Timothy J. Jarvis

Writer of Antic Fiction

Category: Uncategorized

Uncertainties IV

Uncertainties IV

Over the last year or so, I’ve been working on putting together the fourth in Swan River Press’s series of contemporary supernatural and strange tale anthologies, Uncertainties (you can find more details and order the volume here). It’s the first time I’ve edited a fiction anthology and it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in writing. It’s been great seeing the thing take shape—as it started to come together, it began to take on a life of its own. Brian Showers at Swan River was incredibly helpful throughout the process, sharing his wealth of experience. He pretty much gave me free rein, his only brief being that I bring in some writers who hadn’t featured in the series before, and who might be new to the press. It has long been my feeling that innovative writing can enhance the uncanniness of a supernatural tale, so I solicited contributions from writers who I thought would be playful and experimental with their tales. And as cohesion was really important to me from the outset, I also asked writers whose work I thought would share points of similarity. As the pieces came in, I saw this had worked better than I’d dared hope and that there were lots of potent synchronicities between the stories. But there was also a lot of variety, so I starting thinking about how certain juxtapositions might work and also how to ensure an overall flow. The tales are all experimental in some way, but run the gamut from melancholia, to outright horror, to comedy. I wanted to balance and shift between tones in a hopefully satisfying way. It took me back to the days of making mixtapes for friends, and thinking about flow, moving between moods, and setting up a kind of loose overall narrative from disparate parts. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Judderman’ by D.A. Northwood


It was an astrological conjunction that led me to the work of D.A. Northwood, that of Sagittarius and the Pleiades. I was walking up from Highbury Corner to meet with friends in the Archer pub on Seven Sisters Road, when I realized I was a little early and decided to kill some time browsing the wares at the much lamented Fantasy Centre bookshop on Holloway Road.

I’d been in there about ten minutes, running my eye along the shelves, when a title leapt out at me, ‘What Never Was’, a phrase which chimed with a refrain then going round my head, a line from a nursery rhyme I’d heard some children chanting outside my flat at dusk the previous day: ‘This is the thing that never was.’ I didn’t recognize the author’s name. Read the rest of this entry »

The Quarantined City – James Everington

When Fellows, resident of the Quarantined City of the title, a colourful Mitteleuropean port, first reads of the short tales of Boursier, he is intrigued; he once harboured ambitions to be a writer himself, and something about the description of these stories chimes with him. When he tracks some down and reads them, he discovers they have a transmutative force – the streets of the city begin to shift uncertainly around him. They also force him to look back at events in the past he’d almost forgotten.

The Quarantined City is a novel about the strange transformative power of literature. It’s also a psychodrama that confounds the reader’s expectations at every turn. There are elements of Borges and subtle horror in it, but more than anything it recalled Ishiguro’s extraordinary The Unconsoled to me – it has that novel’s ability to deftly lull and estrange at the same time.

Some Recent Cultural Highlights

I had meant in January to write a post of my cultural highlights of 2016, the things so good I’ve been driven to frenetically recommending them to near strangers buttonholed in a corridor or on the street, my eye glittering, while they make with the ‘Wherefore stoppist thou me?’ and their eyes go glassy and flat, like a hake’s. But the month got away with me, filled with writing and marking and a general post-festive slump. So instead, here, in no particular order, is a February list of stuff I’ve read/listened to/watched/seen in the last little while, that I would urge you to feast your eyes and ears upon (apart from the things that were live performances, and other things you simply can’t for one reason or another…). 2016 was a pretty crummy year, all told, but it was a great one for culture, so I haven’t been able to include everything I enjoyed. But here are the things that, with us already someway into a new year, have stayed with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Murder Ballads


I’m thrilled to have a story in this forthcoming anthology from the wonderful Egaeus Press, and alongside some of my very favourite writers in the field. My contribution concerns a lost early-17th century ballad entitled, ‘A ballet of the Murther of A boy of 3 yeres of Age whose sis’ter had her tong[u]e also Cut out and yet speaketh’.

More details from the press:

MURDER BALLADS will be an anthology of stories inspired by that ancient oral tradition: Tales that share the intimacy of a fireside song, a family secret, a Victorian melodrama or the crumbling front page of a tawdry antique newspaper. They range from the folkish to the mythic; from the stuff of disquieting nursery rhymes to cautionary fables of crime and punishment: Sometimes tragic, occasionally humorous, often frightening, and frequently reminiscent of something from a blood-soaked penny-dreadful.

The book will feature new and previously unpublished short stories by Timothy J. Jarvis, Reggie Oliver, Angela Slatter, Helen Marshall, Rhys Hughes, Rosanne Rabinowitz, D.P. Watt, Daniel Mills, Lisa L Hannett, Philip Fracassi, Louis Marvick, Avalon Brantley, Brendan Connell, Stephen J. Clark, Colin Insole, Alison Littlewood, Charles Schneider and Albert Power.

Creeping Waves – Matthew M. Bartlett


In 1868 and ’69, Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, a young man with an intense stare, wrote a bizarre masterpiece, in the garret of a Parisian hotel, while, if Léon Genonceaux is to be believed, hammering out discords on a battered upright piano. In 2015 and ’16, a genial man in the state of Massachusetts, Matthew M. Bartlett, wrote a bizarre masterpiece, while firing off excellent quirky witticisms and cat photos on social media… Read the rest of this entry »

The Polarities – Watch Repair


As band names go, there can be few as apt as that of Watch Repair. There is much of the horologist’s art in their meticulous, engrossing compositions, pieces that are as intricate and fine as clockwork, as hypnotic as the workings of a watch’s innards. And repair is fitting too, as these timepieces all have warped springs, gears with cogs missing, and yet have been made to run in spite of these flaws by skilled craftsmen – melodies and themes are there, but they’re fractured or layered in discordant polyphony.

Read the rest of this entry »

Antic Fiction

(Taken from an interview with Jonathan Raab, originally published at Muzzleland Press.)

I’m fairly ambivalent about genre designations. Part of me is suspicious, both of the taxonomical impulse that lies behind their creation and of their use as marketing labels. I think the best writing will always be hybrid, difficult to categorize, and display an irreverence towards established tropes. But on the other hand, in my main job as an academic and university lecturer, I think genre is an important tool for understanding and teaching how literature works, and why it takes the forms it does. I’ve also always liked those scenes in contemporary music that define their own, abstruse, sometimes ridiculous, genres as a way of expressing their difference from other forms, and as a kind of game. Further, I reckon that thinking in terms of genre can help when attempting to transgress certain ways of writing. Read the rest of this entry »

Lost Girl – Adam Nevill

Just finished this and it kept me gripped right to the end. It’s  quite different from the other Adam Nevill novels I’ve read. Firstly, it’s not horror, the genre he’s best known for, or not exactly horror, though there is plenty of horror in it, and a subtle, ambiguous speculative element that involves a bleak, black rite. It’s a thriller that sets a frantic father’s harrowing search for his abducted daughter against the backdrop of a near-future world on the brink of catastrophe. It’s fast paced, but, amid the brutal deaths that accompany the father’s increasingly frenetic spree, there are also chilling meditations on the devastation the Anthropocene has wrought on the world and some Ballardian psychology of decadence and decay.


I’m pleased to announce I’ve a piece in Booklore, an anthology about the passion for books, forthcoming from Zagava Press.

The anthology is edited by Jonas Ploeger and Alcebiades Diniz Miguel, and features illustrations by Erika Seguín Colás. The other contributors are: Carl Abrahamsson, Avalon Brantley, Brian Catling, Andrew Condous, Brendan Connell, Quentin S. Crisp, Richard Gavin, Martin Hayes, Colin Insole, Andrew Liles, Chris Mikul, Daniel Mills, Damian Murphy, Reggie Oliver, Thomas Phillips, Ray B. Russell, Michael Siefener, Charles Schneider, Thomas Stromsholt, Supervert, Mark Valentine, Paul Wallfisch, D.P. Watt, Ron Weighell and Jonathan Wood.

My contribution is a kind of fictocritical essay about my encounter with Walter Owen’s novel, ‘More Things in Heaven…’. Owen was an early twentieth-century writer and mystic, a correspondent of M.P. Shiel’s, and one of the Counts of the Island of Redonda, Shiel’s strange fiefdom. Though Scottish by birth, he lived most of his life in Buenos Aires and is better remembered for his translations of Argentinian Gaucho epics than for his original fiction and essays. But ‘More Things in Heaven…’ is unjustly forgotten: a very strange, often brilliantly written, theosophical novel. But it is said to be cursed, and readers are maybe chary of this. And uncanny things certainly happened to me after I read it…

‘I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.’ (Franz Kafka in a letter to his friend Oskar Pollak, 27. January 1905)

The anthology can be ordered directly from Zagava.

Uncertainties: Twenty-Two Strange Tales

Following this announcement, on the occasion of the birthday of the editor, the estimable Brian J. Showers, I can announce that I have a short story in the anthology, Uncertainties: Twenty-Two Strange Tales, forthcoming from Dublin’s Liberties Press. I’m elated to be sharing a table of contents with so many of my favourite writers of strange fiction.

Here’s how Brian has described the book:
Uncertainties is an anthology of new writing – featuring contributions from Irish, British, and American authors – each exploring the idea of increasingly fragmented senses of reality. These short stories were termed ‘strange tales’ by Robert Aickman, called ‘tales of the unexpected’ by Roald Dahl, and known to Shakespeare’s ill-fated Prince Mamillius as ‘winter’s tales’. But these are no mere ghost stories. These tales of the uncanny grapple with existential epiphanies of the modern day, and when otherwise familiar landscapes become sinister and something decidedly less than certain . . .’

My story, ‘Flyblown’, concerns the disappearance of a young woman and its connection to a disturbing image seen at night in the window of an all-but-abandoned photography studio.

Some Thoughts on the Storyteller’s Imagination

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, largely because I’ve been busy with teaching. The teaching is time-consuming, and does takes me away from my own writing, but, in addition to the satisfaction of seeing students develop and explore different ideas in their work, I also get, from the discussions we have in lectures and workshops, a lot to take into my own poetics. One of the things we’ve been attempting to formulate recently is how the storyteller’s imagination works in the increasingly fragmented, fractured world we live in.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Review of ‘The Wanderer’

Tom Breen has published a thoughtful and generous review of The Wanderer on the Muzzleland Press blog:

This is an extraordinarily accomplished first novel, and readers of weird fiction have much cause for celebration at the prospect of a second. In a corner of the literary world where ‘actual literature’ is all too rare, Timothy Jarvis’ The Wanderer is the real thing.

The review can be read here.


This coming weekend, I’ll be attending my first British Fantasy Convention. I’m really looking forward to it. On the Saturday, at 6pm, I’m going to be participating in a panel entitled ‘Weirdness, Darkness, Madness: the Psychology of Dark Fantasy’, along with some fine folk. Then, at 10pm that day, I’ll be reading some fiction. Disgruntled Amazon reviewers have described my writing as ‘beyond weird,’ ‘beyond depressing,’ as having left them with ‘a deep melancholy’ they’d ‘rather not have,’ and as ‘unforgettable,’ ‘but for all the wrong reasons.’ So I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss out on that…

FantasyCon Schedule
Saturday 24th October

6pm Weirdness, Darkness, Madness: the Psychology of Dark Fantasy
The landscapes of the mind have always been fertile ground to explore in Gothic literature. How is that tradition now informing today’s dark fantasy and weird fiction?

  • Morbid fascination: why are we drawn to what unsettles us?
  • What techniques, tropes and tricks do writers and film-makers use to get in our heads?
  • What disturbs you the most: fear for your life vs. fear for your sanity?
  • What weird experiences have the panellists had and how have they informed their writing?

It’s all in the mind. . . or is it?

Moderator: Terry Grimwood
Panellists: Timothy J Jarvis, Kim Lakin-Smith, Helen Marshall, Deborah Walker, Mark West

10pm Reading

Twisted Tales of the Weird

On Friday 23rd October, I’ll be reading at the Twisted Tales of the Weird event in Manchester alongside weird fiction luminaries M. John Harrison and Helen Marshall. The event is free, but ticketed. There are more details here.

An Itinerant Interview

Paulo Brito puts some thoughtful questions about writing practices and influences to me over on his blog, here.

Some Reviews of ‘The Wanderer’

Here are a selection of the reviews that have appeared online for The Wanderer. I’m extremely grateful to everyone who’s written something about it for their insightful comments and critiques.

Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview

Justin Steele interviews me for the Arkham Digest, here: a weblog wherein I witter Wanderer-wise and Weird.

An Eldritch Twitter ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’

The brilliant Terry Eden has created a compelling and utterly terrifying Twitter ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’. You can start playing it, here. But be warned, you may never sleep easy again…

A Couple of Weird Fiction Links

There’s a piece with my thoughts on Mark Samuels’s transmutative ecstatic collection of short fiction, Written in Darkness, on the WeirdFictionReview.com, here. And I contributed to the Review’s ‘End of Year Booklist’ – you can find my recommendations along with some other eerie suggestions, here.

Details of a Goodreads Giveaway

The Wanderer - Full Cover jpeg - cropped

There is a Goodreads giveaway of The Wanderer running till the 1st December. Two signed copies of the book are available.

You can find out more details and enter, here.

Some Photos From My Reading with Douglas Cowie and Neil D.A. Stewart

Here are some photos from my reading with Douglas Cowie and Neil D.A. Stewart, kindly taken by Raph Hoermann.

Here’s Douglas in full Rock ‘N’ Roll novelist mode:

Douglas Cowie Reading

Here I am reading something no doubt gruesome and harrowing:

Timothy J Jarvis Reading

And here’s Neil, first making us laugh, then making us very sad indeed:

Neil D.A. Stewart Reading

It was a great night, we had lots of fun. Thanks to everyone who came!

‘The Wanderer’ – Some Resonant Songs

There are a handful of songs on The Wanderer soundtrack posted yesterday, songs particularly apt and potent, but, in the main, I find vocals (and strong rhythms and melodies), too distracting for reading, writing, and editing. But much of the music I was listening to in other moments, while working on the book, did have a real impact on its tenor (or would have had, were the book my fiction and not something else, something more uncanny). The following is a short playlist of songs that particularly resonated.

Here’s the tracklist:

Scott Walker : Farmer In The City
Årabrot : The Wheel Is Turning Full Circle
Tiny Vipers : Development
Ghosting Season : Time Without Question
Buzzard Lope : Fag Ash Crow
Swans : You Fucking People Make Me Sick
Marissa Nadler : Dying Breed
The Body : Ruiner
Chelsea Wolfe : Ancestors, The Ancients
Botanist : Rhyncholaelia Glauca
Birds Of Passage : Belle de Jour
Pere Ubu : 414 Seconds
Boduf Songs : Last Glimmer On a Hill At Dusk

Some Thoughts on the Incantatory Power of Drone

Most of the pieces on the eldritch soundtrack to The Wanderer posted yesterday could be described as drone works. Modern drone is a musical tradition developed from the radically minimal compositions of ’60s innovators La Monte Young, Phill Niblock, Eliane Radigue, Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine, Tony Conrad, and others. It has taken influence from a range of sources: the clanking and metallic whines of David Lynch’s and Alan Splet’s Eraserhead sound design; later industrial and noise artists, such as Coil and Nurse With Wound; the classical minimalism of New Yorkers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and of their Eastern European sacred music counterparts, Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki; the darker, less propulsive fringes of dance; the more lumbering styles of metal; and world folk and religious music.

This music has an incantatory power. Drone, repetitive and glacially solemn, yet emotive, with ghost melodic and harmonic progressions, is a kind of alchemy; it mingles, in its crucible, the ritualistic and the affective. The effect of this is transmutative: drones fire the imagination, summon into being that which does not exist.

Reading: Douglas Cowie, Neil D.A. Stewart, and Timothy J. Jarvis


On Saturday 4th October, I’ll be reading from The Wanderer alongside Douglas Cowie, author of Owen Noone and the Marauder and Sing For Life, and Neil D.A. Stewart, author of The Glasgow Coma Scale, talented authors both.

You can find out more about Douglas’s writing here, and Neil’s, here.

The reading will take place at the Alleycat Bar & Club, 4 Denmark Street, London, WC2H 8NJ, 8pm till late. They’ll be DJs after the readings. The event is free.

‘The Wanderer’ – An Eldritch Soundtrack

This playlist is a selection of eerie tracks, by some of the very best contemporary drone, ambient, & noise artists (and a few other apt pieces) – an antic soundtrack to The Wanderer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Howling and Yowling and Jabbering

A meta-weird fictive essay I’ve written about Stephen Graham Jones’s deliriously eerie and harrowing tale ‘Little Lambs’ has been posted up on the Weird Fiction Review here.

Editor, Adam Mills, describes the piece as follows:

‘Returning contributor Timothy Jarvis pays ample tribute to the disorienting fiction of “Little Lambs” with a sort-of-fiction of his own: a one-of-a-kind fictive essay, if you will, depicting a cast of characters in their own throes of deranged perception, thanks to their own exposure to Jones’s story. I have a feeling readers will be able to sympathize.’

‘The Cross of Carl’ – Walter Owen

The Cross of Carl

Splatterpunk avant la lettre, weird Gnostic execration and unction, desperate plea for peace, The Cross of Carl is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. Carl’s passion takes places on the gory field of a WWI battle and in a factory where the bodies of fallen soldiers are rendered down into fat and manure. A heartrending yowl in plangent prose.

‘The Wanderer’ Influences : Pulp Pusher Guest Blog

Tony Black (whose recent novel, The Last Tiger, a harrowing and affecting tale of familial conflict and the hunting to extinction of the Tasmanian tiger, is much recommended) has been good enough to host a guest blog from me over at Pulp Pusher, wherein I discuss various books that had an influence on The Wanderer. Including an eerily retrospective one. That post is here.

…chewing on his own teeth…

…chewing on his own teeth like a horse with the colic the man sat in the Starbucks swigging the swill they serve in there which they falsely give the name coffee scribbling in his notebook a rambling tract a pseudo-liturgy with no conceivable end and beginning chewing on his own teeth…

Ten Books

Over on Facebook I was nominated to do the ‘ten books that have stayed with me’ meme-thing, and I thought I’d give it a go, and do it properly, see what it threw up about my taste that perhaps, if I’d spent time consciously putting together a list of books that have influenced me, I might have hidden somehow. I found out it was pretty much impossible not to cheat, at least a little, but also that the first book that came to mind pretty much dictated the list – the chain of associations was strong… On any given day the list might have turned out differently.

Anyway, here’s today’s:

  1. The Island of Doctor Moreau – HG Wells: There’s something about Wells’s vision of Moreau’s hubris and the becoming-human animals that’s utterly horrific, and impossible to shake.
  2. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman – Angela Carter: Another doctor… And a mad and brilliantly scatological and seminal picaresque – in the actual best of all possible worlds, someone gave Alejandro Jodorowsky a big budget to make a film of this novel, and it’s the best film ever.
  3. Locus Solus – Raymond Roussel: So I’ll never get all the puns – my French isn’t good enough to read it in the original – but even in translation you get a sense of Roussel’s insane schema underlying the crazy set-pieces.
  4. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte: I’ve taught this novel, and I still really like it – which is a sign of something. When I first read it I was very pleased to find it much stranger and more eccentric than I’d thought it would be.
  5. The Course of the Heart – M John Harrison: Sordid magicks and broken people. So depressing you’ll vomit. But in prose, and I don’t mean this as vapid cliché, but literal truth, that is luminous.
  6. City of Saints and Madmen – Jeff VanderMeer: The interweaving of these texts about the fantastical city of Ambergris, is bogglingly complex. The writing is riotous. Follow-up novels in the setting, Shriek: An Afterword and Finch are also incredible – the urban fantastic completely exploded.
  7. Magic for Beginners – Kelly Link: I love Kelly Link’s short stories. In each one about a hundred different plots and genres collide, and somehow they don’t quite fall over. It’s exhilarating.
  8. The Red Tree – Caitlin R Kiernan: I read this on holiday – I was relaxed, the weather was beautiful, yet the book still gripped and terrified me. An mesmerizing and truly frightening work of found-manuscript horror – dread seeps out from the onion-skin layers of the narrative to infect the space you’re reading in.
  9. The Hill of Dreams – Arthur Machen: No synopsis of this novel can do justice to Machen’s extraordinary oneiric prose and bizarre sublime vision. But – young man living in London tries to write a novel, goes mad, writes gibberish. So, yes…
  10. Melmoth the Wanderer – Charles Robert Maturin: The title of my novel, The Wanderer, plays homage to Maturin’s brilliantly convolute work – thought of by critics as the book that closed the original fruiting (as in fungal bodies) of the Gothic. It brings, to the violence of the Gothic, a high-Romantic sensibility, but also, and more incongruously, the comical, sceptical, and metatextual mood of Renaissance and Enlightenment satire – it’s an awkward but potent blend.
  11. More Things in Heaven… – Walter Owen: A gift eleventh text – perhaps something of a Greek gift, as you’ll see. A very strange novel about an Zoroastrian plot to wipe out the descendants of Alexander the Great. It’s a sequence of linked narratives about cursed manuscripts, manuscripts that cause readers to spontaneously combust, a strange mix of virtuoso pastiche of historical documents and arcana, in some ways prefiguring Borges. Supposedly it’s, according to bookseller lore, cursed itself. And, as the flat I was living in burnt down soon after I read it, I can’t in all conscience recommend it, good though it is…

Launch of ‘The Wanderer’ & Some Thoughts on Walking and Storytelling

The evening of Thursday 4th October saw the launch of The Wanderer, in a very apt space – a cellar beneath an occult bookshop in the heart of London’s Bloomsbury. There was topery and merriment, and I stumbled my way through some brief thanks and a short reading from the foreword of the book (on the principle that foreword is forearmed, or some such). Then we went to the pub for more quaffing. Though my thanks were brief – I wanted to avoid that thing of listing everyone I’ve ever met, which is so endemic to Oscar speeches and the like (indeed most Oscar speeches seem attempts to resurrect the medieval idea of a chain of being – attempts to connect everything from inert matter through to God, who, it would seem, according to the denizens of Hollywood, is such an avid movie goer, that, in order to ensure good acting in the films he watches, spends much of His time divinely inspiring thespians) – there really are a lot of people without whose support, encouragement, and editorial advice the book could never have been written. They know who they are, and I’m very grateful to them. And I’m really grateful to everyone who came to the launch, and made it such a fine event.

Tomorrow, Saturday 6th October, I’m participating in this event, discussing walking, and its relationship to memory and storytelling. I’ll be on a panel alongside Maud Casey, who’s most recent novel, The Man Who Walked Away, is a sublime meditation on loss and the nascency of psychiatry, told through the story of a 19th century Frenchman, Albert, who is a dromomaniac, a fugueur, compelled by his illness to walk all over Europe, but unable to retain any memories of his journeys, only able to recall the brief moments of stillness his condition allows him. I’ve, therefore, been thinking a lot about walking and fiction in general, and walking in The Wanderer in particular.

An exploration of certain aspects of walking in fiction was a large part of what I wanted to do with the book; indeed the PhD thesis out of which it was developed has the decadently pompous subtitle, ‘Peregrinations in Eldritch Regions’. I wanted to engage with a particular British tradition of walking in fantastic fiction, a tradition exemplified by the meanderings of the protagonists of Arthur Machen’s stories, a tradition in which a transformative and terrifying sublime vista could be waiting round every corner. I wanted to twist the tropes of recent psychogeographical writing, to distort in weird ways; rather than writing tramping feet that wear down through the strata of London’s cultural, historical, and esoteric palimpsest – something that, though it can be revelatory, is always Gothic, and sometimes ‘heritage’, the routes walked into the city sigils to invoke the past – I wanted to write feet that stray from the path of the ordinary and everyday, and into eldritch regions (actually, less stray, than have that path wander from beneath them)… Darkness doesn’t lie beneath or beyond, rather it’s insinuated into rational spaces and distorts them. I hoped the book’s terrors would not just cross the boundaries that delimit them, but deform and erase those boundaries. I wanted to depict real places, known to many readers, as being rife with horror, so that, drawn into the perturbing regions described by the novel, they might find it difficult to mark them off from the spaces through which they move every day.

Or this would have been what I’d have wanted to do, were The Wanderer a work of fiction by me, which, of course, it isn’t


The Wanderer

I slightly dread having to give a synopsis of my book, The Wanderer, let alone a terse summary, as it’s a touch sprawling, and I’m not at all sure what’s it’s all about.

But if forced to offer a high-concept précis, it would go something along the lines of this: ‘The Highlander meets Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters, meets M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud. With booze.’ Or, as its somewhat fustian immortal narrator might phrase it: ‘With topery, sottishness, and befuddlement.’ There’s a lot of quaffing in the book. Many, many libations poured down throats in honour of Bacchus.

So, in that spirit, I like to invite you to raise a glass to its publication on the evening of Thursday 4th September, from 7pm, at Treadwell’s Books, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Would be lovely to see as many of you as possible there.

Though, be warned, many of the book’s drinkers do end up straying into awful eldritch realms…

You can find out more about The Wanderer here.

Please RSVP, as it would be good to have an idea of numbers. Either on Facebook here, or through the poll here.

Science and Literature Festival

On Saturday 6th September, 2014, I’ll be participating in the Memory Network event: ‘Science and Literature Festival with Ian McEwan: Memory in the twenty-first century’. The event is at UCL, 12.30 – 6pm. There are further details and an email address to reserve places, here.

Loft Conversions

Looking out the window, charred cloud in a hazy sky, houses topped with scaffolding wrapped in plastic. Some incubating brood. Gnawing on saucisson sec wrapped in a gingham napkin like a good petty bourgeois. It ain’t half muggy.

Post-Cosmic Horror

Brian Stableford concludes his exhaustive and riveting account of the development of cosmic horror, in the S.T. Joshi edited volume, Icons of Horror and the Supernatural, with a claim that the age of cosmic horror has now past, that humankind is no longer intimidated by gulfs of time and space, or by the idea it’s not master of its own fate. However, he argues, this doesn’t mean the end of the mode:

It is useful, now that we can no longer be horrified by mere matters of spatial and temporal magnitude, or by the consciousness that the cosmos was not constructed for our benefit, to be able to remember and appreciate what a privilege that freedom is. There is a definite imaginative utility in continuing to test its limits. An ability to remain unhorrified by the fact that the entire universe, outside the fragile envelope of the Earth’s biosphere, is extremely and unremittingly hostile to human existence ought to amplify, rather than diminish, the horror implicit in the fact that we are more than sufficiently hostile to one another, and to the human microcosm in its worldly entirety, not to need any cosmic assistance.

The Monstrosities of the Outer Circle

Towards the end of William Hope Hodgson’s ‘The Hog’, Carnacki explains the motives of the tale’s cosmic horrors to his circle of listeners in the following terms:

The monstrosities of the Outer Circle are malignant towards all that we consider desirable […] They are predatory – as all positive force is predatory. They have desires regarding us which are incredibly more dreadful to our minds when comprehended than an intelligent sheep would consider our desires towards its own carcass.

I wonder why it is so many recent tales of cosmic horror have fallen back on the banal fear of being treated as mere beasts fit for the shambles. Hodgson’s intimation is more dread, more awful.

More things…

Spent much of the afternoon poring over Fred Botting’s article, ‘More things: Horror, materialism and speculative weirdism’, a remarkable piece of criticism on Lovecraft, cosmic horror, speculative realism, and posthumanism. His provocative conclusion describes a ‘widening gyre’ of indifference and horror:

Thinking without humanity, thinking without philosophy: posthuman science seems to have no need of speculative realism, as flag-waver, belated philosophical legitimator or camp-follower. Its indifference of thinking, beyond the human, also turns on an indifference of horror. What is left: horror without horror, or an even more horrifying thought than horror itself – the absence of horror?


Topery, Sottishness, and Befuddlement

The good folk over at the Next Best Book Blog have published this short piece wherein I discuss the copious imbibing that addles the pages of The Wanderer. I finish with a recipe for a drink to sup while reading the book – Tartarean Punch, a suitably dire concoction. So rustle one up. Savour. And await what may come.

Octopus punch bowl

A Darkling Brace

A post just to collect a couple of old pieces of mine.

The Forest

I’ve an essay on Laird Barron’s story ‘The Forest’ up at the WeirdFictionReview.com, ‘Stages of Horrific Vision’, in which I use some critical theory in order to try and get to grips with the powerful charge Barron’s writing has. That essay is here.

Berberian Sound Studio

And I’ve a piece on Civilian Global that starts off as a review of Peter Strickland’s remarkable Berberian Sound Studio, but shades into a meditation on the weird and dread alchemy of horror music. It can be found here.