When my publisher, Beckhurst and Ward, asked me to get my teeth into an anthology of my early and unpublished work, I was retiscent to say the very least.
I've worked my way through a good number of this kind of collection before and, to a man, they've always been a bit on the disappointing side. Publisher and reader alike harbour the same impossible dream: a deeper insight into their author's psyche through the examination of his/her obscurer bits and pieces. But it doesn't often work like that. (Oh, of course the publishers also want to make a few quid* on the side.)
For one thing, my earlier stuff really isn't all that good - as you're about to find out. Sorry! Included in this collection are a number of blogs written for my "Letters from Claptonia" project, back in the good old days of the Internet. Sometimes I miss the separation of being able to sit down at a computer and write these things. But times change. Certain essays, such as the eulogies to my father, are worth keeping, for sure. But my clumsy attempts at fiction seem listless and pale compared to later efforts.
At least, looking back through these things (the whole collection is available to view at OLMIS - the Old London Museum of Internet Studies - by the way), it is clear that I did have a grip on what lay around the corner for us humans in terms of mind-melds. I was picking symbolism, synchronicity and metaphor apart for a bloody past-time. And this, dear friends, was pre-2012.
I am indebted to Simon Badgee and Phil Tayling of the Bardboys i-group for their contribution of old print journalism that I had mercifully forgotten about. Where these two herberts found this stuff, I hate to think. I long since gave up hoarding my clippings. Some of these are too terrible to share, but I still stand by my review of the dreadful Huggy Bear and my lambasting of some of the lamer music acts of the late 1990s. The news journalism, from my very early days as a scribbler, is not up to much at all. Though from a historical perspective my coverage of the Newport Siege is maybe worth dipping into at least once.
Towards the end of this anthology is a short story entitled 'Flappy' which might ring some bells with readers already familiar with my best-known novels, 'I Saw A Bird' and 'Pie-Eater' (published 2042 and 2043 respectively). To call 'Flappy' a prototype is perhaps over-stretching things, but I certainly kept some of the themes and characters explored in that original story. Though the name and description of the news editor character in 'I Saw A Bird' is rather different to "Waldo" in 'Flappy', it's not that difficult to see that both are based on the same seedy culprit.
I suppose this collection has one or two alright-ish bits. It has a fair sprinkling of stinkers and a few unforgivable warts but way back then - like everybody - I wasn't expecting to live forever.
This is not a summing up, by the way. It's not a curtain call. A new novel is under construction and according to my i-physician I have a good few years in me yet.
This book is dedicated, as usual, to all of the cats in the old place.
Enjoy. And thanks for all the cheese.
Andrew J Barding, New Chicago April 2056.
* Quid. Slang for £s. The currency of the former United Kingdom.