Smoke on the Water


Please note that this is only a provisional cover/title!

Water. H20. Adam’s ale. We’ve all seen it, gathering ominously in puddles, bouncing from umbrellas and rolling off the backs of insouciant ducks. Water doesn’t just fall from the sky, though: there’s a whole mucky load of it flowing in a big trench along the northern rim of south London, thankfully steering a course between the buildings on either side. And rather smaller amounts trickling past the bottoms of back gardens out in the suburbs. Some people even believe in such things as lost rivers, underground streams, and tadpoles. And let’s not forget the docks, the canals, the broken Victorian water mains.

In short, it’s bloody wet out there. Which is why we’ve decided to produce the Smoke Bumper Book of Water. Although it won’t actually be called that, for obvious reasons. Basically, a compendium of words – fiction, non-fiction, something-in-between – and pictures in which London’s water is the ruling element. If you’ve seen the exquisite blend of text and image in our first book, From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea, you’ll know the sort of approach we’ll be taking; if you haven’t, you’re a fool to yourself, but click on the title and scroll down for a sample pdf.

It’s a deliberately broad topic, and the focus might change slightly, depending on what arrives. There are plenty of other books out there dealing with the history of the Thames, for instance, so we’d prefer to meander more around such things as, say, the Dagenham Brook, the last remaining tidal streets in London, a riverside pub crawl, or the reservoirs at Tottenham. Back in issue 2 of Smoke, we published Seb Brennan’s marvellous London Shipping Forecast – a nightly bulletin to guide and protect those stranded on the city’s streets and lull those safely tucked up in bed – and that’s the sort of thing we’re after. The stuff we really want to avoid, I suppose, is anything too drily informative; if anything, we’re after the exact opposite: something wet and fanciful.

As with all Smoke books, successful submissions will initially also appear on the website as regular posts; towards the end, though, we’ll probably keep them for the printed version.

Deadlines and word counts

People always want to know how many words are needed, and our answer is usually “roughly half as many as you’re thinking of sending us”. Basically, though, there are no real rules – just whatever seems appropriate. Bear in mind, though, that the longest pieces in From the Slopes of Olympus were around 3,000 words, and most were a lot lot shorter; shorter is always better. As for a deadline… shall we say the end of March?