Indie April 2021

Come next Monday, Scotland moves up into tier 3, meaning bookshops will be able to open again. No doubt there will be a salivating, Dawn of the Dead-esque crowd pushing up against the glass of Waterstones Sauchiehall Street by 8.59am Monday 26th April and I honestly might be one of them. Just the thought of wandering among towering high bookshelves is making me a bit giddy.

That said, the pandemic has not slowed my book buying down one bit, and if anything, book browsing online has probably led to me exploring more indie titles than I might have otherwise. In particular, I’ve been chipping into various crowdfunded projects, and as it’s Indie April I’d like to highlight these.

The End: Surviving the World Through Fictional Disasters by Katie Goh (Inklings – 404 Ink)

Last month, 404 Ink launched a crowdfunder for a new series of small non-fiction books called Inklings – a title that’s punny on so many levels that in a fair world founders/editors Heather McDaid and Laura Jones should be able to retire on its genius – to huge success, with Creative Scotland matching the money raised from backers to a spectacular total of over £25k.

This initial run of Inklings covers disparate subjects from the fashion of Prince to the documentation of transphobia, women in hip hop to reimaging universities. All promise unique insights into interesting topics and picking the one I wanted as a backer reward was a tricky choice (I’m sure I’ll be back to scoop up some more of these little beauts later).

I went with The End by Katie Goh, a study of apocalypse fiction that seeks to find out why we fantasise about the end of the world. This one called out to me – I’m a big fan of the genre and I’ve written a few apocalypse stories in my time. I remember writing an essay back in uni that compared the “cosy catastrophe” of John Wyndham and John Christopher to the brutality of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and actually, genuinely enjoying working on it, so I’m really looking forward to reading someone with real expertise diving into the subject.

Killtopia #3 by Dave Cook, Clark Bint et al (BHP Comics)

You might have seen the news: Killtopia, a lurid, violent, and often funny cyberpunk romp through Neo Tokyo by Scottish writer Dave Cook, is to be turned into an animated series by Voltaku, with writer Phil Gelatt (Netflix’s Love, Death, and Robots) and Oscar-nominated director Ruairi Robinson at the helm.

Hugely exciting, but for those who can’t wait to see it brought to life on the screen, there’s still the whole damn rest of the comic series to read! And soon enough, Issue Three will be heading out to backers and we get to find out how much deeper into trouble amateur robot-wrecker Shinji and sentient mech Crash can get themselves into.

Art duties have changed hands this issue and I’m really excited to see Clark Bint’s take on the brash, colourful world of Killtopia. Also, one of my favourite things about the series is the references and cheeky nods to inspiration that Cook dots about the story, from Old Boy (a clever take on its famous fight scene done with clever panel layout in Issue 2) to Akira, and I’m looking forward to digging into all the panels to search them out.

Daughter of Titan #3 by Richard Mooney, Monika Laprus-Wierzejska, et al

Harvest season for comics! The Kickstarter for the third issue of Daughter of Titan hit its target last year and will be getting delivered in the near future, when we’ll get to find out more about the series’ shady villain, Black Hole, who can create wormholes containing wormy tentacles. Yuck.

Among main character Alena Amar discovering she has superpowers, her friend building a mech suit for her to fight crime in, and the aforementioned Lovecraft business, I think what I’m most looking forward to in Issue 3 is getting back in touch with Brenner – a hallucinating, tattooed, psycho-eyed former augmented detective on Alena’s trail.

Mooney made a huge effort to really up the game from Issue 1 to Issue 2 and I’m excited to see where the goes with it next.

Out of the Darkness (Unsung Stories)

This was a day one sign up for me! Editor Dan Coxon has put together a horror anthology to be published by Unsung Stories. A couple of things made me go for this straight away:

The first was Unsung itself and how impressed I’ve been by their previous publications. I reviewed SF “Cli fi” novels Dark River by Rym Kechacha and Always North by Vicki Jarrett for Shoreline of Infinity and found both incredible. Each of them twisty and clever and beautifully written.

The second was the name Tim Major among the list of authors already confirmed to be contributing stories (some names were held back for stretch goals and with the massive success of the Kickstarter campaign, all are to be included in the final book). Major is a huge talent I’ve had the privilege of sharing the contents list with in the aforementioned Shoreline of Infinity. His Martian stories are a wonder, focusing on the human in SF, the character over the big idea – though he isn’t short of those either, as seen in his debut novel Snakeskins (Titan Books), a high concept SF thriller inspired by the likes of John Wyndham.

Extra Teeth Issue 3 (Dirs. Jules Danskine and Heather Parry)

Okay, so this one isn’t crowdfunded, but I did decide to take out a subscription for this year’s two issues of Extra Teeth – one of Scotland’s newest lit mags which has taken the scene by storm – so I’m gonna include it, the sub fulfilling a similar function to the pledge. Also Extra Teeth is great, so it’s going in.

Essentially, I enjoyed Issues 1 and 2 so much I decided there was no way I wouldn’t be buying Issue 3 so I may as well save a few quid by subscribing for the year.

While I absolutely loved Pig Tale by Kirsty Logan (a fantastical story of erotica and butchery) from Issue 1 and  Table Manners by Jan Carson in Issue 2 (a hilarious and surreal story about a woman whose touch causes food to reverse into its original composite products – bread becomes flour, yeast, and water, a KFC becomes flour, buttermilk, secret herbs and spices, and a live, clucking chicken), I think it was Hair by Isha Karki (also Issue 2) that really cemented Extra Teeth in my mind as a must-read, as something vital to the Scottish publishing scene. The story is a work of genius, my description of it as a tale about massive women with long hair and the tiny men who climb it is massively inadequate. Go and read it!

Burroughs and Scotland: Dethroning the Ancients: The Commitment of Exile by Chris Kelso (Beatdom Books)

Unlike the others on this list, Burroughs and Scotland is already out – published at the end of last month – and I already have a copy in my possession, waiting to be read, in the form of an ebook (though I’ve recently seen a few tweets of it out in the wild and I’m now wishing I’d plumped for the paperback – as ever, only too late do I realise taking the E was a poor decision).

Anyway, Burroughs and Scotland is Chris Kelso’s non-fiction account of the short time beat gen grandaddy William S Burroughs spent in Scotland, having been invited to the Edinburgh Writer’s Conference in 1962, causing a huge furore among some of the more conservative-minded writers of the Scottish literary scene.

I honestly didn’t know Burroughs had ever come to Scotland. There’s something so odd about imagining him walking around Edinburgh that I had to order a copy. And if there’s a writer to do the subject justice, it’s Chris Kelso, an avid fan of Burroughs whose own fiction is influenced by the legend. Indeed, Kelso’s most recent book, The Dregs Trilogy, is a labyrinthine, genre-spanning, experimental masterpiece which often revels in transgression, absurdity, and the grotesque in a way Burroughs surely couldn’t help but appreciate.

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