Look At Some Furious Chickens


They didn’t get any greenery this morning and are cursing me.

We take in rescue chickens from farms every few years.  Once they reach an age when they don’t lay regularly, they tend to be turned into chicken feed.  They are, of course, not grateful.  And now I’m home alone for a few weeks. And these chickens hate me.  From the moment I take my first coffee into the back garden to wake up and clear my lungs, they are standing on their food containers and denouncing me from the bottom of the garden.  Two weeks of this.

Enjoy Mildred and Maud (thank my daughter for those names), the furious chickens of the Thames Delta.


The Blinded Man

THE BLINDED MAN is the first of the Intercrime crime novels by Arne Dahl, pseudonym of literary novelist, poet and critic Jan Arnald.  So popular are these novels that their TV adaptation is simply called ARNE DAHL.

If you’re into those novels that are absurdly polished exercises in structure, mechanics, all flawless tracks and joints and that great bell-like sound when all the parts of it suddenly come together, you’ll love this.  It is a glorious performance in Building A Book.

It was written in 1999, and is solidly within the original Nordic Noir space, being very much about Swedish society and politics.  It is… curious on the subject of women, and cannot quite decide whether it’s the detective protagonist who can solve every puzzle except women, or whether it thinks all women are unknowable aliens.

On the other hand, it has a large detective who performs a violent arrest on a moving van.

It’s the story of the killing of a big important man, and the last time a big important man was assassinated in Sweden the police and security services really fucked it up, so this time they’re assembling a crack team of Cops Who Don’t Follow The Rules to handle it. Yeah, I know.  Roll with it.  Arnald isn’t trying to change the world.  It’s a largely unapologetic yarn. With moments of chilly, distanced oddness.

Given that it was clearly made as a commercial move, the book feels remarkably uncynical. It’s really not afraid of being odd. Its voice is wry and bone-dry.  And, as noted, it’s quite the masterclass in building a machine.

It was wonderfully unputdownable.




I was reading the excellent book MARS BY 1980 (UK) (US) in bed last night and this term just popped into my head as I was circling sleep. I had to do that thing where you repeat it in your head twenty times so that I’d remember it in the morning.  I have no idea what refuture or refuturing really means, except that “refuturing” connects it in my mind with “rewilding.”  The sense of creating new immediate futures and repopulating the futures space with something entirely divorced from the previous consensus futures.

Refuture.  Refuturing.  I don’t know.  I wanted to write it down before it went away.

Which I guess is what we do with ideas about the future anyway.


Plant Robot, Brain Fat


This is watermelon and pomegranate juice in a pint glass because I am fucking classy.  And because I’ve been on my arse in this chair since Jan 2 writing for 15 hours every day and the flab is accreting on me like… a good metaphor for flab accretion because it’s August and my brain is fried.  And probably also wearing a coat of cellulite.  Can you get brain cellulite?  Probably.  Anyway, I’m juicing every day, because my body is way out of whack and I have to be seen in public on September 22/23 at Thought Bubble, where I’m being interviewed on stage and then giving a closing keynote.  And it would be preferred if I didn’t have to sling a unicycle under my gut in order to be able to move around.

The worst of the heat has finally passed.  My office is always significantly hotter than the outdoors temperature, so, when the heatwave spiked… well, I left my phone too close to the laptop for five minutes and it went into heat emergency alert.  I had to abandon the office completely on Monday and Tuesday.  I generally do not function well in “extreme” heat, by which I mean extreme for England, where houses are built to retain heat over six-month-long winters, not dissipate heat when it goes over 33 C.

I just realised my wall calendar is still on the July sheet.  It’s been that kind of year.  Here we go again.

I just read TURNED ON by Kate Devlin, which is about the history and future of robosexology, and it’s really good:  (UK) (US)

The Rules And Practice Of Cigarette Magic

I’d been waiting for a cab at the taxi rank for half an hour in the blazing sun, anchored by two heavy bags of shopping, when I remembered cigarette magic. This was a real thing people used to talk about, and it goes like this:

  1. You can’t smoke in taxis, private cars or buses.
  2. The universe hates you and doesn’t want you to have things.

So you light a cigarette.  And before the cigarette is done, your ride will arrive, so that you cannot finish your cigarette.

So I lit a cigarette, smiling at the memory,  And I was maybe a quarter through it when a cab appeared out of nowhere.

Magic is real if you want it to be. Or, sometimes, maybe the universe just gives up and lets you have one for free.


This Is Actually Really Good

I mean, it’s really young, but it is all honey and fire and power.  You should get some.

That’s all I’ve got, it’s Monday morning, leave me alone




Henning Mankell’s Hearse

Wallander left the station and drove out of town towards Tomelilla and Smedstorp. The drive gave him time to think about the murders. The summer landscape seemed a surreal backdrop to his thoughts. Two men are axed to death and scalped, he thought. A young girl walks into a rape field and sets herself on fire. And all around me it’s summertime. Skåne couldn’t be more beautiful than this. There’s a paradise hidden in every corner of this countryside. To find it, all you have to do is keep your eyes open. But you might also glimpse hearses on the roads.


Look at that last line.  Henning Mankell is the simplest crime writer on the planet. A lot of the time, the prose looks basic.  Machinic, even.  And then, bang.  A reminder that you are in the space of a very clever writer who holds the punch for when you’re least expecting it.

(Rape, for those unaware, is a yellow flower crop harvested for vegetable oil.)

Some of you may have seen the BBC adaptation of this starring Ken Branagh.  They used it as the first episode.  It’s actually halfway through the Wallander novel sequence.  I see why they used it — even though it’s a middle book, it serves as an excellent introduction to the character and to Mankell’s style.  It’s more complex than the tv adaptation, and also, somehow, less miserable.

The style, though. It’s like Mankell is setting the type himself, by hand, with hammer and hot metal.  Hemingway without the showiness.  It’s just… there.  Like Mankell is saying, this is just how it is.  Fascinating.

SIDETRACKED, Henning Mankell (UK) (US)



Friday Furnace

I’m a few days off finishing a big job, which has been hampered by it being 34C outdoors and about 600C in my office.

I am waiting for the promised storms, so that I can work as fast as my brain is going without my fingers slipping off the keys or the laptop freaking out and shutting down.  (They really don’t build Lenovos the way they used to.)  I am looking at tweetstorms and threads and general low-weight bullshit moving across my streams like sprayed manure over a dying field. Remember when Medium was going to cure all this?  Hahahah.

Mediun owner/operator Ev Williams is Mark Zuckerberg.  You remember when Facebook enticed publishers to pivot to video for Facebook and then killed news/opinion video on Facebook?  Medium has pivoted something like five times, and each time it’s severely injured a whole tranche of publishers and writers who it invited in.  It’s that. It’s exactly that.  It’s bringing news and opinion and art and theory sources inside and then killing them in a box.

RSS isn’t dead. Social media works great for link notifications, not so much for complete thoughts or even not-fully-baked considerations.  The fields are on fire and being sprayed with liquid shit.  Dig your own garden, build your own structures, make your own space.

I am too hot and I have too much to do and I am possibly in a bad mood.

I have a newsletter.  It goes out on Sundays, when it will be cooler and I will be less shouty.


Bats, Giant Diseased Bats

I am, in fact, farting around with a little personal weblog idea, because it amused me to “make” a thing that took away the impetus to tweet.  (I had to go back on Twitter in prep for the CASTLEVANIA launch announcement.)  I’m fine with syndicating words to Twitter, as it can create useful network effects that benefit me when I go back into public-internet-hermit mode.  But having Twitter be their sole home and originating space?  Not always so comfortable with that.  I have systems to copy my words out of Twitter again, but…

And while I do enjoy these morning notes, and find them useful — when I’m really busy, like this year, my mornings are really just for trying to wake the fuck up.  I’m finding I’d like to do little bursts of notation and broadcast during the day.  As a way to keep myself thinking and moving, as a way to perhaps be in the world in a useful way, and also to create a little box of thoughts for myself.

Coming off the main services and using them for what they’re actually good for – sharing interesting links and pictures, signal boosting the good things, and abusing people I know.  (Hi Chip!)  Doing everything else in my own diaries and notebooks.

This is probably still my brain trying to escape the multiple deadlines surrounding me like bats.

Here is a picture of some skulls.  I have a newsletter.



The British Empire colonised the afterlife.

SUMMERLAND is one of the great entertainments of the year so far.  Another alternate-history, like UNHOLY LAND. And as good.

This 1938 is a time following an actual expedition into the afterlife by a British colonel, aided by Marconi and a thinly disguised HG Wells (named Herbert Blanco West, the latter two names belonging to his illegitimate children, which I thought was a fine touch) using the additional scientific theories of Charles Howard Hinton, a mathematician interested in the fourth dimension (he shows up briefly in FROM HELL).

Rachel White works for the Secret Intelligence Service. The service’s higher echelon is split into two parts. The Winter Court, here in the world of the living. And the Summer Court, populated by dead spymasters and spies — named for Summerland, an old British term for the afterlife. Thanks to British ecto-science, the two sides can interface.

One bleak winter afternoon when he was ten years old, Peter returned from school and found his mother sitting in the drawing room. The crystal set he thought was safely hidden amongst his toys under his bed lay in her lap. It was the size of a cigarette box, with a frayed cardboard casing, a Bakelite tuning dial and a tinny speaker that you had to hold up against your ear. Peter had bought it from Neville, an older boy at school. ‘Nanny Schmidt found this while cleaning,’ she said, tapping the set. ‘Tell me, Pete – what do the dead say when you talk to them?’ ‘You … you can’t talk to them with the basic kit, you can only listen,’ Peter said. ‘There is a lot of static. Mostly you only get the recent dead. They don’t make much sense.’ ‘I see.’ ‘I just wanted to understand how it worked.’ ‘And do you?’ ‘Of course I do, Mother, it’s all in Powell’s Aetheric Mechanics for Boys.

And let’s be clear here – the afterlife is British. Only British subjects of a certain status can obtain a Ticket.  Because when we did we go to the afterlife – but we fade away after a day. We dissipate. The Ticket lets us stay there, in the city we built on the other side.

Rachel White is dealing with a Russian defector who seems to be trying to get himself killed. Without a Ticket. And that’s where it starts. Because he knows something he hasn’t told anyone else.  Something that could destroy the British security service. And he tells Rachel.

It’s a spy story, yes.  In a thoroughly worked out alternate history where accessing ghost technologies changed everything, large and small.  Le Carre in the underworld, perhaps. It’s also an absolute blast from beginning to end.  One of those “it’s 3am I really need to put this book down, maybe at the end of this chapter, oops no” books.

I’m not doing it justice.  I really liked it.

Full disclosure: I once wrote a graphic novella called AETHERIC MECHANICS.

SUMMERLAND, Hannu Rajaniemi (UK) (US)