how to understand reader expectations and how to meet them.  About how to present ourselves to the readership in the best light, not just about how to achieve maximum visibility.   I have much, much more to say on this and I think it’ll probably come out during the Edinburgh eBook Festival in August.

Meanwhile, there are interesting things afoot with McStorytellers.  I’ll update you on that when the ‘cat’ is ready to come out of the bag. Soon.  But till then, enjoy the suspense.

Thanks Lee for taking constructive and well meant criticism so well and for giving me not just a story to think about but so much more. That’s what I mean by adapting reader expectation folks.  For 77p I not only got a novel but also much food for thought. 

Review of The Care Home

carehomeThis is in some ways an ‘expose’ of the Care Home system, but that’s not its central purpose. It is every bit as much one man’s story of trying to make it as a writer.  It’s hard-edged, gritty and not for the faint hearted. It is unrelenting and uncompromising.  It’s also, dare I say it, a bit unfocussed.

A decade or more ago when I used to read TV/Film scripts professionally, I came across ‘drug’ stories all too frequently.  There are many ‘stoners’ who think that writing a story about their experiences will be a cool thing to do (presumably post Trainspotting they felt it was an emerging genre) and without exception what all of these scripts had in common is that they looked like they were written not just by a ‘stoner’ but by someone who was stoned while writing. And since I wasn’t stoned while reading, they really didn’t work for me. It’s that good old bad old myth about all great writers being substance abusing addicts at core (which Lee Carrick also alludes to) which seems to be behind all this.  I could counter this claim quite easily with a list of ‘great’ writers who never took to the bottle or the medicine cabinet, but that’s for a blog post, not a review.  What I will say though, is that writing about drugs culture is actually quite hard to do well. Neil Rushton achieves it in Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Lee Carrick shows some promise in this field.

Anyone reading this novella will be shocked by the way that the elderly are treated in the Care Home (and indeed should be shocked) and at times the narrator crosses the boundaries of reader sympathy through his own actions. Can we excuse him because of the ‘drug dependence’? I don’t think so.  For me that’s another example of the drug culture excusing its own bad behaviour and it’s a shame because in general one has great sympathy for the young Carrick (we can only assume that as it’s a first person narrative, this is autobiographical to an extent). But he treads a difficult line because he’s showing how callous the ‘system’ is while occasionally straying over the line  into callousness himself. The ‘fiction’ and ‘fact’ don’t sit easily together in this story.  But Carrick can certainly write.  His narrative choices are less successful.  He seems to position narrator and writer as one and that ‘character’ doesn’t gain my sympathy.  I think it’s a mistake, maybe a naïve one but for me it spoils what is otherwise a potentially really important story.  Stuart Ayris  A Cleansing of Souls covers abuse in a much more sophisticated way.  I’d recommend Carrick (and others) to read both Ayris and Rushton if they want to find out how to work in this ‘genre.’

While the rawness and immediacy of the story works quite well, I feel that there’s a more significant story waiting to get out there.  I don’t normally write reviews as if they are script reports but in this case I’m going to make an exception because I feel the writer warrants it.  For me, if The Care Home focussed less on the narrator/authors ‘drug’ experiences and more on the iniquities of what happens at The Care Home, it would be a much better read and reach a much wider audience (which is what the narrator/author claims to want to do).  There are plenty of writers who use their own experience to ‘shock’ but I think that if Carrick aims more at Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ than being influenced by the ‘greats’ who have relied on drugs for their inspiration, and in turn inspire the ‘stoner’ brigade to write self reflexive, self absorbed material of no interest to any but themselves;  he would stand more chance of achieving a work which can grace the shelves of a bookshop.  Although of course maybe he should get up to speed on that front too – maybe he’d rather write ebook niche fiction. It’s his choice. He needs to find his niche or target his market. It’s his choice.  The e-revolution has made all things possible. No one holds you back these days.  McStorytellers has published this novella and they are gaining quite a reputation for ‘giving voice’ to the previously ‘unvoiced.’  But it’s fundamentally the writers choice what he writes and where he ‘positions’ it in the new infinite ‘marketplace.’  And this is perhaps the crux of my dissatisfaction with The Care Home. The narrator/writer seems to aspire to entering the mainstream but perhaps only to stick two fingers up to it. This is an immature reason for writing and hopefully Carrick the writer will shift purpose and aim to write great fiction.  I guess what I’m saying is that if the narrator/writer shifted focus and wrote about what he could put a unique stamp on and was really interesting to the rest of us – the Care Home system – instead of diverting us with the juvenile ‘drugs’ life-experience of a writer (not original and not that interesting) then he might really have something.  It’s definitely worth a read, it gives a voice to a potentially up and coming writer – but it’s largely down to Carrick himself which way he goes from this point on. There’s plenty of ‘could have been a contender’ stories out there.  With this under his belt, he needs to move on and really engage with writing something of substance. In my opinion.  He’s lucky  in one respect.  Ten years ago I would have been paid £50 for such advice. Today, he’s got it for free!

The Care Home is available in Kindle (and paperback) formats.

Reviewing for Reading Between the Lines Collective smallREADING

May 1st – I’m going back to Cuba.

The analogy I’m working here will probably be impenetrable to many and possibly most, if not all, but the epiphany came over the weekend and I have Viv (and Jan who brought Viv) to thank for it.

I learned a lot of things last weekend and one of the most important (I probably knew it but had forgotten it, put on the bottom of the pile of ‘things you know but don’t think about enough’) is this:

Sometimes in trying to explain yourself, you find yourself.

Now. In any ‘real’ sense I am not lost. I have not been ‘lost’ for years and I’ve been very happy with where and who I am for a good 10 years now.  But I realise that in a ‘virtual’ sense I’ve been more lost over the last year than I understood.  I was busy working my way down one path and I’ve been ambushed and hijacked. And held at times, against my will.


teaching in the jungle

Time for the analogy to kick in. While explaining to Viv (at length, that’s the way I do it folks) something about Che Guevara – something beyond my familiar ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant’ mantra, I realised something.  I’m in the Congo. I’ve been in the Congo for quite some time. And in the Congo Che got a bit of a thrashing.  And the next step after the Congo was Bolivia. And we all know how that ended. Not well. Not unless you call getting shot in the leg, then murdered and becoming an immortal poster icon well. Personally I don’t.

And I’ve often wondered why Che didn’t just stay in Cuba. The revolution was successful there. Why move on?  Some of my thoughts (answers?) to this question were explored in my screenplay FIGHTING FOR BREATH which you can download for free  for all ebook formats. But there’s more to it.

I’m still thinking about exactly what it might be. But this weekend I realised that sometimes, when you’ve achieved what you set out to, going and trying to adapt it elsewhere won’t always work.


happy days.

The Cuban revolution was successful even though essentially it was started by 12 men (and a boat) Sucessful because a) the conditions were right b) the people were right and c) the timing was right.    But once you ‘achieve’ your lifetime goals and you are not at the end of your life, you have to work out what to do.  You could choose to stay in the sun enjoying life. But more likely you’re going to try and follow through on the achievements. In Che’s case this meant getting more heavily involved in economics and finance than possibly either he or I would ever be happy doing. In my case it meant sorting the wheat from the chaff directionally in my creative life and working out how to keep on the path I believed in without falling into an elephant trap.  There are ‘commitments’ for the true revolutionary when the revolution has succeeded, and seems to me that both Che and I made a wrong choice. We thought we should ‘move on’ and try and make it work again somewhere else rather than stay put and keep making it work where we were. Why? Well that’s a bigger question I’m still working on.

The commonality I now see is that we  both ended up in the Congo.  Che made a more obvious choice to do it – but I’m beginning to understand on a deep level why he did. And I think it was a mistake.  The conditions were not right. The timing was not right and the people were not right.

In the Congo, the Cuban guerrillas had a hell of a job a) dealing with the ‘leaders’ of the resistance locally and b) training the Congolese.  An abiding memory (obviously I don’t remember the actual thing, I mean a memory of my reading of the ‘story’ of it through biography/diary) is of a particular battle where the Congolese all juiced up on the drug they took which guaranteed them ‘immortality’ were on the front line and the experienced Cuban rebels were behind them. As soon as the enemy started firing the Congolese lost their nerve and ran – firing their weapons indiscriminately – back through their own ranks, killing some of the Cubans.


a revolutionary in disguise

I have felt like that too many times over the last year. Too many times when I’ve tried to engage in the ‘world’ of indie publishing I’ve found that far from being a group of revolutionaries all aiming for the same thing – to give a voice to the unvoiced, to get new voices and ideas out there, to take the means of production into our own hands and create a new, revolutionary order in publishing – too many times has the response been the literary equivalent of coming under ‘friendly fire.’    Now I can equate that to ‘being in the Congo’ I personally feel much happier about it.

And it’s given me a depth of understanding. I have some very specific beliefs about publishing and indie publishing. And ethical standards. And a whole world view.  It’s NOT a political view such as Marxism. It’s not even my own personal anarchic view. But it is complex and coherent and one I will not bend from.  And it increasingly seems that others only buy into some parts of it.


a revolutionary in the making

For me (thus far) there has been no moment such as Che experienced when he first met Fidel Castro. No moment when more than one person has come together and truly committed to what I  believe could BE the e-revolution.  Everyone has their own angle.

I’m not trying to force people to my way of thinking. But I thought I might find other likeminded individuals who would be interested in taking on the guerrilla fight.  This hasn’t transpired.  And that makes me conclude that unless I could find the ‘cadres’ who are willing to give their all in a cause they believe in – I am stuck in the Congo.  Stuck in a place where there are a few likeminded and dedicated pe0ple, but no common purpose – and a lot of friendly fire and ‘enemy’ fire.  The fight is not worth taking on in the Congo, is my conclusion for myself and for Che. He shouldn’t have stayed there as long as he did. And he should NEVER have moved on to Bolivia.  Even less were the conditions, timing and people right there.  It took Bolivia some 40 years (and Hugo Chavez) to understand what Che was trying to achieve.   Bolivia was where Che’s life ended. He didn’t deserve to die there. His cause was just but dying for it in a place where people didn’t deserve his efforts was the ultimate waste in my mind. And it’s not a mistake I’m going to repeat if I can help it.


a revolutionary at leisure

So, on this day, May 1st I’ve made a unilateral declaration of intent to myself (and anyone who can work through the analogy) which is that I’m GOING BACK TO CUBA and I’m NOT going to be tempted into believing that any time in the future I should leave Cuba and head for Bolivia to try to engage others in my personal view of the e-revolution.

I am happy in Cuba. I must now do the creative work I know is my contribution to the e-revolution IN CUBA and not go out into the international arena trying to engage others in ‘the cause.’  Anyone who wants to join in ‘my’ fight will have to come to Cuba for training. I’m NOT going back to the Congo and I’m definitely not going to Bolivia to help people out. I’ve been the wrong side of a virtual lynching enough times now. And I just know there’s someone out there with a carbine trained on my leg. And ready to shoot me dead.

At that point Che is reported to have said ‘shoot coward, you are only killing a man’ and I respect that view.  However ,the one area where Che and I diverge are that I am an out and out pacifist (I’m lucky, culturally I come from a situation where I can maintain this moral stance) and do not have to compromise my ‘principles’ for a greater cause. Che and Nelson Mandela were both in such situations in their lives that they had to adopt an armed struggle to achieve the greater goals. I don’t. And so I won’t.  I won’t pick up a weapon.  I know the fate of pacifist people.  They also get shot.  And when they come to shoot me, I hope I will also have the courage to say ‘shoot coward…’  but I’m not going looking for them. They’ll have to come find me.  And as we already know, I’m pretty invisible in cyberspace. I’m going to turn that to my advantage from now on.


Dead. A life wasted.

And in case it seems like I’ve shot myself in the leg/foot here. I haven’t.  I’m going to do more valuable work here in Cuba.  It’s what Che should have done. Then he too might have made it to 80 instead of being murdered at 39!

I don’t apologise for this extended analogy being incomprehensible to most.  There are places you can go to make more sense of it.  All of my writing to some extent.  But here are the most apposite.

A Fishing Line – expounds my ‘view’ of life and economics.

Another World is Possible – explores a fictional version of what could have been my life.  I had insight at that point. I realised that I might have suffered Roisin’s fate had I note chosen ‘Cuba’ as my resting place. Roisin and Che died at 39. I didn’t. I should remember that and remember the reasons why!!

Brand Loyalty – which is ‘my’ Cuban Revolution. Again in one respect its another fictional version of an aspect of my life (projected into my 70th year) which really explores a world view from a personal and more universal aspect.  And the lessons I learned from Che and from Orwell while writing this are lessons I should have learned. Yet, like Che, I moved on from that successful revolution, thinking I could replicate it elsewhere. And ended up in the Congo.

If you are really interested in exploring what I’m talking about then you’d need to read those works (and I’d be happy to discuss them with anyone as part of my ‘revolutionary creed’). They are not just ‘stories’ to be enjoyed. They are more than that.

If on the other hand you think that Che Guevara was a bloodthirsty terrorist and Cuba is a communist dictatorship then I can only wonder why you’ve read this far, and suggest that it’s not worth engaging in comments with me from your perspective. Because you are a Bolivian. And I’m not going to Bolivia.  And I’m trying to keep away from the Congolese as well thanks.  But I’m happy to chat with ‘Cubans’ any time.

And for the visual learner – here is my short film on Che from 1999

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