Mirrors, Mediums and Salt Lakes

Vice’s article about Australian photographer Murray Fredericks is right when it says he ‘intends to document the lake not just as a landscape, but as a medium in itself.’ The images they’ve picked out to accompany the interview are surreal and entirely beautiful things. I’ve seen the salt lakes in Bolivia, and well remember how they break your senses of distance and perspective. They are weird places, that challenge our assumptions about how we relate to space.

Where it misses a beat, however, is where it focuses on mirrors as signifiers only of vanity:

Our generation may not be as overtly savage as the queen, but we are arguably equally transfixed by our reflections. Social media is the ruler of our kingdom, and our filtered selfie camera is our magic mirror. We may not be killing our opponents, but many of us feel compelled to make sure our mug gets more “likes” than theirs.

Maybe it’s true. It probably is. It’s not the interesting thing about mirrors though. The symbology risks overtaking the artefact.

For me, the far more interesting thing is how they break space apart. Put two opposite each other and you create infinity. Put one in a room and strange things start to happen.

Vanity is an obvious, and topical reading. But I’ll always be fascinated by the fracture the reflection sits in.

2084, crowdfunding and interviews

Anyone who has been even slightly near Unsung Stories on social media in the last two weeks will have noticed that we’ve launched an anthology of dystopian fiction called 2084. The idea for this is pretty much – get writers to ‘do an Orwell’ and look into our future.

A few people have been asking how we managed to pull together our contributor list – which includes Christopher Priest, David Hutchinson, Lavie Tidhar, James Smythe and a bunch more excellent writers – so I’ll happily spill the secret for you here. Are you ready? Secret publishing voodoo coming: I asked them. Pretty much just sent an email to them, or their agent, saying who we were, what the project was and why we wanted them involved.

So what’s the moral of the story? Your favourite authors are really groovy people, and a good idea gets anyone’s attention.

We also decided to try something new and crowdfund this one using Kickstarter. We figured we have a good list of writers and we’ve spent some time building our reputation, so it might just fly. And boy did it fly!

We set our goal at a number we thought would be achievable for the month – a nice, solid £2,500. Eleven hours later, that was in the bag. A couple of days later we had £4500 in pledges. Now, at the two-week mark we are 366% funded at over £9000, adding more authors to the collection and looking where to stretch next. Simply, its been a staggering and humbling couple of weeks.

To help promote the project I’ve done a couple of interviews. The first was with the Papertrail Podcast and you can read that on their website. The second was with the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, as the very first guest(!) on their new Signal Boost show: Signal Boost #1: George Sandison (2084) and Alexandra Pierce (Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler). So thanks very much to Alex at Papertrail, and Jen and all at Skiffy and Fanty for having me.

Also, keep an eye on the Kickstarter tomorrow evening, we have some limited edition rewards going up…

 

 

The Digger’s Tale

My story, The Digger’s Tale, has been published at Unofficial Britain.

Unofficial Britain is a great site dedicated to ‘unusual perspectives on the landscape of the British Isles, exploring the urban, the rural and those spaces in between.’ You can read stories and articles there, and I’d also recommend spending some time with the soundscapes.

The story was something that started scratching at me after I read Gary Budden’s Baleen – it was something about the way we treat dead bodies, and how they disrupt space. It was meant to be weirder, and first person, but it seems that death, as Gary says, has its own energy.

The garages are real (but not the ones in the picture), and I did use to play in the rec (though, thanks to vertigo, I wasn’t so carefree on the climbing frame) and walk those fields as a child. As far as I know they’re still standing, and haven’t been stained in the way I describe. But the diggers will come for it all at some point.

Nine Night

John died last night. A heart attack and complications from surgery had kept him down for months. He grew pale at the end, his dark skin bleaching in the English winter. I wanted to count the gaps in his stained teeth that he always showed with that giant grin. The kind of man who forgot it’s an unforgiving city.

The kids were screaming in the basketball court, dominating the space with the shivering crash of railings and the inestimable joys of half term. It looked like another party to me.

Strangers milled in the corridors of my block, seemingly listless. I found the mood hard to read and the dour face staring at my sweaty shirt, the empty bin in my hands, didn’t fit. But I was tired from the gym, paid it no mind. The night before, our sofa shivered with heavy bass and barely muffled laughter was inescapable. Our space had been disrupted. Just a mid-week party thrown by people on different schedules, that coloured the nine night to come.

I lifted my tired legs up the stairs, once back in my flat set to stretching muscles. Our overhead light cast shadows, darker shades, and I heard my wife gasp. The note said nine night, all welcome.

Why do I think I can recognise death, even now after we became so well acquainted? Its English cousin is more severe than this. Vol-au-vonts and restraint over bammy and celebration. I’ve endured its passing over the course of years. Outside, the children play until long past midnight.

The City in Motion

I’ve been thinking about cities, how they’re always in motion. The city never sleeps, its arteries clog, its lungs fill with smoke. But that only describes how we use the space. Meanwhile, it regenerates.

Museum Street

Museum Street, where You Me Bum Bum Train once lived.

City trunks

New towers in the City

Tottenham Court Road

The three faces of London: Historic, developing and transitory

The City at night

The City, in predatory guise

New Fenchurch Street

The crest of the wave

Autumn events – FantasyCon and Unsung Live

After a very busy summer with Unsung, at Nine Worlds, running events and making lots of books you think the sensible thing to do would be to take a break and enjoy the new and exciting world of married life. And you’re right, that probably is the sensible thing to do. But this is publishing, and there’s always another Con.

I’m going to be doing a couple of events in the next month, this time around short stories.

First up is FantasyCon in Scarborough, 23rd-25th September. Unsung will be running a stall there, so make sure to stop by if you’re there. I will also be chairing the panel, ‘A Little’s Enough: What makes a great short story?‘ at 2pm on the Sunday. I’ll be asking Emma Cosh, Lynda Clark, Neil Buchanan, Ruth Booth and David Guymer to share their secrets on the trickiest of forms.

After that, October 18th, we have the 5th instalment of Unsung Live. This is our series of SFF short fiction live literature events – 4 readers, 15 minutes each and complete stories. This time we have Tade Thompson (winner of the Kitschies Golden Tentacle for Making Wolf), Anne Charnock (Kitschies and Philip K. Dick shortlists for A Calculated Life), Irenosen Okojie (winner of the Betty Trask award for Butterfly Fish) and Pete Sutton (Sick City Syndrome due in late 2016).

The events are proving really popular, this one having sold half the tickets over night, so RSVP early to get a seat! And if you miss out but want to come, join the waitlist – we can look at bigger venues, if there’s enough interest.

Unsung Live #5: Tuesday 18th October

Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016, 7:00 PM

The Star of Kings
126 York Way London, Greater London N1 0AX London, GB

43 Story Lovers Attending

Following on from the resounding success of Unsung Live #4, we’re happy to announce our return to The Star of Kings for our fifth evening of storytelling for fans of the best in contemporary speculative fiction.Reading this time:• Irenosen Okojie is a writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award. Her wor…

Check out this Meetup →