Introduced by Maggie Harris
Meet Frasier Armitage, Pen to Print’s Writer Of The Month for September and a self-confessed Sci-Fi fanatic. I confess I don’t read much of that particular genre, but enjoy watching movies and there are elements of fantasy across all genres. And, of course, good writing is good writing! I’m therefore delighted to be introduced to, and introducing, Frasier’s work, especially as he has included a poem.
Frasier won the 2022 Pen to Print Audio Play with his script Postcards From Another World, and I can see why. His dialogue is accessible and realistic and, as a poet, I find that plays are very near to poetry in terms of orality and storytelling. You’ll be able to make up your own mind, as we have the link to the full play below as well as an extract of the script.
Sadly, one of Frasier’s grandparents passed away at the start of Covid and another as the pandemic was nearing its end, and he wrote Postcards to help him understand his grief. We know that writing can be therapeutic. I myself have written much about loss and losing my dad when I was 15 and how this was the pivot in my writing. As Frasier says, “Writing stories can be such a help at times.”
I also very much enjoyed the excerpt from Frasier’s upcoming book, Time’s Ellipse. Coming out on December 12, the e-book is available to pre-order now. Though it includes time-bending shenanigans at work, they are not the driving force of the story. Frasier says, “It’s as much about parenthood as it is the cyclical nature of past and future.”
All good stories centre on what the characters do with the cards they’re dealt; very evident in this lovely piece we kick off with, an extract from his debut novel New Yesterday.
This is what Frasier tells us about it by way of introduction:
I’ve never met a time-travel story I didn’t like, which is why my debut novel was set in a city where events in the present can change the past. I’ve always been fascinated by the way our decisions influence who we are, and this kind of ‘time-travel in reverse’ premise was a neat way to speculate on how time can shape our identity.
New Yesterday (Extract)
“THERE’S NO CURE for regret. Until now! How would you like to erase those troublesome past mistakes? Have you ever wondered what your life would look like if you’d done things different? Well, what are you waiting for? Pop on down to your local ‘Anderson Whitman’ and see what’s available in New Yesterday! . . . Because, if your future’s what you make it, why shouldn’t your past be too?”
— Anderson Whitman Real Estate, broadcast circa 2029
IT WASN’T THE THREAT of a bullet through my head that forced my sweat to boil and bones to freeze. Locked in the elevator, floors ticked by like years. Cold steel dug into my vertebrae. But none of that caused the chaos hammering my brain, shredding my stomach, pumping ice through my veins.
No, my every nerve hung on one word —
How did he know my name?
“Don’t worry.” The gunman tightened his grip on my collar. “This’ll be over soon.” I could only guess how.
Gears whirred, the soundtrack of my pounding head. From my pocket, the phone buzzed, blasting at my heart, jerking me into the wall.
“Don’t answer it,” he said.
His pistol jutted deeper into my back — a marionette’s string tugging me any way he wanted. He slammed me against the mirror and emptied my pockets. The phone clattered to the floor, reverberating around the boxed walls of my descending coffin.
Celia’s name lit up the screen.
Two seconds was all I’d need. Two seconds to answer and tell her where I was. She’d sort this out, retrograde the morning so I’d been nowhere near the 27th floor when this lunatic showed up. One phone call and none of this would’ve ever happened.
© Frasier Armitage, 2023
Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Yesterday-Frasier-Armitage-ebook/dp/B0BSHCJXKY/
As a poet, I’m obviously delighted Frasier has included some of his own. He tells us more:
If you still need some convincing that I’m in love with the impact of time on our lives, here’s one of the first poems I wrote. I’m always a bit embarrassed to share poetry, mainly because I’m not very good at writing it! But my wife and I read poems to our son before he goes to sleep, so poetry is becoming a bigger part of my life than ever, which is why I’ve decided to take the plunge and share one.
Tomorrow Comes For Us
“The monster’s on the loose,” he cried
From underneath his tattered shawl,
Which slipped from him, as did his mind,
While wrinkles creased his curtain call.
The old man lurched upon his bed,
His trembling lips betrayed his fright.
He spoke in whispers filled with dread
Of horrors rising with the light.
“It hungers by the fireside,
Ferocious, fearsome, free again.
What cage can mortals make to hide
Its face, which haunts the hearts of men?
What barricades or bars could stand
Against the rage of its attack?
No chains could e’er contain its hands;
It presses on with no way back.
The monster comes.” His eyes stretched wide.
“What creature could this be?” I asked.
He raised his bony finger high
And pointedly declared at last—
“The beast gives chase, it never stops.
Its clutches catch those who would flee.
The spinning clock breathes tick, then tock.
Its crooked hands catch up with me.”
I followed where his finger reached
And thereupon the hour chimed.
The face upon the mantelpiece
Sought out its prey, the next in line.
’Twas me it saw, and woe betide.
“The monster’s on the loose,” I cried.
© Frasier Armitage, 2023
Next, we come to what Frasier describes as: “My biggest writing accomplishment to date.” Winning the 2022 Pen To Print Audio Play Contest with the Postcards From Another World script, it went on to be produced by the Alternative Stories podcast. Here’s a snippet:
Postcards From Another World (Extract)
Message archived. Next message. Received at 19:10 on colony date 25920.
Hi, Dad. Me again. So, I’ve been thinking about that last message, and I was talking to Lyra, and she says I owe you an explanation. That you’ll be grieving me being here the same way we’re grieving Jokra and Japh…
(Coughs, as if she’s finding it hard to say)
I’m sorry. That’s the first time I’ve said his name since the accident. Pause message.
A different kind of blip is heard, to symbolise the recording is paused before Neeva continues.
So, I figured it was about time to tell you why I’m here and not with you on the Bunthar farm.
(Draws a deep breath)
After the funeral, I tried to go back to normal. I really did. You were such a big help. And Lyra always tried to shoo me and Persis away. Every time we went to see her, she’d tell us to move on with our lives. She used to say that there was a whole future waiting for us, and all she had left to give us was the ramblings of a bitter old colonist who’d rolled the dice and lost. But I still went to see her. We all did. Every day. I guess that’s what I loved most about Epsilon. We were a colony. A family. All of us. I mean, it was bad when she lost Rohan to that Rapthar. I don’t know how it had got through the shields and into the camp. But this time, it was much worse. For all of us. It was even worse than when Mum…
Okay. If I’m gonna do this, I need a drink.
(Pours a drink and liquid fills a glass)
Do you remember our wedding day? Me and Japhek’s? Of course you do. I mean, it’s not like you’d forget it, right? The farm looked amazing that night, with Bunthar chirruping until dawn. And then after the funeral, after we’d buried the bodies just on the edge of camp, I came back to the farm, and all I could see was his face. His smile. He was everywhere, right in front of me, all the way to the horizon. But he was gone. I don’t know why the shields failed. I don’t know why Jokra and Japhek had to be the ones to go outside the dome and fix it. But it was like living with a shadow that no amount of light could shift.
Can you understand that, Dad? What it was like for us? I’m sure Persis is the same. Well, I suppose you know all about it, with Mum and everything. That’s why you got the farm, isn’t it? Why you settled down on Epsilon? Because that’s the last place you saw Mum. I bet you’re looking round the Bunthar farm and seeing me there too, even though I’ve gone. I couldn’t do it. And it might have been selfish to leave, but… I just couldn’t. I can’t do what you did, Dad. I couldn’t stay living in a moment while the world passed me by. I had to keep moving. Or else I’d be living in a shadow forever.
Japhek used to talk about this place. About Lunaseti. He came to Epsilon when him and Jokra were just boys. All those stories he told me about this place, he made it sound so wonderful. I knew coming here would help. And it will. I’m sure it will. And it’ll do the same for Lyra. She’s strong, but not strong enough to do this by herself. She needed me, and she always will. Can you forgive me, Dad? Can you forgive me for leaving without saying goodbye?
(Swigs last bit of drink)
I hope you can. I know that running away isn’t the same as moving on. But neither is standing still. It’s the inquest tomorrow. If they… if they find out what was behind the shields failing, will you let me know?
(Pauses and draws breath, as if she’s pulling herself together)
Alright. I’ve blabbered on long enough. There’s so much that’s happened here and I can’t even get my head around it. I’ll fill you in later. Speak soon. Neeva, out.
End of message. Save. Del— message saved. Next message. Received at 2:48 on colony date 25922.
© Frasier Armitage, 2022
As promised, the last piece is an extract from Time’s Ellipse. This is what Frasier has to say about it:
It’s probably my most personal work so far. Someone once described my stories as being ‘very human,’ which is a badge I wear with pride. Sci-Fi can be so much more than snazzy spaceships and pew pew pews. It can be the most human of all the genres. And isn’t that kind of amazing?
Time’s Ellipse (Extract)
Time stopped in the bunker. Bodies crammed into the tight space, pressing against me, but not as much as the darkness which seeped into everything, stilling the seconds while the storm raged above.
Hurricanes unleashed a throaty growl, overwhelming the sound-proof shielding in the ceiling. Hail blasted the roof louder than machine gun fire. Or it could’ve been swarming sand clouds. Either way, maintenance would need to replace the panelling. Again. Too many dents. There were always too many dents.
I crossed my fingers that the antenna which connected us to Wifi didn’t snap, if a lightning blast hadn’t already melted it. Without Wifi, we were alone with our thoughts. Which is the last place I wanted to be.
“So here’s a question that should help us pass the time,” I said to no one in particular, raising my voice above the storm’s shriek. “Are we moving through time, or is time moving through us?”
“Another conundrum, Doctor? Really?” The voice came from among the huddle. Hard to tell exactly which of the sharp-suited business execs had finally lost their patience. “Haven’t we spent enough time playing games when we should be talking about the launch?”
“We spent two hours in that conference room before the storm hit,” I continued, ignoring him. “And time felt like it zipped by. But down here, the past two hours have felt like a million eternities. Isn’t that strange? It’s like time is speeding up and slowing down just for us.”
“I’m sure you’ve got a theory for it, Doctor. But I’ve got a theory of my own. I think the reason you insist on raising these hypotheticals has nothing to do with keeping us occupied, and everything to do with avoiding the real issue. It’s time for you to make a decision.”
Grumbles of agreement could roughly be translated as ‘we wouldn’t even be in here if you hadn’t already kept us waiting.’ They were right. It was my fault we were down here. My fault we’d delayed. But it was also my fault we even had a decision to make in the first place. ‘The Great Doctor Emily Rolands.’ If I’d never opened my mouth, and had kept my theories to myself, I wouldn’t be standing where I am today. And neither would the rest of them. Maybe some of them would have preferred that. But maybes weren’t going to save us.
© Frasier Armitage, 2023
It’s been a pleasure introducing Frasier’s lovely work. He leaves us with his contact details, as well as an image that made me laugh. I’m sure there’s a writing robot in all of us!
This is my little robot at a writing desk avatar/mascot/self-portrait. You’ll see this doodle if you search for me on social media because I’m painfully shy, and I’m trying to do the world a favour by not posting pictures of my face online whenever I can help it! The last thing this world needs is photos of me to haunt the nightmares of children everywhere!
On the topic of social media, here are my social media links:
X/Twitter/Whatever it’s called now: twitter.com/FrasierArmitage
But you can find me everywhere by searching for @FrasierArmitage
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Someone once described my stories as being ‘very human,’ which is a badge I wear with pride. Sci-Fi can be the most human of all the genres. Isn’t that kind of amazing?