Sunday 31 July 2016

Augustine, Confessions VI

We were proud to have made a sin out of love;
We defeated our aching bodies
And drove them into the dark
With the Adversary to whom
We gladly handed our affections and our pleasures.
In a hundred years
Or five hundred
Or a thousand
Bodies and kisses and
Skin and caresses
Will come into the light
And we will say, how could we
Have been so foolish?
And we will see the gaunt old Devil
Cowering in the corner and say:
If we were wrong about love,
Perhaps we were wrong about evil.
And he will come out from the place beneath
And smile with shining eyes and teeth
And charm us with his wiles, his unfamiliar arts
And we will understand at last the truth:
The Devil
Oh, the Devil
Oh, the Devil
Oh, the Devil has work for idle hearts.

Saturday 30 July 2016

The Truth About Sappho: A Manifesto

After delivering his son to nursery, Simon, carrying my notebook in the same bag as his lunch, finds himself approached not by Phil, who is his Line Manager, but by Morris, the Assistant Managing Director, who walks into his office when Phil is out and says to him,

I understand you have some some experience in print design.

Friday 29 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 35

Svaathe is singing a song in her own language, a lament, it sounds like, rising over the anguish of the stolen Sky-Chariot's engines.

Thursday 28 July 2016

An After-Hours Reading

(More horror fiction. I wrote this by request; it wasn't in the end used. Warning, as ever, for horror.)

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Written in Water #16: Imaginal Armies, Part Two

The Theban Legion, early modern style.
In the last post I talked a bit about the mythology of the Roman Army, about how its representation in literature ensured that it would become remembered as the greatest military machine of antiquity, wreathed in glory, invincible and mighty, disciplined and perfect and all the other things that the armies of empires are. And how this might not have been the whole truth.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Worst Case Scenario, BETA 1.1

What's the Welsh for cyberpunk?

One answer is possibly WORST CASE SCENARIO, which is a full (beta) for a (complete) futuristic TTRPG with a uniquely Welsh flavour, that I just uploaded. Download the PDF (2.9 mb) here!

I have had it lying about for a while. Want to see the setting fleshed out? Want to see something more interesting? Comments box is down there.

Did you really like it? Well, it's totally for free, rhad ac am ddim, but if you click on this button by here, you can drop some pennies in my virtual tip jar. You don't have to have PayPal to do this, and there's no minimum and no obligation. Pay what you want. 

(Edit: you can also get the Beta as PWYW here on DriveThruRPG.)

Since I am being venal, my Patreon backers have had access to the first beta for a few weeks now, and occasionally get other goodies. If you thought about sticking a monthly dollar (so much more stable than pounds right now) in my Patreon, I'd be super grateful.

Monday 25 July 2016


A big thanks to John Arcadian and co at the Gnome Stew gaming blog for a really positive but by no means uncritical review of Chariot. Check it out, and stay for the Gnome Stew podcast, which has much of interest for your tabletop roleplay fans.

Written in Water #15: Imaginal Armies, Part One

The Roman Army wasn't immune to the collapse of history. As the Empire entered its final state of narrative disintegration, the army entered into the realm of myth, of story. An imaginal state, where the idea of the military forces of Rome transcended the reality. I have two stories to tell regarding this.

Before I get to the first, let's go back a bit. For context's sake.

The Prince of Exiles, 34

Something in me rises. It catches in my throat, settles behind my eyes, and then evaporates, as it always does.

Saturday 23 July 2016

The Truth About Sappho: Preface

(I wrote this some years ago. It never saw the light of day. It is the beginning of a thing.  Would you like to see more of it? Please let me know, and if you like my writing, please consider contributing to my Patreon.)
I wrote a rulebook for a game that you may already know how to play. It doesn't need a board, dice or cards. The only thing you have to have is a group of people to play the game with, and it's better if you trust them. You'll like this game. It has so much promise, so much potential. You can create whole lives with it, whole worlds.

Thursday 21 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 33

"What do we do now?" I have no idea, feel the grip beneath my diaphragm, a twisting, a constriction, at once strange and utterly familiar.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

He has fixed His sign in the sky

I wonder how long it took for the news to filter through, that things had changed, that the sons of the old emperors had fought and one had died, driven headlong into the river as the Milvian Bridge collapsed and his own retreating forces, panicking, tried to cross, dragged to the bottom, drowned.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Written in Water #14: Prophets of the Sands and Stones

St. Jerome in the Wilderness, Bernardino Pinturrichio, c.1475
It's one thing to maintain an active religious belief when society at large is against you, and much has been written, ancient and present day, about what it's like to be in what everyone else calls a cult, and like it or not, that's what Christianity was for the first two and a half centuries of its existence. The fact is, it takes a certain kind of steel in your back to keep it up when they're kicking down your door and barbecuing you.


My kids were making paper fortune tellers, and I remembered that a few years ago I'd done a concrete poem on one, about love and hate and power and sex.

Download it and play. See what it brings you.

Click to download the PDF.

Monday 18 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 32

In a stolen Sky-Chariot we take off from the oblique dock, rise above the factory ziggurat, watch as beneath us the soldiers breach the gates with a cannon shot, a beam of pinkish blue light that illuminates the massed ranks below, painting a thousand tiny faces with light in the fading night.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Written in Water, Digression: Virgil, the Magical

agnosco veteris vestigia flammae.
Last night, before sleeping, I found my old copy of Aeneid IV, the story of Dido and Aeneas, and read it, in the Latin, and my heart broke over it.

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with Virgil.

This Could Be Beautiful

He laughs too loud, like an alien
Who once took a class.
He never prided his appearance,
Can’t remember the last time he bought a shirt.
He eats ready meals.
He is afraid to talk to people.
He is afraid of getting old.

She cries every morning, panics when
She hears children laugh.
She hates to see her reflection
In car windows and shop fronts as she passes.
She looks anyway.
She is afraid to talk to people.
She is afraid of getting old.

The second time they meet,
He does not expect his stomach to flutter like that
When she brushes his hand and apologises,
And he says, no, it’s fine, really.
She surprises herself when she thinks of him
Like an old house, left vacant, newly purchased,
Paint flaking, wallpaper peeling:
This could be beautiful with a bit of work.

Saturday 16 July 2016

Jaa-Shani, Lord of Saturn

It's been a while since I posted something from Chariot. This is from the upcoming supplement Cosmic Memory, and is by the inimitable Malcolm Sheppard. Backers will see the draft for this in a week or two and the thing will be released in the wild as a pdf by September, all going according to plan. Backers, and only backers, get the pamphlet.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 31

The smell of flowers, of furniture polish, of shelved books, the sun through a double-glazed windows, dappled through green sycamore.

"And then what? What do you do? Do you do what he asks?"

Stormboy, development

That night, Simon and I headed up to the Uplands Tavern.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

But You Are Like the Bible

The problem is that this
Is what our conversation might have meant and
It is a valid interpretation,
But you are like the Bible;
You admit multiple hermeneutics
And a relationship may be maintained
With you for many years
In the confidence that feelings
That someone else might never have derived
From these words and glances given
Are as real as any other.

And the problem is that in
Your justification of yourself you are complete and
Will never allow for your contradictions,
And you are like the Bible;
You are prone to outbursts of assurance and of wrath
And a relationship may be maintained
With you for many years
And one may never know for sure
Whether paradise awaits
Or consignment to the outer darkness
Where piteous cries are made and teeth are ground.

(This is as good a time as any to remind you that I have a Patreon where you can support my writing and games.)

Stormboy, opening

Monday 11 July 2016

An Absence

The young man who gave this to us died ten years ago this year

Stormboy will be running this week until Thursday. It was actually conceived as a performance piece. Live, it's cast as a lecture of sorts, the slides of a powerpoint behind me. It has at its centre a hole, an absence. A character is never mentioned. A person, someone who matters to the plot, who is central, is not there. One of the performances, someone told me it was like "swallowing bloody barbed wire," and to be honest, that's what it felt like writing it.

I wrote it for Michael.

Stormboy, prologue

You may not remember “Stormboy.”

Saturday 9 July 2016

Written in Water #12: Saints of the Sex Workers

Mary of Egypt, by José de Ribera, 1641.
When you talk about gender, particularly when dealing with issues from ages less sensitive, or when dealing with things that might be considered hate speech now, it is important to remind readers that the dissection of gendered slurs and just general misogyny are a par for the course in this sort of thing, and to warn that if these things distress or perhaps recall unpleasant and painful experiences, then perhaps this piece is better not read.

OK. If you're still here, let's begin.

Friday 8 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 30

I'm sitting on an inactive conveyor. Around me the slaves, those who can, are preparing for a fight.

Thursday 7 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 29

Moh has already, I notice, looking up from my task, another manacle on the floor, taken charge of the slaves.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

This is Not a Picture

I want to talk about Ekphrasis.

Ekphrasis is when you write a picture. That's it. It's defined as the art of describing a picture in words, but it's more than that, in that the more detailed you are, the more solidly the picture ceases to become a visual thing. You pull it into the space of the imagination, transform it.

Nine Polaroids and a Letter

(Another horror story. It shares a structure with a story I had published in an anthology for White Wolf some years ago, but nothing else; that original story though has gone down in legend as the one I literally wrote while sleeping. This one, well. I was awake, so I have no excuse.)

(My Patreon backers got to see this a day early, and currently have access to a full set of RPG rules in beta that no one else has seen, and that sort of thing is going to happen more, which is a good way of saying, why not stick a few pennies in there to get early and exclusive content?) 

Tuesday 5 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 28

I'm burning through a manacle using a dead guard's gun, trying to ignored the stickiness of the handle, those last traces of blood I couldn't manage to wipe off in my haste.

Written in Water #11: Fauna of the Far-Away Places

St. Anthony and the Centaur, by Francesco Guarino, 1642.
I picked this one because the look on Anthony's face cracks me up.

As a kid, I was always fascinated by monsters. Movies like Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Clash of the Titans, Warlords of Atlantis, and a dozen others were always a source of excitement for me, and my favourite bits were always the bits with the amazing Harryhausen monsters. It was a picture of a Lemurian that made me care about the Theosophists. I got older and got into Dungeons & Dragons, and the monsters were always the thing I had most fun reading about.

Monday 4 July 2016

So Now I Have a Patreon
So now, now I have an account on Patreon. The idea of Patreon is that people pledge regular sums of money, as small as you like, and they get to support an artist's work and also offer feedback on it and maybe influence the direction thereof. Some people, people with bigger audiences than me, make a living out of their Patreons, and I have no illusions about doing that, but I have a decent number of readers now, so perhaps I can scrape some pennies in the way that my old anonymous project (now dead, don't bother looking because it's gone) indirectly netted me a hundred quid or so a month.

Written in Water #10: The Word of God in the City of the Cannibals

"Excuse me, Jesus. How do we steer this thing again?"
Today, I want to talk about Bible outtakes. And that means angels, demons, vomiting statues and, most of all, cannibals. Lots of cannibals.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Written in Water #9b: A Brexit Story

This book? Every bit as awful as you'd expect.
Ends with him saying Turkey should join the EU.
Draw your own conclusions.
Yeah, all right, I wasn't going to talk about Brexit, seeing as how it's turned out worse than we could ever imagine, a horrifically compromised mess that has more in common with the plot of The Producers than actual politics ("I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast.... where did I go right?") but then I remembered the Roman Brexit and how it wound up, and how it falls into the same period of historical collapse that I've been writing about, which seems appropriate seeing how history is collapsing around our ears as I write.

Let's talk about how well Brexit went back in the day, back in the collapse of history.

Friday 1 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 27

I have no one left to fight. At the end of the ridged corridor, I take a breath, come to myself. I am holding a short blade in my right hand, a gun in my left. My right arm is spattered with blood, up to the shoulder. The sound of machinery is louder than ever.