Tuesday, December 01, 2020

A Voyage to Arcturus and Beyond: David Lindsay's Visionary Imagination 9 December 2020


This year marks the centenary of the publication of the extraordinary metaphysical fantasy novel A Voyage to Arcturus, the first book by the relatively neglected Scottish author David Lindsay (1876-1945). The novel counts Philip Pullman, C. S. Lewis, Alan Moore and Nina Allan among its admirers.

To celebrate the centenary of this extraordinary book, I am helping organise an event that will take place on 9 December via the website of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, on Zoom. This will run from 1300-1800 (UK time), and will feature presentations on not just A Voyage to Arcturus, but also Lindsay's other novels, The Haunted WomanThe Violet AppleDevil's Tor, and The Witch. Composer David Power will talk about writing Lindsay-inspired music, and I will be showing a preview of the film I have made about Lindsay's work. 

Tickets are available on a pay-what-you-like basis. More info and tickets here.

Pictured: the first copy of A Voyage to Arcturus I ever bought, the 1986 Allison & Busby edition. Now starting to fall apart... One of the better cover designs, showing John Brett's The Glacier of Rosenlaui, but it uses the 1963 copyedited text, prepared for the book's first U.S. publication. If you want to get a copy of the book, the new Bookship edition is possibly the most textually accurate. You can get it as a FREE EBOOK, or as a NICE HARDBACK - both available here.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Fighting fire with fire: the Freewrite Traveler

There is an old saying, that fire is a good servant, but a bad master. The same can be said of technology. My iPhone is a good example: I love it because I can shoot lots of video on it, and take thousands of photographs. I can use it for voice memos when I want to dictate an idea. I can check emails and texts. I can pay for things. I can buy tickets for plane, train, book places to stay when travelling. I can even call my Mum.

But it has a downside. Namely: notifications, and the addictive nature of the damn thing. I now have app limits set, and try to avoid checking my email every five minutes. You can get into this weird fugue state where you expect it - for some unknown reason - to be the bearer of absurd good news. And picking it up again and again throughout the day does not bring any such news, only takes you more and more out of yourself; away from the matter at hand.

I am now opting to fight fire with fire: I have a new piece of kit to write with. A small, very lightweight word processor called a Freewrite Traveler. Yes, that’s right  - a word processor. All you can do on it is write, and then sync with the cloud (or you can email draft). I haven’t written on a word processor in twenty years. But since it arrived yesterday, I have found myself drawn to it, and words have come easily.

I am pleasantly surprised. The keyboard and e-ink screen are nice, although I almost wish the screen was backlit. This is not a problem, though: I just work at a desk with an angle poise light, or sit near the window. There is a slight lag between typing and the words appearing on screen. This is not a problem either. It can also sometimes appear to freeze, but I think that is more a case of my wifi being very slow, and the Traveler attempting to sync with Dropbox. This is not a problem either.

In fact, these are small prices to pay for the joy of having no distractions. I’m so tired of email, of trivia, of 'some useless information/supposed to fire my imagination' to quote Messrs Jagger and Richards, even of online petitions (although I think it is important to sign them - we are at war with capitalism, consumerism, materialism, patriarchy). 

There comes a time when you have to close your door, and let your own words come. With the aid of the Freewrite Travler, I find that words are indeed coming, that something has been released. The odd thing about the Traveler is that it makes me want to write. And I am not going to question that.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Two events to celebrate David Lindsay & A Voyage to Arcturus


This year - 16th September, to be exact - marks the centenary of the publication of the extraordinary metaphysical fantasy novel A Voyage to Arcturus, the first book by the relatively neglected Scottish author David Lindsay (1876-1945)

Two online events are coming up to celebrate Lindsay's work. The first takes place on 19th November, organised by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. This will feature author Nina Allen, and scholars Douglas A. Anderson and Professor Robert Davis. The event runs on Zoom from 1800-1930 (UK time). More info and tickets can be found here.

The second event, which I am helping to organise, will take place on 9 December via the website of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. This will run from 1300-1800, and will feature presentations on not just A Voyage to Arcturus, but also Lindsay's other novels, The Haunted Woman, The Violet Apple, Devil's Tor, and The Witch. Composer David Power will talk about writing Lindsay-inspired music, and I will be showing a preview of the film I have made about Lindsay's work. More info and tickets can be found here.

Photo: David Lindsay, c. 1914. Courtesy of the Estate of David Lindsay.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Bridport Shortlist


In a bit of poetry news, my poem 'The Silence in the Hall' was Shortlisted for this year's Bridport Prize.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Gambit (short story, flash fiction)


Here's a piece of flash fiction for you. It's about Edinburgh, psychogeography, chess, and a few other things.


Brian intended to turn into Wendy at the Camera Obscura at noon. Leaving the pawn shop, the old trouble returned: after two blocks he compulsively veered off at the next left. Then he jaywalked diagonally across Holy Corner, nearly colliding with a churchman in full robes.

The shadow of a great black bird fell across him. Brian knew evasive moves were called for, but the Castle now loomed ahead, blocking his path.

He was trapped. His only option was to knock over a Greene King. Taking a deep breath, he made a beeline for the bar at the World’s End.

© Seán Martin 2020

Sunday, September 13, 2020

'Certain Events in Blackburn, Lancashire, 1967' shortlisted at Wells


My poem 'Certain Events in Blackburn, Lancashire, 1967' has been shortlisted for the Wells Festival of Literature's Poetry Competition. This year's judge is Sean Borodale. Prizes are announced on 22nd October. I'm hoping to attend the prize-giving ceremony - Johnson be damned - as Wells is a great place. A magical part of the world. And, of course, it's a great festival!

Friday, September 11, 2020

'Variations on a Theme from Isaac Holland' receives Notable Mention in Poetry London Competition

My poem 'Variations on a Theme from Isaac Holland' has received a 'Notable Mention' in the 2020 Poetry London Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky: https://poetrylondon.co.uk/competition/

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Robert Bird 1969-2020

Robert Bird, who wrote a two books on Tarkovsky, and who I had the pleasure of meeting at the 2013 Zerkalo Tarkovsky conference in Ivanovo, Russia, has just died. He was only 50. A very sad loss.

Here is Robert's last essay, detailing Tarkovsky's last year, and his thoughts on his own - and Tarkovsky's - cancer.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Marching Season

Marching Season

He had no truck with the Billy Boys, my dad.
When cameras cut to Drumcree
and the crowds on Garvaghy Road,
he would leave the room, ignoring 

the brass band pomp and TV holler,
hectoring preachers and speech of fury.

He escaped at twenty, but was drawn back

at sixty-five. We went over, me and him.

I was given a new first name.

‘I might have to call you John,’
he said, as we called on distant kin.

Small talk disturbed a living room

in the shade of the shipyard.

Pleasantries strained, an old boy 

waving his cane: ‘Is he Catholic, your son?’ 
My father would not be drawn 

on his son’s Fenian name. 

He didn’t give two figs for the Orange 

or the Boyne. Let the bloodied hand 

of Uí Néill glad-hand the parasites. 

He had no time for the Twelfth
and left this world on the eleventh

as if to make a point, I’ve always thought, 

to sneak the last word.

© Seán Martin 2020

Monday, June 08, 2020

Blues for James Whitney at Experiments in Cinema, 1-22 June 2020

A film-related post, for want of any literary news. My new film, Blues for James Whitney, screens at this year's Experiments in Cinema. This festival, usually held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this year is online for obvious reasons. The films are screening 1-22 June, and are FREE TO WATCH.

My film is part of a programme called Anxiety and Invocation: Artists' Films from Scotland, and is curated by Richard Ashrowan. The programme also includes new work by Rachel McLean, Duncan Marquiss, Alex Hetherington and others. It's an honour to be part of such a line-up!

You can see the programme here. Select 'Experiment 13'. My film starts just before 30.00, but please watch the whole programme if you can.

Here is some more info about the film:

After completing the series Film Exercises in 1944 - made in collaboration with his brother John - James Whitney (1921-1982) renounced everything but the dot. This radical shift reflected James's interest in Eastern philosophy, where the dot can be interpreted as the fixed point of attention in the meditator's mind (among other things). This new approach to filmmaking resulted in his landmark 1957 film Yantra. Blues for James Whitney is made in response, both as a tribute, and an investigation. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

'The Silence in the Hall' shortlisted for 2020 Fish Poetry Prize

My poem 'The Silence in the Hall' has been shortlisted for the 2020 Fish Poetry Prize. Two other pieces, 'Alderwood' and 'Ghost House', made the longlist. The judge was former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. For more about Fish Publishing and to buy their poetry anthologies, go here.