Writing is a funny old pastime when you think about it. It is at once the most solitary of pursuits while at the same time it throws people together into weird looking clusters; like those new-fangled breakfast cereals where grains and nuts are glooped together with honey (supposedly honey, corn syrup more like). And so my own story goes. The sticky substance of collaboration stretched sweet tendrils and drew me fast, into a world I had no inkling of before. And there, in the milky morning bowl of writerliness, I found some kindred souls (and overstretched a simile).
Faction Paradox (FP) is a fictional universe (multiverse, is perhaps more accurate) created by Lawrence Miles. It is based on the worlds created in the BBC TV series Dr Who, particularly the struggles and wars fought by Timelords and other dastardly shenanigans throughout history. FP stories are wide-ranging and varied. Time-travel can take you anywhere, after all. There is a defined nucleus to all the stories, the city of London and the mythical 11 Day Empire which is home to the time-travellers. There’s a lot more too it, of course, which you can read about here, if you want.
And so Jay Eales, Obverse Books’ editor of the story collection Burning With Optimism’s Flames asked me to contribute. Jay and I are both long-term members of The Speculators writers group and had invited me (and fellow ‘Speccie’ Jim Worrad) to contribute stories. For me it was an honour, a chance to collaborate with Jay and contribute to my first ever short story anthology. I’m so glad I did.
Burning With Optimism’s Flames is an excellent read. All the stories are good, although, of course I have my personal favourites. Stephen Marley’s ‘All the Fun of the Fear’ set in an Ealing comedy version of 1950s London made me chuckle and had a great little plot in there, driving the story. Cate Gardner’s Elizabethan tale of doom and ravens is another highlight. Alan Taylor’s story is also dark and weird and its description of the banalities of office life struck a chord too. Philip Purser Hallard’s story bubbled with ideas esoteric and doctrinal and reminded me of Philip K Dick’s last book, ‘The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Helen Angrove’s epistolary into the travails of an anti-Darwinist explorer. A mention too to Jim Worrad whose dazzling prose made an alien world come alive (It also reveals his background as a classicist, methinks). But as I say, those are the ones that I liked best at the first few readings. I shall, however, keep a lookout for further works by all these authors and am now hooked by the Faction and its devilish paradoxes. Cheers, Jay!
A special mention has to be made of the fantastic cover illustration made by Paul McCaffrey, especially as my wee story ended up being featured in the largest Russian Doll!
*** Ah, springtime in Leicester. Could anything embody both hope and despair so poignantly as a sunny day on the Welford Road? Anyway, lots has been happening to tell ya. Most recent first, the St Georges Day celebrations. Leicester got its own walk of fame, a stall selling St George cupcakes or somesuch tat was placed strategically in front of the door of an “adult” club on Orton Square (Joe would have approved) and the Lord Mayor and his entourage inaugurated the whole shebang. Me, I enjoyed the day with friends: Maria, Keith and Damien. It was a grand day out.
*** Next day (Sunday) I was at a film showing by Starbase Leicester at the New Phoenix. It was Captain Sam’s birthday and the event was her treat. The films shown were Goonies and Dark City. I enjoyed one of these more than the other. Overall, though, another grand day out. Thanks, Sam!
*** Still on the subject of Starbase, their first print version of their fanzine (The Avatar) was launched to coincide with EasterCon. Yours truly has a couple of short stories in there, here’s the link to one of them.
*** The Speculators SF writers group has an incredibly talented membership. In the last few months Will Ellwood had founded the Kick school of creative writing, Catherine Digman has started hosting writer’s meditation days, Emma Matthews has had a story accepted for New Fairy Tales, Richard Barber has got himself on the Writing East Midlands mentoring scheme, Maria Smith is a competition winner, Jon Vagg and Damien Walter have sold stories hither and yon and Selina Lock and Jay Eales are still producing top-of-the-range comics at FactorFiction. Will and Catherine have recently read at Shortfuse too.You rock, dudes.
*** A Carrot Napper exclusive. Keith Large’s play Carrot Nappers will soon be available as a podcast. Keith is also taking his three-play combo Laughs From Leicestershire to the Buxton Fringe and then on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Yes THE EDINBURGH FRINGE!!! Amazing. There is even a website.
*** The States Of Independence Independent Press Day saw the regions’ small publishers congregate at DMU (in the pouring rain) for the day – March 20th – A great little conference with lots of interesting stuff going on. On the 24th of March, a Jane Wenham-Jones night was hosted in Loughborough. Another top literary event.
*** Damien G Walter put on a show. Well, the Writers Industries Conference, anyway. It seems to have created a buzz around the creative industries. Graham Joyce gave a rip-roaring opening address and the panels were all interesting and thought provoking. Well done to one and all. I had a meeting with an agent who set me straight on a few things… I ponder his words as we speak.
*** Bryan Talbot, subject of my first Comic Books post, is coming to Leicester in June. Hooray!!
*** The Alt.Fiction conference in Derby seems to be taking shape. Its curves are filling out, make up is being applied with taste and sassiness, it’s hairdo looks sensational. It will be clipping along in its high heels and making your heart jump in no time. 12th of June, babe, that’s when she’ll be ready for you.
*** I am now on Facebook. Haven’t tried twitter yet, but as soon as my soul plumbs the depths required, I will let you know.
*** Nicola J Vincent will be submitting my next guest-post. Won’t say much about it yet, but it promises to be a cracker.