Sunday, October 29, 2006


Some time ago I became interested in Slash ficiton. For the uninititated, a word of introduction might be necessary. Slash fiction is romantic and/or erotic fiction written by fans of a film, TV series, book etc. in which same-sex characters (and correctly I believe it would have to be male characters) are paired off and have these romantic or erotic adventures. As I understand it, this began with Star Trek - the original series in which the most popular pairing was Kirk and Spock! The phrase 'Slash' comes from the newsgroups onto which most of this material was posted: it was necessary to let potential readers know which characters were being taken on in the story they were about to read so phrases like Kirk/Spock or K/S were introduced into the title lines - hence 'slash'. The most remarkable thing about slash fiction, however, is that, just like the audience for much of Japan's output of Yaoi manga and anime, the writers tend to be a majority female.

Years ago, and under a pseudonym I wrote some Star Trek Deep Space Nine slash fiction - maninly because I had a bit of a thing for Jake Sisko in the TV series. I haven't had much of an active interest in slash writing since then until very recently.

One of my guilty secrets is a passion for the Harry Potter books. As a result of which, in an idle moment a while ago I began trawling the net to see what the slashers might have done with the Potter franchise. The first, and so far the best, site I came across was
The Restricted Section (a reference to The Restricted Section in the library at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I've always been intrigued by the way certain pairings take-off within the slash-ing of certain 'fandoms'. I was intrigued, and I confess a little disappointed to discover, that in the world of Potter Slash, the main pairings are the incomprehensible (to me) Harry/Draco and Harry/Snape - affectionately and, let's be honest, a little geekily referred to as Drarry and Snarry fiction. I had a lot of stories to avoid, not particularly wanting to be reading either of those genres but luck struck and I came across a writer called Thevina. She writes mainly, but not exclusively Harry/Ron stories, which seems to me a much more reasonable pairing! One in particular grabbed me and another wacky idea was born.

I clicked open my email program imediately and started writing to the pseudonymous Thevina, asking if she would mind if I created two bound copies of her story, one for her and one for me, and would she mind terribly if I sent both to her and asked her to sign one and send it back? I suddenly had visions of a unique collection of signed erotic books - not necessarily slash fiction - but anything which I found on the internet and was only published there, things which grabbed me and made me think I would want to read them again and again.

To cut a long story short, Thevina agreed happily and I now have the first volume of this proposed collection on my shelf. And even better than a new book and a new collection, I now have a new friend, the wonderfully open, inquisitive, kind quirky and completely adorable Thevina...

The book itself uses an old-fashioned picture framing technique to apply gold strips around a hole which is then backed with a photo. Overall I was quite pleased with the look of the thing but now I have to decide wheher other volumes in this collection will all be in the same format or if I will use it for experimenting with book-building techniques...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Abraham and Isaac

Recently I have been putting together a blog about the way in which the life and person of Saint Sebastian has been represented in art and literature. Underlying that venture of course was the pervasive homoeroticism of the way Sebastian is represented. The project, and a number of other things recently, have made me think on other themes, perhaps less likely ones, which for me at least contain a tinge of homoeroticism. One of these has always been the story of the sacrifice of Isaac (something of a misnomer since the sacrificial knife was stayed).

Finding an undertone in the story is, for me, not a new thing. I was familiar with it as a child and, as I might have written before in this blog, when I was a child there was a distinct masochistic part of my personality. This, of course is well nourished by an identification with Isaac in the story.

Despite some recent attempts within narrative criticism in Biblical theology to reenvision the story from Sarah's point of view, (attempts which are extremely interesting but, to me, in this context, irrelevant) this is an intensely male story. To read the text is to be enchanted by a very sutble interplay of trust and betrayal, power and submission, innocence and above all duty. These are powerful and attractive ideas when encountered by a young mind. There is a certain something about the conventions used in the artistic depiction of the scene too which calls loudly to the masochist: the binding, the being held down, the willing submission or the exicted struggle.

There is not as much material to create a entire blog based around these themes so this is a mini-exhibtion to enable me to revisit this haunting story.

oil on canvas, 1040mm × 1350mm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Oil on canvas, 195cm x 132,3cm

Filippo Vitale
Oil on canvas - 130 x 200 cm
Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte

Caravaggio - of course
(b. 1488, Paredes de Nava, d. 1561, Valladolid)
Polychrome wood
National Museum of Religious Carvings, Valladolid

SACKS, Morton
Oil on canvas. 49" x 69"

(b. 1547, Verona, d. 1627, Firenze)
c. 1596Oil on wood, 51 x 37,5 cmGalleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Water Babies - the book and the memories

This particularly unassuming book is one of my favourite things. I use the word 'things' advisedly because it is not just that The Water Babies is a favourite book it is that this copy is important to me. I was going to say that it is a cheap edition but I have just looked for it on Abebooks and discovered that it may be a little more expensive than I thought in this condition but it is certainly true that it was produced as a cheap edition and, published in 1948 as part of the Golden Galley series, it has a certain wartime feel to the paper and production quality. I was reminded of it recently talking with a friend about books and eroticism.

Of course, what it important to me is the combination of this actual copy, the memories it evokes, the story itself and the illustrations (by Ian Kerr). This is the copy that was read to me when I was very young and it the memory of that still has a flavour of innocent eroticism about it. I remember the notion of nakedness being exciting in the kind of way that will make a small boy wriggle on his seat and Tom's nakedness in such an open and natural way was extremely appealing. In fact, I spent a lot of teenage hours, sneaking out of the house in the dead of night in order to strip off in the fields and woodlands around where we lived and walk naked through the silver-black of night in the countryside and it was there too that I took schoolfriends in my late teens to fumble my way through my first seduction attempts - some sucessful, some not. Kerr's illustrations reinforced what it might be to be naked in the open air (and indeed under the water - I suspect that with opportunity and more swimming ability I may have been quite the teenage skinny-dipper), Tom was the ideal companion in many ways for a rather odd kid like me and though I must have been in single figures when this book was read to me I was in no way unaware of the affect it was having on me.

Kerr's illustrations include both black and white and full page colour drawings. The black and white is by far the best and the smaller ones, used as chapter headers and footers, no more than devices really, were the most interesting to me as a child and the ones I like most now.

This is, of course, exactly why I am fascinated by books as objects, there are a very few which can act as a kind of focal point for a thousand strands of memory and personality and that requires not just some nebulous idea of the text and illustration, it requires the physical object in the hand.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I forgot one yesterday

The Postcard Palace A 'just for fun' venture which seemed like a good idea at the time - and was! :-)

My Internet Presence

Over a year ago I decided it was time to build a presence on the internet both personally and for work. Many of the places I have created do not link together because they deal with substantially different things. This blog, however, is intended as the hub of it all so I thought it might be worthwhile gathering it all together in a post.

My internet life has brought a lot of new people into my life and for that I am very grateful and I scorn all those who scorn the idea of meeting real and interesting people through the internet and becoming friends with someone you have never met.

Front Free Endpaper - you're here now. My main blog. In need of a bit of direction perhaps but the place where I can write or post anything.

Silver Birch Junction My writing blog. Not updated for quite a while but a repository for experimental bits and pieces of writing - poetry and prose - some good, some not.

The Agony and the Ecstasy A relatively new blog in a different style: a vaguely curated rolling exhibtion of art and literature inspired by the person and life of Saint Sebastian.

Callum James Books My publishing website. Very proud to finally have this as it enables me a wider circulation than simply selling my books and booklets on ebay.

My Ebay Auctions This is where I make most of my money. I have been a full-time trader on Ebay for some few years now, specialising in books, vintage photographs, artwork and ephemera of all kinds... anything made of paper and I'll sell it!

Collectors' Guide to Samuel R Delany Still unfinished. A project which began as a print booklet, a fact which is still reflected in some of the text. A site of homage to one of my favourite authors

My Gaydar Profile Speaks for itself - be aware you may not want to see this if my naked body will ruin all your illusions!

These things together, along with an active membership of a number of websites and mailing lists make up my internet 'presence'. Building it up over the last few years has been a real pleasure.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Booklet News

It's been a long time since I have mentioned on this blog any of the new booklets and books that I've been working on. This one is a work in progress but the front cover - and I'm hoping possibly even the illustrations inside are going to be the first direct block-printing onto any of my projects. I aksed a friend who suffers badly with arthritis to create the block for the cover and as she doesn't have the power in her hands to carve wood or lino she cuts the blocks out of foam. The block won't last as long as a more traditional material but then, it doesn't have to do more than 50 prints for one of my booklets and it seemed a perfect accomodation to her particular abilities...

The picture is of the mock-up and there's a fair way to go yet before its ready for sale.

An Inky Mess

I have spent the weekend thinking about print and ink and art and books and illustration and feeling inspired by beautiful people and beautiful people. As a result I was looking through the folder which acts as a kind of a bin for all my attempts at pieces of artwork. These are all monotype prints, various techniques, a couple using the same basic figure shape, all of them no more than sketchy attempts but they do show something of the immediacy and unpredictability of drawing either directly on the inked plate or onto the back of a paper on top of the ink...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Anonymous Nudes

This item, found in an antique shop in Lewes on R's birthday. I thought it was rather nice although not outstanding (the blacking out of the top half of one figure doesn't quite work and overall it is a little cluttered with lines). But of course, rather sexy too. (And so thought the lovely old queen who sold it to me as well).

I can't read the signature. The pencil on the bottom left says only, 'wood engraving'. If anyone visiting here recognises the style I'd be glad to hear.

Have been away too long from this blog. It's a long and boring story about computer viruses and extreme retail therapy but too long and boring to detail here. For those awaiting the next part of R's five pound challenge, just hang-on, it will come but he's still looking for that next item.
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