Tom Sykes was born in 1979 and was educated at the University of East Anglia and Manchester Metropolitan University. He has published short fiction and articles inmagazines in the US, UK, Canada and Southeast Asia, as well as in internationalanthologies such as Small Voices, BigConfessions (2006). His ‘Ringroad to Immolation’ was named one of the best online short stories of 2004 by StorySouth.com. He co-compiled and edited abook about hitchhiking No Such Thing As A Free Ride? (2005) with Cassell Illustrated which was serialized in the LondonTimes and named the Observer’s Travel Book of the Month. No Such Thing As A Free Ride? North American Edition was published by Goose Lane in Canada in June 2008. In August 2007, he spoke at the Indian Ocean World conference hosted by the University of Malaysia and soon after that became a regular columnist for the Malaysian arts magazine Quill. His novella The Blank Space is published in the UK by Pendragon Press (2009). He is a regular performer at spoken word events and his recordings have appeared on audiobookradio.net and Wildfire Radio. He is a member of the British Society of Authors and a life member of the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Service. He is associated with the international creative bureau omnimoda.com. His MySpace is: myspace.com/tomrev.
Excerpt from True Sounds of Infamy, published in Triquorum III by Pendragon Press
Sir Fred Finkle fidgets in his seat at his favourite table in his favourite Soho grill. Unemployed actors float between patrons, hands clasped around dishes, pencils tucked behind ears. Brahms eases from speakers embedded in the upholstery. Ricco, the maitre’d, stands at the bar and gives Sir Fred the thumbs-up. Sir Fred nods back awkwardly, hating to look like he’s been stood up. He delves into the medley of music papers he bought at Leicester Square tube station, feeling out of touch, irritated by all these juvenile poseurs being written about. When he was young he’d looked forward to growing old, was curious about the new fashions and movements that would emerge as the years passed. He’d never thought he’d get dyspeptic; it was all better in the old days.
But this stuff is just silly, gimmicky. Worn-out ideas are salvaged and lashed together to make rickety hybrids. Case in point: DJ Traktor Brakez and MC Brezhnev Orgazm, centre spread in one of the weeklies, black-clad, snapped in a decidedly suburban scene where a lollipop lady directs kids across a leafy road. They claim to produce “Soviet-era drum ‘n’ bass” without ever quite explaining what that is. Sir Fred would have a better chance than most of guessing, but he has no idea.
The last paragraph of the feature reveals that “samples of collective farm machinery, speeches by Malenkov and gunfire from the Battle of Stalingrad fizzle under some deeply grimy 170 rpms.”
Sir Fred reads on. Kid Fizzy and the Interrupted Perverts, a mob of MittelEuropeans looking preposterous in tight Speedo shorts, clogs and shellsuit tops. Their current single ‘Can You Hear Norway in Your Sleep?’ is charging up the download charts and mixes high frequency noise with early ’90s Europop. Some of the song’s lyrics are printed:
I’ve menaced them far and menaced them wide
Wanted by Interpol, FBI
The things that I’ve done cannot be explained
Pity the peacocks in Alsace-Lorraine
In Moscow I’m Lev and Berlin I’m Heinz
Got sixty-three passports on the sly
Keep sipping the schnapps and I will behave
For my upcoming trial in the Hague
Sir Fred yawns and moves to a glossy magazine. He can’t believe that a recovered cancer victim calling herself Vox Pop actually makes a living from singing classic bittersweet love songs through a voicebox and has a new album out called It Brings A Lump To My Throat. How can someone called Afro Dizzy AK, dressed in a safari suit and camouflaged pith helmet, extolling the values of the id – fighting, fucking and freaking out, to a backing track of jabbing snares and rocket thrust – be possibly considered any good? And what lasting significance will bands called Dawn of the Pocket Calculator, The Posh Cobwebs and Clifton Brogue Slaz Tempo have in all honesty?
Then something catches Sir Fred’s eye, a back page advert that looks bona fide. A Nipponese zaibatsu has spent twenty years developing the AuraVita, an invention the size of a mobile ‘phone that is about to change the world forever. Far from being a static format like minidisc or MP3, the AuraVita is music that is intelligent, alive and capable of evolving. Its content varies depending on the environment it is used in and, most bizarrely, the personal preferences of the person(s) using it. Its sophisticated sensors can monitor such factors as windspeed, climate, body temperature, heart rate and brainwave activity. The ad says it is the ultimate interactive commodity, tapping into the mind and body of the consumer to provide him or her with the perfect musical experience.
‘This can’t be true,’ says Sir Fred a bit too loudly to himself, but the presentation of the ad is so convincing, with enough technical info balancing the smug, Microsoftesque tone of the copy. Besides, if this is guff, trade description laws would have stopped it being advertised.