Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Chariot: Actually Running the Thing

 (A guest post today by my friend Tim Groth. Tim has been one of Chariot's most enthusiastic supporters and cheerleaders and his account of running it was so fascinating that I asked to post it here. With his story of magickal AI and hijacked Atlantean propaganda, I think Tim completely gets the sort of atmosphere I wanted the game to have. And I think his game had heart, and heart is sorely what this sort of pastime needs.

You can find links to the various outlets that stock Chariot here.

Tim's words start after the cut.)

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Written in Water 20: Beard-Hater

Bearded men and ideologies unpopular with the establishment, eh?
In June 363CE Julian, the Emperor of Rome, led a cavalry charge against a defeated Persian army. Only shortly before, Julian had won a victory outside the walls of the Persian capitol Ctesiphon, making his campaign in Persia the most successful the Romans had ever managed.

Maybe that made him reckless.

A strap broke on his breastplate; he shrugged it off, threw the offending piece of armour away.

And a spear came from nowhere, and lodged in his side, and he fell, and that night, in his tent, Julian died, discoursing with his comrades about the immortality of his soul, as Socrates had.

And the Roman army found itself far from home with no leader, and no clear route home.

And that was how Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Emperor of Rome, died.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Written in Water 17b: Adapting the Golden Ass

Note strategically placed sticker on shrinkwrap.

As a postscript to my piece about The Golden Ass, I recently got hold of Milo Manara's comic book adaptation of The Golden Ass, recently reissued in English. Because someone made a comic book version of The Golden Ass. And I like European comics.

It's... disappointing.

In reviewing Manara's book, I'll mention a depiction of a rape, along with objectification and misogyny. If these things upset you in any way, or might bring back things you'd rather not think about, best move on.

Sunday, 28 August 2016


─ ˘ ˘ ─
Of course, we never touch. We're disciplined now
And the metre of you and me constrains us.
We are structured and formal, bodies in line.
Now I know the circumference of your neck -
I shall buy you a leather collar, in black.
On the plate by the buckle I shall engrave
Your name, set in a fancy, elegant script
And when no one is looking, it shall be yours.
You shall put it away then, keep it secret,
Take it out on occasion, wear it alone
Sometimes, think about me, and rhythm, and pain.
Of course, we never touch. We never transgress.
We keep two beats between us, our choriamb
Set in every line, ecstatic, restrained.

(Note: A choriamb is a metrical unit of four syllables, a stressed syllable, two unstressed syllables and a stressed one. This poem is written in elegiac hendecasyllables, a strict metre used by classical poets, among them Catullus, in which every line contains a choriamb.)

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Dan and Me

It's hard not to want to punch him.
(Note: What follows is old. It was written around 2008 during the height of Brown's fame. It's one of the first really popular performance pieces I wrote, so much so that I began to despise it, since every single time I got up to the mic, someone would say, "hey, are you doing the Dan Brown poem?" It's clunky, and yeah, deliberately clunky because it apes terrible writing, but the danger with aping terrible writing is that you might end up writing something terrible. 

The Da Vinci Code was the reason I left a book club. This, this, this, book, OK, let's be accurate at least, actually made me angry, it was so offensive on every level. The only good thing that came out of it – apart from the softness and absorbency of the pages – was that Brown's book actually goaded Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh into suing him for plagiarising Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which he totally plagiarised, or would have, except you can't plagiarise the plot of a factual work, and it put Baigent and co in the position of losing unless they admitted it was fiction. Which they couldn't. That, I admit, was beautiful.

Note for foul, heartfelt language. I have never truly wished ill on an author, but Dan Brown made me come close. Also, yes, I do believe I am a better writer than Dan Brown. However, that is a very, very, very low bar. In the end, it's a meditation on the perennial jealousy writers who want to be good feel towards terrible, terrible writers who sell millions of their books. It could be Anne Rice or EL James or Wilbur Smith or whoever, really.)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Something's Got to Give (August Edition)

OK, look. I'm adulting right now. The school holidays continue and there's a point where constant childcare makes writing impossible, and my punishing blog schedule finally comes to a place where I have to press pause. I'll be back Sunday.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Truth About the Truth About Sappho

The fiction that I'm now calling The Truth About Sappho is a collection of stories that I began properly in about 2004, although parts of it go back a decade before that.

Sunday, 21 August 2016


Sundays are for Different Things. I'll grant posting has been a bit erratic contentwise, but I hope, with all the adulting I've had to do because of school holidays there's been some things you've enjoyed.

So. In the midst of organising craft activities for the kids, on Thursday I decided to have a second go at book-binding. I am not a pro! Last time, this time last year or near enough, it was a little single signature sketchbook, paper bound. I used it. This time I wanted to make something grimoirey, sturdy and large. And home-made.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen some of these pictures already, but a bit of documentation doesn't hurt. Details and pics after the cut. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

See the tree, how big it's grown

It's half past five in the morning, at my Other Place of Work,  on a sleeping shift that doesn't want to let me sleep. It's raining outside, hammering it down, and usually the white noise is conducive to sleep. Not tonight. So I put on Nick Drake, Bryter Layter, as a last resort, the big guns in the soporific stakes for me.

It hasn't worked.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Oakland Mountain High

Sometimes you hear a song,
and it doesn’t have to be the best ever written,
that makes you feel somehow like you’re nineteen again
and able to conquer the world,
just for a moment,
like the music you used to listen to back then
that made you forget
that world conquest
was never really an option.

(Written in early 2011, inspired by this one song I found while browsing Bandcamp. This wasn't a good time in my life.)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

In Search of the Miraculous #14: Two Occult Biographies

I've historically not been one for biographies, not modern ones at any rate. It's generally been the preserve of my Beloved; still, in the last few years I've seen a drastic change in my tastes in a lot of directions. Clearly, as I keep saying, I'm not the man I was.

Anyway, during the week and a half I've spent on London's waterways this Summer (Beloved's family owns a narrowboat and we are lucky enough to have regular excursions on it, across England) I found myself reading two biographies back to back, both of significant twentieth century London occultists: Austin Spare and Madeline Montalban.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Virgil, Aeneid VI

“You are the best of the poets we know,” said the Commissar, smiling,
“Gaius Augustus himself has considered the candidates closely.”
That’s what they’re calling him now, is it? Man’s like a lizard, he’d have you
Shot or beheaded or tortured as soon as he looks at you sideways.
What does a creature like that want with poetry? It’s academic -
Comrade Augustus commands that I write an imperial epic;
He’ll get his hero: betrayer of lovers, survivor and coward.
Yes, I’ll sing out his glories and quietly brand him a falsehood.
I shall be solemn and martial, triumphant, inspiring and lofty.
Buried as deep as a poem permits, I shall give him the secret:
Roman, if you are no artist, you shall be better at killing.
Time hides all things. Tyrants can read this however they want to.

(Note: I wrote this poem in iambic hexameter, the metre in which Virgil composed his Aeneid.)

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Gospel According to Me

In centuries to come, scholars and divines shall engage in heated
debate and repeated controversies
over the accuracy of the Gospel According to Me.
Progressives and sceptics shall challenge whether I existed at all,
point to apparent anachronisms in the texts, as
conservatives shall alter history textbooks given to
schoolchildren in Texas
to fit the truth as perceived.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
An evacuee who, not even two years old when made to go away,
Stands, aged five, on a railway platform, about a week after VE day
Not knowing who will come for him,
Who sees one kindly, beautiful woman after another,
And each time thinks, are you my mother, please be my mother,
And each time it is another little boy who is taken
And he is alone now when a scruffy woman with bad teeth
And the smell of cigarettes and poverty
Calls his name and he thinks, I don't want you,
I don't want you to be my mother, and she is,
And he carries the guilt of that thought
For the rest of his life until one Monday night
He dies suddenly, aged sixty-one, in his own kitchen,
Of regret and a faulty heart.

Devotees shall consider the miracles and portents
in the Gospel According to Me;
they shall consider the meanings of the stories,
hold them dear, write children's books
where I am good looking and blonde and tall
and dressed in perfectly clean white and blue shirts
which are not covered in baby sick or whiteboard ink,
and they shall find meanings and yet take literally
the occasion where I say a single word
and everything turns to shit.
And they shall not wonder whether I resent their prayers,
their demands to be heard, their conditional love.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
A woman who hears voices, dreams dreams and has visions,
And who one day decides that she shall visit a Spiritualist church,
And say, look, I hear voices, dream dreams and have visions,
So tell me, what can I do?
And the people at the Spiritualist church tell her that she is
A medium between the world of the living and the world of the dead,
And they tell her that some of the voices lie,
And that some of the visions are false,
And they add that most people will not understand what she is,
And that it is better to stay quiet.
So she never gets sent away
And instead she marries and has children,
And apart from a tendency to declare people evil
And a sense of entitlement that many find inexplicable,
Most people don't think her that strange at all.

They shall argue over the different textual traditions, the different versions
of the Gospel According to Me,
Wondering if at the root of these differing accounts a common source Q exists
That illuminates the origins of my story; until it is found, they say, they
shall work create a pure record of my sayings,
making use of the principle: lectio difficilior,
which is where in the choice between one or another of two readings
the scholar assumes that the less likely or more unexpected
is more likely to be true, since the natural inclination of the copyist is
to correct and make safe.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
Two people who have a thing in a box,
And they are scared to open the box, lest it ruin their lives.
But one day, they take the thing out of the box, and they examine it,
Turning it this way and that
And then they fold it up neatly
And return it to the box
And say to themselves and each other
How foolish we were to be frightened that the thing might come out of the box,
For see, it has come out of the box, and we examined it,
And turned it this way and that
And we folded it up neatly
And put it back in the box,
And it shall not come out again, and nothing has changed.
And each of them looks longingly at the box from time to time
And secretly hopes that it might come out again.

People shall die over the interpretation of the Gospel According to Me.
They shall fight wars and burn at stakes and go to electric chairs,
and some shall point at what I actually said, and say look,
he said that he wasn't special,
that anyone's work could have ended up here,
that he could have been anyone,
and that he isn't coming back, not now
not any time soon
maybe not ever
and they shall take these people
and burn them at stakes and put them in electric chairs
and I think that if I knew that this was going to happen
I am not sure how I might feel about it.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Truth About Sappho: Dartmoor

By dawn, we've packed up and started back. In the twilight, we pass a legion of Roman soldiers, camped out in plain sight. One man is sitting in front of his tent, tending a fire, using his helmet as a cooking pot, hung from a stick frame.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

They Pause to Reflect on the Day They Fall in Love

Although we will never forget today,
We will necessarily revise
The way we remember it,
Add significance to some moments
At the expense of others;
The Consequences of today
Will shape each remembered second,
Create a perfect beginning to a perfect life
Or an omen of the disasters that are to come.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Friday, 12 August 2016

In Search of the Miraculous 13: Rounds and Races

I'm actually on holiday, which is why I'm not doing the posts I'd said I'd do, since WiFi is limited, I don't have my library handy, and inspiration is coming from peculiar places.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

First principles for the magician

We would see ourselves as the secret witnesses of the world, you and I, but that would be to overstate our importance; we live in secret, inasmuch as everyone does. And we pay our attention to the moment. We claim no special status beyond the simple fact that we are magicians.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Written in Water 18: Alypius's Fandom

(This isn't the intended update, but I kind of need my bookshelf for that one and I'm holiday, so Julian the Apostate is going to have to wait for a week or two.)

If you'd ever studied any kind of classical subject, you've probably come across part of this passage at some point. It's really popular (for instance it's on the GCSE Latin syllabus, in the Sources for Latin paper – it even made the exam last year).

Sunday, 7 August 2016

For a friend on his wedding day

(Originally delivered on Saturday 6th August 2016, at the Walled Garden, Moreton, Dorset.)

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura I

Everything falls as it always will;
Nothing is lost, nothing goes to waste.
Lives come to an end, one by one, until
Everything falls as it always will;
Annihilation comes, yet matter persists still
And so death is the least of the perils you have faced.
Everything falls as it always will;
Nothing is lost, nothing goes to waste.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Saint Peter Explains

(Note: I wrote this in about 2000, originally. Any resemblance between it and old friends is entirely coincidental. No Future Friday post today. Normal service will be resumed next week.)

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Truth About Sappho: First Examples

Ana is late. Everyone else has already started eating by the time she turns up, unapologetic. Ryan gets up, bustles around getting her a glass of wine, a plate of food. She nods to the others and tucks in without saying thanks. This is just her way.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016


Those who would detect his lies and fictions would need many books – Plutarch, The Malice of Herodotus

Monday, 1 August 2016

Written in Water 17: Lector Intende, Laetaberis.

By Jean de Bosschère, from an early 20th century edition of The Golden Ass.
This is the first page of one of the most contradictory and bizarre novels ever written. It seems a rambling sort of preamble; in fact, it's heavy with occult significance.