Autumn Migration

(or Fall, if you prefer)

Just a quick announcement to let everyone know, the website that used to host the Time’s Up! / A Matter of Scale is officially no more. The pages are still there if you have the full links, but it’s got too old and clunky to update or even keep maintained, so everything I could move has been moved, and all links have been tested and updated where necessary, so it’s all tickety-boo.

I’m sorry I could not migrate the full text of the book, but that would have meant adding a huge sub-menu and checking literally hundreds of links.

The official pages are now in the top-level menu:

TIME’S UP! is the page of the published book
A MATTER OF SCALE is the page of the online book
FURTHER READING has a book list and, eventually, an article list
PODCASTS links to all the original podcasts
MOVIES is a relinked page for relevant movies

Hope you enjoy visiting, and re-visiting the book.

After Seasonturn : The Author as Underminer

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Catharsis. That’s the reason a lot of people write, and some days it does seem like I’m writing to rid myself of whatever is trapped inside my head. I’ve had a pretty good life; no one could deny that, at least in the context of being brought up a part of industrial civilisation, but I’m deeply worried. Again.

Some time in July 2015, there was a break in the weather for a day. This was the third time we had travelled to the Western Isles of Scotland in three years – the two previous years had been idyllic in terms of weather, location, being together as a family and taking the chance to connect with what I consider my “spiritual home” if there is such a thing. The most recent time was different, mainly because the weather was dreadful, but we did our best to keep spirits up, and did have a good laugh in the face of adversity; and when the sun came out, it seemed like this really was the best life could be. The photograph doesn’t show that there were two of us sitting above the beach – the feet aren’t mine – but no image could capture the sense of that moment, that deep connection between two people and the place they are.

Weather and, now it becomes clearer, climate is playing on my thoughts again. Storm after storm is hitting Britain: the UK Met Office have given them names so we take the warnings more seriously, and so far communities are just about coping where they have been worst hit. This is not normal, though, and I’m sure the Met Office are more than aware of the added significance in giving Atlantic storms tropical nomenclature. We are going to have to get used to a climate that has begun to change rapidly. The words of Guy McPherson ring in my head: “We’re fucked” is the gist, but more than this is a sense that we’re possibly over as a species, and definitely as a culture. It seems that civilisation has thrown everything it can at the ecosystem, and still shows no signs of stopping, despite the ragged mess that lies in front of the weapons of death.

I try not to worry, so I write. In that process comes an element of calm, putting what I can into the novels that are otherwise feeding out from somewhere deep inside my head, so the fears are threaded into a background tapestry, not so vividly that the reader will be scared, but clear enough that perhaps some readers will take from them the same theme I have tried to pursue for many years: we meddle with things at our peril, and need to realise what really matters to us.

It’s probably too late. Despite this, we have to do what we feel is necessary, even if it’s something as simple as just living the best way that you possibly can. Undermining is the act of weakening the Culture of Maximum harm by reconnecting people with what really matters. My writing will, ultimately, make little or no difference to whatever outcomes have been set in place already, but I do it because I can, and maybe it will help create a few connections, even if it’s just because that’s the right thing to do…

 

The Conorol Trilogy

I think it’s a truism that writers have many lives – one of them is lived in the world that everyone else occupies, others are lived in whatever world that person is constructing around them as part of the writing process (at least that’s the case if the writer really means what they say). For me, there are a few other worlds: it would be a terrible social faux pas to suddenly introduce undermining the industrial system in a conversation about what changes to make in village hall bookings, so I don’t. As far as most people are concerned, Keith is a person who does lots around the village – he’s not an enemy of industrial civilization (although some people do know).

And now, with Time’s Up! and Underminers established as reference texts for whoever wishes to use them, I embark on yet another life, separate from the community stalwart, the Underminer and the family man who likes to grow vegetables. As you can read, should you follow the link, I have committed to writing a trilogy of novels, known under the collective title The Conorol Trilogy. One novel has already been completed, and as I work on the second and search for a literary agent, I feel the split between this world and that of the jobbing author of young adult fiction is necessary. Underminers will continue here, but if you fancy seeing the progress in my other life, then do pop over…

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Guest Essays – At Last A Page

Buried in the pages of Underminers are the words of many others, all of whom I respect and consider to be Underminers in their own special way.

From the very beginning, the book was meant to be a collaborative effort – something that somehow got lost when it went to print and which I have been remiss in not highlighting on the pages of this website. Now it changes; these wonderful people gave permission for their words to be re-printed and edited, and some even wrote especially for the book.

You can read more by going to the special page devoted to these essays, complete with anchor links directly to their words. Click HERE for the page, or follow the link at the top.

Looking for an Agent

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Here’s a picture of a pile of A4 paper, printed in double-space, double-sided, 11 point text. An agent wouldn’t like that, but it’s okay because the manuscript in the photo is just so a few people can read through it and tell me what they think of my first novel. I have a different version for potential agents, in 12 point text, because they prefer it.

I actually finished writing the first draft of “Almost Gone” (probably not the final title, there is another book of that name) on 27th February. I felt slightly whoozy after typing “THE END”, excited and a little lost. What do I do know? Ultimately, the answer is to get it published and go out on lots of book signings, get asked questions and give the kind of answers that make more people want to buy the book. The publisher might want a follow-up too. That’s not impossible.

For all this pipe dreaming, there is a serious point. If I have to make money, I would rather do it doing something I love than something I am merely good at. The bit of money, or barter, I make is currently through fixing computers. I hate computers, they have various functions but they are inhuman and disconnect people, so I feel like a hypocrite, although I do spend a bit of time chatting to people, like a good doctor, and listening to their stories – people seem to feel the need to tell me things, and that’s fine.

The question is, am I as good at writing as I am at fixing computers? The answer will probably – with a bit of chance thrown in – determine whether (a) I can find an agent willing to represent me, (b) whether a publisher will want to invest in my work, and (c) whether people will want to buy it. And, yes, I will do everything in my power to make it free online.

So I am doing a lot more writing – in the form of introductory letters, plot synopses and personal statements; sending these off to agents on spec, and then waiting. If anyone can help make this process any quicker and more rewarding. i.e. if you know a good agent (or are a good agent) who is willing to represent me, then I would love to hear from you, via this link.

Thank you for reading, you can have a short extract for your trouble…


I’m sweating. It’s just the hill and the pools of warm sunlight. A sheen of moisture on my arms and beads of sweat in my eyes force me to stop and consider things. Flies settle on my eyelids, emerging from the damp ground in the dip where I decide not to rest. The sound of running water further up declares a spring, and fresh drink.

As I lie, with my fingertips playing in the rivulets, my lips cool again, I wonder how I’m going to find what I’m searching for…and drift away on an amber blanket of beech litter. Merod sits atop a pile of leaves, calling my name in a song that evokes the wind and the birth of spring in luminous green. As she sings her legs are gently swallowed by the leaves which seem to crawl upwards, caressing her waist, her sides, her shoulders until only her smiling face remains, opening into a black chasm and howling the moan of ripping roots…and the slow, deep rumble of the earth wakes me, gasping.

My face is running with perspiration and the rumble goes on, vibrating through the ground and my gut. So much louder than before. I stumble upright, shaking on weak legs, turning to try and locate the Sound’s source, but it defies direction. All I know is I’m closer.

A natural clearing lies ahead, caused by a pair of huge beeches recently fallen and taking smaller kin with them. In the midday sun a cacophony of birdsong plays on the air, partners in the making, eggs to be laid and hatchlings to be born. The reason for the falling is clear – shallow roots into a rocky ground that have been loosened by torrents of rain. What remains is a pool, yet to be colonised and maybe ephemeral.

I stand at the edge of the pool, with the sun right above. I briefly catch my reflection and turn away. This isn’t me, surely. Calming myself, I take in the second look and see a mass of tangled hair full of sticky pine needles and dead bugs, a face dirty with boy-grime, and a yawning red hole, unpeeled and leaking. The edges of the wound have taken on a rosy tinge and specks of black and brown occupy the space between.

I’ve been an idiot.

We know about germs; we’d be dead soon enough if we didn’t. As a small boy I could pee just about wherever I liked, but if it was anything else then there were special places, away from the water supply, away from the crops. Soap is a precious thing, but that’s one time we always use it. But even then you never know when someone will break out or fever, or worse – well, we do know, sort of, and I am staring at one of those times out of the pool and back at my own stupid face.

The Network is No More

Slightly heavy heart today, though considerably lighter shoulders; the Underminers Network – the discussion board, that is – is no more. I had a reminder from my domain provider today that network.underminers.org was due for renewal, which meant I had to make a decision: do I try and promote the Network more, or do I remove it? In fact I had made the decision a while ago. The lack of activity showed that people are unwilling to discuss undermining online, or at least in the dated forum format. There is lots going on elsewhere and, I would be willing to bet, a heck of a lot happening offline, a.k.a. The Real World.

And there was the matter of people trying to sell Nike shoes by registering and posting adverts.

So, just a short while ago, I went to the board to find that Zetaboards had decided to move everything over to Cloudflare (buggered if I know what this means IRL) killing off my domain redirection. In a fit of logic, I removed the subdomain, took off any links from other sites and deleted the board from Zetaboards. The Underminers Network is gone.

Long may people continue to undermine; I suspect something big is happening soon…

10k and Running

Or rather walking. After setting myself a modest target of 2000 words a week, to allow for all the other stuff I find myself doing, it’s with some satisfaction that I find the Novel with No Name has passed the 10,000 word mark. It was a real struggle to go beyond the short story, and I’ve found myself in quite a few sticky situations along the way – both literal and narrative.

As it happens, the story is has turned into a bit of a quest, and I’m quite relieved to find the main protagonist no longer alone. But that’s all I’m giving away – it could be a good meeting, or a bad one. They may stay together or be parted in some way; and there may be more, or not. That’s the joy of writing without a plot; I don’t know what’s coming next.

At some point I may post a teaser here, that’s if I get enough encouragement :)

A Fictional Start

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A few months ago I was asked to write something creative for a new web project and decided I would try a little bit of fiction. This wasn’t entirely new, I had dabbled with poetry and, well before writing Time’s Up! wrote something called A Last Toast to the Old World, which ended up being the Epilogue to that book.

The very short story I ended up writing was called Wound, which had two meanings – one related to harm, the other to the concept of time. You can read it here if you really want to, but I know it’s not terribly good. Two reasons I know: first, it didn’t make me cry. Not long after writing A Last Toast… I read it out at a meeting, I think it was a Dark Mountain event, and the first time I ever met Paul Kingsnorth. At the last paragraph I started to choke up, and almost couldn’t read the final words.

This isn’t ego, I must add. Writing fiction is something I do very little of because, although I think I can, it takes a huge emotional investment. Those tears are in reliving the moment of writing – the unfolding of lives in a deeply meaningful way, at least to me. If I don’t feel an emotional tug when reading things back then I know it’s not working.

The second reason I knew the short story wasn’t very good is because a dear friend of mine told me so. I trust her judgement implicitly. It moved me a little, but it was immature; not the complete package by any means.

So, when I decided to embark on longer writing in order to try and express ideas in a slightly different form than my previous work,  it was with a fair amount of trepidation. I had, and still have, an idea for a semi-autobiographical novel – that stays in the bag for now. There was also another idea, about a world that is now, but a culture that is not; about potential loss and the need to prevent it; about still having time, something we have so little of now.

That was to be the short story, as practice for the novel. I wrote it. I showed it to a few people and they liked it. They wanted to know how it carried on.

You won’t get to see that story, at least not for a while.

But you know how ideas take on a life of their own? That short story, which is complete in its own way, is now becoming a novel. I don’t know whether it will work in the longer form, but I’m 5000 words in and getting the hang of it, and rather excited as to what will happen to my main protagonist…

Statement About Amazon

Dear Reader

Today I removed all links to Amazon Corporation from this website. It was like flicking a particularly irritating imp from my shoulder and kicking it out of the door. It’s still out there, grinning and rubbing its hands together and, if I listen hard enough I can hear its execrable voice squeaking, “I still have all your readers, and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

It’s time to silence the imp for good. On behalf of independent book stores everywhere, writers who have decided to devote themselves to a cause or just the love of writing, readers who want to reject the most virulent corporate cancer in the publishing world, and anyone who prefers “Small is Beautiful” over “Big is Best”, I am going further.

Today I will be contacting the publishers of both Underminers and Time’s Up! and asking them to do everything in their power to remove the listings of those books from every Amazon database, and cease sales of those titles through Amazon Corp. and its regional equivalents.

I may not succeed, but I will have done my best. It is still my desire to ensure as many people as possible get to read these books, which is why I have always offered online equivalents to read on web pages or downloadable text. But I appreciate that many people, like me, love the tangible quality of the book – its feel in the hand; the sound of turning leaves and echo of a dialogue between author and reader; even the smell of the book, the memories of its last resting place, resident in the fibres of every open page.

You deserve that choice: new, used, old, infirm and falling to pieces, or cherished on a shelf waiting for the next reader to come along and see what is inside.

Can I ask that we make a deal? I will do what I can to de-Amazon my books; and you, please tell everyone not to use this corporate behemoth, and give the little people, the people who are like us, a chance.

Yours

Keith Farnish

Author and Campaigner

Update 28 June: My publishers have responded and are trying their very best, but hamstrung by the wholesalers, who have no qualms about selling to Amazon because they are also massive companies. However, UIT have withdrawn “Time’s Up!” from direct sale via Amazon Advantage, which is a start…

Signed Books Available

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I have a limited number of signed copies of Time’s Up! A Guide to Subverting The Machine available. The book can be signed with any message you like (so long as I agree with its sentiments), and posted to anywhere you like.

The cost is just £10 + postage (cost depends on distance). If you are interested in a copy then please contact me via the Contacts Page, tell me where you live and I’ll give you the total cost and how to pay.

Go on, you know you want to :)

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