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Just a place for the odd thoughts, updates, and the detritus of my mind that doesn't belong on social media.

Posted: Aug 11th, 4:10am

Housekeeping

Just a little bit of website housekeeping today. The W3C says that breadcrumbs should be wrapped with <nav> tags, so wrapped they now are.

The page I linked above Common idioms without dedicated elements is actually a quite interesting list of things that people do all the time in web pages, but for which HTML has no dedicated syntax — including really common things like sub-headings and footnotes. Worth a read if you are web developer.

Posted: Jan 22nd, 9:21am

The Gap

One of the stories appearing in 2018's Night Alphabet is The Gap.

The nameless main character of The Gap is an expert in period restoration. Escaping the disasterous end of a relationship he accepts a job working solo on the rambling Rowlands House, once a private home, later an office, finally abbandoned. While working there he discovers a mysterious gap in the fabric of the house that leads ... somewhere.

At the start of October I accepted a job renovating an abandoned building. It was hard manual labour in an out of the way location, a bleak and lonely estate unused since the sixties, but it suited my mood — it had been three months since Hazel had left me; I was in need of distraction, but not company.

The Gap is a story about loneliness, and isolation — a theme it has in common with many of the other tales in the collection. The main character is alone in his life, and alone in the house, which is, in turn, increasingly alone in the world (I won't spoil the story, but suffice it to say that it focusses on what's inside more than what's going on in the rest of the world). Apart from three words at the start of the story, he never speaks directly to another person. When he considers picking up the phone to report what he's found, he hesitates. He cuts himself off. Later, when he wants to speak to others, it is too late.

I'd like to assure those of you still reading that this abiding theme in the story, and the book as a whole, isn't a reflection of my own loneliness or anything like that, but is something that I associated with the theme of dreams. When you dream, you are alone in your own head. Even if you dream of other people, they are actually just aspects of yourself. The Gap takes this theme still further, what the main character finds within the gap helps to separate him still further from anyone or anything else, because the gap is inside, just like a dream.

It's therefore fitting that the story now appears in [[https://...

Posted: Nov 26th, 8:05am

Free story: Distributed

I mostly write what I would call Magical Realism/Horror, or maybe Weird fiction, but occasionally I try to dabble in Hard SF.

Last year I was struck by the idea of what a distributed intelligence would feel like to its constituent parts, which led in turn the question, "what would it be like if the connections failed"? The result of that question was Distributed.

Distributed is definitely an experimental piece, and one that hasn't found a home in any anthologies or magazines over the time since I wrote it, so I've decided to publish it here as a free story.

Enjoy

Posted: Nov 4th, 3:59am

The Church Grim

Over on rpg.net, forum member Felix has been conducting a read-through of the AD&D Monster Manual II. One of the entries is the Grim, a shapeshifting black dog in the finest tradition of the many "Black Dogs" appearing in British fairy folklore.

Unlike most Black Dogs, which are generally fairy creatures, the Church Grim is a spirit that protects churchyards from grave robbers and other criminals.

The tradition (which appears both in England and Scandinavia) has the Church Grim as a person, the first to be buried in a new churchyard, whose soul has to watch over it. To spare a human soul this duty an animal might be buried first. In England this seems to always be a dog, but in Scandinavian tradition the Kirkegrim might be a bear, pig, or horse as well.

One of the biggest influences on my childhood imagination was Katherine Brigg's 1976 Dictionary of Fairies, a book that was battered and dog-eared when I got my copy, and which is even moreso now, many years later. In the dictionary, Briggs describes hundres of fairy entities and tropes, indexing them all with a list of descriptive themes and motifs (which you can look up at the back of the book). As soon as I saw the RPGnet post about the Grim I was sure that it was included in the Dictionary, and indeed it was.

[...] when a new churchyard was opened it was believed that the first manburied there had to guard it against the Devil. To save a human soul from such a duty a pure black dog was buried in the north part of the churchyard as a substitute. Katherine Briggs, A Dictionary of Fairies

Eden Phillpotts (a very prolific author of the early to mid 20th Century) wrote a story called "The Church Grim" in 1914, revolving around the mystery discovery o...