Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Five Things #6

It's been too long since a five things post, hasn't it? So without further ado:

1. No Logical Way To Write A Haunting by Jay Wilburn
I'm in the depths of writing my own take on the haunted house novel at the moments. This thoughtful piece in Dark Moon Digest is about this sub-genre, and the issues with trying to make the haunted characters' actions believable. In a nutshell: why don't they just walk out?

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - review by Sally Jane Black
Since my last Five Things post, the director of the seminal Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper, sadly passed away. There was of course a lot written about him and TCM in the aftermath, and deservedly so - it's a far more artistic and subtle film than it often gets credit for (as well as being bloody and terrifying too). This piece by Sally Jane Black was the best retrospective I read.

3. Symbols & Signs by Vladimir Nabokov
I found this wonderful story via one of those weird social media discussions that ends up miles away from the topic it started put from. This is a link to the New Yorker version from 1948; apparently everywhere else it's titled 'Signs & Symbols'.

4. Nottingham: UNESCO City Of Literature
I've lived in Nottingham nearly all my life; the two writers everyone knows from my home city are Byron and D.H. Lawrence. But there's much more to Nottingham's literary past than that, and lots of talent in its present. Nottingham has recently been awared UNESCO City Of Literature status; check out this new site to learn about local writers, bookshops, events and more more more.

5. 'Don't Turn On The Lights' by Cassandra Khaw
And finally, this story from Cassandra Khaw in Nightmare magazine, a brilliant telling (and retelling) on those urban legend horror stories we all heard as teenagers...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Ellen Datlow Honorable* Mentions

Ellen Datlow's annual Honorable* Mentions list has been published, and I'm sure I'm not the only writer who scrolls down the alphabetical list to where my name might be before reading the whole thing...

So this year I was bowled over to see that my story 'A Glimpse Of Red' from Great British Horror #1 sitting at the end of the Es—my second mention. And not only that, but three stories from The Hyde Hotel (edited by myself and Dan Howarth) were also selected; richly deserved congratulations to Simon Bestwick, Ray Cluley and Amelia Mangan!

Being less self-centred, it's great to see stories from so many friends and excellent writers included. Of the ones I've read on the list I particularly liked those by Eliza Chan, Kristi DeMeester, Malcolm Devlin, Cate Gardner, Carole Johnstone, V.H. Leslie, S.P. Miskowski, Ralph Robert Moore, Simon Kurt Unsworth, D.P. Watt, Michael Wehunt, and A.C. Wise.

You can read the whole list here (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3)

* this is the only occasion on which I'll be using the American spelling :)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Author Priya Sharma has picked a selection of 'Halloween Reads' over on her site. Lots of great suggestions to add to your 'to read' pile if you're a fan of the spooky and horrifying (and there's a nice shout out for The Quarantined City, too).

Priya is a superb writer of the spooky stuff herself; her debut collection is out from Undertow Publications in 2018.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Fantasycon 2017!

The obligatory Fantasycon post...

In which I never quite know what to say, to be honest. How to sum up a weekend like Fantasycon? Three days of books, great conversations, books, friendship, nice food, books, booze, books, very late nights, and books. It all seems completely normal when you're in the Fcon bubble, and its only when you're back in the real world and attempting to talk to strangers on the train about Shirley Jackson that you realise again how special it is.

The events I was part of were all brilliant. On Friday I took part in the horror reading session, with Kit Power and Jonathan L. Howard - a great session, which showed off the range of different horror fiction around at the moment, with Jonathan's clever Lovecraftian pastiche, Kit's very dark tale during which he pulled out a real hammer and my, well, densely-written creepy shit.

On Saturday I took part in a panel on horror writing with an absolute hero of mine, Ramsey Campbell, and another writer I immensely admire, Nina Allen. Not nervous at all, honest guv. Fortunately my good friends Mark West and Phil Sloman were also part of it, and it was an amazing session. The 50mins flew by (ably moderated by Helen Armfield) and I could have talked for twice as long with everyone - like the best panels it felt like a chat between friends and colleagues, not a back and forth Q&A. A real highlight.

Sunday saw me take part in another panel, this time on putting together anthologies. Whether I was as qualified as the other participants - Peter Mark May, Stephen Jones, Colleen Anderson and Peter Coleborn - to talk about such things, having only done The Hyde Hotel and Imposter Syndrome, the audience can decide, but again I found it hugely enjoyable.

Other great moments included John Llewelyn Probert's brilliant reading at the Great British Horror launch; the Weird Fiction panel; the fifteen minutes of the disco when they played decent music and, well, just chatting to everyone.

Because it's the people that really do make the weekend, and I know I'll miss someone out but thanks to the following for making Fantasycon as special as it always is: Steve Harris, Phil Sloman, Mark West, Kit Power, CC Adams, Neil Williamson, Dion Winton-Pollak, Priya Sharma, Cate Gardner, Simon Bestwick, Tracy Fahey, Adam Nevil, Gary McMahon, Ross Warren, Lisa Childs, Timothy Jarvis (and brother, whose name I forget, sorry!), Helen Marshall, Malcolm Devlin, GV Anderson, Laura Mauro and Mr Mauro, Lynda E. Rucker, Stephen Bacon, Paul Feeney, Georgina Bruce, Tom Johnstone, Peter Mark May, Sue Moorcroft, Stephen Volk, Tim Major, Alison Littlewood & Fergus, John Llewelyn Probert, Thana Niveau, Robert Sherman, John Travis, Tim C. Taylor, Steve Shaw, Richard Farren Barber, Charlotte Bond, Dave Jeffery, and Penny Jones. It seems incredible that I can know so many talented people, let alone have spoken to them all over the course of one weekend. But that's the time-bending wonder of Fantasycon. Roll on 2018.

Horror Reading - after finishing my extract from The Quarantined City, I'm enjoying Kit Power's reading, in which he genuinely pulled out a hammer.
Dion Winton Polak, Neil Williamson and me, deep into our cups.
Horror panel, with Ramsey Campbell(!), Phil Sloman, Mark West, Helen Armfield, Nina Allen and myself.
Mark West, me, Kit Power, talking about IT and god knows what else early into the morning.

Blurry dad-dancing on the dance floor. Plus non-dad dancing from Priya Sharma and Tracy Fahey.
With me, Tim Major, Dave Jeffery, Dean M. Drinkel, Sue Moorcroft, Paul Melhuish, Mark West

Monday, 2 October 2017

Nightscript Vol. 3 Out Now

Nightscript is an annual anthology of the strange and the creepy edited by C.M. Muller, and although it's only in its third year it has already found it's own special place in the literary horror ecosystem (I loved the first two volumes).

So I'm especially pleased that Volume 3 contains my story 'The Affair', as well as stories from twenty-two other writers, including Simon Strantzas, David Surface, Adam Golaski, M.K. Anderson, Daniel Braum, Rebecca J. Allred, M.R. Cosby and Malcolm Devlin.

In my humble (and now biased) opinion, the world needs more anthologies like Nightscript, so I do hope you'll check out all three volumes.

Ebook (UK | US)
Paperback (UK | US)

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Fantasycon 2017 Schedule

I'll be at Fantasycon again this year, and I can't wait. It's being held in the Bull Hotel in Peterborough 29th September - 1st October.

I'm doing a couple of panels and a reading; other than that I'll be chatting with friends old and new, drinking in the bar, eating nice food, and of course talking about books, buying books, holding books, carrying books, selling books, admiring books, thinking about books, dreaming about books etc. etc. etc....

Hope to see loads of you there!

Friday 7pm - Readings Horror (Sandringham Room)
Jonathan L. Howard, Kit Power, James Everington

Saturday 10am - Horror: Mastery and Apprenticeship (FitzWilliam Panel Room 1)
Helen Armfield (mod), Ramsey Campbell, Phil Sloman, Mark West, Nina Allan, James Everington

Sunday 12.30pm - Building Anthologies (Burley Panel Room 3)
Colleen Anderson (mod), Peter Coleborn James Everington, Stephen Jones, Peter Mark May
The full Fantasycon 2017 programme can be found here.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Some Mini-Recommendations

I already had a backlog of books I wanted to write recommendations for; and then I went on a short holiday and read 'quite a few' more, and realised I was never going to catch up. So here are a few books I thoroughly recommend, with the briefest of notes why. Hopefully my terseness will not put you off trying any of them.

Beneath - Kristi DeMeester
I kinda guessed that the debut novel from Kristi DeMeester would be brilliant, and I wasn't wrong. It's a quasi-Lovecraftian horror story set in fundamentalist Christian Appalachia. This is a book that oozes atmosphere, with the author's skilful prose describing a world that feels sickly, feverish, on the brink of delirium and apocalypse.

Body In The Woods - Sarah Lotz
A splendid psychological thriller, this, about things that don't stay buried, both physical and emotional. A story about friendship, debts, and when you might end up paying back too much. It's also the type of book about which it doesn't do to say too much, so I won't. A hugely enjoyable read.

Stranger Companies - Linda Angel
A collection of short stories and prose pieces, Stranger Companies' success lies in its authorial voice. Linda Angel's style has echoes of writers like Brautigan, Amis and Zadie Smith, but also seems wholly her own: wise-cracking, playful and dark. She can do plot too, particularly in the longer piece that ends the collection, 'Deathsmell'.

I Am The New God - Nicole Cushing
Nicole Cushing's novella has a brilliant premise: a man known as 'the hierophant' exchanges letters with an ordinary seeming young man whom he believes to be 'the new god', a diety who will replace the current incumbent. And the young man starts to believe the letters might be right... Starting, brutal, compelling.

Mutator - Gary Fry
Another slice of Yorkshire horror from Gary Fry, taking what might seem a well-worn premise and making it new. For while Mutator borrows tropes from both classic horror literature and creature-feature cinema, Fry also muses on modern scientific notions of evolution & adaptability... and creates the original monster of the title in the process.

High-Rise - J.G. Ballard
Ballard is not a writer I'm as familiar with as I should be, having only previously read Super-Cannes and The Atrocity Exhibition. High-Rise is a novel with a well known central premise, set in a building as distinctive as any haunted house. This is not so much a realistic book as one that takes a realistic premise (that external environment affects both our psychology and social structures) and single-mindedly extrapolates it into something grotesque. It's clever, mordant and revolting; I loved it.