Final cover for The White Heron Beneath the Reactor.Read More
I am happy to say that the text of The White Heron Beneath the Reactor is complete and being proofread, and that Maxim has been going above-and-beyond with the artwork – something you can now judge for yourselves, as we are pleased to be sharing some images from the book and a short extract. Enjoy!Read More
I recently watched the 2018 British horror film Possum, written and directed by Matthew Holness, adapted from his own 2008 short story of the same name. Holness is well-known for the excellent horror spoof Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and it’s fascinating to see him now playing the horror straight – and in this case, a pitch black and deeply strange example of English weird fiction.Read More
You can now listen to my interview on Resonance FM, on the Suite 212 show hosted by Tom Overton and Juliet Jacques.
I was on the show discussing Hollow Shores, Judderman and the upcoming The White Heron Beneath the Reactor, covering a range of topics including Derek Jarman, Dungeness, punk rock, birdwatching and the apocalypse. Enjoy!
Late February and the air is already full of spring, too early; worry caused by mild weather. At the harbour, the asphalt plant shimmers in a misted haze coming off the waters of the Thames estuary. The water is at low ebb, slutch visible, glistening. The sun is bright and the mist has a chilled bite. A sky unclouded, deep tangible blue. The world is unfocused, either fading in or fading out. You imagine things appearing or slipping out of view forever in the mist; a sea-giant made of salt spray and coastal haze. But nothing ever does.
A walk through unseasonable February sun to the Oare Gunpower Works, outside the town of Faversham, Kent. Gunpowder was manufactured here for many centuries, finally finishing in the 1930s.
On 2 April 1916, 108 people died in a blast at a munitions factory at Uplees, about a mile away from here.
Brian Dillon’s book, The Great Explosion, is an excellent history of the gunpowder industry in the area and the tragic accident of 1916.
A lovely review over on Goodreads for the This Dreaming Isle (Unsung Stories) anthology – my contribution ‘Hovering (or, a Recollection of 25 February 2015)’ had the following, very kind, write up:
Another fantastic story from Budden, who is fast becoming one of my favourite current writers of weird fiction and whose approach – being as it is so closely tied to ideas about Britishness and the mythical nature of landscape – is absolutely perfect for this anthology. It is framed as a story told to the author by a friend, and as with many of Budden's stories, it's hard to figure out whether it's entirely fictional. It feels very densely layered, a patchwork of memories and history, emphasising how a place can be shaped by what has happened there.
February 12th 2019, I am running a workshop at the Idea Store in Whitechapel – HOW TO USE PLACE AND SETTING IN YOUR FICTION. All the information can be found here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/events/how-to-use-place-and-setting-in-your-fiction-with-gary-budden/
ABOUT THE EVENT
In this two-hour workshop the author of Hollow Shores, Gary Budden, will talk you through how to maximise the locations you use to set your fictions in, discussing what role the landscapes – rural, suburban and urban – play in the stories we tell and how they affect the narrative.
Looking at key examples in fiction followed by writing exercises, this session will give you the tools to you make the most of your setting, be it an evocative background or the central driver of your narrative.
It was immense fun yesterday to walk the stretch of salt marshland, estuary tidal coast, pylons, mudflats, sheep, oystercatchers, rusting boats and substations that stretch between the towns of Faversham and Whitstable in Kent. The walk takes in the areas of Faversham Creek, the stretch of water called The Swale that seperates the Isle of Sheppey from the mainland, the Graveney Marshes (under threat from a potential solar power station), the Hollow Shore itself, and onto the town of Whitstable for a pint in The Old Neptune. These landscapes will be familair to anyone who has read Hollow Shores; it remains one of my favourite landscapes.
I wanted to revisit this territory that informs so much of my writing, and I took with me my good friend and brilliant writer of Marshland, The Stone Tide and the upcoming Car Park Life, Gareth E. Rees. Usually our walks are bedeviled by torrential rain and conditions only lunatics would go walking in, so it was a pleasant surprise to have gorgeous hazy blue skies and golden winter sunlight. It was like walking through a Maxim Peter Griffin picture.
“Who are the ghosts again, us or our dead? Maybe they imagined us first, maybe we were conjured out of the deep past by other minds.”
I have a memory, from when I was perhaps eleven or twelve, attending a re-enactment show recreating life during the period of the English Civil War. The details are fuzzy. But I was with my father and I believe we were in Eastbourne on the south coast of England. I was enthusiastic about history, especially the bits involving war and violence, as many children are. Watching the re-enactors, singing a song of the era that they wished to revive, it disturbed me. I couldn’t fathom their reasons, and to this day I still can’t; not fully.
Outside the town of Battle in 2016, again with my father, at the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, I felt the same emotions, seeing the mock-Saxons and mock-Normans camped out in their muddy fields. The wood smoke fires and animal skins and authentically whittled items had a definite appeal, and created an evocative idea of the past. But we could never truly know, could we? All of it could only ever be a projection of something, a yearning, a desire enacted and performed. A desire for escape; desire for authenticity in a word now deemed fake; desire for simplicity, perhaps. The desire to be someone and something else.
I find history, and British history, a fascinating space to investigate. The endless interpretability of it and all the different versions of histories I thought I knew will keep me interested until the end of my life. All writers of fiction must have an interest in these topics. How could you not? But I lack the desire to recreate it.
In my previous post, I alluded to my worries about the rise I see in bogus folk ethno-nationalism. It seems appropriate, then, that this week I read the astounding new novel from Sarah Moss, Ghost Wall.
I was a newcomer to Moss’s work before reading this; and now I consider myself a convert to her writing and am going to track down all her backlist. The blurb to Ghost Wall immediately grabbed me:
Teenage Silvie and her parents are living in a hut in Northumberland as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is a difficult man, obsessed with imagining and enacting the harshness of Iron Age life. Haunting Silvie's narrative is the story of a bog girl, a young woman sacrificed by those closest to her, and the landscape both keeps and reveals the secrets of past violence and ritual as the summer builds to its harrowing climax.
That her father is a ‘difficult man’ is an understatement; he yearns for an unbroken and pure lineage of British identity, allegedly resisting wave after wave of invaders over the centuries. He is an amateur historian and archaeology enthusiast, and he is a racist, and he is a misogynist who believes women have their place in the natural order – he’s the hunter, they’re the gatherers. He fetishes the gruesome (yes, admittedly, fascinating) deaths of the ‘bog people’ found preserved in the north of England – the victims often young women or girls, murdered and sacrificed to the land for reasons now obscure to us. He believes the deep past was a better place and that modernity is poisonous. He beats his daughter for her perceived sleights and immodesties. He would have taken the news about Cheddar Man badly, shall we say.
Although Ghost Wall is set at some-point in the nineties, it is impossible to read this book and not see it in the light of Brexit, and see parallels with the very folk-fascists haranguing people like @FolkloreThursday online and generally irritating the hell of me.
It is a gorgeously written novel and with a real feeling of unease and tension packed into its pages, leading up to a disturbing, troubling ending that has stuck in my head for several days after reading it. Ghost Wall is an expert examination of the topics of landscape, history, gender politics, and national identity – and crucially how our attitudes to these things are all intrinsically intertwined.
I had an excellent weekend up in Chester at Fantasycon, which involved a lot of books, beer, and writing talk. It was as fun as ever, so roll on Glasgow next year! A highlight was reading with the writers Priya Sharma, D.A. Northwood and Tim Major on the Saturday night – all writers whose work I respect a great deal – and reading to a crowd of peers and contemporaries and writers I am frankly in awe of. Seriously, it’s easier reading to a hostile crowd of drunks than a group of people you respect and whose opinion you care about.
Photos appropriated from Tim Major.
I was also very pleased to get my hands on my contributor’’s copy of THIS DREAMING ISLE, a new anthology of strange fiction with a tight focus on the landscapes of the United Kingdom. As anyone who has read my work will know, this essential link between the weird, the eerie and the uncanny with place and landscape is something that obsesses me. Therefore it has been fantastic to have the opportunity to share space in a book with writers like Jenn Ashworth, Catriona Ward, Gareth E. Rees and Aliya Whiteley, as well as horror legends like Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Volk.
The introductory essay to the book, written by editor Dan Coxon, feels particularly pertinent this week. Explaining strongly how the stories in THIS DREAMING ISLE resist unpleasant notions of nationalism and nativism, both essay and book come out in a week when the #FolkloreThursday Twitter account is under attack from neo-volkish racists hell bent on imagining a pure ethnic heritage where none exists. These people are dangerous idiots, and I am glad to be aligned with writers who refuse such easy notions of the past and what landscape means. Sadly, I feel this battle is going to continue for a long time yet.
Everyone should have a listen to this recent episode of Backlisted Podcast about Adam Thorpe’s majestic 1992 novel, ULVERTON. One of the first, and best, books, to get me interested in the uncanny power of the landscapes we live in. Coincidentally, one of the guest’s is Tom Cox, whose new book from Unbound, HELP THE WITCH, just landed on my desk at Titan today.
I cannot recommend ULVERTON enough, so do go read it.
Music-wise, I have been loving the new Current 93 album, The Light Is Leaving Us All, and Grand Collapse’s brutally intense album Along the Dew, which features this apt anti-fascist song ‘Chalk and Flint’. You should listen to it.
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-anRead More
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
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).
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
There is a sense of corroded history hanging heavy over Pegwell Bay. It is a place of invasion and amnesia, where you once could take a hovercraft to France, crossing the channel in as little as twenty-two minutes. Roman soldiers took their first steps into an alien land here. Vikings are commemorated for landing here. People sift the geological strata for signs the past, as they have done for generations. Once, just without reach of my own lifetime, it must have been a happy place, of arrivals and departures, holidaymakers and couples taking their first trips out of England.Read More
I had a nice write up in The Contemporary Small Press, reviewing the launch night of the Diisonance anthology in Bethnal Green. I read my story (from the forthcoming Hollow Shores) 'The Wrecking Days' at the night:
Gary Budden read from his new story collection The Wrecking Days [NOTE: it's called Hollow Shores] which explores themes of nature and narcotics, writing from the margins of society ‘where reality thinned a little.’ His piece suggested that the artificial and the natural are not opposing at all, instead they are transcendent. Budden writes about youthful and reckless days spent on the London marshes. In such places of in-between, on the fringes of London, Budden writes about notions of being and belonging: the idea that ‘memory is a marsh’ as the world diffuses in mist and nostalgia. The marshes act as a psychogeographical jettison between two places, between city and country, between artifice and nature. Such spaces, as Budden presents in his collection, allowed them to explore their minds, without ‘shutting parts of yourself down.’ It was ‘a way of seeing the world for what it really is,’ to find their own version of what it means to be free: to be and belong on their own terms. But Budden acknowledged, through his tales of the wrecking days, that being able to see the world as it is can also pull you apart.
Read the whole review here