Posts

Showing posts from 2013

Trust Me, I'm The Doctor...

Image
Forget any other news reports you may have seen this week. As we approach Saturday, 23 November, there's one news item that's slowly, insidiously taking over the public consciousness. Sure, it's the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy... but it's also the anniversary of the very first episode of Doctor Who . You can't say you hadn't noticed. Fifty years deserves to be a milestone of epic proportions for a TV show. Not only has Doctor Who been running for longer than most of its viewers have been alive, but it's gradually worked its way into British culture. Even those who don't know their 4th Doctor from their 8th can tell you what a Dalek looks like, or the Tardis. At some point Doctor Who stopped just being a TV show - it became an institution. My essay Lost in Time and Space: Growing Old with Doctor Who (readable online at The Weeklings ) looks at the programme's phenomenal history, and also revisits one of its classi

The Horror, The Horror...

Image
I've never thought of myself as a horror writer. I've tried my hand at many genres over the years - crime, fantasy, science fiction - but never horror. Until now. There must be something about being a Dad that makes life just that little bit more scary. In the last month I've had two new short stories published, in two different publications - and each is, in some way, a work of horror fiction. I've never been into supernatural tales, so you won't find any ghosts or ghouls. At least not the traditional kind. There aren't any witches either, or vampires, or werewolves. There aren't even any zombies. 'Suffer No More' appears in the inaugural issue of Hellfire Crossroads , a new magazine started by Trevor Denyer. Trevor gave me some of my earliest publishing credits with The Third Alternative back in the 90s, so it felt only right that I should repay the favour with a story for his latest project. Hellfire Crossroads advertises itself as "

Thanks, Son

Image
It's been a while since I've posted anything new on here. Life got away from me once again, sapping both my energy and my time, pulling me into its relentless flow. I guess that's what being a Dad is all about. It may come as a surprise to hear that I still occasionally find time to write, however. Maybe I can't clock up the word counts I used to pre-fatherhood, but I still know how to put pen on paper (or finger on iPad touchscreen, at least). That's why I decided to write a short piece for The Good Men Project's One Month of Thankfulness series. Because, at the end of the day, I find I'm still thankful for every tiny opportunity that comes my way. You can read my piece here: ' A Month of Thankfulness: Jacob, My Son '. In it I'm thankful for beer, and for nights out, and for peace and quiet. And all the other things I struggle to find any more. Oh, and for Jacob. Thanks, son.

London, Litro and the Expat Experience

Image
In the last six months my life has undergone a major upheaval. I've moved away from the Pacific Northwest and returned to England - specifically, the London suburbs where I grew up. The move generated hundreds of cardboard boxes (many of which are still clogging our garage), more than a few broken or missing items, and a general feeling of unease. Luckily not everything associated with it was so negative. Since returning to London I have been appointed Non-Fiction Editor for literary website Litro.co.uk , a role that I'm already enjoying. Which brings me to my point: we need your essays. We're aiming to publish one non-fiction essay every Saturday, so we need a constant flow of high-quality writing. We're open to travel writing, memoir, personal essays, experimental non-fiction... If it's interesting and well-written, we'd love to take a look at it. The upper word limit is 2000 - but if it blows us away, we may forget that temporarily. You can submit your essa

Oh My Golly! The Pixies, The Weeklings, and a site called Salon

Image
"Yo soy playero pero no hay playa / Oh my golly! / Bien perdida la surfer rosa / Oh my golly!" For the last week I've been humming the Pixies' 'Oh My Golly!' to myself. Never mind the X-rated translation. Why? Literary website The Weeklings published my essay Echoes From The Planet Of Sound a couple of weeks ago, and I can't stop buzzing. The essay is one of my most personal projects, a recollection of a seminal Pixies concert at Crystal Palace Bowl, and the various repercussions it's had throughout my life. It's an attempt at a different kind of music journalism, one that embraces the subjective and the personal rather than the objective. But my excitement didn't stop there. Shortly after its publication on The Weeklings , Echoes... was picked up by Salon . Yes, that Salon . The sprawling, hugely popular arts and culture behemoth. Okay, so they renamed it. And yes, for reasons known only to them they renamed it The Pixies Blew My Mi

Words and Music

Image
As a writer, you're always asked where you get your ideas from. The question has become such a cliche that it's incredible how often we're still asked - but people want to know. They really want to know. Usually there isn't a simple answer. Stories often spring out of nowhere, or string themselves together from ten or twenty different sources. An anecdote you heard, a book you read, a person you saw at the train station. That really strong cup of coffee you downed that morning. In the case of my story 'Not The End Of The World' (recently published in The Portland Review ), the answer is far simpler than that. For once there's a definite starting point for the words on the page, a source from which the rest flowed. It wasn't a book, or an experience. It wasn't even a person. It was 'We Used To Wait', from Arcade Fire's album The Suburbs . To cite a single song as the inspiration for a 5000 word story sounds simplistic, but in thi

From Fife to Syaung-un: a Personal Remembrance of Iain Banks

Image
It's hard to know how to write this; it's hard to even know where to begin. The tributes and obituaries have already been flowing from thousands of pens, as writers and readers across the country remember Iain M. Banks following the announcement of his death yesterday. To that chorus I will add my own sorrow and sense of loss. There are few authors I have followed as closely as Iain Banks, and few that I have held as close to my heart. Not every novel was perfect, but each seemed to make the world a little wider, and the act of reading filled with a little more wonder. His wit and his wisdom will be missed in equal measure. I was lucky to have crossed paths with Iain on a number of occasions. My university dissertation was on the perception and representation of 'Scottishness' (that slippery, nationalistic cliche) in Banks' works, a decision spurred by my love of and admiration for The Wasp Factory . As part of that dissertation Iain was kind enough to answer

Back From The Dead: Interviews with Dan Rhodes and Scarlett Thomas

Image
If you've ever published online content, you'll know that one of the great things about it is that it sticks around... potentially forever. Sometimes you don't want those photos from a party in 2002 resurfacing, but for Internet writers everywhere it's reassuring to know that their work has a longer shelf life than your average mid-list novel. All that hard work hasn't gone to waste. Except, of course, when the unthinkable happens. While the Internet may seem to be an ethereal, magical place, surviving on dreams and desire, in reality it resides in servers. Physical, mechanical servers. That often go wrong. Last year that's exactly what happened to respected underground literary magazine 3:AM . Overnight they appeared to lose 12 years of archived material , including original fiction, reviews, essays - and my interviews with Dan Rhodes and Scarlett Thomas. The interviews were old enough that my backups had long since been lost, so it appeared that they ha

Who's the Daddy?

Image
Becoming a father has meant some big changes to my career, and my daily work schedule. No more leisurely mornings playing Mass Effect on the Xbox with a bag of kettle corn and a pot of strong coffee; no more seeking inspiration in movie marathons and back-to-back TV shows; no more indulgent writing sessions that last half a day as the words pour onto the page. These days I'm lucky if I can squeeze in two straight hours at the laptop. While the wee man sleeps I have to somehow discover the most productive hours of my day - or watch that tiny sliver of free time disappear without a word being written. At the same time, however, fatherhood has brought a new perspective on life, and a new professionalism that asks - no, demands - that I learn to stop wasting time and knuckle down to do the hard graft (and the hard drafts) whenever and wherever I can. I've learned to write on the iPad a few sentences at a time, to jot down every inkling of an idea before it disappears foreve

Madness? This is Sparta!

Image
Just a quick note this time. My short story ' Mapreading ' is online now, in the latest issue of Spartan . The story is about paint, sperm, Brad Paisley, maps, and learning to be a father. It is also pretty short. Much like this blog post. The end. 'Mapreading' can be read here , on the Spartan website. Spartan is a literary journal based in Seattle, Washington, with the motto "Minimalist Prose. No Strays." It is also full of awesome - in a minimalist sort of way.

Letter from America: Notes on 'Man Overboard'

Image
Occasionally I like to post notes on my short stories on this blog. Think of them as footnotes to the published work, a bonus 'Making Of' featurette. I find it helps clear my mind of the clutter that has built up around the original idea. You might even find them interesting. 'Man Overboard' started as nothing grander than a call for stories from Gutter , the Scottish journal of new writing. A friend had recently been published by them, and I liked the look and the ethos of the magazine. A visit to their website told me that they wanted stories about what it meant to be Scottish, and especially the experience of Scots living overseas. My interest was immediately piqued. I could write that. The story first came to me while staring out across the waters from our house in Gig Harbor, Washington. We were living there at the time, three years into an overseas assignment that had brought my wife and I to America. It made sense to write about the scenery I saw in front o

'Ka Mate' eBook FREE for Waitangi Day

Image
Yes, you read that right - this blog post is all about getting FREE stuff. Everyone likes free things, right? That's what I thought. February 6th is Waitangi Day, the Kiwi holiday celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and the birth of modern New Zealand. To celebrate, the Kindle ebook of my travel memoir Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand will be free from midnight on February 5th through February 7th (all times are Pacific Time). If you haven't already read it, now's the chance to get your hands on a copy gratis . If you have read it... well, tell everyone you know. Everybody likes FREE stuff, remember? Just visit Amazon to 'buy' the ebook, and you'll find that they're asking for exactly none of your hard-earned cash in exchange. Remember that this giveaway is only running for three days, however - so do it NOW. Click here to download the book in the UK. Click here to download the book in the USA. Here's a passage from

Of Monkeys and Bicycles

Image
If you've been following my Twitter feed (or have friended me on Facebook) you'll know that I have a new gig. At the end of last year I started writing book reviews for esteemed literary journal Monkeybicycle , and there are now enough online to make it worth shouting about. If you're not familiar with Monkeybicycle , check out their online content while you're at it, and consider buying a copy of the print journal too. It's been running since 2002, so it's here to stay. Previous contributors have included the likes of Steve Almond, Ryan Boudinot, Sarah Silverman, J. Robert Lennon and Patton Oswalt, so I'm in fine company. My reviews to date on the Monkeybicycle site are as follows. I'll try to update this as more are published: Book Review: Percival Everett by Virgil Russell by Percival Everett Book Review: The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski Book Review: Spectacle by Susan Steinberg Book Review: Building Stories by Chris Ware Boo