23 April 2006

Club Sabbath

It's probably time I plugged this:

[Click on little images for big images.]

It's a standup comedy club night in a London pub, organised and compèred by my one-time editor and occasional collaborator Lawrence Miles.

[Edit to add:]
The pub is The London Stone 105 Cannon Street EC4N, which is located just opposite Cannon Street station -- although the nearest stations actually open on a Sunday are Monument and Mansion House, apparently.

(The pub seems to be named after an actual London Stone, which I'd never heard of before. It shows signs of being a goth pub -- or, even more worryingly, a wannabe-goth pub -- but that shouldn't affect the quality of the comedy one way or the other. Decent beer doesn't look noticeably likely.)

It's happening next Sunday evening, 30 April. Doors open at 7:30 (although quite how that works in the context of a pub I'm not too sure), and the comedy begins at 8. Price on the doors is £5, although it's been widely rumoured that anyone bringing a remote-control Dalek will get in at half price.

Lawrence's sense of humour is weird, eclectic and borderline psychotic, and the guest comedians -- Natalie Haynes, Hils Barker, Danielle Ward, Steve Mould, Caroline Clifford and Helen Keen -- seem to be well thought of. I've heard Ward on the radio, anyway, and she's certainly very funny. So it should be good for a laugh.

I'll be there, at least.

19 April 2006

Increase Your Mirth by 20%

Like Peculiar Times, Spamusement seems to have entered something of a lull recently.

I thought of this because one of the most ubiquitous pieces of junk email that I've been getting recently persists in informing me that "Ratess will skyrocket soon".

I wonder when it's going to happen? I imagine her sitting in her little cockpit, tiny flying-goggles on her furry face, as she courageously faces her pioneering destiny.

Profound Apologies...

...for leaving this blog so long between updates at the moment. Life has been getting overly manic, what with two short fiction projects (which I'll tell you about once they're announced) due in at the end of next month. I'm quite pleased with what's come out of my head so far, but I'm not progressing as fast as I'd wish, and the two-week Easter break was altogether a bit of a panic.

I'm not going to get any more chatty in the short term, I'm afraid, but once those stories (and, with luck, the various other things that are busying me so incessantly at present) are out of the way, I should be able to waste your bandwidth with drivelly musings and book reviews once more. I have, at the very least, another good idea for an Invisible City to regale you with.

Sadly, real life (or, more accurately, fiction) will also be getting in the way of updating last year's Doctor Who viewing blog, Parrinium Mines, with my opinions on this year's series... at least for the moment. I'm still hoping I can come back to them later in the year, reviewing The Christmas Invasion through to Doomsday in time for this year's Christmas special. (I'm afraid my thoughts on The Christmas Invasion and New Earth are not entirely complimentary, but with any luck that will change as the season progresses and, erm, K-9 returns. Yes, that's probably likely.) I've also been watching, for research purposes, more episodes of very early Doctor Who than the human brain was designed to withstand, so hopefully I can also update those of you who choose to read Parrinium Mines on those at some stage.

Meanwhile I'm not getting a lot of time to read, but About Time 1 and The Dream Archipelago are keeping me entertained between them. And Season 5 of Buffy, while messy and overplotted, still makes me cry at the end, even though I've seen it four or five times already.

More anon. But, you know, possibly not very anon.

05 April 2006


Scribonia, known to poets as the Tattooed City, is indistinguishable in most respects from any other provincial city. It has its business and its retail districts, its blocks of flats and townhouses, churches and mosques, its libraries and City Hall, in which its citizens talk and shop and sleep and go about their business. Examining the city from the air, or from a satellite, one would perceive little of note.

Close up, however, is a different story. For every building of Scribonia – each wall and windowsill, each slate and steeple – is covered with writing. Loops and curlicues and upstrokes smother every shopfront, every station and tenement. Fountains and statuary, pavements and rooftops: each surface, from the bridges’ lowest foundations to the steeple of the tallest church, is etched with curled, reticulated characters – the arcane alphabet used only by Scribonia’s Guild of Graffitists.

Scribonia’s public services department tries its best, but even with some thousands of the population in its direct employ, scrubbing and cleaning at the bricks and flagstones every day, they cannot keep pace with the assiduous encroachments of the Guild.

Nobody knows who runs the Guild, or if it even exists. Everyone assumes that the artful vandalism must be co-ordinated: the only sane alternative is that every citizen, municipal cleaners included, secretly carries around a can of paint or marker pen to fill in any gaps they find in the all-pervading script. It may be that – as one dissident politician has concluded – the city itself is generating the inscriptions, dreaming the writing into existence every night through the subconscious workings of its fevered citizens.

Nonetheless, many Scribonians yearn to join the hypothetical Guild, and aspiring graffitists often overlay the dense designs with their own crude scrawlings.

Others – the majority – have become obsessed with understanding what the graffiti says. Its alphabet bears no resemblance to any others known: and yet its students have detected patterns, repetition, dialogue – even the work of individual hands. Many have tried to learn the language: if any have succeeded, they do not acknowledge the fact. It may be that success confers de facto membership of the Guild, with all the burden of secrecy that implies.

One school of interpretation, known as the Esotericists, believes that the graffiti is a blueprint: a detailed description, complete with architectural measurements and outlines, of another city. This city coexists with Scribonia, pervading it in this encoded form. Parts of the written city are demolished daily by the tireless sponges of the scrubbers, yet they can be rebuilt, or new structures created to take their place, with a few flicks of a Guildmember’s pen.

What is this city like? The Esotericists agree that it must be a far more elevated, purer place than grimy, dull Scribonia: a city of pure thought, of inspiration, where style is given life, unhampered by the demands of substance.

One day, they say, this city will not merely deface the present Scribonia: one day, its sheer weight of information will come to overwrite the mundane city, and Scribonia’s dull matter will give way to the immaterial design. A new age of enlightenment will follow, and the citizens will exist in an eternal harmony of intellect.

There will be no place for graffiti then, of course.


Visit the Gazetteer of Invisible Cities at Blind Atlas