Politics of the Asylum

politics of asylumA new novel from award-winning poet, Adam Steiner, looks set to cast a shattering light upon the internal chaos currently ripping through the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

Inspired by the author’s own experience working in the NHS, Politics of the Asylum is a nightmare vision of working and surviving in a modern healthcare system – and one man’s compelling and gripping battle to maintain his own sanity.

A blurb for the new novel reads:

Nathan Finewax is a cleaner in a hospital steadily falling apart, working on a ward where staff cheat/lie/steal to get ahead, where targets, death tolls and finance overrule patient care and every day the same mistakes are repeated. Nathan is sucked deeper into the hospital routine as he dreams of escape, trying to avoid one day becoming a patient himself.

Nothing in the Rulebook’s Professor Wu is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to read Steiner’s new book, saying:

“At a time when the NHS seems destined to continually move from crisis to crisis, under the steerage of a catastrophic conservative government, we need books that challenge the government’s narrative that privatisation and cuts in funding can do anything other than destroy one of the UK’s greatest institutions.”

“As we said during our ‘Haikus for the NHS‘ poetry project last year, poetry and fiction – writing itself – are crucial tools in the battle to save the NHS and maintain a service that was designed by the people; for the people. Steiner’s novel looks like another vital weapon we can use in our fight against prevailing neoliberal ideologies and ideologues, and we here at Nothing in the Rulebook can’t wait to read it.”

Politics of the Asylum is published by Urbane Publications

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Murmur: new novel from Will Eaves inspired by real-life tragedy of Alan Turing

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The quite frankly brilliant independent publishing house, CB Editions, has announced the publication date of the equally brilliant Will Eaves’s latest novel, Murmur.

Taking its cue from the arrest and legally enforced chemical castration of the mathematician Alan Turing, Murmur is the account of a man who responds to intolerable physical and mental stress with love, honour and a rigorous, unsentimental curiosity about the ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world.

Formally audacious, daring in its intellectual inquiry and unwaveringly humane, Will Eaves’s new novel is a rare achievement. The opening section of Murmur was shortlisted for the 2017 BBC National Short Story Award.

Described as “quiet and horrifying” by The Guardian, The soon-to-be-published novel has already attracted praise from the writing community. Among them, author, poet, musician and cartoonist, Peter Blegvad, said: ‘Murmur is a profound meditation on what machine consciousness might mean, the implications of AI, where it will all lead. It’s one of the big stories of our times, though no one else has treated it with such depth and originality. A moving and marvellous book altogether.’

See CB Edition’s website for further information on Murmur and other titles by Will Eaves.

 

Nothing in the Rulebook will be keeping you updated with news and alerts for more news regarding exciting new releases of fiction and poetry. If you have a book or poetry collection you’d like to promote, get in touch using our contact information.

Author’s incomes continue to fall as literary fiction sales collapse

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At the start of 2016, Nothing in the Rulebook reported that authors’ incomes had collapsed to “near abject” levels – with professional writers earning on average just £11,000 a year.

Now, the trend seems to have accelerated, with a new report finding that a “collapse” in sales of literary fiction had seen advanced paid to writers diminish even further – meaning ever fewer authors were able to support themselves through their craft alone.

Indeed, the authors of the report, commissioned by Arts Council England, note that the shifts in the dynamics of the publishing industry have fundamentally changed the entire model on which writers previously built their careers.

The traditional model of writing could be said to begin with an author penning a masterful manuscript, subsequently being discovered by a powerful agent who lands said author an enormous book deal with a large advance. This supplies the necessary funding for the writer to pen further masterful manuscripts, with the same effect, all the while as their book sales continue to supplement their income. And so on ad infinitum.

Yet as 98% of writers report falling advances – with some noting cuts falling dramatically from over £50,000 per book to less than £5,000 – it seems this fall in writerly wages directly correlates with a collapse in sales of literary fiction.

Indeed, analysis of sales data from Nielsen BookScan found that hardback book sales slumped by £10 million between 2007 and 2001, with paperback sales falling even more dramatically – falling by over £40 million between 2011 and 2012 alone.

And, where once the book sales of ‘established’ or ‘major’ literary names could be relied on to supplement publisher’s investment in new or emerging writers, even these can no longer provide the financial support publishers need to sign on new talent.

Within the last 10 years, the only literary works to have sold more than 1 million copies include Atonement by Ian McEwan, the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Last year’s best selling novel was Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, which sold 187,000 copies – roughly half the number of 2015’s best selling novel, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

As this collapse precipitates a further fall in income for new writers, the authors of the report note: “Outside of the top 1,000 authors (at most), printed book sales alone simply cannot provide a decent income. While this has long been suspected, the data shows unambiguously that it is the case. … What’s more, this is a generous assessment. After the retailer, distributor, publisher and agent have taken their cut, there won’t be a lot of money left from 3,000 sales of the 1,000th bestselling title. That we are returning to a position where only the best-off writers can support themselves should be a source of deep concern.”

So, what is to be done?

The image of the struggling – perhaps even starving – artist is one that is now so stereotypical as to be cliché. And while we here at Nothing in the Rulebook have tried subsisting on a carefully balanced diet of hopes and dreams, it’s fair to say it can leave a certain ache in the stomach.

With the trend in falling book sales and incomes continuing at pace, it seems as though aspiring writers must look to supplement their endeavours with funds from elsewhere.

Such is the current state of affairs that the authors of the report note that the traditional model and dream of a writing career “is now severely challenged. If you want to be on the inside of those networks and live in London, a £13,000 advance, spread over several years of work, won’t cut the mustard. Writers must, for better or worse, take on more financial risk in order to write.”

While the most obvious course of action may be to look at taking on a full or part-time job, such a decision may not necessarily be the best for one’s own writing. As Charles Bukowski put it: “To not to have entirely wasted one’s life working, seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.”

But perhaps in the digital age, old challenges can be met with new solutions. For instance, Crowdfunding projects can see writers’ dreams become realities – such as Josh Spiller’s exciting new speculative fiction project, The 8th Emotion, which has received through crowdfunding the necessary financial backing that is perhaps no longer there to be found via traditional publishing models.

Indeed, as the print publishing industry appears to rely ever more on sales from cookbooks than literary fiction, aspiring writers may need to seek ever more imaginative ways to get their (much needed) new ideas and writing out there.

“Like water stains in a bathtub” – 2017 Bad Sex in Fiction prize goes to Christopher Bollen

 

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US author Christopher Bollen. Photograph: Getty Images

US author Christopher Bollen has been named the winner of the 2017 Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his novel The Destroyers.

The judges voted him the winner after reading a scene depicting the book’s protagonist, Ian, with his ex-girlfriend on the island of Patmos. The following extract drew particular focus from this year’s judges:

 “Do me a favor,” she says as she turns. She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles. “Let’s not tell Charlie and Sonny about us. Let’s leave them out of it. You know how this kind of thing can become a telenovela for everyone else.”

Bollen – editor-at-large of Interview magazine – did not attend the ceremony; not an uncommon move by winners of the award, with some previous winners describing receiving the dubious honour as “a repulsive horror”.

The Destroyers is his third novel and the judges said he “prevailed against strong competition” – with extracts from the books of those shortlisted available to read here.

The award, organised by the Literary Review, was presented by Carry On star Fenella Fielding at London’s Naval and Military Club – also known as the In & Out.

It was established in 1993 by journalist and writer Auberon Waugh.

Read extracts of all the winning authors of the Bad Sex in Fiction award since 1993

Organisers say the purpose of the prize is “to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction”.

It does not cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

Some notable lines from other nominees for this year’s award include those from Wilbur Smith’s War Cry, in which a male character says he would like to explore his lover “like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa”.

Another shortlisted work – The Future Won’t Be Long by Turkish-American author Jarett Kobek – likens sexual intercourse to a “pulsing wave”, a “holy burst” and a “congress of wonder”.

Another nominee – The Seventh Function of Language by France’s Laurent Binet – features a woman telling her lover to: “Fuck me like a machine.”

In her shortlisted debut novel Mother of Darkness, Venetia Welby wrote about a character called Tera who “moans in colours” as her lover approaches.

Recent winners include Morrissey’s debut novel List of the Lost, which has become infamous for its use of the phrase “bulbous salutation”. Last year the award went to Italian author Erri De Luca.

The 8th Emotion

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A new speculative fiction project, ‘The 8th Emotion’, has launched on Kickstarter. Set in a utopian future, the story is about how humanity unlocks a new emotion, thereby gaining a radically different way of perceiving the world. This in turn precipitates a civil war.

The Kickstarter is aiming to fund the design and printing of this novel, and at the time of writing, is already 70% of the way there.

The novel features a post-civilisation society where, centuries after the collapse of the world’s economies, money has been replaced by a sophisticated, bartering tribal network; its prose is unusually textured, incorporating elements of French, Armenian, and Lebanese Arabic into its dialogue; the book itself will include beautiful maps of its fictional world; and the novel’s cover will also be experimental, containing a significant Easter Egg that will only be apparent once you’ve read the final chapter.

If you help realise this project, there are lots of awesome rewards available, such as: having your name printed in the final book; receiving a unique signed and annotated edition; and getting Kickstarter-exclusive artwork from the stunningly talented Niamh Keenan and Alan Ashworth Muñoz.

Speaking about the launch of the Kickstarter project, Nothing in the Rulebook’s very own Professor Wu said:

“More than ever, it’s important that we have access to new and exciting literary works that encourage us to see the world differently. We live in impossibly turbulent times, and we need art, and books in particular, to illuminate some of the possible paths that lie ahead. Yet we increasingly live in a world in which it is becoming harder and harder to read books that aren’t copies or imitations of previously commercially successful books.”

“Josh Spiller’s The 8th Emotion promises to break that trend, in delivering a piece of writing that is different to anything you’ve ever read before. While the old traditional models of publishing continue to follow the money, we need to collectively band together to support such artistic endeavours. So get involved and make a pledge to help make this book become a reality.”

You can read an exciting extract of the novel here

And you can see the Kickstarter in full, including a video and all the wonderful rewards on offer, here.

Nominations are in for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2017

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Nominations continue to come in as the Literary Review prepares to announce the winner of the notorious ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ prize, which aims to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction.

Books nominated so far include The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent BinetThe Destroyers by Christopher Bollen, Mother of Darkness by Venetia WelbyAs a God Might Be by Neil GriffithsThe Future Won’t Be Long by Jarett KobekWar Cry by Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill), and Here Comes Trouble by Simon Wroe.

Read extracts of the passages that earned this year’s nominated authors a place on the Bad Sex Award shortlist here

The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature. Monique Roffey’s The Tryst, despite being heavily nominated, is therefore not eligible, even though it is full of the sort of lines that tend to be picked up by the judges, such as ‘He lightly kissed my breasts, his beard all grassy, like a great sea sponge.’

Many people also nominated Vince Cable’s novel Open Arms for consideration. However, Open Arms does not qualify simply because its author is a Member of Parliament.

“Fuck me like a machine”

Among the choice passages chosen in this year’s shortlist is the following extract Laurent Binet’sThe Seventh Function of Language: 

“He tips her back and lays her on the dissecting table. She takes off her skirt, spreads her legs and tells him: ‘Fuck me like a machine.’ And while her breasts spill out, Simon begins to flow into her assemblage. His tongue-machine slides inside her like a coin in the slot, and Bianca’s mouth, which also has multiple uses, expels air like a bellows, a powerful, rhythmic breathing whose echo – ‘Si! Si!’ – reverberates in the pulsing blood in Simon’s cock. Bianca moans, Simon gets hard, Simon licks Bianca, Bianca touches her breasts, the flayed men get hard, Gallienus starts to wank under his robe, and Hippocrates under his toga. ‘Si! Si!’ Bianca grabs Simon’s dick, which is hot and hard as if it’s just come out of a steel forge, and connects it to her mouth-machine. Simon declaims as if to himself, quoting Artaud in an oddly detached voice: ‘The body under the skin is an overheated factory.’ The Bianca Factory automatically lubricates her devenir-sexe. Their mingled moans ring out through the deserted Anatomical Theatre.”

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Thursday 30 November. They will join a long line of illustrious authors – or not so illustrious, in the case of 2015’s winner, Morrissey – to have picked up the booby prize (pun intended, of course), which stretches back to 1993.

Italian novelist Erri De Luca scooped the 2016 award for his book, The Day Before Happiness.

You can read extracts from all the Bad Sex in Fiction Award-winning books in our connoisseur’s compendium.

For more information about the award, visit the Literary Review website.

Nothing in the Rulebook will continue to monitor all updates relating to the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards with (possibly too much) interest.

Extra Secret Podcast’s 99th episode features Nothing in the Rulebook

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Big news, everyone! The team here at NITRB are thrilled to announce we had the honour of making a special guest appearance on the fabulous Extra Secret Podcast.

Always keen to build bridges with fellow creatives around the world, this cross-Atlantic collaboration opportunity was far too good to miss. In the ESP’s 99th episode, NITRB drop some political thoughts on the tumultuous events that have taken place in the UK over the last few weeks.

It was the second time Professor Wu and Billy the Echidna have been on the show, and the timing seemed appropriate, given that the last time the gang got together (check out that ‘After Dark’ episode here) everyone was still reeling from the fallout of the US election.

The 99th ESP episode also features news about meth lab explosions, R Kelly, and the identity of the new Doctor Who.

Without further ado, you can check out the show now through this link, and don’t forget to subscribe to what is – we think – one of the best podcasts going right now.

For further reading, don’t miss our interview with the Extra Secret Podcast team; and if you’re thinking of starting your own podcast, catch up on their tips for podcasters, while you’re at it.

Download the podcast.

Subscribe

 

UPDATE

Professor Wu and Billy the Echidna have been at it again, collaborating with the team at Extra Secret Podcast for their special ‘After Dark’ episode.

The episode focuses heavily on the recent UK General Election, and can be listened to via the Extra Secret Podcast website 

Rich person’s kid gets book deal with major publishing house

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The talentless child of a rich person has today received their first book deal with a major publishing house.

The book, titled ‘Dificult [sic] being born rich but wanting to write and take photographs too, maybe’ is expected to hit shelves across the world this weekend, with many expecting sales figures to be numbers.

In a statement, the publishing house confirmed they would not be investing in any new or talented writers, so that they could pump all their resources into ensuring the new book was definitely a collection of words and possibly also photographs printed on paper and bound up together.

“The plot follows the story of a rich boy who takes terrible photographs and writes really poorly trying to get his book published. At first he’s worried that he won’t be able to get his book published, because it is so obviously lacking in talent. But then he remembers that his father is incredibly rich, and everything works out for him,” a spokesperson for the publishing house explained.

“I really think there’s a lot of depth and nuance going on here. Don’t just take our word for it, though – a Rupert Murdoch newspaper said it was a ‘tale for our times’, and I couldn’t agree more.”

Rife with continuity errors, narrative flaws, grammar and spelling mistakes and multiple logical and character-based inconsistencies, the book has quickly formed a cult following among members of the public.

“I actually happen to think its very meta,” a hipster in Shoreditch said without being asked for his opinion. “And I should know, since I regularly refer to myself in the third person.”

Ballot Beats – promoting the youth vote through poetry

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As the deadline to register to vote in the 2017 General Election nears, 7 million voters – most of them younger – remain disenfranchised. This continues a long-recognised trend in British elections; in 2015, only 43% of young people aged 18-24 voted in the General Election, compared to an overall turnout of 66 % and a turnout of 78% for those aged over 65.

Nothing in the Rulebook has long championed the power that the arts have to inspire and affect change; so a new project from the brilliant minds behind the Theatre Centre really caught our eye. The group is looking to use the power of poetry to cultivate advocacy and galvanise action from young audiences, moving them towards compassion, conversation and campaigns.

Working with award winning poet Mr Gee, the group ran poetry workshops in different parts of the UK and encouraged young people to create poems about their beliefs, and why voting feels important to them.

Some of these young people can already vote – most of them can’t: they need other young people to be their voices, and to tick their ballot papers. Their words, beliefs and rhymes have been collected and shared in #BallotBeats

A spokesperson for the group said: “At Theatre Centre we believe young people need and deserve representation. We believe that the best way of achieving this representation is through voting. We want to help encourage young people to get their voices heard and to vote. We want their concerns to be placed at the heart of the political agenda and to be visible with our political landscape.”

Nothing in the Rulebook Co-Founder, Professor Wu, praised the importance of the #BallotBeats project: “The Conservative Party called the 2017 election on the assumption that young people will remain apathetic to the democratic process. They are absolutely banking on the youth vote not turning up; because they know if this were to change they would face a nigh impossible task of forming a government to implementing the cruel and Victorian-era policies of their regressive manifesto. Rest assured it is completely within their interests – and the interests of the corporate elite – to keep the status quo as it is, and keep young people bored and disgusted by politics, and prevent them from realising the power that they truly wield. What a great victory it would be if this were to change and those people who will have to live longest with the outcome of this election turned up en masse to the polling booths on 8th June.”

“Poetry has a long-standing tradition of inspiring protest and activism, and Theatre Centre’s #BallotBeats project is exactly the sort of galvanising initiative that is needed to bring a little more hope and optimism to the world at a time where so much around us seems created to inspire fear and cynicism.”

For more details about the work of Theatre Centre and #BallotBeats please contact Emily on emily@theatre-centre.co.uk or call 020 7729 3066. You can also follow them on Twitter (@TCLive) and Facebook.

 

New Welsh Writing Awards 2017 longlist dominated by women

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New Welsh Review, in association with Aberystwyth University and AmeriCymru, has announced the longlists for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017: Aberystwyth University Prize for Memoir and AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella.

Now in its third year, the Awards were set up to champion the best short-form writing in English and has previously run non-fiction categories with the WWF Cymru Prize for Writing on Nature, won by Eluned Gramich in 2015 and the University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing, won by Mandy Sutter in 2016. The Awards 2017 opened up entries from the US and Canada for the first time in the Novella category.

Both new and established writers based in Wales, England and the US are in the running for the top prize, including a joint memoir by a husband and wife. The longlist is dominated by women with 8 out of 9 women contending for the Memoir Prize and 6 out of 9 women in the running for the Novella Prize.

The memoir list includes true stories of a Canadian hobo; anorexia; a daughter’s American road-trip made to help reconcile her father and grandmother; an all-boys care-home in South Africa whose residents include a baboon; being the daughter of a Rhyl beauty competition judge, and backpacking behind the iron curtain.

Among the novellas, sexual abuse or the threat of it are among the themes; as well as homosexuality in a Welsh monastery; the meanings and mystery of treasures old and new; escaping the shadow of a father figure, and the enduring healing and destructive powers of archetypes and idylls.

Aberystwyth University Prize for Memoir Longlist

Maria Apichella (Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk)                                    The Red Circle

Caroline Greville (Eythorne, Nr. Dover, Kent)                                    Badger Contact

Catherine Haines (Charing, Kent)                                                            My Oxford

Liz Jones (Aberystwyth, Wales)                                                              On Shifting Sands

Sarah Leavesley (Droitwich, Worcestershire)                                  The Myopic of Me

Mary Oliver (Newlyn, Cornwall)                                                             The Case

Amanda and Robert Oosthuizen (Eastleigh, Hampshire)             Boystown S.A.

Lynne Parry-Griffiths (Wrexham)                                                         Painting the Beauty                                                                                                                                      Queens Orange

Adam Somerset (Aberaeron, Wales)                                                     People, Places, Things: A                                                                                                                                Life with the Cold War

 

AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella Longlist

 

Cath Barton (Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales)                    The Plankton Collector

Rebecca Casson (Holywell, Flintshire, Wales)                                   Infirmarian

Barbara de la Cuesta (Seaside Heights, New Jersey, US)                Exiles

Nicola Daly (Chester, Cheshire)                                                            The Night Where                                                                                                                                                      you no Longer Live

Olivia Gwyne (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland)            The Seal

Atar Hadari (Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire)                                  Burning Poets

Joao Morais (Cardiff, Wales)                                                                     Smugglers’ Tunnel

Veronica Popp (Chicago, US)                                                                    Sick

Mike Tuohy (Jefferson, Georgia, US)                                                     Double Nickel Jackpot

 

Commended

Amanda Oosthuizen (Eastleigh, Hampshire)                                     Carving Strangers

For further information about the award and the longlisted writers, visit www.newwelshwritingawards.com