Thursday, 2 October 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for October 2014 - IWSG

Anna Nordeman

This is author Roz Morris

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for October 2014

This is my eighteenth post for IWSG.  And I am posting late. Alex J. Cavanaugh may think that I am not posting at all this month. Sorry Alex. There has just been too much going on in my offline life.

As I have mentioned before, after reading Roz Morris' how-to-write books in her Nail-Your-Novel-series, I am convinced that she knows what she's talking about. So I've decided to read her novels. I have read both, but I am especially fond of Lifeform three, so here are a few words about this thoroughly enjoyable novel:

Lifeform three is Roz Morris' second novel in her own name and it belongs to two genre categories: Literary Fiction and Science Fiction. 

As a Science Fiction novel, Lifeform three is a dystopia, but a fun one. It is a fable set at a future time, when cities have eaten up every last bit of free land because of floods from global warming. 

From chapter 3: Between the roofs and the roads, there was no room for countryside.

But most of all, this is a story about what it means to be human, despite the fact that almost all of the characters are robots! If you don't count the human visitors, the only living and breathing creatures are the "lifeforms" (animals) that live in this last oasis of countryside, for which the robots are caretakers. 

Lifeform three is well-structured and beautifully-written; a school example of 'showing rather than telling' where every word is carefully weighed. The first chapter introduces the main character, and lets disaster strike him. It is not immediately clear what has happened to him. We get to know gradually. Roz Morris waits with a teaspoon of back story until chapter two. Chapter one is very, very short, only two pages long, but packs the essentials with few words. It starts with these two sentences:

 Paftoo leads the horse towards the shelter. He can feel the storm coming.

These words tell us that this is a story about someone named Paftoo who takes care of a horse. He wants the horse to be safe and secure. There is a storm brewing. How many horse stories have a scene like this? What a caring human being, Paftoo must be, I think, as I read these first two lines.

But Paftoo is not a farmer who owns his own farm. He is simply a worker on a farm, and the farm is not a farm as we know them in our time, but the very last piece of country property that has become a theme park where people come to enjoy an outing. For the generations who know nothing about how things were before the floods, they can get a taste of the countryside at Harkeway Hall theme park. But these visitors to the park don't understand animals. 

Paftoo is patient and gentle with the horse. The horse is frightened by a family of visitors who drive their car over the field. 

Paftoo runs to the car, waving, 'Excuse me, please would you leave the field?'
      Brakes squeak. The car stops. A head in a baseball cap pops out of the window. Small eyes squint at Paftoo. 'Why?'

Paftoo explains to the man driving the car, that they are scaring the horse. Paftoo needs to get the horse in the shelter of a truck parked nearby. The man doesn't understand. He thinks that they can do whatever they like in the park, so they just keep driving in the field. 

The storm is now overhead and flashes of lightning scare the horse so that it runs away. Instead of taking shelter for himself, Paftoo runs after the horse and gets struck by lightning. When that happens, the family in the car finally do stop to see Paftoo turn blue.

Freddy stares at Paftoo. He whispers: 'Is he all right?'
     'Oh you don't need to worry about that,' says Dad, and takes picture. It's only one of those bods.'

If we did not understand before that Paftoo is a robot, we do now. But Paftoo is to me more human than the breathing individuals sitting in the car. 

This is Roz' idea of what the 'Pebbles' look like.

This is Witley Park, the inspiration for the room under water.

With Paftoo, Roz Morris has created a character we can care about and root for from the start.

Roz Morris is inspired by such works as:

George Orwell, 1984
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale 
Aldus Huxley, Brave New World
David Almond, Skellig
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Kenneth Grahame, Dream Days
Peter Shaffer, Equus

Even if Roz Morris is inspired by many different well-known science fiction novels, her novel, Lifeform Three is a strong independent work of art, and a joy to read.

Best wishes,

Here are some tags that pertain to Roz Morris' novel, Lifeform Three:

horses, science fiction, dystopia, future, global warming, ray bradbury, future earth, landscape, bradbury, future of america, future of britain, fiction fantasy contemporay, margaret atwood, future tech, sea levels, future humans, future fantasy fiction, dystopia climate change, future run by computers, future animals, future of the human condition, future possibilities, vanished houses, vanished mansions

First Commenter:

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

WEP September Challenge - Changing Faces - 24th-26th September 2014

Welcome to WEP's Challenge for 24-26 September, Changing Faces.

I've just finished reading Roz Morris' science fiction/literary novel, Lifeform Three (2013), which I highly recommend. So I am going to give Sci-Fi another try here.

Changing Faces

Veronica Carlgren awoke one morning to find that she had forgotten what she had done the night before. Thinking back, trying to remember what happened, she realised that she had trouble even remembering her own name. 

What's happening here? What do I know? Where am I? Who am I?

She looked around the room to see if it was a familiar place, but it looked barren av personal mementos or photographs that would trigger her memory. Hospital beds. There were two. The one that she had slept in and another that was made up and hadn't been slept in by any ... patient.

Why am I in hospital? What kind of a hospital is this? 

She looked out the window. Yes, there was at least a window.

The window overlooked a garden or green area nearest the building and farther away she could see a large parking lot. It was a clear view. She must have been on the second or third floor. It was green outside, but whether it was spring, summer or early fall, she could not pinpoint yet. Maybe she could take a walk outside and see.

Suddenly, the wide door to the corridor opened and a women dressed in some kind of professional uniform wheeled in a cart with a breakfast tray and medicines.

'Good morning, Veronica!' the uniformed boomed, 'Glad to see you up and around. You must be feeling better! How about some breakfast?'

'Thank you. That would be nice. Have you been here a long time? I mean, have you been here as long as I have been here?'

'No Love, I've been on holiday for two weeks. This is my first day back. I've read your charts and talked to the others. But I am not allowed to say anything. I'm just an aid. You'll have to talk to the doctor.

'When can I do that?'

'When they have rounds. They usually do that early on this ward,' she said looking at the watch pinned on her uniform's  breast pocket, 'Sorry Dear, they've already been here. You must have been asleep when they came. Better luck tomorrow morning.'

'You called me "Veronica". How do you know my name?'

'Your name is on the charts, Sweetie. It says "Veronica Carlgren" everywhere. My name's Alma, by the way. I'll be back later. Don't forget to take your medicine.'

Alma left the breakfast tray on Veronica's tray-table and wheeled the cart out of the room. It was cream-of-wheat in a plastic bowl, cold toast with a pad of margarine on a plastic plate, and a small sealed plastic cup of orange juice. Nothing glass or metal. Plastic spoon. Paper napkin.

Veronica sat on the bed pulling the tray-table closer. 

I may as well eat something, she though taking the plastic spoon in hand and tasting the cream-of-wheat.

It was then that Veronica noticed her own hands. She looked down at both of her hands. They were not the hands of a young woman, her age, that is, the age that she presumed that she was, around thirty. These hands were wrinkled and had visible veins. The skin on her arms was baggy, and had dark spots, the kind that really old people get. Some of her knuckles were a bit swollen from arthritis.

Have I been in a coma? For how long? 

She had no pain. She could move about freely. If she had been in a coma for a very long time she would not be able to do this. She would have trouble even getting out of bed, because of atrophy of the muscles. That much she knew, without knowing how she knew it. Had she been a nurse? She must find a mirror and look at herself. Maybe she could remember.

Veronica left the bed and looked around the room. There must be a bathroom or at least a toilet somewhere. There. She spied a door near the entrance. She opened the door, walked into the smaller windowless room and looked above the sink where there was indeed a mirror. But the face that looked back at her was a white-haired woman with sunken eyes and wrinkled cheeks.

Veronica did not know her.


[This text is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of my imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.]

Word count according to WordCalc: 710



This is a hastily written text - only a sketch - and the sci-fi ambitions evaporated due to lack of time. This past week has been filled of near-disasters. My ten-year old daughter, Elisabet, took a shower without paying attention to the fact that the floor drain could not absorb the water fast enough. She let the water spew out on the floor, to rinse her hair, again and again. The floor in the bathroom was quickly flooded and spilled out into the hall and ruined the floor there. It happened so fast, I couldn't stop it. I had to mop up as quickly as I could and literally bail out the two to three inches of water that covered the bathroom floor. 

My novel must have a flood scene in it! I have to use this.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Sally Stackhouse


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