Archives for the month of: August, 2016

Who is the young one there?
A figure in silks hooded, veiled
beside her house?

I love the world in winter:
the land frozen, and the steadfast ice.
But who is the young one there,
shaking loose snowflakes from his parasol?

Of the two of us, who is the true lover? The one
who yearns for the white stillness
of pure winter?
Or the one who,
green and quickening,
is faithless with a growing change?

Who is the lover in the snow?

Towards the end of an English summer. When the days begin to shorten, and there is less time on the bike (your shadow 10 metres long on the path through the country, with the sun going down behind you): so, with autumn and winter, writing begins to loom larger again. But still, in the heat, now, there is snow, written perhaps 10 years or more ago.


[from Dustless | Volume 16 / The Lover in the Snow [i]

Unless all is known, nothing is known:

Volume 1 | The Sentinels


Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
UK | Dustless | Volume 1  |||–––––|||  US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU


I’d like to discuss my experience in creating a fantasy world in the novel, Dustless.

I think there are different degrees of fantasy. Perhaps there should be a measure, like proof for alcohol, or Celsius for temperature, for the ‘fantastic’?

How fantastic is Dustless? Is it mildly fantastic? Does it possess medium fantasy? Is it soft or hard?

Fantasy writers often inscribe strongly realist constraints into their work. By this, I simply mean that in order for the imagined world to be internally consistent and convincing, it needs to be governed by rules, which involve a kind of realism, even though the world itself may be organised by conventions that diverge strongly from those organising our own world.

In the case of Dustless, although philosophically it is a strongly fantastic work, I was very keen to embed my characters in a credible environment. I mentioned in another post, on ambient literature, my desire to

slow the narrative tempo down, to pay attention to details, to honour the materiality of ordinary life.

This aspect of Dustless, strongly related to the philosophy of TanZo (the ‘simple or pure Way’), is very important to me. I tried to imagine a world in which the beauty of the mundane, the rhythms of routine, the imposing existence of the ‘humdrum’, the recalcitrance and resistance of the natural terrain, are borne in on the reader. I wanted to give the main characters’ journey across the Land of O an existential weight and conviction. In slowing the narrative down, in paying attention to the passing of hours, moments, instants, I wished to give the reader a sense of struggle and of duration – so that, hopefully, at moments of release or climax in the story, the reader would feel, along with the characters, a genuine sense of achievement, and feel a real shift in their spirits.

In many ways, for large parts of the novel, I only wanted to ‘tweak’ reality. My characters are, in the main, flesh and blood human beings – they are drawn along the lines of what I consider to be psychologically realist patterns. They’re flawed, they are battered and eroded, and heightened, by the circumstances in which they find themselves. They aren’t endowed with ‘super-powers’, they can’t make magical escapes from the dilemmas they face, but must compromise and bodge, as we all do.

Dustless exhibits what I hope is an interesting inter-weaving of fantastic and realist narrative threads. The world of the novel grew, slowly, from certain intense imaginary nodes or cores. A lighter and more fantastic novel would have perhaps passed over much of the material and cultural complexity of Dustless, and concentrated less on the natural than the supernatural elements. As I wrote, however – and in this, I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t an element of ‘mission creep’ – and the world came more and more into view, became more immersive and extensive, I found that I wanted convincing reasons for the state of the landscape, the organisation of the communities, the evolution of the various interest groups, and a credible historical narrative behind the profoundly hierarchical and formalised society we find unfolded throughout the novel.1

Perhaps there is a curious jeopardy in the act of creating fantasy worlds? Even as one has the pleasure of bringing into being a world that has never existed before, one may experience a sense of melancholy at the futility of ever providing a proper account of this new domain. Detail begets detail: one character implies others. The constraints of time and mortality ensure that we can never fully investigate any phenomenon. Different forms permit different creations: with poetry, one can construct a convincing literary entity in a matter of seconds, but for the fantasy writer, it is quite possible to imagine years and years being absorbed in the creation of the literary world. Is there a danger – both technical (a matter of style, perhaps?) and psychological (in the urge to linger too long in a world of one’s own devising) – in building imaginative kingdoms in this way?

And if this is true for an imagined world – that we can never exhaustively account for any phenomenon – is there another world for which it is also true?

1It strikes me now that the creation of the novel became in a way a kind of hermeneutical progress. In trying to create a credible world in which the notion of TanZo is strongly rooted, it was necessary to try and pay attention to the different parts of the society – both ‘horizontally’, across the present, and ‘vertically’, through time. For the writer, certainly, there is a danger that a form of hermeneutic circle can develop, in which, as the world is created, and more elements of it come to be revealed, so more elements are required in order to complete the world satisfactorily – a process to which, in one way, there is no logical end. It’s possible to imagine, for example, a writer for whom it becomes necessary to account for every cell and molecule and atom in their world. “God is in the details”. And who’s to say that such a writer is wrong, or crazy? Perhaps, when they turn over an obscure atom in an indifferent part of spacetime, they might uncover the greatest secret in the universe of their book?

A man is a subtle engine, a wonder of nerves and sinew, a thing of shadows and bone, hard, delicate and bound with vision. He is a mix, with heavy stuff rounding with the light. But no one can look closely at the opening of a human eye without realising that here is a focal point of wild beauty, a moment where the universe bends back upon itself and flowers with exhilaration at its own radiant sensitivity, and may recoil in an instant understanding what a hurt may be, and who may cause that hurting.

Excerpt from Stories in the Falling Snow, Volume 3 of Dustless

Dustless | Volume 3

They will come in ones and twos, drawn to the new phenomenon.

In coffee houses and bars, they will meet and discuss the new phenomenon, attempting to understand.

The new phenomenon subsists, then evolves, and deepens, offering more of itself.

The old phenomenon endures, encamped within its huge mass, secure in its inertia: it can bear the crumbling at its edges, even at its centre, for it is where we all live, and with invisible limitations, limits us.

The new phenomenon persists, revealing itself occasionally, for moments, like the flash of an opening window seen from miles away across the city, or the rippled shadow of a carp on the floor of a cloud-haunted pool, or like a truth slipped down in the lining of one of your longest dreams.

Many who encounter the new phenomenon will not care for it: for them, the old phenomenon is sufficient.

For others, the new phenomenon is too arduous: it is not worth their while pursuing such a meandering course, its laws are too rigorous, they cannot entertain its poverty and its longueurs.

Some, though, remain faithful to the new phenomenon: for these, the new phenomenon spreads and opens further, offering fresh vistas, revealing unseen footage, richer veins.

No one can grasp the new phenomenon, for it is still growing, they only know that it is new, and this excites and troubles them.

The old phenomenon is so old it doesn’t even know it is old, but the new phenomenon arrives to expose the ages of what has passed, and what is passing.

The new phenomenon expands, it hasn’t yet reached its own perimeters: more and more people assemble to watch it mature, alerted by rumours and hearsay, by recommendation or by chance encounters in airports or at parties, at dusty bus-stops among fields of sunflowers, in university canteens, on crowded trains, beside graves.

How can the new phenomenon be denied?

Many cling to the old phenomenon, hoping either that it will somehow outlive the new phenomenon, or that they will die before the old phenomenon crumbles away entirely and vanishes.

The numbers of followers of the old phenomenon begin to diminish, followers of the new phenomenon increase, and the power of the new phenomenon cannot be restrained, for it is in everything new, it is a spring at the heart of us, at the centre of all things.

Groups are formed, where people query and debate the new phenomenon. Cults develop. Advocates struggle over ownership of the new phenomenon, pleading their cases, arguing for their especial interpretation. There are rifts and cliques, clubs, societies: fanatics haunt the early hours, there is no sleep.

The old phenomenon, meanwhile, dwindles. It is still immense, an environment, but is no longer unrivalled: challenged, it has entered the state of contention, and can never be as it was. Heavy and beautiful as ever, worthy of admiration and respect, yet peace has left. Supporters fear for the fate of the old phenomenon, fret over its flaws: some love it even more, but others begin to turn away, doubt rotting their spirits, unsettled by humiliation and envy, considered stale and passé by champions of the new phenomenon.

Battle is sustained.

In family-run cafés, over chessboards, sticks propped against their tables and chairs, nattering, or falling silent, gazing wistfully at April blossoms, the old sense the era of the new phenomenon has arrived.

Complacent at the centre of the old phenomenon, the wealthy and the blinkered everywhere ignore the evidence of the shoots of the new phenomenon, or fail even to be aware of the new presence among them. All their conversation, all their thoughts, all their world is framed and driven by the old phenomenon, hence they are doomed. In the busy markets, the dazzling lounges, in streams of apparently endless gossip, they are oblivious of the end of their world: in truth, they are surrounded by fading.

Once the citadel of the old phenomenon is overthrown, they will talk no more about stocks and shares.

Once the citadel of the old phenomenon is overthrown, their love will no longer be a sinecure, and their words will grow meaningful again.

Once the citadel of the old phenomenon is overthrown, morning will enter each thing, and the heart will be a dawn.

We will work on new flags.

The pride of the old phenomenon will be broken. The future will show disdain for the old temples, the old ideas, the old ways. A great battleship, lying in warm, quiet waters, coral covering the rusting parts. A moving spectacle. Its direction is now the past. Mourning enters the atoms, loss is awe, for the death of the old phenomenon is death for all of its pieces, children and daisies included.

All of this is well documented in the movement of storms.

It is the destiny of the new phenomenon to bring age.

Choose the new phenomenon.

DUSTLESS | Lord of books

Volume 1 | The Sentinels


Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
UK | Dustless | Volume 1  |||–––––|||  US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU

A distinguished lord asked:

How does one commence a great venture?

The young monk replied:

By leaving off small ventures, and middling ventures, and by putting aside nothing.

The lord answered:

Perhaps a small venture may lead to a great venture?

The young monk smiled.

Yes, that’s so. And perhaps a great venture may lead to a small venture, or to nothing.

The lord nodded, and scratched at his beard, and reflected on the monk’s words. After a while, the lord grinned, and asked:

Perhaps by doing nothing, it may lead to a great venture?

The young monk smiled again:

Perhaps doing nothing is the greatest venture of all

he said.

You are invited to begin upon a great venture…

Dustless | Volume 1

Re-posted | Original posting, March 2013