It’s been a while since I’ve done a New Lexicons update, mainly for the reason that Hollow Shores is now out in the world! Thanks to everyone who pledged for a copy on Kickstarter, bought a copy at the recent events, came said hello and got your book signed, and generally helped make this book happen. And thanks of course to Dead Ink for making it happen.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the launch of the book at Burley Fisher, Haggerston, London on October 26th. It was a wonderful night and great to see so many friendly faces packing out the bookshop. Much fun was had in The Fox pub afterwards!
Then I headed to Dead Ink HQ in Liverpool to sign all of the Kickstarter books, more importantly to see editor Nathan Connolly’s dog, Blue, who is officially A Great Dog. There were walks along the blustery Mersey, abandoned shopping trolleys slathered in tidal mud, and a wander through an area so Ballardian it seems trite to call it Ballardian.
Other events in the last few weeks have included a great event with a hero of mine, the incomparable M. John Harrison. We were discussing his new collection of short fiction, You Should Come With Me Now, and Hollow Shores, at Waterstones Gower Street. It was an appreciative audience who asked excellent questions so thanks to everyone who came, and thanks to Glyn Morgan for hosting the event.
I was fortunate enough to have a story selected for the fourth instalment of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthology from Undertow Publications, edited by Michael Kelly and Helen Marshall. The story was 'Breakdown', originally published by The Short Anthology, and now the first story in Hollow Shores as well as being reprinted by Undertow. It's a great feeling to be alongside writers I really respect, such as Irenosen Okojie, Johanna Sinisalo, Aki Schilz, Malcolm Devlin, Camilla Grudova, Daisy Johnson and more. It's an honour to be in their company.
The anthology launched at Burley Fisher, with Helen Marshall introducing and readings from myself, Aki Schilz and Malcolm Devlin (author of the wonderful You Will Grow Into Them from Unsung Stories). It was another great evening and thanks to all who came down!
And another another weird fiction event is happening this Friday in Cambridge, again with Helen Marshall, Marian Womack, speculative fiction legend Christopher Priest (author of The Dream Archipelago, The Prestige and many more), Aliya Whitely (author of The Beauty) and me.
Other events that are in the offing involve film screenings and events in London, Hastings, Faversham and hopefully much more so watch this space. 2018 is already filling up!
Notable books, music and film/TV worth mentioning:
I've been reading Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks From Hell, an immensely enjoyable account of the 70s/80s paperback horror boom. I highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in horror, in weird fiction, in writing and publishing for that matter – and what is even more satisfying is that it has already thrown up a number of books that are worth reading and taking seriously (honest!). Hendrix is able to identify the proper writer's working in the genre, and picks a number of standouts who differ from the generic schlock that was being churned out. Strangely (not really strange at all) a number of the books he mentions have been reissued by the wonderful Valancourt Books who are rapidly becoming one of my very favourite publishers.
So I've been reading Cast A Cold Eye by Alan Ryan, an atmospheric folk-horror novel that uses some standard tropes (Irish American author retreats to remote western Ireland to write his new novel about the Famine) to great effect. A few things seem a bit dated in the narrative (it was published in 1984), but overall it's a very engaging and literate novel that evokes the real ghosts of the horrifying (and avoidable) tragedy of the Irish potato famine. It does what the best horror and ghost stories do, reminding us that the past is never really past and the memories of trauma are written into the land itself; we still hear the echoes.
Also from Valancourt, I recently read the novella Yaxley's Cat by Robert Westall (part of the Spectral Shadows collection of three of his novellas). Westall was mainly a YA writer (not that that matters), but I would really recommend anybody interested in weird landscapes and folk horror to read his work as there is a lot to discover, and his is currently a name left out of a lot of current conversations about this kind of literature. I'd suggest this novella is not really a YA read due to its harried adult female narrator and the general brutality of the narrative. At times it reminded me of 'Baby' from Nigel Kneale's Beasts, as well as being indebted to all of your folk-horror favourites like Robin Redbreast and essentially any story where city people take up in residence in a rural property they really should have been warned against. In this case, it's the cottage belonging to an East Anglian cunning man called Yaxley who disappeared mysteriously seven years ago. Then his cat returns and starts acting very strange. Unmentionable things are discovered and... just read it.
(NB: The occultist in M Joh Harrison's The Course of the Heart is also called Yaxley. Just saying.)
To continue the weird landscapes vibe, the new series of Detectorists is thrilling me in its quiet way, especially the ending of the first episode which seemed to consciously evoke MR James and Whistle and I'll Come to You, as well as drawing on pagan folklore with the use of The Unthanks' 'Magpie', and diving through all the layers of history one field in north Essex contains. Heady stuff for a TV show that has become much more than simply a tender comedy.
If you haven't already, watch this to get the full flavour:
In case you have missed it, I wrote an article for The Quietus last month, ‘Awake Awake Sweet England’, detailing my thoughts on landscape writing, psychogeography, weird fiction and more, and why the approach of ‘landscape punk’ may be the way forward.
This feels increasingly relevant in light of various flare ups on social media with right-wing accounts who take an expressed interest in 'Britishness' and notions of belonging. Remember, the land can become the Fatherland all too easily, and we have to be constantly vigilant about these things. Twitter have currently suspended me for insulting actual National Socialist and ethno-nationalist accounts–foolish on my part, I realise, but very worrying when you see what kind of things Twitter do allow to happen–so for the time being this blog will be the main place where I put up anything of interest.