Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Mexico Diaries

I visited Mexico City on five separate occasions between 1999 and 2005. I'd been reading, writing and generally obsessing over Mesoamerican culture for some time and had reached the point at which I simply had to go there. I didn't have a passport, had never been outside of England, my Spanish left a lot to be desired and I was travelling alone, but it was something I had to do. It became easier after the first time, but nevertheless remained something of a leap in the dark.

Being a generally antisocial person travelling alone, I ended up with a fair bit of time on my hands - mostly evenings spent alone at the hotel rather than out and partying with complete strangers, as I would have done were I a fucking simpleton; so I spent a lot of time keeping a diary, recording everything I did, saw, and thought in pornographic detail (literally so in a couple of cases). Visiting Mexico seemed like the bravest (or possibly most reckless), most exciting thing I had ever done and I was determined to record as much as I could of the experience because it seemed important to do so, at least to me.

The first couple of diaries were eventually passed around friends who had expressed an interest in reading them. I'd written the things in part so as to amuse myself, and it was nice to be told that they were a generally decent read and funny in all of the right places. Rob Colson, co-author of Seaton Point (Spare Change Books, 1998), said he would be prepared to transcribe my handwritten scribble for publication if I was interested. I took this as an indication of my Mexico Diaries apparently having some quality beyond the spirit of cranky self-indulgence by which they were produced.

So here they are, nearly fifteen years later. I've transcribed, scanned, edited, proofed, re-edited, and gone over them again and again in an effort to elevate the material to the sort of standard I would expect of others. It's taken a while but I think it's been worth it; and my wife has now read the things with a gratifying quota of chortling and not too much rolling of the eyes. They're published as five individual volumes because that was how they were written, and because the sum total page count would be a little too much for a single collection; they're illustrated and include some photographs, at least one of which was sourced from a bongo magazine found in a hedge; and they tell an occasionally painful story through the media of anthropology, travel, toilet humour, swearing, and despair with humdrum episodes of my former English existence provided for the sake of contrast. Thrill as I climb the Pyramid of the Sun, puzzle over the nature of refried beans, eat worms and crickets, visit the temple of Tepoztecatl, fall out with my best friend in Oaxaca on Independence Day, turn forty, fail to have sexual intercourse, meet kids with guns, hang out with the family of the late Cornelius Cardew (which admittedly wasn't in Mexico), and throw up at a Ceramic Hobs gig (which wasn't in Mexico either) - or if not thrill, then just read about it. The choice is yours.

Buy your copies today at my Lulu store by clicking on this link. Collect the set. Ideal Christmas presents. May contain incongruous references to sexual acts. Etc.

Friday, 3 May 2019

It's been a while...

It's been a while since I troubled this blog, and I have some catching up to do which I shall now proceed to do in this handy one-size-fits-all post.

Firstly, there seems to have been a slight resurgence of interest in my novel, Against Nature, notably expressed in a lengthy and thoughtful essay by Tibère Lechat posted here. He spots a few things which others usually miss, and even sees a few details which weren't really there, or at least not intentionally, which is interesting. I particularly liked the parallels with Rabelais, not something I recall as being a conscious influence, but I'd say it's nevertheless a valid bit of detective work.

Following on shortly from this, there was a discussion on facebook wherein Tom Shackleton and Niki Haringsma were also talking about Against Nature, and the conversation ended up looking a bit like an interview, and an interview I actually enjoyed and which threw up a few things which seemed worth saying; so just for the record, it went like this:

Tom: After reading Against Nature and Smoking Mirror for the first time back to back I had some thoughts, one being the following - in Smoking Mirror the myths and fiction of the time are coming to life. The cause is attributed to a future version of the Doctor having materialized in the exact same time and place, and the influence of a book which somehow escaped the Land of Fiction. Causing reality - and the TARDIS - to become warped and begin to collapse. Later in the Doctor and Peri's lives in The Time Wrestlers, Timelords from the War go back in time and detonate a fiction bomb to try and gain access to Mexico around the year 1500 - where and when Smoking Mirror and Against Nature are set - Although this is averted by the Timelords involved being merged with their future selves and as such being annihilated. The Doctor was persuaded to come due to what was happening to the TARDIS, but we never see any Gallifreyan telling him to investigate. We just assume it was his people due to the events of The Two Doctors. What if it was in fact the enemy? In Against Nature, Goralschai tries to bring the myths and fiction of the time to life so as to become God and destroy everything, but someone seemingly erases these events after he fails.

What if all of these events are connected? The fiction bomb is what causes the book from the
Land of Fiction to return to the second Doctor's pocket so that it ends up in the TARDIS library, causing a separate disruption before the events of Against Nature, which make time and reality sufficiently vulnerable for Goralschai's plan to get as far as it did. The enemy are using the Doctor to try to fix some of the damage, but his presence is part of the reason, why the damage could even take place. Señor 105 brought the Doctor to when and where the fiction bomb was detonated, the area where reality was already in flux. Todd and House Meddhoran's survivors end up in a strange land - a Land of Fiction perhaps?

Lawrence: I can't really comment as I don't remember any of it in the same sort of detail, but it sounds workable.
Tom: Thanks. Workable is more than I hoped for. What part of it did you think was workable ?
Lawrence: I mean it sounds like it all adds up without any bits left over, so all of it.
Tom: Were the difficulties found around the year 1500 as mentioned in The Time Wrestlers meant to be connected to Against Nature and Smoking Mirror, or was it just a throw away line about some unrelated idea or event?
Lawrence: Yes, supposed to be the same thing, although admittedly I was never too worried about Smoking Mirror fitting in because Against Nature was, roughly speaking, me trying to do Smoking Mirror properly. The stuff about Motecuhzoma II revising the calendar around that time actually happened - and is described in Ross Hassig's Time, History and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico - although his motives are unrecorded leaving archeology to educated guesswork; so you might call Against Nature educated guesswork getting a bit too carried away.
Tom: Just remembered something I was wondering about - with the ending and some of the events of the story seemingly erased, would that mean that a version of Goralschai is possibly alive? I also wondered about where he or his consciousness were supposed to be before he tried to enact the final part of his plan. I assume the reason he was in the Celestis Mictlan was so they could try to manipulate him into using his captured Faction tech as a part of their game.
Lawrence: As for Goralschai's survival, I think I hinted at the possibility somewhere, but I can't remember where; and I seem to recall thinking of him as residing in the Mexica underworld prior to the big showdown, or at least something similar, but something I wrote may have contradicted that. Not sure.
Tom: One last thing, the time ship in the prologue with the dead Faction Paradox members on board which dematerialised shortly after being viewed - was there any reason you had in mind for how and why they were in there in that state?
Lawrence: Yes, I had this idea about Tenochtitlan being so dense with belief as to be impenetrable by persons from the Homeworld, hence making it desirable territory in terms of the War, which is why the Faction would have been interested in it. It sort of echoed part of the central theme, or one of them, of Against Nature, namely that of a technologically advanced society not necessarily having the upper hand over a bunch of people they would regard as primitive and undeveloped - so the novel has plenty of persons who aren't anything special gaining the upper hand over the Space Gods. Actually, one of the editorial directions I objected to while writing it for Random Static, was that Primo should be revealed to be someone who would one day become a great leader for his people, which I wasn't having because as a character, he already had a load of weird stuff in his origin story, and why the hell should he need to turn out to be Cesar Chavez? What's so bad about just being some dude no-one has heard of? Is simply being a guy who holds down a job not exciting enough? Anyway, getting back to the question, the idea was that the local Mexica noosphere was of such strength as to overpower intruders. I seem to recall the idea that Icnopilli was originally some Faction guy who went native in such a way that Tenochtitlan rewrote his past for him - but I can't remember if this was specifically an element of Against Nature or just something in one of the earlier drafts. Honestly, the thing underwent so much revision that I can't always remember which version got published. As to why Tenochtitlan should be so dense with belief - what makes it more so than any other ancient culture - that wasn't actually something I ever thought about beyond because it just is, okay?
Tom: I see, so the density of the area killed the Faction occupants of the time ship and shortly after forced the ship out. I guess that's why Lorraine Conti had to have a plant body constructed so she could have a physical presence in the area rather than coming directly in person.
Lawrence: Exactly.

Tom:  I guess Icnopilli being a rewritten Faction member would nicely tie in to his successful use of ritual in his detective work in The Unwoken Princess. That's very interesting; and thank you again for answering my poorly worded questions.
Lawrence: Not at all - at least I understood what you were asking, which I haven't with a few others.
Niki: That's fascinating about the religious density and Icnopilli!
Lawrence: Wish I'd made it more obvious in the text really, as it was an idea I felt quite pleased with. I found it very difficult to tell how much I was actually explaining - hopefully without lecturing - and how much was still entirely inside my head.

Niki: One additional question, what was the significance of Justin and Momacani both being described the same way, as having Caucasian features and dark skin? Is Justin an aspect of Momacani, some other lost and rewritten Homeworlder, or something else entirely?
Lawrence: I had to look those characters up, would you believe? I still think of Momacani as Icnopilli which was the name he had in a previous draft, so I hope that makes sense of any previous answer given mistakenly referencing Icnopilli; otherwise, if there was some significance, I can't remember what it was - beyond that Justin was loosely based on someone I know with those same features. While we're here, as a point of possibly minor interest, I can't remember how much of Rhodenet made it into the final draft, but he was significant in the early versions and was very much based on a friend called Rodney, a person from work who was one of the funniest people I ever met. I inserted him into the story for the sake of punky contrast with the pseudo-gothic Homeworld environment.
Niki: Ah - brilliant. Yeah, loved getting to know Rhodenet in the story, I think the bits with him really worked.

Once again thanks to Tom and Niki for that. Very enjoyable, at least for me. All tales referred to are things you will probably have heard of if you're reading this blog, but if not, have a look through previous blog entries as they will have been subject to a sales pitch at some point or other. Finally, on the subject of Faction Paradox, I painted the cover for The Book of the Peace, edited by Philip Marsh and featuring contributions from Jacob Black, the aforementioned Niki Haringsma and others, and availabubble at the place from which you already bought all of the others.

I seem to have become a regular contributor to More of This Sort of Thing! as described here. It's a print fanzine, just like nature intended, and has usually sold out by the time I'm able to publicise it, which is why I haven't bothered for the last two - although for what it's worth, both featured new material which I wrote exclusively for the zine and as such will doubtless be worth millions of pounds in the very near future. If this sounds like your sort of thing, the best I can recommend is either moving to the Medway towns or joining the Careful Now Promotions group on facebook, so as to keep tabs on forthcoming stuff.

...and finally, Cyril?

Finally, Esther, myself and her indoors were featured on a local radio show, last September - Rob Roark's Vinyl Confessions as broadcast on KZSM of San Marcos, Texas. Well, we weren't on the show exactly, but it would be easier to just listen to the thing than to endure my convoluted explanation, and thusly you should be able to hear it by clicking on this link.


Monday, 16 July 2018

The Book of the Enemy

...and there's another one, this time a collection edited by the excellent Simon Bucher-Jones and featuring written contributions from myself, Andrew Hickey, Philip Purser-Hallard, Lisa Sarah Good, Helen Angrove and others. It's available, as usual, as a proper printed book like God intended or as a series of zeroes and ones from Obverse Books, who still seem to have the first version of the cover on their site, for some reason.

My contribution incorporates material recycled from an earlier draft of Against Nature, in case anyone cares, whilst being otherwise autobiographical because that seemed like the only way to write it which would make sense. My other contribution was the cover, of which the natural history is as follows - in the event of anyone wishing to save or repurpose any of this material for whatever ends. It began with a series of descriptions of bizarre creatures or objects written by Simon, which actually reminded me a little of the sort of things we used to see in Doug Allen and Gary Leib's Idiotland comic book; so I sort of took it from there, without worrying too much about the realism, or lack thereof.


 ...and then some highlights:

This image was used for the back cover, but was only ever intended as something I would paint over as a wash so as to have these vague images half-seen beneath the main one. Once I got started on the main figure, I got so much into it that I forgot to take photographs, so I only have an image of the finished thing. Never mind.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

More of This Sort of Thing!

In the unlikely event that anyone should be keeping track of this shit, I've contributed to the first issue of More of This Sort of Thing!, a traditional print fanzine sporadically produced by Careful Now Promotions of Kent, England. Careful Now is a vast multinational conglomerate in the style of ICI or Rio Tinto Zinc who organise live gigs in the Medway area. One of them used to write for Brian Moore's Head and I think the other bloke may have had something to do with The Donkey's Tale, although I could be getting my wires crossed there. More of This Sort of Thing! is done mainly as something to be given out at said gigs, and I think this issue accompanied a performance by Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society, amongst others. Admittedly, it's kind of thin at twelve pages, but there's a lot in it, considering, and I can think of worse ways to spend half an hour. When I say I've contributed, what I actually mean is that they reprinted the thing I wrote for my blog about the late Alun Jones of the Dentists, and I drew a picture of himself to accompany the article, which they used as the cover. They asked me if I wanted to draw a cartoon, just like in the old days when I drew stuff for Brian Moore's Head, and I tried but it turned out rubbish, so I suggested they use the tribute to Alun instead. For what it may be worth, I'll probably try to write something for the next issue too.

More of This Sort of Thing! is an analogue publication, it says here, meaning it is not available electronically, digitally, or on any social media platform. If you would like a copy, either show up at one of the monthly Careful Now events at either the Oast in Rainham, Kent or the Billabong in Rochester, or send fifty pee with a stamped addressed envelope to 2c, Broadview Avenue, Rainham, Kent, ME8 9DB, England; although I've a feeling they may already have run out of the June issue.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Spinning Jenny

There be another book for which one didst paint the cover. It actually came out last November but for reasons too boring to go into, I've only just got hold of a copy. It's available from Obverse Books in the usual formats, and as it's become my habit to share earlier versions of the cover painting before the titles were added by the excellent Cody Schell - just in case anyone feels they really need to see what it looked like - here you go. First, the rough version illustrating my attempts to work out what the fuck I was doing:

Then a lesson in the perils of selected background music drawing too heavily on records from Adam Ant's pantomime phase - Stand and Deliver, Prince Charming, Spank Me Widow Twankey and others...

Not sure what was going on here...

Then I decided that the novel almost certainly featured President Obama in some capacity...

Then it made it to this stage, but our lass had developed an expression suggesting she didnae really gi' twa shites about the events of the novel or whatever was on the other end of that rope, so obviously something had to change...

And finally, Cyril?
Finally, Esther, I am indebted to Mr. Johnson of Basingstoke who sent me this photograph of a carrot resembling a hampton, and here's the finished cover. I'm still not sure about it. I think it works. Bits of it work, but all I can really do is push the paint in a certain direction until it looks like pushing it any further would be a bad idea.

So there you have it, or rather them. Feel free to save and repurpose in any non-commercial capacity should you feel the need to do so.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Pamphlets of Destiny

Two whole years later than intended, I have extruded another self-published book, yet another pulse-pounding agglomeration of stuff you can already read for free on the internet. Pamphlets of Destiny is the second volume of Crappy 1970s Paperbacks, this time named after the blog for which most of the reviews were written and covering 2013 through to 2015. There's some material which was never posted for one reason or another, and a few of the reviews are slightly expanded, but otherwise it's pretty much the same, just reproduced in a more civilised form suitable for reading at bedtime or while doing a poo. There's no eBook because I dislike eBooks and I've got better things to do than format the fucking thing yet again when, as I say, it's already online more or less in its entirety.

Lest the Lulu blurb appear too cryptic and you object to taking a look at the Pamphlets of Destiny blog on religious grounds, I'm trying to sell you a fat six-hundred-ish page book - proper traditional paperback size, but just a bit fat - of reviews of science-fiction novels, non-science-fiction novels, comic books, and one song I hated so much that I just couldn't hold back. I've had a few stabs at vaguely literary discourse, but it's mostly sarcasm and swearing. It would make an ideal Birthday or Christmas present for a friend or relative who enjoys some of the above, or for a friend or relative you don't really care about so they get what they get and should be glad of getting fucking anything.

Buy it here.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Still Smoking Mirror

This one has been around since 2010, but I suppose there's still a slight chance that of the five people who now follow this blog , two of you might not have heard of it. About a million years ago, before I learned how to write, I attempted a Doctor Who novel because I figured it would be fun, a piece of piss, and likely to get published given the quality of Warmonger, Deadly Reunion, Earthworld, and others. I was wrong on at least two of those counts, and I eventually chucked the thing out under my own steam thanks to the magic of Lulu Publishing, mainly because it had taken me a long time to write and it would have felt wrong to just leave it as it was. You may recall it from this post.

Anyway, I've just had some fresh feedback from the excellent Stan Batcow of Pumf Propane & Propane Accessories because I bunged him a copy in exchange for a couple of CDs, and that seemed like as good a reason as any for a new post here, not exactly a review, but here's what he wrote: 

You did indeed make Pumf references in Smoking Mirror - I was also incredibly flattered that the Doctor wanted a copy of Howl's Grand Theft Audio CD, but that he couldn't remember whether Howl had been big in the 1990s or 2090s. Hopefully you'll have been prophetic, and - although I'll be long gone - Howl will finally change all world attitudes for the better in the 2090s. And the citizens of that future time can all then spend Sednan five centime pieces, featuring relief images of the Exalted Howling Batcow on both sides. Last I heard, the centime in the 2090s was worth the same as approximately sixteen thousand GBP sterling today. It was quite strange to read about myself being somehow part of a fictional world, and a most enjoyable experience. Thanks very much for putting me in there!

Apparently I mentioned Stan in the book a couple of times. I'd forgotten all about that. Never mind.

I wouldn't ordinarily point out typos in a book that's already been published, but I know you said you'd re-uploaded files to Lulu a while back for Kiss of Life, so I'll point out that on the back cover of Smoking Mirror, the first paragraph (large font, blue text) has the word and at the end of the first line and the beginning of the second (so it reads Nothing should live forever, and and all must come to an end.) I've seen the exact same thing presented as an optical illusion-type puzzle - the brain is tricked into thinking there's only one and by the action of flicking the eyes to the next line, and thereby momentarily losing concentration. If it's something you can quickly fix and upload for future copies, I'm sure you'd want to. If not, I humbly apologise for having brought to your attention something that will monumentally piss you off forever.

I have no idea how this could have eluded me for the past seven years. Anyway, I've made the correction so copies ordered from hereon will be new and improved at least in this respect. The and and version of the cover can be seen above. Anyway...

I enjoyed Smoking Mirror very much, incidentally. It took me quite a while to get into it, but once I'd assimilated myself into a Doctor Who world I managed to join in with the action quite naturally. Loved the regression of the TARDIS into a prehistoric state, as well as the joint timeline segments printed in two columns side-by-side. I wondered how hard it had been to get the number of words to be close enough to equal in both columns so the layout was correct. (The first occurrence of that device made me think that it was a layout mistake, as the two columns were so close in their wordage). I can safely say that it was far better than many, many other books I've read over the years and makes me wonder, yet again, why you aren't a millionaire. As a first novel it should have had the publishers rubbing their hands together in glee, and banking on earning their retirement fund off your Doctor Who thirteen-novel boxset by 2027. But, as we know, people are far too fucking stupid for that.

So there you go. It's unofficial, and it's fanfic, and I haven't even opened it since proofreading the very first Lulu version (except for the back cover, apparently) because I'm scared it might be rubbish; but it's cheap because I'm making nought from the sales (so as to pre-empt accusations that I am), and some people seem to think it's all right, and Christmas is coming up, 'n' shit, in case you know someone who likes Who and isn't too fussy...