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Location: Paris, France

Gender: M

Member Since: January 2019

Last online: February 2021

Open for read requests: No

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Last Updated Feb 04, 2021

La maîtresse des échecs

Thursday February 4th 2021: 'La maîtresse des échecs'

The Mistress of Chess. A new story in many small chapters comprising c. 6,300 words. As promised in my last entry here. What is it about, apart from the obvious? Lance Armstrong has always interested me, his psychopathic honesty: if you don't cheat you don't win; I was always going to win. And yet in chess, the machines are so much better than we are.

Sunday January 24th 2021: 'Message in a Sealed Letter'

News today that trapped Chinese miners have been rescued. Wonderful to hear. Family reconciliations to come. And then I wondered.

I have known many activist women, dated quite a few. Women devoted to Their Muse or The Cause. Personalities I see in superstars such as Joni Mitchell or Germaine Greer. Something tantalising, mystifying about relationships there - and so to the story.

I have something else in the pipeline: something about chess. Soon.

January 1st 2021: an amuse-bouche - “The Demo”

Lessons from Irène Némirovsky

I’ve been reading Irène Némirovsky’s biography and some of her  novels: All Our Worldly Goods, Suite Française, The Wine of Solitude. Her technique is to sketch in detail the back story of her main characters in their social milieux - invariably based on friends or business acquaintances - and then confront them with the crises and angst of her own situation.

She was a Jewish émigré in inter-war France with truly dreadful parents; her raging, resentful energy brought forth masterpieces.

Her approach is useful. My own efforts tend to prioritise plot over character, to overplay ideas and underplay setting, producing hack work (this is not uncommon). I will try to do better in future stories - my new year resolution is to get to know my characters better.

Meanwhile I am going to inflict one more old-style flash-fiction vignette on you, distilled from a 14,000 word unpublished story which I self-characterised thus:

This has to be one of the worst stories I have ever written. So bad that I was deterred even from posting it on Booksie. The writing is flat, bland, dreary and sterile. The characters are stereotypes lacking interest even to the author. The plot is muddled, contrived and rapidly runs out of steam while never looking even remotely either convincing or even interesting.

Still, even in such a desert there are small sections which may amuse, I promise you no more than that: “The Demo” in 600 words.

Monday December 21st 2020: 'Happy Christmas'

In "The Summer of Love" we met a fifteen year old Simon Caldwell about to seek out his first girlfriend. Three years have passed, Simon is now at college, reflecting upon his feelings this Christmas and the events of his gap year which inexorably brought him to his current predicament.

This will be my last posting this year: Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday December 16th 2020

A new short story, "The Summer of Love", will be posted as soon as the site lets me do it (perhaps Thursday now)..

Friday December 11th 2020: At last some new material in prep

Since trying (and failing) to get my best (as I thought) SF stories published in paying magazines, and after being rather brutally rebuffed, I have been musing about doing it better. I've been reading authors who I think have something to teach me: people like Irène Némirovsky (Suite Française, All Our Worldly Goods) and John Fowles (The Magus, The Collector). Authors who write character-driven fiction.

Fay Weldon once wrote indignantly that authors do not write about their own lives or those of people they know, they make characters up from their imaginations. But she was being disingenuous: how many classics are revealed to be thinly-disguised autobiography, with 'just the names changed'?

Where she is right is that memoirs are not stories. Memoirs are life in all its plotlessness, banality and broader inconsequentiality. Stories are how we would like reality to be: clear characters, an arc to a conclusion. In stories there is closure and satisfaction; in our memories of life - not so much.

I have some new stories in preparation. At least one, Happy Christmas, is due to be published here before the day itself. Stay tuned.

Friday July 24th 2020: GPT-3 brought me back: "A Woman of Mystery"

I haven’t been here much - been busy with visitors and other stuff. But I was intrigued by the recent release of the AI text-generation system GPT-3 which has been much discussed in blogs and the broader media. I gave it a work-out in the co-written short story just published here: “A Woman of Mystery”.

Let me tell you that working with GPT-3 is an exercise in futility: you can never get going - you are continually derailed. But with some architectural innovation - I can imagine directions - I see George Orwell's Novel-Writing Machines (in 1984) dimly visible on the horizon...

Monday June 15th 2020: University Education in 2070

A colleague of mine mentioned that his university had just published a series of 250 word essays on the future of learning. What will study be like in 2070?

The academics were plainly not writers, he told me. Their contributions were dry and abstract: it was all virtual reality; AI subliminal prompts and rewards; avatars which improved on paperclips. A conventional future: approved and conformist.

Alumni were invited to contribute - so he wrote three vignettes. I have reprinted them here with permission together with his covering letter.

Strangely they were never published...

Sunday June 14th 2020: a new poem "Honey"

Back in the day when they still did dinner parties there was a trope: the loved-up couple with eyes only for themselves. Couldn't keep their hands off each other. They didn't mean to be so smug but surely everyone could see what fantastic sex they were having. And so to my doggerel poem, Honey.

It helps, marginally, if you have seen the French film Gemma Bovery (2014).

Thursday June 4th 2020: The Tao of Writing

I have been conflicted about my writing, it is true. It is too easy to stray from the Way. I have tried to explain in chapter 4 of The long and winding road to getting published, just posted. Perhaps you will sympathise (thanks!) but that's not why I wrote it.

I also posted a tiny fragment, That Time Was Better, which seems to say something for couples trapped in mutual intensity.

Sunday March 29th 2020: Lockdown Reading

I've gathered my 49 stories to-date and compiled them as a book (PDF). If you're locked-down and bored please feel free to take a look.

Paris has the quiet of the SF post-apocalypse. Even the zombies have decayed to dust. The flics are stopping cyclists and the press is writing about the quarantined rediscovery of sex (faute de mieux)...

Wednesday March 4th 2020: 'Another Chance'

I wanted to name the ship Cassandra. A short story of 1,200 words to be published this evening. Call it evolution in action.

Friday February 14th 2020: 'AI in the Battlespace' (16/2/20 - 8 chapters)

A new story to be published in 8 chapters starting on Sunday evening. I'll probably post Sundays through Thursdays. It's about state-of-the-art application of AI to the military. It's always good to be reminded that we remain in control.

Saturday February 1st 2020: 'Star Child'

I'm rewriting (often quite substantially) several stories you may have seen here before - albeit quite a while ago. Starting tomorrow, Sunday, over five postings you will see the 15 chapters of 'Star Child'.

The idea is to submit these re-posted stories to magazines. Editors seem more relaxed in practice about prior posting to Booksie than the actual Ts & Cs on their websites. I find the discipline of writing for such a select audience here - and more importantly the critical feedback - to be an essential part of quality improvement. OK, let me say this more directly: as I edit material for posting here I cringe at what I see in front of me, at what I previously wrote!

'Memento Mei' is another re-posted story (yesterday) which I continue to look favourably upon though it hasn't got much of a reaction. A slow-burner I guess, a meditation with no action at all.


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Adam Carlton has a background in maths, physics and artificial intelligence. His participation in a semi-clandestine revolutionary organisation precludes further information although he has this to say: “I'm a heterodox Marxist; I conceptualise and write in the demi-monde of a nascent revolutionary Paris.”

Adam Carlton has had stories published in The Ronin Express volume 7 and by the Aphelion Webzine.


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