Posts

Showing posts from 2015

A Night to Kill A King Is This Night

Image
On Saturday, October 24, I attended and age a short talk at an excellent event in Oxford called Spectral Landscapes: Explorations of the English 'Eerie'. It showcased the work of Adam Scovell and three short films (in the end) were shown, including Adam's newest, Salthouse Marshes, and his collaboration with Robert Macfarlane, Holloway. I was fortunate enough to be invited to give one of the talks, along with Justin Hopper, Sharron Kraus (who also gave a performance), Katy Soar, George Bickers, and Eddie Proctor. It was a highly enjoyable evening and built upon the Alchemical Landscapes conference in Cambridge that was held back in March (see previous post).

I gave a talk about Alan Garner and in particular his 1980 teleplay To Kill A King. (It's available on YouTube - well worth a watch.) Here is the script.

In this talk I’ll be considering To Kill A King, a half-hour BBC tv teleplay broadcast in 1980 as part of ‘Leap in the Dark’, a series of uncanny tales. To Kill …

The Ground of the Sea: Sinclair, Scovell and nature writing

Image
During a summer in which we holidayed in different parts of Wales - on Anglesey, in a cold but dry week spent on beaches and checking out standing stones and ancient burial sites, and then a wet week in Ceredigion - I was invited to participate in an upcoming evening of talks and films to celebrate the work of Adam Scovell. it's in Oxford on the 24th of October, and is called 'Spectral Landscapes: Explorations of the English Eerie'. I'm excited by this, as it should be  a fascinating event, with different speakers, a showing of some of Adam's films, poetry readings and a performance by Sharron Kraus. I'm going to be talking a bit about Alan Garner, in relation to Adam's film homage. At a previous conference, the Alchemical Landscape conference in Cambridge in March, I talked about Garner's later book Thursbitch and how it presented topographies of land and sky in relation to each other. This time, I'm going to be talking about a less well-known Gar…

Beating the bounds: misreading Iain Sinclair

Image
My sense of Iain Sinclair’s recent book, London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line(Hamish Hamilton, 2015), is determined by a misreading on my part. In a scene where Sinclair recalls giving a reading in a ‘bamboo bar’, one of the punters, a ‘heavy presence, tieless in a loose designer suit that gave off sparks as he moved’ (38), gets a bit confrontational at the Q&A sessions. Grabbing the microphone, he lays into Sinclair:
History, he said, was pigs’ bollocks dipped in sherbert. But if you want to listen to … Arthur Morrison, A Child of the Jago, Tales of Mean Streets, Arnold Circus, Charles Dickens, furniture sweatshops, bagels and … blah blah blah: OK fine. Each to his own. But these are not, my friend, the realities of the moment. You know fuck all about that. About the rewrite of territory, the rescue of the old shitheaps, for which he was responsible: a player, an investor, he put his money where his mouth was. And his tongue was blistered with diamonds. (38)
A cou…

What Men Don't See: All That Outer Space Allows

Image
I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while. It’s the final book of Ian Sales’ Apollo Quartet, and where the other books are novella length, this one is longer, a short novel. It’s a curious text, in some ways: a recapitulation, a revision, an inversion, an alternate history of the Apollo programme that is more an alternate history of science fiction, and ultimately, an alternate history of the Apollo Quartet itself.
The main character is Ginny Eckhardt, the wife of Walden Eckhardt who is, as the novel opens, a test pilot at Edwards AFB in the mid-60s. Ginny is not only a pilot’s, and then when Eckhardt is accepted into NASA, an astronaut’s wife, but is also a science fiction author, writing under the name V.G. Parker (Virginia Parker, her birth name). The rather brilliant conceit of All That Outer Space Allows is that sf is a genre written and read by women: its most famous authors are women (Ginny is pen-pals with ‘Ursula, Judith and Doris’), the editors of Galaxy an…

Landscape and (science) (fiction) (fantasy)

Image
A week or two ago I went down (or is that up?) to Cambridge for a one-day conference called TheAlchemical Landscape, an event organised by Evie Salmon and James Riley of the Counter-cultural Research group there. It was mentioned in a Guardian article by Robert Macfarlane about the ‘eerie’ quality of much contemporary writing about the English landscape, an article which enumerated a considerable amount of texts I’ve been interested in lately, from JA Baker’s The Peregrine (now quite widely cited in this regard) to Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England. It was noted at the conference by Alastair Reid that there was a strong Essex connection at the conference, and in particular he noted that several Essex boys had (like myself) drifted onto ‘Celtic’ territories and pre-occupations. Whether Wales and Welsh is Celtic or not I’ll leave for another time, but the re-imagination of Essex and the Essex landscape in the work of Justin Hopper (in Public Record), in Robert Macfarlane’s Silt, in Rac…

In the company of wolves and lions

Image
In a scene in Zizu Corder’s novel Lionboy (2003), which is currently bedtime reading for my daughter Isobel, young Charlie Ashanti, who can speak to all felines, releases a pride of lions from captivity in a circus. He has made a bargain with them: in order to find his kidnapped parents, he arranges their escape and they accompany him on a journey (via the Orient Express) to Venice, where his parents have been taken, and thence to the lions’ ultimate freedom in Morocco. Riding on the back of the Young Lion in a night-time Paris, Charlie realises that he is in the company of lions, not cats. They are tractable, but he is not in control. He cannot order them, as the liontamer in the circus had done. He suddenly becomes aware of his own vulnerability in the presence of their power, their capacity for violence, their otherness. This moment is occasioned by the seeming fate of his enemy and pursuer, one Rafi (a London street-kid who has connived in the kidnapping of Charlie’s parents), wh…