Tag Archives: real life

Spring-heeled Jack

This is the second post in a (currently) short-running series on weird things from history that I want to see in Fantasy/New Weird/Steam Punk stories. Get on that, ok?

Here’s the first: SPANKO!

And here’s the second: Spring-heeled Jack.

We are continuing the theme of weird assailants from London – Spring-heeled Jack sprung up during the Victorian era, rather than the Restoration, but he was much more elusive than the Whipping Toms. He was probably much more invented than those three men though…

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So, I’ve had an idea – been nursing it for a little while.

The idea is to try and put together a list, of things that I find interesting from history, things that I’d like to see in a New Weird or Steampunk or Fantasy setting. History is an interesting place, one that you can drop in and visit, but one that (fortunately) you cannot live in. For all those people out there who just started thinking about how swell it would be to live in a Steampunk setting, in Victorian London, I’ll just point you in the general direction of some history books, and this article I wrote a little while back about what I like to call Slumpunk. Some of them I’ve already seen in those settings, so, when we come to those, I’ll point you in that direction.


To give you an idea of what, exactly, it is I’m talking about, here’s the first in this little series of demi-articles:

Gustav Dore – “Over London”


The Whipping Toms

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Red Froth

She looked down at the ticket in her hand.

The rain beat down, drumming a tattoo on the windows, and she understood why, really, she did.

But he had to understand too.

She wasn’t finished making him understand.

“So, Hong Kong – nice this time of year.”

He nodded, whimpering through the gag – it was crusted with his snot – he must have been having trouble breathing by now.


“Shame it’s monsoon season.”

Panic flitted across his eyes. It wasn’t the same anymore. The great game had changed, what with outsourcing and the lowest common denominator. College kids and tech nerds.

She punched him, unexpectedly, let him drop to the floor.

He struggled again against the ropes that bound him to the chair, but she was listening to the voice in her ear.

“Can’t you hurry it up? It’s pouring out here.” She chanced a look out the window, he was still there, the only homeless man on the street, seemingly muttering to himself in the rain. She wondered where he got the little dog from – but realised that she probably didn’t want to know.

“So. Hong Kong. Why?”

His eyes rolled back in his head, and red froth erupted beneath the gag.

She needed someone else to answer her questions.




Written for this week’s Flash! Friday writing challenge.

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The Great Old Ones

Pando aspen grove at Fishlake National Forest (photograph by J Zapell/Wikimedia)

My latest article, on Atlas Obscura, asks the question:

“What’s the oldest living tree in the world?”

If you’re thinking of some Californian Sequoia, you’re only off by around 75,000 years…

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Stop Freaking Out About Ebola

My latest article is up on Gate 37:

Stop Freaking Out About Ebola!

At least you haven’t contracted St Vitus’s Dance…

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The Night Closes In

Possums perch,

like gargoyles or grotesques,

guarding tree-branch archways and crippled, leaning fences.

The night closes in.

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Like Claws

Her hands were like claws, tight and cold, still clenched into fists.

He lay on the floor, and the rust-red pool around his head thickened.

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A BURNING DESIRE: The Culture of Censorship

A page from Maurice Sendak’s THE NIGHT KITCHEN, one of the most frequently challenged books in the United States (because it shows a penis!)

So, my latest article, A BURNING DESIRE: The Culture of Censorship, is up on the Kill Your Darlings website.

It focuses on literary censorship, especially the recent banning of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes in ALDI Supermarkets, and on censorship in general, particularly in Australia and the United States.

Let me know what you think!

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The Boys are Back in Town (part 4 of 4)

Image by Kessiye – via Wikipedia





I can wait.









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The Boys are Back in Town (part 3 of 4)

Stormtroopers Advancing Through Gas – Otto Dix, from his Der Krieg series

In flying drones

and limbless children.

In falling bombs

and chattering machine guns.

Beheaded men, stolen women.

In your talk of peace

I lurk.

Glory, honour, destruction.

I am in you.

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The Boys are Back in Town (Part 2/4)

Victims of the Great Famine, India, 1876-78

Distended, swollen bellies, meandering flies.

Scrape your plate clean. Throw it all away.

Thigh gaps and size 0’s.

You are not good enough.

You are not good enough.

You are not good enough.

Eat less. Waste more.

You are too fat.

Eat less. Consume more.

Forget about those hungry children.

They live so far away.

You are not good enough.

They don’t have enough.

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Another New Non-Fiction Piece

Photograph by Melissa Toh, reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Licence.

I’ve got an article up on The Lifted Brow (yikes!), a brief history of hacking:

What Colour is Your Hat? From Phone Phreaking to Political Hacktivism.

Check it out, let me know what you think!

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Advice from Chekhov

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining;

show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

                                                               – Anton Chekhov

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I’m too


To do anything

Other than write

This crap poem


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Smoke curled, blue-grey-black

Into the night sky.

So damned cold.

He warmed himself

With the digging,

To get rid of this

Dead weight

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Late Night Mistakes

Open Gutter – Brassai, “Paris by Night”

She smelled like two am

Spilled vodka

Stale cigarettes

She knew

She was making

A mistake

Because that


What she wanted

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Double Review: Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel

First things first: I was much amused that my copy of Wolf Hall had a sticker on the front reading “From the author of Bring Up the Bodies!” The first book in the series, recommended to readers of the second.

“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.”

Wolf Hall is the story of Thomas Cromwell, great-great-great uncle to the more-famous Oliver Cromwell. Thomas rose from obscurity and the peasantry to become, firstly, the Cardinal Wolsey’s problem solver, and, after the Cardinal’s downfall, King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister, Lord of the Privy Seals, Chancellor of the Exchequer and too many other titles to go into.

Wolf Hall documents the downfall of the Cardinal, and the rise of Cromwell. of Henry VIII, and I love the fact that these novels present him in a sympathetic (ish) light – for so long we’ve looked down on Henricus Tudor as being some kind of monster (as he turned out to be), rather than as a complicated, three-dimensional human.

It is a brilliant character study, exquisitely formed and researched, and it finally gives this man, of whom so little good is written, a place in the sun, which he gained, despite his birth to an abusive blacksmith. I cried, which is something I’ve not done too often while reading. Mantel shows her power as an author throughout this novel.

“The trouble with England, he thinks, is that it’s so poor in gesture. We shall have to develop a hand signal for ‘Back off, our prince is fucking this man’s daughter.’ He is surprised that the Italians have not done it. Though perhaps they have, and he just never caught on.”

I liked Wolf Hall so much that I raced out and wrapped my paws around its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies.

Now that Queen Katherine is deposed, and her marriage to Henry VIII annulled, Henry has married Anne Boleyn. Bring Up the Bodies tells of her downfall, at the hands of Thomas Cromwell, in a I created you, I can destroy you fashion, after Anne fails to give Henry a male heir. Again the writing is brilliant, deeply researched and superbly written, even though history has told us how things end for the scheming Queen.

“He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged.”

Absolutely brilliant, are these novels, and I highly recommend them, they are fantastic.

They have certainly set the bar for historical fiction very, very high.


Last things last: I’m pissed that this series isn’t finished – now I have to wait for the third book in the series, The Mirror and the Light. This is why I haven’t read any of the Game of Thrones novels – I have no patience, when it comes to waiting for books.



“You can have a silence full of words. A lute retains, in its bowl, the notes it has played. The viol, in its strings, holds a concord. A shriveled petal can hold its scent, a prayer can rattle with curses; an empty house, when the owners have gone out, can still be loud with ghosts.”

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Too Many Chefs Spoil the Broth

Raymond Blanc Cooking School, Oxford – Jorge Royan

There’s a short story of mine, Too Many Chefs Spoil the Broth, that I wrote almost two years ago, is perennially popular on my blog – although the visitors come in fits and starts. I’m pretty sure it must be on a school curriculum somewhere: Write a short story about the proverb ‘too many chefs spoil the broth’. Because that’s what the search terms are, ten, twenty people a week. WARNING: SWEAR WORDS, SOON.

too many cooks spoil the broth



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