Later this month it will be four years since Burning Eye Books published its first title, Slinky Espadrilles by Ash Dickinson. Earlier this month it was announced that Burning Eye had been nominated by enough people to make the shortlist for Most Innovative Publisher in Sabotage Review’s Saboteur Awards. This was the fourth time Burning Eye has been shortlisted for this award. We didn’t win in 2013, 14 or 15. I don’t think we will win this time either. That’s cool we are kinda small and kinda fringe. As I am fond of saying, just getting nominated is not bad going for a press run part-time from a spare bedroom near Bristol. But as usual it has made me ponder the innovation question. What exactly is it that we do that makes people think us worth nominating? On the face of it, you see, we all (the shortlisted publishers) publish physical books. Either fairly standard trade paperback format or fairly ordinary (in terms of the physical specification of manufacture) hardbacks. Some aspects of how we try to work in a collaborative manner with our writers might from some quarters be seen as innovative, but we are not alone in this and unless you have worked with us as a writer you would not necessarily know the specifics of that, so the number of potential nominators would be pretty small. There are some under the hood kinks in the Burning Eye business model that might arguably be considered innovative from some angles, but these are known only to a handful of people. So what is it?
My perception is that Burning Eye gets nominated for publishing what we might call standupslamperformancespokenword poetry. In which case the nomination is perhaps best understood as a vote of appreciation for the curation of the catalogue of writers. But is it innovative? Maybe I am wrestling with that I-word too much. Looking for atom splitting invention when innovation in the 21st Century is more about small incremental change rather than revolution. Maybe it is my outsider/imposter syndrome kicking in. What Burning Eye? Really? Innovative? Are you sure? We just publish poetry we like and work with people we like working with, is that innovative? Maybe I just need to shut up and do some work. After all it is the 11th of May as I write and we have only put 10 books out so far this year (combined Burning Eye and BX3) and we are not even half way yet!
2.A DIY open workshop at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews encouraging festival attendees to make blackout / hashtag poems (see some of the results at the end of this post**).
3. Creating and posting (mostly) new work in response to the festival and its themes.
For the final element I lined up a series of pieces ready to post during my stay in Scotland and then added new work created over my three days at the festival. I will admit I did re-post a couple of older pieces just because circumstances reflected the content and they worked within the specific context of those moments but the majority of the work was created specifically for StAnza.
I have collected these 28 pieces in a FREE ebook & PDF, HashtagPoetry# – the StAnza Edition. You can sign up to download it here.
** Here are a selection of blackout / Hashtag poems made by StAnza Festival attendees:
Burning Eye Books have a sale running on novels including Time Travel Hotel… all are now only 99p each. Read more…
Time Travel Hotel is a satirical sci-fi novel published by Burning Eye in April 2015. When I say satirical though I mean I use Sci-fi and satire as a way of exploring certain other ideas – I do not satirise Sci-fi. Too big a fan for that!
It is an exercise in accessible experimentation so on the one hand it is experimental. I fold several interwoven stories together and throw in a couple of dada hand brake plots turns but all the while writing with one eye on the rules of Elmore Leonard. Hopefully the end results is part art-experiment-pretension but always a zippy easy read. Dada plot experiment meets delinquent pulp fiction? Yeah. That’s what I was aiming for.
It is kind of 18+ though, I should warn prospective readers. It contains some bad sex. Not badly written (I hope) but bad as in failed, disastrous, embarrassing, cringe-worthy, clumsy and hopefully amusing. One Goodreads reviewer did decide that if you are easily shocked you should avoid Time Travel Hotel. Yeah – that was what I was aiming for.
There are some serious undercurrents. I explore the 21st Century’s obsession with immigration and outsiders, how the same situation has different repercussions depending on race, gender, species, planet of origin.
It is also a novel that wears its influences on its sleeve and a canny reader will find nods, winks, and references to Herodotus, Catch 22, Kurt Vonnegut, Waiting for Godot, The Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch, Star Wars, the 15th Century Hungarian king Mattias Corvinus, The Wasteland, The Simpsons, Liutprand of Cremona – historian of Otto the Great and Hong Kong Phooey.
What is it about? Try this:
Occupied during an Anarchist riot, Battersea Power Station flicks out of existence and returns as the technologically ambiguous INTERFOLD – THE TIME TRAVEL HOTEL REPUBLIC, complete with a reputation for spontaneously relocation.
Black McCarthy, a detective, is sent to INTERFOLD by his client The Wolf in search of a man who may or may not be hiding under the name of Eugenides.
The Man Who Lived In A Vacuum Cleaner has shrunk to a few centimetres tall and become the subject of an Martian sex-periment to re-inflate him.
The Girl With Nine Lives has stopped counting.
The Dwarf With The Horse has migrated into INTERFOLD territory by mistake and finds himself in trouble with Eunuch policemen.
With Martians, Assassins, Bristolians and A Man Who Falls Through Floors, there are no shortage of characters willing to aide or hinder Black in his search. The problem is that he is not the only one who wants Eugenides found, and time is not only against him but is disregarding all the usual rules.
Think Hitchhikers, Catch 22, Sombrero Fall Out, Breakfast Of Champions, The Adventures of Tintin, an episode of Hong Kong Phooey, A splash of Monty Phython and The Wasteland put in a blender and wizzed up into the best of Elmore Leonard and tell me if I am close!
This novel took a long time to write, and not that long at all. In elapsed linear years from beginning to end was, I will admit, over a decade but as the real writing took place in 4 or 5 intense bursts it was probably less than a year. I will post thoughts and notes on it in the coming weeks and months but the intention of this post is to say. It is finished. It has a kooky cover by the excellent Dominic Brookman and will be published by Burning Eye (who else!) in April.
Here are some words that pretend to describe it:
Black McCarthy is despatched to INTERFOLD – The Time Travel Hotel Republic to track down “Eugenides”. His client, the Wolf, is on his back demanding progress as INTERFOLD keeps shifting time and place, throwing up residency and immigration anomalies as it does so. Help of a kind is on hand via the Dwarf with the Horse, the Man Who Fell Through Floors, the Girl With Nine Lives, the Nurse With The Curse, and Joylin – the INTERFOLD receptionist. But who is Eugenides? The ManWho Lived in a Vacuum Cleaner? The Man Who Dreamt He Was Dreaming? One of the other oddball residents? Is winding up naked in a sauna elevator in the Car Park at Infinity really going to help track him down? Unfortunately for Black, his client is not the only one who wants Eugenides found, Black is possibly the worst detective money can buy and time is not only against him but ignoring all the usual rules. Beneath the black humour, Time Travel Hotel is an exploration of identity and whether we are defined by a place of origin, residence, citizenship or by the decisions that propel us through life. It is a book about regret and missed opportunities. A book about going back – if only you could.