So, voluntary self-isolation becomes a mandatory lock-down.
Plenty of people have been discussing relevant films, TV shows and literature that deal with pandemics, deadly diseases and the like. GIFs from Shaun of the Dead, and all the other zombie movies, fill my timeline.
As for me, I have found that my mind keeps wandering back to three books I read in recent years, which all include moments of apocalyptic lock-down.
I’m delighted to have a story featured in the anthology We Need to Talk, launched yesterday. The publisher is Jurassic London—here’s the blurb from their website:
All of us, at some point, are involved in difficult conversations. Whether that’s tough talks with clients or bosses, or break-ups, or coming out, or telling someone you love them, or giving advice to that friend who just doesn’t want to hear it. Some conversations are even more difficult, as sufferers of any potentially serious illness will know.
But one thing’s for sure, these conversations are fascinating. So much so that we’ve teamed up with Kindred and The Eve Appeal, to launch a writing competition on the theme of difficult conversations.
I’m delighted and honoured to have been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, for my novella The Good Shabti, published by Jurassic London. However, there are four good reasons why I probably won’t win.
The first reason is the Ceremony of Flies by Kate Jonez (DarkFuse). Our protagonist, who calls herself Emily, is an unreliable cocktail waitress, an unreliable road-trip buddy and definitely an unreliable narrator. We meet her serving drinks in a Las Vegas casino, but before long she is on the run in a 1971 Pontiac Convertible, driven by an equally dubious gambler named Rex. Their journey takes them from the bright lights of Sin City, via suburban Barstow, to ever more remote and decaying locales, until she arrives at what might just be the end of the world.
Jonez’s parched descriptions of this doomed trajectory are fantastic. There are Joshua Trees and Stucco churches, and flies everywhere. The soaring temperature is evoked so well I thought my Kindle might overheat. And there is no let up—Every apparent relief, every opportunity for a cool breeze or a quenching of thirst, is just a further heightening of the characters desperate plight. Is this Emily’s personal hell for the many crimes she has committed? Or some wider vengeance? Continue reading “Four reasons why I probably won’t win the Shirley Jackson Award”
My bit begins at around 16 minutes into the show, but that really shouldn’t stop you listening to Ed and his co-hosts Ninfa Hayes and A.L. Johnson chatting about tea and reviewing a whole lot of genre literature.
Something I have always found inspiring is the short acceptance speech made by Steven Soderberg in 2001, when he collected an Oscar for directing Traffic.
What I want to say is, I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if its a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theatre, a piece of music… anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us, I think this world would be unlivable without art, and I thank you…
As is my wont, I made a book to illustrate this. Physical objects are useful props in debates like this: immediately illustrative, and useful to hang an argument and peoples’ attention on.
James Bridle is probably best known as the artist who first articulated ‘The New Aesthetic‘, but he has run many projects on books and technology. His project ‘The Iraq War‘ is a favourite of mine – the entire Wikipedia Edit History of the ‘Iraq War’ article, from 2005-2009, which stretches to twelve volumes. He’s also the creator of a Book of Tweets.
James’ projects are the inspiration of one of my own – The Defamation Act 2013: Complete & Unabridged. It collects together, in chronological order, every single parliamentary document published during the passage of the recent reform of our libel law. These include the various versions of the Bill (which I have previously published in a spliced together version, ‘Tracked Changes in the Defamation Bill‘), the parliamentary Hansard transcripts of the debates; and the amendment papers. Continue reading “The Defamation Act 2013: Complete & Unabridged”
Who drives our culture? Conventional wisdom says it is Hollywood. After all, it is the ﬁlm industry that produces the most highly paid artistes and the most visible ‘A listers’. Film is a visual medium and it churns out icons at a steady, lucrative rate. The four-hour Oscars telecast is beamed live around the world.
By contrast, the announcement of the Man Booker Prize does not even get its own TV slot in schedules. The announcement is allowed to interrupt the news broadcasts, but the analysis and reactions are made to wait until a scheduled bulletin and it’s never the lead story.
This week I was at The Kitschies, a set of awards for “progressive, intelligent and entertaining genre literature.” Its creators, Jared and Anne of the Pornokitsch website and Pandaemonium Fiction (my publishers, no less) rightly eschew the word ‘best’ when giving the awards. ‘Best’ is a devalued term in when it comes to awards, as implies an objectivity that a judging panel cannot possibly hope to achieve.
The winner of the Red Tentacle award for a novel was Nick Harkaway for his book Angelmaker. On his blog, Nick has posted a long article on what he thinks ‘progressive’ might mean in terms of fiction in general, and sci-fi/fantasy genre literature in particular. He says that such progressive fiction “It is a fiction which connects the inner human future with everything it must have around it, and recognises that the two develop together.”
More on the trend towards the digitisation of books and what that means for culture, politics and society… this time, from George Orwell.
Given a good pitch and the right amount of capital, any educated person ought to be able to make a small secure living out of a bookshop…. Also it is a humane trade which is not capable of being vulgarized beyond a certain point. The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman.
Orwell did not forsee the rise of the Amazon behemoth! Nevertheless, his 1936 essay ‘Bookshop Memories’ is still relevant today (indeed, one might argue that Orwell’s nack for remaining relevant is the source of his greatness). Our current appeals to tactility-as-a-virtue are there, alongside concerns that the public generally has a taste for low-brow thriillers and romances, rather than classics from the canon.
Elsewhere, he mentions the fact that bookshops were also lending libraries. In this, I wonder if there is a parallel with Amazon? Since the early days of the Kindle, we have known that books one ‘buys’ for the machine are actually just licenced. Three years ago, Amazon remotely deleted all copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four from Kindle devices, a manoever that was at once horrifying and hilarious. Last month, a Norwegian woman was declared a persona non grata by the company, and all her purchases were deleted from her device without warning. Continue reading “On Borrowing and Buying e-Books”