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“Sitting up in the dark, he took a deep breath and scented a familiar, beguiling trace in the air…”

Deep Green Leaves, Alex Clark

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New Ghost Stories IV

I tried several approaches to the introduction for Various Authors. I wanted to avoid the clichéd manifesto-style rant and focus instead on the quality of the stories, but I kept winding up with rather dry catalogues of the contents, essentially repeating what I’d written in the introductions to each individual story.

At the last minute, I found myself writing something a little more personal, which I hope explains a little more about what I’m doing here, and why I’m doing it. Here it is in full:

Back in the late nineties, just around the end of the big boom in alternative British music, I worked for a while as a DJ. I’d moved to a new city and hadn’t found much going on there in terms of good music, so one evening I wandered into a club and somehow talked them into letting me run their Monday nights for them. For the next year or so, I played records from bands like St Etienne, My Bloody Valentine, and half the back catalogue of the 4AD label.

The club wasn’t up to much: the beer was stale (but cheap), and they rarely replaced the bulbs in the lights, so there were times when the dance floor was lit for the entire evening by one meandering purple spotlight and an occasional burst of strobe. Both the turntables were broken and one of the CD decks skipped, so I’d put a long instrumental by Mogwai in the skipping one and use it to fill the silence while I quickly changed songs on the other deck. The crowd got used to hearing fifteen seconds of grinding guitars between each song, and occasionally losing half a Pixies chorus to a skipping disc. If there were complaints, a simple press of a button—under the decks, more or less where you’ll find the panic button in a shop—would make the complainer, the dance floor, and most of the club disappear in a cloud of raspberry-scented smoke.

On some nights the club was packed, while on others it was so empty that I’d put on a compilation CD and sit down for a drink with the regulars. It lasted for around a year, before collapsing during a particularly quiet summer. It had never been a huge commercial success (one night we managed a door take of minus fifty pee), but it had a loyal following, got people listening to new music, and sold quite a few records. A few bands formed among the regulars, and some of those went on to record albums of their own.

Then, a couple of years ago, I started a book blog where I do my best to talk about new fiction. It’s been a bit irregular, with some quiet months and some busy ones, but it’s sold a few books, introduced a few readers to new authors, and given me the opportunity to meet some interesting people.

I like to think that the club night and the blogging both came from the same place: a desire to seek out new and interesting things, the worthwhile but perhaps overlooked, and to share them with as many people as possible.

One advantage that the music had over the blogging is that it was more direct: it was a case of ‘listen to this’ rather than ‘let me tell you about this,’ sharing experiences rather than simply reporting them. Much as I enjoyed rambling to people about why they should like The Magnetic Fields, I found that it was better just to put on the CD.

It’s my preference for that directness that has led The Fiction Desk from blogging about fiction to publishing it: instead of boring you with why you should read Charles Lambert, or telling you to seek out Lynsey May’s stories, or how funny the new one from Jon Wallace is, I’m just going to show them to you.

So go and grab yourself a bottle of out-of-date beer, find somewhere comfortable to sit (not too close to the toilets, if I were you), and get ready to hear some things worth hearing.

Oh, and please bear with any odd noises you might hear: it’s not the music, just the CD player warming up.


Various Authors is available now. You can buy it from us (postage free), it’s available through bookshops in the UK, and there’s also a Kindle version. I hope you give it a try, and if you do, please come back and let me know what you think. Oh… and you can also download a pdf sample by clicking here.

One Comments on “Why The Fiction Desk has become a publisher”

  1. Tom C Says:

    A fantastic enterprise – you are to be congratulated. A worthy rival to Granta perhaps? I await this with interest.

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