In 2344 I was passenger to Utopia, removed from Earth because of the atrocities being committed there. Blood had become as common as water. People even drank it. But I had killed the one friend I’d ever known: Peter, a soft-hearted teenager with pale skin and a smile like the sun. I’d known him for three years before the inferno I had abandoned him in. I hadn’t known a man could change when all around him was black. I hadn’t realized how black the soul was.
It didn’t matter anymore. In Utopia, they wiped your memory clean so that past horrors couldn’t plague you, so that past acquaintances couldn’t haunt you. In Utopia, they changed your face, your shape, your hair, so that there were no differences which created the common friction between men… Everyone looked exactly like everyone else and you could start again. This was labelled ‘perfection’. I thought of all the characterless people living on the planet I was approaching… It didn’t bother me. I had grown to hate the world I lived in. I had grown to hate life. If oblivion was perfection, so let it be.
I leaned against the edge of the sphere spacecraft I was travelling in. The peninsula called Utopia was on Perfictio, a planet that they had discovered a decade ago… Utopia had been founded two years after that, but only the young people had been able to go. I was one of the few privileged teenagers on my way to perfection.
The artificial membrane they had created around Utopia made it feel air-conditioned and blocked alien ideas from people’s identical brains in order to maintain peace. Or so I was told. I watched the stars flicker past the curving glass wall I leaned against. They scintillated as if they could solve the problem that everyone knew but no one could name.
I didn’t care about that either.
The sphere spacecraft twisted in another direction altogether. I watched the digits appearing in the rectangular screen on the rounded front panel of glass. Any second now… I heard a voice crackle through the intercom and balloon in the circular space of the glass ball I was in.
“Utopia – fast approaching Utopia. Prepare for landing.”
I sat down on the glass floor of the spacecraft. From beneath me, a transparent strap slid out of the thick layer of glass which composed the floor. It wound around my waist and clicked on my left, indicating security.
The glass ball tipped and hurtled downward through a cloud of smoky blue gas in the black oblivion of space… I saw a membrane of white web on the cracked red surface of the planet beneath the clouds. The glass ball pelted through the membrane, and I turned back in my ‘seat’ to see the tendrils of web repairing the hole my spacecraft had created.
The ball landed in a crater within the membrane with a teeth-shattering jerk. My pulse throbbed until it returned to its regular tempo.
The membrane extended for kilometres, and I saw peaked white buildings within it. There were no shadows. Silky, winding roads snaked their way through Utopia and a variety of vehicles hovered above them. People glided along the roads. They were all blonde with blue eyes and pale skin… it reminded me terribly of Peter. I could hear the babble of their meaningless conversation as the spacecraft cracked and disintegrated around me.
The only one who was different stood just outside the shards of my spacecraft: a strange old man in a white coat. His grey hair was fuzzy and stuck out at odd angles. He wore glasses framed with heavy black metal. In his raised hand was a white rod with a pale yellow light at the end.
“I only have to press the button on this rod once,” he said, “And the light will pass over you. Then you can start again in the perfect world. Are you ready?”
And then it happened: a million doubts flashed through my mind, though I had once been so sure. Could he change the hopelessness in me? The despair and disaster that had driven me away from Peter during the blaze? Could he change the parasitic hate in me? Could a man change a man… with a single flash of a light? My heart pounded as oblivion waited to consume me, because a man can’t learn from the past unless he has memories – he cannot believe unless he has a mind – and he cannot live if he does not believe –
Feeling like I was suffocating, I opened my mouth to say I was reconsidering –
He pressed the button…
It’s amazing how it can creep up on you: writer’s block. One minute you’re writing happily, and the next, all the wind is knocked out of your sails. You’re cruising along, and then you realise how much writing there is still left to do, or how horrible the writing that you have done is. And then you’re paralysed, or just severely crippled: like the grasshopper with the mashed leg, dragging itself on agonisingly.
There have to be some tactics for dealing with writer’s block, otherwise you’ll never get through it. You’ll just leave the half-finished project sitting there, and you’ll walk away with a horrid feeling. First of all, remember you’re stronger than your feelings. However powerful they seem, you are still in control.
Next, try some of the things listed in this article.
Coffee with a warm and burning taste
Left over icing, no such thing as waste;
Shadows on hills and sheep on the downs,
Magazines with bright pictures in colours like clowns;
The sound of the waves and the panting of dogs,
The cries of children as they pursue stray frogs,
The silence of books and the smell of old pages -
These simple pleasures, for this and all ages.
He almost screamed. He saw his life laid out like a map and felt he understood.
After King Talmon had killed his parents, Rafen had lived in a cell from age two upward, and at four they had branded 237 on his ankle and forced him to work in the coal mine. King Talmon of Tarhia wanted many weapons, and for that, he needed coal to feed his smelters’ furnaces. Rafen had gone with the other child workers, following the men as they picked coal away from new tunnels in the mine. The children removed rocks from the tracks and loaded trucks with coal from five o’ clock in the morning until night. Some worked the trapdoors, allowing drafts into the mine to shift any explosive gases. The others told Rafen they were ‘cheats’ because they didn’t work as hard. Mining was dangerous; five children died a week in any one working division. Lucky ones received four dry crusts of bread a day, and the big ones would wrest the food off them. Occasionally, a guard would approach the children with a bucket. He would draw out a ladle, brimming with water. The children became wild … little ones were often crushed in a fight for water. Rafen had received numerous injuries; the worst had been a broken jaw that had taken months to heal.
And so he had lived: 237, a little underground animal who did as he was told. But he itched. He shouldn’t have expected more, but he did.
He would probably be a slave all his life. Yet he wanted a phoenix feather; he was meant to have one. Somehow, he had been cheated.
He didn’t belong here.
She wandered around
Searching for a pupil the other teachers
She asked the previous student to find their classmate.
They always refused.
Following a schedule that was now inaccurate
She passed rooms of pupils
Who stared out and laughed behind their hands
Or gawked scornfully.
Lost is the epitome
Of what she felt.
She knew they all talked behind her back.
She could see it in the way
Other adults stared at her -
As if she had a rare fatal disease.
In the lessons, students kept
Their mouths shut obstinately
And didn’t do a thing she said.
She was too young;
Something funny about her.
What on earth was she doing there?
Never did anything wrong, she thought.
Just tried to do my job.
When you’re the school underdog.
“Thank you for your email. We are finding it difficult to sell fantasy at the moment so we have decided not to make an offer on this one.”
Yes, that was the sort of thing I heard for two years. At first sight, you think – well, that’s actually not too bad. At least they’re not saying they wish your book would hide under a rock for one million years, or something like that. But it got to me after a while: two years of consistently hearing publishers saying ‘no’ and not much else besides. How did I know what to improve on? Why were they all rejecting me? Was there really someone out there – someone – who was going to take me on?
Here’s an article on http://writersanctuary.net regarding rejection. Writing it out helped me realise that being rejected over and over is actually not a hopeless affair. There so much that writers can do in today’s climate. As usual, the message is: never give up.