Madame Zhu

madame zhu

'Madame Zhu', by Ultan Banan. 'Damask and bamboo and burgundy perfume...'

Madame Zhu

Word is, there’s a woman from back of Macau
ordained on Meru in the waters of the lake,
came forth like a daughter of the sun
and killed her way across the land
with a knife of green in her delicate hand,
feeding on sons and the woe of mothers.
Sated, she started on the daughters
til there were no more to spare
and she built a garden of bamboo and damask
and her bed was the dirge of the last ones,
the ones who saw that they were the last and no more would follow
because there was no more need for flesh.
All were filled because she was sated,
and all we needed was burgundy perfume
which was her scent;
damask and bamboo and burgundy perfume
was all we needed now.
She gave it to us.
Her name was Madame Zhu.

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Elementor #973

The Function of Fiction #1 - Sublime Uplift

My Da couldn’t read fiction. He couldn’t let go of the world. He was too aware of the room in which he sat to merge with the word. He’d try, but feel foolish. He preferred non-fiction. He told me this many years ago, and I sometimes entertained the nagging fear, that one day I might find myself in that same inescapable room — unable to sink.

Is fiction merely a means to escape? There are reams of genre writing out there, whose sole function is escapism — and people want that, everyone needs to immerse in other realms from time-to-time (let’s face it, what’s TV other than alt reality?). As a kid I read copious amounts of genre fiction. I wouldn’t say I felt beholden to any niche, but, in my late teens, I recall being profoundly affected by writers such as Bukowski and Kerouac. Stumbling upon a secondhand copy of The Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller, and Death on Credit, by Celine, well, here was a different type of fiction. These were lives turned into fiction, not just auto-biographies, something more.

Books like these were heavily influential, not only for my own writing, but as visions of viewing the world. Some sequences in Nausea, by Sartre, leapt right off the page, reinforcing the validity of experiences that permeated my life at that time. It felt like someone lifted the page of reality, revealing a dynamic mechanism beneath, something permeating the nature of the real, something beyond politics, or social agendas. That, for me, is when fiction fulfils a purpose that is almost sublime: augmenting the world we live in, enabling us to widen our vision.

Dave Migman

Dirty Slabs of Meat

dirty slabs of meat

'Dirty Slabs of Meat', by Ultan Banan. Grubby leftovers.

Dirty Slabs of Meat

Let it go, son. Don’t try to grasp it, you can’t hold on

The two sisters disappear out the door, and I’m left in the bath with excruciating hard-on and a man I know is capable of the grossest perversions.

Sri Sai Baba, I mutter.

Ducaase is lookin me in the eye, his head noddin softly. Eh? he says.

I don’t wanna speak. I speak, I break the spell. Let Ducasse reduce it to a wank in the bath, but me, I was just caressed by somethin holy.

Then he’s proddin me with his big toe.

Fuck you, I say, sittin up. Just fuck you

Take it easy, will ya? he says, and he climbs up outta the bath, his ass in my eye-line. That’s just the start, he says, and he picks up and towel and dries himself off. His cock is pokin out at ninety degrees from his belly.

He’s fuckin up my vibe.

I climb out. I’m hard too, and I wrap myself in the towel. Ducasse doesn’t bother.

I’m not sure where it goes from here, I say to Ducasse. I could quite happily lie in the bath for an hour then go home.

Believe me, you’re gonna wanna see where this goes, he says.

I believe him, because I believe he’s a man who’s seen it all.

The two sisters come back in and titter at the two of us stood there like two carved votive dedications to Priapus.

Their gowns are open, the swell of their bellies running into the dark mound between their legs, the firm elevation of their tits and the chocolate nipples, the long elegance of their necks and the deep abyss of those black eyes… Let me lie here and drown in your warmth… but she takes me by the hand and leads me out of the room and I say nothin.


We’re headin back down the Oude Waal in the direction of the Screamin Pope. I’m walkin on air. I’m literally fuckin floatin down the street.

What was it? What’d they pump into us? I ask him.

Rakomelo. With a mild opiate infusion, Ducasse says.

High-proof Greek firewater infused with honey. And opiates. Pumped into the ass. Now I’ve heard it all.

That was the greatest hour of my life, I say.

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Cover update = Zero Blues

New Cover = Zero Blues

Designing the new cover for Zero was a bit of a challenge and marked a departure from my usual graphic style. My reasoning was that the original cover was off-putting and too rigid. Let’s face it, the wee dwarf face with shiny teeth was just ugly, and said nothing about the text. 

I felt that Zero’s ‘Chimera’, was a strong image to use. This strange skill, utilised by several of the characters, begins with two-dimensional elements, montaged to become guises that envelope the designer.

I found the montage of arms in an old sketchbook (ideas for a tattoo from aeons ago). The cloudburst of disparate limbs felt static by itself, so I incorporated other sketchbook elements to lend movement, bleeding images through the title added a dynamic flow to the image too.  

We Kill a Man

dystopian fiction

'We Kill a Man', from a coming novel by Ultan Banan. Murder fiction at Black Tarn Publishing

The New World

We tailed them through town. They stopped at a pulperia for an hour then got back on their horses, and we followed them due south where, out five hundred yards ahead of us in a small copse by a river, we saw them get down and set about making camp for the night. Anuncio got down off his horse too, and so I followed, and that’s when he told me.
‘That’s the man that raped and killed my wife,’ he said.
I looked at him. I can’t say he had murder in his eyes, that’s not how he looked. He looked at peace. But I guessed there would be murder.
‘Wait here,’ Anuncio said. ‘And watch.’
But he was on his horse and away.
So I tied my horse to a tree and sat down. It was getting dark, sun dropping down behind the treeline, but I watched the copse in the distance, a small fire soon rising from the trees and the occasional whinny from a horse, and I watched til it was dark and the only thing I could see was the crackle of the fire.
Anuncio came back several hours later. He sat down beside me without saying a word. We sat in silence for a spell.
‘Anuncio,’ I said, ‘you know I’ll do what I can to help you, but there are six of em. There’s two of us.’
‘The others will sleep like the dead,’ he said. And he pulled out his pouch and showed me what was inside.

Also from Ultan Banan:


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Writing, Part 2

on writing

Writing, by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on the form.

Writing, Part 11

Usually, I write in the morning. Sometimes I’ll get up and make a cup of tea, and with the fog of sleep still on me I’ll sit down and get into it. This is good; that time of the morning you’re still in touch with your subconscious, the place from where art springs. Even if you’re not fully compos mentis, you can still produce. Sometimes, I’ll get up and do a light workout, have breakfast, shower, and then get into it. This is also fine. Occasionally, I’ll get caught up in emails and other shite and I won’t get around to it until afternoon. This is not ideal, but I can still knock out a thousand words if I get focused enough and can successfully navigate all the other distractions. Once upon a time, I used to meditate before writing, and this was superb: I was relaxed, supple, and productivity went through the roof. Trouble is, I don’t have the persistence and the motivation to stick at the meditation routine. It should be done every day; if it’s not, it becomes a meaningless token practice.

What is the point of this rambling diatribe? All of this to say, that I’m not as disciplined as I could be when it comes to my process. But why stress? I still get my words out, and, regardless of output, the book will happen, sooner or later. It’ll get there. I’ve heard of maniacs writing genre fiction and knocking out five or six thousand words a day, and fair play, if you can do that and keep the quality consistent, then good on ya. I couldn’t. And so I’m happy to do what I do, content in the knowledge that the next book is, if not right around the corner, then somewhere down the line. I’ll get there.

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Happy Xmas from Black Tarn

Happy Xmas from Black Tarn


Happy Covid-Christmas, with Santa in the Bunker – surrounded by mutant chickens, philosophers and the eternally bickering monkeys of fate. In the irradiated glow of fallout there’s no need to cook a thing, it’s already well nuked. 

“Peel ’em from the top down.” Sage words from the man himself. 






Writing, Part 1

on writing

Writing, by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on the form.

Writing, Part 1

Let’s try and discuss this plainly, without any academic guff. Writing. Why I do it. What I get out of it.  It’s a simple enough business, putting words on paper. But I’m also a student of literature, so I get carried away when I talk about it. Today, we’ll try and steer clear of any verbiage. See? Slipping in the big words already, and we’re not even out of the first paragraph yet.

Moving on. I started writing about three years ago. I was off work for stress and I had a year to kill, and I decided to sit down and write a novel. Just for something to do. So I sat down and went to work, and after about six months I’d banged out a YA thriller. I was even naïve enough then to think it was worth reading, and so I polished it up and sent it out, and got ignored and got a few rejections, and it took another six months until I realised it was a piece of shit. Lest that’s not entirely clear, it was fucking awful. To this day it’s still on a hard drive somewhere, and I’m still afraid to look at it. But who hasn’t started out and written something so bad it’s frightening?

So I moved on. Wrote a few other things. I even wrote a children’s book. Not sure it was good, but it was better. The fog was starting to clear. But it took about half a million words before I started to relax into it, let go, feel it, feel it happening on the page, the way you get when you switch off and just let it spill out. Took a while, but I got there. I don’t feel it every time; sometimes it’s difficult, tenuous, tense, but I’m alright with that. It always comes eventually. So I keep at it, and the words keep coming, and each time I turn out stuff that I like a little bit better. Progress.

Why have I kept at it? To stay busy, mostly. I’m occupied, and therefore I’m not thinking. Like a lot of people who tend to the arts, I struggled, and continue to struggle, with my mental health. So there’s that too. Catharsis and what-have-ya. Flow. Purging all the shite that builds up in the psyche, day to day, week to week, year to year. It keeps me sane. Which, as much as I may have embraced insanity in my younger years, is underrated. I maintain some level of mental health, and I get to produce something too. It may not be pretty, but it’s something I created. By my own hands. I’ll be dead someday, but something I made will still be around. And who can’t get behind that?

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