Die Gerüchte meines Todes …

Yet again it has been months since I’ve written anything on here, and even longer since I abandoned the blue time-suck of doom (Faceache) and for that I feel kinda bad. Kinda. Hahaha. (Apologies if you’ve tagged me or messaged me in the last six months or so. I promise that I’ll get around to logging back in properly to check that sort of stuff at some point.) As it is every time that I log in I see the screamingly awful amount of notifications &c. that I have and just back away from the computer slowly…

Anyhoo, I’ve been up to all sorts over the last few months here in Deutschland, want to know what? Of course you don’t but I’m going to put it down here anyway. 😛

First a bit of news about my writing. Last week my prose poem ‘This Creature, This Creature, This Wonderful Creature’ was released on the world’s premier horror fiction podcast Pseudopod, read by Christopher Reynaga of Point Mystic. You can listen to it below, or click here to listen to the entire episode.

The piece is about addiction, obsession, loss, and lovely stuff like that.

I also received an absolutely amazing review of my chapbooks Hinterland and We are the Makers of Maps from Acep Hale on the Lovecraft Ezine. A review that totally blew me away to honest. You can read that by clicking here but I think one of my favourite things in the review is this.

This slight volume simply begs to be read again and like a piece by Satie these simple phrases build and assert themselves with greater force as you read and re-read. Baader’s fiction colors and infects the reader’s view of the world.

Fucking awesome.

My story ‘Calan Mai’, a weird folk horror piece set in South Wales, has also been accepted by another well known horror fiction venue but as the contract hasn’t been signed, and I don’t know when it will be published, I’ll have to wait til a later date to announce that properly.

My next collection of stories and poems is still ‘under construction’, as it were, and will be released at some point in the future. I’ve thrown pieces out, put them back in, edited and unedited, and generally fucked around with it so much that it’s quite different to how I originally envisioned it. Therefore I’ll probably end up renaming it.

I’m also working on a couple of longer pieces that are coming along super slowly but that I’m really rather excited by. The first, Kolera, is about a city that thinks itself and empire and the second, Five Days in Traumstadt, about a city poised at the edge of dreaming. Like I said though, they are coming along slowly. Even for me.

Now, ze Germany…

Well, this place is certainly interesting. I’ll give it that. Before coming here I always thought of Germany as being a tad more modern than the UK, and in many ways it is, but here everything is still closed on Sundays. Something that hasn’t been the case in the UK since I was a nipper, which is a long time ago. This is rather nice to be honest but it’s super frustrating when you are working on a Saturday and lunch out getting stuff in for Sunday dinner as you’re knackered. Knackered being something that I quite often am after work, oh my poor old bones.

Since getting here I’ve been putting my Archaeology degree to good use by working as a stage hand. All those years of studying and my immense student debt all seem worth it now. Hahahahahaha. It seems that there isn’t much use for an Archaeologist that sprechen nur Englisch for some reason. Also there isn’t the same level of commercial involvement in Archaeology here and you tend to need a post-graduate qualification of some kind to get even basic digging work. Ach well.

There also isn’t the same level of engagement with prehistory here that there is in the UK. Last winter K____ and I went to visit the Straße der Megalithkultur; a tourist route near Bremen featuring, you guessed it, megaliths. I was surprised by how hidden many of the sites are. Surrounded by forest on all sides with only minimal information in the form of info boards. The monuments seemed hidden from view as though they were something to be ashamed of. As though, whilst they had to be preserved, they were not something of which people were to be reminded. Something that, given the misuse of prehistory and ancient culture here in the recent past, isn’t something one should be too surprised by.

The interesting thing about this seeming hiding away of monuments is that it brought to mind on of the main criticism of Christopher Tilley’s phenomenological approaches to megalithic monuments. I’ve written about, and criticised, Tilley’s approach before (click here if you’re interested) but the complete arboreal immersion of these sites illustrates quite well the fact that we don’t have the foggiest, for the most part, where Britain’s ancient forests were and where they were not. We therefore can rarely say with any certainty which monuments were visible and from where. In the UK these monuments are generally in well a heavily farmed and open landscape where the view is not obscured by dense forestry.

The Visbek Bride’s “train”, a massive burial monument surrounded by forest.

Tl;dr: Six years later I still think that Chris Tilley was talking mince.

Speaking of work, I’m earning here about what I would be earning in the UK for the same job but bugger me does the cash go further. I’m able to live as if I was working a full time job in the UK but only working 2-3 days a week. Almost everything here is cheaper than the UK. Rent, food, beer, you know, the important stuff costs comparatively sweet FA. The only thing that I’ve noticed being more expensive is electronics and seeing as I rarely buy electronic doo-dads that doesn’t matter.

Cheaper still than Germany is Czech. K____ and I went to Kalovy Vary in Czechia for a few days last month and even though Kalovy Vary is a tourist destination (favoured by a bunch of Russian oligarchs apparently) it’s still markedly cheaper. Czechia is also absolutely gorgeous.

Kalovy Vary is surrounded by hills and the view from above the town is an absolutely spectacular of something I’ve recently discovered is known as a landskein. The interweaving of hills into the distance.

Not put through a dozen filters at all, honest guv.

The town is also known for its hot springs, the water of which people drink for their supposed health giving properties. I gave it a try. I would suggest, should you ever visit, that you don’t. Just. Fucking. Don’t. It’s like drinking the bath water after Satan has been washing his ringpiece.

Another thing that struck me as we drove to Kalvy Vary is quite how fucked the surrounding towns are compared to Kalovy Vary itself. One town not far from the German border, the name of which escapes me at present, was so dishevelled I thought that it was abandoned until I saw someone emerging from a house. The fall of Communism has clearly not been a boon for a great many people.

We also discovered a wonderful autobahn junction that was like driving along a Moebius Strip, it just seemed to keep on looping back on itself until it deemed fit to spew you forth onto the autobahn.

On the way back from Czechia we called in to Schwarzenberg to see K____’s parents and I got the chance to see their local space museum in Muldenhammer. The museums had some pretty cool stuff, like a bust of Yuri Gagrin, but the most fun thing for me was the life size model of one of the modules from the Mir Space Station. #geekjoy

There’s plenty more that I could write about but I’m going to leave it at this for now. I may post some more stuff soon, but knowing me I probably won’t. Hahahaha.

Self Damned and be Published!

A couple of days ago, as anyone unlucky enough to be on my Facebook friends list will have noticed, I released a new chapbook: We are the Makers of Maps. (Buy it here, give me your monies!) Over the course of my spamming the hairy hell out of Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ I got into a couple of conversations with some writer friends. People who have been about this whole wordy thing a lot longer than I have and they all offered me great support and bits and bobs of advice. So, thank you all for that, you’re freakin’ ace so you are. 🙂

One of the pieces of advice and encouragement that came up a few times was “Next time send your stuff to a publisher!” Which, to be perfectly honest, is really nice because it’s, basically, these experienced folk saying that my work may be good enough for someone else to invest time, energy, and money into turning my words into a book. That feels, well, all the feels. Good feels. 🙂

However, it did bring to mind another conversation I had recently with someone who implied that, as I don’t send my stories out to publishers with an eye to getting a collection printed, that I don’t take my art seriously. Because if I’m not looking to a proper press putting out my work then I don’t value it. I can completely see where people are coming from with this and I really would like a press to put out some of my work, if only for the extra promotion it could get my work and, especially this, the feedback I could get from a proper editor. Something that any writer could do with, especially one as wet behind the ears as myself.

However, and there’s always a however to a blog post isn’t there, that leaves out quite how much I enjoy about the whole process of self publishing. For starters there’s the DiY aspect of it. I’m an old punk and the DiY ethos is somewhat etched into my bones. It’s true that the small press, especially the weird fiction small press, is also infused with this punk ethos and many of the presses are the literary equivalent of the punk labels that used to be run out of people’s bedrooms and squats the world over. This is something that I absolutely adore about the weird milieu and is something that keeps me passionate about it. I’ll always support the small press.

However, again, I really, really enjoy the process of putting a book together. I’m getting better and better at using professional publishing software and actively enjoy tweaking the document to make sure that the words look *exactly* as I want on the page. I love putting the covers together, chasing down orphans, experimenting with different fonts (Bembo ftw btw), and generally being able to play with my words all the way from brain to page.

For me reading has never been just about the words on the page and the ideas that they convey. It has always been an aesthetic experience. The smell of the paper, the feel of the cover and the pages in my hands, the rustle as I turn them. Which is probably why I don’t really get on with ebooks, they neither look nor feel right for me to have the full experience of reading.

So self publishing, to me, is taking my art seriously. I may not be great at it, I may have a lot to learn. ‘May’, hah, I really do have a lot to learn. But I want to do that whilst practicing my art which involves the whole shebang from idea through to ink splattered across the corpse of a dead tree.

So, I think I’m going to carry on self publishing my work, for the time being at least, and in doing so know that each thing that I publish is mine. Entirely. Every quirky piece of language, every unforgivable grammatical crime, every falter in the story, the way that the layout looks nice. It’s all me, warts and all.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop sending my individual stories out to magazines and the like. I get a massive buzz from someone liking a story enough to want to both buy me a beer for it and put their name to it. But when it comes to collections, and eventually to my first longer piece, I want to have as much control as possible, I know that I’m going to not reach as many readers because of this, and I know that I’ll likely not make as much money this way, but those are secondary concerns to me. I mostly just want to produce my work in the way that I want.

There’s also the point that I would imagine I’m extremely difficult to work with on account of being, at times, a pig-headed, bullish, dick who thinks that deadlines look best in the rear-view mirror. 😀

Just to be clear, I have *absolutely* nothing against either publishers nor people who have their work published traditionally. Anything that gets us more amazing literature is good by me. I also tend to think that self publishing evangelists are extremely irksome. There’s no ‘us vs. them’ in the weird.

Oh yeah, go buy my book. 😉

Maps-Advert

We are the Makers of Maps

In a sense, every human construction, whether mental or material, is a component in a landscape of fear because it exists in constant chaos.
-Yi fu Tuan ‘Landscapes of Fear’

So, after what seems like a forever of anxiety driven huhming and hahing I finally approved the proof copy of my chapbook We are the Makers of Maps which is, therefore, now available for sale on that there Amazon place. It’s a print only chapbook as, to be honest, there was no way that I could see to properly lay out some of the pieces contained within, especially the poem ‘An Autumn Note’.

The book contains five pieces. Two short stories, ‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’ and ‘in these ways we remember’, as well as three compositions, ‘Maps’, ‘East’, and ‘An Autumn Note’.

Makers of Maps Cover v23

‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’ looks at the relationship between the maps with which we define the spaces in which we live and the reality of those spaces whereas ‘in these ways we remember’, a strange post-apocalyptic story, is concerned with the landscapes of memory and remembering. Hopefully I’ve been at least somewhat successful in what I’ve tried to achieve with the stories.

We are the Makers of Maps is something of a taster for my collection Sing Along With the Sad Song which will be out later this year. (Another project that has been too long in the making) However only one of the works from this chapbook will feature in the full collection. That will be ‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’. Think of this as something like a single, or e.p., released before the main album. 😉

The book is available directly from Amazon or, if you’re in the USA, from Createspace too. (I get a teensy bit more of a royalty from Createspace. 😉 ) Links below.

USA
Createspace
or
Amazon

UK
Amazon

It should also be available in all the other Amazon stores soon, if it isn’t already.

Are We a Wave?

Recently the Canadian author Simon Strantzas issued his Weird Manifesto, see below, I would like to string a few words together to contribute to the discussion. Some, or all, of these words may be utter baloney and I look forward to hearing why.

Simon Strantzas Manifesto

I posit that if ‘The Weird’ is indeed a thing which is a part of, but distinguishable within, the wider horror literature it has grown from Nicolay’s ‘Weird Renaissance’ which we have seen unfolding over the last decade or so and that it has emerged as a reaction to the malaise which currently infects the world. The anglophone world at least.

If there is a New Wave of Horror called The Weird then it has emerged from the long in the tooth tradition of Weird Fiction; which dates back over a century to the works of Arthur Machen and Robert W. Chambers and continues on to the modern works of people like W.H. Pugmire, Laird Barron, and Joseph Pulver Sr. What would this New Wave be, where has it come from, and what is it that differentiates it from both Weird Fiction and the wider Horror milieu?

Before I begin this, what is sure to be, rambling and malt fuelled exegesis I should point out that to imply that a work is a part of this New Wave is no judgement of quality of the work nor is a condemnation of work which may not fall within the definition I am about to try and eke out. Texts may fulfill many and varied functions, some of which may place them within The Weird/New Wave and some of which may not.

Sometimes the function of a text may be seemingly contradictory such as the role Homer’s Odyssey plays in both reinforcing the Greek masculine heroic tradition whilst also lampooning it. Or like Spenser’s Fairy Queen which is both an fantastical poem of adventure and an expression of courtly love from Spenser towards Queen Elizabeth I and therefore both an exercise in myth making and a piece of political maneuvering. A story that is New Wave can be both a horror story and something aside from a horror story. It can be this consciously, as in the case of Spenser’s political maneuvering, or perhaps unconsciously, as in Homer’s ridiculing of Athenian machismo.

The Weird/New Wave of Horror(WNW) is a current within the Horror field that flows from the Weird Renaissance and is notable for being socially conscious. By that I don’t necessarily mean that it a social conscience but that it is aware of, and consciously influenced by, social issues. It is concerned not only with telling terrifying tales but with imbuing them with something more. In the same way that New Wave Science Fiction was about more than dazzling space adventures and fantastic technological marvels so WNW is weird fiction plus…

I would like to forward a few points that I think may be able to help identify WNW.

  • WNW tends towards literary experimentation and draws influence from across the literary spectrum as well as the other, not literary, arts.
  • WNW revels in genre convention as much as it  rejects them.
    There may be a vampire in this story but it lives in the upper atmosphere and is a comment on PTSD in veterans.
    This woman may be fleeing from a terrible sea creature but her struggle also reflects the experiences of survivors, and victims, of domestic violence and abuse.
  • WNW is both Modernist and Postmodernist.
  • WNW waxes philosophical. It can be metaphysical or phenomenological, nihilistic or antinatal, epistemological and maybe even esthetic.

Of course many texts that were written before this WNW will feature many of these elements but it is the amount of them that are now being released by authors who talk to one another than I feel may make Stantzas claim true.

 

Why is the Weird Waving Now?

Here I can only speak of the anglophone world as that is the extent of my, albeit limited, knowledge on this subject. I would however be extremely interested in finding out whether anything that I say here rings true elsewhere.

The New Wave of Science Fiction emerged in the 1960s at the height of the long drawn out existential threat that was the Cold War. It was an age of generalised fear but it was also a time of wonder and potential. The space race was in full swing with its attendant technological and engineering wonders, revolutions were erupting across the globe, the civil rights movement was at its peak, new feminisms were emerging. The world was changing amid the threat from the insanity of nuclear war. There was hope as well as fear.

The last fifteen years have been filled with anything but hope. The abject failure of the movement to prevent the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan marks a shift in consciousness for many of the millions involved. If that failed then what can we do? The years since the economic crash of 2008 have been even bleaker as the ongoing assault against our quality of life has been relentless, even when faced with all the resistance people can muster. Suicide rates in the UK are increasing at a terrifying rate amongst those hundreds of thousands forced deeper and deeper into despair as they are forced down in greater and greater poverty. Unemployment is rising as unemployment support is cut to ribbons. Children go to school hungry despite their parents skipping meals in order to feed them. The media is relentless in its demonisation of the poorest in society whilst also equating those poor souls fleeing terror with the very horror from which they run. The far right grows in confidence as the left finds itself unable to become a force of opposition. What left that there is.

Many pin their hopes on the likes of Corbyn or Sanders whilst many more remember the betrayals of supposedly left wing parties. Even those hopeful few must feel the nagging doubt that they are setting themselves up for disappointment. The trade unions are toothless and more concerned with maintaining amicable relationships with the bosses than building a brighter tomorrow for workers.

There is no hope.

Into this malaise, this generalised anxiety, comes The Weird.

Science Fiction, as already mentioned, experienced its New Wave in the 1960s. Horror has never experienced such an event. There was the Horror Boom of the 1980s that saw horror authors such as Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell become household names and there was a surge of interest in the field. There was however no gestalt shift in relation to the social turmoil of the period. From SF we saw Cyberpunk emerge and from horror there was… Splatterpunk. There was, so far as I’m aware, no current, no scene, within horror casting a wry eye over the excesses and catastrophes of the day.

Now though there is most definitely a trend emerging within the Horror, and Weird Fiction, scene that is most certainly conscious of the social context in which it is operating. In his essay, ‘Why Weird, Why Now?: On the Rationale for Weird Fiction’s Resurgence’, Kurt Fawver says that:

[…]the weird has, at least in part, experienced a renaissance in the early 21st Century due to its reflection of globalization’s impact upon cultural interchange and connectedness as well as its ability to play an oppositional role to the Information Age’s deluge of explanations and connectedness.

I would add to this that The Weird is also uniquely able to unpick and interrogate the bleakness that surrounds us on a daily basis. Unlike the SF New Wave however The Weird isn’t born in an age of hope and so it offers no promises of escape. Something that, for all the fantastical and often magical events of the stories, offers something of a weird verisimilitude to the reader.

We know that, as things stand, there is little hope in the world. Perhaps The Weird, by throwing its strange light onto the tribulations of the early 21st Century can help us understand the horrors with which we are presently faced.
Of course, it is also highly likely that Strantzas was taking the piss a bit and I’ve just made myself look like a complete twonk. 😀

As much as I enjoy people commenting on my blog I think that, should people wish to discuss this, it would be great if they did so on the Thinking Horror Facebook group. (LINK) Please feel free to pop on by and find this posted there to tell me how wrong I am. 🙂

Kurt Fawver’s essay appeared in Volume One of Thinking Horror: A Journal of Horror Philosophy available in print and as an ebook from Amazon.

Free Speech, or Vomiting into the Liberal Abyss

Last week there was a brouhaha in the horror fiction community when known fascist David A. Riley (the A is important as there is another genre writer called David Riley who is, by all accounts, a good egg) was appointed to sit on the jury of the upcoming Stoker awards held by the Horror Writers Association(HWA). I wasn’t initially going to write anything about this latest incident as once members of the HWA were made aware of this enough of them raised objections that the matter was resolved. It wasn’t resolved neatly but that’s by-the-by and I’ll talk about that another time maybe.

What has inspired me to put fingertips to keys is a couple of things. Firstly the bleatings of liberals and those who consider themselves ‘libertarians’ (in the American sense of the word) in support of both Riley’s right to hold whatever beliefs he chooses and his right to be an active part of the horror community with those beliefs. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about ‘free speech’ and ‘social justice warriors’* who were oppressing the community and who were ‘the real fascists’.

Secondly it was an interview with David A. Riley on the blog of on David Dubrow, a writer from the USA. I get the feeling that the interview was supposed to show that Riley isn’t a fascist and that us lefties are just getting our knickers in a twist and are all crazy. It did neither of these things.

In this post I want to discuss, hopefully, briefly (and amusingly, to me anyway.) some of these positions before then looking at the Curious Case of David A. Riley itself. So, I would like to present to you: ‘Free Speech, or Vomiting into the Liberal Abyss’.

*incidentally, did you know that the term was originally used by us lefties to mock the twitterati and tumblrites who obsess over the virtual world yet do nothing in the real world? I really hate that right wing cocks have stolen it from us so now I’m simply reduced to swearing at people like that.

Free Speech,
or Vomiting into the Liberal Abyss

I

Gazing into the Abyss

The liberal looks down upon those engaged in revolutionary and radical political activity from its vantage point high above upon the moral high ground. From its lofty position it see that it can attain the perfect balance between opposing viewpoints, it can find the middle ground, as, to the liberal, all points of view are equally valid. They merely need to be weighed and balanced in order to evaluate what they contain that is of value. To the liberal, the pinnacle of pseudo postmodern expression, there is no right and no wrong. There is only ever the middle.

What the liberal does not see from its intellectually elevated position is that the high ground from which it issues its decrees, the summit upon which it wrings its hands, is naught but a pile of rotting corpses.

The liberal pontificates and presents itself as the voice of reason whilst irrationally defending the irrational and sowing the seeds of its own demise.

The liberal is inherently reactionary.

II

The Grand Theatre of Ideas

In the imaginings of the liberal ideas exist in a vacuum, a void, an abyss, that is completely disconnected from real life. In this black liberal expanse ideas are shouted into the echoing nothing never to reverberate against anything, nor affect anything that exists outside this peculiar social exceptionality. As ideas float around this liberal space-time they are all of equal value and deserve equal space to be heard. Ideas are equal in their inconsequentiality to the liberal.

III

The Sad, Sorry, Sight of Real Life

Unfortunately for the liberal their Grand Theatre of Ideas is as much a myth as any afterlife or Platonic ideal. Ideas are formed by people and as people act upon ideas so ideas act upon people. Some ideas add to the general happiness of the world. Ideas like: “It’s good to help one another”, or “we should cover ice cream in chocolate and tequila”. Ideas like these improve the world and make the world a nicer place in which to live. They serve to mitigate the harsh realities of getting by in a capitalist society.

Other ideas serve only to increase the amount of suffering in the world.

IV

Speech as Action, Words That Burn Books

When certain ideas are seen to be socially acceptable, or even mainstream, then those who hold to those ideas gain the courage to act upon them. When newspapers carry stories supporting those ideas then those words, those ideas, will be acted upon. Without the ideas then there are no actions. Without the words spreading those ideas then actions do not spread. The ideas lead to words which lead to bombed out pubs, beaten people, and murdered kids.

V

Maintaining the Balance, at No Cost

The liberal believes that it is working tirelessly to maintain the balance of society. So that, when the day comes to pass, the feather weighs the same as the swastika. The liberal will stand bravely in defence of those who seek to do ill to the world, who wish to spread ideas of hatred and death. The liberal will stand bravely against those who ask that they not suffer hatred and death.

VI

Tolerance is a Weapon Wielded Against the Workers

We must tolerate the intolerable proclaims the liberal. We must tolerate even the most odious of ideas and individuals. The workers must never act to defend themselves against ideas of suffering and pain. They must suffer all the tribulations of tolerance with stoicism and a stiff upper lip so that the liberal may look down upon its domain in contentment. Safe from the woes below, high upon its mountain, green with fleshy putrescence.

VII

Self Defence is Oppressive

The liberal, ever fearful of anything outside the middle, sees all that is not of itself as equal and indistinguishable. For the liberal, left is as good as right as it careers blinkered down the central reservation of life. An act of self defence is as heinous as the instigating act of violence. Luke Skywalker is as bad as Darth Vader the moment he picks up the lightsabre on Tatooine. The anti-fascist fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto no different to the Nazi troops bombarding them with shells. All is equal, all is equivalent. The liberal strips all context from that which it observes and claims this as philosophical insight. The liberal would counter the terrorising of families and communities with strongly worded letters penned behind curtains drawn tight to the world.

David A. Riley

Now, to Mr David A. Riley.

David A. Riley is a fascist. He was a member of the extreme right wing group, The National Front (NF), which he left in the early 80s. He has, since then, done and said nothing to imply that he has cast aside his old ideology and has, as point of fact, said things that imply that he still holds these beliefs.

Before I go further I want to admit that yes David A. Riley is, in the grand scheme of things, of little concern to the wider world.  He’s a small time horror writer in the world of the genre small presses. However the small time horror genre press is a growing scene, and one that, if it wishes to continue to grow, needs to be open and inclusive. This can’t be the case if odious people like David A. Riley are tolerated and even defended by people within the community. The tolerance of fascists like Riley by the community is effectively saying that community does not want people of colour, Roma/Travellers, queers, trans-people, Jews, nor trade unionists involved as these are all people that are absolutely despised by fascists. Why would I want to sit in a room with someone who would see me and mine dead? Why would anyone?
Now I’ll go through some of the points from the interview with David A. Riley over on David Dubrow’s blog. Here’s the link should you want to go and see quite how insipid the questions and answers were before continuing. http://davedauthor.com/2016/04/20/interview-with-david-a-riley/

On the subject of the National Front Riley says:

I joined in 1973. At that time it was widely viewed as a patriotic nationalist party with serious concerns about the high numbers of immigrants who were coming into the UK at the time. Amongst its members were a number of retired senior servicemen from the Armed Forces, clergymen, teachers and other professionals.

At that time  John O’Brien, a supporter of Enoch Powell, had just left as leader as the party had effectively come under the control of former members of the Greater Britain Movement John Tyndall and Martin Webster. Webster is on record as saying, in 1972, that they were setting up a “well oiled Nazi machine.” Webster who was at this meeting (LINK) with Riley in 1981.

When asked about current membership of the NF he says:

I resigned in 1983 and have not been involved since.

Well, this (LINKantisemitic bile was published in August 1983. So, given the long history of the NF with Nazism, Riley’s association with one of the main Nazis within the leadership of the NF and quotes like this

Lovecraft’s anti-semitism, it should be noted, was not based upon a well-researched knowledge of the part played by certain wealthy Jewish financiers, but on plain physical repugnance. The limitation, therefore, of his appreciation of what motivates Zionism, which he never mentions, is considerable.

I find Riley’s claims to have been unaware that he was a member, regional organiser, and parliamentary candidate for a Nazi party to be risible.

When asked if he is a fascist he replies:

No.  It’s an easy label to flash around, usually by those who are fascists themselves, particularly from the left. Fascists don’t believe in free speech and try to suppress it for their opponents. I have never in my life tried to do that. They are also prepared to use physical violence against their political opponents. I was never involved in anything like that. I would add that during the time I was involved in the party any member who associated with a neo-nazi group, either in Britain or overseas, faced expulsion. This, I can confirm, was enforced.

This is clearly tripe as the leadership of the National Front was composed of Nazis like Tyndall and Webster. The NF has also never been afraid of using violence against their opponents nor against instigating it when they did things like march through the largely black area of London, Lewisham, in 1977. When Riley was a fully fledged member and organiser for the party.

When Riley is so clearly lying about his past, when he is seen still supporting extreme right wing groups like Ataka, when he is still posting on nationalist websites, why the hell would we believe that he is no longer a fascist? He patently still holds to his beliefs and therefore should be shunned by any who want the weird/horror fiction world to grow and flourish.

Bollocks to David A. Riley. Bollocks to Fascism.

Some links for reference.

John Tyndall

Martin Webster

National Front

Greater Britain Movement

More on Riley’s Fascist past and present

 

The Numbers of the bEast, or How Dame Did Me Wrong

For Joe Pulver, the real bEast.

Her name was Dame. When she walked into the bar our eyes met through the yellow blue cigarette haze. Taking a seat at the bar she ordered neat bourbon and proceeded to rebuff the advances of the drunks and creeps who were out in force that night. She glanced in my direction once she had deflected the come ons of One Arm Larry, a creeper of no small repute, and I denied myself the guilty pleasure of watching her deal with the flotsam and jetsam of the city. I would play the white night in a crumpled suit and tattered hat.
As I approached the bar she pulled out a cigarette and waited for the light that she knew I would offer.
“Dame” I raised the flame to the Lucky in her lips. “What brings a bad girl like you to a worse dive like this?”
“Oh, you know bEast.” I liked the way she capitalised my name properly. Not many can manage it. “Just looking for the sign, as always.”
“Honey, you know fine well that if any of these clowns had seen the sign they wouldn’t be in here killing their livers with the rat poison they sell over the bar.” I glanced at Mickey the Fish, the proprietor of Cassie’s Club. “No offence meant Mick.”
He looked up from spit cleaning a glass. “None taken beAst.” See what I mean about folk just not getting it right?
I took Dame by the arm. “Look here Dame.” I spun her round on her seat and pointed her to the door. “That’s the door, and me and you are going to be stepping through it right now. Unless you think one of these bums is going to show you the sign?”
Dame spun back to face me and laughed. “Oh, bEast. You do know how to show a gal a good time.”
From there it was easy. It’s rare to find someone who has heard of the Sign, rarer still to find someone so eager to find it. A class act like Dame looking for it was unheard of.
The heat and noise of the city’s night washed over us like a greasy tide. The sound of a thousand car horns sang into the night, each one an exclamation point at the end of the screaming sentence of the city’s nightmare. I hailed a cab and as it drew near Dame stood on her tiptoes and whispered in my ear, “Not quite the yellow I was looking for Daddy-O.”
I gave the driver our destination, and slipped him a fifty when I saw the strange look on his face. There are few moral quandaries General Grant can’t clear up. As he pulled into the river of the night’s traffic I grilled Dame on what she knew of the sign. Where she had heard of it, why she wanted it. I was expecting a classy broad like Dame to have some story to tell, for her to be different to all the others I’ve taken to the sign. Boy was I to be disappointed. Dame was just like the rest. She had read the first act and heard of the second. Had heard the stories of the French artists, of Carl Lee, of Mad Emperor of the Americas. She was a tourist. A classy one but a tourist still and so, like all the others before her, I would send her to meet the King. Let my blade give her a one way ticket to Carcosa.
The cab pulled up outside Barnabe’s Theater on 23rd and Rennies. I stepped out first and walked around to the open the door for Dame. No matter how much she had disappointed me I was still going to play the gentleman for her. The cab sped off leaving us alone in what has always been the only quiet spot in the seething sprawl of the city.
“This is it honey. Barnabe’s Theater. Once home to the world famous Bierce Players and Theatrical Troupe until the great tragedy of 1922. Now just a home to bums, rats, and your path to the yellow sign.”
Dame spun on her heel and took me by the arm. “Lead on Daddy-O, lead on.”
I walked up the short flight of steps and through the doorway into the gloom. Once our eyes adjusted we made our way across the long rotten carpet of the foyer to and into the theater proper. The air in here was cold, icily so, after the summer heat and Dame shivered. She followed as I led her down the wide steps towards the stage. Even in this darkness the presence of the King’s throne was palpable in centre stage.
When we stood directly in front of the stage I pushed Dame before me and slid my blade from my pocket.
“Here’s what you were looking for. Here’s your King, your yellow fucking sign!” I raised the blade above my head but before I could open her flesh a throaty laugh filled the auditorium and the stage lights flickered into a pale half life throwing shadows across the throne and the King. He sat resplendent in yellow upon his throne of broken glass. Smoke spiralled from the cigarette in his hand as he raised it to his lips.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Smoke rose from his yellow-white whiskered mouth as sonorous words punched me in the chest. My blade fell soundlessly to the floor. “You really don’t know who she is? Do you?” The King laughed at this.
“But, I…” the words wouldn’t come to my lips. I looked at Dame who was now standing straight and smiling at me. “I…”
“They may call me Dame Daddy-O, but that’s because I’m a Dame. Not because it’s my name.” With that she slid my blade into my chest once, twice. Before the third stroke I had collapsed bleeding into the filth. That’s how I came to be here, bleeding into the remains of a decades old carpet wondering why I hadn’t realised that any broad that classy would already have seen the sign, would have been one of the court. I really shouldn’t have thought I could do wrong to a Dame in the presence of the King.

Achievement Unlocked

I’ve had this story, The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish, knocking around my head for a year or more now. Towards the end of last year I finally got started on it properly and then life came along and I didn’t touch it for months. Well yesterday I sat down to do a bit of work on it and the next thing I knew it was knocking on for midnight and I had hammered out 5,000 more words, it was sat at just under 3,000 when I started, and it was done. Well, it was ‘done’. It’s still rough as hell but at least the first draft is out of the way.

Now I just need to complete the first drafts of The Corpse on the Clyde: A Vignette of Empire, There Once Was a Giant Who Fell in Love With a Storm, and Prolétrange and write the first draft of The Old Crooked Track and that’s my next collection very nearly done.McT-Finished

New Tiny Story

I’ve been under the weather recently (coughs and splutters to the tune of a tiny violin) and so I’ve not been doing that writing thing which I’m supposed to be doing so much of at the moment. So, in order to get myself wording properly once more I set myself a silly little writing challenge. To write a story with an arbitrary number of words. For my arbitrary number I selected 0605 which is the unlock code for my phone (yeah, like anyone who reads this is going to steal my phone) and decided to write ten paragraphs of 60.5 words each. Fun times.

Here’s 0605 for your amusement.

‘after’ by Scott Nicolay

Scott Nicolay‘s novella ‘after’ was released by Dim Shores a couple of months ago at the same time as they published ‘Rangel’ by Matthew M. Bartlett which I discussed briefly here. I have only just, shame on me, managed to find the time to read Scott’s story and, as ever with both Scott’s work and the stories put out by Dim Shores, I was impressed. This review contains some spoilers so feel free to skip to the tl;dr by clicking here or scroll past the image below to read on.

Still here?
Good.

‘after’ is set in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy which was a hurricane, don’t know why American’s would want to call it a ‘superstorm’ when it already has a perfectly good name. It also shows something of a lack of imagination. Seriously, if you’re going to rename something at last be a bit witty about it: see here. A lack of imagination however is not something one could accuse Scott Nicolay of and, my bad taste quips aside, Hurrican Sandy devastated parts of the north-east American coast and caused immense suffering and hardship to those caught in its path. In fact Nicolay dedicates his story thus

With compassion toward all those who suffered in the path of Superstorm Sandy and contempt toward all those who sought to profit from their suffering.

Cards on the table eh Scott?

‘after’ follows the experiences of Colleen, a middle aged woman whose holiday home on the Jersey Shore was in an area that suffered the attentions of Sandy and who is being allowed, along with some of her neighbours, to return to the area in order to ascertain the damage done to her property and to recover anything that she can. The area is under curfew and so she will have to return on the bus provided by the authorities at the end of the day.
One thing that I have noticed with the writing of Scott Nicolay is that he is never in a hurry for his story to get where it is going. He prefers instead to take his time, building both character, setting and, in the case of ‘after’, a sense of grim claustrophobia.

As Colleen travels back to Jersey Shore and walks through the unfamiliar familiar landscape of her neighbourhood we go on a much longer journey through her life and the events that led her to where we meet her. To the point where she is travelling, without her husband, into an situation of uncertainty and, potential, danger. The husband, and the reason for his absence, is the dark centre around which this story revolves. He is a drunk who has, in the past, assaulted her and from whom there is always the threat of violence making Colleen’s home life one of tension and fear. This is why she has chosen to travel to the holiday home alone and why, on the spur of the moment when waiting to return on the bus, she decides that she is going to remain in her house which has no power and no gas.

At its most basic level ‘after’ is a monster story. Colleen, whilst exploring the town turned upside down in search of supplies, encounters an immense creature which, upon noticing her, gives chase. Colleen manages to outrun it only to discover that it has set up home in the basement of her house. So begins the ‘meat’ of the story as Colleen attempts to fit her time in what should have been a sanctuary around this monster’s presence.

Of course, this being Scott Nicolay, ‘after’ isn’t just a monster story. There are two monsters present in the work; both of whom instil conflicting dreads in Colleen as she weighs up the threat from the monster that she knows against that from the monster she doesn’t. It is here that we get the real meat of the story. Not in the threat from the creeper, as Colleen refers to the creature, but in the sense of hemmed in isolation that she experiences. The fear of the beast in the basement and the regularity, at first, of its movements are bleakly similar the fear of her husband; though the apparent randomness of his alcohol fuelled abuse is why the monster wins out as a choice of housemate.

This is the strength of Scott’s work with ‘after’; his unflinching look at domestic abuse and the survival mechanisms which a person living in such a situation develops in order to survive and his graphic illustration of the feeling that the person doing the abuse is actually protecting the victim from something much worse: when the creature consumes a would be rapist. ‘after’ is definitely the strongest work that I’ve read by Nicolay and continues on the trajectory of exploring the effects of masculinity through the medium of the weird as hinted at in his debut collection ‘Ana Kai Tangata’. I am now thoroughly looking forward to reading Scott’s next collection.
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tl;dr
This is a great monster story but it’s also about domestic abuse and survival.
Unfortunately the Dim Shores edition of ‘after’ sold out extremely quickly however I believe that ‘after’ will be in Nicolay’s next collection which should be out in 2017.

Scott Nicolay hosts The Outer Dark podcast (now with added Justin Steele) and is currently highlighting on his blog classic weird fiction stories that do not receive the attention they deserve. He is doing this in conjunction with Michael Bukowski who provided the illustration for ‘after’.

Holy Howie, What a Furore!

I’ve eaten so much popcorn recently my stomach hurts. Actually, that’s a bit of a fib. I’ve actually been reading the internet a lot and doing this:

jackson popcorn

The reason for this is that at the weekend’s World Fantasy Awards it was announced that the award in its present form, a bust of the great author H.P. Lovecraft, will be being changed. The reason for this change is that Lovecraft held some odious views that were rather extreme -even for the early 20th Century- and it was felt that an award which seeks to honour the best in the fantastical writing of the “world” shouldn’t be an image of someone who detested quite so many of the world’s inhabitants. I’ve written about this a wee bit in the past, see here and here and here and here, and so in this post I am probably going to tread over some things that I have already discussed.

The decision to change the form of the award has, tiresomely and inevitably, led to some in the weird fiction/spec lit community losing their proverbial shit. Something that I have found deeply amusing -hence the popcorn.

The complaints about the change in form of the award have a number of common elements that I’ll discuss briefly here.

  • Censorship: You’re trying to stop people reading Lovecraft!
  • Political Correctness: It’s gone mad I tell ye!
  • Chronobigotry: You can’t judge people of the past by our standards.
  • Pseudotradtionalism: The award has always been the old racist from Providence!
  • Generalised Historical Douchery: What about other problematic authors who have awards?

Once I’ve had a wee chat about the shit losing then I’ll talk about why the bust should have been changed, why it doesn’t matter that it’s changed, and the form I feel that it should take in the future.

Censorship

This argument, and here I use the term extremely loosely, goes something along the lines of: “By having the form of this award changed you are trying to erase Lovecraft from the canon of literature and stop people reading him.”  Now; I am sure that there are some people who would like to see Lovecraft erased from the canon and for people not to read him because of his virulent racism. These people are, however, extremely marginal voices: many of whom have probably read little, or any, Lovecraft and are simply reacting in classic internet style to things. The majority of people don’t want to stop people from reading Lovecraft -perish the thought- nor want to erase him from the canon. Even the most ardent of critics much surely agree that he has had a tremendous effect upon the writing of fantastic literature throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries.

To censor something is to physically prevent someone from experiencing something: to prevent them from reading, watching, or hearing something. To have Lovecraft censored would mean to have his books pulled off the shelves, removed from libraries, not discussed in schools or universities. Something that is patently not happening, that is not going to happen, and that nobody wants to happen. Lovecraft’s books will continue to fill the shelves of bookstores, they will continue to be studied and taught, there will still be conventions inspired by and in honour of him. Even if censorship were truly possible at this moment in the 21st Century it is so palpably clear that there is no censorship going on with regards Lovecraft that this argument seems almost demented. Perhaps the works of old HPL were a little too effective on these particular fans?

Political Correctness

Political correctness has long been a phantasm for the right wing to rail against and it is an accusation that is often closely tied to that of censorship. To the right ‘political correctness’ is a weapon used by liberals and the left to silence those who hold opposing views. So strident have the right been in their domination of the cultural discourse around political correctness that the term itself is now rendered almost meaningless.

In the case of the World Fantasy Award and the Lovecraft fanboys this term is often wheeled out in conjunction with the term “Social Justice Warrior”. Social Justice Warriorism being a very vocal trend within, mostly, American, mostly, liberalism that has seized upon radical and semi-radical ideas but attempts to apply them to situations in a manner that is completely bereft of any wider, or deeper, class analysis. They are more concerned with the appearance of a problem than with addressing the structural issues through actual workplace or community organising.

With the brouhaha over the World Fantasy Award I daresay that there has been a large element of this. However the drive to change the form of the award was mostly fuelled by people who think that an award such as the WFA should be inclusive rather than divisive. Not to exclude those who are fans of Lovecraft nor those who write in the fantastically horrible universe he shared with the world.

I think that the English comedian Stewart Lee has it covered when it comes to political correctness so I’ll leave it up to him to explain why it isn’t a bad thing.

Chronobigotry

I think that I just coined a word. Chronobigotry is what I’m going to call it when people make bigoted judgements of people and cultures of the past. An example of this could be those who refuse to accept that ancient peoples were capable of great feats of engineering and so it must have been aliens that built the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, and so on. Chronobigotry is also what those who are upset over the change in the form of the WFA are accusing those who sought the change of. That they/we are guilty of not taking into account the time and culture that HP Lovecraft lived in and so are overreacting to his views on race, class, and so on.

I would actually like to turn this accusation on its head and point out that it is those who are making this claim who are misunderstanding the times in which Lovecraft lived. It is the blanket assumption of the chronobigots that everyone was a massive racist dick in the early 20th Century and before and that Lovecraft was merely expressing the commonly held views of the majority of the populace. This doesn’t take into account however that many of Lovecraft’s close personal friends were astounded by his beliefs and some even pulled him up on them as being beyond the pale. His views were so extreme that they even managed to make the racist, and good friend of HPL, Robert E. Howard soften his own views on the matter.

There’s also the fact that the early 20th Century was a time of great social flux and there were many people who were trying to use race, as they ever do, as a means to weaken working class struggles. Something vigorously resisted by unions such as The Industrial Workers of the World who sought to organise all workers regardless of race.

Lovecraft may very well have been a “man of his time” but so were all the people fighting against racism. Their existence, and their successes, put to lie the excuses made by those in the 21st Century about the acceptability of Lovecraft’s bigotry.

Pseudotraditionalism

There are also those who have, as part of their complaint, the argument that the bust is “The Howie” and was always meant to be so. That it is an award in Lovecraft’s honour. This is simply not the case. The first meeting of the World Fantasy Convention was in Providence and so it was decided that the World Fantasy Award should, for that year, represent Providence’s most well known author of the fantastic: Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It was never the intention that the award should remain in that form and the form was chosen because of the place of the conference rather than because of Lovecraft’s massive contribution to the field.

I don’t know why it didn’t change the next year -I’m assuming that organising a conference is quite a stressful and time consuming endeavour. This being the case I can quite imaging a stressed out and overworked committee having a meeting and deciding: “Fuck it, let’s just use the same one as last year.” Which is a fantastic tribute to the legacy of the man: “Fuck it…”

There’s also the fact that traditions can, and do, change and that some, for better or worse, disappear. In Holland there’s a tradition of people wearing blackface and dressing up as Schwarz Pete -Santa Claus’ assistant. This is, obviously, unacceptable and is a tradition that is best relegated to museums and textbooks. So the argument from tradition is one that misunderstands the origin of the award, does a disservice to Lovecraft, and in general hasn’t got a leg to stand on.

Generalised Historical Douchery

This argument is similar to the chronobigotry argument but it is specific to the various authors who have awards named after them who also held vile views or partook in vile activities. It generally goes along the lines of: “But X author was a racist and they have an award named after them!” A prime example could be The Edgar Allen Poe award given out by the Mystery Writers of America. Poe was a nonce. He married his 13 year old cousin. Which is extremely icky, to say the least. However Poe did not write stories littered with references to pubescent girls.

This is the issue with Lovecraft. That he was so extreme in his prejudice, so strident in his racism, that it does seep into his work, overtly and covertly, time and time again. His racism reaches down the decades long after his death and smacks us about the face.

There’s also the matter that the awards named for other ‘problematic’* figures are, in general, in other fields. We are talking about the field of the fantastical which is, broadly speaking, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and all the bits in between these categories. So why people not involved in these other fields should be wanting to clean up other people’s houses, as it were, is beyond me. We focus on the things that we care about and those people who have been pushing for the bust to be changed clearly care about the field of the fantastic.

There’s also the rather awkward matter that the World Fantasy Award isn’t *actually* named after Lovecraft… Just sayin’.

Why the bust should have been changed, why it doesn’t matter, and what form the award should take

This one should be a no brainer to be honest, even leaving aside Lovecraft’s vile beliefs. The award is supposed to be the World Fantasy Awards, the emphasis here being on the word “World”. If the award is to be signifying the achievements of authors from all across the world then why should it take the form of a long dead white Protestant American man? Why should it take the form of any individual person from any country or culture when it is supposed to signify a global field of literature? The Poe award, at least, is only focussed on work published in America. The award should never have remained as Lovecraft after that first convention in Providence and that it has taken decades to address this is a failing of the World Fantasy Convention.

The reason that the changing of the bust doesn’t really matter is that, at present, the World Fantasy Convention is an almost solely anglophone affair. It issues awards to books published in English in English speaking parts of the world. To call itself the World Fantasy Convention is a joke. In its 40 year history the convention has only taken place outside the USA five times -in England and in Canada. Until the convention takes into account the rest of the world then it doesn’t really matter what form the award takes as it has little to do with the majority of the world.

Should the convention spread out from the anglophone world however, something that I would love to see, then it would be rather important what form the award takes and the form of a dead, racist, white American would not be suitable in the slightest. The award would have to represent the deep history and global scope of fantastical storytelling. Because of this, and as I have said since the brouhaha kicked off last year, I feel that the award should take the form of a cuneiform tablet bearing the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The world’s oldest recorded fantastical story. A story from the cradle of civilisation. Which just so happens to be the Middle East which will, no doubt, piss off all the racists and douchebags no end.

So; yay, the award is changing and meh, who cares really? Well, I possibly do as I’ve just written a bucketload of words about it…

*God, I hate how the word ‘problematic’ has been ruined by internet douchebags.