We Wrote a Book During a Pandemic

by Chloe Perrin

In May 2020, Britain went indoors and stayed there. Out of this sudden extreme burrowing came a flood of tweets and Insta posts documenting the myriad of activities the country was using to keep itself occupied while the world outside shut down.

Some people learned to knit. Others took up yoga.

We, the Horror, Sci Fi and Fantasy module class of 2020, wrote a book.

(Look! our book is the #1 hot new release on Amazon!)

Robots, Rogues and Revenants is an example of what happens when a group of writers are told to use their imaginations during possibly the most anxiety inducing period of their lives. And when you read the anthology of short stories for yourself, you’ll get to experience first-hand the kind of book a global catastrophe makes.

While it’s nice to have something soft and comforting during a time of such ridiculous uncertainty, some of us decided instead to really lean into the catharsis of creating something even scarier than the situation we were already in. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book contains a deliciously wide variety of nightmares, from the relentless pestering cries of the undead to the best canned meat you’ll find this side of London.

And I’m warning you now. There is gore. Lots and lots of gore.

You won’t be safe from it in the non-horror genres either – even our high fantasy authors decided to splatter a sizeable amount of blood on their pages, mixing magic with deaths so bloody they would make George R.R. Martin squirm.

But don’t worry about it too much. If gut squeezing, bone snapping horror isn’t quite what you’re into at the moment, we can respect that. When locked inside for months on end escapism is the name of the game, which is why entire pantheons of gods live in this book. Feeling terrified by the present day? Go back centuries to a time where deities and fairies mixed with mortals. Or maybe you’re simply missing the present we had only a few months ago, and just one more party will do – no problem. The amazingly cosplay-able rave witches of London have got your back.

And there’s the future, of course, where you’ll be provided with a service that allows you ownership of a late loved one’s memories – and in that vein I should really warn you that one or two stories will definitely have you wiping away a tear. Sadness is a catharsis too, and who doesn’t need a good cry while the outside world upends itself?

There is something wonderfully unique about Robots, Rogues and Revenants, not just in what it is but when. This book is a time capsule of a group’s imaginations during a global pandemic. Real life will always influence the stories we produce, making each story in this anthology probably the strangest insight into the strangest time a lot of us have ever or will ever live through.

Which is exactly why you should pick it up right now and read it.

(All proceeds to NHS combined charities)

Chloe Perrin is a North Walian writer living in West London. Her writing has been featured in previous anthologies such as Hillingdon Literary Festival’s We Are Here and Brunel University’s Letters to my Younger Self, and her one act play The Ghost We Live With was produced by Studio Brunel in 2019. She hopes to continue creating funny, strange, and oddly depressing pieces until someone finally stops her.

Screen Love

by Benjamin Parameswaran 

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Lines across space will find,
New means to spend some time,
If only for some peace of mind,
It uncorks a realm not quite sublime.

Heads of this hydra may bite one another,
Trying to express to others,
That they themselves are lovers.

Growing fonder, watch out for it
A pedestal, on which they now stand,
A looking-glass for the wistful hearted,
Always shatter-proof upon reflection.

These trees grown together need firm earth,
For wires without roots prevent disclosure,
There is no rain or sun inside this house,
Life travelling on with an electric hum.

Hold on, effort is without limits,
This garden is vast and you were born in it.

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When I was a small boy, my mother used to set me writing tasks. Sometimes I wrote about my day, other times I came up with fantasies taken from whatever I could find. She wanted me to read, read, read. But being half-stubborn mule, more concerned with games, I failed at this task. Now at the age of 25, I read at the pace of a snail and have found a love in writing that I once denied myself.

Living in the Age of Coronavirus

by Marie-Teresa Hanna

As I write this from my bedroom, the sun is shining through the window, the birds are singing and I can hear a neighbour exercising to Andra Day’s song, ‘Rise Up’. My next-door neighbours are entertaining their toddler, and she is giggling at their duck noises while the neighbour across is washing dishes in her kitchen. Separated by windows, walls, and doors, we are all aware of each other and although our lives are different, we are collectively trying to get through this pandemic, each with our individual stories, worries and emotions.

As for many of us, this is the first time I have witnessed global fear and collective grief, not only for the uncertainty of the future, but most importantly, for the lives lost within the NHS, communities, family members and friends. With close friends working in pharmacies and Intensive Care Units, a vulnerable and high-risk parent, and elderly family members, I find myself taking precautions that seemed unimaginable before. In between essential bi-weekly hospital visits and once a week shopping trips, I am haunted by the fear in people’s eyes, floored by older members of the community who are unable to get groceries delivered, and the rising mortality rates where human lives are turned into numbers on the news. In contrast, staying safe at home and smelling of pure alcohol and disinfectant wipes is a small compromise.

Although I limit watching the news and social media, the impact of the Coronavirus is constantly on my mind and I have to remind myself that productivity is not the be-all and end-all. Some days I get on with university work, attend Zoom meditation and yoga classes, read, write a few lines of poetry or exercise. Most of the time, I watch Netflix, funny animal videos on YouTube, or end up daydreaming, aware that my mind is processing this current climate and forcing anything would be counterproductive. As I connect remotely with friends and call members of my book club, I hear stories of struggle, change and resilience. Talking to these members brings intergenerational connectedness centred around individuals who tell me their narratives of surviving wars, migration and several losses. Or my father, who recalls stories of waiting in six-hour queues for essentials such as bread and petrol, while growing up in Sudan. In these moments I am reminded that we are hardwired for survival.

In the future, this will be our story to tell. For now, all we can do is connect with each other, give ourselves time to feel, grieve, and remember, because like the sun that sets, we too will rise.

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Marie-Teresa Hanna is a British Egyptian-Sudanese writer, interested in BAME, Middle Eastern and North African women’s fiction. She is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University London. In her spare time, she runs a monthly hospice book club and always enjoys listening to podcasts, and long river walks while contemplating life. If you would like to follow her thoughts and ramblings, find her on Twitter @MarieTeresaHan3.

 

Brunel Creative Writing MA Students Write, Record and Mix an Album in a Week

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By Alex and Simone Ayling-Moores

The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone. Whether it’s our collective isolation and restrictions leaving home comforts, or those fears and concerns for both loved ones, and those we’ll never meet: it is a uniquely uncertain time for almost all of us around the globe.

As both musicians and music teachers (and aspiring writers too!) we had the prospect of losing  a big chunk of our income so, instead of twiddling our thumbs, we decided to try and make something positive from all of this.

Thus the challenge to write, record and mix an album, all in one week, was something we set ourselves… and WE DID IT! Pushing through early mornings and very late evenings, the compositions were crafted and recorded with passion (and a lot of persistence!).

It wasn’t easy. But that’s not to say that it wasn’t fun too!

The album, entitled ‘Escapism’, was started on Monday (March 23rd) and was released Sunday (March 29th). It’s an eclectic album, which presents listeners with a smorgasbord of musicality. From dark harmonies, and electronic distortions, to offbeat lyrics and exotic rhythms, the album blends styles and genres to surprise, entertain and delight.

Like its title suggests, we want it to be a space you can escape into for forty minutes or so, and catch a little novelty and intrigue in moments of dismay and doubt.

‘Escapism’ is available for download through the link below for merely a fiver.

Any download or share really is massively appreciated – if we can make up even an hour’s worth of lost earning from this, it will all have been worth it!

https://alexandsim.bandcamp.com

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Guest blogger Lucy Hunt, Winner of the Brunel English writing prize 2018-19

Congratulations to Theatre and English undergraduate Lucy Hunt who is the overall Winner in this year’s English writing prize at Brunel University London.

Read on for Lucy’s guest blog:

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image copyright Dominion Theatre / Bat Out Of Hell The Musical

I would do anything to watch Bat Out of Hell again (and I would do that!)

by Lucy Hunt

EnglishBlogPicture2It is safe to say I was a ‘bat out of hell’ when tickets went on sale for Jim Steinman’s award-winning musical at the Dominion Theatre earlier this year. If the large, fiery motorbike towering over the entrance isn’t enough of a hint, this musical is loud, excessive, and it’s batshit crazy!

Since its opening, Bat Out of Hell has received divided opinion due to its lack of conformity to a typical musical – instead, it seems more like a fairy-tale being held hostage by a rock concert. It centres on Strat, the forever eighteen-year-old leader of a group of mutants called “The Lost” whose DNA froze during a chemical war, causing them to stay young for ever. Raven, who later becomes Strat’s love interest, is locked away in her room by her father Falco, the ruler of the dystopian land of Obsidian. If Peter Pan and Rapunzel didn’t just pop into your head, you will probably be amongst the confused half of critics who don’t understand the unusual yet captivating style this musical takes on.

The jarred storyline is matched by the equally jarred yet extraordinary cinematography that director Jay Scheib brings to the musical. Throughout certain scenes of the show, cameramen are on stage and the actors perform to the camera rather than the audience. As the video is projected across the backdrop, so much is going on in all parts of the stage. It is this futuristic style that makes this musical so different but refreshing for the theatre industry. It brings the advantages of the cinema into the theatre, exploiting the strengths of both movie-making and theatre to create an explosive masterpiece.

EnglishBlogPicture3It would be wrong to write a musical review without picking up on the vocals, especially in BOOH. It is no secret Meatloaf’s songs are hard to sing, especially when having to jump around and act at the same time. But the cast of Bat Out of Hell deliver no faults. No matter the opinion on the musical, every critic has praised the talents of the entire cast. Andrew Polec deserves particular praise as he tackles eight belting tunes, such as “I would do anything for love”, each night and leaves the audience roaring with applause. But Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton, who play Raven’s parents, steal the show with an electric duet of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. These songs that are known to be individually ludicrous and comical, surprisingly appear to come together and make sense.

As a jukebox musical would do, BOOH will attract people who may never have been to the theatre, or people who have never heard of Meatloaf’s songs. Either way, this musical provides a fun, jolted experience that makes you so unsure, but at the same time love what you’re watching. It has something for everyone – from comedic moments, to epic ballads; from a Romeo and Juliet vibe, to songs that make you want to get up and sing at the top of your lungs (but it is theatre etiquette not to!).

English Winner
Lucy Hunt
is a Brunel Theatre and English student, from Northampton, who spends most of her money on musicals and Disneyland trips. Her biggest achievement is being away from her cat this long whilst at University, and aspires to do anything in life that permits her to break into song and dance in the middle of the street.

Guest blogger Tyri Donovan, runner-up in the English writing prize 2018-19

Congratulations to English with Creative Writing undergraduate Tyri Donovan who was a runner-up in this year’s English writing prize at Brunel University London.

Click here to read Tyri’s blog entry!
(opens in PDF)

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Tyri Donovan
refers himself as a diligent, open minded person of mixed ethnicity – British, Jamaican, Egyptian. Family, Friends, Music and Athletics drives his creativity and passion towards Art, whilst global interactions of langauge engage and educate him within international cultures. Tyri views culture with integrity, respect and sensitivity, as he continues to learn and grow through the interest of people’s own culture experiences.

Anthology Launch: Wizards, Werewolves and Weird Engines (Sat. Oct 6th, 1pm)

Join us at Hillingdon Literary Festival this weekend for the launch of a new anthology:

‘WIZARDS, WEREWOLVES AND WEIRD ENGINES’

WizardsWerewolvesPoster

featuring short fiction and non-fiction writing by English / Creative Writing undergraduate students at Brunel University London.

– LIVE READINGS
– FREE REFRESHMENTS
– BOOKS WILL BE ON SALE AT £5 PER COPY

– DON’T MISS IT!
Saturday Oct 6th, 1pm
in the Artaud Building (AA101)

Hillingdon Literary Festival features a wealth of events, from creative writing workshops to poetry readings. Free tickets for the festival are available at Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hillingdon-literary-festival-tickets-49331946179