Friday, March 11, 2016

Books, Films & Random Lunacy - an interview with George Bastow

At the start of the year, George Bastow, fellow Coventrian writer, asked if I'd do an interview for his blog. I did, it was a lot of fun, and is reprinted here with kind permission of George.  I urge you to check out his excellent blog which can be found here. So, without, further ado... 
For the debut instalment of ‘A Chat with,’ the newest segment to fill the virtual pages of Books, Films and Random Lunacy; I talk to the author of ‘The Shadow Cast by the World and ‘Forever and Ever Armageddon’ David Court.

Hello David, thanks for taking the time to chat with me here at the ink-stained headquarters of Books, Films and Random Lunacy. Could you tell the reader a bit more about yourself?

I’m a carbon-based life -orm who has thrown himself into the world of literature far later than he would have liked. By day I’m a mild mannered manager of a software department, and by night I’m typically scribbling the kind of stuff to make you laugh, think, or give you nightmares. All three, if I’m feeling particularly mischievous.

You have 2 published anthologies of short stories and another on the way, but where did it all start? When did the writing bug first sink its teeth in?

I’ve always been a keen writer, but have never been that confident in what I could produce. It was a few years back when I joined a site called “Readwave”, which is basically a place where you can submit stories and people can comment on them. I’d written a horror story for myself – “The Shadow Cast by the world” (my first published work) and it went down really well. I submitted more stuff, and people seemed to like it. It was only after a year or so that I realised I had enough stories to bung together into a reasonably sized anthology collection. Even though I’d always poo-pooed self-publishing, I did it to test the waters and people only went out and bloody spent money on it, the rotters.

Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?

I love reading, always have. I developed a Daredevil like sense of spatial perception as a child, able to walk with my head in a book whilst avoiding walking into people or walls. Because of my love for comics, I think my writing has a bit of a comic book sensibility to it – writers I’m heavily influenced by in that field are people such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis. With regards to your more traditional literature, I adore Stephen King and Kim Newman and the sweeping fantasy epics of Tolkien and Feist and they had to have influenced me somewhere along the line. Although my favourite book of all time is “Bad Wisdom”, a drugged up road trip about the escapades of Bill Drummond (formerly of KLF fame) and Zodiac Mindwarp. Go figure.

Let’s talk more about your anthologies, ‘The Shadow Cast by the World’ and ‘Forever and ever, Armageddon.’ How would you describe them to those who may not be familiar with your writing?

I’ll be brutally honest in that they’ve been hopelessly mislabelled on Amazon. Somehow they’ve both ended up categorised as fiction anthologies, whereas “The Shadow Cast by the World” is supposed to be an in-depth analysis of Northwestern Native American Cuisine (including my favourite part; a long lost traditional recipe for Psindamoakan, a foodstuff made from parched cornmeal and maple sugar). “Forever and ever, Armageddon” fared even worse, as that’s supposed to be a collection of sheet music designed for the Maori Nose flute, or nguru. In all seriousness though, both books are a collection of all my written work for the past few years. There’s no overall theme to either of them, but looking at them they’re predominantly science fiction and horror. There’s a bit of experimentation with poetry, and I’d like to think there’s a bit of dark humour in there as well. I’ve been compared to Neil Gaiman by a few people which is incredibly flattering, but I’m not sure I see it myself…

As well as those books you’ve also had your work featured in a number of other short story collections, the newest of which being a book entitled ‘Caped’. Would you be so kind as to tell us more about it?

I’ve always been a huge fan of superhero stories. When the fiction bug grabbed me a few years back one of the first stories I did was a superhero one, but as it featured a raft of DC characters I wrote it more for fun than to ever see it published (pssst.. drop me a line and I’ll let you read it). A little while back one of my friends saw a submission call for a superhero anthology by Local Hero Press LLC – an American publisher. I’d had an idea floating around for a little while, having wanted to play with the concept of the continuing rivalries of retired superheroes and supervillains way past their prime, and thought it’d be a nice fit. It was a story I thoroughly enjoyed fleshing out, and I sent it off. They wrote back to me a while later saying they liked the story, but with a few reservations – the ending didn’t work for them. After I’d done my petulant author stomping around, I realised that they were right. I developed a better ending, and they’ve printed it in that sweet spot of the final story in the anthology. (As an aside, and as a shameless plug, the story from Caped – “Sovereign’s Last Hurrah” – will be printed in my next anthology collection “Scenes of Mild Peril” which is tentatively scheduled for the middle of 2016. I’ll print this story as well as the one with the original ending, so the audience can decide which one they prefer. It’s like a Directors cut, or something. Personally, I think Local Hero Press were right in pushing me to write the one they eventually went with).

As you’ve mentioned, you have a great appreciation for the comic book medium, not only as a reader but a writer. You’ve recently worked with ‘Twisted Dark’ writer Neil Gibson of the indie comics imprint T Pub. As a result, one of your scripts is soon to be included in the first volume of the new ‘Twisted Sci-fi’ graphic novel from T Pub. Can you tell the reader about how that project came about?

I’m often being accused of not self-promoting enough and when a good friend of mine told me about Indies Day (an event originally organised by Neil Gaiman in which independent authors would help out a local bookshop) I decided to ask if I could tag along. Michael at the Big Comfy Bookshop at Fargo Village (Coventry) was good enough to let me take part – and it neatly coincided with the release of “Forever and Ever, Armageddon”. At the same event were Elizabeth Earle (a very good local writer), Mike Carey (of “The Girl with all the gifts” fame) and Neil Gibson from T Pub. I purchased a copy of all their books, and most of them purchased mine. I didn’t think anything more of it until I got an email out of the blue several months later from Neil. He liked my stuff, and wanted me to do something for Twisted Dark and their new title Twisted Sci-Fi. We chatted about it in London, and he now has an assortment of my scripts for both. I’ll let you know more as this gets closer to fruition, but it’s very exciting.

Aside from your prose and comics writing, you also have a blog, a very well-written one if I may say so, called FoldsFive. I would strongly urge you to check it out dear reader, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time. How long has FoldsFive been going, and what got you started on the highly addictive drug known as blogging?

You’re too kind. I’ll come here again. The FoldsFive blog has fallen by the wayside as I’ve been too busy, but back in 2008 I started the page just as a way of doing something slightly creative. It seemed to gain a bit of a following, and I found it particularly cathartic at certain traumatic periods of my life (the death of my mum, my own struggles with mental and physical illness) and other people seemed to like reading it. It became a kind of all-purpose notice board to throw anything I could think of at; rants, bits of satire, some of my earlier fiction. Every now and then a guest writer would come along and stick something on there, and it was just a nice collection of articles. It’s been superceded by the stuff now though, and I might just have to officially retire the old foldsfive site

We’re both from the Midlands, an area of Britain that with the exception of Shakespeare, is not renowned for its writers. When I started writing my eccentric tales and creative ramblings, I was under the false impression that there were no outlets for creators in our region. However, when you look beneath the surface, there is a vibrant and eclectic scene in the Midlands. What are your thoughts on all the talented people doing big things in our home region?

I think there’s always been a surplus of home-grown talent in the Midlands. I blame the bleak weather and the difficulty of being distracted by the seaside. In the brief time I’ve been involved with the local literary scene, I’ve met an incredibly talented bunch of people – the writers from KnightWatch press, Elizabeth Earle. It’s always been there, you just need to look for it. Rees (Finlay) and his team are doing incredible stuff with the Indie Project, and I’ve heard rumour of this sneaky urchin called George Bastow who is writing some great stuff and is – apparently – a damned nice chap as well. He is clearly a threat and must be destroyed.

It’s been a pleasure talking to you David, before you go back to your keyboard and your highly intricate plan to take over the world, what new writings can the reader expect from you in the future?

I’ve halted work on the robot army, as it just wasn’t going anywhere. That sentient Artificial intelligence is a bugger to debug – So at the moment I’m putting the finishing touches to Scenes of Mild Peril, mainly working out what’s going in it and what isn’t. I’m also still sending my stories out to a variety of different anthologies and waiting for some of my already approved stuff to appear out there. I’ve got an inkling of a comic script idea, which a local illustrator (Simon Myers) and myself keep threatening to start working on – which will quite honestly be awesome. Anything to keep the Amazon Author page updated. So, more of the same basically – it seems to be working quite well so far.

Find out more about David and his work by clicking here: Follow David on Twitter: @FoldsFive

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Interview with Coventry Hospital Radio

Two weeks ago I was interviewed by Colin Gutteridge from the excellent Coventry Hospital Radio. It was great fun to do, and I've uploaded it to Mixcloud, and it should be available from the link below - all 45 minutes or so of it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Publicity Machine rumbles on...

A quick update;

I was interviewed by the delightful George Bastow, which can be found on his excellent blog.  I was also interviewed by Colin Gutteridge of Coventry Hospital Radio, and that interview should be broadcast this Saturday between 10:00 and 13:00 - clicking here will let you listen to it live.

A couple more of my stories will be appearing in anthologies coming out later in the year.

"Saviour Machine", my story from this very blog, will be appearing in "47-16: Inspired by David Bowie" from Penny Dreadful Publications

"Blasphemous Tumours", the everyday tale of the unlikely friendship between a man and his sentient cancer, will be appearing in "Unleashing the Voices Within" from Stitched Smile Publications

"The Digit That Was Death", a comedy horror tale about a most unusual possession, will be appearing in the third volume of "Strangely Funny" from Mystery and Horror, LLC

On another note, it would appear that the FoldsFive blog isn't quite dead yet - two guest posts in quick succession means there's life in the old dog yet.

OK was the answer

History speaks fondly of Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) and his creation, the Difference Engine. He’s often referred to as a pioneer and the father of computing.   A piece of graffiti found behind some wallpaper in the family home of Edwin Thripp (1788 – 1850) speaks of his rival Babbage in altogether less polite terms.


  History has discarded Thripp, but if his copious journals are to be believed, it was he who invented the Difference Engine a good decade before Babbage, and unlike Charles, had procured the funds and means to actually build the bloody thing.
  The aforementioned journals cover the construction and initial testing of the device in some detail.  This was long before the days of terminals and keyboards, and instructions were programmed into the device using an array of levers and toggle switches, any results spooled out via a series of punched holes on paper ribbon.
  "The device is finally built", Thripp proudly announces on an entry for March the 1st 1843, "and looks far more impressive than anything that cocksucker Babbage could have invented." (The tone of much of the journal is in a similar vein, Thripp was nothing if not a bitter and petty man)
  "A series of mathematical queries have been compiled by some of the professors at Trinity College and the last eleven hours have been spent carefully feeding them into the device.  Now we only need wait a short week for the calculations to be complete."
  Several pages follow, unrelated to Thripps’ Difference Engine and primarily concerned with what he’d had had for dinner. 
  The entry for March the 8th is despondent.
  "There must be a fault in the device," bemoans Thripp, "for the results, regardless of the mathematical query being asked, are all very similar in theme.  A series of punched cards now litter the floor with responses such as 'Meh',  'Maybe', 'Whatever' and 'Dunno'."
  Thripp had, inadvertently, created an Indifference Machine.  In that matrix of pipes, cogs and valves, he had – unbeknownst to him – accidentally created the first ever artificial intelligence. Albeit one with the surly nature of a moody fifteen year old.
  Thripp spent the remainder of his years attempting to fix the device, but to no avail. Unable to recognise his creation as the breakthrough that it was, he died penniless, destitute and miserable.  His last recorded words were spent insulting Babbage. The air turned blue as Thripp's skin did the same.
  The Indifference engine, despite its cumbersome bulk, moved from owner to owner.  None seemed capable of getting any decent results out of it until, quite tenuously, a comedian in the nineteen-seventies inherited it as payment for a gig and one drunken night fed in the feed-line for a joke and, after a wait of several days, the device responded with a perfect punchline.
  The particular joke in question has been lost to history, but whispers from the Monkhouse estate indicated that it had something to do with the difference between a constipated owl and a bad archer.
  Something had been found that had stirred the contraption from its malaise.  This was something that it enjoyed doing and was really rather good at. Until finally breaking down for good in the early nineties, rumours are that it frequently changed hands between a secret cabal of comedians working the circuits (no pun intended).
  As a lasting epitaph for this device, to this day it bears the dubious honour of being the creator of one of only twelve jokes in existence that chemists find funny.

  "How did the date go when Oxygen went out with Potassium?"

(The above was an assignment for the Coventry Writers Group, a story which had to be themed around the phrase "The Answer is OK")