Monday, 2 October 2017

Kiss of Life

My friend Robert Dellar passed away last December. He was, amongst other things, what I suppose you would call a mental health activist and advocate working on the behalf of those enmeshed within the psychiatric system, patients often unable to speak up for themselves, not least due to their status having deprived them of certain basic human rights in the eyes of the medical establishment. Robert had been a significant voice in the Mad Pride movement. I knew him, or knew of him on and off since about 1984 or thereabouts, and in recent years we had collaborated on a cartoon strip called Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador which I drew for Southwark Mental Health News, a publication he produced on behalf of patients which, despite the somewhat dry title, was closer in spirit to the old punk fanzines through which we originally met. His passing left a lot of us distraught, bewildered, confused, and rudderless. There's some saying about how the character of a person may be judged by the quality of their friends, and the eulogies which began to accumulate on facebook bore testimony to a world with Robert being both stupid and pointless in all respects that matter.

'Someone should do a book of these,' I suggested, referring to the aforementioned eulogies.

Inevitably that someone ended up being myself because if it it wasn't exactly something I wanted to do, it felt like something which needed to be done.

So here, nine months later, is Kiss of Life, an anthology of writings about Robert Dellar by those who knew him from school, people who made fanzines, who were in bands, who met him through Mad Pride or his work within the corridors of the psychiatric system. Contributors include Ted Curtis, Paul Mex, Andy Martin, Paul Andrew, Stan Batcow, Rosanna Thompson, Robin Basak, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, Steve Hayes, Amethyst Beeblebear, Simon Morris, Barnaby Oliver, Lucy Williams, Sarah Doherty, Claire Monk, Andy Fraser and others, not to mention a few examples of Robert's short satirical fiction pieces, otherwise out of print*. As a collection, it's not going to bring him back, but he's someone who really should be remembered, and the generously rebellious spirit of his life should be remembered, particularly now with the forces of crap and entropy all around; so that's why this book exists.

You can buy it here. All proceeds go to Mental Health Resistance Network.

*: Excepting Crusty which also appears in the excellent Tales From the Punk Side co-edited by Mike Dines and Greg Bull.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


I was interviewed for a podcast called Raconteur Roundtable, a fairly regular thing hosted and produced by James Bojaciuk with a couple of pals chipping in. Most of the questions were angled in the general direction of Against Nature, a novel which came out a couple of years ago; and I refused to do homework for the sake of an interview on the principle of it being undignified. I was therefore a little flustered by some of the questions. It was fun - because it's always fun to have complete strangers ask you questions as though you're famous by some definition - but it was also kind of frustrating. I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm told that my fears were unfounded, that it came out very well, and that I should be proud.

If you want to listen to me muttering about stuff, it can be heard here, or  downloaded as an MP3 file from iTunes.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A Brief Time of History

Following several months spent wrestling with the Lulu self-publishing machinery, I can at last present A Brief Time of History, my latest collection of essays, writings, observations, and fart jokes - if not exactly with pride, then certainly without anything you'd call false modesty. Most of the essays have already appeared on my Englishman in Texas blog and are represented here in book form for the sake of vanity and anyone who, like myself, doesn't particularly enjoy reading such things off a screen. A Brief Time of History collects all of the material written during 2015 and 2016*, with a few extra bits and pieces which never appeared for one reason or another. My hope is that most of it is either funny or at least in some way thought-provoking, and what feedback I've received from the blog seems to suggest this to be more or less the case - which is gratifying - so the book would make an ideal birthday present for the sort of person who likes that sort of thing. If in doubt, please feel free to pretend I'm the Bizarro universe David Sedaris - not actually gay and I moved east to west rather than the other way round, but with the same bad teeth and a tendency to sneer.

The book is proper paperback size, nearly seven-hundred pages thick, and one hell of a lot of work has gone into making it presentable. My mother described it as the best thing she had read in ages, which was nice. Please buy as many copies as you feel you can afford by clicking on this link.

If you're a fanzine author or contributor or feel otherwise able to review A Brief Time of History on some blog and would therefore like a free copy, please get in touch with me through facebook. This offer is made without any expectation of flattering or otherwise arse-kissingly positive reviews, but I will get pissy if you bag a freebie and that's the last I hear from you.

*: The stuff written prior to 2015 is collected in An Englishman in Texas, the previous volume, which you should buy so as to complete the set.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Weapons Grade Snake Oil

There's another book out for which I painted the cover, namely Weapons Grade Snake Oil by Blair Bidmead, A Faction Paradox novel and thus part of the series for which I wrote Against Nature - which I only mention in case you never bought a copy but always meant to, perhaps even telling me I must buy a copy of your novel when it's published over and over, apparently having been thinking about something else all those times I told you that the fucker came out nearly five bleeding years ago...

Anyway, Faction Paradox should probably require no introduction, but if it does you should be able to find something here. Weapons Grade Snake Oil is great, and is probably as good (not to mention lively) an introduction to the series as you will find, so it gets my recommendation (and I'll be posting a full review here at some point) and you should purchase your copy or copies here, from Obverse Books.

While we're here, I tend to take photographs of my cover paintings as I'm working on them, documenting different stages mainly so as to have some sort of restore point in case I screw up (which is itself sort of pertinent to Weapons Grade Snake Oil, although you'll have to read it to find out why), so just in case these are of any use or interest to anyone:

Don't say I don't never give you nuffink.

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.