Back in 2011 I was asked to write a piece for the inaugural edition of Rong Wrong – a literary magazine on the nature of language. I never received a copy and recently noticed the web site’s gone offline. One can only hazard that any viewing is now confined to the shelves and drawers of those who brought a copy.
nthposition — the very fine online literary site — decided that they would like to publish it in the absence of other outlets.
Read it at www.nthposition.com/thepocket.php
My tiny fiction “Emigration” miraculously reappeared on the front page of Six Sentences this Monday.
If you haven’t read it before this could be an omen, it’s very short, it wont take long.
Head over to…
I have further stories (not available online) in Vol 2 and Vol 3 of the 6S print anthologies
I’m delighted to announce that The Pygmy Giant have published my tiny fiction ‘A Clean Mind’…
The Pygmy Giant ought to receive a round of applause for actively supporting UK writers, I had this story turned down by a stateside litzine for to being too Anglicised and was even refered to as ‘British Julian’. Hoping it speaks a universal language, but not a global truth.
I stole the Brillo picture from Mr Warhol who scrubbed up nice I hear.
This Zine Will Change Your Life is one of my favourite bi-weekly stop-offs, a super sharp shot of strong fiction to slug back with a morning expresso.
I rate it enough to buy a copy of ‘Radiant days’ by Michael A Fitzgerald solely on their recommendation (so it better be good boys). Can you imagine my joy when I heard that they are publishing my tiny fiction ‘Hamam’. There might even have been a funny little celebratory dance.
Grab a towel and read it at
The husband and wife team who make sweet words together… maybe not make but keep cosy under a shared cover, for my tiny fiction ‘Wooden Heart’ has been accepted for publication in the third volume of Six Sentences short stories, alongside my spouses debut ‘Reward Card’: two tales of six sentences which along with this announcement sharper readers will realise totals a Baker’s dozen.
Scarecrow is a litzine occasionally published by Lee Rouke. He’s a busy man, also being editor at 3AM, literary reviewer at The Guardian, author of two books ‘Everyday’ and ‘The Canal’, blogger, with his stories appearing on several other sites.
The infrequent arrival of new writing is hardly surprising then, but what he does post is always superb, my favourites are there: Tom McCarthy, Chris McKillen, Will Ashon, along with great work from Stuart Evers and neo-noir writer Tony O’Neill.
So I am rather humbled and taken aback that three of my tiny fictions have just been published there. Thank you Mr Scarecrow.
Note to self: when an editor requests a photograph, think carefully about which one you send, and don’t expect them to resize or use Photoshop.
My tiny fiction ‘Atisshoo’ has been published by Ink, Sweat and Tears
Charles Christian started I,S&T to fill a gap in what he saw as a union between poetry and prose, a gap that in the five years it has been publishing he has helped fill considerably. Kudos to those who home the misfits, my gratitude and admiration goes to him.
Head on over to matchbookstory.blogspot.com to read it. There is a touch of absurdity in this post probably being longer than the actual story…
It is common practice for literary journals to request previously published stories are not submitted.
I think I have found a quandary of the digital age: what happens when a story is accepted and published by a very fine litzine (Insolent Rudder in this case) but then the online only publication goes out of pixel (for one can’t say print?).
Unlike a story that had been printed in traditional media, where copies would still be around even when the publisher were not, in the digital realm that story has ceased to exist, it has been unpublished.
Does it then still count as previously published if no-one can point to a copy?
(It is not lost like a fabled masterpiece, for I still have a copy. Although, since I wrote it I know what happens, there’s little point in my reading it.)
What is the etiquette for missing stories?
I asked him what film he used to get such tones in his photographs. How they looked as if they belonged to another era.
“Well,” he said, “you know about homeopathy? You know, those pills that retain some microscopic measure of the poison, maybe not even that. They say that you can build immunity by swallowing very low doses of a poison and slowly building up the dose. With these pills the toxin is so diluted that it doesn’t really exist. You can’t touch these pills before swallowing them otherwise you’ll taint their power. They call it the memory of water…”
“People scoff, but there’s quite a lot science doesn’t explain yet. Light for instance, they can tell you that it’s both a particle and a wave but they can’t tell why or how. They say light lives forever, traveling from one end of the universe to the other, dead stars still blinking at us in the sky.”
“Light is like those little sugar pills, the memory of light, those particles pick up a little of what’s around as they pass through, and as they travel on, the friction of history brushes it off with fresh stuff getting stuck to them all the while. If you stood on Pluto you could watch television from a week a go, all those programs incessantly chatting away to themselves across the luminiferous aether.”
“Now, what I do, and I shouldn’t be really be telling you this, is rummage through antique and junk shops looking for old cameras. Searching for something in particular mind you, not any old camera, and not some specific make or model. What I need to find is one with a good patina of dirt on it, dust and fluff all jammed in the crevices and dials. Shows me it hasn’t been opened up in along time. I clean them up well, never tempted to open up the back and take a peek inside. Cameras being light tight means all the dirt and grime is on the outside of the lens and they polish up sweet.”
“Until it’s time to load the film that is. I use any photographic stock, doesn’t matter. What is important, what really counts is the loading. I use my own blackout bag, squash all the air I can out of it, just to make sure. Then load the film in quick as I can. You see between the lens and the film is a little pocket of light, trapped there in the darkness of the bag. A little bubble of light from decades a go, sticky with all the moods and fashions and attitudes of way back then, and just enough of that old light gets pushed against the negative when the new rays come rushing through the aperture as I take the picture.”
“That,” he said “is my secret now don’t you go telling everyone…”
There exists on the internet sites that document work that will never be made, but not because of financial hurdles or practical difficulties: the intention is to never make it.
Intention is often quoted as the rationale behind modern art, an approach stretched to the limit in conceptual art; wherein the art lies in it’s own mobius like documentation of the concept itself without recourse to production. The movement born as a reaction against the commodification of high priced art works. Not all web sites reach for these lofty ideals, www.unphotographable.com avoids having to mourn missed opportunities by describing in words what the camera has missed.
It could be that some imagery remains sharper when played out only in the mind. That in the act of envisioning it, it is created, bringing it to life in some incantation of a magic realism ritual. A criticism leveled at the film or television adaptations of novels is that the directors imagine certain aspects inaccurately, breaking our personal cinema.
Consider these a script or instructions for watching/producing an art video. It is a collaboration between us.
#1 Desire path
An ariel camera points straight down on a patch of grass, roughly the area you and a lover would utilise in having a picnic. The grass is a deep verdant green with wide blades, it’s grown to a length where light footfall will cause some strands to topple, the thickness of the leaf causing it to bruise and bend instead of snap, unable to sustain it’s own height. Definition and contrast is good, showing clearly the swirled patina caused by unchecked growth, you know that the blades will be slightly sticky should you puck one to make a whistle between your thumbs, and a faint moistness will linger near the soil from the dew, it’s lushness never fully allowing the sun to penetrate and dry out the ground.
A man steps into view bottom of screen and moves in a slight concave path towards the top. Perhaps he is wearing some form of canvas hat so that no personal features can be discerned. He is, as seen from above, essentially a head and shoulders with brown lace-up boots jutting back and forth as he walks. Behind him he leaves a slight trail causes by the disturbance in the weave of the damp grass.
A short period of time passes. He re-emerges at the same point and begins an arc upwards again, traveling at his chosen pace. The same interludes lasts until he appears again. You begin to anticipate his arrival and your eyes wait at the beginning of his previous paths. You notice what seems to be a thin cord tied to perhaps his belt loop. A modern nylon cord, thin and strong, it’s pulled quite taut, the far end vertically midpoint off screen.
Realisation dawns that it has been anchored into the soil or to a post, and by walking with the twine kept free of slack the man is able to traverse the ground in a consistent circle. He continues his episodic traversing across the screen, swathing a more and more defined path behind him. Perhaps the interaction between the rope and his movement is stronger, instead of assisting in traveling through a perfect arc it is forcing him into making this repetitious circular journey.
The grass in his wake is flattened now. He continues making revolutions at a set pace. You can sense how the smell of the scene will have changed as his regular steps have crushed the fallen grass, releasing a chloroform odour. With the change in fragrance the emerald green turns darker, starting to mush. In the cinematography of our mind the man’s cyclic trek can watched as both endless, boring his way into the dirt itself, the lighting perfect, our virtual sun not changing angle in the sky, keeping the shadows in an eternal day as he continues his pilgrimage; and overlaid with a series of cross fade fast forwards of the green turning almost dark blue before it starts breaking into streaks of brown.
The gradual process of cutting a canyon through eons is re-enacted by our mental visual trickery, we ourselves escaping what in real time could only seem as a sentence handed down, a duty, or punishment, wearing the vegetation into mire. Till a perfect circular ribbon of mud is coursed through the grass. Maybe the decent into sludge is colouring our perception and we are not watching a regression but a quest, an odyssey, to return the turf to a primal form.
#2 Vapour Trail
The sky overhead is a perfect blue. If prompted to name the colour you would compare it the shade of a 1950’s dress, strong but not to a Mediterranean depth of hue. It is cloudless, unblemished. No foliage interrupts your vision. It is not a screen but the vista, it encompasses all, your entire view.
A plane comes into sight, transcribing an up-tilted path across the sky. It’s momentum slow, graceful, fluid. The movement seemingly in harmony with the blue backdrop. You watch it drawing an airbrush line of cotton-wool white. Till the perfectly straight man-made line has bisected the sky.
The angled vapour trail, as if a celestial brush tip has bleached the colour from the sky hovers above you. No breeze discernible. There is no movement, all has become a still life before you. As you become conscious of time passing, that you have been watching without focus or purpose, the far end of the trail begins to softly fade, ever so gently. With a patience bordering on the devotional the white evenly blends out to the blue.
Till only the untouched sky is left again. Maybe a popular song can be heard in the background.
I recently learnt that three of my tiny fictions are to be published in web lit-zine, this should enthuse me to put fingers to keyboard and yet I find myself unable to tear my enthusiasm away from the Holga. I feel I am somehow cheating, that writing is facing the creative rock wall – the proverbial white sheet. While photography has that little leg-up, pointing the camera at something that is in itself already visually arresting.
I justify it with a modern art rationale – it’s the intention that makes the art, not the form. The reasoning that setting up a photograph is akin to writing out a scene. An internal bickering forever in the back of the mind. Guilty feelings that it is laziness stopping anything new being written. Having spent the weekend fooling around with a new ring flash and some hundreds and thousands this snippet I read recently throws a different light on such musings…
“Writers always envy artists, would trade places with them in a moment if they could. The painter’s life seems less ascetic, less monkish, less hunched. Instead of the austere mess of the desk there is the chaos of the studio: dirty coffee cups, paint-smudged cassette decks, drawings of the artist’s girlfriend, naked, on the walls… In the age of the computer the writer’s office or study will increasingly resemble the customer service desk of an ailing small business. The artist’s studio, though, is still what it has always been: an erotic space. For the writer the artist’s studio is, essentially a place where women undress.” Apparently quoted from ‘Out of Sheer Rage’ by Geoff Dyer.
Hard to argue with that isn’t it. Although I know I need to devote some time to my chosen partner writing, the mistress of photography still lures me: the shots failed from the Holga and a digital image has been resorted to, temporarily. It irks me that it doesn’t resemble that in my mind’s eye, and I am keen to reshoot.
(This paragraph will only of interest to those Googling Holga, diopters and ring flashes. The Holga normally suffers from under-exposure, but it seems that a ring flash throws out a lot more light that it’s built-in version, and combined with a close-up lens the glare bleaches everything out. Film rated at 100ASA is massively over-exposed. A test roll is needed pulling 50ASA stock back a stop). After I’ve put pen to paper of course.
I found both the quote and the marvelous picture of George Dyer, boyfriend of British painter Francis Bacon (shot in his Reece Mews Studio by an uncredited photographer in 1964), on the excellent ‘Sympathy for the art gallery’. Given that Dyer senior was gay I suspect that Geoff and George aren’t related, but it is serendipitous that their pairing should illustrate so aptly why I find myself drawn to photographic portraiture when I know I should be honing my writing.
Lee Rourke’s online lit-zine ‘Scarecrow’ has returned. And with a bang.
The first six entries feature three authors whose writing I already enjoy. There’s a short story by Will Ashon, author of ‘Clearwater’ – a black consumer-age farce. Chris Killen also contributes a story, his ‘The Bird Room’ is on my reading list and whose blog I regularly read. Tom McCarthy has a more fringe piece included, but what would you expect from the creator of the incisive and elegant ‘Remainder’. Apologies to the authors I haven’t mentioned by name, no criticism intended…
Lee Rourke aside from publishing such a splendid platter is also author of ‘Everyday’.
Ian Dury sang ‘Sex and drugs and rock n roll’ but as one approaches a certain age, it’s best to admit when one’s ability to rock n roll is past it’s prime, and it’s time to pick a new adage. Plus, I’ve really been dying to typeset the phrase ‘Reading and Fucking’.
They are two noble pursuits but aren’t always seen hand in hand with the respect they deserve. Dirty stories I believe is the phrase, rather than erotica. Actually I think I prefer dirty stories, and will leave erotica to label photography, where there is a more of a divide between art and commerce.
Aside from bedtime, or is it bedside stories, what really started my thought juices flowing was actual writing about sex. Too rarely authors delve into this topic, which seems strange given it’s such a huge motivation in our culture. There are plenty of novels analysing greed or jealously as the driving force in a quest for power or glory, but very little on how the need, relief and act of sex can affect the consequences of human intercourse. Or maybe I’m reading the wrong books.
I write about sex and death.
What else is there.
It is very hard to write about the act of sex without lapsing into descriptive prose and there by ending up in different waters. All my life I wanted to write but never did anything about it, in particular putting pen to paper. Events conspired and finally culminated in my starting, and I should give kudos to the three books that gave me the kicks I needed. And fittingly two of them are largely about sex.
Nic Kelman’s ‘Girls’ is rare in that it explores sex from the middle aged male psyche, alongside the lies that are generated in it’s admiration of the female teen. He writes on this subject with a brutal ardour rarely shown in public. Dangerous ground to tread these days where Woolworths can not sell a child’s bed called ‘Lolita’. As if the very word itself could cause a visitor to misbehave even without being aware of the name of the bed. (Lolita being another exception that springs to mind, in that it’s not written from the perspective of a woman in the call girl trade, look at all the other books that Amazon recommends if you follow the previous link).
Kelman’s writing excited me in hopefully the way he intended, making me think there are still things to be written and said on this subject. These short parables speak volumes and he deserves to be much more widely read. Any male starting to lose their hair would be wise to look between it’s sheets. He writes without judgement about his characters, and the second book that inspired me brings sympathy to it’s dissection of life’s fuck ups and losers…
Ewan Morrison’s ‘The last book you read’ adds a twist of addiction here and there to it’s tales of sex and life. His writes with a quiet understanding of people unable to bring their lives under control, without moral overtones. When I read this I knew what I wanted to write about, it unlocked the voice inside me. I would like to call him a hardcore Nick Hornby but I’m worried that doesn’t convey how brilliantly insightful he is.
Both these books contain exceptional writing about fucking.
A little divergence here, for I feel it only fair to pay homage to the eureka book, the one where closing the final page you say to yourself “I’m going to write stories, no more excuses”. My gratitude for this goes to Simon Van Booy’s ‘The secret lives of people in love’, and in particular the story ‘Little birds’. Beautiful writing. It has prostitutes in it too, but no sex.
Luckily for me it seems that I am not the only one with a healthy interest in all of this. Bookkake publish classics of erotica, and I am delighted that they too take great pride in calling them dirty books. Not satisfied with bringing us great writing on fucking, they also ruminate on these two subjects via their blog. The Monday morning dirty poem has brought a hithero unknown joy to the start of my working week. I’m finding myself liking poetry more and more.
Another blog worthy of note is Violet Blue who apart from having an unfeasible name is a technology columnist, podcaster of naughty stories on iTunes and a writer on open source sex at tinynibbles. She’s a busy girl and turns up all over the place, but be warned, her blog can be visually ‘rich’.
I would have liked to give a honourary mention to ‘In bed with’, the compendium of short stories featuring Fay Weldon and Ali Smith amongst others, but the fact that none of them would own up to whose story was whose implies that they see them as smut not literature. Cowards. Mind you I had to stop reading ‘Swung’ by Ewan Morrison while I was sunbathing on the beach. Next on my reading list is ‘Wetlands’, I got a copy as a Valentine’s present from my wife. And who said romance is dead.
I’ve started thinking of taking photographs about sex. Not of sex. About. But I’ll come back to that.
The visual depiction of sex is another area thwart with uneasy public consumption. Fine art has long been bed partners with sex and in particular the nude. As a primer, before I dig myself a hole defining erotica or porn, literature or dirty stories, art or filth, I think most people would agree that National Art Galleries are places of refinement and culture. Have a look at this oil painting done in 1867 by Gustave Courbet, hung in the Musée d’ Orsay.
Mathilde Madden and Kristina Lloyd both write erotica and therefore have a vested interest on what goes on the cover (as well in between). They publish another splendid blog worth reading called Erotica Cover Watch, recently they have started a debate on why, given a large market share are female readers, only women appear on erotic book covers. They also have Man Candy Monday, soon it’s going to be dangerous to start the working week…
Bearing in mind Mr Corbet’s portrait the divide between erotica and porn gets even trickier when art crosses over into photography. I was recently involved in an incident where it was proposed that someone I know sit for a topless portrait in oils, which was deemed alright, while being photographed for a study was not. (As it turned out they were horrified by having a portrait done in general, let alone bare breasted). Photographs being deemed reality I suppose, it raised an interesting question, which would you be more comfortable with; a topless photograph of you hanging on the wall or an intricate and detailed painting of your open crotch?
Males can play this game too, a photo of your arse and balls from behind or a realistic painting of your cock, it works slightly differently for men, and they are prone to cheat here. Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wouldn’t be filmed naked in ‘Women in love’ until they had “warmed up”, not wanting to be seen at their ‘realistic’ size. A friend of mine has a fantastic painting of an enlarged close-up of his anus hanging in the living room. Aesthetically very enjoyable as an abstract painting. Does the subject matter affect ones viewing? Does the oil paint neutralise it?
I have had to rewrite the next paragraphs a few times as I found myself slipping into arguments about erotica versus porn, and from there wether porno is bad or immoral. I want to side step here (but not avoid) and instead name check some photographers who have been an inspiration and caused some enjoyment on a wet Sunday afternoon.
The keyword here is I guess intent, and it is the argument often used in differentiating porn from erotica, especially in the photographic realm. Without the veneer of oil and strokes, sorry, the veneer of oil paint brush strokes, erotic photography is left far more naked to accusations of pornography than fine art. Intent is the defense. But why am I saying defense? I like erotic photography.
What is surprising to a number of people is the amount of women taking erotic photos. Often of themselves. One could talk about women photographers such as Ellen Von Unwerth who publish work in a male market place and therefore could be said to gain financial reward from it. But there are a great many female photographers on Flickr creating imagery solely for their own amusement, pleasure and interest.
To me the really surprising factor is why people, including friends of mine, find it so out of the ordinary that women are taking erotic photos too. Last time I checked half the people fucking were female.
I’ve started thinking of taking photographs about sex. Here are some of the people on Flickr whose work I greatly admire, they are funny, witty, clever pictures, and yes, sometimes sexy too. And if you are reading this at work on a Monday morning just tell everybody it’s art, literature and culture. Because it is.
This one’s a chap but he’s fantastic and fits right in to the general mood
six sentences have published one of my short stories. thank you six sentences.
microfiction are very short stories under 100 words in length. flash fiction according to wikipedia is 250 to 1000 words long. six sentences aren’t wordist about things, just as long as it’s…
it is perhaps my favourite site of the ilk. a daily dose of literary loveliness can be yours by bookmarking:
(robert mcevily, if you are reading this, can you arrange for amazon uk to stock the book please?)
if six sentences sounds a little liberal and bohemian with it’s lack of word count, try these genres:
55 fiction (yes… 55 words or less)
a drabble (exactly 100 words long)
the 69er (exactly 69 words, careful when googling)
note that titles don’t count.
sorry to disappoint, not a salacious post of misadventure.
instead delighted to announce the first publication of one of my micro-fiction stories by the very wonderful nthposition, an award winning literary web site.
microfictions are very very short stories, often referred to as flash fiction, a term that working in the web industry makes me shudder. better still is smokelong’s description:
The term “smoke-long” comes from the Chinese, who noted that reading a piece of flash takes about the same length of time as smoking a cigarette.
here’s the link to “wife swap”