• I had some good writing news this afternoon. Firstly I had a
    submission I made on Monday accepted (although it won't see the light of day
    until 2010, which probably makes it my first hit of next year). I've
    also been asked to start a new blog, which will run in addition to this
    one and the EMLN posts. More news on both soon.
  • I went to see Moon and Antichrist on Tuesday. Moon was somewhat
    underwhelming – a pedestrian science fiction story full of
    inconsistencies and logic gaps. Antichrist, while gruelling and
    unpleasant, was a stunning movie, far exceeding my expectations. There's a good discussion of Antichrist here.
  • I love six-word stories, but it's rare to find satisfying ones. This one by Colin Houlson is pretty good.
  • Lolcats were invented in Brighton in the 19th century (via twhume)
  • Lovely timelapse footage of the Elephant Bed exhibition being installed at Fabrica.

A lovely party and some creepy photos


I spent last weekend visiting my sister at her new house (from which the above photo was taken). It's a lovely place – near Mum & Dad's yet in the middle of the countryside. The garden is beautiful, if a little wild, and the house itself is impressive, although it does need a little work. My sister and her husband invited family and friends to join them on their first Saturday in the property. It was a wonderful afternoon: just relaxed conversation and catching up with the people I know up there. These days I really appreciate the value of a relaxed afternoon eating food with decent folk.

A good weekend was made even better on Sunday morning by a decent 8-mile run. I'm not quite in the condition I'd like to be for the Morecambe Cross-Bay half marathon next month, but it should be good enough.

I took a lot of photos of the new house but I like the ones below, which look like stills from a creepy rural movie.




New post on literaturenetwork.org: Big Game Hunting in the Bookshops

My new post on literaturenetwork.org is now live: Big Game Hunting in the Bookshop. It's about the disappearing world of the secondhand bookshop and is unashamedly nostalgic. Writing it has put me in the mood for spending a weekend exploring Brighton's secondhand bookshops. Anyone up for an expedition next weekend?

"I love buying things on-line. No matter how strange or obscure the item I want, there always seems to be someone selling it. The most interesting thing I’ve bought recently is a mid-nineties guide to British second hand book shops. This book, by the mysterious Driffield, is long out of date: most of the shops listed that I remember from 15 years back are no more. The guide would likely be little use in navigating present-day second hand bookshops (although I sometimes day-dream about trying)."

Easter Rains – A new story published in Penumbra #4

I'm a bad person: I meant to post a month or so back about the new issue of Penumbra magazine, which includes a story of mine called 'Easter Rains'. Here's the opening:

"Ghost songs. They’d been drinking beer, kind of bored, when someone mentioned this radio station out in the woods that broadcast to no-one. Some guy had a radio transmitter and broadcast his favourite songs, not caring if anyone listened or not. A passing car might pick it up, if anyone actually drove out that way.

So they’d gone into the country, turning the dial until they found a station that was playing the Sid Vicious version of My Way. They pulled over and sat on the bonnet drinking beer. Song followed song with no adverts or idents, mostly cheesy rock, each record becoming something more in the moment. And he often thought he’d never have felt like he did now if making music meant as much to him as transmitting it had to that man."

Easter Rains recounts the last few days in the life of Kurt Cobain. I was a huge Nirvana fan at the time Cobain died and have read most of the biographies published since his death. What fascinates me is how the story has changed over the years. Initially the books recounted a doomed love affair between Kurt and Courtney but some later volumes have taken a more cynical turn

Listening to Doll Parts again recently ('yeah, they really want you, but I do too'') brought back the freshness, the innocence of those early accounts. I miss the story of Kurt and Courtney how it was originally, two lost people who found in each other the missing parts of themselves. Whether or not the later accounts are more accurate, for me the earlier books told the better story.

I wrote Easter Rains in Coventry last summer. It's closely based on factual accounts of the hours preceding Cobain's suicide, most notably the Cross biography and Everett True's stunning work, Nirvana: the True story. But, as you'll find if you read it, I tinkered with the end a little.

As mentioned above, Easter Rains can be found in the new issue of Penumbra. Copies can be bought from the Penumbra website for £4.95 which includes P&P. Thanks to Alex and Elle at Penumbra for publishing the story; and to Rosy and Ian for their feedback on the earlier drafts.

Some odds and ends

  • My friend Justine's novel Advice for Strays now has a cover and is available for pre-order on Amazon. I'm very excited as I've been waiting to read this for ages.
  • Drew Gummerson had a contest for 50-word stories about the moon and has posted some of the entries on his blog. One of them is mine.
  • Speaking of Mr. Gummerson, ages ago I meant to post a link to his story When the Chips are Down. Go read it!
  • A Surprisingly Common Omission is a great 'drabble' by David Langford which he acknowledges may have been too subtle for its own good.
  • One of my favourite short story collections is Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners.  Much of this is now available for free downloadStone Animals
    is a fantastic spooky story but the highlight for me is the story Some
    Zombie Contingency Plans.  It's not 'about' zombies – it's more
    wonderful and subtle than that.  "It turned out that everyone in the prison had a zombie contingency plan, once
    you asked them, just like everyone in prison had a prison escape plan, only
    nobody talked about those.

Latitude 2009

I arrived back yesterday from the Latitude Festival. Many commentators sneer at Latitude for being 'middle-class' without saying why that is a bad thing. I had a great time, seeing lots of acts I'd not normally seek out and watching a lot of poets.

The weather was appalling, with an unpleasant thunderstorm on Thursday night and more rain throughout. Despite that the festival ground didn't turn into a swamp, unlike some other festivals I've been to. However, having my Mum & Dad's caravan to retreat to probably made things easier than they might have been. Among the highlights for me were:

  • A fantastic line-up in the comedy tent, including Stephen K. Amos, Shappi Khorsandi and Matt Kirshen. I was sad to see the talented Janeane Garofalo's set, which ended after 6 awkward minutes. (UPDATE: what happened next)
  • I didn't see many bands, but was delighted to discover The Vaselines were playing. They were charming and I remembered most of the songs they played. There was also a stunning set from Tricky, who I'd not seen play for about 10 years.
  • The film tent featured some fascinating events. Sadly Jeffrey Lewis missed the slot for his lecture on Watchmen, but Richard Dedomenici's lecture on plagiarism was fantastic. It included his response to people saying "I could have done that" when confronted with modern art: but why would you be doing it?
  • I spent most of my time in the poetry tent, which featured some fantastic acts including Mik Artistik, Jessica Delfino, Ross Sutherland, Byron Vincent, Nathan Filer, and Jay Bernard. The poetry tent had a rapid turnover of acts and ran for about 14 hours a day, so was always a good place to return to between other events.

All in all, a fantastic weekend, and possibly the best festival I've been to.

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A fun few days

Today I'm having a relaxing day after a busy end to last week. After ages staying in I went to two gigs on Thursday. I started out at the launch of Hattie Snooks' new EP, Bon Appetit. It's absolutely stunning and I've been playing it repeatedly. My favourite track is the first, Jericho, which made an amazing opening to Thursday's performance. After Hattie's set I headed to the Hope where Rufus Moonshine was celebrating his birthday. I saw three amazing bands there: Kinema, John-John Slave and the stunning AK/DK (who featured Rufus Moonshine on vocals for a song). Well worth the slightly late night.

Friday night was the public opening of Fabrica's new exhibition, The Elephant Bed. I wasn't sure about the scuplture at first but warmed to it over the evening. There is a video featuring interviews with the artist that does a good job of explaining things and also features a fascinating time-lapse video of the work's installation.  Like many of Fabrica's exhibitions there is something calming about the space and I'm looking forward to making some calming lunchtime visits.