Lie down in darkness

Best Wishes

In this age of the worship of money, pointless gadgets and the lives of people who are famous for being famous, it’s especially gratifying to see the trance state that comes over folk when dolphins are spotted. They do appear from time to time in Mount’s Bay; I remember a very entertaining pair some years ago. We watched them for 45 minutes or so, leaping out of the water and doing that fantastic backwards swim that they do. We were slowly walking along the Promenade, passing people who would act as if enchanted as soon as they saw them. No one left while the display was on, no one went shopping or played with their mobile phones. It made for some very bored dogs who thought they were going for a walk but was an intense experience for the humans. Emotional, too. What is it about seeing whales or dolphins that makes us so emotional? Partly, perhaps, it’s the appearance of downright joy and freedom that these creatures have. And perhaps even the most arrogant human knows deep down that we are not the big cheeses we like to think we are. Didn’t the Romans believe that dolphins were Gods?

Last Sunday a pod of bottlenose dolphins came to visit. I only found out because a kind soul texted me about it – she’d heard it from a guide on St Michael’s Mount who saw them from the castle entrance. I could see them from my window. The sight was quite amazing, although somewhat spoilt by two morons in a speedboat nearly running into them. They were taken aside and told to back off, and I watched the pod, off and on, for some time. Lucky me. It did distract me from writing, but it was more positive than the other distractions I’ve had recently – near nightly nightmares (and not even anything I can use in my writing), stifling day time heat and another ‘stomach bug’ that might be the end of my Crohn’s remission. I’ve got away with it for a long time, so I can’t complain too much. Despite this, The Falling Man is nearly finished, ‘first drafted’ anyway. The story begins nearly at the end, if you know what I mean, and it’s slightly complicated getting it to fit, but I’ve got it worked out now. Finishing a story always feels like the words are trying to push their way through a funnel. Everything has to go in the right place and the unnecessary stuff must be weeded out and discarded – there isn’t room for it. Cross Bound is now with another editor, this time of a more straightforward fantasy magazine. I don’t think I could describe the story as anything other than dark fantasy, although the environmental theme does keep appearing in what I write. I realised during my deeply cynical teenage years that we were destroying the planet as quickly as we could manage it. Back then I thought we were going to nuke it out, but the reality will probably be far more banal.

Meanwhile, the dead young seagull on the roof is quietly decomposing. Its feathers are coming away (I’ve picked a few off the lounge floor) but there’s little other activity. It’s keeping the other gulls away, which is handy, but I’d prefer to be able to get rid of it. It still looks like a gull, though, unlike the seal pup I found on the beach, which was morphing into something else (this appears in The Ferocious Night). Less grotesque but just as death obsessed, The Unthanks will be back in Cornwall in December, doing their Robert Wyatt and Antony and the Johnsons sets. Much as I hate the drive to Falmouth, they’re bound to be amazing. One to think about.

Leys: “hokum”?

I don’t actually  believe that at all, but there seems to be a lot of folk rubbishing the theory these days. Of course, there’s tons of writing on the subject, some of which I’ve been dipping  in to, as well as getting through The Old Straight Track, Alfred Watkins’ 1920s book on leys. I agreed with the principle of energy lines, but it only really made sense to me when I read some of Hamish Miller’s guide, The Sun and the Serpent. He followed the biggest ley in Britain, which starts near here just off the Land’s End and ends in East Anglia. He found a curved line of energy like a serpent that linked the same places as the ‘straight track’ does. I’ve got no evidence to support my faith in this except having been to a few of the areas mentioned (St Michael’s Mount, The Cheesewring, The Hurlers, Lydford) and feeling the energy there. A local dowser has talked recently of being on the Mount and finding lots and lots of ley energy there. There, like many of these places, are uphill – I don’t do uphill very well, but walking up to the top of the Mount, like walking up to The Cheesewring, fills me with a great sense of more. And the energy to smile while I’m doing it. Angela Evans, who owned Pengersick Castle for many years until her death, spoke of walking down the great (stone) circular staircase there, with her arms outstretched to touch the walls as she went. It always cured her aches and pains. I certainly use them to help me write. And after the experiences I’ve had it’s something I want to look into more.

The Falling Man falls into place

The writing is going well, has been going strangely well for some months now. I feel a need to Get Things Done. A tightened up and revamped Cross Bound is ready to send out again, but it’s still over 12,000 words long and that’s too long for many magazines, which is especially frustrating when there are a couple of editors who want me to send them stories. Saying that, I do have a couple of older stories that are somewhat shorter. They were good ideas that didn’t quite flow, but with some re-writing they should be up to scratch.

Yesterday was a very good writing day. I wanted to get a real grip on The Falling Man, and when I put on Musick To Play In The Dark Vol 2 it put me in just the right place to get the atmosphere I want for the story – gothic and… altered, without being hammy, I suppose. And it’s important to convey the setting in all its majesty – I did spend a lot of my London life hanging around in cemeteries, even living opposite Kensal Green cemetery for several years, in what was once a stonemason’s workshop. The place was hideous, but the location couldn’t be faulted. I toured the crypt at Kensal Green more than once and would have loved to have done some photography there. Part of God’s Favourite Creatures (Kimota Anthology) is set there and the ‘babylands section’, full of tiny children’s coffins, features in The Fourth World/Heaven’s Cartographer, which was published in Psychotrope magazine many, many years ago.

Kensal Green Cemetery

As for the title of the new story, it comes from several sources. It was the title of a photograph of a man who jumped from the World Trade Centre. A man who had no choice but to descend into somewhere terrible, from somewhere terrible. It best describes the dilemma of the protagonist in my piece of fiction. Is that tasteless? Inappropriate? It’s not meant to be. I remember seeing the attacks online, the appalling plight of the people on the floors above the crash who had to jump or be burned alive. Symbolically, destroying the twin towers was incredibly powerful. But murder just isn’t.

Photo from Kensal Green Cemetery’s website.

Another refugee from Myspace finds a home

A few blog posts from M*****e that I wanted to save:

6 Jul 2011: Writing Update/Scatter My Ashes Around A Stone Circle

Cross Bound has been undergoing a transformation. I was happy with the story to a reasonable extent, but after hearing a constructive, objective view I could see that it needed some work. So, to a soundtrack that includes Lustmord’s The Monstrous Soul and the mind-bending Queens of the Circulating Library by Coil, I have been pushed to think further, to take a few leaps of imagination and vastly improve the story, I think. As always, the wild Cornish weather makes a difference to what frame of mind I’m in: the wind has been buffeting my little attic, and the music is calming but induces all kinds of thoughts. It’s like not being in the world as I usually know it at all. Escape or just a different state of mind? Or both? It’s a similar feeling to Monday’s visit to Chapel Carn Brea, a sacred site near Land’s End. Some of the stones there are supposed to be a gateway to the Otherworld. The whole hill is amazing and enhanced by the house nearby, which has a huge and beautiful painting of a dragon on one side. A very special place.

3 June 2011: Jhonn Balance Memorial/Writing Update

Finally, after a ludicrous amount of search engine time, I’ve found artist Ian Johnstone’s website. Johnstone was Jhonn Balance’s partner at the time of Balance’s death and collaborated with them on various projects, including the cover to the Ape of Naples album. More than that, he seems like a really interesting bloke and chose the place where Balance’s memorial woodland will be. I’m planning a trip there, possibly not for a year or so, but it feels necessary.

The Kzine [which has accepted a story of mine] website is shaping up. It might be much later in the year when the first issue arrives, but the artwork is looking good. And now my other current stories have been finished, I can concentrate fully on The Falling Man. I’m very pleased with it so far, and it’s quite different in that the central character is male. It’s right for this story. I won’t call it a short story because it’s already over 6,000 words long. I think novelettes are just what I’m meant to do.

5 May 2011: Writing Update: ‘The World Beneath’ Sees The Light of Day

Cover of Darkness, the horror anthology from Sam’s Dot Publishing, is now out, with The World Beneath included in its large array of stories. It’s even listed on the front cover. A first, I think. I’m very pleased to see it – this was one of the stories I wrote some time ago when I lived in London and hadn’t really sent it out to editors. The tightening up has turned it into a good story, I think. It’s based on some of London’s sleazier places.

Meanwhile, I’ve barely written more than a couple of paragraphs in the last ten days due to being laid low by flu. I’m getting better now, though, and will probably take The Falling Man away with me to the Isles of Scilly when I go there next week. The islands are jammed full of cairns, entrance graves and assorted sacred sites. It will put my head into a different space so who knows what it’ll do to the story. The other tool I’ve used recently is Salt Marie Celeste by Nurse With Wound. The album is a reworking of the backdrop to an exhibition by Stephen Stapleton and David Tibet at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury in 2002, which I went to a couple of times. The whole thing was fascinating, including the gallery itself, which really used to be a horse hospital. It’s one of the few things I miss about London. Oh, and I’m talking to the local BBC radio station about a possible interview. More if/when that progresses.

And to Poly Styrene – enjoy those higher places that you’ve gone to. Your loss is greatly felt here.

14 Apr 2011: Writing Update/More Astral Dreaming/The Ape of Naples

First of all, Cross Bound has been sharpened up and is nearly ready to send to a lucky editor. I’ve started on another new story, The Falling Man, which is going well. To base a story around the great London cemeteries is quite a pleasure. For many years I lived opposite one of them and it was an awe inspiring place, a true city of the dead. At this stage I can’t say how long it will turn out to be, but it’s nearly 3,000 words now and there’s plenty more to go. Meanwhile, in dreamland, I need to check out some information I got in an e-mail that relates to the dream I had about Saturn. A few nights later I (dreamt I) was on a stone bridge over a stream, at night time at the edge of the world. In front of me, two massive spheres took up the horizon – on the left was the Sun, next to it Mars. Magma floated in the air, so hot it lit up in beautiful multicolour. Later, I walked along streets covered in cooling magma that had turned white. It was still night time.

I’ve finally heard Coil’s last album, The Ape of Naples. At first listen three of the tracks stand out – Fire Of The Mind, Tattooed Man and Going Up. Fire especially sounds like a man struggling in his death throes. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Sleazy to complete the album. I’ll try listening to it again, but it’s terribly sad and I don’t know whether I can. Then again, if he could finish it, the least I can do is listen to it.

24 Mar 2011: Writing Update/Astral Dreaming

Cross Bound is getting there at last, although it’s now 13,000 words long (as predicted) and, since I think one of the characters needs a bit of sharpening up, it’s going to finish above that amount. I’ve done a bit of cutting some unnecessary bits and pieces out, but the whole of the story needs to be told, so major cuts are not an option. There’s some eco-awareness in the story, but mostly it’s about one of Britain’s (England’s, to be more exact) more shameful chapters coming back to haunt us. Once it’s finished, I want to have a look at one, perhaps two old stories that were never properly completed and submitted anywhere. And then it’s time to get going on more new stuff.

A few nights ago I dreamt I was looking up at the night sky. The moon was full and absolutely huge. Next to it, equal in size, was Saturn. Its rings were made, not of dust, but of a metal tube, with bizarre designs on it. The rest of the sky was crammed full of incredibly bright stars. It was one of those amazing super-dreams that almost make up for the horrific nightmares I usually have. One of those dreams where I woke up wondering whether I’d done some travelling during the night.

8 Mar 2011: Writing Update: Kimota on Kindle

The Kimota Anthology is now available from Amazon. I don’t know if there are graphics inside but the cover certainly looks good, and you get a hell of a lot of stories for your £1.71. I’ve had a quick skim through my contributor’s copy, and it seems to read okay, but I’ll proof read it properly over the next day or two. I’ll also be submitting The Ferocious Night to Aeon Press’ Box of Delights horror anthology this week.

8 Mar 2011: Unkle Sleazy Crosses The Threshold

My Internet connection’s been weird for a while, so I’ve been unable to post a message of condolence on the Threshold House website for Peter Christopherson, who died on 25 November, so here it is: so sad to hear of your passing, Sleazy. Your music has been the inspiration and backdrop for my writing for over twenty years. Thank you so much. Blessed Be.

His passing at such a young age (55), along with fellow Coil activist Jhonn Balance (42) is one of those things I wonder about. Fate? Were they both doomed to short stays here? Who knows. All I can say is that the world is a quieter, sadder place now.

25 Oct 2010:Story Accepted! And Wise Words From Genesis P-Orridge

Much excitement just now when I read an email from Tyree Campbell, accepting The World Beneath for the May 2011 magazine Cover of Darkness. Looks like it’s an issue specially dedicated to darker fiction. Go to http://www.samsdotpublishing.com for info. I am buzzing! Meanwhile, I have also managed to download a couple of PTV tracks and Coil’s Scatology. This isn’t available from Peter Christopherson or Threshold House, only on cd from greedy individuals making a fortune out of Jhonn Balance’s death. So what I’ve done is, as payment for the download and to thank Balance and Coil for their amazing and endlessly inspiring work, is make a donation to the Balance woodland memorial. Donations are payable until December, so go for it.

In the Hayward Annual 1979 there’s an interview with Genesis P-Orridge, then of Throbbing Gristle/Coum, where he talks about how he never worked alone and that to do so is arrogant and unrealistic. Other people, he said, provide ideas and interaction and are essential for any art. I started by disagreeing with this; part of the reason I write is in order to work in isolation – I used to be a musician and found working with other people impossible in the end. Perhaps Gen would say that I was simply working with the wrong people. And there could well be some truth in that. It’s a similar dilemma to the one I had when I first began describing myself as a Pagan. Could I do that whilst at the same time wanting as little to do with the human race as possible? How could that provide the balance Pagans often speak of? I still don’t have a full answer to that question, apart from the notion that the human race has sidestepped and turned its back on nature so much that we aren’t a part of it any more and don’t deserve to be (although some people are becoming a bit more enlightened and are changing a little in that respect). I feel a great connection with the sacred sites I often visit, but there are a lot of things going on in those places; the human element is just one of them. But, as far as writing goes, I don’t actually work in complete isolation. I don’t collaborate as such on fiction but many, many things influence me. Most stories come about as a result of events or dreams (which I believe can be much the same thing), certainly as a result of interaction with many things. And part of the reason I’m on Myspace is to try and connect with other writers of dark fiction (not that I’m getting very far with that, but I think that’s mostly down to my ineptitude on the site and the Internet in general). So, yes, input from other humans is important. Just at a distance.