Alles, was fest ist

All That is Solid is getting a third print outing – in German as Alles, was fest ist. This will also be my first ever publication in translation, which is very exciting. The story first appeared in 2017 in the Swan River Press anthology The Scarlet Soul: Stories for Dorian Gray, a limited edition that sold out quickly and it re-emerged as a chapbook from Eibonvale Press in 2019

And this time around, German imprint White Train is publishing it in a special issue of Weird alongside stories by Joel Lane, Louis Marvick and Mark Valentine. In addition, Weird contains an update of a tribute to Joel Lane that I wrote for this blog in 2014. Weird is available at this link and you can also visit the websites for White Train and its sister publication Night Train to find out more.

Meanwhile the Eibonvale Press chapbook of All That is Solid has recently been reviewed by Stephen Theaker for the British Fantasy Society: “This is a compassionate and sensitive portrayal of what it has been like for our friends from the continent in recent years.”

The BFS also ran a review of Resonance & Revolt back in June. Pauline Morgan offers a perceptive account of some of the stories and themes that unite them across time and location.

“In the majority of stories, whenever and wherever they are set, characters are either engaged in revolution or have actively participated in protest in their past. It is perhaps significant than often they are older and have moved on from an idealistic youth. At the same time, many of the stories have a resonance, not just with the past of the participants but with other pasts and other stories… Most readers will find something among them that they will enjoy but don’t expect them to be conventional.”

Given that it’s been a year or two since publication, I appreciate the way the BFS highlights books that its reviewers find interesting regardless of publication date. I often read books several years after publication so why review them only when they’re hot off the presses?

In other news, a fine review of Lucifer and the Child came out on the Pretty Sinister blog.

“Ethel Mannin explores ethics, morality, faith, love, the inherent magic of the natural world and the ultimate mystery of devotion — both earthly and spiritual — and does so with stark frankness, uncensored sexuality and near mockery of convention… Lucifer and the Child uses a supernatural motif that makes one recognize that magic is ever present in the world. That the wonders of the natural world are as hypnotic as any spell or incantation chanted in a candlelit kitchen. And yet there is danger in that attractiveness and seduction of the unknown.”

The reviewer also has some kind words for the intro from yours truly: “The book includes a well researched foreword by scholar Rosanne Rabinowitz which sheds light on the novel’s re-discovery and Ethel Mannin’s fascinating life as an iconoclast and counterculture figure.”

Lucifer and the Child is also discussed in this episode of the Censored Podcast, a series that looks at books that have been banned in Ireland at one time or another.

In terms of new work, my story The Poison Girls will appear in what will undoubtedly be another beautiful Egaeus Press anthology, Bitter Distillations. Watch this space for more news! Egaeus hints at what’s to come:

“The book will comprise of eighteen sinister and intoxicating pieces courtesy of Ron Weighell, Timothy J Jarvis, Damian Murphy, Kathleen Jennings, Lisa L Hannett, George Berguño, Yarrow Paisley, Stephen J Clark, Joseph Dawson, Carina Bissett, Alison Littlewood, Rose Biggin, Jonathan Wood, Nina Antonia, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Louis Marvick, Sheryl Humphey and Jason E. Rolfe.”

And now, let’s move from poisons to pathogens… With another lockdown in force I’ve added a few more tunes to my playlist on Spotify. Recent additions include Skating Polly’s “Morning Dew” (much better than the Grateful Dead version) and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, inspired by this excellent article in the Guardian about the class content of Sabbath’s songs.

You can find the playlist here and you can also read my blog post I Wanna Dance Like We Used To on the background to some of the songs I chose. Enjoy!

Personally, this lockdown differs from the first in several respects. “Support bubbles” mean I can continue to see my partner. And just as crucial (let’s face it), I now have a cat! Her name is Arya Up – named in homage to the stabby Game of Thrones character and the late Slits singer Ari Up. You’ve seen her snuggling with my author’s copy of Weird at the top of the page. Ari has also shown a great affinity to Zadie Smith, shown by her constant cuddling with a library copy of Grand Union. I first thought it had something to do with the ribbon bookmark with a tassly bit at the end (visible on the lower left of the photo) but maybe it is about the content after all. I hope to devote a post to Ari and the part that cats have played in my life in the not-too-distant future.

As I’m posting this, it looks likely that Trump will lose the US election. It will be such a joy to see the orange squit ejected.

Yes, the struggle will still continue on altered terrain. And we also have a lot of Downfall parodies ahead of us. Here’s one to start…

Introducing Lucifer and the Child

Lucifer and Crab 4I am back with a long-overdue blog post, which begins with an exciting announcement: a lost classic of  London-based strange fiction that has figured prominently in previous posts has now been reprinted by the fabulous Swan River Press!

Yes, I’m talking about Ethel Mannin’s book Lucifer and the Child, first published in 1945. I recently discussed my research into Ethel’s life and work for The Shiftings, a tale that appeared at the end of last year in The Far Tower: Stories for WB Yeats. So I was very pleased and proud when Brian J Showers from Swan River Press asked me to introduce their reprint of Lucifer. Since my crab bell helped celebrate the launch of The Far Tower it is only fair it celebrates the launch of Lucifer – wearing a snazzy new facemask for the occasion.

Ethel Mannin’s best-selling books included fiction, journalism, short stories, travelogues, autobiography and political analysis. Born into a working-class family in South London, Mannin was a lifelong socialist, feminist and anti-fascist. She is virtually unknown today so I’m glad she is finally being rediscovered and reprinted.

Swan River Press writes about the book:

“This is the story of Jenny Flower, London slum child, who one day, on an outing to the country, meets a Dark Stranger with horns on his head. It is the first day of August — Lammas — a witches’ sabbath. Jenny was born on Hallo-we’en, and possibly descended from witches herself . . .
Once banned in Ireland by the Censorship of Publications Board, Lucifer and the Child is now available worldwide in this splendid new edition from Swan River Press featuring an introduction by Rosanne Rabinowitz and cover by Lorena Carrington.”

large_lucifer1This is the first intro that I’ve done and I found it a very enlightening experience. The form is very different to a review and it also differs from a critical essay. It was a challenge to avoid spoilers yet provide more depth than you would in a review. My introduction also appears on the Swan River website so you can read it here if you’d like to find out more about the book and its author. Here’s the page where you can order the book. Lucifer and the Child had been released on Lammas Eve, 30 April.

So why has it taken me so long to post about it? During the weeks of lockdown you’d think I’d be blogging up a storm. Instead I’ve been very distracted: struggling with deadlines, reading, listening to lots of news, trying to exercise, keeping in touch with friends through social media, zooming and listening to lots of music too. I’ve often felt like I was butterfly-stroking through treacle when I tried to get anything done.

I’ve discovered that many other writers have found that extra lockdown time hasn’t necessarily translated into more writing time. As I continue to haul proverbial ass to meet an extension of an extension of a deadline, I’ve only just realised why the protagonist in my new story keeps coming out as very disconnected from everyone. It’s because I’ve been disconnected! No shit, Sherlock.

I’ve been on my own because my partner lives in Oxford. I’ve always liked living on my own while welcoming my regular visitors. In past weeks I’ve had moments of regret for this choice, but also appreciate it when others write about the stresses of living with people they might not live with under other circumstances. I’ve been very fortunate to stay healthy, to not lose any loved ones and to be paid in full by my employer.

Like many other folks I’ve compiled a pandemic playlist on Spotify and I’ve enjoyed listening to the lists made by others – there are thousands upon thousands of them. I’ve found an amazing range of styles and moods. Some people concentrate on dance music and stuff for indoor exercising, others are dark and gothic, still others are upbeat and intended to cheer. Some songs comment on current events, others were chosen to forget and escape for a while.

I will be writing more about the songs on my list – very soon, believe it or not – and why I selected them but in the meantime have a listen to Life During Lockdown and hopefully enjoy. Here’s the song that kicked it off almost two months ago – a slice of angsty indie-ness that’s surprisingly catchy.

During this time I also wrote short reviews of two stories by Robert Shearman that are part of his 101-story three-book collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark. My two are only part of a massive cycle of reviews for each story on the Gingernuts of Horror website. Here’s an introduction to the book’s concept from PS Publishing:

“The premise is that stories always change their meaning dependent upon the order in which you read them—and as you work your way through the peculiar tunnels of We All Hear Stories in the Dark the odds against anyone else ever treading the same path as you become exponentially unlikely. Bluntly, every reader’s journey through the book will be entirely unique. You will be the only person who ever reads your version of WE ALL HEAR STORIES IN THE DARK.”

You can order the book from PS at the link above. Meanwhile, you’ll find the reviews at Gingernuts of Horror, kicked off by Jim McCleod’s introduction. At the bottom of Jim’s intro you’ll find links to four pages of reviews for all 101 stories. My reviews of The Cocktail Party in Kensington Gets Out of Hand and The Swimming Pool Party are in part 3.

Last, I’ll end with a recent review of Resonance & Revoltalong with a host of other fine books – from Terry Grimwood on theEXAGGERATED Website:

“Filled with subtlety and nuance, its narratives alive with passion, anger mingled with sympathy, empathy and gentleness, Resonance & Revolt is an intense read, sometimes difficult and ambiguous, sometimes funny and melancholy, but always rewarding.”

So if you fancy an “intense read” as the furloughed days grow longer, remember that the Kindle edition of R&R is still only 99p!