Corelli DeLaMary Linn Gourd, a Texan fantasy writer, finds she has run out of vanished, exotic and geographically distant cultures to loot for the milieux–or “worlds” –of her immensely successful novels. She’s bored by the costume museums, post-Steeleye Span folk rock bands and archeological websites devoted to back-engineered weapons through the ages that have previously provided inspiration, colour and filler. She’s bored by the grim daily round of combining non-scientific anthropology and relatable Campbellian selfie-stick heroism with freedom motifs to provide uplifting developmental arcs for her characters. She decides instead to actually make something up. The central race–the “Sentienta” as she will call them–of her next novel are to have transparent foreheads, behind which can be seen their pulsating neural tissue & the wispy filaments which connect to eyes like greenish half-billiard balls. It’s very exciting. The human imagination is a truly astonishing thing.
–December 13th, 2010
Here’s the cover of Edhasa Argentina‘s volume of my short fiction, which in addition to various old favourites like “Egnaro” and “The Incalling”, includes a selection of flash fictions & nonfictions from this very blog, along with first paper publication of a couple of other short pieces. For English readers, some of the same material will be available in my new collection, still temporarily entitled Found & Lost, alongside brand new longer stories: but when that will be published is now uncertain. I’m as much in the dark as you, I’m afraid. So, as they say, don’t ask. Anyway, lovely to go out in such a nice restrained cover, among nice books like these.
Churchyards both Catholic and Anglican, dark old plantings featuring yew and cedar, ancient metal gates in stone walls, and the remains of a fortified manor house. None of its sharply Aickmanesque qualities came over in the pictures, which I suppose is in itself an indicator of the Aickmanesque. “St Mary’s Church in the United Benefice of Condover”. Some other noise in the sound of the jackdaws among the yews, the shouts of the boys in the College. The fortified manor rises–a kind of flecked or mouldy orange colour–behind St Mary’s like a pocket Gormenghast, a vast cedar tree apparently growing out of the base of its south east tower. Overgrown headstones–draped in ivy–less headstones than stones like heads emerging from the moon daisies and leggy celandines of the Anglican cemetery. Inside the church, that smell which seems to be compounded of sweat, floor polish and damp sacking. A soft stone tomb like melted candlewax, 1382, supporting the oldest medieval brass in the county.
Long horizons, rising downs. West Sussex pub, full of the ghouls of money. 1947 Concours d’Elegance Bentley in the car park. Light aircraft float to & fro across the ghouls’ own sky won in single combat from the Nazis all those years ago. The weather is fine, blowy mid-May, but when we say we’ll sit outside, the barman responds with a kind of knowing servility, “You’re going to brave it, then?” Yes, we’re going to brave it. We’re going to meet today’s minor but satisfying challenge, we’re going to brave the May weather & have our lunch outside, the way the ghouls braved the Nazis in the blue enduring sky to protect their power & money all those years ago. You can’t be the rulers if you have no country to rule.
–September 4, 2014
Nostalgia for arrangements of fields. Nostalgia for arrangements of buildings in the corners of fields. Nostalgia for things that can’t stand the sight of one another. Nostalgia for that which is accepted, celebrated and inhabited. Nostalgia for things that remain distinct & visible. Nostalgia for the excitable medium. Nostalgia for the ballistic tradition. Nostalgia for the finished & the unfinished. Trees. Trains. “The hawthorn brides.” A winter funeral in a summer suit. Nostalgia for the passage of life, the deep curve, the sense of it. Nostalgia for things you haven’t yet lost, or barely had.
Horror, some people believe, is a sensation that arrives with the discovery that “we’re the monsters”. That was an interesting position for a while. But lots of other things are horrific & have nothing to do with this kind of narcissism; and subsequent across-the-board application has turned the idea into a cliche of unearned self-forgiveness, muppetising by cross-fertilisation both monster and human being. Embracing your monsterhood is the Thatcherite/neoLiberal excuse for impulse action, especially when it leads to being a shit. It’s from that generation. It began to gain traction just when you’d expect, in the early 1980s, and peaked with the horrified recognition that New Labour was a nest of cannibals. Your own narcissism can be kept within reasonable bounds: true horror is the discovery that Tony Blair’s can’t.
17th October I’m at Goldsmiths with Tim Etchells & many another, for the Fiction As Method conference. If time allows I might read a new short fiction presently entitled “Yummie”, written for 2016 publication in an original anthology I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about yet (story of my life this year). Tim will probably have something more sensible to contribute, which we can then discuss. A week later, on the 25th, I’m back at the uncanny Manchester Rylands Library for Twisted Tales of the Weird–readings & discussions with Timothy Jarvis & the eerie Helen Marshall. What is the weird (& how much longer can it support itself as a category)? You can be sure none of us know the answer to that. Time will be more constrained at the Rylands, so you’ll have to be content with a few hundred words from the novel in progress.
Both events are free but ticketed: order now to be certain of satisfaction.
Obelisk on a base of eroded local stone. Several little gravestones commemorating Chumble, Coco, Bessie, Mollie, Porridge, pet names that could be equally for animals or people. “This must be where they buried the servants,” C says. Much of the stone in the park is laminated. Judging by the quarry in the bay at the north end of the lake, and the exposed rock in the cuttings, this is intrinsic & not much to do with subsequent erosion. It comes out of the ground wafery and brittle. From a distance, the pillars of the Ionic temple seem like ideal volumes; closer to they’re rippled, loose, falling apart into the same world as you. Leaden, coffin-shaped garden planters with a knot design, a rose design, their edges are battered, cut, used-looking. An empty plinth between yews. Walled garden: lines of ruined Victorian glasshouses; rusty iron curves; grubbed-up tree roots, charred looking and still clasping chunks of the glasshouse foundations two or three bricks on a side. Clee Hill slumps on the hot skyline, against architectural June cloud, while an unaccompanied Italian greyhound wanders disconsolately between the tables on the terrace and someone says, “I don’t like the smell of sweet peas, they’ve got an edge to them. Something musty underneath.”