Waking the witch

Votive And Spiderweb

I’ve spent some time reading The Occult by Colin Wilson and it’s been reassuring to find that most of the beliefs I’ve had over many years are or have been shared by various peoples over time. No surprise that most of them are from outside Europe – my own experience is of dismissive or condescending attitudes towards beliefs that can’t be backed up by scientific experiments (except for Christianity of course, although the existence of more than one Universe has recently almost been proved by A Man In A Laboratory and is therefore more worthy of being taken seriously). I’ve learnt to be cautious: the possibility of astral travel via dreaming, for instance, is something I’d never even spoken to anyone about due to the closed minds of most people. This doesn’t mean I won’t be exploring such things in future stories – the only safe place I felt I had – but it’s occurred to me that I’m living in the wrong part of the world as far as belief systems go. However, the far west of Britain – Cornwall, Dartmoor or Cumbria – is where I feel centred. It’s where I’m meant to be now, so I can’t see myself leaving. I’ve had a bit more contact recently with writers via the Internet, which has been doing me good, so I don’t see why I can’t make contact with others of a more similar spiritual nature.

After what seems like endless re-writes over several weeks, my two latest short stories – Scar Tissue and Perihelion – are close enough to being finished to be put aside for at least a few days so I can read them more objectively and, hopefully, make final adjustments. Perihelion will probably get (another) new title – In Holes and Corners – as it rests more comfortably with the story. Sometimes several title changes are needed, although I’m finding these days that a simple phrase or word can be enough to inspire an entire story and it will therefore begin with the title. Inevitably, I’ve been hearing a lot of Kate Bush every time I turn the radio on and from my own collection Ariel has again been forming a good backdrop for writing.

I came from dust, I shall return to dust

Penzance graveyard

From The Bones is now in its third draft and becoming more cohesive. The changes I’d needed to make to the story – altering a character’s gender for some balance and the addition of a hint of the central idea of the story early on (it not being the type of tale that needs a major twist at the end, more a slow revelation) – are helping to make it what it’s meant to be. Isn’t that the meaning of ‘good art’? To get across to the reader the point of it all; they may not like what that point is, but if it’s there, then the job is done. One of the points of the story, the source of conflict, perhaps, is the clash of science and academia against spiritual beliefs and fairy tales (many of which may have their roots in real events anyway). This has been done, no doubt, in many stories (M R James’ O Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad springs immediately to mind) but I’m approaching this from a different angle, I think: science and spirituality can happily coexist. The more I learn about the Universe, for instance, the more weight my spiritual interests (such as in Cosmic Geomancy) seem to hold. But the other question that From The Bones intends to ask is the one that archaeology always brings up for me: what gives us the right to dig up ancient graves and burial places, to steal bones and grave goods? It’s the same discomfort I feel when I see birds, seals and polar bears trapped or sedated and tagged. It’s always claimed to be about extending knowledge and, with the latter especially, about conservation issues, but the human obsession with interfering grates, to say the least. And who knows what consequences there may be?

For the first time that I can remember, I have no stories being read or considered by editors. There are various reasons for this – one story is over 14,000 words long and so too big for most magazines and anthologies, another is waiting for submissions to open for a new horror anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow, and (in an update to the above) From The Bones may actually be finished but I need to put it aside for a while before I’m sure – but it’s an odd situation to be in. Not unpleasant, I’d add; a pause in waiting for responses is not a bad thing and perhaps helping me ensure that I’m writing for myself. Publication – the possible pleasing of other people (and I do want people to like and appreciate my work) – should always come second to being true to what I’m doing.

In other news, I happened to mention on another website (Bristol-based, for Queers, Drag Queens/Kings and general weirdos) that I’d seen the documentary She’s Real, Worse Than Queer, directed by Lucy Thane, a British woman living in San Francisco in the mid-1990s, and that I had some involvement in the London Queercore scene. The website has expressed interest in doing an interview with me, so I’ll be putting some notes together about that time. Luckily it’s a period that I have a lot of documentation on and I knew and interviewed a fair few of the major players, some more than once. It would be good to pull these things together and pass these stories – our history – on, so I’m looking forward to the interview.

Three rings of atoms: writing update

Chun Quoit

I have it! I have the book.

I finally got hold of Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker but have allowed myself only to read one page. It has a smattering of humour but no trace of whimsy – yet. I’m halfway through Daughters of Fire and must finish it. It’s very different to the fiction I usually read (and any fiction is different to what I usually read). I’d say it was lighter, but much of it concerns pre-Roman Britain and some very spiritual stuff concerning Celtic beliefs regarding death and the soul. So perhaps the style is lighter (and therefore much more commercially successful) but the subject matter is not. It seems Barbara Erskine experienced quite a spiritual awakening while she was researching/writing it. I haven’t interviewed anyone for years now but if she were to visit Cornwall I think I’d make an exception and join the queue on the phone line to her agent.

After a couple of days away from Everything amongst the sand dunes on the other side of the peninsular, I’m organising myself to hopefully continue the momentum that’s built up over this year. I’m almost finished on a final run through of The Falling Man – more tweaking than I thought still to do – because I want to get it out to a magazine this week. My newest story, Pieces, is changing as I write it. Not in the general premise, but some of the detail needs to be more… apocalyptic. Blame the presence of a new Barker book in the house for that, plus Coil’s Winter Solstice: North continually playing in the background. And after some thought and encouragement from various people, I’m going to start work on part 2 of the Darkworlds story (currently on this website’s ‘Short Story’ section). My life is very different to when I began writing the original, so I’m not totally convinced of how successful it will be, but it feel like the right thing to do to try.

And how is Kzine faring, I wonder? I have no idea how popular Kindle is, either with writers or readers. The price of buying the magazine is certainly extremely good value although I notice version two of Kindle is already available.

A look at the outside world has me remembering some of the things that I miss about London. Strange events happen here but we don’t have Daniel O’Sullivan leading a procession of bricks made by Serena Korda out of the dust of dead folk. This is just the kind of thing I’d have gone to were I still ‘living’ there. And I’m not sure where he’s currently located (Spain, perhaps?) but Ian Johnstone is doing new work and performances. I dearly wish I could be present at something of his.