The New Year Cow

On Christmas day I took 30-45 minutes out from gluttony and arguments to draw a cow.

A light brown cow stands knee-deep in long-grass, on a steep hillside. A pastoral vista drops away behind her, disappearing in the distance into some mountains. There are fluffy clouds in the sky, which is otherwise a deep bright blue. The scene is peaceful.
Click through for Redbubble products

Not only is this speed study a pleasant and relaxing image in the simplified style I’m working out at the moment (in part so that I don’t lose myself for over a year trying to do–as I currently am–a hyperrealistic study of some banana chips in a foil bag), it’s the first time I’ve managed to put together a piece of art that looks good on absolutely every single item in the Redbubble store’s offerings. Quite the Christmas miracle.

IT’S HERE! Architects of the Flesh is available for sale!

Do you like your socialism angry, your body horror Lamarckian, your alternate histories brutal and convoluted and your protagonists greyer than a London sky?

You’d better, because that’s what’s on offer, just in time for Christmas if you hurry!

(Unless you’re buying an ebook version, which case you can pretty much just buy it on Christmas day and hide in a corner devouring the misery, vengeance, and weirdness without listening to your family!)

If you don’t do Christmas, this book also serves brilliant as a Generic Winter Experience.

There is basically no reason not to buy, on Kindle (all regions, link goes to UK), iBooks, Nook, Barnes & Noble online, or in print and ebook at Lulu.com. You can also request it at many major bookshops!

the book cover for Architect of the Flesh shows the title, author attribution, and an image of a sketched medusa head on one piece of paper being menaced by a diagram of a surgeon's knife on another piece of paper: the background is Charles Booth's London Poverty Map

COMING SOON: ARCHITECTS OF THE FLESH

Coming soon from House of D Publications! A chunky and compelling novel full of strife, fantastical features, surgery, and really horrible phone calls! The birth and probably death of the genre Lamarckian Horror, by the author who brought you Saxonpunk.

the book cover for Architect of the Flesh shows the title, author attribution, and an image of a sketched medusa head on one piece of paper being menaced by a diagram of a surgeon's knife on another piece of paper: the background is Charles Booth's London Poverty Map

What?

That’s right! Before the close of the year, available in print and approximately a million (small exaggeration) e-reader formats including Kindle .mobi, .epub, .pdf etc, and available on iBooks, Kobi, Amazon, etc: ARCHITECTS OF THE FLESH is London as you’ve never seen it and hopefully will never see it, in a world where Lamarckian inheritance works, and just about every other science lags behind xenotransplant surgery.

Wait, back up. Lamarckian?

You may remember Darwin. At least, I hope you do. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection turned out to be right: the idea that organisms develop physical (and indeed behavioural) traits over time as those individuals who display them fare better in whichever environment they’re in than those who don’t, and so have more babies.

Well, in the heady days of the 19th century, when everyone was still trying to figure out what the absolute hell was going on with a world they’d previously assumed was static and unchanging after the Oh Shit discovery of fossils, he was far from the only thinker trying to work out how we’d got from dinosaurs to chickens and whether those things had happened at the same time.

Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck (or just Lamarck)’s idea of how environment enacted biological change was that changes to individual organisms during the course of their lifetime were then demonstrated in their offspring: so if you cut the tail off a mouse, it would have tail-less offspring. If a giraffe stretched and stretched for leaves, it would have offspring with younger necks.

Now… that does seem pretty easy to test via empirical if somewhat cruel methods. Mice are not hard to get hold of and were pretty abundant in the 19th century too. And it certainly hasn’t withstood such a simple test as obviously your surgically mutilated mouse does not beget mice without tails (mice with human ears and mice with green fur are the result of genetic tampering, and are outside the scope of this novel).

Yes but: “xenotransplant”?

In the 1790s, eminent surgeon and co-author of Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, William Hunter grafted human teeth onto a rooster’s head and said rooster grew a coxcomb of tooth enamel. You can see the results at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London (or you can in 2021, when the museum re-opens).

See that? More of that.

So much more of that. Animal husbandry meets 18th century attitudes where theology of predestination props up chattel slavery. Human rights? Never heard of her. Animal rights? Don’t make me laugh. Technology without overriding morality? Wealth without conscience? People with fashion transplants? You got it.

Grab yourself a copy and see how bad things can get–but also just how hard it is to prevent people from trying to make things better.

What am I up to?

I’m still proofing a book! I’m reading several books at once, because that’s how some of us focus, and I’m working on a commission…

an unfinished vector picture of a black bird backlit by the sun. the bird's mouth is open.
 [I hate posting progress images but I love validation. A quandary]
I took a break from the slow progress of this very detailed image to make a swift design:

a vector image of the highlights on the upturned face of a young black woman, with the text 'we are our own light'.

Which can be bought as a t-shirt and many other things.

And of course, the exciting sci-fi comic I am working on with my collaborator and vendor of cat pictures, Emma… the enigmatically-titled: fuck fate, let’s dance.

a comics page. a space ship looms in the background. in aystemtric panels with a red hue, a centaur hurriedly performs various tasks, eventually kicking down a door in a burst of light

A little art, a little feature writing

Rushed as I am, I am still finding time to procrastinate, which is great news for my gallery and bad news for my everything else.

The Big Headline

Two blog posts up so far over at the professional portfolio, the most recent of which is about restitution and colonialism, under the catchy (and appropriately: stolen) title, “Display It Like You Stole It“.

The art

I’m infuriated. This took minutes. Why does it look better than the stuff that takes weeks?

Welcome to 2019: Still No Tyrell Corp.

As a fan of Blade Runner I’m massively disappointed to find we’ve entered The Future without artificial owls, interplanetary travel, and, mostly importantly, really good see-through umbrellas with light-up handles (you can by either a good clear plastic umbrella or one with a light-up handle, but for some reason when you buy one that combines the two it arrives broken and then the manufacturers argue with you about a refund for three months).

Apart from the disappointing lack of specific consumer goods, the continued Western descent into fascism,. the massive global weirding of the weather, and whatever other apocalyptic nonsense the year ahead is going to bring us, I’ve got a couple of projects technically going but none of them up to a point that I want to bring them into public yet.

Instead, here’s some art:

A little pop art

Some drowning

One WW1 spy

And a still life I feel like I’ve been working on since the dawn of time.

Other than that, I’ve been putting together my portfolio site, and doing work for ArtString. Which I am honour-bound to tell you is a funky little app which will enliven future visits to London museums for you!

And hopefully the new year will suck less than the old one. I mean. Miracles do happen.

The Autumn Collection

Hi guys! I’ve been learning how to do vectors properly in my spare (spare?!) time.

Here’s a selection!

A very convoluted tiling pattern of mushrooms, oranges, apples, physalis and autumn leaves
Starting big: the chaotic autumn pattern! Click on the image to buy on a number of products
A tiling pattern of falling autumn leaves and alternating up and down golden mushrooms
Separating out components for a simpler pattern: again, click on the image for the products if you like!
A sparse pattern of death cap mushrooms on a dark gray background, they look a little like the arrows on cartoon convict jackets
Simple and gothic, the first pattern. Click for more minimalist options!

 

FOCUS ON FICTION: Pass The Parcel

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel – my longest novel – today.

PASS THE PARCEL

Pass The Parcel

The world is populated by everything from humans to Artificial Humans, but speciesism runs rampant. Everything that can go terribly wrong does; and while it always comes back to Brazil, it all seems to be going down in London, which is a seething pot of conflicts and crossed wires, as new lies are told and old ones resurface; as old murders are recalled and new ones committed; as history is rewritten; and as a very ugly but potentially extremely powerful statue is passed from wrong hand to wrong hand.

My first full-length work that I published, my longest work that I’ve ever published, the longest thing that I’ve ever written and in terms of cast size and continuity almost certainly the most complicated.

This took me a long time to actually write out – the genesis was in 2002, when I went to a literary festival at my university while drunk and had a small epiphany regarding how, to most characters, the main through-line of action in a story’s plot is actually a very minor part of their lives, and that we only see a snapshot of their existence around this. I wanted to write more of the flesh around the pit, as it were, and had a few characters beginning to talk who seemed like they could make it happen. I got about 35,000 words in and collapsed on myself because I had NO IDEA WHERE IT WAS GOING.

Fast-forward to 2007: I diagrammed. I drew maps. I wrote about 150k in one month; worked on one chapter for a year; wrote another huge chunk and finished the first draft. Somewhere in this time, a whole other version of what was at the time the near-future – and is now the increasingly distant past – came into shape.

This has been the book which received the most enthusiastic response from readers as it was written, the most intense fannishness, and I can understand in some regards why that is: it’s fleshy, organic, something which lives and breathes as its own world, with mechanisms that function and characters whose lives – as I’d dreamed – didn’t revolve around making them accessories to the plot, but rather continued with their own preoccupations and problems while the plot – the “parcel” – passed between them, in some cases almost unnoticed, in others a little more catastrophically.

I threw ideas into a pot and distilled them into an alterna-London, drawing on personal experience (intimate relationships with certain sections of the unhygienic club scene and the particular joy of living right at the poverty line in a large city) and wild imagination (having a job that pays a rent, robotic lobsters, Android rights, wayfinding technology that actually works), and the logical human responses to living in a world where they’re not the only intelligent species, or even form of sentience. I wanted something big, bright, and dirty – real, down to the tiles on the kitchen floor and the thumping hangovers, but hallucinogenically Other at the same time.

More than anything, Pass the Parcel was about the physical and emotional feeling of being in place; the way that events boil up out of seeming nowhere, but also how the world you live in reacts with your body and mind. I think it remains one of the most solidly-grounded of the books I’ve written.

It is also, in a very real way, about bathos.

Focus On Fiction: The Other Daughter

FOCUS ON FICTION:
I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available. If anyone’s read any of them and wants to add their impressions or things they think...

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel today:

THE OTHER DAUGHTER

Polly Mazlowczy has returned from a fictitious conflict in North Korea a changed woman. Just how changed, her strange and insular family and the people of an isolated Midwestern town are about to discover. The Other Daughter is a revenge tragedy of the old school given a modern twist.

With this book I’ve definitely been a victim of my inability to stick to one genre; it is technically a revenge fantasy, yes – based on a play which certainly falls into that category – but it’s also a fantasy novel, and a family saga.

I began with the house. Polly, the protagonist, came into shape in relationship to that stifling, oppressive, semi-haunted building and its horrible secrets. Her supernatural entourage (and her brilliant, rude, amoral girlfriend) came soon after. As the first of my published works to actually see completion – although it wasn’t the first published – I think The Other Daughter represents an interesting snapshot of an earlier stage in the development of my personal style and approach to writing.

It’s dense, and visceral, thick with minute descriptions which I think add to the oppressive atmosphere the whole narrative carries with it, and the sense of an impending storm. I think, too, a lot of my literary influences are closer to the surface than they are in other work, meaning it’s an interesting read in terms of analysis as well as enjoyment – and surprisingly also probably some of the freshest, most interesting characterisation I’ve done. I could stand to revisit this for my own development!

The Other Daughter, a story about secrets, lies, and coming back to the place that made you in order to see that process through no matter the cost, carried with it some very clear mental images, and a while back I commissioned B. L. Becotte to draw one of them:

image

Originally I described this as:

“It features ass-kicking lesbians, creepy ghost monsters, horrific mutilation, and a plot stolen from inspired by Shakespeare. Clearly the stuff of powerful cinematic legend or, more accurately, just me having a good time with writing something rather than making an enormous fuss about the moral and social implications of the text.”

While that’s true to a degree, there’s definitely some examination of the monstrous feminine and the damage women can do to each other in here that I just took for granted when I was writing it.