Biannual Magazine of Literature & the Arts Issue 15 - June 2009
Welcome! Welcome to Issue 15 of Gold Dust magazine! As always, we have squeezed in all the best new writing we can find, with 5 short stories, 2 flash fiction pieces and 8 poems. This issueâ€™s Best Prose goes to the weird and wonderful Gutterballâ€™s Labyrinth by Craig Wallwork, while Best Poem is Arunjuez by Alex Cleary. Our Cover Story features an interview with
Kevin Brownlow (p6), who wrote and directed the critically
acclaimed film It Happened Here (1965), a look at what might have happened if Hitler had won World War II and successfully occupied the UK. Kevin directed a second feature film, Winstanley, in 1975 and is now a respected film historian. A review of his book, Winstanley, Warts and All, about the making of this film is on p4. We also have an interview with new author
Frank Burton (p42), whose first collection of short
stories is out later this year. Meanwhile, our feature,
Publish Me Happy 2009 (p36), is the perfect of-the-moment publication
guide for writers, taking a look at how recent technologies have forever altered this field. Finally, take a peek at our four in-depth book reviews, which will help you pick out your next read. Enjoy! Omma Velada (Founder)
Gold Dust www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
Where to buy
Additional copies can be purchased from: www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine
Join us Prose Editor & Cover Designer David Gardiner Poetry Editor Claire Tyne Webmaster, DTP & Founder Omma Velada Proofreader Jo Fraser
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Cover photograph Stephanie McKendrick Cover design David Gardiner
Contents Short stories
Rate of Exchange by Joe Dornich Drama
The Dying Glory by Yelena Dubrovin Drama
Gutterballâ€™s Labyrinth by Craig Wallwork Science Fiction BEST PROSE
Gone Missing by Joseph Atwood Drama
Suspicion by Scott Newport Drama
Winstanley, Warts and All by Kevin Brownlow Reviewed by David Gardiner
Review: Tangled Roots by Sue Guiney Reviewed by David Gardiner
Review: Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science by Robert L Park Reviewed by David Gardiner
The White Road and other stories by Tania Hershman Reviewed by David Gardiner
Poems Flash fiction
Meditation on the Harp Joseph R. Trombatore
White Lies by Nick Allen Science Fiction
AFTER SEEING YOU Mary Ann Honaker
The Man who understood Women by Dennis Vanvick Comedy
Coral Shivani Sivagurunathan
Looking for a home in someone elseâ€™s brain Jude Dillon
Thomas Jefferson Speaks ... Peter Magliocco
Nephew James Keane
Aranjuez Alex Cleary BEST POEM
Genesis 187 Jim Bainbridge
Feature p36 Review p34 Features
Interview: Kevin Brownlow Film Historian
Publish Me Happy 2009 by Omma Velada Getting published in the internet/credit crunch/print-on-demand age
Interview: Frank Burton Author and Performance Poet
Winstanley, Warts and All by Kevin Brownlow (UKA Press, 2009) £9.99 Large format paperback with 60+ photographs ISBN: 978-1-905796-22-9
his new book by elder statesman of independent cinema Kevin Brownlow tells the story of the making of the 1975 film Winstanley, which he co-directed with Andrew Mollo. It contains a large number of stills from the film and photographs of the amazing location at Churt in Surrey, and of the (largely amateur) cast and crew and their families at work and at play during the filming. Before describing the book I have to declare an interest: I was the editor at UKA Press for the second edition of How It Happened Here, Kevin's book about the making of what was probably his best-known film It Happened Here, and he asked me to work with him again on this one. I have also heard that my IMDb.com newsgroup review of Winstanley is to be used as the description of the film in the accompanying brochure when the British Film Institute issue it on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 27th, so I cannot claim neutrality where either the book or the film is concerned. Kevin started to make It Happened Here with a borrowed 16mm camera in 1956 when he was 18 years old and working in the cutting room of a London pro-
duction company. He paired up with Andrew Mollo (then 16) and for six years they struggled to complete the film, virtually without a budget, finding actors, actresses, locations, props and backing as they went along. It is generally recognised as the best amateur film ever made. The film was about the German invasion and occupation of England in the Second World War, which of course never happened. The English are portrayed as collaborating with the Nazis in much the same way as the French did, and cooperating in the Nazi's programme of genocide and racial 'purification'. The youthful and perhaps naïve Brownlow and Mollo used genuine British fascists as actors in the film and gave then carte blanche to state their views. The film industry (particularly in America, and most of all in New York) as well as various Jewish organisations and others were deeply shocked by the brief sequence in which the fascists appeared, and tried to get the film taken off and banned. Eight years after they started, in 1964, the film was given international distribution by United Artists, but with the controversial six minute sequence removed. Brownlow and Mollo tried to explain that the film was profoundly anti-fascist and anti-war, and that they had allowed Frank Bennet (British fascist) and his friends to condemn themselves out of their own mouths, but the damage had been done and they had to live with the stigma of being branded fascist filmmakers for decades afterwards – it is doubtful if their careers ever really recovered. Kevin became a film historian and documentary director, and wrote The Parade's Gone By..., the definitive history of early Hollywood, which he also made into an award-winning TV series, Hollywood, and highly revered books on people like Charlie Chaplin, David Lean and Mary Pickford. In 1973, the passing years and the eminence of their
Review: Winstanley, Warts and All by Kevin Brownlow talent having won them at least partial redemption from the industry's blacklist, Brownlow and Mollo teamed up again with direct backing from the BFI to make a film of the life of the 17th century leader of the Digger movement and arguably the world's first communist theorist, Gerrard Winstanley. The resulting film Winstanley made little impact commercially but quickly became a beacon for far left political thinkers and an inspiration for anarchist and hippy communes worldwide. Most people know very little of the Diggers, except perhaps from the Leon Rosselson song The World Turned Upside Down, popularised in a rock version by Billy Bragg. The facts are that in April 1649, amid the chaos churned up by the English Civil War, with Cromwell in charge and the country alight with all manner of social visions for the future, a band of about 40 Diggers inspired by Gerrard Winstanley and William Everard began to dig uncultivated common land on St. George's Hill near Cobham in Surrey. They built simple houses in which to live, sharing all their goods and produce in common. As word spread, and the privileged woke up to the implications of this tiny token action, the authorities turned hostile. The commune was dispersed by government troops, Winstanley and Everard arrested, tried, and heavily fined. Each new attempt to get the community started was crushed by violence, harassment and intimidation. Nevertheless, despite all the government opposition to the experiment and the hostility that was stirred up against it, the Cobham colony lasted until 1651. The Surrey Diggers inspired other colonies in other parts of England, but ultimately none of them could withstand the forces mobilized against them. Winstanley's dream of a gentler, more just and happy world was not to be, or at least not yet. Three hundred and sixty years later we are still waiting, the vision perhaps more distant than ever. The film, loosely based on David Caute's novel about the life of Winstanley, Comrade Jacob, was made in black and white for a budget of ÂŁ72,000, using one professional actor (Jerome Willis who plays General Fairfax) and the unpaid services of hundreds of enthusiastic amateurs and off-duty professional crew, working for nothing at weekends and between other engagements. This is the kind of loyalty that the Brownlow/Mollo partnership commands: people Issue 15
know that they will not be paid and the project will lose money and also that it will be among the proudest entries on their CVs. Winstanley, Warts and All is written in the same engaging and self-deprecating style and inhabited by the same dry humour as Kevin's previous How It Happened Here, and takes the reader through all the triumphs and despair of low-budget filmmaking with just enough technical detail to bring the experience to life but without becoming 'technical'. A lot of the book is concerned with creative partnerships and how they operate, Brownlow and Mollo being as different in personality as they are in appearance but with strengths that fill in for one another's weaknesses and a shared fanaticism for historical accuracy, both in terms of the details and the spirit of the times they portray. This is not just a practical account of the making of a film, it is a personal 'confession' of an artist's commitment to a project and the emotions that drive him in his attempt to 'conduct' the inevitably huge collection of people involved in the creation of a feature film so as to realise his artistic vision. Filmmaking perhaps more than any of the other arts is an irreducibly cooperative activity, and this book illustrates it on many levels, from the partnership between the two directors to the business of organising a shoot and maintaining the support of backers and the sympathy of the reviewers, all mirrored in the radically cooperative spirit of the film's subject matter. For anybody contemplating amateur or professional filmmaking, or with an interest in either cinema or radical politics, this book is a 'must read'.
Find out more Winstanley, Warts and All is now available to buy from Amazon. How It Happened Here (UKA Press, 2007) is also still available to buy.
Interview: Kevin Brownlow Omma Velada interviews the film historian about his work and his passion for the silent movie era It Happened Here not only predates other alternate history films The Philidelphia Experiment, If Britain Had Fallen and Fatherland, but in modern reviews is generally compared favourably to them, despite its almost non-existent budget. What do you think is the key to its critical success? They actually made a number of these films in the silent days - the biggest of which was The Invasion of Britain directed in 1918 by Herbert Brenon. Sadly the film was junked at the armistice, all but one sequence with Ellen Terry. The critical reaction to It Happened Here at the time was mixed - those that liked it probably responded to the element of authenticity. What lay behind the choice a woman for the lead role, and also the significance of her Irish nationality? I suspect I was influenced by Mrs Miniver. I always saw a woman in the lead. Her Irish nationality was an accident - a result of casting a friend, born in Dublin. Would you be happy for It Happened Here to be re-made by Hollywood? There was a flicker of interest from Hollywood at one time. In the right hands, they could make a magnificent job of it. The message of recent film The Reader (2009) seems to be 'We are all responsible'. How do you feel this relates to that of 'This could have happened anywhere' in It Happened Here? I would like to make an epic documentary on this subject. There are so many things the average audi8
ence just hasn't been told. I still find what the Germans did beyond comprehension, but now I find we did some of the same things. Because we won we can conceal them. For instance, we maintained the naval blockade on central Europe for nearly a year after the armistice in 1918 to get better peace terms at Versailles. I daren't put the figure down of those that perished in case I get it wrong, but it was a lot more than those who died at Hiroshima. We went to war to protect Poland. We failed to protect Poland in any way at all. In the end, we handed Poland to an even worse dictator than the one we had declared war on. Between 55-70 million people died during this period. It all makes me more of a pacifist than I was to begin with. You began making the film just 11 years after the war. Did British sentiment at the time influence your decision for the film's message? Were you hoping to change opinion, or at least make people ask themselves the question 'What would I have done'? Yes, I couldn't believe how smug we were with the oft-repeated phrase 'It couldn't happpen here'. We now know it could and in places like Ireland, it did. I must admit that I asked myself - 'It's eleven years since the end of the war. Is there anyone still interested in the subject?' Do you think your career was damaged by the ad-
Interview: Kevin Brownlow verse reaction of the Jewish press to It Happened Here? It didn't need the Jewish Chronicle, etc. Just a few people muttering about It Happened Here being a Fascist film was enough to put producers off us for life! It took you and Andrew Mollo several years to raise the money to make your second film together. Do you think this was, in part, caused by the controversial nature of your first and would you have made It Happened Here any differently? No, we wouldn't have made It Happened Here any differently - although I would like to fix some of the performances and adjust the end. The difficulty in raising the money was due to Winstanley being a profoundly uncommercial project.
dience? If a Multiplex had the courage to reserve one theatre for silent films, and did it properly, with beautiful prints and live music, it would undoubtedly draw. We showed Lubitsch's Old Heidelberg (1928) at NFT-2 with piano accompaniment a few years ago and 25 people came. Next door, a few months later, we showed the same film with Carl Davis conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and 2,500 people came. Live Cinema, as we call it, is in effect a new form of entertainment because you need to be 85 and over to have experienced it the first time round.
A brilliant idea was the start of It Happened Here, but what drew you to the story of Winstanley? We kept trying to find a project that excited us. The novel of Comrade Jacob had that quality of Englishness we respond to, had that military element that we both find fascinating. One of the French critics at the time of the film's release said we regarded history as others regard science fiction - it's true. Was the choice of black and white film a stylistic or a financial one? If we could have afforded 35mm colour, we might have been tempted, but l6mm colour in those days looked miserable. Why do you think you are drawn to the media of film rather than another form of creative expression? I have been in love with cinema since the age of 11. It is a religion with me. And recreating the past is the nearest you can get to living through it. You've done a lot to debunk the myth of jerky silent movies and shown their positives in your books and TV documentaries - how they transcended language, often had live musical accompaniment, etc. Do you think there is a place for the silent movie for today's cinema-going auIssue 15
It is now possible to download /It Happened Here/ on torrent sites and I see that Photoplay Productions is in the process of setting up a website. How has recent technology affected your work and ability to reach people? DVD is a godsend - you can slip a feature into your 9
Interview: Kevin Brownlow pocket rather than stagger around with ten reels of 35mm. And if it has been transferred properly, it can project beautifully. All sorts of forgotten titles are becoming available. At the same time, of course, all sorts of important titles are being overlooked.
You've said you became a film historian rather than a director because of the difficulty of viewing your own films. Do you think this would have been different with bigger budgets, or is it more down to being a perfectionist? I set out to become the second Orson Welles. That proved rather more difficult than I anticipated! If I had had bigger budgets, I expect my control would have been reduced and my disappointment with the film would have been greater. Most artists have difficulty watching their own work. I find watching the work of others far more rewarding. Congratulations on being awarded the Mel Novikoff award in 2007. In your acceptance speech, you questioned whether cinema had advanced as much in the past thirty years as silent film did during its 30-year reign. Why do you think this is? In the silent era no one knew what wasn't possible. It was inevitable that after the pioneering period, once talkies had settled into a routine, audiences would no longer expect impressive aesthetic advances. I suppose CGI is the advance mostly associated with our time. That and the unfettered use of extreme vio10
lence, which alienates me from a whole area of modern cinema. What do you think about where cinema is heading now, with the popularity of IMAX/3D movies, special effects, etc? These sort of films have always been with us - some have been marvellous. But think of all the outstanding social films we can see nowadays. And isn't it incredible to think that Ken Loach is still making uncompromising pictures after nearly half a century? You've had the chance to meet many interesting people in the course of your work - Beckett, Kubrick, etc. Who would you most like to spend an evening with? The beauty of the first two-thirds of my life was that I was able to spend the equivalent of an evening with most of the picture people that interested me - and how incredibly rewarding that was! That generation has now gone and I am as old as they were. One of the figures I regret missing was D W Griffith (Oscarwinning American film director 1875-1948). What is your favourite film of all time? Napoleon. You have achieved so much already, but is there anything you would still love to accomplish? I would like to make a documentary on Douglas Fairbanks. He got me hooked on film history, so as I came in with Fairbanks, it would be neat to go out with Fairbanks. Finally, what one thing would you like to tell a budding film-maker today? I would advise him to find another form of work, but I don't believe that myself.
Find out more Kevinâ€™s Wikipedia entry is at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Brownlow and his imdb entry is at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002206
Meditation on the Harp after Salvador Daliâ€™s painting, 1934 Anointed in endless sky & cloud the whispers from last night are in brown A taupe wash of fingers pointing & a question mark Children catching parents in awkward moments late at night Source: stock.xchng
We require support from songbirds to survive a sunrise Our landscapes lush with mulberry, magnolia We climb up their limbs among angry blue jays Our hands trace the carved initials of lovers on their muscled trunks Shadows of a childhood & a time traveler's journal Anxious for the next chapter of Buck Rogers to begin Those Sunday mornings of explaining the blood stains on our pants Joseph R. Trombatore
Rate of Exchange Joe Dornich Even in remotest Cambodia, there is no escaping the past... here are always clues. Sometimes it’s as simple as a new sound. It’s the clicking claws of a small dog scurrying against hardwood floors, when you have neither. It’s the way the air tastes. It could be that the pillows are too thin, or the texture of unfamiliar sheets against your skin. But it’s always something, and you know immediately. Without realizing how you got there, or even opening your eyes, you know that you are in a strange bed, and it is unsettling. What clued me in was the arm draped over the small of my back. In my bed, in my room, I sleep alone, and therefore free myself from the search of wandering limbs. My eyes open, and I am mercifully facing a wall. Above my head is a window, partially covered by drab soiled curtains that look like they were used to wrap a wound. Rays of sunlight stream in, thick and unapologetic. They canvas the sheets and uncovered flesh, eager to illuminate how the decisions of the night have carried over. The light shines on the dust, floating around the room like a miniature snowstorm. And as I lay there watching it fall, thoughts cross my mind. Eighty per cent of dust is human skin. And. Where. The. Fuck. Am.
I? Close my eyes again, as if that will make all of this go away. I am not ready to face this new rung of compromised morality. I see myself back home, crudely fingering the antique globe your mother gave us. Measuring it out. Cambodia, Phenom Penh specifically, was as far away as I could get from you before I’d be headed back again. I am staying at the Lucky Number 7 Guesthouse. The guidebook boasted of their budget friendly rooms and outdoor bar, both of which provide views of Boeng Kak Lake and its heralded sunsets. Of course the lake and surrounding air are heavily polluted, so those sunsets are enhanced by the unnatural colors
that occur when man’s chemicals spill on to God’s canvas. This arm draped over me now, this new touch, feels foreign. It is a pun I think you would enjoy. This buoys my spirits; knowing it is a new height from which they’ll eventually fall. The streets here are lined with trees on crutches. Pieces of wood are fitted under branches to support decaying trunks. The birds that nest in these trees line their homes with trash picked from the gutters. I watch these birds, living in their squalid homes, built on crumbling foundations, and already I’m thinking of us. Young boys and girls compete with the humidity to see which can accost me first. All smiles and eyes, they jockey for my attention. Displaying their carts, and proudly
Rate of Exchange by Joe Dornich holding aloft their wares, they hope to barter and make a sale. A modest contribution to their struggling families. They are children well versed in everything but childhood. Lying here now, I find it amusing how fickle intent and desire can be. I’m sure during the night, protected by the shadows, I was overcome with a ravenous zeal when it came to touching and being touched. Submissive and pliable, nothing was out of bounds, no act or sentiment taboo. But now, awash in daylight, my passions faded with the moon, I do not wish to be touched. To be claimed. Wanting to sleep with someone and wanting to wake up to them, are unfortunately, rarely related. Are you disappointed in my behavior, my predicament? How it is that I’ve wound up in a strange bed, without any recall of how I got there, or what I may have done in it. Is this unlike me, that I am not myself? Or is it that you hardly knew me? Source: stock.xchng
The night isn’t a total blank. Disjointed images flash in my mind like a poorly edited film. I see the guesthouse bar, lit by beer signs in various shades of dying neon. I see moonlight reflected off polluted waters. Faces of young women who patrol the bar. They hide in corners, or sit on stools, slumped and weary like broken dolls. Things once loved by a child, and then forgotten. But every face holds the promise of a new memory. A history I can build which will be all my own. Something to cling to and counter with when you stomp around in my head, demanding to be heard. One of these faces carries gentle eyes the color of weak coffee. Her name is Sophal. This I remember. We drink Tiger Beers and trade pasts. She is the mother of two young boys, each sired by a foreigner. A fa-rang. They no doubt came here eager for experience, fueling their desire with empty promises. A promise to save, to stay, to nurture. To pull out. And now their half-truths have manifested themselves into two young boys without the hope of a father. Sophal suggests we go to another bar. She does not say where her boys are, and I do not ask. I see our table tucked into a corner. People appear and vanish into shadows. American pop music is extended beyond comprehension into techo dance beats. Sophal eyes our collection of drinks, the pile of change on the table, then meets my gaze and offers, “The exchange here is good for you.” And I am foolish enough to believe she is referring to the money. It’s been too long, and the
raw feel of another has become unnatural, something to fear. Unaided by lust or alcohol, her hand is heavy and full of menace. And I know my head is crowded with words I can’t ignore, but this is not the touch of a lover. It’s the vestigial remains of a conjoined twin. Spiteful and cheated, he has watched my life from above, the decisions I’ve made. The gentle caress of fingertips on me are his, tapping out in Morse code along the knuckles of my spine - I could have done better. Is this why you remarried so quickly? To save yourself from the trappings of alien flesh and misplaced sympathy. The film cuts to a cab ride through the city. Our destination, unspoken, or unheard. In the backseat, her hands are on my thighs, my chest, cradling my head. More hands than seem possible. She climbs on my lap, her black hair tenting my face. Her breath is warm like the evening sun, and my senses are drunk on all the ways she is not you. Then the blackness comes and swallows all. Gentle footfalls are added to my menagerie of unfamiliar sounds. Reluctantly I raise myself and find the gaze of two young boys. Inky black hair spills over their heads. Their eyes are a concoction of emotion. They are confused but curious, wary yet hopeful. They do not know how I got here, so close to their mother, but they silently plead for me to stay. And oh Amanda, if you could see me now. 13
The Dying Glory Yelena Dubrovin Some final reflections on a life less lived...
ry not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.’ Albert Einstein
Dr. Spider arrived home shortly after eight. He was late for dinner and paid no attention to his wife waiting for his arrival. He took off his coat and proceeded directly to his music room, his favorite place in the house, connected to the den where his collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings was displayed. He sat at the piano, which stood in the middle of his spacious music room, and his eyes traveled slowly around, proud of his creation, his dwelling, his place of seclusion, where at the end of the day he could escape all the troubles, all the unpleasantness and immerse himself in the world of music, literature and art. Tonight, engulfed in sentimental emotions, he was in a mood to play Brahms, his favorite composer who could always bring peace to his heart after a long and stressful day at work. The music filled the room with its romantic, rapturous chords. Even the devilish faces on the Bosch painting seemed to soften their mean facial expressions, touched by the beauty of the music. 14
On the wall across from the piano was a painting, a moral tale, Death and the Miser, by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, ‘the master of the monstrous, the discoverer of the unconscious’, an eccentric painter with tormented vision, his favorite. He bought this painting at an auction house in Germany where he read in the description of the painting that Death and the Miser served as a warning to anyone who has grabbed at life's pleasures, without being sufficiently detached, and who was unprepared to die. Who would feel indifferent to this fable? He fell in love with it. He studied the painting many times and felt its magic. Often looking at this picture, Dr. Spider brooded about his own death which he feared obsessively; he saw it as a demon that he would fight with all his strength. Nevertheless, he could not know how much time there was left for him and he tried to invest in life as much as he could. His greatest desire was to leave a legacy, to build a monument to himself during his lifetime. His voyage through the sea of time should not be in vain. Dr. Spider was one of the greatest American scientists “the pillar of science” as his colleagues called him. He, himself, felt that the reward of his life would be to write a
page with his name in the book of history with golden letters. Like Napoleon Bonaparte, he was gifted with an astonishing memory and passionate zest for life. At the origin of his career, when he was young he wanted to conquer the world of science, to find the cure for so many threatening diseases. Time flew so fast, faster than he could even imagine; the unfulfilled dreams did not bother him any longer. He gazed at himself in the mirror, and his eyes dimmed with pain – he visibly aged during the last ten years. His favorite dog coiled up in the corner by the fireplace and rested peacefully enjoying the warmth and cracking of the wood in the fire. Dr. Spider placed his aching body in his favorite armchair, stretched out his legs before the fire and stared at the dancing embers. He was tired and felt his age pressing heavily on his shoulders; he laid back and closed his eyes for a second, slowly dozing, returning in his dreams to his youth, turning the pages of his life back, where he saw himself again, young and handsome, surrounded by his parents and his servants. He saw angels above him, singing to him with their pure beautiful voices and the white clouds, dancing around him like brides in their white gowns on the day of their
The Dying Glory by Yelena Dubrovin wedding. But, suddenly, through these clouds, he saw a familiar face from the Bosch painting, a face with a twisted grimace, disheveled hair standing straight up on a longish skull, and protuberant eyes laughing at him. It was the face of the Devil or the face of Death, staring at him through the white clouds, long bony hands trying to reach for him. He heard his own loud voice barking like a voice of a dog. When he opened his eyes – his dog was asleep at his feet and the fire in the fireplace had almost ebbed. He looked at his watch – half past twelve. The house was immersed into nighttime stillness. He surveyed slowly the room with his foggy eyes and thought sadly that he was surrounded by all these beautiful ob-
jects -- furniture, bronze vases, old sculptures, magnificent oil paintings in golden frames that he had collected with such tremendous passion throughout his life, and yet, in spite of all these wonders, there was something missing in this house and in his life. He bent his head, staring at the dying embers in the fireplace and fell into deep meditation. Then he raised his eyes and observed the room again with some curiosity, recognizing suddenly that perhaps the warmth and love that he needed now the most had been missing from his rich and successful life. He felt the coldness of the walls of his old house, the cool wind penetrating through the window’s chinks, piercing his flabby skin like sharp needles. He shivered from
the cold and, wrapping his shoulders and knees in a wool throw, groaned and closed his eyes. And once again, the face of the Devil smiled at him through the purity of the moving away clouds, carrying along with them the disappearing devilish face from the Bosch painting, a sign of destiny. Time passed by, but Dr. Spider was still sitting at his fireplace – his shoulders hunched over, his head drooped down, and a few moments later he steeped into a slumber. But even in his dream, his mind was searching vainly for some remembrance of his past, and slowly, as he disconnected himself from reality, a mystical power took him back in time, where his young free spirit had had so many ambitious hopes, seeking new heights. He couldn’t separate his past from his present any longer as he could not distinguish between the dream and reality. In his hallucination, he now saw a long, billowy and tortuous, almost impassible road, covered with stones. A small stooped figure shuffled slowly along it, struggling to reach the end of the road, the road that was leading him to fame and success, but there, at the end, instead of all the expected glory, he saw the devilish face of Death, staring down at him from the Bosch painting in its heavy golden frame. It was a dark, unfathomable road, with neither a clear sky nor a glimpse of light around it. As a black curtain of dust fell upon it, there was no sun, no wind and no stars, just a black moon, hanging sadly above it, and the silent shadows moving slowly along the road behind him. 15
Gutterball’s Labyrinth Craig Wallwork Something is wrong with Milton Ball, aka ‘Gutterball’... hen Milton Ball was seven, his father sat him on his lap and told him he was a mistake. The word was like a sixinch nail resting on his heart. The hammer that drove it in was the reason. Milton’s father produced a small fire match from his pocket and placed it in a plastic sandwich bag. With the match still clamped between his fingers, he began shaking the bag up and down until it fell off. “I suffer from what most people refer to as a pencil dick, son,” said Milton’s father. “More than likely, you’ll suffer from the same condition when older.” While unscrewing the cap from a bottle of Wild turkey, he went on to say, “To stop some girl’s uterus holding more condoms than a Durex dispenser, my advice would be to invest in a lot of elastic bands.” He filled a tumbler three fingers high, took a hit and finished with, “I shouldn’t worry too much though; you’re so damn ugly you’ll probably remain a virgin.” Milton’s father died two weeks later of an embolism. He bent down to pick up a bottle of Remy Martin and never got up. Milton found his father the next morning, face half black due to the blood settling. He kicked the body twice to make sure he was dead: once in the arm, the second in the
head. Milton then prised the bottle of brandy from his father’s hand, took a swig, poured the rest over his father’s crotch, struck the same match he used to illustrate his hereditary lack of girth, and threw it on the body. When the fireman arrived, Milton sat unperturbed on the staircase in the hallway. As feral waves of yellow and red flames crawled up the walls around him, Milton yelled to the fireman, “I’m a big mistake! I’m a big mistake with a pencil dick!” The fireman who hoisted him up and on to his shoulder never heard a word, nor did he hear Milton cry out when, during the rush to get him out of the burning house, he banged his head on the doorframe. Now, some fifteen years later, Milton Ball can still feel the lump on his head, and every time he does, he is reminded of how ugly he is, and how wonderful a burning house looks at dawn. Hector Bingleton is examining the head lump in Milton’s living room. Hector Bingleton is a fourth-year medical student who lacks the bedside manner and discipline of his peers, but fortunately for Milton, he is self-important, cheap and lives next door. “You say it happened when?” asks Hector.
BEST PROSE Milton clears his throat, and says, “When I was seven.” Hector refers to one of five medical reference manuals he brought from his home. Scanning the page of Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnoses, he says, “And you say you’ve been having dizzy spells for how long?” “On and off, five years.” Hector flicks a few pages and says, “Could be just Glue Ear, but my best guess is it’s BPPV.” “BPPV? Sounds bad,” says Milton. Hector looks up from his book and says, “It’s four fucking letters, and the first one stands for benign. There’s no need to start writing out your will.” Hector is overweight, bordering on obese, which means his face finds it hard to articulate emotion. The raise of an eyebrow or curl of lip that would normally assure a person a remark was made in jest is almost impossible when your face weighs ten pounds. For this reason, Milton is unsure if he should be worried or not. Changing the subject, Milton says, “The local kids, they’ve started calling me Gutterball.” Hector returns to his book. “It’s because I’m always drifting into the road, you know, because of the dizziness. And my last name is Ball.”
Gutterball’s Labyrinth by Craig Wallwork “You know what people call me?” Hector says thumbing a few pages. “Constipated… because I don’t give a shit.” Milton laughs a little, but he’s sure the remark wasn’t meant as a joke. “Listen,” says Hector, slamming the reference book shut. “It appears this knock to your head, the one you had when you were seven, has caused fragments of calcium carbonate crystals called otoconia to break off within the semicircular canals of the inner ear near the cochlea. You don’t need me to draw you out a diagram, do you?” Hector didn’t wait for a response. “The canals hold a system of narrow fluid-filled channels called the labyrinth, all of which sense movement of the head and help control balance and posture. On occasion, such as an inner ear infection, or head trauma like the one you had, one of these fragments can get into one of the semicircular canals, usually the posterior canal. It’s probably been sat there for years, wedged in the labyrinth, which is why it wasn’t apparent straight away. You said you’ve been suffering dizzy spells for how long?” “About five years.” “About five years ago you must have knocked your head, dislodging the otoconia. Now, whenever your head moves in certain directions, like bending down, or even turning too quickly, this tiny little fucker bombards messages down the vestibular nerve, confusing the brain that results in a sense of vertigo. That, my ugly Issue 15
little friend, is why you have Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, and it’s why I’m going to get a fucking honours degree next year. High five!” Hector holds aloft a hand the size of a snow shovel. To not cause affront, Milton slaps it. “Do I need to have an operation?” “Aside from the face lift? No. There’s a simple cure called the Epley Manoeuvre.” “Is it painful?” “It’s just a series of head movements that helps move the otoconia from where it is back into the vestibule.” Hector misses a beat before saying, “Seriously, though; even your mother must have found it hard loving a face like that, right?” Milton looks to the floor, and through hesitant breath, says, “She never got the time.” Milton Ball’s gift to his mother for giving him life was to take it from her. She was alive long enough to hold him in her arms, smell his head, and ask the doctor if it was normal for a baby to look so wrinkly. Before the doctor could assure her Milton would gradually iron out, she suffered a major haemorrhage and died. Milton’s father, unprepared for the responsibility of being the sole parent, did what most young men would do and took to drink. With no parents left to raise him, the day after the house fire Milton moved in with his Aunt Bea, his guardian by default. She was an old spinster with a skin condition that Milton seemed to aggravate whenever they were in the
same room. To keep him happy, and as far away as possible, Aunt Bea would buy him pets, which she made him promise to look after and keep in his bedroom. It’s been three weeks since Hector Bingleton performed the Epley Manoeuvre. In that time Milton hadn’t bent down to tie his shoelace, or lie on the affected ear, just as Hector had instructed. Every night he had slept upright on a small armchair in his living room, hardly moving his neck at all. Now, on the twenty-second day, Hector is performing a few routine checks. He first makes Milton turn his head to the right and then the left. He then tells him to look up and then down again. His final instruction is to make Milton bend down, touch his toes and return upright, as quickly as he can. Milton gets as far as his knees before the world shifts beneath his feet, forcing him to crash over his coffee table and land face first on the hardwood floor. While Milton lies dazed in a pool of steaming hot coffee, Hector rubs his mammoth chin and says, “You’ve obviously not told me all the symptoms. You can’t blame me if you’re not being totally honest. Is there anything else?” Checking his head for blood, Milton says, “I don’t think so.” “No headaches? Shortness of breath?” “I have a headache now,” says Milton. “Stop being a pussy. I’m serious.” Then, as the silence around both men developed, Milton remembers something. “When it’s 17
Gutterball’s Labyrinth by Craig Wallwork quiet, I hear things.” When Milton was eight years old, he assumed animals lived for only three days. Never any sign of escape, dead carcass or funny smell was apparent to Milton, or Aunt Bea on that third day. All that remained in the room was either an empty hutch, fishbowl, birdcage or kennel. Realising love was fleeting, even at the tender of age of eight, Milton made sure each new
for long walks around the local neighbourhood. For each one of those seventy-two hours, Milton Ball gave his all to love and protect each animal before they disappeared. His final parting show of affection was to allow each one to share his bed. “Things?” Hector asks. “What things? Do you hear voices in you head? Are you crazy as well as ugly? That’s never a good combi-
animal Aunt Bea brought into his bedroom was adored unconditionally: like the small canary which had its feathers treated every morning and evening with Aunt Bea’s Oil of Olay to make them shine. Then there was the hamster that had its fur washed with Fairy liquid to keep clean and smelling lemony. The two goldfish, Salt and Vinegar, both had their scales polished with Brasso, and for the one small chocolate brown Labrador he named Biscuit, Milton fashioned small boots from an old bicycle tire, wrapped them around each paw with twine, and took him 18
nation, Milton.” “It’s not voices,” Milton says calmly. “Good. Best stick with ugly for the time being. Nobody locks you up for being ugly. Though I’m sure a few authorities might make an exception in your case.” “If the doctor thing doesn’t work out, you should really join the Samaritans,” says Milton, sarcastically. “I would, but I’m not gay. Now, explain the noises.” “I don’t know…it sounds like…being in the woods. Would you mind looking to see if I have
anything wedged in there? I read that on average we consume five spiders a year in our sleep; maybe one found its way into my ear and is stuck.” “You think there’s a spider in your ear… one that makes noises like the woods?” “Okay, it’s probably not a spider, but it has to be something pretty strange if you can’t figure it out.” “Who said I couldn’t figure it out? It’s probably just Glue Ear, like I said originally.” “Yeah, but what if it isn’t?” “I’m the medical student here, not you. I’ll prove it!” Hector reaches into his inside pocket and pulls out a small torch. Twisting the head to turn it on, he kneels down on the floor beside Milton and points the light into his ear. “What do you see?” asks Milton. “When was the last time you cleaned your ears?” Milton tries to remember, but for a moment, he is unsure if he ever has. He’s about to apologise for his poor hygiene standards when Hector draws in a sharp intake of air. “What? Is it bad? Is it a tumour? Can you get tumours in the ear?” “My light… it’s gone.” “Where?” There was a long pause before Hector spoke. “I’m not too sure I believe it myself, but it’s gone in your ear.” By the age of ten, Milton would go through seven pillows a week, and at least one bedsheet.
Gutterball’s Labyrinth by Craig Wallwork Every night he’d kneel before his bed at Aunt Bea’s, say a prayer to his dead mother and father, and fall asleep. In the morning, he would awake with a sore neck and no pillow. Aunt Bea would ask him, “Milton; where are all the pillows? And what have you done with all your pets?” But Milton never knew the answer. Hector is on his fifth carrot, and is ready with a foot-long cucumber when Milton tells him to stop. “How can this be good?” asks Milton, a nervous tremble evident in his voice. “What’s bad about it? Your ear has consumed two bananas, one orange and five carrots. That’s more than your recommended five a day.” “That’s not what I mean. How is it possible?” “It’s not,” he says, pushing the cucumber into Milton’s ear canal. “But, God, it’s fun! Have you a melon? Nothing too big. A cantaloupe will do.” Milton tries to get up from the floor, but he still feels dizzy. “Enough, Hector,” he says, falling back to the cold floor. “I’m thankful for your help, really I am, but I want to be alone.” Hector lowers his head, a gesture halfway between guilt, and one of contemplation. “You want me to leave?” “Yes,” says Milton. Hector draws back, as if about to get up and leave, but before doing so reaches out his arm and thrusts it deep into Milton’s ear. “What are you doing Hector?!” Issue 15
“Learning!” Pressing his head against his arm, Hector pushes against the ear and the canal dilates, stretching wide to accommodate his huge head. “Hector, please don’t!” By now, Hector can’t hear him. His head is already consumed whole by the ear. A deep mumbling presents itself inside Milton’s head. “I’m entering the Eustachian Tube!” Hector shouts. “It’s frigging wonderful in here!” “Please, Hector, come out! How will you finish your term papers?” Inside his head, Hector replies, “Who cares?! We’ll go on
“When was the last time you cleaned your ears?” Milton tries to remember, but for a moment, he is unsure if he ever has... the road and make millions! Milton Ball, the young man the local kids call Gutterball, can see from the corner of his eye Hector Bingleton’s boots kicking out as they try desperately to gain the leverage to push his obese body further through the inner ear. “I can see the semicircular canal!” shouts Hector. “And the cochlea!” The more Hector pushes deeper down his ear, the dizzier Milton feels. “Stop, Hector. The room is spinning!” “I don’t believe it!” shouts Hector. Concerned, Milton shouts back, “What? What can you see?” There’s a long pause before
he speaks. “There’s a dog in here wearing boots!” “What?” Milton hears Hector coaxing the dog to approach him. “It’s a Labrador, I think.” Milton shouts back, “Is it brown?!” “It’s hard to tell in this light… Wait… I can’t be sure, but I think there’s a canary in here too, and… two gold…” Milton couldn’t catch the last word properly. “I can’t hear you, Hector! Shout louder!” “I said there’s a….with golden scales!... and loads of pillows… all the animals, they all look so… happy!” Soon Hector Bingleton’s voice fades to a whisper, and then surrenders to the silence. The room is slowing, and since falling to the floor, Milton is finally able to raise his head once again. He shouts Hector’s name a few times, but there is no reply. An hour passes, and then another, and still there is no word from Hector. Milton Ball knelt in front of his bed that night and said a prayer for his mother, his father, and added a special prayer for all his pets and Hector Bingleton. He was sad that he would never see any of those animals again, and in some way he was sad he’d never see Hector either, but he was happy that though ugly and alone to the outside world, he had within him a beautiful place where no one wanted to leave. 19
AFTER SEEING YOU I am a river flowing with golden honey. You are the downy flutter as sparrows gather their wings, and lift their beaks to think of flight; the sound of leaves caressing each otherâ€™s fleshy spans with a clapping quiet, not like hands, but like thoughts saluting the breeze, and a red leaf on the browning autumn grass, as crisp as the smoke-scented air that lifts and gently lays it there. And when the moon, an eggshell crescent raises itself over the lake, perches itself delicately above the black fingers of the trees, in the contrast of a cotton cloud suspended in the fathomless depths of the shining mid-morning sky, I thrill as at the sly glance of your eye, and know myself as rich as any queen. Mary Ann Honaker
Coral Crackling pink, a sea birdâ€™s morning eye plunders deep down the water cage and finds coral beds firing polyps to contact the sun. Vision of a wound, from acreage of stolen incidents, an eye borne of the rocks, musters the creature torn and parading between two worlds, extension of beast and the soft touch. The glands of the globe deliver a sound like a breath, a marine mantra softly going north from a base of genic heads, a family huddled in but generous, giving anthems made from a lung-dwelling, unlike the scratchings of speech. The morning eye turns dusk, and gathers the polyps, slowly, it sets aim towards the disk, hoping that the fire promotes nothing but a pot of prayer where ashes will find their utterance. Shivani Sivagurunathan Source: stock.xchng
White Lies Nick Allen Graham has told Lucy six little white lies...
eclipsed by the fact that they were not married. They had of course been through the ceremony, a grand affair in Lucy’s home village with all her friends and family there watching proudly. Even without his bogus details though, Graham knew that the vicar would have declared the marriage void had he known the truth. Jess stirred, opened her eyes and looked up at her father. She had not said her first word yet, but Graham could see her lips moving as she practiced making vowel sounds while he cooed back with encouragement. Looking up he saw that Lucy was watching them both. She giggled at being noticed and went back to her book still grinning. His final two lies had perhaps been the most difficult to conceal. He had not financed their comfortable lifestyle from working in the anthropology department at the local university and, while it was certainly an interest, maintaining the charade did not come easily. But perhaps the most audacious untruth was the ‘rare endocrine disorder’ which, three times a year, meant a month-long trip to Germany to a private specialist. In reality, Graham had never been to Germany, using the time instead to return to visit his parents and old life, of which Lucy
knew nothing. Graham glanced at Lucy whose eyes had closed. He decided that tonight he would do it, before time ran out. Silently he
raham sat on his verandah in the warm evening air, watching as the sky darkened. His daughter Jess, ten months old now, was asleep in his arms. “Would you like a beer, Hon?” Graham looked up at the pretty face at the door, love in her eyes. He replied with a smile and a nod. He had known Lucy for five years now and, by his reckoning, he had told her six lies. They had met in a park one autumn when their respective dogs bounded off together, forming an instant friendship. “Hi, I’m Graham, Graham Brown.” His first lie. His next came three weeks later when, over their first meal together (which Lucy had suggested when it became obvious he never would), he informed her that he had been born and educated in Oxford. The lies came easily. Lucy arrived with the beer, which he accepted gratefully. She ruffled his hair, then sat in her chair next to him and picked up her latest novel. Lie number three came the same evening when he told her was just eighteen months older than her. He could not even begin to imagine how she would react if she knew the truth. But he supposed even that lie might be
White Lies by Nick Allen stood, Jess in his arms, and, walking quickly, he left his garden and was soon standing in the field at the rear of his house. “Hey Jess, I’ve something to show you.” He pointed into the pitch black sky, unpolluted by street lighting, at a group of stars barely visible to the naked eye. “I love your mum with all my heart, but can never let her know what I’m about to tell you. And I can never tell you again after today, but I must at least once. I am from
one of those stars in that faint group. They are called The Pleiades.” He hoped that her young developing brain would register the information at some subconscious level because his love for her overwhelmed him in a way he could never have imagined, and deceiving her too would break his heart. Behind him was a noise. “Graham, what are you up to out here?” There was no concern
in Lucy’s voice, just curiosity. “Just showing Jess the stars. Look, there’s The Pleiades.” A tiny frown formed on Lucy’s brow, as if trying to recall a forgotten memory. “No, you’ve got that wrong love. They are called The Seven Sisters. I learned that at school.” “Oh yes,” replied Graham, a small smile forming. “I mean, what would I know about such things?”
Gone Missing Joseph Atwood A precious twenty-four hours... he small boy sat behind me gives my seat another good kick as the pilot comes on the intercom to update us on the small delay that we seem to be experiencing. I think of air-rage, apathetic parents, a third G&T, but most of all, my own nine-year-old boy living somewhere with his mother, who I haven’t seen for five years. Kick. Some people would no doubt turn around and narrow their eyes at his mother, or tut loudly, but I know what it’s like travelling with small children on aeroplanes. The long hours, the waiting and the rushing, the crappy food taken at the wrong times, the confined spaces, and in Sam’s case, all those years ago, being dragged from a party and bundled into a car, driven to the airport and taken abroad by me, his father. No wonder kids play up on long journeys. Kick. ‘Mum, I’m bored of planes. Are we there yet?’ I smile at this eternal question. I was asked it myself, in the car on the way from the party, shortly after being asked ‘Dad, where are we going?’ (slightly more fundamental question, I suppose), but I couldn’t answer either question as in all honesty I didn’t have any idea. Sam asked why we had to
leave his birthday so quickly, and why we didn’t tell his mother where we were going, and why we were going to the airport and not to my house, but I just said that we were going on a little holiday and he seemed satisfied with that, excited even. ‘Will there be a beach there?’ he asked. ‘We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?’ I said, with a strained smile. The first plane out of Stansted turned out to be a Ryanair flight to Malaga. The girl on the ticket desk looked at me kind of suspiciously, but couldn’t really give a fuck either way, I suspected, so sold me the two tickets without even cracking her lipgloss. Now that we had bought our tickets, even I managed to convince myself that we were going on a little holiday to the seaside. We bought sunglasses and suntan lotion, a phrase book, and magazines for the flight – FHM for me, Thomas the Tank Engine for him. He got excited by the train from the departures lounge to the gates. It was driverless, so we stood at the front and pretended that we were driving it ourselves. I looked down at his face, his beautiful, open, excited face, and I couldn’t help but be excited myself
about the adventures that we would share, and the new life we would forge together in Spain, or perhaps somewhere else, who knew? He’d never even been on a plane before I realised, as we taxied to the runway. He was stood on his seat looking out the window at all the other planes lying around, disgorging suitcases, connected to fuel lines and walkways, being towed, coming in to land. It was like nothing he’d seen before. ‘Daddy, we’re in the air, we’re in the air!’ he shouted as we left the runway behind. Everyone around us gave a chuckle, the warm condescending laughter that children always seem to induce in others. It was then that I thought, yes, we’re doing it, it’s going to be OK, we’ve done it, we’re away. ‘Come and give your old man a hug, mate,’ I said, and he left his window for a minute and put his arms around my neck and said, ‘This is so exciting, Dad. It’s been the best birthday ever.’ Exactly one hour later, Thomas the Tank Engine lay discarded under the seat in front, boredom had set in, and the tension was rising around us. I had run out of things to do with him. We had looked at his
Gone Missing by Joseph Atwood magazine, my magazine, the inflight magazine, and even made a blow-up ball with the sick-bag. Now he was wriggling around in his seat, swinging his legs, and kicking the seat in front. I was beginning to feel things getting away from me. Who was I to think that I could look after a child, anyway? I could never do it when I was still fully part of Sam’s life – one of the reasons that his mother kicked me out in the first place – so what made me think that I could do it now, on my own? I was telling myself that it would be easier when we were off the plane, and we had settled into a groove. Kids like a routine, I told myself, half remembering the mantra from one of the many parenting books I had been told to read. I tried to remember why I felt it necessary to take Sam. Reasons that had seemed so urgent for the past few weeks, culminating in this afternoon’s snatch and grab at his birthday (his birthday, for God’s sake), now seemed kind of ridiculous. Did I now feel less of a fraud? Did I now feel less immature? Did I now feel like the father I always should have been? Did I feel ready for a life on the run with a four-year-old boy? As we began our descent into Malaga, and Sam slept curled up in a ball resting against me, tired after the day’s various excitements, I knew I was making a big mistake. If a man runs off with his child against the order of the court that has only granted access on Wednesdays and every other weekend, only one thing will tend to happen. Issue 15
As we boarded the bus to take us from the plane to the airport building, I texted Sam’s mother to say, Sorry, I’ll return Sam tomorrow, I know that I’ve made a big mistake, please don’t worry. Two minutes later she texted: OK, just bring him back. We’ll talk then. Just bring him back, please. We had one day, possibly the last day that I would ever see him. I hired a car and we drove to the coast. We took off our trousers and paddled in the sea. It was late September so it was quiet, but the sea was still warm. It was good to feel the evening sun on my face, and Sam kicked water at me and for once I didn’t get angry. We ate chips and garlic bread in a seafront restaurant, where I begged the waiter for change so Sam could go in the one-euro rides, over and over, never getting bored. We walked through the town as it got dark, and when he got tired I carried him until we reached the hotel that I had booked from the airport. We shared a bed, and I held him as he fell asleep. I didn’t want to close my eyes in case sleep came to me and robbed me of those few remaining precious moments, me holding my son, breathing, murmuring, the smell of his hair in my nostrils and the beat of his heart against the palm of my hand. The next morning we woke up and headed straight for the airport. I explained to Sam that it was a short holiday, the best kind. He wanted to go to the beach again and ride on the toys but I told him
that we’d used up all the change that the waiter had given us, and promised that we’d bring more coins next time that we came. It was quiet on the plane home. We talked some more about what we would do next time we were at the beach, and I could barely keep myself from crying. I was sure he knew what was happening, deep down in that fouryear-old brain of his. He stopped talking after a while and just held my hand. The tears just streamed down my face. I returned Sam to his mother and had been told that I was lucky not to have the police involved and that I would be hearing from her solicitor and that I would never see Sam again. And although I never saw him again, and never will, it did give me the best twenty-four hours that we ever spent together. It unlocked something in me. It was a stupid thing to do, but I matured that day. It showed me that I could love a boy, and be his father. All I have now are the pictures that Sam had drawn for me, and a couple of photos of him that I’d taken ages ago. Other than these little things, you would never know that I even had a child. I wish I’d taken some more recent photos, reams of them, enough to plaster the walls with, pictures of me and him together to say to the world, Yes, I have a son! I’m not a great father, but I am a father, and this is my son! It’s at times like this when I’m on my own travelling on a plane I think of Sam, and our twenty-four hours, and of love, of good and bad parenting, and of salvation. 25
Looking for a home in someone elseâ€™s brain Looking for a home in someone elseâ€™s brain Used up shadows Bright with fumes of us Warmed by cold water The toys I put myself to sleep Bones ache for the cemetery I hold your tongue with my teeth Chewing calmly away at the universe Sliding in like a shovel
Someone I miss comes back The fire of Christmas wrapped in smoke Spoiled with visitors Burning secret papers of my past Sudden bits remember Fingered clouds spread rumours Rain came over spilt with silver Drunk with light Jude Dillon
There is a lot of dying to be done Taste the earth in your mouth Slip a stone in an eagles claw Take a rivet out of gloom
Thomas Jefferson Speaks To His Black Mistress Passionate freedom is what you pried me from sharing the obsession of yourself, a membrane's sepia lust somehow cascading stream-like across the once dry bed of our saltwater bodies drowning. A river of no imminent return to genesis, or bittersweet sensations for united sin to deflower itself pitifully before us -like the idea prohibiting interracial love. Or until the land germinated between us over that rich panoply of umber flesh desire melded into sweet reverence? We sallied back into grooves our fingers dug through a dark loam uncovering our private declaration of independence, where no legal shackles encroached us. All with grim founts of puritan hatreds our coupling dispatched those dead-hearted angels from His divine cross of ancient moss, "Forever & again." Peter Magliocco
Suspicion Scott Newport Diary of an increasingly desperate woman... 20th January: I have just woken up from the most terrible nightmare. I dreamt that my husband Richard suffocated me and buried me under the floorboards. Usually I don't remember my dreams, but last night’s is still vivid in my mind. I went over to the mirror to brush my hair, and there was the same black eye that I had been given the night before. Richard didn't dare show his face this morning and was gone before I woke up. His mood swings are so unpredictable lately that I fear being near him. After breakfast I decided to go for my usual walk around the park, just outside our London apartment. The fresh air calms me greatly and the park is so picturesque at this time of year. Since my son Edward died of pneumonia last April I try to walk most mornings to gather my thoughts. ‘Your depression was brought on by your son’s death – all you need now is some rest,’ the doctor told me weeks ago. Richard doesn't really care for me any more and we barely spend time together. I think he has another woman, because his behaviour is so suspicious. It's probably his new secretary Elizabeth Lancaster, whom he talks about constantly. 28
‘Elizabeth is so efficient and ten times better than all the other girls I have been sent from the agency.’ She's every wife’s worst nightmare. Every time I ring his office, I get her on the phone. ‘Richard is in a meeting at the moment, do you want me to take a message?’ All he does now is go to work and attend meetings, or so he says. Since Richard inherited the legendary York Hotel Empire when his brother died he has become obsessed with business. ‘The business must come first, it always has and always will,’ he says. I don't care for his business in the slightest and I distance myself from such matters. I am so alone. 27th January: When I married Richard some thirteen years ago, I didn't imagine that I would become so isolated. My sole comfort had been Edward, but with him gone I can't see what purpose my life has anymore. ‘Everyone you get close to seems to die in horrible circumstances, you're a curse to everyone who loves you,’ Richard shouted at me on the day of our son’s funeral. I couldn't believe he would try to blame me for Edward’s death, or
tell me that I'm cursed. He's probably right though, as I have no one left. I haven't always been alone – years ago I had my wonderful father and my first loving husband, George, until they died in the car crash. It was soon after this that I began to receive unwelcome advances from George’s friend, Richard York. I was disgusted at his advances, with my husband not yet cold in his grave. ‘How dare you ask me out, have you no respect for George?’ His persistence paid off though, I fell victim to his honeyed words. A year later we were married. I found out what he was really like a long time after when he pushed me down the stairs when I was pregnant. Still, if I hadn't married him I would have been penniless, as Richard’s hotel had bankrupted my father’s hotel. He profited greatly from my father’s and his brother’s death. I believe though that his brother’s death was more of a blow to me than it was to Richard, who didn't shed one tear for him. Increasingly he has developed a completely separate life to me and I am just an inconvenience. I rang him again today and sure enough I got Elizabeth on the phone. ‘He has just gone out for some lunch, do you want me to give him
Suspicion by Scott Newport a message?’ ‘No, it doesn’t matter.’ I swear she was lying to me. I bet he was standing right beside her, telling her to make up an excuse. Damn them both. 10th February: The day after my last diary entry I woke up to find Richard by my bedside, wiping my head with a wet flannel. ‘You had a funny turn, Anne, but you're better now.’ He said he had come back from work late to find paracetamol all over my bedside table, with a bottle of Jack Daniels beside them. I don't remember drinking last night or taking any paracetamol, but why would he lie to me? I am extremely worried. He says I must have bumped my head and temporarily forgotten what had happened, but I still don't understand why he didn't take me to the hospital. I can tell I'm a burden to him and I think he would have been pleased if I'd died from this collapse. I bet he's been having a good laugh with his secretary about me. She was over here earlier trying to find Richard and pretended to wish me well. ‘I do hope you get better soon. Tell Richard I called,’ she shouted from her car window. I won't tell him a single thing about her visit. Maybe I should just leave him, but where would I go? How different he is from when we were first married, when he could never do enough for me and nothing was too much trouble. He's changed into a completely different person now. It's hard to accept that my own husband Issue 15
would rather be at work all the time. 17th February: A terrible row broke out tonight. Richard shouted at me for going to his office. ‘Why should I not be allowed to go to your office? You leave me alone all this time and all I wanted was a bit of company.’ I tried to explain that I went along to his office yesterday to try and find him, but as he wasn't there I got talking to Elizabeth. ‘I'm glad to hear you're feeling better, Anne.’ ‘I'm much better, thank you. I'm looking for Richard, do you know where he is? I wanted to try and arrange lunch with him tomorrow.’ ‘Sounds like a good idea, let me just check his diary... He is free for lunch one day next week, is that okay?’ she asked. ‘No, I want to meet up with him tomorrow.’ ‘I am sorry but he is very busy over the next few days.’ ‘Well, I'll have to arrange it with him later.’ After this conversation I'm convinced that they're having an affair. She was so evasive and didn't want to help me in the slightest. This woman is dangerous. 24th February: I asked Elizabeth straight out yesterday if she was sleeping with Richard. My suspicions started yesterday morning, when I found some lipstick on one of his shirts. I was convinced it must be Elizabeth’s, so I headed straight to the office. ‘Have you been sleeping with
my husband,’ I shouted. ‘Of course not. How dare you accuse me of such a thing!’ ‘Then how do you explain this lipstick on his shirt?’ ‘I don't know how it got there, but it's not mine. Go and ask your husband whose it is.’ I knew she was lying. I was frightened about Richard coming home because I knew she would tell him what happened. He went absolutely berserk and began smashing up the table, and knocking the pictures off the wall. Then he dragged me into the kitchen by my hair and banged my head three times against the kitchen cupboard until blood began to drip from my forehead. After that he carried me upstairs and locked me in the attic room, which is where I've been since yesterday afternoon. ‘You can't be trusted Anne. You've shown yourself to be deceitful and unstable.’ That was rich coming from him, he's the one having the affair. I don't regret going to see her though, as I needed to know the truth. He wants rid of me, I know he does, and he won't stop until he's finished me off for good. 10th March: I have just woken up. I've been locked up in the attic room for two weeks now and there's no sign of him letting me go. He seriously needs medical help. The attic room consists of a toilet, a table, a chair and desk. There's one small window for fresh air. He brings me breakfast most 29
Suspicion by Scott Newport
17th March: I've been piecing together my life with Richard while I'm locked away in this prison. There's little else to do. I sit at my desk every day, like I am now, thinking about everything. He's always been possessive, but I never thought it could get this bad. When the violence started I thought it was something temporary, a reaction to our son’s death, but now I'm sure it's more serious. What about my husband’s and father’s deaths, what about the untimely death of his brother, after which he conveniently inherited York Hotel? Could he have killed them? Surely it can't all be coincidence? They recorded verdicts of acci30
dental deaths in all cases, so I didn't know what to think. But now I know what Richard is capable of. I'm going to talk to Richard about George and my father tomorrow and watch his reaction. He can never lie well, especially to me. If I've married a murderer at least I want to know. 24th March: He killed them all, he admitted it to me this morning. I've been dropping hints all this week about George and my father, but I think he'd been pretending not to understand. So I decided to ask straight out, after all I have nothing to lose now.
York Hotel empire. Why did you kill George and my father though, what did they die for?’ ‘They were your last security; they were all that stopped you from being fully mine. But it doesn't matter now, I have no use for you anymore.’ I didn't really need to ask the next question, but I needed to know, I needed it spelled out for me. ‘Are you going to kill me?’ I asked. ‘Now, why would I do a thing like that – I love you,’ he answered, moving over to the door. He left the room, locked the door, and I haven't seen him all
mornings and dinner at night, but these meal times seem to getting less and less reliable. Last week he forgot to give me food for a whole day. He is trying to starve me and make me weaker, but I'm determined to keep fighting, to escape somehow. I tried shouting out of the window yesterday but he came home early and heard me. Now he's boarded the window up. ‘I'm doing this for your own protection from the outside world. No one can look after you better than I can,’ he says in a most sarcastic tone. ‘You're a monster. Look at yourself. You're the one who needs looking after!’ I tried running to the door and fighting my way out last night, but he beat me until I was unconscious. I can barely move this morning, I have bruises and cuts all over my body.
He looked at me in disbelief, as if what I'd said had been deeply wounding. Then his face changed to a look of relief. ‘Yes. Why deny it anymore? I mean there should be no secrets between man and wife, should there?’ I was taken aback by his honesty, I hadn't expected him to admit it. ‘What about your brother, did you kill him too?’ ‘What do you think?’ he replied. ‘It's obvious that you did, you killed him to get your hands on the
day. I know now that he can't allow me to live – I know too much. Any hope that I had of escape is gone now. My poor George, my poor father and brother-in-law, what has he done to you all? He is the devil. I can hear his footsteps now, coming up the stairs slowly. I can hear him calling my name. I never thought my life would end like this. I will be with you soon, my darling Edward. He is unlocking the door as I write this. May God have mercy on my soul.
The Man who understood Women Dennis Vanvick He knows what women want - after all, this isn’t his first marriage... ow do I look?” she called down from the top of the stairs. In his first marriage, this question was enough to drive him into a fight or flight response – sweaty palms, tensed muscles, tightened sphincter. But he had evolved, developed a profound understanding of the opposite sex. “So, how do I look?” she repeated, voice a tad more strident. Clicking off the news, he placed the glass of Tangueray on the coaster, and looked up to find his fiancée poised at the top of the open stairway. He snatched back the glass of gin to steal a furious gulp as she busied herself with a theatrical first step. Playing for time, he smiled and nodded enthusiastically. She wouldn’t notice the tic below his right eye. To answer the question truthfully - that she looked like an aging, plump, pretty, and economically priced hooker - would be to take the nuclear option. After all, this was the night of their engagement party. More steps down the staircase. “Well?” she said, smiling. “Say something.” He began nodding more enthusiastically, more disingenuously, as she neared the landing.
“Well? What do you think?” She asked, no longer smiling. He hesitated a millisecond too long his response and judgment impaired by the gin - and replied too weakly, “It’s nice.” “I bought two outfits,” she said, ignoring both the hesitancy and the response. “I’ll show you the other one and you can choose.” “You bought two?” he said, in
Her unsmiling, clenched face made it apparent that he had learned absolutely nothing from the first marriage... a voice too hopeful, too full of relief. Her unsmiling, clenched face made it apparent that he had learned absolutely nothing from the first marriage. She spun around and headed back up the stairs. She didn’t stomp, but there was definitely a new authority in her step. He used the opportunity to step into the kitchen to stiffen his drink and mop the sweat from his forehead with his hanky. Ten minutes later, she reappeared at the top of the stairs. “Well, what do you think?” she said, not smiling for her second regal glide down the stairs. He watched her, quickly real-
izing that this second outfit managed to make the first seem almost prudish. It featured huge puffy sleeves reminiscent of a French maid, yet still managed a bit of a sinister, sado-masochistic flavor. Where the hell could she possibly dig up something like this? Maybe online at The Marquis de Sade web site. He had no choice. After the first fiasco, he would be forced to produce suitable superlatives for this unmitigated disaster. She reached the bottom of the stairs and waited for him to speak. He chose his words carefully, “It’s absolutely, incontrovertibly, beautiful and so are you.” She smiled wickedly at his contrived comment and delivered the good news. “My dear, forgive me, these were two Hallowe’en costumes from the ‘80s - before you even knew me. You won’t see my new dress until tonight, at the engagement party. “But...” he started, but she was already halfway back up the stairs, snorting and chortling as she made her escape. He sat down on the sofa, sipped his gin, and again mopped sweat from his forehead – a lifelong freshman in the most demanding school on the planet.
"...sometimes being smart just isn’t enough"
he story alternates between the viewpoint of John, a cosmology professor working in a Boston university, and Grace, his mother. They each talk in the first person. The first few chapters are narrated by John, whom the author presents as locked inside his world view, forever trying and failing to explain things, especially his own feelings, in scientific terms. He won't admit the validity of any other mode of explanation – it is his faith that physics describes the whole of reality if we could but understand it thoroughly enough. At one point he describes himself as "a man who believes in nothing except what he can prove with numbers". Yet he is capable of some quite profound insights into the very emotions that intellectually he would want to reduce to the acting out of physical laws. He is certainly not unaware of his own feelings, which is a popular stereotype of the male academic. At first the qualities I found slightly lacking in John's character were curiosity and intellectual ex32
Tangled Roots by Sue Guiney (Bluechrome Publishing, 2008) £12.99 Reviewed by David Gardiner citement. Scientists actually care about their subject and the problems they study – solving the puzzle, imagining how things might be and testing their speculations experimentally – this is what occupies their thoughts most of the time and constitutes a major part of their lives. Just as composers care about music and painters about art, and not merely about whether their work is being performed or their pictures are selling. John's priorities and concerns in this early part of the book seemed focused outside of science: all that he seemed to care about professionally was publishing first, and for me this didn't quite ring true. It turned out however that I had merely anticipated something that was to take centre stage towards the end of the book. In Chapter 3 the narration switches to Grace, John's mother, whose funeral we have just seen him attend. It is some years earlier and she is living in New York but contemplating her return to what we know will be her last resting place in England. We begin to learn about Grace's life, as well as getting another perspective on John. She sees him as an angry person, unwilling to talk about many things, lacking self-knowledge. We soon realise that John and his mother have many things in common, including a feeling that something vital but indefinable is missing from their lives. It's something with which I think a lot of us can identify: "I tried everything. I bounced around from group to group. One week I was a cheerleader. The next week I was a beatnik. I tested out everyone and everything, but I never felt satisfied. That stage lasted, thinking back now, for something like fifty years." Chapter 5 takes us back to John. He continues narrating episodes from his life, although apologetically, describing himself as "depressively obsessing about (his) personal life".
Review: Tangled Roots by Sue Guiney John describes himself as a man who believes in nothing except what he can prove with numbers. “It’s all physics anyway, so why worry about anything else?” But the more he repeats this kind of mantra the more clear it becomes that it isn't his real attitude to life. John worries about everything, even about worrying. A pleasant though superficial sexual liaison with a beautiful student does nothing to ease his mounting depression. He takes medication and contemplates seeking professional help. As the book goes on we slowly get to know more and more about Grace and John and their earlier lives, their friends and their family. What we are looking at is the road that each of them has travelled, one to the grave, the other to the book's present. And this is I think the great achievement of the novel, the creation of two fully realised human beings whom we come to know intimately and care about, and even in a general sort of way understand. The details will differ for each of us but these are the kinds of things that make us who we are. Human personality grows from roots, tangled or otherwise. It is not created out of the blue by an act of will as someone like Sartre would have us believe nor is it completely immutable and inaccessible to our efforts to change it. But as John says at one point "sometimes being smart just isn’t enough". It's a sad comment on the persistence of C.P. Snow's 'two cultures' that Ms Guiney felt it necessary to add a glossary of scientific terms and concepts at the end of the book. But for me the scientific background was of little importance and I could readily forgive what looked like small errors of detail or misunderstandings of scientific concepts. The notion of 'curved time' which I think was intended as a metaphor for John returning to his family's Russian roots, 'entanglement' which stood for the connections between the lives of mother and son and the many other scientific metaphors and images seemed a bit laboured and superfluous. This isn't a physics textbook. It's really an extended essay on human nature and motivation, which is arguably what any good novel ought to be. It makes a nod towards the limitations of scientific explanation and the need for another kind of understanding where human beings are concerned. It goes a long way towards pointing the differences in the way scientists and non-scientists Issue 15
see the world, without demonising or trivialising either camp. It is also the work of a gifted writer, who never once intrudes into the story and whose existence we completely forget about. That is the highest praise I can give to anybody's writing skill. Most of all though, it's a compelling story about very believable people in whom we will all see something, perhaps a great deal, of ourselves, and it keeps you turning the pages. What more can we reasonably ask of any novel?
Find out more Sue’s official website is at: www.sueguiney.com Sue’s first work of fiction, Dreams of May (Bluechrome, 2006), is a play in poetry. Featuring 22 poems for a single voice, it describes a journey that starts on a train and travels throughout a tumultuous range of emotions before finding a peace in dreams.
Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science by Robert L Park (Princeton University Press, 2008) $24.95 Reviewed by David Gardiner
obert L. Park, Bob Park to his friends and the followers of his lively blog (bobpark.org), is emeritus professor of physics at The University of Maryland and a militant enemy of bullshit and bullshitters everywhere. His previous book Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Oxford University Press, 2000) was a criticism of science itself when it loses its way, for example when its practitioners cling to cherished theories in the face of contrary evidence or construct huge theoretical edifices without foundations, like monstrous novels (Freudianism, Marxism), or indeed when they deliberately set out to perpetrate fraud and befuddle or mislead others as distinct from deluding themselves. The book was passionate, witty, incisive, and immensely popular. In his current book, Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, Park sets out to explain to us the difference between science and other modes of thought and enquiry, all of which he cheerfully lumps together as 'superstition'. This might sound like a dry and academic endeavour â€“ it is anything but. Always hu-
morous and ironic and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, the obvious style comparison would be with the works of Bill Bryson, but in my opinion Bob Park at his best is funnier. Here is a modest example, taken from Park's section discussing the notion of a soul or 'spark of life': ... a priest, a minister and a rabbi were discussing the beginning of life. "Life begins at the moment of conception," the priest said. The minister disagreed. "Life does not begin until the foetus can survive outside the mother's womb." The rabbi shook his head. "Every Jew knows that life begins when the last child leaves home and the dog dies." Despite the humour Park's intention in this book is totally serious. He is offended by what he sees as a failure in the popular mind to understand the difference between science and 'the rest'. It is widely thought that science is something that scientists 'believe in', just as Christians believe in The Bible and New Age hippies in herbal medicine. Belief systems are often seen as being on a par with one another, we make our choice as to which to accept and which to reject. In fact, Park argues, that isn't the case. Science is not an affair of faith like the others, it works in a different way. The essential differences are that it is evidence based and systematically self critical. The whole point of 'doing' science is to undermine, overturn and replace deficient theories and beliefs with better ones. Scientific knowledge is permanently provisional, permanently up for revision. None of the other modes of thought are like that. If they were they would simply be part of science. Hence there is science and there is superstition (belief based on authority and revelation). There is no third category, those two exhaust the field. This is subtly different to the argument found in the works of Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene,
Review: Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science by Robert L Park The God Delusion, The Blind Watchmaker) which is more that people have looked at the evidence and wrongly concluded that it indicates a conscious designer behind the universe, particularly behind human and other biological life. Park's claim is that evidence is irrelevant to non-scientific belief, its roots are elsewhere. It is a more radical and more thoroughly philosophical argument than Dawkins', even if it takes us to substantially the same place. Park's book begins with a moment of high drama and perhaps even higher absurdity, fully worthy of You've Been Framed: a large tree falls on the author. The incident, he tells us, really happened, and the first chapter of the book deals with his resultant befriending of two Catholic priests who witnessed it, and the subsequent discussions he had with them. I wonder if a better 'hook' has ever graced the beginning of an academic work. Throughout the account he keeps returning to the tree and to other events in his own life to give context to the material he is presenting. This is a writer who knows how to get his ideas across and keep his readers entertained. If there is a weakness in the work at all it is I think Park's occasional arrogance with regard to the reliability of the present state of scientific knowledge, something which flies in the face of his own arguments. He tells for example of how he ridicules his students' acceptance of the possibility of interstellar travel by getting them to calculate the energy that would be required to accelerate a spacecraft to even a fraction of the speed of light, forgetting how easy it would have been to demonstrate the impossibility of most technologies even a few years before they were invented (the telephone, radio, photography, X rays, supersonic flight). He can also be a bit selective in his choice of examples of faith-based belief systems, and is not above ad hominem arguments regarding their founders. He is scathing, and I think rightfully so, about the claims of political ideologues, faith healers, fortune tellers, acupuncturists, purveyors of homeopathic cures and quack medicine, but he also gives space to a cancer cure based on the revelations of an all-knowing four-foot tall blackbird that appeared to a fifteen-year-old boy on Nootka Island near Vancouver and telepathically downloaded all of the world's knowledge into his brain. Sometimes we Issue 15
don't need a scientist of Park's abilities to alert us to the fact that we are dealing with bullshit. Fundamentally, Park argues, we are designed to formulate beliefs, without them there could be no concepts, language or strategies for dealing with the world, and the beliefs we form early in our lives are particularly unshakable and resistant to the accumulation of contrary evidence. We don't really know what's going on in the universe but we want to know, and we want it to be watched over by a benevolent parent figure who has our deepest interests at heart, whether we can understand much about him/her/it or not. We want there to be somebody or something at the helm, we don't want to think of ourselves and our planet as merely adrift on a sea of indifferent natural laws. So we give ourselves what we want. We create a deity to our own specifications â€“ very few of us can resist the urge to do so. And let's face it, it's a lot easier to do that than to learn some actual science. I think for myself I'll have the four-foot-tall blackbird who downloads all the world's knowledge into my brain without my having to lift a finger. I'll build a giant birdbath in the garden and see if I can attract it to cross the North Atlantic. Until it gets here, goodbye and tweet tweet.
Find out more Robert L Parkâ€™s Wikipedia entry is at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Park
The White Road and other stories by Tania Hershman (Salt Publishing, 2008) ÂŁ7.19 Reviewed by David Gardiner
Review ania Hershman was for many years a science journalist on the staff of New Scientist and the front cover of this collection carries an extravagant testimony to her writing talents from that journal. As a lifelong New Scientist subscriber and lover of science fiction and short stories in general I really wanted to like this book. I have to report that I found the stories disappointing, although viewing the comments of others, both on the back cover and on the review pages of the on-line bookstores etc. I began to wonder if there was something about the work that I had completely failed to grasp. Most of the stories are accompanied by a short quotation from a New Scientist article or letter, and are allegedly influenced by the ideas and preoccupations of scientists, without necessarily being science fiction. This connection is often a bit tenuous, but that is of no importance; what matters is whether or not the stories stand up as stories. Let me make it clear, Ms Hershman is a competent writer, as you would expect from a career journalist, and these tales are elegantly put together, with a light touch and many fresh and vivid images, but the term that kept suggesting itself to me was 'inconsequential', particularly where the ultra-short pieces were concerned. More than half the stories in the book are in the region of three pages or less, or about two-to-four hundred words. Of the longer pieces the title story is certainly one of the more memorable, but it didn't really work for me because I was unable to understand the motivation of the central character.
As a crude generalisation, the longer pieces are explorations of ideas, or the social implications of technology which is either already here or just around the corner, while the shorter pieces are more like character sketches or accounts of fleeting incidents, some of them totally surreal, that are obviously intended to charm or engage. The best of these ultra-short pieces for me was the one entitled Mugs, which is a very simple story of two people meeting and starting a relationship as a result of attending the same evening class. Of the longer pieces my favourite was Exchange Rates, a poignant piece about a woman trying to become pregnant. What distinguished them I think was that in these the author wasn't trying too hard to be clever and ended up with simplicity and quality. A theme of several of the stories is the notion of going blind, or of the things we see when our eyes are closed, which makes me wonder if it has some personal significance for the author. Often however there doesn't seem to be much there beyond the suggestion of something that could be worked-up into a more substantial offering. In golfing parlance I felt that she teed them up but didn't drive them down the fairway. With my hand on my heart, I think that very few of these stories, either long or short, would have been accepted had they been submitted to Gold Dust. Writers are often seduced into the belief that creating a successful ultra-short story is easy, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. This collection only serves to strengthen my conviction that good 'flash fiction' (as they call it in the trade) is as rare as an honest politician. Ms Hershman is skilled in the technicalities of her craft and enormously readable, but a writer also needs to have things to say, and despite occasional flashes of inspiration it is in this area that I think she still has some distance to travel.
Nephew A latch-key kid is not prepared to tread around his robed mom, head frozen in a yawn, dead from self-infliction. Better to retrace your childhood steps back through the door to the solid ground of your childhood friends. Till the death you could not bear was averted. But back inside again, you found your childhood deserted. Youthful as your years were, they crawled, while a new path to self-infliction cleared. Oh Danny, dead at 23, what did you see of beauty that makes a happiness of strife. Of peace that happiness makes of life. Of love that living cannot touch when living is too little and too much. James Keane
Publish Me Happy 2009 Getting published in the internet/credit crunch/print-on-demand age Abigail Reynolds, a writer of Jane Austen fan fiction, has just signed a deal with mainstream publisher Sourcebooks Inc - who snapped up her novels after spotting how well they were selling on self-publishing website Lulu. ‘Self-publishing has been a journey filled with surprises’, says Abigail. ‘After an unsuccessful effort to find an agent, I decided to self-publish Pemberley by the Sea, my modern novel. I didn't think it would actually sell to anyone but my friends, but I wanted to be able to say that I'd tried.’ Abigail’s books are now among the highest ranked fiction titles on Lulu, with sales to date of 14,000 novels. So, can other authors replicate her success? Over the past 10 years, the publishing industry has seen vast changes, with more books being published than ever before (around 100,000 a year in the UK) and at lower cost. The oft-disputed Net Book Agreement of 1900, which ensured that books could not be sold below publisheragreed prices, was finally ruled illegal in 1997, a kiss of death to small bookshops, but a massive boost to the big chains and supermarkets, who could now sell bestselling titles at knock-down prices. The result is that publishers’ margins have been greatly reduced, 38
leaving only a few surviving publishing giants, who, like the supermarket chains, prefer to focus on big name authors and celebrities. So where does all this leave the unpublished, undiscovered author? Approaching one of these sprawling mainstream publishing houses is not the likeliest, and certainly not the only, route to publication. With the downturn in the book market at around 12% yearon-year and likely to worsen, commercial publishers are pickier than ever, so writers are having to be far more creative about finding their way on to readers’ bookshelves.
Self-publishing A few years ago, if you did the round of the big publishers without much joy (in common with the vast majority of new authors), you might decide to publish your book yourself. Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain, E E Cummings – it’s a long and respectable list – have all selfpublished. The simplest route is to photocopy a few copies of your book, staple them together in your front room and take them around your local shops. While this might sound archaic, these days you can produce a pretty professionallooking copy of your masterpiece in this way and, for a book of local
interest, might still be the best route, being extremely cost-effective. Then there is the fancier method – edit and lay out your book professionally, get a quote from a printer, set yourself up as a publisher, acquire an ISBN (so people can order your book), a CIP definition (gets your title listed in the British Library bibliographic service), a barcode (machinereadable ISBN, allowing bookshops to handle and sell it) and send off your legal deposit to the British Library. You’ll also need to decide on the price – traditionally five times its production cost, but for a small press book three times is more realistic, not forgetting that bookshops will want at least a third of the cover price. Then you’ll need to set up a website to flog it. But why would you go to all that trouble these days, when print-ondemand (ie, each copy of your book is printed to order) is a fraction of the cost and available at the click of a mouse?
Assisted self-publishing To give you an idea of how fast things are moving in the world of book publication, take a look at the new ‘Espresso’ machine from On Demand Books. Priced at $50,000 (around £35,000), it produces 2 books simultaneously in just 7
Publish Me Happy 2009 by Omma Velada minutes, which includes printing, binding, copying, plus a laminated full-colour cover. The next generation machine will get that down to 3 minutes. If you like the idea of being able to have out-of-stock books printed while you wait in a shop, this is for you. Blackwell has already signed a deal with the US makers of the Espresso to trial the ‘ATM for books’ in their stores. Surely it’s just a matter of time before every supermarket has one of these babies close to the checkout, while bookshops will be reduced to a line of Espresso machines churning out tailormade books, perhaps alongside a line of computers where customers can download their choice direct to their eBook reader. For authors, websites such as Amazon’s Booksurge and the UK-based iUniverse have sprung up in the name of ‘assisted selfpublishing’. These organisations take on all the tricky tasks of selfpublishing, while you just sit back, pick out a pretty cover and await your beautifully bound book. However, it doesn’t come cheap – anything from £300 to £3,000, depending on your publishing package. A cheaper alternative is ForwardPress, a clever idea for poets and short story writers. It focuses on anthologies and covers costs with compulsory author preorders, making for an outlay of around £100. And then there is Lulu. Lulu, which describes itself as a ‘digital marketplace’ rather than a publisher, is the real success story of the print-on-demand explosion. Doubling in size every year, Lulu has helped thousands Issue 15
of frustrated authors (and musicians, artists, photographers...) to achieve their publication dreams over the past six years. The idea is tantalisingly quick, easy and free – upload your masterpiece to Lulu’s website and – bingo! Your book is available for sale online, earning you 80% of all creator revenue, compared with just 10-15% via a traditional publishing deal. For a little extra cash outlay, Lulu offers all the frills, such as editing,
layout, covers and ISBNs. Not wishing to miss out, Borders has recently joined forces with Lulu to create Borders Personal Publishing – assisted self-publishing for authors, with the added bonus of the Borders brand and in-store kiosks to produce your book from. So where’s the catch in all this? Well, if you actually want to shift lots of copies of your book, you’ll need to find a way to make it stand out among the thousands of titles published by commercial publishers, with their vast advertising & distribution budgets. Despite the economic downturn (publishers are feeling the pinch like everyone else), the self-pub-
lished print-on-demand book will struggle to compete. And, of course, there is traditionally less kudos with self-publishing than commercial publishing. Tony Frazer of small press Shearsman Books, says, ‘If you want to be taken seriously, self-publishing (assisted or otherwise) won’t help your career. There is a role for this kind of publishing, however: for a writer who has a small local audience and perhaps some presence on the local “scene” this kind of publishing can help. Also, for poets who can’t get their work accepted by a “real” press, it’s sometimes the only option. Most of them offer no editorial input, and don’t even correct obvious spelling errors, so it’s simply a question of validation for the author, or perhaps a statement of self-belief and rejection of the “marketplace”, such as it is’. However, Abigail, who has also placed her books on Amazon’s Kindle store, has a very different point of view: ‘Two books I originally self-published at Lulu are already in bookstores, so the idea that self-publishing is the kiss of death to publishers is truly a myth. My theory is that they're letting writers prove their saleability on Lulu, and then picking up the books that do well.’ When asked why she chose Lulu over other assisted self-publishing sites, Abigail responds, ‘Because it didn't require any money upfront and didn't require me to sign away any rights’. Not demanding any money upfront seems to have been key to Lulu’s runaway success, leaving no obstacle to that most tantalizing of 39
Publish Me Happy 2009 by Omma Velada dreams – instant publication. But how exactly do you get your book noticed in the digital maze of Lulu’s vast output (almost 100,000 new titles published each year)? For Abigail, the answer was also found online: ‘My novels are related to Jane Austen, and I discussed them on a number of Jane Austen websites and forums. Many of my readers came from this niche marketing. Once people started to buy my books on Amazon, they started showing up in recommendations for other readers who had bought similar books, and that's when things really took off. It's important to target a market to get those first few sales’. In the meantime, Lulu continues to grow, with 15,000 new registrations every single week.
Small press publishing And then there are the small presses, publishers whose sales are below a certain level, or who publish only a few titles per year, generally more about the books than the money, labours of love rather than hungry businesses. The technological advances that have helped so many authors selfpublish have also facilitated growth in independent publishing. Start-up small press Bookkake is perhaps the best example of this new zeitgeist – a publisher perfectly poised to take advantage of current trends in both technology and publishing. Offering print copies as well as eBook versions, its initial print-run of lesser known classical gems along a sensual, if disquieting, theme is ideal for today’s censor40
ship-shy, internet-savy readers. As James Bridle, who runs Bookkake (a cheeky pun on bukkake), says, ‘I'll leave intrepid readers who are happy to do a bit of NSFW [not safe for work] googling to uncover the meaning of bukkake, but it's more than just a pun: it stands as well for the taboo and the changing, often shocking, experiences that the Internet has enabled’. At the other end of the scale, Shearsman Books is a long-established small press (since 1982) and publishes around 60 titles a year. It’s run by Tony Frazer, who says, ‘The key difference between a small press and a big press is the manpower. If I were to employ a couple of extra people, the sales (or the subsidy, if there were any) would have to rise dramatically. I think sales would need to increase five-fold for me to be able to afford staff, and to achieve that kind of increase would mean having to look seriously for titles that would sell more, which, in turn, would damage the editorial independence that we currently have’. The strength of small presses is often this ability to specialise in niche markets ignored by mainstream publishers. As Tony puts it, ‘Commercial presses could not risk many of the books that Shearsman takes on; partly this is because we have an active “experimental” list, but also because we have a commitment to publishing new (ie, previously unpublished, and not necessarily young) writers. Some of our books are definitely in the “experimental” or “avant-garde” niche — although definitions of such words are notoriously hard to pin down; others,
I suspect, are just typical Shearsman titles: ie, not predictable, and some way off from the standard mainstream of current British verse’. As many small presses are set up by authors in order to selfpublish themselves and who are keen to help fellow struggling writers get noticed, retain their content rights and sales profits, there is likely to be a less cut-throat feeling to the whole process. For example, Flame Books is a small press that aims to be as ethical as possible, both in terms of author relations and environmental con-
‘Two books I originally selfpublished at Lulu are already in bookstores’ – Abigail Reynolds, author of Pemberley by the Sea (Sourcebooks Inc, 2008) cerns. Sean Wood explains its conception: ‘The company was originally set up by an individual who wanted to help new writers, to help keep quality and original writing alive, and to create an ethical framework for publishing – notably seeking to provide higher royalties for writers, a goal we still aspire to.’ Bookake hopes to publish new writers in the future, as James explains: ‘Bookkake began very much as an experiment. I've been watching and writing about the confluence of literature and technology at http://booktwo.org for a few years, and had seen that a range of new tools available to publishers - fully digital DTP, printon-demand books, online direct selling and the web as platform and conversation - could be har-
Publish Me Happy 2009 by Omma Velada nessed to create a new kind of publisher. So eventually I went ahead and did it, hooking together a range of services to create Bookkake. I opened with a list of out-of-copyright classics because I didn't (don't) have much money, but with the community created and the direction it's headed in means I'd love to publish new work as well. We'll have to see what the future holds’. So what does the future hold for the next generation of small press publishers? Tony of Shearsman Books assures us, ‘There are going to be more of them, especially if the market for literary fiction, and short fiction, gets any worse. I fully expect more niche publishers to start up. The publishing giants have only themselves to blame for the mess that they’re in, chasing celebrities rather than developing real writing talent. And in poetry, the involvement of the “majors” runs to maybe a dozen titles a year. If it weren’t for Carcanet and Bloodaxe, there would be almost no poetry on the shelves in bookshops. There was a time when the combination of large press, plus distribution, plus bookshop, meant that the majors had a stranglehold on the marketplace’. Sean of Flame Books adds, ‘The sales and marketing power of the mainstream publishers and their links with the retail chains can mean that it can be very difficult for small independents to compete and get a foot in the door’. Tony of Shearsman Books continues, ‘Things are changing, thanks to new technologies — and I fully expect more products such Issue 15
as the Sony Reader or the Kindle to play a role here — and this permits new entrants to do things that were previously impossible for them. Print-on-demand and digital printing are absolutely key to the progress at Shearsman over the past five or six years, as they eliminate substantial costs and remove the necessity for holding large inventories. In Shearsman’s case it also permits us to print in the US, and has helped us develop an active North American list’. James of Bookkake agrees,
‘Without POD, Bookkake couldn't exist, as it allows us to operate without huge up-front printing bills and warehousing and distribution costs. We're watching the publishing industry with interest in the current climate: many see books as somehow recession-proof, but we think there'll be some stumbles along the way. That said, lowoverhead, web-oriented small publishers probably have the best chance of anyone of weathering the storm.’ However, don’t think that small presses are going to line up to accept your work – competition is (almost) as fierce for small
press contracts as for mainstream ones. Tony of Shearsman Books leaves us in no doubt: ‘For book manuscripts, we probably average 2 or 3 submissions every day. Acceptance rates are very low’.
ePublishing No writer can afford to ignore the internet – from Twitter to Amazon, forums to blogs, this is the place to generate cyber-buzz, post tasters for download and get noticed on sites such as Books for Publishing (bringing your manuscript to the attention of publishers) or Published.com (for marketing published books). Of course, you can also publish your book electronically, so that folk can read it on an eBook reader or on almost any new phone (see www.booksinmyphone.com). No longer just for obscure new titles, Stephen King recently gave epublishing his esteemed seal of approval with free digital downloads of short story, Riding the Bullet (www.simonsays.com). eBooks have ISBNs just like regular books, so can be ordered in bookshops and cost about half of their printed counterparts. Royalties can be as high as 70%, because there is far less outlay for the publisher. On the flipside, you’re unlikely to secure an advance, eBooks still don’t have the kudos of printed ones and tend to sell far fewer copies – 500 might be considered a successful sales figure. As to whether this new medium will take off, Sean of Flame Books says, ‘I don't think eBooks would ever replace 41
Publish Me Happy 2009 by Omma Velada printed versions, but I do think they will be important in the future, from the environmental and convenience points of view. I personally wouldn't want to have to read on a screen any more than is necessary, but I would like to know that if I was buying something in print that the environmental cost was reduced and offset as much as possible. I think eBooks suit different genres more than others – I doubt they will have a strong presence with fiction titles in the forseeable future.’ However, James of Bookkake has higher hopes: ‘We think it's very important for publishers to support eBooks at this crucial stage. Mass adoption is coming, and publishers' duty at the moment is to grow the market and help readers understand new technologies. When that happens, we'll all benefit’. It’s true that the eBook reader is still a long way from doing for printed novels what the iPod has for CDs – readers have an emotional attachment to their books and don’t like reading from a screen. But this is all set to change and publishers ignore eBooks at their peril. The current generation of eBook readers uses a brilliant technology called eInk. Black on white, it is not backlit, which means that - like a book but unlike a laptop – you can read it in sunlight and it doesn't strain your eyes. Further incentives? You can already read all the out-ofcopyright classics for free, thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg. Online shoppers don’t like waiting even 24 hours for delivery – when you buy an eBook it arrives in seconds, not hours. We all like a guilt42
free read – and eBooks are seriously tree-friendly. Sean of Flame Books comments,‘We would consider offering titles as eBooks alongside print versions. The ideal is to offer books printed on 100% recycled, post-consumer waste paper, printed by a company that buys (or generates onsite) its electricity from a renewable source, and to offer titles as eBooks as well.’ Meanwhile, eBook readers are shaping up – slimmer, lighter, faster, more multi-functional (Amazon’s Kindle 2 holds 1,500 books and can read them to you) and, above all, cheaper (iRex’s Iliad costs around £400, while Sony’s Reader is only around £225), so before you can download the complete works of Shakespeare, no self-respecting handbag (or manbag) will be complete without one, emotional attachment be damned. And when that happens, even the likes of JK Rowling will be sorely tempted to self-publish. In the current market, as many as 95% of books make a loss, so the vast majority of the profits come from a few big-name authors. This means that, if ePublishing were a viable alternative, those millionselling authors could stop supporting the industry and make themselves a lot more money. At the moment, authors only get around £1 for each book they sell, but self-published books that did well via ePublishing would earn the writer much more, even with a cover price reduced to £2-3. Abigail comments, ‘I made eBook versions of all my books available on Lulu, and later on the Amazon Kindle store. I've had quite a few
sales that way. Given how simple print-on-demand publishing is now, I think I'd always do a printon-demand/eBook combination, but I think we'll see more and more eBooks out there’.
Publish me happy So which route should new writers take? Tony of Shearsman Books has this advice: ‘For fiction writers it would be worth talking to an agent, but not for poets. Serious agents won’t take on poets because there’s not enough money in it for them. Most poets earn little or nothing and a 10% share of little or nothing won’t pay for the paperclips, let alone the agent’s time. We always advise poets to work up a portfolio of magazine acceptances, then progress to a chapbook or two, and only afterwards look at producing a full-scale book.’ Sean of Flame Books says, ‘Different routes suit different writers and manuscripts. Do lots of research. Think about what your goals are, and what fits those goals. Look at other books similar to yours, and other writers in your field, and see what routes suited them and their work. Think objectively about your target market and what route best points to that audience. So start by focusing on the route you think is best for you, but it's likely that you might have to try every option you can before getting anywhere. Don't be downhearted with rejections, this will definitely, probably frequently, happen along the way. But do seek out feedback and listen carefully to the response from the
Publish Me Happy 2009 by Omma Velada other side. As well as looking for responses from the industry, work with other writers, and readers, to get objective opinions about your work. It is important to be able to detach and step back from your writing and look at it from the publisher and reader's point of view. There is the reality that many writers are more suited to writing for themselves (which I believe is a completely valid practice), not for the public or for the commercial marketplace. But, although there are many barriers, and it's the few who succeed, a good piece of work does have a decent chance of publication if it gets in front of enough people in the industry – so try what you can and believe in the work’. James of Bookkake encourages authors to look at all the options: ‘In the first instance I'd always advise new writers to find an agent to protect their best interests, and a traditional publisher who can do the best by their work – whether that's a small house or a multinational depends on the writer and the work. But for some, ePublishing and self-publishing may be the way to go, and it's getting easier and more useful all the time.’ Whichever route you take to publication, you can rest assured that, even if you only sell a few copies to your mum and neighbours, you can hold your book in your hands (or at least view it online) and know that you have achieved what, for the majority, is a lifelong, unfulfilled ambition – you are a published author.
Assisted self-publishing Self-publishing Self-publishing advice www.selfpublishingmagazine.co.uk www.publish-yourself.com ISBNs www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk CIP codes www.bl.uk/bibliographic/cip.html
ePublishing Read an eBook week is 2-8 March 2009 Find an ePublisher Gatto Publishing (www.gattopublishing.com) Online Originals (www.onlineoriginals.com) charges reading fee Where to buy eBooks eBooks (www.ebooks.com) Fictionwise (www.fictionwise.com) the top independent eBook seller in the world Where to download free eBooks Hidden Cave (www.hiddencave.com) Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) Classic Literature Library (www.classic-literature.co.uk) Scribd (www.scribd.com)
Lulu (www.lulu.com) Free (pay extra for ISBN, editing, custom cover, etc) ForwardPress Compulsory author pre-orders iUniverse Packages from £599 includes ISBN, cover, 5 copies Writers World (www.writersworld.co.uk) £2,998 includes ISBN, cover, copyediting, legal deposit, Amazon & Google search inside, 5-9 days shipping at Amazon, 100 copies
Small press publishing Fiction presses Flame Books (www.flamebooks.com) ethical publishing Poetry presses Shearsman Books (www.shearsman.com) around 60 titles per year Carcanet (www.carcanet.co.uk) Sunday Times millennium Small Publisher of the Year (2000) Bloodaxe (www.bloodaxebooks.com) around 30 titles per year Fiction & Poetry presses Salt Publishing (www.saltpublishing.com) around 90 titles per year UKA Press (www.ukapress.com) since 2004
Interview: Frank Burton Omma Velada interviews up-and-coming writer Frank Burton, author of Collected Words (Lulu, 2007) and A History of Sarcasm (Dog Horn, 2009) First of all, how did you get into writing? Was there a period of writing for yourself before you decided to share your work with others? My parents bought me a writing desk for Christmas when I was about seven years old, and I started writing stories and poems on it. The desk was really old, and probably only cost them a quid from the secondhand shop, but in hindsight it was the best present I ever had. I was very secretive about writing as a child, and didn't share my stuff with anyone outside my family. I "came out of the closet" when I was about seventeen, but my writing was pretty rough round the edges at that stage. I had my first short story published in an anthology when I was twenty one. The story was rubbish, but it was a start.
This is going to sound arrogant, but no, I don't get nervous - I really enjoy it. The performance part is important because words need expression, and they need to flow. However, it's possible to over-do the performance side of things. There are some real hammy acts out there, and some of them are unintentionally funny. Some people find my style of delivery a little too understated, but I think it suits the material.
Why do you think you focus on poems and short stories, rather than novels or another form? I have lots of different ideas, so I tend to let them out in short bursts. Sometimes you can fit as many ideas into a short story or a poem as you can into a novel, because there's less waffling involved. Contrary to what some experts will tell you, people like reading short fiction and poetry. I think this is because of the immediacy of these forms. This is not to say that I'm against producing longer work. I recently finished writing a full-length novel, which I would like to think is waffle-free.
How did you come to select the small press Dog Horn to submit your short story anthology, A History of Sarcasm, to? Did you consider the commercial presses first? I didn't consider the commercial presses, because generally speaking you need an agent to get in there, and agents aren't interested in short story collections by first-time authors. I approached Dog Horn because they're a countercultural publisher, and I can relate to their ethos. They're interested in rebellious and subversive work that doesn't take itself too seriously.
As a performance poet, do you get nervous when you perform your poetry? How would you say â€˜performance poetryâ€™ differs from just reading it out?
I see you have recently been broadcast on Radio 4 - how did you get involved with this project? I submitted a short story for the Afternoon Reading and they accepted it. I'd recommend this to other
Interview: Frank Burton short story writers, as it's a great platform for your work. Have a look at the guidelines on the BBC website - www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom. Congratulations on winning the Philip LeBrun Prize for Creative Writing in 2003. How did this come about? The University of Chichester awards it to their best creative writing student every year. I was very pleased to have won it, because it was my first real achievement as a writer.
never buy, or TV shows for which we aren't the intended audience. Taken out of context, a lot of this second-hand information may appear surreal or ridiculous. I'm having fun with this idea. One of your characters writes poetry when drunk – is this something you’ve done yourself and, if so, with what results?! A few of the poems on the Collected Words CD were written after a few beers. I think they needed some editing the following morning, though.
You’ve made some of your work available for free – your novella, About Someone, and your poetry collection – is it more important to you to be widely read, or are you most interested in making a living from your work? It's far more important to me that people actually read my work. I make a bit of money from writing, and I obviously don't object to conventional publishing, but it takes a long time to get your work into print. I like being able to post my work online as soon as I've finished it and get an instant response from readers. Potentially, this is also a money-making venture. I'd like to think the work that appears on my website is a good advert for the book.
Your writing is very pithy, but also rather dark – do you think the two go best together? This may be an entirely un-pithy thing to say, but I don't know. Obviously the two aren't mutually exclusive. You can be pithy and lighthearted. Or you could be a dark rambler. I suppose it depends on the style of the author.
How has recent technology affected your work and ability to reach readers? Without a doubt, the internet is a great way to get your work read by a global audience. I like the fact that anyone with a computer can go to my website and read my work. However, I don't think new technology has affected the publishing industry to the extent that many people claim. I don't think ebooks will ever replace print publishing.
What is your greatest writing ambition? Write well, and write lots. I don't need to win loads of awards or write number one bestsellers. I just want to produce lots of good work.
You have used quotes from out-of-copyright books in your novella and you also have a ‘found poem’. Why is it significant to you to re-work or re-display previously written work in this way? I like making things appear strange by taking them out of their original context. Most of the information we receive on a day to day basis isn't necessarily aimed at us - whether it's adverts for products we'll Issue 15
What are, respectively, your favourite poem and favourite short story of all time? B Movie by Gill Scott Heron, and Kafka's Metamorphosis. The greatest ever analysis of the media and American politics, and a story about a bloke who turns into an insect.
I see you turn 30 this year – do you think this means a new era for your writing? I'd like to think I'll be a better writer when I'm in my thirties. Writers are quite lucky, in a way. There aren't that many jobs where getting old is a definite advantage. A lot of models, actors and musicians are considered over the hill by the time they get to thirty. I'm just getting started. Finally, what one thing would you like to tell a new writer? Write whatever you want. Don't let people like me tell you what to do.
Aranjuez BEST POEM Ten days sleeping in your bed When you grew your hair you said It was for the boy who’d left without a word Midday sleeping in the sun Remember I’m the only one Whose every dirty secret you overheard. My Spanish rose, my sweet dark star Behind a Cape Town hostel bar Carving words with your dusty pocket knife I’ll remember you at sixteen years Chasing hidden pilot fears And the piano-shadow fire that took your life. For all your forlorn cypress dreams You came apart at the seams But kept your mother’s mottled rosary hands Born into a thunder storm Cello bow to keep you warm When you forget all your father’s misplaced plans. Box of magnets, Isaiah’s name And hurtful things you overcame Kissing on a boy inside the grove Born with your eyes closed tight Weeping with all your tender might Remembering the days we dove and rose. Three years old he went away Three years came back old and grey With a beard and the saddest eyes you’d seen A minor key on cello strings Box of magnets and secret things Dying before he told you where he’d been. For all your loss and all your tears You’re a beacon shining down the years A fuckup and a derelict and alone My Spanish rose, my sweet dark star You were never far apart From the things you always felt down to the bone. Alex Cleary Source: stock.xchng
Genesis 187 The android is pleased with the set of breasts he has fabricated: four, stacked 2 x 2 that he will strap onto his chest to nurse the first children. He already has names for them: Kyla, Sophie, Eddy, Jace. Soon, using eggs from his mistress, departed a half-moon ago on Galactic Seed II, and genetic material from other enhanced homo sapiens aboard her dispersion ship, he will complete the design of the coiled strands of DNA, those twisting tornadoes of possibilities, then nine months later will pull four wet infants crying and kicking from the artificial wombs, and nurse them on the quadruple heated breasts strapped to his chest, where they will suck and coo, cough and spit and wiggle themselves into caramel-smelling slumberous calm, their doughy thighs and pudgy little fingers cradled in his arms, their heads pillowed in his cruciform cleavage, their anterior fontanels -- crested with black, blond, brown, and auburn downy hair -visibly pulsing to the warm, red, iambic rhythm of human life. Jim Bainbridge
Contributors This issue, our contributors largely sent in their work from the US and the UK
Short stories Joe Dornich Joe Dornich is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He has repeatedly been published in the LA Weekly and on Nerve.com. Yelena Dubrovin Yelena Dubrovin is the author of two books of poetry: Preludes to the Rain and Beyond the Line of No Return. She co-authored with Hilary Koprowski a novel, In Search of Van Dyck. In addition to this, her short stories, poetry and literary essays have appeared in different periodicals, such as The World Audience, 63 Channels and others. Her short stories have been accepted for publication in Cantaraville, Bent Pin Quarterly, Bewildering Stories, Pensonfirev and others. She is a bilingual writer, published in both Russian and English. Craig Wallwork Craig Wallwork lives in the UK. He describes his stories as more Odd-Beat, than Off-Beat. They have appeared in Cherry Bleeds Magazine, Colored Chalk, Beat The Dust, Thieves Jargon, The Beat, Laura Hird, Nefarious Muse, and Dogmatika. Joseph Atwood Joseph Atwood is an unpublished writer trying to fit his writing around a hectic family life. He lives with his wife and three children in Hertfordshire, where his other interests include cycling and escaping to the allotment. Scott Newport Scott Newport was born in 1984 in Reading, Berkshire. He read English at the University of Winchester, graduating in October 2006. He currently works as an Editorial Assistant for Macmillan Publishers in Oxford.
Flash fiction Dennis Vanvick Dennis Vanvick spends his summers in Wisconsin and his winters in Bogota. Nick Allen Nick Allen is a Mental Health Nurse from Manchester. He has been writing flash fiction for around a year and has a
number of pieces published in a variety of ezines. He is a generalist rather than specialist and has written twist-inthe-tale stories, romances, humour and horror. Many of his stories include medical themes, as he believes in the maxim 'Write what you know'. He is in the process of building his own website, with a view to showcasing his favourite works. When not writing he enjoys scrabble, fell walking and poker.
Poems James Keane James Keane resides in northern New Jersey, USA with his wife and son and a menagerie of merry pets. He has made his living in magazine publishing, public relations and advertising for the past 25 years, including 15 years in New York City. He earned bachelors and masters degrees in English Literature 100 years ago at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. His poems have recently appeared in two anthologies, Freckles to Wrinkles and Harvests of New Millennium, as well as Tipton Poetry Journal, Gold Dust, Mississippi Crow, Sage Trail, Conceit, Ocean Diamond, Cherry Blossom Review, and Mirrors. He was proud to read a poem he dedicated to his wife called My Hero at the open reading at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, held this past September at Waterloo Village in New Jersey. Joseph R Trombatore Joseph R. Trombatore: a Pushcart nominee, whose award winning collection of poems, Screaming at Adam was published by Wings Press, 2007. Recent poems have or will soon appear in JASAT (Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas), Origami Condom, Right Hand Pointing, Spoken War, Oak Bend Review, Dead Mule, Ken Again, Sugar Mule, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Word Riot, & Offcourse Literary Journal. Editor/Publisher of the online Literary Journal of the Arts: www.radiantturnstile.com Alex Cleary Alex Cleary lives somewhere in the West Midlands though is often found in strange places further afield. He has been spotted living in a car near a beach, sleeping in a record store in Brisbane and subsisting in isolation in the Scottish Highlands. Sometimes the spirit moves him and he writes short stories or songs, or other things should he feel
compelled. He hopes one day to write a Great American Novel, though he has never been to America. Jim Bainbridge Jim Bainbridge is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship for graduate studies at UC Berkeley. He was awarded Second Place Prize in the 2008 Red Cedar Review Flash Fiction Contest and an Honorable Mention in the 2008 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, the New Millennium Writings Short Short Story Contest, and the Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Contest. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yomimono, Thin Air Magazine, and Roanoke Review. Mary Ann Honaker Mary Ann Honaker holds a BA in philosophy from West Virginia University and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She has previously published poetry in Harvardâ€™s The Dudley Review and Crawlspace of Cambridge, Massachusetts. In her writings she primarily explores the transformative power of love and the intersection of the spiritual world with mundane reality.
Features David Gardiner Ageing hippy, former teacher, now psychiatric care worker, living in London with partner Jean, adopted daughter Cherelle and Charlotte the chameleon. Two published works, SIRAT (a science fiction novel) and The Rainbow Man and Other Stories (short story collection). Interested in science, philosophy, psychology, scuba diving, alternative lifestyles and communal living, travel, wildlife, cooking and IT. Large, rambling homepage at: www.davidgardiner.net. Omma Velada Omma Velada grew up in Wales and read languages at London University, followed by an MA in translation at Westminster University. Her short stories and poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. In 2004 she founded Gold Dust magazine, which continues to promote fresh and established literary talent. Her first novel, The Mackerby Scandal (UKA Press, 2004), received critical acclaim. She has also self-published a short-story anthology, The Republic of Joy (Lulu Press, 2006). Source: stock.xchng
Shivani Sivagurunathan Shivani Sivagurunathan has been writing since her teens and has been published in a few poetry publications in the UK, including Agenda Broadsheet, The Wolf and lighthouse city. Her poems are generally written in free verse although she has written sonnets, sestinas and villanelles. Her poems are best described as being introspective but this is usually manifested through an engagement with the natural world. Being an artist as well, they tend to be very visual and she often paints pictures that not only accompany the poems but flesh them out. This allows for a re-engagement with the poems and a consequent reworking of them. She draws inspiration from the works of Ted Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Geoffrey Hill,Derek Walcott, Alice Oswald, David Malouf, Dylan Thomas and Federico Garcia Lorca. She is currently working on a long poem on the history, culture, religions and the natural environment of Malaysia.
Peter Magliocco Peter Magliocco writes from Las Vegas, Nevada, and has poetry in The Smoking Poet, A Hudson View Poetry Digest, Heeltap, The Beat and elsewhere... His new novel is The Burgher of Virtual Eden from Publish America (www.publishamerica.com). He was Pushcart nominated for poetry in 2008.
Jude Dillon Jude Dillon was born in Ontario, Canada and graduated in English from Queenâ€™s. He was a photographer for the Kingston Whig Standard and the Calgary Albertan, winning several press awards. He studied painting at the ACAD. He reads his work first Tuesdays of every month at the RMR Poetry Reading Series on 17th Avenue. Jude lives in Calgary, Alberta.
Gold Dust magazine For submission details, please see our website at www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
Our storefront is at www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine