Notes from genre author Stephen Palmer

Politics Week, 2: Labour

“Sir” Keir Starmer – that tells you everything you need to know. He actually accepted an “honour” from the system he is supposed to be Opposed to…

Labour appeared in the political landscape as a consequence of industrialisation in the nineteenth century. They were the Opposition party of the working person: of manufacturing, of labouring. But that part of our economic system has gone now, to leave the service economy, which in the main consists of capitalists using stored money for the purpose of making more money via the interest rate mechanism. (For more on why this mechanism is so destructive, read Margrit Kennedy’s book Interest Free Money.) There is now no natural, organised constituency of manufacturing workers for the Labour Party to base themselves upon, and although the unions still exist, their reputation and potency was forever reduced by Thatcher.

Labour has no point, no meaning, except as the Opposition in a system that fakes a binary split for the sake of the glory of ruling the nation. It is why the British are so afraid of coalitions. “Holding the government to account” doesn’t cut it with me, since unless there happens to be a small Tory majority, there’s no account to hold. Tories with any kind of workable majority can do what they want. That’s working for half the nation.

As I wrote yesterday, New Labour shouldn’t count as Labour. New Labour was just Tory-lite created for the purpose of acquiring power. The ruthlessly ambitious Blair cared for little else. Clause 4 turned collective politics into individualist politics: the triumph of selfishness.

As for Jeremy Corbyn, the reaction to him and his humane, insightful character illustrates the depth of the innate conservatism of this country. Jeremy Corbyn! Jeremy Corbyn. The name terrified the selfish masses. He stood for collective caring, for mass decency. “There is no such thing as society,” as Thatcher almost said, and in Britain what we have is millions of isolated individuals, made so by the Western outlook, by capitalist economics, and by our insistence on tradition, which looks ever backwards. Jeremy Corbyn like Michael Foot was way ahead of his time, although, ironically, Michael Foot was simultaneously way behind his time.

The days of Labour are over – at least, in England, and most likely in Scotland too. They are dead now. In Wales they will perhaps cling on to power for a few more years, but I suspect even that foothold will in due course be lost. They will be replaced by more Tories.

I see no alternative now in an unjust system where the Tories can change constituency boundaries as they see fit, can keep the undemocratic First Past The Post voting system, and can rely on a right wing press which sees anybody from the left as somehow un-British, to a brand new second party. It should have a base somewhere to the left of centre, but with a huge amount of green and orange in it. Labour can’t oppose any more. For those who remember the SDP… well, the environment has changed a bit since then, hasn’t it? Two monoliths in Westminster is the template of the distant past. We need diversification now. We need diversity. We need something new.

And if there’s ever a New New Labour, watch out. That’ll be Tories in sheeps’ clothing.

Politics Week, 1: Tories

I sometimes think British liberals and lefties don’t realise how innately conservative this country is. It’s so easy to perceive a political system of two roughly equal halves, one Tory, one Labour. But since WW2 the Tories have been in power for well over a decade more than Labour, and if you don’t count New Labour, which I don’t, it’s a much more unequal balance: four decades against one and a half. At the moment, we face a situation where, regardless of Tory sleaze, incompetence and general unpleasantness, Johnson and his blue cohort are laying waste to formerly red constituencies. Why is this?

Britain is an unusual country. The Tories are the political wing of big business – that much is certain. We are a nation of shopkeepers, apparently, with big business in our blood. We had an Empire. The Empire fragmented. We had a monarchy. For some reason, we kept the monarchy. We have a second chamber of “lords” that actually includes bishops. Quite extraordinary for 2021.

These are the foundations of the British natural conservatism. We look backwards. Our social systems are based on hierarchies of privilege, exclusion, land ownership and stasis. Our national character is one of deference, the denial of reality (mostly through emotional suppression), a presumption of social immobility, and a high level of group narcissism. We are a selfish, uncaring, authoritarian, patriarchal country where nobody is supposed to raise themselves above the unspoken norm. We are afraid of change. That we have an “unwritten constitution” says everything you need to know about this backward, benighted country. Politics is all done on who politicians know and what’s been done before. That the national rules are unwritten is a fact directly leading to the reliance on tradition, which then becomes a normalised part of the political landscape, which gives the political establishment its innate conservative character.

There was no revolution in Britain in the nineteenth century because of this innate conservatism. The British are in general too frightened and repressed to be revolutionaries.

The most important job in the world is parenting. But in Britain, we don’t like children. We’re really not terribly good with children. And thus centuries of neglect and abuse are perpetuated, not least through our revolting “public schools,” which still, in 2021, are the breeding grounds for so many snotty-nosed boy politicians. Some people characterised Johnson of Eton as rather like Trump, but Johnson is only a mini-Trump, benign where Trump was malignant, incompetent and petulant where Trump was genuinely dangerous. Johnson simply doesn’t have the mental reach to be dangerous.

Imagine a woman PM with as many former partners and children as Johnson. Then imagine how far in the future you’d need to be for that to become a reality. It is a thought experiment exposing Britain’s juvenile culture of boys. Lads, lads, and more lads. Britain loves ’em.

The Tories are notoriously ruthless amongst themselves when it comes to the party staying in power. In part, that’s because they see themselves as the natural political party of Britain – they believe they have a right to rule. They see Labour as somehow other, as un-British, untraditional. Tories see conservatism as a normal British quality, and I think that’s why people like Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Foot were so vilified by the press. Somehow, those two were deemed un-British: alien, foreign, unknowable, unwanted. The Tories and the Tory press fear what they don’t understand – humanity.

And it’s not just a case of class dynamics, though that, in this wretched country, has a lot to do with it. It’s a case of Tories believing themselves to be Britain, to represent the national character in a way no other organisation can. With their roots in capitalist, exploitative economics, they see themselves as the source of Britishness as well as its expression. Their natural antipathy to Europe is a result of their jingoistic admiration for themselves and the nation they believe they are equivalent to.

No wonder they hark back to olden times: “this great nation of ours” and so on and so on. That’s when a man could exploit without the unions getting in the way.


No More Heroes pre-order

Don’t miss out! These will go fast…

Steampunk Community Bookshop

Delighted to be the first Book Of The Week at the Steampunk Community Bookshop on Facebook with the Factory Girl trilogy.

No More Heroes

The anthology No More Heroes is now available to pre-order from PS Publishing. Edited by Ian Whates, the collection celebrates musical heroes who we have lost too soon, and includes my story ‘The Birth Of Liquid Plejades’ about Edgar Froese. The collection features stories by other authors, many familiar to genre fans: Keith Brooke, Tim Lebbon, Storm Constantine, Neil Williamson and many others. Not to be missed! This will sell out soon, so don’t delay…


Sleas – a poem


They are in the House

They are in the Chamber

They are in the Cabinet

They are everywhere

Sleas want your support

Sleas want your loyalty

Sleas want you to believe

Sleas are everywhere

Don’t support sleas in the House

Don’t be loyal to Chamber sleas

Don’t believe in sleas in the Cabinet

You don’t need sleas.

FCC Interview With Keith Brooke

The FCCs ongoing promotion of their Fictions: Health & Care Re-imagined series continues with an interview with Keith Brooke, who manages the project and is one of the four authors. Link here.

Memory Seed At 25, Day 8

After Memory Seed and Glass were published, I, like a lot of midlist authors, was dropped by Orbit. However, interest continued in my debut during the years that followed, leading me to write three short stories beginning at or set in the Spired Inn, a location I used throughout the novel.

The first was written for Keith Brooke’s Infinity Plus, then a site online for British authors in particular. Called The Green Realm Below, it told of events over a vast time scale, allowing the reader to experience the future of Kray away from Zinina and the Clocktower. The second was written for an anthology and was called Dr Vanchovy’s Final Case. This was fun to write – a detective story, set almost entirely in the Spired Inn. I brought in two male characters, the titular detective and Barakystys, a youth employed by Dhow-lin. The third story was called Granny, and detailed the harsh life-or-death rituals and customs of the Cemetery revellers, not least Granny herself.

These three stories received little coverage, and after the third one I moved on to other projects. Fast forward to 2018 and I received an email from my friend Ian Whates at Newcon Press. We had for some years discussed an anthology of my stories, but never managed to make it happen, so Ian suggested we extract the three Krayan tales from what we already had and that I write two new stories to make a new work. I was absolutely thrilled to receive this request, not least because it gave me a bona fide excuse to make a final return to Kray. In addition, the work was guaranteed publication with Newcon, making it an attractive proposition for me.

Writing Funeral For A Pyuter and First Temple (which featured the return of Barakystys) was a delight. I was amazed how easy it was for me to immerse myself once again in Kray. I think that city and the scenario as a whole must represent me in some deep way, because I’d forgotten none of it and felt all the old fascinations. Ian’s offer also allowed me to write a piece set in the Galactic Quarter, which I had not properly visited in the original novel.

The new cover for the 25th anniversary edition of Memory Seed echoes the Art Nouveau-styled cover I designed for Tales From The Spired Inn. The two books are definitely of a piece.

All in all, writing the Newcon anthology was a wonderful experience for a lucky author.

Memory Seed At 25, Day 7

Here are the links to the new paperback edition of Memory Seed.

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

Memory Seed At 25, Interview

Today I’m delighted to be able to link to a new interview about Memory Seed done by that excellent chap Mark Yon over at SFF World. Many thanks to Mark for taking the time to do this.