Monthnotes: June 2023

I started June feeling rough from a combination of caffeine, poor sleep, doomscrolling, bad food and illness. That slump lasted about a week, after which June rallied to become pretty good. I sailed on the Thames with Rosy, celebrated my birthday, spent some time in Wales, and ended the month in Blackpool. The week in Wales was particularly energising, spending time with friends old and new.

After a couple of high step-count months, June was calmer, with a total of 333,904 steps and a daily average of 11,130, the highest being on my birthday when I went hiking with Katharine and Helen. I’ve continued to put weight on, and am failing to muster any motivation to reverse that. I have, however, started seeing a local physio about fixing my hip problems so that I can start running again. I also wrote up the final stage of the Coast-to-Coast.

My writing was fairly scatty, but I have a number of projects moving. True Clown Stories, originally known as Clown Stories Volume 1, has been in progress for 12 years, but is set to come out in 2024 in association with Peakrill Press. I’ve also produced a short story collection for Peakrill, cramming 12 stories onto an A5 page (I’m particularly proud of a new six-word horror story). On top of all that, I’ve been working on Memetic Infection Hazards, a collection of horror stories which I’m, publishing and will likely be out in August. I’m enjoying working with self/small publishing, which is much more satisfying than submitting to online journals. I’ve just had a piece rejected after 13 months and, really, what is the fucking point? I’d rather sell my writing through etsy.

I finished a lot of half-complete books last month:

  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky was an interesting space opera, but was at its best when dealing with the intelligent spiders. The human characters just felt like they were in a science fiction novel.
  • I also read Tchaikovsky’s novella One Day This Will All Be Yours which was stuffed with clever ideas.
  • Death of An Author was produced using ChatGPT. While the novel itself left me unmoved, the afterword was exciting and provocative.
  • All The Minutes was a conceptual novel produced for NaNoGenMo, which was incredibly engaging.
  • The writing in Johnson at 10 was annoying, not least for censoring the swearing. It did a good job of describing Boris Johnson’s essential failure in winning an 80-seat majority and wasting it.
  • Andrew O’Neill’s History of Heavy Metal was engaging and helped me reclaim my 90’s self a little. I heard about this book through an excellent podcast appearance from O’Neill.
  • I also wrote a small blog post about The Virgin Suicides, which I read last month.

After a few failed attempts I finished watching Yellowjackets Season 2, although this involved a fair amount of double-screening. It’s tonally all over the place, with the lightly comic tone interrupted by some genuinely disturbing moments towards the end of the season. Black Mirror was, as ever a mixed bag, the highlight being Joan is Awful. The BBC’s documentary The Trouble with KanYe was a grim look at the West’s career since 2016. Such a waste of talent.

I watched a few movies but the highlight was Martyrs. It’s difficult to recommend such an unpleasant movie, and one that is based around women being tortured. It would be easy dismiss the film as ‘torture porn’, but I’ve been thinking about it for a month now. My strongest reaction has been a lingering sadness. This may be one of the best horror films I’ve seen.

A review of Martyrs from Letterboxd

Towards the end of the month I ran a workshop on AI and Creative Writing (details and links here). Running a two-hour online event on a weeknight was a bit much, but it was fun I’m still cynical about LLMs, but there is something important happening. At a neighbourhood barbecue someone was telling me about how his company is seeing impressive results through using AI to make unit tests and documentation.

I am totally going to win at Spotify Unwrapped this year – although no-one really loses, do they? My playlist of interesting songs for 2023 has now reached 104 items, mostly new music. Andrew O’Neill’s death metal recommendations have also added some interesting tracks. But it looks like the most-played song will be My Neighbourhood, a minimalist song from the Martyrs soundtrack that I can’t stop playing.

I ended the month in Blackpool, cat-sitting for Muffy’s cat Sashimi. On the last night in June, I went on the walk to the top of the Big One roller coaster. It was an amazing experience.

The month ended with an awful spell of insomnia. I function very poorly on low sleep, the nadir of which was managing to throw my Fitbit out with my lunch at the office.

  • I started playing the video game Alan Wake, but got bored when I reached the firsat boss fight. All of the combat elements made the story feel banal.
  • I’m still settling into the house, but I did finally get a couple of pictures framed. I’m still making no progress on putting up new curtains.
  • I published a blog post about my trip to Sweden in May.
  • I read a cache of blog posts from 2001/2 which I was considering importing to this blog. The posts were interesting but also very scrappy. I think I’ve improved considerably as a writer since then.
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