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.Read More
Here is a reading of my story 'A Constellation of Wondrous Places', filmed in Morden Library as part of my City of Stories residency. I am running workshops in Merton on the 12th and 19th of June – all the info here!
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.
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.
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.Read More
Extract from the introduction to Magnesium Burns: The Collected Zines, 1999–2011 (Punk Positive Press), by Melissa Eider.
The 'landscape punk' scene of the mid-to-late-2000s was formed around the nexus (some said unholy trilogy, some said bunch of wankers, depending on your view on the whole thing) of NOMADIC TRIBE, DEAD INDUSTRIAL ATMOSPHERE and SCARP.
Ranging from gypsy-traveller style folk-punk to dark and brooding epic crust and post-hardcore, the scene took a great deal of inspiration from not only classic works of eco-themed English literature like Richard Adams' WATERSHIP DOWN and THE PLAGUE DOGS (the Brighton-based FALL OF EFRAFA being the most noticeable band to do this), but also the popular genres of London-focused psychogeography, deep topography and urban landscape writing as popularised by writers such as Nick Papadimtiou, the politically charged landscape writing of American writers like Rebecca Solnit, the weird fictions of people like Joel Lane, and crucially the Incognita series of books republished by Malachite Press.
The Incognita series included lost classics by Alexander Baron, Hecate Shrike, Maureen Duffy, Michael Ashman and D.A. Northwood, among many others, resurrecting a valuable archive of hidden London literature. The tracks 'Juddering' and 'Demon of Woodberry Down' by SCARP, both references to Northwood, became iconic of the scene and have remained enduring classics of the punk, post-rock and hardcore underground well into the twenty-teens.
NOMADIC TRIBE released only one album, the critically- regarded but commercial flop, 'Concrete Palimpsest', a record heavily indebted to nineties underground hardcore acts like SCATHA, A FIELD IN ENGLAND and SEDITION.
DEAD INDUSTRIAL ATMOSPHERE (their name of course an homage to the great LEATHERFACE) are still going strong. Albums like 'City of Worms' and 'Miracle at New Cross Gate' are considered staples of any discerning underground music fan's collection. They tour regularly across the UK and Europe, but have distanced themselves somewhat from the landscape punk scene.
SCARP split acrimoniously and with much bad blood, effectively ending the scene; something which has been well documented elsewhere (in the pages of Magnesium Burns in fact – read on).
I was lucky enough to be invited onto the Backlisted Podcast, to discuss one of my very favourite novels, THE LOWLIFE by Alexander Baron.
Have a listen here:
A meadow of endless asphodel flowers, a plant ghostly and pale itself. And if that sounds harsh I don’t mean it to be because it’s more about atmosphere and the mood and the vibe that this weather creates than anything else, and anyway, I would be destined for the Asphodel Meadows myself. A strange nowhere land (never say liminal) between one thing and the other is a kind of heaven itself.Read More
I have been working with the independent press Dead Ink (publisher of my own collection, Hollow Shores) recently, editing the work of 'lost' London writer D.A. Northwood – namely the novella Judderman produced for the 1972 run of the Eden Book Society. It has been a very rewarding experience, and I have found of immense interest the fictional novels Northwood makes reference to in his works. As a writer myself interested in the blurring of fictional realities and so-called true ones, I find Northwood's simple but powerfully effective tactic irresistible.
Interspersed with his references to 'real' (for what is real anyway?) writers such as Alexander Baron, Algernon Blackwood, C.L. Nolan, Mary Butts, Arthur Machen, and the poet Adrian Mitchell, we find a number of references to writers I can find no record of despite my exhaustive online searches.
We find a reference to a poet operating in either the weird or the decadent tradition (as always Northwood only makes the briefest of allusions) named Hecate Shrike. Whether contemporary to the nineteen seventies or not, it is never made clear.
There is much discussion of the clearly fictional Malachite Press (how I wish it existed!), with the following works cited to a writer named Michael Ashman, creator of a series of post-WW2 occult detective novels, following the exploits of a man named Vincent Harrier. A grim, anti-heroic figure perhaps familiar to the contemporary reader from American hard-boiled fiction, but operating in the Blitz rubble of a city rebuilding itself both physically and psychologically.
The Ashman books referenced in Northwood's work are:
- The Salvage Song of the Larks, and Other Stories (one story in the collection is named: ‘A Life Constricted, or, These Serpentine Coils Will Crush Us Both’)
- Saxifraga Urbium (a story of London Pride)
- What I Found in the Drowned Land
- The Epitaph To All Our Yesterdays
- Your Architect is Degenerate
There is also reference to another London novel, chronicling the mudlarks who sift for the treasure of the Thames. It is a book that we must also assume to be fictional. The title of that novel is Through This Mud We Find Ourselves, and has no author attributed to it.
I live in the hope that one day, in an Oxfam or Mind charity bookshop in my new home of Enfield Town, I will stumble on one of these mythical novels of a hidden London. I know it is an impossibility, and therein lies the thrill.
'Perhaps the weirdest story of the 1972 set, D. A. Northwood's Judderman is probably best compared to Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, or Thomas Ligotti. An urban exploration of a subliminal London that is rotting from the inside out.'Read More
I recommend giving this episode of the Words To That Effect podcast a listen. It's an interesting look at H.P. Lovecraft and weird fiction, featuring some very insightful input on the weird as a genre from the writer Timothy J. Jarvis (whose novel The Wanderer I am currently reading and enjoying very much).
I was humbled to find Hollow Shores named as an example of contemporary weird fiction worth reading, so thanks Tim!
Listen to the podcast here: http://wttepodcast.com/2018/02/12/weird-fiction-hp-lovecraft/Read More
This February and March, I am proud to take part in two evenings of film, stories and music exploring the psychology of life beside the water and its impact on our memories, emotions and sense of history.Read More