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...

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.