Sketchiness: The Hendrix Experience

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ink and pencil

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‘Dangerous Games’ cover reveal

Over at Solaris Books they’ve revealed the cover for the upcoming ‘Dangerous Games’ anthology, edited by Jon Oliver (who just won a British Fantasy Award a few weeks ago), and which contains my story ‘Honourable Mention’. Available Dec 2014.

 

DANGEROUS GAMES BIG

 

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PSA: Superman flying over Zebra herds in Ghana…No.

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This scene is in a graphic novel called ‘Superman: Birthright’.

Clark Kent is backpacking in Ghana.

The only zebras he would find there would be in zoos.

It seems to be a good comic, otherwise.

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Chekhov: From a Lay Perspective

Anton Chekhov wrote a story called ‘Gooseberries’ in 1898.

It’s available online here. I read it in a collection called ‘About Love and other stories’ translated by Rosamund Bartlett.

Having no training in literary critique, the story appears to be about the relationship between happiness and sadness. Chekhov’s thesis appears to be that happiness exists at the cost of someone else’s unhappiness.  The elements of the story are artfully arranged to support this.

Two friends, Ivan and Burkin, take a walk in the woods, but the weather turns inclement and they seek refuge from rain in their friend Alyokhin’s house. Ivan tells a story and both he and Burkin stay the night since the rain does not let up.

From the opening their are rain clouds. Both Ivan and Burkin are in a good mood while they ramble, but then it starts to rain. Their mood sours, but Alyokhin is upbeat. A significant scene is when they are invited to the bath area while  he washes before going into the house. Alyokhin enjoys the swim and keeps repeating that he hasn’t had a wash in ages. On the first read I could not understand why Chekhov spent so much time on this swim, and I almost cheered when Burkin said: ‘Come on, that’s enough!’ but it demonstrates that Alyokhin’s pleasure is at the expense of his friends.

Ivan tells the story of his brother Nikolay, who always dreamed of a house in the country, thinking this would be the source of his happiness. In fact the title comes from Nikolay’s insistence on having gooseberry bushes in his country home. His dream comes true at the expense of his rich wife, who has to die before the Nikolay can buy his house. When Ivan visits he is served some sour berries from Nikolay’s bushes. Nikolay is content, though, and Ivan reflects that this is at the expense of the peasants who work for him and who suffer when he expounds opinions like “Education is vital, but it is premature for the populace”.

“apparently a happy man only feels so because the unhappy bear their burden in silence, but for which happiness would be impossible. It is a general hypnosis. Every happy man should have some one with a little hammer at his door to knock and remind him that there are unhappy people, and that, however happy he may be, life will sooner or later show its claws, and some misfortune will befall him — illness, poverty, loss, and then no one will see or hear him, just as he now neither sees nor hears others. But there is no man with a hammer, and the happy go on living, just a little fluttered with the petty cares of every day, like an aspen-tree in the wind — and everything is all right.”

It’s an interesting story that bears rereading. Chekhov uses many techniques to keep the reader interested, because ultimately not a lot happens and it’s kind of bleak, but deliberately so. Chekhov even acknowledges this when he writes: “Neither Burkin nor Alyokhin found Ivan Ivanych’s story satisfying.”

It’s as if Chekhov warns us that there is something here, but it won’t be obvious or satisfying if you don’t look deeper. Or there’s some kind of meta-narrative where he’s saying he won’t make the reader happy because to do that would be at the expense of some sadness. Proving his thesis.

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BBC Radio 4 drama: ‘The Man Who Turned Into a Sofa’

You might want to take a look at this while it’s still available:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04gvw1t

Interesting account of depression from the points of view of sufferer, family and…er…sofa.

It’s a good window into what happens.

 

 

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Some Random London Bits

I had a day off so I decided to wander around London. I found:

 

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A Batphone in Greenwich Market.

 

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This misconception about alcohol in front of a pub on the Southbank.

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The best second hand books in London are under Waterloo Bridge, just in front of the British Film Institute.

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Minor Beatles history found on Monmouth Street. It’s largely gentrified these days but there used to be a large second-hand clothes street market there.

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This is the north opening of the Greenwich foot tunnel. Londoners like to know where their tunnels are in case we get bombed.

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The Greenwich foot tunnel.

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The south exit of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

 

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This is the sundial at Seven Dials Junction in Covent Garden. Yes, shockingly, it has seven sundials.

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And here’s the establishing shot.

 

 

 

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Unfocused Thoughts

I was reminded of something I read a long time ago today.

Ray Bradbury said this:

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all”

Many other great artists have said something similar. The bare bones of the idea is that you must create something honest and that the honesty in question will expose you but paradoxically save you as a creator. You must not fear the exposure or vulnerability that any creative act brings along with it.

You must not fear the jibe of those who say you are not good enough. You must not fear the pedantic who says you did not get it right.You must not fear the derision of failed artists who consistently tell you that you look like an idiot for trying to do what they could not. You must not fear even though you may not be good enough, may not get it right, and may in fact look like an idiot. 

The trick is not to be perfect the first time out, but to just be out in spite of imperfection. 

Who wants to be perfect anyway? Flaws are much more interesting…

 

 

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