CHILDREN OF THE SUN

‘He reads on the brickwork: “NF FUCKS MEN”. And is not displeased.”
– Iain Sinclair, Suicide Bridge

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 As readers of my work will know, I have a long-standing interest in British subcultures, especially those that sprang from the original punk and skinhead movements in London. I read a lot of literature on the subject; anyone looking for books that deal well with this stuff, I would recommend Stewart Home’s mashups of genre theory and Richard Allen-style pulp (books like Defiant Pose and Red London), John King’s novels, Human Punk and Skinheads, Robert Sproat’s title story from the collection Stunning the Punters, and the work of Laura Oldfield Ford.

Despite being published in 2010, I only heard about Max Schaefer’s novel Children of the Sun (Granta) very recently, when I was re-reading a 2013 BBC article about the notorious and feared far-right skinhead Nicky Crane. The title of the piece was, The secret double life of a gay neo-Nazi. A fascinating hypocrisy, and the core contradiction that fuels Schaefer’s intriguing, and at times brilliant, novel. To me, it’s glaringly obvious that the hyper-masculine world of far-right skinheads has a homoerotic component, but this is an idea that fascism necessarily cannot support.

Children of the Sun focuses on Tony, a closeted neo-Nazi skinhead and his life from 1970 up into the nineties – via racist attacks, prison stretches, Skrewdriver and Brutal Attack gigs, battles with AFA, and clandestine homosexual encounters in dank London toilets – and James, a middle-class gay guy in the mid-noughties fascinated by Nicky Crane and the fascist skin subculture, who gets sucked into the swamp of neo-Nazi imagery and the often bizarre occult theories running through it.

The novel spends a lot of time in dark and murky areas, and with unpleasant characters. Ian Stuart – founder of explicitly racist band Skrewdriver and the Blood & Honour group – appears frequently, as do politicians like Nick Griffin, and even Savitri Devi. Devi, for what it’s worth, is the woman who believed Hitler was an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu bringing on the Kali Yuga. Obviously.

I was aware of much of this history prior to reading the book, and am sadly all too aware of the legacy of fascist punk and skinhead bands that continues to this day. So the book isn’t for everyone, but essential for anybody interested in the hidden, violent and often strange history of the battles between the far-right and the anti-fascist movement in Britain.

For anyone interested in delving a bit deeper into this stuff, I would recommend reading Stewart Home’s analysis of the Oi! scene here: https://www.stewarthomesociety.org/cranked/street.htm

And the deeply unpleasant Skrewdriver here: https://www.stewarthomesociety.org/cranked/skrew.htm

Both are chapters from his book Cranked Up Really High: Punk Rock and Genre Theory, made available on his website.

For information on Savitri Devi and her batshit Nazi-Hindu beliefs, I’d recommend this radio documentary: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09b19y4

For a fascinating, fair and measured approach to skinhead culture, Don Letts’ BBC Four documentary is essential.

CURRENT 93 – 13/10/2018

A brilliant night last night down in Shepherd’s Bush watching Current 93 perform their new (and very melancholy) record The Light Is Leaving Us All. The accompanying visuals, as you can see from the photos below, were amazing – eerie, disturbing and very powerful.

It was great to be attendance with writer friends such as Justin Hopper and Timothy Jarvis, Brian from Swan River Pres, and many more. A great night!

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THE SCORCHED MUSIC OF THE EMPEROR WORM

‘There is a writhing worm in all of us, waiting to be freed.’
– From The Salvage Song of the Larks, and Other Stories, by Michael Ashman

I have a story in the latest Coffin Bell Journal that you can read here.

A PERSONAL ANTHOLOGY

I was pleased to contribute to the excellent ‘A Personal Anthology’ series run by Jonathan Gibbs. The concept is simple – a writer chooses twelve pieces of favourite short fiction and explains why others should read them.

My list:

  1. ‘Black County’ – Joel Lane

  2. ‘The Stains’ – Robert Aickman

  3. ‘The White Cat’ – Joyce Carol Oates

  4. ‘The Husband Stitch’ – Carmen Maria Machado

  5. ‘Wide Acre’ – Nathan Ballingrud’

  6. ‘An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It’ – Jessie Greengrass

  7. ‘The Horse of Iron and How We Can Know It (And Be Changed By It)’ – M John Harrison

  8. ‘Four Abstracts’ – Nina Allan

  9. ‘The Man Whom the Trees Loved’ – Algernon Blackwood

  10. ‘The Cheater’s Guide to Love’ – Junot Diaz

  11. ‘The Last Clean, Bright Summer’ – Livia Llewellyn

  12. ‘The Unwish’ – Claire Dean

You can read it here.

HOLLOW SHORES REVIEWED IN LITRO

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'This is not just a brilliantly written collection; it is written with passion and anger and hope. It’s a common term of praise to say that a piece of fiction raises many questions. Budden’s work doesn’t just raise questions; it warns of the dire consequences of neglecting the human need for a connection with nature, and points the way towards a love of one’s home landscape and folklore which is free of dubious political connotations.'

A wonderful review today for HOLLOW SHORES in Litro. Thanks to Aiden O'Reilly for a perceptive and insightful review.

Read the whole thing here: https://www.litro.co.uk/2018/09/book-review-hollow-shores-gary-budden/

HOME TO ROOST

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'Gary Budden has been directly instrumental in raising the profile of psychogeography, new weird and strange fiction within a distinctly British context. His own stories, recently showcased in his debut collection Hollow Shores, engage with place, class and memory at a gut level, seeming to morph into something else even as we encounter them.'

I'm very touched to have been mentioned in this fantastic new essay – 'Home to Roost' – by Nina Allan (The Race, The Rift) concerning THIS DREAMING ISLE, the new anthology of weird and dark fiction from Unsung Stories. It make it's Kickstarter target in 12 hours! But they've added stretch goals now, with the potential of Rob Shearman, Alison Littlewood and Kirsty Logan joining the lineup...

Read Nina's full essay here

And buy the book via Kickstarter here

THIS DREAMING ISLE

Very happy to announce that I have a story – 'Hovering (Or, a recollection of 25 February 2015)' – in this upcoming anthology THIS DREAMING ISLE from Unsung Stories. It's crowdfunding on Kickstarter now! All the information is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/291030539/this-dreaming-isle-an-anthology-of-dark-fantasy-an

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MACHEN, MILTON, METROPOLITAN

On Saturday 18th August, 2018, Adam Scovell took a trip to the end of the Metropolitan Line to to find the grave of visionary writer Arthur Machen (1863-1967) at St Marys Church in Old Amersham. Machen has been a key influence on my own thinking about place for many years, especially his book The London Adventure (Or, The Art of Wandering), as well as his weird fiction like 'The White People', 'N', 'The Three Impostors' and 'The Great God Pan'.

We then set off on a six mile-ish round trip through the Buckinghamshire landscape of bleak ploughed fields, patches of green woodland, soaring and magnificent red kites, eerie and empty farmland.

We passed through the village of Chalfont St Giles, stopping to see the cottage of John Milton (closed, opposite Milton's Indian Restaurant), and navigating our way through subdued suburbs, interpreting signs that were more hindrance than help as we walked under towering pylons in yellow fields, passing a marquee for a posh-girl's birthday party, through an equestrian centre flitting with barn swallows, before back to Machen and then the tube. 

 Photo by Adam Scovell

Photo by Adam Scovell

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PAUL TREMBLAY, HÜSKER DÜ, LAST MANGO IN PARIS

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(L-R: Paul Tremblay, Lydia Gittins, me)

I was incredibly chuffed to be described by the brilliant horror author, Paul Tremblay, as 'the editor with the best taste in music in the biz' today. Paul is the author of the novels A Head Full of Ghosts, Disappearance at Devil's Rock and the newly published The Cabin at the End of the World, and I recommend all three of them. Great works of empathetic, literary horror all focusing on families in crisis whilst using, and subverting, standard horror tropes.

So how did this come about? you might ask.

Paul was in the UK promoting The Cabin at the End of the World, and as his UK editor at Titan Books, I was fortunate enough to accompany him and publicist Lydia Gittins on the first leg of the tour up to Edgelit in Derby – a one day genre fiction convention where Paul was the guest of honour. It was a cracking day and great as ever to meet fellow writers, editors and readers. 

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You can read Paul's full account of the trip here – but needless to say it involved us bonding over a shared love of music like Hüsker Dü and Fugazi, and discussing the finer details of Bob Mould's solo career. I then waffled on about my love of Jawbreaker and Watership Down-themed hardcore punk (really), and found someone who wasn't completely bored by what I was saying. A result in my book. I also experienced an unusual ale in Derby (Paul's choice) called Last Mango in Paris, featuring a blue-tinged chimpanzee on the label. 

Weird fiction and punk rock: i'm telling you, there's a real connection there.

‘Fiction is becoming darker, weirder, bent-out-of-shape’

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I was very pleased to get a mention in the Irish Times this week, via their interview with Ashley Stokes of Unthank Books. So thanks Ashley! He said some kind things about my work, as well as my good mate Gareth E. Rees, as well as mentioning us in the same breath as Angela Readman and Daisy Johnson (Fen was a brilliant collection). Here are some choice quotes:

'At grassroots level, and by that I suspect you mean writing that’s not influenced by MA programmes, is becoming darker, weird, twisted-out-of-shape, dripping with fear of the end and apocalypse. The new writing I’m enjoying at the moment – the likes of Gary Budden and Gareth E Rees – are potholing in these caves.

'I also find myself looking out for Angela ReadmanDaisy Johnson and Gary Budden, the latter being someone who meshes weird horror with a very English rumination on place and landscape to create stories simultaneously eerie, yet oh-so realistic.'

You can read the whole thing here.

MORTAL DANGER IN ENCHANTED WATERS

An image dredged from memory came to me the other day: a degenerate being, a creature monstrous and hungry, doll-like, like a beakless platypus with tendrilled hair. I dated the image from sometime in the early nineteen nineties, in Kent near the waters of the Hollow Shore.

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ENFIELD TOWN, WHERE WE PAINTED FIRE ACROSS THE SKYLINE

Old trains clank as they ease in and out of the overground station. We listen to the tannoy admonish a man who rides his bicycle along the platform.

Our neighbour with carcinogenic lungs smokes below, hacks, fights for breath every single day.

There's a low ambient hum to the outer city that I adore, a meshed murmur of commuters' voices, slow moving traffic, station activity, the shrieks of schoolkids, the flap of a wood pigeon's wings.

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Look one way and see the shimmering monuments to excess that form the London skyline. Look the other, over the roofs of the town, to the woods and unexpected green of Trent Park. 

As dusk comes, we paint fire across the skyline.

THE HALLOWING OF HEIRDOM

I've followed the music of English black metal band Winterfylleth for about four years now, ever since discovering their blistering album The Divination of Antiquity. I'm not a huge metal fan myself, but I have always responded to extreme or underground subcultures relating to issues like landscape, identity, history, myth, folklore etc, so Winterfylleth's clear interest in 'heathen' pre-Christian British culture, landscape and folk elements attracted me.

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