Waxing Lyrical : What if I told you… by Alec McQuay

Welcome to the waxing lyrical series in 2016. I did a small number of these posts last year and have decided to change things up this year. The series is now open to any creative (writers, artists, publishers, editors, musicians etc) who want to air their opinions on the creative industries, from any perspective. If you are interested in contributing please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk for more information. The only real rule is no personal attacks, we don’t have to agree with you but we won’t support attacking a person or group of people. 

Without further ado, Alec McQuay with some thoughts on positivity and support in the new year.  It’s a bit sweary in places.


What if I told you… by Alec McQuay


Today, I’m going to have a little moan. Not about the gym, or at least not SPECIFICALLY about the gym, but on the subject of support.

It’s January at the time of writing this and the hills are alive with the sound of lives turning around, glass ceilings being smashed, goals being set and demons conquered and honestly, I think it’s brilliant. Even if a lot of the things people are promising themselves never come to fruition they’ve at least made that important first step of realising they’ve got a problem, or that there’s something in their lives that they want or something they wish to strive for. Say what you like about resolutions but pretty much everyone who achieves anything begins with that knowledge.

Now, that cheeky little meme up there. I find it funny, but it also irritates the living crap out of me, and not just because the lack of a question mark. Online and out in the wild I hear two things very often that tie into that poster for me. The first is that a person is unhappy with their health, fitness, weight or appearance and the other is that a person “has a book in them” or is struggling with their writing, getting published, getting a published book sold or whatever. That’s just my circle of friends and relations and your mileage will vary, but I’d bet good money against bad that we have something in our lives that people around us wish they could achieve. It might be signing up to the Open University, or learning to draw, learning a new language, getting a promotion, moving to a bigger house so they can finally have a baby, finally having two pennies to scratch their ass with…

There isn’t always anything you can do, but don’t hold other people back. It takes confidence to make a change in your life and that can be in short supply for some, for some people it’s never in anything but short supply, so when they finally do something the last thing they need is shit to make it harder. Especially from the people they call friends.

I’m not saying you have to take an interest in things that bore you senseless, but if you’ve got nothing constructive to add, would it kill you to just keep scrolling? If someone tells you they’ve finally managed to finish their manuscript, that’s not your moment to tell them you’ve always wanted to write a book but don’t have the time, or any one of the other bullshit excuses I’ve ever heard. Writing a book is hard for a lot of people and when they finally skid over the finish line, their radiator bursts, oil shoots into the air and all their wheels fall off, that’s their moment. It’s not yours. Back the fuck up a bit. You can have your turn later. Not now, Bernard.

Before you make some comment about “What if I told you you can go to the gym / dinner / on a date / get drunk / read a book / write a book / go to a movie / pass your degree / survive childbirth / teach your kid to ride a bike / complete Mortal Kombat without losing a single life (yeah right) / pass your driving test / learn Mandarin without telling Facebook about it,” try to remember that the people you put down today might well be the people you want support from in the future. Try to remember that what isn’t important to you might be the most important thing in another person’s life and that every now and then, all it takes is one last shitty, passive-aggressive, inconsiderate comment from someone to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down on them.

Chances are, there’s something you love that I would think was pretty stupid, but what do I know? I’m a 30 year old man who watches cartoons, plays with toy soldiers, thinks picking up heavy things is entertaining and emotionally fulfilling and writes stories in his spare (ha, “spare”) time. Try and be a bit supportive of people if you can, and if you can’t?

Jog the fuck on.



Guest Post : Naked Gutterthon

Occasionally here at FS we invite guests to come and hang out because you know, we like that thing they do. In the case of the Cultural Gutter, one of our own skulk members is heavily involved in an awesome project, so obviously we wanted to help! Please do pop over, check out the Gutter, help if you can and just eenjoy it if you can’t. – Aunty Fox


Gutterthon 2015: Naked Gutterthon

Naked Gutterthon 2015 indiegogo banner

Hi, I’m Carol and I’m the Comics Editor and Evil Overlord of The Cultural Gutter. Back in the misty shadowlands of 2003, The Cultural Gutter was founded to offer clear-eyed and thoughtful writing about disreputable art: comics, video games, science fiction and trash cinema. Since then we’ve expanded our mandate a bit adding editors who have written about television and romance. Most of these art forms are more respectable than they were back in the Aughts, or at least particular parts of them are, but we feel like we’re still offering something special with our essays. We’re not great at telling you whether you should go out and spend your money and sometimes we talk about art from sixty or even two hundred years ago, but we always try to have an interesting angle and some things to think about—or at least some good jokes. Right now we have a piece up about “Time Loops and the Failures of Memory” in films ranging from Groundhog Day to Momento. Auntie Fox has written about just how long she’ll give a show before she gives up with, “The Core Dynamic; Or, Why I Won’t Give A Show A Half A Series To Figure It Out.”  And I’ve written a few things I’m pretty pleased with—a piece about Planet of the Apes and “relatability,” another about strong female characters and one about Punisher: War Zone and what we mean when we talk about “bad.”

I’ve only been the Gutter’s publisher and Evil Overlord since 2006, but I am proud of our site and our writing. In all the time that we’ve been online, we’ve paid our writers—both ongoing Editors and Guest Stars—for their pieces. Originally, we were supported by an operations grant from The Canada Council for the Arts. Unfortunately, times being what they are, we lost our grant. And that’s where Gutterthon comes in. We’re trying to raise money to stay online and keep our commitment to paying writers. With our goal, it doesn’t come out to much, about $20 per article, but these days, with so many creators being asked to create for exposure, we think it’s important to pay our writers for their work. Exposure only really means something if it leads to something better.

But before I get all hot-headed about the newfangled system of platforms, content creators and exposure, I’ll just thank Fox Spirit for the books they’ve donated to our cause. If you contribute to Gutterthon 2015, you have the chance to pick up digital copies of Drag Noir (2014) and The Girl At the End Of The World, Vol. 1 (2014), which include stories by me: “The Itch of Iron, The Pull of the Moon” and “Sophie and the Gate to Hell.” (I hope you like them).  And we also have medieval charms (your choice of healing or agricultural) made by the Skulk’s K. A. Laity. And I’m making some homunculi, star stones (to keep the Great Old One’s terrifying dreams away), and some handprinted Cthulhu Moleskines to offer as perks. But even if you don’t contribute, I hope you’ll come and hang out in The Cultural Gutter.

(Sweet Naked Gutterthon poster art by Brian Kirby of www.shelflifeclothing.com)



Waxing Lyrical : A little help from my friends

I didn’t expect to do another of these quite so soon however, I have engaged in a few conversations on Twitter this week that demonstrated a couple of things. The first one is that when everyone is polite and behaves like adults its perfectly possible to discuss emotive subjects without descending into trolling madness. Most importantly though, it highlighted that writers who do not fit the mainstream in their genre in terms of race, colour, geography for example, still feel and almost certainly are disenfranchised. I knew this, of course I don’t technically live under a rock, but sometimes you see several things in a single day and it really drives it home.

You all probably know by now my belief that since the only truly unique thing about a book is the person writing it, the more diversity we have in writers the more richness and variety we have in the writing. Still the market is what it is and many writers are unable to get traction or find suitable markets.

I said on twitter yesterday that as a small indie press in the UK it’s hard to gain traction, we are battling massive amounts of white noise on the internet. There is no shortage of good genre fiction so getting noticed is really hard. Part of how we are tackling that here is through the british league of independent presses. BLIP is an informal facebook group. In our case we chose to focus on small press rather than self pub, because there are certain elements of being a press specifically we wanted to be able to discuss with others in the same boat. It’s a private group so we can speak freely and plan to share launches and tables and information etc. A lot of us go to the same sorts of events and we all have limited budgets, working together just makes sense.


Here is the description of BLIP
‘BLIP is a group for small presses in the UK to share information, knowledge, resources and generally help each other out.
We are counting podcasts and ‘zines too. You all get stories out there.’

We don’t allow using it for direct selling or bypassing submissions.

(If you want to join please message with your click so we know the group is the right place for you).

As I said on twitter I would always encourage anyone to start something similar in their area or country or applicable to something specific to them, because while there are loads of writers out there, it’s by its nature an isolating thing and working together can benefit everyone. A group of non UK/US writers might between them actually have a good list of friendly US/UK markets for stories for instance. You can’t do everything alone, it’s too hard and too much and for most people doesn’t work. Find support, as the Prof always says a rising tide floats all boats. Together you can help change the tides in your favour.

Aunty Fox and Friends
Aunty Fox and Friends

There are so many incredible writers out there all over the world, but not everywhere has the level of publishing activity that the UK and US have, not everywhere are writing groups common and local, not everywhere has a massive list of events in different genres for industry and fans. Even here such things are often hard to find until you find the first one (we are bad at promoting the literary I find). Grouping together informally via social media can help you discover more connections, more events, more opportunities and it costs you nothing more than a little time.