Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

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The Threepenny Space Opera

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Peachum, the black surgeon, was massaging a heart. Bored, he turned to his wife: “Where’s that lump of sensuality?”
“Polly’s out courting. He’s a very nice man; a Captain, you know. Ever so well turned out, he wears gloves like a Vicky. He’s got this awful scar on his neck though. Well, I suppose he is a war hero.”
At his table, gloved in gore, Peachum ground his molars silently. A scar on his neck, eh?

Several floors below, deep inside the asteroid New London, his daughter was in the process of marrying this scarred captain. Polly was wearing white, of course, and MacHeath was wearing his dress uniform, medals agleam. It was the happiest day of her life. Pirouetting, Polly broke into song:

And Pirate Jenny was dancing for pennies,
The knucklebones tossed in a spin.

A man came running up. Polly tried to think of him as one of the groom’s guests, rather than one of his henchmen. “Boss,” he panted, “the sheriff’s coming.”
“Of course he’s coming, you cretin. I invited him.” And with these words Major Brown appeared, resplendent in the full regalia of the office of High Sheriff.
“Ah, Jackie, it’s been awhile,” exclaimed MacHeath.
They had both seen service on Rakshasha; Brown in the Fleet Aerospace Arm whereas MacHeath had found his true vocation on the ground as a special forces officer. The skills and ideas this had furnished him with had placed a considerable burden on their relationship of late but Brown still found himself inextricably bonded to the man.

“I see you’re married.” With his stained apron and thick forearms, Peachum he looked like a butcher.
Polly held up her hand. “Like my ring?”
His arms uncoiled and, grasping her hand tightly, he appraised the ring. “Aye, it’s very nice. I expect the Duchess of Devonshire thought so too, before it was forcibly removed from her possession. Along with her finger. Well, it does my heart glad to see you married to an amoral sneakthief and prolific rapist. MacHeath is the impacted faeces in the bowels of this fair city-state.”
Polly looked like she had been slapped. “How can you say that?”
Silently Peachum extracted a business card:

“The world is poor, and man’s a shit
And that is all there is to it.”

“I know the fucking family motto,” she spat, stalking off.


MacHeath lay in the arms of a mechanical prostitute, thinking about his father-in-law. Who would have though the old man still had so much pull?
“You shouldn’t have come here, Mac,” pouted Heidi 3000. “I’ve alerted the police to your presence.”
MacHeath sighed. She was, of course, programmed to do this. It had been probably been ill-advised to visit his favourite gynoid knocking shop but emptying his balls helped him think.
On cue a bulky figure in full contact body armour burst through the door. “Coming quietly are we, Mr MacHeath?”
In answer MacHeath unloaded his holdout pistol into the constable’s face and jumped out the window. Whilst this hurt considerably it did not aid his escape as he landed amongst a squad of equally heavily armoured police.
One of them thoughtfully placed an enormous Gauss rifle against his temple. “You’re nicked, sunshine.”


The British were a civilised empire – not for them the laser guillotine. No, MacHeath would be fired out of a cannon into the sun. Brown stood to attention; his dress uniform had seen a lot of use this week. Mac might have been an utter cunt but he had served the empire well. And, in the end, wasn’t that what mattered?

As the air boiled in his lungs and blood leaked from his ears, MacHeath’s life flashed before his eyes. He developed a fierce erection. Before he could start to enjoy himself, he was suddenly displaced from the void. As he hacked and thrashed his way back to life, he became dimly aware of a woman standing over him. If she was human, she certainly wasn’t British but MacHeath had always prided himself on a racial liberalism when it came to attractive females.
“Drugs?” she asked, proffering a steaming bowl.
“Who are you?” MacHeath managed as the fumes hit his veins.
“My name is Rasz-Arguhl Bumpsetta Heraldo Aptimel d’. You can call me Bumpsie. I come from a utopian post-scarcity society in need of a bastard.”
MacHeath spat blood on to the floor. “I’m your man.”

Peachum stared out the porthole at nothingness. He hated bloody deus ex machinas.

Apologies to Gay, Brecht and everyone else.

Written by Martin

16 December 2014 at 08:53

Posted in Uncategorized


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As I mentioned, I moved recently. The reason I needed to leave my beloved flat was not just the constant accumulation of books but the birth of my son. That event also occasioned me changing my surname so I could share his. On one level, this is simple: you just send off a form and a cheque. On another, it is a thorny tangle of beaucracy and identity. Changing over to Martin Petto on my work IT and HR systems was simple, as was changing my multiple social media accounts. Other things took longer which is why 14 months later by wallet still contains cards with a mixture of names on them. Hardest of all, however, was working out what to do about my ‘professional’ name (don’t laugh). Having spent over a decade writing under my old name, I found it hard to make a clean break so you’ll probably have noticed that I’m still reviewing as Martin Lewis. The rough rule of thumb I had adopted (until very recently) was that I’d keep Lewis for ‘old things’ and use Petto for ‘new things’. To my surprise, one of those new things has turned out to be this:

Rite Of Spring

So yeah, I am one of the contributers to Pandemonium: The Rite Of Spring, the latest chapbook from Jurassic London. This foray into fiction has obviously been met with some gentle teasing from fellow critics but it does open up some further questions of identity. For example, it is not uncommon for it to be suggested that critics are wannabe writers or that ‘those who can, do’. I’m not a wannabe writer, I am actual writer, just one who chooses to write non-fiction rather than fiction. So a part of me feels like a traitor to the fellowship of critics and mourns the loss of the armour of my purity. But a bigger part of me doesn’t give a shit. My story, ‘Letter From the President Of The British Board Of Film Censors’, was an experiment for myself (less formal than this one but an experiment nonetheless). It was fun to write and I hope it is fun to read. If not, here is some Phil Ochs:

Written by Martin

8 April 2014 at 10:58

‘The Shobies’ Story’ by Ursula K LeGuin

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‘The Shobies’ Story’ is part of LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle and represents the antithesis of the military science fiction of someone like David Weber. The test pilots for the universe’s first faster than light spaceship are not military superheros but but rather a group of unexceptional volunteers which includes several children. They prepare for this momentous mission by sitting around on the beach for a month, telling each other stories. It is a wonderful sympathetic portrait of what a consensual, hierarchical future might look like. Dan Simmons used a similar but weaker idea in ‘Orphans Of The Helix’ but as background for his story; here, it is the story. It is exactly the sort of story – the sort of thinking – that Gregory Benford is apparently unable to comprehend.

It goes without saying that it isn’t space opera, although it does make a fascinating contrast and provide the weary pallet of this reader with a welcome sorbet.

Quality: ****
OOO: *

As always, Hartwell and Cramer’s introduction provides me with a quote that calls the whole enterprise into question:

She is not referred to as a space opera writer, although this story is clearly set in the far future in space, and we bring this example into the discourse on space opera because we think its importation of anthropological ideas is causing pressure on some of the most ambitious writers of space opera to abandon or modify the military and hierarchical modes… Whether the Le Guin influence we begin to discern in such ambitious space opera writers as John Clute (Appleseed) and M John Harrison is real, and will spread, remains to be seen.

The beginning of the first sentence is merely an incompetent mix of the redundant and irrelevant but it soon explodes out into a bold claim. A bold claim that is utterly unexplored. Now, I’m slightly dubious as to whether LeGuin’s 1990 story caused significant pressure on the space opera novels Clute and Harrison produced a decade later but there is the seed of a fascinating essay there. Since Hartwell and Cramer give themselves neither time or space to examine any of the critical judgements they litter the book with, the seed remains ungerminated. The Space Opera Renaissance is, in a word, half-arsed.

Written by Martin

29 January 2013 at 17:38