Wednesday, February 21, 2018

John Shire

John Shire (b. reg. Somerset, England, April-June 1964;  )

John Shire is a small-press writer, publisher and photographer based in Brighton.  He began publishing stories in the small press in 1997. A collection of three stories, Undergrowth and Other Hidden Tales, was announced for publication in 2002 by Hollow Hills Publishing, and while the book achieved one review (see here), the book was apparently never published.

In 2011, Shire founded Invocations Press, and published his first book, a nonfiction volume Bookends: A Partial History of the Brighton Book Trade (2011), a fine read for anyone interested in bookselling lore in any locale. Particularly interesting is the coverage of Bill Butler's Unicorn Bookshop which ran from sometime around 1967 to 1974. Bill Butler (1934-1977) was an American beat poet who settled in Britain and frequently ran afoul with British authorities for publishing iconoclastic literature, like J.G. Ballard's Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (1968).
An Antique Land

Shire published one of his own short stories An Antique Land (Invocations Press, 2012) as a paperback limited to 100 numbered copies. (It slightly expands Shire's story from Bound for Evil (2008), edited by Tom English.) Shire also issued a collection of ten stories (plus one nonfiction piece) Their Hand Is At Your Throats (Invocations Press, 2013), similarly as a trade paperback limited to 100 numbered copies

In the "Preface ... Stories After Lovecraft" Shire notes that "for almost thirty years I have been trapped in the orbit of a vast dead star named Lovecraft. And it's driving me mad. After any number of futile attempts at mapping its protean geography, I finally decided to put my efforts into breaking away instead. But it looks like that's never going to happen."

Six of the stories originally appeared in (mostly Lovecraftian) small press journals between 1997 and 2007, with four new stories in the collection.  Ellen Datlow noted in The Best Horror of the Year v. 6 (2014): "The new stories are surprisingly good, mostly rising above pastiche." Some of the stories, on the other hand, suffer a bit from too much postmodern playfulness. 

Shire also contributed some short entries to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006), edited by Peter Boxall, including those for Borges's Labyrinths, Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, and Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

In the about the author blurb in Their Hand Is At Your Throats it notes that he has worked "in record shops, antique shops and libraries, but prefers jobs he can make up himself, such as writer, publisher and photographer."  (Shire did the cover art for An Antique Land and Their Hand Is At Your Throats.)  A further note says "a degree in Literature and Philosophy has done him no good whatsoever." 

1 comment:

  1. But are literature and philosophy supposed to do you good?
    Is this a literary question or a philosophical question?