I write in the bright new light of a new year. The year in which I would imagine Scotland will either become an independent nation, or astound the world again with its own peculiar brand of self-loathing obsequious gutlessness. It’s hard to speak of the old year, 2020, without resort to overwhelming sadness and even anger at the deaths of more than 70,000 UK citizens, perhaps 80% of which might still be alive were it not for the Westminster government’s failure to impose lockdown soon enough nor heed the recommendations of its own Exercise Cygnus conducted only 4 years earlier in order to prepare for just such an eventuality. Many films and books, my own included, predicted a pandemic event, but nobody anticipated the sheer scale of governmental incompetence that would accompany it, nor the shockingly large number of Covid-skeptics telling us it was all a hoax and that wearing masks would solve nothing. If only those were the ones who perished from it, but the laws of Nature seldom conform to human ideas of justice. Many good, heroic people with their whole lives ahead of them, died through no fault of their own in the calamity that enveloped our planet in 2020.
And yet, writers tried to make something out of it, find some meaning and hope in it, as we are inclined to do, and felt obliged to do in order to try to maintain our health and sanity through all the months of isolation. I wrote a 15,000 word novella called ‘The Drowned Labyrinth’ that was picked up by Brazilian publisher Raphus Press, from whom it is now available in English (and soon in Portuguese), here.
Also I began another novella, to be called ‘Oneironauts’ which the Black Isle-based artist Pamela Tait (whose work graced the cover of my novel ‘The Suicide Machine‘) secured a substantial sum of funding from Creative Scotland from, for her and I to bring it to completion as a book to be published by Zagava of Dusseldorf, and also potentially as a touring exhibition, presuming society returns to normal in time.
My most recent novel, one I began writing 25 years ago, ‘Barking Circus’ finally became available in paperback in November, having already been out in limited edition hardback for a year. Andrew Hook reviewed it very favourably in Issue 77 of Black Static Magazine, stating that this book and its predecessor The Suicide Machine “use language in ways over and beyond forcing a plot. This is storytelling at its invigorating, demanding best.”
Among other things I published online this year, were a story called ‘Resurrection’ about a Roman centurion being brought back to life over at the John Byrne Awards website, and ‘Blue Bottle’ in the Winter 2020 issue of Sein Und Werden. That magazine is also where to find a recent review by N A Jackson of my novel ‘The Suicide Machine’.
As well as ‘Oneironauts’ there is a good deal else should happen in 2021 (besides us all hopefully escaping from Covid-19 via vaccination), such as my short story ‘The Dissolving Man’ being published by the prestigious Nightjar Press, several poems appearing in differing chapbooks from Dreich Magazine, who will also, later in the year, be publishing a third one of my 2020-penned novellas, this one called ‘Tam Tarrow’s Journey’, a collaboration with Glasgow poet and printmaker Elly Farrelly.
The cover images above, for Barking Circus and The Drowned Labyrinth, from Zagava and Raphus respectively, both feature artwork by my late brother Ally Thompson. So let’s begin 2021 by paying due respect to the fallen, with those haunting words of Andrew Eldritch in his finest hour in that old Sisters Of Mercy song from 35 years ago: “Let’s drink to the dead lying under the water, and the cost of their blood on the driven snow…”