Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Nightscript Volume III and 'The Affair'

Nightscript is an annual anthology of weird and strange fiction; the first two volumes contained an impressive collection of stories, selected by editor C.M. Muller. So I'm very pleased to be able to say that my story 'The Affair' will appear in Nightscript III, due out in October.

The full lineup is below; details about the first two volumes can be found here.

'The Flower Unfolds' - Simon Strantzas
'Downward' - Amar Benchikha
'What Little Boys Are Made Of' - Malcolm Devlin
'Grizzly' - M.K. Anderson
'Might Be Mordiford' - Charles Wilkinson
'Palankar' - Daniel Braum
'The Gestures Remain' - Christi Nogle
'House of Abjection' - David Peak
'The Undertow, and They That Dwell Therein' - Clint Smith
'A Place With Trees' - Rowley Amato
'The Familiar' - Cory Cone
'Liquid Air' - Inna Effress
'The Beasts Are Sleep' - Adam Golaski
'The Witch House' - Jessica Phelps
'On the Edge of Utterance' - Stephen J. Clark
'Homeward Bound Now, Paulino' - Armel Dagorn
'The Affair' - James Everington
'When Dark-Eyed Ophelia Sings' - Rebecca J. Allred
'We, the Rescued' - John Howard
'Twenty Miles and Running' - Christian Riley
'Something You Leave Behind' - David Surface
'Young Bride' - Julia Rust
'The Other Side of the Hill' - M.R. Cosby

Friday, 3 February 2017

Green & Pleasant Land: Paperback Edition & New Review

The anthology Great British Horror 1: Green & Pleasant Land has just been released in a new paperback edition, and a new review from This Is Horror has some kind words about the book overall and my contribution, 'A Glimpse Of Red':

"...a very ambitious piece about alienation, unreliable memory, and paranoia... Another excellent story from a writer who, though he has been working steadily in dark fiction for a number of years, seems set to gain even greater recognition." (Full review here.)

'A Glimpse Of Red' is a story that seems more timely to me now than when I wrote it. Its central character is an foreginer out of place in the confusing and vaguely sinister place in which she finds herself: modern Britain. In this post-Brexit, post-Jo Cox, immigrant-bashing, Trump-appeasing 2017, I'm increaingly feeling this country, my home, is baffling and sinister too.

Green and Pleasant Land is an anthology I am proud to have been a part of, featuring as it does a wealth of home-grown talent, including V.H. Leslie, Jasper Bark, Ray Cluley, Simon Kurt Unsworth and Laura Mauro.

Great British Horror 1: Green and Pleasant Land  (UK | US)

Friday, 27 January 2017

Recommendation: Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

I came to this debut collection from American author Michael Wehunt having already admired a number of the stories in various anthologies and yearly best ofs - and yet, it still impressed me even more than I was expecting.

Nearly every story here is worthy of your time, but I'll jump right in and say a few words about my favourites. Your own may vary, as might mine the next time I read them. (And these stories will certainly need rereading.)

'Greener Pastures' is a sustained exercise in atmosphere, set in the a truckers' cafe in the middle of American nowhere. Two truckers fall into conversation whilst staring out into the sodium-lit darkness outside, and it's no surprise that their talk is all about nothingness and empty spaces... Wehunt uses these bare bones to create an utterly compelling, creepy narrative; I've seen this story compared online to a Twilight Zone piece and there's something to that - but it has an emotional resonance beyond any mere twist-in-the-tale piece.

If 'Greener Pastures' was almost minimalist in the elements it used to scare, 'October Film Haunt: Under The House' takes the opposite approach and chucks everything into the pan. We have a classic creepy house, multiple unreliable narrators, Lovecraftian weirdness, entomophobia, and a clever use of the 'found footage' trope in a prose narrative. All these elements are bound by the story's relentless air of fatalist determinism - Wehunt's characters seem stuck in a situation that they know will lead to their ruin but are compelled to play it out anyway. (Or maybe I'm just seeing my own neurosis and intellectual tics staring back at me from the distorted mirror Wehunt crafts here. Readers of 'Fate, Destiny, And A Fat Man From Arkansas' will know how scary I find those notions.)

Like many pieces here, 'Dancers' fuses genuine, poetic symbols of human experience (the titular trees are ones the husband in a long marriage has gradually encouraged to grow entwined together) and horrific imagery that undercuts this human lyricism. 'Dancers' is a darkly terrible story about possession, fertility rites and old gods.

And that's not to mention the Aickman-inspired 'A Discrete Music', the Stephen King-esqe 'Devil Under The Maison Blue' or the superb, surreal, take on small communities and religious fundamentalism in 'Deducted From Your Share In Paradise'.

Overall then, this is a well-crafted, intelligent, not to mention thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories, each of which builds on genre classics but displays the author's own distinct voice. A fine debut.

Greener Pastures (UK | US)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Inspiration

Two pieces that, given the current state of the world, have inspired me:

"I want to celebrate those things here. I want to write about books and film and art and music and stories and travel and all the glorious things in the world that these small mean grubby minds, these pathetic, paltry imaginations, do not value, would like to crush out of existence."
Lynda E. Rucker: A Citizen of Nowhere

"I think maybe we have to stop reacting and start resisting. There is no way of reacting to Trump... except to sit there, mind reeling with disbelief as yet more levels of total incompetence are revealed (there are more??) and thinking what an absolute dick. Yet even small acts of resistance are valuable and important... Small acts of resistance, among which books, and the talk of books, are the greatest of all."
And so, back to the small act of writing. (Do follow the links and read them in their entirety.)


Friday, 30 December 2016

2016: My Writing Year

So 2016, eh? An, uh, 'interesting' year for many of us... for reasons I'm sure you don't need me to remind you of.

But just judging 2016 based on what it meant for my writing, it was a good year. In terms of books published I looked very prolific, but in reality this was caused by the vagaries of small-press publishing schedules rather than anything else.

Books
Trying To Be So Quiet 
A ghost story released as a (brilliantly designed) hardback - a first for me. Jim McLeod of Ginger Nuts Of Horror included TTBSQ in his Top 20 Books of the year, and Anthony Watson mentioned it in his 2016 Review post on his Dark Musings site. Sadly Boo Books are no longer with us, so I'll be looking for a new home for this one.

The Quarantined City
Finally the whole story could be told... stories, in fact. After 'publisher problems' prevented this being released episodically as originally planned, the brilliant Infinity Plus stepped in to release the whole novel. It's the book of mine I'm probably most proud of, and Anthony Watson picked it as his second favourite novel of the year, calling it a "truimph". And of course I'm going to be crass enough to mention again that this one got reviewed in the bloody Guardian.

Paupers' Graves
Part of the Hersham Horror novella range, this one stretched me as a writer, involving a fair amount of historical research (the setting is based on a real life cemetery here in Nottingham). Fortunately the hard work seemed to pay off, with Mark West including Paupers' Graves in his annual Westies awards; Horror Novel Reviews in this 2016 ListAnthony Watson mentioning it in his year end piece; as did Kit Power in his personal round up for Ginger Nuts of Horror.

The Hyde Hotel
My first book as editor, alongside Dan Howarth. I loved putting together this - thanks to all the stellar authors involved. And again, Anthony Watson (a man I owe a drink to, should we ever met) mentioned this in his roundup of the year.

Stories & Non-Fiction: 
Including reprints, I had seven stories published this year. The new ones were 'Hooked' (Thirteen Signs), 'A Glimpse of Red' (Great British Horror #1: Green &Pleasant Land) and 'Premonition' (Reflections). And although not released in 2016, Kit Power (a cracking writer in himself) mentioned 'The Man Dogs Hated' (from Falling Over) as one of his favourite short stories he read this year in his own annual round up.

I also had two pieces in the Writers On Writing series from Crystal Lake, both republished in the Omnibus Edition: 'Embracing Your Inner Shitness' and 'Fictional Emotions; Emotional Fictions'.

Events:
I attended more writing related events than ever before, and had a blast at all of them: Edge-Lit 5, Sledge-lit 2, Derby Writers' Day, Nottingham Library Local Writers Showcase, and of course the annual three days of talking books, eating food, launching books, drinking beer and buying books that is Fantasycon.

Coming Up...
2017 will see me hard at work upon a novel, as well as hopefully see some more short stories published. I'm tentatively thinking about what tales should feature in my next collection too, so hopefully they'll be some news on that.

See you next year, everyone!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Favourite Short Stories: 2016

Another year, another favourite short story post. And there's some truly excellent ones below, representing a small fraction of those I read in 2016. These are all recent short stories, although in a few instances I've bent the the definition of 'recent' to sneak a favourite in. As I have with the definition of 'short' as well. And in a couple of cases, even 'story'. But all of them are brilliant, without equivocation.

I hope readers of this blog will sample at least a few of the stories below. Enjoy!

(You can find my lists for previous years linked here.)

Nina Allan: The Art Of Space Travel (TOR)
G.V. Anderson: Four Stops (Syntax & Salt)
G.V. Anderson: Das Steingeschöpf (Strange Horizons December 2016)
Anonymous: The Role of Music In Your Life (A Five Dials Experience) 
Dale Bailey: Mr Splitfoot (The Best Horror Of The Year #6, Night Shade Books)
Nathan Ballingud: The Good Husband (The Best Horror Of The Year #6, Night Shade Books)
Matthew M. Bartlett: The Investigator (Gateways To Abomination)
Matthew M. Bartlett: Rangel (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #3, Undertow)
Steve Berman: The Haferbräutigam (The Dark #12)
Keith Brooke & Eric Brown: In Transit (Parallax View, Infinity Plus)
Molly Brown: Living With The Dead (Obsidian, NewCon Press)
Georgina Bruce: White Rabbit (Black Static #50)
Nadia Bulkin: The House That Jessica Built (The Dark #18)
Nadia Bulkin: Pro Patria (Cassilda's Song, Chaosium)
Ramsey Campbell: Fear My Name (Fearie Tales, Jo Fletcher Books)
Ramsey Campbell: At Lorne Hall (Nightmare #2)
Ted Chiang: The Great Silence (Electric Lit)
Chloe N. Clark: Where Is Your Destination, What Is Your Plan (Menacing Hedge Spring 2016) 
Chloe N. Clark: Stricken (Cheap Pop)
Ray Cluley: A Tale Before Supper (This Is Horror)
Ray Cluley: The Castellmarch Man (Great British Horror #1: Green & Pleasant Land, Black Shuck Books)
Brian Conn: The Guest (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #3, Undertow)
Julio Cortazar: Headache (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #2, Undertow)
Elaine Cuyegkeng: The House That Creaks (The Dark #17)
Kristi DeMeester: All The World When It Is Thin (The Dark #11)
Kristi DeMeester: Everything That's Underneath (Nightscript #1)
Seth Dickinson: Anna Scares Them All (Shimmer #21)
Steve Duffy: The Marginals (The Dark #14)
Brian Evenson: Click (Granta)
Brian Evenson: No Matter Which Way We Turned (People Holding Spring 2016)
Gemma Files & Stephen J. Barringer: Everything I Show You Is A Piece Of My Death (Apex)
Cate Gardner: Blood Moth Kiss (Shadow Moths, Frightful Horrors)
Brian Hodge: The Same Deep Waters As You (The Best Horror Of The Year #6, Night Shade Books)
Ashley Hutson: Houseplants In Winter (Spelk)
Timothy J. Jarvis: Under The Sign Of The Black Raven (Treatises On Dust)
Carole Johnstone: Wetwork (Black Static #52)
Benedict J. Jones: The Listening (Skewered & Other London Cruelties, Crime Wave Press)
Tyler Keevil: Foul Is Fair (Black Static #50)
Claude Lalumiere: Dead (Nocturnes & Other Nocturnes, Infinity Plus)
John Langan: Inundation (Lovecraft Ezine #37)
Rich Larson: The Air We Breath Is Stormy, Stormy (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #2, Undertow)
V.H. Leslie: Man Of The House (Black Static #50)
V.H. Leslie: Hermaness (Great British Horror #1: Green & Pleasant Land, Black Shuck Books)
Patricia Lillie: The Cuckoo Girls (Nightscript #1)
John Ajvide Lindqvist: Come Unto Me (Fearie Tales, Jo Fletcher Books)
Alison Littlewood: The Eyes Of Water (Spectral Press chapbook)
Livia Llewellyn: The Low, Dark Edge Of Life (Nightmare #51)
Kevin Lucia: Yellow Cab (Through A Mirror, Darkly, Crystal Lake)
Sophie Mackintosh: The Weak Spot (Granta)
Carman Maria Machado: The Husband Stitch (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #2, Undertow)
Usman T. Malik: Resurrection Points (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #2, Undertow)
Tim Major: Lines Of Fire (Game Over, Snow Books)
Helen Marshall: Exposure (Cassilda's Song, Chaosium)
Laura Mauro: Obsidian (Obsidian, NewCon Press)
Gary McMahon: What We Talk About When We Talk About The Dead (Shadows & Tall Trees #4, Undertow)
Ian McEwan: My Purple Scented Novel (The New Yorker)
S.P. Miskowski: Stag In Flight (Dim Shores Chapbook)
Alison Moore: It Has Happened Before (Shadows & Tall Trees #4, Undertow)
Sunny Moraine: Dispatches From A Hole In The World (Singing With All My Skin & Bone, Undertow)
Sunny Moraine: Cold As The Moon (Singing With All My Skin & Bone, Undertow)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Stories With Happy Endings (This Strange Way Of Dying, Exile Editions)
Mark Morris: Full Up (Black Static #51)
David Nickle: The Caretakers (TOR.COM)
Scott Nicolay: Do You Like To Look At Monsters? (Word Horde)
Scott Nicolay: Noctuidae (King Shot Press chapbook)
Sarah Pinborough: Do You See? (Obsidian, NewCon Press)
Leone Ross: The Woman Who Lived In A Restaurant (Nightjar Press chapbook)
Lynda E. Rucker: The House On Cobb Street (You'll Know When You Get There, Swan River Press)
Lynda E. Rucker: Who Is This Who Is Coming? (You'll Know When You Get There, Swan River Press)
Erica L. Satifka: Bucket List Found In The Locker Of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before The Great Uplifting Of All Mankind (Lightspeed #61)
Jeremy Schleiwe: A Little Lost Thing (Supernatural Tales #32)
Priya Sharma: The Absent Shade (Black Static #44)
Robert Shearman: Bedtime Stories For Yasmin (Shadows & Tall Trees #4, Undertow)
Robert Shearman: Times Table (Everyone's Just So So Special, Big Finish)
Robert Shearman: A History Of Broken Things (Everyone's Just So So Special, Big Finish)
Laurel Sills: The Animals Inside (Game Over, Snow Books)
Maggie Slater: The Behemoth Beaches (Apex)
Christopher Slatsky: Loveliness Like A Shadow (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #3, Undertow)
David Surface: Terrible Things (Shadows & Tall Trees #4, Undertow)
Karen Tidbeck: Migration (The Year's Best Weird Fiction #2, Undertow)
Lavie Tidhar: Selfies (TOR.COM)
Paul Tremblay: A Haunted House Is A Wheel On Which Some Are Broken (Gutted, Crystal Lake)
Lisa Tuttle: Paul's Mother (Obsidian, NewCon Press)
Simon Kurt Unsworth: Mr Denning Sings (Great British Horror #1: Green & Pleasant Land, Black Shuck Books)
Valerie Valdes: A Diet Of Worms (Nightmare #49)
Damien Angelica Walters: The Hands That Hold, The Lies That Bind (Cemetery Dance)
D.P. Watt: Shallabalah (Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, Undertow)
D.P. Watt: The Usher (Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, Undertow)
Michael Wehunt: Birds Of Lancaster, Lairamore, Lovejoy (The Dark #11)
Michael Wehunt: The Death of Socrates (Nightscript #1)
Mark West: Photograph Of You (Tales From The Lake #2, Crystal Lake)
Aliya Whiteley: Bird Charming For Beginners (Horizons #3, British Fantasy Society)
Conrad Williams: The Pike (Born With Teeth, PS Publishing)
Neil Williamson: The Death Of Abigail Goudy (Secret Language, NewCon Press)
A.C. Wise: The Men From Narrow Houses (Liminal Stories #1)
A.C. Wise: The Last Sailing Of The Henry Charles Morgan In Six Pieces Of Scrimshaw (The Dark #14)
Alyssa Wong: Scarecrow (TOR.COM)
Alyssa Wong: Rabbit Heart (Fireside Fiction #37)
Jason A. Wyckoff: On Balance (Nightscript #1)
Stephanie M. Wytovich: The Morning After Was Filled With Bone (Gutted, Crystal Lake)
Mercedes M. Yardley: Water Thy Bones (Gutted, Crystal Lake)

Monday, 19 December 2016

Favourite Books of 2016

This year, I've done two different list for my favourite books of the year: one for books published in 2016, and one for books published previously. 

(I'll be posting my annual short stories post after Christmas.)

So, in no particular order, two Top Tens:

2016:
1. The Grieving Stones - Gary McMahon (Horrific Tales Publishing)
A superb novella which mixes folk horror with psychological weirdness to produce something only McMahon could have written. A controlled, slow-burn build up leads us into a ferociously good climax. Cracking stuff.

2. The Searching Dead - Ramsey Campbell (PS Publishing)
"I've been reading Ramsey Campbell's books all my adult life, and yet he continues to surprise me. The Searching Dead is up there with his finest novels" - my full review here.

3. Becoming David - Phil Sloman (Hersham Horror)
This debut novella from Sloman, a tale of a serial killer being haunted by one of his own victims (maybe), delights and appals in equal measure. Superb.

4. Year's Best Weird Fiction #3 - Simon Strantzas, Michael Kelly (ed.) (Undertow)
Does exactly what it says on the tin, really. Nineteen tales that demonstrate both the rude health of literay horror fiction and the keen eye of the editors for a good short story. YBWF is a series we're lucky to have.

5. You'll Know When You Get There - Lynda E. Rucker (Swan River Press)
"Quite simply, one of the short story collections of the year" - my full review here.

6. A Country Road, A Tree - Jo Baker (Knopf)
A fictionalised account of the life of Samuel Beckett, centred around his time in the French resistance in WW2. Beckett is one of my favourite authors, and this book is full of allusions to his work (the title is from the set description for Waiting For Godot) as well as skilfully depicting his character as a young man, caught up in the war, unaware of the artistic success ahead.

7. Secret Language - Neil Williamson (Newcon Press)
There seems to be little Williamson can't do with the short story form (I hate it when people call short stories a 'genre'), as this collection demonstrates. There's horror, science-fiction and dark fantasy here, all twisted into shapes only Williamson could imagine.

8. Singing With All My Skin & Bone - Sunny Moraine (Undertow)
"an alluring combination of horror, magic realism and even science fiction" - my full review here.

9. Bodies Of Water - V.H. Leslie (Salt)
"a genuine truimph, a book sure of itself and full of quiet ambition" - my full review here.

10. Phonogram #3: The Immaterial Girl - Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (Image Comics)
The Phonogram graphic novels sound preposterous as a concept - a world like ours except that pop music = magic. But in practice they're a startling exploration of fame, youth, nostalgia, culture and the horror implicit in that famous video for Take On Me.

Other:
1. Everyone's Just So So Special - Robert Shearman (Big Finish)
Robert Shearman gives us a bumper selection of short stories and an overview of world history (with another story hidden within, natch) in this utterly original, delightful, messed-up, and disturbing collection.

2. The Bird's Nest - Shirley Jackson (Penguin Modern Classics)
I absolutely adore Jackson's work, but until the recent Penguin reissues I had some gaps in my collection. Reading The Bird's Nest for the first time was a revelation, a classic to stand alongside Jackson's other works of genius.

3. Lost Girl - Adam Nevill (Macmillan)
"a novel that I know will stay with me, haunting me with the fear that my daughter will grow up into the world it depicts" - my full review here.

4. Gateways To Abomination - Matthew M. Bartlett
"in story after story Bartlett’s protagonists stumble across the strange, infectious voices of WXXT..." - my full review here.

5. Shadows & Tall Trees #4 - Michael Kelly (ed.) (Undertow)
A fine selection of stories from some of the best writers in the horror field: David Surface, Laura Mauro, Alison Moore, Ralph Robert Moore and, uh, more. As with the other issues of S&TT I've read, essential.

6. Albion Fay - Mark Morris (Snow Books)
A novella that mixes traditional horror with more modern fears; disturbing, creepy and seething with repressed emotion and memories. One of Morris's best, which is saying something.

7. A Cold Season - Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher)
An expertly written, engrossing ghost story, but then what else would you expect from Alison Littlewood? I enjoyed every chilly, frozen minute of this one.

8. The Wanderer - Timothy J. Jarvis (Perfect Edge)
"deeply serious yet it has the tone of a shaggy dog story told in a disreputable public house" - my full review here.

9. Thinking Horror #1: S.J. Bagley (ed.) (TKHR)
A welcome venture, Thinking Horror is a journal dedicated to the exploration of the horror genre: it's aesthetics, its mechanics, its meaning, its history. This first issue has interviews and essays from Helen Marshall, Gary Fry, Nathan Ballingrud, Molly Tanzer and more. Stimulating and satisfying.

10. The Death House - Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)
A heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, soul-rearranging novel about young people with a mysterious illness, sealed away from the world. It's important to note that I didn't, repeat didn't, blub at the ending. Nope.