Archive for November, 2012

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: 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? 

 Check ‘em all out anyway!  You may find something new and exciting.

A review of the numinous…

Posted: November 16, 2012 by douglasthompson in Uncategorized

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.

Black Static review of David Rix’s Feather

Posted: November 16, 2012 by douglasthompson in Uncategorized

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.”

Many thanks to Mr Tennant and do please read his thoughts in full and support his excellent magazine.

Well, the most exciting news at the moment is that I have recently sent out acceptances for the first round of stories for the anthology Rustblind and Silverbright. Seven great pieces have now set up the tone of the book nicely.

Allen Ashley and Douglas Thompson are starting to seem like Eibonvale family – but hey, what can I do about that when they keep turning out such great writing? For Rustblind and Silverbright, we have Allen Ashley’s On the Level and Douglas Thompson’s Sunday Relatives. Allen has produced a delicate ‘coming of age’ story and that means a beautiful British kind of nostalgia, affection and melancholy and just the faintest touch of SF, while Douglas provides a quiet philosophical and surreal musing on psychiatry and model railways.

Andrew Hook’s Tetsudo Fan is set in the swish world of Japanese train lovers, who go nuts over the Shinkansen rather than gleaming old steam engines or British diesel. This is a story that catches a good dose of the Japanese weird, which is very welcome and something very close to my own Japanophile heart.

Meanwhile, David McGroarty has produced an excellent sparsely written urban horror story set on the Isle of Dogs and spanning nearly 30 years as first the Docklands Light Railway and then the Olympics change the world beyond recognition.

A very short sharp miniature by Stephen Fowler, somewhere between poem, flash fiction and factoid snippets, provides a good illustration of the deeply varied collection I hope to put together in terms of both size and content.

Rhys Hughes’ Von Ryan’s Daughter’s Express takes us down a brief branch line into his unique world of dark humour and impossible goings on, this time set in the depths of Ireland and concerning the construction of a very odd railway and a moving pub . . .

And finally for the moment, there is R. D. Hodkinson’s extremely sharp and thoroughly bizarre Wi-Fi Enabled Bakerloo Sunset – the tale of a man calling himself Archduke Soupy van Brilliantine who finds himself at a deserted Marylebone tube station with no memories whatsoever . . .

I still have plenty more stories to mull over, so don’t panic if you haven’t heard from me yet. And of course, keep those submissions coming in! There’s still time to produce something since the deadline is the end of the year.  Full guidelines are here: