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.
It’s the nature of writing and publishing that things take forever to happen. Regardless, it’s my intent to update Amnesiac’s Library regularly.
For the past few months I’ve been working on a number of new projects. One in particular has moved ahead of the others, a fantasy novel with the working title of The Tangled Slope. I’m 25,000 words into the first draft, and this week I decided to step back to review, and to structure things a little more. I don’t write with much of a plan in the early stages. I write with images and fragments, which are a little like nascent neurons seeking pathways to something more connected. Like the brain, there is a serious pruning after the first rush.
I’m happy with what I have – or will be, with some tinkering (okay a lot of tinkering), and consequently this project will be the one I pour my efforts into during 2020. My goal is to have a solid first draft by June. By that time, I hope to have some good news about my next-to-be-published novel Tailor of Echoes, and have the next volume of The Darkling Lands available. WRT the latter, as with volume one, volume two will include a short story along with a generous collection of art.
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.”