Over at Aqueduct – the pleasures of reading, watching and listening

MV5BMTUzNjQ2MTY5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTAzNTQxNDM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Here’s a happy New Year and a heads-up for my contribution to the Aqueduct Press blog about favourites of the year. This is an annual Aqueduct tradition, so I’m pleased to be on board with a publisher that encourages an online community among its far-flung writers.

51r1Mdpv4FL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_The invitation to contribute took me by (pleasant) surprise, so my spiel is  weighted towards my most recent outings – these include Netflix’s ten-episode Teutonic time travelling epic Dark, books by Zadie Smith, Nina Allan and Colson Whitehead, and a film about the Slits.

61SY37C4a0L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Naturally, as soon as I posted my copy I started to remember great stuff from earlier in the year. A couple of weeks ago a friend on Facebook had just got around to seeing Trainspotting 2 and that reminded me how much I enjoyed that film  – among other things, I loved the way that Irvine Welsh’s viewpoint character turned out to be Spud rather than Renton. So that was one highlight that I left out.

Another remarkable book I read over the year was Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It fact it inspired one of the the panel discussions I participated in at the Helsinki World Con last summer –  Fantasies of Free MovementMV5BMGU4YzdhY2UtMDMxMS00YjNhLTlhYzItZGU5NWY2MzhiNzJjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDAwMTQ1Ng@@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_, where we talked about borders and the dissolution of borders in fantastic fiction.

Many writers also have a sum-up of their own work over the year. So here it goes for me… I’ve had two stories published – “In Scarlet Town” in Murder Ballads and “All That is Solid” in The Scarlet Soul: Stories for Dorian Gray. The good folks at Aqueduct Press released a US edition of Helen’s Story in the summer and I’ve been putting together my first collection Resonance & Revolt.  This will be released downloadat the beginning of 2018 and it’s available for pre-order from Eibonvale Press.

As for resolutions… In the coming year I hope to get back to my novel Heretics. “Bells of Harelle”, which originally appeared in Tales from the Vatican Vaults, was a kind of prequel to Heretics. This story will also be reprinted in Resonance & Revolt. 

32622470And to get back to the past year’s pleasurable reading, listening and viewing – I didn’t even begin to explore the listening part. At a recent gig I saw a band called Gutfull, which I’ll  definitely want to see again. Kind of riot grrrlish – the singer even looked a little like Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna – but they have their own style and they’re totally of this century. I’ve posted a catchy little number called “Arsehole” below.

I also listened to some older music that I missed the first time around, so I’ll post a song from the Screaming Blue Messiahs (1990s vintage) that I discovered at the beginning of 2017. Dedicate it to Donald Trump and wall-of-shame builders around the world.




We’ll come from the shadows

“Yesterday I was a writer who was lost for words. I expect to find them again soon…”


This was my Facebook status on 10 November, prefacing a link to an article in the Independent about spontaneous protests responding to the election of the fascistic Donald Trump – and I’m not one to use this particular F-word lightly. For more details check out the links on An anti-trump masterpost and A final response to why Trump is a fascist.

So I was lost for words on 9 November… and while I’ve managed to scrape together a few of them now, I think it will be a work in progress.

The gloom cast by the US election results deepened when Leonard Cohen’s death became public a couple of days later. I loved Leonard’s music when I was growing up. Now, perhaps I’d be critical about some of his idealised images of women. But a lot of the music still works. One of my favourites is The Partisan, a song that he didn’t write but popularised for a new audience in the late 1960s. And this song needs to be shared now, more than ever.

winter-is-hereLike many I’m full of fear and foreboding, and I’ve indulged in many a post-apocalyptic meme along with some darkly satirical ones.

Meanwhile, I’ve been inspired by the expression of strength, endurance and hope as well as grief in “The Partisan”.

A line in this song – the frontiers are my prison – has haunted me since I first heard it decades ago. It echoes in my mind as we prepare to resist those who aim to impose more borders and frontiers within our societies and throughout the world.

And then there are these lyrics:

“Oh the wind, the wind is blowing
Through the graves the wind is blowing
Freedom soon will come
Then we’ll come from the shadows” 

It’s early days, but we’re already fighting. I read stories about growing opposition to Trump & what he represents – this includes longer term initiatives as well as demonstrations. The American Civil Liberties Union is taking up the mettle, city councils declare their determination to remain cities of refuge to immigrants despite threats to cut off federal funding; universities, legislatures and other bodies are declaring to stand firm. We’ll also see what happens when more US workers find out just what billionaire Trump’s promises to them are made of. Meanwhile, struggles such as Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock continue.

I’ve also been trying to take hope from the high proportion of young people involved in the demonstrations.

Yes, winter is indeed here but perhaps we’ll see a hot and lively spring…