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Flights of Fancy

To date I have written 13 novels over the course of my writing life. It is interesting to look back and consider this harvest of the imagination

The amazing covers by Steve Hambidge for The Windsmith Elegy (vols 1-5) https://www.behance.net/crookedkm/projects

Flights of Fancy: My Novels

To date I have written 13 novels over the course of my writing life. It is interesting to look back and consider this harvest of the imagination – what connects them, if anything? Certainly a strong strain of the Fantastic – most are explicitly within the Fantasy or Science Fiction category, with just a couple of anomalies: my first novel, which could be categorised as Weird or Timeslip; and my latest, which is my most ‘mimetic’ to date – being set entirely in this world, with no element of the Fantastic (except perhaps through the combination of extraordinary characters in an extraordinary place – albeit both within the purview of the possible). From the very first a strong sense of place has been a key element of my fiction. I am also inspired by myths, legends, folk tales, and folk songs, so what I call ‘mythic resonance’ permeates all my work (indeed, I called my Fantasy novels ‘Mythic Reality’). Nature has always been more than a backdrop in my writing – an ecoliteracy informs them all. And increasingly, there is a keen sense of the Climate Emergency – this has manifested most tangibly in Black Box and Thunder Road. Finally, I think I am drawn to hybrid, marginalised voices – characters caught between worlds in different ways. These are the voices that interest me the most.

So far, only 8 have been published (one as an interactive novel), although my SF novel, Black Box, has manifested as an audio drama via Alternative Stories and Fake Realities. Hopefully, the others will see the light of day at some point. Otherwise, to keep writing them without guarantee of publication is a kind of madness – I call it my Obsessive Narrative Disorder. I just can’t stop writing. I have so many ideas, and novels just pounce on me and don’t let me go until I’ve written them. With my current novel, The Bath Circulating Library Society, I have set up what I hope to be a long-running series – I have several plot ideas already sketched out, enough probably to keep me busy until the end of my days. Let’s hope I get a publisher for them soon!

The Ghost Tree (1994 – unpublished)

The Long Woman (2004, Awen) – Arts Council Award winner

Windsmith (2006, Awen)

The Sun Miners (2007, Awen)

The Well Under the Sea (2008, Awen)

The Burning Path (2010, Awen) – El Gouna Writing Residency, Egypt

This Fearful Tempest (2012, Awen)

Black Box (2016) – winner of the One Giant Write competition run by Literature Works; adapted into an audio drama for Alternative Stories and Fake Realities.

The Knowing: a Fantasy (2018) – my PhD novel, published by the University of Leicester, via Open Access, as a hardbound dissertation, and website: www.thesecretcommonwealth.com (2nd draft written as a writer-in-resident at Hawthornden International Writers Retreat, December 2015).

Thunder Road (2020) available to read via this website

Hyperion (2021, available via Tales Writer on App Store and Google Play)

The Bath Circulating Library Society (2021) – long-listed for the Bath Novel Award

The Bath Circulating Library Society is a prequel to an intended novel series, the first volume of which has been written (completed in 2020).

Kevan Manwaring, 17 October 2021

Don’t Lose Your Head

Ready to play ‘The Beheading Game’? David Lowery’s The Green Knight (2021)

The Green Knight – a review

[spoiler alert]

David Lowery’s haunting, hallucinatory re-imagining of the 14th Century Middle English verse romance, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, was delayed from its original May 2020 release because of the pandemic. Fended off like the fatal blow of the antagonist several times since, it has been worth the wait. Lowery has adapted the source text in a structurally bold and visually stunning way. It makes striking acknowledgement of textual sources – suggesting through a rapid flickering of fonts the many versions and variants. ‘Gawain’ is a cultural virus that has mutated through the centuries, being re-translated and retold in myriad forms. There have been scholarly and poetic tellings from Tolkien, and the former poet laureate, Simon Armitage; theatrical and operatic versions – most notably Birtwistle’s; adaptations for the small and silver screen (most faithfully in David Rutkind’s lucid 1991 version); and numerous usages of key elements of the story in comic book, computer game, and TTRPG. But Lowery, with his dreamlike, visionary style, has reclaimed ‘Gawain’ for the big screen – but with a storytelling style that has its roots in European art-house cinema more than Hollywood. This feels wilder; riskier: it is hard to predict where it will take you, or what astonishing image will appear next. And yet there is narrative traction, and a thematic coherency about it: the leitmotif of the circle binds the film together – in the Round Table, King Arthur’s crown; the sinister ritual of shadowy priestesses; Gawain’s shield; and the famous ‘green garter’ or belt of protective spells, which is given him by both his mother (a dominating Circe-like presence played by Sarita Choudhury), and ‘The Lady’.

Lead us not into temptation … Alicia Vikander’s The Lady tests Dev Patel’s Gawain

Gawain, played with conviction and charisma by the brilliant Dev Patel (who is carving a name for himself in ‘colour-blind’ literary adaptations, such as Armando Iannucci’s Great Expectations), is an ignoble, compromised figure: a hedonistic, amoral Prince Hal we hope will become our Henry V.  King Arthur is depicted in full Fisher King mode (played intensely by Sean Harris), and yet Gawain is no Parsifal. His sorceress mother appears to set in motion a series of events that will lead to her son’s betterment, either societally or in terms of his maturation. Gawain is a pawn, but a self-aware one, at one point asking is it ‘A game?’ Arthur replies: ‘Perhaps. Yet the Beheading Game that is instigated by the dramatic arrival of the uncanny Green Knight at Arthur’s court is deadly serious – one with inexorable consequences. A moment of valour leads to a year-long countdown to a gruelling journey into the wild north. Here Gawain is tested by tricksters, ghosts, giants, and apparently friendly hosts, along with the more-than-human world of nature itself. Indeed, an ecolinguistic subtext rises to the surface in The Lady’s extraordinary pagan paean. And it is tempting to see the Green Knight himself as the very scion of environmental justice. Yet the mighty antagonist Gawain must face feels less the vengeful face of nature, and more a moral and spiritual catalyst. In a mind-bending dilated alternative timeline, we behold a possible fate for Gawain in true ‘Last Temptation of Christ’ style. This is foreshadowed by the ‘death’ of the protagonist in the forest: the camera panning around the seasons like the rotating backdrop in the puppet show. Gawain is bound to Fortuna’s wheel – a victim of circumstance until he finds his own moral compass, his inner chivalric code. After being tested by the irresistible Lady Bertilak (played with sensuous power by Alicia Vikander) and her husband (played with earthy vigour and sexual ambivalence by Joel Edgerton), Gawain finally arrives at the Green Chapel and reaches a kind of apotheosis, sitting in Buddha-like contemplation beneath the ‘Bodhi tree’ of the sylvan lord. What risks being an anti-climax transforms into the most astonishing sequence in which Lowery – both writer and director – strays fullest from the well-trodden woodland path. To discover what the errant ‘knight’ finds in his personalised heart of darkness, you will have to seek the film out. There is only one misstep in my mind in this otherwise masterful revisioning of the poem – the CGI fox, which feels like a concession to a younger audience, a stray from another kind of ‘fantasy’ movie. Perhaps it only jars because Lowery has otherwise served up a feast of Fantasy of the highest order, one that deftly straddles the medievalist and the modern – in music, costume, and mise-en-scène. It knowingly weaves in its sources, while simultaneously transcending them. This is the best Arthurian movie since John Boorman’s 1982 Excalibur and is a worthy inheritor of the crown. Go on a quest and hunt it down in a cinema: it’ll reward your effort.

Kevan Manwaring, 30 September 2021

David Lowery’s ‘The Green Knight’ – a cinematic triumph

Outside the Box – transdisciplinary conversations

OUTSIDE THE BOX – transdisciplinary research seminar series

Autumn Programme 2021

Tuesday, 5th October – AUTHENTICITY & CREATIVITY

There’s a reason people don’t swim in dresses – Sally Tissington

Sally Tissington mixes performance art and creative writing in order to energise her writing and art practice (imagework, and arts-based autoethnography) through taking greater creative risk. The risk-taking involves stopping self-censoring and instead acting on all ideas that arise from the unconscious, making these ideas visible as a piece of art. She then uses the art pieces as inspiration for her creative writing.

Sally Tissington is a writer and artist with a published novel and many short stories. She has worked at the universities of Warwick and Coventry teaching creative writing and writing for wellbeing. Recently she has worked with Headway, the brain injury charity, designing and delivering an art and creative writing for wellbeing course. Website – makingstrange.me

The Evergreen Tree of Diabolical Knowledge’: researching a historical novel – Kevan Manwaring

In researching a dual narrative novel, set in both the mid-18th Century, and the Nineties, Kevan Manwaring drew upon historical research and autobiographical experiences of living in the city of Bath for 14 years. Bringing to life figures from Hanoverian Bath, was coupled with the ethical and aesthetic challenges of fictionalising memories from twenty years ago. Bound to a specific location, writing the novel involved researching circulating libraries, architecture, secret societies, folklore, and local history. Autofiction collides with the counterfactual, blurring notions of authenticity and fictionality.

Dr Kevan Manwaring is the Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Arts University Bournemouth. He is the editor of Heavy Weather: tempestuous tales of stranger climes from The British Library; Ballad Tales: traditional British ballads retold; and author of the prize-winning novel, Black Box, adapted into an audio drama by Alternative Stories and Fake Realities. He is a contributor to New Writing, Writing in Practice, Axon, TEXT, Revenant, and Gothic Nature. He blogs and tweets as the Bardic Academic.

Tuesday, 9th November – ECOPOETICS & FEMINISM

Poetry / Landscape: ecopoetry as restorative act – Helen Moore

In examining and decolonising notions of landscape, I show how my ecopoetry is an interdisciplinary practice with its roots in animistic European traditions. Drawing on poems inspired by landscapes in Australia, the north of Scotland, Somerset and Dorset, I illustrate socially and ecologically engaged work with an activist intention, which aims to highlight and restore ecological and cultural dimensions that Western industrialised societies, in particular my own (white British), have marginalised/erased. It is poetry as restorative act. A signpost towards regenerative cultures, where we value the Earth, and particularly the land/bioregion we inhabit, as our community.

Helen Moore is an award-winning British ecopoet with three collections, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins(2012), ECOZOA (2015), acclaimed as ‘a milestone in the journey of ecopoetics’, and The Mother Country (2019) exploring British colonial history. Helen has shared her work on international stages, including India, Australia and Italy. She offers an online mentoring programme, Wild Ways to Writing, which guides people on a creative writing journey into deeper Nature connection. Her work is supported by Arts Council England, and she is currently collaborating on a cross arts-science project responding to pollution in Poole Bay and its river-systems. www.helenmoorepoet.com


A Girdle Round the Earth – Mary-Jane Holmes

‘The future of feminisms is in the transnational and the transnational is made through translation’ Olga Castro states. Within this transcultural context, through a deep engagement with poetic form and formal transference I hope to extend the possibilities of language beyond essentialist constructions of genre, race and sexuality while finding expression for a new set of experiences. 

My creative project experiments with poetic devices ‘borrowed’ from a medieval Iberian strophic fixed form called the Muwashshaha; devices such as diglossia, interweaving several languages together, codeswitching, voice appropriation and contrafacture, as well as translating the Muwashshaha into an English version of itself with the potential of opening a discursive, transnational space for female poets seeking to express themselves on their own terms. 

Mary-Jane Holmes is currently studying for a PhD funded by the AHRC in poetry and translation at Newcastle University. Mary-Jane’s poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass is published by Pindrop Press. Her award-winning pamphlet Dihedral is published by Live Canon Press her novella Don’t Tell the Bees, is published by Ad Hoc Fiction and a new Flash fiction chapbook is published by V.Press on September 6th.   

Tuesday, 7th December – GEOPOETICS, DANCE, & MOVING IMAGE PRACTICE

Circling and Circling (again) – Ceri Morgan and Anna Macdonald

This presentation reflects on Circling – an interdisciplinary, collaborative and participatory project on persistent pain. Bringing together geopoetics, dance and moving-image practice, we devised prompts/scores for participant workshops, with the aim of fostering different ways of thinking about and experiencing pain. The project led to six new films (Anna Macdonald), along with writing and images by participants. The artworks can be viewed in an online artefact, Circling (again): http://www.circlingartproject.co.uk/. Collectively, they offer a sense of the way pain can affect everyday journeys, and change people’s senses of scale and perspective.

Professor of Place-writing and Geohumanities, Ceri Morgan works on geopoetics as a participatory practice, leading workshops or ‘happenings’ on a variety of themes, including mining, food, and deindustrialisation. Anna Macdonald is a dance and moving image artist, based at Central St Martins Art School (UAL), who specialises in participatory and interdisciplinary arts practice.

All events will be on Zoom 6pm-8pm. To register contact Dr Kevan Manwaring, Arts University Bournemouth: kmanwaring@aub.ac.uk

Trapdoor in a Locked Down World

REVIEW

The Museum of Mystery and Imagination

The Allsop Gallery, Bridport Arts Centre, 15 July-20 August, 2021

Imagine if Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, and Giorgio de Chirico had been born in the British Isles; if they had still turned out to be artists (and that presupposes that artists, and not just poets, are born and made: are natured, not nurtured). Would they have created their distinctive visionary blend of Surrealist and Symbolist art with an Anglo-Saxon sensibility? So, indirectly, this exhibition speculates – that there is a particular British form of these traditions that, it is argued, predates them. It is glimpsed in the works of William Blake, Samuel Palmer, Lewis Carroll, David Jones, and Leonora Carrington – tangible influences in the works on display here. An eclectic exhibition of paintings and ceramics, populated by strange creatures and creations from the fringes of consciousness. It is like walking into a fairy tale forest, or Cocteau’s castle from La Belle et La Bête: this is a place of chimerical metamorphosis, and ambiguous, amphibious dream-like imagery. People and animal blend into fluid hybrids, take on iconic potency in their postures and expressions. Some have the stained-glass clarity of tarot cards, or the rude energy of church grotesques. The natural world cross-fertilises with the human. There is a sexual frisson to many, but the female gaze dominates. The images suggest a chthonic female experience erupting into the waking world, defiant and empowered. A cat and a mermaid make strangely compatible companions. A naked woman hovering between two chairs explodes with flowers. In an age of heavy realism, this celebration of the imagination – blossoming out of the enforced interregnum of lockdown – is a welcome escape hatch.   

Kevan Manwaring, 7 August 2021

Thank you to the staff of Bridport Arts Centre, who kindly let me in to view the exhibition while building work was under way.

https://www.bridport-arts.com/event/museum-of-mystery-and-imagination/

The Calving of a Berg

The Calving of a Berg

A line in the white
writes itself
across the tabula rasa
of the ice shelf.

Black lightning
of this Götterdämmerung
for emperor penguins, base-camps,
and coastal towns.

At the suture zones the cracks queue up.

They call this
a perfectly natural process.
Human impact?
The mainstream media feigns
impartiality with its lukewarm caveat
‘probably’.

The haruspices scrutinize the markings,
utter teatime-friendly soundbites.

Yet the Anthropocene awaits
no starting gun.
The tipping point passes –
buried beneath an avalanche
of white noise,
the muzak of the mall
lulling us into impulse purchases,
the streaming trivia
distracting us, reassuring us
that it’s business as usual,
so buy bye and
succumb to the Coriolis, baby

as a berg the size of Belgium

                                                       drifts our way.

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2021

Listen to me read the poem and others, alongside great poetry by Marie-Claire Wood, TAK Erzinger, Kevan Manwaring and Sarra Culleno – from Alternative Stories and Fake Realitieshttps://www.buzzsprout.com/411730/8567031-poems-from-marie-claire-wood-tak-erzinger-kevan-manwaring-and-sarra-culleno?play=true

Read about the melting of the Greenland icesheet here

Bellwether

(for Greta)

Greta Thunberg's options for crossing the Atlantic again — Quartz

Crossing lines whine in wind’s teeth,

rigging taut as harp strings divides the endless sky.

Boom as tumblehome hull breasts another wave,

smack and sizzle of icy spray.

Brine on sun-cracked lips,

legs forgetting what dry land feels like.

Sixty foot of fibre glass between you and

the twenty seven thousand feet to the ocean’s bottom

where tectonic plates perform

the long painful process of separation.

Aboard, a schoolgirl crosses this gulf

to convince the captains of nations

to take a diametric tack –

a deadly holmgang

with the highest of stakes.

because almost everything is black and white.

Black as the mainsail, white with its legend:

Unite Behind the Science.

Powered by eight minute old photons, by subaqueous turbines,

this zero carbon craft carries her,

The Wily One.

Over three thousand miles and fifteen days,

peeing in a bucket, and eating boil-in-a-bag meals,

privacy a luxury for this girl who had no friends,

and doesn’t like crowds.

Braving a callous ocean named after the god

who once held up the world.

But the time for bedtime stories is over.

For, babassu and murumuru explode with super-heated sap.

The Ribeirinhos weep as tribal lands succumb

to Bolsonaro’s scorched earth policy –

rubber trees, cacao, brazil nut groves, nurtured

for generations, by Neoliberalism’s fire-sale erased.

And the noble Quilimbolas, descendants of rebel slaves,

wear masks of solastalgia as their universe is torched,

to grow soybeans, mine ore, raise cattle.

Carbon. Methane. Cancer.

A lung of rainforest the size of Manhattan lost every day:

a Noah’s Ark of unknown species, life-saving poultices.

And the Arctic Circle is necklaced with wild fires.

and the Greenland ice sheet debouches

eleven billion tonnes in a single day.

And still there are those who ignore her

when she says: Our house is on fire.

The Calvary congregation pray at Jacksonville Beach Pier

to Hurricane Dorian, telling it to calm down,

but the climate is the corrupted portrait of our

unsalubrious lifestyles.

And the bellwether who heralds the bad news

is made a scapegoat by the hate merchants.


But despite the gyres of oil-lobby media,

the toxic backwash of anti-experts,

the side-winds of the climate deniers,


Still she makes landfall, carrying the virus of hope.

Listen to me read the poem and others, alongside great poetry by Marie-Claire Wood, TAK Erzinger, Kevan Manwaring and Sarra Culleno – from Alternative Stories and Fake Realities. https://www.buzzsprout.com/411730/8567031-poems-from-marie-claire-wood-tak-erzinger-kevan-manwaring-and-sarra-culleno?play=true

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2021

Tree Rings

Image by Daniel Griffin

Behind each truth another,

concentricities of awareness.

The deeper you look,

the more you will perceive.

In each moment one has a choice –

to accept things as they are and 

act and converse in accordance 

with the tacit expectations and rules

of the encounter, or to delve,

pursuing the situation or subject

into infinitesimal granularity.

Or, alternatively, soar

keen-eyed, above it – observing each

frame, each assumption. Acknowledging

and elevating, acknowledging and elevating

beyond every atmospheric envelope of lore.

Shifting magnification, we penetrate

to a deeper or higher reality, until

beyond the purely intellectual

a greater awakening awaits.

Copyright Kevan Manwaring

3 May 2021

Free Speech vs Hate Speech Regulation

Is free speech a universal and incontestable right, or does it come with necessary conditions and responsibilities?

Should we be able to say what we want, when we want, to whom we want? Or should there be restrictions on such freedoms? Should free speech stay free? Yes, you might instinctively cry. But consider how we live in a complex world where, certainly within our own countries we are bound by an intricate network of rules, regulations, and etiquette. However much we may rail against some curbs on our liberty, this is part of living in any civilised society, and of the modern world. Take the current lockdown, for instance. Imagine if we chose to ignore it – apart from putting our own liberty at risk (you may end up in jail, or certainly receive a heavy fine), you are putting at risk anyone you come in to contact with, and then that risk is passed onto to anyone in your bubble. It would be unconscionable to do so, and fortunately, most people agree (excluding the odd exception who feel the law doesn’t apply to them, e.g., Dominic Cummings). Most of us are willing to abide by the law when we realise to do otherwise would be to put lives at risk. Well, the same applies to hate speech – movements to criminalise this is not about restricting free speech in general, but specifically only speech that incites or condones violence. This is very specific and does not prevent rigorously healthy debate about any issue that concerns us. It does not censor ‘heretical’ viewpoints, even very questionable ones such as held by flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, or holocaust deniers. The bottom line is – does the speech dehumanise others? Does it incite or condone violence against them? If so, then it should not be given a platform. The intellectual, if provocative, challenges of free speech advocates like Christopher Hitchens and Jordan Peterson only makes sense in a world where people are educated, eloquent, and willing and able to hold rational discourse with others (and allow them to respond in similar fashion). It does not factor in the irrationality of those who, via the influence of Fake News, the echo chambers of social media, and the dog whistling of certain politicians, now mistrust scientific consensus, empirical facts, expertise, and rational discourse. Confused people who believe their civil liberties are being taken away, and who often own semi-automatic weapons such as the so-called ‘Proud Boys’, and who are willing to use them in a misguided ‘defence’ of democracy, to the point of storming Capitol Hill and disrupting the due process of that very same democracy. Right wing commentators such as actor Laurence Fox complain (vociferously) about being ‘silenced’ – a message ubiquitously (and unironically) shared on social media and national news platforms. And yet the toxic discourse of similar ‘public figures’ like Katie Hopkins and Sarah Palin is often one that wishes to silence difference, demonise minorities, and incite hatred against anyone that challenges their paradigm. Meanwhile, the historian David Olusoga is forced to defend his work that brings to light Britain’s roots in slavery, and fellow academic Professor Corinne Fowler is attacked in The Telegraph for her Colonial Countryside project. There should always be a place for reasoned discourse, and nothing should be beyond criticism. Critical thinking should be a key life skill taught in every classroom. As should debating skills. The arts of oratory, of eloquence, should be encouraged and cultivated. Until such skills are ubiquitous, hate speech needs to be carefully regulated – with self-reflexive criticality and full transparency about criteria, and process. The world is a tinderbox right now and allowing people to throw matches is complicity to arson. Do we want the world to burn? Anyone with a conscience, with compassionate intelligence, surely should not.

Kevan Manwaring, 5 March 2021

Pilgrimage to Sovereignty

Real World Adventure Hooks for D&D — Kingly Presence – Nerdarchy
Gallos, Rubin Eynon, Tintagel

It is a dream I have… (Merlin, Excalibur, Boorman, 1981)

I have been obsessed with all things Arthurian since a young age  – and that compelled me to go on pilgrimage to Glastonbury and other sites associated with his legend as I reached an age when I could hit the road. Coming from a run-down Midlands town it was thrilling to walk in a landscape soaked with myths and legends – but back then I did not realise such things are under your feet, wherever you live. What we consider to be sacred is as an act of perception – but sometimes we have to go on a journey to realise the wonders of the everyday. 

Having walked many of the national trails in 2017 I decided to create a more meaningful route – one with a narrative, a significance, I could relate to. One that might even be transformative. And thus I researched the modern pilgrimage route I called the ‘King Arthur Way’ – a 153 mile long-distance trail from Tintagel (the place of Arthur’s conception, according to legend) to Glastonbury (site of his ‘grave’, or passing).

I loved working out the route on the series of OS maps I purchased – one that takes the pilgrim from the rugged north Cornish coast, across the wild fastness of Dartmoor and the Blackdown Hills, and over the Somerset Levels towards the iconic terminus of Glastonbury Tor.  Along the way one passes castles and mysterious stones, winding rivers, woods and heathland, charming villages and tempting pubs. There were, as on any long-distance walks, days of real challenge and days of reward. Some of the highlights include:

  • Waking up on the coast overlooking Tintagel.
  • Stumbling upon the ancient rock-cut mazes in Rocky Valley.
  • St Nectan’s Glen.
  • Brent Tor.
  • Wild-swimming in the Tamar, Dart, and Shilley Pool.
  • Castle Drogo.
  • South Cadbury.
  • Burrow Mump.
  • Walking to Glastonbury across the Somerset Levels.

Most of all there was this sense of ‘walking the legend’, which made it real in a very embodied way.  If a 6th Century battle-chief existed called ‘Arthur’ (Arturo, Artus …) then he would have been a very different leader than the one rendered in the courtly romances, as would have been his ‘knights’. The Arthur of the early Celtic tales gives us a glimmer, perhaps – he’s far less sympathetic (Trystan and Isseult), more pro-active (The Spoils of Annwn), and often deep in gore (The Celtic Triads).  Yet whether he existed or not, there is an Arthur for all of us – he is a malleable construct that changes through the decades. He epitomized one thing for the Victorians (the noble cuckold; the tragic martyr torn between lofty ideals and earthly desires, skeletons in the cupboard and Christian imperialism); another for the Post-War generation (a dream of unity, however flawed); another for the Counter-Culture (Merlin as the original Gandalf; Mordred as the rebellious anti-hero); another for the New Age (feminist revisionist treatments reappraising the role of women in the Arthuriad and problematizing the patriarchal hierarchy of it all). Arthur ‘exists’ as a cultural meme, as a literary figure, as an ideal – and it is the latter that most engages me at present.

For despite his questionable reputation and historical status, Arthur represents the archetype of Kingship. And we are living in an age suffering from the Shadow of that – we suffer under the yoke of so many bad leaders. I am not a Royalist, but I am no anarchist either. We need good leadership now more than ever – both from within and without. It would be naive to assume that if we just ‘sorted ourselves out’ the world would be okay – but it’s a place to start from. Self-actualisation can happen in many ways. Healthy communities are naturally ennobling and mutually empowering, so the process can begin on your doorstep.

But sometimes we need a more intense experience to ‘shift’ things.

My hope in creating a modern pilgrimage route is that it could be used for rites-of-passage (for all  genders and ages), for leadership training, for the continuation of a living oral tradition (storytelling, poetry and singing along the route), the cultivation of art trails, the promoting of local businesses, rural regeneration, and so forth. Such an endeavour will only come about through collaboration, community involvement, fundraising and sponsorship. To accomplish such a dream requires inspired leadership. By setting out to create the King Arthur Way perhaps I had awakened my own ‘king’ – and I hope that all who walk it connect with their own inner sovereignty too. 

Route details etc here:

https://kingarthurway.wordpress.com/

Read a fuller account of the creation of the King Arthur Way in the latest issue of The Pilgrim:

https://www.thepilgrim.org.uk/

For general mapping and other pilgrim trails:

https://britishpilgrimage.org/portfolio/king-arthur-way/

Jupiter the Great and the Little Women

Once there was a great king

…at least he was great in terms of his size and ego. He was known by many names but let’s call him Jupiter. King of the Gods (he acted like a petulant god so hell he must be!) Jupiter had usurped his father, Saturn (some said killed, but those voices were hushed up) from the throne, and lorded it over all, the most important man in the solar system, galaxy, universe – at least he liked to think so. He had a pet eagle, a shield called Aegis. Shiny thunderbolts made by his son, Vulcan. But he was particularly proud of his swirling orange hair – he thought it made him irresistible to women.

giuseppe-cades-juno-discovers-jupiter-with-io

Giuseppe Cades, Juno discovers Jupiter with Io

He loved the women, or the girls, as he liked to call them. He like to talk to them, he liked to touch them, and loved it when they stroked his … ego. But, stop right there – he had a wife, lest we forget – Queen of the Pantheon to his King, her name – Juno. Jupiter thought her oblivious of his shenanigans, but on the contrary, she knew alright, and kept a close watch on him.

He loved to conceal his infidelities in clouds of mist – sometimes he descended on unsuspecting nymphs in the form of a golden shower – but Juno was able to pierce through his miasma.

One day Jupiter having developed a soft spot for a beautiful young nymph called Io, went a-calling, hoping for a bit of frolicking. He wooed her, her fondled her – thinking he was the one doing the seducing … But his wife was swift to follow and nearly caught them at it – but he was quick. He turned Io into a cow. ‘Husband! Husband! What are you up to!’ Jupiter feigned innocence. ‘I’m trying to get back to nature. I’ve been too high and mighty. I wanted to shed the trappings of power and taste the life of a cow-herd. And look at this lovely heifer. Her beautiful udders. Her smooth horns. Her big dark eyes. The swish of her tail.’

Juno, this time accepted these alternative facts, though in her heart she knew she’d been deceived. So she left.

Another day, Jupiter’s eye fell upon another lovely nymph, skin like alabaster, called Europa. She refused his advances, and so he came to her in the form of a bull – and carried her off to have his wicked way with her. Some say to Crete, some say to a crate.

But Jupiter’s good luck ran out one day when he was cosying up to another nymph called Callisto. Juno appeared, and this time there was no hiding – her husband just shrugged ‘What can I say. She was a five!’ – In her wrath Juno turned Callisto into a bear, and stormed off.

Finally Jupiter took a shine to a handsome young lad from Troy called Ganymede – he had if nothing else Catholic tastes. The lad was a bit reluctant to accept the advances of the horny old goat, I don’t know why. And so Jupiter descended upon him in the form of an eagle and carried him off to the stars to be his cup-bearer, or so he says.

Well, Juno had had enough. She decided to teach her pathetic husband a lesson. Instead of confronting her husband directly, which she knew would be pointless. He was so self-deceiving he wouldn’t realise he’d done anything wrong. So she went to Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. They were frightened when they realised who she was. But she said, ‘I’m not angry with you, only my stupid husband – are you happy being treated this way?’ They all felt they had been wronged – but at the time it was hard not to be swept along by Jupiter’s magnetic personality. They agreed to help teach the king a lesson. Yes, he had thunderbolts – but Juno made some powerful allies.

She recruited Venus and Mercury to her cause – love and eloquence. War-like Mars, with his buzz-cut and PTSD twitch, was Jupiter’s right-hand man, so no luck there. Saturn certainly had a bone to pick, but was bit of a deadweight. Neptune, who ruled the sea, and Pluto who ruled the dead, also joined their cause. Together, led by Juno, they caused chaos in the heavens, disrupting the cycles and orbits, with their non-violent direct action, until enough was enough!

The allies confronted the bully – who turned out to be nothing more than a gas giant. All bluster. As they confronted him with his misdemeanours and crimes, he started to shrink. He spewed out toxic cloud in his defence, but got smaller and smaller. One by one his layers of deceit were stripped away, until there were none left – and what did they find behind it all? A Little Boy sitting on a rock, sulking, sticking out his bottom lip. He tried to throw his thunderbolts, but they were like sparklers now. He had a toy shield and stuffed bird. So much for Jupiter the Great.

After that Juno and the ‘girls’ took over running the Heavens and they did a far, far better job of things. The Solar System became a lot more peaceful, pleasant and respectful place to live.

Jupiter was given a nanny and a nice big play pen, where he could build imaginary walls all day long without causing any harm.

The End

 Kevan Manwaring © 2017-01-27

If you are interested in the real Jupiter and its amazing moons then check out my science fiction novel, Black Box, forthcoming from Alternative Stories.

Black Box has been adapted into an audio drama by the amazing podcast team at Alternative Stories. The first three pilot episodes are due to be launched 20th November, 27th November, & 4th December. FFI: https://alternativestories.com/