Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Lampooning Lampoons

The Lamblake Heinz spoof horror ebook now contains 50,000 words of fiction, poetry, novel extracts and musings. I want this collection to total at least 65,000 words, so it's not quite ready yet. But I feel confident it will appear before the end of June.

The charity to which all profits will be donated is Animal Aid. If the ebook makes more than £100 for them, there will be other spoof ebook collections to follow in other genres. One will be a collection of bad 'Romance' stories by Victoria Plum, or as she became known after her marriage to Dominic Job -- Victoria Plumjob.

While talking about 'lampoons' in a tone of reverence recently, I was overheard by the artist Chris Harrendence, who rejoined that a lampoon wasn't what most people thought it was, but a weapon used to hunt light-fittings. A blink of an eye later he produced this illustration to add force to his argument. And the fact that it's a lampoon of the actual concept 'lampoon' makes it even more convincing.

Chris has the endearing and constantly surprising habit of taking an offhand remark, going away for a few hours and returning with an illustration that captures the spirit of the concept better than the original remark did. I muttered something along the lines of, "Squinty the cyclops was short-sighted and had to wear a monocle; he was upset when the other cyclops kids called him, 'Two Eyes!'" and Chris came back not long afterwards with this excellent cartoon.

Publishers! Yes, you out there! Why not consider giving this fellow some paid work if you need a cover artist or interior illustrator? I have publishers all over the place, not only in Britain and the United States but in France, Russia, Italy, Spain, Portugal... Surely someone needs an artist? Harrendence's best work seems to combine the visionary irony of Edward Gorey, Gary Larson and Jože Tisnikar; and that can't be bad. And it isn't. In fact it's downright brilliant...

Friday, May 25, 2012


Lamblake and Metamaturity

Here are two of a series of possible covers for the forthcoming Lamblake Heinz collection. They are products of the imagination of the hugely talented artist Gonzalo Canedo. Publishers take note! I believe that Gonzalo has a bright future ahead of him as a book cover artist. So why not get in contact with him and offer him some paid work? Just a suggestion...

Talking about suggestions, the horror writer William Meikle made a remark to the effect that I ought to abandon my Lamblake Heinz spoof. It seems to have upset him a bit. Unfortunately, being upset isn't a logically strong enough objection to merit a cancellation of The Grin of the Doll Who Ate his Mother's Face in the Dark. Spoofs do upset people from time to time; but I suspect that few people are genuinely upset by anything I say or do. I imagine they are more likely to be tactically upset, which is quite a different matter. However, if anyone out there really does feel offended by this project, please let me know and I will consider your feelings. I'm not entirely an unfeeling and inconsiderate brute of a barbarian jokester!

A more reasonable and coherent objection to poor Lamblake was raised by the inestimable Gary Fry, one of the few intellectuals in the contemporary horror scene. He actually made an effort to provide an answer to the horror paradox I postulated a couple of posts ago, the paradox that I claimed was the fundamental basis for the creation of my spoof. I don’t fully accept his solution (that it’s not always immoral to horrify people, that sometimes scaring people has therapeutic value) but it is essential to take Gary Fry seriously at all times. He’s a good publisher, a superb writer and an even better human being.

He has, however, jumped to the conclusion that Lamblake Heinz is merely a cipher for Ramsey Campbell. Well, no, not really. The concept of ‘Lamblake Heinz’ is an assault on the fortress of horror itself, on the genre as a whole. A fun assault. A doomed assault (like pecking at a granite mountain with a beak made of cheese). I have no grudge against anyone in particular. That would be immature

Talking about immaturity reminds me: why do we always assume there are only two states of emotional development, namely (a) immature and  (b) mature? Why can’t there be a third stage beyond maturity? Let’s call this hypothetical emotional state ‘metamaturity’. Couldn’t it be the case that the traits of a metamature person might sometimes resemble those of an immature person and yet not be the same?

For instance, an immature person laughs at X slipping on a banana skin; he laughs because he is selfish, because he can’t empathise with the pain of X. A mature person refuses to laugh; he is silent to demonstrate that he takes no pleasure from the humiliation of X. But a metamature person might laugh, and laugh loudly, to express defiance at the cruelties of fate, to vocalise his solidarity with X against the whims of the universe. Clearly this laugh still sounds like an immature laugh, but is entirely different.

The next time you are tempted to call someone “immature”, stop and think for a moment. Are you quite sure they aren’t being metamature instead?

The star and writer of popular TV comedy show Gavin and Stacey is Ruth Jones. I went to school with Ruth Jones. In English lessons we were once compelled to give a talk on “any subject” we liked. I chose explosives. My practical demonstration in front of the class didn’t go entirely to plan and there was a minor detonation. Much of the sulphur dioxide that was produced was inhaled by the lungs of Ruth Jones. The classroom had to be evacuated. I don’t know if she has forgiven me yet, but I was pleased to chance upon this article she recently penned for the Reader’s Digest about growing up in Porthcawl, which includes a class photo from when we were all seven years old. I am on the far right (not politically) of the middle group. The girl next but one to me was my childhood sweetheart, though I can’t remember if I openly declared my affections or kept them quiet. We climbed tall gnarled trees together, one of the greatest delights of being alive!

But the important question remains. Is it immature to blow up a classroom?
Not necessarily. It might be metamature.
At worst, it's adultish.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Lamblake Heinz Revealed!

The Lamblake Heinz project proceeds apace. There is now an official author photo that can be released to the world. Here it is! Be warned that looking at it for too long is hazardous. As for those people who might say that Lamblake resembles me, I shrug off such suggestions with my dandruffy shoulders. Do I wear glasses and a hat? Manifestly I never do. Therefore he can’t be me!

Please visit, if you wish, Lamblake’s blog, where you will find the title story of his forthcoming collection for free, but only for a limited time! There is also a Facebook group dedicated to this legendary author.

As I predicted in my last post, there have been grumblings about this project. One fellow claimed that it was ‘self-important’ of me to poke fun at horror; he wondered how I would like to be lampooned myself? My answer is that I constantly lampoon myself and it feels fine so far. I’m a compulsive self-parodist. But if anyone out there would like to attempt a genuine lampoon of my work, by all means do so and email it to me; and if it has been done in good faith (by making fun of my many real faults) then I’ll include it in the collection. My email address for submissions is:

Indeed, feel free to send me any deliberately bad horror stories you might have written and maybe they’ll end up as sample products of Mr Heinz’s long career…

There should be a book cover soon. A reliable and talented artist has agreed to produce one. It is certain to be scary! And talking about scary… here’s an article I wrote recently on ‘What Scares Me’. So now my weak spots are no longer a secret!

More news (and any further grumblings) will be reported here in due course. Before I forget, allow me to state that ALL profits from sales of The Grin of the Doll Who Ate His Mother’s Face in the Dark will be going to charity. Not sure which charity yet, but I’ll decide very soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


By the Ironic Light of a Full Lampoon

I generally work on too many projects at the same time. I can't help it. A few days ago, against my better judgement, I started another new project, a spoof collection of horror stories by a fictional author named Lamblake Heinz. I plan to release an ebook in the near future featuring a selection of the 'best' of his work from the past fifty years. The title of this volume will be The Grin of the Doll Who Ate His Mother's Face in the Dark and Other Dreadful Tales. I don't plan to write all these fake stories myself because that would take too long, but I certainly intend to write some of them. Other writers have been invited to contribute and quite a few have responded enthusiastically to my request.

This book will be a lampoon, a parody, a piece of satire, a mockery, an ironic jape, a prank, a lark. As such, it falls into a very long venerable tradition that includes such luminaries as Aristophanes, Petronius, Juvenal, Rabelais, Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto is an absurdist parody of 15th Century Italian fantasias), Beckford, Anatole France, Maurice Richardson and too many others to list. All were divine buffoons of the lampoon. One of the greatest ironic parodists of all time was the poet and novelist and gloriously impulsive hothead Francisco de Quevedo (pictured) who mercilessly mocked the pretensions and behavioural quirks of his rivals and competitors. And why not? There is enough cosy symbiosis in the writing world already: the rapier of satire and cutlass of japery are sorely needed to puncture and slash our smugness, to keep us alert and truly alive, and, I would argue, free.

I expect grumbles and complaints about my project, of course. That's only natural. Already I have been warned that a certain demigod in the horror world doesn't 'really have a sense of humour about his own work'. But that's the entire point of my spoof -- it's a last ditch attempt to give that demigod one (a sense of humour, I mean!) and although I am bound to fail, I have no intention of reversing my intentions in this regard. Satire is my master; I work for it. I guess I can say that it's my calling. If anything, it could be argued that another spoof of horror isn't really needed, that Garth Marenghi and others have already said everything that needs to said on this score. Yes, I accept the validity of that objection; and yet I feel that I still need to get out of my own system a fundamental logical objection to the horror genre that runs as follows -- either (a) horror works and is morally wrong (because it horrifies people); or (b) it doesn't work and is thus aesthetically wrong (because it fails to achieve its stated aims).

What I don't accept and will never accept is that the art of the lampoon is invalid. On the contrary, it's a critically important artform, a high-level cultural endeavour; and paradoxically it can even precede the object or quality it spoofs (more on this paradox in a later blog post!)

Friday, May 11, 2012


Neutron Game

When I was younger, I was so fascinated by abstract strategy games such as chess, shogi, xiangqi, go, mancala, chaturanga, etc, that I regularly bought the magazine Games & Puzzles to discover ones unknown to me. Issue 71 (the July/August 1978) edition featured the rules of a brand new board game invented by one Robert A. Krauss. Called 'Neutron' it employed the unusual device of giving each player two moves per turn. For some reason I never attempted to play this game at the time. Maybe I couldn't find anyone else interested enough to play it with me. There's a lot of resistance among board game enthusiasts to games that seem to have unorthodox procedures and moving two different pieces in a single turn is almost unheard of in abstract strategy games throughout history.

But I always remembered Neutron and 34 years after reading about it in that magazine I decided to make my own board and play it for the first time last night. It's an extremely simple design. It is played on a 5x5 board with two players; and each player has five pieces. At the centre of the board is positioned the neutron, which is a neutral piece. The first photo shows the initial set-up.

The goal is to get the neutron onto your home rank (the first rank of your side) either by moving it there yourself or by forcing the other player to move it there for you. Another way of winning is by stalemating the other player so that he/she can't move the neutron (by boxing it in with pieces) on their turn.

Play proceeds as follows: one player moves the neutron and then one of his own pieces. Both the neutron and the pieces move orthogonally or diagonally through (and onto) unoccupied spaces. There is no jumping or taking. The neutron and the selected piece must be moved as far as they can go before they meet the edge of the board or another piece.

The neutron must always be moved first. The only exception to this rule is the very first move, in which only a piece is moved. If I have done a bad job of explaining these rules, then you can find them written with perhaps more clarity on the Wikipedia page devoted to the game.

When I played my first game of Neutron, I forgot that pieces could move diagonally as well as orthogonally and the game ended up getting stuck in a loop. Anyway, it's an amusing game and quite different to almost any other abstract strategy game I have yet encountered and it's very easy to make, so I recommend it for those quiet evenings when there's nothing on TV.

For a long time I have been thinking about inventing my own abstract strategy games. I might get round to doing that this year. If so, I'll be sure to post details here on my blog.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Jenny Khan

The Spring issue of the BFS (British Fantasy Society) Journal is now out, just a little late. Production values are very high, so it was worth the wait. Amongst a variety of stories, articles, interviews and features, it contains the first chapter of my novel-in-progress The Young Dictator. When I write novels I often try to make each separate chapter a standalone piece. So this first chapter, entitled 'Jenny Khan' can be read as a short story in its own right.

So far I have completed four chapters of The Young Dictator ('Jenny Khan', 'Genghis Kan't', 'Caterpillar the Hun' and 'Owl Scared of the Dark') and I have two more left to write ('The Cat that Chilled the Scene' and 'Moonmoths, Umbrellas and Oranges'). I am finding it fun but difficult to write, partly because I have set myself the task of using much more straightforward and simple language than is my normal inclination.

As far as I'm aware, the only official way to get hold of the BFS Journal is to join the British Fantasy Society. Personally I'm not the joining type, but if you are a writer or just a fan of fantasy and related genres you may find that the benefits of membership make the fee worthwhile.

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