Saturday, 28 December 2019

In the Days of the Form Destroyer

The Form Destroyer is the supernatural force equivalent to Satan in Philip K. Dick's A Maze of Death. It may seem a little melodramatic to equate a president with Satan, given that I regard all politicians as inherently corrupt, but it felt entirely justified back in 2016 when he first slid into office with all the grace and dignity of the jobbie that slides from one's bumhole on the morning after an evening of alcoholic oblivion. The book assembles all that I wrote for An Englishman in Texas - and a couple of things which I mostly kept to myself - from the first two years of his time in office. I'd like to claim it represents a snapshot of America during that strange, shaky period during which some of us wondered whether he would actually start rounding us up and having us shot, but it probably doesn't because I'm too easily distracted; although it touches upon himself in a couple of places, and is hopefully at least marginally funnier than America has been of late, politically speaking. You can read it all for free online - excepting the couple of things which I mostly kept to myself - or you can buy it in book form from my Lulu store here, which is frankly much nicer. Whilst reluctant to appear either presumptuous or boastful, I'm giving up false modesty for Lent (whenever that is) so will end by saying only that Form Destroyer is a fucking cracking read* and that I've slogged my bollocks off, figuratively speaking, in order to bring you a tome of such amazing quality and value. Don't make me look a tosser by failing to buy one. Thanks in advance.

*: At least two people who aren't me have actually said this.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Mist Softly Happened

Here, at long last, is the third collection of my book reviews, assembling everything written between 2016 to 2018, and a few which didn't get posted on Pamphlets of Destiny for the sake of diplomacy. I say at long last because it's been ready to go since about June and the interim has been spent wrangling with Lulu over the cover failing to print right, which seems to be sorted out now. I mention this only so as to indicate the degree of care and attention I plough into producing these books, which I mention having recently come across a number of sniffy comments regarding print on demand, none of which have been made directly to my face for fucking obvious reasons.

Anyway, the blurb runs as follows:

Mist Softly Happened is the third collection of Lawrence Burton's book reviews as originally posted on his Pamphlets of Destiny blog. This time there's more van Vogt, more comic books, the significant presence of material by both Murray Leinster and Robert Moore Williams, and less actual science-fiction than featured in the previous two. We also have extended rambling essays on Philip K. Dick's Exegesis (which he enjoyed) and Alan Moore's Jerusalem (which he didn't), along with the usual exclusive selection of embittered rants which he was too scared to share online for fear of them being read by those he had deemed authors of shite. Additionally we have the inception of a potentially new literary sub-category - Theosophic science-fiction, tentatively encompassing the work of Richard Shaver, William Dexter, the aforementioned Robert Moore Williams and others, which is probably comparable to Gretchen Wiener's attempts to get fetch happening in the movie Mean Girls, but never mind.

The book is thick in girth and substantial in content due to the vast wattage of  chuckles, entertainment, and sarcasm I've pumped into the thing, and it represents great value for money. You can read it online for free, or most of it, but a website link makes for a fucking lousy Christmas present; unlike the physical book, which is fab etc. etc.

Snap up your physical copies here at my Lulu store. Also, if you first take a quick look at the Lulu main page, there's usually some sort of discount code to be had.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Barbecued Humans #1

I have four pages of cartoons I drew back in the nineties reproduced in Barbecued Humans zine, edited by Mr. Bolus of Evil Moisture. It's sixty printed A5 pages which you can't download and I have no intention of scanning for you, so if you have no idea what I was playing at two decades ago, now's your chance to find out. It also features the Haters, Research Laboratories, Leif Elggren, Murder Can Be Fun, Martin Howse and others, with artwork and reviews by Suzy Poling, Heath Moerland, Seymour Glass, Cody Brant and more. I haven't had time to read my copy yet so I can't really comment further, but it looks good and very substantial, although I will admit I noticed not only some swearing but a couple of references to the sexual act.

Mr. Bolus says it costs ten euros a copy, but that you should drop him an email if you want one so he can work out the shipping and so on. The email address can also be found on the Royal Sperm site.

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.