Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Gillingham 2189

Some of you may recall that I once drew a regular, vaguely-monthly-during-the-football-season strip for Brian Moore's Head Looks Uncannily Like London Planetarium, the organ of Gillingham FC devotion; and I suppose there's a vague chance you may remember this, having purchased my previous collection of recycled fanzine material, Roy of the Aztecs. If you haven't already purchased my previous collection of recycled fanzine material, Roy of the Aztecs, don't worry. I'm sure there's still time.

Anyway, starting 1989 or thereabouts and continuing on for years numbering in what may have been double figures, I wrote and drew a regular comic strip for the aforementioned football fanzine, two pages an issue eventually expanded to four pages an issue. It was the story of Gillingham FC some two-hundred years in the future and was, I suppose, sort of what Billy the Fish might have been had it appeared in 2000AD rather than Viz - very roughly speaking; and it was the strip I drew prior to Roy of the Aztecs - in the event of this making sense to anyone whatsoever. Collected, the whole thing amounts to over one-hundred and fifty pages of an ongoing story in which a football team have all manner of ball-related adventures, including a match played against the unheavenly host of Cthulhu and his fellow Lovecraftian entities (I think Nyarlathotep is in goal but I can't be arsed to check right now), one against Godzilla and the rest of his Monster Island gang, alien invasions and so on and so forth. It's probably not quite up there with Maus, but I did what I could with the brain I had at the time. Plus I'm hugely chuffed to have an introduction from Simon Baker who used to edit the Head thus making it seem like a proper book, or at least something that counts for something in terms of the history of fanzine culture.

Some of the jokes are still funny, and the drawing definitely gets better as you go along, and it would make a perfect and inexpensive Christmas present. Also, if anyone wants a freebie for review purposes (providing you actually write a review of it for something or other*) please drop me a line here.

Gillingham 2189 may be purchased by following this link.

*: Should it require statement, I don't hold with this free stuff for praise bullshit, so the content of the review is up to you even if you think my book is fucking awful.

Monday, 11 July 2016

A Target for Tommy

I'm never quite sure what to make of charity anthologies because there seems to be a million of them, and the cause usually looks like a bit of an afterthought from where I'm stood, plus when it comes to Who fiction, I'm not convinced we really need any more, and I'm generally keen to encourage people to read things which aren't Doctor Who.

But what the fuck do I know?

Stuart Douglas of Obverse Books asked me to write something for this, proceeds of which go to someone whom I don't actually know but who seems like a good guy and could clearly use a break, and it just seemed like it would be a extraordinarily wanky of me to say no. So as instructed I had fun with my story which, for those who may care about such things, occurs immediately after the events of The Two Doctors, or my own prehistoric fan novel Smoking Mirror, or Against Nature, or all three, with a special appearance by Señor 105, so that's a whole stack of premium grade fanwank right there.

You're welcome.

Without any conspicuous display of shame or modesty, here's my favourite passage from my own story which is, by the way, called The Time Wrestlers:

'Your people may be the masters of all time and space,' said the luchador in a voice rich with martial confidence, 'but when it comes to fighting as would a man, you seem lacking in certain departments, if you don't mind my saying so.'

The muffled response of a pained not at all sounded from beneath the huge wrestler's bottom, which had now made a seat of the Doctor's face.

There are also contributions from Paul Magrs, Sarah Hadley, Andrew Hickey, Nick Campbell, Rachel Redhead, Blair Bidmead, Simon Bucher-Jones, Paul Cornell plus a whole load of other names who can likewise be relied upon to spin a good yarn in my experience; so if this sounds like your sort of thing, then you will definitely need to buy a copy or two, or maybe even three; except you can't because it's still being edited and printed and whatnot, but you can put in a pre-order right now by following this link. So that's what you should do.

You can find out a little more about what Tommy has been going through by following his blog here.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Furthest Tales of the City

What with Royal Mail losing my first complimentary copy in the post and a host of other stuff causing me to look in the other direction, I've just realised that I've thus far failed to spam the shit out of the most recent printed thing to which I've made some contribution. It actually came out last year, but better late than never, I suppose.

For anyone who missed the memo, Philip Purser-Hallard's Of the City of the Saved... is a novel set in a vast post-historical conurbation the size of our galaxy which has become home to every human being who ever lived, every partial-human being who ever lived, and even a few artificially birthed and formerly fictional-humans - Sherlock Holmes and the like. It answers the question what if the afterlife were real? in a science-fiction setting, and remains one of my all-time favourite novels. Since the publication of the novel, the author has edited a number of anthologies - four of them so far - of short stories set in this universe; and I've written a short story called Driving Home for Atonatiuh for the most recent of them. Here's an excerpt:

'Is there anything else I need to know?'

They were in one of the hangars a couple of miles outside of Black Rock, itself a microcosm of Urbem Automata of the Teletopia District. The light was dim, but not so dim as to conceal the vehicle, sleek red and yellow with a bubble of reinforced glass; and mounted at the back, fins so sharp as to remind Nanette of the obsidian knife she had envisioned slashing down within Mike's dim imagination a moment earlier.

'Well, you already know how to pilot one of these babies, Nanette. There isn't much more I can tell you.' He regarded her for a moment. 'It's very much like driving a car, I guess you could say.' His eyes were still and unnerving, more so than was usual for citizens of Urbem Automata.

Some months ago Nanette had realised that Mike's skull could not be of sufficient volume to contain both of those eyes if they were truly spherical, as they would be were he an ordinary baseline human. Being as he was a remake, she assumed his eyes to be simple curved surfaces set into his face, shallow sensory organs grown so as to resemble an approximation of the human eye, with mobile iris and pupil for the sake of appearances.

'I know what you're thinking,' he continued at last, 'but this here is one of the prototypes. Tried and tested, it's completely reliable. You won't need to worry about accidents so long as you drive safely.'

'Okay.' She was surprised to realise that for once he had known what she was thinking. She had believed the vehicle to be unique, and was glad that this was not the case. There didn't seem to be any other way of her returning to Atonatiuh, and the need to get a move on was almost beginning to hurt.

'Hey, Mercury - you gonna be all day? I gotta close this place up.'

The voice came from some technician who stood wobbling near the double doors. The accent sounded like old Brooklyn, or an exaggerated version thereof. He held an oversized spanner in one hand.

'We'll be done soon.' Mike waved back, then turned to Nanette. 'You about ready to get going here?'

She momentarily stared at his eyebrows, thick dark strips of coconut matting sitting at angles across his face - ridiculous. She really needed a break from this.

'Yes, I'm ready, Mike.'

...and thus does she fly off in a fictional car which must remain unidentified for reasons of copyright.

Cough. Cough.

...thus does she fly off to undergo the usual Mexican-themed adventures packed with bewildering mythological references; and mine is just one of seven-ish similarly cranky short stories contained therein. You should totally buy one. You'll love it, I swear.

Furthest Tales of the City is available in electronic form or as a PROPER BOOK from yonder website.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Expensive New Book of Recycled Material

I've collected the first couple of years worth of posts from my weekly report from the Americas, An Englishman in Texas. For those who somehow missed this, I slap something new onto this specific patch of internet regularly every Friday, partially as a dialogue with friends back in the old country, partially because I always liked the idea of writing an autobiography but never found a good enough reason to do so, and partially as a writing exercise. I never enjoyed reading off a screen, and it turns out neither have a few of the people who regularly follow my blog, and so here it is in tiny print, everything up to and including December 2014 plus a couple of extras which were never posted. It's regular mass market paperback size but comprises over six-hundred pages and thus resembles a housebrick - hence the price, because it can also be used as a weapon of self defence. It cannot be read in a single sitting, and in any case I'd recommend dipping in and out as and when you feel inclined rather than poring over the thing and giving yourself eye-strain. If you've ever enjoyed reading David Sedaris, P.J. O'Rourke, Bill Bryson, Charlie Brooker, or Henry Rollins, then hopefully you might similarly enjoy this collection, but if in doubt just zip over to the blog and read the thing for free. Anyway, it can be ordered from this page. Buy this puppy for someone's birthday and I guarantee* they will just love the shit out of you forever.

Whilst we're all here, I may as well also mention that I've recently taken to reading excerpts from the above before a live audience at the Blah Blah Blah Poetry Spot, which presently occurs around 8PM on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at the Deco Pizzeria, 1815 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio, Texas, TX 78201. I've read twice so far, and although I was quacking my pants far too much to have formed an objective view the first time, my material seemed to go down fairly well at the more recent occasion. Everyone laughed in the right places. I envision myself muscling in on these events for at least the foreseeable future, so in the unlikely event of your being in San Antonio - whoever you are - please come along and say hello, and enjoy some amazing pizza. It's a good night out, and the standard of material getting read seems incredibly high.

*: I don't actually guarantee this at all. They may just as easily end up hating your guts. How the hell should I know?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Head of State

Head of State is the new Faction Paradox novel for which I painted the cover. The eBook is already available, and the paperback will be available very soon from Obverse Books, the website of which is to be found by following this link, by hovering the little arrow over the underlined word link and then clicking - which I only mention as this apparently becomes very complicated when feigning interest in independently published books by people you actually know for the sake of politeness, such as my old pal who promised to buy my own effort when it came out in paperback, somehow missing the point that it was the feckin' paperback to which I was referring...

Anyway, Head of State is written by Andrew Hickey. I haven't yet read it myself, but I've read excerpts, and many other things written by Andrew, and so I'm reasonably confident it will be good, great, or possibly even exceptional.

So once again, as this is apparently quite difficult:

I have painted the cover for this book.

I did not write it.

My friend wrote it.

I think it will be good.

You should read the synopsis on the Obverse Books website, and then make a decision as to whether you think it might be your sort of thing.

If it seems like this isn't the sort of book you are likely to enjoy reading, then you are under no obligation to buy a copy.

If it seems like Head of State might be right up your street, then please order a copy from this site.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Free Stuff!

...but not just yet. I will probably be without internet access and thus the ability to make posts of this kind when it's printed, so by way of advanced warning, Robert Dellar has just written:

Southwark Mental Health News issue 128 is at the printers and hits the streets on Tuesday 26th May. It's got Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador, Lambeth Community Mental Health Services/ DWP merger, Maximus Gets the Treatment, Alastair Kemp on why Capitalism is Bad for your Mental Health and much more. Sent free of charge through the post if we have an address for you.

If this seems meaningless to you, Southwark Mental Health News is a reasonably regular magazine directed at inhabitants of the mental health system but of - I would argue - much broader interest, being roughly in the tradition of the older, more intelligent punk fanzines from back before everyone just started writing blogs; and being in that tradition, it's a physical thing printed on paper, at least a portion of which is the Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador cartoon drawn by myself.

Also, it's free if you're on the mailing list, and you can get yourself on the mailing list by calling 020 7358 7279. That's an English phone number by the way, and I'm not too sure Robert wants to have to splash out on too much in the way of air mail, but I suppose there's no harm in asking. He's sent me copies, and I live in Texas, but then I'm a contributor.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. as some of you may be aware is an album by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, and related endeavors. My friend Carl Glover of Aleph Studio has been responsible for the design of a fair quota of Steven Wilson releases over the years, and asked me to chip in with this one. Specifically he asked me in my capacity as someone familiar with Mexican codices who might be able to come up with hieroglyphs corresponding to four phrases, one of these being the album title itself. The design of the album and its accompanying material were, as I understood it, then a work-in-progress, so although Carl wasn't sure how my hieroglyphs were to be used, or if they were to be used, it seemed like a good idea to have the material on hand. I'm not particularly familiar with Steven Wilson's music, aside from some of the Bass Communion stuff from a while back, but I met him a couple of times around Carl's place and he seemed like a decent guy, and this sounded like it would be a fun thing to do. I translated the four phrases into hieroglyphic form to the best of my abilities, and then faked a pseudo-anthropological essay to explain why the images weren't just some incomprehensible shit I'd thrown together, and in case it was of any use in terms of the finished creation.

In the end only one of the hieroglyphs proved useful, converted to monochrome as something resembling a clay-stamp and appearing amongst the material accompanying a limited edition deluxe version of the album, a limited edition which apparently sold out prior to release. I'm reproducing my original material here for anyone who may be interested, fans of Porcupine Tree or whoever, because it was fun to do, and quite gratifying to see it used, even as just a weird little detail.

The San Antonio Fragment comprises a single page of bark paper divided into four numbered images painted in the Mixteca-Puebla style most closely associated with Codex Borgia and others of its group, each accompanied by a written gloss purporting to provide the hieroglyphic images with a Spanish translation, although the meaning of these translations remain ambiguous, as does the precise correlation of image to gloss. The numbered images are as follows:

I. - Mano no Puede Borrar (Hand Cannot Erase)
There has been some degree of debate as to whether the gloss of the San Antonio Fragment was a significantly late addition to the page, perhaps as an effort to interpret the symbols based on something besides the testimony of the original artist (Tedlock, 1974), although most feel it likely that the first of the set rules out this probability, the gloss being too specific (and one might suggest idiosyncratic) an interpretation to have resulted from an approximation of the kind which is difficult to avoid in the interpretation of Mixteca-Puebla symbology. The reason for this given by Manolo (1982) is simply that the gloss offers hand rather than arm, which might appear the more obvious interpretation, even given that the full arm specifically denotes an action. In this instance the action is the destruction or erasure of some object. The familiar water glyph to the left of the image would appear to serve a phonetic purpose with the stem of a-tl (water) creating a phoneme for the negative prefix a- thus stating that the hand here cannot erase.

II. - Aparato Arcano Encendido (Arcane Handset On)
In this image the action is denoted by the ollin glyph representing red and blue intertwined strands of rubber in turn denoting implicit force, and specifically the implicit force of a bow driven fire drill, the action of which is made clear by both the presence of an operating hand and volutes of smoke. The consensus translation here gives this as representing an object to which one would refer as a handset, although the precise function of that object is possibly not significant. Beneath the volutes of smoke, the distinctive wrinkled lower jaw of an old man seems to serve an adjectival purpose in denoting arcane.

III. - Llave del Esqueleto (Key of Skeleton)
Here a staff of office of striking similarity to that born by the wind God Ehecatl in Codex Borgia (plate 56) is born by a skeletal figure, probably serving to indicate a generic type rather than any specific figure through the abbreviated form of a skull and forearm. The inverted half solar disc appearing as the bottom half of the image perhaps serves to underscore the figure as a generic representative of the dead rather than any more familiar denizen of the rheological underworld. The staff of office would of course serve as a key in so much as it would allow the bearer access to official spaces forbidden to commoners, royal courts and guild offices for example.

IV. - El Coda de sus Antenas (Her Antennas Coda)
Of the four images, this one has presented the greatest challenge for interpreters seeking to connect symbolic language with gloss. The main part of the image would appear to be a solar disc, or at least a celestial object endowed with a listening ear. Gainsborough (1968) disputes that this could really be analogous to antenna, a word which would hardly have held much currency in the late 1600s, but in the absence of any more legitimate grounds for doubt, we must for the present work with that which we are given. The three volutes of speech or song appear to denote a coda or something which qualifies as a closing piece in so much as the third volute is differentiated from the others. The symbology here would simply represent some dualistic concept were only two volutes shown. Finally the curved oyoualli symbol representing female genitalia on the left is interpreted by the translator as a possessive suffix - her antennas. That the oyoualli was apparently left unpainted and incomplete is interpreted by Gainsborough (1968) as indicating that the author may have had a struggle illustrating the concept he had been given. Although this would perhaps account for the somewhat convoluted symbology employed here, it may simply be the case of an artist reluctant to depict that which would incur the wrath of his more prudish Franciscan sponsors.

So there you have it. Anyone requiring a larger, probably downloadable version of the above image should, in theory, be able to find it here. Anyone seeking the Steven Wilson album should hopefully be able to work that one out for themselves given that its been tickling the upper reaches of the album charts in a few countries.