My Six Novellas from AGRA ASKA

ladies

AGRA ASKA written 1984 and published by Scorpion Press in 1998, self-republished in 2010

STROLLERS self-published on-line around 1999, self-republished in a 2010 book also containing ‘Ladies’

LADIES written in early 1990s, published by Garry Nurrish in an edition limited to one copy in 1999 (now possibly seen by me in hindsight today as having a vague sororal connection with ‘The Warriors of Love’ duodecology of novels.)

WEIRDTONGUE drafted on-line in 2007, published by The InkerMen Press in 2010, self-republished in 2014

YESTERFANG & THE APOCRYFAN drafted on-line around 2008, both published by The InkerMenPress in ‘The Last Balcony’ collection in 2012, self-republished in 2014

I intend to re-read these and reflect upon them in the comment stream below…

17 thoughts on “My Six Novellas from AGRA ASKA

  1. Simon Bestwick was involved with Scorpion Press when it published Agra Aska in 1998. DP Watt was the proprietor of The InkerMen Press. I have lost contact with Garry Nurrish who designed my current Facebook avatar as part of the design of the Weirdmonger Book (Prime Books 2003). Chomu Press published my novel ‘Nemonymous Night’ (2011) and also published ‘Jane’ (2013), the first of PF Jeffery’s ‘Warriors of Love’ duodecology of novels.

  2. Firstly, I shall start with the first substantial work of fiction I ever wrote (in 1984), having a big influence on the DF Lewis material that followed it…


    AGRA ASKA
    In the Scorpion Press version that I am currently re-reading, there are introductions by Rhys Hughes, Simon Clark, Paul Pinn, Tim Lebbon and Allen Ashley. The republished version (its cover shown alongside) does not contain these introductions.

    ONE – JOHN
    With’ring away, distincter & distincter

    “…the war was essentially a fantasy over the hills and far away. I visualised, in my own crazy way, how toy soldiers were grouped into strange armies fighting evil dragons.”
    Schooldays for the first person narrator John Bello and his friend David Binns, with a background of some alternate world and alternate war (alternate to us, if not for them). And a concept of musical ‘Unheard Keys’ that now seem related to my later ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ (that was used as the subtitle of the Weirdmonger book in 2003), and hence much later to my dreamcatching real-time reviews of books. And a Goddess called Estrella.
    I will not quote the opening lines of this novella. Rhys Hughes once publicly wrote: “What is really remarkable about the novella is not its sardonic wit, dark ethos, apocalyptic bombast, puckish surrealism or even its opening lines, the best opening lines of any fiction in the history of writing…”

  3. Till into narrow forms you creep
    “She knew she was beautiful. But Amy had one flaw too: and this flaw was not realising she had it.”
    Moulded to globes & arrowy edges
    “As debates were usually more significant in themselves than the subject-matter of the debate, so economy with the truth was a crime beyond all crimes.”
    We learn more about the school’s staff, a cruel ethos of conversation tuned by chamber music, a regrafting of marriage, the headmaster known as the Dictor and chief school governor called Chesterton, Out of Bounds sexualities, a retrocaused sense of a ‘Warriors of Love’ type of Goddess in invisible attendance, and the boys about to be taken to the city for re-baptism by the River. All clipped but textured. This novella has a flavour unconveyable by a commentary…
    I recall that the chapter headings that I’ve put in bold above are quotes from William Blake.

  4. At the awful gates of thy poor broken heart
    “…I did not register the klaxon that greeted the steaming steeds while they flopped to a halt between the frame of the Balsam Gate. / I recalled Robert’s insidious cruelty. He belonged to the moors; he should lope across them.”
    In whisper’d hymn and mumbling prayer
    “This Straddling Church was to be the site of our medicine and mending.”
    The flute of summer
    “David, I knew, was studying the secrecy of their bosoms and mentally exploring the interminable pleats of their skirts.”
    A ripe city atmosphere and slight tumescence… We learn more from the insidious narrative about characters and their ‘horror’ alternaties, as our two heroes are taken to be shriven by representatives of Lady Margaret, The Archer. Don’t forget this book was written in 1984. I feel I no longer have responsibility for it. Especially for its ‘Emerald’ Guides.

  5. TWO – JOAN
    Now put on all thy beauty

    “My closest companion was the dark; and, (I knew this was not conducive to the correct sort of upbringing that produces a lady), I cherished the embrace of the night and all the imaginary toys it contained.”
    Before secret shrines
    “There–hung by its toes. She’s as pristine as the day she was born.”
    The new viewpoint – direct and then imputed – is that of Joan Turner, whose school is in the war-troubled city itself, and we imagine a convergence of her shriving or re-baptism with John’s own visit here for his own shriving or re-baptism in the straddling church. A convergence, too, with Chesterton’s influence on their respective schools, city and country. Don’t forget this was written in 1984 when the men depicted were almost expected to soil things that should be kept clean…as we have now learnt many years later. The darkness of emotion and expectation is clipped as well as textured. Clumsy as well as smoothly done.
    We also learn of Joan’s brother Ervin. Please don’t forget that you heard about him here first.

  6. imageTHREE – JOHN & JOAN & ERVIN
    Pitying I saw

    “I was above the mist. I knew not, nor cared about, what was below.”
    That thou maist also repent
    “…but, it must be said, our re-baptism (our refresher course in bodily disentanglement) was a punishment indeed and (not surprisingly) we lay in the niches for some time, suffering poignant agony (particularly in the places where the surgeons had made a pig’s breakfast of our nether regions).”
    Eternity was darken’d
    “Therefore, he could see out of his eyes, but he could not see anything.”
    I winced, being where I am at today, when realising the nature of the shriving of these children or are they young adults by now? As explicit klaxons and sirens erupt – making this more like my later Klaxon City than Agraska – sirens alerting them to a fresh freak war raid, a raid that seems to be bombs like smuts swarming in and then back to their hive, after decimating the church and this part of the city, with the Goddess eyes above the mist.
    A sun, amid its own solar system, called Zeus. Ervin riven, too, amid his mixed-voice cronies….
    My re-reading makes me think this novella is the darkest thing I ever wrote?

  7. FOUR – THE DICTOR
    To augment the indefinite lust

    “But the insistent knocking … what bugged him most was that this knocking was not accompanied by a voice spelling out the reasons for the percussive intrusion. One would have normally expected shrill words of explanation punctuating the thumping.”
    By delusive arts impell’d
    “She felt the screaming of the attack at the base of her vitals and even tried to hum snatches of a song-cycle to take her mind off the screeching, appassioned culmination of death and damnation.”
    FIVE – JOHN
    Like dark roots

    “Joan and I often explored each other’s bodies for tell-tale signs of fresh parasites or mutant growths and this clinical, non-sexual activity took up a lot of our leisure time as we trekked hopefully towards the sea.”
    This post-holocaust scenario with its various dark conspiracies of characters and their bodies is unbearable to read or tell you about. Only reaching the Coast seems to present any sign of hope. I wrote this work deeply inland and I did eventually reach my own Coast.

  8. SIX – JOAN’s CHILDHOOD
    First begotten, last born

    “Fancy, emerging from death into life, via birth, only to be sucked dry of life itself at that very instant.”
    SEVEN – ERVIN
    Before their shrunken eyes

    “The horrible birth spider had webbed the caul over my face so tightly that I could hardly breathe nor see nor express myself to those who cared for me.”
    The orb of blood
    “The crisis about Alaska had been built up over quite a long period, starting with the now famous collision between two Russian passenger jets.”
    About an existence thought by Joan and by her brother cauled Ervin. Domestic details in a second alternity reminiscent of the world where the reader lives – but all alternaties of this book seem threaded through with the sound of a child’s flute. This work is more amateurishly clipped but more powerful than I remember it. Thirty years has made me no longer its author but its reader.
    A book of and by ‘planned anarchy’.

  9. EIGHT – NIAL HOPPER
    At night art folded up

    “It was Hopper who first told them that her real title was the Anarcher but, for manipulative reasons, the Archer title had prevailed.”
    NINE – JOHN BELLO?
    Into a narrow circle

    “…he was a back brain recluse, listening to Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schubert.”
    Sit obscured in the hollow scull!
    “He built a huge model of a gothic cathedral that straddled his bed-sitting room.”
    Ruined in his ruined world
    “And Alaska came to Suffolk. The orange blossom burst over Croydon and, seconds later, an even brighter orchid uncurled over Ipswich.”
    TEN – JOHN & JOAN & NIAL & ERVIN
    Arise, sweet boy

    “John was reminiscing on a variation and fugue that emanated from the Unheard Keys; a trail of point and counterpoint, that had to stay unspoken, unsung; but his brain burned with a passionate intensity.”
    Preminiscences of ‘Padgett Weggs’, my first published story in 1986, of its wooden contraption built over the bed. Religion and politics, international relations. This novella seems the first example of the Machiavellian Peripheral-Vision genre that I identified a few weeks ago. This novella, at one extreme, is inspired or, at another extreme, had the life taken out of it at birth.

  10. ELEVEN – ORWELL & THE WILSONS & CHESTERTON
    A golden moth

    “By the toes! String them by the toes!”
    TWELVE – JOHN & JOAN
    Between two moments bliss is ripe

    “Their inescapable involvement with conspiracy and anarchy at the whim of teachers and administrators had only inculcated vague details of the war’s implications.”
    The grasshopper that sings & laughs & drinks
    “Keep your eyes closed and shuffle back with me
    For the black bombs are surely coming in for tea.
    Keep you eyes closed and shuffle back with me
    Night is coming and death is at ten to three.”

    THIRTEEN – THE ORWELLS & THE WILSONS & CHESTERTON
    Pond’ring the intricate mazes

    “Bomb-drop may have been in the city, but its afterbirth reared its ugly head around Bridge House School and destroyed the pity that once shone out from young eyes.”
    The pity of it distilled into these pages , somehow, naively, as if a disembodied hand emerges from an ill-textured soup of mouthless creatures – to shake the reader’s hand…
    Unrequited love, unrequited history. Estrella rampant. The future-now foretold by me then.

  11. FOURTEEN – ERVIN
    Infinite London’s awful spires

    “She was fragile. Needed help; needed shelter; and Ervin arched his back like a bridge over the running river of her soul.”
    FIFTEEN – JOHN & JOAN
    Not so the Sick-one

    “…and button mushrooms were growing amid his pubic hair.”
    SIXTEEN – ERVIN
    And Jehovah was leprous

    “‘Come to me. Show me that you exist.’ / But God was too ill to come.”
    But the prayer itself is more important than the one who prays or the one to whom the prayer is prayed. This is central stuff, Ervin riven, under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral (a building that also appeared in that ‘Padgett Weggs’ story in 1986). And John and Joan continue to live in out of the ribbons of reality as they head toward hopeful requital. But recalling this book, nothing really calls back. But it does retain a visionary power today, at least for me, as the chapters now grow shorter and shorter…
    And switch the Angevin in ‘Nemonymous Night’ for Ambergris here.

  12. SEVENTEEN – ROBERT ORWELL
    Then on the verge

    “‘Did you notice the school buildings sort of shifting in their foundations? ‘Cos I did.’ / ‘No, sir.’ / ‘Well, boy, it’s peculiar, but the playground got bigger overnight.’ / ‘Did it, sir?'”
    EIGHTEEN – JOHN & JOAN
    An immense harden’d shadow

    “I remembered nothing but the present.”
    NINETEEN – EMILY ORWELL
    The Web is a Female in embrio

    “…she mindlessly tabbed photo after photo to the toes of each corpse boy.”
    TWENTY – ERVIN
    Obey the Dictate!
    “…the fingerposts of fresh memories, redrawn histories and recycled fates.”
    TWENTY-ONE – THE ARCHER
    “It was ten to three.”
    TWENTY-TWO – THE DICTOR
    It issues thro’ the dark

    “Nowhere–there is nowhere but here.”
    TWENTY-THREE – THE CHESTER
    “…she could not wind up his machine heart.”
    TWENTY-FOUR – DAVID
    “…for they knew they had crossed their own Bridge to Heaven.”
    It is seems significant that the last book I reviewed was one of Wynding machine hearts… And perhaps I should leave further reflection on this my own book and its Unheard Keys. Whether it still Wynds me or me it, it is surely something unique. But unique is not necessarily good. I shall leave each character to his or her own alternity of horror creature, except John and Joan who sound as if they should, like Peter and Jane or Janet and John, live only in reading-books.

    THE END

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