Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Stories of Genesis

A few years ago my wife introduced me to the concept of 'Fan Fiction'. This is where fans of particular TV series write their own stories involving the characters, and share them in on-line forums. They seem to be quite popular, and Jude has written a few tales about Horatio Caine and co from CSI: Miami.

Recently an advert popped up on my Facebook wall for a book that described itself as 'a new kind of fan fiction': 'Stories of Genesis, volume 1' by Chris James. It contained a collection of five short stories based on characters from songs by Genesis, and, as a long-time fan of the band, I found it a fascinating read.

The first story, inspired by the title track of the 1976 album 'A Trick of the Tail', tells of Mr Magrew's big adventure away from the City of Gold, meeting people unlike himself, who were all without horns and tail, and of his journey home. There's a nice twist at the end, too, but I won't spoil it by telling what it is.

Next is 'The Chat Show Host', which relates the dreams of Jason Jones ('JJ'), the eponymous host stuck in provincial TV waiting for his big break, and of Duchess, a fading star hoping to resurrect her career. JJ's dreams of success hang on his ability to humiliate Duchess live on air, and the story shows how sometimes our plans can be interrupted by events.

My favourite story in this collection is the next one - 'One Regret', inspired by 'Dreaming While You Sleep' from 1991's 'We Can't Dance'. This is one of the better late-period Genesis songs, in my opinion, and James brings a wonderful depth and poignancy to this tale of guilt and inner torment following a hit-and-run accident.

The longest story is 'The Final Battle', taking up more than half of the book's length, and is the one which most closely follows the 'plot' of the song that inspires it, the monumental 'Supper's Ready' from 1972's 'Foxtrot'. For those who know the song, you will know how complex the tale is, with its apocalyptic imagery and scriptural allusions. James' tale, with a strong sci-fi feel to it (his usual genre for writing, it appears), tells of the struggle by an angelic army against the Eternal Sanctuary Man, and gives an interesting modern slant to ancient concepts and themes.

From the longest to the shortest tale in the fifth and final chapter - 'The Agent Lunges', inspired by 'Down & Out' from 1978's 'And then there were Three'. I must confess that this is a strange tale, and almost comes across as an afterthought, but it rounds off the book nicely. Again, no spoilers!

Overall, the stories are engaging without being direct re-tellings of the songs, and a second volume is planned for later in the year. Fans of Genesis's music and lovers of a good yarn will enjoy these tales: I certainly did.

Friday, 6 September 2013


A few weeks ago now I received an invitation from Brad Birzer to write some material for a blog he curates called 'Progarchy'. As the name suggests its focus is primarily all things do to with Progressive music, a particular obsession of mine (in case you hadn't noticed!).

With the cricket at Headingley being rained off today, I had some time on my hands, so I've just written my first piece for the site: you can find it here.

Maybe you could look around while you're there - you might find something interesting...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Eight into One

The Methodist Church is a strange animal for those who know how it works, let alone for those who don't. One of its peculiarities is the arrangement of Methodist Churches into Circuits, in which are stationed a number of ministers for the sake of pastoral care, worship and the general life of the church.

Until yesterday, the Methodists of Sheffield (the 4th largest city in the UK) had been arranged into 8 such circuits, arranged like wedges of a pie radiating out from the city centre, with the Victoria Hall standing proud in the centre of the city (and the pie). Today we joined those 8 circuits into one body to oversee the mission of the Methodist Church in Sheffield.

The New Circuit Logo
We did it today because 1st September is the Methodist New Year, the day when ministers start work in new appointments and the life of the churches starts up again after the summer hiatus. And we did it by gathering together representatives from the 66 Methodist congregations, together with representatives of the other Christian churches and faith communities in the city and civic dignitaries, for a service of worship and dedication in the Octagon Centre, on the campus of Sheffield University.

The service contained drama, prayer, traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs, a welcome for a new Probationer Minister in the north of the city, a commissioning for the new Superintendents and the ministerial staff, and a challenge to be the story of God's love and mercy from the Chair of the Sheffield District, Revd. Vernon Marsh. That story was poignantly illustrated by the centrepiece of the stage, where boards containing the names of members from the eight old circuits had been arranged to forms the outline of the Cross.

The Cross, and the candles taken to the Churches
We prayed together these words:

We make our new circuit in the fellowship of God
on the roads of the city, in the lanes of the villages,
in the housing estates and tower blocks,
to the noise of the tram, to the cries for love.

We make our new circuit in the fellowship of God
in the offices and factories,
the schools and universities,
and in the shopping centres.

God has no favourite places.
There are no special things.
All are God's, and all are sacred.

By the community that is God,
Father, Son and Spirit,
may each step we take weave us together as one
until we become what you, our God, are calling us to.

We concluded as we shared bread and wine together, and were sent out to be the people of God called Methodist in the communities of this city, each congregation being given a candle to symbolise our unity in Christ. Whether any of us were any clearer just how this new arrangement will work, I'm not sure: it will take some months to develop now that it has been birthed. But the congregation left envisioned and inspired to be a company of hospitality, hope and healing.

Now the work begins.