Wednesday 23 December 2015

Day 23: last Call for Air by Mike Scott Thomson

  1. What gave you the idea for your Snowflakes story?
If anyone’s read the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K Dick (or seen the film version, Total Recall), you may remember that the main character is fixated by the prospect of Mars, without really understanding why. I feel a little like that, but with Greenland. I doubt very much I have false memories implanted in my head, or that there’s any latent tough-guy conspiracy sci-fi thriller action adventure awaiting me in an alternative life, but the very concept of this huge, sparsely inhabited island does interest me. I wanted to write a story set there, even though I've never been, really to see if I could conjure up that sense of place. As for the plot, let’s just say I've done enough office jobs in my time. Politics at some of these big companies can be as unpredictable as snowstorms, and often twice as cold…

  1. How would you describe your normal style of writing?
I enjoy writing short stories, partly because they’re great (of course), but also because they’re a much better prospect for experimentation and practice than other forms (say, novels). As a result, even after a few years, I'm not sure I've really hit upon my “normal” style, and I'm not convinced I ever really will; maybe that’s how it should be. However, if there’s anything that links my various works, it’s probably a willingness to see the positive side of people and situations, coupled with an acute sense of the absurd.

  1. Have you published other material?
I've been fortunate enough to have had my work included in some great publications, including two anthologies from The Fiction Desk (with a third upcoming), literary magazines such as Litro and Prole, and a book of short fiction in aid of Shelter, “Stories for Homes”. I've also come runner up or been shortlisted in a few competitions, including InkTears, Writers’ Village, Momaya Press and Writers’ Forum, and finally achieved a first place by winning the inaugural “To Hull & Back” competition for humorous short fiction in 2014. You can find a full list of my published works on

  1. Do you have a writing routine?
No. I should really, shouldn't I? At the moment it has to be a combination of free time-meets-inspiration-(potentially-meets-looming-deadline).

5.     5. Do you have a favourite place for writing?

I have a study in my flat where I do some writing, but not as much as I should; very often I find the walls start to close in. As a result, I'm prone to taking my iPad and keyboard to a selection of local cafés, and spending an hour or two there. Occasionally I go to the London “Write Together” groups on Some writers don’t find the busy atmosphere in cafés conducive to creativity, but I find the soft hubbub and general lack of distraction quite helpful.

6.    6. Tell something quirky about you.

Quirky, huh? Okay, try this. When I was a teenager, I was a very keen magician. By far the youngest member of my local Magic Circle, I would often perform stage shows, or baffle audiences with my ever-present pack of playing cards. On one occasion, I performed on stage with none other than Paul Daniels and the “lovely” Debbie McGee (note to non-UK readers: Paul and his assistant wife Debbie were the two most famous television magicians of the 70s and 80s). As a young conjurer, I had the privilege of sawing Ms McGee into not merely halves, but three pieces. That, to be sure, was an interesting experience.

Whilst I no longer perform magic, I often see parallels between performing magic tricks and writing fiction. Both, in their different ways, are forms of storytelling, creating an imagined possibility out of nothing. Both use misdirection, hiding the obvious in plain sight. Over two decades later, my teenage wizardry has probably shaped me as an author more than I realise.

An extract from Last Call for Air 

Jannik awoke early on the Monday morning, levered himself out of bed, and pulled up the blinds. A brighter, lighter air than usual flooded into the room. Overnight, the Hovedstaden had been liberally coated with a luminescent white, two or three inches thick: dappled and jagged in places, rounded and smooth in others. The Greenlanders would have a word for it, if Søndergaard was to be believed.

Jannik felt a sudden rush of hope. Just for once this development may put him on the right side of ‘maybe’. He reached for his phone and opened the arrivals/departures app. A couple of swipes later he found what he was looking for: Copenhagen to Nuuk via Kangerlussuaq.

No delays. No cancellations. All flights, bang on time.

The news couldn’t have been any worse.

The terminal was all glass and glare. The low winter sun fractured its way through the building, splaying translucent shadows across the airport’s drop-off area. From the back seat of the taxi, Jannik turned his head and looked up, his eyes a quick glance up and down but the rest him unmoving. Not for the first time he recalled an expression he’d once learned in English – to ‘fall’ into a job – and wondered whether he could apply this maxim to himself, when he spent so much time in the air.

A year ago, it had been obvious upon his arrival at Kjær-Iversen that his role was mostly undefined. Ostensibly, ‘Information Technology’ was his department, informationsteknologi, but the informations involved in his day-to-day work had no appeal to him – beta-testing programs, handling decimals and percentages, tax bands for different territories – and the teknologi side of the role was, for Jannik, merely fixing the numerous problems arising on a daily basis – logins, passwords, systems crashes. Such fails were almost always down to human error. His job, as it became apparent, was to clear up other people’s mistakes.

With his Master’s in Computer Science freshly imprinted on his CV, he knew he should achieve better. He could write programs able to process the same data in half the time, and, he estimated, at a quarter of the expense. But as a junior member of staff, straight out of university, he needed to be patient.

With the possible exception of his immediate manager, Birgita, everyone seemed to have a different idea about what he actually did. Even Søndergaard thought, as was evident during the flight back from the Nuuk conference last February, that his young new recruit’s remit was a blurred hybrid of Customer Service and web design.

“Those are elements, yes…” were the only words Jannik managed to get in edgeways.

Søndergaard squatted down in the aisle, made an overly deliberate point of making eye contact, and leaned in conspiratorially. “Did you know,” he said, “that the Eskimos have over a hundred words for snow?”

This was a complete change in subject from what had been little more than smalltalk, and Jannik had a sinking feeling that he was about to hear ‘that speech’. As it happened Jannik did know about the Inuit and their supposed lexicon, but only because Søndergaard had said the very same thing at a training seminar six weeks before. Although Jannik could have sworn the number of words for snow back then had been fifty, not a hundred.

About the author  


Mike Scott Thomson’s stories have been featured by a number of publications, including The Fiction Desk, Litro, Prole, and Momaya Press. Competition successes include the runner up prizes in both InkTears (2012) and Writers’ Village (2013). In 2014 he won the inaugural ‘To Hull and Back’ humorous short story competition. Based in Mitcham, Surrey, he works in broadcasting. You can find him online at


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