The Yellow Wallpaper

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.” -Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

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If you’ve never read The Yellow Wallpaper, I’d rectify that immediately. IMO the most important turn of the century ghost story, right up there with Turn of the Screw.

It’s also semi-autobiographical. Charlotte Perkins Gilman legitimately almost went entirely mad during a period of postpartum psychosis. This was firmly exacerbated by the fact that during this period she was prevented from making art, from consuming art, from engaging in intellectualism ‘for her own good’.

The Yellow Wallpaper creeps into my mind again as we watch the world going mad around us. It is terrifying the things that those of us with power think is appropriate for others’ ‘own good’.

 

 

Descending from LIMBO

The TPB for LIMBO is out now in all good comic stores and bookshops. Obviously the best place to purchase it would be in your LCS, but if you can’t for whatever reason, it’s available on Amazon from here in the US, here in the UK, and digitally on Comixology here.

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The complete surreal neon-noir miniseries.

Welcome to Dedande City, where the line between biology and analogue technology becomes blurred and minor deities lie coiled in the reels of cassettes.

When a detective with no memory, no identity and no manners runs up against a powerful crime boss, reality itself begins to unravel and he starts to suspect that the  truths he’s been searching for may lie in the dark worlds of static just beyond the glow of the television screen.

We launched the book in both Dublin and  London on June 1st and 4th, and both launches were fantastic- Big Bang Comics were absolutely astounding hosts, so a big thanks to all those guys and to Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire for being pretty much the best and most welcoming people.

Back on home turf, Orbital Comics allowed us to record a running commentary of the entire LIMBO TPB, which was exceptionally masochistic of them, and if you too would like to suffer you can listen to that over on Multiversity.

This has been  a longer post of self-promotion than I’m normally comfortable doing, and it’s all stuff I should probably have posted over the last month, but I’ve been somewhat busy watching the UK fall apart around us and cracking on with that evermore due dissertation- and working on a new comics project, which may itself have quite a bit to do with said dissertation. With all that said, I return to my Nietzsche cave, and leave you with this fantastic piece of LIMBO fanart from Cryoclaire. Claire draws Drugs and Wires, a cyberpunk webcomic that you should absolutely be reading:

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FCBD…

… was like 2 weeks ago and we did a thing that I really should have updated about then, but I didn’t and here we are.

So yes, Caspar and I were flattered to be invited to take place in the Image Comics signing at Gosh! London alongside Kieron Gillen and Christian Ward, to minnow along beside mighty whales of the industry.

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In all seriousness it was a great time, so thanks very much if you popped along. We signed some books, made some new friends, and then got phenomenally drunk to the extent that none of us are utterly convinced that Ryan didn’t accidentally sweet talk a bouncer into letting us crash a wedding reception, where Kieron presented everyone with a laminated picture of his own face and JAM started what was by all accounts a resoundingly successful macarena. Life really is quite good sometimes.

I would elaborate further, but am currently working on a New Project that I can’t wait to get back to. We’ll be signing the TPB of LIMBO on June 4th at Orbital Comics (comic store sluts that we are) and there’ll be a commentary on the trade and then copious amounts of alcohol I’m sure to follow.

It’d be lovely to see you there.

Till then, take care.

Letter writing: the lost art of spectral time travel

I’ve been reading Franz Kafka’s letters. We don’t really write letters anymore.

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I can only speak for myself, but my communication with any given individual is highly fragmented, a kaleidoscope of Twitter DMs, Whatsapp messages, email, texts and phone calls.

If anyone tried to piece together my correspondence it would be nigh on impossible. (Not that anyone would out of any literary interest as they have for Kafka, though possibly more likely in a let’s-work-out-what-finally-sent-the-bastard-over-the-edge-and-why-he-was-found-on-the-M25-pelting-cars-with-offal-screaming-about-the-end-of-all-things kind of way.)

The other thing that’s changed, of course, is that modern communication is instantaneous. On FB messenger a conversation happens live and I can hurl insults, primarily at Ryan O’Sullivan, in real time (though digital offal-pelting capabilities have yet to be developed).

Kafka wrote his letters, on the other hand, to ghosts.

“The easy possibility of letter-writing must — seen merely theoretically — have brought into the world a terrible disintegration of souls. It is, in fact, an intercourse with ghosts, and not only with the ghost of the recipient, but also with one’s own ghost which develops between the lines of the letter one is writing and even more so in a series of letters where one corroborates the other and can refer to it as a witness. How on earth did anyone get the idea that people could communicate by letter! Of a distant person one can think, and of a person who is near one can catch hold — all else goes beyond human strength. Writing letters, however, means to denude oneself before the ghosts, something for which they greedily wait. Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts.” 

— Franz Kafka to Milena Jesenská

Were we an early 20th Century letter writer, our correspondence would take days, weeks or even months to be delivered. It would be written to someone who is nowhere nearby- someone not seen for an extended period of time. It would therefore be written to our past memory of the recipient’s past self. Their change would not have been documented for us by Instagram pics and Twitter feed updates. We may not know if their marital status has changed, never mind having them Snapchat us pictures of their lunch.

We would write that letter to our memory of the recipient, one that would only exist any more in our own memory. Since then they would have changed, even if we are not aware of it, even if only minutely.

This phenomenon isn’t entirely gone in my experience. A friend spent 9 months volunteering in Uganda a little while back, and would only touch a computer about once a month or so. In this case our letters became something like Kafka’s ghost letters (at one point I did send him a bona fide letter in a care package of vegan chocolate buttons and Zero Tolerance magazines). The fact remains, however, that delivery of those emails was instantaneous. If by fluke we found ourselves sat at computers at the same time the emails would fly back and forth, and so to me they still don’t feel hono5jun90like authentic ghost letters.

Gone is the uncertainty. Gone are the days of eagerly waiting weeks or months as a loved one’s letter oozed its way across land and sea, not guaranteed to even arrive, only to tear open the envelope to reveal a letter that has been sent by yet another temporal ghost, a figure that has morphed in ways that we can only speculate about since sending said letter.

As such, the sent letter became a form of spectral time travel, flinging one’s past self towards an unforeseen future to communicate with the yet-to-exist temporal versions of our loved ones that we knew (or bloody well hoped) resided there. The received letter then became a time capsule, opened to receive messages sent by ghosts of the past.

The simple rejection of this point of view would be to point out that all writing has, by very necessity, happened in the past. That if you are reading this, it means that it has been written. In the past.

However, though this is an act of communication, this is not a letter. This is not a piece of disposable private correspondence, intended for a particular person, as a letter is. This piece is self-aware in the knowledge that it will be available to be read. A letter is not. My Whatsapp messages are not, they are personal, and I won’t be posting them on a blog. (That would be weird.)

Kafka’s letters were personal too at the time they were sent, but we’ve all decided, with probably a slightly dubious morality, that they should instead have the role of public documents. After they were opened and read by Milena or his father or whoever else they went under a form of (sigh…) metamorphosis (so sorry) and became a document of past time just like any other piece of writing, as opposed to a piece of living correspondence.

The point is that if Kafka wrote a letter  in anger, and then calmed down and regretted it before it arrived, the recipient would still open the letter to be confronted by a furious Franz. A ghost of his dissipated anger, trapped in paper. Not that this sounds particularly appealing, but it’s been interesting enough that I’ve been chewing it over for a while.

Of course, there’s so much equally interesting about the spasmodic split-narrative chaos of the multi-channeled cut-up that is modern correspondence, and the speed that it’s evolving is something we can only marvel at (I’m sure they’re working on developing those digital offal throwing capabilities as I type).

But I’ll still admit to being very slightly jealous that I’ll never catapult myself into the future as a time ghost.

Picking up the pen again…

Been conspicuously absent I know, the last few weeks has been something of a mad flurry, particularly this last week which has seemed to involve a different comics-ish event every evening, draining me thoroughly of time, finances and energy.

Though it’s all been a joy, of course. Comics is full of wonderful people and, since the industry has collapsed into some sort of Kafkaesque nightmare of systematic nastiness trickling down from on high as the average Twitter feed this week has been testament to, it’s been nice to remind myself of that.

Speaking of people in comics being great, some of them have said some very nice things about LIMBO, which we’ve been showing off like this:

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This industry is a bloody hustle, so it really means a lot when people are rallying behind you.

The TPB for the book drops on June 1st, so just over a month away, and in the meantime I’ve been working on a bunch of new projects, hopefully at least one of which should be announced very soon. Well. Very soonish. Really I have no idea.

I’ve also been noodling with a prose piece, currently titled Caliban, based around that most interesting of the Bard’s antagonists. I’m really enjoying playing with it, though I’m not totally sure what it is yet, as it seems to be twisting itself into some sort of linguistic exercise. Perhaps it’ll eventually distill into a novella. Toying with the idea of posting some of that up here, but we’ll see.

Right, off to do some work.

Or hide under the desk and rock back and forth.

Either or.