Friday, 28 February 2014

On sale in an actual physical bookshop, for cash, without having to go online!

I was slightly surprised to see that Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel, one of a shrinking number of independent bookshops, is stocking Pygmy Elephants. There were also - last time I looked - a couple of copies on sale in the natural history corner of The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green (yes, they're both in London.) Both these bookshops at the time of writing were to have upcoming Pygmy Elephants book events. See the 'Events' page of this website, in the bar along the top.

Pygmy Elephants book event, Saturday 5 April, Freedom Bookshop, Whitechapel

I've just had confirmation that there's a Pygmy Elephants event - nibbles and possibly drinkies too if I'm not too skint by then - and a "reading" or two from the book - at Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, 84B Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX.

Nearest Tube is Aldgate East ("Whitechapel Art Gallery" exit or Whitechapel Tube, which is also on the London Overground but a longer walk.) Do NOT, repeat NOT get out at Aldgate, go to Aldgate East. (Don't say I didn't warn you!)

The event is on Saturday 5 April and starts at 3pm and we need to be out of the building before 6pm. Any last minute info on arrangements will be on the Pygmy Elephants Twitter feed.

In Whitechapel High Street, look for the Kentucky Fried Chicken on the north side, Angel Alley is the nearest alley to that. There'll be a "FREEDOM" sandwich board in the street pointing to the alley if the shop's open.

Freedom's been at or around the site for so long that they threw Count Peter Kropotkin out of their collective for supporting World War One. As I work locally, I frequently while away bits of my lunch hour there.

Freedom's "Legal Andy" suggested the event, which somewhat surprised me, as Freedom is an anarchist bookshop and despite a lot of head-scratching I couldn't find anything by way of anarchist perspective in Pygmy Elephants. If you can suggest one in time for the event, I'd appreciate it!

Meanwhile, you can buy Pygmy Elephants at Freedom for actual cash from an actual human being (possibly "Legal Andy" himself), without having to go online!

There will be a brief report on the Big Green Bookshop, Wood Green, "Pygmy Elephants" book launch soon.

Here's a diagram of how to find Angel Alley:

There's more detail on how to find Angel Alley on the Freedom Bookshop website.

Pub afterwards
If you want to join me in the pub afterwards, I have a train to catch at Liverpool Street, about a quarter of an hour's walk away, so you'll have to accompany me in a brisk jog to the Hamilton Hall pub, at the Bishopsgate Entrance to Liverpool Street Station, for a drink while I watch the pub's dedicated digital train departures board. The recently restored ceiling of the pub, the former ballroom of the Great Eastern Hotel, is a wonder to behold, and recalls the most decadent glories of the Belgian Empire. As my brother said, "Last time I was here it was to sign a treaty."

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Reader feedback - why "Fortean Zoology"? Well, are there any, then? And a premonition

I've already had some questions from readers.

1) Why "Fortean Zoology"?
Fair enough, the bit at the back of Pygmy Elephants on its publishers, the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ), doesn't explain this in much detail.

The CFZ chose "Fortean Zoology" because its founders (Jon Downes in particular) came to conclusion that some - a minority - of the mystery animals that people are reporting couldn't possibly be flesh and blood animals. Jon coined the term "Zooform Phenomena" to describe some of the phantom animals, manimals (half-man, half animal) that witnesses describe, that according to our current understanding of evolutionary biology couldn't exist. The Mothman and Owlman that allegedly caused alarm in New Jersey and Cornwall respectively could not have been real animals, at least as we understand them. Many have argued that the fossil record precludes the possibility of great apes in America such as Bigfoot, and that it would have to be some kind of phantom rather than a flesh-and-blood hominid. While "Alien" Big Cats reported in the UK appear to act like real animals - they leave scat and hairs, and react to people and their dogs, for example - the Black Dogs or "Black Shucks" reported down the ages and until modern times seem to be otherwordly - they transform, change size and shape, disappear and so on.

What are these Zooform Phenomena? Thought projections? A product of the unconscious? Something very exotic to do with quantum entanglement or particle physics hitherto unexplained? Mass hysteria or something else in the "pyscho-social realm"? Particular mental states or environments triggering hallucinations? We don't know. Impossible though these phenomena are, they are none the less being reported by witnesses. Hence "Fortean Zoology."

"Fortean", now in the Oxford English dictionary, is defined as "of, relating to, or denoting paranormal phenomena". It comes from American writer and philosopher Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) who spent way too much time in the New York Public Library, and then the British Library, cataloging strange phenomena, mostly from newspaper reports. Falls of frogs and fishes, spontaneous human combustion, poltergeist phenomena and the like were among his favourite topics. Fort coined the phrase "teleportation". He was particularly keen on "damned data," data suppressed or ignored for being embarrassing to the scientific orthodoxy of the day. He also mentioned some mystery animals, such as the "Florida monster" - a decayed carcass washed up on the seashore, possibly a giant octopus of some sort, but more likely a very badly decomposed whale.

Fort compiled all this into some extraordinary books The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo! and Wild Talents. The opening section of the first chapter of Pygmy Elephants, "Elephantine Oddities", references Fort and attempts to imitate his playful and very dense (often dizzying dense) writing style.

Just to be clear, if there are any pygmy elephants, they are (or were) all real physical flesh-and-blood animals - with the possible exception of the esemasas pygmy elephant reported in Equatorial Guinea, said to transform into a human when threatened and to be an "incarnation of the devil".

2) Well, are there any pygmy elephants or aren't there, then?
A question by someone who bought the book and had started reading it. You'll have to buy the book, and read to the end. How are authors supposed to make a living if you all expect me to give away the plot. If you absolutely can't be arsed to read to the end, go straight to page 265 (having bought the book) and start reading the final chapter, "Conclusions, so what?"

And a premonition
One colleague to whom I emailed an invite to the Wood Green book launch party then told me when we next met that they'd had a dream about my book signing (which at the time of writing hasn't yet happened), with me with a pile of books "sitting signing books in the corner." A fortean phenomenon, no less!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Recovered mammoth bones, Wrangel Island

The Natural History Museum Scotland has a photo album from Wrangel Island, off the coast of Siberia. This includes "archaeological recovered mammoth bones and teeth", presumably teeth, tusks and few bones gathered some time ago. Pgymy Elephants includes a look at the mammoths of Wrangel Island, which seem to have died out after all the mammoths on the mainland had gone, and which also seem to have shrunk in size over the generations.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Pygmy Elephants talk at TetZooCon, November 14 2015 and other events

There's a Pygmy Elephants talk at TetzooCon 2105, Saturday November 14, London Wetland Centre, more details here.


There's another Pygmy Elephants event (a "reading", etc.) at Freedom Bookshop, Whitechapel, London E1 on the afternoon of Saturday 5 April. See here for details.

Devon Launch
There's also a book signing and "Devon launch" at Weird Weekend 2014, sometime between August 15 and August 17, in Woolfardishworthy, Devon. I'll also be speaking at the event, on Baron Maurice de Rothschild's African Great Lakes enigmatic tusked animal caper - a strange corner of the history of science that I touch on in Pygmy Elephants.

Whoops! Wrong Rothschild

Eagle-eyed followers of this blog will have spotted that it's a different Rothschild than earlier (now Maurice, not Walter, as previously) and the enigmatic animal is no longer named as a "Deinotherium". All will be revealed in due course!

More follows, watch this space, and the Twitter feed