................................ ......................................................................... 3 VAMPIRE WARLORDS By Andy Remic ................................................................................................ CIDER MILL VAMPIRES By Alan Spencer ................................................................................................ ..................................................................... 3 DEAD BAD THINGS By Gary McMahon................................................................................................ ................................ ......................................................................... 4 Ask Mr. Horror By Jeremy C. Shipp ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ................................................... 5 THE END OF THE LINE Edited By Jonathan Oliver ................................................................................................ ........................................................ 6 THE OFFICE OF LOST AND FOUND By Vincent Holland-Keen Holland ................................................................ .................................................................. 8 Andy Remic Interview ................................................................ ................................................................................................ ........................................................................ 8 EVILUTION By Shaun Jeffrey ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ......................................................... 11 HELL’S DOCTOR By Lee F. Jordan ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................... 12 DARK WAR By Tim Waggoner ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ...................................................... 12 The Wendigo By Eric S. Brown ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ........................................................ 12 DESDAEMONA By Ben Macallan ................................................................................................................................ ................................ .................................................. 13 INTRICATE ENTANGLEMENT By Su Halfwerk................................................................................................ Halfwerk .......................................................... 14 FINAL DAYS By Gary Gibson ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ........................................................ 14 COWBOYS & ALIENS By Joan D. Vinge ................................................................................................ ................................ ...................................................................... 14 MISTIFICATION By Kaaron Warren ................................................................................................ ................................ .............................................................................. 15 SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL By Justin Gustainis ................................................................................................ ....................................................... 16 ONE BUCK HORROR (Issue 1) ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ...................................................... 16 AWAKENING By William Horwood ................................................................................................ ................................ .............................................................................. 16 Paul Kane Interview ................................................................ ................................................................................................ .......................................................................... 18 FROM SHADOWS & NIGHTMARES 2 ................................................................................................ ................................ ......................................................................... 23 THE CROWN OF THE CONQUEROR By Gav Thorpe ................................................................................................ ................................................. 23 THE HOLOCAUST OPERA By Mark Edward Hall................................................................................................ Hall ........................................................ 23 DEBRIS By Jo Anderton ................................................................................................................................ ................................ .................................................................. 25 Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones Marshall ................................................................................................ ................................................ 25 EGYPTIAN HEART By Kathryn Meyer-Griffith Griffith ................................................................................................ ............................................................ 26 ROIL By Trent Jamieson ................................................................................................................................ ................................ .................................................................. 27 NOT BEFORE BED By Craig Hallam ................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................................................. 27 Simon Marshall-Jones Interview ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ....................................................... 29 THE RECOLLECTION By Gareth L. Powell ................................................................................................ .................................................................. 32 THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW SF 24 Edited By Gardner Dozois ................................................................ ................................................ 33 SUPER ................................................................ ................................................................................................................................ .............................................................. 33 NOWHERE HALL By Cate Gardner ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ............................................... 33 LIFE SERIAL By Trevor Wright ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ...................................................... 33 REGICIDE By Nicholas Royle ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ......................................................... 34 HARD SPELL By Justin Gustainis ................................................................................................................................ ................................ ................................................... 34 Cat in My Brain: Why I’m Self-Publishing Publishing My Next Book By Alan Spencer ................................................................ .................................................. 35 DARKNESS FALLS: FOREVER TWILIGHT By Peter Crowther ................................................................ ................................................................. 36 THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS By Alden Bell ................................................................................................ ...................................................... 37 Kaylee Williams Interview By Trevor Wright ................................................................................................ .................................................................. 37 From The Catacombs By Jim Lesniak ................................................................................................ ................................ .............................................................................. 38 Edited By Stanley Riiks, Written By Adrian Brady, Eric S. Brown, Brown Georgina Bruce, Christopher S. Eley, Jim Lesniak, Stanley Riiks, C.M. C Saunders, Mark Turner, Sheri White, J. S. Watts and Trevor or Wright, Wr Proof-read By Sheri White, Craig Saunders, Samuell Diam Diamond. ©Morpheus Tales Oct. 2011
VAMPIRE WARLORDS By Andy Remic www.angryrobotbooks.com Andy Remic is a nasty genius who wants to kidnap you and take you for the ride of your life. It was a couple of years ago that I discovered Kell’s Legend in Forbidden Planet and bought it because I liked the cover, and the book was signed. It was about three months later that I bought another copy as my local Borders closed, I think it was half price. Little did I know at the time that the book was so worth buying twice. Kell’s Legend is the first book of this series, and it’s now one of my favourite books of all time. One of the most exciting, energetic and inspirational books I’ve ever read. Like the first Conan book I picked up at the age of fourteen. Like the first time I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This is a book that sticks with you, a character who is far from perfect, but all the better for it. A hero that you can love for his grumpiness as well as his courage and determination. The third and final part of Kell’s adventure has more excitement, more action, more energy. It’s difficult to convey the energy and passion that Remic has imbued his books with. I don’t get excited very often (just ask my girlfriend!), but reading these books had me grinning ear to ear, bouncing up and down like a little school boy needing to have a pee. If you’ve missed the first and the second books and want to dive into the third it’s very possible you’ll have a great time. But you’ll still be missing out. The first and second books are fabulously rich with drive, action and experience. Never have I been so riveted by a book as at the end of Kell’s Legend when I reached the final page, lying down in bed (where I do most of my reading), and I jumped up and down and screamed and shouted that I had to buy the second book (which wasn’t out at the time), and was left fidgety and nervous for several hours afterwards as I tried to calm down. The third book in the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles sees us back at the dramatic cliff-hanger (literally) of the second book, where the immortal Vampire Warlords are brought back from the Halls of Chaos by the mass genocide of the Vachine race
of Silva Valley by Graal and Kradek-ka. Myriam betrays Kell, Saark’s heart is ripped from his chest, and the Army of Iron, alongside the Harvesters, have taken over Falanor. Kell and Nianna grab up Saark’s body and head down a hole in the mountain of Hill Top, leaving the Vampire Warlords to start the destruction of the entire human race. The Warlords start by turning the humans into vampire slaves as they split Falanor between them, each taking a major city, corrupting it and turning the people into the undead. Kell cannot sit back and watch. He must fight, because that’s all he knows. Heading North, hoping to find something or someone that will help him, Kell manages to find the least-expected army, and must try to drive the Vampire Warlords and Graal’s Army of Iron from Falanor before every human being is killed. Ok, so now Kell is seemingly invincible, but Remic remedies this by making him all the more human emotionally, and filling in a rather distasteful back-story. The secret to these books is that Remic draws you in, he makes you feel, he tricks you, he hurts you, he draws you in further. Reading a Remic book is not like reading, it’s like playing the most immersive video-game, or watching the best film. You believe you are there, you feel every cut, every crash of steel, every heartbeat, every gasp of breath. The excitement comes from this interactive experience, which is beyond what other writers do. I urge you to read the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles. If you only pick up one fantasy book in your life you should read Kell’s Legend, and you will certainly pick up the Soul Stealers and Vampire Warlords. You won’t be able not to. Angry Robot should offer a money-back guarantee with Andy Remic’s books; their money would be perfectly safe. An amazing book in a truly outstanding fantasy series. I hope, I beg, I pray, I beseech Mr Remic to provide us with more tales of Kell. Books really don’t get much better than this. A thundering fantasy thriller. A rip-roaring action-adventure. A suitably exciting conclusion to an epic and massively entertaining series. By Stanley Riiks CIDER MILL VAMPIRES By Alan Spencer www.amazon.com/Cider-Mill-Vampiresebook/dp/B0059MQAOY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie= UTF8&qid=1314366982&sr=1-1
Cider Mill Vampires by Alan Spencer reads a lot like your typical slasher Movie. The blood is red, and there is a lot of it. Vats of it, to be exact. The violence is brutal and basic, and of a physical rather than psychological type. The monsters are real monsters, with little attempt to romanticize them or justify their actions. If you are looking for a story that presents the villains as anything other than beings willing to commit horrific acts in the name of survival, then Cider Mill Vampires probably isn’t for you. If you enjoy violence, gore, and some sexual content, then you might want to take a look. Spencer also has his own “interpretation” of vampires that sidesteps the standard beliefs. The vampire’s ability to dominate human beings remains intact though, and is presented from the onset. The head vampire, Ruden, is a thoroughly evil character that revels in his abilities and feels nothing but contempt for those whom he sees as inferiors – which is almost everyone, including those of his own kind. Most of the vampires in fact don’t generate any sort of sympathy with the reader, and seeing them destroyed won’t move you in any way other than toward a feeling of justification. In another book this could be a major problem, but in Cider Mill Vampires I believe that it was intentional. Probably to avoid the romantic angle between any of the vampires and anyone else except their own kind. Cider Mill Vampires is also a look into the author’s interpretation of the darker side of the human race. Not much psychology, but more the effects of indulging darker urges and the ease with which people are turned to even darker purposes. Ruden has little or no trouble bending the other characters to his will. This might be because most of the characters are halfway there from the beginning. It is a little surprising, however, to see the ease with which they are dominated. It would have been more agreeable to see the victims put up more of a struggle, but then again Cider Mill Vampires is a slasher story, after all. You might need a rain suit to read this one... all of that blood could leave terrible stains. By Charles D. Romans DEAD BAD THINGS By Gary McMahon www.angryrobotbooks.com Having been absolutely blown away by McMahon’s
truly harrowing Pretty Little Dead Things, I approached the second book in the Thomas Usher series with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Was it even possible for Dead Bad Things to come close to the darkness, despair and disturbing nature of one of the best horror novels ever? Expectations were high, as was the fear that this wouldn’t live up to its predecessor. Having only read Pretty Little Dead Things a few weeks ago, the dripping filth and utter darkness and depravity was still raw, the wounds in my memory of the chilling feel of the book still present...if they would ever disappear. How good was Pretty Little Dead Things? I feel scarred, as though I will never ever forget it. Like The Exorcist and The Silence of the Lambs (the books not the films) there are scenes which you can never erase, never remove, no matter how hard you scrub. Did I mention high expectation when returning to the second Thomas Usher novel? Fortunately this is a very different book. Although this doesn’t have the depth of PLDT it certainly is much broader and this scope makes it feel very different. This is much more of a mystery story, along with revenge, supernatural entities, brutal serial murders, ghosts of many kinds and much more. Although Thomas Usher, communicator with the dead, is present and a major factor in the novel, he share protagonist duties with Sarah Doherty, a second generation cop, trying to follow in the footsteps of her abusive “hero-cop” father. When Sarah and her partner find a young boy with his skull drilled into, and as Sarah struggles with the death of her father, Usher is pulled back from hiding in London to Leeds. Meanwhile Trevor the brotherabuser, and failed TV-psychic, is seeking a replacement for his childhood lover, and hoping for revenge on the man who ruined him: Usher. Again the supernatural elements in the novel raise the stakes, before the finale the tension is built up until you fear the world might be destroyed. Unfortunately the climax is a little weak here, but possibly this has more to do with the epicproportions of the build up. Only world devastation might have managed to deliver. That’s not to say the climax isn’t entertaining, it most definitely is, and apart from things falling into place quite shockingly, it all makes sense, and serves to make you grin at McMahon’s ingenuity, and dare I say it, genius. Having to come up with a sequel to such a definitive novel as Pretty Little Dead Things would be hard enough, having to come up with a novel that encompasses the spirit of the first book, whilst moving the story forward and using the same main character must have been a bloody nightmare. Fortunately for us McMahon was up to the task,
producing a story that is a bloody hideous nightmare. This book, more than PLDT, shows McMahon’s diverse skill set. Not only can he write incredibly atmospheric, disturbing fiction, here we get a twisted mystery, shockingly brutal violence, and more disturbing supernatural shenanigans and a depressingly realistic look at the depravity of humanity. McMahon is a genius of horror. He is incomparable. McMahon writes bloody good fiction. The Thomas Usher novels (and don’t let this be the last!) are undeniably horror at it’s most revealing and disturbing. Human horror does not get much better than this. By Stanley Riiks Ask Mr. Horror By Jeremy C. Shipp Dear Mr. Horror, Hello my name Gork and me have big problem. Me love making humans scream and bleed and wheeze, but sometimes after humans die, angry mob attack me with pointy things. This really hurt my feelings. What me do? Gentle Reader, Who among us doesn’t enjoy a bit of schadenfreude from time to time? Instead of inflicting injury on the innocents yourself, why not watch a movie instead? This is a great way to bask in human suffering without running the risk of landing yourself in monster jail. Here are 50 dark films that I recommend watching before you die: 1. Oldboy 2. The Devil’s Backbone 3. Ichi the Killer 4. The Orphanage 5. A Tale of Two Sisters 6. The Funhouse 7. Das Experiment 8. Ringu 9. Let the Right One In 10. Audition 11. Shutter 12. Bio Zombie 13. Burn, Witch, Burn 14. Battle Royale 15. May 16. Audition 17. Perfect Blue
18. The Ring 19. Tetsuo 2 20. Cube 21. Audrey Rose 22. The Descent 23. Ju-on: The Grudge 24. Suspiria 25. Pan’s Labyrinth 26. The Host 27. The Eye 2 28. Mulholland Drive 29. Phone 30. Gozu 31. Dark City 32. Black Swan 33. Thirst 34. Psycho 35. Carnival of Souls 36. Dead Alive 37. Princess Mononoke 38. Burnt Offerings 39. Brazil 40. Memento 41. Cannibal! The Musical 42. Ravenous 43. Happiness of the Katakuris 44. Bug 45. The Legend of Hell House 46. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust 47. Eraserhead 48. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra 49. Delicatessen 50. Grave of the Fireflies ### Dear Mr. Horror, So, I’ve been invited to my best friend’s wedding. I don’t like my Bob’s fiancée very much, but still, I want to go and show my support. The problem is, I died in my sleep four years ago, and that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that when I was alive, I always slept in the nude. So now I’m stuck in the buff for the rest of eternity, and I can’t go to my best friend’s wedding like this. Can I? Gentle Reader, Clothing exists to cover naked flesh, and you, gentle reader, have none of that. My recommendation would be to go to the wedding, and wave your ectoplasmic nudist flag high. Bob will understand that you can’t dress for the occasion. And if he gives you any crap, you can always jump out at him later
when he’s looking in a mirror. That’ll show him.
I’m thinking about writing a horror story, but I’m afraid that by doing so, my soul will fall out, and I’ll end up a dead-eyed sociopath with a penchant for lies and graphic violence. Is there any chance of this happening? If not, do you have any tips for new writers?
products. These toxics may cause a wide range of health problems such as infertility and cancer. Therefore, I have begun to switch over to glass contains. I am primarily using Mason canning jars, because I was able to purchase them at my neighbour’s yard sale for 10 cents each. To make a long story short, my reorganization project was interrupted by my cousin Carl, who was, prior to this encounter, slain in the Zombie War. My conundrum lies in the fact that I am a devout vegetarian, and I am unsure as to what to eat now that I am an Undead American.
I can only speak from personal experience, but I’ve found horror writers to be, on the whole, nice as kittens. Well, kittens with twisted imaginations, anyway.
### Dear Mr. Horror,
I write horror, not because I like the horrors I’m writing about, but because I don’t. I believe that shining a light on the evil of our world takes some of the power away from that evil. Also, it’s just plain fun writing about monsters and guts and stuff. Here are some tips for new writers: 1: Write from your heart, your head, your gut, your spleen. Write from anywhere but your appendix, because the appendix is illiterate. 2. Make sure that what you write entertains and interests you, because if it doesn’t, it won’t entertain and interest anyone else. 3. Check out sites like ralan.com and duotrope.com. 4. Follow submission guidelines, exactly. 5. Learn how to write a professional cover letter. 6. Write at least a little bit every day. 7. Experiment with your style and write outside your box. Don’t let fear of the unknown prevent you from developing your own unique voice. 8. Do not fear rejection letters. Failure is a big part of success. Just look at babies. They have to fall a lot in order to walk, and so do you. ### Dear Mr. Horror, I know you are a busy man, and I hate to bother you, but I find myself in a conundrum, and I do not know where else to turn. Two days ago, I was in my cottage-style kitchen, reorganizing my kitchen storage system. My cousin Carl recently sent me an article via e-mail that exposes the dangers of PVC and BPA, which are found in various plastic
If you have a question for Mr. Horror, contact him at chrismatrix(at)yahoo(dot)com. Please write “Question for Mr. Horror” in the subject line of your email. THE END OF THE LINE Edited By Jonathan Oliver www.solarisbooks.com Getting together a book of tales of terror based on the underground, as any London commuter might expect, shouldn’t be too difficult. But the stories in this book aren’t limited to people missing their trains, forgetting your Oyster card or being squeezed into someone’s stinking armpit, as horrible as that is. Oliver has gathered together some of the topflight of British horror, including Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, Gary McMahon, Michael Marshall Smith, Adam Nevill, Conrad Williams, Nicholas Royle, Joel Lane, and many more. Nineteen writers have penned a story for this fabulously dark collection. The editor has allowed the writers to stretch the underground theme, taking us to tin mines in Cornwall, New York’s and Paris’ Metros and even Antarctica! This is an original and fearsome collection. The quality of the stories and the diversity of themes and settings, although the majority are set in England, is impressive. The British Fantasy Society have seen fit to nominate the collection for an award, and it’s well deserving. One of the best horror collections available. Chillingly real, and hopelessly scary. My trips on the tube will ever be the same again! By Adrian Brady
THE OFFICE OF LOST AND FOUND By Vincent Holland-Keen www.anarchy-books.com It’s not often you pick up a book and think to yourself the writer is either insane or a genius within the first five pages. You see, this book is strange. I like strange, strange for me is pretty normal. I’ve been reading fantasy, sf and horror for twenty-odd years. Strange is my bread and butter. And yet, this novel is very, very strange. It’s not often a book comes along that completely throws me, and to a certain extent that’s a good thing. The first bizarro fiction I read (Jeremy Shipp) made me think I’d been reading with my eyes closed; it made normal fantasy look meek and mild. It turned reality on its head, it messed with how you think and what you think. It’s disturbing in its lack of reality. And that’s what this book does too. Within the first few pages we’re introduced to Locke, who’s in charge of the finding part of the Office of Lost and Found, and Veronica, who has killed her husband and needs to find him. When Locke refuses to help, Veronica shoots him in the head. Only then does Locke decide he’ll help Veronica find her dead husband. This starts the first chapter, and things just get weirder and stranger as the book continues. The first few chapters read like interwoven short stories, and Holland-Keen admits at the back of the book that the first chapter was written as such. This makes for an interesting experiment in novel writing. On some levels it works: the first chapter is immediate, quick, self-contained, but in others it doesn’t. It feels independent, there’s no continued theme or tension, the links between the stories are too slight to give it the impact or immersion of a novel. The fact that one of the main characters dies and comes back to life with no explanation, and that there are so many things going on that are unexplained (you can understand
Veronica’s frustration as Locke tells her once again that it “just is”), can sometimes make you want to throttle the writer. And sometimes what is explained doesn’t make any sense, but you have to go with the flow. The craziness is part of the attraction. And the book does improve the further into it you get. The first two or three chapters have this short story feel to them as Locke, Veronica and Lafarge (in charge of the losing part of the Office) go around discovering all the lost things. All nice and fairly easy, despite the reality-warping of it all. Offices that move, doors that open to other realities, monsters that are real, nightmares that come alive... You may think you do, but you really have no idea. I read the book, and I’m still not sure I do! The first part of the book takes up the majority of the nearly seven hundred pages, and it’s epic. End of the world scenarios, taking elements from all the previous stories, and beautifully weaving them into a madness of unending proportions. I doubt you have ever read anything like it, or will again. It’s a spectacular insanity, a brilliant non-sense, but perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book. The failures of this book are clearly outweighed by the demented genius of HollandKeen’s world. Be patient, be careful, and go with it. Let the madness flow over you and be absorbed by it, and you’ll enjoy your strange visit to the Office of Lost and Found. By Stanley Riiks Andy Remic Interview What inspired you to start writing? Long journeys to my father’s homeland of Yugoslavia when I was a child got me into reading a lot, and also, after reading Enid Blyton – that was it! I wanted to write adventure stories. How did you go about first getting your work published? I wrote a comedy fantasy novel in 1987, when I was 16. It was rubbish. I sent it to some publishers. They also thought it was rubbish. Thus began a long cycle of sending novels out to publishers and agents until an agent took me on in 1996, the Dorian Literary Agency. It still
took a few years, but in 2001 we struck a deal with Orbit for my first published novel, SPIRAL, which was published in 2003 (and is out as an ebook on 15th September 2011, no less). What other writers have influenced you? David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, Michael Moorcock, Steve King, Jim Herbert, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell... I could go on. For a very long time. Who are your favourite authors and favourite books? David Gemmell for fantasy, Iain Banks for SF, whatever grabs my fancy for mainstream. What are your other influences? Spectrum computer games, mountain climbing, drinking whiskey.
How do you put a book together, do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter? I always plan, at least to halfway. And I always know, roughly, the ending. But I’m not averse to changing the whole thing if it veers off in a different direction – which often happens. Those damn characters have minds of their own, boy. If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be? Never give up. Which I never did (stubborn or stupid, I am). But still, it’s good advice. I had no contacts in the publishing industry, and was picked from the slush-pile. Oh yes – you could also go to conventions, get drunk, and talk to writers and publishers there. Wish I’d done that sooner. :-)
Where do you get your inspiration? Drinking whiskey, Spectrum computer games, mountain climbing. You’ve written SF and fantasy series, as well as horror novels. Which do you prefer and why? I just write books, and enjoy different genres for different reasons. If it’s been a bad year, and I feel particularly grim and have dealt with a lot of maggots, I tend to write horror or bloody nasty fantasy horror – like Kell’s Legend, my first Clockwork Vampire novel. If it’s been a good year, a happy bouncy time, then I’ll write a children’s book. I have a few of my children’s books eventually coming out under my own publishing label, ANARCHY BOOKS (www.anarchy-books.com). You are well known for your action-packed novels, how did you develop your writing style? Just by practise. If I look back over older works, I can see the seeds of my style there – but quite simply it develops by constantly writing and enjoying writing. Thus you progress and find your own voice. What is your writing day like? Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? Having two young kids, a part-time teaching job, a new big house with a garden that was abandoned for 10 years, and my own publishing company – hell, I write whenever I can grab an hour at the keyboard. I like writing to candles and classical music sometimes. I get that involved I can write almost anywhere; even in a pub.
Your Clockwork Vampire trilogy is a mixture of genre, featuring elements of SF, fantasy and horror. Can you tell us about that? I’d wanted to write fantasy for quite a long, but was locked into contracts for SF. When Angry Robot asked me to write for them, I said there was one condition – that I write bloody nasty fantasy books. Thus, Kell’s Legend, Soul Stealers and Vampire Warlords were born, a series I’d wanted to write for well over a decade. They were an absolute joy to write. Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? I used to read all reviews, and I used to get ecstatic/pissed off by said reviews; I think I made a few reviewers laugh (I offered to show one my chainsaw, although couldn’t promise how many fingers he’d leave with). Now though, I’ve had that many good reviews it matters little. I do read reviews on blogs and online, but no longer go actively searching for them. I was very naive to begin with. Critics have a right to voice their
opinions, and it took me a while to realise my work was now in the public domain, and that’s just the way it is. I don’t mind any longer. In fact, one unbelievably bad review of Kell’s Legend (written by Jared Shurin of Pornokitsch) made me boil – but it also made me laugh, it was so funny and cleverly written. Then I met the guy, and we had a good chat, and get along very well now. I even used one of his phrases in my next novel, Cloneworld. Some of the Amazon reviews can be really annoying, because they’re written by idiots on crack. So I don’t bother reading Amazon stuff anymore; everybody should be allowed a voice, but some should be strangled before they are allowed to use it. [Amusing anecdote: my mate Ian Graham, author of Monument, was stalked via Amazon reviews by “The Texas Commie Stabber” who wished to “rub soap into Ian’s body in the shower” – I shit you not]. Obviously, Ian was thrilled by these Amazon-based revelations. And thus, I rest my case. What book are you reading now? Just started Dead Bad Things by Gary McMahon, and I’m reading Ultramassive by Colin Harvey, which he sent me a week before he died for possible publication at Anarchy Books. I’m still stunned by Colin’s sudden death. He was such a lovely guy!! What is your proudest moment as a writer? Holding my first book, SPIRAL, in my trembling hands, hot off the press, then seeing it advertised on train advertising boards across the entirety of the UK. That was cool. And getting reviewed in The Guardian and The Financial Times are also highlights. Are you disappointed with any of your work when you look back on it? No. :-) There’s always bits you can rework and rewrite and tweak, because with every novel you learn something new and refine your skills and advance as a writer. However, you’ve got to accept that with each project you were at a certain “stage” of your writer’s learning curve, and there’s no point whining about what’s gone by.
You’ve had three traditionally published novels out this year already, Vampire Warlords, Hardcore, and Cloneworld. And an ebook novel, Serial Killers Incorporated. Where do you find the time? Are you a writing machine? It looks that way, doesn’t it? Haha. Vampire Warlords was written in four months (of hectic fulltime writing, I might add, to meet a very tight deadline). Hardcore was written the year before, and Cloneworld was finished earlier this year. Serial Killers Incorporated [to see the film promo check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXANP6GMzRQ]
was written a couple of years back, just for my own pleasure and without a contract, and then other stuff got in the way and it took me a while to get round finishing it and doing a proper edit. So it looks like my output is stunning, when really it isn’t. It’s all down to publisher schedules and release dates. :-) Do you write for a particular audience, or for yourself? I write for myself. I write what I love to read. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Playing with my little boy cubs, cycling, mountain climbing, computer gaming (I love the Half -Life series/ I love the storytelling contained therein). Have you ever tried your hand at other types of fiction, poetry, or different medias, TV or film, etc? I gag on poetry. I cannot write it to save my life. I am the worst poet on the planet. I swear! I’ve written a film called GEHENNA, and I’m in the process of making it with some friends. We’ve filmed about half so far, but cash and time have both dried up at the moment. We will finish it though... maybe in another year. GEHENNA... now that’s a grim tale. [Film trailer at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-GIEjLyZT8] You’ve started Anarchy Books, an ebook publisher (which launched with Serial Killers Incorporated); can you tell us about that project? I had a couple of my own novels which didn’t fit into my traditional genre remit, and hadn’t been written for any specific publisher or contract - so I thought, sod-it, I’ll publish them myself. Then I
talked to quite a few fellow writers and friends, and some expressed an interest in my publishing their titles as ebooks as well – hence I’m now working with James Lovegrove, Gary McMahon, Eric Brown, Neal Asher, Guy N. Smith (I’m still dazed by that one) and many other brilliant writers and it’s so much fun it’s untrue! A hell of a lot of work, but each moment is a joy – really makes life interesting! It’s also good to publish a few “unknown” writers like Dan Henk (I’m publishing his The Black Seas of Infinity in a few months), Young Punks by Paolo Sedazzari, about three punk lads growing up in London, and Fynoderee by Alex Caine Duncan, a gentle, rolling beautiful fantasy novel set in and around a mythically shrouded Isle of Man. You can see more at www.anarchy-books.com. What parts of being a writer do you like best? And least? Best – the actual writing. Candles. Whiskey. Playing God. Worst – the money. Haha. Do you get writers block? No. Never. If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? I’d love to meet my dad again. More than you could ever believe. Which do you prefer writing/reading, short stories or novels? Novels. I do like short stories, but I enjoy the longer experience. I like to live with the characters through their exploits, suffer with them, celebrate with them. Short stories are over too fast. This year you’ve had books published by Angry Robot Books, Solaris and Anarchy Books. Can you tell us why that is? Just the way contracts have panned out, really. And it’s good to work with different editors – keeps you on your toes as a writer. I have another novel to write for Solaris, Toxicity, and then it’s down to my agent John Jarrold to sort me out some new deals. :-) We’ve just been going over a few different ideas and pitches, but there’s no panic. I have a few incredible ideas lined up for the future, that’s for sure!! What are you working on now? Just finished the final edit on SIM (published by Anarchy Books on 26th August), then straight on to Toxicity for Solaris Books. David Thomas-Moore, my editor at Solaris, is currently doing the copy-edit
on Theme Planet, so I’m sure I’ll have a bit of tidying and tweaking to do there – after all, he’s the King of the Comma. ;-) Do you have any advice for other writers? Stick at it. Edit your work over and over, polishing until it shines. And as Steve King says, “omit needless words”. Fine advice from Da Boss. What scares you? Deadlines. Senior Management expanding their CVs. Heights (which is why I go up mountains). What makes a good story? Interesting characters, original realistic dialogue.
Cheers!! Andy Remic. August 2011. EVILUTION By Shaun Jeffrey www.smashwords.com/books/view/46855 Chase Black is at the end of her rope - no job, a crappy apartment, and she hasn’t heard from her boyfriend in weeks. One day she receives a letter in the mail telling her she’s won a contest, a contest Chase doesn’t remember entering. But she can’t resist the prize - a house in the idyllic town of Paradise, where she must live for one year. Chase and her friend Jane are flown to the town, which is surrounded by a thick fog and can’t be entered any other way except by helicopter. At first Chase likes the house and the little town, but then odd things start happening. Her friend Jane disappears, and although the man in charge of the contest, Mr. Moon, assures her that Jane was flown back home by helicopter, Chase can’t help but be suspicious. As she meets the townspeople, she becomes uneasy by their odd behaviors. She also sees shapes moving in the fog that scare her. Chase comes to realize that she’s a prisoner in the town when her pleas to go home are dismissed by Mr. Moon. And when she learns she’s pregnant, she discovers a sinister plan that involves her unborn child. Evilution is a chilling look at the dangers of engineering food and drink in order to cure society’s ills. Shaun Jeffrey has done an excellent job of portraying a decaying town whose citizens are deteriorating mentally day after day. The townspeople hurt each other, and sometimes try to kill, often succeeding.
Chase realizes her only help may come from the town doctor, Adam. But can she really trust him with her life and that of her unborn child’s? Shaun Jeffrey has woven a tale full of suspense and creepy atmosphere. There is a surreal feeling throughout the story; you can tell something is “off”, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You just get a few glimpses here and there of unusual things happening. Evilution is a fantastic story that keeps you guessing the entire time. As Chase unravels the mystery of Paradise, you hope that she is able to get away with her life, as well as her child’s. Even though that child may turn out to be a monster. Shaun Jeffrey is an author to watch in the new generation of horror writers now on the scene. By Sheri White HELL’S DOCTOR By Lee F. Jordan www.blackrosewriting.com In the city of Hell, Mack Teacher is a private detective. When he meets Randi and her mother, it is the start of his strangest case yet. Also, the most harrowing. But Teacher knows about terror, that’s why he hung himself. But Teacher is not prepared for this. Randi’s mother is a ghost, and she wants him to find the Black Rose. Teacher, along with Byron, his assistant, must travel the depths of hell to find the Black Rose, which offers a hideous opportunity to explore the environs and meet some of the citizens of hell along the way, including several serial killers. This hellish fantasy horror novel is at times brutal, and terrifyingly nasty. Clever use of characters and setting the book in the world of hell makes you expect that, and those looking for extreme horror will not be disappointed. A disturbing and imaginative tale of terror. This should come with a public health warning. Brilliantly nasty. By Adrian Brady DARK WAR By Tim Waggoner www.angryrobotbooks.com The third book in the series sees our zombie detective and his pregnant half-vampire wife in an alternative version of Nekropolis (the city of the Darkfolk, where vampires, werefolk, ghosts, wizards and witches, demons and all sorts of strange and mysterious creatures live) where everyone is infected with the Hyde disease, turning even the most mild-mannered of demon into raving
psychopaths. An action-packed start that unfortunately fades, being overwhelmed by the data-dumps we’re used to from Waggoner. The first hundred pages, apart from the brief visit to the Hyde-riddled version of Nekropolis, is mostly a rehash of what’s happened in the first two books. Nice if you’ve not read them, a chore if you have. An attack by one of the five ruling darklords on another is just the beginning as the retaliations begin and a war is in the offing. Ritcher has to find out who is kidnapping the Arcane (magically gifted) to stop Nekropolis being torn apart, quite literally. Now anyone expecting an epic battle between demons/vampires/arcane is unfortunately going to be disappointed. The tension builds well, all the elements are present and correct and yet Waggoner doesn’t give us the battle the whole book’s been leading up to. There’s barely a fight at all. The weak ending leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The city of Nekropolis is such a good idea that it still manages to be fun, despite the shine wearing a little thin in this third outing. Ritcher is a great character, but the way everything is so easy for him smacks of poor plotting, he just happens to have whatever he needs at any given situation in his pocket? Really? Snap. What’s that? That’s my suspension of disbelief being stretched too far. Despite its problems, I still found myself enjoy this. Data-dumps, rehashing of the past novels, damp-squib of an ending, but it’s still pretty good fun. The world of Nekropolis that Waggoner has created is unparalleled. I just hope it gets the novel is deserves at some point. By Stanley Riiks The Wendigo By Eric S. Brown When one thinks of Marvel Comics, one usually thinks of webslingers, cosmic powered heroes, and mutants. Many folks don’t these days likely don’t realize that Marvel Comics is also home to a wide array of monsters as well. The giant dragon, Fin Fang Foom, walks across the mountains of China. A humanoid creature composed of mud and muck, known as the Man-Thing, guards the nexus of all realities in the swamps of the Everglades. The Great Beasts, similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s creations, slumber in Canada. But perhaps, Marvel’s best known Marvel, or at least one of their coolest, is the Wendigo. The Wendigo in Marvel’s version is a snarling, Hulk level monster with an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
Marvel’s Wendigo ain’t no pushover either. He can lift around 100 tons. His skin is so thick, he can shrug off high caliber bullets. The beast has a healing factor as good if not better than Wolverine’s. It has razor sharp claws capable of slashing through metal or even the skin of the Hulk. The Wendigo first appeared in Hulk # 162 but the Hulk is far from the only hero to face off with this white furred killer. Spiderman, She-Hulk and her squad of Hulk Busters (in the period leading up to World War Hulk), Sasquatch, and many others stood against it as well. For me, the two definitive Wendigo tales from Marvel were Uncanny X-men # 140 and Hulk # 272. The first of these two stories featured Wolverine in Canada once more, accompanied by Nightcrawler. The two X-men encounter three members of Alpha Flight and all of them unite to do battle with the beast. Aside from the beautiful art of this tale, it’s interesting to see two beings like Wolverine and the Wendigo with such insane healing factors go head to head. The five heroes lacked the sheer power of the Hulk and it was a rough and bloody battle in which the reader actually worried about the heroes’ lives. The second tale features Sasquatch, another member of Alpha Flight, teaming up with the Hulk himself to stop the beast. What makes it special, beyond the Earth shaking duel between three such powerhouses, is the scenes of Sasquatch finding a house full of hung up, partially eaten, and disemboweled humans the Wendigo has tucked away for a later snack. This story has many features of a true horror tale in spite of being in the pages of a Hulk comic. Some other odd and memorable encounters include between monsters with Werewolf by Night in Marvel Comics Presents and an eerie stalking of Spiderman in New York during a freak blizzard. Another wicked cool and strange Wendigo fact from the Earth X universe is that in that world Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, is bitten by a Wendigo and an endless of army of the beast is unleashed upon the world. The Wendigo has even made at least two television appearances in cartoon form in episodes of “The Incredible Hulk” and “Wolverine and the X-men“. The Wendigo remains a player in the Marvel Universe and it was even recently revealed that is many more than one of the monsters lurking in the Canadian woods. Red Hulk came across and fought an entire pack of them. The pack of them go on to invade Las Vegas. No joke. The Wendigo has built up a kind of cult following as character itself over the years. Though I don’t think he will ever have a title to himself, horror or not, I expect we’ll see his
snarling face and here the cry “Wendigo!” again soon enough.
DESDAEMONA By Ben Macallan www.solarisbooks.com Jordan is a runaway. He helps other kids find their way back home, but when he meets Desdaemona he is sucked into a strange world, a non-human world, a world he may wish he never discovered. Chaz Brenchley is a well known writer in the horror field who writes under several pseudonyms, Ben Macallan being one of them, and also the name of a character in a series of fantasy books. Now Macallan is the writer of urban fantasy, as Brenchley cashes in on the current vogue for vampires and werewolves and other darkfolk or nonhumans, carefully marrying reality with fantasy in this interesting take on the detective novel. The world Brenchley/Macallan creates is interesting, an underworld of fantasy, hidden just out of reach of most mortals. But where the book excels is its characters, both Jordan and Desdaemona is brilliantly captured, and help move the story along with a deft human touch. Well written and cleverly rendered,
Macallan’s world is one that I would like to explore further. By Adrian Brady INTRICATE ENTANGLEMENT By Su Halfwerk www.su-halfwerk.com The title of this novel makes it sound like one of those straight-to-DVD erotic thrillers gathering dust in the bargain bin of your local Blockbuster, but don't let that put you off. What we actually get from Intricate Entanglement is a tightly-woven psychological horror-thriller comprised of several linked vignettes set in a secluded mental asylum where a reporter named Doug Pinkham travels to research the death of a cop, who was apparently a victim of Spontaneous Human Combustion. At the asylum the reporter learns about some of the patients, or does he? My favourite story-within-a-story is Odd, a creepy, claustrophobic affair that gives us a little too much insight into the mind of a bored, vengeful housewife. As the scenes are played out the reader is pulled farther and farther into the abyss of insanity where nothing is really what it seems. Just when you think you know what's going on, Halfwerk throws a vicious curve ball to keep the reader guessing right till the very end. By C.M. Saunders FINAL DAYS By Gary Gibson www.panmacmillan.com Good SF is filled with good ideas. Earth apocalypse. Time travel. Worm holes. Human space colonies. Aliens. All of them are rammed into Gary Gibson’s Final Days. Some amazing ideas in here, and while there’s nothing new, it’s all put together and polished to really shine. This ensemble novel starts with the future exploration of an alien artefact that gets the heart racing. Information found in the future shows the Earth being destroyed. What follows is a desperate search for the cause of the coming catastrophe in a race against time to stop it, and outrun the inevitable end of Earth. Part detective novel, part chase novel, this is a clever and poignant future (2235) novel that had
enough SF to make the story work, but doesn’t overwhelm with science. Although there are quite a few characters and story-lines going on, it never becomes too much, and every story-line leads nicely towards a conclusion that is satisfyingly action-packed. Despite all that’s going on, Gibson does well to not give in to the typical lack of characterisation in many SF novels, particularly with Saul, and gives them a humanity that helps elevate this beyond the average. An easy SF novel to read, a nice welcoming feel to Gibson’s writing should allow even non-SF readers to enjoy it. This novel reminds me of Peter F. Hamilton’s epic trilogies and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion quartet, but on a smaller scale, which is definitely a good thing. This is the first in a series, and with such a great start it’ll be exciting and entertaining to find out what Gibson has in store next. An action-packed, investigative, apocalyptic novel. SF doesn’t have to be hard to be fun. The start of an epic and brilliant series. By Stanley Riiks COWBOYS & ALIENS By Joan D. Vinge www.panmacmillan.com Books based on screen-plays and tie-in novels are often overlooked by true SF fans as cheap cash-ins. Often they are just that. Another way to wring a few pounds out of the gullible public swept up in the frenzy of excitement surrounding of a film launch. But sometimes the publishers involved don’t get the usual hacks to do a writing-by-numbers job, sometimes they actually get someone who can write. Thankfully, with Cowboys & Aliens, Pan Macmillan has brought in veteran SF writer Joan D. Vinge to pen the novel based on the screenplay. Vinge is an award-winning writer with a string of accolades to her name. Despite the obvious constrains, Vinge does a fantastic job of penning the novel version of a simple, but entertaining story. When a stranger turns up in the town of Absolution he finds himself unwelcome. He’s lost his memory, and the shackle around his wrist is the only clue to his identity. Then the townsfolk start being kidnapped by aliens.
The stranger slowly begins to realise who he is and must bring together his own small army to help destroy the aliens. Vinge imbues the story with a great deal of subtlety, and the action-packed thriller that the film will no doubt be does the rest. This was never going to be an amazingly insightful or idea-packed novel. But it’s very entertaining, it’s one of the best tie-in novels out there, and Vinge does a great job of bringing the characters to life. A marvellous novelisation that entices you in and makes you want to see the film! By Adrian Brady MISTIFICATION By Kaaron Warren www.angryrobotbooks.com “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” So said T.S. Eliot, in his poem “Burnt Norton”. And so says Marvo Mee, the hero of Kaaron Warren’s latest novel, Mistification. He is a stage magician with real magical powers – and his job is to protect us from seeing the truth about our world. Marvo Mee is born in mysterious circumstances. He spends the first years of his life hiding with his grandmother in a small attic of a large house, where he must never raise his voice above a whisper for fear of being caught by the violent army of men who have commandeered the place. Marvo learns about the world from his grandmother’s stories, and from watching television with the sound turned off. His only contact with the outside is when he sneaks out of the room to steal food, and to spy on the men who live in the house. When he finds a child’s magic kit, he obsessively teaches himself to perform tricks and sleights of hand. But Marvo also has real magic powers, handed down through generations of his family, in the form of a mist that can be manipulated to create illusion and deception. When his grandmother dies, Marvo is forced to leave the room and make his own way in the world, with the help of the mist to keep him safe. At the age of thirteen, he learns that he is one of a handful of true magicians who are responsible for keeping the horrors of the world hidden from full view. It never really becomes clear what is at stake here – what would happen if humans saw things the way they really are, without illusion? Nonetheless, Marvo takes on this responsibility wholeheartedly. He meets his life partner, Andra, during his brief committal to a mental hospital. She also seems to have magical powers of healing, although her stories about herself never quite add up. Together, Marvo
and Andra develop a phenomenal stage routine – a way for Marvo to connect with people without exposing himself as the true magician he is. In his search to understand his power and its attendant responsibilities, Marvo develops an obsession with stories, which he collects from everyone he meets. He pays for stories by bestowing powerful illusions upon the tellers, illusions which often seem somewhat morally dubious, but which the magician believes are necessary in order to keep hope alive in the world. It is this collection of stories that forms the greater part of the book. In fact, after the beautifully strange and austere beginning, Marvo’s own story takes a back seat, and the novel morphs into something quite different – something more like a collage than a story. Several kinds of narrative are represented in the book, from quirky vignettes, through poems, rhymes and bawdy songs, to anecdotes and even explanations of simple magic tricks. Part compendium of magic, part reference work on the use of herbs and amulets in healing, part mythological history; the book also contains recipes for asparagus and bouillabaisse, a brief history of suicide, religious debate, dream interpretations, puzzles and riddles. All this comes complete with footnotes and extensive appendices, giving the impression at times that you are reading a rather odd sort of encyclopaedia, rather than a novel. Without question, this is delightful and intriguing, but the novel’s own narrative is soon lost in the melange of competing voices. Marvo and Andra’s story becomes a frame for an eclectic collection of pieces that themselves do not appear to connect or support any kind of central theme. They are like myriad shards of a broken mirror, reflecting only fragments, and impossible to piece together. The voices of the storytellers are indistinguishable from one another, and even Marvo and Andra have little depth as characters, despite their oddities and unique ways of seeing the world. In place of a character’s journey, we have several snapshots of other lives, none of them whole, all of them illusory in some way. There are no universal answers, no themes, only moment after moment of illusion, linked by Marvo and Andra’s fragile life together. Their struggles have little emotional resonance, simply because the book is constantly flitting from story to story, never pulling us down into its heart. And at its heart, this is a book about stories: what they are and what they do. The novel describes many of the ways in which stories act: as a means of telling the truth, as a form of escape, as a way for people to connect, as messages of hope and love, as education and instruction, and as a way to say the
unsayable. Yet ironically, it fails to deliver the experience of story that its characters so fervently believe in, instead providing us with something more akin to a collection of found tales or a scrapbook. The elements of belief, suspense, emotional engagement and revelation, which Marvo knows are necessary to create a perfect magic trick are, unfortunately, the missing ingredients in this novel. Kaaron Warren is a prodigiously gifted writer, and her fluent, beautiful prose is one of the saving graces of the book. She has created a world full of private stories, bizarre magical details, and odd vignettes – a strange mixed-up kind of a book which, like all her writing, is highly original. Readers hoping to find a rip-roaring urban fantasy story, however, may well be disappointed. By Georgina Bruce SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL By Justin Gustainis www.solarisbooks.com When a demon takes over the body of Senator Howard Stark, US presidential candidate, and his opponents begin to mysteriously drop out or die, it looks like hell might come to Earth. That simple premise sees your classic battle of good (Quincey Morris and Libby Chastain) verses evil (Stark and his entourage of Secret Service and those of a more hellish nature). The occult investigator (Morris) and Libby (a white witch) seek to find out what’s going on and stop the demon from taking over the free world. This is like The X-Files on steroids. The real surprise is that Gustainis has created such a powerfully realistic world. Despite the demons and magic, this feels very real, and scary because of that. A brilliantly realised world, scarily good stuff. By Adrian Brady ONE BUCK HORROR (Issue 1) www.onebuckhorror.com One Buck Horror, huh? Well my first complaint has to be that this horror doesn't cost a buck. It costs $1.38 for Kindle from Amazon, so there. Points off for a misleading title. I guess One Buck-and-a-Bit Horror just doesn't have the same ring to it. Anyway, moving swiftly on, at a time when the adept reader is swamped with material, much of it available for free, any new publication forcing the reader to dig into their pocket had better be good. So
what exactly do we get for our buck-and-a-bit? This debut issue edited by Christopher and Kris M. Hawkins features five short stories, all of which are decent if not earth-shatteringly brilliant. In my humble opinion, the best of them is “A Lullaby For Caliban”, a tale by Mark Onspaugh that follows a group of wayward teens who break into a travelling carnival after hours in search of something nasty. They are not disappointed. Although certainly very affordable, for a paid-for publication One Buck Horror should perhaps be a little bulkier. A couple more stories wouldn't go amiss, neither would a short review section or even an interview or two. But this being the very first issue, maybe these things will come in time. The overall quality of this new e-zine is very high, and I wouldn't be totally averse to blowing another buck-and-a-bit on a future edition. By C.M. Saunders AWAKENING By William Horwood www.panmacmillan.co.uk This is the second book in the Hyddenworld series, from the author of the well-known Dunction Wood series. The world created is a type of urban fantasy, with the fantasy world hidden within it, hence Hyddenworld. If you haven’t read the first book in the series you may struggle for a short while, but persevere, as this is an excellent book. The first book though, is well worth seeking out. Jack and his daughter Judith find themselves part of both ours and the Hyddenworld, unable to escape either, and they are pulled in different directions as the emperor of Hyddenworld awakens and a gem is found (Judith is the Shield Maiden and is to be entrusted with the four gems, which Jack must return to Hyddenworld to reunite), and tremors on Earth are literally shaking Hyddenworld apart. Very clever and wonderfully well-written, Horwood serves up a gentle fantasy with an edge. Splendid characters inhabit this incredible world, and the book is riveting. I look forward to reading the remaining two books in the quartet. By Adrian Brady
Paul Kane Interview What inspired you to start writing? I think it was just in me from the start. I’ve always had a longing to tell stories right from an early age – I suspect this is true with most writers. Before I could express myself with words, I’d act out stories with my toys, or draw little cartoons, especially after my dad would buy me comics from the local shop when we went out. I tinkered around with fiction in my teens, but never thought any of it was any good... and I was right! I never seriously thought about earning a living through my writing. Then I got into art, photography and film in a big way at college and University, and only returned to writing in my twenties, but I think I’ve more than made up for it now. At the last count I’ve had about 33 books published – if you include non-fiction and the work I’ve done as editor – with several more on the cards, so I’m quite happy with how things are going so far. How did you go about first getting your work published? My first published work was actually journalism. I did a ‘Professional Writing’ course at University taught by a guy called Pete Wall. He showed us all the tricks of the trade and even made us submit work to magazines and newspapers – I got feedback from places like Dark Side and The Daily Mirror, which was a big thing for me when I was just starting out. It gave me the confidence to try journalism when I left, and I soon found myself working for a few news-stand magazines, doing articles, reviews and whatever else they needed. I was also reviewing movies for my local paper, so I was getting into the press screenings of new films. Around that time I took a distance writing course, which got me back into doing fiction again, and one of the tutors encouraged me to send a story I’d written “The Cave of Lost Souls” off for publication. So I was looking at the adverts in the back of Freelance Market News for something to do with the piece – I was thinking I might try it with a ghost story competition – when I saw an advert for a
magazine called Terror Tales, asking for submissions. What’s more, the editor John B. Ford lived not far away from me, so I took it as a sign... I sent the story in, John took it for the Christmas edition, and invited me along to a gathering of other writers. Everything came from there really, and it seems to have come full circle because “Cave...” is one of the bonus extras in my latest collection The Butterfly Man and Other Stories which is out from the award-winning PS Publishing at the end of September (www.pspublishing.co.uk) You are well known as a fan and expert on the Clive Barker and the Hellraiser films. How did that come about? I do seem to have become ‘The Hellraiser Guy’, as Nancy Holder once called me. Not a bad thing, though. I guess it all stems from my doing the nonfiction study The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, which started off as one of those small BFI type books – like Mark Kermode’s Exorcist – but grew into a 120,000-word examination of all the Hellraiser movies and comics. That put me in touch with people like Clive, and the stars and makers of the series, who I’m fortunate to be good friends with now. They’re such a lovely, talented bunch of people, but then I think Clive inspires a lot of that with his own attitude and work ethic. Then came the Hellbound Hearts book after that, which began as a phone conversation I had with Clive about why nobody had done any fiction anthologies based on The Hellbound Heart. Clive gave his blessing to go ahead and do one, and even kindly did a foreword and cover painting. So my wife Marie and I set about asking people to be involved and were fortunate enough to get a stellar line-up of contributors: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean, Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden & Mike Mignola, Peter Atkins, Conrad Williams, Sarah Pinborough, Mick Garris, Tim Lebbon, Richard Christian Matheson, Nancy Holder, Simon Clark, Steve Niles, Sarah Langan, Nicholas Vince, Yvonne Navarro, Mark Morris, Barbie Wilde, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Nancy Kilpatrick, Gary A. Braunbeck & Lucy A. Snyder and Chaz Brenchley, plus an introduction by Stephen Jones, and afterword by Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley. What other writers have influenced you?
You mean other than Clive, who has been a very important influence on my work? Too many to list here, but they include James Herbert, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Lovecraft, Frank Herbert, Ramsey Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Moorcock, M.R. James, Tolkien, Simon Clark, Christopher Fowler... some from my frenzied genre reading in my teens where I devoured everything and anything I could get my hands on; e.g. horror, SF and fantasy – the best education ever – and some from later on in my life. I’m still discovering writers now that I’m sure will influence my work. I’ve just read Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter, which was a stunning piece of writing and really chilled me to my bone. What are your other influences? I’m heavily influenced by TV and film, I suppose. Some of my first memories of the genre are from watching things like Dr Who, The Hulk or The Martian Chronicles on television. My parents let me stay up to watch the 70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when I was very young, which they probably shouldn’t have, but that had a really profound effect on me and is probably responsible for a lot of what I’ve gone on to be involved with. The same with films; I was getting hold of some movies in the 80s I probably really shouldn’t have been (The Evil Dead and the Fulci zombie films stand out), but I was also exposed to a lot of great films doing my film studies courses at Uni, both BA and MA. Again, too many movies to mention, but aside from Hellraiser, I love the original Star Wars films, Jaws, Taxi Driver, the Alien films, Se7en... there are lots and lots and lots I could list, but it all goes into a weird melting pot in my brain I’m sure. Where do you get your inspiration? Anywhere and everywhere, is the simple answer. Aside from books, TV and films, snatches of conversation, locations, newspapers... I always carry around a little hardback notebook to jot down ideas, flashes of things that come to me. Dreams are also a good source of material. ‘The Cave of Lost Souls’ strangely enough came to me, fully formed, in a dream. Hadn’t happened before and hasn’t since, but I wrote that down the morning after and wrote the
story not long after that. I did see a scene in a dream not long ago that I want to do something with, but I’m going to expand that into a novel, so watch this space. What is your writing day like? There isn’t a typical one really. I like to try and keep office hours, but if I’m very busy I will work till late. At the moment Marie and I are also running FantasyCon 2011 (www.fantasycon2011.org), so we’re juggling that with our writing as well. If I’m working on a longer fiction piece, I like to try and set aside a good chunk of time to blast through it. On a good day, I can get between 3,000 and 5,000 words done. But it’s not always possible, as urgent emails might come in, or you have to deal with admin stuff. For example, I was working on a novel recently and the opportunity came up to interview someone I really wanted to interview – so I put the fiction aside and set to work doing research and coming up with questions. It’s also quite a nice thing, though, because you never know what your writing day or week will send your way. Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? I can’t write where there’s a lot of noise. I take my hat off to authors who can write on trains or planes, because I just can’t concentrate – and often have to have piles of research spread around me. I’ve gotten into a habit of writing short stories on a desktop computer, but longer things, like novellas or novels, on a recliner with a laptop – but that might be more about comfort than ritual. Tell us about your post-apocalyptic trilogy featuring a version of Robin Hood. The Arrowhead books, published by Abaddon as part of their Afterblight Chronicles, feature the character of Robert Stokes – an ex-policeman who lost his wife and child when the A-B virus struck, killing anyone who didn’t have O-Neg blood. He retreated to the forests regions of Sherwood and lived off the land while the rest of the world descended into chaos. He’s drawn out, however, when a mercenary called De Falaise takes on the mantle of the new Sheriff of Nottingham and moves into Nottingham Castle with his army. The old story replays itself in the first novel, with more than a few
twists, and my own versions of famous characters like Tuck, Marian and Little John. The second two novels move away from the old legend and more into my own stories, and see Robert facing an evil dictator called The Tsar from Russia, a Devilworshipping cult, an insane cannibal witch and a psychotic in league with Neo Nazis. There are horror, SF and fantasy elements to the books – I was delighted when one reviewer compared a battle scene in the second novel Broken Arrow to Lord of the Rings – but also an underlying mythology. I was also heavily inspired by Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood series from the 80s, and was over the moon when Richard told me he loved the books. That felt good, like I’d achieved what I set out to do. Someone also compared the writing to Wyndham, which I was very happy about. I’m ecstatic that the three novels have gone on to become bestsellers, which just shows the appetite for Hood in this format. How do you put a book together, do you just sit down and write, or do you plan chapter by chapter? I like to have some kind of plan, even if it’s only a very loose one – say a line or two about each chapter. That doesn’t mean I’ll stick to it once I’m writing, though, as things crop up and you make changes that will benefit the story. I also like to do a lot of research if possible, to make sure the book’s authentic: visiting places I’m going to be writing about, if I can. Taking notes and photos. Of course, the editing stages are when a book really comes together and I might find myself rewriting, cutting, or sometimes even starting again! If you could go back in time to when you started writing and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be? Be prepared to work very, very hard and deal with a lot of knockbacks on the way. Develop a tough skin, and never, ever give up. Do you read reviews of your work? How do you deal with criticism? I do, but I try not to let it affect my future writing whether they’re good or bad. If something feels right to you as an author, then you
should go with it, and it’s all subjective anyway. I’ve been very lucky in that a lot of the reviewers of my work have liked what I’ve done, but I’d be lying if I said the ones that pulled it apart didn’t hurt. I’ll get down for a little while, but then move on. If you took too much notice you’d drive yourself mad. The one person’s opinion I do trust without question, however, is Marie. If she tells me something’s good, then I tend to believe it, because she wouldn’t want something to go out with my name on it that wasn’t the best it could be. I’m very blessed to be married to a fellow writer and editor, and a superbly talented one at that. What book are you reading now? I’m currently reading M.M. Smith’s The Servants, which is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. I’m glad I waited in a way, though, as it’s set in Brighton and I’ve seen a lot more of it in the last couple of years, being involved in cons down there – before FCon, I was on the committee of World Horror 2010 which was also in Brighton – so I feel I can picture the places Mike is writing about much better now. The story’s excellent too, naturally, like all of Mike’s work. What is your proudest moment as a writer? Without doubt Clive giving me the quote that called me ‘A first-rate storyteller’. Second to that, probably getting my deals with Abaddon and then PS Publishing. I’ve been incredibly lucky and I never take any of it for granted. Are you disappointed with any of your work when you look back on it? Always... so I try not to look back at it. Once it’s done and out there, I never go back and re-read, unless I’m doing a sequel to something. I’ve recently had to read ‘Dead Time’ again – which I wrote for The Lazarus Condition, published by Tasmaniac, and which then got optioned and turned into an episode of the horror TV show Fear Itself for NBC/Lionsgate. I’m working on a sequel to that so really had no option, but I was wincing all the way through and spotting places where I’d have done
things differently. But I could also see where I might take the follow-up, strands I’d left hanging, which is good. What's the best piece of feedback that you've had from your audience? I was recently involved in a Twisted Tales event and David McWilliam – one of the organisers – said that my collection Peripheral Visions was like a ‘response to the Books of Blood’ which I was pretty chuffed with. He also said that he was reading it well into the night when he should have gone to bed, which delighted me. Then, after I’d read my story ‘Strobe’, during the signing session, a member of the audience came up and told me that it had reminded them of a Ramsey Campbell story. I was grinning from ear to ear after that. I always love meeting people who’ve read my work. I was hugely gratified to meet fans of the Arrowhead books when I was a guest at SFX’s first Weekender, especially when someone said they were a professional archer and I’d gotten a lot of the technical stuff spot on. That made me smile, as well. Oh, and just the other week a Hollywood scriptwriter looking at adapting something of mine called it ‘The horror version of Inception,’ which bowled me over. Comparisons to Christopher Nolan I can definitely live with. What is the most important thing when becoming a writer? Dedication to the job, I’d say. Crafting and reworking something until you’re happy enough to let it go out there into the world. It’s something you have to work at and you never stop learning things. I’ll still be learning if I’m writing into my 80s or 90s. Your short stories have appeared in many places, and you’ve had several collections published as well as several non-fiction books. Which do you prefer
writing, fiction or non-fiction? Probably fiction, as I feel like I can have more fun with that. I’m making up the characters and situations, putting it all together to create something hopefully fresh and exciting. But I’ll always have a soft spot for non-fiction, because that’s what gave me my big breaks in the industry – and I still keep my hand in with that kind of writing. But, there again, if you asked me which I prefer, novels, novellas, short stories, scripting... I’d be hard pressed to give an answer. It’s all different and I enjoy doing different things all the time. Do you write for a particular audience, for yourself? I used to write just for myself, then hope that people out there liked what I did. Nowadays I find myself writing with either Marie in mind, or Jen my daughter – if it’s meant for a younger audience. Having said that, Jen’s now sixteen, and is enjoying a lot of my fiction meant for an older audience, so... But yes, I think I write now with them in mind firstly, and whether they’ll like something, as they’re pretty avid readers and have great taste in fiction. Usually they can spot if something’s not quite right. But also I probably do have one eye on a readership now that I’ve been going out there and meeting people who read my work, not to mention getting mail from those who’ve enjoyed it. That kind of feedback really keeps me going. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? At the moment there hasn’t been a vast amount of downtime, but when I do get some it’s been devoted to spending it with Marie and the kids, especially at weekends – watching movies or catching up with TV, and just chilling out. I try to read as much as possible when I get the chance as well, plus we’ve been making time to see some of the movies this year as there are a lot of good ones either out or coming out. The last one we saw was Captain
America, and we’re off to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes – tonight in fact! What parts of being a writer do you like best? And least? The best parts are being your own boss, being able to set your own hours – flexibility and freedom I guess. The worst parts are also being your own boss – nobody’s standing behind you forcing you to work, so it comes down to discipline – and setting your own hours. Sometimes having to work past the nine to five if you get a lot of work in. Being a freelancer is a tough thing, as you’re constantly chasing work and don’t feel like you can pass anything up, because you never know when you might hit a lean patch. But, on the whole, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Do you get writers block? How do you cope with it? The only times I’ve never been able to write have been when something serious has been happening in my personal life. Someone being sick or whatever. I just can’t concentrate when that’s going on. However, at those points in my life I’ve also forced to do something writing-wise to stop myself from getting rusty, even if it was only note-making or a bit of editing. I just think when you’re not in the right place emotionally, it’s very difficult for the actual writing to flow. Other than that, no. I don’t believe there’s ever nothing to write about... I have books filled with ideas and notes, so the question becomes will I ever have the time to write everything I want to write? If you could meet anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be? I’m lucky in that I’ve met most of my literary heroes that are still alive, including people like James Herbert, Neil Gaiman and Clive. I’d still like to meet Stephen King at some point, though. Director-wise, I’d love to meet David Lynch, Spielberg and David Cronenberg – to name just three; there are many more – but it would have been great to have met filmmakers who’ve passed on like James Whale, Tod Browning, Stanley Kubrick. I was very fortunate to meet Christopher Lee a few years back, albeit briefly, but I’d also have liked an opportunity to meet Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, both the Lon Chaneys and Bela Lugosi. Fictional characters: Sherlock Holmes – I’ve just written my first Holmes story, “The Greatest Mystery” for Gaslight Arcanum – Batman, Dr Who and Harry D’Amour. Which do you prefer writing/reading, short stories or novels?
I like writing short stories because they’re quick, and I started off doing those. But at the same time I love the space in a novel to develop characters and say more. I also like tackling the longer plots in novels, as it’s more challenging. Reading-wise, it depends on how much free time I have. It’s nice to be able to sit down and finish reading a story quickly if you’re pushed for time, but I do like getting to know a character and longer story in novel length. I’m a slow reader, however, so sometimes that holds me back. Marie’s very fast and can often go through two or three novels in a weekend, and I’m very envious of that skill. It takes me weeks sometimes to get through a novel. What are you working on now? I’ve just finished a novel that’s a little different for me, but I can’t really say much about. After a couple more rounds of edits I’m sending it off to the publishers. Then I’m writing the follow-up to “Dead Time” as I mentioned, and I have a couple of short stories to do which have been commissioned. Then I start work on another novel, and the mythology of that one has also had some film interest. I’m also adapting a couple of bestselling authors’ novels into full-length screenplays, so that’s a new thing for me. I’m enjoying the process very much, though. That’s come off the back of the short movies I’ve scripted which have gotten produced, like The Weeping Woman which was made by Mark Steensland, starred Fright Night’s Stephen Geoffreys and had music from Luci Fulci collaborator Fabio Frizzi. Other than that, Marie and I are flat out working to make sure FantasyCon goes well and everyone has a good time. Do you have any advice for other writers? Just the persistence thing and not giving up. It’s often a long, hard slog to get published or to make a career out of your writing. But if you’re serious about it, then hang on in there and at some point something will eventually give. What scares you? Not much genre-wise after all these years. For me it’s stuff like bad things happening to family members or loved ones. I used to be very frightened of the dark as a child, and still am a little – but I’ve used that to my advantage in stories like “Blackout”, “Keeper of the Light” and in books like Of Darkness and Light. What makes a good story? That’s a tricky one to nail down, as it’s all subjective. For me personally, it’s characters you
can engage with and feel for – otherwise why would you care if things happen to them? – a good, original story, and by original it might just mean a new spin on an old theme, and a good setting. If you can picture yourself there – and if the writer’s done their job properly you should be able to – then you can lose yourself in the story. That holds true for if it’s set in the past, present, another dimension or another planet. FROM SHADOWS & NIGHTMARES 2 http://nightfallpublications.com/ This latest collection of short stories from Nightfall Publications, edited by Amber L. Campbell, features an impressive array of both emerging and established talent. Most of the twentytwo tales contained herein are short, fast-paced slabs of modern horror that whiz by at a frantic pace. There is no particular theme or genre, which means every story is a leap into the unknown. Highlights include the heart-wrenching “Delirium” by Brit Jennifer Moore, a tale that could only be written by a mother, Barry Rosenberg's “Flush”, which tells of greed in the property game and a balance restored by a toilet with a life of its own, and “Bobby Bumping” by Diane Arrelle, which puts an unfamiliar spin on a familiar tale. A fair percentage (much higher than most anthologies) of the tales in Shadows & Nightmares 2 are penned by members of the fairer sex. I hate to generalize, but generally speaking (hehe!), women tend to write with more care and tenderness than the average bloke, massaging your emotions and tugging at your heartstrings, rather than affronting your senses with vivid bloody descriptions. When applied to the horror genre this brings a whole new, not unwelcome depth to proceedings. I for one will be looking out for more offerings from Nightfall Publications in the future. By C.M. Saunders THE CROWN OF THE CONQUEROR By Gav Thorpe www.angryrobotbooks.com Being familiar with some of Gav Thorpe’s many Warhammer novels, there were high expectations. This is the second book in The Crown of Blood series, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Epic, fast-paced battles and action are matched with political intrigue and lies as Ullsaard finally takes his rightful place as king. But the role he was born for holds more than just power and responsibility, as Ullsaard must make some tough decisions or he will be torn apart. Slightly less action in this second book as Thorpe concentrates more on the political intrigues of being King and the demands that puts on our hero, but still wonderfully fast-paced. This second book in the series continues to provide the kind of action and excitement Thorpe is well known for. Military fantasy does not get much better than this. By Adrian Brady THE HOLOCAUST OPERA By Mark Edward Hall www.markedwardhall.com The Holocaust Opera is the latest stand-alone novella from acclaimed Lost Village author Mark Edward Hall. Mixing a deep appreciation of music and horror to great effect it tells the story of Roxanne Templeton, a singer who, whilst out walking one day, hears the faint, seductive strains of a strange and bewitching kind of music. She follows her ear and discovers the source of the music, a young man called Jeremiah, who tells her the music is designed to capture the misery and torment of the Holocaust. The music has a mysterious power, and has a very profound effect on those that hear it. Could something sinister, left over from the horrors of World War II, exist within the framework of this unique musical composition? And what is the connection between Jeremiah and one of the most despised men of the 20th Century? I would hazard a guess that the inspiration for this tale was the legend surrounding Rezsoe Seress’s infamous Gloomy Sunday, a.k.a The Hungarian Suicide Song which Hall, who is rapidly climbing the ladder to stake a claim as one of the dark fiction elite, has incorporated into a perfectly serviceable supernatural mystery thriller. He has a smooth writing style which tends to be more atmospheric than most writers plying their trade these days, expertly amping up the tension as the book rumbles along to an earth-shattering climax. Once read, The Holocaust Opera is the kind of book that will live long in the memory. By C.M. Saunders
DEBRIS By Jo Anderton www.angryrobotbooks.com
be a marvellously entertaining trilogy. By Stanley Riiks
Having just recovered from reading the powerhouse novels of Andy Remic (Vampire Warlords) and Gary McMahon (Pretty Little Dead Things), I was weary of trying a new author. Nothing can possibly live up to the two novels I’d just read, one of the best fantasy and horror novels, definitely of the year, possibly the decade, and in with a good chance of being the best ever. So along comes this quietly unassuming sf novel. The personal journey Tanyana, a highly skilled and respected binder of pions. Pions are kind of like atoms that can be shaped and manipulated to create building, heat, light. The entire world of Movoc-under-Keeper is dependent on pions, it is virtually impossible to live without them. And yet when a seemingly impossible accident at work literally shreds Tanyana, the healers putting her back together cannot fix her completely. She is devastatingly scarred and unable to see the pions that make up the majority of her world. Tanyana can now see debris, the strange and mysterious byproduct and pion-manufacture. Cast from her life, Tanyana must try to build a new life as a low debris collector, whilst investigating the accident that left her disabled. A remarkable achievement, this first novel in a trilogy is feels very personal, only hinting at the vast and epic background to the world that Anderton has created. It doesn’t feel on an epic scale, but you know there are machinations going on in the background, that there is some kind of conspiracy, but as we follow Tanyana we only know what she knows, and when she knows it. That makes is a very personal journey for the reader too. It is our protagonist Tanyana and the world that Anderton has created that make this so novel so unique, and so readable. It feels a very personal novel. This quiet sf book really comes alive towards the end for a massive catastrophe, and whilst it doesn’t have the impact it truly deserves, the finale still packs a pretty good punch. If there is a problem it’s that the book is too personal, you only get hints of the grand scale of Tanyana’s fall, its mysterious cause and its epic consequences, and because of this there is a lack of tension. The tension doesn’t build to a massive climax and the mystery of what is behind her fall is only glimpsed. The massive climax is thrown at you seemingly out of nowhere. Unique and personal, this is an sf novel on a clearly original path. Brave and intelligent, much like its protagonist, Debris is the start of what could
Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones Okay, so this is my debut column for Morpheus Tales and rather than pontificate on some pressing genre matter of the day (which I shall be doing in later columns), I shall set my stall out as to why I am here and who I am. You will have notice that there’s also an interview with me in my capacity as editor/publisher at Spectral Press in this issue, which will give you the bare bones, so for this very first instalment I shall put some flesh on that skeletal structure, to give you an even clearer picture. You’ll notice that there’s a recurring theme running through this missive, which is to say that life is often composed of circles, and my being here is, perhaps, the closure of one in particular. But before I go on to explain why that is, I’ll give you some brief details about the history of Mr. Simon Marshall-Jones. I was born in the worst winter in the UK’s history up until that time, in 1963, which probably explains why I prefer Arctic climes to those in the Mediterranean. Childhood was unspectacular and I left school in ’82 wanting desperately to be an artist (a vocation that my parents actively encouraged), especially after having encountered H.R. Giger’s macabre nightmarish visions in OMNI magazine some years previously. I left art-school early after a couple of years (before I got asked to leave in fact), after which I spent some years travelling with various bands around the UK and Europe. Then I went back to higher education to study Computer Multimedia (although the course was somewhat pretentiously called MediaLab Arts), again leaving early because a) I wanted to have another go at the art thing (and I was actually starting to break through) and b) I was, completely unknown to me, quite ill at the time. A year later I suffered a stroke but once I was fully recovered, went back to painting. That’s also been a recurrent theme throughout the last fourteen and a half years, since the stroke. As you can see, there have been more than a few small circles involving art in my life – I’d abandon painting, but would always come back to it eventually. But let’s concentrate on the biggest, and perhaps most important, circle of all. When I was a youngster, I was always writing. I’ve been fascinated by books for as long as I can remember, a fascination I inherited from my father principally, as well as my mother. Once I’d learnt to read and write, I did both voraciously – I read anything,
starting on books for older people well before I was out of my first decade, and I also wrote reams of stuff on scraps of paper, writing almost constantly. Furthermore, one of my cousins had studied for a PhD at Bangor University in Wales and his thesis on Welsh dialects had been properly published as a book. I was pretty much in awe of him when that happened. So much so, in fact, I became even more determined to write a book and have it published somewhere, and so I kept on writing. However, somewhere along the line, during my school-years (as is so often the case), that streak of creativity was stifled by the dull educational system (although, to be fair, I received a very good education at the end of it), and I ended up losing interest in writing. I kept on reading at a prodigious rate, however. Practically from the very moment I learnt to read I picked up on genre material, mainly sci-fi, but fantasy and horror as well. All these books fed into my imagination, and it was this kind of imaginative stuff that inspired me to write. I distinctly remember handwriting everything at the time, scribbling stories in biro onto pads of cheap tan-coloured paper that my father brought home in bundles from work. I later graduated to a hefty manual typewriter, the one my dad used for writing reports for his work. Both my parents would encourage me, although they were a little discouraged by the number of books I started and then simply abandoned. Anyway, by the time I hit my second or third year in secondary school, I had more or less abandoned writing for pleasure altogether. Apart from the odd occasion where I felt particularly inspired (notably after first reading H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon ‘zine and Clive Barker), writing figured less and less in my life as a means of expressing creative urges. But let’s get back to that big circle. A couple of years ago, I started reviewing CDs for a few alternative music webzines, and then I was asked would I like to do the same thing on a book review website, both of which inevitably kick-started my interest in writing again. Then, with the encouragement of several writer friends, I began writing fiction, even managing to have a couple of short stories accepted for publication. However, I soon realised, quite how I can’t recall, that I was a lot better at editing other people’s stories than writing my own. The circle started closing when, after attending FantasyCon 2010, I was inspired by some chapbooks I received there to start my own imprint, Spectral Press. I suppose that circle was completed by two events: the publication of the first chapbook by Spectral earlier this year, and being offered the job of becoming house editor at an
American publishing company. Even better, I was then asked by the editors of Morpheus Tales to start contributing this column. So, what I’ve been trying to say in the above, in a very roundabout way (itself a circular allusion), is that I’ve returned to my starting point: I’ve realised my childhood ambition to work with words in some capacity. That circle was so large that I wasn’t able to see it, however, and that it was only with its closure that it became blindingly obvious. And, I have to say, that it’s been a very pleasant, not to mention welcome, surprise. Yes, there have been moments in the last six months when I’ve briefly entertained a minor regret that I’d not been involved in the scene sooner, but I’m here now and loving every minute of it. And, from where I currently stand, the future can only get brighter. I hope that you’ll join me on this exciting journey! EGYPTIAN HEART By Kathryn Meyer-Griffith www.eternalpress.biz/people.php?author=422 KMG is now in the process of re-writing and re-releasing much of her considerable back-catalogue, the bulk of which has been previously published in different forms. A quiet veteran of the game, she has a practised, easy-toread, yet intense style of writing, which lends itself very well to the more romantic, occasionally erotic, side of dark fiction. Fittingly, Egyptian Heart, which blends several genres to great effect, including suspense, mystery, and historical romance, is brought to us by those masters of hot flushes, Eternal Publishing. The plot is both neat and engaging, following Maggie Owen, a beautiful but lonely archaeologist who travels to an ancient site in Egypt and is magically transported back to 1340 BC where she falls in love, is mistaken for a runaway slave, then caught in the middle of a bloody uprising. Will she find her way back to the 21st Century? Does she even want to? The review copy I was sent was accompanied by a very interesting and enlightening essay detailing the author's long and varied career and vested interest in the world of Egyptology, the subject of several other works. This book has certainly had an interesting journey so far, and here's to the next step! By C.M. Saunders
ROIL By Trent Jamieson www.angryrobotbooks.com I’d better begin this review with an up-front confession: I’m not a fan of steampunk, but (and please let me get beyond the “but”) I’m seriously reconsidering my position now that I’ve read Roil by Trent Jamieson, the first novel in Jamieson’s planned Death Works series. Roil is a Baroque fantasy with decidedly steampunk leanings. It is set on a planet which resembles both the late Nineteenth Century American West and, perhaps more appropriately given Jamieson’s Australian roots, colonial Australia. Its human population lives in far-flung towns surrounded by wilderness and linked by steam trains on a long-distance railroad. Their entertainments are drugs, festivals and fetes and the ever-popular penny dreadful books, once more harking back to the days of the Wild West and Ned Kelly. The end of days is fast approaching, though. Where once there were twelve large towns, only four remain and those four are falling fast, succumbing to a vast, malevolent storm, The Roil. The last surviving humans are fighting back with increasingly desperate strategies and imaginative machines against the coming darkness and its armies of horrifying hell-beasts and mothbemused human zombies. Nothing seems to work for long, however. It falls to an unusual trio of a junkie, an exceedingly old man and a woman set on revenge to attempt to save humanity from its inevitable fate. Their story takes the form of a fast-paced, page-turning, quest: an imaginative read that is a combination of both subtlety and visceral horror. By the end of the book you’ll be as desperate as the story’s junkie hero for your next fix. Be warned, though. Roil is very much the beginning of a serial: expect no satisfying, head-rush conclusions by the end of this volume, just more gruesome mysteries and dark questions waiting to be answered. For all I’ve been hooked by Trent Jamieson’s dynamic prose, I also wasn’t sold on the inclusion of expunged scenes and sections at the end of the book. A very cinematic practice, but this isn’t a DVD and I couldn’t see the point. Still, no one is forcing you to read the final outtakes section. You can always stop reading at the end of the story. You don’t need to know what the editor has already decided you don’t need to know. Editing issues aside, I recommend Roil to you. I, for one, will be looking forward to the next book in the series.
By J. S. Watts NOT BEFORE BED By Craig Hallam www.smashwords.com/books/view/51767 Hallam has written these stories with a wide variety of moods and settings. The collection begins very strongly with “Not Before Bed,” which is placed at the beginning to get you in the mood for the terrors to come. Hallam really delivers with “Laughter on the Landing,” about a writer who is imagining what his upstairs neighbour and her ill daughter are doing. The reality is worse than what he’s imagined. There are several other very effectively disturbing stories throughout the collection. These include “Sarah and the Monster,” which delivers a nice twist on the monster-under-the-bed theme. Equally strong, or even better, are the Lovecraftian stories, “Upon Waking” and “Albert.” The latter story, which concludes the collection, has the narrator visiting an institutionalised madman’s seaside hometown, and not liking at all what he finds there. A couple of the stories do have a humorous bent, and the best of these is “Lovecraft.” Continuing with the author’s tributes to that master, a young out-of-love woman conjures up her perfect “man.” Less effective in its humour is “The Death of Larry Bergman,” about a man who is “too good” for the Pearly Gates. A couple of the other stories are just not as effective as the best pieces here. But this is generally the case with short story collections. I wasn’t sure, for example, that “Lindsey’s Pride,” while a decent story on its own merits, really fit well with the other stories. Many of the stories do contain some decently thought-out female protagonists, and I enjoyed this a lot. These protagonists, with their insights and motivations, are unusual in a male author’s writing. The collection could use some better editing. There are no problems which are significant enough to affect the reader’s understanding, but they were slightly distracting in places. Mr. Hallam has delivered some (good?) stories in this collection though, which are definitely worth the reader’s while. I had never read his work before, but I look forward to more from him in the future. By Christopher S. Eley
Simon Marshall-Jones Interview What is Spectral Press? Simply put, Spectral Press is a new imprint devoted to contemporary supernatural / ghostly / horror / dark / weird fiction stories, published in limited run, signed and numbered chapbooks. Within those particular subgenres I want to include the whole spectrum of writing styles, from “traditional” horror right up to more modern interpretations (including more “experimental” material), but which nevertheless hark back to a classic age of genre writing, the late 19th / early 20th centuries. Think of writers like M.R. James, Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, E.A. Poe and others of similar ilk, and you’ll get the idea. Why publish individual story chapbooks rather than collections, or a magazine? I first encountered chapbooks through Nicholas Royle’s Nightjar Press, when he gave me a couple to review at last year’s FantasyCon and I thought what a great format for displaying an author’s work . They’re compact, can fit in a pocket or briefcase, are inexpensive and can be read in the space of a bus commute or train journey. The Nightjar chapbooks were also very beautifully produced, showing that just because they are inexpensive it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to look cheap or unprofessional. Plus, from my point of view, chapbooks were a perfect way of getting Spectral established in the genre-publishing field, carefully and slowly. I certainly didn’t want to rush things and over-extend myself – my first priority was to make real Spectral’s founding ethos, which is to present the stories of some of the best writers in the current genre scene in a high-quality package. I believe that the chapbook is an absolutely perfect format for achieving those initial aims. You have quite a remarkable line-up for a fledging publishing company (Gary McMahon, Gary Fry, Paul Kane, Wayne Simmons and many more). How did you entice them to be a part of it? Mainly I think it’s because of my strong commitment to the very highest production values
and top quality, along with my enthusiasm. And once Gary McMahon’s What They Hear in the Dark came out and the positive reviews started pouring in, then they could see that I wasn’t just talking pie-inthe-sky. I think it was that absolute commitment to producing the best I could with the limited resources at my disposal that brought some of the writers on board. And the knowledge that whatever story they wrote for me would get the proper attention it deserved. I have seen too many shoddily-produced books put out there, presumably because some people think that genre fans will accept anything as long as it’s horror, fantasy, or whatever. That attitude just reeks of the belief that they lack taste or discernment. I’ve always refused to do things half-heartedly; consequently, I had to do this with complete conviction and go for the best I could afford. Not only did I manage it, but I believe that it’s readily apparent in every production that Spectral puts out. You are starting to sell out of the limited numbered copies immediately or very soon after release; are there any plans to increase the print-runs from one hundred? There are no immediate plans to publish more than the one hundred - it’s a large enough number to make Spectral more than viable, but small enough to build a solid reputation upon. Maybe in the future I can revisit the issue, but for the moment I believe it’s just fine as it is – again it goes back to not wanting to rush things or over-extend too soon. What is your favourite part of running a publishing company? I would say that it’s working with the people who help me put everything together, authors and designers. I particularly like working with writers, right from the moment they send a story in and I accept it, through to the editing stages and onto finally seeing the finished product and knowing that we’ve both worked hard to produce the best product we can. It’s definitely a case of working on the story as writer and editor, fine-tuning it and striving to make it as perfect as possible. However, that’s the joy of working with such fine authors – ultimately I’m just as concerned with the end product as they are, and they know that I put a lot of work into
honing everything as sharply as I can. I’m not going to be so pompous as to say that Spectral will be my legacy but, having said that, I do want to create something worthwhile that others will respond to positively. And then Neil Williams, who designs the covers and does the layout, takes the story and always comes up with something that encapsulates it perfectly. He “got” what Spectral was about right from the beginning (just see the logo that he came up with for confirmation of that), and is in large part responsible for the success of the imprint. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. Plus, recently, Mark West has been putting together little video book trailers for each chapbook, and again he’s captured the feel of Spectral in each one, as well as the essence of the particular story concerned. What is the hardest part of running a publishing company? The most difficult problem facing any new small-press imprint is establishing their place within what is already a heavilysubscribed field. Promotion is the all important key to success, but it isn’t just about telling anyone and everyone who will listen to you that you have something to sell them – it’s also about having a product that justifies them spending their money on it. Getting the best stories by the best writers was only the beginning. Neil and Mark have played their part, too, and I had to ensure that whatever I put out there had to be the best I could put together with my limited resources – in fact, I had to go beyond even that and create something that represented exceptional value for the punter’s hard-earned cash. Furthermore, I’d made promises just after I started touting the idea around that it was going to be a quality imprint, and that pushed me to work even harder to fulfil the ambition I had for Spectral. Spectral Press is not open to submissions. Why is that? It all goes back to maintaining the absolutely highest quality I can – I was already familiar with the work of many of those who I asked to contribute, having been a book reviewer for some years. So, knowing that meant that my quest to publish the best the scene has to offer would be more than fulfilled. Plus,
I’ll be honest here and say that I didn’t want to be deluged with manuscripts and having to spend valuable time wading through them to find the gems. On top of that, I also do freelance editing work for a Seattle publishing house, so I needed to have time to do that as well. Keeping it an invite-only imprint means that I can spend the necessary time on both projects without getting snowed under. What are your future plans for Spectral Press? Next year I am looking at launching a line of hardback novellas, but that’s all I am going to say for now – more details will be forthcoming soon. In 2013 I will be launching the Spectral Signature Edition series of limited signed and illustrated hardback books, containing single-author story collections. The first one will feature the work of Simon Kurt Unsworth, and will be available in two versions: the ‘Deluxe’ (in an edition of 100) and the ‘Flash Fiction’ (in an edition of 10). The latter features a handwritten flash fiction piece, unique to each copy – and all ‘Flash Fiction’ volumes have been spoken for already. And who knows what else is around the corner? What are you reading now? I am currently re-reading China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, the novel which for me did exactly for fantasy (urban or otherwise) what Clive Barker’s work did for horror. Miéville possesses a depth and breadth of imagination and invention rarely seen even today, plus the strength and majesty of his world-building, and the realism with which he imbues those worlds, is simply staggering. Additionally, the characters he conjures up also speak true. When I was younger, I’d fed myself on a great deal of epic fantasy (as well as horror and sci-fi) but there came a point at which I felt a sense of ennui overwhelm me when I realised that the plots and characters were more or less interchangeable. At that point (early 80s, I should think), horror was the same. Then along came Barker, who was the first to redefine my response to that genre and, many years later, Miéville did the same when it came to fantasy, by effectively placing it in a strangely familiar urban environment (and, of course, there are strong elements of sci-fi in there, too). When I finish that book I will go on to catch up with his other works.
In this digital age why start a traditional small press rather than offer e-books? I could have gone the e-book route, but I am one of those people who actually likes the physicality of books – the feel, the smell, the weight, the tactility. Plus, on a purely superficial level, the reader can only appreciate the quality of the complete package through the physical medium (that’s not to say, of course, that one cannot judge whether a book is good or not from an electronic version – a lot of the books I did write-ups on as a reviewer were sent to me as e-books). I just felt that, if Spectral was to make any kind of impression, then producing a “real” book was the only way. I’ll readily admit, too, that I have something of a sentimental attachment to the things – my late father was an avid reader and collector of books, and he passed on his love of the written word to me. Just reading any book (but most especially Lord of the Rings, as it was his favourite) reminds me of him. And so, in a small way, I guess I’m just trying to transmit a similar love of physical books on to others. What inspires you? That’s a very big question. The short answer is imagination, and the sheer breadth of ideas and concepts that can spring from the human mind. I also got that from my father – one of his other abiding interests was astronomy and space exploration. There were more than a few volumes on the subject on the bookshelves at home and I also remember being allowed to stay up at age six to watch the first moon landing. It must have been just before then that I’d started reading a lot of classic sciencefiction – Asimov, Heinlein, Sheckley, Herbert, etc. and I watched every TV programme broadcast about space and space exploration, which naturally fed into a young boy’s wonder of what was possible out there. At that point in my life I suppose I realised that, with the universe being the size it is, that indeed anything was possible. Not long after I started reading science-fiction came fantasy, with the likes of Moorcock and Tolkien, of course (I first read Lord of the Rings at six), and finally horror, which I discovered at the tender age of eight with Elliott O’Donnell’s The Screaming
Skull & other Ghost Stories, published by Four Square in 1966. The Pan Books of Horror also played a big part in forming my love of the genre. I still remember the cover of the first of the Van Thaledited volumes I read, number eight I think, with a severed head in a hatbox on the cover. What tied all these together was the idea that all these stories came from the fertile imaginations of humans, many of whom spent their lives delving into and thinking about other worlds and people. It’s that very idea that keeps inspiring me, and I think it will always inspire me. And, of course, reading the stories that authors submit to me for my own imprint just keeps reinforcing that inspiration. What makes a good story? If a story makes me feel, after having read it, that I’ve lived and felt it, then it’s good. Believable characters, realistic dialogue, suspense, atmosphere, tension, total suspension of disbelief – that’s what all good stories can bring, even the most outlandish. In a good story, there’s no sense of separation between here, the real world, and the world the writer has created. He/she has grabbed you by the lapels and pulled you in bodily, and made the story an extension of this reality. In the hands of a master-storyteller, a story becomes a seamless part of the fabric of the reader’s reality for a while. That’s why many people refer to writing as a craft – taking a basic material (words) and sculpting them into a beautiful work What makes a bad story? What turns me off more than anything else is flat, uninteresting writing, along with derivative plots, lack of atmosphere and tension, and not paying enough attention to even the smallest detail. To take an example, if a character dies in the story and there’s absolutely no fall-out from the character’s death. I detest that kind of writing, it’s just incredibly lazy. Every action has a consequence, and to just gloss over that little detail is indicative that the writer hasn’t thought deeply enough about what they’re doing. Once that kind of thing happens, I lose interest.
Who haven’t you published yet that you would like to? Now, there are myriads of writers I would love to publish: Clive Barker (especially one of his Books of Blood-era stories), Mark Morris, Tim Lebbon, Lisa Tuttle, Joel Lane, Graham Joyce, Ramsey Campbell, Conrad Williams, Dennis Etchison, Sarah Pinborough... the list is endless... What book would you most liked to have published? Unequivocally, I would love to have published Tim Lebbon’s novella The Thief of Broken Toys – definitely one of the best reads of last year, hands down. Poignant, touching, and tragic on so many levels, yet strangely beautiful and moving nonetheless – just a magnificent example of great writing, spare but evocative. What next for Simon Marshall-Jones? I have absolutely no idea, but I am having fun finding out. My main priority right now, though, is to further establish the reputation of Spectral, and make it an imprint where writers would be thrilled to be published. I want to expand into other formats, maybe even e-books, and just explore what’s available out there. However, like I’ve said above, I want to do things slowly and not rush ahead and over-extend myself, which is what I did when I ran a record label for a couple of years. I learnt that being incautious inevitably leads to disaster. This is a long-term project, and as such it deserves careful nurturing and thoughtful consideration. I’ve learnt that hard work and dedication are the only things that will get you where you want to go, but that you have to ally all that with something that people will consider worthwhile. I am quietly confident that Spectral will become a staple of genre of publishing in years to come, and so that’s what I am aiming to achieve, and with luck it’ll happen. THE RECOLLECTION By Gareth L. Powell www.solarisbooks.com Powell’s strikingly clear and concise writing style works perfectly for his short stories, and his collection The Last Reef is a testament to this. That book is a remarkable collection of short stories, filled with wonders and ideas, as any SF collection should be. That Powell pilfers liberally from his stories contained in The Last Reef to create this novel, does detract from the enjoyment of it for anyone familiar with the collection. Ed is having an affair with his brother (Verne)’s wife and finds out Verne runs away, down
to Chancery Lane tube station in London, and through an alien Arch that suddenly appears on the escalator. When Verne doesn’t reappear, and when more of the strange Arches appear all over the world, Ed and his brother’s wife decide to follow Verne in an attempt to find out what happened to him. But as they travel through the Arches they find that each world they encounter takes them one step closer to Verne, but they are already ten years behind him. Four hundred years in the future, Katherine Abdulov is finally making it on her own. She has her own spacecraft, her family has disowned her, and her former lover is long gone. Until he reappears. And then an offer comes with her family, a race to Djatt to barter the latest harvest of the rare stimulant Pep. Can Abdulov beat her former lover to the Pep and reunite with her family? The Dho is a mysterious alien race that live in a world-sized spacecraft known as the Ark. When Toby Drake is invited to help his former professor study the ark, little does he know that he will discover the love of his life, and lose her, and realise one of the secrets of the universe. Meanwhile, on the other side of the universe, the Recollection is gathering. The vast, hideously powerful weapon is heading towards the humans and nothing can stop its devastating power... This is an intelligent, well-written and exciting science fiction novel with some great ideas, and a vast and all-consuming evil. The mildlydisappointing ending can’t really be helped, and the exploration of the futuristic worlds is concise. Powell’s writing style works brilliantly for short stories. For a full-length work though, it feels like we are only scratching the surface of the vast world he’s created. It feels like, for as much as we discover, we are missing out on the same amount. The world that we see is well-created, but there is so much more to find out. Anyone who has read The Last Reef may find a lot of the ground covered here familiar. I had a frown on my face for most of the book wondering where I remembered this scene from, or that person from. I recalled the brilliance of the collection, and felt that this book, although good and clever, and well-written, didn’t have the same wow factor, and what was so brilliant the first time, wasn’t so brilliant the second. A disappointing novel, in that it is not the masterpiece expected from Powell. But for any reader who hasn’t read The Last Reef, this is a clever, and at times, brilliant novel. Powell is definitely a writer to watch, and hopefully the second book in this series (surely there will be a
second!) will put right the wrongs of the first. By Stanley Riiks THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW SF 24 Edited By Gardner Dozois www.constablerobsinson.com The annual behemoth that is the Mammoth Book of Best New SF (number 24 in the series) arrived with a thump through the letter box. This is my favourite of all anthologies. Dozois puts together the preeminent SF collection each and every year. At over seven hundred pages, this is truly at epic and every story is a polished diamond of excellence. My life would be a poorer place without this book every year. It is the SF almanac. No SF fan should be without it. Joe Haldeman and Stephen Baxter provide my favourite tales, although Tad Williams’s and Robert Reed’s book-end stories also deserve special mention. There seem to be a lot of new names in this collection, which is always nice to see. The quality of the stories here is astounding. The diversity and depth of the coverage of SF is remarkable. The definitive genre collection. Again. By Adrian Brady SUPER Starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Written and Directed by James Gunn www.jamesgunn.com When his wife leaves him for a drug dealer, hapless loser Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) can’t quite seem to move on. Professing to have had only two real moments of happiness in his life, one being the day he married Sarah (Liv Tyler), Frank decides to get her back any way he can. And the only way he can? Becoming his alter ego Crimson Bolt, a superhero with no super powers. With monkey wrench in hand and a 22-yearold sidekick (Ellen Page) (who may be more criminally insane than the criminals), Frank launches a crusade of comically gory proportions. Super, directed by James Gunn (Slither), is in a lot of ways like last year’s Kick-Ass, in that both movies are touted as R-rated dark comedies, but what Kick-Ass lacks in gritty realism, Super makes up for in spades. Super is so many things that it’s hard to believe it’s all the same movie. Is it a commentary on mental illness, urban blight and religion? Is it a raunchy comedy? An action film? Or is it just a
good time at the movies? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Probably the best superhero movie of the summer with only a fraction of the budget of its big screen brethren, Super is a movie that doesn’t try and redeem its hero’s bloody actions with a moral compass or pander to the fanboys with constant comic book winks and nods. It simply tells the journey of one man with one mission: To get back the love of his life at any cost. It’s the most “nonsuperhero” superhero movie to date in that it reminds us that the most fantastical adventures are often the most human. Funny, controversial and ultra-violent – but human nonetheless. By Trevor Wright NOWHERE HALL By Cate Gardner www.spectralpress.wordpress.com Having heard much praise for Spectral Press, I ventured warily, and discovered that praise is due. If this short but scary chapbook is anything to go by, Spectral Press is the top flight of the small presses. Cate Gardner’s captivating and deliciously personal tale of sanity and despair is well-handled, and intricately woven. The highest quality fiction is contained in this gem of a chapbook. Spectral Press will be hard placed to beat this, but judging by the reviews of their previous output, and their future line-up, consistency shouldn’t be a problem. Gardner, like her publisher, is destined for greatness. By Adrian Brady LIFE SERIAL By Trevor Wright Well, here we are: The final LIFE SERIAL column. I wish I had some epic finale planned. I wish I could say that all of my hard work and years of scriptwriting had finally opened the doors to the mythical world that is Hollywood. But nope, actually just the opposite. I’m retired. EPISODE 10: GRAND FINALE Okay, maybe not fully retired but definitely on hiatus. After years of dealing with scripts written that never get made, financing that constantly falls
through, getting no pay or barely paid and dealing with the egos of some people who shouldn’t be allowed to watch a movie let alone participate in one – I threw in the towel. I needed to step back or risk going insane. I’ve taken most of this year off, writing sporadically whenever the urge struck me. And let me be honest, it rarely struck. It used to be that writing was the only thing I wanted to do. Now, I would do anything to get away from it. As an outsider looking in I would say, “What the hell is this guy’s problem? He complained for nine columns about all of his dreams to be a screenwriter and blah blah blah. Now he’s just quitting?” Ok, yeah, maybe that fictional reader has a point. But when you’re dealing with an indie production it’s not like some exclusive club where only the most talented get in. Anyone can get in using the Internet. Any Average Joe can make a movie. And that’s half the problem! Anyone can do it. “Right. But isn’t that how you got in?” That same annoying reader would say. Ok. Sure. But I have talent. I can write. “You also have an ego.” Sure. You need one to survive in this world. You need to believe in yourself or no one else will. “Confidence and ego are two different things.” Tell that to all the non-talented people with egos that I’ve dealt with over the years. That’s not to say that no one I’ve come into contact with is worthy of a Trevor Wright script. Absolutely not. Most people I’ve worked with are incredibly talented with very little to no ego whatsoever. But there are those few bad apples... “So? You’re going to let a few bad apples spoil the bunch?” That is so cliché. “I’m not the writer. Just the reader.” You have a point. But it doesn’t change the fact that these people exist and more than likely I’ll have to work with them. “No matter what job you get those people are everywhere. That’s life. Are you just going to quit life?” Umm... “Start writing and make the best movie possible or else we’re going to have to read LIFE SERIAL 2 in a few years where you’re complaining about the same crap again.” Hmm... “ By the way, this column blows.”
Shut up. I have a script to write... THE END. REGICIDE By Nicholas Royle www.solarisbooks.com Subtlety does not work on me (just ask my girlfriend). It often passes me by, I don’t get it, I don’t like it, I don’t do subtle. Except Nicholas Royle does do subtlety. Not only that, he does subtle very well. Very well indeed. Carl (ex-cycle courier and dog hater) meets a girl at a party, and falls almost instantly in love. She’s not so sure, and goes back home to Manchester, leaving the lovelorn Carl in London, to his flat and his record shop. But when Carl finds part of a map and can’t find out which city is belongs to, he finds himself outside of reality in a city where he is being hunted for killing the king. This is a kind of urban fantasy, part reality, part strangeness. What Royle does well (this could be a long list), apart from character, is set up his places. You can almost smell London and Manchester, feel the filth beneath your feet as you walk the streets. The weirdness of the “City”, with its judges on street corners, 1984-style paranoia and betrayals, brings the place to life. All the while we explore Carl, our narrator’s, background to find out what makes him tick. And the menacing ending comes as a shock that almost defied belief. Nicholas Royle has a literary style that makes his books feel more like Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons, and yet he manages to keep his dark edge, like China Mieville or Clive Barker. A short book at only 188 pages, Regicide nonetheless packs a mighty punch, and for anyone who hasn’t read one of his novels it’s a good place to start. Although The Director’s Cut is a long-lingering novel of London’s lost filmland, and holds a personal place in my heart. Royle proves once again why he is such a highly praised and well-respected writer. A subtle and powerful work of fiction. Everyone should have one Nicholas Royle novel in their collection. By Stanley Riiks HARD SPELL By Justin Gustainis www.angryrobotbooks.com This is another good read from Angry Robot Books. Stan Markowski is a man who carries a badge, “Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a Beretta loaded with silver
bullets”. Stan is a law enforcement officer in the American town of Scranton, a detective in the Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. Scranton happens to be the intersection point for “at least ten different ley lines” and therefore a magnet for the assorted supernaturals who have been living publicly in The States ever since the Second World War. Apart from that and the related fact that the local SWAT team is not what you think, but actually “Sacred Weapons and Tactics”, Stan is very much like every other hard-bitten and world-weary detective you’ve come across: a man with a dry sense of humour, a penchant for witty one liners, married to the job and with unresolved domestic issues. Hard Spell is the first investigation for the Occult Crimes Unit. A second investigation is promised in the forthcoming Evil Dark, but in the meantime Hard Spell is a page turning, stand-alone story with thrills, tension, blood and humour and a satisfying conclusion to a complex plot. There’s a new player in Scranton who’s prepared to stop at nothing to get what he wants. The bloody trail he’s leaving behind him is pretty obvious, but the difficulty lies in finding out who he is, where he’s going next and what it is, exactly, that he does want. Markowski and his partner could well be the only things between him and it, provided they can work out what the “it” is. If you like detective procedurals, have a weakness for supernatural horror and paranormal buddy stories and enjoy a well-written, fast-paced tale, Hard Spell is a must read. By J.S.Watts Cat in My Brain: Why I’m Self-Publishing My Next Book By Alan Spencer A Lucio Fulci movie convinced me to self-publish my fifth novel, Cider Mill Vampires. Seriously, it’s true - and I’m not trying to say Lucio Fulci and I are in the same league together. I love his movies, plain and simple. So I was up late one night watching Cat in the Brain. This is the film where Fulci is living out scenes directly from his previous horror movies and facing off with cruel murderers and psychos. He soon questions whether he’s losing his mind, or if it’s someone else playing games with him. This was later in the man’s career when his health was declining, and he had meagre funds to bring his cinematic visions to the screen. Honestly, I hated Cat in the Brain the first time I watched it. I thought it was cheap, and without the other clips used excessively from his previous films, there wasn’t much to it. But the night I decided to self-publish
my next book, I was watching this movie and I got the joke. Fulci’s joke, I mean. He’s making fun of himself, and it’s hilarious when you look at it from that viewpoint. This movie got the gerbil in my head moving, and I’ll tell you why. I tried to put myself in Fulci’s shoes for a moment. He had little money to make this film. He didn’t have a huge movie studio backing him up. It wasn’t well-received when it came out, yet as of recently, it’s been re-released and looks better than ever, and people pay good money to buy the DVD, including myself. So instead of the movie business, I thought about the book business and my writing. Do bigger publishers see my novels and overlook them for the same reasons a major studio overlooked Fulci’s later films? Do mainstream publishers read over my submission packages with storylines involving vampires using cider presses to excuse people of their blood, or a murder mystery involving power tool wielding zombies, and think no way in hell am I publishing this guy? Of course they do! So you’re thinking I’m quitting and throwing in the towel with this self-publishing idea. I’m not giving up the good fight, I promise. Publishing is different these days with e-books, declining book sales, print-on-demand publishers, and increasing competition among many other authors writing in the same genre, many of which who probably are better than you. An even bigger hurdle to jump are those publishers that actually take unsolicited manuscripts. They might take on three to four new writers a year, if that many. It’s a very slim margin. Your book could be great (or it could be crap, let’s be honest), and it might be turned away for various other reasons that have nothing to do with quality or merit. Writing’s a business. It takes solid marketing and promotion to get a book to take off - and sometimes even that’s not enough. If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve been put through the ringer with rejections and close calls many times like anyone else. It’s part of the game. So Fulci’s movie got me thinking about the bigger picture. Do I keep submitting novels to bigger publishers and wait them out, or do I work with what I have in the meantime, just like a struggling Fulci did in the later stages of his career? My book might not have a team of editors reading through it or a fierce marketing campaign budget, but damn it, I’m putting it out there for the world to see. For those readers who think I’m taking the easy way out, I’ll tell you why that’s not true. My real plan, long-term, is to keep doing all of it. I’ll keep submitting to bigger presses, and every once in a while when the time is right, I’ll self-publish a book. No matter how it goes down, I want to stay
productive. This is a compromise, and it’ll keep me sane while waiting those six to eight months for a publisher to give me their verdict on my other manuscripts.
story may be, I’m convinced. If you read authors like Jack Ketchum or Edward Lee, their work is violent and can touch on offensive topics, yet they’ve been successful in the industry, just not right from the beginning when they first started publishing. I also considered the average cost of a small-press book in my decision to self-publish. I try to put myself in the customer’s shoes, being a horror fan myself. A small-press book can cost you almost twenty bucks, if not more in some cases. And the ebooks aren’t always that cheap. So I decided when Cider Mill Vampires was released, I’d keep the price as low as possible, as a way of saying thanks to the reader for giving this new writer a chance. I’ll wrap this up by saying self-publishing Cider Mill Vampires really reflects my reaction to Cat in the Brain simply because Fulci was doing whatever he could to get his vision on the screen, and it’s remarkable what he accomplished with so little. Boil that down some more, it took a few viewings to obtain my appreciation for the film, and over time, I finally got the joke that Fulci was trying to tell. I imagine with publishers and the general reading population, the same situation applies to novelists. It takes time and patience to gain a serious audience, so while I’m waiting for them to arrive or take notice, I might as well put a book out there once in awhile and see what happens. DARKNESS FALLS: FOREVER TWILIGHT By Peter Crowther www.angryrobotbooks.com
The night I finished watching Cat in the Brain and enjoyed it, I contacted the artist who created the cover of my first book, The Body Cartel. He’s a very talented and nice guy. I leveled with him about how much I could pay him for a cover, and he was gracious enough to take me on despite my limited funds. Now that he was on board, I knew I had to self-publish Cider Mill Vampires. I felt excited about the writing and publishing process again. There were no deadlines or publishers to disappoint if my sales weren’t up to snuff. This was all about the fun of the novel. But this decision goes beyond all that fluffy self-empowerment talk. What most writers fear the most about selfpublishing is the bad stigma attached to it. I struggled with this issue, but then I remembered how many obscure writers finally became recognized after so many years. Books have many lives. Word might not spread to the right people right from the get go; it could be a very long time, actually. Cider Mill Vampires might be snatched up by another publisher if enough people buy it. If an author can prove that people will buy your novel, the publishers will want it, no matter how crazy the
Peter Crowther’s Darkness Falling: Forever Twilight has all the elements of speculative fiction that I love. A post-apocalyptic band of random survivors find each other and assemble for the task of battling the alien symbiont invaders who’ve taken over the bodies of the rest of the world’s population. A big idea, worthy of King or Bradbury at their best, offering the chance for great adventures and revelations. His characters are extremely well developed, fleshed-out ‘real’ people, full of flaws, problems, pain, secrets and perversions, but many offering much more interesting developments to come, with psychic abilities in a little girl and a whole host of invisible ‘children’ in the mind of schizophrenic Sally Davis. What role will these traits play in their desperate search for answers to the alien enigma? While these elements of the work are strong and intriguing, and with all due respect to the book’s illustrious author, I’d be remiss in not addressing its major short-coming also. Darkness Falls’ story moves ahead with all
the leisurely, belaboured pace of a Phantom comic. From the opening chapter introducing us to Ronnie at 30,000 feet in the airplane, I was struck by just how much we were being told about him and his wife, Martha. I pretty much had the idea of their relationship within the first two or three pages; having to read another seven pages of establishment of their failed marriage was irksome. The entire ten page chapter included only two or three pages of content meaningful to the story, the rest was superfluous and annoying. As an opening chapter, it set the tone for the rest of the novel. The opening chapters of any book must begin with the establishment of the principal characters, certainly, but as this work slowly progressed I honestly wondered when that character introduction phase was going to end and the storyproper begin? The answer, as I discovered by the end of the work, was ... never. The entire first book is given over to just that, with only a few actual story elements revealed to us about the nature of the alien invaders. The meaningful content of this entire novel could be told in the first hundred, or even hundred and fifty pages being generous, and still hold a leisurely pace. Filling over three hundred pages just for this is excessive. If the following two parts follow this style, then I suspect that the entire three volumes of this series could be condensed to fill a single set of covers, without the loss of any of the actual story, but with much improved pacing and enjoyment for the readers, given the reduction of the total word count by several hundred-thousand. Crowther’s humour and wit appear plentifully to help mitigate this problem, but it’s not enough to compensate. Especially when action scenes, which should by rights be fast-paced and adrenaline-driven, are interrupted with paragraphs of asides; they’re slow enough already without doing that to them. At the end of Forever Twilight, this first instalment of three, we’re left with the tempting prospect of the story-proper beginning in the second book, as the team of heroes and anti-heroes alike turn their flying alien vehicles east, to the alien darkness, to investigate and find answers. The concepts are fresh and interesting, characters are rich and hold the promise of many twists and surprises. It’s such a pity that the execution is so slow and laboured that it detracts from enjoying what could be a fine tale. Some will enjoy this book anyway, others will find the need to skip ahead of the many overtold passages to find the ‘meat’ of it. I offer this three and half stars out of five.
By Mark Turner THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS By Alden Bell www.panmacmillan.com On the surface this is a run-of-the-mill, postapocalyptic zombie tale. A sixteen year old girl struggles to survive in a world gone to ruin, facing down rapists, zombies, and hillbilly mutants, with only her trusty Gurkha knife and her wits to protect her. But this book is much more than that. Beneath the simple story lies the beating heart of Temple, otherwise known as Sarah Mary Williams, a gutsy, feisty teenage warrior who would give Mad Max a run for his money. Our heroine is an illiterate and a murderer .She sets out to explore what’s left of America, determined to see Niagara Falls, when her island’s safety is questioned. She finds a nice community to stay with for a few days, but her itchy feet, and an attempted rape, set her off wandering again. It is the writing than raises this above your normal zombie book. The third person narrative is heavily influenced by our protagonist’s voice, and Temple’s mental struggles as well as the physical ones, make this an emotional read. Bell has written a zombiefied Catcher In The Rye, a coming of age tale in post-apocalyptic America. Brilliantly written, the world is wonderfully portrayed (although there’s nothing new here), and Temple is a fascinating character. This is the story of Temple and it is most worthy of your attention. A poignant and inspiring zombie novel, this is much more than any category it could be put into. Not just for zombie fans, an insightful and fascinating read. By Stanley Riiks Kaylee Williams Interview By Trevor Wright Growing up, were you a fan of horror movies? And if so, which ones were your favourites? I have to say that It and Pet Semetary scared the crap out of me as a child. After watching It, I couldn’t
go anywhere near gutters for the longest time, haha. That clown was creepy as hell! And that kid in Pet Semetary has got to be the creepiest child I have ever seen, hands down. When did you know you wanted to be an actress (i.e. work in the industry)? Not until high school, actually. And it’s something that I never thought that I would be doing for a career. Growing up, I was extremely introverted and shy, so the thought of me being on stage or on camera was a thought that terrified me, rather than intrigued me. It wasn’t until some of my friends in high school dared me to try out for the school play that I discovered that I loved being on stage. I mean, at first my natural response to their suggestion was “Hell no!” but they kept poking and prodding me so I finally gave in. I remember being absolutely terrified while sitting in the audience waiting for my turn to go up on stage and audition. I was shaking like a little leaf and thought I was going to pass out. But once I finally got up on stage, it was the weirdest thing. I didn’t feel nervous at all anymore. I felt like I belonged there. It was a great feeling. After that, I auditioned for my first film, booked the lead role, and have been hooked on acting ever since. I have to say that being an actress has definitely brought me out of my shell. Besides acting do you see yourself branching out into any other field behind the camera? Not right now, but maybe sometime down the line. Right now, I’m just focusing on my acting career. And I honestly love being in front of the camera. But never say never. It might be fun to get to direct a film one of these days. We’ll see what happens! If you could be in any movie already made, what would it be? And whom would you play? Hmm, good question. Probably Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though I definitely prefer the television version of the character over the movie version. Or River in Serenity. Joss Whedon does an amazing job of creating strong female characters. I LOVE his work and I love the characters he creates. What exciting projects are in store for Kaylee
Williams? Well I worked on Cory J. Udler’s Mediatrix at the beginning of May in Wisconsin (amazing experience, by the way. The entire cast and crew involved with that project are awesome and I adore every single one of them). Then I have a cameo role in Poetic this summer and then leading roles in Idiot Gore, and Disciples, which will be shot late this summer and throughout the fall. It’s going to be such a busy year full of badass projects and I’m very much looking forward to. 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? I like some of Stephen King’s books. Some of his books are extremely overly descriptive and he seems to ramble on about unimportant things way too much, but there are a couple of his books that I liked. I actually read a lot of murder mysteries – James Patterson is one of my favourite authors, though he’s not a horror author. How do you unwind after a long day on set? I like to read or eat ice cream. I’m a junk food junkie, haha. Sometimes a hot shower is nice. Or a cold shower, depending on the weather. This is an excerpt from Scream Queens: the Final Chapter coming soon! From The Catacombs By Jim Lesniak Greetings from the depths! This trek into dark fiction leads us to books and novellas in series on the market today. There is a certain comfort in a series – once the first volume has been absorbed, future editions can hit the ground running without the expository build-up. Of course, familiarity can breed contempt as we do not fear for our protagonist. It is unlikely that Repairman Jack or Harry Dresden will be killed off, especially if there are future volumes in the series, so some dramatic tension disappears1. I do not expect high art from a series; I want 1
Just remember how shocking Psycho was in killing the heroine/protagonist almost immediately. A character we invested in was the first to go. Robert Bloch went for disorienting everyone.
entertainment. Much like a “popcorn movie,” we want an experience that may not be life-changing or a book that becomes analyzed academically, just a piece of a larger story that invited us in2. This is not condemning the format; it’s hard enough to write a story that people want to read, much less come back for the sequel. These authors have to draw you in and leave you wanting more. Much like movie sequels, a book series can develop a fan base eager for the next instalment. A shocker for the regular readers of this column: There are no hated books being savaged here! All these series had enough redeeming value to be recommended for mass consumption. Either ye olde reviewer is mellowing in old age/daddy-hood or truly lucked out. Another interesting point is that all of these books are available in eBook format as well as physically (with the exception of Infinite Kung Fu); having made the leap to a Kindle this year, it is interesting to see how much of the small press has embraced the format. It also makes it cheaper and easier to discover new writers. The convenience of digital delivery is a plus, especially in the storage realm; there used to be ample space in the Catacombs... Hopefully, the market for printed books will remain as there is something about the heft and permanence of a “real” book. The Spawning (Book Two of The Hive Series) By Tim Curran Elder Signs Press http://eldersignspress.com Based in the cold environs of Antarctica, the Hive series (planned to be a trilogy, but we’ve seen what success can do) is billed as a continuation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness3. As it is set in modern times, none of Lovecraft’s characters make an appearance; the concepts are here: strange structures and creatures that predate mankind are discovered in the ice, madness-inducing dreams follow. Curran is able to set the mood and scene quite well. Much like the author he is continuing, the sense of dread permeates the chapters, enhancing the otherworldly menace of the alien dreams. The isolation and paranoia are palpable; this assists in forgiving the stock nature of the characters. While better at conveying realistic dialogue than many, our
protagonists feel fairly generic: veteran worker, scientist, ice rookie, etc. The addition of a possible (probable?) government conspiracy that desires to study or exploit the strange things in the ice adds to the tension, ramping up the paranoia from the first instalment. Much like the poor souls in the old gentleman’s prose excursions, the protagonists are here to place a human face on the experiences; they are not guaranteed to survive the experience with their sanity, if at all. Suffice to say, none of the Arctic adventurers from The Hive make a repeat appearance. It is not necessary to read The Hive to enjoy The Spawning as it is the concept, not the characters that persists in this series. Reading both helps expand on the nature of the Old Ones and the world they inhabit; there is no hope and they hunger – the lucky ones die quickly. Hard Spell By Justin Gustainis Angry Robot Books http://angryrobotbooks.com Welcome to Scranton, Pennsylvania – home of Detective Sergeant Stanley Markowski of the Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. Some crimes need special investigative techniques and preparation, especially after the “supes,” who received equal rights in the 1960s, were not myths or legends any longer. Vampires, wizards and goblins are all in a day’s work for Murkowski. The main driver of the plot is the horrific torture and murder of a wizard who guarded a rare and powerful grimoire with unknown (to the police force) powers and implications. Hard Spell transfers the police procedural into a supernatural background, with several minor subplots that, in the end, enhance the over-arcing storyline; they also fill in back-story on the main protagonists without blatantly spoon-feeding it to the reader. There are points where ye olde reviewer wondered whether we would get resolution of some of these points, which could be either a pacing or a patience problem. While not breathtakingly original4, this is an entertaining start to a series that was hard to put down and a recommended read. The next instalment is due in the first quarter of 2012 and Gustainis has another (similar sounding) series with two volumes in print.
Case in point: Do you really want to read Infinite Jest in the airport? Yes, it is a fantastic work of literary art, but I want bread and circuses while traveling. 3 You knew there would be at least one Lovecraft reference, right?
Suddenly, I am removed from the Angry Robot books reviewer list…
Bigfoot War & Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods By Eric S. Brown Coscom Entertainment http://coscomentertainment.com Bigfoot War I is a roller-coaster ride, pure and simple. Sit down, strap in and hold on ‘cause it’s not stopping until the bitter end. Jeff Taylor is returning home to hunt the creature that killed his entire family fifteen years earlier. Military training and heavy ordinance will get his revenge. Unfortunately, exacting revenge leads to an angered tribe; the tribe is not the hippy, plant eating, scared of humanity legend but a hulking, nearly indestructible creature of cunning intelligence. Babble Creek, North Carolina has no clue how hard it’s about to be hit. Do not fall in love with any of the characters in Bigfoot War, since no one is safe. There is no retreating to the standard slasher rules here. The “Feet” are just as likely to kill the good, the bad or the ugly. Eric switches viewpoints frequently to give an over-arcing view of the events and allows us to get into the head of each character (while they have one) without resorting to a Faulkner level of playing with fonts or text colour. Without revealing much, suffice to say Bigfoot War II starts about an hour after part I in the next town over. The military underestimated their foe and had their asses handed to them. Just when it was bad enough to have a rampaging tribe of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?), it manages to get worse. The twist keeps part II from becoming a one-note repeat of part I. The ante is upped, as are the kills, which are some of the most creative since the slasher film cycle of the 1980s. The series is a fun, over-the-top, bloody romp that re-imagines Bigfoot as a cunning opponent. Is there any socially redeeming value? No5. So what – I’m going to angle for an advance review copy of III just to see how crazy things will get. I downloaded Bigfoot War II minutes after reading the first instalment (thank you Kindle and free WiFi in Boston) because I was entertained. Period. This pair of books is a trip, just watch your step – you don’t have a second chance with the Feet! Keep an eye out for Bigfoot War III and IV; I can’t wait to see how Eric ramps it up – this may have to go nuclear. Infinite Kung-Fu By Kagan McLeod Top Shelf Productions http://topshelfcomix.com
Reviewing Infinite Kung-Fu is sort of a cheat for this column, as this is a complete edition of the story. However, since it was started as a traditional comic book, we can give it a pass this time. Yang Lei Kung is a former soldier in the emperor’s army who becomes embroiled in the quest to destroy the emperor (who is a ghost) as a student of the immortals. The balance of the Martial World has been altered; the spirits of the dead are reanimating corpses and corrupting the cycle of rebirth. Yang must learn the ways of many schools of kung-fu to defeat the generals and learn his fate with the emperor. An admission: I have been waiting for the story to conclude for nearly ten years! It was originally self-published for seven issues (slightly more than half of the journey), then dropped off the face of the Earth. Mr. McLeod has developed a successful illustration and fine arts career since the last issue was published in 2002, but there does not seem to be any disconnect with the previouslypublished material. The fluid art becomes selfassured after the first chapter (issue) and remains smooth and expressive for four hundred plus pages. The cinematic angles accentuate the battles and some of the surreal nature of the trek; fans of Shaw Brothers films of the 1970s should feel right at home here. A blaxploitation angle rolls in with the supercool figure of Moog Jugular, an earlier student who is a mix of George Clinton and Isaac Hayes (he climbed the mountain in search of the funk!). If you are not sold yet, check out the trailer on YouTube6! A tale of good versus evil with the shades of grey showing temptations of the dark path. The horror trappings are not tacked on, but part of the overall philosophy explored through the tome. The only thing missing from this collection is the movie review section from the original issues – fun, but not essential. Well worth the wait. This column was written under the influence of a couple of albums, not reviewed, but recommended. Wugazi’s 13 Chambers is a mash-up of Wu-Tang Clan and Fugazi that is the best combination since the Grey Album – and it’s a free download7! You have no excuse. Also spending time in the headphones is a compilation album from Vanguard Records: Follow Me Down: Vanguard’s Lost Psychedelic Era8. Originally available as a Record 6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jipeVbR48E4 http://wugazi.com/ 8 http://www.vanguardrecords.com/ 7
Besides, of course, don’t mess with Bigfoot!
Store Day vinyl exclusive only, it has received digital release. While it has a couple of duds, on the whole it is an interesting collection of obscure psych. I’ll sign off on this instalment with an apology to Jason Sizemore of Apex Book Company9. He was kind enough to get me an ARC of Sara M. Harvey’s The Tower of the Forgotten, but I did not feel I could do it justice in a review without re-reading the first two books in the Penemue Trilogy (The Labyrinth of the Dead and The Convent of the Pure) and covering the series as a whole. The series is highly recommended, even if you are not a typical fan of steampunk, and I shall cover it in its entirety in the next Catacomb excursion.
Morpheus Tales #14 Review Supplement, October 2011. © COPYRIGHT October 2011 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.