I have been fortunate to appear on the Shucks About Everything podcast, a podcast helmed by author and poet Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick dissects the literary and cultural sphere, and also frequently reads from his own work including an updated version of his 2013 novella-length play Gil the Nihilist:A sitcom. Recent episodes include a feature on the Cass Corridor poets and a conversation with Pat Clay, whose own poetry suggests an exciting undiscovered talent.
Many thanks to Sean for inviting me to contribute to this episode. Listen here and here.
When compiling a playlist for my short story collection Creepy Sheen I devised a system aimed at procuring a set of tracks to fill it. If successful, all selected tracks will possess at least some element of the quality I was looking for. This quality evolved over the time I was thinking about getting the playlist together, which mostly occurred after all writing for Creepy Sheen had been completed, but is a continuation and addition to the overarching themes of the collection. Very quickly, a central defining feature came to the fore, formed by the conjunction of two elements. These elements were the sublime and the lame.
The sublime, in the sense I am referring to, is defined as: extremely good, beautiful or enjoyable, tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence.
The lame I refer to is defined as: boring, uncool, or just sucks in general, out of touch.
With these elements combined I referred to this new quality as The Sublame. The Sublame is predominantly indefinable, as all the best qualities are, but most often it includes some, or all, of the following—a visual character particular to the era targeted (in this case the 1980s), some form of intertextualism, cultural reference/self-reference/cross-reference/in-joke, a representation of societal issues that can be re-contextualised from a modern standpoint, and meta commentary.
A good, if imperfect, comparison to The Sublame is the concept of a guilty pleasure. This in itself is a hard-to-define quality, means different things to different people, shifting in response to cultural trends, the zeitgeist, and changing perspective between eras, hence is a concept in constant flux. Although an imperfect one, it is the comparison that most successfully illustrates the impossibility of pinning down what defines The Sublame, and I will argue that The Sublame is more subtle in its nuances.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate The Sublame is to take a closer look at some of the videos that made it onto the final playlist. A prime example is Ray Parker Jnr’s video for “Girls Are More Fun”, where many elements of The Sublame are immediately apparent.
The video begins with Parker Jnr playing a version of himself, as his character tries to convince a woman that he is indeed the singer Ray Parker Jnr. That woman is played by Irene Cara, who proceeds, in character, to dismiss him, rolls her eyes, and replies ‘And I’m Irene Cara’ before walking off. Parker Jnr’s big hit—the theme from Ghostbusters—then begins to screen on the bar’s television. The video spirals from here, as he rushes from one scenario to another, pursued by some inept detectives that seem to have sprung straight from the script of a wacky 80s comedy. By the end of the video it’s implied Parker Jnr is trapped in a nightmarish time loop, never able to convince anyone of his true celebrity identity, forever condemned to be chased through pop video purgatory. All this, and the video still has time to include some potentially unreconstructed attitudes amid a sense of joie de vivre that is as jarring as it is infectious. An additional element common to The Sublame is cross-referencing to associated cultural content. Both the Parker Jnr video and the video for Rockwell’s “Obscene Phone Caller” feature the insertion of their most successful songs. As mentioned, Parker Jnr watches his “Ghostbusters” video on tv, while Rockwell’s most famous hit, “Somebody’s Watching Me”, accompanies his arrival in a limo.
Further cultural complexity is added with Parker Jnr’s link to the Ghostbusters film franchise, a series of films synonymous with the 1980s, and Rockwell’s association with Michael Jackson, arguably the decade’s defining pop culture figure. Add to this mix Irene Cara, who performed the theme songs for two quintessentially 1980s film, Fame and Flashdance, and the brew starts to take on increasing potency.
An unlikely inclusion on the playlist is “Ooh To Be Ah” by Kajagoogoo, a video so layered with avenues for analysis I won’t begin to attempt to do so, only to say that there seems to be room for a Jungian interpretation of the video, as well as a multi-faceted interrogation of the materialism and superficiality that dominated the era.
The Sublame exists firmly in the realm of I-know-it-when-I-see-it, and many tracks didn’t make the playlist despite having an abundance of the required elements. My Sublame is not your Sublame but The Sublame is everywhere.
For decades, Humankind sent transmissions around the globe. In addition to reaching every corner of the planet, the signals travelled beyond, into the dark void of space. All of broadcast history made its way gracefully through the stars, racing into the unknown—until the mid 1980s, when nuclear mushroom clouds plumed in the skies of Earth’s Third World War.
The magnitude of the explosions caused the extinction of life on Earth, and sent a shockwave through the fabric of reality. Due to this anomaly, all broadcasts running at the time of the bombs hurtled into space at an impossible speed. The signals, disobeying natural laws, outran and passed all transmissions from previous eras, leaving them far behind. At the head of Earth’s messages to the cosmos travelled the collective broadcasts from one atomic day in history.
In a remote star system, eyes turned towards the approaching 1980s transmissions.
Curious consciousnesses examined the broadcasts from the strange extinct civilisation of Earth. Filled with these transmissions, the distant consciousnesses devised their response. They returned it in the form of their own transmission, directed back to the origin of its inspiration—1980s Earth.
Excited to announce the release of Analoger + 1. The chapbook is part of the Walking Wounded series by Tangerine Press, featuring numbered and signed limited editions. A run of 53, containing two short stories, the chapbook is 16 pages. approx. 6″/150mm wide x 225mm/9″ tall.
A little about Walking Wounded:
“The Walking Wounded Series is an erratic beast. Titles will be released in sporadic bursts over the coming years. 53 titles by 53 different authors, in an edition of 53 numbered copies each. Any copies left unsold after 9 months (from date of issue) will be ceremonially burned and the ashes scattered into the River Wandle outside the Tangerine hq here in south London.
Limited edition, signed chapbooks, all handsewn, embossed and printed at the Sick Tangerine workshop.”
Cardboard Wall Empire’s Resuscitations series of releases featuring lesser known or neglected works presents Marcel Schwob’s Mimes.
“These twenty-and-one prose-songs, marking a stage of his own literary development, are reiterations of a dead and vanished time, reincarnations of the Greek soul,—a faithful recapturing of that old Greek life, seemingly so unconscious of a future here or elsewhere.” – A. Lenalie
Included in this edition:
Mimes by Marcel Schwob 1905 edition translated by A. Lenalie
Essay “The New Erasmus” by Vance Thompson
Marcel Schwob’s essay on Robert Louis Stevenson, “R. L. S.”
Biography of Ellen Dresser, alias “Aimee Lenalie.”
Excited at the release of a little project I’ve been putting together.
Leonid Andreyev – Selected Stories
A Russian titan, Leonid Andreyev stands as a colossus alongside the many giants of his country’s literary lineage. Selected for this collection are many of his finest short stories. A practitioner in the darkest recesses of the human heart and imagination, his tales delve the wretched depths of madness and horror. Dazzling in its psychological complexity, arresting in its sombre and audacious realism, Andreyev’s short fiction illuminates and shape-shifts as emphatically as it frightens and repels. From the encapsulation of the psyche of a nation to the solitary anxieties of the individual, Andreyev, with exemplary skill, reveals the unfathomable forces that guide the soul and move the blood. Included within are stories of transcendent terror, metaphysical in scope, some grounded in the brutal caress of nature’s cruelties, others pivoting on the arbitrariness of a potentially godless universe. Andreyev’s characters wrestle to equivalent degree with the external and internal. Employing searing intensity, they live, and inevitably pay the price for the impertinence of doing so. Whether melancholic or bitter, resigned, ignorant, insane, innocent, or guilty, those who populate Andreyev’s stories face fate’s capriciousness. In mesmerising fashion Andreyev visits the prison cell, the public execution, the diseased family home, and the nightmare of natural catastrophe. His version of the Biblical landscape is electrifyingly gothic. A writer of immense power, unflinching and unrelenting, Leonid Andreyev has left us the beneficiaries of his incendiary work. Some of which is included in this volume.
The stories are accompanied by a selection of abstract illustrations designed to compliment the evocative tone of the pieces.
I had the privilege recently of contributing a selection of readings to an album of recordings for the wonderful Librivox site. Titled L’Art pour l’Art the other pieces included are recorded by the incomparable Sean Kilpatrick
Listen at Librivox here and at Internet Archive here. Sean’s readings are also collected on his YouTube channel here. Endless thanks to Sean. The entire collection can be heard on YouTube.
The annual Silent Motorist Media list of the Ten Weird Writers to Save Us All has been announced, and I’ve been included in the 2019 selection. Thank you to all who sent a vote my way or put in a good word for me. Find the list here. I’m in great company and strongly suggest investigating the other writers featured.