Last night I was looking around for a place to stream Alex Garland’s new(ish) series Devs in Canada, a strangely difficult thing unless I wanted to signed up for yet another streaming service. I don’t. Casting around for something else to watch, I came across High-Rise, a 2016 film by director Ben Wheatley based on the novel by J. G. Ballard. I have no intention of reviewing the film. If you are interested, Will Self has a good piece on it.
I started reading Ballard in the 1980s when I chanced across a collection called Terminal Beach. Terminal Beach remains my favorite Ballard short story. After that initial discovery, I snapped up all the Ballard I could find, usually editions with beautiful James Marsh covers. It was nice to be reminded of this author last night.
The typescript below is the first page of High-Rise with that frightening first line. I’m always fascinated by pages with an author’s marks. You can see more if you follow the link in the caption. Funnily enough, I read most of High-Rise on the sun-baked roof of a high rise in Toronto overlooking the airport. I am sure J.G would have approved.
This is an excerpt from Lint, a short story in my forthcoming collection Magpie’s Ladder.
“A pale giant sat in the middle of a small boat, nine fingers whitening on the gunwale. His nickname was Crane, given for his slender limbs and long neck. Crane feared any expanse of water, and had a prickling acquaintance with finned fish anaphylaxis. The lake was a fogged mirror with silvering marred by innumerable darting pumpkinseeds. He hummed “Jelly Roll Blues” to calm himself. The vintage outboard motor, which looked like some kind of reeking steampunk beetle, seemed about to rattle the boat to pieces. Crane only loosened his grip when the island, for so long a scribble on the horizon, began to fill his field of vision. The pilot, a desiccated man who’d offered Crane a bump of meth off the back of a freckled hand before setting out, let the boat drift toward the shore. They said goodbye, in a haze of pale gasoline exhaust.”
Magpie’s Ladder, my first collection of short stories is set to be published next month by PS Publishing in the UK. It contains 5 illustrated stories and a wrap-around cover featuring my art. These are weird tales with elements of fantasy and horror. The stories are,
Magpie’s Ladder: A researcher’s curiosity draws her to the dream realm of the Darkling Lands.
The Engrosser: Condemned by his own crime, an engrosser plumbs the labyrinthine depths of his firm’s building to find that he is not alone.
Lint: A giant searches for his missing brother.
The Elephant Bridge: A young woman opens a sealed house atop a crumbling bridge.
Thin Skin: A young academic moves into the house of a dead professor and finds himself trapped in a dark fairy-tale.
In past years PS has used my artwork for a series of Caitlin R. Kiernan reissues, and a novel by Kim Wilkins called Odin’s Girl. I’m very pleased that they are now publishing my stories.