// THE IMAGINATION THIEF — Literary Fiction with a touch of Magical Realism and a dusting of Horror

Clock Tower videos and photos: video-book screening and live reading from The Beasts of Electra Drive

 
One recent evening in the Clock Tower above Saint Pancras station in London, I climbed a narrow spiral staircase, stood on a high balcony and performed a couple of extracts from The Beasts of Electra Drive, as shown in the following video—mini-chapter 94 “Jaymi creates Scorpio’s appearance” and mini-chapter 111 “Scorpio as succubus in the house on Jupiter Drive”. Those two mini-chapters’ texts are reproduced lower down this page.

 

The occasion was the third anniversary of Novel London, whose director Safeena Chaudhry ascended the very same staircase and did a reading from her novel Companions of Clay:

 

Novelist Dan Holloway of Rogue Interrobang, who was developmental editor of my novel and did editorial work on Safeena’s too, drew on his knowledge of both books in his compering of a highly enjoyable Q&A session incorporating questions from him and from the audience:

 

I also screened mini-chapters 98 “Jaymi creates Scorpio’s soundtrack” and 82 “Jaymi incarnates the Platinum Raven”, from the upcoming video-book format of The Beasts of Electra Drive (more information on which will be forthcoming soon), as shown in the following video. Those two mini-chapters’ texts are reproduced lower down this page.

 

And Safeena screened her sleekly-produced book trailer for Companions of Clay:

 

Big thanks to Lee Cooper for his great-looking videocamera work, and to Safeena and Jane Davis and Mel Khan and Lee for the following photos. (To see photographer credits and names of people depicted, hover the cursor over each image.)
 

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)

Safeena Chaudhry, Dan Holloway & Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)

Safeena Chaudhry, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)
 

The first mini-chapter of The Beasts of Electra Drive that I performed live, as shown in the topmost video-player here above, was mini-chapter 94 “Jaymi creates Scorpio’s appearance”. The text of that mini-chapter is as follows.
 

Next morning, Jaymi is seated in his bow window above the terrace of the house on Jupiter Drive, surrounded by the grand panorama of canyons and hills and the street-grid beyond. He closes his eyes and thinks back to that unique half-minute when he let his gaze wander up and down the “Cosy Score: Normal-Comfy or Strange-Scary?” Newsfeed, where new posts were popping up every few seconds, every one of them receiving scores and comments from multiple sources.

Then he re-opens his eyes, consults his ever-growing design for The Platinum Raven and checks his sketch for Scorpio’s visuals. Its first description of Scorpio’s physical appearance reads: “a young Armenian man of maybe twenty-one, of a dark and delicate beauty in keeping with the silver scorpion pendant hanging at his neck […] the Armenian boy dressed in black, a Scorpio pendant at his neck. No smile there at all, too much tension and exquisiteness and fierce vulnerability. For him it wasn’t easy, no one-two-three. But here he is—just as if in some club, deep in a city. A sudden smile leaks through, a flush of light across his face, for an instant. Then once again, no smile. Fem in black, for this is realness. So waltz darling, deep in vogue […] he turns his dainty head to one side and slightly up.”

He turns to his design for the game The Imagination Thief, to check his sketch for the visual artwork there. Its first description of Angel’s physical appearance reads: “a dark-eyed Armenian boy of maybe twenty-one, whose spiteful sleek depraved face radiates decadence and damage from its sharp beauty. […] He is shadowy, effete, both unhealthy and luminous: I picture him a pirate-queen scuttling up the masts of a slave-ship, to keep watch. Aside from a silver earring in his right ear, a shiny black vinyl brassiere is all that he wears above the waist, above black leggings and pointed black boots. Through his smooth brown skin I can sense the charge of nerves around his ribs beneath the faint swell of his breasts. His smooth little torso is built like a whip, thin and supple. Beautifully tattooed down the length of his back is a stark, emblematic pair of angel’s wings, cross-cut with faint lash-marks. Half the time his mouth, with its lips painted cinnabar, is sulky; and half the time his teeth are bared, jaws tense and snapping like a starved baby she-wolf. His voice is intersexual, with a degenerate breathiness underlying a fluid steel edge and a slight lisp on every s. A clean but musky sexual scent coils about him, even through the smoke. When his eyes fix mine for the first time, I have to make an effort not to flick my gaze away, so potent is the damage and so luscious is the blackness of fever within them. Hard excitement and the pulsing of attraction to the beauty of the dark spills out of him, as if his sweetest wish is for a violent revenge against life and all who live it. […] And he turns away and slinks to the corridor’s mouth, like a little black dragon with a scorpion’s sting.”

There is then one further little artwork-oriented description of Angel, a bit later on in The Imagination Thief: “he seemed to you, Lucan, like a sexy little fly. You saw him as a creature whose natural habitat would be hovering above a steaming-hot pool of blood and honey, sending his feelers down into it like the snouts of a voracious alien. And those killer eyes on him—so startling in close-up! Those big, brown, vital eyes, so dark and alive and dangerous and watchful, beneath long black eyelashes; the curve of the eyes echoed and magnified underneath by the fuller convexity of pale brown-olive skin curving outward over his cheekbones, then quickly back in and down in slanting arcs to the reticent mouth and smooth sharp chin; and the delicate jaw-line rising around behind, past small ears to the flame of black hair above a round intelligent forehead. That animal immediacy, that play of flesh and electricity combined, that scything sharpness and tang within a wrapping of organic yield and warmth, which knew that it grabbed your own gaze and licked it back.”

Well, alright then. That’s the brief, for this final Beast’s visuals. Jaymi glances up for a moment, taking in the canyon ahead; then he fires his attention back into those lines of code, homing in on Scorpio, swooping in towards him like a bird of prey…

This Beast is camera-ready for his very own manga, a cocktail of essences from many places and eras: dark angel of all genders; Roman pathic from the time of Nero, feral and consumed, at the edges of the palace feast; the mystic priestess-boy Heliogabalus, anointed as emperor; and an alien idol fallen to earth from the future, with a tail like a snake’s.

Jaymi zooms in and fills up his screen with the full-length snapshot that’s been circulated to the production crew’s costume department to ensure continuity in Scorpio’s manga-like styling: in his little black pixy-boots, black leather mini-skirt over black tights, slinky black polo-neck and silver crucifix pendant, hooped earring and silver rings (not to mention the sulky mouth and the luscious darkness of obsession that were both touched upon in Jaymi’s initial sketches), this Beast’s femininity is of the dragon-diva type, evenly fused with the rest of him.

As also indicated in the sketches, those Scorpio eyes are horny, as always—hungry for power and revenge, and to be fucked.

Brown eyes, in simple fact. But in greater truth, when the sidelight hits, they are indigo eyes.

And yet, when his darkness melts into sleekness, the simple allure of his slender body, with its smooth little breasts and gentle curves, is topped by the prettiest of androgyne faces—delicate and vulnerable, and even almost innocent.

Thus it is that Scorpio inhabits his own slinky black melodrama, in his own manga-bubble of neon-red and silver: an electrified fusion of self-love and self-hate, flickering between hungry self-pollination and picturesque crucifixion.

It’s a living, for a Beast.

Jaymi hits save, sinks back into his seat and gazes out across the canyons at the haze above L.A.—a mythic city-span like a grand dance-floor, where the sweet fierce beauty of his own little Scorpio will soon dance naked in the sight of the world!
 

Rohan Quine and 'The Beasts of Electra Drive' (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Safeena Chaudhry, Dan Holloway & Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Mel Khan)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Safeena Chaudhry & Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)
 

The other mini-chapter of The Beasts of Electra Drive that I performed live, as shown in the topmost video-player here above, was mini-chapter 111 “Scorpio as succubus in the house on Jupiter Drive”. The text of that mini-chapter is as follows.
 

Late at night, as soon as Amber is asleep on his bed upstairs in the house on Jupiter Drive, Jaymi lets himself and Scorpio quietly in through the front door, into the grand hallway of the building. Careful to make no noise, he leads his new creation up the main staircase, along the landing and on down the corridor, stopping outside Amber’s bedroom door, which he proceeds to open as slowly as possible, so as not to make the smallest sound. With his finger to his lips, Jaymi turns to his Beast, kisses him on the forehead, then points him into the bedroom, gesturing that Scorpio enter within, on his knees, in utter silence.

Scorpio’s eyes are electric with uncertainty, fear and excitement. He does as Jaymi bids: he falls softly to his knees, then slides himself forward, through the door and into the shadows of the room, making not a shred of sound.

Jaymi slips away down the corridor, along the landing, down the staircase, through the hallway and out of the house, to his car. As he drives down the slope of Hercules Drive back home, he can picture what is happening up behind him in the house on Jupiter Drive.

For a long time, Scorpio lies prone on the polished wooden floorboards underneath the bottom end of Amber’s bed.

Then by slow degrees, he crawls out from his hatching-place, like Sadako in Ring—his palms and nails pressing into the floor. His animal gaze darts about him, through the strands of his black hair hanging down before his face. He freezes, hearing Amber’s faint breathing above.

He slinks across the floor along the bottom of the bed, then stops at one corner of it, breathing hard himself. Once he’s allowed his breathing to subside a little, he moves just his head, turning it very slowly to look out from between the strands of his own hair, up the length of the bed to Amber’s head, which is an indistinct shape against the paler pillow.

Remaining on his hands and knees, Scorpio listens again to the breathing from the other end of the bed. Is Amber asleep? Or is he lying there awake in rigid silence, planning what reaction he will give to the tiny shreds of sound he can hear from Scorpio’s movements down at the foot of his bed—planning what sudden violent movement he will make towards that unknown intruder down there?

Scorpio waits immobile, for another half-minute.

Then he slinks onwards, around the corner of the bed, and starts his crawling journey along the side of it, with the wall on his other side, towards the bedside table ahead, prowling ever closer alongside that blond Beast’s powerful body lying up there on its back, all uncovered in the hot sticky night, whose electric charge of warmth Scorpio can even feel down here.

In a single bound, he springs up like a cat, lands on top of Amber’s chest, plants his claws around the wide muscular heat of it, and crouches there quivering.

Amber jolts awake to see a naked feline succubus, with haunches raised, legs splayed, bottom poised directly over Amber’s crotch—and eyes bright and feral in the dark of the room, fixed hungry and murderous on Amber’s eyes, inches from his face. But as Amber stares back into their depths, in this first extraordinary meeting between the pair of them, those Scorpio eyes soften, for Amber alone forever, into the dark submissive gazelle-eyes of a houri…
 

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Dan Holloway, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Safeena Chaudhry, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)
 

The first mini-chapter of The Beasts of Electra Drive whose video-book format was screened, as shown in the fourth video-player here above, was mini-chapter 98 “Jaymi creates Scorpio’s soundtrack”. The text of that mini-chapter is as follows.
 

Jaymi rises from his seat, paces up and down like a caged beast, then sits back down at the window. Onward and deeper into Scorpio!

He gazes down at that ring of hairy-trunked palms around the clearing on his left, where his Beast’s dancing feet can almost be heard twirling through the scratchy grass, behind the warmth of the breeze up the canyon.

What would be the soundtrack that could live up to this Beast’s aforementioned visuals—namely the delicate Scorpionic beauty, sleek depraved face, sulky mouth and luscious darkness of obsession that Jaymi has established in him? What sound would most help the Dreary Ones to hear their own dreariness, through starkest comparison with him?

The answer to this question is a soundtrack sung not in Scorpio’s own lisping-snake voice, but in a flat seductive female one—a voice whose sultriness is so dry, whose unimpressibility so effortless, and whose underground presence so privileged in access and enigmatic in aura, as to add up to an icon of quite unreachable cool.

This unnamed vocalist radiates a majesty of downbeat ecstasy, carrying the torch of the whole city’s underground, burning with her own laconic magic for a single moment, right here … and then she fades, forever.

Synth-pop morphs into gothic, and a gloomy glamour slides up and flowers in the knowledge there is something alluring in Death, with his princely mien, scythe and spooky fashion sense. Heralding his imminence, clumps of staghorn fungus push their yellow fingers up between the flagstones of the terrace under Jaymi’s bow window. Around the kidney-shaped pool on the terrace, kidneys sprout up, ringed by monster-blooms of red rafflesia, the rotting-flesh-scented parasitic meat flower.

The music grows creepier, to keep up with the vegetation. Horror, fat and hungry through the wall of the room, peers in at Jaymi Peek, its sharp little eyes like pinheads.

Peering forward and down, he sees the space on the terrace appears enclosed in walls that swell and breathe, yellow-lit and windowless. Steam coils up from the water in the pool, around a bundle of blood wrapped in velvet that hangs in the air, side-lit through the open glass doors from the lounge directly underneath Jaymi’s chair.

In the corner of the lounge, stubble is breaking slowly through the television screen. The image on the screen is zooming in towards a pair of eyes in place of nipples, each one dripping out an icicle of blood.

A chess-board is set upon the glass coffee-table nearby, in mid-game, the chess-pieces modelled out of raw meat: the mitre on the bishop is a shrew’s-nose of peering eyes. Beside the board is a contraption of severed shrews’ noses; and a hundred baboons’ noses fill a sack by the table-leg. Underneath the table, on the wood-effect laminate, a worm-coloured windpipe lies at an angle to a mangled corpse with babbling heart and twitching bones.

In patriotic colour scheme on the dining-table, a cheese’s interior is traditionally flavoured with blue veins of mould, red arteries of chilli pepper and white bones. For dessert a bitter jelly has set, like a moat, around the base of a blood-filled sponge-cake; while inside a pineapple, kidney-like and intestinal elements are in evidence. As an entree there’s a stew of battered eyelids, in a range of bacon and citrus tints, around a pale brain-stem. All is carefully laid out beneath a hairy ceiling.

Scorpio flickers up smiling out of Jaymi’s screen, takes a dainty bow and claps his hands together—whereupon the terrace and the lounge of the house snap back to their normal state, clean and fresh and cool in the star-lit night across the hillside.
 

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Safeena Chaudhry, Dan Holloway & Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Lee Cooper)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)
 

The other mini-chapter of The Beasts of Electra Drive whose video-book format was screened, as shown in the fourth video-player here above, was mini-chapter 82 “Jaymi incarnates the Platinum Raven”. The text of that mini-chapter is as follows.
 

Back at the house on Zeus Drive, alone at the end of the terrace, Jaymi clutches the edge of his seat in a terror of excitement, as he watches the Platinum Raven slither and slide out into meat-space through the monitor in front of him.

She steps down onto the flat stonework, and stands there with majestic poise, looking about her.

All the transcendence he could create from within him, and his very own response to Bang Dead’s “Arts Score”!

He gets to his feet, and gazes at her, as if at a beautiful ghost. Flaming orange in the bank of dark foliage beside them, the bird of paradise flowers ooze thick sweet sap, as they do all night—drips of nectar spilling down their bulbous orange petal-bases, side-lit by the terrace lamps.

Of all his five Beasts, she is not here for conversation, he’s aware—at least, not for the kind that tends to be recognised as such. Rather she looks and breathes a grander, cleaner colloquy above the level of spoken words or personal identities. So it’s to this level that Jaymi fires up his hearing and his sight, holding those senses there as lightly as he can, while she binds him into the spell of a story whose beginning is intimate, spoken straight at him through her eyes, without words: “A woman was once distraught, on waking, to find that the diamond ring she had placed in a saucer of oatmeal by her bedside as usual (so as to keep the stone clear, following the old superstition) had vanished. By and by, she died. Ten years later, while her children were making improvements to the house, they found the ring under the floor, around the neck of a mouse’s skeleton.”

Her gaze disengages from Jaymi’s and swings to the right, coming to rest over his shoulder at the Pacific, as if at a sunset in the past. Strange to say, he cannot remember whether a sliver of the ocean is in fact visible from here (he should surely know); but he’s not inclined to turn around and verify this when instead he can watch, reflected tiny in her eyes, the waves of a sea bulging and shrinking like muscles in the curve of the hydrosphere. Amid the waves, a hole in the ocean opens—an inverse waterspout—and thus she funnels his attention back to when the Tethys Sea was caught between colliding Eurasian and Indian plates and squeezed up into the Himalayan Mountains. She gives a gentle shrug. Seas change, after all.

For a moment she closes her eyes, like a moon-blink. Her pink noise (more than a mains hum, he reminds himself) resolves, to a music of atom and planet; and onward she draws him and flings him out further, through a sound of darkness singing. You’re what Saturn’s rings enclose and I’m the rings of Earth, he thinks he hears within her pink noise, in a voice like the twanging of a string ten metres thick—its other end tethered somewhere in between the stars, and its near end tethered on this Zeus Drive terrace where she stands statuesque.

Concluding her emergence, she telescopes Jaymi and herself to a height several stars away, flying through a special sky that’s all her own, where giant billboards drift in space, her face depicted on them where they billow through the vacuum, as ships pass in silence. Her eye on one such billboard gives a slow wink; and there within this wink her grandest view tunnels out, fans wide, spans and hovers for an instant: an infinite series of Bang—Crunch—Bang—Crunch, destined to be done by the universe forever … and the terror, the enslaving futility and cosmic enormity of this.

Underneath the wink on the giant billboard, her lips part with a burst of ultra-violet shadow, mouthing Catch you later!

Her eyes close, both up there and down here on this terrace.

Jaymi drops his gaze from her face and bows his head—while west of L.A., above the highway up the coast, the cables on the pylons crackle in the night sky.
 

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Lee Cooper)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

Safeena Chaudhry & Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Jane Davis)

Rohan Quine, Saint Pancras Clock Tower (photo by Safeena Chaudhry)

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