The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 6

Last week Em began work as the amanuensis of Edourado del Bosques, and meditated upon the horrors of growing old, and how the old view the young. Would even the great ones be resentful to those in the flushes of youth? This week, Emmanuel joins his mentor at a dinner in Madrid, where he sees strange things he cannot account for, and meets other associates of the old artist.


Continue reading “The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 6”

Aiming High Part 2: Failure = New Information

Last week I worked through the idea of trying to capture one’s aspirations with as much detail as you can bear. The justification being that specific objectives enable one to create a useful plan or map of how to reach those objectives. The alternative is a sort of fuzzy goal that may or may not be succeeded at any one time, because the definition of failure is also iteratively fuzzy. Writers seem to be particularly poor at defining success in this way. I’ve given it a little thought and there seems to be some sort of connection to personality types. A short while back I wrote a couple of posts on creative personality types and whether one could be orderly and creative.

Continue reading “Aiming High Part 2: Failure = New Information”

The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 5

Last week Emmanuel told of the first tentative steps he was taking with his work with Bosques. Work is proving difficult, so Emmanuel walks through the heart of the city of Madrid at night to try and capture some of the darkness missing from the work.



Slept in the studio last night. Bosques found me asleep in a bed and duvet made of rags and blankets. Woke me with one of his claws shaking me surprisingly firmly by the shoulder.

“When did you do this, Emmanuel?” he said.

Took me a little while and a couple of coffees to give him a satisfactory answer. Told him about my soirée. Seemed impressed. 

“You have it, there is something there.”

I looked again at what I’d thrown together last night. Weirdest thing, old girl. Bloody reds and indigos framed those phallic skyscrapers, their faint edges glowing, but they were jagged and imperfect, unlike their real life counterparts. In the foreground there was the life of the old; I’d even whizzed up a few figures, like love-children of Gauguin and Lowry. Didn’t remember painting anything; recalled doing a few sketches, but no paint. Looked again at the studio. Paints all over the place. Must have been flitting in and out of sleep. Was dog tired, after all.

Anyway, Bosques liked it. Rather a lot. Wants to show it off to a few friends tomorrow night at dinner. Said no, it’s not ready, but he insists. 

“It won’t be an exhibition,” he said. “Just a – what you would say, a, ah – proof of concept. To show to a few trusted colleagues. To see if I’m doing the right thing.”

That took me aback. The right thing? The right thing in taking me on? For a second I thought about giving him a piece of my bloody mind, but held back; thought about what I wrote yesterday. Purpose. He’s given me purpose. Not to be taken lightly. Buttoned my tongue.

Spent a few hours trying to sketch some more ideas. Realise that only a part of my job is actually the technical bit of drawing and painting, which Bosques, the sly old fox, insists I have. Not perfect, but good enough, and I’ll get better. The bigger part of this job is having someone who can interpret what the hell is going on inside his head. Not easy. Language barrier is one thing, but language and subjectivity barrier is double hard. Sometimes it’s like trying to extract Shakespeare from a nanny goat. In Swahili. Not even sure which of us is the goat. Spent the morning trying to capture his ideas; he’s got printed notes, mostly in Spanish, which he used some speech-to-text software to write, so I sketched breezily, taking direction from him. 

Sometimes he shouts and waves his pincers up and down like a mad crab, other times he dances around, cajoling, encouraging, clawing at his long, white hair like some sort of gadfly in a sanitorium. What he really wants is someone to understand his themes. I think he’s scared of being replaced: by the world, by youth, by the inferior, by time. I asked again why not get one of his acolytes to do this job; surely they would understand his thought processes better than I.

“There are only two states of mind worth a damn,” he said. “An old fool whose time is short, and a nihilistic youth who has no respect for it. The abyss stares at us all, but only those two types of people know it. Not these pampered young ones who dream big and whose lives are filled with romance. Think back to Goya’s black paintings. Why do they fascinate so? Because he was at the end of his life, filled with bitterness and sadness, at himself, at his body, at Spain. Like Beethoven’s Große Fugue.”

I wondered if there was anything in the fact that both Goya and Ludvig Van had gone deaf prematurely. Must have pissed off Ludvig something rotten. Thought to tell Bosques that I didn’t fancy dying quite as much as I had done a couple of weeks ago, but what if he then cast me off? Is that why he wants me around? Because I’m as close to falling off the perch as he is? In which case, I ought to stay alive to support him, but he’d turf me out. Not your everyday predicament, Em. Focuses the mind, I tell you. Would I be catapulted back into abject despair, or free? I no longer know. Perhaps you could visit, Em. Could do with your company some time.

Remember when we spent an evening in Greenwich Park with two bottles of red and only one glass?

Neither do I.

Madrid’s music calls me.

I miss you, you awful old sow. 

Emmanuel x


Chapter 6

Aiming High Part 1: Write For The Stars

I made the conscious decision to make a serious go at writing around about ten years ago, during a holiday with my wife (then fiancée), and set about pulling together an epic fantasy that was pretty much 100% ideation, and 0% planning. I had no idea how I was going to approach the task, so set about doing what most would-be writers, particularly of genre fiction, end up doing, and that’s worldbuilding.

Continue reading “Aiming High Part 1: Write For The Stars”

The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 4

Last week our correspondent Emmanuel, writing to the woman he abandoned in London, was invited by the artist Edouardo Del Bosques to be his amanuensis. All of a sudden, Emmanuel finds a reason to live.


Continue reading “The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 4”

The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 3

Last week, Emmanuel pondered why the esteemed artist Edouardo Del Bosques had left his business card in Room 67 at the Museo Del Prado, until at last he gets a message asking to reunite. At Room 67 of the Museo Del Prado, of course.

Continue reading “The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 3”

Chronscast Episode 4 – Swords & Deviltry!

Today we’re joined by Stephen Cox, the author of the science-fiction drama Our Child Of The Stars, and the newly-published sequel, Our Child Of Two Worlds, both published by Jo Fletcher Books. Stephen’s with us to take a dive into Fritz Leiber’s swords-and-sorcery classic, Swords And Deviltry, which introduces two of fantasy’s greatest heroes, the barbarian Fafhrd, and the sly swordsman Gray Mouser.

Continue reading “Chronscast Episode 4 – Swords & Deviltry!”

The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 2

Last week Emmanuel, a failed artist, began a series of epistolary correspondence to a woman from a previous life in London. His letters related his abandonment of London for Madrid, where he planned to drink himself to death. His plans were stalled when he ran into his artistic hero, Edourado del Bosques, in Room 67 of the Museo Del Prado. Bosques, his hands rendered incapable by old age, asks Emmanuel to be his amanuensis. And to his disbelief, Emmanuel has a reason to go on living.


Continue reading “The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 2”

Literature Long Read: Utter Dismemberment in House Of Leaves

There is a very strange and small subgenre of literature that is so esoteric and self-reflexive that conventional attempts at categorisation seem to be powerless to define it. The Norwegian academic Espen Aarseth, in attempting to define the outer limits of literary potential made possible by advances in electronic media, noted such texts as ergodic literature; texts which required a non-trivial amount of effort to complete and/or penetrate. That’s not necessarily anything new. Moby Dick requires a reasonable amount of investment from the reader; ditto War And Peace, or Ulysses, or the poetry of Ezra Pound, and much more. But in essence these texts are still mostly bound by the conventions of the printed word; you read the words in the order you find them, and piece together the narrative in a linear fashion. Ergodic (meaning “the path of work”) literature requires more overt efforts on the part of the reader. One book has acted as the poster child for this strange new genre for over twenty years now; Mark Danielewski’s House Of Leaves.

Continue reading “Literature Long Read: Utter Dismemberment in House Of Leaves”

The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 1

After publishing two novellas last year I’ve been encouraged to serialise another here on the blog. This novella was concocted after one of my visits to Madrid, one of my favourite places. I’ve visited Madrid around a dozen times, and I almost always get the hankering to visit the magnificent Museo Del Prado, especially as its “free entry after 6pm” caters for the after-work crowd. I’ve always been fascinated, repulsed and drawn to Francisco Goya’s Saturn, one of the master works from his black period.

Continue reading “The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 1”