Earth Inc by Michael Bollen

Of course, after I’d written about no one giving me any ideas in yesterday’s blog, along comes Lizzie Sells with an idea that could turn out to be quite good.  “Perhaps you could write about the mystery of inadvertently succeeding at those things you’ve just given up all hope on.”

This might be a good approach, because it’s basically what happened with Earth Inc.  I had given up any hope of it being published, and was miserably trying to redefine myself without using the word ‘writer’.  This was actually not that difficult – essentially I’m a very lazy man who avoids writing at every possible opportunity, and having my novel rejected by a string of publishers seemed like a pretty good opportunity to me.  I would give it all up.  As I say, most of my life as a writer was spent avoiding doing any actual writing, so an outside observer probably wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

(You might be wondering, if I hate writing so much, how have Picnic forced me to write this blog?  Well, you may have noticed that there is no author’s photo on the cover of Earth Inc.  That’s not because Picnic don’t have any pictures of me – it’s because the snaps they do have are so lurid and depraved that, had they adorned the book’s jacket, Earth Inc would have been seized under the Obscene Publications Act.  If I don’t deliver a few hundred words of waffle on a daily basis, Picnic will go public with the pics.  It’s probably best that you know that now, just in case one day you check on here and there’s no new waffle, but there is a picture that paints a thousand words you’d rather not hear, and a few nasty sound effects to boot.)


Anyway, I digress…

(Of course I digress.  Digressions are all I’ve got.  There’s no actual subject matter here.  This blog is like one of those Ronnie Corbett monologues, in which he stretched out a two line joke by endlessly going off on stupid tangents.  Look at me, I’m doing it now.  Quite what I hope to achieve with a Ronnie Corbett reference I really don’t know.)

Anyway, I digress.  I had given up any hope of Earth Inc ever being published, when Picnic got hold of it, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Well, that might be over stating it a bit.  It wasn’t historic in the same way that, say, the Great Reform Act is history, or the Battle of Naseby.  Maybe I should say the rest is a small footnote in an extremely comprehensive book about the history of publishing.  In Brighton and Hove.

So, back to Lizzie’s idea.  The one thing I would really like to inadvertently succeed at is the completion of today’s blog entry.  So, if I just give up on it…

… No, sorry Lizzie, it doesn’t seem to be working this time.  Looks like I’m going to have to put a bit more work in.

If you have any ideas about what I could write about tomorrow, please leave a comment.  I’ve just noticed that yesterday Steve suggested I might like to talk about alternative energy sources.  Unfortunately Steve, I wouldn’t.  Mainly because I don’t know anything about them.  Perhaps tomorrow I could do some research.  I’ll get back to you on that one.

(Another digression.  Terry Pratchett was once talking about a book he’d written that parodied ancient Egypt.  He mentioned that before he started the book, he thought he’d better do a lot of research about pharaohs and sphinxes and that sort of thing.  Then he realised that this was the last thing he should do, as he would end up making jokes that people would only understand if they’d done the same research he had.  This has always stayed with me, partly because it makes sense, but mainly because I am always on the look out for good excuses to be lazy.)

So, bereft of ideas, I am going to go down the ‘public diary’ route that I decried in my first blog entry, and just tell you about something that happened to me yesterday.  It may well be quite dull, so feel free to stop reading now and go and type your name into Google or something instead.  In fact, don’t do that.  If you must leave, do a Google image search for “Star Trek wedding”, that’s always good fun.

(I feel duty bound at this point to mention that I have just finished a bottle of very strong pear cider.  Normally I never, ever drink while I write – perhaps together we can find out why.)

So, where was I?  Oh yesh, yesterday.  Well, yesterday I burnt my hand on a pie.  True story.  Let me tell you about it.

I had successfully removed the pie from the oven, and had placed the pie, still in its foil case, on a plate.  So far so good.  “Are you going to do the pie trick?” my housemate asked.  I answered in the affirmative. 

Until yesterday, I was very proud of the pie trick.  As we all know, one of the most difficult things about serving a pie is removing it from its foil case.  The pie trick, which I believe is my own invention, neatly conquers this problem.  It goes a little something like this.

1) Place the pie (still in foil case) on a plate.
2) Place an inverted plate on top of the pie.
3) Rotate the plate/pie/plate sandwich 180 degrees.
4) Remove what is now the top plate, to reveal the pie standing on its lid, its foil case now very accessible.
5) Remove foil case.
6) Place inverted plate on the now naked bottom of the pie.
7) (See step 3)
8)Remove what is now the top plate, to reveal the pie standing proudly naked, its crown uppermost.
9) Hooray!  Pie is now ready to be cut and served.

I still maintain that this is an excellent technique, BUT ONLY WITH SHALLOW PIES.  Unfortunately, yesterday’s pie was very deep (it had some extremely interesting opinions on the metaphysical implications of string theory.)  (If you don’t like this joke (and why would you?), please blame it on the pear cider.)

So, everything went swimmingly until Step 7, the rotating of the plate/pie/plate sandwich following the removal of the foil.  At this point, the wall of the pie ruptured, covering my hand with a substance that appeared to be lava, but which, on later inspection, turned out to be gravy.
I think it is worth recording my reactions to this disaster, as I believe they may reveal something about the twenty-first century mindset.  This is exactly what I did, in order:

1) Swore.
2) Thought, ‘Save the pie!’
3) Ran cold water over hand.
4) Changed Facebook status to “Mike Bollen has really burnt his hand on a pie”.

Has it come to this?  Are we really reducing our life experiences to pithy Facebook slogans?  I think we might be.  I certainly announced the fact that Picnic were going to publish Earth Inc in this way, and a friend recently told everyone that she is expecting a baby via a particularly cryptic status update.  Is this a good or a bad thing? Frankly, the pear cider is making it difficult for me to care.

The main thing is, I still ate the pie.  Remember people, if we stop eating pies, we’re letting the scalding gravy win.

6 Responses to “Earth Inc by Michael Bollen”

  1. Loz Says:

    Dear Mike,

    I thought I’d reply to this post, in case you don’t look at old posts again, because you’re lazy or have short term memory problems. You were correct in the identification of the Lee and Herring material. Only they called it the “and then I got off the bus” joke. I think they might have mentioned “and that was just the teachers” too, thinking back. I was also at that very Stew Lee gig at Glastonbury. I used to like seeing him every year at Glastonbury, saying the same 6 jokes as he’d done the year before, but somehow still making them funny, and then he ruined it by finally writing some new material. Have you read his book, by the way? It’s pretty good. Maybe writers don’t read other books, in the same way as some musicians don’t listen to other music, in case it interrupts their own ideas.

    Your pie story also reminds me of a similar incident with a pizza a few years ago. I removed the freshly cooked pizza from the oven, put it on a plate, then walked up the stairs, tripping on the top one. The pizza slide off the plate, and my instinct was to save the pizza, so put my free hand (the one not holding the now fast emptying plate) out to rescue it. Unfortunately, the pizza had decided to do what toast with butter does, and cats don’t, and turn itself over, resulting in my hand being covered in hotter-than-the-sun cheese and tomato sauce. I swore quite a lot and recoiled my hand – which of course meant that the pizza I’d suffered so much in an attempt to save ended up face down on the carpet anyway – and rushed off to put my hand under the cold tap for about 10 minutes. I had horrible blisters on my hand for a week after. But facebook wasn’t around in those days, so I just had to make do with telling some guy I think I met once briefly at a festival (or may have been ‘the other one’ – which one of you is Annefrankingmachine?) who won’t remember me anyway. The joys of the internet.

    Oh, and a book-based update. I’m now on page 43. Updates as they come in.

  2. Caroline Rance Says:

    I have An Idea, which is one more than I’ll have when it’s my turn to blog next week, but one thing I’ve noticed is that loads of publishers and agents say they don’t accept sci-fi, and loads of readers are quite dismissive of it too. I’ve always thought this must be annoying for sci-fi authors (or maybe it isn’t – I don’t know). Anyway, you could write about why that might be, and how Earth Inc’s crossoveriness makes it appeal to people who don’t realise they like sci-fi.

  3. Ewan Jones Morris Says:

    Dear Mike,

    I’d just like you to know that I’m fully aware of the pie trick, and I didn’t learn it from you. In fact I may have inovated it myself but make no claim to being the original inventor. It must be one of those inovations where people all over the globe are coming to the same technological conclusion at the same time – history is full of examples: cinema, the motor car, manned flight – there is always a dispute about who came up with the goods first, but nobody is actually stealing anybody elses ideas.

    Anyways – congratualations on Earth Inc – I remember you telling me about it in a bar in Poland (it had dog in it’s name, the bar not your book). I’d like to read it but can’t see where it’s available.

    Don’t know what you can write about tomorrow – at the moment I’m wondering why German Keyboards have the Z and the Y swapped – or maybe it’s English keyboards which the wrong way. Maybe the Germans and the English invented the keyboard in tandem, and no one is to blame. Write about Tandems, they’re good.

    Best wishes


  4. Ewan Jones Morris Says:

    I was stupid, your book is on amazon. I’ll buy it when I can.

  5. The Mighty Mixomatosis Says:

    Yeah I have a question – how DO you come up with all those KERAZY ideas Mike?

    Yours apologetically,

    The Kelvedon contingency

  6. matt Says:

    liked the pie story, i burnt my hand on a pie once.
    no funny story, just burnt my hand.

    do you remember when we made some pies mike ?

    good times.

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