The Founder Effect – no. 21

21.

 

Fingers flailing wildly for effect, I say, And so, and so, and so Churchill tells them, “Now that is precisely the sort of thing up with which I will not put.”

Raat! Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Chimpy’s nostrils spray a clumsy spritz of Moscow mule. Five sequential spouts ejaculate from the geoduck shelter. Naomi booms loudly enough to vibraslide Chimpy’s chalice off the coffee table, which he dives for to no avail. A lightbulb pops and crumbles in another room.

But of the mess I couldn’t care less. Today I turned 21 and I am having the time of my life. For breakfast, Chimpy prepared me a Yoshoku omurice made with silkie chicken and Electra performed a flawless rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mister President.” We have indulged in Dionysian pleasures since.

Mittgrabbing my tankard, I step over Gambino and Lucchese, stumble on a pile of pointed words and phrases that haven’t yet fully evaporated, and make my way to the loo. There are four trash bags crammed taut with crumpled paper lined up against the wall. The dolphins cost me half a closet of mail.

Before the porcelain god, I relieve myself. Hence my mind returns to Antonia, my leitmotif. There are certain facts about her. She has an aura that stimulates all five senses. If intuition is a sixth sense, then all six senses; if emotion a seventh, seven. I am confident it’s probably there on all the undetectable wavelengths, too. She is desirable and charming and I am charmed by and desire her. Calm is the key of her register, which is so constant it gives me doubtspook. While I admit that Antonia’s stigmata have become an unhealthy obsession—we are watching The Passion of the Christ tonight and I have moved the flat screen so that even Beethoven can join us—I am sure she is guilty of something. I always pick up that whiff of fear hormone whenever the animals engage her. My faith is in the universe, and I suspect she might be a protected witness, if not a repeat offender, if not a notorious felon, in the court of natural law.

Last night in the dark as I stared at the ceiling waiting to turn 21, I contemplated all of the things Antonia might really be. The Frenchman’s minions had delivered my new pod of dolphins and crates of Greenland herring stuffed to the gills with roe; this excitement fresh on the mind, for some reason my thoughts hopscotched all the way to the topic of the lost kingdom of Atlantis. Plato wrote in the Critias that ‘Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman.’ What is going on here and now with Antonia feels like the opposite—it is I who is the mortal, she the deity, this menagerie our adopted children. Maybe she is a resurrection from a dead religion of a bygone world like Atlantis, for they, too, had their gods, no doubt. But perhaps she is something else. Perhaps she is the embodiment of a natural miracle: neither the incarnation nor the product of a knowing god but an issuance of matter (not spirit) that is perfect, or in some other obscure or oblique sense divine. That is to say, a holy thing. A wordless scripture. A solid æther.

 

Chimpy has lined up six yabbies on the coffee table, all six balancing perfectly still on their heads, his newest parlor trick. (Toast, out like a light, he signs.) I refill my tankard from the pony keg in the kitchen. Electra is lying on her back on the floor, playing dead for laughs, tongue dangling from her beak, one rigid talon twitching like a cartoon. Eve sniffs Electra with fearful concern.

She’s just kidding, I tell Eve.

Eve looks up into my eyes. Her tail comes to life.

Let’s take a walk, girl. I let her lick my hand.

 

The hallway outside my flat noisechurns with the sweet stink of petrol. Eve is by my side as we enter the unhinged doorway of no. 9.

The grindblast is coming from the heavy rotating saw that Antonia is guiding along a straight path in the floor. She is spraying the blade with a water hose. Scores of floorboards lean vertically up against a wall in tidy lines. Beside them is an equally measured stack of concrete slabs.

She stops the saw, pulls up another plank, adds it to the rest. She turns to me and Eve and smiles. She takes off her protective goggles.

Dozen it look hood?

It looks fantastic, I reply.

She gestures behind her.

Half the room’s floor is gone. About a meter down into the flat below I see a liquid surface tremble and ripple. The entire second floor of the building is nearly full with water, to contain the pod of dolphins. Vents such as this one will allow them to surface, breathe, and talk.

Do you think it’s full downstairs yet? I ask.

Antonia removes her gloves. Maybe buy tonight.

Eve dips her snout down into the floor, sniffs at the waves. Her ears stiffen.

¡Ya vienen!

I’m sorry, what?

A sharp, throaty mist erupts from the water, followed by another and another. Waves clap on the surface.

One dolphin raises its head completely in the air, bares teeth and tongue, and sings, Tktktktk ckckckckck ananananana ayuayuayu!

Others follow suit, with varying degrees of interest and intent. Tktktktktktk. Ckckckckckckckck! Kekekekekekekekeaaaaahhnaaapei.

I respond, I’m glad you find everything comfortable. Help yourself to some herring if you haven’t already. They’re spawning. Tkatkatkatkatka.

Antonia gasps. ¡Vaya, Raymundo! That so good!

I hadn’t realized I responded in clicks. It just came out of me.

Eve spinshakes from neck to tail to dry herself. She is grinning with open mouth.

I suddenly remember our other task, what I really intended for us to do.

No. 21, “H. Blindeth” (or so it says on his mail).

My tankard is empty again. I need a refill.

 

When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who are the police gonna call? The Office of the Witchfinder General.

Dealing with supernatural threats to Her Majesty’s realm is the purview of HM OWG. You would be surprised to know how many operatives they have throughout the UK. The Eye Collectors is the story of one perfidious case from the Cardiff office.

DARTFORD, KENT – 04 September 2020 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is delighted to announce the publication of The Eye Collectors by Simon Kewin. Subtitled A story of Her Majesty’s Office of the Witchfinder General, protecting the public from the unnatural since 1645, it is genre-defying, being at once a contemporary urban fantasy, a chilling paranormal thriller, a gritty police-procedural mystery, and a witty satire on the barriers to diversity in modern society… set largely in Cardiff.

Cover design: Alison Buck

When Danesh Shahzan gets called to a crime scene, it’s usually because the police suspect not just foul play but unnatural forces at play. Danesh is an Acolyte in Her Majesty’s Office of the Witchfinder General, a shadowy arm of the British government fighting supernatural threats to the realm. This time, he’s been called in by Detective Inspector Nikola Zubrasky to investigate a murder in Cardiff. The victim had been placed inside a runic circle and their eyes carefully removed from their head. Danesh soon confirms that magical forces are at work. Concerned that there may be more victims to come, he and DI Zubrasky establish a wary collaboration as they each pursue the investigation within the constraints of their respective organisations. Soon Danesh learns that there may be much wider implications to what is taking place and that somehow he has an unexpected connection. He also realises something about himself that he can never admit to the people with whom he works…

An early reader described The Eye Collectors as “Dirk Gently meets Good Omens!”

The Eye Collectors is available now in eBook format and will be available in paperback from 16th November 2020.

Notes for Editors

About Simon Kewin

Simon Kewin is a pseudonym used by an infinite number of monkeys who operate from a secret location deep in the English countryside. Every now and then they produce a manuscript that reads as a complete novel with a beginning, a middle and an end. Sometimes even in that order.

The Simon Kewin persona devised by the monkeys was born on the misty Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea, at around the time The Beatles were twisting and shouting. He moved to the UK as a teenager, where he still resides. He is the author of over a hundred published short stories and poems, as well as a growing number of novels. In addition to fiction, he also writes computer software. The key thing, he finds, is not to get the two mixed up. He has a first class honours degree in English Literature, is married, and has two daughters.

Visit bit.ly/TheEyeCollectors

 

Reading from As Ants to the Gods by Alex Burcher

Cover artwork: Alison Buck

As we aren’t able to have any sort of book launch event for As Ants to the Gods, the author Alex Burcher has recorded himself reading an extract. It’s now available on our YouTube channel.

http://bit.ly/AsAntsToTheGods-YouTube

Is the sacrifice of one man, and his family, justified in order to save humanity?

Alternate history, As Ants to the Gods, challenges some orthodoxies and assumptions of Western culture. For adults only, certainly not the faint-hearted or easily shocked, it is a ribald and irreverent exploration of a world that could have been.

DARTFORD, KENT – 21 August 2020 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is delighted to announce the publication of As Ants to the Gods, alternate history adventure by Alex Burcher.

Cover artwork: Alison Buck

Five years after the Great Fire of Lundun, ex-dragoon Laqua is lured by an ex-comrade-in-arms into helping the Keepers of the Light, a covert band fighting the equally clandestine Cult of the Death of Hope. The Cult intends to bring down the empire of the Moors and, indeed, all civilisation. An empire that has conquered most of Europe, where the language is Arabic and the flag of the falcate moon flies. Where alcohol is banned and hashish legal, prison is unknown and punishment is by whip, knife or hook. A world in which the Industrial Revolution is already well advanced and steam engines chug. Where the Norse have settled the New World first. In Lundun, capital of the Tin Isles, the largest mosque looms over St Paul’s Cathedral. And Samuel Peppin has given up his diaries to write bawdy poems.

Vital to defeating the Cult is an ancient secret Scroll, the final chapter of the sacred Script, its authenticity assured by its Seal. While the Cult would destroy it, the Keepers intend its dissemination to all. But, until they have the means to do so, Laqua is entrusted with its safekeeping. He falls in with a dour eunuch, a functionary of the Court of the Amir in Qurtuba, and a perfidious, possibly drug-addled, heretic. And what part might a libidinous Norsewoman play? Ahead of him lie spying, fighting, loving, torture and tragedy … and the discovery of a hideous truth.

As Ants to the Gods is now available in both eBook format and paperback, from good retailers or the publisher.

Notes for Editors

About Alex Burcher

Alex Burcher is a health-care professional with a predilection for skiing, cycling, swimming, rock music (think the Black Crowes and the Duhks), red wine and Calvados, and trying to learn the saxophone and piano. Alex has written technical articles for professional journals but is now venturing into fiction.

His deployment of anatomical knowledge in his writing has sometimes to be restrained. He loves words and believes that vocabulary should not be confined to the familiar, that nearly all are worth preserving and enjoying. Alex does not see why a book cannot be both exciting and well-written. Writers he admires include Phillip Roth, Robert Harris, Michael Chabon, Keith Roberts, Margaret Attwood, Harlan Ellison and many others too obscure to mention.

 

Visit bit.ly/AsAntsToTheGods

The Founder Effect – no. 20

20.

 

I light another cigarette, toss the match into the ashtray, and resume pacing around the room.

I ask, Is this what you meant when you said what you said to me that day in the pet shop?

“Don’t be so specific, man.”

Please. That time when Antonia and I were walking together.

Raat! Two peas in a pod.

Exactly. Is this what you meant? The superstitions, the followings? Beethoven said she is a goddess.

“…I knowww all there is to knowww about the crying gaaame…”

What do you mean?

Raat! Cut it off.

Cut what off?

“It’s not my fault.” “God made me this way.”

Electra, please. You’re mixed up. That’s not what I mean. I could plainly see under the black light that her hands bear the signs of stigmata.

Raat! “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

Well, that’s more in the right direction. But will you tell me: is that what you meant?

She’s no more a goddess than I am.

So that is not what you meant?

“Welllll, I do an’ I don’t.”

I ash my cigarette. I plead, Electra, I need to know.

Everything goes red.

Sheis th eMessi ah.

From behind a cloud of silt and ink, Beethoven unfurls a single tentacle, a limb as thick and twice as long as my own arm. Its suckers smush against the transparent boundary, warp and flatten, silent. They look just like the eyeless faces of burning, screaming souls.

The red ends.

 

I can hear my father now: Sinjoro devas marŝi, ne kuri. ‘A gentleman should walk, not run.’ But I wouldn’t expect him to understand my urgency.

I am out of breath when I top the stairs and enter the doors of the Kant-Gump Lane Branch of the Public Library. Behind me, amongst the tourists in the street surrounding the statue of our city’s founder, two women—one shouting, the other sobbing—are pointing and gesturing at me while being restrained by police officers in black uniforms.

Under the light of stained glass and chandeliers, amidst the smells of paper and stone, I get to the books I need: leatherbound, brittle pages. In 1224, two years before his death, St. Francis of Assisi manifested stigmata of the Christ, the first known instance of such a thing ever reported. Without cause, he bled from hands and feet as well as from his rib, where Jesus was speared on the cross. St. Bonaventure’s Major Legend (1266) records an anecdote about a portrait of St. Francis that temporarily displayed stigmata right before the eyes of the painting’s matron and a fellow witness, the marks becoming visible only when the two contemplated the miracle and vanishing from view just as swiftly. Nothing I read convinces me that the resultant stigmata tradition is anything more than a few hundred hoaxes exploiting superstition, but I cannot deny what I saw on Antonia’s hands under the black light in the bug suite.

A true stigmatic manifests all five wounds: both hands, both feet, and the flank of the torso. Outside the library, I stop to light a cigarette. A man with a shaven head wearing an orange toga and sandals kneels a few feet from me, his lips moving in prayer.

 

Everything turns red.

Imea nsh eis theM essiah.

I light another cigarette. I ask, Yes but what does that actually mean? Why does she have Christian stigmata on her? Of all things?

S he is the thirdr evela tion.

Fine, but why not the Sixth Sun or Shiva or Shangó?

Shebea rs thewounds ofcruxi ficti on. Ripp edf rom thec ross, handsa ndf eetsplit, and shehas heal ed andi srebo rn.

I think, I have no god. Or, at best, if I do, it’s the invisible hand. But not a thing worthy of worship. By no means.

An tonia is theo pposite ofyou.

The red ends.

 

In a brass Art Nouveau birdcage at the top of an eye-high pedestal, my new pride and joy snares and swallows yet another weevil.

She is magnificent, I say.

Antonia hugs my arm, leans her temple on my shoulder. On cheese prom México! Electra wheel loaf her.

I’m sure she will.

Antonia sighs, squeezes me tighter. A welcome gesture of sincere affection.

And yet my skin crawls. Ripped from the cross as Beethoven said. I think, For what crime was she punished? What heresy?

Antonia is the opposite of you. If so, I wonder: What is it she lacks?

I hear boots; the Frenchman appears. Stetson hat, bolo tie, velvet brocade on a gunfighter blazer.

Howdy patron, he says. Il dit que le camion livrera les dauphins demain soir.

I ask, Will the shipment include the herring?

He claps me on the back. Oui, bien sûr. Ils auront besoin d’accéder à l’ascenseur de service.

I’ll be sure to meet them when they arrive.

D’accord.

We shake hands.

Avoiding him, Antonia walks down an aisle, each animal in a cage or tank clamoring as she passes.

 

I unlock the door to my flat to find Rascal eating the remains of a pillow cushion. Goose down floats in the air like snowflakes, drifts of it piled against the walls. The cedar ribs of the sofa’s carcass horrorsplay from under torn fabric. What’s worse, Eve is balled in a corner where she never sits. She is licking in her groin what is an obvious wound. Neither Eve nor Rascal pay me any mind when I enter with the birdcage.

Raat! Who’s the fox?

She is your new companion, Electra. A Socorro mockingbird. From the Revillagigedo Islands.

Raat! Can we name her Elvis?

Of course we can.

The good news is the Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaeles in no. 20 moved out. They leave a letter they drop through the mail slot. I don’t have to open it and see that it is in fact from them to know so. Chimpy tosses it in with the rest in the now second mail closet (which is already near knee high).

Now all I need is no. 21.

 

“ancient magicks and daemons play out against the heat of a desert” – Review of Thorns of a Black Rose on BFS website

Cover design by PR Pope

On the British Fantasy Society website, Elloise Hopkins has reviewed Thorns of a Black Rose by David Craig. After an outline of the plot, Elloise introduces the two main characters, Tamira and Shukara, characters that are “easily likeable to the reader”. She adds that David Craig presents “well-rounded, believable heroines alongside worldbuilding richly woven with influences from North Africa and ancient history”. She compliments the pace of the story and says that at the end there is a satisfying completion while “tantalisingly” leaving scope for further adventures – which she says would be very welcome. In conclusion she says that Thorns of a Black Rose is a “modern young adult story with its roots very firmly in traditional fantasy”.

You can read the full review on the BFS website here.

 

“a highly enjoyable tale” – review by Jill-Elizabeth of Working Weekend

Cover by Alison and Sofia Buck

On her blog, Jill-Elizabeth has reviewed Working Weekend by Penelope Hill, which she describes as “an original spin on common supernatural themes, offered with a generous dose of humor and a peek behind the curtain at authors, writing, fandom, and the magic that is themed conventions”. She adds that it’s “snarky and funny and just the right amount of dark”. She says that it built a “nice tension” that kept her turning pages, and the characters were a good blend of personalities that “intermingled tropes and originality in a way I thought perfect”. She says that the ending left her cautiously optimistic that we might get to join Marcus in further adventures (take note Penelope!).

You can read the full review on Jill-Elizabeth’s blog here (it’s on Goodreads too).

 

Lord of the Hunt – The Glasgow book launch we couldn’t hold

Cover design and artwork by Alison Buck

We should have been sitting in a nice room in Glasgow at the Satellite 7 convention, about to listen to David Craig talk about and read from his latest novel Lord of the Hunt, the second book in his Sooty feathers series.

But thanks to COVID-19 we’re still here in Kent, David is in Glasgow (because that’s where he lives) and Satellite 7 has been postponed until next February.

But, hopefully, everyone who should also have been in Glasgow today for the convention would still like to hear about David’s book and hear a reading from it.

David used his permitted daily exercise to walk to one of the locations used in the story, which is not far from his home, as a backdrop to his reading. We hope you enjoy it.

You can watch the video on our YouTube channel here

“teasing out the truth is what makes these stories so incredible” – Review of Lord of the Hunt by Jill-Elizabeth

Cover design and artwork by Alison Buck

On her blog Jill-Eliabeth has reviewed Lord of the Hunt by David Craig, the second book in the Sooty Feathers series. As she loved the first book, Resurrection Men (read about her review of that here), it is perhaps unsurprising that she also enjoyed this latest book. In her review she apologises for not having too much specific to say about the story as she doesn’t want to undermine the plot twists or introduce any spoilers.

She says that David Craig is a dab hand at “setting up expectations, only to knock them down like nine-pins” but without “ever generating an eye roll or sense of irritation”. She likes the fact that he doesn’t throw in red herrings to drive tension up artificially, his “misdirections and layered revelations are much more delicate and well-crafted than that and each one feels like an organic and utterly necessary part of the whole.”

Her conclusion is that Lord of the Hunt is entirely enjoyable and definitely worth reading (and if you haven’t already read Resurrection Men, which she describes as also excellent, she says “I definitely recommend reading these in order”). You can read the full review on her blog here (it’s also on Goodreads).