It came to my attention that I had been miscounting the Word Dogs when I advertised the 26th September performance on my Facebook. (There was a Word Dogs performance in August 2009 in Edinburgh which I was unable to attend, hence the confusion!) Which means the next performance from the Dogs of Hell will be the Tenth. Maybe we should go all out and book Madison Square Garden! Maybe not, but you don't reach ten every day.
Word Dogs IX was held at FRESSH on Cochrane Street, just off George Square in the heart of Glasgow. Due to our connections, we'd managed to hook up with The Decay of Lying: the 2nd Annual Merchant City Festival Writing, Literature and Cultural Conference. Maybe it was our boyish charm. Our notoriety. Our ability to out drink any writers to the nearest ten miles. Or, maybe it was because we knew Martin. The jury might well be out on that one. But booked we were, an hour slot was promised and it was up to our intrepid band of fellows to fill in the mix.
There was of course one scary prospect. Word Dogs VII, which, if I can say so myself, went pretty damn well last December, took six months to prepare. WDIX had two weeks to prepare! So thank the good lord we had the erstwhile Mark Harding and Ian Hunter on hand to speed edit, collect and form a junta. They managed to do all the necessary work in the two weeks, which really puts to shame my organising skills last year! Word Dogs IX was the best of old and new. Our greatest hits and some new hits to boot.
And thankfully the open mic session ran late, else I'd have missed it. I blame Google Street View.
This performance also had one added edge for this intrepid performer. My mum was in the crowd! As was my mother-in-law-to-be and her new other half. The pressure was to, in the words of Voltaire (presumably), not cock the whole thing up.
We had some missing performers, most notably the towering Gavin Ingliss, the skilfully subversive Neil Williamson and the legendary Duncan Lunan. But we had a packed card to counter the loss of such fine talent.
So the show started. A packed crowd watched proceedings. So packed not even the performers had seats half the show.
Hal Duncan started us off with an engaging performance of Scruffians Stamp. The story, which can be read at Hal's blog (see the link) is both a melancholic longing for the past, and a rousing call to arms. 'The Scruffian who never knew he was a Scruffian'. It's such a resounding comment: it resonates with old childs stories of our memories. It forms part of the ongoing realm where the mythical and the seemingly normal fit in side by side. You need a strong starter to get the crowd going at an event, especially if that crowd have been around all day. We at Word Dogs are very lucky, we have one of the best. Those who saw the performance though, will be unable to read the story without the rhyme falling into place exactly in their mind as the writer performed it.
Mark Harding was up next. He had the unenviable task of being compere and having edited the Word Dogs show, a task I know all too well the size of! [Incidentally, I recently read Barchester Towers by Trollope, in which he includes one of his main characters, a Mr Harding. So every few pages Mr Harding appears, and my memory goes straight to poor old Mark.] Mark Harding is a first class writer from Edinburgh and a member of the GSFWC group. [Glasgow Science Fiction/Strange Fiction Writers Circle. For the record, everyone with the exception of GW Colkitto and Martin Belk himself at this Word Dogs are members of that shadowy Circle!] His stories include xLin and Don't Read This, personal favourites of mine.
Here he read Art Attack, which had previously been read at Word Dogs IV, a Word Dogs that Mr Harding (Mark, not Trollope's character!) had been the compere of and on the Junta! In the three years since that eventful date, the story had been published by Future Fire. This was a much edited version of that story, for performance purposes, but it came across very well, and the audience responded in kind. Certainly Harding's performance skills have improved ten fold since January 2007 - as they do with every subsequent Word Dogs showing - and his story flourishes as a result. He even got a gasp from the audience at one or two 'subtle' innuendos. [Though, on reflection, I think I might be the only performer to not mention sex blatantly or as subtext!] There is a growing amount of Mr Hardings work available for perusal. We hope there will be more to follow in the years to come!
Then it was the turn of Ian Hunter. Ian is a strange beast of a writer (I hope he will forgive me saying that). The man has written multiple childrens stories, several supernatural tales and I have an autographed book of his, Fantastic Glasgow, which has a killer Sooty the Bear on the front cover! Ecleptic is the word. He read The Cutting Edge of Art here. A story I was very familiar with, as Ian read at Word Dogs VII, the show we edited together with Rich Mosses. It was a bloody good one then, and it was a bloody good one now. The audience loved it. His performance was accompanied by an almost continuous laugh track, the crowd had tears of laughter in their eyes as they listened. Ian Hunter is a very witty writer, and his wit stems out of knowing exactly what to do with his own characters. His artist, Duncan MacKenzie, is the latest in a rash of Tracy Eminites, with the satire gauge ranked up to a Spinal Tap eleven! Of course, when he goes for a new form of art, things never quite go as he planned. One things for sure - the Big Issue didn't like it! It was a delight to have Ian perform for us.
GW Colkitto was next up. Alongside Ian, he is a member of the Read RAW group of writers. His story, Outvasions, had been read at Word Dogs VII. It was read here again, and the crowd lapped it up. A nice short story with a punch in its tale. What more can you ask for? This story was my first introduction to Mr Colkitto. I look forward to my next one!
Some mad person was up next. Michael S. Collins. Nope, never heard of him either. I'd like to qualify the performance as a success, on account of not being hung, drawn and criticised afterwards. Or thrown to the dogs. Or heckled, which makes a nice change from some earlier times! Jimmy Boy certainly works better as a performance piece. I'll refrain from blowing my own trumpet, or looking like someone who has any form of ego. Let's just say I think it went reasonably well. Even my mum had a few good words to say, when she wasn't telling everyone in earshot how great Hal and Ian were!
Rich Mosses was our next performer. Rich is a Word Dogs veteran: a former host, multiple time Junta member and performer at nearly all of them. His performance of Nelsons Blood at Word Dogs IV lives long in the mind of anyone who saw it. His reading of To Live and Die on Alston Street at Word Dogs VII was the headline act. Here he gave us another one of his specialities, mixing mythological and supernatural nasties with a decadent Glasgow urban setting. Rich reads his stories in quite a leisurely way, rather a juxtaposition with the rather horrific fates his characters seem to meet at times!
A nice surprise for all was next: Paul Cockburn, reading! Reading new fictions he had written! Hooray! Paul hasn't really written much fiction in recent years - to our great loss - focusing on his non-fiction journalism career. "I get to a hundred words of a story, then get bored" he claims. So, he gave us some examples of drabble fiction. One hundred word stories. And great they were! The economy of language cut down to its finest proportions, yet the quality shines through. Hopefully, so positive a reception will give Mr Cockburn's muse a needed aide in providing more delights like this in the near future.
Penultimately, we had Martin Belk performing. Martin ran the Conference, and clearly enjoyed this chance to perform himself. Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...no, that's the lyrics he used! Martin combines semi autobiographical tracts with heavy streams of consciousness, loud biting satire and machine gun delivery. This story, a Word Dogs V one adapted in the wake of President Obama's reign, had the audience in roars and in pathos by the bucketload. Real performance art. Angry and bitter and twisted. Like Vonnegut's Ulysses on the Daily Show. And despite my long running and well known disdain of all things James Joyce, that was meant as a glowing compliment.
And finally, back to where we started. Hal Duncan. He gets the final spot whenever he is available, because, quite frankly, the man is unfollowable. Apparently we were going to get something nice and fluffy. Instead we got filth. Sonnets for Orpheus (you can see them by clicking on the link, though beware: viewer discretion is advised due to the, uhm, suggestive nature of the poetry). They went down a storm, even if half the time some of the audience were gasping and saying "He didn't really just say that, did he?" But then, all good art makes us question. And anyone who has read the critically acclaimed Vellum or Ink knows exactly what they're in for with an Hal Duncan piece. Tore the house down. Finished on a high.
On a whole, I think we went not too badly. Everyone did well, the crowd seemed to enjoy us. I enjoyed it, both the performing and more importantly the listening to everyone else.
Until next time. When we get to the X!