Tuesday, 31 December 2013

My Writing Year 2013

I thought I'd do a quick blog post as to my literary achievements during 2013.

Early in the year I completed one novel begun at the tail end of 2012, an SF-apocalyptic future thing titled "Body And Soul". And today I've just completed a new novel, "People I Know Are Dead", which is another crime pulp neo-noir featuring my irascible PI, Mordent. This year I've sold two other novels featuring Mordent, "The Immortalists" and "Church Of Wire", to Telos Moonrise for publication in 2014/2015.

I wrote twelve short stories this year: "Bullet", "Dirty Snow", "Burning Daylight", "Shoot For The Moon", "The Frequency Of Existence", "Blood For Your Mother", "Making Friends With Fold-Out Flaps", "Softwood", "Soapsud Galaxies", "Interference", "The Opaque District", and "A Knot Of Toads".

I sold ten short stories: "Rain From A Clear Blue Sky", "Bullet" and "A Knot Of Toads" to Black Static, "The Aniseed Gumball Kid" to PostScripts, "The Caged Sea" to Unspoken Water, "Beyond The Island Of The Dolls" to Postscripts To Darkness, "Interference" to Chiral Mad 2, "Shoot For The Moon" to Monomyth, "Softwood" to an anthology from NewCon Press I cannot name til next year, and "The Opaque District" to the Horror Uncut anthology.

The following six short stories appeared in print this year: "Rain From A Clear Blue Sky" in Black Static #33, "The Caged Sea" in Unspoken Water #4, "Bullet" in Black Static #34, "The Cruekus Effect" reprinted in Best Weird Fiction Vol.3, "Tetsudo Fan" in the Rustblind and Silverbright anthology from Eibonvale Press, and "Kodokushi" to PostScripts #30/31.

I have a handful of stories awaiting publication that were accepted in 2012/2013, a novella, two short story collections, and one novel under consideration, and a collaborative story collection still awaiting publication. I am also in the process of editing an anthology of punk inspired stories, titled "punk!Punk!" for DogHorn Publishing, and I have also worked on two issues of Fur-Lined Ghettos with my partner.

Not bad considering this little one is getting more adventurous, and also that I work full-time Monday to Friday, work part-time alternate Sundays, freelance typeset and proofread often in the evenings, and have one hundred and one other things on my mind. Seasonal trumpet blowing time yet again!

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Best and Worst of 2013

Well, it's that time of the year when everyone is doing their 'best and worst of' lists, so here is mine. I'm going to list the books and movies I read/watched in 2013 and then pick my favourites. This isn't restricted to what was new in 2013, but what I actually watched and read - some of these items might be very old indeed.


I read the following in 2013:

Allen Ashley (editor) – Where Are We Going?
Williams Burroughs – Cities of the Red Night
Gus Van Sant – Pink
John Dickson Carr – The Hollow Man
Ernesto Sabato – The Tunnel
Ira Levin – Rosemary’s Baby
Jonathan Letham – Girl In Landscape
Ken Kesey – One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
James Vance Marshall - Walkabout
Kenneth Fearing – The Big Clock
Jose Saramago – Death At Intervals
Megan Abbott – Die A Little
David Mazzucchelli – Asterios Polyp (Graphic Novel)
Craig Thompson – Blankets (Graphic Novel)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – In Evil Hour
Paul Auster, Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli – City of Glass (Graphic Novel)
Milan Kundera – Identity
Charles Bukowski – Tales of Ordinary Madness
Hans Helmet Kirst – Night of the Generals
Kinky Friedman – Armadillos and Old Lace
Rhys Hughes – The Percolated Stars
Sam Hawken – The Dead Women of Juarez
David Zane Mairowitz – Crime and Punishment (Graphic Novel)
Italo Calvino – If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller
Gwen De Bonneval & Fabien Vehlmann – Last Days of an Immortal (Graphic Novel)
David Rix (editor) – Rustblind and Silverbright
John Peel – Margrave of the Marshes
Haruki Murakami – Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Koji Suzuki – Ring
Simon Morden – Equations of Life
Flann O’Brien – The Third Policeman
Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go
Georges Simenon – The Man On The Boulevard
Ned Beumann – Boxer Beetle
Conrad Williams – Rain
Lavie Tidhar - Osama
Guy Delisle – Pyongyang
Raymond Chandler – Killer In The Rain
Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea
Primo Levi – The Periodic Table
Graham Greene – The End of the Affair
Kafka/Jaromir 99/Mairowitz – The Castle (Graphic Novel)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Strange Pilgrims
Mohsin Hamid – The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Vladimir Nabokov – Tyrants Destroyed
Charles Bukowski – Hollywood
Taichi Yamada – Strangers

I find it quite an interesting list. I read a lot more books this year than last year, partly because of more opportunity to read at work now the TV has gone but also because I discovered graphic novels! Definitely the worst of the bunch was Saramago's "Death At Intervals" which I loathed with passion. Megan Abbott's "Die A Little" almost made my top three. Nabokov's story collection was fantastic in places, yet trifling in others.

In reverse order, these are my top three:

"Asterios Polyp" by David Mazzucchelli

The first graphic novel that I've ever read, and one which made me realise that the emphasis is on novel just as much as it is on graphic. Intelligent, engaging, and I cried at the end.

"The Tunnel" by Ernesto Sabato

An extraordinary book which is a deceptively simple yet utterly compelling account of obsessive love. Not a word is wasted in this short novel. A story which anyone who has ever been in love can relate to. I know I could.

And the winner is:

"Osama" by Lavie Tidhar

Sheer genius. There's so much to admire in this book: it's audacity and its subtlety, the exceptional high quality of the prose and the dreamlike style, the overall plot and the succinctness of its engagement. Also, it made me jealous. This is the novel I should have written! It's absolutely perfect.


I watched the following in 2013:

The Imposter
Oslo, 31 August
Midnight in Paris
The Silence
Django Unchained
Usual Suspects
Santa Sangre
Nostalgia for the Light
Fiend without a Face
Corpo Celeste
Children's Hour
Gran Casino
Moonrise Kingdom
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Martha Marcy May Marlene
To Rome with Love
Death Proof
I Heart Huckabees
Tout Va Bien
El Topo
The Master
The Wasp Woman
Invaders From Mars
Phantom Planet
Holy Motors
The Dyatlov Pass Incident
Night of the Hunter
Whip It
La Maman et la Putain
Rust and Bone
Cabin in the Woods
Chico and Rita
The Place Beyond the Pines
La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc
The Hunt
The Prestige
We Are What We Are
Beyond the Hills
Ginger & Rosa
Surviving Life
Like Someone in Love
London to Brighton
Maria Full of Grace

Interesting to see the impact having a child has on movie watching. Last year I saw 93 films, this year it's 53. Whilst our baby was born in May 2012 her sleep patterns now mean it's often past 9pm by the time I'm even thinking of sitting down and movies are pushed aside through tiredness. This year it's been very hard thinking of my top three because - like last year - I'm discounting movies I've previously watched. So, the wonderful and heartbreaking "Children's Hour", which is one of my favourite films ever, can't be included, nor can the notoriously wacky "El Topo" (which I was fortunate enough to see on the big screen this year), or the wondrously perfect "The Prestige" which was even better second time around and can't be faulted.
Coming close are "Beasts of the Southern Wild" which would probably be in my partner's top three, "Moonrise Kingdom" because whilst I loved it it was no more than I expected it to be, "Drive" because it worked on it's own terms, "The Master" with a great performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, and "Like Someone In Love" which oozed style over - but not to the detriment of - substance.
Again, in reverse order, my top three: 
"La Maman et le Putain" - Jean Eustache

I can't deny this was a slog at times. It had been recorded for me and I hadn't realised the duration (215 minutes) so after an hour I kept expecting it to finish in 30 minutes every 10 minutes. Yet it's a veritable feast of end-of-New-Wave French Cinema which led to two separate story ideas, so in terms of influence it deserves this placing and is well worth a watch.
"La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc" - Carl Theodor Dreyer 

Like "El Topo" and also "Nosferatu" I was lucky enough to be able to see this on the big(gish) screen at my local arthouse cinema, and it definitely benefited from this experience. A searing classic with an intense and brilliant central performance from Maria Falconetti, this German silent movie of 1928 by Carl Dreyer is haunting, heartbreaking, and ultimately devastating.
And the winner is...
"Django Unchained" - Quentin Tarantino

What's not to love about this movie? It has everything you would expect from Tarantino and is so lovingly, stylishly, and beautifully put together that it's a perfect box which puts Hollywood blockbuster pap to shame. I'd hoped this would feature high on my 2013 list and wasn't disappointed. Tarantino knows what makes film tick, which is why I regard him so highly as a director and this is what makes his films so delicious.
Predictions for 2014? I'm hoping Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" will be as perfect as "Melancholia" and "Antichrist".