Archive for May, 2013

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Talking of trains (and we have been talking of trains rather a lot here recently at the Eibonvale Terminus), or is it buses, what is it they say about three coming along at once?
First up, Charles Packer over at Sci Fi Online, has given Rhys Hughes’ 23rd published book (wow!) ‘Tallest Stories’ a rather respectable 8/10. Charles writes:

“…Normal literary conventional barriers are broken and both the author and the audience, at times, become active participants. With its stories within stories, it’s akin to a juxtaposition of Monty Python and Kafka where the stories can coexist as horribly absurd and absurdly horrible.

As you get into the book the stories become self-referential, slowly building up a complete picture of the tavern and its patrons. Hughes intends to complete a cycle of one thousand stories which are all interconnected and not just in a linear form, as such Tallest Stories acts as a taster for the eventual wider work. Each tale is headed with a drawing by David Rix, who also created the book’s cover…

…It’s a clever book written with wit and a good eye for a humorous turn of phrase. Read carefully, there is a lot of philosophical meat to the overall book, although if this is not your bag the stories can be read for the giggles alone.”

Next “Gav” at Mass Movement Magazine has reviewed ‘Tallest Stories’, saying among other things:

“…A little tavern in Cardiff docks where the currency is a good story and all of the patrons seem to have a brilliant tale to tell forms the basis for ‘Tallest Stories’ and all of the brilliant tales are present and correct in this collection penned by Rhys Hughes. Every separate tale is a great stand-alone piece, each one incedibly inventive and different from the last, but at the same time, each story seems to sit perfectly well alongside all the others in the collection. Hughes’ writing is easy to follow and enjoyable…”

Last but not least, the legendary D.F Lewis has done one of his mind-boggling real-time reviews of the book, which are always a challenge for chaps like me to paraphrase, but here goes:

“…the multifarious pieces of internal (and cover) art by David Rix are wonderful and give the whole book a definite character. Based on my nostalgic, old-fashioned experience of secondhand bookshops, I can imagine one where somebody much younger than me pounces on this hard copy book as the optimum book to be found in any secondhand bookshop ever – surely because of its durable soul as a book. I can give its overall production no greater praise…

…Rhys Hughes’ work often reawakens my own waking dreams when, as a child, being put to bed too early, I imagined all sorts of weird and wonderful reality-steeped fabrications. Hughes has uniquely taken this ability into an adulthood creativity – for the benefit of resummoning this nostalgic activity for fellowkind and, accepting that, we should all be grateful.

…I think I have already shown the prevailing factors that make this a seriously great book, possibly Rhys Hughes’ greatest book so far. And the production qualities, story-heading images, designs etc by Eibonvale Press and David Rix do it proud.”

Hearty thanks as ever to all these reviewers. Please check out their respective websites in full.

In the hectic time leading up to the publication of Rustblind and Silverbright, our anthology of railway-themed slipstream and horror, I have invited short blog contributions from the authors included in that book, which I will be publishing at irregular intervals over the next month or two.  This time, R D Hodkinson addresses a tender elegy to a London icon . . . 

The Underground Diaries

By R D Hodkinson

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There is a reworking of the London Underground map in which the names of all the stations have been replaced by those of cultural luminaries drawn from the arts, from sport, science, religion and any other area of human endeavour the artist found fit. My local station is Steve Martin, as in: incidents of knife crime have reached unprecedented levels in and around Steve Martin this year.

The name of Simon Patterson’s whimsical work is The Great Bear, which suggests the tube network re-imagined as a great, grotty constellation, plucked from the heavens and shoved underground, presumably as some Olympian punishment for failing to maintain the escalators at Swiss Cottage, or repeated signal failure at Theydon Bois.

But to those of us who have spent much, or most, or all of our lives in the capital, the tube map is also a memento mori to a galaxy of personal experiences now dead and gone: catastrophic regurgitation of kebab at Putney Bridge, catastrophic romantic tryst at Finsbury Park, catastrophic business meeting-cum-full-blown fist fight at Ravenscourt Park, homes – some more catastrophic than others – at Richmond, Hounslow East, Barons Court, Highbury & Islington, Leicester Square, Highbury & Islington again, Dalston Junction and, now, Steve Martin. (In defence of the author, the business meeting that went to twelve rounds at the York Hall was a one off, and the unscheduled reappearance of meat products, while less rare, was at least restricted to my younger years. As for any catastrophic trysts, like most men I can offer no reasonable excuse.)

After three decades of riding the rails there is barely an inch of tube map I can look at without becoming misty-eyed or wistful or furious or wracked with shame. It is the same for every Londoner, each projecting his or her personal cartography of experience onto that famously clean schematic, the only map that makes sense of the capital’s chaotic layout. It’s all there: Hopes (both thwarted and realised), triumphs (real and imagined) births, marriages and deaths ineradicably stamped on each traveller’s psycho-geographic version of the map, an impression made stronger by one’s actual proximity to death while travelling underground. Press your hand against the tiled tunnel walls of the deep bore Central, Piccadilly, Victoria or Northern lines and how far can you be from the remains of a dead Roman or a former Tudor-bethan? Or a blitz victim awaiting rediscovery by a man with a hard hat and a JCB? The clay above the stations holds a great communion of the London dead, a silent counterpart to the crude, noisome, self-interested crowd above, though every now and again one of that number will peel away and join the ranks of ex-Londoners by buying a ticket for the tube and opting for death by Circle Line, the second most selfish method of suicide yet devised (number one being Sylvia Plath gassing herself with her children still in the house, silly cow.) Do not be tempted to end it all under the wheels of a rush hour train: no one will weep for you and your terminal moment will be tormented by images of irate commuters picketing your funeral because by the time they got home Tesco’s was shut and Masterchef had finished.

I have never kept a diary and I will never need to. The only aide-mémoire I shall ever need can be picked up for free from any tube station and folded to fit a wallet: a map not of a great city’s metro system, but of my entire adult life. Even the bits I would pay good money to forget.

Boxes boxes boxes . . .

Posted: May 18, 2013 by eibonvale in Defeated Dogs

Blood – check! Sweat – check! Am only missing the tears and fortunately I feel far too satisfied for that right now!  Will save them for when something goes wrong . . .

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This, my friends, is why there was a bit of a delay packing the Quentin Crisps while my back recovered from being wrecked!  No way was I shifting that lot!

Back on track now though with this bloody press of mine!  🙂

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Eibonvale Press Earlier Titles sale ends tomorrow – last chance to grab a bargain!  I’ll be shutting the page down at midnight tomorrow night.

http://www.eibonvalepress.co.uk/specials.html

 

In the hectic time leading up to the publication of Rustblind and Silverbright, our anthology of railway-themed slipstream and horror, I have invited short blog contributions from the authors included in that book, which I will be publishing at irregular intervals over the next month or two.  Next in the series is Eibonvale regular Douglas Thompson with a characteristically metaphysical and thoughtful musing on the nature of the familiar railway station . . . 

Stations are How Towns Dream.

by Douglas Thompson

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Stations are how towns dream.

If you are lucky enough to have one of those Victorian ones left over, not crushed and brushed away under the onslaught of sixties modernism and brutalism that swept through our world like a rabid brontosaurus and lurched off around the corner of our minds in a hazy childhood cloud of half-remembered concrete dust. If you have a real station building with timber trellised eaves and cast-iron fretwork of interlacing beams like corset work, you’ll know that you are licensed to dream there, and that as you do: the town and all the long-dead men who built it are dreaming with you.

At its station, the limits of a town’s identity cease in a wistful demarcation, a petering out, and the town dreams of being by the seaside, or at the foot of a Highland glen. The station dreams of being Euston, Paris Gare Du Nor, Istanbul, a gateway to the Orient, its cool marble slabs spattered with the exotic spices of foreigners gabling in obscure tongues like music. The word ‘gay’ becomes somehow innocent and playful again under the canopies of a true station, built in the golden age when the world first became aware of itself and its true extent. There is something forever festive and celebratory in the architecture, like frozen flags and buntings. We are all going somewhere, or someone much beloved is coming home again after a long trial. An exciting beginning or a happy ending.

In stations, the buildings themselves dream that they are not bound to the ground by foundations, that like us they might up sticks, gird their loins, and shimmy off towards the far horizons drawn by the sight of a wistful puff of summer cloud that says “Escape”. Station architecture dreams of timber bathing huts by the seaside, of Alpine villas and the bracing air of snowfields and natural springs.

And what of the towns themselves that we glimpse from these stations as we pass on through in the train? We see them from above, we see their roofs beneath which their citizens sleep in harmonious rows like well-behaved children.  Their dead sleep there too, in their graveyards, and the dead have left their stories woven around the thousand chimney pots like drifting smoke. The living citizens each think they are unique and new as they walk around like little toy soldiers and dolls in their perfect town that the dead have left them. But bit by bit, the buildings themselves and the stories they have encoded, re-take the citizens in their dreams as they sleep at night, and make them one with the town itself, the town’s true, immortal character. History repeats itself like a stained-glass window through which each day’s new sun must shine. The colours change but the pattern is so beautiful that it creates itself, it seems always to have existed, as all great art must.

A town is a living entity, which while its citizens themselves must know birth and death, it can know neither. People are like light bulbs, newspapers, matches, a tide of necessary ephemera which comes and goes, swept in and out at its stations. What is left behind and what endures is the town, its spirit and character and hope, the character of humanity and of the earth itself, which is indomitable and indestructible. Therefore never despair of your own life and fate, but know this: that you are not the matches burnt or the paper discarded on the wind. You are the town itself, its very bricks, part of it and all of it.

A town is a living person, and its station is where it dreams.

Visit Douglas Thompson at http://www.glasgowsurrealist.com/douglas

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The Eibonvale Press sale of earlier titles is almost over – ending on the 18th. The following titles are extremely low in stock in both bindings:

Ultrameta – Douglas Thompson
Sylvow – Douglas Thompson
Automatic Safe Dog – Jet McDonald
Where Are We Going – Edited by Allen ashley
A Glimpse of the Numinous – Jeff Gardiner
Feather – David Rix

So if you have any interest in any of those then I suggest you don’t delay. Once they run out they will be back to full price!

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In addition to that, it is worth noting that both the Thompson books are down to single copies in hardcover and as far as I can tell these are the last ‘first edition’ copies to be available. The second edition came along when slightly updated versions were released, but there is not much difference between them. However, if you care about such things, this is probably the last chance to get a copy of either book without ‘Second Edition’ written inside.

http://www.eibonvalepress.co.uk/specials.html

In the hectic time leading up to the publication of Rustblind and Silverbright, our anthology of railway-themed slipstream and horror, I have invited short blog contributions from the authors included in that book, which I will be publishing at irregular intervals over the next month or two.  Next in the series is David McGroarty, author of the story Stratford International, who points to the strange parallel world of the London railways that you might be forgiven for never even noticing . . . 

 

The Gibson Square Vent

by David McGroarty

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If you ever visit Gibson Square in Islington, you will see a cute little neoclassical structure in the centre of the north lawn. For a while last year I would take my two sons through the square on our way to school and nursery. I didn’t pay much attention to the building until my eldest tugged my arm one day and asked if he could go inside it to see the butterflies. I had been thinking it was a particularly ornate toolshed, and I told him so. “What are those?” he asked me. The roof of the building is a mesh dome, like you might see on an aviary. What had taken my son’s interest were the small, dark fluttery shapes clinging to the wire. But they weren’t butterflies.

The stretch of the Victoria line that runs between Highbury & Islington and Kings Cross station is unusually long, and runs directly beneath the residential areas of Pentonville and Barnsbury. The ventilation shaft at Gibson Square was intended to be a more utilitarian affair, but the local gentry formed a pressure group and petitioned the London Transport Board to produce something more in keeping with the area. The folly – not a butterfly house – was designed by Quinlan Terry in the style of a Greek temple.

The Victoria line is a mighty piece of railway. The most intensively-used rail service in the UK, it carries more than 30 trains per hour at peak times – and 200 million passengers per year. It connects three major mainline terminals and the commercial centre of London’s West End. And it is almost entirely invisible. Standing among the town houses of Barnsbury, the swanky offices of Fitzrovia, or the tall trees of Green Park, you tend to forget it’s right under your feet. This is true of London’s public transportation system more generally. It is a marvel: a vast, intricate people-moving machine which keeps itself largely hidden from view until it is needed. It exists almost as a parallel city, one with an entirely transient population, that weaves itself in and out of the one in which people live and work.

Those dark, fluttery shapes caught in the mesh roof of the building that isn’t a butterfly house in Gibson Square… from time to time one shakes itself free and lands nearby on the lawn. They are pieces of newspaper and leaflets and crisp bags, torn, shredded and black with soot. I imagine that these artefacts have escaped through this hidden fissure between the two places and have been somehow unable to survive the transition.

If you find yourself in London, it’s worth staying attuned to these parallel cities and the places where they intersect. I once stood waiting for a District Line train, convinced I was underground until flakes of snow began to drift from somewhere above onto the platform. The two worlds leak into each another in surprising ways.

Find David McGroarty at www.davidmcgroarty.net 

In the hectic time leading up to the publication of Rustblind and Silverbright, our anthology of railway-themed slipstream and horror, I have invited short blog contributions from the authors included in that book, which I will be publishing at irregular intervals over the next month or two.  First up is Nina Allan, who starts things off with a brief examination of the magic of trains . . . 

 

Of Trains and Books and Stories – Haunted by Rail

by Nina Allan

Strangers on a Train, Anna Karenina, Murder on the Orient Express, Railsea, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Station Agent, The Manchurian Candidate, The Lady Vanishes, Horror Express, The Glamour, Brief Encounter, 3:10 to Yuma – you’ll immediately spot what these classic films and novels all have in common, and no doubt you’ll have your own favourites to add to the list. And once you’ve done that, you can perform an interesting experiment: try and replace the train in your favourite railway story with a motor car.

You’ll find that you can’t do it. Even if you can, you’ll sense that the character of that book or movie has been altered in some fundamental way, and at great detriment to the atmosphere of the story. If Anna had travelled between Moscow and St Petersburg in a chauffeured limo she’d never have met Vronsky. Guy would certainly never have been inveigled into a murder plot by the obsessive Bruno if he’d driven to meet his wife instead of taking the train, and whoever heard of hunting giant moles from the back of a Nissan Micra?

Taken simply in terms of plot, railways offer a whole variety of opportunities for drama that are denied to you as a writer if you take to the road. The opportunity for encountering total strangers, for one. The time for idle fantasy about your travelling companions, the chance to gaze out of the window at the passing landscape and the architecture of unknown towns, to study the people, clustered closely together on the station platforms. You can write letters on trains, read on trains, have conversations, discard contraband, secrete monsters, murder guards, hide from your pursuers. As with the list of train books and stories itself, the possibilities are endless.

It is a lot more than simple mechanics though. There is a poetic grandeur about trains that is almost entirely absent from road transport. You might use a sports car to indicate the arrogance of a character, or financial impetuousness, or sexual garrulousness, but aside from Stephen King (Christine, From a Buick 8, ‘The Road Virus Heads North’) I can’t think of many writers who have cared enough about cars to make them the linchpin of their stories. Cars are prosaic, pragmatic, a convenient means of transport from A to B but little more. A train is a complex milieu, a contained hierarchy, a world in miniature. In Christopher Priest’s novel Inverted World, a city becomes a vast train travelling on rails that have to be laid perpetually in front of it as it goes along, rolling forward towards an unreachable destination. In Robert Bloch’s story ‘That Hellbound Train’, the train that carries the night mail becomes a metaphor for eternity in the company of the devil.

When you travel by road, there’s no time to think. Conditions inside a car are cramped and oppressive, the view is mostly restricted to the oil-streaked, potholed surface of the tarmac strip you’re travelling on or the rear bumpers of the vehicle in front. The landscape of motorways is the landscape of ruination, of defeat, of service stations and superstores and ubiquitous brand names. Revelling in homogeneity and the deadpan of concrete, the destructive, invasive architecture of roads is by its very nature ugly. The repetitious drone and grind of cars moving along a dual carriageway beats inside the skull like the noise of a hammer drill. Your temper rises, your desperation for fresh air increases, your head is filled only with thoughts of escape, of how long it will be before you reach your destination.

Train journeys we remember as rites of passage – it’s no accident that JK Rowling has her young wizards make the journey to Hogwarts by rail rather than by road. The train passes through the human landscape not as a thief but as a guest, its hypnotic clack-clacking insinuating itself inside the spaces of the mind like a mantra for dreaming. The railway’s architecture of bridges and tunnels, stationmaster’s houses, viaducts and depots and platforms and level crossings are part of the language of poetry and above all, memory. Even the rails the trains run on are of a pleasing design, silvery in the moonlight, glistening snakes of time, economical both in terms of the space they occupy and the cost to the environment.

The opening of a new railway line is an opening up of new opportunities, not just for physical travel but for the life of the mind.

  • The longest railway bench in the world is on Platform 1 at Scarborough (152 yards)
  • The longest railway bridge in the world is the Danyang-Kunshun Great Bridge, a viaduct on the Beijing to Shanghai high speed railway in China (540,000 ft)
  • The longest station platform in the world is at Gorakhpur Station in Uttar Pradesh (1,324 m)
  • The longest freight trains in the world are to be found in North America and often approach 4km in length
  • The longest passenger train in the world is the Ghan, the 1,200 m train that runs the north-south route between Darwin and Adelaide

Statistics like this haunt the imagination. They command attention. They demand story.

The very first train journey I remember was on the London tube. I was four years old or thereabouts, travelling with my mother and two-year-old brother between Euston and Victoria on our way to visit my grandmother in Goring-by-sea. My brother dashed out on to the platform two stops early and my mother had to dash out too, to yank him back. It’s difficult to remember when I realised I was in love with trains, not just with the business of travelling on them but with the paraphernalia that we call Railway – route maps, platform tickets, trackside buddleia and cow parsley, the sharp tap-tap-tap of a pair of smart city shoes traversing the platform of a suburban station on a baking afternoon in mid July. Edward Thomas’s lines on Adlestrop, Richard Rodney Bennett’s music for the Orient Express as it rattles out of Constantinople at the start of its fatal journey into crime. All these things and many others. Model trains too, with their miniaturized perfection, their cool iron heft, their secret, steamy delight at being held in the hand. I never owned a model railway but I had friends who did, who allowed me to access their made-to-measure kingdoms of scaled down rails, of papier maché fortresses and moulded housing stock, who showed me how, if you pull the attic trapdoor firmly shut behind you once you’re inside, you can persuade yourself that you’ve entered another world.

The story I’ve written for Rustblind and Silverbright opens a window into just such a world. It also reveals the dangers that lie in closing that attic door too tightly, in forgetting that there is a world beyond it after all, that by being in thrall to one you run the risk of losing your place in the other.

Mainly though it’s a story about magic, because trains are magic in motion. It’s a story about being haunted by rail.

Visit Nina’s blog at http://www.ninaallan.co.uk/

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Congratulations to Alison Littlewood, who has bagged not one but TWO places in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24, edited by Stephen Jones.  This includes a piece in Eibonvale’s anthology Where are we Going? edited by Allen Ashley and The Eyes of Water from Spectral Press.  As well as being bloody exciting news for Alison and for Allen Ashley no doubt, this is pretty exciting here as well, since it is still one of the first time the maverick Eibonvale has found its way into one of these ‘best-of’ anthologies.  Time to raise a little glass of something (maybe sloe gin?) in a vague but happy toast to lively and brilliant literature in general I think!

Oh and also <commercial> don’t forget that Where Are We Going? is currently available as part of the sale Eibonvale Press is running!  </commercial>  (Heheh – sorry for the nerdy humour!)

Automata at Agony Column

Posted: May 8, 2013 by douglasthompson in An Emporium of Automata, New Titles, News, Reviews

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Seasoned reviewer Mario Guslandi has reviewed D.P Watt’s An Enporium of Automata over at The Agony Column website, picking out six stories in particular which he enjoyed most. Mario writes:

“If you ask me what kind of writer is DP Watt, my answer is that it’s hard to tell. Partly a horror writer, partly a new “decadent”, by all means a creator of weird fiction, somewhere between ETA Hoffmann and Ligotti. The present collection (previously published in hardcover edition from Ex Occidente Press) effectively represents the many faces of this eclectic author continuously shifting from the bizarre to the grotesque, from the baroque to the uncanny…

..”All His Worldly Goods” is an excellent mix of horror and nostalgia where a copy of Montague Summers’ famous “The Supernatural Omnibus” keeps haunting a lonely bookshop clerk while “Erbach’s Emporium of Automata” is a tantalizing tale about childhood memories, describing an odd emporium of mechanical toys and its unspeakable secrets.

In the offbeat and disturbing “The Butcher’s Daughter” the appalling private affairs of a recently deceased old lady are finally revealed when a couple of newly-weds goes to live in her former house.

“1<_0" is the disquieting report of the gradual physical and spiritual disappearance of a man becoming quite invisible to his own family.

…if you're a daring person ready to experiment with unusual types of fiction, introspective journeys into the human psyche and you're not as old fashioned as I am to require stories with a clear-cut plot and actual characters, I suspect you will greatly enjoy this offbeat book."