‘Soul Stains’ – Robyn Alezanders


Some great stories endure EITHER because of their own intrinsic richness and increasingly self-generating remarkability OR because personal or worldly factors in real life illuminate (and/or are illuminated by) them as the years pass. Rarely does one encounter a story that has a unique synergy of both reasons. This synergy, for me, is applicable to ‘Soul Stains’ by Robyn Alezanders that first appeared in ‘Nemonymous Five’ (Nemo Book) in 2005.

From the point of view of one of his female clients, this is the ostensibly complex story of a skin tattooist, for some a messiah, a story involving mystic or spiritual approaches to ink, blood, design, sacrifice-by-lynch-mob, redemption, obsession, love…and re-thinking (as the female client does in the story and as I am doing now).

I have still not fathomed this story to its depths. A few more years need to pass before that happens, I guess.  But I now think I fully understand why I needed to publish this work in ‘Nemonymous’….

Having recently re-read ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ by John Cowper Powys (that I first read in the early 1970s), I now realise a blood-spirit links these two writers, although each is unique. Just as one example, in my recent review of Powys’ novel ‘The Inmates’ here, I referred to his “passages that are similar to some of the more awkwardly purple passages in ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ but, here in ‘The Inmates’, now taken to such extremes they cease to be purple, but some other colour which you perhaps wouldn’t want to imagine being a colour at all. So awkward, they cease to be awkward at all, because they have no comparison meters of style against which to praise or condemn them.”

Likewise, Alezanders in ‘Soul Stains’ has a texture that miraculously transcends its own style-oxymoron.

But more importantly,  ‘Soul Stains’ reminds me of my recent thought-patterns concerning real books and ebooks, a feature that has only recently come to the fore. This story is a wonderful premonition of that conflict.  And, for me, resolves it.
My two most recent posts on this subject are linked below for those interested enough to factor into (or extrapolate from) ‘Soul Stains’:

The Transfiguration of an Unchanged Text

Books in Ruins


Three separate quotes from ‘Soul Stains’:

“I was the first he practiced upon, letting my soul project into the night air as a tiny iris glossed my upper thigh.”

“I wanted to transform into an iris, have my slender umbrella like figure delicately engulfed by his electric aura, and be gone with the hate riddled land our country was sinking into.”

“What your beloved wanted was for the tattoo to come from within, to represent a part of the spirit long held dormant by society and upbringing, a crucial segment to an individual’s core.”


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NEMONYMOUS in first five years:

Purchase: HERE

Design, typesetting, printing: Andy Cox  (1,2,3,4,5)

Cover Design: Garry Nurrish (1, 2)

Artwork on 3: JaNell Golden

The first issue of Nemonymous appeared in November 2001. The missing bylines below were announced six months later, in Nemonymous Two. This anthology was arguably the world’s very first self-contained anonymous collection of multi-authored stories.
“A Smile in the Sky”, Gary Couzens
“The Friends of Mike Santini”, Terry Gates-Grimwood
“The Quiet House”, Allen Ashley
“With Arms Outstretched”, Daniel Pearlman
“Breaking Rules”, Avital Gad-Cykman
“The Gravedigger”, Lawrence Dyer
“Alone”, Shawn James
“The Idiot Whistled Dead”, Simon Clark
“The Unmiraculous Life of Jackie Mendoza”, Tamar Yellin
“Across the Hills”, Tony Mileman
“All for Nothing”, Rhys Hughes
“Double Zero for Emptiness”, Mike O’Driscoll
“Strobe”, Paul Kane
“Balafer de Vie”, Lida Broadhurst
“Mansions of the Moon”, Jeff VanderMeer
“Gamlingay Churchyard”, A. D. Harvey

 Nemonymous Two came out in May 2002 and is the first to disclose the names of those published in the previous issue. It features a a story of roughly four and a half blank pages titled “Four Minutes Thirty-Three Seconds”, arguably the first formal blank story ever published. There is also the now legendary ‘Emmanuel Escobada’ story that still remains anonymous at the request of its author.
“Climbing the Tallest Tree in the World”, Rhys Hughes
“Mighty Fine Days”, Antony Mann
“The Assistant to Dr Jacob”, Eric Schaller
“Buffet Freud”, Dawn Andrews
“Ice Age”, Iain Rowan
“The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada”, Anonymous
“Berenice’s Journal”, Richard Gavin
“Showcase”, Sarah Singleton
“Eyes Like Water, Like Ice”, Jai Clare
“Earthworks”, Simon Kewin
“Striped Pajamas”, Margaret B. Simon
“The Drowned”, Joel Lane
“Adult Books”, Robert Morrish
“Nothing”, John Travis
“The Secret”, G. W. Thomas
“A Spot of Tea”, Janet L. Hetherington
“White Dream”, Neil Bristow
“Four Minutes Thirty-Three Seconds”

Nemonymous Part Three (gold coin)

Subtitled A Megazanthus for Short Fiction and released in April 2003 with cover art by JaNell Golden.

  • “The Bluest of Grey Skies”, Michael Kelly
  • “Practice”, Jeff Holland
  • “Genie”, Tamar Yellin
  • “Gerald and the Soul Doctor”, David J. Brown
  • “Otterwise”, Lucy A. E. Ward
  • “Sirens”, Brendan Connell
  • “The Rest of Larry”, Monica O’Rourke
  • “The Ballerina”, Lavie Tidhar
  • “Shark in a Foggy Sea”, Colin Hains
  • “Scrounge”, David Mathew
  • “Twilight Music”, Regina Mitchell
  • “Mobile, Phone”, Brian Howell
  • “The Small Miracle”, Rhys Hughes
  • “Digging for Adults”, D Harlan Wilson
  • “Insanity Over Creamer’s Field”, Joe Murphy
  • “Warp”, Len Maynard and Mick Sims
  • “Sleeping Beauty”, Tom Williams
  • “Lucia”, Paul Evanby
  • “In the Steam Room”, Tamar Yellin
  • “Chemo”, Terry Gates Grimwood
  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go”, Jorge Candeias (translated from the Portugueseby Luís Rodrigues)

Nemonymous Part Four (Glass Onion): A Megazanthus for Parthenogenetic Fiction and Late-Labelling was published in May 2004 and comes in completely white covers, with no lettering on the outside save for the words “nemonymous part four” on the spine.

  • “Apologising to the Concrete”, Jay Lake
  • “Creek Man”, Jamie Rosen
  • “The Death Knell”, S. D. Tullis
  • “Determining the Extent”, Adrian Fry
  • “Embrace”, Keith Brooke
  • “The Frog’s Pool”, Jetse de Vries
  • “Generous Furniture”, Trent Jamieson
  • “Leaves Like Hearts”, Rachel Kendall
  • “Like a Slow Motion War”, Allen Ashley & Andrew Hook
  • “My Burglar”, Gary McMahon
  • “Maledict Michela”, Brendan Connell
  • “Nocturne for Doghands”, Joe Murphy
  • “The Painter”, Dominy Clements
  • “The Rorschach-Interpreter”, D Harlan Wilson
  • “Sexy Beast”, Tony Mileman
  • “Vole Mountain”, Andrew Hook
  • “The Withering”, Bruce Golden

Nemonymous Five is designed in red, being a Dickian version of the old-fashioned memo books which can be found in the United Kingdom. “NEMO BOOK,” as it is titled, was released in July 2005 and contains the following stories:

  • “The Robot & The Octopus”, Tony Ballantyne
  • “Driving In Circles”, Iain Rowan
  • “Running Away to Join the Town”, Paul Meloy
  • “Solid Gold”, Rachel Kendall
  • “George the Baker”, Anonymous
  • “The Hills Are Alive”, S. D. Tullis
  • “Huntin’ Season”, Monica O’Rourke
  • “Well Tempered”, Neil Williamson
  • “The Scariest Story I Know”, Scott Edelman
  • “New Science”, Gary McMahon
  • “Soul Stains”, Robyn Alezanders
  • “Grandma’s Two Watches”, Lavie Tidhar


Nemonymous Six doesn’t actually exist, and it probably never will. “The Non-Existent Edition,” as it’s dubbed by the editor, was announced in May 2006 as existing in the tradition of stories such as ‘The Vanishing Life and Films Of Emmanuel Escobada’, ‘Four minutes thirty-three seconds’ and ‘Mighty Fine Days’ (in Nemonymous 2) and ‘The Painter’ (in Nemonymous 4), plus the blank cover of Nemonymous 4 and other features of previous editions.
Nemonymous Six is a drogulus.

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