Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scruffians Stamp

OK, so I thought in the interest of subsidising my eating hobby, I'd experiment with this online direct publication malarkey, straight from me to yerself. Like, invite the whole Paypal donations thing via the button to the left there, in exchange for a previously unpublished 3000 word short story (hot off the press, in fact,) to be made available for download when (or maybe if) donations reach a certain amount. What's a fair amount? is of course the Big Question. Well, it's an experiment, so I'm not going to ask for pro rates of five cents per word (which'd work out at $150); instead I reckoned I'd knock it down to, say, a straight hundred.

Feels a little like sticking yer balls on the block, to be honest, cause my natural paranoia and pessimism scoffs at the idea of getting enough folks willing to chuck a buck or two my way for this to work; but hey ho, I'm hungry, so it's worth a shot. And in case it doesn't work out, I don't wanna stiff them what's donated, leave em with sod all. So instead, I'm reckoning that anyone who donates gets a nice pdf of the story sent directly to them. How does that sound?

So what's the story? Well, it's called "Scruffians Stamp," and it seems to be one of about a dozen sparking off the basic idea what's eating my mind at the moment. Did it as a reading at the Merchant City Festival on Saturday there and it seemed to go down a treat. Trust me, ye'll like it. Anyhoo, with a good few stories all shouting to be written around this theme, (fuck, there might even be a novel formulating,) if this direct release malarkey works there may well be more where this comes from. We shall see.

As a taster then, here's the opening two sections:

Scruffian's Stamp

Hal Duncan


Orphans, foundlings, latchkey kids. Urchins, changelings, live-by-wits. Rascals, scallywags, ruffians, scamps. Scoundrels, hellions, Scruffians STAMP!

From his seat on the bench, the Scruffian who didn't know he was a Scruffian yet, who didn't even quite know what a Scruffian was, watched the other kids in the park, half-wishing he was like them, with their homes and happy families -- well, families, at least -- and half-hoping he would never be like them, never. Soon they'd all be going home to their tea, though they probably called it dinner. He wasn't going home to neither, not ever, not likely.


Orphans, foundlings, latchkey kids. Urchins, changelings, live-by-wits. Rascals, scallywags, ruffians, scamps. Scoundrels, hellions, Scruffians STAMP!

They were playing hopscotch, boys and girls together, which was a bit strange cause hopscotch was really a girl's game, he'd always thought, and none of the boys looked like sissies. Not that looking like a sissy meant you was one, or that not looking like a sissy meant you wasn't one. The Scruffian, who wasn't really a Scruffian yet, just on his way to it, knew that.

He shivered in his thin red windbreaker, which wasn't anything in this kind of weather.


Orphans, foundlings, latchkey kids. Urchins, changelings, live-by-wits. Rascals, scallywags, ruffians, scamps. Scoundrels, hellions, Scruffians STAMP!

With the last word the girl or boy playing hopscotch would come down hard with both feet, and the rest would all stamp a foot. Made it all like some... war-dance. Weird. And some of them was a bit old for hopscotch surely.

Orphans, foundlings, latchkey kids. Urchins, changelings, live-by-wits.

They all had such sharp looks on their thin faces too.

Rascals, scallywags, ruffians, scamps. Scoundrels, hellions, Scruffians STAMP!

And they was all looking at him on that last word.



Orphan was the first Scruffian, they says. See, he had the sweetest voice ever heard, did Orphan; so sweet it was, there's many as think he must have come from Heaven. Well, he was found as a babe, abandoned on a mountainside. Would have been left there too if it weren't for the fact that even his crying was like music. The shepherd that found him, he was flat astounded, took the lad home just so's he could sit there listening to him... bawling and bawling. Why, that's bloody beautiful, the shepherd thought. And did fuck all to soothe him.


Weren't long before the lad started singing. And how! When he sang a sad song, that's what made the willow tree weep, and when he sang a happy song, why, even the stones would dance. So naturally the groanhuffs all wanted him singing at their funerals and weddings. No matter how he felt. Sing us a sad song, they'd say, even if he was happy. Or sing us a happy song, they'd say, even if he was sad. And because the foundling didn't have no-one as truly cared for him, they'd just clip his ear if he says no.


You was in one of those foster homes before you run away, right? I've heard what goes on in some of those places, from the telly, from the news. And I remember me own days in the workhouse. I'll tell you this: I don't know if it really happened the way the stories tell it, but even if it didn't, it did, I'll bet. If you see what I mean. Even if Orphan's story was just made-up to fill in what none of us know, it's not a fucking lie the way that pixie dust and pirates bollocks is.


And on it goes from there.

So, yeah, if ye like the looks of it, punt a few bucks my way and you get a shiny pdf of the full thing. And if enough of yez do it, why, it goes up on the interwebs for one and all. And needless to say, any spreading of the word will be much appreciated.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nowhere Town: Opening and Closing Songs

Nothing in my Sight:


The Best Days of my Death:

Saturday, September 19, 2009


My column at BSC Review just got a nod in the LA Times. Sweet!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Spectacular Spectacular!

Been working on some more of the music from Nowhere Town, and I thought I'd share the results with you again. So, first off we have Francis as Jack in Act I, singing this joyful little ditty about how lovely it is to live in Crapsville, Wherever.

Dicks, Pricks and Fucking Hicks:

Then, again with Francis, we've got the closing number from a gig by Jack's band Fagsmoke ("Where I'm from fag means cigarette," says Jack, innocently,) sung with... um... tender sensitivity to Puck.

Suck Me, Fuck Me, Chuck Me:

And here's Jack's contribution to a Karaoke night in Hell:

The Shape of Things to Cum Again:

But it's not all rock'n'roll! Oh, no. We gots the sad ballads too. Like this one, Puck's big solo number from Act I...

Another Day:

That's Mr Neil Williamson on vocals, by the way. And as a special treat, here's Neil doing it all on his lonesome piano. Really brings the song alive, I think, having it played with a bit of emotion rather than just spliced together out of loops.

And hey, what's a musical without reprises, duets, medleys? And, baby, this is all three, a reprise/medley of Puck's theme -- Junkie for the Sound -- and Jack's -- Nowhere Town -- sung by Francis and Neil, with Ms. X giving the Fates' backing vocals.

One More Chance:

And, finally (for now), to close it all off an a rousing ensemble number. Yes, all the main cast together on the virtual stage of the interwebs. We gots...

Jack: Francis
Puck: Neil
Proprietor: Ms. X
Chorus: yours truly
Fates: Ms. X

The Battle of Jack's Love:

And I think that's probably quite enough for now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Apology for Alan Turing

I think the simple word for this Hurray!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Music

Yes, I thought I'd inflict more of my Waitsian wailing upon you. But hey, on this one it's compensated for with the ivory-tinkling tunefulness of Mr Neil "Pianoman" Williamson! So it actually sounds pretty frickin groovy, to my mind, if I do say so meself. Major kudos to Neil for bringing this one to life.

That Great Big Sanatorium in the Sky:

And, oh, now this one actually has some real singing on it, courtesy of my good mate Francis Lopez who, as far as I'm concerned, truly fucking nailed this song. Francis has been a fucking star in this mad project, taking time off work to come round to mine and thrash out the tunes I'm reaching for. This is the first one we worked on, and I gotta say I think he makes an amazing Jack on it.

Beautiful Dream:

So, yeah. A huge thanks to Messrs. Williamson and Lopez!


And while we're at it, a huge thanks also to *mumble mumble*, who's happy for me to share but doesn't wish to have her name attached on account of being embarrassed at the sound of her own voice. Though there's absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about here, as far as I'm concerned. Even over and above the singing, there's an awesome Dietrich vibe to Ms. X's performance, which I think is most apt for the Proprietor. It's well-sung and well-acted. What more could I ask for?

The Oblivion Waltz:

Oh, and that's Mr Williamson again on piano, by the way.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Crossed Genres Special Issue

I'm not going to say much about this right now, largely because I'd rather address the underlying issues at length than lend my voice to summoning the shitstorm of outrage and recrimination that may be inevitable. So, I'll have more to say at some point but for now, the basics.

As explained in a straightforward, levelheaded way here, Crossed Genres magazine is having a special LGBTQ issue, which is of course pretty damn cool, to my mind. Sadly, it seems that their ad was not welcome on Flash Fiction Online, because of the editor's moral stance. Here's the ad.

It's hardly risqué, is it? Now on the one hand, rejecting an advert on ideological grounds is the editor's prerogative. On the other hand, where that ideology extends to an unspoken editorial policy that pretty much excludes any thematic critique of prejudicial morés regarding my sexuality, there I have a problem. To quote:

I would probably not publish stories where the purpose was to justify or condone homosexual relationships, polyamory, and so on — I reject all “message” stories, even those that I agree with — but that doesn’t imply that stories containing those elements will automatically be rejected.

Hmmm, I say. Hmmmmm. The problem is, of course, does even a neutral, naturalistic presentation of homosexuality as simply non-problematic read, to someone who disapproves of queerness, as a "message" that it's OK? To me, that "justify or condone homosexual relationships" smacks of Section 28's "promoting homosexality" in its vagueness. To me, this smacks of segregation. To me, this is a water fountain with a sign over it saying, "Straights only."

Anyway, as I say, I'm not going to comment on this at any great length right now, partly because I don't have time and partly because I want to take the time to articulate myself properly, but I certainly thought it was worth highlighting. Hell, if you want my views on this sort of policy, click through that "segregation" link and read that. Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

For a Lark

So I mentioned before that there's some college kids in the US who fancy staging Nowhere Town with their theatre group. This, of course, appeals to me hugely; I'd love for the musical to be made flesh in an actual live performance, even if there's little chance of me making it over for the actual event. There's no guarantee that it'll happen, right enough. They've got to get a proposal together with, like, sheet music and all, and with the music constructed in GarageBand by yours truly, who barely knows a stave from a semi-quaver, getting that together is... a challenge, as they say.

(Come to think of it, anyone who knows a fast way to get the notation view of those "Software Intrument" MIDI files out into some sort of printable score form, lemme know; I'm fucked if I can find any such utility within GarageBand. Hell, any multi-instrumentalist musical geniuses out there who think it would be a piece of piss to score a song constructed by laying down up to Xteen tracks of spliced-and-diced loops of drums, piano, guitar, piano, piano, guitar, fiddle, piano -- when only half of them are "Software Instrument" Apple Loops that you can view in notation and the rest are "Real Instrument" audio files without even a clue as to what the notes are -- raise yer hand if ye fancy some completely unpaid practice in musical arrangement. No budding Sibeliuses out there? No? No? Hey, it was worth a try.)

Anyhoo, for all that it might come to naught, it's spurred me into action on the vocal front, crowbarring in every available friend who can actually sing to try and get versions of the tracks laid down with lyrics. The process is... heh, interesting. Stage one involved me laying down my atonal croakings over the instrumental tracks, singing all the parts badly. Stage two involved me swallowing my shame and actually playing these to aforesaid friends in the vague hope that there was enough of a melody there for them to get the gist of. Stage three currently consists of them recording their takes on it and me trying to explain how at this point or that it should go down instead of up, or up instead of down. This often entails me being completely wrong ("Those three notes are actually identical. I *was* going up before.") or further confusing it with my attempts to demonstrate ("You just sang three different versions.") Still, where it's worked out, it's exciting as fuck. I now have awesome versions of some of the tracks, courtesy of my good mates, Francis, Emma and pianoman Neil Williamson of the GSFWC, that is.

Anyways, it's looking like I've got (fingers crossed) the male voices I need for Jack and Puck, and one of them might well be able to double up as Chorus. But for a lark, last night, I decided to have another crack at a couple of tracks, abandoning all hope of singing in a normal melodic way and doing about the only thing I can do in music terms -- an impression of Tom Waits on a bad day. Cause Chorus *should* sound pretty raggedy-voiced, like he's lived more than a few lifetimes on a diet of whisky and cigarettes. And so for your amusement, I offer two tracks of torture in which Hal Duncan does a bad impression of Tom Waits playing Chorus in Nowhere Town:

Tango for the Dead

Welcome to the Hellhole

My throat hurts like hell now, by the way.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Someday I'll Reveal the Truth

Until then, all I'm saying is that I have fond memories of the sippy cup I had as a wean. Ah, my little wooden sippy cup. The Ribena tasted so yummy in it. Although there was that strange aftertaste... hints of salt and iron...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hal Duncan, Columnist

So, yeah, a couple of weeks back I got an offer from Jay Tomio that I thought sounded kinda peachy -- a regular column over at Book Spot Central. No holds barred, no limits (other than the obvious legal ones, of course,) write about whatever you want. Why, that does sound interestig, I thought.

And thus was born Notes from New Sodom.

The aim is for this to be a proper monthly column. (I would have posted this up on the 1st, but thought I'd leave it till after Outer Alliance Pride Day.) It is, as you'd expect, not the shortest column in the world, but we'll see if I can't wean myself off the wordcount over subsequent months. And hey, it doesn't have the parchment backdrop that people keep complaining about as making it hard to read here. (For the record, I kept meaning to lighten up the jpg I use as wallpaper here a shade, but since I switched to the Mac I don't have the image editing software to do it. So unfortunately, yer stuck with it for the moment.)

Anyhoo, I have Grand Plans for where the column's going over the next year or so, in terms of laying out my take on this whole malarkey of genres and communities agglomerated under the rubric of "sf," but you can also expect me to be wandering off that path now and then to waffle about the same sort of random shit you'd expect to find me ranting or raving about here. And no doubt there'll be the odd occasion when Behemouth is let loose to run amok with discourse grenades and gatling guns of opinionation. So, yeah... fun and games, mi amigos. Fun and games.