Category Archives: Fiction

Review: Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

Disclaimer: This is not normally a review blog. I do not consider myself well enough educated, or analytical enough to review things on a regular, or even semi regular, basis. With that in mind, I’m still going to post a review of this anthology, for reasons which will become clear in reading it.

Disclosure: I have written for Anne and Jared’s geek culture blog Pornokitsch twice in the past. There is a working relationship of sorts between us, but at no point has there ever been anything transactional in the nature of it. I wrote for Pornokitsch because what they asked of me sounded fun and interesting; I neither asked for, nor received, payment in cash, goods, services or in any other considerations.

With those two notices out of the way, to the review! Onwards!

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, is a small press anthology with distinctive and unusual roots. The fledgling Pandemonium Fiction is a writer’s cooperative, which for its début release is working with the Tate Britain and the Clarke Awards in releasing an anthology inspired by the work of the Romantic artist John Martin, an man of unique talent and unusual historical significance (or lack thereof, depending upon fashion). Proceeds from the sales of the collection are split between the contributors and various other literary causes; in this the case the Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

The anthology collects original works by of eighteen of the brightest rising stars in SF, fantasy and horror, including such luminaries as Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Lauren Beukes, Sophia McDougall, Kim Lakin-Smith and Chrysanthy Balis, all apparently given one simple instruction. Look at Martin’s work, then write. The results are varied, wildly imaginative and brilliant. The stories within all follow the themes, settings or atmosphere of Martin’s work perfectly and, in one particularly clever case, use the exhibition itself as the starting point of a searing reaction to the confused, inarticulate, consumerist nihilism of the London riots and the reactionary, pro-vigilante discourse that followed them.

Some of the stories are quite obviously set on this world, some equally obviously are not, while others retain a pleasant ambiguity about setting. They  vary in tone from comic (The Architect of Hell, Chislehurst Messiah, The End of the World) to bleakly depressing (OMG GTFO, Πανδαιμονειον, ), taking detours at touchingly human (Closer, The Day or the Hour, Another Abyss), gloriously dark (Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion) and achingly romantic (Not the End of the World). The apocalypses portrayed range from implied in the setting (Deluge, The Last Man), to explicit on the page (Deluge again (trust me)); from the literal apocalypse, to the deeply and intensely personal (A Private Viewing) end of an individual’s world; from the biblical (Evacuation), to the mysterious (At the Sign of the Black Dove), to the science fictional (The Harvest, The Immaculate Particle) to the gloriously unclassifiable (Postapocalypse). Although I’ve highlighted certain descriptors with particular stories, they all fit several of the descriptors mentioned and none of them are one dimensional.

The first thing to note is that Pandemonium contains no dead wood; no filler, obligatory inclusions, or unnecessary stories. Every work in the collection, as well as being individually superb, sings for its supper; serves a particular purpose within the thematic framework of the anthology and is placed with great care at a specific place within the book as a whole to aid in the pacing, structure and emotional response of the reader. A short story collection can, of course, be read out of order; Pandemonium is one that merits a full reading in sequential order at least once. To do otherwise is to miss the thematic subtleties and structural cleverness of the editors.

This is a rare thing to say about an anthology, but there were no stories I disliked; nothing which I thought to be weak, or badly written; nothing which I found myself trawling through, wishing only to get to the next story. There were, of course, stories which stood out for me personally or which took me so much by surprise that they still linger days later. I’ve highlighted a few below, although it bears saying that even the stories not chosen are worthy of highlighting in their own right.

(Some spoilers between the asterisks)

***

Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion, by Archie Black

I thought that Archie Black’s ‘Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion’ was a relentlessly black, magnificently downbeat exercise in the stripping away of humanity; the ambiguously detailed historical apocalypse is mirrored perfectly by the descent of the narrator into depression, despondency, barbarism, degeneracy and, ultimately, death. This story was a particularly pleasant surprise, as before starting Pandemonium I’d never heard of Archie Black, even second hand; I’ll certainly be keeping a very close eye on her career from this point on.

OMG GTFO, by S.L. Grey

I’d heard of the gestalt entity that is S.L. Grey, usually in glowing terms, before reading Pandemonium, but this was my first encounter with them. ‘OMG GTFO’ took me by surprise, not for the high quality (which met my absurdly high expectations and proves that hype isn’t always unjustified), but for the cynical nihilism on display within it. Horror, despite accusations to the contrary, is often the most human of genres; with each survivor, we reject death; with each monster defeated or contained we reject chaos; with each boundary or moral line not crossed, we reaffirm our humanity.

Not so, in ‘OMG GTFO’. What at first comes across as a sly parody of religionist insistence that there are no atheists in foxholes and the idea that the stick serves a deity far better than the carrot for bringing in the sheep, quickly and neatly sidesteps into a pitch black insistence that humanity is kept human by only the thinnest of civilised veneers and at the end of it all, we’re all fucked anyway. Hell exists all right, we live here. Wonderfully thought provoking.

Deluge, by Kim Lakin-Smith

Kim Lakin-Smith’s ‘Deluge’ surprised me in multiple and confusing ways. First of all, for the fact that it is, nominally at least, my ‘least favourite’ (please note the semantic difference between ‘least favourite’ and ‘don’t like’) story in the collection, yet it absolutely point blank refuses to leave my head. Secondly, for the fact the story was not set at the bottom of a deep, oceanic abyss; I have never read a story which left me with such a strong sense of pressure, compression and abyssal depths; each mention of air, desert, rain,wheels, wind or sand in the text hit me like a drop of cold water in the face, reminding me that the story occurs on dry (very dry) land.

This isn’t for lack of clarity on the part of author, I should point out; short of her coming to my house and sprinkling sand in my sock drawer, the desert environment couldn’t be made any more unambiguous by Ms Lakin-Smith. Saying that, every sentence of ‘Deluge’ felt as disorienting as sounds heard while underwater. Louder and closer than is strictly comfortably, yet always more distant than you think.

While I can quite easily, and truthfully, tell you that despite being exceptionally well written the story didn’t quite click for me, I can simultaneously, and with equal truth, tell you that I’m deeply fascinated with reading more about Wakatire and would eagerly snap up any further stories set there, as well as hunting out the author’s other works with great haste. As I said, confusing. Like all top quality writers, when a story doesn’t click you doubt yourself and your understanding of it, as much as, or more than, the story itself.

Not the End of the World, by Sophia McDougall

‘Not the End of the World’ by Sophia McDougall, is the final story in Pandemonium and the perfect story with which to close out such a volume. A subtle, heart warming, heartbreaking and devastatingly human end to a roller-coaster of an anthology.

Equal parts historical tale, tender romance, ghost story, war story and urban fantasy, Ms McDougall paints intimate portraits of six disparate characters with remarkable deftness, lightness of touch and brief, yet illuminating, intimacy. Through meticulous use of repetition, exactingly precise use of vague recollection of earlier passages and events and effortless shifts from a chatty, intimate viewpoint to a broad and poetic narrative prose, she takes the reader from the domestic claustrophobia of Friedenstrasse 77, through the timeless space of what could well be an eternity passed in what may be only nanoseconds and, finally, to a rejection of the comforts of routine, mundane, unchanging now and a willingness to embrace the future, even though that future may contain horrors not yet known, uncertainty, or instant and painful death.

Failure to embrace change is a failure to exist fully and the end of the world in ‘Not the End of the World’ comes not for Elly with her rejection of eternal safety in a never ending present, but for those who remain in Friedenstrasse 77, preserved forever, but as untouchable and unliving as Frau Holl’s precious ornaments. Sophia McDougall achieves as complete and satisfying an emotional transformation in  one short story as many writers struggle to illustrate in an entire novel, which is remarkable.

***

(Spoilers end)

Why do I feel the need to review this anthology, when I read so many things and review, well, none of them? Because this anthology feels, forthcoming mockable hyperbole duly noted, like the beginning of something special. Not a beginning for Pandemonium Fiction, this may seem cold (Sorry Anne and Jared!) but imprints start or stop every year, but of a generation of writers, and two hugely gifted anthologists, about to hit the big time. There’s a famous photograph taken at Sun Studios in Memphis, which shows the young and not yet famous group of musicians, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, gathered around a piano having fun. This collection has that same feeling of fresh, new and limitless potential. Even taking the vagaries of publishing into account, I find it hard to believe that at least a few of the writers here won’t go on to become huge names. I will take huge pleasure in watching to see which ones and cheering all from the sidelines.

It’s worth noting that I started writing this review five hours before writing this final paragraph and most of that time was spent agonising over which few stories to highlight individually and wish I had the space to write about the fourteen that remain. With that firmly in your mind, you should be heading over to Pandemonium Fiction and making sure that you get your copy of Stories of the Apocalypse just as soon as it goes live. It will surely be talked about a lot in the coming weeks and months.

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse is released on November 4th 2011 in ebook format and in a limited edition hardback run available for purchase at the Tate Britain.

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Work in Progress: Short Extract no.2

Please note: As time marches on, this may end up as a deleted scene instead of an extract. Time will tell.

So, as I mentioned the other day I’m rewriting or throwing out a lot of my current Work in Progress because of stylistic issues. The most difficult character to do this with is Armand, because the passages from his POV are so, well, strangely put together. Even by my own standards, they’re lacking description, intentionally choppy and disjointed and I’m not entirely sure how to go about retooling them. Anyway, I know Armand is going to remain a major POV character but here’s a look at him as he first emerged onto the page, no matter how he ends up in the final draft.

Light. White and blinding. Armand shut his eyes and turned away from it, but it burned through his eyelids and so he woke. He stepped from his pallet and walked to the bowl of water to wash his face. Snoring. The man he was sharing the cost of the room with was still fast asleep. Thoughts crossed his mind, but Armand ignored them, for now at least, and washed himself. With face clean and thoughts ignored he pulled on his clothes and considered if he was hungry enough for breakfast. No breakfast.

Clean, thoughtless and dressed.

The inn was poor, even the shutters on the windows were worn and full of holes, and the food and drink weren’t as Armand would have liked. Money was what he needed, but this place was too poor for anyone except the local lord to have anything of use. Armand sat down to decide where to go next. He was almost out of room in Galle, so his options were to go sideways or to loop back north into the middle. He didn’t like moving sideways, so back north it was. Decision made.

Clean, thoughtless, dressed, not hungry.

North wasn’t good. North was behind him and people knew Armand behind him. Sideways was worse, though. People always looked sideways first. At least backwards might be unexpected. Standing up, he started to gather his few belongings into the pack he travelled with. Noise. Sudden, low, mournful. Armand froze in place, then located the noise. The bed opposite. The man sleeping had passed wind. Armand began to wretch, the smell assaulting his throat and making his stomach twist and lurch. Thoughts. Lots and lots of thoughts. Too many thoughts. Make them stop.

Turning towards the man, Armand crossed the space between them. He waited until the man exhaled, then placed his hand across the man’s nose and mouth, pinching off his air supply. It took him a second or two to wake up, which was a second or two too long, so Armand knew the man was dead. He watched the dead man’s eyes spring open, saw the look of first confusion, then fear enter his eyes and then, after a few seconds of pointless and feeble attempts to push Armand away, the body caught up with the inevitable and died. He left his hand over its mouth until it voided itself, then stepped away to wash his hands again. Hunger, sudden and sharp. Armand decided to get a bag of food from downstairs to take with him as he walked. In a short while, the people here would know him. Leaving time.

Clean, dressed, thoughts emptying again, hungry.

Everyone, meet Armand. Armand, stay the hell away from everyone I know. As stated before, I’ve no idea how he’ll end up, but this is how I first met him.

Unsung Genre Heroes – Horror: Graham Masterton

In horror, or ‘Dark Fantasy’ as some bookshops are starting to call it these days (with justification, perhaps – that’s for another post, though), there’s a bit of a fetish for transcending the genre; writing a book that appeals to the lit-fic crowd. If you’re lucky enough to be translated from another language – John Ajvide Lindqvist, Koji Suzuki – or sell an absolute buttload of copies – Stephen King, Clive Barker – then it happens almost automatically. If you have a knack for spare, almost McCarthyesque, prose then you might escape the genre doldrums and be, somewhat sniffishly, accepted as a ‘real’ writer. Peter Straub and Christopher Fowler have and it looks like Joe Hill is well on his way towards that too. If you just want to give people a ripping yarn with a few scares and shocks in there, though, you might end up unjustly ignored by anyone except horror buffs. Along with a few of his contemporaries – F. Paul Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, James Herbert – Graham Masterton has ended up in just that situation.

A cut down biography of Masterton’s writing reads something like this. He started out as a journalist and jobbing writer, before becoming the editor of Mayfair and UK Penthouse. He wrote a couple of sex instruction manuals before his first novel, The Manitou, was released in 1976. Since then, he’s written primarily, although by no means exclusively, in the horror genre as well as continuing to release sex instruction manuals.

Now that we’ve established who he is, it’s time to get to the crux of this post; why I’m writing about him. I’m writing about him because he deserves it. For more than thirty years, he’s been writing effective, efficient, occasionally brilliant horror novels, as well as a selection of solid crime, historicals, thrillers and the occasional foray into ‘true’ fantasy. So far, he’s published more than eighty novels and almost as many short stories and is still going strong. The man must be doing something right, so what exactly is it?

The first part of it, is his mastery of formula; knowing exactly how a given type of story should progress, where the beats need to be, how to hook a reader and then drip feed them shocks, twists, revelations and action at exactly the right pace to carry them all the way to the end. In case you think that’s faint or grudging praise, try finding a writer or critic who isn’t filled with respect and admiration for Elmore Leonard or Donald E. Westlake; believe me, you’ll need to travel a long way to find one, and those guys are fellow masters of formula.

The second part of it, is his prose style. It’s unfussy, uncomplicated and gets the point across effectively in the minimum number of words. When you’re reading a Graham Masterton, you rarely pick out a turn of phrase or sentence and say “That’s a typically Masterton way of putting that”, in fact you don’t even notice him at all, merely the story he happens to be telling. By no means every critic, and certainly not every writer, will tell you that’s something to aim for, but Masterton is masterful at putting the story first. So far as he’s concerned, the reader is to be entertained first and foremost. If you have to scurry for a dictionary to look up a word, he’s not doing it right; if you lift your eyes from the page and say “what a beautifully constructed sentence”, then you’ve noticed him and it’s distracted you from the story. Because of that, he takes the “murder your darlings” approach to its extreme. The only idiosyncrasies in a Masterton story are those of the character, most notably in his Manitou novels, where the voice of Harry Erskine has remained consistently recognisable for thirty five years. The same thing applies in his Jim Rook series of horror novels for young adults. Rook is recognisable and it’s immediately apparent you’re reading a novel about him, but, once again, Masterton himself is almost invisible. To quote Elmore Leonard, he “leaves out the bits that people skip” and does it consistently and superbly well. The man is a pro.

The final part, is his meticulous attention to detail. He quite obviously goes out of his way to learn about the subject his story deals with and that always shows on the page. In most cases, that research is channelled into making an element of mythology or folklore scary, but he weaves sometimes quite sizeable infodumps into his stories with skill and flair, almost always phrasing them as stories within the story and the infodump itself becomes entertaining in its own right; something a lot of far bigger selling authors have still to learn. Now, I’m not saying that all of the mythology in his stories is strictly true to the source, Trotting Coyote wouldn’t necessarily make the greatest villain (Charnel House) without some serious tweaking to fit the tale in question, but they make an excellent jumping off point for learning more about the myths in question.

So, if you’ve read this far then you obviously haven’t encountered his writing before, and might be wondering where to start. Maybe try a few from the selection below and see what you think.

Horror Fans
The Manitou series (Manitou, Revenge of the Manitou, Burial, Manitou Blood, Blind Panic)
Flesh & Blood
The House That Jack Built
Prey
Any of his short story anthologies (Scare Care, Fortnight of Fear, Flights of Fear etc.)

Never read horror, but willing to give it a go
The Jim Rook series (Rook, Tooth & Claw, The Terror, Snowman, Swimmer, Darkroom, Demon’s Door, Ultimate Evil)
Black Angel (A mixture of horror & detective fiction)
The 5th Witch (A mixture of horror elements and urban fantasy)
The Devils of D Day (Mixes horror and action thriller quite nicely)

I read fantasy, but don’t mind the odd scare mixed in
The Night Warriors series (Night Warriors, Death Dream, Night Plague, Night Wars, The Ninth Nightmare)
The Hidden World
Walkers
Edgewise (One of many Masterton tales which are based on Native American mythology)
Descendant (Volume one of proposed Vampire Hunter series)

I read mostly crime, but don’t mind it being creepy in places
The Sissy Sawyer series (Touchy & Feely, The Painted Man)
Trauma
Holy Terror

There you go. The man’s a true pro and an unsung hero of the horror genre. I hope you’ll try at least one of the books I’ve recommended above and also hope you’ll get as much pleasure from them as I have over the years. Happy (if somewhat nervous) reading!

Visit Graham’s home page to learn more: http://www.grahammasterton.co.uk/

Work in Progress: Short extract

In lieu of that Northumberland Folklore post, which I’m too busy to write properly today, have a snifter of what I’m currently writing instead. A bit of a departure in terms of my writing, since it’s pulp adventure which owes equal parts to Dumas, Lieber and Westlake. The working title is The Harlequins (subject to change, just as soon as I think up a better one).

Harlequins extract: Chapter one – Part one – An Unexpected Creditor

Eight feet, by eight feet. That was what Remy’s world had shrunk to. Sixty four square feet of cold stone, a tiny grille for a window, a wooden sleeping platform and bucket that made the whole dismal room smell of a sewer. Oh, there was a sort of courtyard he could go into but he tried to avoid it. Only two kinds of people were out there, deluded minor nobles who were convinced that a relative would pay their debts and have them released, or else the lowest kind of commoner not reduced to thievery, bemoaning their accursed luck at ending up in gaol. Remy didn’t like mixing with either of them. The nobles looked down on him, the commoners treat him with suspicion and both sections kept away from each other, leaving Remy to wander alone through the open space in the middle. Besides, some of the nobles had relations who couldn’t afford to pay the debts, but could afford to bring them various luxuries and treats. Remy hated seeing all that luxury, in relation to what a flat broke prisoner like himself could have, going to waste on simpering halfwits. If he only had a stake, he could live like a king in here. The problem was, he was so far down on his luck that he couldn’t even raise a cake or a decent shirt to gamble with. If you could call playing against these idiots gambling.

A harsh laugh from the walkway outside his cell brought Remy out of himself. There was another reason he didn’t go out into the courtyard. Gaston. A swaggering, one-eyed bully who enjoyed taking what he could from those lacking a group of friends to protect them from it or the outside influence to prevent it. Remy closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the cold stone wall behind his pallet. With luck, Gaston and his two snivelling cronies would pass by to annoy some other fool.

“Good morning, Remy. Have you got something for me? Half of your morning bread perhaps? I hate to see people who can’t honour a promise, especially when such mistakes are what landed them in this pleasant guest house in the first place.” A couple of sniggers accompanied that sparkling witticism. Remy sighed heavily. Why was Gaston so obsessed with the bread? It was as hard a priest’s heart by the time the prisoners as poor as Remy got it.

“Gaston. Always a pleasure. No, I don’t have bread for you. I’m stashing it under my mattress. I’m hoping to sharpen it up on the walls, so I can cut through the bars.” He opened his eyes, to see three people staring blankly at him. The hulking Gaston, greasy hair slicked back into a ponytail and gravy still on his chin from his breakfast, fingering the patch over his missing eye as he always did when he was trying to appear urbane and charming. On either side of him were his two lapdogs. Remy could never remember their names.

Gaston flicked his head and the two lackeys rushed forward and grabbed Remy by the arms, hauling him to his feet. Gaston stepped through the doorway, pulling the door closed behind him. He strolled over to Remy and looked him up and down. Remy met his gaze evenly. He had no intention of fighting them, but he’d be damned if he was going to flinch from them.

“We have an agreement, Remy. You give me half your morning bread, and I protect you from the more unsavoury characters in here. Where’s my bread?” Remy held Gaston’s gaze.

“We have no such bargain. I signed nothing, told you quite plainly I wouldn’t give you anything of mine and the only unsavoury thing in this shithole of a gaol is the smell from your two flunkies. I owe you nothing. Now tell arse-kisser and ball-licker here to let go of me, then all three of you get out of my room.”

A dull pain erupted in Remy’s solar plexus and all his wind exited his chest as he coughed and wheezed. Gaston was pretty quick for a big man. Remy hadn’t even seen the blow coming, so couldn’t prepare himself for it. Tears streamed from his eyes as he tried vainly to get his breath back between retches and coughs. He thought briefly about fighting back, but they’d already got the first blow in and besides, he could be here for a long time. No sense in starting a feud that could end up with his getting killed.

“When Gaston tells someone they’re going to give him something, they give it to him, do you understand me Remy?” Remy spluttered a bit more, then managed to draw himself upright.

“I thought you were Gaston?” Gaston’s solitary eye clouded in confusion.

“I am Gaston.”

“So who’s the other Gaston you’re talking about? The one who everyone gives their stuff to.” Remy actually managed to see the next blow coming, but he couldn’t do anything about it. He just closed his eyes in preparation for the pain he knew was coming and ducked a little in the hope of avoiding a broken nose, as Gaston drew his shoulders back for the headbutt.

An explosion of white light, then the next few minutes passed in a haze of dizziness and pain. Blows landed all over Remy’s ribcage, then he felt himself fall to the floor as arse-kisser and ball-licker let go of him, in order to land a few blows of their own. He managed to curl himself into a ball with his arms tucked over his head to protect himself from any further strikes to his skull, but from there it was a matter of hoping they got bored quickly. Soon enough, it was over and he heard their boots retreating and the door opening and closing as they left.

After a few minutes to make sure they weren’t coming back for a second helping, Remy unrolled himself from his protective ball and tried to stretch out a bit, in order to test how badly they’d hurt him. A few pokes and prods told him they’d done no serious damage. Lots of bruises and a headache from the headbutt were all he had to show for it. This beating was obviously meant as a warning. No doubt the next one would be more severe.

Remy opened his left fist, which he’d kept clutched tightly shut throughout the beating. In his hand was a pewter toothpick he’d managed to lift from the one he thought of as “arse-licker”, as he’d slumped over after the blow to the guts. At least the beating had been profitable. Later on, he could try and use the pick to get in on a game of cards or dice with those idiotic minor nobles. First though, a nap to help him get over the beating. Perhaps his luck was changing after all.

There you go, hope you didn’t hate it. The folklore post I promised will be up either later on today or tomorrow, entirely dependent on how RL stuff pans out.

Announcement!

Remember when I wrote a little while ago that I thought it was time I wrote something in novel length? Well, that time is upon me. I’ve gone very quiet so far as the internet goes over the last few weeks, while I figure out in my head what I’m going to be doing. I’m not going to be writing this novel for attempted professional publication. It’s a well established fact that first attempts at writing novels are almost entirely made out of suckium – the same element that most airport thrillers are made from – so I’m just going to throw it at the internet under a Creative Commons license to see if any of it sticks. The main reasons for doing this, are that I lack test readers, like feedback and genuinely want to see if I have what it takes to write long form fiction. If I think I have the chops for it (i.e. I actually finish it and universal opinion isn’t of the “Your story sucks monkey balls” variety), future attempts at novel length works will be heading off to agents and/or publishing houses.

Now, what kind of story will I be telling? It’ll be a Swords & Sorcery, pulp style, adventure novel with a secondary world setting and multiple viewpoints. I’m doing this because I’ve got a worrying tendency to write angsty protagonists and I fear that sticking with the horror genre I feel comfortable in will ensure I fall into this trap again. There’ll probably be dark magic and cosmic horrors in the story as well, after all Swords & Sorcery virtually runs on this trope, but it won’t be of the “Mortal man was not meant to look upon such things” and the hero goes insane, type of endings. At least, I don’t think it will; stories always change between the planning stage and the actual writing.

I won’t be putting myself under any kind of self enforced deadline on this. I’ve got a life away from the keyboard and sometimes that takes priority – especially when all of my writing is of the I’m-not-getting-paid-for-this variety – but, all things being equal, it should end up completed at some unspecified point in 2011. I’m a “wrestle the words onto the page” kind of writer, not a “words flow freely from my lightning quick blister-fingers” kind of writer. That’s just how I roll.

P.S. Expect a few “edits to add” while I get one or two other things sorted out.

Edit to Add: I’m going to be keeping a diary of the actual writing process as I go along. I won’t be keeping it here, though. I’ve decided, wisely or not, to keep the writing diary in separate place to Stuff & Nonsense, which I now intend to use as a repository for things I’ve actually thought out first. Completed thoughts, rants, finished stories and chapters, reviews of things I find interesting (or really rubbish), links to things you might enjoy (like this!) and so on. Stuff & Nonsense is where the finished stuff goes, the newly formed “I Slap Raptors” (did you hear that faint rumbling noise? Somewhere, a volcano erupted as Mother Nature sought to punctuate such an awesome journal name appropriately) over on Livejournal is where I do the writerly pontificating about process and so on. That stuff is only of interest other writerly types and there’s no sense clogging up Stuff & Nonsense with it.

What the hell was THAT?!

Those of you who’ve managed to read all seven parts of Son of my Father might well be asking yourself what the hell that was all in aid of. It started out one thing, turned briefly into something else entirely, segued into Cthulhu country, flirted with the notion of ending in a way no Lovecraft inspired story should, then went back to where Lovecraft fans (myself included) feel comfortable. Those of you who’ve never read Lovecraft, Derleth, Lumley, Campbell or any of the thousands of other works of fiction set in or around the Cthulhu Mythos will be justifiably confused. Those of you who have, might be a little put out by some of the things I’ve done in the story.

Minor Spoilers under the cut

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Son of my Father: Part Seven (Final part. Long post)

Awake. Light filtered through Scott’s eyelids, pain stabbing into his skull with it. Agony was the first thing he was aware of, but before he’d even had time to think coherently, a lurching in his stomach became his immediate concern. A cold band of roiling pain, followed by sweating told him what was coming next. A deep breath to steel himself tipped him over the edge and as the vomit surged up through his body, Scott opened his mouth and rolled over to allow it to exit. At least, he tried to.

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Son of my Father: Part Six

Scott felt perception almost come to him, cotton covered and remote, beyond where he could move to. Voices were nearby, but he couldn’t properly hold onto them. He wanted to be sick, the taste of cough medicine and the bitter heat of bile washed around his throat and nasal passages, but he was too focused on remembering to breath to allow his stomach to leave him. He wanted to open his eyes, but they wouldn’t listen to what he told them. Slowly he became aware of a sensation of being touched, the voices almost coming to where he could see them and hear the shape of what was being said, but all he could make out were fragments of something happening somewhere else.

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Son of my Father: Part Five

Back inside The Slumberer, everyone had moved away from the bar and were occupying tables tucked away in corners of the cavernous bar room. As Scott approached the bar itself, he once again noticed the door marked “Staf olny” and a bell rang in his head.

You’re Gemma, aren’t you?” He asked the young woman who had first startled, then puzzled him so much a moment before. She turned to him, her eyes wide in amazement.

I am. How did you know that?” He almost told her he was psychic, but was worried she might actually believe him.

Billy mentioned you. He described you perfectly.” Gemma smiled brightly, apparently pleased at being recognised. Scott thought it best not to repeat Billy’s description of her.

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Son of my Father: Part Four

Downstairs things had livened up a little, there now being half a dozen people in the bar area. Scott took a look at the locals and struggled to keep the shocked expression from his face. Ingleton had obviously been isolated for some time, judging by the very familial look about the people clustered around the bar. There was a tendency towards that same toad-like roundness as Alice from the shop, and more facial warts gathered in one place than the witches table at a Macbeth convention. He sincerely hoped they were all from one family rather than a random selection of locals. This seemed increasingly like Deliverance country and he had no desire whatsoever to end up as a reconstruction on Crimewatch. He wandered over to the bar and dredged his mind for something to say to the Toad-People. “Aren’t sheep a pain in the fucking arse?” wasn’t going to cut it, while “Has anyone seen the Wicker Man?” was probably going to give them ideas. Luckily the tallest of the locals saved him the trouble.

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