The Lion & The Unicorn

By Tom Ward

A policeman sets out to investigate a murder in a near-future where bad taste is illegal.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

30%! Here's A New Excerpt!

Thank you to everyone who has supported THE LION AND THE UNICORN so far. We're currently on 31% funded. As a thank you, I wanted to share this excerpt, from the second chapter!

Bagby had bought his flat high up in The Barbican back when that was still something people did. Over the years he’d dug in as best he could, collecting books and records and paintings and piling them up like a man trying to build a physical barrier to block out the outside world. The usual titles were there. All taken from the unofficial “approved list” taught in schools, colleges, and universities across the country. But among the Camus and Burgess and Ishiguro were rare copies and ancient editions of Kelman and Harari, Barker and Williams, Celine and Morrison, and more. Most had long since been taken out of circulation, and by inviting me to visit his flat-come-archive as often as I could, over the years Bagby had given me an invaluable education. Nor did he ever try to hide the fact that these musty rooms also contained many of the very same materials we sent people to prison for possessing.

The first time he invited me to gaze upon his treasures I had been sure it was a test. “Post-revolution thinking goes that if we consume Low Culture, we emulate that low standard in every aspect of our lives,” he’d said, orating from the middle of the cramped living room, at this point still firmly on the sauce. “But, tell me, does unfortunate cultural taste make for a lesser person, with less strident morals? Let’s pretend that, pre-Revolution, most of the country enjoyed murder mysteries, sci-fi, and romantic fiction, and wanted the same from their cinema. Let’s pretend they loved tabloid newspapers and talent shows and the exploits of talentless ‘personalities’. Would such a cultural malaise really be enough to lead a country to revolution? What has a pacified nation got to get worked up about?” He paused professorially, a finger in the air, a thumb capping a vodka bottle. “Or, do you think that deeply-ingrained, nation-wide inequality and austerity is a more likely cause? The boot stamping on the collective face. The communal kick in the nads. If that were the case, perhaps it’s even plausible that, post-revolution, those who managed to cling to power simply pointed the finger back at the people, instead of shouldering the blame themselves? By keeping us all watching what we’re all watching and reading – according to their objective cultural shit list – are they in fact hoping to make us forget the real reason the people rose up and demanded change? Change that, arguably, is yet to materialise? What sort of sense does this list make anyway?” he asked, picking up a James Kelman book and tossing it across the room.

All I could do was nod along as my partner denounced our unit’s entire raison d’être, certain that the walls were bugged and that the slightest sign of acquiescence would find me whisked off to the detention centres in the North. Only later did I learn that the real test was Bagby having to keep a straight face as we arrested people for possessing Hangover Square or Honky Château. And, while I’d come to appreciate Bagby’s archive over the years, working to uphold the Culture Laws didn’t particularly bother me one way or the other. The Revolution was long since over and done, and these were the terms we’d all agreed to live under. There was nothing I could do to change that, even if I’d wanted to.

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