Irregularity

I was extremely honoured to be one of a group of authors invited to contribute to Irregularity, a collaboration between the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and the award winning publisher Jurassic London. Authors were invited to write speculative pieces reimagining chapters in the lives of enlightened men and women from the Age of Reason. 

Irregularity contains new stories from Nick Harkaway, Claire North, Adam Roberts, E. J. Swift, Tiffani Angus, Rose Biggin, Kim Curran, Richard de Nooy, Archie Black, Simon Guerrier, Roger Luckhurst, Henrietta Rose-Innes, James Smythe, Adam Roberts ... and me. It's available as a paperback, an ebook, and a limited edition of 100 hardcovers (sold exclusively through the National Maritime Museum.) The anthology is published to coincide with two exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum taking place in 2014: a major exhibition on the story of the quest for longitude at sea, and a steampunk show at the Royal Observatory. 

Though I've yet to work my way through the whole collection, I've very much enjoyed the stories I've read so far, particularly E.J. Swift's The Spiders of Stockholm, and James Smythe's The Last Escapement. 

I'll probably write more about it when I've finished reading, but for more info on this absorbing and stunningly packaged anthology, see the Jurassic website.

 

Rings of Alderan

I managed to get through three books while living in that tent. Aside from Anatomy of Restlessness, I reread The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald. It’s an amazing book, and I totally recommend it.

“I suppose it is submerged realities that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno. What manner of theatre is it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene painter and audience?” 

The week before I went away I ran into the lovely Ian McDiarmid, actor, former dark ruler of a distant galaxy. Ian is a Force-sensitive human born on the planet Naboo, to the aristocratic house Palpatine. At a young age he took an interest in “dark side” artefacts, met a Muun businessman who was, in fact, a Sith lord, fell under his tutorship, killed his own father, and pledged himself to his new master under the stage-name Darth Sidious. While his master hunted for the key to eternal life, McDiarmid went into politics, successfully orchestrating the blockade of Naboo by the Trade Federation, and compelling the Galactic Senate to anoint him Supreme Chancellor. He then murdered his master and took the role of Sith Master, building a powerful military force, and bending the entire galaxy to his sinister will. Before his eventual fall at the hands of a gang of plucky young rebels and their adorable woodland associates, McDiarmid was widely regarded as the most powerful Sith who had ever lived, and his life was the culmination of a thousand-year plan to overthrow a Republic which itself had stood for 25, 000 years. His plan ultimately did not succeed, and he was killed by his asthmatic business partner, James Earl Jones. McDiarmid did not stay dead, however, and he managed to use a rare and ancient Force technique to transfer his consciousness to a new clone body. When I found him he was starring in a small West-end play with Kathleen Turner. I had nothing for him to sign except my copy of Rings of Saturn. And so, here it is, one of the great meditations on time, memory, solitude and identity, signed by the former Emperor of the First Galactic Empire.

The End of the World

I’ve just spent two weeks in a tent in France, no phone, no Internet, few English speakers, no news, and no reason to complain. The news stories I totally missed include, but aren’t limited to: the Queen’s racehorse failed a drug test; Russia lost contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity; Kid Rock was subpoenaed to produce a glass dildo as evidence in a sexual-harassment case against the band Insane Clown Posse; a memorial tree dedicated to George Harrison was killed by an infestation of beetles; Israel shelled three United Nations schools being used as refugee shelters in Gaza; ebola broke out in Western Africa; a Malaysia Airlines Flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine with a Russian-made SA-11 missile system, killing all 298 people on board; and A 76-yard-deep crater opened at the End of the World 

     I think a lot about that tent.

     “The argument, roughly, was as follows: that in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory 'drive' or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this 'drive' was inseparable from his central nervous system; and, that, when warped in conditions of settlement, it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new. This would explain why mobile societies such as the gypsies were egalitarian, thing-free and resistant to change; also why, to re-establish the harmony of the First State, all the great teachers - Buddha, Lao-tse, St Francis - had set the perpetual pilgrimage at the heart of their message and told their disciples, literally, to follow The Way.” 

—Bruce Chatwin, Anatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writing, 1969-1989

Théâtre des Dieux

I'm extremely happy to announce that Theatre of the Gods has been bought by the amazing independent French publishing house Au Diable Vauvert, translators of (amongst many others) Neil Gaiman, Douglas Coupland and David Foster Wallace. It will be published, all going well, in late 2015. 

Obsolagnium

My supernatural short story, Obsolagnium, is in Hamish Hamilton's Five Dials. You can download the issue for free here.

"Wilde was in the bedroom when the slat-blinds snapped. It was a calm, clear night. Earlier there'd been lightning over the lake. No thunder, the sound-waves had crashed into the lake. He’d looked up from where he’d been dragging branches to his new Timberwolf gravity-feed woodchipper and saw the purple veins of energy spread across the sky. He’d pulled the canvas tarp across his beast and hurried inside. He’d showered, scrubbed the yellowy green tinge of lawn-cuttings from his hands and lower legs. Now he sat on the end of the bed and lifted one foot so that it rested on its opposite knee. He observed the skin flaking off his heel. He could slough away with the lump of volcanic rock his wife had kindly given him for Christmas, but every week a sequence of mysterious processes would cause the dryness to return. He studied the dead, white zone and imagined he was looking down upon a wasteland. He imagined leaning down as far as it would take to perceive the microscopic communities who lived there. The muscles around his spine began to burn. He felt his eye-muscles strain. He imagined the creatures going about their business, bustling around the bergs of dry skin. Wilde considered that if you had a powerful enough listening device you might even be able to hear the sounds of these societies who live unwittingly upon the heel of a giant."

Electric Ink

AKH48 is our most famous artificial author – though he much prefers the term ‘synthetic composer’. He is a prolific author, critic and diarist. In his short career he has composed almost half a million novels, plays and works of short fiction. He is constituted from some 15,672 KXS120 hyper-cooled argon-vapour CPU-tubes which allow him to generate, according to his publicity material: ‘… critically competitive popular literature at a theoretical peak of 18 petaFLOPS.’

Electric Ink, my three-part interview with AKH48 is here

 

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