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Writing on Walls in the UK

August 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Collection now also available from Amazon.co.uk. The current price is a very reasonable £1.96 (but will go up or down by a few pence from time to time as it’s tagged to the dollar exchange rate).

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Writing on Walls

August 28, 2012 2 comments

Writing on Walls ebook cover

This is the culmination of, believe it or not, over two years of work. OK, so some of that was procrastination and diversion and moving house and urgent (as in fee-paying) projects. And some of it was learning how to format and edit PDFs, epub files, audio files, movies and so on, and working out the best programmes to use for different purposes. Some of it was just investigating the general market for self-published work. But it’s done, and I’ve proved to myself I can do it so I’ll do it again, soon.

Writing on Walls, and Other Horrors is a 24,000-word collection of eight horror and dark fantasy stories ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 words apiece. The stories draw on WI James’ statement to the effect that if if you think something is true, it is true in its consequences. One characteristic of being human is the ability to use one’s imagination. Imagination constructs reality, and it can bring into being the hopes, fears, magics and horrors it creates.

The stories offer a spread across psychological horror, vampires, the occult and the plain weird. Some had, actually, been accepted by small magazines that went under before they reached the publication date for the pieces – though one had been rejected by several mags that specialise in weirdness for being too weird. The contents are:

Writing on Walls: is it possible for someone to write their own future? Can their scribbling change what happens to them, and to others? What happens when they’re washed up, suffering from too much past history and a psychiatric condition?

Defining the Situation: if you define a situation as real, it is real in its consequences. The philosopher WI Thomas said that, a hundred years ago. It’s still true. So if you think a typewriter is inhabited by a manipulative evil spirit, then it is. And you have to live with the consequences.

MacGuffin: technically speaking, a MacGuffin is the name for a film device that starts the action but isn’t important in itself. For example, a box buried in the woods by a man who died. It doesn’t matter what’s in the box, it’s just a thing that some people will fight and kill to get their hands on. But can a person be a MacGuffin, too?

UXB: some people have heads like unexploded bombs. The question is, what can trigger them? Trying to cross the road, maybe? Trying to cross the road to go to the doctor to get their head defused?

The Writing of Evil: forensic psychiatrists have tried to profile and categorise murderers. But writers can be worse that murderers, because they invent distorted narratives that confuse our grip on reality and can lead to massive social injury. This article presents a heirarchy and classification of authorial depravity and deviance.

Mabon Whores: a ‘craft fair’ is normally about scented soaps and home-made jam. But the word ‘craft’ can have darker meanings, with darker consequences.

John Undescribe (1952-2012) – The Best Writer You Never Read: an obituary for a writer, following his unexplained death. His influence on other writers was legendary – but what of his own work?

Spiritalk 23: The User Experience: do you want to talk to the dead? Really? Are you ready to handle the consequences?

Yes, if you buy it, it will cost you a little over $3 (or sterling equivalent when it turns up on Amazon.co.uk) and you can get all of HP Lovecraft’s fiction on Kindle for 77 cents. But that’s largely a function of Amazon’s minimum pricing for 70% royalties, the fact that out-of-copyright works don’t qualify for the higher royalty rate, and the fact that as far as I know I’m alive and need the money while Lovecraft isn’t and doesn’t. Though he did, as you may know, die in penury; and even at the higher price, I’m not anticipating my collection will do a whole lot for my pension fund. That will be, I hope, I function of my next few publications.

About me: in the interludes between writing social science educational materials and management training materials, I’ve published occasional pieces of fiction. You’ll find them in places such as Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, Ignavia, Ballista and online in Dark Fire.

Shot from promo video

Shot from promo video

Oh yeah. There’s also a promo video I made with a few friends. You can see it on Youtube. It’s a much shortened version of the ‘Writing on Walls’ story. I had an email yesterday from someone who thought it was interview footage relating to a real event, which I suppose is praise of a kind…

Those involved (or alternatively, the guilty parties other than me) were Ric Sharples (that’s him on the left, he can act as well as do equality and diversity training), Richard Gray and Chris Cafferkey, who took a break from photography to shoot some video footage.

I hope you buy the collection. I hope you like it, and/or that it both engages and scares you. In a pleasant way, of course. And I hope you’ll buy the follow-up collection when it appears.

What insomnia teaches you

August 25, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been having a spate of waking up at four in the morning, or alternatively not being able to get to sleep when I go to bed. As a result of which, I’ve been exposed to the late-night TV shopping channels. Again.

Presumably people buy stuff from these shows, otherwise they wouldn’t be running them. If they do, I’d guess their insomnia causes even more of a judgement deficit that mine does.

You can buy car cleaning accessories for around £40 on one channel. Assuming you want everything that’s in the package and bought the highest-end such products from a high-street car accessories shop like Halfords, say, you’d end up paying close to that kind of money. But if you bought their own-brand products or the cheaper end of the range you’d pay around half that.

And the bra-like vest thingy with its own programme that seems to run for around three hours at a time… around £40 from the TV shopping channel, but I saw in town yesterday it’s in the shops there at £7. And no, I don’t need one anyway…

Why zombies are useful

August 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Just come across this: an article in The Economist about zombie-proof housing. It reports on an architectural competition to design such things.

But it’s not just a diversion for bored architects who like horror films. It’s a thought experiment. For a house to be useful in a zombie apocalypse, it would not only need to be secure against attack: it would need to be structurally strong, easily repaired, capable of generating energy, food and water, and able to manage/recycle its waste. In short, it would have to be a highly effective eco-house.

Which means it would be useful in all kinds of situations that don’t involve a zombie apocalypse. And it would potentially have a huge benefit in terms of the resources we consume.

Imaginative or what?

Art and tyranny?

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Are tyrants good for art? It’s an interesting if counter-intuitive question and one that’s recently been discussed on the BBC.

The essential argument is that culture – art and literature and music, for example – thrive in conditions where there is social conflict, though also require some level of freedom for artists. In the past that’s come about because authoritarian regimes haven’t necessarily tried that hard to control art, and when they did, the fact that art or books or music were labelled ‘subversive’ in itself created an underground demand for them.

It’s a complicated argument because the extent and type of control wielded by tyrants doesn’t just come from punitive measures. They often control resources that make them major patrons of at least some arts, with the ability to direct the works they commission. And it’s further shaded by distinctions between regimes that are merely authoritarian, those that are totalitarian, and those where some of the impetus for control comes from neoliberal politics and commercial interests.

So there’s a lot to take into account in trying to make any general arguments, including the treatment of deliberately provocative and protest-based art (yes, I’m thinking about Pussy Riot here). I guess the main point is that a lot of interesting and worthwhile cultural products are subversive in some way, and gain their significance because of the friction they create.

Nothing new here!

August 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Found object – street sign

When I don’t post here for a while it’s usually because I’m hatching, cooking or planning something. And the recent gap is no exception. So there’s some stuff I want to announce soon, but I’m not ready to do it yet.

In the meantime, here’s a slightly strange sign I found while out and about – firstly because of the odd exception to the no entry rule (the sign is at the bottom of a steep hill, which may explain it) and secondly because of the amendment someone’s made to it.

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