Notes from New Sodom

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Sorry, the title just seemed appropriate for what is essentially just another post of me, well, crowing. Cause as well as getting me pirate shanty placed at Farrago's Wainscot, I just got me first Interzone sale for "The Whenever at the City's Heart".

Re the first of these, I mentioned this at the GSFWC the other night after the crit session on a cool wee story by relative newcomer, Mark Harding, and was answered with "Farrago's what?", to which I shook me head in disappointment. OK, so apart from Neil, none of the Gissiffywickers had the pleasure of meeting the FW guys at WFC, but for anyone else who hasn't heard about this cool wee project, go check out the links below. As well as putting on a swell party, the FW crew are putting together a sorta cabinet of curiosities, an emporium of eccentricities or, as they put it: "an exhibition of weirds, an almanac of experimentation, decay, and the problems with form." Which sounds good to me. And given that one of the editors, Michael Constantine, I'm reliably informed, is a concertina-playing veteran of the bawdy pirate song, it seems only too apt that "The Ballad of Matelotage and Mutiny" should find a home with them. I'm just wondering if, at some future WFC, we can get a rousing, carousing, drunken chorus going with musical accompaniement and all. Now that would be fuuuuuun.

Anyway, yeah, go check 'em out. They're full-up in terms of fiction submissions at the moment, I think, with a line-up that includes forthcoming work from some quality writers, but they're still looking for non-fic.

Re the second, the sale to Interzone is way cool on a couple of counts. For one, the story in question is the fourth in that "story-sphere" thing I blogged about previously, the one that's been doing me head in for over a decade. So with this one finished and placed, it's finally all done and dusted (barring any edits, copy-edits and/or proof-reading that might force me to face the demonspawn bastards again). And the fact that these stories riff off each other means it's good to have them *all* out there. As I said they stand alone, but it's good to know the "complete thing" will be available for anyone as wants to chase them all down.

For another thing, though, this is me first Interzone sale and it looks like the story'll be in the 25th Anniversary Issue. Given that Interzone was one of the things that first got me seeing how far out there you could go in the field (like, the first ever story I read in the mag being Ian Watson's "Jingling Geordie's Hole", for fuck's sake), I'm pretty damn chuffed about that. I came to the magazine as a teenager, while I was still at the hand-nailed-forehead, schizo "Kill them all" journal-writing stage, and it's been there all the time, surviving through thick and thin, so I kinda feel like I've grown up as a writer with Interzone there in the background. It's cool to be a part of the birthday celebrations, so to speak.

Anyway, enough of my crowing. Back to the actual writing.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Ballads of the Book

In other music-related news, I just got an MP3 through of a mix of "If You Love Me (You'd Destroy Me)" the collaboration between meself and Aereogramme, for the album, The Ballads of the Book, due out in February, next year from Chemikal Underground. I can't even begin to tell you how cool this sounds; all I can say is, really, honestly, they've taken my lyrics and made a sodding fantastic song out of them. In case ye missed my blathering about this album thing previously, it's a project originally set up by Roddy Woomble of Idlewild, following a collaboration with Edwin Morgan. The idea was to bring together Scottish writers and Scottish bands and see what they came up with. The result looks really fucking exciting.

In terms of authors other than meself, as I understand, there's Allan Bissett, John Burnside, Bill Duncan, Michel Faber, Alasdair Gray, Rodge Glass, Roddy Gorman, Laura Hird, AL Kennedy, Edwin Morgan, Ian Rankin, Robin Roberston, Ali Smith and Louise Welsh.

As for the bands / musicians, other than Aereogramme, ye've got Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Vashti Bunyan, deRosa, Foxface, Mike Heron (Incredible String Band), Idlewild, King Creosote, Malcolm Middleton, Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock, Karine Polwart, Alasdair Roberts, Sons and Daughters, Strike the Colours, Alun Woodward (The Delgados) and James Yorkston.

So... fucking cool, huh?

I may have missed some out, as I don't have an official track listing yet, but, don't worry, I'm sure I'll be ranting more about this nearer the time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


So I blame VanderMeer, Williamson and Raines for this. How so? Right, well, one of 'em starts up a pirate anthology which sounds way cool, and I start writing a story for it. Cause pirates are neato. Then one of 'em tells me his idea for a pirate story... which I obviously won't say anything about but which also sounds way cool, enough that I wish I'd come up with the idea. Then the third gives me, as a birthday present, the double album of sea shanties executive produced by Gore Verbinsky and Johnny Depp. You know those explosives or poisons or whatever, where there's three ingredients each individually harmless, but when you put them together it's BOOM! or g-g-ack! or suchlike? Yeah, exactly.

Anyway... clearly, I think, the album will be excellent background music for the finishing of aforesaid pirate story of me own which (having been put to one side in order to finish off another story) I need to get "back into", so to speak. I've already got 4.5K of it. It's just a matter of clicking back into the flow and seeing it through to the end. Simple, neh?

Except by the time the first disc of the sea shanties album is finished on my CD player, I have, of course, opened up an entirely new file on the PC and am writing a sea shanty... because well, it's not like I have tons of shit to be doing already, and there's this back-story to the pirate story (origins of the "pirate gods" of Matelotage and Mutiny, basically) and, ye know, that back-story could be done as a ballad, and maybe a few verses of it could be thrown into the story to add flavour, and, and, and...

...and 43 fucking verses later, I now have a 3000 word sea shanty which I'm buggered if I know what to do with. 3000 words! 3000 sodding words! It's 43 fuckin verses, fer the love of Christ! What the fuck am I supposed to do with a 43 verse sea shanty?!?! It's longer (and with more plot actually) than some of the frickin stories I've written, but it's not like ye can submit a 43 verse frickin sea shanty to a lot of venues.

Dear Editor(s),

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! "The Ballad of Matelotage and Mutiny" (3000 words approx). Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Yers sincerely,


I think not.

So, anyone got any ideas about where one would send a 43 verse sea shanty (bearing in mind that, it's by me and is therefore somewhat, um, bawdy in places)?

Friday, November 10, 2006


The local Glasgow free listings magazine, The Skinny, aimed at students and bohos mostly, just published this cool little article which treats Scottish SF in a most favourable light. Which is nice. And I get the final word, which is even nicer, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


So I'm home. Another WFC over, another wild week of erudition and excess. I'm going to keep this one short, I'm afraid ("aye, right" or "about fucking time", I hear you say), cause I've just crawled out of me bed after a wee post-trans-Atlantic-flight nap, and am therefore not terribly capable of stringing a coherent sentence of sense together, never mind reconstructing the last week or so in copious detail. Add to that the fact that I got dropped on the head, and ye'll have to excuse me if I spent 18 hours in the bar talking to ye and forget to mention it.

Dropped on the head? Yeah, yeah, we'll come to that.

So I arrived in NY last Tuesday, on one of those flights that leaves Glasgow at 09:00 UK time and hits Newark -- I dunno, five, six, seven or some ungodly number of hours later -- at 12:00 NY Time. Note: this type of schedule means yer up at the crack of WHAT THE FUCK KINDA TIME IS THIS?! and are going to be screwed by jet-lag if ye go to bed at a regular time; the solution, I've found, is to get shit-faced at a karaoke bar with various Del Rey folks, and be staying with yer editor out in Princeton Junction so that when you finally arrive back at his place at 01:00 NY Time, you crash out like a light thrown at a wall and wake up peachy keen the next morning at a time that means ye've had a long lie by your circadian rhythms.

Left NY with Jim Minz the next day for Austin, where Chris Roberson picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel. Acquiring John Picacio and Joe McCabe in the bar, we then headed out to see the new Gilliam movie, TIDELAND, in the groovy Alamo Draft House, a cinema set out like a lecture theatre, with a waitress service offering beer and food. Cool! The movie itself was the sort of thing the phrase "fucked-up shit" accretes to. Pretty much everyone but me hated it, Chris and Jim being particularly uncomfortable with the whole little-girl-in-sexual-peril thing that kicks in towards the end, them having daughters and all. I didn't *love* it, but I was defending it in the pub afterwards, as much on a Devil's Advocate basis as anything else. I can see what he's trying to do, what with the whole "dark fairy tale" thing being typical Gilliam; I'm just not sure what point he was trying to make. Anyhoo, we all headed back to the con and had an early night, I think, on account of the bar being closed by the time we got back.

Thursday the con started for real, so this is where it starts to get blurry. I'd no sooner finished me breakfast than Jim was snagging me for lunch with Chris and Lee Modesit. Not being that hungry I was more concerned with finding a head shop that stocked rolling tobacco, natch. Anyway, after lunch was when BarCon properly started. I remember Bear's hat, of course -- and a swell hat it is too -- but, dude, I don't know which of us is more of an attention-slut, me or the hat. So from here on in, I'm not even going to try to name-check all those I was drinking with; there's just too damn many. Just look at all of those people in those photos wearing that hat for an idea of who I was hanging with. I can't remember where I ate on Thursday night, never mind anything else. I rolled into the room about 05:30 am, is about all I can tell you.

Friday opened with poor old Jim, who I was sharing a room with, coming down with the Bug To End All Bugs. Man, I woke up in the morning to the sound of him coughing and spluttering, staggering to the toilet. Poor sod spent the rest of the con like that, to the point where Chris Roberson was reckoning our room was built on an ancient Indian burial ground or something, what with Jim struck down by illness and me getting dropped on the frickin head. (But we'll get to that.) Anyway with occassional bouts of guilt over enjoying meself while Jim suffered I spent most of Friday in the bar. The highlight of Friday was the Morhaim Family Dinner, the black tie affair thrown by me agent every WFC, where we all got to / get to dress up in penguin suits and play at being billionnaires. I had a reading that finished just when folks were leaving for the restaurant, while Jeff Ford followed direct after me, so the two of us did our shit all dolled up to the nineties, and I hung around to catch Jeff in action. I did a bit of VELLUM then my Sonnets For Orpheus (the latter of which went down really well -- I had a few really cool comments afterward from people basically saying "fuck yeah!", so I think my drama queen gene served me proud). Jeff followed up with a great wee story that's mostly conversation between a couple, funny and quirky, but really quite moving in a lot of ways. The dinner was great. I didn't manage to chat to Moorcock as he was way across the table from me, but I did manage to cadge a damn fine cigar from Jeff VanderMeer. In my tails and cummerbund and shit, it was all terribly decadent.

Saturday was the day of the banquet and the World Fantasy Awards, introduced brilliantly by Brad Denton. As ye'll probably all know by now, I didn't win. I was more bummed by the fact that Peter Lavery didn't win in the Special Award (Professional) category, actually, and, as far as me own award, I had more than enough folks offering commiserations and "You was robbed, dude" sentiments to make up for it. If I didn't win the head, I got a ton of egoboo from a shitload of friends. And I got a ton of free drink, for that matter. Jay Lake had me judge some weird-ass contest at the Tor-eadors party. I met the guys from Farrago's Wainscot (or maybe that was Friday?). So it was all going swimmingly, up until, that is, I got dropped on my frickin head.

So, yeah, the story is, according to Jason Williams of Night Shade Books that we were in the lobby bar and aiming to go up to the party. I, however, by now exceedingly drunk and glued to the chair by laziness asked to be carried. Now, I remember being grabbed around the waist by Jason and slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatos, but I don't remember having any say in this at the time (some may say that I have in fact been known to do the ole doe-eyed "Carry me" routine for a laugh, on numerous occassions... but I couldn't possibly comment. The fact remains: I got dropped on my frickin head). I mean, yeah, we made it all the way to the actual lobby before Jason lost it and I got dropped on my frickin head, but that only meant we'd left the nice soft carpeted area and were onto the marble fuckin floor. Marble fuckin floors are not comfortable places to get dropped on yer frickin head, I tell you. Now, it may be true, as Jason insists, that at the point we reached the marble floor, I "squirmed". It may also be true, as some reports suggest, that my lighter fell out of my pocket and I was reaching for it. It is not, I confess, entirely unlikely that seeing my lighter fall, in my state of intoxication, I would consider that nothing in the world was more important than retrieving said lighter... and would endeavour to defy the laws of human physiognomy and gravity in order to simply reach for it from my perch atop Jason Williams shoulder. But the fact remains, Mr Williams: I got dropped on my frickin head!

Didn't really bother me too much, I'd have to say, but it seemed to scare the shit out of everyone around me. I didn't even know I was bleeding, but they way Chris Roberson describes it was like the last fucking scene in PLATOON, with Willem Dafoe on his knees, arms spread and leaning back, blood streaming down his face. Much fuss was made as people tried to establish if I was concussed... with not much success. I'm incomprehensible when I'm sober. Add a few drinks and fuck knows how any American makes sense of my rambling gibberish. So the question "Are you OK?" would just get met with a string of randomly selected affirmatives, expletives and hand-gestures, in no particular coherent order. The only way they knew I was cool was when, after Allison had patched up the wound, someone tried to hold a cold beer can to my head to deal with the swelling. I, naturally enough, reach for it. They, foolishly enough, think I want to hold it myself. So they give me it. So I pop the ring-pull and take a slug, of course. Fuck the head wound; it's beer, dude.

Anyway, it wasn't as bad as it looked to folks, just a wee bump and a bit of broken skin. Hell, there's a photo out there on the interweb and there's really not even that much blood visible. Still, at least I can now say I've been dropped by a publisher.

Right so. Sunday... ah, bollocks if I can remember much more than Neil Williamson finally appearing and looking perky rather than half-dead, having finally adjusted to the time-difference. Or actually that might have been Saturday. I know it was out on the patio, but fuck it, man, I spent a lot of time out on that patio. Plus I got dropped on my fricking head, so ye cant't expect me to remember what happened when, right? Had dinner with Gigi, Chris Billett and... t'others whose names I'll just mumble and look sheepish about and again point to my big lump on head.

And then it was over for another year, and I had a couple of days in NY on the way back, time to discover St Marks Bookshop and the Velvet Cigar Lounge, and to meet up for lunch with Colleen Lindsay, Superstar, but not time enough to get past the "shit, it's over". Man, I swear to God I could've happily stayed. It was great getting to hang out for a fair time with Chris and Allison and John, in particular, but, fuck, man, there were fucking scores of folks it was great to see again or meet for the first time, and if I tried to recount them all I'd be here until next WFC. So fuck it. I'll just quote Jay Lake's comment over on Neil's blog.

Saratoga! Saratoga!

(Hmmm, why do I have a sudden image of John Belushi in a white sheet?)