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  • Writer's pictureElliot J Harper

Welcome to New Gillion Street



“The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe, for the axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was made of wood, he was one of them.”

 

 

Turkish Proverb

 

 

 

You wait for a moment to happen, yearn for it, dream of it even, and then it happens, and you don’t quite know what to do with yourself.

 

This is one such moment.

 

Today, dear reader, New Gillion Street, my debut novel, is released.

 

I am now officially a published author.

 

And that is a very strange feeling.

 



I’ve worked toward today for over five years. I wrote New Gillion Street in 2018 – it was called New Oxford Street at the time, then New Albion Street, and for a short period, Chaos Revealed – in a flurry of excitement, and it’s surreal to think it’s actually out there in the world for everyone to read.

 


Casting my mind back, I remember it well. I had written my first long-form piece of work a few months before and then quickly wrote another, but it was during that second writing that the idea for what would become NGS truly formed. As soon as I finished that second piece – a messy, incoherent short novel, which was quickly set aside because it was terrible – I launched straight into what I planned to be my first full-length book. I aimed for 80,000 words because, well, that’s just the sort of daft thing I would do! What kind of a nutter writes an 80k novel for his third piece of fiction, ever!? Me, that’s who!

 

But in all seriousness, I aimed that high because I had read somewhere that that was a proper-sized novel, (which isn’t true), and I wanted to test myself, to see if this writing lark was for me. So, I made a rudimentary plan and set to it. And it simply flowed out of me. The last 10k words are a blur that took place in one single day of scribbling madness. I giddily unleashed the conclusion to the story and was breathless when it was done. I’ve never come quite that close to that feeling, although I’ve come very near on more than one occasion. It felt like a big deal at the time, and now, five years later, I realise that it was.

 

I’ve believed in the book from the start. (And even a small part of it, the short story called In the Garden, actually won a competition!) It’s changed names, changed POV, changed word count (from 80k to 96k, then back down to 78k) and even changed tenses (the latter is a gruelling process, by the way.) But the story, excluding a few dreamlike moments that I eventually removed or adapted, has largely stayed the same.

 

Simply put, it’s about the dangers of far-right politics and what an unscrupulous individual can do if they are willing to take power at all costs. At the time, we lived in Houston, Texas, and I had just watched the U.S. Midterms. I’d never seen politics fought in such dirty terms – which are bad even by U.K. standards – but what stayed with me, was watching Trump whip people into a frenzy about immigration for his and his party’s own ends. That was five years ago, and it’s still happening today, both here and in the U.S.

 



The playbook is simple. Usually, a “strong-man” politician, wielding the traditional tactics of the far-right, will demonise another, smaller group, preferably one that can’t defend itself. They then capitalise on the ensuing furore to win an election for their own ends, typically to enrich themselves, or to remove the opposition and keep themselves in power.

 

The strong-man/antagonist in this story is Mr Zand of Number 13. He’s well-spoken, he seems perfectly reasonable, and he’s charismatic. But he manipulates for his own ends. In this particular case, he brings politics into the Street, where before, there was only a rudimentary, cooperative form of administration in the guise of the Committee that dealt with Street matters and nothing more. He’s a classic example of the above. In the story, it’s the mysterious people of the forest that he demonises, and to a lesser extent, the “Even” side of the Street. He whips the “Odd” side into a fever pitch, and we get the events of the novel.

 

To counter such a person, our protagonist – and sole point-of-view for this book - is Albert Smith of Number 20. Albert is a simple family man, really. He would love nothing more than to potter about the garden and drink cups of tea. He, like most people, is averse to change and to conflict, preferring to either ignore it or gossip about it at home with friends. No one wants conflict. Most sensible people will avoid it if they can. But in periods of major upheaval, you eventually need to speak out or act. We live in such tumultuous times with the rise of the far-right again, but it is impossible to act straight away. You need a moment, or a series of moments, to really get angry. Albert embodies that wait-and-see in all of us. He isn’t happy with the situation from the start, but it takes extreme events for him to finally get irate enough to do something about it.

 

All fiction, especially of the fantasy and sci-fi variety – in my mind anyway – is a shadowy reflection of our own world. New Gillion Street is a microcosm of the issues that we have dealt with - and seemingly are dealing with today. This book is my allegorical take on politics and how it only takes one individual or a small group of individuals to ruin years of cooperation, even if that cooperation was already begrudging. The Odd and Even sides of the Street are loosely left and right, but I’d like to stress that that is a very loose interpretation because I really don’t believe anything is that simple. “Left” and “Right” are extremely nebulous terms that are very different for every society and culture. It’s my belief that people, when given the chance, can and will work together, especially when there’s a great need, but there are always those hidden within that do not want that, at all costs. They crave power, to the detriment of everyone. (Just look at what Trump has done and is doing right now and what Boris Johnson did before he was caught.)

 

Anyway, I won’t say anymore because I’m verging on spoilers!

 



I’ll close this blog out with some thanks. To Naomi, for listening to me drone on endlessly about my work. To John Brooksmith and Robert Welbourn, for their help at the beta reading stage - without their valuable insight, this book might never have been. To Isabelle Kenyon, the mastermind behind Fly on the Wall, for making this book a reality and for working very hard on it. To my friends and family, for supporting me from the start, especially Will Garnett, for his words of enthusiasm. And to the New Weird movement, notably China Miéville, Steph Swainston & Jeff Vandermeer, for writing very strange fiction. Stu Hennigan and Rob (again) for their kind endorsements. And finally, to you, the readers, who have bought the book! Without you, all of this is pointless.

 

I’m delighted to say that New Gillion Street is available to buy directly from Fly on the Wall Press, Amazon in paperback and Kindle, Waterstones, and other U.K. retailers. I hope you enjoy it! And if you do, share it online and leave me a lovely review.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Elliot J Harper

 

Author of New Gillion Street, published by Fly on the Wall Press.

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