Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


So last night's Literary Death Match was a total blast. I headed through early with Paul Cockburn to avoid Scotrail's peak hour price hike, which meant time for a couple of pints in a pub round the corner, before grabbing another pint and a snack to line the stomach in the Voodoo Rooms. Where I met the charming Vikki Reilly, who was organising the Edinburgh event, and the equally charming Todd Zuniga, founder of Opium magazine and the man behind the whole shebang. Not to mention, of course, my fellow contestants, Sophie Cooke, Doug Johnstone and Katerina Vasiliou -- who were all swell... great sports about the proceedings, excellent readers and fine folks to chat with in general. And last but by no means least, there were the all-important judges -- Senior Feature Writer at The Scotsman, Lee Randall (judging on literary merit), standup comedian Sian Bevan (judging on performance), and Peggy Hughes from the Scottish Poetry Library (judging on "intangibles.")

Seeing as there's a Glasgow show tonight at Mono -- which you should totally go see -- I won't spoil the fun of running order selection for them as might be popping along; but I ended up paired with Sophie Cooke for the first round. I won the coin toss and let her start, on a "ladies first" principle -- which was probably about as self-serving as chivalrous, I admit. Sophie read a poem about Antarctica, as sharply crystalline in formation as the ice of its subject. I shamelessly played to the perennial popularity of filth (albeit erudite filth) with a selection from "Sonnets for Kouroi Old and New." We were judged, with much hilarity rather than Simon Cowell style snark, my favourite comments being on Sophie's "Doctor Who" style of dress and the possibility that my moustache was independently doing all the dirty bits. The result: I won; hurrahs!

After a brief intermission, it was Katerine versus Doug, with Katerine doing a scene from her current novel about a learning disabled girl, and Doug doing a viscera-churning scene involving a bullet and brains from his latest novel. Both were most impressive, Doug's getting audible reactions of "ewwww!" from the audience, Katerine gripping attention with exactly the sort of intimate passage that can be hardest to hold listeners with. It was a close thing, but Katerine won in the end.

And so we came to the tense final, with three volunteers called to the stage for a basketball-and-book-burning-themed showdown: one to serve as stanchion for the net, the other two as trusty sidekicks, scrunching printouts of book-burner related malarkey for Katerine and I to lob. And lo, despite my piss-poor hand-eye co-ordination, I somehow managed to be first to five, making me CHAMPEEONAY!!!

I gots a medal and everything! Here is me sporting it afterward, doing my WWF style "victory face".


So, yes, all in all, it was an awesome night. I even ended up chatting to Sarah from Polygon Books, who turned out to have gone to Kilwinning Academy a couple of years after me. And signing a copy of Songs for the Devil and Death as a gift for someone back in NYC who had asked Todd to get my autograph. Which was cooooool! And I got to meet antifolk icon, Lach, who was in the audience. I spotted him in the bar and foyer before, and was thinking, hey, isn't that...? just at the point where someone referred to him by name as he passed. Which led to me going: Oooh! Oooh! You're Lach! Um... COOL! Turns out he's one of the judges for the Glasgow match tonight.

Which I shall be heading out for shortly, to enjoy in a nice relaxed way as a member of the audience, albeit possibly sporting my new shiny bling just... well, because.

(And I do believe there's a Dublin match tomorrow night, so if that's your neck of the woods, I highly recommend you go along. You won't regret it.)

Anyways, yup, most happy to have participated (with no small thanks to Jane McKie for passing my name on to Vikki.) Literary Death Match = Awesome Sox!


Saturday, September 03, 2011

Maybe the Twain Shall Meet After All

By way of Nick Mamatas here's a link to an article about "literary" writers turning to "genre" fiction that, for a change, doesn't make me want to stick knitting needles up my nose and jiggle them until my prefrontal cortex dribbles out my nostrils:

Once upon a time, genre was treated as almost a different industry from literary fiction, ignored by critics, sneered at by literary writers, relegated by publishers to imprint ghettos. But the dirty little and not-particularly-well-kept secret was that, thanks to the loyalty of their fans and the relatively rapid production of their authors, these genre books were the ones who kept the entire operation in business. All those snobbish literary writers had better have hoped like hell that their publishers had enough genre moneymakers in house to finance the advance for their latest beautifully rendered and experimentally structured observation of upper class angst.