A cultural call to arms: Rebel Inc. 25 years on
Author Jenni Fagan recalls revolutionary 90s publisher Rebel Inc. exactly 25 years on, speaking with the key architects & authors it bore – Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, Laura Hird. This is also a cultural call to arms. What better use to make of the past?
"With the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
History goes through many periods of darkness, so finding a beacon of light in the wastelands is vital. One that is political and radical. That does the thing we’re so often told is impossible – changing the cultural landscape for good.
Reaching into the lives of individuals and becoming part of who they are.
Imagining the individual as an important thing.
Bypassing the political propaganda of alienation and apathy and going for the heart, the balls or the jugular – and if it's worth anything at all, doing all three.
I was brought up to think Scotland was the least interesting country on the planet, but in the early 90s everything was beginning to change. A summer of love had arrived. Ecstasy in particular was shifting culture, providing feelings of belonging, freedom, hope and possibility. It put a sense of love, connection and creativity, of sex and beauty and music and art, all at our fingertips. It was particularly exhilarating for a generation who had been brought up to believe they were nothing other than capitalism’s children. Under Thatcher and the Tories, we had been raised in recession, brutality and the rape of industry and community up and down the country. The aforementioned evil that was and is the Conservative extreme right had just got back into power for another five years. We were looking at more austerity, illegal demonstrations, stringent limitations on public gathering. Demonisation of the poor and racism was rife, class warfare was devastating communities, fear was a way to rule the masses, political brutality and underhandedness was delivered as if there were no other way.
It all sounds so hideously familiar, right?
Edinburgh, 1992: Several seemingly unrelated events were going on that would soon connect the two individuals who would make Edinburgh centre of the publishing world for a good, long, seductive, bad-arsed, volatile and exhilarating time. Who would publish a body of work to influence generations of writers and artists and readers to come.
A young guy called Jamie Byng had decided the best approach to wangling a work experience job at Canongate publishers [of which he is now Managing Director] was by sending them a letter with a packet of Mini-Munchies and a flyer for his reggae and rare-groove night, Chocolate City.
Also, in that freezing cold Christmas of '92, a few miles away in a flat in Pilton, Kevin Williamson had woken to a hangover, born from a drunken night that could easily have extinguished, before it had even started, the most vital new literary movement to occur in these lands since the Scottish renaissance. But we’ll return to all this later.
The Scottish Renaissance (the Scots version of modernism) had begun in the 1920s and set the tone for what would eventually follow in the 1990s. In the Scottish renaissance, writers such as Hugh MacDiarmid, Alexander Gray, Nan Shepard, Willa Muir and our first Scots Makar, Edwin Morgan, had created a literary movement that extended into all the arts. The focus was modern philosophy, nature, technology and folk influences. They also took the dangerous and rarely seen practice of writing using Scotland’s many tongues and dialects. By 1925 MacDiarmid was the first to begin writing in Lallans, a type of Scots dialect crossed with a Standard English grammatical structure. Having a voice – a Scottish voice or any colloquial voice, in print, a dialect of one’s own – was valid. Fights regarding philosophy, obscenity, the purpose of your own tongue or even the point of literature, were public and brutal. The most well-known occurred at the 1962 World Conference where MacDiarmid called Trocchi ‘cosmopolitan scum’, and Trocchi publicly announced sodomy as the basis for his writing.
However, in the early 90s I hadn’t even the vaguest Scooby about all of that. A link between Trocchi and myself, ecstasy, punk or dialect, between Byng or Williamson or counter culture, had in no way been established.
I was 15 years old, playing in a punk band and living in a kids' home. I read constantly. I was trying to find a way to stop getting in trouble. It seemed important. I was hanging out with punks, other kids in care or the homeless accommodation where I moved soon after, dealers, wiccans, pagans, ravers, office workers. Many of us sought out counter culture as if it were a life vein, and for me it literally was just that. Over that period, I found writers like Iceberg Slim, Maya Angelou, Anthony Burgess, William Burroughs; all allowed me to vaguely imagine a place in literature for those of us who exist outside the boxes.
In the punk scene we traded B-sides, chord changes, substances, bodily fluids, political aspersions and unknown banalities of obscure Krautrock or lesser recognised No Wave bands. It was during one of those conversations that somebody passed me the words – Rebel Inc.
It might as well have been slipped to me in a wrap.
That’s how it felt, like an illicit, underground piece of information I had been waiting to hear had just arrived. A rare and unusual new literary drug was being discussed on the streets and it was entering the psyche of young nurses, art school students, musicians, football fans (Hibs, thanks), mothers, gadges, radges, quiffs and toffs, those of us on the dole or working in burger bars, the classy and the brave, readers, hedonist or thinkers one and all – our attention had been captured.
As it turns out, when Kevin Williamson had woken to that hungover Pilton morning after the night before – the editorial Christmas party at The Tollcross Times – and realised all the short story submissions he had received for a new publication he had been planning were lost, he set out to retrace his footsteps: getting on the bus (I presume) going around all the bars (of which there were likely many) and in one of those tiny moments of fate – a fork in the road that would grow to encompass a battery of talent from all over the world – well, he got lucky and the entire lot were found.
Rebel Inc. Issue 1
Kevin Williamson: "I honestly think if I hadn’t found them I would have just left it. I was Editor of The Tollcross Times. I ran a short story competition and the stories had to be less than 500 words, and the best of them I published in Issue 1 of Rebel Inc. It was Gordon Legge and Duncan MacLean who judged it. Gordon had written his book The Shoe that came out in 1989. It was about kids in Falkirk on the dole, published by Polygon. In some ways he was a pioneer, he was before all of us, before what I had did in publishing, before Duncan and James Meek, and Irvine. He did the book then a collection called In Between Talking About the Football, it was a classic, out in the 90s and really influential. He’s a quiet guy but when he does chat he has something to say — often about Falkirk football club. He came before Nick Hornby and all that, I think it came out before Fever Pitch. Gordon was there from the start and he wrote for every issue of Rebel Inc., he read at all our events, he was a fixture from the beginning all the way through.
"I took subscriptions for four issues, printed 1200 for the first and it cost £2 [to buy]. There were lots of independent bookshops and record shops that we’d go around on foot. I’ve still got the book of receipts from the first issues and they’re all gone now. They came out in 92, 93, 94. It was pretty much one a year and Sandie Craigie* and I used to get stoned and read all the submissions. [*This esteemed and inimitable poet tragically passed in 2005, aged 41]
"I met her at a reading, she had the most amazing voice, I was infatuated with her poetry. Her politics in culture and language were so far ahead of where I was. I was trying to champion Scots as an urban diction and vocabulary where she was championing Scots as an ancient language in her own right. She threw a Scots dictionary at me and said — it’s a fucking language, it’s as thick as the English dictionary. She was always laughing, she had a great sense of humour."
Fuck the mainstream
Just like that, what had begun in the 1920s was again setting in motion a movement where people like me – who with Rebel Inc. magazine in particular would for the first time see their own dialect in print, their own class in print, who would experience the breaking down of boundaries between thinkers from all backgrounds, collectively bound by discontent and talent — were finding a place to go and feel at home in a gnarly time of capitalist, conservative cuntery. We were finding a place to talk, to make connections, to be inspired. The Rebel Inc. cry of ‘fuck the mainstream’ was a political reaction to being culturally voiceless.
KW: "I was into literature but I was immersed in the culture and philosophy of punk and DIY. And 'fuck the mainstream,' that was my philosophy and a dawning political philosophy too – of 'fuck London.' That was our other main slogan. We put that on posters around the themes of 'fuck the mainstream' and 'fuck London.' It wasn’t a political independence thing, it was about writers and artists moving to London, it was a big deal. I remember reading an article in '91 by Robert Alan Jamieson in Chapman or The Edinburgh Review, when he called for all artists and writers to return from London back to Scotland. 'Fuck London' wasn’t nationalist politics it was cultural politics. I could reinterpret it now but it wouldn’t be exactly true. It was a case of working, through culture, for voices to be heard in literature and music and in drama."
Irvine Welsh: "I met Kev and discovered that I vaguely knew him from when he played pool in the Fiddlers Arms back in the 80s. I had come back up from London and I imagined I didn't know anybody who was involved in what we loosely term 'the arts' back home in Edinburgh. It was strange, that all those old faces from places like the Hoochie Coochie, like Paul Reekie*, were very much to the forefront of that scene. The great thing that Rebel Inc. did was to bring them all together and give them that visibility, under one crazy banner of publishing and readings." [*The highly influential poet sadly passed away in 2010, aged 48]
KW: "I had met Paul at The West End Hotel where we’d all go for these writing things. He was wearing a Harrington jacket and a tartan scarf and he asked me if I had heard of Alexander Trocchi. As I would find out, Paul was ahead of all of us on everything. We’d sit up at night talking and he introduced me to John Coltrane, John Berryman; he was immersed in counter culture in a way that made me realise I was only skimming the surface. Within a year, we were at the same hotel but tripping and laughing at the wrong things and getting thrown out by the owner."
The magazine launch nights became a legendary experiment in chaos. Prizes were won that could get a person arrested or make them a better lover, or sometimes both. Connections were happening. More people began to hear and go along or submit work.
Alan Warner: "I sent in some poems and stories to Kevin at the magazine – before I met him – under the curious name of one ‘Morvern Callar’ ...ha. That is true. Of course, I was writing that novel at the time, but it never crossed my mind it would ever be published."
KW: "There was this letter saying ‘I’m a girly writer’, and I was like, ay? ‘I’ve written these poems, I hope you like them’, signed, Morvern Callar. Then there was a picture of a semi-naked girl and a bunch of poems and I thought, no female is ever going to write like that, and then I noticed that the writing on the envelope was the same as Alan Warner’s. Warner probably thinks I’ve forgotten but I don’t forget anything like that. I remember everything."
Laura Hird: "There was an event going on at the back of the Filmhouse. I think Irvine was reading, and Alan Warner were reading that night. It was Rebel Inc. magazine and I think Irvine was reading early bits from Trainspotting, and I just loved it because it was Edinburgh, it was like – real Edinburgh! Not some high-falutin’ stuff. I actually fainted at the reading. I’d gone from work and I had on a lambswool dress and a camel coat, most overdressed. I hit the deck! I went home and I was inspired by the event so I wrote a story and sent it to Kevin."
AW: "I did win at the bingo at one of the Rebel Inc. readings! You got a raffle ticket with each bottle of Becks. If only life was like that. One prize was: A Holiday for Two (= two acid tabs). I won a Playboy porno video involving ice cubes. Got home plastered at 3 a.m. bouncing off the walls, waving this porn video around and my girlfriend said, 'Where the hell have you been?' I replied, 'Just at a poetry reading.'"
Ecstasy's cultural shift
KW: "None of us knew each other before that. For Rebel Inc., it was Issue 4 that transformed itself. I think it is the best literary magazine ever published, it’s better than anything I ever saw, it broke ground in a way that no magazine had ever done. Irvine and I did an interview on ecstasy and published the whole rambling interview with hallucinogenic artwork. It has John King’s first excerpt from The Football Factory, it has a story of Alan Warner’s about [rave event] Rezerection."
Worlds cross and re-cross with Rebel Inc. I used to go to Rezerection when I was about fourteen, float in wearing velvet hotpants and platforms with ‘lots of I things I was carrying for the older kids’ lining my bra cos I was so young nobody would search me. And there was Alan Warner, and all these other early ravers; people all out looking for a way to belong in a hedonistic early 90s summer of love and with a collective desire to exist outwith the narrow confines of the 80s heyday for greed and grossness.
IW: "I had to practically force Kev to take one, that was his first E."
KW: "It was a snowball, I took half."
I remember those exact ones, they were gnarly, furious, zappy – grind your teeth and just keep dancing beasts of a hit. They brought entire clubs to their knees if everyone had had them.
KW: "I fucking loved it. I was practically licking the plate by the end of the night. So, Issue 4 has got me and Irvine with Es on our tongues, and between Issue 3 and 4 I’d started taking LSD as well. Not in a massive way but in a way that extended consciousness."
This was a time of cultural shifts on many levels; drug culture at that time was creating a way to challenge boundaries.
KW: "Aye, it sounds cheesy but before the ecstasy interview I’d never even touched a man and a few hours later there me and Irvine are, hugging on the floor of a hallway – it was a big experience, it broke through an individual, psychological constraint. For me physical contact was sex, that was it. You didn’t touch anyone unless you were having sex with them. That is the way the Scottish male psyche was and I think ecstasy culture was the best thing that could have happened, it opened people up to each other. I found I enjoyed the company of women more and more socially, it opened up its own Pandora’s box as well, but one of my exes at the time, Charlotte Ross, she went on that trip with me. She was so important to my thinking and she worked with Lesley Riddoch, worked together at [early 90s Scottish feminist magazine] Harpies and Quines. They nominated me as wanker of the month once, which was fair enough. Women can often get written out of the story but I used to love going through her bookshelves and [her] talking to me about books and poetry, she was just really smart. So, her, Sandie Craigie, Emer Martin, Laura Hird; they were all there and so important."
IW: "E broke a lot of stuff down. I realised that my mate's wives and girlfriends were far more interesting than they (we) were! I think a lot of that sensibility informed Rebel Inc. as a salon."
The Canongate Years
A few years after this collective of individuals had made their presence felt another meeting occurred that would take Rebel Inc. to another level.
Jamie Byng: "Living in Edinburgh in the early 90s it was hard not to absorb, whether you were conscious of it or not, what Rebel Inc. had started to seep into the literary ether. But what I remember extremely vividly is having a pint with Kevin in a pub on the Royal Mile, in what must have been 1995. I’m pretty sure it was the first time we met. We had recently launched at Canongate an imprint called Payback Press where we were reissuing writers such as Iceberg Slim, Chester Himes, Clarence Cooper Jr and Gil Scott-Heron. Iceberg Slim’s Pimp was a raw and remarkable memoir that I had persuaded Ice T to introduce for us (Iceberg Slim is where the Ice came from) and Irvine Welsh had also been extremely generous in his support of Slim’s work. Kevin was also a big fan and I think that’s what made him think we should meet to talk about Rebel Inc. as an imprint, which is what we did in the pub on that first meeting. I’m so glad he did. The moment I started talking with Kevin about literature, I knew that he was someone who had a passion and knowledge that was deep. And already, by this stage, Rebel Inc. had established itself as an underground entity of real power and with a twisted style that it was hard not to be drawn to."
KW: "I wanted to create a book imprint. I had Laura’s stuff, I had got the rights from Sally Child for Alexander Trocchi’s work, who gave me permission to publish Helen & Desire. I visited her and heard all his old tapes, and then I wrote to Edwin Morgan asking if he wanted to do an article on Trocchi and pornography, cos Edwin Morgan had actually sent me money at the start. He took out a subscription, he sent £50 and I thought what a nice guy, he didn’t know me, he didn’t need to. So did Jim Kelman – and these are small amounts but I really appreciated it – you need money to get up and running. So, I asked Edwin and he typed one up and sent me back this amazing letter; I still have the original typed up essay. So I had that, and I had this idea for [short story collection] Children of Albion Rovers, I started collecting stories for that.
"My favourite [Rebel Inc.] cover was Children of Albion Rovers with the doll’s head. It was a declaration of intent. Children of Albion Rovers was supposed to be a grenade thrown into the whole Scottish and British literature [scene] of the time and the cover is this kind of Chucky doll with evil intent.
"So, I had ideas for three or four books. And I met Jamie who wanted to do a compilation of the first five Rebel Inc. articles and I said I really wanted to do an imprint with all these titles and publish all these classic books as well, and we sat and drank and chatted and it came out of that, it was a fortuitous meeting."
JB: "From the word go, Kevin and I saw eye to eye on the sorts of books that we should be publishing at Rebel Inc. The first book we published was the infamous Children of Albion Rovers and everything seemed to flow from there. But it was the Rebel Inc. Classics we were putting out alongside the great contemporary writers that made the imprint immediately such a rich and interesting one. Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, John Fante’s Ask the Dust, Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam, Richard Brautigan’s Revenge of the Lawn, Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction and Robert Sabbag’s Snowblind were just six of the Rebel Inc. Classics from that period that helped extend the idea of Rebel Inc. in print. Laura Hird’s Born Free was a revelation to me, as were her short stories. Hamsun’s Hunger was a book that I already knew very well as it was one of the most memorable reading experiences of my teens, and therefore one of the most influential books of my life. Kevin’s own book Drugs and the Party Line was a hugely important book for me in opening up my eyes on a subject that Johann Hari then wrote brilliantly about in Chasing the Scream and which continues to enrage me – our indefensible and inhumane drug laws that have caused and continue to cause inestimable damage and unnecessary suffering. But the whole list played a crucial role in expanding my outlook both as a person and as a publisher. And we had a lot of wild times too."
There is a whole film to be made regarding the 52 titles on Rebel Inc. and how the rights and writers were tracked down.
KW: "For Trocchi, we had to negotiate with Sally and John Calder [the legendary British publisher who was jailed after an obscenity trial over Trocchi’s Cain’s Book in 1963]. I was quite obsessed with Trocchi by this time because he had disappeared. Polygon had brought out a biography [by Andrew Murray Scott] and they brought out Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds which is an eclectic work of Trocchi’s. I wanted to use that title for something, I loved it. I got the original essay, it was in a magazine by Magnus Magnusson in 1963, and I’ve still got the original magazine. So, I wrote to Andrew Murray Scott about Trocchi and he says he has an unpublished story and I put it into Issue 2 of Rebel Inc., so I was just following my nose in [relation to] the magazine and the books. With Trocchi I had read all his books and I wanted Young Adam, Helen & Desire and Cain’s Book. We got Young Adam but Calder would not give me Cain’s Book and I had no right to it, this was Calder’s book, he had fought the obscenity laws to get it. But I was pushy and naïve and he made the price too much as it was too private and personal to him. I look back now and think, who the fuck was I? trying to get it from John Calder of all people, who went to prison for it. But we got Helen & Desire.
"Each book has a strange and wonderful story of how we got them, I will collect them all together at some point. For the Bukowski rights from John Martyn at [the cult indie publisher who believed in his work when others did not] Black Sparrow. Jamie went over to meet him in California and talked him into giving the rights to Ham and Rye and the first time he was published in the UK was a huge thing for us, massive.
"One of the most interesting writers I met was Howard Marks, we had a really good time. Howard was an interesting guy to hang out with, it involved a lot of smoking. The second time we met we were judges in the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam and we were each given 10 grams of cannabis to grade. It was the best cannabises you can get. Howard did his job properly but I was just cabbaged. That was an interesting experience, the whole thing was just nuts. But we got on really well and I formed a friendship with Howard after that. I asked him how he ran such a big drugs empire when he was stoned all the time. [But] Howard used to get up every day at 8am. There’s a lot of myths around counter culture people but if you are going to do counter culture properly you’ve got to be organised, this is a fact. You can’t just bumble around, you have to be organised and get your shit together and make sure stuff gets done, otherwise there’s nothing left and you’re just wasting people's time. That is one of the contradictions and Howard was highly organised. Howard was very, very intelligent, I found out at the end of the tour we did that we both started in nuclear science, him slightly more successful than me. I started off at Douneray working as a nuclear scientist, and Howard had a degree in nuclear science, so I guess we were of the opinion that the legalisation campaign’s benefit was nuclear technology’s loss."
What nuclear science lost in Williamson and Marks was literature's gain. Howard Marks later went on to write an introduction to Rebel Inc.’s Snowblind by Robert Sabbag, about his career in the cocaine trade. By the time Rebel Inc. was reaching peak influence, musicians, writers and the media were all onto it. It’s something rarely seen in publishing and for the long arm of literary subversion it seemed there was nowhere, at that time, it could not, or would not, reach.
JB: "One of my strangest Rebel Inc. occurrences was presenting a copy of the Damien Hirst designed, limited edition of Snowblind to The Queen at Buckingham Palace. It’s right up there for bizarreness and surreality. She knew I was being mischievous and ended up saying, “I’ll have a good look at it later this evening and see if it’s suitable for the Royal Collection.” Which is where one of the 1000 copies of this beautiful edition of Bob Sabbag’s cocaine smuggling classic now lives."
KW: "One of the most memorable Rebel Inc. nights was when we launched Children of Albion Rovers with a thousand people at the Traverse, featuring the Sativa Drummers, Irvine and Paul. We had it on three floors, we had Manga, we had DJs, we had everything apart from books because Paul had managed to get the book banned... It had been taken off the shelves for the content [a legal injunction claimed Reekie’s contribution was libellous], so we couldn’t actually sell the book at the launch. A thousand people were there, and it was memorable because at three in the morning the fire alarms went off and these thousand people in sweaty t-shirts bundled out into the snow, and it almost wiped out half the fucking literati of Edinburgh; we all nearly froze to death."
As with all things that gather a cultural velocity and momentum there can only be one true peak. So with good grace, chaos and carnage and – much more importantly – a formidable literary legacy, Rebel Inc. was about to face its final volcanic eruption before settling back to stone.
KW: "When Trainspotting the movie came out, there was a lot of interest in the book and it was brilliant. But when the movie kind of moved Scottish culture, then all the London publishers and magazines wanted to know what was going on and suddenly Rebel Inc. became the hippest thing in Britain. You know, this was at the time of Britpop. Every time we brought a book out, The Face, Loaded, ID, Dazed and Confused were all over us and we were always in those magazines. Loaded had a Children of Albion Rovers football card in Irvine’s column. So, we got invited to do all sorts of stuff. At the same time, I started trying to campaign on drugs as a political issue. I started writing a book on drugs and immersing myself in drugs culture in every possible way. I was going over to Amsterdam and trying to find out about the Swiss and Dutch [approaches] and I met with John Marks who was the pioneering doctor who prescribed heroin to his patients in Merseyside. I was involved in a lot of things politically, with drug policy, at the same time as I was doing Canongate. And just the sheer scale of stuff I was doing as well as the publishing, plus the hedonistic lifestyle – everything then started to fall apart towards the end. But the imprint itself got better and better and better. Until it blew up.
"We did 52 titles, and out of those there is literally only one or maybe two that I would say were flawed. I’d give any of the other 50 to anyone and I think as a cohesive legacy they were an amazing series of books – the design, the cover, everything about that was done in a very special way. It was an amazing legacy. I think it is probably for the best that everything ended at that stage.
"Jamie was focused on getting the job done and that is why those books came out and were so good – it was because Canongate got the job done. But, it couldn’t have lasted, I couldn’t have kept going. My life couldn’t continue at that rate without everything completely falling apart and it did for a while. But I’d still champion all of those books, one-hundred percent, especially the Rebel Inc. Classics. They were chosen with love, care and attention to detail."
JB: "There is no best memory of Rebel Inc., for me they blur into one big beautiful one. But I have hundreds, not least each and every book and writer we published."
Rebel Inc.'s legacy
So here and now, what has lasted is the most important thing – the work, the writing, the novels, the covers, the legacy, the care, love, attention and faith poured into the Rebel Inc. imprint.
What did Rebel Inc. get away with that wouldn’t happen now?
KW: "Almost everything.
"The 90s were interesting because all the problems related to publishing began in the 90s, while I was doing Rebel Inc. That’s when the net book agreement [a British book price agreement between publishers and booksellers] was repealed, 95/96 was when Amazon was launched, so you’ve got massive game changers taking place. I was against the removal of the net book agreement but at first Amazon seemed great because it bypassed middle men and we didn’t see the monster coming. It seemed to be liberating publishers, but in actual fact it was destroying them. So, it was an interesting time to do all that, the way we took writers on tour in Rebel Inc., all the things we did, it was the glory days of publishing for me. It’s like jazz – true jazzers look back on the 50s and 60s as the golden day and it continues, but never to that degree of innovation that Miles or Coltrane did. I still think of jazz as innovative, but it can’t touch those times. And writers were gods in the 90s, they loved the lifestyle of the writer and they wanted to be a writer rather than to write which was back to front. It was also the decade Scotland was transformed, from '92-'99; politically, socially, it was reborn, it was a renaissance. So, it was an important time. Rebel Inc. was just one part of a bigger picture."
With that the gauntlet has been thrown. During our current time of political far-right extremism, with cultural cuts almost appearing to be a deliberate attack on thought itself, is it a coincidence that more zines are appearing again in print and online and literary nights are popping up everywhere, both long-running and new? And, of course, the people who made Rebel Inc. happen are still out there creating great, extraordinary work right now.
That response to centre is vital and necessary now more than ever. We need all the voices, old and new, great, big, fuck-off, non-permission asking, eclectic, dialectic, crazy, brilliant, scientific, philosophical, living, pulsing, breathing voices to respond right now. We need culture to hold accountability up to those who cannot see, we need publishers to protect, publish and stand up for a space where freedom of self is pivotal and right. So all of you, go forth, throw off your duvets decorated with hot rocks (like I used to do in the bedsit before scuffing down to Canongate offices to pick up my free copies of Rebel Inc.) or park your fold-up bike, or put your sex toys back in their well-worn zip locked bag. The time to respond is right here and now. I don’t know about you, but I’ll raise a glass and write, more than ever, to that.
Jenni Fagan is a Scottish novelist, poet and filmmaker, named in the Granta list of Best Young British Novelists. She is famous as the author of The Sunlight Pilgrims and The Panopticon, which is to be made into a film by Sixteen Films This article is dedicated to the memories of Sandie Craigie and Paul Reekie