Words and pictures


This one has been a long while gestating. Evan J. Peterson asked me late last year to contribute a cover to a new edition of Seattle’s Gay City anthology which he was editing with Vincent Kovar. In May this year the anthology successfully covered some of its production costs with a Kickstarter fund, and the anthology will have its official launch next month (although the book is on sale now). Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam combines a loose take on steampunk themes with spectral or horror material, and adds a queer twist. The contents are as follows:

Cover art by John Coulthart
Illustrations by M S Corley and Levi Hastings
Graphic story: Paper Lantern by Jon Macy

from Preternatural Conversations and Oblivious Imperialism is the Worst Kind by CAConrad
Dear Dr. Frankenstein by Jericho Brown
Anaphora as Coping Mechanism and American Dreams by Ocean Vuong
Orpheus on the 74 and The Resurrection Spell by Oscar McNary
Zombie Autopsy by Janie Miller
Moon Goddess by Imani Sims

Hybrid/Flash Fiction/Prose Poetry:
Psychopomp by Lydia Swartz
Thangs by Imani Sims
The Door, Casualties of War, and The Worst is that You Can’t Even Ask Him to Use Protection by Jeremy Halinen

Short Stories:
Demon Lover by Dorothy Allison
Monster Movie by Rebecca Brown
B.E.M.s by Gregory L. Norris
Feeding Desire by Steve Berman
Medium Méchanique by Catherine Lundoff
Study in Blue, Green, and Gold by John Coulthart
A Captive Audience by Ryan Keawekane
Splinter by Ryan Crawford
The Difference Men by Kat Smalley
Alexander’s Wrath by J L Smither
Quota by Amy Shepherd
Heart of the Labyrinth by Tony Rella

This isn’t the first occasion when I’ve produced the cover for an anthology and also contributed some fiction inside—The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases included a short fiction piece—but the Gay City anthology marks the first appearance in print of anything from my ongoing Axiom project. This is a long-term endeavour which I began in March 2001 but haven’t referred to much in public, mainly because the bulk of the project to date has been written fiction. There are few words more dismaying to hear than the dread phrase “I’m writing a novel”, especially today when the activity of fiction writing seems to have undergone an exponential increase. I tend to believe that unless you’re an established author there’s little to be gained by discussing your own literary labours in public until you have some results to offer. Well, now I have.

I know some people have been curious about the Axiom project so—keeping things brief—I can say it’s two novels, one finished, the second one nearly finished. Axiom was written from 2001 to 2007, and concerns a year in the life of an invented city. It’s fantasy of a sort but closer to the world of Reverbstorm than anything you’ll find on the swords-and-dragons shelves. The idea began in the late 1990s when I was working on Reverbstorm with David Britton and realised I could easily shift the city in that book a few degrees sideways to provide a setting for my own obsessions. I’d been writing a lot of fiction in the 1980s—short stories and two unfinished novels—and wanted to return to this seriously having tired of collaborations and illustrating the work of other people. Axiom marked out some territory I wanted to explore; the new novel, Vitriol, uses the territory to stage a “psychedelic apocalypse”. The project as a whole is loose enough to evolve into other media, and eventually there should be some Axiom-related art. I’ve been working on Vitriol since August 2006 (there was some overlap while finishing the first book); my contribution to the Gay City anthology, Study in Blue, Green, and Gold, is an extract from the work-in-progress which happened to function quite well as a self-contained piece. Despite the anthology theme it’s not quite a steampunk affair but there are some steam locomotives present so it has the required flavour.

Whilst working on the new book I’ve had an agent (Leslie Gardner at Artellus) trying to sell Axiom. This would have been in print by now if the London publisher who agreed to take it 18 months ago hadn’t gone bust after they’d sent us a contract. I’ve been considering putting out a limited hardback edition of the novel, although I’m busy enough as it is, and don’t relish having to self-distribute even a small number of books. For now it’s an option that remains open.

Gay City’s own site points to Amazon for sales of Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam so on this occasion I’ll do that too. If you’re in the Seattle area there’s a launch party on September 27th. Details here.

Update: I’ve belatedly noticed that Evan is interviewed about the anthology here.

3 thoughts on “Words and pictures”

  1. Congrats on finally outing yourself as a fiction writer. I think you mentioned Axiom in an interview before but a lot of people might have missed that one.
    Do you think a Kickstarter campaign might work as a way to get it published?

  2. I’ve considered Kickstarter, it’s an obvious option these days. But it’s not really the money–getting a book printed doesn’t cost all that much unless you’re doing four-colour–it’s more the general organisation and effort involved.

    First thing that happens when you print a book yourself is you find yourself with a house or office full of the things which you then have to market and sell. (This is less of a problem with ebooks, of course, but that’s a different issue.) People today who denigrate publishers don’t seem to realise what a great service publishers (and their affiliates) provide in distributing and marketing books; it’s a full-time job, and I already have my time occupied by other work. That more than anything else is why I’m still reluctant to go down the DIY route.

    Kickstarter, incidentally, isn’t much different in this respect. You’d need to provide rewards and things, thus increasing the amount of time and effort involved. This isn’t so bad if you’re a team of people but doing everything yourself can be hazardous.

  3. John, so glad to read a post about Axiom and Vitriol!

    My pleasure to include your fiction in here. I think the psychedelic nature of it, in tandem with the hints of Burroughs and Wilde, gives something particularly bizarre and gratifying to the collection.

    Thank you for linking up the Amazon page; although Minor Arcana Press and I created it, Gay City Health Project owns it and the proceeds will go toward their nonprofit work. I support this completely.

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