Saturday, 18 July 2015

Guest Post: In Praise of the Freak by Francis H Powell

Request from Linzé: Please consider reviewing Flight of Destiny, it would help the author greatly. Thank you!

There are no real alluring protagonists in my short stories,  if truth be told, there are a few female beauties, however I more glamorize  and  lionize the freaks of this world, those not accepted by this world…the ultimate  outsiders.  We live in a world in which everybody is ideally “body perfect”.  People have this crazy fetish of “selfies”.  Does this mean a generation of narcissists has been born? 
With my stories I mock this kind of culture.  Perhaps one of my favorite characters is called Bugeyes.  The character name is a bit of a giveaway, he has disproportionate bulging  eyes. Where I got this idea I can’t remember.  The character always receives a volley of insults such as “moth eyes”.  I don’t know what kind of school you went to, but I recall anyone who was remotely physically out of the ordinary, would be liable to cruel mockery.  A lot of the dialogue I write is cruel insults or verbal jousting. 
Bugeyes is born into an aristocratic family (genetically inbred). Immediately after his birth his mother rejects him, on account of his oversized eyes.  He is dispatched to live with another family. Later his mother gives birth baby girl, who has the same characteristics as her brother…once again she is dispatched out sight, out of mind. However she develops into a beauty, and large eyes become all the rage.  I was inspired by Sophie Dahl (the model) who I think has rather large eyes, as well as being an over-sized model. 
In another of stories, “Flawless” the story revolves around a man called Sirius Piecroft, who is at the point of proposing to  the woman of his dreams, when an insect flies into his mouth. A few days later he develops a terrible skin disease. After a period of time his “fiancé” Julia, begins to neglect him, then finally she announces she is going to marry Jonas, Sirius’ younger brother. This terrible betrayal, spirals Sirius into a fast descent to madness.  I suppose the point I am trying to make is akin to the old adage “beauty is only skin deep”.  The story emphasizes how fickle people are, when a person’s appearance deteriorates, so does the woman’s love for him.  
In Victorian times you could pay money to see freaks,  there were the bearded ladies, included amongst these was Julia Pastrana resembled more of an ape than a woman.  The sad fact of the matter was Pastrana, a Mexican-born woman suffered from hypertrichosis, a disease that causes the person to be covered from head to toe in long, thick hair.  Added to which she had a large nose and thick lips.  She later had the indignity of being mummified, along with the still born child she gave birth to, who had the same features as her.  Freak shows are a terrible indictment of the Victorian times, a time when Britain was  at the height of imperialism. 
John Merrick,  more commonly known as “The Elephant man” had the most unimaginable skin disease, allegedly suffering from elephantiasis.  Like some of the characters in my book,  poor John Merrick,  was an object of curiosity and ridicule throughout his life. His body was characterized by his malformed head, curved spine, "lumpy" skin and overgrown right arm and hand.  His life was brought further to the public’s attention, with David Lynch’s  file “The Elephant man”.  The real reason for Merrick’s  severe condition is even to this day open to conjecture. 
What we can say is you are unfortunate to be born with   a condition like John Merrick’s  you will have much suffering  to endure and will need the kind of  indomitable  spirit that John Merrick possessed. From the moment we are born, we are dealt different cards of fate, some .
With my short stories, the oppressed often rise up and win the end.  I have always admired the underdog…and have often felt a bit of an outsider myself.  With short stories, you face limits, you have  create characters, that the reader will immediately identify with, so an outsider is a good source of reference.  You have to create strong dialogue.  You have to create an opening sentence like no other, that grabs the reader’s attention… Bugeyes begins with… Bug-eyes was due a life of toil.  Another story “Seed” begins with Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating.  The last story in my book “Cast from Hell” begins with “There it was: I was to be banished from hell.” The ends have to have a dramatic twist, with events leading up to this. 
If your skin is far from perfect…or your ears jut out further than most, perhaps your teeth are all at odd angles, your eyes are bulbous, your nose so terribly pronounced, it looks like you could spear somebody in the eye,  just  indulge yourself with individuality of your features, don’t concern yourself with the judgmental natures of others, in a world that expects nothing short of body perfect…  
About the Author
What better way to put all my angst into short stories. Born in a commuter belt city called Reading, like many a middle or upper class child of such times I was shunted off to an all-male boarding school aged eight, away from my parents for up to twelve weeks at a time, until I was 17.  While at my first Art college, I met a writer called Rupert Thomson, who was in the process of writing his first book “Dreams of leaving”. His personality and wit resonated, long losing contact with him.  Later I lived in Austria, in 1999 I moved to Paris.  During my time in Paris I met Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called Rat Mort (dead rat). I began contributing and got hooked on writing short stories.  My book Flight of Destiny is a result of this obsession.  I also write poetry.
Connect with Francis online
Flight of Destiny is a collection of short stories about misfortune. They are characterized by unexpected final twists, that come at the end of each tale. They are dark and surreal tales, set around the world, at different time periods. They show a world in which anything can happen. It is hard to determine reality and what is going on a disturbed mind. People's conceptions about morality are turned upside down. A good person can be transformed by an unexpected event into a bad person and then back again to their former state. The high and mighty often deliver flawed arguments, those considered wicked make good representations of themselves. Revenge is often a subject explored.