Evelyn’s Virtual Diary

By Janet Olearski

robert-anasch-ugV_7jiFRxM-unsplashOneday

My origination day is Forsday. I had almost forgotten. I strolled into the lounge with my bowl of Coco Pops (penultimate packet) and the entire AnimaDisk lit up. ‘Good morning, Evelyn,’ it said. ‘This is to advise you that your expiry approaches. Please select your date and time of processing.’

I need to think this through.

Twosday

When I go, I may take a few with me. What do I care? Frank will be top of my list. He dropped by yesterday morning with a large tube of decorative vitamites, and he saw the message. He said he hadn’t realised I was that old. I really didn’t look it and it was amazing what they could do these days.

He asked if I was going to throw a deletion party.

Threesday

I stepped out to gather a few vegetables from my patch – real food – and before I knew it, I had a gaggle of bloated little plastikids around me, tubby little stomachs, fat legs and double chins. I may be old but I can still walk and run, which is more than I can say for them.

Are they old enough to drive those SlipShoes?

Forsday

A circle of fluorescent flowers lit up the AnimaDisk this morning. The message read,

On this origination day,

With joyeous voice we say

‘Happy Hundreth, Evelyn!’

I nearly puked. Underneath, it said,

Congratulations!

Your processing is booked at Yoothanazium for 12 noon on Fivesday.

We hope you had a good life and we wish you a smooth departure.

Finding the tube empty, Frank said it wasn’t a good idea to down so many vitamites in one go. Colourful they may be, but they are not sweeties. Too true. They are, however, tempting to plastikids with fast shoes.

Fivesday

[Click here to enter your thoughts.]

“The desires of today are the errors of our tomorrow.”

Evelyn Coomber, 2061

HISTORICAL NOTES ON EVELYN’S VIRTUAL DIARY

Evelyn transferred her kreditz into powndz on the BlakMarkit. This enabled her to live out the rest of her days comfortably in Bermooda.

We understand that Evelyn reached the Bakovbeeyond under her own steam as it were, wearing a pair of SlipShooz, which she obtained from a plastikid through the barter of a large tube of multicoloured vitamites.

The government’s ‘Perfekt Children for All’ manifesto was rejected but the idea appealed to, and was supported by, the affluent middle klasses who subsequently reverted to the services of popular providers such as Optimal Offspring and ChildPerfekt.

Plastikids were intended as first generation origination improvements. Their facial features were to be corrected and re-calibrated at intervals of between one to five years. Teeth could be straightened at origination, while skin and feature defects could be could be controlled through painless sinthetik injections.

Plastikids were eventually discontinued. Initially, the government’s ‘No sport at skool’ policy, which had been designed with the aim of protecting plastikids from injury, had the effect of nurturing obesity. Later, due to a preponderance of law soots against teachers, home skooling through Interactive AnimaViz replaced regular skooling. However, long-term AnimaViz exposure resulted in a number of horrific melt-down incidents in plastikid subjects that had been treated with advanced sinthetiks.

It would seem that Evelyn used a RetroPC for the writing of her diary. There is no trace of this hardware but, miraculously, paypa hardcopy of her document survived and is now preserved in the Heritage Moozeyum.

Evelyn’s work came to light through research undertaken by the Society for the Preservation of Ritten Rekordz. The Society seeks to conserve our linguistic heritage and supports the reinstatement of ritten documentation, the skill of riting and an appreciation of “classical” speling. The Society advocates the standardisation of speling. (Note Ben: A number of critics/kritics have denounced the inconsistency of the Society’s own ritten output and akordingly efforts are being made to remedy this.)

The decline of the ritten word began with the rise in popularity of text messages, which we at the Society believe handicapped and de-skilled our young people. Around 2040, works of fiction submitted for the Booker Prize were limited to a maximum of 50,000 words per book. Publishers eventually applied this rule to all books, mainly for financial reasons. But the fact was that, increasingly, the general public was finding it a strain to read ‘long books’ on their book devices. It was only a question of time before official riting was limited to 250 words per communication (though this could be interpreted liberally).

Research revealed that the excessive use of sinthetikz was in fact affecting brain-eye coordination with the result that attention spans were declining steadily. University dissertations were rarely longer than 1,000 words. However, most educated people could not read more than 250 words at one sitting. The ‘man in the street’ could not manage even 250 words in a month… hence the return of oralkulture. It is highly probable that if you are able to read thus far, you will be a second generation klonak.

The practice of having oneself kloned and thus drawing on previously learned and arkival knowledge is common in the field of akademia. Certainly it does give akademics the edge both where their students and their unkloned colleagues are concerned. The only disadvantage with this procedure is that the subject must be deceased in order to undergo processing.

Evelyn’s neighbour and would-be suitor Frank was deleted by appointment at Yoothanazium in 2082.

Evelyn herself died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 152. A statue was erected in her honour in the grand foyer of the Heritage Moozeyum but, following requests from the public, this was later replaced by a plak engraved as follows:

Evelyn Coomber 1951-2103

A life prolonged is experience gained

In recognition of Evelyn’s heroic flight from deletion, the statue itself was transferred to the Moozeyum’s gardens so that Evelyn’s free spirit could gaze across the vast yellow plains of Bakovbeeyond.

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‘Evelyn’s Virtual Diary’ first appeared in the literary journal Beautiful Scruffiness in 2011.

Janet Olearski is from London and lives in Central Portugal. Her short fiction has appeared in Constellate, Sleet Magazine, The Commonline JournalWasafiri, and elsewhere. A graduate of the Manchester Writing School at MMU, Janet is the author of the story collection A Brief History of Several Boyfriends, and the founder of the Abu Dhabi Writers’ Workshop. Find her at http://www.janetolearski.com   Twitter: @JanetOlearski

Things Writers Ought to Know About Their Writing

From The LitFest Blog, August 2019
Emirates LitFest logo

In his classic book on writing, The Art of Fiction, the novelist and academic David Lodge says that, ‘The golden rule of fictional prose is that there are no rules.’ Before you decide that anything goes, I would urge you at least to find and learn some basic principles of writing and apply them in your work.

You might want to give some thought to the following questions as they relate to your book or story.

Have you maintained the promise of the premise?

You’ve hooked us in with the set-up to your story or novel, and we’re excited about seeing how it will develop, but then you change tack completely, dropping that idea, and taking forward a new one without satisfying our curiosity about the first.

Here’s an example. A premise might be: What will happen if two ‘friends’ who are constantly sabotaging each other go on a road trip across the UAE? We are probably expecting high jinx and some imaginative backstabbing from these two protagonists. But the story proceeds as follows: When the friends overnight at a Dubai hotel, Friend No.1 has difficulty communicating to the receptionist that his Internet isn’t working, and it’s driving him insane. Friend No.2 laughs at Friend No.1’s frustration. The story ends.

What happened to this promising story about frenemies?

It’s good, and also important, to surprise your readers with incidents they didn’t expect, but it’s unfair to cheat them completely out of the conflict you had initially promised. It’s also a missed opportunity for you as a writer to explore the quirky relationship between your characters.

Whose story is it? Do you even know?

Yes, of course you can have multiple narrators and a cast of thousands in your book, but are you sure your readers will be able to navigate their way through quite so many protagonists? Who in your story should they identify with or care about?

Bear in mind that having multiple protagonists will require multiple plots or sub-plots. Your story can risk becoming so complex that you lose your motivation trying to write it. If you’re having problems finishing your novel, this could be the reason.

Try focusing instead on a single protagonist and collapsing several superfluous characters down into just one character. If all else fails and you are determined to take forward this unwieldy saga, at least provide us with a list of characters or a comprehensible family tree to guide us through it. Hilary Mantel includes both a ‘Cast of Characters’ and a genealogical table in Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Elena Ferrante, in her four Neapolitan novels, includes an ‘Index of Characters.’

And, do make sure your family tree and the contents of your novel actually match. Remember that any changes you make within your novel will have a knock-on effect, so keep a note of everything you need to check when re-drafting.

Should you write a long book or a short book?

A writer at one of our workshops once told me that her fantasy novel kept getting longer and longer. It already weighed in at around 200,000 words. This was, she said, because she kept thinking up more and more sub-plots. This is one instance when having an outline – and an overview – might have helped.

If you are a writer without a set of successful publications under your belt, a publisher will be apprehensive about spending time, effort, and money to publish and market your very long book. They’ll do it for Donna Tartt, Jonathan Franzen, and George R.R. Martin, but will they do it for you?

How about dividing that one book into three and trying to clinch a three-book deal? Or how about trying to produce one short book of quality rather than one massive tome that rambles on through eternity?

Books

Do you know what your book is about?

You should know your work well enough to be able to tell an agent or publisher about the genre of your book, about its themes, and its likely audience. Mixing genres is fine, so long as you understand why you are doing it.

A writer I worked with recently explained to me that her book did not fit any genre or adhere to any one style of writing. She probably wasn’t far wrong. Her book was a mixture of literary fiction, non-fiction, romance, crime fiction, poetry, history, religion, and self-help. She was actually writing several different books.

It helps to think about who might want to read your book, and to focus it accordingly. It is probably only as you re-read and redraft your work that you will find out what you are really writing about. That, when it happens, will be a very sublime ‘Aha!’ moment.

Written by Janet Olearski

Janet Olearski is an author and writing coach, and the founder of the Abu Dhabi Writers’ Workshop. She is often surprised when she finds out what she is really writing about. It’s not always what she had originally imagined. Read more at: http://www.janetolearski.com