Thursday, 26 September 2013

Storyteller - A Found Book

You know how it is.  You're supposed to be writing but all you're actually doing is discussing the lost episodes of Dr Who on some mailing list.  Or you're meant to be researching something important but you're actually playing a game on Facebook or tweeting some terribly amusing play on words.  Prevarication destroys so many good intentions.

But sometimes something good arises from the lackadaisical ashes.

Earlier this year, Nick Campbell posted an image on Facebook of the 'Also Available' page from the back of a book he'd just picked up in a second hand bookshop.  Announcing grandly 'A Full list of Unicorn Books is available on request', it showed a baker's dozen book titles, a couple familiar but most unknown.  Like the spidery handwriting of a handwritten Victorian dedication ('To Margaret, in celebration of the Armistice, November 1918, with affection, Aunt Veronica'), there's something other-worldly and mysterious about books of which you've never heard.  Who were the 'Strangers from the Sea'?  What happened to the Halric, the seal?  Who or what was on the Hanging Tree?

Amongst my friends that sort of thing acts like a strong magnetic pull, and before long there were a group of us talking away on Nick's Facebook page, hovering round the image, laughing at Cav Scott's suggestion that these were the missing titles to stories which didn't exist yet, and which we should write.  That seemed a very Obverse idea, and as it happened Ian Potter and I had been pondering something for a while which, it also seemed to me, this might fit nicely.

In September 2012, Matt Kimpton died due to complications arising from his life-long Cystic Fibrosis (I won't say 'lost his fight' because, even just reading Matt's posts on Facebook during his final stay in hospital, it was obvious that any fight or battle had long since been won by Matt).  Matt was a lovely, enormously funny person and a ferociously talented writer.  If Obverse were to cease to be tomorrow, it would be my major source of pride that we published more fiction by Matt Kimpton than anyone else (pride mixed with anger that this should have been allowed to be the case - that level of talent should have had a far bigger audience).

Anyway, Ian and I wanted to do something in honour of Matt and this - a found book of sorts, a form of outsider art even, created from the detritus of other people's work - felt like something he might appreciate.  Mark Manley was kind enough to create a cover painting using a copy of Matt's husband Tom's favourite picture of him, and Cody Quijano-Schell turned that painting into a book cover.  And lots of excellent writers and friends chose a story title each and wrote a story with it.

And I hope Matt would like that too - a book of all sorts of different stories, without theme or genre or linking text.  I think that's something that the first Chief Skald of Sussex would have enjoyed.

You can pick up a copy and see if you agree for just £1.99 at Obverse Books and Manleigh Books, with all money going to CF charities.