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Danas Mirabilis

And so it came to pass that Aeon and Nature both published one of my pieces on the same day.

The Humanitarian Future was difficult. The original article was trying to be three things: a potted history of the modern humanitarian sector, an outline of what needs to change for ‘humanitarianism’ to survive in the now-times, and a brief personal account of my work. My editor Brigid Hains took one look at that and realised it wasn’t going to work. The final version doesn’t capture everything that I wanted to say, but, contrary to what the internet wants you to believe, it doesn’t have to. This is a small part of a wider discussion, across many platforms and in many fora. Go read.

The tiger waiting on the shore, by contrast, was easy. I had been enjoying the Nature Futures podcast for a few months, and wondered if they had an open submissions policy. They did, so I wrote the story in less than a day, and sent it off with no expectations. Editor Colin Sullivan accepted it immediately, and it’s printed more or less as I originally wrote it. Writers’ lesson for the day: you never know where you might find a platform for your work. The story is a science fiction / horror / family drama – a bit more obscure than most of the stories that Nature publishes, and it fills me with a feeling I can’t quite describe.

Sounds of Savamala cover art

What Savamala Sounds

I drove overnight from Belgrade to Herceg Novi, and then I fell off the map for about two weeks. Before we started driving, I went to the launch of the Savamala Soundwalk, the project put together by Kolektiv ImproveE2.0 and Zvučna mapa Beograda. Yeah, yeah, street team Belgrade, keeping it real, etc, etc.

The team had so much interesting material this year, they decided to release two Soundwalks. Broadly speaking, the artists on “Sounds of” focused on the field recordings themselves, twisting and turning the cityscape; meanwhile the artists on “Sounds for” used thosee recordings as inspirations for a range of compositions.

If I had to pick some favourites, I’d go for Andagainandagain’s Walking to Geozavod building, and Igor Miskovic’s Dockyard Echoes on Sounds of; and Zartzinfekt’s Route 2, and Jasna Jovićević’s Route 5 on Sounds for. (Jay Zr’s Bridge Over Tromboned Water wins best title, obviously.) But I change my opinion on a daily basis, so my opinion is worth nothing.

Both sets are fantastic, and I’m not just saying that because my track Sedmina was included on “Sounds of” under my pointless pseudonym of The Black Mountain Installation. The ideal way to experience these is to listen while walking along the actual routes recorded, since each track is the same duration as the walk it was inspired by. IT’S MAGIC.

New Track – Sedmina

I composed a track for this year’s Zvučne šetnje Savamalom (Savamala Soundwalk, if you don’t speak Serbian), made out of sounds sampled from a walk along Karađorđeva (with some additional samples from Freesound). “Sedmina” means “Seventh”, but it also means something else.

Paul Currion In performance at UK Parobrod, March 2014

No Place To Run No Place To

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a writer is to sit around waiting for other people to recognize your genius. There are two reasons for this: first, you’re not a genius; and second, people are idiots. (You may notice that these two are basically the same point.)

My resolution this year was to write, but also to perform. I’ve always envied visual artists who can take over a space and force themselves into the public consciousness; on the other hand, visual art can easily become wallpaper in a way that performance usually doesn’t.

In March and May, we staged two updates of Jekyll and Hyde at UK Parobrod: my paranoid drone fantasy, No Place To Run No Place To, and Marija Pavlovic’s gothic satire Čudni slučaj gospođe Džekil i doktorke Hajd. NATURALLY IT WAS A TRIUMPH ON EVERY LEVEL.

Originally I wanted Pete Chaffey to play the role of the drone pilot, and Željko Maksimović to play the psychopathic doctor. Unfortunately Pete was playing golf in South Africa working, so I was forced to don the white coat – my first time on stage in 20 years.

Feedback from the audience was great, although obviously nobody rushes up to tell you how much you sucked. We recorded some video, but… let’s just say, it’s not the best video ever. You can download the story script of No Place To Run No Place To in PDF.

Flyer for Uze mi rec iz usta

This photo is actually from BiH, but you get the idea.

A Resilient Serbia?

Earlier this year I gave a talk called “A Resilient Serbia?” at the 2014 Mikser Festival. The concept of “resilience” hasn’t really entered the culture in Serbia, so this was intended to be an introduction to resilience in the context of national recovery after the massive floods that struck the region in May.

So the talk – to a packed room, cough cough – was a quick tour through the post-flood situation in Serbia, the basic idea of resilience, and how we might use that idea in approaching the recovery and reconstruction of flood-affected communities. The response was generally positive, but (surprise!) government plans are unlikely to pick up on these ideas.

Unfortunately Mikser didn’t record any of the festival talks, which was a shame – there were some really interesting speakers. You can download a PDF file of my presentation and speaking notes from this link: A Resilient Serbia?

Talking about a Resilient Serbia

Short story – The Small Print

The short story “The Small Print” was shortlisted for SFX magazine’s The Writing Dead competition. There’s no print version, but you can read it exclusively below. I tag this one as “John Grisham with zombie subcontractors”, but feel free to disagree.


I started working at the Where Value Corporation on the same day that my first wife died. I didn’t think anything of it at the time: we hadn’t spoken directly to each other for nearly two years, and even our lawyers were sick of the sight of us.

With hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the fact that my lawyer was sick of the sight of me. I pointed out that a potent cocktail of emotional distress and legal ennui may have influenced my decision to sign on with the corporation.

“I can show you a copy of your contract,” my boss offered, “although obviously I’m under no obligation.”

“Perhaps you could read it out to me,” I suggested, “although obviously you’re under no obligation.”

As he read it out to me, my mind wandered.

*

My first day on the job, the day my wife died, the day my lawyer screwed me in the most lawyerly way you can imagine – well, that day was not so bad. Where Value is a great company to work for (up to a point, but we’ll get to that point a bit later): the work is rewarding, the perks are amazing, the buffet is satisfying. I was rewarded, I was amazed, I was sated.

“Glad to have you working with us,” my boss told me repeatedly, in that first week, and he meant it.

“Glad to be working with you all, Glenn,” I told him, and it was true. I thrived at Where Value: recruited into the Hypothetical Matter department, researching potential applications of dark fluid, promoted to the Chaplygin Modelling unit. I started dating my co-worker Crystal Haight, who was considerably more attractive and intelligent than my dead wife, and played non-Euclidean Ultimate Frisbee for the department in the company league.

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New track – Da Silva

Imagine that you’re trapped on a cruise ship floating in the middle of the ocean at night. You’re the only person on board, and there’s a light in the distance. This is polyrhythmic paranoia.

New track – Welcome to Fretstable

Alice Coltrane gets completely twisted in this track, with unrecognisable guest vocals from Marija Draskic. This is my hymn to the information age.

New track – The Soul Machine at Work

I was digging in my hard drives when I found the stems for this track – all the samples lined up with nowhere to go. Half a day later, and I got the Soul Machine to work….