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Louis Greenberg

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A Mummy in a Modern City – the presentation

I’ve posted my presentation to the Monstrous Antiquities: Archaeology and the Uncanny in Popular Culture conference at University College London on my website. Here is a bite and a link:

Good afternoon. I’m Louis Greenberg, much more a fiction writer than an academic, and I’ll be reading an extract from my short story, “Akhenaten Goes to Paris” then chatting briefly about the ideas behind it.

Book of the Dead coverThe story appears in The Book of the Dead, which was published by Jurassic London and launched the other night. It’s apparently the first-ever anthology of original mummy stories and is written by a great selection of current talent, so you should get hold of a copy.


“Akhenaten Goes to Paris”

Uncle Menny assured me that there wouldn’t be a problem getting onto the plane. ‘Just smile and act normal and they’ll wave you through,’ he said. I don’t think Uncle Menny’s travelled for a long time.

Read the full presentation here.

Dark Windows to debut at Bloody Parchment 2013

The Root Cellar and Other Stories coverThe Root Cellar and Other Stories cover

On Wednesday 30 October, the first-ever public extract from my upcoming novel, Dark Windows, will be read at the Bloody Parchment 2013 event at the Book Lounge in Cape Town. I won’t make it to Cape Town this year, and my clone wasn’t baked in time, but someone with an excellent reading voice will be taking the appropriately spooky extract out for a test drive.

Get down to the Book Lounge for the annual Bloody Parchment Hallowe’en fun. Read more about the event here.

Dark Windows cover reveal!

Screaming Woman detail from Dark Windows coverHolistic Spirals detail from Dark Windows coverHospital detail from Dark Windows cover

Lauren Smith has just posted a cover reveal and interview with magician-illustrator, Joey Hi-Fi, at her book blog, Violin in a Void. It’s made me excited for the book again! I’m amazed and honoured by the effort and attention Joey’s put into the cover. He discusses the book and the illustrations more eloquently than I could at Lauren’s blog.

I’ll let Lauren host the full cover for a few days, but have put up a couple of the details here.

The Beggars' Signwriters coverAs a side note, I’m fascinated by how the Dark Windows cover mirrors that of The Beggars’ Signwriters, even though Joey hadn’t looked at it. I should write another book about frames next.

A Mummy in a Modern City

On 2 November, I will be presenting a paper entitled “A Mummy in a Modern City” at the Monstrous Antiquities: Archaeology and the Uncanny in Popular Culture conference at University College London.

I will start my presentation by reading an extract from my short story, “Akhenaten Goes to Paris”, which will be published in The Book of the Dead, edited by Jared Shurin (Jurassic London). I will then briefly outline various psychoanalytical and gender theories of monstrosity as it relates to contemporary popular fiction – including notions of the fetishised body, the subversive potential of marginal positions, and our lingering fear of an abject return of the repressed, and invoke Julia Kristeva’s sense of fiction’s importance in managing this fear.

I will discuss why I took my fictional mummy into Paris, bringing the ancient, marginalised monster into the thick of contemporary Western culture and imagining some aspects of the culture, both strange and familiar – including xenophobia, religious changes and ideas of body image – he’d encounter there.

I will finally touch on my research on some of the other ideas in the story, including into Akhenaten’s historical relatives, methods of embalming, and contemporary French monumentalist architecture.

If the paper makes any sense, I’ll post it here when I’m done.

A preview of The Book of the Dead

Mysterium Tremendum, artwork by Garen Ewing

The Quillery blog has just scooped a sneak peek at The Book of the Dead, coming from Jurassic London at the end of October. There you’ll find the list of contributions to this cryptological anthology, including my story, "Akhenaten Goes to Paris", alongside exciting mummy tales by David Bryher, Jesse Bullington, Lou Morgan, Glen Mehn, Molly Tanzer, Adam Roberts, Den Patrick and Paul Cornell among many others.

There are also examples of Garen Ewing‘s stylish artwork and some information on the insanely awesome limited edition hardcover, each with an exclusive Garen Ewing illustration and bound in cloth strips and sealed in wax! (You can order that here, but be quick.)

If you’re in London on 29 October, you’re welcome to come to the launch of The Book of the Dead.

A ghost-eater at the Open Book fringe

I recently co-edited an exciting anthology of short stories by a hot mix of young and established writers with Diane Awerbuck. Now it’s being treated to a launch on the Open Book weekend in Cape Town. You are invited!


Join a celebration of hot local writing talent as Aerodrome launches The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories, an e-book anthology of 31 stories published by Umuzi.

Editors Diane Awerbuck and Louis Greenberg will be in conversation Umuzi’s Fourie Botha for a little bit, followed by tea… and cupcakes!

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sunday 8 September
You can let Aerodrome know that you’re going on the Facebook invitation so that they can bake extra cupcakes, or just come along.

The beautiful Warren Editions Project Space, round the corner from the Book Lounge, on the 3rd floor, 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town.

Available on the Kindle, and at Exclusives and Kalahari’s online stores from 5th September.

Mia Arderne, Daniel Berti, Leila Ruth Bloch, Lien Botha, Tembi Charles, faith chaza, Bronwyn Douman, Genna Gardini, Sandra Hill, Ilze Hugo, Conrad Kemp, Wanjiru Koinange, Nadia Kamies, Michael King, Sophy Kohler, Liam Kruger, Christopher Kudyahakudadirwe, Alexander Matthews, Steven Otter, Brett Petzer, Jolyn Phillips, Donald Powers, Werner Pretorius, Calvin Scholtz, Tom Schwarer, Stephen Symons, Dina Segal, Jen Thorpe, Caitlin Tredoux, Olivia Walton, Makhosazana Xaba

(You can also see this post, with pretty colours, here.)

S.L. and Louis go to the UK; Louis lurks in Cape Town

I’m delighted to share some news of bookish travel plans coming up:

First, I’ll be lurking unofficially at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town for a few days from 7 to 11 September, including elbowing my way to some great art at The Shining Girls Charity Art Show. I’m also looking forward to seeing Ian Rankin, the Writer Sports jollity, and Diane Awerbuck and others talk about short stories.

Then, I’ll be in London on 29 October to attend the launch of The Book of the Dead, in which I have a story, "Akhenaten Goes to Paris". I’ll also attend the Monstrous Antiquities conference at University College London, all about archaeology in popular art and fiction. On 3 November, Sarah Lotz and I will be in Brighton, signing copies of End of the Road with several other contributors at the World Fantasy Convention. There may be a couple more S.L. Grey events in London that week – we’ll keep you posted.

Announcing my new novel, Dark Windows

I’m delighted, at last, to announce that my new novel, Dark Windows, will be published by Umuzi in April 2014. This is my first solo novel to be published since The Beggars’ Signwriters in 2006 and I’m very pleased.

Dark Windows is set in an alternative-present Johannesburg. A wave of New-Age belief has radically altered the country’s political landscape, but not everyone buys into the miracle. The novel follows three troubled characters – a veteran political aide, a stalled woman and an uncommitted contractor – as they get caught up in an unsettling political scheme and a series of mysterious suicides. Michael Titlestad describes Dark Windows as “a fascinating combination of satire and gently apocalyptic writing that is aesthetically and ideologically accomplished and thought provoking”.

‘Eight years!’ I hear you exclaim. ‘What have you been doing since then?

Not that I want to make excuses or anything, but here’s what:

  • adopting and training two cross-terrier mutts.
  • writing two unpublished novels.
  • fathering – and parenting – two energetic children and dealing with family losses and joy along the way.
  • resigning my commute and salaried job for the sometimes-dubious comforts of a freelance career, including editing twenty-six books and proofreading twenty-three others (see some of the great books I’ve worked on from home here), managing publishing projects for eKhaya, and being an online writing mentor and editing stickler at the SA Writers’ College.
  • compiling and editing Home Away.
  • researching and writing and passing a doctorate.
  • publishing a handful of short stories and academic articles.
  • spending a lot of time on Facebook, and a little less on Twitter and too much on cellphone poker and Bejewelled Blitz. (If anyone asks me how I got repetitive strain injury in my wrists, I blame writing, but we all know different.)
  • co-writing three and a half S.L. Grey novels.

This last item has probably been the best sort of boot camp for my own writing, and the lessons I’ve learnt from working with Sarah Lotz, including a master class in plotting and pacing, have added to my original style, resulting in a mix of depth and pace in both my solo and our collaborative novels that I’m very proud of.

I’m excited when I feel that I’m improving as a writer, and that the next book will be better. And the best way to evolve more quickly, I’ve learned in these last years, is to write more, and more often. Reading and working in words helps too.

And the final item on that list:

  • managing to write Dark Windows!

The first draft happened mostly during two paying-work-dodging, burnout-inducing shifts of six weeks each spaced a year apart.

After all that, you can see why I’m so pleased to be back in the Umuzi fold as a published author. I’m lucky to have Henrietta Rose-Innes as my editor to guide me through the next phase, of making this thing better than I can make it myself. I trust the process the will be vigorous, but not leave me a wrecked shell of the shell I already am. Also assembling for awesome publisher Fourie Botha’s crack team at Umuzi is Joey Hi-Fi on the cover.

Watch this space for more information. Thank you for your patience, encouragement and interest!

(You can read this post with colourful bits on my website, here.)

Announcing the Book of the Dead

Jurassic LogoI’m delighted to share the news that I have a new story coming out in Jurassic’s next collection, The Book of the Dead, alongside another stellar line-up of genre specialists, including David Bryer, Jesse Bullington, Paul Cornell, Lou Morgan and Molly Tanzer.

Niall Alexander got the scoop at and shares all the details here. My story, entitled "Akhenaten Goes to Paris", tells the story of a … well, you’ll just have to wait until October to find out more.

From the article:

If you loved [The Lowest Heaven,] that inspired and inspiring anthology—as I indubitably did—you’re going to be over the bloomin’ moon about this new book! It’s another anthology of original short fiction, with an equally telling title—a lot like this column, come to think of it—and I’ve got so much more than what it’s called to talk about.
I guess I’ve already given the name of the great game away—no prizes for guessing that Jurassic London’s forthcoming short story collection is called, yes, The Book of the Dead—but we still have to work out what it’s all about.
Why, only ‘the most mysterious, versatile and under-appreciated of the undead: the mummy!’

Click here for more information on The Book of the Dead.

See this news on my website.

The Short Story Day Africa interview

Short Story Day Africa is coming on 21 June. It celebrates the continent’s shorter fiction on the shortest day of the year. It has a special focus on encouraging youngsters to enjoy and create short stories and will culminate in the publication of two anthologies: the best submitted short stories by adults and by schoolchildren.

You can help fund the editing of the anthologies at SSDA’s Indiegogo campaign and pre-book your own copies.

This year, I’m proud to be sponsoring the book voucher prizes for the under-9 and 10-13 writing competitions. I love that the Short Story Day Africa campaign encourages schoolchildren to expand their conception of writing: that it is a communal affair, made to be shared; that it can have an effect on others. I’m happy to support talented young writers to think about turning their private expressions into professional, public practice.

The organisers apparently crowdsourced some questions they’d like writers to answer, so in support of Short Story Day Africa, I bare myself here:

1. Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product?
Most days, I do prefer having written to writing, but the reward of reaching a target or finishing something so perfectly challenging is immense. When it’s flowing well, it’s addictive. I don’t think I “have to write”; I could one day go cold turkey, but I’ll write as long as it’s feasible. So that, I suppose, means I do enjoy it.

2. What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it? (No cheating and saying something that makes you sound like the intelligensia).
I am proofreading a guide to labour law. I actually am enjoying it. The neat rationality and logic of the law appeals to me when I need a break from all the subjectivity and mushy inconclusiveness of fiction. And it’s comforting to know that we have clearly formulated and fair laws that apply to everyone in the country.

3. Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it?
No. They deserved it.

4. If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why?
I’d like to have Shane and Renée, the two artists from The Beggars’ Signwriters around, and see what they’re up to now and how they’re doing. Also Akhenaten, the mummy who I wrote into contemporary Paris in a new story. That would make an interesting group.

5. Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why?
Most of the “people” from the Downside would make awkward company. My children might get frightened or abducted by them.

6. Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against?
Definitely against. When I was younger I would go out drinking quite often, but it was only when I stopped having hangovers during my free time that I could start taking my writing seriously.

7. If against, are you for any other mind altering drug?
No. I’ve never enjoyed stoner fiction, which I find self-indulgent, and prefer to communicate in a way sober people will understand. For one thing, there are more of them out there.

8. Our adult competition theme is Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story?
Quite often, but I am aware of the pitfalls of using food scenes as mundane decoration rather than something that expands characterisation or develops the plot. In The Beggars’ Signwriters, hearty food was a symptom of a content family life. In The Mall, we wrote a fun scene set in a McColon’s restaurant, which wasn’t quite as comforting.

9. What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview?
I haven’t been annoyed by a question yet, but have been taken aback when the interviewer admits he hasn’t read the book. The best interviews have always been about themes beyond the blurb.

10. If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be?
Haruki Murakami. I’ve read most of his work and really liked much of it. He seems to have the total freedom to write what he likes and do as much or as little publicity as he wants.

11. If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why?
Only embarrassing love poems and letters from long ago. Related note to self: burn journals.

12. What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?
I never lie.

13. If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them?
No. I don’t feel that strongly about reviewers. They’re as entitled as I am to enjoy or not enjoy a book. If the review is a personal grudge or attack, it’s worth even less of my response (though I do, of course, vent to my friends). But there is one particular “painter” in Paris who’s going into a choice scene one of these days. She’ll know who she is when she reads it.

14. What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy?
That they eventually publish their own novel and realise just how bad it feels to be ad hominemed.

15. What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa?
What’s *wonderful* about being a writer in Africa is that you can submit directly to publishers and most of them act in warm good faith and genuinely like their writers. There are various supportive communities and very little back-biting from other writers. The frustration is that writers who restrict themselves to Africa can only ever be hobbyists.

16. Have you ever written naked?
Not fiction.

17. Does writing sex scenes make you blush?
No. I won’t say why.

18. Who would play you in the film of your life?
It would probably be a cartoon.

19. If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money?
I’m not sure how much the prize money is, but I’d put it towards paying the bills while I write for a month or two instead of taking on a full schedule of paying work.

20. What do you consider your best piece of work to date?
I was going to say my children, but that would come across as pious, so I won’t. But they are.

21. What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa?
According to my whiteboard, I’ll be editing a new collection of short stories curated by Diane Awerbuck, which will be perfectly appropriate to the day.