Newsletter #11

My newsletter gets sent out 8 times a year – you can subscribe here. This is the newsletter that was sent on 1 May 2019…

Higgs’ book-heavy Octannual Manual #11

A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs

May Day 2019


Make room on your shelves, good people, it’s coming.

Out in hardback, ebook and audiobook on May 16 is my next book, THE FUTURE STARTS HERE: ADVENTURES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. It might possibly be the first trad-published hardback to include the Extinction Rebellion symbol on the cover – it’s hard to be sure, times are moving fast. When I delivered it to the publishers, it was an account of the future. By the time it hits the shops, thanks to things like the school climate strikes, it will be an explanation of the present. When the paperback drops next year, we will safely be able to file it under ‘history’.

Read it now, it will help.

I’m launching it with a special, one-off, not to missed night in the Brighton Fringe, along with a group of mighty guests perfectly curated to demonstrate the argument of the book. If you can make it, it will be well worth your time. Tickets are available here (make sure you select ‘May 15’).

And if you can’t make that, I’ll be setting off on a little jaunt around the country, with talks in Liverpool, London, Totnes and elsewhere lined up. Details of those, as always, are here on my website.

If you do read the book and feel moved to mention it online, or leave a review on Amazon, that would mean a lot – thank you in advance.

The release of this book is the MAIN STORY here, but that’s not going to be the only new book from me this year.

Here’s the situation: I finished The Future Starts Here and sent it to the publishers. Let’s call it Book 1. I then wrote a proposal for the book I’m desperate to do next, which we’ll call Book 2. I’m clued up enough to understand how long it takes from writing a proposal to signing a contract, so I immediately began writing an unconnected novel, which is Book 3, to use this time productively. After writing over a third of that, the publishers responded that they very much liked Book 2, and could I also write a short, cheap paperback of around 10-15,000 words on the same subject that they could put out in September, which is what I am currently doing. This is Book 4 (confusingly, in contracts, it is named Book 1). It’s something that I am buzzing with delight about and which you’ll have in four months or so. But as for details – you’ll can wait until next time.

Now, extensive research has shown that my head can contain about 80% of a book before it gets full. This is fine for writing individual chapters, but tying everything up and editing the book at the end is messy. At this stage I bumble around drooling and walking into walls. My family understand this, and looks after me well during these times. Remembering the details of four books is frankly ridiculous.

As a result, I have been forced to learn the skill of dumping things out of my head when they are not immediately needed. I’ve talked in the past about the need to Marie-Kondo your mind ahead of the coming 2020s – what a useful skill this turns out to be! As it happens, many of our preoccupations in the world of fiction are coming to a natural end this year – Game of Thrones, Star Wars trilogies, Marvel Avengers cycle etc. This means we can move on and make brain space for the new stories – and new types of story – that are coming.

Then there are the large amount of outdated assumptions and beliefs about how the world works which we keep in our heads out of habit, but which we really don’t need anymore. The Future Starts Here, I think, will bring many of these to light. I hope it will convince you to dump a lot of this baggage. There are a lot of new ideas and perspectives in the book, of course, but overall I hope it will leave you lighter.

In The Future Starts Here, I talk about how my strangely-named evil friend Shardcore has fed all my books into an AI called AlgoHiggs and trained it to write in my style, in an attempt to replace me. It’s a handy example not just of what AI can do but, more importantly, what it can’t do.

AlgoHiggs has recently improved massively, and has unexpectedly become extremely funny. In response, we are printing up 100 copies of The Future Has Already Begun, AlgoHiggs’ attempt to write The Future Starts Here. It also includes a foreword by Shardcore and an afterword by me. This, god help us, is Book 5.

This is a frankly brilliant book of clueless AI gibberish, ideal for toilet libraries and heartily recommended to all practitioners of bibliomancy. I’ll have copies with me at my coming events, so coming along will be the only way to get hold of one. The price is a donation of your choosing which will go to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. Think of it as doing a good thing and getting a limited edition Shardcore artwork at the same time.

Today is also the day that Shardcore’s band The Private Sector release their debut album, YOUR MIND, OUR MARKETPLACE, which is now on Spotify and in all usual places. It is everything that is wrong with the modern world, in audio form. Brace yourselves.

Something entirely different to that album is the frankly marvellous Creative Beast podcast, which is aimed at anyone who enjoys being creative – and I happen to know for a fact that that includes you. I am interviewed in episode 3 by Jo Neary and Heather Minor, the only interviewers to have written a song about coming to visit me first. Other podcasters may need to up their game.

Before I go, a shout-out to the 69 pilgrims who have just returned from the Cerne-to-CERN pilgrimage – a journey from the large hard-on to the large hadron, ie the Dorset hill figure the Rude Man of Cerne to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, via Carl Jung’s house, Damanhur, and other magical places. If you search for the ‘#Cerne2CERN’ hashtag on social media, you might get some idea of what this entailed. I talked in my last newsletter about how Brexit has become a coming-out party for batshit Britain, and this was very much in that spirit. I was at Cerne Abbas at dawn to wave them off, along with these 4 or maybe 5 wizards.

What I find interesting about this thing is that there isn’t – yet – a name for what it was. It was more than a pilgrimage, it was more than a ritual, it was more than a 60s-style happening, it included theatre but it was more than that. That it is yet unnamed makes me suspect that it is something new, and worth understanding. What we can say is that it was an effort by a group of people to not passively accept the myths they are given but to take active control of their stories, rewrite them, and improve them. The impact that art is supposed to have on people, but usually doesn’t, was very present here.

The value of this is in the effect it had on those involved – which is pretty heavy at the moment – and in what those people will go on and create next. I watch with interest, and with much love and respect.

Until next time!
jhx

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.