Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas - Boxing Day Dip Update

Well, those freezing cold waves are getting ever closer. Just 7 more days until I join hundreds of
others in the annual Boxing Day Dip.

I'm delighted to announce that I have exceeded my target - my sponsorship money now standing at £155. Which is absolutely excellent, but I'd really like to raise more!

But it's not too late to sponsor me. You still have plenty of time!!

Please do try and give something. Doesn't have to be much, just a couple of quid is fine. It all adds up! Just click on the link below.

It's all for a good cause - with money going to the RSPCA!


Friday, 16 December 2016

Anthology Update - Guest Post by Jacqueline Rayner

Over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the publication of the anthologies Lost Tales and Frontier Worlds, I will be inviting all the writers who have contributed a brand new story to each of the books to write a Guest Post here on my blog, in which I will ask them to throw back the curtain and reveal to us their private writing world: see exactly what makes them tick as a writer, and asking the questions such as what inspired them growing up, and what they enjoy about other writers' works!

Up next is SF, Fantasy and Doctor Who author Jacqueline Rayner, who has written a story for Frontier Worlds...

Well, of course I read loads as a child, and always wanted to write – but I guess that’s a given, isn’t it? I doubt there are many people who just slipped into writing books by accident, 
especially in the SF or fantasy fields because you tend to be quite deep in those worlds already. Growing up, I quite often had people thinking it odd that a girl – a girl! – should love SF, with its macho men and laser guns and big spaceships and monsters, but of course (a) why should they not love those things? and (b) SF is not just those things. I was a voracious reader of comics, and many of those aimed at the girls of the late 70s and early 80s had huge doses of SF (and horror, and fantasy) alongside the traditional ballet and ponies, so I knew it wasn’t just me who liked such stuff. My favourite children’s author is Monica Hughes, a Canadian writer, whose SF books absorbed me into their worlds like no others – I vividly remember the sensation of finishing her books and coming out, blinking, into our world again, realising with a shock that you were suddenly elsewhere. As a child I also loved Nicholas Fisk, Robert Westall, Margaret Mahy, John Wyndham, all writers whose books burrow into your mind. Other books can draw you into their worlds – I desperately wanted to be a member of the Famous Five, for example – but nothing does it quite as well as SF or fantasy. 

I think my greatest literary achievement was when we had to write a book for English class in my second year at senior school, and the teacher kept hold of mine (yes, it was SF, although I can remember nothing about it except I think it might have had a dystopian setting), and years later I found out that she’d been using it as an example in lessons when some younger children came and told me they’d been reading my book in English and loved it. That felt amazing. My entire career has probably been about trying to recreate that moment – not the praise (although that was rather lovely), but the fact I’d created a world for other people to go into. One day I’ll do it again! I think my story for Frontier Worlds is creeping closer to the sort of thing I’ve always wanted to write – I loved writing it, in any case.

I think proper writers are supposed to write either at a desk or in a coffee shop, but because of health issues I actually write in (or on – depending how good a day it is) bed with a laptop, and so sadly don’t count as a proper writer, although on the plus side it’s quite comfy and I don’t have to worry about making one coffee last an entire day. Sometimes I wear long velvet dresses to write in, which either makes me feel all writerly and creative or makes me point and laugh at myself as I realise just how pretentious it is when basically I’m just doing a job of work where I press lots of keys on a computer and hope someone gives me some money at the end of it. To be honest, though, I’m pretty sure there are few jobs that couldn’t be improved just by wearing a velvet frock to do them in. Apart from deep-sea diver, when it’d really weigh you down.

Jacqueline has written numerous novels, audio plays and comic strips. Her recent releases include the Doctor Who comic book The Highgate Horror (which includes her comic strip Witch Hunt) and the anthology The Twelves Doctors of Christmas (which includes two of her short stories). She regularly writes for the Doctor Who Magazine.

Check out Jacqueline's blog HERE

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Incoming - New Book Day - Star Trek: Outside In

There's nothing more exciting than when a lovely brand spanking new copy of a book, CD or comic
book I've written comes through my letterbox and plops onto the doormat.

And today is no exception.

This morning, old postie delivered the Star Trek anthology Outside In Boldly Goes, which was published a few weeks ago in paperback. The book contains over 100 essays on all TOS live action and animated episodes, plus all six original movies, the three new reboots and episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyage and Next Generation that feature original crew members.

My piece is on the season two episode The Changeling.

You can buy your copy from ATB Publishing's website HERE

5% of the full retail price of all sales of the book will be donated to the Avert HIV/AIDS charity in the UK.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sci-Fi Bulletin Christine Review

Being a big fan of John Carpenter's movies (in fact, The Thing is one of my Top 10 Films of All Time), I recently got my hands on a copy of the Powerhouse Films limited edition dual format 2-disc set of Christine.

Christine is one of those films that's not as well known or as highly regarded as most of Carpenter's other works, but it was one I grew up with. I used to own a copy on VHS ( when it was released as part of the Hollywood Horror Collection label) and watched it regularly growing up. I threw it out some time around the early Naughties when I replaced my old video recorder with a DVD player, so this blu-ray release is the first time I've actually sat down and watched the film in about seventeen or eighteen years.

What do I think of it after all these years?

Well, you can read my review of the blu-ray set over on Sci-Fi Bulletin right HERE.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Anthology Update - Guest Post by Eric Brown

Over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the publication of the anthologies Lost Tales and Frontier Worlds, I will be inviting all the writers who have contributed a brand new story to each of the books to write a Guest Post here on my blog in which I will ask them to throw back the curtain and reveal to us their private writing world: seeing what exactly makes them tick as a writer, and asking them questions such as what inspired them growing up, and what they enjoy about other writers' works!

The second guest post is by my friend and best-selling SF author Eric Brown, who has written a story for Frontier Worlds...

I didn’t read as a child. In a way, I regret this as I missed out on all the children’s classics that are hard to read in quite the same way as an adult. On the plus side, it did mean that when I finally did discover the wonder of books, and especially fiction, the discovery hit me with the force of a revelation.

I was fourteen and recently arrived in Australia. At that time, the mid-Seventies, you could leave school down under at fifteen, and as I was fourteen and a half, and had shown no academic aptitude whatsoever, I grasped the opportunity with both hands. Before I began work in my parent’s corner shop, I had a long hot summer to kill, with no friends, strange TV, and temperatures in the nineties to endure. Bored to distraction one day, I was given Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table and told by my mother, “Get out from under my feet and read this!”

I did, and the book changed my life.

It’s hard to describe quite what an impact this rather ordinary novel had on the psyche of that naive young man I was then. I’d never read a novel in my life – managing to skive with extraordinary skill when called to do any work at school – and to be allowed into the head of another human being via the medium of fiction, of experiencing albeit vicariously the plush, upper-class London on the 1930s, pole-axed me with wonder. I read every Agatha Christie whodunit I could lay my hands on and then, in an epiphany even greater, one day in Mordialloc public library discovered a paperback of Robert Silverberg’s short stories: Sundance. If Christie was revelatory, you can imagine what Silverberg’s SF did to my young mind. I was hooked. I read everything by the Master I could find, then discovered H. G. Wells and others, and it wasn’t long before I decided that being a writer must be the finest thing in the world. I began writing.

I’d also discovered Roald Dahl’s marvellous short stories around the same time, and my first tales were influenced by his macabre, twist-in-the-tail masterpieces – though without any real macabre element, and lacking the final, telling twist. The very first story I bashed out on a Kovack portable typewriter, bought for me by my parents, came to almost a thousand words – and I felt proud at writing something that long. It was a two-hander about a walker who comes upon an old yokel sitting by the side of a lane in Dorset. (I was very homesick at the time, and set my tales in an idealised rural Britain, green and lush, unlike the parched Australia where I was living.) The yokel warns the walker from going to the nearby village, as it’s full of strange folk, and he proceeds to recount how the village has its own draconian laws; a wrong-doer forfeits a body-part for a crime committed. The tale ends with the yokel wishing the walker good day, reaching behind him for a crutch, and hobbling off down the lane on one leg. A very poor tale clearly influenced by Dahl’s “A Man from the South”. I still have the yellow, foxed ms, and I see that for some reason it’s written entirely in capital letters.

That was the first short story I finished, and I wrote a hundred or so more before I made my first sale, “Krash-Bangg Joe and the Pineal Zen Equation” to interzone in 1987, some twelve years later. I was back in Britain by then, and had taken a year out from work (labouring in a factory) to travel and write novels. I was in Greece when I was contacted by an agent who’d read my first three tales in Interzone and wanted to know if I’d written a novel. Well, I’d written thirty of the things – all too short and very, very bad. (They were short because I’d read a lot of Ace Double novels, and thought this was the required length). I wrote back to him that I was working on a novel, but in the interim would he be interested in seeing a collection of short stories? He was and, miraculously, so were Pan Macmillan. I look back in wonder at my fortune. Which big publisher these days would take a chance on publishing a collection of short stories by an unknown writer? Answer: not one.

The Time-Lapsed Man
and other stories came out in 1990, followed in ’92 by my first novel, Meridian Days.

Around this time I gave up my job and became – rashly, in retrospect – a freelance writer. Looking back, I should have taken an apprenticeship in carpentry (they were still being offered in Yorkshire at the time) to tide me over the lean times that were to lie ahead. But I didn’t know that then, and wrote feverishly with the blind optimism of youthful enthusiasm. Over the course of the next ten years I published just three or four novels, a couple of kids’ books, and loads of short stories (I was still living at home, so could exist frugally). I was dumped by Pan Macmillan after four books, Gollancz after six, and then changed agents: John Jarrold took me on and found me a home with Solaris, the company I’m still with. I’ve done thirteen novels for Solaris, with two in the pipeline, as well as four murder-mysterious for Seven House (a harking back to my first love, the whodunit) and a raft of novellas for PS Publishing and others. I love writing novellas – a form perfectly suited for the SF genre – and still write the occasional short story.

I write on a PC using Office Libre, and start work around 8.45, five days a week. I write for around two and a half hours (this dictated by the capacity of my dog’s bladder, as by then he’s demanding his second walk of the day). After lunch I put in another shift, and find that in a typical writing day I turn out a little over four thousand words. This means I can complete the first draft of a novel inside a month. Then comes the hard and ruthless work of rewriting the thing. I cut a lot. I find I write a lot of waffle in the first draft, with characters talking to each other at needless length, and I over-describe, finding my way into the novel. Around three or four months after first setting digit to keyboard, the novel is done, having been read by a few trusted and valued readers.

I've just finished the first draft of a time-travel novel. Next up, after Xmas, is a novella for Ian Whates at NewCon Press; his only remit: "Set it on Mars." After that I'm looking forward to writing the fourth Langham and 
Dupré mystery, whodunits set in 1950s Britain. I find that writing in a world known to the reader is a great antidote to writing SF, where the future is made up. I find I have greater stylistic freedom writing the crime novels, and relish writing eccentric characters, which don't lend themselves to the SF genre (for reasons I've gone into elsewhere).

Next year it will be thirty years since David Pringle and Simon Ounsley accepted my very first SF short story; I’ve written almost sixty books in that time, and a hundred and fifty short stories, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, almost… There are downsides to a writer’s life, but that’s another story.)

Eric'c next novel, Binary System, will be released next summer from Solaris, while the fourth novel in his 'Langham & Dupre' 1950s crime series, Murder Makes Three, will be published next April by Severn House. He is also collaborating on a short story collection with Tony Ballantyne called Microcosms.

He is currently working on an SF novella for Newcon Pres set on Mars.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Thirteen Horror Anthology - CD Release

It was announced recently that the splendid chaps at Fantom Films had released the portmanteau horror anthology, Thirteen, as a shiny CD box set. Something we’d always eventually intended, right from the beginning.

This got me idly thinking about the anthology – remembering it’s creation and working with the writers, etc, etc…and then it suddenly hit me.

Has it really been 3 years since Thirteen was released?

Shockingly, the answer is yes!

Actually, I’ve just checked my emails and it’s nearer 3 and a half years (it was August 2013 when that little beauty was originally released into the world as a downloadable album.)

I remember the moment I had the idea for the anthology – it was December 2010, about a week before Christmas, and I was living in a small village out on the edge of the moors. It had been snowing heavily for a day or two and there was about two foot of snow on the ground. Naturally my wife couldn’t get into work with the car, so we had to pull on our Wellington boots and walk down to the train station at the bottom end of the village.

The journey into town was only 25 minutes or so, but if the track had been covered in snow then they tended to be a little overly cautious, sometimes not even allowing passenger on until they made the journey into town once, just to check that the rails weren’t blocked or impassable. Thankfully that morning they were allowing people on board the train, so my wife got on and I began to make my slow, careful way back up the hill through the deep snow towards our house.

The sky was just starting to get properly light, and there was no one about but me - the only sound was the twittering of the birds in the trees and the steady crunch crunch crunch of my wellies in the snow.

All of a sudden I heard someone speak. Not out loud and not with my ears, but inside my head, loud and clear, I heard the voice of a man. The words were a confession, a confession of guilt. The voice was neither contrite nor boastful, but simply speaking the truth. It said…

“My name is Hamilton James Macauley and I am a murderer!”

Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw the image of this man, tall and lean and dressed in an old fashioned suit. He was standing in a shop surrounded on all sides by piles of books, boxes of records, magazines, antiquated machinery…

By the time I got home 15 minutes later I had the basic idea for a portmanteau horror anthology, with Macauley’s story as the framing device for the rest of the stories in the anthology.

Our house was an old fisherman’s cottage (at least 150 years old) and the porous brickwork had started to let the cold and the damp seep in, especially when there was a howling northerly wind coming in over the moors, so it was a bit of a devil to heat in the Winter months. As a result I’d taken to carrying my laptop downstairs into the large kitchen/dining room and setting up a work-space on the dining table – there were two large radiators and an oil fire in there, so it was always nice and toasty.

So, the moment I got home I struggled out of my big coat, scarf, gloves, jumper and wellies, sat down at the dining room table and immediately got in contact with Neil Gardner, pitching him my audio anthology idea. We’d been looking for a project to work on together for a while, and Thirteen seemed like the ideal one.

I’m still enormously proud of Thirteen – it remains one of my favourite pieces of work, and I still listen to it from time to time. It even went on to win an Audie Award for Best Original Work in 2014!

At the time I became incredibly fascinated by the characters of Hamilton James Macauley and the old shopkeeper, Fleetwood. So much so that I even began to make notes on a back-story for each of the characters, just in case I ever decided to revisit them in a later project.

I started thinking…what if they’d actually met before, under different circumstances, only Macauley didn’t know it, or even remember?

I still haven’t given up on that idea. Who knows, perhaps we will see them again in the not too distant future.

Thirteen is now available as a 3-CD set and can be ordered HERE at the Fantom Films website.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas Update - The Boxing Day Dip Charity Plunge!

Along with a hundred or so other brave loonies this Christmas, I'll be running headlong into the freezing waters, all in the name of charity!!

Yes, as the excitement and madness of the festive season hits us, I've taken leave of my senses and decided to take part in the annual Boxing Day Dip. Which means, on the 26th of December, in the very depths of Winter, I'll be climbing into my swimming shorts and running like a lunatic into the cold, cold ocean.

But it's all in the name of charity!! I'll be raising money for the RSPCA.

So please sponsor me a little something, doesn't have to be much, just 50p or a £1 - it all adds up! Just click on the link below and it'll take you to my official Just Giving sponsor page.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary - Outside In Boldly Goes

Word has it that the new Star Trek book, Outside In Boldly Goes, for which I've written a piece, has finally been released!

The book, which celebrates the original TV series' 50th Anniversary and contains over 100 essays covering all TV episodes and movies featuring the original crew of the Starship Enterprise, is available to buy through ATB Publishing HERE, with 5% of full retail price of the book going to the AIDS charity Avert.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Anthology Update - Guest Post by Sadie Miller

Over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the publication of the anthologies Lost Tales and Frontier Worlds, I will be inviting all the writers who have contributed a brand new story to each of the books to write a Guest Post here on my blog in which I will ask them to throw back the curtain and reveal to us their private writing world: seeing what exactly makes them tick as a writer, and asking them questions such as what inspired them growing up, and what they enjoy about other writers' works!

I've invited my friend and co-writer Sadie Miller, who has written a story for both anthologies, to kick things off...

Growing up, reading was always a big part of my life. My parents would read to me often and even my colouring paper was on the back of their old scripts so words were everywhere. It wasn't long before I started writing my own stories as my imagination spilled over. My first proper story was about a girl living with lions but I also wrote adventures about a trio of unlikely friend’s; Worm, Sausage and Spider.

In many ways, I find the idea of writing for a job a tough concept to come to terms with. Most of it is about commercial appeal and viability. I recently had a novel rejected because despite a positive reception, it wasn't deemed to be ‘commercial’ enough. I feel art in all forms should have a broad audience as there is something out there for everyone and closing that off seems to go against what I believe in. Or it could be sour grapes, however one chooses to see it. 

I think I was influence by a lot of the great writers for children which many of my generation would also agree with. I loved Enid Blyton, particularly Naughty Amelia Jane, St. Clare’s and Malory Towers along with E Nesbit’s Five Children and It and
Richmal Crompton’s Just William series. I also remember enjoying Anne of Green Gables and daydreaming about one day being just like Jo from Little Women. As I got older, I discovered a love of darker novels and late childhood going into my teens I was obsessed with the books of Robin Jarvis, especially the Deptford Mice trilogy. I remember them frightening me in a way that felt incredibly real. The most beloved characters would die without warning and there was a spine-chilling darkness to them that didn't patronise, particularly when it came to death, which I think is important, especially in children’s literature. Having written this blog post, I am inspired to re-read them again now as an adult to see if they still affect me in that same way. There were nights where I couldn't sleep because my mind was still processing his complex, imaginary worlds. 

I think my parent’s creativity is also a huge part of my love of storytelling and I recall watching The Nightmare before Christmas in Chicago with my dad one afternoon whilst my mum was doing a convention. Even though the people in the cinema behind us were talking all the way through, I was captivated by the world unfolding in front of my eyes. It was strange and wonderful and further ignited a passion in me for dark, twisted tales which manage to blend together elegant story telling with irreverence and gothic charm.  

I studied English at University and there I was introduced to Old English literature. I really enjoyed Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales delighted me with their sauciness and hilariously accurate reflection of human nature. I also had the opportunity to delve further into the plays and mythology of Greek and Roman legends which blend family sagas, romantic drama and unflinching violence. It was here too that I found more cinematic influences; John Ford, Fellini and Billy Wilder, all fantastic storytellers in very individual ways.  

People often ask a writer to name their favourite book and I have to admit I don't have one - I have several! Carter Beats the Devil, Our Man in Beijing, Gone with the Wind and Jurassic Park are definitely my current top few. Scarlett O’Hara has endured as
one of the greatest female heroines of all time but in many ways, she is an anti-heroine. Margaret Mitchell writes women as they are - jealous, vain and often more into the idea of something than the reality of it! Her relationship with Ashley is complex and fascinating, as relevant today as it ever was. I think it just goes to show that human nature has changed very little in the generations that have passed and it is such stories that join our past and future selves together. 

However, as for the biggest influence on my work, I would have name Federico Garcia Lorca. His writing is unflinching in its beauty and emotional integrity. He writes that he was not afraid to be born and therefore why should he be afraid to die? I find this statement alone to be amazing in the way that it simply sums up how we should live to gain the most out of our human experience. He has taught me so much about life and that seizing the moment is vital - don't wait, just write! Most importantly, his gypsy poetry introduced me to the concept of ‘el duende'. There is no English word equivalent, but the meaning behind el duende is 'the ghost between words,' the emotion that inhabits the spaces in language that gives it meaning and vibrancy. I remember reading Bodas de Sangre as a teenager and for the first time being able to taste the words in my mouth. He is a wonderful writer who died bravely and I encourage you if you haven't already to seek out his work and devour it! Although I would say I studied him in Spanish to begin with, and have since enjoyed reading foreign writers in editions where there is the original and translation side by side, as a translator can often manipulate the work which detracts from the source material. 

Drama school brought me back to writing. I recall an assignment where we had to write a short story to perform. Afterwards, I sent it out and was very chuffed when it
got published by an online journal. It was about a group of boys looking to make extra cash so they gate crash funerals where old ladies take pity on them. It isn't particularly good, in fact it's a bit morbid noting what was happening at the time with my mum, who had asked me not to tell anyone about her illness. Perhaps that was my way of letting it all out. She always enjoyed my writing, and often I write for her, imagining I can connect with her again through my keyboard. 

Reading is my escapism and writing is my home base. Things haven't changed that much since becoming a mother, except perhaps better time management and less time spent procrastinating - if anything, I would say it has helped! 

As a writer, I have undeniably been influenced by a huge library of others and it is my greatest wish that something I write might touch someone else and make them see the world through a pair of ‘Sadie Specs’, even just for a moment. Telling stories is a vital part of human nature and we should cherish any opportunity we have to pass a tale or two on to others.

Sadie is currently co-writing a science fiction novel called Scavengers with Scott Harrison.

Her latest novel, Moon Blink, was published in April this year and is the 5th book in Candy Jar Books's Lethbridge-Stewart novel range - a spin-off of Doctor Who.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Anthology News - Frontier Worlds Writers Revealed

So, all stories for the forthcoming Sci-Fi Anthology Frontier Worlds are now in, and editing work begins in earnest.

There will be twelve stories in all, all set six hundred years in our future, when humanity has spread itself out across planets in the darkest reaches of Terran space.

The writers will be:

Tanith Lee
Ken MacLeod
Philip Palmer
Michael Cobley
Eric Brown
Storm Constantine
Adrian Tchiakovsky
Jacqueline Rayner
Justin Richards
Gav Thorpe
Sadie Miller
Scott Harrison

The anthology will be published in 2017 - first in a hardback edition, followed later by a paperback run.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine - Deleted Chapter

Every writer will tell you that writing a book is a long, slow, and sometimes painful, business. The ground is never solid, the foundations are always shifting, and the book that hits the bookshop shelves can sometimes be a slightly different beast from the one you had initial envisioned - especially when the dreaded editor gets involved.

You see, things often change between the first and second draft - often between other drafts, too - but not quite as dramatically or (at times) extensively as after you've delivered that first draft. Sometimes it's only minor changes, like the odd sentence changed here, the odd paragraph cut there, but sometimes it can be a biggy - like a whole chapter being removed.

It can also be the other way round - things being added, expanded upon between drafts, 

Take, for example, a script I delivered only the other day - the page count for the first draft stood at 47 pages, and even when I attached it to the email and clicked 'send', I knew that things were missing, that certain important elements still needed to be added. When I attached the redrafted script to the email a day or two later and clicked 'send' the page count now stood at 59 pages and two new scenes had been added, one introducing a character who will become enormously important to the story that unfolds in the following two episodes.

Sometimes the things you cut are obvious - they either slow down the pace of the book, or take the story off at a strange tangent, or just don't sit right in the story as a whole. More often than not, passages cut from a book are at the request of one of the people - either the editor or the author - seldom are they fully agreed upon by both.

The below chapter - taken from the first draft of my Star Trek book Shadow of the Machine - was cut between the first and second draft as it was thought that the device that the young James Kirk was using was a little too similar to a modern day iPad and therefore might be a bit ditracting. I was sad to see it go originally, believing that it added a vital aspect to the character of Kirk and explained some of the later actions and dialogue with his nephew Peter near the end of the book. But, upon reflection now, I think it was probably the right choice.

This chapter originally followed the scene where Kirk, Peter, Hanna and Abner, all sitting down to dinner, begin to argue and Peter storms out.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Update - Anthologies, Audio Plays and Novels

Things have been a bit hectic here lately as I have several writing projects in various stages of development (I'm a bit like those plate spinners on the old variety shows).

Both anthologies are coming along nicely. There are some fantastic stories coming in, and editing work has finally begun on Lost Tales. Can't wait for you to read it (but you'll have to wait until November!). In a couple of weeks I will also begin editing work on Frontier Worlds.

I've been busy writing the scripts for a 3-part supernatural/horror
audio mini-series, which is in the early stages of pre-production. Episode 1 has been delivered, and work has now begun on the script for Episode 2. I should hopefully have more news on this very soon!

I'm also about to start work on two novels for two separate publishers - one is for a TV tie-in franchise, the other is an original novel. Very excited to be working on both of them - but they won't be published until late 2017, so it may be a while before I can give any further details on them.

And, to round things off, I'm also working on a couple of short stories.

To top it off, I realised at the weekend that I'm off on holiday for 10 days in September, so I only have about 5 weeks to get things done before it all suddenly grinds to a halt!

I'd better get on with it then!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Anthology News - 'Frontier Worlds' and 'Lost Tales'

For the past few months I’ve been busily beavering away on two very exciting anthologies for a
couple of publishers, one book is SF, the other is (for want of a better term) classic fiction.

Well now, thankfully, I’m at the stage in both where I can start revealing a few tantalising details.

The first – the SF antho - is for Snowbooks and will be called Frontier Worlds and will feature twelve brand new stories from writers such as Ken MacLeod, Philip Palmer, Michael Cobley, Eric Brown, Storm Constantine, and the last unpublished story by the legendary Tanith Lee before her sad death last year

Here’s the blurb:

Frontier Worlds

“Earth is no longer humanity’s only home. Slowly they have colonised the galaxy, spreading ever outwards into the darkest reaches of Terran space. To some Earth is now a myth, a fairy-tale; stories told to them by their grand parents when they were children. To others the Earth is still the place they call home: a bleak, inescapable fact that must be endured in order to survive.

In this exciting collection of stories chronicling the turbulent events of humanity’s struggle for survival six hundred years in our future, some of today’s leading science fiction writers take us from the vast depths of uncharted space to the surface of a shockingly different planet Earth, where civilisation is desperately trying to preserve the last shreds of its human identity.”

The second anthology, for Valley Press, will be called Lost Tales and will contain ten brand new stories from writers including Stephen Gallagher, Juliet E. McKenna, Philip Palmer, Gary Russell and Wayne Simmons

Here’s the blurb:

Lost Tales

“What if Bram Stoker had revisited the character of Mina Harker one final time before his death? Would the events of all those years ago have left her a broken woman, the tainted curse of Dracula still surging through her blood? What if Lewis Carrol’s Alice had stumbled again into the surreal world of Wonderland, or Lemuel Gulliver’s extraordinary adventures not stopped after his dramatic rescue from the country of the Houyhnhnms, but continued with something even more bizarre, even more shocking?

Somewhere in the darkest corner of a vast, forgotten library, on a high dusty shelf, sits the book of Lost Tales…

This anthology brings together stories from some of today’s finest genre writers: ten lost tales that were never written and yet could have existed in another time, another reality.”

Frontier Worlds will be published in hardback in early 2017

Lost Tales will be published in hardback in November this year.

Obviously I’m very excited to be sharing this information with you, and will bring you all the updates as soon as I get them.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

What I watched in my holidays - by Scott Harrison aged 42

I was only 6 years old when the Hammer House of Horror TV series originally aired nearly 36 years ago.

But let’s not dwell on that.

I can’t really recall where I was at the time. Instinctively I want to say on holiday – down in Cornwall, sitting at a table in a B&B eating fish and chips while watching TV – but I guess that’s just my default position as a number of my more important childhood viewing memories were made while on holidays in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Tales of the Unexpected, for example. I distinctly remember lying there on the fold out sofa bed in the living room (this was about 1981, remember), a glass of coke in one hand, the novelisation of the film A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court in the other, watching Roald Dahl sitting there in his armchair and introducing the next nasty little bit of half-hour macabre fluff on offer. Or there’s the original mini-series of V. I distinctly remember walking into the kitchen of the B&B (or guest house, it might have been a guest house) and seeing the trailer for V on the small black and white portable that was sitting on the foldaway kitchen table. The first episode was broadcast later that night.

But back to Hammer House of Horror.

We can safely say that I can’t remember where I was when I first saw this series. It was early September, so I must have been at home. But watch it I did. I remember that much at least. In fact, I remember it all too vividly. I also remember being utterly terrified by it!

Revisiting TV series and films that you watched when you were just a nipper is an odd feeling. Especially when those memories are strongly linked with such potent feelings – be they happiness, sadness or, as in this case, absolute terror. The first thing that struck me when rewatching this classic series (and, yes, it is a classic, mark my words) is how much of it I remember, and how much of it terrified me as a child of six going-on seven.

Scenes such as aging estate agent and would-be adulterer Denholm Elliot trapped within an endless, ever-changing dream of lust and murder; or Leigh Lawson and girlfriend Angela Bruce desperately trying to break the curse of the African statue before it caused the death of their friends and, inevitably, themselves; Rosalyn Landor dressed in virginal white and desperate to escape the Black Magic ceremony which will end her life; or Kathryn Leigh Scott’s slow decent into insanity as she is convinced that the man she has accidentally killed has returned to haunt her…

I think I also have a vague recollection of Diana Dors and her small brood of ragged werewolf children keeping two unsuspecting travellers prisoner in their house, but seeing as I actually watched this episode about thirteen years ago in a hotel room down in Brighton with Lee Harris after having lunch with author Robert Rankin I can’t, hand on heart, say that this memory is from it’s original transmission.

But most of all I remember the episode The Two Faces of Evil. Oh my god, how I remember that episode! The family driving along country lanes, seeing the ‘scarecrow’ in the field, the car crash, the father being dragged from the car by the ‘scarecrow’, the father replaced by the doppleganger, the doppleganger father being unable to speak and blaming it on the bandaged throat…the memories just go on and on. And as a six year old (almost seven year old) boy I had never been so terrified. So much so that it actually made me a bit weary of my own father for several days afterwards.

The series may not have the same impact now as it did when it was originally broadcast (that was, after all, thirty-six years ago…but, as I said, let’s not dwell on that!!) but it is still a visceral little gem, a series with a huge set of balls swinging between its legs, a series with bags of imagination and verve that is sadly lacking from our TV screens today. It’s a series that still shocks with its gore and refreshingly adult nature (some of the episodes even have decapitations, murders and nudity in the pre-credit sequences alone!!) which smacks of a time when TV audiences were still happy to be shocked, disgusted, or totally creeped out without feeling the need to immediately reach for the telephone to complain about how disgusted they were that a TV programme had the temerity to make them feel an  – gasp! – emotion.

It’s just a pity that it never carried on past a single series of 13 episodes. Sure, four years later the same company gave us Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (or as my dad always called it, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspenders – my dad had a habit of doing that, renaming TV titles, so that you just couldn’t quite take them seriously anymore, no matter how hard you tried), but it was never quite as good, not quite as balls-out due to the gradual taming down of British TV that was happening at this time. No, by this time sex, violence, nudity and swearing was slowly being outlawed on British TV until, by the end of the 1980s / beginning of the 1990s a strange blandness had spread across the airwaves – a time in which Carry On films were unofficially banned and classic sitcoms were hacked to pieces in case they offended…well…anyone at all really.

I miss TV series like this. And I think British TV misses them too. What I wouldn't give to see an anthology series nowadays with half the courage, attitude, swagger and talent that's on display here. Come to think of it, what I wouldn't give to write an episode for a TV series half as good as this one was!