Tags: Hal Duncan
Sorry for the completely misleading title. It’s not meant to be clickbaity or edumactional, rather it’s a celebration of us adding two new ebook formats to Hal Duncan’s lovely chapbook, An A-Z of the Fantastic City.
Originally only available as a pdf, today we have added both epub and mobi formats thanks to ebook maker Frédéric Hugot of French science fiction publisher Éditions Critic.
Given the (dis)United Kingdom’s Brexit vote and the ongoing international upheaval I am very happy to have Scot’s author Hal Duncan’s book of international and fantastical cities remade and more widely available thanks to a French volunteer.
Here’s one of the 26 entries from the book:
The firm of Ackroyd, Moorcock and Sinclair, Solicitors, is the oldest existing company on record, dating back to the dawn of Albion in the foundation of Trynovantium, or New Troy, the settlement which was to go through a few more names—Caerlundein, Londinium—before settling on its present day nomenclature of London. From a small enterprise set up by three merchants to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the treaty signed between Brutus and the autochthonous inhabitants of a tiny village on the river Thames, this legal firm slowly established itself as an integral aspect of the growing city’s mercantile existence. Its history is, in many ways, the history of the city itself.
Joseph of Arimathea, on his arrival with the Magdalene and her son, arranged the loan with which he purchased land for his new home through Ackroyd, Moorcock and Sinclair, using the Holy Grail as collateral. Where the Anglo-Saxon chronicles provide only the sketchiest accounts of comets and catastrophes, the records of this firm provide exhaustive detail on trade arrangements with the Norse, land disputes between the Normans, jurisdictional challenges from the North. It was this firm whose clerks drafted the Magna Carta, this firm who arranged Henry VIII’s divorce, this firm who took care of the British East India Trading Company’s most confidential colonial affairs. Even today most mortgages, leases, compulsory purchase orders and debt reclamations in London are arranged through Ackroyd, Moorcock and Sinclair, Solicitors, a situation which has led to all manner of conspiracy theories regarding the supposedly mystical alignment of various key buildings—Hawksmoor’s churches, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral. One merely has to enter these three names into an internet search engine to find website after website devoted to the secret truths to be found in a study of London’s streets. This firm was instrumental in the rebuilding of the city after the Great Sinking of London, when most of the city was swallowed up by its underlying swamplands, as recorded in the diaries of Richard Jefferies, published as After London (1885).
Personally, I have only respect for this long-established firm, having first-hand experience of their efficiency in ironing out the contractual legalities between my publishers and myself. I have found them most amicable to deal with, highly professional but also understanding enough of a writer’s persona to conduct business over an endless lunch rather than in an interminable meeting. And if they have imposed some grand occult design over the city of London, well, the resultant mystery is a majestic one.
I remember thinking this, as I flew down from Kentigern to Heathrow for that first meeting, looking out of the window of the plane, at a city between Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night, a city brilliant in the nine o’clock dark of autumn.
The city at night, at this time of year, seen from the sky, looks like a field of moss the colour of candlelight, a carpeting of broken glass, crushed underfoot and glowing orange. Tiny little bursts of sparkle flash here and there like sequins catching ballroom lights: fireworks going off all over the city. As the plane descends the blossoming is close enough to take shape, instances of anemones. We fly down into the shatterings of light until they’re all around us, the city so vast that they stretch back as far as the eye can see.
A little mystery in a city is no bad thing.