ROOM 102: FREYA ROBERTSON

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Room 102 post. Seems everyone is happy with the world the way it is, thank you very much, what with all the fabulous religious and racial intolerance, James Corden TV appearances, peanut butter and water-boarding that we all love so much. Thankfully, the land of New Zulland is an angry one, and Angry Robot Books keeps bringing New Zullanders into the light and giving them a platform.

Which is my way of saying welcome, Freya Robertson, fantasy author and new Angry Robot stable mate. She has the stall down the back, where all the fresh hay goes. Freya is a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, as well as a dedicated gamer. She has a deep and abiding fascination for the history and archaeology of the middle ages and spent many hours as a teenager writing out notecards detailing the battles of the Wars of the Roses, or moping around museums looking at ancient skeletons, bits of rusted iron and broken pots.She’s published over twenty romance novels under other pseudonyms and won prizes in fifteen short story and poetry competitions.

Freya tells me that “the glorious country of New Zealand Aotearoa is where the countryside is made to inspire fantasy writers and filmmakers, and where they brew the best coffee in the world.” Because we’re all familiar with those famous Kiwi coffee beans like arabuca… and yes, I probably am going to keep making those hilarious u-for-i jokes that Australians like to make about New Zullanders. You can always drop into Freya’s website or Facebook accounts to complain.
Freya’s Heartwood is a truly epic fantasy that tells the story of a dying land, a desperate quest, a love story of sorts, and the seven knights who travel the wilderness in a battle to save the land and its people. Heartwood will be published in early 2014, with the sequel to follow later in the year.

After all that, here’s what Angry Kiwi Robot Freya Robertson wishes to remove from your world:

Freya Robertson - Web.jpg



Ginger. No, not the hair colour, the root. It’s hot, but it’s not. I mean, WTF? Chillies I can understand – you add them to hot food to make it hotter. But ginger? In cakes and biscuits? Hot spice in food that’s cold? I don’t think so.Oh…sorry Lee. You meant real dislikes. Things What Matter. That’s different.

Hubby wants me to nominate mobile phones. He’s a teacher and he thinks they’re the scourge of the modern world, having destroyed students’ eye contact and concentration. He’s equated them to the Black Death, which I think is a bit harsh. But, as I work at the same school, I do agree that text bullying is becoming a serious problem, and this links me in to the next topic.

I nominate Trolls. No, not the ones that get turned to stone. I mean the sort of people who stalk Twitter and Goodreads and other forums with the sole intention of making cruel, hurtful comments for the hell of it. Because of the anonymity of the Internet, they feel free to be as snidey and harsh as they want, and it’s the same with text bullying.

It’s a free country, they say. I’m entitled to my opinion. Well, no, not when your opinion’s shit. Or racist. Or sexist. Or just downright nasty. I don’t think anyone should say anything on the Internet that they wouldn’t say to the person’s face.

This includes people who leave spiteful reviews. Boy, do you need a thick skin as a writer. After twenty plus novels I’m starting to accept there is someone, somewhere, who already hates my books. You can’t please all the people all of the time—we all know that adage. And that’s fine; the world would be a boring place if we were all the same. But there’s not liking a book, and there’s writing a review condemning it to the fiery pits of hell. Apparently it’s cool to be snarky. Readers seem to love the review sites that tear books apart. And because of this, readers think it’s cool to be cruel when writing their own reviews.

If I like a book, I’ll give it 4 stars. If I love it, 5. If I hate it, think it’s badly written, poorly plotted or just dull, I don’t leave a review at all. Now, realistically, I know if everyone did that, the ratings would be up the creek. But the thing is, that writer took the time to get his or her eighty thousand words on paper. To find a publisher, or to make the effort to self-publish. They deserve respect for that. To leave a two-star review is one thing. But to rant on slating the book and pointing out what you hated about it—what does that serve? How does that help the next reader? The fact is that a book that you hate I might love, and vice versa, so knowing why you hate it doesn’t help me. Would you read that review to the writer’s face? No? Then don’t write it.
My husband supports an English football team. Recently, the CEO has received abuse on Twitter from “supporters” of the club over money spent on players. I’ve seen some of the Tweets and they’re pretty disturbing. Not just angry but personal and vitriolic. They think they can get away with it because nobody knows who they are, and that’s the worst kind of cowardice.



So there we are. I’m going to have to start ordering different meals at the local Chinese, but at least goats can cross bridges in complete safety. 


Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator
Claire McKenna
Grammar
Freya Robertson
Ginger
Trolls



If you’ve got a yen to remove some thing, concept or person from the Universe, and you think you can do it in a suitably witty, pithy way, drop me a line. My stage is your stage….














ROOM 102: CLAIRE MCKENNA

Claire McKenna is a short story writer, Clarion South graduate, and a connoisseur of coffee houses (in which she an usually be found drinking tea), which is a change from our first few meetings, which invariably involved us both getting pissed as rats and acting in a very irresponsible manner– for those of you who have known me long enough, Claire is the one solely responsible for me wandering around a Con dressed in nothing but a pair of underpants and a bright orange ‘Pade’s Handmaiden’ costume. ‘Nuff said. She doesn’t write enough for my satisfaction, but when she does it’s always worth sitting up straight and paying attention. Her latest stores will come out in Cosmos next month and “Next” the upcoming CSFG anthology. 



Claire in a Kim sandwich– with Kims Wilkins and Westwood.


You know what drives me crazy? Grammar.
Not other people’s, but the mistakes I make because I Should Know Better, but I don’t because I studied Biology in Uni, not English, Captain!
Things were better when I couldn’t write, when I didn’t know my dangling participle from my passive sentence construction, when the comma went where it damn well needed to go, and a sentence fragment could happily remain broken (there is a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen says.)
But since I discovered Strunk and White, when I realised my high-school grasp of grammar and sentence construction wasn’t going to cut it with editors who clearly know a passive sentence (or to say passively, passive sentences are known by editors), and people give a shit about these things, my relationship with grammar has taken on the status of: “It’s Complicated”.
Since then, I’ve evolved a hatred of certain words, some more than others.
You know what word I hate now, what plagues me?
WAS.
Was, you are a bitch of a word.  Such a cock knocker of a word, so horrid that some modern dialects like AAVE have cast it out from their lexicons.
WAS can be useful for past tenses (That Was So Amazing)
But you know what else WAS likes?
Passive sentences.
Look, I don’t know exactly “how” to explain a passive sentence, or even to spot this creature in the wild. But by god, it exists!
It was. They were. He was running as fast as he could from the zombies.  He ran from the Zombies as fast as he could!  The weapon was loaded by him… He loaded his weapon.  I was given a bite by a Zombie. A fucking Zombie bit me! If WAS or associated criminals hang out in a sentence with –ING, there is a conspiracy, a plot going on. Those passive little fuckers just want to drag your work down.
You know what else shits me? TO BE.
There is an entire English Language variant called E-Prime that doesn’t allow for any variant of TO BE.
TO BE hangs out with SEEMS and SEEMED. Kind of like LIKE, but more in the style of I COULDN’T THINK OF AN APPROPRIATE DESCRIPTION AND I AM A HACK, FUCK IT. IT SEEMED TO BE AN ALIEN.
So now every time I read. self pubbed novels or very small press and cheaply edited-by-your-mate jobs I see the thing I struggle against. I’m a little jealous, frankly, there was once a time when two fucks were not given. (Or I couldn’t give two fucks. Oh you little passive turkey slapper!!).


LOLCats and teenage textspeakers rejoice! Grammar is dead, gone, kaput. A curse on English teachers and their devilish ilk. Possibly our first slightly-controversial (especially if you’re is a geek) selection for the year, but in the spirit of the day I proclaim Fuk YEZ! Youse rokks! 

LOL.


Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator
Claire McKenna
Grammar

ROOM 102: ALAN BAXTER

Alan Baxter is a Ditmar Award-nominated British-Australian author living on the south coast of NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, SF and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the contemporary dark fantasy thriller novels, RealmShift and MageSign, and over 40 short stories which have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror. Alan is also a freelance writer, penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. He’s a contributing editor and co-founder at Thirteen O’Clock, Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews, and co-hosts Thrillercast, a thriller and genre fiction podcast. He’s also a hell of a drinker and a damn funny drinking companion, as I discovered at the last Swancon I attended. You can read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything, he says. I recommend #beetrootanal

When Lee asked me to contribute to this series of guest posts, my first thought was, “How can I pick just one or two things? Everything fucking annoys me!” But I decided to consider it a challenge. 

 I was impressed by Brian Logan’s post about chucking passivity into the chasm of nothingness. Impressed and annoyed, because it meant I couldn’t use that one. But I’ve ended up settling on two things that are related to each other and also tangentially related to Brian’s post. 

 The two things I’d remove from the Universe and consign to a fate worse than death are Lack Of Personal Responsibility and Pandering To The Lowest Common Denominator. 

 You know when you read about someone who was walking along one night and fell into a construction workers’ hole and broke their leg? And the hole was surrounded by tape and a big fucking sign saying, “DANGER! HOLE!”? And that idiot is suing the council for compensation for his injuries? Yeah, that. Let’s call him Bob The Fucking Problem. You know what, Bob The Fucking Problem? 

Take some personal responsibility for your life and your actions. You fell in a hole because you weren’t looking where you were going. That’s your fault. Suck it up princess, the world can be full of ambushes you don’t expect and they can happen to anyone. When they happen to you, don’t immediately look for someone to blame. Blame culture is despicable and it affects everyone. 

 How does it affect everyone? Remember the second thing I mentioned, about pandering to the lowest common denominator? That’s often a direct result of the blame culture. Because Bob The Fucking Problem is likely to sue the council because he was stupid enough to fall into a hole, we all have to cross the street because the entire pavement is now closed on one side. Because if people can’t be trusted to avoid a hole and, should they fuck up and fall in, they can’t be trusted to accept responsibility, we ALL have to cross the road and go nowhere near the hole. In other words, we all get treated like children because of Bob The Fucking Problem and his ilk, which means the fucking idiots set the bar for the rest of us. They refuse to take responsibility for their own lives, assuming everything that happens to them has to be someone’s fault. And then council and business and everyone else panders to their dumbass level of idiocy and we all suffer. 

 There are plenty of other examples, too, not just the falling in a hole thing. There are all kinds of places where people need to take responsibility and not look for escape clauses. 

 You say something stupid? Don’t blame others for not “getting the joke”. Suck it up and say, “Sorry, that was insensitive.” 

 You clip someone’s car in a car park? Be honest and own that shit. Leave a note with an apology and your number. You fucked up, so accept it. 

 Train your dog and be a responsible pet owner. Don’t expect other people to make allowances for your lazy-ass. Because then the councils step in and enforce all kinds of draconian pet ownership laws that make life shitty for all of us good dog owners and our dogs. 

 You got drunk and fell on your face in the pub toilet because the floor was wet and your ability to recognise “upright” had gone to fairyland? Don’t blame the landlord, blame your intolerance for alcohol or your inability to know when you’ve had enough and should take your drunk arse home. (And take a motherfucking taxi, don’t drive drunk you irresponsible arsemonkey.) 

 I could go on and on. Ask my wife – I often do go on and on and on… 

 Basically, in every aspect of your life, stop and think about how what you’re doing might affect others. Is it going to inconvenience or potentially hurt someone else? Then don’t do it. It’s not all about you, however much you might like it to be. If you do accidentally do something that has an adverse affect on someone else, apologise, make amends, take responsibility for it. That’s the other side of personal responsibility. It’s just as important as not looking for someone to blame for every little thing that might cause you a moment of discomfort, or even a lifetime of hassle. Then we have a society that takes care of itself, without the need for a nanny-state government. 

 We all want to go through life without complications. When things bugger up our peaceful existence, we’re offended and we want to strike out and make someone suffer, or find a way to make it better and someone out there must be responsible and, being responsible, they have to fix it for us. 

 You know what? Life is not a safe and comfortable ride on a fluffy cloud, where nothing bad ever happens. Life is red in tooth and claw, life is unfair, horrible things happen all the time. Sure, we can do our best to minimise risk and we can introduce some laws and methods to keep society a friendly and balanced place for everyone. Sure, sometimes a person or an entity is negligent and caused the problem. There are already methods in place to deal with that. There comes a time when we have to say, “No more laws! No more licences and permissions and committees!” 

 If something bad happens to you, instead of immediately screeching about how SOMEONE must be to BLAME because a bad thing happened, perhaps take a moment to think about what culpability you might have had in it. Did you not pay attention? Did you act like a dickhead? And if you didn’t, and it was just terrible bad luck, then perhaps you need to suck that up, because more often than not, there isn’t someone else to blame. It’s just shitty old life happening to you. And by desperately searching for someone to blame, by refusing to accept it and say, “My bad! Sorry. Wasn’t looking where I was going!” or “Well, fuck me, that was a terrible piece of luck!” you end up triggering further lowering of the bar for EVERYONE! Same as when you cause a problem. Don’t sneak off and hope you’ll get away with it. Don’t be a twat and know no one will call you on it (because I fucking will). Then you just trigger more nannying from the powers that be, because you’re proving the populace can’t be trusted to be decent. 

 Then there are more rules and more licences and more fucking committees trying to decide how best to protect us next. Which is the last shitting thing we need. And, on top of that, the people who really need help and compensation will suffer because every claim is treated with suspicion. Every incident is analysed, every insurance premium goes up and every bar is lowered. 

 Life: It isn’t fair, so keep your eyes open and don’t expect everyone else to hold your fucking hand.

There we go, folks. The list continues to build. And is it not a fine world we’re building for ourselves?

Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator

ROOM 102: JASON FISCHER


Time to improve the Universe again, my friends. This time, through the unique and possibly demented eyes of the only and only Jason ‘Jasoni’ Fischer author of over thirty short stories including such delicate, ethereal gems as Undead Camels Ate my Flesh and Pigroot Flat. I first met Jasoni during a week spent surviving tutoring Clarion South back in 2007, and it was clear then that he thought like nobody else around him. He’s a one-off, a unique voice, and a bloody good bloke into the bargain, and if he becomes as famous as I expect he will, then the handwritten shopping list he gave to my wife while I tore his story to shreds in a Brisbane shopping mall will be worth a fortune.

Jason lives near Adelaide, South Australia, with his wife and son. He has a passion for godawful puns, and is known to sing karaoke until the small hours. His first collection appears soon from Ticonderoga Publications, and will be worth every penny you pay for it. His YA zombie apocalypse novel “Quiver” is now available from Black House Comics, or viawww.tamsynwebb.com




Jasoni? All yours, mate:

Pedantry. A bit of pedantry is okay, but habitual pedants need to know their place in the universe. It’s about a hundred places below parking inspectors and tax auditors, and perhaps two or three spots down from furry civil war re-enactors. I get that sometimes people need to have it gently pointed out when they’ve made some sort of faux pas, but there’s something about the pedant that takes this one step further.
It’s the sick taking of glee when eviscerating those who’ve forgotten an apostrophe. The furious pounding of the keyboard when someone gets an obscure detail wrong. Sarcasm, forged on an anvil of hubris, the hammer wielded by the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.
In many ways, the pedant is the natural antonym and opposite of the punster. Whereas I take a natural joy in wordplay, these people are the dogs in the manger, snarling huffily at anyone who is fast and loose with language. Miserable, finger-waggling, sour-faced nay-sayers. I realise that these people are actually my natural enemy, and they must be driven out with smoke and flame.

So there we are. Pedants, fuck thee off (My eldest son is going to have to engage in a major lifestyle change, and quick!). How are we progressing? Well, here’s how the Universe is shaping up:
Lyn Battersby
Mocking of Phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry

It’s all looking rather good so far. We’re still sticking with concepts– you know a Universe without Tony Abbott or James Corden would be an improvement, you just know it– but that’s the fun thing about improving the Universe: anyone can do it.

ROOM 102: BRIAN M LOGAN

Brian M. Logan is a true story: he happened to a friend of a friend of mine. Well, the inimitable Stephen Dedman is a friend, and through him I e-met the unique Steven Savile, and then I found Logan lurking about his Facebook profile, making hilarious comments about Savile’s mental afflictions (ie: Tottenham Hotspur), which is quite hilarious given he has an incurable sexual fixation on blue plastic. By which I mean he’s a lifelong fan of Chelsea Football Club, so you think he’d keep it to himself but no, there he is, waving it about in public like it’s perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour. Needles to say, we’ve been shooting the shit and taking the piss out of each other ever since. Which is all a bit scatological, but there it is.




Brian is also a professional screenwriter, novelist and copywriter, with a whacking number of groovy credits to his name. He says he’s quite a bit calmer now than he used to be. But make no mistake, he is still That Action Guy, so feel free to drop him a line to say g’day. (Just, for the love of God, after reading what comes below, don’t talk on your mobile phone if he’s in the cinema with you!)
Brian says the world needs heroes, so over to you, Brian M. Logan:
Passivity, I hate it. I mean I really, really hate it.

What is it with people nowadays, anyway? If it isn’t someone getting the crap beaten out of them in broad daylight, and nobody doing anything to help, it’s someone pushing in line at the local shopping centre and getting away with it, or someone watching their friend being bullied at school and turning the other way. I JUST DON’T GET IT!

Okay, so I’m 6’2” tall, have a black belt in Tae Kwon do, and have a face full of thunder when called on, so I’ll grant you that someone like me is more likely to feel confident enough to say something when some random stranger tries to take the piss, or infringes on someone else’s personal liberties. But come on! Size should have nothing to do with it. What happened to people standing up for what’s right, because it’s the right thing to do?

I saw an epic video on youtube the other day where some woman, no more than 5’5” tall, if that, tore a sleezoid in a subway carriage a new arsehole after he’d taken out his c*ck and rubbed it against her when she was on the way home from work on the train. No doubt this guy had done this many, many times before, and gotten away with it, because the women he was doing it to, decided to assume the role of ‘victim’ in the vignette. But not this gal. No, when confronted by a free-balling freak frolicking in her nether regions, she turned around and yelled at the top of her voice. “This guy’s got his cock out! He was rubbing it against me! Somebody film his face!” (or words to that effect).

The guy, like a rabbit caught in headlights, didn’t know which way to turn (and someone did indeed film his face). Why? Because the victim had STOOD UP TO HIM. Amazing.

My late, sainted mum, Valerie Sylvia Morris, once got her car clipped by a drunk driver at a T-Junction at the corner of Hambidge Terrace and Playford Avenue in Whyalla, South Australia back in the mid-1980s. Now mum may have only been 5’2” tall, but she didn’t take crap from anyone, and promptly drove at high speeds after this guy, pulling her car in front of him when he was stopped at lights, and getting out and giving him what for in front of the other drivers who were idling behind him! The guy, named and shamed by this petite old woman with right on her side, apologised profusely and gave her his name and details right there and then on the spot. And even, a few weeks later, hand delivered a personal letter of apology…accompanied by his wife! Turns out both were extremely grateful as mum hadn’t reported the incident to the police (he’d got a mechanic mate of his to fix mum’s car up) because as he’d been drink driving he would’ve probably lost his license.

So you see, anyone can stand up for what’s right. If only they have the courage to do so.

One time, many years ago – I’m guessing it was probably the mid-90s – I was in a cinema in George street, Sydney, with a friend of mine, Susan. Now, this particular cinema was huge, and broken into three sections, with aisles between the two side sections and the centre. Susan and I were sitting in the middle of the middle section, maybe about 1/4 of the way from the back, when we hear some guy talking loudly on his mobile phone. Now, younger readers will have to believe me when I say that in the mid-90s, not everybody had mobile phones. And those who did (and conspicuously used them in public) were referred to as “Dickheads”. Anyway, there we were, having our movie interrupted by somebody talking on their mobile phone, and we’re looking around wondering where the hell he is, but we just can’t see him because there’s nobody close to us saying anything.

I’m not exaggerating now when I tell you that this ridiculously loud phone conversation went on for fully 15 minutes at least. During which time I’m getting angrier and angrier. Susan used to share a house in Paddington with me, and knew all too well of my dislike of people talking during a movie, and so was doing her level best during this time to calm me down. But, the longer the twat’s phone conversation went on, the more my blood started boiling.

But again, I can’t say anything because I can’t see where the dude is! And then, finally, I spot him. And he is – I kid you not – maybe 30 rows in front of us, and in the right hand isle! Which means that there are at least 200-300 people closer to him, than I am. And NOBODY HAS SAID ANYTHING DURING HIS ENTIRE CONVERSATION! And remember, if we can hear him all the way at the back of the cinema, how loud must it have been for everybody else?!

Well, by this stage I’m practically blowing a gasket, and – having finally spotted him – I get up and storm across the 15 odd people to the right of me in my row (cinema is totally packed remember) and down the aisle 30 plus rows to where I see this big guy in his mid-20s, second in from the aisle, sitting with about 8 of his mates (they practically took up the entire row) talking up a storm on his shinny new Nokia mobile phone.

To say I was ready to bust some heads by this stage is an understatement, so when I got there I reached across and grabbed his mobile phone out of his hand and hurled it to the ground, smashing it into pieces, and leaned over and grabbed him by the collar of his leather jacket and got within an inch of his face, and LOUDLY ABUSED HIM with language that would make a sailor’s whoring Longshoreman’s uncle blush with shame and rush to confessional. The children friendly sub-titles to my diatribe going along the lines of, ‘You are being extremely insensitive, sir, by speaking on your mobile phone during a motion picture, and I and these other good people have paid jolly good money to be able to watch the movie, sans interruptions”.

After I’d finished, he and his mates looked completely shell-shocked. I stood there, all testosterone and bulging veins and long red Viking hair halfway down my back, waiting for him to give me some lip. Praying he was going to say something. ANYTHING. Just to give me cause to smack the f*ck out of him. But he didn’t. say anything. Nobody said anything. The entire cinema was SILENT.

So, satisfied that he wouldn’t be talking on his mobile phone again anytime soon (especially as it was in about a dozen pieces at his feet), I turned around to walk back up the aisle to return to my seat. And as I did – and this is not a word of a lie – the ENTIRE CINEMA (maybe 500 plus people) BURST INTO APPLAUSE AND WILD CHEERS OF APPRECIATION. Seriously, I’m not making a word of this up. The entire cinema was cheering like I’d just won an Olympic Gold or scored the winning goal in the world cup final or something.  The reaction was as MAGICAL as it was UNEXPECTED.

About 15 minutes later, after I’d returned to my seat and everybody had gone back to watching the movie again, the guy and his eight burly mates, all got out of their seats and marched up the aisle. As they got up, the audience collectively held their breath. No doubt thinking, ‘Oh, it’s on now!’. But – instead of seeking me out – they all just left the cinema with nobody saying a word.

By this stage I’d calmed down completely of course, and as they were leaving, I started thinking, ‘Geez, Loges you idiot! Now there are going to be 9 guys waiting outside to beat the crap out of you when you leave the cinema!’. So much so that I found it nigh on impossible to concentrate on the rest of the movie (so in a way, the twat on the mobile phone won, as I didn’t get to enjoy the movie after all).

When the movie was over (maybe 40 minutes later), I manned up and marched outside onto George Street preparing for the worst. But…the Neanderthals were nowhere to be seen. Which, let’s be honest, was probably for the best. As I would’ve no doubt ended up beaten to a pulp by nine sets of hairy knuckles!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my OVER REACTION in this particular incident was justified (because the older, much more level-headed me, knows it obviously wasn’t). But I am saying that SOME REACTION was justified. That on a small, personal scale, the Edward Burke quote, “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing,” has to resonate with ALL OF US otherwise the dickheads of this world, WIN.

And with 200-300 people sitting closer to this guy than me, WHY DID NOBODY SAY ANYTHING?!

I’ll tell you why. Because the world is full of sheep. And sheep, by their very nature, are passive creatures. And as such are preyed upon by the wolves.

Passivity is the plague of the late 20th and early 21stcenturies, you mark my words. People have long since stopped standing up for what’s right, choosing instead to meekly accept when other people treat them (or their loved ones) like crap, with a shrug of resignation (while no doubt bitterly bitching about it later on Facebook and Twitter).

THE WORLD NEEDS HEROES. Make no mistake about it. Now, more than ever. Not the gun-toting John McClane types, but every day heroes. It needs parents to teach their kids to STAND UP AGAINST BULLIES when they’re young, so they won’t be paralysed by fear when something bad happens to them as an adult. And I’m not condoning violence here – though sometimes that’s the only language the bully understands – I’m just saying that people need to STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT. That means the woman who’s sexually harassed by a guy at work, needs to confront him and complain to her boss. That the guy who’s being teased unmercifully at college because of his sexuality, needs to man the hell up and confront the bigots and make his complaint official by taking it to the dean of the college. That the next time someone speaks on their mobile phone in a cinema, or pushes in front of you in a queue, or steals your park while you’re trying to reverse into it, or whatever the trite situation may be, it means you have to CALL THEM ON THEIR SH*T.

Because if not you, then who?

What’s that line in the movie, ‘Whip It’? “Be Your Own Hero.”  Yeah, that.
So there we go. Passivity, no longer a part of the Universe. Gone. Kaput. Kerfuckenated. So, let’s introduce the tally table. We’ll be keeping track of how we improve the Universe as we go along. So far we have:
Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Early days. But the Universe is a big place, friends. It’ll take a lot of changing.

ROOM 102: CHANGING THE WORLD ONE GRUMPY SOD AT A TIME

You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.

Room 101 is, as everybody except that guy over there knows, the room in which Winston Smith is tortured in George Orwell’s 1984. It’s also the name of a BBC TV series in which guests are encouraged to consign their pet hates to a fate worse than death– sleeping with Colleen McCullough or something, I’m guessing. as some of those pet hates have included Jeffrey Archer, The Gallagher Brothers, dogs’ testicles and 1975, it’s not a bad idea at all.

so, as I’m bored with life and haven’t an original thought in my head, and as I like to give friends and acquaintances a chance to get all ranty and prove that I’m not the only dispirited curmudgeonly old bastard in the building, I’ve decided to rip off the concept in its entirety but with the added twist that I’m setting it next door in Room 102, which is exactly like Room 101 except the wallpaper is worse. Imagine some sort of orange and brown large-patterned paisley affair. Got it.

So what I’ll be doing is inviting friends and colleagues who interest me to contribute a paragraph or two justifying the removal of a pet hate (or two) from the Universe. These will be locked in Room 102, where they’ll have to spend eternity watching Tonight Live with Steve Vizard, which is the worst fate I can think to give to something so bad that a person wishes it removed from the Universe. The only way something can rejoin us, out here, in the TLwSV-less world, is if it is recovered by a contributor, who gives me a post justifying why it should be readmitted. This might be harder than it looks….

A running tally shall be kept, so we can keep track of how we, as a group, have improved the world around us. People will be encouraged to print this list out, and brandish it in public to quell outbreaks of the forbidden item.

Everyone got it? Good. So let’s begin with my favourite person in the entire world. The beautiful Lyn Battersby, my wonderful partner of 10 years and wife of nearly 8. From now on, we live in world withoooooooouuuuut:

Phobias. We all have them. No, I’m not going to insist that Lee takes all phobias and ejects them from history. They’re often the little thing that takes a person from being somewhat normal or even mundane and transforms them into somebody interesting.

No, what I hate is how society, the viewer, takes a person’s phobia and mocks it.

Here’s a scenario. A person confides to you that they have a fear of clowns. How do you handle it?
Do you state you understand the stress such fears can cause, fill them in your fear of camera film and distract them by asking if they’ve tried the host’s delicious apricot dip?

Or, do you run to the nearest woman (or your own handbag if you are a woman) and beg, borrow or steal her lip stick, slash a red mouth across your face and proceed to dance around the terrified phobic?

If the latter is you, my friend, then shame shame shame. Phobia-mockery is an attitude that should definitely be ejected from history. Yes, the fear that arises from a phobia is irrational, but so is blue cheese and people still serve it at dinner parties, right? Well, unless they suffer from Rhumalisipisimisiphobia, then probably not.
So, in short, intolerance of a phobia has no place in our modern society and should be expelled.
There it is, my friends. The first entrant in Room 102. Step forward, into a world where nobody mocks your phobias, and await the next instalment.