Exciting news: I have just made my first two official acceptances for my anthology “Sensorama: Stories of the Senses” due to be published by Eibonvale Press (UK) later this year. I have taken a story from Gary Budgen (previously in “Where Are We Going?”) and a story from David McGroarty (previously in “Astrologica”). For those of you who have already submitted, I will be making final decisions, including a few more acceptances soon. For those of you who have yet to submit, I am open until 12 midnight BST 30 April. Yep, that’s only two weeks away. So, don’t delay. Full details are here:
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Oops… looks like my brain has been so overworked and understaffed that it neglected to mention one of our recent reviews. Not to worry, I’ll make it up to you now with an endless string of apologies announced over a deafening tannoy system. The great Sami Airola of the Rising Shadow website has written glowingly of Rustblind and Silverbright, and in considerable depth, giving it 5-out-of-5 stars and describing it as one of the best anthologies of the year. Sami writes:
“…I liked all the stories in this anthology, so it’s difficult for me to choose my favourite stories, but if I had to pick a few stories, I’d probably pick these stories: Nina Allan’s Vivian Guppy and the Brighton Belle, Andrew Hook’s Tetsudo Fan, Rhys Hughes’ The Path of Garden Forks, Joel Lane’s The Last Train, Allen Ashley’s On the Level, Daniella Geary’s Death Trains of Durdensk, Jet McDonald’s The Engineered Soul, Steve Rasnic Tem’s Escape on a Train, Danny Rhodes’ The Cuts, Christopher Harman’s Sleepers, Steven Pirie’s Not All Trains Crash, Matt Joiner and Rosanne Rabinowitz’s The Turning Track, and Douglas Thompson’s Sunday Relatives. All of these stories (and also the ones that aren’t mentioned here) are worth reading and praising.
I dare say that Rustblind and Silverbright is the most versatile speculative fiction anthology of the year. Some of these stories are touching and beautiful while others are weird, shocking and disturbing, so there’s something for everybody in this anthology. This anthology will be of interest to both experienced readers and newcomers, because it contains diverse stories that have plenty of depth and atmosphere in them.
I give this unique and versatile anthology full five stars and I highly recommend it to all readers, because it contains original and fascinating speculative fiction stories about trains and railways. All the stories in Rustblind and Silverbright are fine examples of how versatile and well written speculative fiction stories can be and how much they offer to the readers in terms of depth, characterization and storytelling. If you’re thinking of reading only one anthology this year, please make sure that it is Rustblind and Silverbright, because you won’t regret reading it.”
Our thanks as ever go out to the tireless Sami Airola, Finland’s greatest export.
Just a quick shout out about a new anthology open for submissions. Allen Ashley, who produced our own book Where Are We Going?, is back with a new project for Alchemy Press - The Alchemy Press Book of Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac.
From the guidelines:
‘I am looking for stories about the signs of the Zodiac, the characteristics associated with those signs and/or people born under them. I will also consider stories involving the mythical characters and creatures of the astrological signs, perhaps their history and origin, perhaps their present and future state. Note: I am not saying that one has to believe in the paraphernalia associated with modern astrology; but authors should seek to use some of this as inspiration and underpinning of their narratives.’
You can read the guidelines on the Alchemy Press blog: http://alchemypress.blogspot.co.uk/p/astrologica.html
Well I suppose a mad-ass book demands a mad-ass review, and Anita Dalton at the ‘I Read Odd Books’ blog has taken an unusual approach in sharing with the world her admiration of (not to say astonishment at) Jet McDonald’s extraordinary debut novel of corporate absurdity and pet furniture ‘Automatic Safe Dog’.
Dazzled and delighted by Jet’s prose and wildfire imagination, Anita has resorted to quoting and analysing extensive tracts of text, culminating in this glowing conclusion:
“I get lots of books sent my way and I have come across a lot of extremely talented writers. I think McDonald’s writing is very near genius… this book was a revelation. A murder mystery, a farce, a romance, a sketch of a lunatic world, a glimpse of an uncaring and venal societal and the way that small venal sins can become mortal sins if we let them go on too long. This is a long book, coming in at 270 pages. McDonald got me hooked despite the animal cruelty and he kept me reading. I devoured this book in three days because the hilarity and silliness thrilled me as I waited for the other shoe to drop. I can’t remember the last time a new book from an author unknown to me proved to be the sort of read I simply could not put down until finished. Highly recommended.”
Our thanks go to Anita for her in-depth analysis and praise.
Yet another excellent review has just hurtled in like a Russian Meteor shower: David S Atkinson, writing in Pank Magazine, has written glowingly of the diverse delights of Jeff Gardiner’s debut collection ‘A Glimpse Of The Numinous’, admiring the lucid ways in which Jeff brings his characters towards startling confrontations with the weird and ineffable. He concludes by saying:
“…What’s not to like? Well-written strangeness is always a quick way to my heart. Stories that don’t give me any choice but to keep reading have an advantage on me as well. Given all that, there was no way I wasn’t going to be fond of Jeff Gardiner’s A Glimpse of the Numinous. It’s a collection that people really should reach for.”
Thanks to David S Atkinson and Pank Mag. Go check out their website and read the review in full.
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.
Last but not least, we conclude our hat trick of Black Static reviews by the great Pete Tennant with quoting from his thoughts on Jeff Gardiner’s debut collection “A Glimpse Of The Numinous“. As ever, we are constrained to quote only a portion of each review and would encourage readers to buy the magazine and read Pete’s comments in full, but here is a snippet:
“…in ‘Withdrawal’, the story’s protagonist dating a man whose best friend disappeared many years ago, an event that he recreates in his own psyche, the text offering a subtle exploration of need and vulnerability, showing the fear that leads us to reject those we need most. Another high point, ‘Gull Power’ is as humorous as its punning title would suggest, the story of a man and his gull, and how the one saved the other, making him rich and famous by association, but at the same time denied any human interaction, with asides on the fickleness of celebrity and media culture…
‘Bred in the Bone’ is a story in which Gardiner gets down and dirty, and to my mind the best in the collection, an economical black comedy detailing how a family of killers survive and prosper in the modern world… like a cross between Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door and The Addams Family. “
Also in this month’s edition of Black Static Magazine, Peter Tennant has given top marks to Eibonvale’s anthology of journey stories “Where Are We Going?” edited by Allen Ashley, calling it one of the very best of 2012. But in posting about his review, we of course face the same challenge as he had himself: which stories to mention and which to pass over due to shortage of space? “Embarassment of riches” is the phrase that springs to mind, but never one to shirk a challenge, here is a stab at passing on some of Pete’s enthusiasm:
“Opening the batting is Gary Budgen with ‘Dead Countries’, a story that put me very much in mind of the work of Alasdair Gray, with its protagonist whose life goes into decline while his childhood friend is enervated by thoughts of Quassia, a country whose stamps he collected. The crux of the story appears to be in how one finds escape through imagination and obsession, while the other’s dalliance with drugs leads him into a blind alley. Each plays games with the nature of reality, but only in the case of the former is the mind expanded with endless possibilities opening up…
There’s a wonderful sense of the almost whimsical about Ian Shoebridge’s ‘A Guide to Surviving Malabar’, an island holiday destination where the very landscape changes constantly with a view to taking the life of the hapless tourist, underlining the message that there is no way out except death, with even those who survive drawn irresistibly back. Malabar is perhaps intended as a metaphor for the human condition itself, but the appeal of the story resides in the humour and casual invention that informs it…
Alison Littlewood’s ‘The Discord of Being’ takes Emma to Morocco to discover the fate of her mother’s grave and make her own peace with her estranged father, but there are strange events going on in the background of the story. Beautifully written and with a real feel for the foreign setting, so that sights and sounds and smells come vividly alive on the page, this is a sensitive tale of loss and reconciliation, of learning to let go of the things we can no longer control or need…
Ralph Robert Moore’s ‘Our Island’ is the story that impressed me most, a simple and heartfelt rite of passage piece, as two children who believe they live in an island paradise, learn the truth of their world and how it came to be. The power of the story lies in its sense of creeping realisation, as the innocents come to see how their whole existence, everything that they take for granted in their lives, hangs by a thread, while the spare, economic prose renders this discovery all the more painful…”
As ever, our thanks to Pete for taking the time for such in-depth analyis of so many of the stories.
The respected critic Peter Tennant has reviewed David Rix’s “Feather” in glowing terms in his ‘Case Notes’ section of the latest edition of Black Static Magazine. He provides a highly perceptive analysis of the character of Feather and the “excellence” with which the different stories about her intersect and relate to each other. It’s worth buying the mag and reading his review in full, but with his consent we quote from part of it as follows:
“Feather is a contradictory character, both feral child and computer user, a muse and an artist herself, with only the most oblique details carrying over from one story to another, and a sense that what we are witnessing is not strictly linear. Perhaps the best way to approach the character of Feather is to regard her as a Candidesque archetype, constantly questioning those she meets and throwing their artifice into stark relief by virtue of her own candour and innocence.
Rix himself is a character in the book’s Foreword, ‘The Tiny Window on River Street’, out walking late at night and spying a peculiar happening through the aforesaid window, one that involves a young woman who he decides to call Feather and whose presence continues to haunt him, prompting thoughts about the nature of reality and story, a theme that carries over into many of the stories in this collection.
‘Yellow Eyes’ gives us Feather’s back story, the first sixteen years of her life spent as a feral child, living with her mad artist father in a forest near an abandoned nuclear power station, his vision of the measuring men and the torments he inflicts on his daughter, all of it leading into the father’s death and the end of this period of Feather’s life, with episodes that show both the kindness and cruelty of humankind. Underlying it all is a subtext about the duality of
faith and life, Feather’s perceptions of the world filtered through her father’s twisted mind set, and her liberation arising from the will to question, a quality that seems to be her foremost character trait. It’s a harsh story, cruel and compelling in equal measure, but with important issues being addressed….
… Finally we have an Endword to book end the Foreword, ‘The Sea Train’, in which Rix once again encounters Feather and gives her the opportunity to rewrite her own story, dealing with the recurring theme of the interface between fiction and reality. It was a fitting finale to a powerful and intriguingly different collection of fictions, one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and I hope that Rix brings us more adventures of the lovely Feather in the future.”
Phew! An excuse to interrupt David before he puts up any more train photos! Yes folks, we received word this week of two somewhat late but extremely welcome reviews of two of last year’s books: David Rix’s ‘Feather’ and Jet McDonald’s ‘Automatic Safe Dog’. Adam Groves of The Fright Site has expressed great enthusiasm for some of our previous titles and it seems that these two latest have fully lived up to his expectations of unexpectedness (if you know what I mean). Of ‘Feather’, Adam writes:
“FEATHER is a true oddity that exists somewhere in the arena of J.G. Ballard and Ian Sinclair, yet will never be mistaken for anything other than itself. I should add that the amazing wraparound cover art, created by the book’s author David Rix, deserves some kind of award for evocative book design. Depicting a woman’s face half buried in sand, said cover art perfectly captures the air of wistful surrealism that pervades the text…
…What exactly are we to make of this bizarre text? A fictional commentary on the nature of artistic inspiration, perhaps? A surreal autobiography? Avant-garde science fiction? None of the above? Whatever FEATHER may be, it’s as wonderfully strange and evocative as nearly anything I’ve read, and one of the standout publications of 2011.”
Of Jet McDonald’s ‘Automatic Safe Dog’, Adam writes:
“In the category of surreal satire this crazed fantasy is a standout… Jet McDonald’s satire is quite pertinent in its exploration of corporate psychopathology, artistic pretension and the power of love. Furthermore, McDonald’s deranged imagination is a wonder to behold, always topping itself in madcap invention.
Things grow quite dark in the book’s latter pages. Here Telby, having been (voluntarily) bitten by a rabid dog, embarks on a rabies induced fighting and f**king spree throughout the city. Following this he gets one of his testicles surgically removed (as a show of enforced loyalty to the corporation) and replaced with that of a dog. Then there are the violent animal liberationists who come to have an increasing presence on the narrative, and the horrific fate of Ibore, who’s transformed into a “kind-of-woman” complete with a disembodied vagina.
Obviously this isn’t your grandmother’s corporate satire. The novel will surely upset just as many readers as it enchants, yet in today’s economy-devouring corporate culture I believe Jet McDonald’s raunchy, surreal and altogether outrageous brand of absurdity is exactly what we need.”
Thank you Adam, good to know that Eibonvale books are working their magic over the pond in America long after they’ve shuffled out of port here.