This ‘Next Big Thing’ writers’ blog relay has been going round a lot lately – so much so that even I have been tagged to take part by Nina Allan – an author I have worked with quite a lot in Eibonvale Press and who is also one of my personal favourite writers out there. You can find two of her books right here – A Thread of Truth and The Silver Wind.
The objective of the game is simple – answer 10 questions, then pass them on to other people you think are of interest! The questions are geared towards authors, but my next big project is an editing one, so I will be answering as editor. Nina’s answers are here: http://www.ninaallan.co.uk/?p=660 and my new tags are at the end. I would encourage any reader to track back and forwards through this string of mini-interviews for a fantastic look at the world of authors, maybe finding some exciting new names that you haven’t seen before, which is of course one of the great quests of any enthusiast!
1) What is the title of your next book?
Rustblind and Silverbright, an anthology of railway slipstream stories.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is one of those ideas that have always been there, one way or another. It is just that it has now happened to crystallise into an actual project. I am not a trainspotter or train fanatic, but I do love riding trains – and I even more love the curious worlds of self-contained privacy that they travel through. For me, it is closer to urban exploration than trainspotting! I am lucky to live in the middle of a city like London, which is a phenomenally diverse place with a very complex rail network connecting the full scale of human experience from slum to swank in a system where everyone comes together and sways in unison with the lively motion of the wheels. I thrill at those glimpses of little nooks and crannies that nobody can see any other way. The fusion of ancient and modern in the construction. The mix of historical pride and modern mundanity. The power of these vehicles as they thunder past . . .
As far as I know (and I am sure someone will correct me the moment I say so), nobody has ever put together a book of railways stories in the context of modern literature of the fantastical. There has been classical railway fiction of course, steam train and dark tunnel ghost stories, a few individual more modern works such as Nolan’s Helltracks, Laws’ Ghost Train or Barker’s Midnight Meat Train . . . but no real examination taking the theme just as far as it could go in these more obscure areas of the imagination. This is something I wanted to put right, partly I must admit to prove that the field does indeed go a lot further than steam train and dark tunnel or what happens when the tube train stops in the dark . . .
3) What genre does your book fall under?
I call it slipstream since I am reluctant to get too close to the genre cores, but I cast the net wide with this one, choosing to let the railways be the unifying factor rather than the style. I like it when genres mix and blend anyway, and here you will find everything from the quietest and most respectable slipstream, edging towards hard SF, pure (but modern) horror, absurdism, philosophical surrealism, flash fiction . . . and the subs are not even all in yet! I hope I may have a few more surprises before it’s over.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is kind of a hard question to answer for an anthology! And even if I was discussing my own writing, I’m not sure it’s something I would like to think about much. Fiction characters are characters in their own right, and the last thing I would want to do while working with them is imagine real world performers getting in the way of that with their by-definition artificial world. I might say though that I’d love to see this directed by some more eccentric Asian director, like Kai-duk Kim or Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but that’s just because I love films directed by eccentric Asian directors!
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Humans are infinitely strange and fascinating; trains are where all of humanity comes together.
6) When will the book be published?
Fairly early in 2013. Probably after Tallest Stories, Defeated Dogs and Emporium of Automata are released. You want exact dates from Eibonvale Press? Forget it!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Adjusting for the fact that I am in editor mode here, the book opened for submissions in June 2012 and will close for subs at the end of the year – December 31. That was a long reading period, but I like to take things slowly. I like things to mature like wine, so tend to be very merciful about deadlines! At any rate, the new year is when I will make my final choices of stories and get them into order. That’s when the book will assume its final identity. Something I can’t wait to see.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
As I said before, this is a wide-ranging book – deliberately so. Thus that is a hard question to answer – and again one I prefer not to think about too much while in the process of putting something together. Let the book/story find its own voice, then we’ll decide what it is! Of course, one thing I can say is that it is clear enough this book sits in the rich world of themed anthologies alongside things like Catastrophia, Cinnabar’s Gnosis or Never Again, to name just a very few. This is an area I am quite new to. For most of my reading life, I steered clear of anthologies, regarding single-author collections and novellas as the most perfect literary form! But recently, that began to change. Which brings me to . . .
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If I explained some of the what under question 2, I should probably talk about the who here. Who no. 1 would be Allen Ashley, who edited Eibonvale Press’s previous anthology Where Are We Going? and gave me a good example of just how effective a themed anthology could be. Watching that book take shape was inspiring and I wanted a piece of that! But a possibly more direct and even earlier inspiration goes to Nina Allan, who’s enthusiasm for trains is also very intense and, like me, tends to aim at the less trainspottery side of things! Talking trains and literary projects over with her settled it very firmly in my mind and I quickly realised that there was no need for further discussion. This book was going to happen. I am very happy to report that both the above authors will be included in this book!
Last inspiration goes to the London Transport Network, of all things. Some people meditate. Some people scoff chocolate. Some people look for god. Some people have sex or whatever the lonely equivalent is. When I am feeling down or in the need of some quiet time or thinking time, I buy a travel card and just wander where the whim takes me through the massive and endlessly fascinating London railways. It might seem strange to some to equate this busy network of commuter and metro trains with quiet, but I say it is. Riding the train is a period of enforced shut-down in a world where my commitments are continually nagging me.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Aside from simply collecting interesting and boundary-busting stories concerning the railway, I have a few more eccentric ideas as well. One of these involves getting together some non-fiction fragments as well, exploring just how strange and wide-ranging train travel can be. I intend to make a series of elegant vignettes tackling everything from Hitler’s fantasy of a supertrain network in his post-war Europe and the species of mosquito that is unique to the London Underground to American maglev conspiracy theories and Japanese animal station masters. These will be every bit as strange as the stories themselves and will hopefully set them off nicely!
In addition, and also assuming that everything goes according to plan, just WAIT till you see the contents page!
And lastly, as of now, there is still a month to go before the close of submissions. So time for one last plug! If you haven’t already, get your strangest and most outlandish author’s caps on and get writing! Remember, trains are where all of humanity comes together. So the possibilities are infinite!
Now – time for me to send this onwards and find a few more people. Who can I drop in it?
- Douglas Thompson, a prolific and highly original writer who is very close to the press. Author of Mechagnosis and Entanglement among others.
- Allen Ashley, an author and editor who has published several works with Eibonvale and elsewhere, notably Once and Future Cities and the anthology Where Are We Going? that in a way dragged me into this anthology business.
- Brendan Connell, author of Unpleasant Tales and our forthcoming book Miss Homicide Plays the Flute.
- Quentin Crisp, author of Morbid Tales and who’s book Defeated Dogs I will be publishing fairly soon.
- Scott Thomas, American author of Westermead, whose elegant and well-crafted weird tales I have loved since I got his first collection Cobwebs and Whispers many years ago.
Check ‘em all out anyway! You may find something new and exciting.