Friday, December 31, 2010


Chin Chin!

Happy New Year from The Chin Monsters! Let's face it, 2010 wasn't the greatest year in the history of the world, but isn't that true of every year? I know that observation doesn't actually make much sense... but neither does drawing eyes on chins and photographing them upside down! Here's to a superb 2011 for everyone who deserves it!

The year began with freezing weather and it ended the same way. Brrr! I just don't cope with the cold very well. This time, however, I gritted my teeth and forced myself to enjoy the snow. It may be truthfully said that old-fashioned winters are back! Unfortunately the same isn't true of the summers. The summer of 2010 was a disappointment, though we did manage to enjoy some hiking and wild camping on the handful of nice days. Highlight of the year in this regard were the camping trips to the dunes near the town of my upbringing, Porthcawl. It was fascinating to go back again after so many years!

Lowlight of the year was being stranded in Heathrow for a weekend... No, this has nothing to do with the recent airport disruption because of bad weather, but refers to the Odyssey convention back in April. A waste of time and money in a grim environment (no offence to the nice people I did meet there!). But at least the experience has helped me to make a firm resolution: no more conventions -- unless I have been specifically invited to do a panel or a reading or whatever...

Talking about reading, I did a heck of a lot of that in 2010! I read plenty of Calvino, as always; and I was delighted to reacquaint myself with Samuel Beckett after a couple of decades: a writer of immense power and wit and never as nihilistic as his reputation would suggest. The finest novel I read all year was undoubtedly Hothouse by Brian Aldiss. And my two finest discoveries were Primo Levi and Cordwainer Smith, both of whom staggered me with their excellence. Indeed, my 'book of the year' is Smith's The Rediscovery of Man, a truly incredible sequence of linked stories with the galactic span of a Stapledon, the humanity of an Aldiss and the weirdness of a Zelazny all rolled into one. Every year I find at least one writer new to me who is impressive to a degree most humbling!

Writing. 2010 was my most productive year ever! I never thought I would manage to exceed 2009 in terms of productivity, but I did! My brain kept overflowing with ideas! I wrote 54 stories, averaging more than one a week! Total wordage of fiction produced was more than 240,000 words! It seems that in the past two years I have written exactly 99 stories. Not bad! I put together a great many books and sold quite a few of them. I'll create a list soon of what might be reasonably expected to come out in 2011 (for example Tallest Stories, Link Arms With Toads!, Tucked Away in Aragon, etc). As for published works in 2010: many short stories in anthologies, and two books (a novel and a novella). So now, all that remains for me to say is: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Xmas Cheer

Christmas is here again. In fact the Day itself has come and gone and I successfully managed to ignore it. Yes, I'm a perfect unreformed Scrooge, a hearty opponent of both Christianity and Consumerism who hasn't celebrated Christmas for a couple of decades. I hate spending money on overpriced gifts and I can't stand enforced jollity. Even the act of sending greetings cards is a chore beyond me. I despise the entire idiotic charade. Merry Christmas anyway!

But I did receive a present that cheered me up. The acceptance of Tucked Away in Aragon, my cycle of fantastical Albarracín stories, by the same fine publisher who very recently issued The Coandă Effect. I am delighted with this news, as this particular story wheel is an absolute favourite of mine, a linked series of ten lighthearted but philosophical tales that span the past 1000 years of the history of that remarkable little city.

This photograph shows Albarracín as it was in September 2007, when I first stumbled upon it while looking for the source of the River Tajo. Quite a contrast to the present Welsh landscape of snow, ice and grey cloud!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Libertarianism & My Day Off

I have started a new 'proper' job, just for one month, and although I don't enjoy working for anyone other than myself, I recognise and accept that sometimes it's necessary to do so. My own ideal society would be one in which everyone was self-employed or part of a small syndicate with full control over their own business affairs, taking orders from no one but themselves, dancing to no tune played by another. Working for large or even medium-sized corporations is demoralising and unmotivating. Everyone deserves the chance to be an entrepreneur, in control of their own fate, as much as such control is possible.

I call myself a 'libertarian' and I have done so for many years, but there seems to be a general assumption that libertarians only care about the freedom to get rich. I'm not that kind of libertarian. I try to follow the creed that liberty is the highest ideal and that everyone should be free to act as they please provided those actions don't interfere with the liberty of others. The final part of that mantra is crucial but often overlooked. When a small-time entrepreneur becomes too successful and turns into a corporation, the liberties of other people are certain to be constrained. For libertarianism to remain true to its own ethics, it must remain small.

In fact I regard Free Market Capitalism as Anti-Libertarian. It restricts the freedom of those it oppresses, in particular the small entrepreneur. I hate right wing worship of Big Business, even more than I hate left wing worship of State Control. Libertarianism should entail supporting (or trying to support) cultural, political, religious, philosophical and geographical liberty, while preserving the integrity of the environment. Social provision might be a duty, yes, but it shouldn't take priority over liberty. And neither should employment take precedence over the environment. I don't want the world polluted by industry, even if it does mean jobs for workers...

Anyway... Thanks to the gods of weather, my second day at work was snowed off. So instead of working I went out to play in the snow. Adele took these photos. She also took some amazing photos of crows and rooks in the snow: she may post some of them on her blog at some point. We made a selection (syndicate?) of miniature (self-employed?) snowmen, rolled a massive snowball along the beach until it became truly monstrous and broke into pieces, used the pieces to build a snow pagoda, and enjoyed a spectacular sunset before going home to a fire and wine. Much more satisfying than work!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


My Eighteenth Book

I find it hard to believe in the existence of a book until I see it with my own eyes and hold it with my own hands, so even though The Coandă Effect was published two weeks ago I didn't really allow myself to celebrate the fact. However, a large box stuffed with copies arrived from Romania a few days ago, and so now I'm able to fully appreciate the satisfaction of adding another title to my growing bibliography. This particular volume went from concept to finished product faster than any of my other books. The story was commissioned in August; I wrote it during September; it was accepted and proofread in October; and it rolled off the printers in November. If only all projects were so smooth and untroubled! Regards therefore to Dan Ghetu of Ex Occidente Press for turning this highly unusual 'Corto Maltese' pipedream into a reality.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Weird Wales Event

The belated booklaunch of The Postmodern Mariner is due to take place on December 11th, this coming Saturday! Although the book was published in 2008, circumstances have conspired to make this one of the most postponed launches in booklaunching history!

From the beginning I knew I wanted more than just a booklaunch. So with the aid of steampunk druid, Gwilym Games, I drew up a brief schedule of events to follow the launch. The launch will last only for the first hour and in that time I'll do some readings, talk about my work in general and The Postmodern Mariner in particular, answer any questions that anyone has, and probably also answer some that no one has. That's part one.

The second hour will be devoted to the work of Arthur Machen, still the finest prose author Wales has ever produced, and this part will include the Welsh première of a short film inspired by Machen's 'The White People'. Machen has a loyal cult following but he deserves to be more widely known.

The third and final part will be concerned with authentic Welsh fortean phenomena: sea serpents, ghosts, bipedal talking horses, will o' the wisps, were-leeks, etc.

The event is free (of course) and should be an edifying experience! The venue is the Discovery Room on the first floor of Swansea Central Library and the event will begin at 12:00 noon and last until 3:30 PM. The official name of the event is WEIRD WALES.

So now. What else has been happening? After a short break from writing to recharge my batteries, I have resumed the writing of a novella I began maybe seven or eight years ago, 'Bone Idle in the Charnel House', and I'm enjoying this task very much...

Also, I've just had a half-page story published in an anthology of microfiction called Exposure. It's a nice-looking anthology issued by Cinnamon Press. But why do I always have difficulties spelling the word 'cimmanon'? Other spices don't give me any comparable sort of typographical trouble. True, I'm always unsure of whether to write 'chilli', 'chili' or 'chillie' but I'm currently unaware of a Chilli Press. If such an outfit existed, no doubt they would specialise in works by Chilean writers?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Discommoded by a Komodo

One doesn't expect to be discommoded by a Komodo Dragon in one's own home, especially when dressed in a Cappadocian hat, so I am fortunate indeed that nothing of the kind occured and that this photo is a cunning fake! No vast lizard has attempted to lick me in the recent past. But it does feel as if I have been licked by a different sort of giant tongue: the forked tongue of multiple attainment.

That's meant to sound grateful rather than smug, so if it comes across as smug then I apologise, but many good things have lately happened in my writing career. I have just proofread the second edition of my first book, Worming the Harpy, for paperback release early next year; and I am currently proofreading the second edition of Mister Gum. Both new editions will contain extra material, a bonus story in each case. I am very proud of both books!

Two days ago I was asked to put together a new collection for a French publisher: I intend to create something unique in response to that request, rather than simply sending a collection that already exists in English for translation. Foreign readers have always treated me well and they deserve to have a customised edition in return. To be published in French has long been one of my major ambitions.

Also, I have just placed my romanti-cynical showcase Link Arms With Toads! with a publisher. I'm very proud of this one; with luck it should be out next year. To illustrate my joy at this news, here's a painting with a theme not utterly unconnected to the work: René Magritte's 'The Sea of Flames'. Magritte, together with Roerich, Escher, Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington, is one of my favourite artists (Carrington also happens to be an excellent fiction writer; I have just bought her surreal novel, The Hearing Trumpet).

My Corto Maltese novella, The Coandă Effect, has just been published. I'm very proud of this one too. The photograph of the book you see here wasn't taken by me: I stole it from a fellow by the name of Tom Alaerts, who happens to be a pirate in the story itself. Tom, like Magritte, is a Belgian.

2010 has been a gloriously productive year for me. In 2009 I broke the 200,000 word barrier for the first time. I didn't think I would ever repeat the feat, but in fact I've already broken that record and my current total for 2010 stands at almost 230,000 words of fiction. As for the number of individual stories written, that total is now 52, one for every week of the entire year and I still have the best part of a month left. I never imagined I would achieve these totals! I have more than doubled my average yearly output.

The ultra-belated launch of The Postmodern Mariner now has a definite date and venue: The Discovery Room, Swansea Central Library, on December 11th. This booklaunch is two years late and in fact is so belated that only a dozen copies of the first edition remain to be sold on the day! The launch is only one segment of an event that will feature talks on Arthur Machen, sea monsters, ghosts and similar things. More details next week!

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