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n Simpso d i v a D oulds Jade M sden um Katie L oules Ch Reece s ca Guy Lu ga ai Xenia T
Mystery Issue, March 2013litro.co.uk | 44
Australia 21 September â€“ 8 December 2013 www.royalacademy.org.uk Friends of the RA go free Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly (detail), 1946. Enamel on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Sunday Reed 1977.
Buy It. Read It. Before THEY Ban It!
n gazi a M Litro pia o Dyst
EDITORIAL Dear Reader, It’s been a fairly grim month of reading here in Litro’s Ivory Towers. But in a good way! We’ve toured cash-strapped theocracies and corporate caliphates, corrupt monarchies and primitive anarchies—and a galaxy of other dark worlds besides. But all have one thing in common—they’re not futures we’re looking forward to. So what is it about dystopian fiction that fascinates us so much? What prompts our imaginations to gawk at the wreckage of speculative futures? Naturally, it’s entirely possible that dystopian fiction reflects the fears of the times—and given today’s world of state-sponsored surveillance, religious fundamentalism, economic disparity, and overpopulation (I’m just flicking through the headlines, here), perhaps it’s not surprising this was a popular theme. So in some ways, dystopias aren’t too much of an imaginative stretch. If you’re trying to predict the future, your best bet would have to be on things going wrong. You could even argue we’re living in a dystopia right now. Maybe we’re always living in a dystopia, or at least degrees of dystopia—the failure of a past’s promising, even utopian, vision—which is why they seem endlessly relevant, in all their scope and variety. We’re simply steeling ourselves for the shape of things to come. This month’s stories deal with a number of different future societies—and in different stages of deterioration. Some, like David Simpson’s deliberately endless Eternal Vigilance, are set in a world in which the characters are immersed in a system they accept, though as readers, we can see the darkness that lies ahead. Other worlds, like the very familiar setting of The Beasts Below by Jade Moulds, show characters entirely at the mercy of the changes going on around them—at odds with a society they can no longer understand. In Katie Lumsden’s A Survivor, we meet a character whose world is reduced to the most essential truth in the wake of nuclear disaster, enduring a very personal dystopia.
By the time we reach Staircase by Reece Choules, we are witness to a lost society—one in which memories have become currency. This world has long since failed—it has become a black hole, gradually consuming itself. But a dystopia does not necessarily imply an end. In some worlds, we find characters fighting back—Enter the Hacienda by Guy Lucas offers us a character struggling to understand his environment, trying to engage with it, but acting according to his beliefs. And perhaps most optimistically, Xenia Taiga’s wonderfully imaginative vision of Dress World hints at a brighter future, a ray of hope cutting through the dystopian clouds. And perhaps that’s ultimately why dystopias are so popular in the creative imagination. The grim view of the road ahead is as much a warning sign as a forecast. Every dystopia is effectively a call to action—not because we think this is the way the world is headed, but because we want to make sure it isn’t. On a personal (but far from dystopian) note, after a year in the post I’m handing over the reins to a new Fiction Editor, the peerless Dan Coxon—but I’ll be continuing as Contributing Editor of Litro, developing some exciting plans we have here in the USA. It’s been a blast—thanks, guys!
Andrew Lloyd-Jones Editor November 2013
THE BEASTS BELOW
ENTER THE HACIENDA
Xenia Taiga DRESS WORLD
COVER ARTIST Mirko Rastic
I was born in Croatia in a small mediterranean town of Sibenik. I then moved to the nearby city of Split where I got my BA in Visual Communication Design. I decided to enroll at Winchester School of Art and their MA in Communication Design. I currently live and work in my hometown of Sibenik.
EVENTS THIS MONTH ART Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in Ancient Colombia British Museum, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG Nov - Sun Mar 23 2014, Free A display of some 250 masterworks borrowed from the Gold Museum in Bogota, Colombia, alongside objects drawn from the British Museum's own collection. The exhibition looks at the myth of El Dorado and the 'Lost City of Gold' and presents technically sophisticated.
Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones & Martin Parr Science Museum, Gloucester Road, Exhibition Rd, London SW7 2DD November – March 17 2014, Free This exhibition (intriguingly hosted by the Science Museum in its new Media Space on the second floor) shows work by two photographers fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs. The late Tony Ray-Jones spent the 1950s and ’60s traveling.
Mira Schendel Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG November - January 8 2014, Free A rare chance to see the work of one of Latin America's foremost female artists, who provided a serious antidote to the exotic abandon of Brazil's Topicalia movement of the 1960s.
Images of Nature: The Art of India Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 5BD November - February 28 2014, Free This year's theme for the annual temporary exhibition in the Images of Nature gallery showcases Indian botanical and zoological watercolours of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, featuring the local widlife and plantlife as depicted by Indian artists.
Dystopia Issue, November 2013 | 05
THEATRE 'Brand New Ancients' Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, SW11 5TN November – April 20 2014, £12 - £15 South London performance poet and rapper Kate Tempest won the prestigious Ted Hughes poetry award for this show, which focuses on the fortunes of two South London families. Tempest's arresting mix of spoken word and live music performance is generally spine tingling so keep an eye out for a performance near you.
The Island Young Vic, 66 The Cut, SE1 8LZ until November 30, £15 Another bloody load of eternity.’ For John and Winston, cellmates at Robben Island, each day brings more of the same. Imprisoned for standing up against South Africa’s apartheid regime, they’re forced to shovel sand all day. It’s a Tartarean task, unending and futile. Each barrowload they dig, they dump on the other’s heap. The two men – comrades, friends, so closely bound they could be Siamese twins – constantly glower at one another.
Gastronauts The Royal Court, 50-51 Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS November 21- December 21, £30 Okay, we don’t exactly know what ‘Gastronauts’ is, but it’s an intriguing bit of programming for the Royal Court. This ‘theatrical dining experience’ is led by playwright April de Angelis and will offer an exploration of the nation’s current obsession with food, eating and gastronomy. And yes, you do get dinner.
From Morning to Midnight The National Theatre, Lyttelton, South Bank, London SE1 9PX November - January 15, 2014 £12- £50 Dennis Kelly has had quite the year: his ultra-violent TV show ‘Utopia’ was a smash, his family musical ‘Matilda’ conquered Broadway and he had a very wilful show on at the Royal Court in ‘The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas’. Now he caps it with an adaptation of German writer Georg Kaiser’s play about a man who decides to go crazy for the day.
06 | Litro Magazine
MUSIC Winter Festival Spitalfields 6 – 17 December 2013 Enjoy a magical winter in Spitalfields as we revel in the season, with sounds old and new. In the area’s iconic and hidden spaces, discover early masterpieces, contemporary music, intimate performances and events for all ages.
Freeze Festival Clapham Common £9- £66 London’s ski, music and snowboard festival. Get to Clapham Common and find yourself on London’s only mountainside and dance the cold away. www.freezefestival.com
Doomsday Festival Antwerp 21 December, £35 The Antwerp exhibition hall is transformed into a four-room superclub for Doomsday Festival, a one-day dance extravaganza held on 21st December. www.festicket.com
The Winter Masked Ball Adam Street Members Club 30 Nov 2013 From 10pm till 3am Chatter, drink, dance—set within opulent Georgian Tunnels beneath the Strand, Dress Code: Divine Decadence—Masks Obligatory, Clothes Optional. Say’s it all really, join the best of London’s eccentrics. www.theorphanagedance.co.uk/tickets.html
Dystopia Issue, November 2013 | 07
ETERNAL VIGILANCE Freedom comes with paperwork.
by David Simpson Blue Team have posters on the walls in their office, I know this because in Green Team we have the same posters, but there is no reason to look at the posters, we know their messages already, we were born with these messages and they have followed us around all our lives: work hard and with diligence and you will be rewarded. Everyone knows that there is no reason to look at the posters because everyone knows that everyone knows the messages they carry. Everyone knows that time taken to look at the posters is time taken away from being hard at work and diligent: punishable behavior. This does not stop Blue Team Officer C from interrupting his supervision of Yellow Team Officer C to glance quickly away from his screen at the posters on the wall behind him. Momentarily he turns back to his screen and then once more turns to the posters, this time to take a longer look. The only reason that there could possibly be to look away from your screen at the posters on the wall behind you would be if the message on the posters had suddenly changed, which is impossible. As a responsible supervisor, though, it is my responsibility to gather all of the facts before I file a report and so I, too, turn away from my screen, interrupting my supervision of Blue Team Officer C, just as he interrupted his supervision of Yellow Team Officer C. A quick glance at the posters tells me that nothing has changed, but I look quickly back at my screen, just to see that Blue Team Officer C isnâ€™t further breaking protocol and I see that he appears to be filling in a report on Yellow Team Officer C, which will take a little while, so I have time to turn back to the posters and inspect them a little more closely. As I suspected, the posters havenâ€™t changed one bit and neither have their messages, so I fill in a report on Blue Team Officer C. By the time I have finished this, I see that he has stood up and gone from his desk to the filing cabinet in the corner of his office where he keeps his reports on Yellow Team Officer C. He is building up quite a file on that fellow. I get up from my desk and take the report I have just finished to the filling cabinet in the corner of my office. I put it in the drawer alongside the rest of the reports on Blue Team Officer C. I am building up quite a file on that fellow. When I get back to my desk I notice that he has turned away from his screen and once again is looking at the posters on the wall behind him. He then turns back to his desk and begins to fill in another report. Of course I have only just inspected the posters on the wall behind my desk and I am absolutely certain that their message couldnâ€™t have changed, but it would be irresponsible of me not to check once more to ensure that they have not been altered in anyway. I turn back to look 08 | Litro Magazine
THE BEASTS BELOW An attack that strikes far too close to home.
by Jade Moulds Smoke billows from the Underground entrance and rolls onto the pavement, thick and black. Onlookers press their faces against the shutters, hoping to see twisting, charred passengers burning inside; many of them get their camera-phones out and set them to zoom. Some passers-by turn their bodies towards the gates for a moment. They enjoy the fleeting warmth. The paving is slick with thawing ice and Maddie steps carefully as she turns away from the gates and checks her watch. A cab driver will charge double once he sees the swell of impatient commuters but a bus will take her twice as long and Oliver will have to let himself in. A ‘latchkey-kid’, for many reasons, is a dangerous thing to be. Maddie’s mother repeats the phrase with increasing regularity, her fearful sermons driving Maddie to sign Oliver up for afterschool sessions in chess, football, percussion—anything to keep him busy until five o’clock. It isn’t only the studies, with their aggressive charts screaming correlation between children left home alone and drugs, sex and general bad behaviour. It is everything else out there too. She calls a cab. ‘Bloody terrible.’ Maddie pretends to look through her handbag for her purse. This is why she doesn’t sit at the front. ‘I said, it’s bloody terrible.’ She says nothing. ‘The fire.’ The driver gestures to the station as they pull away. ‘People died, you know. ‘Bout thirty of them last I heard. It was on the radio.’ ‘I didn’t see anyone.’ ‘They’re pulling them up from the other side, that’s why the crowd’s not so bad. They’ll be round there, looking.’ Maddie glances back at the numbers on the street. A man pushes the crowd aside with one hand, the other holds a phone to his ear. He is crying and does not wipe his face. For a moment he catches her eye, and she looks back down into her handbag. The journey home is slowed by ambulances and police cars. It always is. Outside her neighbour’s house is a group of teenagers. They sit on the garden wall and jeer when Maddie passes but none of them move toward her. Once safe inside, the chain on the door behind her, she relaxes. During the day her hair is knotted on the top of her head, two pencils holding it in place. It is an affection left over from art school and fits with how she thinks she should look; Maddie believes in the pleasure of stereotype. Hair pencils, check. Floaty skirts, check. Too many rings, check. Here stands
14 | Litro Magazine
A SURVIVOR One woman stands alone in the wake of a disaster.
by Katie Lumsden She kept the dagger under her pillow at night, and in the day she tied it with string around her neck, like a pendant, like an ornament, like a jewel. She could feel the dagger against her skin, beneath her vest. She liked that: the odd mix of security, knowing the knife was near, and danger, because one false move, one stumble, one fall, and the dagger would slit her skin. These were dangerous times. Everybody knew that. America was gone, they said. No more cheesy American films. No more films at all. No television. The lines crackled when you turned them on, just like the radio. DVDs wouldn’t play. She’d slashed through the phone line with her dagger because she couldn’t bear its silence when the silence was a hope. Before she had every moment been waiting for it to ring. Now its silence was permanent, certain. And so few things were certain now. No governments, no guns, no electricity. Once she’d ventured to walk to the harbour, and she’d seen a ship. A steam ship. She’d heard about them, about refugee ships that had supplies and would take you somewhere safe. It had surprised her, when Lewis had told her that. She hadn’t realised there was anywhere safe left. After she saw the ship, she stopped going outside. She kept to her house and garden, where there were walls and fences and daggers to keep her safe. The dagger, her dagger, was old. So much the better. Only old things worked now. Everybody knew that. She’d stolen it from a museum in the days when Lewis was there and they’d been on raids. She’d liked that: having some occupation, and having conversation, companionship—because now she got little of that. Everybody was moving. Everybody was running to safe places that did not exist. Everybody except her. They passed her by, and she stayed put. There were no kitchen knives. All sharp objects, all potential weapons, had been taken at the start, when the government had still existed, because they were afraid of people hurting each other. She had been afraid of that too, at first—and with reason. Everything would descend into anarchy, Lewis said. She had said, “yes, yes, it already has,” because it had, then. People fought each other for food, for resources. Groups and gangs attacked each other. That had faded. Everything faded. The people that passed through her overgrown village did not try to steal her food. They stopped sometimes, to stare at her, to watch in amazement as she ate vegetables and plants that she had grown. “But how can you—? Because won’t they be—? Because isn’t the ground—?”
Dystopia Issue, November 2013 | 21
The Little Mermaid by Jeff Simpson Dystopia Issue, November 2013 | 23
STAIRCASE What would you be willing to sacrifice in order to survive?
by Reece Choules The first time wasn’t what he expected. Payment, atmosphere, the feeling afterwards, what we build up lets us down. Wallpaper had blistered on the walls, it seeped into his rags, molded. The seat hadn’t been wiped down after the previous, after the sweats, the tears. The doctor’s touch was coarse, and awkward. The food that was given was what others didn’t want. He cried on the way home, alone in the darkness. The time after that was much the same. A burning sensation behind the eyes, the itching of the teeth, the hollowness of loss and depression, the loss of what, he didn’t now know. The nothingness, for that is all there was, nothing. Nothing except the fight for food, and what was left of memories. What came before was a blur. Birthdays vague. Parents were voices that were familiar, but the faces changed and warped with each passing day. Youth had crept away in the night, leaving behind only her. On days when the sun managed to break through the thick, grey, rainless cloud, he tried to create new memories, new tenth birthdays, new first fights in the playground. When Tommy cracked a tooth and cried, when Simon ate a worm, when Rosie wouldn’t let him kiss her by the willow tree, kiss him liked she’d kissed Tommy. New summer days, when they hid in bushes and climbed trees, when they poked sticks at a dead pigeon, and everyone felt bad but no one knew why. He tried to place himself in vague histories he had learned. He kissed the feet of Jesus, got lost at sea for a hundred years. Raised children and cattle in Texas, buried the naked bodies of a million men, the snow falling and melting on hand. When the clouds hung low he searched for God, recited out loud songs he remembered, scenes that he thought were from films, passages from books. He watched the families in the distance skinning the bodies brought back from the hunts, the digging of the well. He drew pictures on the floor with whatever he could find that would draw, old plaster, burnt wood, the leftovers from the canned food; the canned food he hid under the floorboards. The canned food he rationed to last between sessions. Two weeks, for the mind to readjust. Two weeks to fill the void. Two weeks of tinned food. Two weeks of fear. Fear of the hunt, of having nothing left to sell, of having only her. Her. Sun shining. Calling his name. Waiting. He left for the city in the early hours, undercover of rags, hiding his worn out face. Walking the cracked roads, past trees that never grew leaves, bones that were once bodies, now stripped of everything. A few cans of food, always his last, always something he vaguely remembered eating. When mother was watching TV, waiting for father. Mirrored tiles at the bottom of the settee, laughter, from mother, from the TV, father coming home, the smell of hot meat. A few cans, the last bit of payment, his only hope of protection, his only other commodity, the last bit of faith. 24 | Litro Magazine
by Ali Campbell 32Hamish | Litro Magazine
ENTER THE HACIENDA What happens if you change the world but change your mind?
by Guy Lucas Rain falls hard around me as I smoke the last of my cigarette; each drop slaps my jacket like a bullet from the heavens. My lungs fill with smoke while my eyes fill with people: men, women, and mixtures of the two, all running for cover in the new iClubs that line the high street. Everyone is cowering under the overhanging canopies, their faces aglow with the light from their mobile screens. The clicks from their mobile keys blend with the rain as they tap, tap, tap away without muttering a single word to their partners. I like the feeling of the rain on my skin. The coolness of Mother Nature’s touch soothes me in a way that most people nowadays wouldn’t understand. Music thumps around me and a stray bass line ripples the puddles beneath my feet. A motorcycle pulls up outside the Golden Apple nightclub and the rider hands over two paper bags filled with fast food, which the clubbers ordered as they waited. I take the final drag of my cigarette and toss the butt on the floor, squashing it beneath my boot. I check my watch. 11:45. My appointment doesn’t start for another fifteen minutes, plenty of time to enjoy a beverage or two. The Hacienda stands before me, its name towers high, flashing myriad reds and greens on the puddled floor. I see through the glass to the people inside, bodies grinding bodies and drinks soothing drinkers. I look under my shirt, checking I’m still dry. I am. Zipping up my jacket, I walk inside. Passing through the first of the two double doors a hand touches my shoulder. Panicking, I turn, only to relax again as a fat, balding man, creases his brow. ‘I.D sir,’ he asks in a hoarse and masculine voice. I look for the ring on the wall and place my hand on its surface. A flash of red. A sexy, feminine voice leaves the speaker above and strokes my ear. ‘I.D Verified. Welcome to the Hacienda Dr Roberts.’ The bouncer nods and releases his grip. I push open the door to the sudden thump of drum and bass. I sigh with relief. Strobe lights flash and people of all ages jerk around the club: all holding drinks, all of them in a crowd, none of them talking. Everyone clutches their mobiles in their hands, staring at something on their screens they probably neither want nor need. The glowing plasma of the screens gives their faces a heavenly aura. If only. The sweet smell of stale ale climbs my nostrils and my feet stick to the ground beneath me as spilt drinks of nights past try desperately to keep me inside. A couple of women on a nearby table lift up their phones and take a picture of me, then stare at their screens and frown. They have the faces of teenagers but the bodies of my old mother. The wonders of walk-in plastic surgeries. Rolling my eyes and frustrated I head straight for the bar. Taking a seat on a spare stool I scan the rom once more before turning to look at the army of liquor bottles that hang on the wall before me. Dystopia Issue, November 2013 | 33
DRESS WORLD The future comes in two patterns. With extinct mammals.
by Xenia Taiga The men showed us the clothes. The younger ones “oh” and “ah” touching the flimsy fabrics but the rest of us, the older ones, the ones that remembered, watched the men’s faces. We watched their faces, wondering and remembering the rumours. The rumours of the men watching TV. Most TVs and movies have been destroyed. We were on the men’s side. The compound that held the science department, the cooking department and electrical department were all for the men. We were not allowed to be in here but this was a momentous occasion: the clothes. Our clothes. Designed by these men. “This is the Dress World,” they claimed and we clapped in support. We never went again. On that day we chose the dresses that would be ours for the rest of our lives. We took our two dresses home to our compound that stood east of the men’s. They also gave us complimentary silver sandals with long straps that had to be wrapped tightly up and around our calves. The two dresses were in different styles. The first dress was a traditional style of the late 1800s. We called them the “Anna Karenina” dresses. Corsets were offered, we took them home, but we never wore them. The second dress was short and flimsy; a futuristic style reminiscent of the 70s when Jane Fonda and Logan’s Run were popular. The dress was a onepiece thigh-length tunic in a light mint green colour, with short sleeves that hung low and billowed out a bit. Almost all of us chose the traditional style for everyday use. We walked around in the gardens in our large dresses. We sweated and panted while working in the gardens. We wore them when we played volleyball or swam in the man-made oceans, with our dresses floating around us like large jelly fish, threatening to drown us. The men gave us many things from the science department. They gave us these things to keep us busy. They told us that it was a protection to be busy. Our favourite was their latest project: resurrected baby Sabre Tooth tigers. They played at our side and pawed us. We adored them until they got too big, their paws and teeth tearing large gaps in our dresses. When they got too big, we put them outside the fence. The fence was also for our protection and along the top of the chain-link fence were bells. As we worked in the garden we watched the men dig holes in the ground and erect the fence, and attach the small bells to the top. “What are the bells for?” we asked. For a moment the men seemed lost, and they looked around among themselves for an answer. Finally, one of them shrugged and smiled: “For music,” he said. “Yes,” they all said, agreeing. “For music.”
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130 | O a R T I L topi Dys The men gave us many things from the science department. They gave us these things to keep us busy. They told us that it was a protection to be busy. Our favourite was their latest project: resurrected baby Sabre Tooth tigers They played at our side and pawed us. We adored them until they got too big, their paws and teeth tearing large gaps in our dresses. When they got too big, we put them outside the fence. From Dress World by Xenia Taiga Cover Art: Pain and Pleasure by Mirko Rastic http://www.mirkorastic.com/ www.litro.co.uk ISBN 978-0-9554245-5-7
litro.co.uk 43 | Litro