End of year report…

pre-raphaeliteSo long then, 2016. In the end, there were no teary farewells. Just a sigh of relief, like the moment a ghastly uncle finally decides he should start heading home now and you try not to rush to get his coat for him. It ended, as years so often do, with red wine, fireworks and Jools Holland. The latter threw in my favourite moment – a pleasant surprise that shook me out of the expected for a few moments. Imelda May – a truly wonderful singer, but hitherto the queen of contemporary rockabilly – sang a sultry blues in a long black dress, her 50s quiff consigned to the past. She stepped from pose to composure, and stole the show.

Maybe 2017 could be a year of re-invention and renewal after all. (And of buying more CDs, inevitably. Plus ça change and all that.) Eyes right, lad, and get marching…

For me, it’s starting with a flurry of promising things. A new jazz band is emerging, and made its debut a few days ago. Following a Polish heavy metal band, knowing your set is full of Brazilian saudades and jazzy sophistication, is an interesting experience, and thank you to the audience for carrying us through. The second anthology Holdfast magazine will arrive from the printers early in February, and in the meantime I’m delighted that In The Gut – which I think may be my best story (which is both horribly immodest, and a little like answering ‘which is your favourite child?’ – will appear in the next issue of Shooter, published next Friday. So now to rehearse, as I’ll be reading an extract at Waterstones, Tottenham Court Road, on 27 January (more details here).

Recent reading

Alexander Weinstein – Children of the New World

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No birds, no trees, no peace for the wicked…

img_0550_editedAh, November. Or is it ‘Argh, November’? The jury is still out, I suspect, waiting with baited breath until after the US election results – when as usual, I will spend a night cowering in front of a TV t find out what I could have just as easily learned by going to bed and listening to the morning news bulletin. Ah, but it’s the narrative, the tension…

While I wait (or maybe that should be we wait – you now, me and those pesky inner voice), good things arrive, like London buses, in a sudden huddle. The award-winning folk behind Holdfast magazine secured their crowdfunding, and Anthology #2 is now at the printers. I might not have been prophetic enough enough to see it coming, but I will very shortly be a published writer of sci-fi. (Or perhaps of a story in the clothes of the genre that’s really about future-scepticism and eternalities? Buy a copy and decide.)

tgtnnov2016Another story, Bro, has just appeared at the US site, Chelsea Station Magazine (and a dark little adventure it is too – even the dog has a bad morning), and I’ll be reading an extract from it tonight in Hackey at the excellent There Goes The Neighbourhood literary salon. And a third is currently shortlisted for a competition and the wait – another wait! – is on for the results.

Elsewhere in this fractured gig-economy life, I’ve delivered a lecture to University students on the role of copy-readers in helping writers produce their strongest possible fiction, and a new jazz band is in the offing. The idea struck a chord. G13m9/6, if I’m not much mistaken.

Recent reading

Adam Haslett – You Are Not A Stranger Here and Imagine Me Gone

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Summer reading pile, Holdfast #2, and potential excitement

euroejectorsAlthough the summer often felt like inspiration had flown, like some inverse migration ritual, retrospect shows it in a different light. Amidst the remorseless flow of atrocities and the shock of Brexit, I managed to get a year older without shedding a tear. Amid the hills of Frome, I may even had shed a pound or two. Albeit, mostly to market stallholders

maninhat And then the same again at WOMAD, drifting happily from one musical discovery to another (while still slightly shamefully, given the comfortable whiteness of the audience – any more middle-class self-righteousness and one could have been at a Corbyn rally, dahling…)

There were one or two other pleasant surprises along the way. Although a lot of my writing explores the relationship between past and present (and individuals’ relationships with both), I haven’t often though of this as translating into the labels ‘sci fi’ or ‘speculative fiction’. A love of the works of William Gibson, however, may force me into a rethink.

P1030675_editedA piece written as both homage to and pastiche, inspired as much as his non-fiction collection as his novels, has been selected for inclusion in the second printed Holdfast anthology. Fingers crossed that they collect another British Fantasy Society award for this, and I’m hugely flattered to be included. If you’d like to chip into their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the link is here.

Another story, Epilogues, has also been longlisted for the Sunderland Short Story Award in association with Waterstones, to my delight and surprise. Inspired by listening to care home workers and to the things they usually don’t say, it’s a tribute to listening and observing as a way of guiding your own focus – and an exploration of the impact of stereotypes on men and women when it comes to emotional self-management. But enough about me…

Selected Summer Reading

Matthew Griffin – Hide

P1030627_editedIf a story about two gay men in their eighties living in isolation, one of whom is declining into dementia, sounds off-putting… think twice. I won’t deny that this is a grim read in places (and one section that follows from one character’s profession as a taxidermist is particularly harrowing), but it is also a stunningly beautifully written account of how love can endure in the most remarkable circumstances. And of the price it can extract along the way: things are only truly grim if there was already an underlying care. If recent generations have ‘reclaimed queerness’, Frank and Wendell’s reaction to a late 1940s world that would reject their love is very different: they embrace the outcast isolation that the world wishes upon them, choosing it over separation and losing each other.

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