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Inside 'Incorcisms'


Arachne Press

Launching: 27th May 2021

My new book is here!! I have it, physically, in my hand, and 'tis a thing of beauty. It is published by the ever-brilliant Arachne Press, who are also currently producing an audio version with proper actors and everything. I cannot wait to hear that. The cover is a design by my artist friend Camille Smithwick and I love it. That grinning creature is... actually I'm not sure. A wolf? A fox? Some kind of demon? Well: that's the vibe of this collection. Strange stories with the emphasis on strange. All the tales are short and sharp and deal in the ambiguous, the unsettling, the dream-like and the nightmarish. Super excellent Doctor Who writer Rob Shearman sums it up as:

"...tiny fictions [that] are elusive and teasing and true. They're like the fading echoes of dreams you struggle to remember when you wake up in the morning - the bits that you know didn't quite make sense, and made you feel strange and a little unnerved, but you knew were important, if only you could hold on to them forever."

Well, yes, yes, absolutely yes. I've been seeing this a lot in my writing of late. I'm always playing a teasing game with the words to use as little as possible to suggest and gesture towards the bigger picture, which is always elusive. There's a tale in here about in a post-apocalyptic supermarket where people have lost all sense of themselves as human beings, while tiny trolleys burst out of Easter eggs. There's a whole lot of 'WTF?', but I like that, because WTF? is very much a mode of our times as we bounce with breakneck speed between inanity, madness, despair and beauty: a melting shelf of ice from the arctic - both stunning and terrifying, both distant and close. That kind of thing. Or, as Naomi Booth puts it:

"These sharply-written short stories are a spine-chilling delight: ingenious, unnerving, pitch-dark."

So, what have we got inside the pages? Well, I don't want to spoil it all, as this is journey of discovery, but there's a handful of the tiny tales I'd like to highlight that I think best give a flavour of the book. The first is the title story 'The Incorcist' which sets out the stall for the collection as a whole. It deals with a young woman who was once possessed by a demon before an exorcist came along and took it out. She is now seeking an Incorcist to put the thing back in. That's what we're dealing with here, thematically: hauntings, possessions, and the things we do to each other as obsessive and possessive humans. We soon get to 'Load Bearing'; a tiny epic about a relationship built and crumbled around various walls, and then to 'Daylight Savings'; a script-style tale about a family moving strangely through time.

(This latter was actually first published by Arachne Press as part of their Dusk anthology and performed by actors simultaneously (at dusk) across the country a few years ago. Here's a video of one of the performances that I believe took place in Cornwall.)

There's also a gentle bit of sci-fi in the shape of 'The Midnight that Never Came', set in one of the most liminal spaces I can imagine: the multistory car park. This tale contains a load of made up words in a made up language and I offer no translation. Make of them what you will. I suppose 'interpretation' is another theme of the book, like in 'Help Yourself' where a message left in the window of an abandoned ice cream van is willfully misunderstood (or is it?). And finally, in a story that I think of as being set in the same universe as 'Help Yourself', the final story 'Different, Somehow' sums everything awkwardly up: we're all at cross purposes; things are disrupted; there's an unease we can't quite place. But, perhaps, that's not always wholly a bad thing. But then again, as Liam Hogan puts it:

"Be prepared for an uneasy ride."

So that's Incorcisms. It is out on the 27th May and we're having ourselves a lovely launch event over on Zoom. This is actually going to be a dual-launch as another book is being birthed at the same time. Laura Besley's 100neHundred, also published by Arachne, is a delightfully cute but fiercely dark collection of micro tales - indeed there are 100 of them and they are all exactly 100 words long. Here's the very attractive cover by Fiona Humphrey:

The only thing that's better than having a book out is having a book launch partner to launch it with. I think the two collections compliment each other divinely, and pairing us up is a genius move on the part of Arachne. So, please do also pre-order Laura's book, and maybe you'll get two books delivered on the same day. Imagine the joy of that! For the launch itself you can buy a free ticket to just watch, a ticket + one book, or the full damn package of a ticket + both books. Here's the link to the launch:

But that's not the end of it!! Oh, ho, no. If you can't make the launch, Laura and I, alongside poet Rob Walton, will be taking to the virtual stage at the Brockley Max festival on the 31st May for our 'Short, Flash, Poem?' event. There's a write-up about the event on Creative Tourist (featuring my sunny face and big hair) and the link itself is here:

We're planning to chat on about the very vague differences between short stories, flash fictions and poetry, and there'll be readings, jolly times, good vibes, and smooth sailing.

NOT ONLY ALL OF THAT, but I'm also plotting behind the scenes with a few other Manchester-based authors to potentially do an event at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation sometime in the summer. My days, its all kicking off.

And please don't forget, you can still head over to Fly on the Wall and buy Pigskin, my take on Animal Farm for the angry vegan.

Well, well. Are we exhausted yet? Nah, books are magic.


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