Friday, 31 May 2013

Review - Kristine Ong Muslim's Smaller Than Most

This arrived a while ago, but just pointing this out - a very good review for Kristine Ong Muslim's Smaller Than Most, from The SF Site.   

'...full of oddities and dark bittersweet ironies' 

Read / download the book for free here.  

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

New ebook - Wild Stabs at Love or Something Like it by Jessica Harman

Wild Stabs at Love or Something Like it is a short story collection in which love is examined as an imaginary place in the mind, as well as an agreement between two people that is real but tentative. These are stories of two ships passing in the night, of intercultural communication, of being lost and finding one's self in others, and in one's self. 

Download it for free here.  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Interview - Stephen Moles

Stephen Moles interviewed by Frank Burton 

Stephen Moles' novella, Life.exe can be downloaded for free here.  

How did you go about writing the book?
Taking Wittgenstein’s aphorism about language (“If a lion could speak, we could not understand him”) as inspiration, I attempted to show what it would be like to live among lions, linguistically speaking. I tried to imagine an alternate version of human expression that makes perfect sense to those who use it but appears unintelligible when viewed externally. I spent a lot of time translating lines from classic literary texts into different languages using Google’s translate function. The aim was to be left with phrases which, when finally translated back into English, were as semantically intangible as Chomsky’s “colourless green ideas sleep furiously”. I then went on to utilise them in an Oulipian way as basic building blocks with which to tell a meaningful story. None of the phrases made it into Life.exein the form Google offered them to me, but working elements of them into the text felt like a form of constrained writing. I believe that humans are constrained by language as much as they are liberated by it, so I tried to use it here, paradoxically, to describe an escape from a prison of words.
Could the novella be categorised as “experimental” fiction? 
I consider all works of fiction to be experimental to some extent. Creativity and experimentation are almost synonymous for me; however, experimental is also a synonym for shit in a lot of people’s thesauri. I guess they think that if the experiment is successful, you name the genre after the way in which it was a success, but if it’s a failure, you call it experimental as a way of saying “at least he/she tried”. The reputations of writers like BS Johnson have suffered because of the experimental tag – I personally found House Mother Normal and Trawl a real chore to read but breezed through Albert Angelo and Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry, yet I consider them all to be experimental. So, yes, Life.exe can definitely be categorized as experimental, but hopefully that doesn't mean it’s shit.
The book combines serious subject matter (domestic violence for example) with elements of comedy.  Is it difficult to maintain a balance between the two?
I think it’s easy to maintain a balance because tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin. I’d even go as far as to say they’re actually the same thing until they are perceived by someone. Like Schrödinger’s cat being simultaneously alive and dead until the box is opened, a thing is both tragic and comic until it is observed (and therefore reacted to). One person might find someone being punched in the face hilarious, while another might find it distressing, but the thing in itself remains the same – it’s the tragicomic currency that has no fixed value but is universally accepted.
Who are your influences?
Everyone! Even unexceptional writing can be a good source of ideas to subvert. But in terms of the writers I really admire, William Burroughs, Richard Brautigan, Kobo Abe and Franz Kafka have all had a profound effect on me. They’ve got entire bodies of work I could read again and again without ever getting bored.
How does Life.exe compare to your other works of fiction?
It’s certainly one of the most experimental. With the other pieces I’ve written, it’s a bit easier to say what they’re “about”, even though that’s a completely subjective and arguably unimportant judgement to make. I’ve written stories about alcoholism, tinnitus and the London riots, for instance; but if I had to define Life.exe in that way, I’d say it’s about language and how it affects our understanding of the world. It’s not giving too much away to say that language is the main character and it dies at the end of the book.

What's the story behind the cover? 

The picture on the front of the book is of the New York gangster Arthur Flegenheimer, or Dutch Schultz, whose surreal monologue given on his deathbed made him an unlikely source of inspiration for many artists. I thought the rugged countenance of the man who offered the world an esoteric text with his dying breath was the perfect symbol for the content of Life.exe. There’s also a nice juxtaposition between the word “Life” in the title and the fact that the picture is of someone who has just expired. Among Dutch Schultz’s poetic offerings are such gems as “No. No. And it is no. It is confused and it says no. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim. Did you hear me?” and “Come on, open the soap duckets. The chimney sweeps. Talk to the sword. Shut up, you got a big mouth! Please help me up, Henry. Max, come over here. French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone”. His last words are better than those of Michael Jackson, who said on his deathbed: “I’d like to have some milk. Please, please give me some more.”
How do you feel about non-profit publishing?
I’m a believer in art for art’s sake, so I’m in favour of non-profit publishing. Once the existence of an author or publisher becomes dependent on the profits of books, financial concerns inevitably exert an influence over the content of those books. The important thing is not to confuse artistic value with financial value. Some great literature is intrinsically uncommercial, and it should stay that way.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Yes. I’m writing my first novel. It’s about a society in which everyone is a celebrity. With all our lives being played out publicly on social networks and reality shows, it doesn't seem so fantastical to think that anonymity will one day become extinct. The novel asks the question: if everyone is famous, what is the point of fame? It’s intended to work as a carnival mirror for society.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Let's Gimbal!

Here's an interesting iPhone app developed by Comma Press... 

Gimbal offers a new way of 'reading the city'. Choose a city - anywhere in the world - and be transported to it by its fiction. Traverse its precincts. Map your way through its quarters or arrondissements. The Gimbal navigates as it narrates. With it you can travel by train, tram, metro, bus or indeed on foot, experiencing each new landscape through the eyes of a fictional character.

Designed with the commuter in mind, the Gimbal enables you to escape the tedium of your everyday 'known journey' and take an alternative route, a more scenic, imaginary one across the face of an unknown city. Choose a story according to the city you wish to visit, or the length of time you have to spare, and the listen function will lead you across an interactive map of that city accompanied by an audio reading.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Phil Ross

Continuing with the theme of fungal-based art...

In the Phil Ross's own words:

"My art is driven by a life-long interest in biology. While I was terrible in high-school science and math my education about the life sciences emerged from a wide engagement with materials and practices. Through my work as a chef I began to understand biochemistry and laboratory methods; as a hospice caregiver I worked with life support technologies and environmental controls; and through my interest in wild mushrooms I learned about taxonomies, forest ecology and husbandry."

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Jens H Peterson's Fungi

More beautiful pictures of fungi, and lots of other things, on Jens H Peterson's website. 

Monday, 6 May 2013


Metazen ( describes itself in the following terms:

metazen publishes stories by various authors
metazen publishes poems
metazen publishes new content every single day
metazen has a schedule:
monday- a story is published
tuesday- a story is published
wednesday- a story is published
thursday- a story is published
friday- a story is published
saturday- a ‘literary saturday morning cartoon’ is published
every autre sunday- a “best of metazen” is (usually) published
metazen likes odd stories and odd poems, but ones that touch you in a special way
metazen began in March 2009 on a small coffee table with Frank staring at a bluish screen. Frank was drunk and hopeful
metazen does not believe in non-fiction, both in a literary sense and an existential sense
some stories will feature a Frank, who is a sad man. a pathetic man. a writer. a lonely, lost man. Frank is real. Frank’s stories are real. Fictional Frank and the Frank of this site are one and the same. They are also not the same at all
some stories will be completely devoid of Frank because they are written by other, more talented authors than Frank
it is important to help metazen grow because it is not a ‘for money’ kind of thing
metazen welcomes submissions and feedback

Thursday, 2 May 2013