Project Fair Isle 1

March 28 2023

RIDE INTO THE DANGER ZONE

by Kevin Burnett

As Cruise Announces Presidential Candidacy, Meet the Real Top Gun.

It is a cold winter morning in January when I meet at his home for the first time, in a town whose name I am under no circumstances to divulge. He makes me feel warmed and welcomed while I sit at his kitchen table with a mug of tea, listening to the plinking-plonking atmospheric music on the stereo and looking around at the minimalist bareness of the walls. When he sits down with his own cup of tea and sets an Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee ashtray on the table, he surprises me by broaching the topic of the up-coming American Presidential election first.

Most important figures in the world of politics are open about their achievements, but where he is concerned, I assumed there would be some reluctance. Few members of the public – almost none, in fact – know who Michael Suzuki is or what he has done to influence the current face of American politics.

The campaign for the United States 2024 election commenced last Friday with the official announcement of the presidential candidate short list. Heading on the trail in the first step of the world’s single longest job application process for the Democratic Party are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Harris, who is already tipped by opinion polls to be the favourite, is running on a ticket of hope and restoration following eight years of a tumultuous Republican leadership. President Leopold Matthews is set to run for re-election against undeniable opposition; his approval rating has been stuck at a 27% trough for the last six months. According to the GOP, his advisers have urged him to use his last year in the oval office towards reassessing the strict gun control laws fearfully rolled out in 2019. Stealing the limelight however was the announcement of President Matthews’ opposition, sixty-year-old actor and entrepreneur Tom Cruise. “I’m excited, totally excited to steer this sinking ship to safe land. I just can’t wait,” the five foot seven inch tall Edge of Tomorrow star declared at his press conference on Saturday.

Considering even for a moment that the rumoured immortal will be given the opportunity to guide America out of the danger zone in over a year’s time, as he already believes, the issue isn’t so much whether he will be qualified for the job should he run a successful campaign (he isn’t), but whether the American people are prepared for the climate that will come of the campaign itself. It’s a sign of the legacy bought by the election in 2016 of a president who fed off press attention like a demon off all things good in the world yet bought the outlets to control its tone that this is a question we must ask. It’s the result of a campaign so dubious yet so scandalously successful that such candidates as Cruise can no longer be written off. Thanks to the forty-fifth president, whose name is cursed and so will only be called ‘David Hoope’, we have to ask the American voting public if they have the fortitude to weather this coming election year.

Like a hazy cough syrup nightmare, we seem to have forgotten the upheaval that has dogged President Matthews every step of the way. Since the 2018 assassination that placed him in the presidency, following the federal investigation that removed every felonious apple from Congress, every move he has made has displayed severe paranoia. His emergency surgery approach promised future security during the legitimising 2020 election and it was his moves to repeal pro-discrimination bills and reinstate and improve Obama’s Affordable Care Act that won him many friends with governors and citizens on the other side of the aisle, but with the blanket ban on guns, Orwellian internet surveillance and draconian immigration laws, the fact is that his every action comes not from duty to his people, but out of fear that one of them, dissatisfied, will unseat him.

It has made his leadership frenetic at best, made worse by the American news networks’ aim to keep the people oblivious. As Internet surveillance was heightened, at one point reaching a degree that people posting their grumbles about the president in one hour were being interrogated over the phone by federal agents in the next, the news was not focused on breaches of civil liberties but on President Matthews’ first state visit with French President Emmanuel Macron. As Matthews left empty details on Twitter about his plans for healthcare reform, Fox News anchors expounded on every character rather than livestreamed instances of British travellers being dragged off US-bound flights, apparently due to ‘overbooking’. Every opportunity that arose for Matthews to correct these disparities through the only outlet which, thanks to the 2017 Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE) Act, is law-and-duty-bound to remain unfiltered were flatly eschewed. This has drawn a disturbing parallel to his predecessor Hoope; as unprofessional and dangerous as he was, as much as he trained the media to listen to his Twitter feed, his penchant for oversharing at least gave the public something to work with. It’s this cowardice that will condemn his re-election campaign before it begins.

This era of news stories lacking in substance, lacking in facts in favour of ideology and emotive rhetoric in fact, were birthed almost entirely in the crucible of Hoope’s campaign of distraction, information control and empty promises. Just as news of Hoope’s assaults and various lawsuits were waylaid by FBI investigations into Democratic opposition Hillary Clinton’s e-mail correspondence as recently as one week before the vote, reports on the president’s sudden death were overwhelmingly sentimental, full of commemorations lingering on his virtues. It happened during a state visit to Glasgow, the attack itself was caught on film in sickening detail, but five years on, shockingly little else of the assassination has been allowed to reach the public. News reporters who openly asked after the identity of the murderer or their motives were taken aside and told to report on the federal investigations into the foul play in Hoope’s now-gone administration. Investigative journalists who asked to give more than a five-hundred-word review were given profiles to make on the potential replacement. The public, starved for information and seeking retribution for the death of their Commander-in-Chief as well as the integrity of the Oval Office, were assured that the United States would not seek war with the United Kingdom; if the assassinator was sold to the US to make that assurance possible, nothing of it was stated. It was simply out of character. The public went as far as to petition numerous organizations from the CIA to the Secret Service, to accuse them of burying the information, but not one of them would engage.

I sit before Michael Suzuki having learned for myself that, had he not murdered the president, current President Matthews would not be running for a second term. He would not have won a first term on the promise of regaining the security and certainty robbed of the American people by the assassination. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would not be pledging to end the paranoia that has slowly leeched the people of their freedoms in favour of Matthews’ personal safety. Had he not run such a shaky administration, Cruise would not feel as though he had a chance.

Now twenty-five years old, Michael was a few months shy of twenty-one when he pulled the trigger on August 6 2018, often euphemised and commemorated today as ‘8/6 day’. I was surprised myself to learn that he was even alive, but in a neutral country and under an assumed identity, he lives what he believes to be a lifetime exile thousands of miles from his hometown in Sheffield, England. He holds steady employment in an ordinary job with access to wider society. More than many people in fact, he maintains a steady relationship with a partner he refuses to allow me to meet. He doesn’t tell me that this partner doesn’t know who he used to be, but I assume that is the case.

Michael is a secretive, guarded man. His freedom today depends on no one making a connection between his past deeds and his current persona. When we talk, it is always at his home while his partner works. He always takes every photograph off the walls and hides them away where I can’t see them. The odd music he plays on the stereo, he tells me, is weaponised sound; it is designed to disrupt electronic recording devices and wiretaps, ‘just in case’. He lets me write everything down, but I never leave without allowing him to read through my notes. There are still things he refuses to tell me no matter how often I promise to keep it off the record. He knows divulging to the press like this is risky, but I like to think we have an understanding now. Although I found and approached him with this mission, he agrees that the time is past due to give the public the truth. He agrees that this environment of ‘truthiness’ would fit a second campaign like Hoope’s to a T; after all these years, the last thing he wants outside of outright validation is for his crime to mean nothing.

I waste no time in asking, in no uncertain terms, the most important question. ‘Michael, why did you kill the American president?’

‘Why does anyone get involved in other people’s business?’ he asked. ‘The American people were running out of options. They couldn’t think a bad thing about their Commander-in-Chief without facing the consequences. Warning them with facts didn’t work anymore, so someone had to reset the clock.’

To that, I asked him the second most important question. In the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, following the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, many people refused to believe that he was a lone gunman. Conspiracy theories were built on the premise that, while he stood alone on the Grassy Knoll, he was put there by a group or organization. Oswald, however, planned and executed the plot alone.

‘Were you working alone?’ I asked.

Michael shook his head, ‘the situation was very complicated. If I’m honest, the idea to do something about David Hoope wasn’t even my idea to begin with.’

As Michael Suzuki continued to tell me and I will continue to tell you, the story of how he came to stand in George Square began a scant year before as an undergraduate student at the University of Sheffield, on the night he joined an unassuming little club known as the ‘Knitwear Society’.


 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

© 2017 Kevin Burnett, ‘Burnit Write’

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(09/03/17) Part 1: In Absentia

Maintaining a blog is a difficult thing, especially a blog about writing. Things happen in your writing journey that makes you consider making an update, but the concern that you have nothing worthwhile to say, that you will make promises you cannot keep, causes you to reconsider. The anxiety stays your hand.

In short, I am aware that it’s been seven months since my last word; it’s for this reason that today’s blog will be in two parts.

When I last spoke about NoHoper 2nd ed., I was more than one thousand words into chapter 7 of 21 planned chapters. I am now more than two thousand words into chapter 21 of 23 planned chapters, putting the story at more than 141,000 words long. Since these remaining three chapters are already so precisely planned, I’m actually fairly confident I can have the first draft finished by the end of this month; the only thing that could prevent that is if I choose to pause writing for some reason. Considering that I’ve had assessments to complete over the last semester at the same time (one reason for my absence) and I had surgery on my left wrist on November 21st and wrote chapters 10-16 entirely one handed, my progress has been pretty impressive.

The real issue now, in fact, is planning what happens after finishing the NoHoper 2nd ed. first draft. Go to Part 2: Abhinc for more.

–Ruin Dun Burnit

(31/08/16) A Short Update

It has been a full two months since I officially began the first draft of NoHoper 2nd ed. If you remember, the last time I spoke a month ago I was one sentence into Chapter 2. Now? I’m more than a thousand words into Chapter 7, and the story is more than 32,000 words long. Of course, there’s a few things to keep in mind with this:

Firstly, a lot has changed in the plan between the 1st and 2nd edition. Gaps have been filled in the House of Night canon to apply strictly to the inner workings of the story. By the time I get to writing certain chapters, I’m rarely looking at the original copy; if I keep a line or two from the 1st ed., it’s either because they stood the test of time or because I think you’ll appreciate them.

Secondly, the story itself has been developed far more than it was in the original, partly to make it better and partly to incorporate the very real threat of a sequel. A couple of changes to that effect may be obvious from the first chapter, but some will hit later. Thanks to changes that were made to the plan (thanks in part to accepting that there are pieces of the HON canon that must remain), Chapter 4 in the plan (which was once one of the shortest) became the equally long chapters 4 and 5.

In other words, chapter 7 actually covers from the second scene in Chapter 6 and onward. It’s a little bit of a pain to have to relabel chapters to make the shift work, but I think it will better the story in the end; the last scene in the new Chapter 6, for example, was one I wanted to work on for a while. I doubt it will change much in the edit. The fact is, though, that I’m having to rein in a great temptation to feed you a few choice lines, even knowing full well that they may be suckered out by the next draft.

As a disabled writer, I feel like the burst in productivity I’ve had this Summer will not be around for much longer. I try not to be bitter about it; without my disability, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am now. As a dyspraxic in a creative field, I try to remember that it’s because of my out-of-box thinking that I am so valuable – even if I have become Irony Walking. I’m going to carry on being outspokenly disabled and creative: I knew of actor Daniel Radcliffe’s dyspraxia before I knew my own, but knowing a famous actor had the same disability helped me feel less broken and less alone. If the Boy Who Lived could be hardworking, successful and dyspraxic, why not me?

I hope that, if you’re dyspraxic and reading this, you know you can count on me to help you in the same way.

–Ruin Dun Burnit

(28/07/16) July Burn Up

Well hey. Long time, no word.

This month has been an eventful one already (he said, writing on the 28th). The first draft of NoHoper 2nd ed. has begun; the excellent news I mentioned in January came to fruition; a heatwave put paid to all of my plans for dedicated productivity and the results from the application came back.

If we remember from the last post, I mentioned how close I was to beginning the first draft of NoHoper. In fact, if you’ve been following my Tumblr you’ll have seen a few pictures of my tiny writing. The current status? The first chapter, which needed so much work from the 1st ed., is finished! The second chapter? It has a sentence, at least. I hate that. I know it’s because of the ‘Spanish Plume’ heatwave that hit the North for about a week, laying waste and putting paid to my plans, messing with my total inability to manage warm climates, but it’s since been replaced by sporadic showers and I have no more excuses.

Don’t worry, I’m finding my focus again.

Of course, a baby stole it. Two weeks ago on the 13th, the excellent news basically got better, and I became an uncle for the first time. I won’t share names or pictures, but that’s only because a, I’m not his father, and b, the Internet. Already, I’m so proud of the tiny nephew who will probably grow to be a 6’2″ rugby player who only listens to his uncle because he provides the good birthday gifts. It doesn’t help that I’m in Yorkshire and the nephew is in Wales, but other than enjoying this blessing for what it is, what can you do?

If nothing else, I can attempt to stay busy. The results came back from the application I’ve been mentioning for a while, and from September I will be working full-time on an MA in Literature and Creative Writing. Will I probably be buried in student loans for the rest of my life? Yes. Would I be able to get gainful employment in the field of my choice as a disabled person without the MA? Probably not. Go figure.

Readers, I’m continuing to work hard. I need to try and set a good example, at least. Let’s make this Summer count.

–Ruin Dun Burnit

 

(22/06/16) Gratuitous Hyperlinks

The last two weeks have been some of the best and the worst.

The worst because a few days after my last post ((04/06/16) June Burn Out) I had a new responsibility thrust upon me and just 12 days to complete it in (because someone didn’t check his e-mail til Wednesday).

The best, because once I got into the swing of it, I really fell in love with the process.

For an application I was having processed, I was required to write about 2,000 words of fiction. While it began as a major headache as I had almost nothing to mind, it actually gave me the opportunity to tackle a short story I’ve been wanting to write for an exceptionally long time. By the time I was finished and e-mailed it to the right people, it felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. It’s made me want to write more short stories. The great thing about short stories is that it’s often necessary to utilize one of my favourite tools: the Unspoken Ending. Like Wittgenstein’s ‘Whereof one cannot speak’ and Jazz, rather than spell out what it obviously all means, it’s often best to lay out the events and leave the horrifying conclusion unwritten; trust in your reader, and they will connect the dots and scream for you. Unfortunately, it still ended up just shy of 2,500 words, but that’s one more lesson to eventually maybe not learn for a while.

That ended on the 20th. Since then, I have driven over the proverbial hump and finally planned the last three chapters of NoHoper. I know. Go me.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favourite methods for working with plot-laden projects is to make a plan of the story that exclusively tracks the plots. By taking this plot plan and turning it into a visual chart to display which chapter each plot appears in and marking where each plot ends, I can see which plots needed to be included in the remaining chapters.

Without giving away any spoilers, the chart looks something like this (as it stands now; tiny font intentional):

NoHoper Plotline Image

Now, from chapter 1 to 21, I can see which plots occur where, as well as how many plots actually occur in each chapter. Chapters 10 and 15 hold the record for 8.

I reckon this method could help someone, so here’s how I put it together:

  • I went through the plan I had thus far and picked apart what plots I was continuing through the fic. These can be main plots, subplots, or simply the actions and motivations of a character who’s having a particularly heavy influence (spoiler alert: Zoey Redbird isn’t one of them).
  • I arranged this list by alphabetical descending order (A-Z) rather than by ‘importance’. I then assigned each plot a number. As you can see, I wasn’t lying when I said there were 14.
  • I assigned each plot a colour; this wasn’t for any particular meaning, but simply for the most visually helpful result. Rainbows are important to me as well as the most visually pleasing, so I chose colours that would produce the best rainbow.
  • I put together the chart with the plotlines listed vertically and the chapters list horizontally, and gave a coloured block at the right point using the fill tool. Plotline 1 occurs in chapter 6? Put a maroon block in row 1 under column 6.
  • The first plot-block is given the letter B; the last plot-block is given the letter P, E, or C.
    • B – first introduction
    • E – wrap up; the plot continues no further
    • C  – the plot evolves into a new plot (under a different name) in the sequel.
    • P – the plot continues under the same name in the sequel.
  • Once I knew what plots had been wrapped up or else done with by chapter 18, and already knowing where they would be in the sequel, I now know how to go about wrapping up the last of the plots. The fic should end feeling both complete and anticipatory of the sequel.

If you look at the bottom of the image, there’s the top of a table showing the plotlines for part 1 and part 2. I won’t show it now, but here’s what you ought to know: 1, two of the plots become as many as three new plots and 2, Part 2 currently has as many as 16 plotlines. It really will end up being about twice as long.

Dear reader,

We are very close to beginning the writing of the first draft. Tantalizingly close. If I’ve bored you, I’m sorry.

–Ruin Dun Burnit

(04/06/16) June Burn Out

I’ve been talking a little bit about this already, but this week has been a busy week for me in terms of getting NoHoper stuff done. Maybe it’s because I’ve not worked this hard on a project since I finished my degree course, or maybe it’s because I’ve finally been unleashing my inner emotional investment in this story, but these three full days of planning the second half of story have been difficult. I’ve jumped from finishing chapter 14 to completely planning chapter 18. In short, I’m suffering a burn out.

In case you don’t know, I have a process when it comes to writing. Before I write first drafts, I write a full content plan for each chapter (which also includes conversations in scripted dialogue). If a story includes a fair amount of plots or subplots or developments that need to be minded – at last count, NoHoper has about 14 of these – I will make another plan to keep track of how they develop and in which chapter they do. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last few months outside of final projects.

At this moment in time, I am at a point where the Climactic Event of the story is planned out completely. Since I have plans to make a sequel (because of course I do), the direction I take to resolve issues, wrap up completed plots, develop the plots I intend to put in play later and incite incidents for the sequel is all critical work. The issue that I’m having, I guess, is finding the balance between having the Climactic Event mean something and yet not overshadow the last few chapters; here as in real life, just because something was a big deal doesn’t mean that all other action has stopped. Life is just not that kind.

I’m supposing my rundown feeling has something to do with my current situation. I’ve been working hard, managing my health and dealing with the left over bits of stress from my degree as well as issues in my personal life I don’t have time to get into right now.

In any case, I know I promised pieces about trans and bi identities, but the fact is that making them ready for grading was a higher priority than making them available here. These issues remain incredibly important to me, especially considering how invested I am in the outcome of these conversations. So, get ready for them soon.

–Ruin Dun Burnit

(18/04/16) More and More

One thing that has struck me over these last couple of months of developing NoHoper 2nd ed is how much the whole story strikes me as more of a TV series than, well, a ‘book’ series.

You know what I mean? In a book series, the point is that one book may continue the series, but its story ought to count as a stand alone novel in its plot and development. In a TV series, you have numerous storylines developing alongside each other, but one season may not necessarily count as a ‘complete show’ with a beginning conflict in episode 1 and a resolution of the main conflict in the work by episode 20 – rather, the series is like a book and the seasons operate like chapters. It’s for this reason that I often feel that George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire feels more like a Medieval soap opera than an honest-to-God book series  (which, for its format, is part of the whole draw for me).

Which is to say, it is very likely that there will be more than one sequel, and the cut-off points will be based on ‘does it feel complete?’ rather than ‘have we resolved the original conflict?’. I apologise in advance. I think a part of me wants to ‘go the distance’ and do what the Casts were never willing to do to begin with and cover the full four years (or however far it gets). Suggestions for sequel names won’t go unheard.

As for the previously mentioned project on Bisexual and Trans identities, I will be starting these posts this week. Definitely. Don’t let me forget. They will go on both this and the Tumblog, so please feel free to share and give feedback and essentially start a conversation. I’d love to hear what you think.

I think I promised something on the conference, but frankly I have more in mind to write the dissertation itself than talk about the presentation I made on the dissertation while it was a work in progress.

Basically, this is all about to become more than its parts.

–Ruin Dun Burnit