THREE By Jay Posey ......................................................................................................................................................................... 2 Richard Kadrey Interview ................................................................................................................................................................... 3 BOX OF DELIGHTS By John Kenny ................................................................................................................................................ 7 R.I.P.D. ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 OF BLOOD AND LIONS By Karen Ann .......................................................................................................................................... 7 Interview Jay Posey ............................................................................................................................................................................ 8 SHADOWS By Sean A. Lusher ....................................................................................................................................................... 14 THE SLEEP ROOM By F. R. Tallis ................................................................................................................................................ 14 WHITSTABLE By Stephen Volk..................................................................................................................................................... 14 THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES Edited By Mike Chinn ............................................................................... 15 WRONG TURN 5 ............................................................................................................................................................................ 15 LIFE ON THE PRESERVATON By Jack Skillingtead ................................................................................................................... 16 THE EXPRESS DIARIES By Nick Marsh ...................................................................................................................................... 16 Joseph D’Lacey Interview ................................................................................................................................................................ 17 OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL .............................................................................................................................................. 20 CRUX By Ramez Naam ................................................................................................................................................................... 20 Edward Drake: The Warrior’s Journey & His Own .......................................................................................................................... 20 JACK THE GIANT SLAYER .......................................................................................................................................................... 26 A STIR OF ECHOES By Richard Matheson ................................................................................................................................... 26 Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones ............................................................................................................... 27 THE BONE SEASON By Samantha Shannon ................................................................................................................................. 29 THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA By Roy Bainton ........................................................................ 30 SEVEN FORGES By James A. Moore............................................................................................................................................. 30 AVAILABLE DARK By Elizabeth Hand ........................................................................................................................................ 31 EVIL DEAD (2013).......................................................................................................................................................................... 31 HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS By Adam Nevill ......................................................................................................................... 32 Eric S. Brown Interview ................................................................................................................................................................... 34 SOUL MASQUE By Terry Grimwood............................................................................................................................................. 37 WAR MASTER’S GATE By Adrian Tchaikovsky .......................................................................................................................... 37 PLASTIC By Christopher Fowler..................................................................................................................................................... 38 MR. BUBBLES/ THE GNOME BEFORE CHRISTMAS Reviews by Trevor Wright ................................................................... 40 RED DAHLIA By Ross Simon ........................................................................................................................................................ 40 POISONOUS By Tommy B Smith ................................................................................................................................................... 41 An interview with Richard Farren Barber ......................................................................................................................................... 41 From the Catacombs: The Return! By Jim Lesniak .......................................................................................................................... 45 JOHN DIES AT THE END By David Wong ................................................................................................................................... 48 FORTUNATELY, THE MILK… By Neil Gaiman.......................................................................................................................... 49 James A. Moore Interview ................................................................................................................................................................ 49 STRIPPED ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 54 314 By A.R. Wise ............................................................................................................................................................................. 56 Scares That Care: Joe Ripple Interview ............................................................................................................................................ 56 Heather Dorff Interview .................................................................................................................................................................... 58 Edited By Stanley Riiks. Written By Adrian Brady, Edward Drake, Jim Lesniak, Simon Marshall-Jones, Stanley Riiks, C.M. Saunders, J.S. Watts, Trevor Wright. Proof-read By Sheri White. © Morpheus Tales October 2013
www.morpheustales.com backgrounds and very well-rounded characters, and establishes his world with stunning accuracy, working off of that stereotype base. In fact, Posey writes with the skill of a gifted story teller. He is a good writer. Not with the eloquence and intricacy of Martin Amis, but with the flow, great character development, and ability to draw the reader in like Stephen King. The book most reminded me of one of my current favourites, Peter V. Brett. Even the cover with the shrouded figure is similar to that of The Painted Man. The journey and discovery are common themes in fantasy novels. The world of the Duskwalker is a fairly simple one in comparison to that of Brett’s, but is equally familiar and fascinatingly different. The enclaves of humanity surrounded by wilderness and danger are remarkably similar. Also, it is the quality of the writer and ability to tell a story that absorbs the reader so fully. Both write with a skill rarely found; even as I shake my head at a familiar scene from past fantasy or SF novels, I can’t help but keep reading, desperate to find out what happens next. Posey has created a character that you can’t help but like and want to follow. This is the first book in the series, and from this showing it is a series that will swiftly become a classic. Put aside worries that some of the familiarity will be annoying; just read the first page. Hardly ever will you read a more exciting first page. I could not put the book down. It has its problems, which are small and easily forgotten as you are swept away by the characters, by this dangerous and spooky world, and by Posey’s story telling. A classic in the making. A series to follow. Can’t wait for the second book. Bring on the further chronicles of the Duskwalker! By Stanley Riiks
THREE By Jay Posey www.angryrobotbooks.com I enjoyed this book immensely. I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did, but since I did enjoy it a great deal, I’ll be pre-ordering the second volume, and I’m probably now a life-long fan of writer Posey. Set in a bleak dystopian postapocalyptic world where humans live in protected enclaves and walled cities, hiding from the dangerous and mysterious Weir, who hunt humans in the wastelands between these few and far between havens. Except that these are anything but havens, as only the strongest and nastiest can survive in this stark reality. The human habitations are cesspits of humanity. Think of a cross between Mad Max, Blade Runner, and Hardware. Whilst having a drink in a bar (cliché alert!), Three, our eponymous hero, is accosted by a woman and a young child. She begs for his help rather than his money, which he offered. She soon disappears, swiftly followed by a big mean sonofabitch who is obviously looking for her, and doesn’t look interested in playing happy family when he does find her. As soon as the ruffian disappears, Three heads out after the girl and the kid, not even sure why. What follows is Three teaming up with the drugfuelled Cass, former criminal, running from her crew, and her five-year-old son Wren, as they are chased across what remains of the world. I should not have enjoyed this; there are places where you almost cringe with the stereotypes, clichés, familiar scenes. This may work well for quickly establishing a character or situation in a videogame (Posey’s a narrative designer in the games industry), but this is a novel, where you have more time and space to develop environment and back-story. And Posey does give us 2
www.morpheustales.com Richard Kadrey Interview What inspired you to start writing? I’ve been writing all my life. I suspect that even if you start late in life, you're born a storyteller or you're not. How did you go about first getting your work published? The same as anyone else: I found places that published things I liked and sent in my work. I started out doing music and concert reviews, moved on to movies, and then interviews and short features. Fiction came later, but it was still the same process.
Your version of LA is a little different from ours, why set an urban fantasy/horror series in a fictional version of a real town and how different is the city Sandman Slim inhabits? LA is a great city, full of wild history and a fractured, crazy present. Getting to play off the entertainment industry with its money and class system was irresistible.
Your Sandman Slim series is what you are most well-known for. Tell us how you developed the anti-hero character? I don’t think of him as an anti-hero. It’s just how he came out. Stark came from two sentences in two different notebooks. One sentence was “Hitman from Hell.” The other was, “Character name: Sandman Slim.” Once I put those together, it was sort of like a forensic process of figuring out who a killer named Sandman Slim could be.
The Sandman Slim novels are told in the first person, by a very unique and individual character. Why choose first person rather than the more traditional third person? I wanted to tell the story using Stark’s voice. The book didn’t work until I tried it in first person present tense.
The fifth book in the Sandman Slim series, Kill City Blues, is the most recent novel. Tell us about that? I wanted to take Stark out of his comfort zone in Hollywood and put him someplace new, so I sent him to a shopping mall in Santa Monica. It’s a city and location he’d hate on sight.
There’s a dark sense of humour throughout the books, but also some major issues are questioned such as faith and religion. How do you manage to balance those alongside a fast-paced storyline? The serious questions grew up alongside the humorous ideas and were 3
www.morpheustales.com I create broad outlines and drill down from there. Some scenes are meticulously planned. Others are just a sentence or two scrawled on a legal pad. If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be? The same I’d give anyone: Don’t stop working, even when the rejections come in. A first draft isn’t the book or the story. It’s just a more detailed outline. Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? I try to avoid reviews. What book are you reading now? Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. What is your proudest moment as a writer? Publishing my first story. Are you disappointed with any of your work when you look back on it?
tied to them throughout the development process. By the time I was writing, I didn't see any difference between the two. What other writers have influenced you? Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard, William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Cormac McCarthy, Angela Carter. What are your other influences? Punk music and pretty much all areas of film. Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? I listen to music. Each book gets its own soundtrack, depending on the tone. The new Sandman Slim, The Getaway God, mostly runs on my industrial instrumentals playlist. How do you put a book together, do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter?
www.morpheustales.com I like not having a regular job and not going to a corporate office every day. On the other hand, I hate the idea of sitting in a room by myself typing for the rest of my life, but it’s better than the alternative. Do you get writers block? How do you cope with it? I don’t believe in writer’s block. There’s always something you can do. Scribble notes. Make outlines. Blog. Start a writing group and critique other people’s work, which might help your own. What are you working on now? Sandman Slim 6, The Getaway God. I’m about halfway through a first draft. What scares you? Mindless mobs and spiders. What makes a good story? If I make it to the end and feel satisfied that it all hangs together.
I think most writers see flaws in their published work. Given the opportunity, we’d go back and tinker with everything. What is the most important thing when becoming a writer? Finish what you write. Then start something new. Examine what you've written and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Be ruthless. But always keep going. Do you write for a particular audience, for yourself? I don’t think about the audience. Trying to second guess yourself is deadly. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Watch movies, travel, and do a lot of photography. What parts of being a writer do you like best? And least?
Available from www.damnationbooks.com and www.richardfarrenbarber.co.uk 6
www.morpheustales.com lead them full-circle, back to Nick’s former partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon). If I’d never seen MIB I would have loved this. But swap the aliens for the dead and you have almost an exact copy. The grumpy older partner and the young funny one, the HQs, the hidden society everything is so similar there is nothing at all new here. The acting is fine, there are a few funny bits. A good amount of money has been spent on the effects, and it’s not too long either. But, it’s just far too similar to MIB to feel comfortable. Great idea, spoiled by cash-in fever. Better than MIB3 (but seriously, what’s not), but not as good as the original MIB. RIPD might as well have been called MIBRIP’ed Off. By Stanley Riiks
BOX OF DELIGHTS By John Kenny www.aeonpressbooks.com What happens when one of Ireland’s leading genre magazines decides to put together a horror anthology? You get this, sixteen fabulously diverse tales of terror. Those familiar with Morpheus Tales will be familiar with some of these names (Erik T. Johnson, John F.D. Taff, Craig Saunders), as will general genre fans, as the Irish publishers have managed to get hold of work by heavyweights Steve Rasnic Tem, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Mike Resnick. The tales are more chilling than blood and guts, and Kenny has selected a good range. The stories are short enough to allow you to pick up and put down the book regularly, and at just over two hundred and twenty pages you don’t get bogged down with all the short stories blending into one another as you do with the Mammoth books. The only problem is the price; at £10.50 this is not a cheap book by any means and certainly not when considering the word count. But I guess you’re paying for quality rather than quantity in this case. High-quality short fiction and a marvellous world-class collection. By Adrian Brady
OF BLOOD AND LIONS By Karen Ann www.ofbloodandlions.com This hybrid fantasy/sf novel is the first in a series that is likely to be vast and epic. Katherine Chamber is a middle-aged woman who gets bitten by a lion. Her world is turned upside down and inside out as she enters a world of mystery with hybrid lions and Assyrian warriors, the destruction of the human race, and a whole lot more. This is a book filled with ideas and enthusiasm. It is a very easy book to read, the story moves fast, the first person narrative draws you in, and helps with characterisation. The world created by the writer is intricate and well developed. Of Blood and Lions is a great first novel in a series that is spellbinding. Easy to read and difficult to put down. By Adrian Brady
R.I.P.D. Shockingly similar to Men In Black, here we have a tale of the Rest In Peace Department, a buddy-cop movie set in Boston where the some of the dead have escaped heaven and hell processing and inhabit the city, corruption and plague following them. It is the RIPD’s job to find the deadites and take them back. When corrupt cop Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is killed, he is given the option of going to hell or returning to Boston as a member of RIPD. He takes the latter option and is teamed up with Roy (Jeff Bridges), and their investigations into hidden deadites 7
www.morpheustales.com Interview Jay Posey Your new book THREE is out from Angry Robot Books. Tell us about that. Three is the first book in the Legends of the Dustwalker series. It’s the story of a lone gunman who reluctantly agrees to escort a dying woman and her young son across an urban wasteland to a distant sanctuary. The Duskwalker world is a mid-future, postapocalyptic one, so technology has advanced, but society has broken down.
wanted to do with my life, so I decided to give the writing thing a chance.
The book is the first in the Duskwalker series. What can we expect from the next novel, and when will it be out? The second novel picks up a little after the events of the first. It follows some of the returning characters, and introduces several new ones. I’m not sure how much I can elaborate without spoiling things, but I think it’s going to be a good balance of continuing the story while also being its own thing. It’s currently scheduled for release in the Spring of 2014.
How did you go about first getting your work published? I had the support of two great writers, Richard Dansky and Matt Forbeck. Once I finished the manuscript for Three, Richard gave me a lot of advice on who I should talk to about it. He suggested I look into Angry Robot, and when I read what kinds of work they were looking for, they seemed like a perfect fit for Three. Both Richard and Matt were then kind enough to make the necessary introductions, and the Robot Overlords were in turn kind enough to bring me into their loving, metal, highlyarticulated embrace.
What inspired you to start writing? I’ve enjoyed making up stories for pretty much as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to borrow my dad’s microcassette recorder, and I’d wander around the house telling it stories. I don’t remember if I ever actually went back and listened to any of those stories, but it was the creation part that was fun for me anyway.
What other writers have influenced you? I tend to credit J.R.R. Tolkien as my biggest influence, though I think his influence probably doesn’t really show up in my writing. His essay On Fairy Stories has had a lasting impact on how I think about the importance of Story, though. William Gibson is another one whose skill continually challenges me to improve. I grew up reading a lot of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s work, too, and though I don’t necessarily consciously think of them as influences, I know their stories have probably impacted me more than I realize.
I also found that I tend to be better at expressing myself through writing than I am verbally, so I think writing was just sort of the natural outlet for putting those two things together. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties though that I decided maybe I could try to do it at a professional level. I was doing web application development for a university at the time and realized I wasn’t doing anything remotely close to what I
You are well known for your work on gaming. How did this affect your novel 8
www.morpheustales.com you often have to throw a lot of information at players, but you have to find ways to communicate things very efficiently. So it’s a really good training ground for learning how to entertain while informing.
writing? It definitely affected how I think about structure, dialogue, and world-building. Games really excel at giving us access to new worlds, so I think working in games expanded a lot of how I thought about the Duskwalker world, and helped me get comfortable with the idea of carrying a whole world around in my head.
What are your other influences? I try to read a fair amount of non-fiction, though I don’t necessarily focus on a particular topic of study. Really anything that gives an account of human nature is ultimately helpful in creative writing, so whether it’s military history, or behavioural economics, or philosophy, or psychology, or survival guides, all of those things are interesting to me. I’m also just kind of a naturally curious guy. Which I think drives my wife nuts, because I have a huge stack of books on my nightstand, and any time she suggests I put something on a shelf I tell her I can’t because I’m reading it. It’s not unusual for me to be reading five or six books at the same time, depending on what I feel like any given night.
Video games also are kind of fractal in their storytelling; for example, you can have a twelvehour long story, broken down into three-hour long arcs, which are each broken into one-hour long sequences, each broken into tenminute game loops. Working in an environment where you’re constantly looking for ways to make a five- to twentyminute scenario feel like its own microstory while still being consistent and meaningful with a larger framework has a lot of similarities to plotting a long-form work like a novel. And though I really think screenwriting was the most effective teacher for me in terms of dialogue-writing, games present their own challenge on that front. In writing for games,
Where do you get your inspiration? 9
www.morpheustales.com plot points along the way before I get started on the actual writing bit. But I also leave myself a lot of room in between to discover the moment-to-moment scenes that always present themselves once I get started writing. I do try to target specific chapters to accomplish specific story points, but I frequently have to adjust that plan as I go.
Most of it just comes from observing the world, I think. Being aware of the world and what’s going on in very broad terms often sparks interesting thoughts. Some of it comes from a combination of my curiosity and my melancholic introvertedness. I’m sort of always asking “What if …?” type questions, and then I frequently take them to “ … but what would that mean?” places. Sometimes something interesting pops out of that.
If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be? I’d encourage myself to build a habit of writing a little bit every day, even if I didn’t have a particular project I was working on. I’ve found writing to be a lot like exercising. It’s easy to get out of shape if you don’t keep up a regular routine, and it’s really painful when you haven’t done it for a while and you try to go tackle some huge assignment. People typically don’t try to run a marathon the first day they decide to start jogging, but it’s not unusual for writers to decide they’re going to start with a novel.
What is your writing day like? My writing day is actually a writing night. I have a full-time day job and a family, so I usually don’t get started on my writing until after the kids are in bed. I’ll usually get started around 8:30 or 9 PM, and then write until I hit my target for the day. I’d much rather get up early in the morning and let the writing be the thing that gets my freshest attention, but I am so not a morning person. Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? I don’t have any really specific ritual, except that I have to force myself to not log into Twitter. I frequently listen to movie soundtracks when I write, since they are very often emotionally evocative without necessarily drawing attention to themselves. I also drink a lot … and I don’t mean that in the alcoholic sense (necessarily). For some reason, I feel a constant need to have something to sip on while I write, whether it’s tea or water or a soft drink. I’ve actually taken to drinking a lot of carbonated water lately, because it’s a little more exciting than regular water but it doesn’t have any caffeine- or sugar-related side effects.
Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? I do read some reviews, but definitely not all of them, and I have to be careful with what I read. I don’t know if it’s like this for other authors, but I’ve always been particularly sensitive to what people say, and I have a really bad habit of clinging to negative comments and completely forgetting positive ones. I know that my work isn’t for everyone, and that some people are going to like certain aspects that other people simply hate. But I’d prefer for everyone to like everything that I do, so it can be tempting to let one person’s negative opinion shape how I approach my work, which can be dangerous.
How do you put a book together, do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter? I’m somewhere in the middle. I always plot out the beginning, the ending, and the major
The big trick for me is finding critics who provide insight more than just opinion. And 10
that goes both for positive and negative reviews. You can learn a lot from good critiques, and it’s a critical skill when you’re in a creative industry to be able to take constructive feedback and use it to improve. It’s especially helpful when you see where a lot of different reviews align. But sometimes an opinion is just an opinion, and they’re not always useful in moving forward.
What's the best piece of feedback that you've had from your audience? So far, I think it’s been the number of people who’ve commented on the heart of the story in Three. Several readers have talked about how they weren’t expecting the depth of the relationships that develop between the characters. That was a big win for me, because for all the craziness that exists in that world, I really wanted Three to be about those relationships.
What book are you reading now? I just recently finished up Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao, and I’m currently reading John Ringo’s The Last Centurion. I was actually supposed to save The Lives of Tao as my reward for finishing the sequel to Three, but I accidentally snuck a peek at the first chapter, and then devoured it in a couple of days. Everyone should buy it.
What is the most important thing when becoming a writer? Whew, that’s another tough one. I definitely think it’s important to cultivate a sense of peace about what you’re doing, and to know why you’re doing it. There are a lot of highs and lows to navigate as a writer. And frequently you hit a lot of lows before you ever get any highs. But if you can learn to be content with the work you’re producing, independent of outcomes, it’s much more likely to be fulfilling.
What is your proudest moment as a writer? Thus far, it was when I told my wife and kids about the offer from Angry Robot. Not to belittle the offer itself of course, that was very exciting to be sure. But my family has been so supportive of my writing dreams for so long, it was really great to be able to share that with them, and see their excitement. It felt like a team victory. My oldest son has writing aspirations too, so it was really special for me as a father to see how it encouraged him.
Do you write for a particular audience, or for yourself? I’m certainly mindful of the business realities of writing, but I ultimately write for myself first. I write the kind of stories I want to read, and hope that there are people out there who share my interests.
Are you disappointed with any of your work when you look back on it? That’s a tough one. Certainly there are things I wrote years ago that I’m embarrassed to look at now, but I’ve always tried to do my best with what I had at the time. If you’re doing things right, though, you’re always improving in the craft, so it’s only natural to look at your previous work and know that you could “do it better” now. I think it’s important to give whatever you’re working on right now your very best, and then let it go and move on to the next
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Probably unsurprisingly, I like to read a lot. But I also play guitar, and I enjoy hiking, archery, and rock climbing when I get the chance. I’m a big fan of my family, too, so I like just spending time with my wife and kids. What parts of being a writer do you like best? And least? 11
www.morpheustales.com on. Sometimes I feel like I’ve just run out of words and need to fill back up. I have to be careful, though, because it’s easy to pretend I’m blocked when really I’m just being lazy, so I’ve had to learn to force myself to sit there and write something, even if I feel like it’s completely useless. A lot of times I discover that I am, in fact, just being lazy, and getting something down on paper helps me get moving again.
I think the freedom I have to create whatever I want to is pretty incredible. At my day job, a lot of my parameters are pre-defined, and I frequently have to struggle to find how to bring my own creativity into the little boxes I get put in. So having some creative space that I alone control is great. On the flip side, being a writer is a lot of work, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the publishing world. It can be tough to stay motivated and to continue to make the kinds of sacrifices writing requires when you’re not sure what kind of response there’s going to be to your work, and whether or not you’re going to earn any money off of your many years of missing video games you’d rather be playing.
If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? George Washington. I’ve got a collection of all of his writings, journal entries, letters, that sort of thing, and I’m just continually amazed at what an amazing man he was. You don’t hear a lot about his interest in interior decorating, for example. I find him fascinating.
Who are your favourite authors and favourite books? I don’t think you want a comprehensive list, and I’m not sure I could provide one. But I will say, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly The Hobbit, though I’m just generally a fan of all his work; William Gibson, Daniel Silva, Barry Hughart, Douglas Adams, and James S.A. Corey all stand out to me. I’ve reread both Bridge of Birds and The Story of the Stone (by Hughart) a couple of times each, and Neuromancer is just... well, it’s Neuromancer, you know?
Which do you prefer writing/reading, short stories or novels? I definitely tend to read novels more, though I’m a fan of good stories in all their many forms. I’ve written a few short stories, but those tend to be more of a starting point for me as a way to develop ideas and flesh out worlds for novels. What are you working on now? I’m wrapping up Book Two in the Duskwalker series at the moment. Do you have any advice for other writers? Make a habit of writing every day, always look for ways to improve, and write things that you yourself are proud of.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you cope with it? I do, but it’s usually a sign that I’ve failed to identify the purpose of a particular scene that I’m trying to write. If I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish, it’s impossible to know what I’m supposed to be writing. If I get really long bouts, I’ll go back and review my story plan and see if that helps. Otherwise, if I’m really struggling, I’ll take a break and go read something that’s completely unrelated to what I’m working
What scares you? Helplessness. What makes a good story? Strong, believable characters that I care about, and an interesting unfolding of events. 12
www.morpheustales.com A mysterious and quiet horror novel, this disturbing and deeply creepy book is massively entertaining. It is truly a nightmare experience. Intelligent, well written, deeply disturbing, this is a book that will really send chills down your spine. By Adrian Brady
SHADOWS By Sean A. Lusher www.damnationbooks.com Sean A. Lusher writes by-the-book sci-fi horror that ticks all the boxes. I liked one of his previous attempts, Stricken, and reviewed it for MT. His latest novella, Shadows, is largely set at Apex Tech, a neardeserted office building nestled in the business district of Colorado City. At night when the workers leave, the building becomes the domain of a motley crew of janitors and night watchmen, supplemented by the odd staff member working late and the occasional returning visitor. This night starts much like any other, but soon degenerates into a battle for survival as the building becomes the hunting ground of some unspeakable horror that lurks in the shadows. The exact nature and origins of this â€˜horrorâ€™ are never really addressed, something which can either add to the mystery element or be taken as a sure-fire sign of laziness, depending on your viewpoint. The only other thing that spoils Shadows is the slightly predictable romantic sub-plot, which seems to be a little forced and added nothing whatsoever to the main story. All in all, while Lusher certainly has potential as a dark fiction writer, and there are some genuinely unsettling moments, this book is barely above average. By C.M. Saunders
WHITSTABLE By Stephen Volk http://spectralpress.wordpress.com Whitstable is a novella from the classy stable of Spectral Press. It is not a horror or ghost story by the speculative fiction definition of the same, but it is a haunting elegy of loss: lost love, lost innocence, a lost time, and a lost place. Set in Whitstable in Kent in 1971, it lyrically blends fact and fiction by setting at its core the actor Peter Cushing, a hero to all Hammer horror devotees. Devastated by the recent death of his beloved wife Helen, Cushing is facing the agony of unchecked grief. Whilst failing to deal with his own inner demons, he is approached on Whitstable Beach by a young boy who takes him for the character he so often played in his films, Doctor Van Helsing. The boy is desperate for his help because he believes his stepfather is a vampire. This is real life, though, not the fantastical horror of the movies or blood-chilling gothic tales and, in the boyâ€™s troubled words, Cushing thinks he detects indications of child abuse and a tale of night-time deeds where the monster is all too human. Cushing is not a hero with a crucifix or crossbow, but a grief-wracked widower who is not sure he wants to go on living, an ordinary and weakened man, but one with a strong sense of right and wrong and who cannot ignore the pleas of an innocent child. Cushing has to confront his own demons before he can respond to the mundane, but destructive evil lurking in the small seaside town.
THE SLEEP ROOM By F. R. Tallis www.panmacmillan.com James Richardson is a psychiatrist, and when he gets offered a new job at Wyldehope Hall in Suffolk, he jumps at the chance. James will get the chance to work with Dr Hugh Maitland on a pioneering sleep therapy programme for deeply disturbed patients, but as James finds out more about the programme and the patients, he finds himself asking more questions than he can find answers for. 14
www.morpheustales.com Vigilantes, larger-than-life villains, hard-boiled detectives, and loads more. These short stories will give you a pulp fix, but I wanted more. Stories by Mike Resnick, William Miekle, Joel Lane, Peter Crowther, Allen Ashley, Peter Atkins, and many more, write short stories in the pulp vein. Sparkling with enthusiasm and knowledge, these stories are immensely exciting, over the top, and brilliant. All pulp fans should read this book, and for those unfamiliar with Doc Savage, Tarzan, The Spider, Fu Manchu, and others, this is a great place to start. Pulp brilliance. Genre fiction at its comic best. By Adrian Brady
Whitstable is a beautifully written and delicate exploration of grief. The character of Cushing is skilfully drawn, mixing the sort of facts known to Hammer horror aficionados with precisely imagined and emotionally telling detail. Likewise, the fading town of Whitstable on the Kent coast is sketched with attention to crucial detail and a real sense of affection. An important and tense scene set in the “faded gentrification” of Whitstable’s Oxford Cinema, which has clearly seen better days and is on route to becoming a bingo hall, is striking for its sense of drama and an evocation of both period and place. This is achieved whilst intertwining the novella’s story line with the on-screen, scene-byscene, plot development of Peter Cushing’s 1970 film The Vampire Lovers. It is a poignant tale, lyrically told, but if horror is what you are about, there is enough detail of the films Cushing starred in, woven into the story line, to fascinate Hammer horror fans and lovers of Peter Cushing’s oeuvre. One note of caution, though. Reiterating the beginning of this review, if you pick this novella up expecting speculative fiction style horror, you are going to be sorely disappointed, but if you pick this up expecting a small, literary gem you will find exactly what you are hoping for. By J.S.Watts
WRONG TURN 5 Director: Declan O’Brien Another sequel. Yawn. Is nothing original anymore? Sadly not, it seems, especially within the realms of horror where even the most rudimentary script can expect to be beaten to death with a bloody hatchet. Unbelievably, Wrong Turn is now getting its fifth airing, which sparks the obvious question - how many deformed mutant hillbilly killers are prowling around out there? And secondly, how many more dumb teens do they have to brutally slay before the movie-going public screams, “Stop the killing!”? If it’s involving storylines, deep characters and ingenious plot twists you are after, you would be well advised to steer clear of this one, but if you just want to watch semi-naked women being chased through woods by murderous cannibals, this could be right up your street. Installment five takes place around the so-called Mountain Man music festival, an event sure to attract dumb teenagers like moths to a flame. One of the cannibals lands himself in a little country jailhouse manned by too few
THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES Edited By Mike Chinn www.alchemypress.co.uk An amazing collection of original pulp hero stories, this is a perfect book for a genre fan who has yet to discover the delights of the more traditional genre heroes. Imagine a comic book superhero in prose form. That’s what you get here with the seventeen stories included in this collection. 15
www.morpheustales.com kicks in, as our two lead characters come together and are then torn apart, the book actually gets really good. This could have been a bloody excellent novella. Instead it’s a massively infuriating full-length story. It is just about worth working your way through the first hundred or so pages to get to the bits, but it’s a close thing. An intelligent and thought-provoking second half almost makes up for the chore-like first half. Shows great potential, but in its present format it needs a severe editing. By Stanley Riiks
police officers, where he chuckles maniacally, waiting for his ‘boys’ to spring him out. His ‘boys’ eventually turn up and knock out the power supply, while some leftover teenagers and the town drunk get deputized, meaning they get shotguns, and the siege begins. The ham acting makes you cringe, the one-liners make you wince, and the violence makes you squirm. But at least this film ticks all the boxes. Stand-out scene for me was the part where the girl gets disembowelled and is then force-fed chunks of her own intestine. Lovely. By C.M. Saunders
THE EXPRESS DIARIES By Nick Marsh
LIFE ON THE PRESERVATON By Jack Skillingtead www.solarisbooks.com
Would a book published through the use of a fund-raising website put you off? Well, it shouldn’t. For a start the book oozes quality, the hardback contains some wonderful colour illustrations, and is one of the finest editions I have seen for a while. The story is told in a series of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings, etc, and tells the story of a group of individuals on the Orient Express in 1925, on their own to recover a statue, all the while being chased by a strange cult. The tension builds rapidly, the characters are engaging, and the narrative is extremely well put together. The story is exciting, part pulp novel, part Cthulhu mythos, part detective/mystery. Marsh has written an excellent book here; exciting, engaging, and inventive. Like the transport it’s named after, this is classic and brilliant. A joy of a book. By Adrian Brady
I hated the first half of this book. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would make it through. In my twenty years of reading, I have only not finished reading two books. This was very nearly the third. But then it started to pick up. Then the story actually started working. The world has been virtually destroyed by invading aliens. Pockets of humanity are still alive, but are dying off as the invading horses of aliens poisoned the atmosphere, and those survivors have the sickness. Except for the dome covering Seattle, the preservation is a kind of alien museum where some human survivors live. Now, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s basically it. Kylie lives in nearby Oakdale, trying desperately not to get sick and avoid being killed by the lecherous town priest Jim. Ian is in the Seattle preservation, reliving the same day every twenty-four hours, and not remembering it at all. The first half of the book sets this all up and it gets confused and annoying. And incredibly dull. But once the actual story 16
www.morpheustales.com back on track for me and I’m delighted that both MEAT and Garbage Man remain gripping enough tales to warrant new editions. Oak Tree Press have done an awesome job of reinventing them – new covers, new material, new everything. I couldn’t be happier.
Joseph D’Lacey Interview MEAT is being rereleased by Oak Tree Press. MEAT was your first published novel and really put you on the genre map. There was even a MEAT wagon! Tell us how you came up with such a shocking story, and why the book is being rereleased. Back in 2007, after six years writing and five unpublished novels, I wanted to come up with a truly grim horror novel, something so disturbing publishers wouldn’t be able to ignore it. But it couldn’t simply be gory or nasty, there had to be more to it, something real to hang it on. My own concerns about the ethics of brutality with regard to meat production collided with a few minor ideas that had been percolating for a while and MEAT was the result.
You’re currently busy doing PR and marketing. Tell us what that involves and where people can see you. Ha! Well, it mostly involves talking about yourself whilst trying to look like you’re talking about something else entirely. I’ll have articles in Bizarre, The Guardian Online, The Independent on Saturday Magazine and I’ll have interviews and reviews all over the airwaves and internet. The physical launch of MEAT and Garbage Man will be at Luton Library on the evening of the 12th November. I’m launching Best British Fantasy 2013 with many of the other authors at Waterstones, Piccadilly on the evening of 30th September and I’m attending a mass Angry Robot signing at Forbidden Planet in Shaftsbury Avenue on Halloween.
MEAT was the best debut I could have wished for and Beautiful Books were a fabulous, forward-thinking publishing house. But the economy at the time crushed thousands of businesses and, very sadly, took Beautiful Books too. After a couple of difficult years, things got 17
www.morpheustales.com It’s just a shame I don’t get more time to write short stories these days.
Your book Black Feathers, the first in a duology, came out early in 2013. When is the second book coming out and are there any details you can give us? The second and final part of the story comes out in March 2014. It concludes Megan and Gordon’s long search for the Crowman and details the final battle between the Ward and the Green Men. I’d say more but I don’t want to spoil it!
Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? The honest answer is that I prefer finishing – anything! What are you reading now? The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Wonderful, disturbing and very literary. Recommended by a friend, it’s been a real find.
Garbage Man was your second novel, and really is an eco-horror thriller with a difference. The book is now being rereleased alongside MEAT. For those who haven’t read the book what can they expect? Small town characters with nasty secrets, a huge landfill site and a very pissedoff mother nature. Apologies in advance for the baby scenes – at least there’s a happy ending!
What are you working on now? I’m working on a children’s story, with input from my 5 year-old. Rather foolishly, I’ve committed myself to reading it at school when we’re finished. As you can imagine, I’m finding lots of reasons not to write at the moment! Work on the next novel won’t begin until I’ve chosen one of the four ideas I’m kicking around at the moment. In between, I’m still planning to write two more novellas to follow on from The Kill Crew and The Failing Flesh. I’m also editing a novella which I’ve yet to submit, so I won’t reveal the title until I find a home for it!
Your short stories have appeared in Morpheus Tales and 13: Tales of Dark Fiction, and have been collected in Splinters, published in November 2012. Is it time for another collection? It doesn’t seem like long ago but I’d be up for that. I certainly have enough tales to put together another collection I’d be proud of. 18
www.morpheustales.com and really harken back to the original. There’s nothing particularly clever about the story, but the characters are endearing, and it does capture some of the magic that made the original Oz film so great. It’s nice to see the usual Sam Raimi touches, and I’m always delighted to spot a Bruce Campbell cameo; it’s like a Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel films. Ultimately if you miss this you won’t be missing out on much, but it’s a decent enough film, and well worth watching if you’re a big fan of the original. Not a complete and utter rip-off, quite fun actually if you give it a chance. By Stanley Riiks
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL Movies need to make money. By ripping off a classic film, Disney (a company not associated with the Warner Bros original in any way) have managed to cash in. But the story “based on Frank L. Baum’s original Oz stories” (really?) sees Oscar (Oz) played by James Franco as a small-time circus magician and non-man swept up in a tornado when he’s running away from the husband of one of his female victims. He’s transported to Oz, where he bumps into a beautiful witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who takes him to the Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who tells him that his arrival has been foretold. That he, Oz, has been brought to Oz to free them from the evil witch Glinda (Michelle Williams), and all he has to do to become king and have the riches is to break Glinda’s wand. On his way Oz picks up a talking monkey and a girl made of China. But he soon discovers that Glinda isn’t as evil as the other witches made out, and all hells breaks loose when Theodora realises she’s been lied to. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz until I got sick of it as a child, and knew all the words to all the songs, too. I remember going to the cinema to watch Return to Oz, and being horrified by the darkness and despair that permeated the film. Despite some serious problems, you can’t help but be swept up in the colour, the energy, and the atmosphere of this story. The acting is poor for the most part; James Franco is wooden, Kunis is phoning it in, Weisz is trying, but it’s Michelle Williams who steals the show as Glinda. I’m not a fan of her, since she stole Dawson from Joey, but here she’s absolutely astonishing. The only ones apart from Williams doing a sterling job are the monkey and the china girl; the CGI and voiceovers are excellent
CRUX By Ramez Naam www.angryrobotbooks.com The sequel to the amazing Nexus, Crux starts a few months later, and follows the story since the release of Nexus 5. If you’ve read the first novel, you will know what to expect - fast-paced action, thrill-a-minute writing, innovative science, and shades of grey morality, that you just cannot put down. Crux is more of the same, continuing to explore the world Naam set up so well in the first book, and further exploring and expanding. If you haven’t read the first book, that is a better place to start. This book, as it follows the start of the war between humans and post-humans, raises a number of difficult questions. Intelligent SF does not get much better than this. By Adrian Brady Edward Drake: The Warrior’s Journey & His Own With the publication of The Warrior’s Journey I have been given the chance by 20
www.morpheustales.com knight and the crusades and wars which would be his life, Garrick Chilver already his chosen name. By the end of that week I had a total of twenty stories planned out, chronicling all the adventures, big and small.
Morpheus Tales to reflect on my own journey towards becoming an author. Like the many tales I read as a child of the hero facing adversity and complications along the way to the prize, my own quest for publication was not the easiest, but after time and effort, the reward is finally in sight. My interest in writing started at a very young age, when my middle school teacher began assigning us weekly tasks to create our own stories. I still have those original workbooks I used and remember well that compared to my fellow students, who were more than happy with the required minimum of two pages, mine would be twenty, thirty pages long, incorporating several characters and as many action and adventure scenes as I could fit in. Discovering my prowess for this, my own parents began to do the same, giving me additional tasks such as coming up with ideas for sequels to books and films I enjoyed. Somewhere I still have my followup to the films Independence Day and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (which will be funny to look back on when they eventually make the actual sequels). For years this went on until I discovered something very different which would force writing to recede into the background for a while â€“ football. The Journey began nine years ago, whilst I was supposed to be studying for my A-Level exams at Sixth Form College. I have never been good at revising, my mind drifting beyond the endless texts of Mathematics, Economics, and Business Studies to anything else that caught my interest. One fateful day I put these wanderings to paper, beginning with a typical tale of a knight, a kingdom, a terrible villain, and a princess needing saving. The story was very basic and very juvenile, but already the ideas were starting to flow. Within hours I had written pages of tiny scrawl covering chapters and tales of this
On that day the hunger I had not felt in years returned with a vengeance and would not let go. Suffice to say I did not do great during my exams, though I scored high enough in Business to take me off to university. There again I used writing as a way to avoid study, and during this time the first draft of The
Warriorâ€™s Journey was born. Some of the characters still remain from that early draft, but almost all the plot has now been changed. With the story written I tried to seek out a few avenues of publication. Now, at that time I knew nothing about publishing or how really to become an author. Facebook 21
www.morpheustales.com was only just taking hold in the UK and Twitter was a long way off. Quite a few publishers did not even have their own
The Re-Write Over those initial years the plot seemed to constantly evolve and change until it became what it is today. It is the same with a number of the tales I have written, including the short stores, beginning as one idea, but growing to become a completely different beast, out of my control. Then again, aren’t they the best stories? Letting them run the distance, unchained and independent? Becoming what they were meant to be. I very much settled upon the idea of making a fantasy book that was not just the traditional ‘group going on a journey or a quest.’ I wanted the readers to feel on the edge of their seats and never quite know where the story would take them next or which characters they would experience. That was why I split the narrative. There is a core group of characters which the overall plot follows, but they all have different roles, points of view, and nemeses waiting on the horizon. This made the writing flow much easier and gave me so many more options for the stories I wanted to tell. Very soon I had finished the first instalment and began the second. Around this time I created my own website, listing a number of my short stories, and began to divulge into the mad world of Twitter. Through the world of social media I found the new publisher Book Sanctuary. They offered me a start, a publication of The Warrior’s Journey series in ebook form, and I could not be more thankful. This was a chance and a beginning, and I took it with both hands. In time Destiny (Book One) and Darkness (Book Two) were released, and Origins, a series of short story prequels, were made available.
websites, so I had no idea where to go or who to approach. Through a friend of a family member I was told of a few agents I could contact, though they warned me that the world of publishing was very different to what I imagined- ‘harsh, blood-thirsty, and a club for only those chosen few’ were the words they used. Approaching the agents, I received rejection after rejection, never with a reason, feedback, or any ways I could improve or who to approach. Despite my previous warnings I took this to heart, feeling a failure already and into the darkness my writing receded again, until I moved to London. Having secured a management position with the NHS, I moved from my home of Norfolk to the capital. I knew only a few people living in the city, and chose to live in a one-bedroom flat; the idea to begin again with the Journey already at the back of my mind, fighting for dominance. A little older and maybe a little wiser, I started from scratch, tearing apart the story and building from the foundations up. Again I kept hold of a few characters and situations, but a vast majority changed, especially characters’ backstories and the overall plot.
Original Release Book Sanctuary gave me a start, but within a year I was ready for the next step. Once I began working on the third book in the 22
www.morpheustales.com my return to Norfolk. Anarchy Books offered me a great deal of support and have helped me make the Journey into a far more cohesive and professional piece. I quickly realised I was in the right place when I would receive emails and see the amount of work happening on their side; editing, getting the cover ready, and approaching reviewers. With their help and advice I must have gone over the manuscript another six or seven times, always tweaking, always perfecting. In the end that is exactly what every author should look for, someone to push you, to enhance your writing and your prized material. On 1st August The Warrior’s Journey was unleashed upon the world and already the feedback I have received has been incredible. series (to comprise of four entries), I realised that edits were needed to be made throughout the first two books and with only a handful of sales, limited marketing available, and repeated delays in publication, a change was needed. I was not afraid of the tough talks, and fairly soon it was clear that our partnership had run its course. That was when I came across Anarchy Books.
THE WARRIOR’S JOURNEY During this time I also wrote an entry for the anthology Day of Demons by Anachron Press, which was eventually followed up by two novelettes, Stormheart: Legend and Stormheart: Myth. Set in the same world as Garrick Chilver and The Warrior’s Journey, these stories gave me a chance to expand the mythology but also try some different techniques, attempting point-of-view writing and series of short stories to construct overall plots. This also was a good break from The Warrior’s Journey whilst I was awaiting its professional edit, keeping my mind busy and hands on the keyboard. STORMHEART
With the first entry re-written again and now in its third draft, I was ready to take the Journey on even further, coinciding with 23
www.morpheustales.com keep your overall writing fresh and also give you ideas that you can bring back to your main projects. • Rewrite time and again. I came across a Q&A by an author a few years ago stating that for his books he completely wrote the first draft, then threw it in the bin before starting again. He would do this time and again before coming to the sixth draft and only then would he be happy and begin the editing process. I learnt over several years that this can be especially useful if you are looking to write a series. • Start small and work your way up. Build a catalogue of work as even short story entries in anthologies look great on your writing CV for potential approaches to agents and publishers. • Never give up. Keep reaching and keep pushing. That is the only way you will achieve your goals, despite the delays and knock backs. Keep reaching.
I could not be happier with the release of The Warrior’s Journey, and as I said at the start it has been a nine-year journey for me as well, from writing to flee school and work to where I am today. Over the course of this all, I have learnt a lot, but needless to say there is much still to discover. At this moment Book Two in the series is currently undergoing editing, whilst I work tirelessly on the third entry. Garrick Chilver and I still have far to go, many miles to march and villains to vanquish, but we will get there in the end, banners flying high as great armies clash. If I could pass on any advice to any potential writers it would be the following: • Don’t take criticism as a bad thing. Look for the positives and the tips and take them forward into the next piece. When you get work back that has a handful of positives but five pages of negatives/queries, do not see it as the end of the world. This will give you work to do, but it will be so worth it in the long run. • Write, write, and write some more. Whilst working on The Warrior’s Journey series I have other projects on-going too, making sure to write at least one short story a month. Some are posted on my website (edwarddrakefiction.com) and others I forwarded to publishers with open submissions (a few successes, too). This will
Edward Drake Fiction: http://edwarddrakefiction.com Twitter: @EdDrakeFiction Anarchy Books: http://www.anarchy-books.com Anarchy Press: http://www.anachronpress.com
www.morpheustales.com JACK THE GIANT SLAYER
A STIR OF ECHOES By Richard Matheson www.panmacmillan.com
How the hell did they drag the simple story of Jack and the beanstalk to two hours? They added in a love story and a small sub-plot. Yes, that’s it; the rest was just dragged out. So, for those born in a cave, the story goes like this. Jack heads into town to sell his horse and cart, but gets some beans instead of cash. Magic beans they are. While he’s in town he rescues a princess from some ruffians. Princess runs off as she doesn’t want to marry her suitor, ends up at Jack’s house, the beans turn into a massive beanstalk, princess is kidnapped by giants, and Jack and the king’s men set off to save her. Seriously not impressed with CGI giants. Some of the crew are decent, although Hoult was far better in Warm Bodies than he is here. The princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) is cute, and Ewan McGregor as Elmont (the King’s right-hand man) is always good, Stanley Tucci seems to be hamming it up, and Ian McShane is unimpressive. The final half hour is the only part worth watching when the stupid giants finally take things into their own hands and head down the beanstalk to attack the wretched humans. I just wish they’d tried that an hour before, and been more successful. Sadly this sticks too closely to the original tale whilst adding in bits that don’t add anything to the tension, the drama, or the story. Either do a proper adaptation of the original fairy tale with all the tension of Jack’s visit to the giant’s lair, or do a proper modern retelling ala Hansel and Gretel and shove in a load of action and violence. Poor, overlong, boring. By Stanley Riiks
The outpouring of grief on writers’ forums and groups when Matheson died in June of this year was immense. Matheson’s books have inspired writers such as Stephen King, and directors like George A. Romero and Steven Spielberg. His books and stories have been adapted into films for decades. He published his first short story at the age of eight. Reviewing a book by a legend of the genre might seem a difficult task; fortunately for this reviewer A Stir of Echoes is a brilliant book worthy of the famous author, and one of his best works. Sadly I have not read as many of Matheson’s works as perhaps I should. But after this one I will be buying a few more. This is the story of Tom Wallace, who undergoes hypnotism at the behest of his brother-in-law. But the session awakes a lot more than it should have, and Wallace begins to see things that he should not, things unnatural, things of the future, and things of the past… Matheson builds the tension quickly; this short book combined a sense of dread and terror that keeps you gripped for every single page. A book that is unsettling and so insightful. Matheson’s passing is a sadness felt by the genre, but we are fortunate enough to have his works as a legacy that we will never forget. Well done to Macmillan for reprinting this amazing ghostly work of genius. By Adrian Brady
www.morpheustales.com and ‘60s. The exploration of our inner spaces, those dark interior dimensions of the human mind and psyche, was also being pioneered by directors and cinematographers in the same period (and earlier, of course). Films like Carnival of Souls and Psycho kept pace with their sci-fi cousins, albeit highlighting the depraved and lightless regions of the soul, the places where those damaged by life and circumstance nurtured secrets best kept hidden away from the searing light of day. If the science fiction films encouraged us to hope for a better future, then perhaps the horrors reminded us all too painfully that in order to go forward into the outer reaches we first had to conquer that inner space. In other words, the genres are essentially two sides of the one coin. As many of you by now know, I run a small press imprint as my day job. Recently, as a means of winding down, I’ve been watching a selection of these old celluloid treasures. Apart from helping me to relax after a day’s concentration on making a business go smoothly, it’s also reminded me of those childhood hours when I sat in front of the TV fully absorbed by some action-packed space adventure, or hiding fearfully behind the sofa while a monster stalked the corridors of some military establishment. This was what thrilled my young mind: those exotic locales and terrifying visions of phenomena beyond my understanding (although I wasn’t able to articulate it quite like that back then). But here’s the thing: I loved being terrified by these alien beings and monsters – yes, I was scared (and none us like to be scared in real life), but nevertheless I positively revelled in my terror. Part of those delicious shivers that ran up and down my spine was, looking at it in hindsight, the fact that the films were in black and white, drained of all colour and therefore nightmarish, taken out of the
Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones One of my first loves was science fiction, especially cinema, back in the late sixties/early seventies – the black and white classics, like War of the Worlds, Colossus of New York, King Kong, Godzilla, and others of similar ilk. Anytime anything vaguely science fictional would be broadcast by one of the terrestrial channels, I’d be glued to our old black and white TV (same applied to any science fact TV programme, too). Then later came the likes of the Universal Horrors, inspired by my avidly collecting the Aurora model kits (much to my parents’ worry). I loved all the strange, dark, and dangerous monsters, and all those visuals of far-off places and worlds, and they fired my imagination (and curiosity) like no other medium apart from books had done. This was the era of the moonshots, and there was so much excitement and hope built around the Space Race (I was totally ignorant of the political dimension at the time). This was a good time to be excited and hopeful of our collective future. And let’s not forget, while we’re talking of the science fiction films being produced back then, there was a lot of hope that, in the not-too-distant future, we would be living on the moon, or have established bases on Mars. Indeed, who knows how much further out into the solar system we would be going by the turn of the twentyfirst century. Additionally, with the speed of advances steadily being made in science in general and astronomy in particular (especially radio astronomy), it felt entirely possible that it was only a matter of time before we made our first contact with an alien civilisation. Our exploration of outer space was in the midst of exciting, nay, exhilarating times. These possible wonders and marvels were reflected in the whole slew of films which came out in the 1950s 27
www.morpheustales.com be Herk Harvey’s 1962 Carnival of Souls and Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Both of these examples show just how effective the lack of colour emphasises the bizarre and frightening supernatural elements of their respective stories. And, in the case of the remake of The Haunting from 1999, I felt that one of its biggest downfalls was that because of its use of colour, although artful no doubt, it meant that the impact was nowhere near as powerful as the original. It’s all subjective, of course. Perhaps, having been brought up in the transitional era between black and white and colour (certainly when it comes to television broadcasting), I feel more of an affinity for the older films. It should go without saying that I am not as arrogant or elitist as to state that monochrome films are infinitely superior in all respects to those in colour: both have their merits and their
context of the ‘real’ world but no less frightening for all that. Perhaps one could even say that they were more real because of being in monochrome; their distance and dissonance from the world of bright colours and solid surfaces heightened the “unreality”. The monsters were (and still are, I would aver) our deepest fears made concrete. Some of the best of those midtwentiethcentury films made expert use of their monochrom atic palette to bring out those primal frights a lot more effectively than some of the later colour celluloid excursions, in my belief. Yes, colour film stock (and today’s video and digital formats, of course) allows a broader spectrum to be worked with, but somehow I have always felt that black and white always had a slight edge when it came to enhancing atmospheric imagery. Two good cases in point, for me at least, would 28
www.morpheustales.com some of us, taken the shine off specialeffects. But, as the French are wont to pontificate, c’est la vie. It is neither a bad thing, nor a good thing – it is just the way things work in this world of ours. And it will continue to be this way for as long as humans have the urge to make imaginative films. As a conclusion, as I am wont to philosophise, I can safely suppose that nostalgia can be both a warmly inviting AND a dangerous thing.
negative points. There have been some superb horror films in colour, The Exorcist and Hellraiser being the two closest to my heart. I am only emphasising black and white films because I am in a particular phase at the moment, where my cinematic diet is chiefly composed of such fare. I make no secret of the fact, however, that these films (in both the horror and science fiction genres) resonate in a specific way for me, which is perhaps tied in with a certain strain of nostalgia. Just like nowadays, there’s a broad spectrum of quality evident, from the sublime to the frankly ridiculous – but I think that’s part of the charm. More than that, there’s also something disarmingly and charmingly naïve about them, symptomatic of the era in which they were made. They’re products of a certain time, a world that’s now forever gone and is so alien in its own way that they may as well be from a different planet. The expectations of today’s cinema audiences have evolved rapidly and out of all proportion in the intervening years, meaning that the emphases of present-day filmmakers have had to keep pace in tandem. Add to that the advent of CGI and similar technologies, which inevitably mean that genre films are slicker and more realistic than at any other time in cinema history. In some ways that makes me incredibly excited, but in others incredibly sad, too, because the physical inventiveness associated with such masters as Ray Harryhausen, Willis O’Brien and Stan Winston has now almost disappeared, to be completely replaced by someone sitting in front of a computer. Consequently, much of filmmaking has lost its “glamour” (as per its original meaning of casting a spell) and audiences don’t quite experience the same frisson of wonder and excitement as in days of yore. The very fact that anything can now be visualised and brought to life relatively inexpensively has somehow, at least for
THE BONE SEASON By Samantha Shannon www.bloomsbury.com Having completely missed the hype surrounding this book, I came to it fresh, and without expectation. Exactly as you should discover a new author. And one of such promise is a pleasure to discover. First, the book: Set in a dystopian alternative world London where Paige Mahoney is a clairvoyant, a skill which is illegal in the Scion-ruled England, and Paige (with limited choices) takes the path of least resistance to become a criminal working for Jaxon Hall (a modern day supernatural Fagin). But one rainy night Paige is kidnapped and taken to Oxford, a lost and hidden city for the past two hundred years. Paige is assigned to a Rephaite, an alien angel-type being, that is her prison warden and trainer. As the plot would suggest, this is a story of two parts. The earlier London piece is inventive, exciting, and dripping with details. The alternative and creepy London is brilliantly described, and different enough and familiar enough for you to want to explore. The Oxford parts of the book are slightly more supernatural and ethereal, taking the story in a slightly different 29
www.morpheustales.com the way of answers (if it did, you would perhaps have to replace the ‘unexplained’ part of the title with ‘explained’), but Bainton has an accessible style, doesn’t try to blind you with science, and approaches these classic mysteries with a refreshingly open attitude. Unusual for books of this nature, Bainton doesn’t hide behind supposition and popular theories, preferring to tackle the subject matter head-on. This weighty tome would be a good starting point for anyone eager to uncover the truth behind some of mankind’s most enduring mysteries. It offers great value for money, and further evidence, as if it were needed, that truth (as it is presented here) is far, far stranger than fiction. By C.M. Saunders
direction. This is more fantasy than urban fantasy, and although still original and different, has a more traditional feel. Paige is an engaging and entertaining young character with all the energy and foibles of youth. Shannon has created a riveting urban fantasy, which has similar themes to Myke Cole’s SF military thrillers, but also has an inventive intelligence of a Neil Gaiman novel. This is the first of a planned seven book series, and as such this first book set it up with a seriously solid base. Let’s hope Paige’s adventures continue to be as exciting as this book suggests. Awaiting the second book in the series with bated breath. By Adrian Brady
SEVEN FORGES By James A. Moore www.angryrobotbooks.com
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA By Roy Bainton www.roybaintonwrites.com/
I’ve read Moore before; he did a small-press chapbook a few years ago called Little Boy Blue. Not sure why I bring this up, I can’t remember whether I enjoyed it or not (ok, I’ve checked the review I wrote at the time and I did enjoy the haunting little tale). Anyway, the short story chapbook obviously wasn’t that memorable. I’m sure this book will be though. Merros Dulver and his group of soldiers have been sent to investigate the Blasted Lands, a wintery wilderness to the north, by the ancient wizard and advisor to the Emperor, Desh Krohan. When the group are set upon by seven monsters known as the Pra-Moresh, hideous and blood-thirsty creatures and the only things that live in the wilds of the north, they prepare to fight knowing that a group their size would have difficulty with just one of the beasts. A strange hooded figure comes out of nowhere and kills the Pra-Moresh, but not before some of the group are killed by the
This latest instalment in the exhaustive Mammoth Book of... series, which incidentally, has previously covered slasher films, weird news, steampunk, horror (volumes 1 to 23) and ghost stories by women, to name but a few, is handled remarkably well by Fortean Times contributor Bainton. It is described in the blurb as ‘the sceptic’s guide to an astonishing universe of mysteries beyond the sure grasp of science,’ and in the course of its 596 pages covers just about everything you can think of from UFO abductions and Nessie to near-death experiences and dark matter. Credit must go to the author for at least attempting to use original sources in his research, rather than simply relying on second-hand information which is usually sensationalized or otherwise flawed. To most people well-versed in reading around this topic this book won’t provide much in 30
www.morpheustales.com alcoholic, and drug-taker. Neary escapes to Helsinki for a job when she becomes a suspect in a murder in Maine. But her client’s mutilated body is found soon after her visit, and Neary must delve into a criminal underworld of hardcore black metal music scene to find the killer. More filthy and dirty, grim-filled adventures for Neary. The darkness of these novels is certainly not for everyone, but the Finnish setting fits perfectly. These are nasty and dirty crime novels, brilliantly devilish and darker than night. Disturbingly dark and brilliantly rich, Hand creates an intense character and puts in her intense situations. Deeply dark, chilling and brutal, this is a must-read for fans of crime and horror. By Adrian Brady
beasts. Merros follows the enigmatic figure as he moves off. Eventually they find out that the giant figure lives near the Seven Forges, a mountain range the group were heading for. His name is Drask, and he is part of a race not even known in the empire. This chance encounter will eventually have wide-ranging repercussions for the entire empire, as Merros and his group visit the valley where the strange warrior lives, and takes a party back to Fallein to meet with the Emperor. This builds nicely, the characters have time to develop, and you actually become quite attached. You know that something is going to go wrong, that some politics or intrigue is going to blow up and cause the two empires to go to war, but it’s a pleasant journey to discover how. Moore has written a compelling fantasy; his men of the Seven Forges are enigmatic, strange and terrifying. His more human characters such as Merros, Wollis, and even the sorcerer Desh, are very well introduced in this fairly short volume. The book ends far too early in the story for me, although I guess that’s the point of a cliff-hanger. Moore has created an incredible world, inhabited it with an incredible warrior race, and a bloody good and likeable human contingent, and then send them on a path of ominous destruction. The war is coming; in the next book there is likely to be blood-shed aplenty, and I can’t help but want to witness it. Sheer epic fantasy genius. I want more, and I want it now! By Stanley Riiks
EVIL DEAD (2013) Director: Fede Alvarez I remember watching the first Evil Dead film as a teenager. My parents had gone away for the weekend and left me looking after the cat. I got hold of some ‘video nasties’ on VHS, stocked up on chocolate milk, and got down to business. I spent the rest of the night a jibbering wreck, unable to sleep, cowering behind the sofa and jumping out of my skin at the slightest provocation. It was one of the best nights of my life. The 2013 version, the first not to be directed by Sam Raimi, is neither a remake nor a fourth instalment of the Evil Dead franchise. Instead, it resides somewhere in between. Bruce Campbell, star of the first three movies (along with the chainsaw) is back as part of the original production team that also includes Raimi. You’ll be glad to know the chainsaw is back, too. The plot is very similar to the original; a group of teens heads out to a cabin in the woods, stumble across a book bound in human skin (never a
AVAILABLE DARK By Elizabeth Hand www.constablerobinson.com This is the sequel to the recently released Generation Loss, and again follows our antiheroine Cass Neary, photographer, 31
www.morpheustales.com curator for her long dead uncle, insists that Catherine stay at the strange, museum-like house, and witness the process horrors of the first world war that her uncle depicted using dead animals, and the marionettes that the BBC filmed and then refused to show. The tension and atmosphere build gradually, as the tale unfolds. Nevill is an expert at making you feel uncomfortable; the not-quite-right aspect of the house and its inhabitants is drawn out slowly as we discover, alongside Catherine, that all is not as it seems. Like Paranormal Activity, or Mama, the book is filled with foreboding and dread; there is a creepiness that sets you on edge, and you can’t help but feel something, something very bad, is coming for you. That is what makes Nevill’s novels special. He can create that sense of horror and danger within the reader. But then the book gets really weird, as we continue to dive deeper into the strange world of puppets, insanity, and betrayal. I can’t really go further into the plot, otherwise it would ruin the story. But here Nevill doesn’t explain enough. I kept expecting a grand Bond-villainesque soliloquy on the purpose of the metal torture of our heroine, but there isn’t one. You’re left thinking, what the fuck? What was the purpose behind it all? I have no idea. Did I miss something? I suppose this was Nevill’s intent, as you begin to think maybe some of this is in Catherine’s head. Or maybe she is the victim of a massive conspiracy that seems to have no end game. Whatever the reasons, the ending feels… unfinished, unexplained, and that bugs the hell out of me. Nevill is a writer of immense talent, and House of Small Shadows is a triumph of terror, of creepy, atmospheric dread, but ultimately fails to satisfy. By Stanley Riiks
good sign), rather naively voice some spells from said book, then all hell breaks loose. Literally. This new version does benefit from a few twenty-first century twists, not to mention a bigger budget, and the back story is filled out a little more. The group is given a reason for existing in that Mia is a hopeless drug addict, and a stint in the remote cabin represents her only chance to get clean. Otherwise it’s what you would expect - demons, dismemberments, and destruction. For the eagle-eyed anoraks among you there is a bit of trivia. The first initials of the main cast, for example, David, Eric, Mia, Olivia, and Natalie. What does that spell? Interestingly, the production notes state that no CGI was used, the makers instead preferring to research illusion and magic tricks. So does it deliver? You bet it does, and then some. Easily one of the movies of the year. By C.M. Saunders HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS By Adam Nevill www.panmacmillan.com Not my favourite Adam Nevill novel. I’ve been fortunate to have read most of his books, and The Ritual is on my bookshelf awaiting my attention. Apartment 16 was an astounding book; the prologue was the scariest thing I’ve read in years. His book Last Days was impressively atmospheric and creepy, and the massively over-the-top ending was something out of a Hollywood blockbuster. So I came to this book was high hopes. For the first two hundred odd pages we are in classic Nevill territory. A young woman, Catherine, hiding from her ruination in London, has found herself a job at a tiny auction house, and is asked to appraise a collection of dolls and taxidermy by one of the country’s leading proponents. But the elder woman who holds the collection as 32
www.morpheustales.com Bigfoot War would make a great film in its own right and set about making that happen. The project bounced around in “Hollywood” limbo for almost two years, then suddenly got the greenlight. The next thing I knew, I had a check and a contract. At the time of this interview, Bigfoot War is currently being filmed in Texas with such stars as C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders, The Amazing Spiderman, etc.) and Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) starring in it. I have to say, it’s a crazy experience watching your book come to life. I feel very blessed that the whole thing is happening and the movie is slated for release in 2014.
Eric S. Brown Interview What inspired you to start writing? I grew up loving comic books, Military SF, and horror. I loved them so much, I wanted to be a part of them. When I first started out, zombies weren’t cool like they are now and I devoted around eight years to writing mostly zombie tales because I loved those hungry corpses so much. How did you go about first getting your work published? Like my writing hero, David Drake, I sold my first short story to the first editor I ever worked with. I sent out a short entitled “Night Shopping,” and it was picked up not only by the editor I was working with at the time in terms of trying to learn how to submit but also by another magazine I sent it to as well. I ended up writing a second tale for that other magazine and it was accepted, too. I found all the markets I was submitting to at that time from the old school Novel and Short Story Market Guide put out by Writer’s Digest I think.
Bigfoot War is the first in a trilogy, are their likely to be sequels to the film? Oh yes. If the first movie does well, I think we can certainly expect at least the other two core books of the series to be on their way to being movies as well. Why big foot rather than other mythological creatures? I grew up in the rural south. I was terrified of Bigfoot as a child. I remembered all those old Bigfoot horror films from the 70s and really wanted to bring Bigfoot back as a monster. That’s pretty much what I tried to do with Bigfoot War. It’s a very apocalyptic, survival horror tale in how it reads and becomes truly apocalyptic in the later books of the series.
One of your early novels, Big Foot Wars, is being made into a film. Tell us about that. It was totally a grace of God kind of deal. I had done a novelization of the last Boggy Creek film and the producer really liked Bigfoot War. He’d read it while scouting me out for the novelization project. He thought
What other writers have influenced you? 34
www.morpheustales.com I only use outlines and such if I am writing something huge like Homeworld or the new Military SF novel I am working on. When you’re doing books on that scale with entirely new races and a universe you have created, you need the outline and notes to keep track of things. If I am just writing horror though, I just play and let the words come as they will. Odds are, if you’re having fun, your reader will too.
David Drake is by far the biggest influence on my style and how I write. I love pretty much all of his work and learned to write action from reading his Hammer’s Slammers series. Others would include H.P. Lovecraft, Dan Simmons, David Weber, and John Ringo. What are your other influences? Comic books are a huge part of my life. I have read and collected them since I was four years old. Now I not only write comics myself for Unstoppable Comics out of New York, but I also write a comic book news column for my local paper. It’s easy to see how I came to write the type of fiction I do if you look at DC’s Weird War Tales. That was one of my favourite non-superhero titles as a child and it has greatly inspired the type of fiction I write.
If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? START EARLIER. That would be my advice to me anyhow. It took my wife kicking my butt after we first got married to convince me that I needed to try to get my work published and make money from it. Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? I do read reviews. It’s fun to see what folks think of your work. Not everyone is going to love it but when you do get a bad review, it can sometimes be helpful when you’re at work on your next project. You can take that criticism and learn from it.
Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? I tend to write in my car as it’s the only place I can find peace to do it. I have a seven-year-old son, a one-and-a-half year-old daughter, and my wife is now a stay-at-home mom. I have to escape, so to speak, to find the focus I need to get my ideas properly out of my head, and deserted parking lots with my laptop really seem to work for me.
What book are you reading now? I’m not. I can’t read and write at the same time. When I am writing, I read mostly comics, but they’re fun, short, and don’t mess with what I am at work on. Before I
How do you put a book together; do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter? 35
www.morpheustales.com you’re writing about. If you don’t, it shows and readers will be able to feel it.
started my latest novel though, I read Patriots by David Drake and an old school Military SF novel entitled The Sixth Column.
You are most well-known for writing cryptozoological novels; what got you interested in this area? The amazing success of the first Bigfoot War book put me on that path. Both the level of fun I was having writing that type of fiction and the sales were huge motivators. Even as the Bigfoot War series continued, I expanded and started another series with Jason Brannon called The Crypto-Squad that meshes monster/apocalyptic fiction with a really dark take on the superhero genre. The whole concept was what if only our monsters could save us and it’s worked out well so far. Book IV in the series hit earlier this year, and there is talk of Jason and me getting back together for a fifth book in the future.
You published lots of short stories before your debut novel was published. Do you prefer writing/reading novels or short fiction? I was a big fan of short stories and novels. That’s how most of David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers tales were written. And who doesn’t love Lovecraft who was also mainly a shorter form kind of writer? What is your proudest moment as a writer? That’s easy. Having David Drake read Homeworld and blurb its cover. I mean having the hero you grew up trying to write like say “this is good” about your first ever Military SF book is a totally awesome thing.
Do you write for a particular audience, for yourself? I write for me. Always have, always will.
Are you disappointed with any of your work when you look back on it? I think all writers are disappointed with their past works. It’s part of the game as we writers struggle to get better and top ourselves with each next project.
Do you get writers block? How do you cope with it? Not really. With me, it’s more a kind of burn out. I do so many books that I sometimes have to just take a break, get my head back together, and read a lot before I can start up again.
What is the most important thing when becoming a writer? I think honestly loving what you do and having fun with it are extremely important. You can’t just say, “I’m gonna write a book”. You have to know and love what
If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? 36
www.morpheustales.com the Spectral Chapbooks published before this, and yet it sits right at home within them as well. It’s challenging, intelligent, and wholly original. Although it’s not as creepy as Gary McMahon’s effort, or as gory and bloodthirsty as Paul Finch’s, this is horror at its most morally ambiguous. It is a sad tale of brutality, of abuse, of disease, slaughter, madness, and faith. It is as frustrating as it is enjoyable, leaving the readers with a slightly bitter taste in their mouths like they’ve just had arsenic. A lingering sense of unease and discomfort remains after putting the story down. Grimwood achieves his desired effect of making us think far beyond the story he’s put down on paper. This is a very very clever little book. Spectral Press again shows why they are at the top of the UK’s small presses. By Stanley Riiks
Forgive the cliché, but I think meeting H.P. Lovecraft would be awesome. What are you working on now? Currently I am at work on a new Military SF novel set in the same universe as both Homeworld and the Planet Sasquatch branch of the Bigfoot War series. What makes a good story? I think the key is FUN. For me, a good book is one that fires me up, gets my heart pumping, and just makes me go “wow, that was awesome.” SOUL MASQUE By Terry Grimwood spectralpress.wordpress.com Confused. Having read this it’s clear this is an ambitious story, but I learnt almost as much about what was happening from the back cover description as I did from the contents of this limited-edition chapbook. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; Grimwood writes in a way that makes you want to read more, he makes you want to know more, about the characters and the strange world he creates. But I think he needs more space to work, a story double the length may have made a lot more sense. Soul Masque is about the battle of good against evil, that age-old tale, but looked at through a brief period in the lives of four flawed and failing characters, when things all come to a head: a woman with cancer held in check by her allegiance to religion, a preacher addicted to drugs, a dominatrix with an angel as a client, a man who must kill to survive… The more I think about the story the more layers I think I find. The struggle for faith, the struggle to live, dealing with death in its many forms, the very concept of good and evil; there’s a hell of a lot going on here in these 30 pages. This is a very different book from
WAR MASTER’S GATE By Adrian Tchaikovsky www.shadowoftheapt.com This is the ninth book in the epic Shadow of the Apt series, and the story just gets better and better. There is so much going on in this 700-page book that it is difficult to know where to start. The imperial army, under the leadership of Empress Seda, heads towards Collegium. A new aerial weapon may be the key to the war. The Mantis clans are in the midst of a civil war. Lost magic is about to be discovered. Massively epic, Tchaikovsky is a master story-teller, unafraid to write a story on a scale difficult to manage for a reader, let alone a writer! He makes it easy for us by making his characters uniquely individual. Brilliant characters, masterful storytelling, and an epic plot in a world that is as dangerous as it is beautiful. 37
www.morpheustales.com with no electricity and a dead body, June has to look inside herself to see if she has the strength to survive, and to fight for her life. The first person narrative is persuasively female. Fowler captures not only the sense of boredom of June’s suburban existence, but also the grim and filthy side of sleazy London. This is a very personal story, despite the liars, the gangsters, and the cheats who June has to endure. It is her story of redemption or growing as a person, and discovering who she really is. The book reminded me a little of Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s like Fowler is experimenting with a different type of fiction, and to a certain extent it works. You can’t help but want to find out what happens, and there are some moments of creepiness. The reader faces the same situation June herself does; we don’t know the full story and we don’t really know what’s going on. Because we know our narrator is not going to die (the standard issue with first-person narratives), there is a lack of tension and danger throughout. For readers familiar with Fowler, this is a good writer trying something a little different. For those unfamiliar with Fowler, there might be better books to start with, and for girls this may be the perfect introduction to a writer who is as diverse as he is talented. As the foreword says, this book as written by Sophie Kinsella would have been perfectly acceptable, but why isn’t a book about a shopping-obsessed housewife acceptable from a crime and horror writer? I don’t know, perhaps we just expect a bit more. Not his best, but certainly worth reading. Great characterisation, intelligent and, insightful. But may be a bit longer than necessary and lacks tension. By Stanley Riiks
Start with book one, but it is very likely you will continue to read until this ninth book in the series and beyond. A tale that stirs the imagination and the soul. By Adrian Brady PLASTIC By Christopher Fowler www.solarisbooks.com This is a bit of a girlie book. Not exactly what I would have expected from the author of Spanky and Darkest Day, but I haven’t read a Fowler novel for far too long, so I was looking forward to this. The foreword put me off a bit, letting me know this was a book written years ago, and highlighting cultural references that dated the book. No one talks about Jeffrey Archer any more (is he even alive?), Lennox Lewis is not a particularly current sports reference, and Rover haven’t made new cars since 2005. Okay, perhaps I’m just being picky, but one of the best things about Fowler’s writing is his attention to detail, the things he picks up on that resonate with the reader. His descriptions of London and its people are insightful, his use of cultural reference is intelligent and wide-ranging. And mostly in this book that is the case; the Archer reference actually still works rather well. So, what is this book about? June Cryer (named after the character from The Bill perhaps?) is a middle-aged housewife, leading a boring life in suburbia, spending her husband’s money on clothes, shoes, and whatever knickknacks she can to fill the void in her life. When she finds out her husband is having an affair with the woman next door and he cuts off her credit, she decides to flat-sit in London for a friend of a friend, only to be drawn into a world of murder, pornography, and gangsters. Trapped in a luxury apartment block 38
www.morpheustales.com anything in the way of plot, character development, suspense, twists, turns, etc, etc. But Pritchett, seemingly with ease, manages to cram all of that into the short running time, leaving one with a complete viewing experience: a beginning, middle and end. A lot of full-length movies could learn from her structure: remove the filler, leave in the essentials, and enjoy. For a well-crafted horror story you can watch on the go, one could do much worse than Mr. Bubbles. Highly recommended.
MR. BUBBLES/ THE GNOME BEFORE CHRISTMAS Reviews by Trevor Wright Usually, when I do these reviews, I try to stick to the “mainstream.” Not necessarily big-budget Hollywood movies per se, but movies that are easily accessible to the wider viewing audience across the globe. Having watched almost every “mainstream” movie that’s graced the multiplex this calendar year, however, I can tell you with great certainty – those movies blow! So… I’m going rogue. That’s right. Rogue. Time to start reviewing movies made by passionate individuals in hopes of amassing a wide audience, versus those with deep pockets who seek to exploit it. With that being said, I would never review something that the average reader has no hopes of getting their hands on. Below the title of every review is a link for you to either see the movie free of charge or to purchase said film directly. Together, let’s leave Hollywood at the gate. And bring those filmmakers who love the genre more than anything front and center.
THE GNOME BEFORE CHRISTMAS 8 min. Starring Angela Pritchett, Mariah Johnson, Amanda Liscouski, and Kristen Spatz Written by Angela Pritchett Directed by Angela Pritchett and Mariah Johnson http://vimeo.com/37579901 This one is something special. A Christmas present you can enjoy any time of year, it’s a horror/comedy involving three plucky friends and a creepy little garden gnome with a penchant for murder. Obviously made on a shoestring budget, this funny oddity looks anything but cheap. From the witty one-liners to the “I swear that gnome moved” FX, this is one of those shorts that up-and-coming filmmakers need to study, to learn that with an imaginative script, good actors, and a boundless imagination you don’t need a million bucks to make even the most mundane of household items a star – in this case someone’s old garden gnome. A must watch!
MR. BUBBLES 5 min. Starring Angela Pritchett and Jarod Kearney Written and Directed by Angela Pritchett http://vimeo.com/33262402 Angela Pritchett makes movies for today’s attention-deficit gotta-have-it-now generation: short, sweet and to the point. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. In Mr. Bubbles, she takes on the starring role as an overly peppy womanchild named Annette, determined to share a tea party with Charles, the arrogant slumlord next door and her small stuffed-bear named – you guessed it – Mr. Bubbles. Five minutes isn’t a lot of time for
RED DAHLIA By Ross Simon www.damnationbooks.com After a bit of a slow start, this book really 40
www.morpheustales.com criticism of Poisonous it is that it is perhaps a little too fast-paced. In some places the story could benefit from some scene-setting, and characters are introduced then disposed of before the reader really has a chance to warm to them. Even so, this fast-paced novella is just the thing for a late-summer chill. By C.M. Saunders
heats up. Set during the first world war, Commodore Clifford Selickton marries a beautiful priestess, Virhynda, but when they have a child the baby may be the incarnation of the Kali-Ma, a goddess of blood sacrifice. Swiftly the pleasant life of the couple turns into a massive horror-fest of bodies and torture. The book sets up the characters and setting fairly well before unleashing the hellstorm of brutal violence. The horror quickly ramps up towards the end of the short book. Ross shows a level of sophistication and imagination not often seen in the small press, and Damnation have done well to procure his talents. A brutal B-movie story of devastation and disaster. By Adrian Brady
An interview with Richard Farren Barber The Power of Nothing is your first novella; can you tell us a little about it? Steve works in a camping shop in a provincial town in the UK. He’s had a tough “teenhood,” but is now in his early twenties and starting to settle down and find his place in the world. He helps out at a local youth group and is strongly political. He’s one of these people who will tell you that they want to change the world. But then into Steve’s world enters a grey man who starts to follow him. Steve has no idea who the man is, or what he wants, and the man just follows him. He says nothing. He does nothing. He just stands outside of the shop and follows Steve home at night.
POISONOUS By Tommy B Smith www.tommybsmith.com/ After the quake of ‘79, a terrible force called the Living Poison came to the city of St Charles, and in Lilac Chambers, it may have found the perfect host. As she finds herself changing, becoming increasingly dangerous to those around her, it soon becomes apparent that her condition is no accident. Detective Brandt McCullough has seen the Living Poison’s brutality first-hand and John Sutterfield, ringmaster of Sutterfield’s Circus of the Fantastic, is discovering its malignancy festering within the circus he founded. These two are the only ones who might stand in the way of a force greater than anything they have ever known, one which threatens to wash the streets in red and swallow the city into chaos. But the stakes may be higher than either of them can imagine. Tommy B. Smith, something of a short story specialist until this release, is maturing nicely as a writer. If I have one
What gave you the idea for this particular story? I was in the cinema with my son watching Hugo and there’s a scene in the film where Hugo follows Georges home after the old man has taken his father’s notebook. Hugo doesn’t actually say anything, he just follows the man. I found this incredibly eerie and it made me wonder, what would you actually do if someone started to follow you for no apparent reason. They didn’t engage with you at all, just followed. The ultimate passive-aggressive act! The Power 41
www.morpheustales.com to leave people with a book/story they put down and think “Well there’s an hour of my life I’m never going to see again.” But I do also want to vent occasionally… I had to tone down the political barnstorming in The Power of Nothing because there was a tendency for it to move away from horror fiction and sit closer to a political rant. I do think horror is at its best when it identifies people’s fears, and at the moment I think a lot of people are afraid… for their jobs or their standard of living or what’s going to be left of the NHS by the time they need that knee operation. If I can entertain someone sufficiently that they get to the end of the book and take something from it that strikes a chord or makes them see the “real” world in a different way, then I’m happy.
of Nothing was born out of that moment in the cinema – the idea that someone effectively doing nothing can still have a profound effect on someone else. Who are you most influenced by? In genre writing? I think my main influences are Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Robert Westall. (Definitely a child of the 80s!) When I was growing up I read a lot more science fiction and fantasy and horror, but the one children’s/YA author I read extensively was Robert Westall who I think is criminally underrated as an author. I didn’t actually pick up a Stephen King novel until I was 18, but once I did I spent the next couple of years hoovering up his back catalogue through second-hand bookshops across London. Outside of genre, I absolutely adore John Steinbeck. There’s a simplicity to his prose that exposes the truth in relationships.
What scares you? Wasps. And anything that endangers my son. I am an absolutely neurotic dad with an over-active imagination (quelle surprise!) and so I can see danger everywhere. If my son is walking along the side of a road with a crash barrier between him and the traffic, my mind will conjure up a perfect image of how he might “fall” over the crash barrier and into the traffic. In Technicolor. In 3D. I am sure I have deep bite marks in my tongue where I’ve tried to stop myself constantly saying “Watch out” and “be careful.” Wasps… I just don’t like them. There’s obviously some deep childhood trauma that I’ve buried somewhere in my memory. Bees are fine little fluffy things, but if there’s a wasp near me I start jumping around.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? Sometimes I find myself wanting to change the world with my writing… and then I step down from that particularly high horse and try and ground myself more in reality. For me I write because the story is in there and needs to come out or it will fester. The first thing I want with my writing is for people to want to finish it! That sounds really pathetic, but I think in these days where everyone has a lot more “entertainment” than they have time to consume, you’re constantly battling for the right to take up those few minutes or hours that you’re in front of them. So I don’t want 42
www.morpheustales.com best that you can write, it can be difficult to get the distance to understand how good it is and how to make it better. What constantly jumps out at me is that I remember writing stories which I thought were brilliant, and then I come back to them a few years later and realize how awful they were. I take heart from the fact that if I can see that it must be some measurement of how I’ve improved as a writer, but at the back of my head there’s a small voice saying “ahh, you thought that was good then and it wasn’t, so what about the story you wrote last week?”
Where can we find you online? I have a website: www.richardfarrenbarber.co.uk and I also write a blog on writing for the regional writing development agency: http://writingeastmidlands.tumblr.com/, which came about when I was selected to take part in a mentoring scheme they were running. You can also find me on the usual social media sites Twitter (twitter.com/RFarrenBarber) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/richardfarrenbarber) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? I have a very clear memory of being about eight and having a story pinned up on the board at school (I can still tell you the title and the plot: It was called “The Red Cherry,” and it was about a group of kids who found a magic cherry tree where eating the fruit would take them to a different world), and when that happened I went home and tried to “extend” the story from one page to two.
How much is your protagonist like you? How different? I think Steve is a more courageous version of some aspects of my personality. At the start of the book I think I could write out his trajectory: he’s interested in politics and doing “the right thing,” and I think he has a background with an edge that lends him an element of real-world credibility. If nothing changed I could see him getting involved in politics on a local level and maybe progressing – never making it to a minister because he has that history behind him that would stop that, but at least being involved. There are times when I think I could pull a pair of pants on over my trousers and save the world… and then I write a story instead. I don’t have the depth of confidence that Steve has to go out and preach to the masses about everything that’s wrong and how to fix it.
Why do you write horror? For me horror allows you to deal with life’s big, big, big question: what happens next? In what other genre can you dangle people over that particular precipice, even push them over the edge and then follow what happens to them on the journey? In every other genre the death of a character tends to be the end; in horror things are often just beginning to warm up.
Tell us one thing about yourself that no one would guess by just meeting you. That I write horror. I know it’s a cliché, but the other week one of my friends said to me (after I’d met their son for the first time) that after I’d left his son had said to him: “Richard writes horror? But he seems so normal… ”
What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it? I think one of the hardest things about being a writer is having the objectivity to know when something you’ve written is good when you’re actually working in a very subjective environment. Because you can see what you’ve written, and at any point in time what you’ve written is (hopefully) the 43
www.morpheustales.com Fear not, I retained the hard covers, signed editions and books with true, sentimental meaning. The collection is still vast and, of this writing, primarily still in boxes much to my chagrin. This is an opportunity to properly organize and sort the tomes as they go on the shelves, until I give up and fling them on in whatever order. At the rate I’m going, that will be in about three more days. Why did I hold on to so many books, magazines and other crap (there’s no other word for it) for so long? Is there some part of the hoarder in the collector: I have it, it’s mine, and I’ll never let it go? Even in a world where most current books, novellas and reference materials are available digitally, I know I still prefer the tactile sense of the book: the weight, the smell and the physical turning of the page. Many of the books I used to get in trade paperback format are only acquired digitally now, but I still have new physical acquisitions arriving weekly. Is there a sense of security in the fact of ownership, I wonder? Shall we delve into the weirdness of the published words? As usual, I try and find items that are unlikely to be reviewed elsewhere; I think Marvel and DC reviews are being handed quite well elsewhere and does Image Comics really need the promotional push? I would rather find some odd, fascinating, small press item that cannot beat down the doors of Rue Morgue or HorrorHound and bring it to light.
From the Catacombs: The Return! By Jim Lesniak Greetings, my fellow dwellers of the night – I’ll wager you thought you were rid of my ramblings after being absent this past edition. Nothing so simple: here I remain! The catacombs have been uprooted and are in disarray, causing no small amount of chaos. Yes, after fourteen years in one spot, the catacombs have moved to a new locale. Ye Olde Reviewer had plenty of time to dwell upon the difference of a collection versus an accumulation whilst packing a preparing to move. As the process continued, it was less “pack and move” and more “give me a lighter.” Discovering yet another box of forgotten books in the bowels of the basement, choices became easier to make: in the end we, as a household, donated in the order of five hundred books of all genres to the local library 1. Five. Hundred. Books. This still made only a small dent in what I moved, and was limited (in my case) to mass market paperbacks of genre novels, text books and general interest books that, ironically enough, no longer held interest. Having held onto these books for years – some upwards of twenty –for no reason other than they were mine, it was tough to do. It was less of an organized collection than a horde of stuff. Near the end, I nearly needed a stay in Arkham when I found one more box of forgotten books on the shelf. Other boxes of precious “stuff” went straight to the dump when it was determined that their contents had not been perused since I moved into the home we were leaving….
Chunkblowers that Splattered the World: the Fright Films that changed the face of the Horror genre by covering it in slime, guts and blood. By: Lucifer Fulci Wormfood Horror Media http://www.LuciferFulci.com
If you must reduce the amount of books in your catacombs, DO donate to the library or other charitable organization. I would hope that they are finding a good home while supporting a literate population in my region, rather than filling a landfill somewhere with words slowly deteriorating into the ether…
Lucifer Fulci is the nom du horror of an author, poet and musician sometimes 45
www.morpheustales.com known as David Stasko 2. Chunkblowers, thankfully, is less a dry treatise on horror films – trust me, ye olde reviewer owns a lot of those - than a series of personal essays on seventeen violent and disturbing horror films and their place within cinematic history. There are minimal plot summaries along with charts of production data (budget, release date, etc), however this is not the meat (viscera?) of this tome. Lucifer puts each into a personal context: where he came across each and why he feels each is important in the realm of extreme horror. You may or may not agree with his choices or exclusions, but at least we have an author willing to state an opinion. Each film is presented chronologically and given enough space to make its claim for inclusion herein. Being self-published (pod?), this is not easy to get a copy, save from the author himself – I bought mine in person. Besides some quibbles with the layout, it is an entertaining treatise on some of the grossest films ever made. Granted, if you like your film reference books to be filled with facts and/or cast biographies and interviews, this is not your book. Recommended if you want to explore the chunkblower side of films!
Weng’s Chop #3 https://www.facebook.com/wengschopmaga zine Weng’s Chop is a psychedelic fever dream of a film magazine. Regular features on Indian fantastic cinema (a full article on cobra ladies?!) and the strangest corners of exploitation, in its finest sense, abound. This issue alone covers Mexican post-apocalyptic cinema, a tribute to Jess Franco, Indonesian horror films featuring phantom women, and Mexican monster films. This is in addition to book, ‘zine and movie reviews. Weng’s Chop is a print on demand magazine though Amazon’s Createspace with black and white interiors matched with color covers. It is well written with an obvious love for unusual films from around the world, especially non-English speaking movies. The layout is as professional as the writing with sharp images illustrating the content throughout. Weng’s Chop is worth every penny is recommended to anyone with an interest in odd and bizarre film from around the world. Vampire Guardian Angels #1-3 By Lia Scott Price http://www.liascottprice.com/ Vampire Guardian Angels has an interesting premise: some guardian angels cannot stand the constant pleading and prayers of mankind anymore and resent their position. As they are forbidden to kill humans directly, they can indirectly inspire murder or suicide to stop the incessant begging. The
I don’t think I’m revealing State secrets here. Don’t be fooled by the fearsome visage he has in his promo photos! He has some incredibly delicate poetry and music available on his website, in addition to the harder rocking stuff, revealing his gentle soul – much braver than bluster, I think.
www.morpheustales.com guardian angels prey upon the weakest and most desperate of people. The angels who have not succumbed to this darker aspect are in battle with the “fallen” angels. Somehow, when one of the murderous angels is returned to Heaven, a vampire tags along and begins to infect the holy host. What sounds like an interesting idea is, unfortunately, unfortunately in practice a disjointed mess. This series feels like an illustrated outline of a cool guardian angels versus vampires story. The writing feels rushed and incoherent – this is a comic book, and we do not see the vampire somehow get to Heaven with Gabriel. Ms Price also feels the need to shoehorn in members of various death metal bands into the story for momentum-killing cameos. These cameos are Grant Morrison level subplots in comparison to her personal cameo wherein she is repeatedly referred to as “the author” and is a target of the titular angels. These comics are supposedly based upon novels, by the same author, which I shall never read if only to preserve my sanity. It is hard to determine what is wrong with the writing when so much is headache inducting. The artwork is clean black and white with spot reds. Guess what color hair the “author” has in real life. Ms Price is a self-promotion machine, but beware of Lia Scott Price’s Vampire Guardian Angels, whether in comics, prose or film. I will never get the time back I spent reading these comics, and that pisses me off.
http://mattbryancomics.bigcartel.com/produ ct/book-of-da This was another successful Kickstarter project – I’m not sure I fully understand the whole of the story. Although, in this case, that’s a GOOD thing - it has minimal dialogue allowing for the reader to read into the art what they like. There is a deep sea diver walking the ocean floor, searching for the mysterious creature that is affecting the mood of the sea. His tale is shown as a solitary journey through stranger and stranger environs with the exposition occasionally given by a preacher type character to his followers. The diver has offended Da, so he has undertaken a journey to appease Him through treacherous seas confronted by the creatures of all sizes that have been upset by the transgression. The Book of Da is truly hard to describe or summarize. Being mostly dialogue free, I would have to show half the book to give a feel for the story. It definitely falls into the “weird fiction” category, being a challenge to fully comprehend, but not in the Bizarro fiction sense. Were there strange beings under the sea in ancient pyramids, or is this a story to separate the believers from their possessions. The truth may lie somewhere in between. This graphic novel is presented in a gorgeous hardcover on high quality paper. It is worth every bit of the cover price of $15.00! I have paid more for a shorter, soft cover edition in the past. If you have a penchant for the unusual (and if not, why are you reading this magazine), it is well worth your time to search out a copy.
Book of Da By: Mike McCubbins and Matt Bryan
www.morpheustales.com As we close out this installment from the new catacombs, ye olde reviewer would like to mention a couple of things before signing off. Firstly, Stephen Volk’s Whitstable from Spectral Press 4 is reviewed elsewhere in this supplement: just buy it, it’s fantastic. Secondly, the soundtrack to this column has been Wo Fat’s The Black Code 5 and Orchid’s Mouths of Madness 6 – both are crushing albums. Thirdly, please support the small press that produced genre fiction. Most of the publishers have eBooks available now if you cannot afford the ubercool, high priced, printed with Neil Gaiman’s blood editions and they help bring new authors to the fore. Finally, if I ever move again, please keep an eye out for the bonfire as I shall torch everything before moving again. Finally, if I ever move again, please keep an eye out for the bonfire as I shall torch everything before moving again.
Floating Head Bounty Killers The Astronomer By Matt Rebholz http://mattrebholzart.com/
I have no idea what is going on in these graphic narratives. Really 3. There is Aztec imagery, odd symbolism, and wordless conversations with bodiless creatures all in an acid nightmare art style both beautiful and grotesque. Then, we hit volume two: 5000 years later in a post-apocalyptic desert where an astronomer and a hermit discuss the reality of the long gone civilization of Yetis (!) that once built and ruled the region. If you prefer your graphic novels/comic books to have direct narratives, avoid these books like the plague. They are bizarre and fascinating with art somewhere between the undergrounds of the 1970’s and Alex Toth in the use of negative space. It makes the Book of Da read like Archie Comics. Fascination stuff, but not for everyone – I have already contributed to the Kickstarter for volume three of the series just to see more and to find out if it makes any sense in a traditional way when it concludes. Floating Head Bounty Killers and the Astronomer are for adventurous souls and one of the most unique tales you will find out there.
JOHN DIES AT THE END By David Wong www.johndiesattheend.com/ OK, we’re a little slow on the uptake with this one. The original version of this horror comedy appeared as a web serial way back in 2001, and this version has been around almost four years. This review is at least partly relevant, however, as the movie has recently been released, and as everyone knows, the book is always better than the film. I dipped into this several times in the months it spent on my Kindle, but each time I found it impossible to get past the bizarre opening scenes. I was also slightly put off by the fact that given the title, I already knew what would happen in the end. Something that I now see, with the benefit of hindsight, as being a stroke of genius.
This is in the cool 2001: A Space Odyssey way, not the Vampire Guardian Angels annoying way. I would rather be confused by an artistic vision than by horrific writing any day.
http://spectralpress.wordpress.com/ Just buy a copy, it’s worth every penny. 5 http://wofat.net/ 6 https://www.facebook.com/orchidsf 48
www.morpheustales.com hardback will still only give you 141 sparsely filled pages of fiction. Yes, it’s a lovely book, yes it’s got beautiful illustrations, but for the same price you can buy one of Gaiman’s short story collections and The Graveyard Book for you and your teens to enjoy. There’s barely an hour’s reading here, and that’s if you read as slow as I do! Unlike The Graveyard Book, which was a YA novel that easily appealed to all ages, Fortunately, The Milk is too short and too simple for adults. Children will likely enjoy it; Gaiman fans can’t go wrong with any of his work and will likely enjoy it for what it is: a tall tale to tell to children. The master of fantasy provides a young person fairy tale, complete with dinosaurs, aliens, and pirates. By Stanley Riiks
Written by Jason Pargin under the pseudonym David Wong, in places this reminds me of Jack Kerouac gone wrong (or maybe gone Wong?). The sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude. Don’t Touch It! was released to widespread acclaim last winter. I’m determined not to wait four years before getting stuck into it! By C.M. Saunders FORTUNATELY, THE MILK… By Neil Gaiman www.bloomsbury.com First off, this is a children’s book, or an illustrated short story. And illustrated it is; I’ve not seen this many illustrations since my school days. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous the black and white pen and ink artwork by Chris Riddell lifts the magical words from the page, which are inspired and fantastic. This is the story of a father, who takes a rather long time picking up the milk, and has to explain why when he gets home to his breakfastless children. As he tells them the story of his kidnapping by aliens who want to redecorate Earth, his escape into the hands of pirates, his trip on a hot air balloon, and his encounter with dinosaurs, and vampires, and space police. This is brief story, but still Gaiman, so expect the unexpected, excitement, and adventure, a modern day fairy tale. This is not my favourite of Gaiman’s books. I’ve been following the master of the fantastic since I first discovered comics in the mid-nineties and chanced upon The Sandman. Since then I’ve read quite a bit of Gaiman, most of the novels and collections. I enjoy his work greatly, and often refer to him as one of the greatest fantasists of his generation. Although this is a nice book, it’s a short story at most rather than a full on novel, and it’s clearly aimed at children. A price of £10.99 for a lovely
James A. Moore Interview Your new book Seven Forges is coming out from Angry Robot Books. Tell us about that. Seven Forges is a different beast for me. I wanted to do something a little bit out of my standard comfort zone, and that meant something away from the trappings of the world we live in. And I’ve always loved fantasy stories, but I have to be honest and say I stopped reading fantasy for a very long time because all of the books I encountered for a while seemed to involve the exact same tropes. There’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s what you want, but I have always written with a very simple rule in place. I write what I’d like to read. I didn’t want to write the Lord of the Rings. It’s been done and very well already. I wanted to write something that’s a bit different. Something that I haven’t seen before. Now, it might be that I’m fooling myself with that because, again, I stayed well away from fantasy for a long time, but it’s original to me.
www.morpheustales.com Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Philip Jose Farmer, Andre Norton, Robert E. Howard, Alan Moore, Rick Hautala, Karl Edward Wagner, H. P. Lovecraft, Lloyd Alexander, Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Frank Frazetta, Gahan Wilson, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allan Poe, Clifford D. Simak, Christopher Golden, Stan Lee…the list goes on and on and changes depending on the day.
In this case what I wanted was a story about clashing cultures. I wanted them to be so different as to almost be completely alien to each other. They have a shared history, but it’s been a thousand years since they had anything in common. The Seven Forges of the title are a mountain range and the people who live in that area share nothing but a common history with the empire of Fellein. Their meeting will not be comfortable.
You are well known for your collaborations; is it different writing with
What inspired you to start writing? I started out wanting to draw comics. Turns out I lack the basic skills required for that job, but an editor at Marvel Comics, Marc McLauren, was good enough to point out that I was telling a very good story despite the appalling lack of ability to draw anything remotely like a person or a building or even a straight line. He was the one who suggested I try writing. Later he bought my first professional sale.
another person? It’s a very different beast. Each collaboration is as different as the people you collaborate with. We always set up a very loose set of rules to follow and then we do our best to stick with them. But universally it’s fun. I think a lot of that comes down to having a good relationship with your partners in crime. What are your other influences? I work retail. That helps. I know that sounds strange, but one of my big influences is people watching and I can do a lot of that in retail. Also, the news. I’ve said before and likely will many more times that nothing I write is ever as scary as the headlines. I normally write to music and a lot of times that’s a big part of it. I’ve had entire books come from the lyrics of a song sticking in my head at the right time. Where do you get your inspiration? Well, my favourite pat answer is I get my inspiration by looking at my bills. That might be a little true, but mostly I genuinely
How did you go about first getting your work published? I pestered my one contact at Marvel with occasional letters and waited as patiently as I could. Then I used that first sale as a springboard for dealing with other publishers. What other writers have influenced you? Dear Lord, that’s a scary question. All of them, really. The good and the bad. But the biggest influences? F. Paul Wilson, Stephen King, Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Ray 50
www.morpheustales.com enjoy writing. I don’t think I have a day go by where I don’t at least go over the scenes that I’m working on in a book, and if I go too long without writing I go through withdrawal.
Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? I close the door to my office, sit down with my coffee, my water, and my music. I try not to open the door until I’ve met my goals for the day.
What is your writing day like? Because of the day job that varies a lot. I try to get at least four hours of writing in every day. Two of sitting down and writing, and then at least an hour of editing and then working on other aspects of the business. On my days off, I like to add a few hours.
How do you put a book together; do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter? I sit down and write. I have a few ideas of where the book is going, but if I know it all in advance I think it takes away from the organic flow of the book. I think there’s a chance that I’ll telegraph too much of what’s coming if I already know myself. Besides, getting there is half the fun.
You have written a number of books in an already created universe, such as White Wolf gaming and Buffy. How do you go about creating a story in a constricted universe and fit into continuity? A big part of that comes down to the editors. You have to understand that I hate writing outlines. I mean I really, really loathe the idea. I feel handcuffed when I do that. And outlines are a big part of the process when it comes to licensed works. I just worked on a book for the Aliens franchise. It’s one of three books being written by Tim Lebbon, me and Christopher Golden. They are each stand-alone novels, but they are all connected and the outline process was integral to that one. And so is working with the editor and with the Fox, who has ultimate say in whether or not the books ever see print.
If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? Start earlier. If I’d known that I wanted to be a writer, I would have focused myself a lot earlier on. I don’t think we ever stop learning, but it would have been nice to give myself a head start, as it were. You have written comics as well as prose. Tell us about your experience there. Well, like I said above, I wanted to be a comic artist. I didn’t know any writers so I was always plotting my own stuff. I read comics for years and years before I ever started reading books. And when I finally 51
www.morpheustales.com got to work on some comics I was ecstatic. The problems were I started writing when the collapse of the last boom was just starting, and, honestly, there was a lot of nepotism in the industry. That said, I’d love to write comics again. They’re very different beasts from fiction and I love both mediums.
when you look back on it? Every last one of them. Inevitably I will read them and decide I could have done better. What's the best piece of feedback that you've had from your audience? I’ve received thank you letters. Nothing comes close to that.
Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? I read every review I find. I always want to know what people think. I always want to learn. That said, I take most reviews with a grain of salt. If I didn’t I’d probably cut my own throat. I had one occasion where I met a reviewer, and he was genuinely worried that I was going to beat him to death. Seriously. He had been… unkind, at best… and he was afraid I’d take it personally. But I thanked him because he was honest, he thought out his responses carefully, and he had a few valid points.
You have written comics, short stories and novels. What form do you prefer to read and write? I love them all for different reasons. I have a longstanding love affair with comic books. I think a well-written and illustrated comic is a lovely thing. There are a lot of them that fall short these days, but the ones I enjoy are worth sorting through the rest. I love short stories because, if they’re done right, they can offer a tale in one sitting that touches the readers in one way or another. Let’s be fair here, I often write horror so the touches may be on an exposed nerve, but I love reading them and writing them. But I have to say my favourite form is the novel. Novels give me time to explore the world I’m working in and the people I’m telling the stories about.
What book are you reading now? I am currently reading three separate books. I’m reading Doc Savage: Skull Island by Will Murray, which is a lot of fun. I’m reading So Cold the River by Michael Koryta and loving it, and I’m reading The Great Pulp Heroes by Don Hutchison. I’m also reading short stories from the anthology Carniepunk. I was given an ARC and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a lot of fun. And I’m reading the latest collection from Lee Thomas, Like Light for Flies. Also really good stuff. I tend to read a lot.
What is the most important thing when becoming a writer? Write every day. Read every day. Never fall for your own hype, and write it first, edit it later.
What is your proudest moment as a writer? The first time I held one of my novels in print. It was a copy of Under the Overtree, in trade paperback. It was followed soon after by wife calling me on the phone and yelling at me for scaring her senseless on her lunch break with the exact same book.
Do you write for a particular audience, for yourself? I always write for myself. If I can’t please myself or surprise myself with a story, then I really don’t think I can ever please or surprise anyone else. On a few occasions I’ve written stories because someone made an offhand comment about a story they wished someone would write, but those are the exceptions.
Are you disappointed with any of your work
What do you like to do when you’re not 52
www.morpheustales.com Ray Bradbury-The Halloween Tree Richard Bach-Jonathan Living Seagull and Illusions Kurt Vonnegut-The Sirens of Titan Sarah Pinbrough-Breeding Ground Robert Shearman-Remember Why You Fear Me Joe Abercrombie-Red Country Tom Piccirilli-Headstone City
writing? I am an avid movie buff. I enjoy cooking. I like taking long rides and listening to music. I love reading. What parts of being a writer do you like best? And least? I like the writing. That’s my favourite part. The part I like least? That’s a bit more complex. I love writing and I love getting feedback, but really do not like outlines. I’d almost rather stub my toe once a day, but only almost. My problem with outlines is they want me to tell the story in a few pages. If I thought the story could be told that quickly, I’d be writing a very short story. I feel like every outline is a great chance to be judged and found wanting, because if the outline doesn’t catch their eyes, the editors are surely not going to waste their time with a manuscript.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you cope with it? Not often, but when I do it’s the sort that makes me want to go on a killing spree. Normally I switch to a different project and go back to whatever I was stuck on later. On rare occasions, when I have a deadline, I just bull through it. If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? Every writer on my lists above who were influences. All of them, living and dead. Some of them I already know, but I’d gleefully sit with them and chat again.
Who are your favourite authors and favourite books? Remember that list above? I’ll add a few more to it here. John Irving-The Hotel New Hampshire, A Prayer for Owen Meany Stephen King-The Stand (and about a dozen more, not the least of which is Joyland) Graham Joyce-Some Kind of Fairy Tale Brian Lumley-Necroscope Stan Lee and Jack Kirby-Everything Marvel Comics did in the early years with a side of Steve Ditko for Spiderman. F. Paul Wilson-The Adversary Cycle Joe R. Lansdale-The Hap and Leonard Books Christopher Golden-Straight On Til Morning (and Baltimore: Or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire—with Mike Mignola) Tim Lebbon-The Noreela Series Jeff Strand-The Andrew Mayhem Series Kealan Patrick Burke-The Timmy Quinn Series
Which do you prefer writing/reading, short stories or novels? Like a lot of my answers, that depends on the day. In this case it also depends on the author in some cases. Some really great short story authors write horrid novels in my experience. The same is true in reverse. I prefer writing novels, but that’s not quite true. I believe the story knows how long it should be. So I’ve had occasions where I planned on writing a novel and got a novella for my troubles. And my short stories, according to more than one editor, are almost novel length. I normally prefer to read novels, but now and then I go through a run of a month or two where I’ll read exclusively short stories. What are you working on now? I just finished up the Aliens novel Aliens: 53
www.morpheustales.com can’t empathize with them, even a little, I can’t care what happens to them. A plot is nice, but characters first. A little action, a little conflict, shake well, observe, record, and serve. Absolutely the other truly important thing for me is the idea. Normally it starts with “what if… ”
Sea of Sorrows. I’m about to finish work on the collaborative novella “Bloodstained Wonderland” with Christopher Golden. I’m partially through a collaborative novel called The Suburbs of Hell with Charles R. Rutledge, and I have a short story and the first chapter of a novella due by the fifteenth of this month. When those are done, I move on to three short stories set in the Seven Forges universe and then I move on to The Chosen, which is the tentative title for the second Seven Forges book. I am polishing two series proposals as well, which I’ll be sending my agent’s way in the next week or so.
STRIPPED I can just imagine the pitch for this: we’re going to make Hostel, but instead of evil millionaires we’re going to replace them with hookers (so we can show some boobies) and a strange doctor-figure, and we’re not going to explain any kind of story about them. We’ll replace the tourists with a group of young men on a 21st birthday trip, and instead of the exotic Eastern European setting, we’ll move it to Vegas. We’ll also film it with a handheld to make it look like all those documentary-like films. Oh, and we’ll take out the gore, because no one wants to see any more of that torture porn. So, it’s Hostel, without the violence or the effort of a story. And without the gore and violence. Erm, seriously? What’s the point? Not funny, not clever, not horrific, hardly any gore, almost no violence, no tension, no likeable characters, not entertaining. This could well be just a documentary of a 21st birthday trip to Vegas; it’s inane, filled with horrid American idiots, stupid, without any merit whatsoever. Shamefully poor. Nothing at all to redeem this. Poor, poor, poor. Shockingly bad. On a scale of bad previously not thought possible. By Stanley Riiks
Do you have any advice for other writers? Read and write every day. If you want to be a writer, write. Don’t talk about writing, just do it. I can give you a million different ways to write, but ultimately the process is a personal thing. Just do it. Don’t give yourself excuses, because you will always find a way to take them. Write. Yes, I’m being repetitive. It bears repeating. Write it first. Edit it later. Every time you go back to edit while writing your first draft, you lose the ever-so-important momentum that you’ll need to finish. Finish one project and then move on to the next. If you MUST break from this, finish the second project and go back to the first before moving on to the next. Otherwise you risk losing the story. Set yourself deadlines. Do everything you can to meet them. Treat your writing as a business if you intend to make a living at it. That means accept that sometimes the writing is work that must be done. And to quote Brian Keene, “Your mileage may vary.” What scares you? Remarkably little these days. Mostly the loss of control and the loss of loved ones. What makes a good story? The characters have to come first for me. If I 54
www.morpheustales.com 314 By A.R. Wise http://arwisebooks.com/ A.R. Wise is best known for his Deadlocked series, and the good news is that 314 is the first part of a new series, dubbed the Widowsfield Trilogy, with part two also now on release. The even better news is that he’s giving away 314 (Part 1?) free on Amazon. At the time of writing it has garnered 75 reviews with an average rating of 4.5, which is no mean feat in these times of austerity and ebook saturation. The plot goes something like this: Music teacher Alma Harper has been trying to forget what happened in the town of Widowsfield 16 years earlier, an event that culminated in the mysterious disappearance of her brother. Now she finds herself haunted by the number 314, and things take an even more sinister twist when a couple of reporters turn up asking questions about her past. Will she confront the Skeleton Man and settle the score? The story takes us from the past to the present and back to the past again with ease, with very little of that scene jarring so typical of these kinds of books. When done badly it can make the book seem disjointed and amateurish, but when done properly the style can be very effective, entertaining, and involving. Thankfully, 314 falls into the latter category and ends in such a way as to set you up nicely for the second instalment. By C.M. Saunders
When I was a police detective, my partner at the time had a beautiful, three-year-old daughter. She contracted a brain tumor, and I saw how devastated the family was. She passed away at four years old. That never left me, as I was honored to be a pall bearer at her funeral. After attending several horror conventions, I realized how kind and generous the horror community truly was… and “Scares That Care!” was born. I founded the charity in 2006, and have been working steadily at it ever since. “Scares That Care!” unites fans of all things spooky, in order to give back to those who need it most. Did your police officer background in any way influence your decision to start a charity? Well, I would say that most who get into that line of work actually do want to help people. The only influence my background working in law enforcement would have as far as the charity is concerned is the level of integrity that we possess. We accept no salaries or paychecks for our effort, and we ensure that we provide the money to the families that need it. There’s a lot of due diligence and background checks that are done on the families, because I want to make sure that the money is going where it is intended.
Scares That Care: Joe Ripple Interview What is SCARES THAT CARE! and how did you get involved?
www.morpheustales.com help. I can say that we are asked, quite frequently, to contribute or help with other causes. The problem with that is the fact that we would stretch ourselves to thin. We would never be able to make our goals for the families we select. It’s hard to do, but sometimes I have to say “no.”
You could have started a charity with any “hook.” What was it about the horror genre that made you want to blend the two? I always felt that some horror fans felt like outcasts…like they didn’t “fit in,” or didn’t belong. I wanted to give the horror community an avenue where they could give back AND get the recognition that they deserved for doing so. I’ve often said that the charity belongs to them. As I mentioned before, they are also some of the kindest, most generous people that you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting!
What are State Representatives? How many are there? State Representatives are volunteers from the horror community that assist the charity on an “as-needed” basis. They provide support to the charity by attending events on the charity’s behalf, and sometimes, these State Representatives hold their own events. Right now we have 79 State Representatives in 35 states across the country. I couldn’t be more proud of the help that they provide!
Which causes do SCARES THAT CARE! actively pursue? Why these particular causes? We made it a point to select three families a year. They consist of a family that has a sick or terminally-ill child (in honor of my partner’s daughter), a family that has a woman fighting breast cancer, and a family that has a child that has suffered a severe burn injury. We selected breast cancer as one of the things we fight, because you can’t see a horror movie without at least some form of nudity, usually topless women. We wanted to pay that back. As far as the burn victim, we partnered with Kane Hodder – himself a burn victim – in order to provide some relief to those suffering this horrific injury.
Do you consider SCARES THAT CARE! to be a global entity? Do you ever plan on taking on representatives from other countries? Per the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, as we are an authorized 501(c)(3) charity, we must remain contained within the United States. That’s not to say, however, that we won’t set up organizational chapters of “Scares That Care!” in other countries – but I need to make sure that we maintain our established charity here first.
Are there any causes that SCARES THAT CARE! will never pursue? Why? Well, I don’t want to say that we would never pursue an area where people need
How does one get involved? What are some areas that you need help in if someone wants 57
www.morpheustales.com distu rbed at one point or anot her, amo ng other thing s. Othe r genr e films can get away with not even doing half as many things and still be considered ‘good.’ Horror fans want it all and they will stick with you through the long haul if you can impress them – and that’s probably the main reason I like acting in them as much as I do. Horror fans are the most dedicated group there is and I love them for it. They keep the indie horror genre alive.
to get involved? We’ll take help from anyone who wants to donate some time, at any skill level. All someone has to do is go to www.scaresthatcare.org, and download our volunteer application. We do run background checks on all of our members, because we do work with kids. However, we never exclude anyone based on race, religion, creed, sexual preference, or any other factor. We do ask that you like things that are “spooky,” however! What has been your biggest SCARES THAT CARE! triumph? Presenting checks to the families that we have helped. There is no greater feeling in the world. What has been your lowest SCARES THAT CARE! moment? Having people assume that because we enjoy a certain genre of entertainment, that we are somehow all sick and twisted, and we don’t deserve their donations – or the respect – that some other charities enjoy. Heather Dorff Interview Growing up, were you a fan of horror movies? If so, which ones were your favourites? So this fact tends to piss off horror fans, but no, I wasn’t a huge fan of horror films growing up. Mainly because I found most horror movies didn’t ‘scare’ me enough as I thought they should. It wasn’t until I started actually acting in horror films that I began to grow an appreciation for them and the people who make them. Horror is not an easy genre to decide to dive into like people would think. Anyone can make a film of any genre, but horror fans can be hard to impress. The film has to be successful at doing a great many things: making people think, laugh, jump, scream, “no don’t go up those damn stairs,” and be genuinely
When did you know you wanted to be an actress (i.e., work in the industry)? For as long as I can remember. Films have always had a massive effect on me and my way of thinking, feeling, and my perceptions of the world. I always hoped that I would have a chance to instill the same amazing and life-changing experiences I have had watching films onto others. Acting is a scary but liberating experience. You have to think outside the box and push yourself into places you didn’t think you were able to go. I was a shy child growing up and I’d even say a tad anti-social due to being a bit awkward around people (probably because I was a computer/console gamer by 5). Acting 58
www.morpheustales.com When I take on something, I do it because I know I can give it 110 % and will be good at it. I still feel I need to learn a world of knowledge before I could take on a role of directing. If I decided to do it I would want to do it for the right film, one that I cared a great deal about, and would need to know I could make it amazing for my cast/crew and fans. Tell us about your short film What They Say. We’ve been extremely lucky in that What They Say has been well-received from critics, festivals, and fans alike thus far. Is it the best short film ever in the world of ever? No. It has many mistakes/plot holes that can happen when you have a 16-minute film and no money to make it. But it is an amazingly well-done representation of a micro budget (super micro... tiny... miniscule... non-existent/everyone practically worked for free kind of budget) short film. WTS – although super low budget - doesn’t look or sound it (Thanks, Jason Ssg, for the amazing sound design.). That alone is something you don’t see often. The film is beautifully shot (by our DP Nicole Klemens who just doesn’t get enough credit for how much the film is a success mainly because of her) and amazingly edited by Radek Michalik (who is equally as awesome). The crew involved with WTS is the sole reason it turned out as well as it did. We were lucky in that we had an extremely dedicated core group of people that busted their tails to make this film happen and continue to do so. I am just so thankful that it has, so far, reaped them some small reward for all their hard work. Hopefully only more good is to come.
has evolved me as a person more than I could even verbalize. I HAD to become outgoing, willing to take risks, and connect with people on a whole new level. I thought it would be ‘fun’ to be an actress. Turns out it is in fact fun but also a lot of hard work and exhausting at times, both physically and emotionally. When you put your heart into a film you risk getting it crushed. When it’s a success though, it’s the most rewarding experience out there. Besides acting, you’ve been a producer, writer, and held other behind-the-scenes positions. Anything else in the movie biz that you’d like to try? Right now, no. I’m extremely happy with the roles I have taken on and find them most rewarding and what I am ‘good’ at. Directing has been thrown out there here and there but I don’t think I’m ready for it.
What’s your favourite movie (already filmed) that you’ve been in? Why? 59
www.morpheustales.com production. Crazy problems like the sound being botched for the entire production, set lights and equipment being clearly visible in major scenes, among other things. The only way that film could be saved and completed at this point is if we record all the voices in a cartoon like fashion and somehow make the set lights look like lunar suns and rewrite the plot to be about some sort of surreal alien evasion on a far off planet. Ok, it’s not that bad... but it is… I want to state that I have worked with many of the same people from that film again and yielded fantastic results. It was just bad luck/poor planning I think that caused that particular film to explode.
Oh man. You’re trying to get me in trouble with this one. I will say I have honestly enjoyed pretty much every single thing I have filmed thus far. The people I have worked with have been utterly amazing, and I am lucky as a rabbit’s foot to have had the chance to work with the lot of them. But, to not be an ass and give you an actual answer, I truly enjoyed working on John Wesley Norton’s feature film Spades a great deal. It was my first ‘bigger’ feature film with a featured role and the cast/crew were just kick ass. They should start their own super hero team… seriously. Juan Riedinger is just such an amazing actor and talent it is impossible to not grow a semi-crush on him if you’re in the same room as him. Even the guys were flirting with him. LOL, I’m kidding – but seriously. John is just a GREAT director who made an amazing film. Besides, what girl doesn’t like being tied up and tossed around by a handsome guy for hours – even if the character he was playing was a psychotic, utterly disturbing, creepazoid.
Do you see yourself continuing to work in horror films, or would you like to predominately do other genres? I want to do it all as much as possible. I love horror, drama, action, thriller, fantasy, and scifi. My favourite genre is sci-fi though, and I’d love to do an epic Serenity-like film. That would be amazaballs. I also have a deep need to play an epic female assassin aka Lucy Liu in Kill Bill. Man. Dreams. We all have them!
What’s your least favourite? What problems can you cite which led to the project becoming an un-enjoyable work experience or less-than-stellar end product? OH WOW. You ARE trying to get me in trouble!
What do you think is the current state of horror, both mainstream and independent? I have a renewed faith in mainstream horror since watching Cabin in the Woods. Was that film not fantastic? I still can’t get over how utterly shocked I was at how amazing I felt after watching that film. I laughed my butt off, jumped a few times, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Joss Whedon is just amazing. Period.
Hmmm… we all have one or two or eight. I will say that the film I am most bummed about is one of the first films I ever did, Acceptance. It was never completed – and probably never will be – due to a ton of problems that became apparent post61
www.morpheustales.com Productions and Patrick Desmond – who I am also in talks with about another possible upcoming role. Cory Udler gave me an epic chance to be in his upcoming film, Ed Gein: DDS, which I am STOKED to be working on. Caisson Films Intrusive Behavior starring Jessica Cameron and myself is set to film in 2013. I am also beginning, slowly, with the core group of What They Say, to develop another short film with the same similar theme and feel as WTS based on a short story I also penned. Radek Michalik is currently developing the script for that. I will produce it, but have to find an amazing actor for the lead male role. The idea is that we plan to make one additional short film after that and sell the three as a feature-length DVD of shorts. Hopefully more news on that is soon to come. There is more... but I feel like I’ve already bored people enough! This magazine does a lot of interviews with horror authors and publishes a lot of horror fiction. Do you have a favourite horror author and/or book? Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (the entire collection – though Blackwood Farm was a hella lot of fun) and Justin Cronin’s The Passage – which is like a zombie, vampire, post-apocalyptic, Black Hawk Down, mixture of awesome. I would make a deal with the devil to be in the movie adaption of Justin’s book. It’s just so amazing. What do you look for in choosing future roles? I look for scripts I truly enjoy and want to see made happen. If I read a script and go ‘eh,’ then I know it’s not for me. This reverts back to my need to make films that leave a mark on people – even if it’s a blood-dripped gash. ;)
As for indie horror, I am extremely excited to see what the Midwest will be bringing to the table in the years ahead. We have a plethora of amazing talent with true dedication to the genre, so I hope it only brings us good things. What exciting projects are in store for you?
Yay! An easy question! I have a TON of great stuff coming up that I am extremely excited about! As I mentioned earlier, Tony Wash’s upcoming feature The Storm, where I play a roller derby, alien-fighting, party chick is going to be pretty awesome. A film that I can’t say a lot about other than the fact that it’s hands down one of the best scripts I have ever read and I have one of the two lead roles for, Pretty Infections, is currently in super pre-production and we are shooting a ‘teaser’ to help raise funds for the film. I have a starring role in Ron Fitzgerald’s upcoming film that is a mixture of live gothic illusion and horror. I have signed on to have a feature role in Deadly Ringer by the kings of horror, Muscle Wolf
How do you unwind after a long day on set? Unwind? Dude, I fall asleep in my horror blood and gore makeup right in my darn bed, much to my boyfriend’s displeasure. 62
www.morpheustales.com in a heartbeat – sleeping in a FEMA trailer with 12 people, showering at the local hospital due to lack of clean running water, hiding money under mattresses since there were no banks, and all.
Who has time for anything but sleep after filming for 14 – 16 hours!? When I have days off, I play LoL because I’m clearly unable to shake the gamer in me. I was addicted to WoW for longer than I want to admit.
Where can your fans go to learn more about you? I have a site, which I badly need to update: heatherdorff.com, and also the site for the Midwest indie film news show I produce/host: filmingroundmidtown.com, and of course there is always trusty ole’ Facebook: facebook.com/serenityow. You can find me at any of these convenient locations, open 24 hours, and now accepting work!
What I find VERY interesting about you is that you were a post-Hurricane Katrina volunteer. How and why did you get involved? The story behind this is long and not easy to explain at all especially via typing. The
Anything else you’d like to add? ZOMBIE BABIES!
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http://stores.lulu.com/morpheu stales super short edited version: The company I was working for was asking for volunteers to send there. I felt I had to go. They said it would be hard. They said it would be scary. They were right. But it was also one of the most amazing experiences of my life that I wish I could relive over and over again. I met some of the most amazing people ever during that journey. I’d do it all over again
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www.morpheustales.com Morpheus Tales #22 Review Supplement, October 2013. COPYRIGHT October 2013 Morpheus Tales Publishing, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Review can be used, in full or in part, for publicity purposes as long as Morpheus Tales Magazine is quoted as the source.