Tag Archives: writer

A Danse Macabre horror novels reading list

If you like horror and you were reading in the 1980s, chances are you came across “Danse Macabre”, Stephen King’s meditation on horror. Part instruction manual, part rambling series of opinions on horror books, film and TV, it never fails to entertain. It also has an invaluable breakdown of the different types of horror story.

It also included in two Appendices –  a list of Mr King’s favourite (sorry, the most important) horror books and films.

For the past 30 years I’ve been working my way through these lists. I’ve seen almost all of the horror movies except for a few hard-to-find gems like Oliver Stone’s first effort, “Seizure” or the wonderfully B-movie-ish “The H-Man” by Inoshiro Honda.  But reproduced here below are the novels.

I won’t bore you with which ones I’ve read. However, I will say that some of my favourites have been Suzy McKee Charnas’s “The Vampire Tapetsry”  about a very urbane vampire indeed, Peter Straub’s lesser known ghost story “If You Could See Me Now”, and Charles L Grant’s homage to Val Lewton, “The Hour of the Oxrun Dead”.

So if you fancy reading some classic 20th century horror stories, the below should give you some inspiration. Happy collecting!

Richard Adams. The Plague Dogs; Watership Down*
Robert Aickman. Cold Hand in Mine; Painted Devils
Marcel Ayme. The Walker through Walls
Beryl Bainbridge. Harriet Said
J. G. Ballard. Concrete Island*; High Rise
Charles Beaumont. Hunger*; The Magic Man
Robert Bloch. Pleasant Dreams*; Psycho*
Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine; Something Wicked This Way Comes*; The October Country
Joseph Payne Brennan. The Shapes of Midnight*
Frederic Brown. Nightmares and Geezenstacks*
Edward Bryant. Among the Dead
Janet Caird. The Loch
Ramsey Campbell. Demons By Daylight; The Doll Who Ate His Mother*; The Parasite*
Suzy McKee Charnas. The Vampire Tapestry
Julio Cortazar. The End of the Game and Other Stories
Harry Crews. A Feast of Snakes
Roald Dahl. Kiss Kiss*; Someone Like You*
Les Daniels. The Black Castle
Stephen R. Donaldson. The Thomas Covenant Trilogy (3 vols.)*
Daphne Du Maurier. Don’t Look Now
Harlan Ellison. Deathbird Stories*; Strange Wine*
John Farris. All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
Charles G. Finney. The Ghosts of Manacle
Jack Finney. The Body Snatchers*; I Love Galesburg in the Springtime; The Third
Level*; Time and Again*
William Golding. Lord of the Flies*
Edward Gorey. Amphigorey; Amphigorey Too
Charles L. Grant. The Hour of the Oxrun Dead; The Sound of Midnight*
Davis Grubb. Twelve Tales of Horror*
William H. Hallahan. The Keeper of the Children; The Search for Joseph Tully
James Herbert. The Fog; The Spear*; The Survivor
William Hjortsberg. Falling Angel*
Shirley Jackson. The Haunting of Hill House*; The Lottery and Others*; The Sundial
Gerald Kersh. Men Without Bones*
Russell Kirk. The Princess of All Lands
Nigel Kneale. Tomato Caine
William Kotzwinkle. Dr. Rat*
Jerry Kozinski. The Painted Bird*
Fritz Leiber. Our Lady of Darkness*
Ursula LeGuin. The Lathe of Heaven*; Orsinian Tales
Ira Levin. Rosemary’s Baby*; The Stepford Wives
John D. MacDonald. The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything
Bernard Malamud. The Magic Barrel*; The Natural
Robert Marasco. Burnt Offerings*
Gabriel Maria Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude
Richard Matheson. Hell House; I Am Legend*; Shock II; The Shrinking Man*; A Stir of Echoes
Michael McDowell. The Amulet*; Cold Moon Over Babylon*
Ian McEwen. The Cement Garden
John Metcalf. The Feasting Dead
Iris Murdoch. The Unicorn
Joyce Carol Oates. Nightside*
Flannery O’Connor. A Good Man Is Hard to Find*
Mervyn Peake. The Gormenghast Trilogy (3 volumes)
Thomas Pynchon. V.*
Edogawa Rampo. Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Jean Ray. Ghouls in My Grave
Anne Rice. Interview with the Vampire
Philip Roth. The Breast
Ray Russell. Sardonicus*
Joan Samson. The Auctioneer*
William Sansom. The Collected Stories of William Sansom
Sarban. Ringstones; The Sound of His Horn*
Anne Rivers Siddons. The House Next Door*
Isaac Bashevis Singer. The Seance and Other Stories*
Martin Cruz Smith. Nightwing
Peter Straub. Ghost Story*; If You Could See Me Now; Julia; Shadowland*
Theodore Sturgeon. Caviar; The Dreaming jewels; Some of Your Blood*
Thomas Tessier. The Nightwalker
Paul Theroux. The Black House
Thomas Tryon. The Other*
Les Whitten. Progeny of the Adder*
Thomas Williams. Tsuga’s Children*
Gahan Wilson. I Paint What I See
T. M. Wright. Strange Seed*
John Wyndham. The Chrysalids; The Day of the Triffids*

(* = books Mr King felt were particularly important to the genre).

Some of these works you will probably be familiar with, such as (the as-then-little-known) Anne Rice book Interview with the Vampire. Others are staple authors such as Road Dahl, not perhaps thought of as horror writers but who have undoubtedly written about the horrific and macabre. Others have been lost to the passage of time, such as William Hjortberg’s Falling Angel (filmed with Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro as Angel Heart in the 80s) or the huge bestselling evil twin novel The Other by Thomas Tryon ( a doozy of a novel and one I fully recommend).

Others may be new to you, such as Frederick Brown’s Nightmares and Geezenstacks, flash fiction from the 1950s! or the excellent Hunger by Charles Beaumont, one of the main writers of the original Twilight Zone until a rare illness struck him down in his twenties. Still others may be familiar from the films, such as Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie novel I Am Legend and Jack Finney’s The Bodysnatchers, filmed with varying success several times usually about once every decade as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. The novels are still worth seeking out. And if you don’t know who the others are, then you better get reading!

 

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Author interview – Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke

Today it’s my proud privilege to introduce author Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. A Nigerian-born writer, he is one of a wave of Afrofuturist writers who have recently been taking the world by storm. Afrofuturism has been defined as “a cultural, aesthetic, philosophy of science and philosophy and history that…  addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora”.  Writers of these stories typically use magic realism, fantasy, supernatural and science fiction to achieve their aims, and share a highly distinctive prose style that is both fresh and engagingly non-Western. 

Chukwunonso’s first story collection, “The Haunted Grave”  is in print from Parallel Universe Publications and contains eight stories with themes such as the real origins of the AIDS virus, a man who is possessed by himself,  and a particularly nasty family curse passed on through sexual activity. The stories are original and totally believable, told with a matter-of-factness that makes them all the more chilling.  Even stranger is that Chukwunonso is such a very nice guy to meet, with a highly infectious laugh. Not the kind of person you would immediately think capable of writing such grisly fiction!

 

ES: First of all, please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

CE: I am Peter Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. Although I only write with Chukwunonso and then my surname Ezeiyoke. From day one, I tended to avoid using my name Peter in my writing. I see my writing coming from an intimate place and Peter for an unknown reason failed to capture this essence. Perhaps because Peter is for officialdom.  The name used in school, at work and other serious places. Nonso, an abbreviated version of Chukwunonso was the in-house name left for close friends and family. In a way, the name Peter got alienated from this intimate fondness I associated with writing. I write all sorts of things: fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, I love literary criticism especially if approached from the angle of the Philosophy of Literature. I fell in love with literary theories after reading Language and Habit of Thought by A. Akwanya. The book blew me off my feet. I also enjoyed Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. And then Kant and then Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy. ES: And what are your preferred genres as a writer?

CE: Horror and fantasy. Science fictions as long as it doesn’t focus so much in the science but rather on the emotions of the characters. I really love writing horror.  I love a slow burner. The beginning of my stories often sound realistic/literary until the demon comes to party.

ES: What is your favourite childhood book?

CE: I can’t really say one book, but I think that The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola was fascinating, mythical and hilarious. The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Then Cyprian Ekwensi’s An African Night’s Entertainment.  Chike and River by Chinua Achebe was our childhood national anthem so was Eze Goes to School by Onuora Nzekwu. I bet that everybody that grew up in Nigeria around the time I was born must have read them.

ES: How long were you a part-time writer before your became a full-time one?

CE: I can’t call myself a full time writer even now. Writing is yet to pay my bills. But I often see myself as a committed writer in the sense that I take it seriously and tend to create time for it. I haven’t been that committed to writing like the way I am now. It is something I began newly. I started to write when I was like eleven or twelve, but then I had a yearning stronger than writing: to become a catholic priest. This consumed my life until I was like 21 when I started having a vocational crisis because of some existential questions. Then writing became my only solace to escape reality. Finally, in 2014, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t become a priest after about 15 years in the seminary. It was at this point that I became a committed writer because I realised that there was nothing else in life that fascinates me like writing. I started being a serious writer by doing my MA in Creative Writing.

ES: That’s fascinating, and I suppose it shows just how important writing can be to people. Thank you for sharing that story. What has been your hardest scene to write to date?

CE: A rape scene that I wrote as part of my MA in radio drama.

ES: And what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

CE: Hahaha… I went to a bar with a friend. Then we ate fresh fish pepper soup with some chilled drink.

ES: Good answer! I like to include animals in my own stories from time to time. As a writer, what animal would you choose to be your spirit animal?

CE: A tiger

ES: Very cool! And now what are your writing habits? Any good ones?

CE: I am good at breaking any habit I formed.

ES: And how many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

CE: I think I end up with one every month.

ES: Wow. It sounds like you are very prolific. That is very inspiring. When you have had a work published, do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

CE: I read them. I like feedback, no matter what. It tells me that at least people read what I write. Obscurity I think is the worst thing to happen to a writer rather than neglect reviews.

ES: That is a very philosophical attitude to take. I wish I could be like that!  Well, thank you very much for taking part in this interview, and I for one really look forward to reading your next book!

 

If you haven’t read it yet, Chukwunonso’s collection of stories “The Haunted Grave” is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. I thoroughly recommend it as a superb work of fiction. If you want an introduction to the wonderful world of Afrofuturism, or if you just want a really good collection of modern horror stories, I suggest you pick up a copy, as he is certainly an author to watch! 

Author Interview with Cyn Ley

Yours truly had a busy old time of it this week, what with Fantasycon 2017 in Peterborough, UK. More on that later, but for now, I’d like to share this interview with bestselling author Cyn Ley. Cyn has published books in the horror, paranormal and humour fields! So without further ado, here’s Cyn…

ES: Welcome to the blog, Cyn. First of all, can you tell our readers a little about yourself? 

CL: Yes.. I’m both a bestselling author and a top-ranked editor, and have been with Solstice Publishing since 2014. They gave me my start and I love working with them. I write short stories mainly, although I recently branched out into novellas. Short stories fascinate me because they have to be so carefully crafted. Always up for a challenge! It’s where I do my best writing, I think. I write rather eclectically—paranormal, social satire, humor, horror. Basically whatever pops into my head and turns itself into a story… There’s not much I’m not interested in.

ES: Paranormal and social satire! Sounds fascinating. What was your last book about?

CL: My last book was THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND AND OTHER UNEXPECTED TALES. It is a collection of three paranormal stories plus one that’s a bit of a surprise. It’s received excellent reviews so far. My latest short story, “Plot Twist”, will be appearing in Solstice’s annual October fright fest anthology, NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP (October 2017).

ES: Cool. So are your books standalone stories or are they part of a bigger overall plan?

CL: They’re standalone collections. I currently have two books on the market: THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND, and ENCOUNTERS: TALES RECOUNTED AND REBORN. ENCOUNTERS is a collection of stories previously published between 2014 -2016. A number of these early tales have been revamped, but just as many stand in their original form

ES: As a writer myself, I’m always keen to know authors’ writing habits. What is your own approach to writing, and how many hours a day do you write?

CL: Tough question. I’m an intuitive writer, so most of the time stories just unfold for me. I’ll sketch out quick little notes and use them as touch point, but I’m not religious about it. What seems like a good idea initially may not be when you get to the actual writing. Some days I don’t write at all. Other days—or nights, I should say—the Muse wakes me up at 3am and orders me to write.

ES: Okay, now that we know about your writing and your working day, why don’t we dig a little deeper? What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why?

CL: The unabridged Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. It has everything—action, humor, thrills, romance, and is just plain fun.

ES: I love Dumas. His works appeal on so many levels. It’s interesting that you went for historical fiction, though. Do you undertake a lot of research for stories yourself?

CL:  I don’t start with the research, but I often research as I go. This can range from [finding out about] the environment (the settings of the story), to language (how people expressed themselves in different eras, subject-specific terminology, etc.). Let the story be your guide, and pay attention to the details. Would your character have cooked in a copper pan or cast iron one? The minutia can make all the difference.

ES: Very sound advice. In fact, I recently made the mistake of failing to research a certain aspect of police procedure in Los Angeles for one of my short stories. Fortunately, I have an editor with a very keen eye!  Okay, moving on to a more spiritual plane — and this is question I ask everyone — as a writer what would you choose to be your mascot or spirit animal? 

CL: I’m way too much of a critter person to pin that down! LOL My cat and dogs are lovely, of course, but so are the crows that like to hang out on the roof.

ES: So all of them! And if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CL: Be brave!!!

ES: Excellent. Okay, we’re almost done. One last question: could you tell us what are you working on at the moment? 

CL: I have a couple of multi-genre things in the works right now, but it’s too early to talk about them. They’re sketches, mostly

ES: Well, all the best with them. I’m sure they’ll be very entertaining! Thanks for participating in this interview. It’s been great having you on the blog. 

CL: Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure!

Cyn Ley’s books are available on Amazon here  and from Solstice Publishing

Or you can get in touch with her here: 

Blog: https://authorcjl.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaLey2@cynthialey2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cleyfiction4/

 

 

Interview with horror writer Richard Tabaka!

Time for a change of pace, today, as I’d like to start an irregular series of interviews with new and established authors!

My first guest is horror novelist Richard Tabaka. An active member of the Horror Writer’s Association Richard’s novels include the three-book series The Pride, supernatural thriller St Augustine’s Road, and the short story collection 3:33.

 

Hi, Richard, welcome to the site. Please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

I was born and raised in central Wisconsin, USA in 1960.  I’ve been a fan of horror for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I would read comic books quite a bit.  Mostly Super Heroes like Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Spider-Man (who I liked a great deal because I often caught spiders in jars and kept them for pets), and horror comics like Eerie and Creepy and Tales From The Crypt.  Every Friday night my sister and I would watch old horror movies on a local show called 7 Cemetery Road. It was mostly old Hammer Horror movies and some American ones as well.  I always looked forward to Halloween not just for the candy, but because I got to dress up as my favorite monsters. By age ten or eleven I was reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe.  By the time I reached my twenties Stephen King was becoming known and I read his books as fast as he could write them. Dean R. Koontz soon followed as did Robert MacCamon and F. Paul Wilson.

Okay, cool. Some strong horror influences there. MacCammon is certainly a terrific writer who doesn’t get as much recognition as he deserves. What are your preferred genres as a writer?

I write horror with a dash of dark fantasy.  I really have no urge to write in any other genre. Nothing else stirs my heart like horror.

And what is your latest book about?

My newest novel, which I hope to publish by midwinter, is a take on the shapeshifter myth and will move ancient elements into modern times.  My last novel is about psychics and demons. All my books feature strong female characters.  I don’t like the “damsel in distress” preferring a girl that fights back.

What is your favourite book in the genre in which you write?

It would be hard to pick an all-time favorite. I like to read horror with a twist on an old theme.  Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves are all good and sometimes horror from a different source like James Herbert’s The Rats or Stephen King’s Cell.  The new series Bane County by JR Rice is a great take on an old theme as is your own novel The Autumn Man.  I also greatly enjoyed a novella I read recently called Honger by Terry M. West and the novels of Ambrose Ibsen.

Thank you. And thanks for the suggestions for further reading. My shelves are already groaning under the weight of all the books I want to read, but I guess I can slip a few more in there! Anyway, back to your own writing. What are your writing habits? Any unusual ones?

I love to write on weekend mornings or vacation days, though I do write after work sometimes too. I like it best when I can immerse myself in the process for many hours. I typically write out a long synopsis first and flesh it out into a chapter by chapter outline and from that I add more meat until I have a story and then leave it cool while I start another synopsis. I’ll return after a few weeks and tidy it up, usually two or three times.  Then, I take the plunge and publish. I know too many people that might be great authors if they ever put themselves out there and took the plunge. Too often, we as writers are our own worst critics and for me my greatest sorrow would have been to leave the earth without trying. Now, having sold books on four continents and I know now that people around the world share my dark side.

So you’re definitely a planner, or at least a plantser. Interesting. What kind of characters do you primarily write about most often? Are your protagonists mainly children, teenagers, young adults or adults?

Almost all of my books and stories deal with adults and adult themes, though I wrote a short story that borrowed heavily from my early teen years.  That story, Fat Man, has roots in real life and writing it was a very powerful experience for me.

 

What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?

The most difficult part of the writing process for me is making time for it.  I still work a “day job”, often 50 to 70 hrs a week.  It is a challenge to juggle writing with work, family and other hobbies and friends. Sometimes I have to force myself to write a half hour here or fifteen minutes there, but that is the only way to keep moving forward.  I know someone who once told me she wanted to write a romance novel. Twenty years later she has yet to finish it. I had the same problem until I took a calendar and marked in red ink on every Friday, seven more pages. I forced myself to stick to that schedule and in nine months I had a novel written. It would take another five years before I just made up my mind to publish it myself. I never regretted that decision.

That’s definitely a commitment to writing. Does your family support your writing career?

My wife supports me and likes to read my books, as do my mother-in-law and father-in-law.  I am also grateful to my friends and co-workers who can’t wait to see what I come up with next.

A lot of authors dream of making it big like JK Rowling or Stephen King. What does literary success look like to you?

Success means different things to different people.  For me, I’d like to see someone make one of my books into a movie. That said, I told my wife once that if I could sell enough books to make a house payment, I’d consider myself a success. By that measure I am a success many times over. I was also thrilled to be accepted as a full Member of The Horror Writer’s Association and I would love to earn a Bram Stoker Award someday. I have yet to be nominated, but I’ve had the honor of placing my votes for a few other writers. It is always good to have a dream.

And finally, as you know, my stories often feature animals in some way. After writing The Autumn Man I think I can safely say that my favourite animal is man’s best friend, the dog. What would you choose as your own mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My personal spirit animal, and I do believe I have one, is the Bear. The Bear is a survivor and a resourceful creature and I’d like to think I am too. Like the Bear, I have a grumpy side and love a good snooze, and never miss a good meal. I think we all have a spirit animal and we should set it free from time to time and let it be our guide.

Excellent. Well, thank you Richard for giving this interview and for all your insights into the writing process. It’s been a great pleasure, and I hope you enjoy your well-deserved success!  

Richard Tabaka’s novels are available on Amazon at the links below. I hope you will check them out for a taste of classic and modern horror fiction:

The Pride www.amazon.com/Pride-richard-tabaka-ebook/dp/B00N1Z1P3C

Blood Pride www.amazon.com/Blood-Pride-Book-2-ebook/dp/B018SZ9KXQ

Pride Fight www.amazon.com/PRIDE-FIGHT-Final-Chapter-Book-ebook/dp/B01MTJG4L5

Saint Augustine’s Road www.amazon.com/Saint-Augustines-Road-Richard-Tabaka-ebook/dp/B06XHQXGKJ

Richard Tabaka website www.tabakahorror.com

Richard Tabaka Facebook Page www.facebook.com/TabakaHorror

Amazon Author’s Page  www.amazon.com/richard-tabaka/e/B00N2YSK6M

 

 

Focus on the short story: Ray Bradbury’s “The Emissary”

Today, I thought I would focus on a short story for a change.

What I really like about Ray Bradbury’s “Zen and the Art of Writing” is that he suggests that authors should only write when they feel a white-hot passion…. a burning idea that just has to be let out. For me, that has never been a problem. I have too many ideas and too little time. However, he also says that he started out writing by simply listing nouns…. writing down phrases like “The Skeleton” or “The Jar” and letting the story write itself. I was amazed to read this, as I did the same thing myself when I began writing in my teens. These days, however, I begin more often than not with an idea. But using this kind of word-association game can be a useful way to dodge writer’s block for those afflicted.

Which brings me to my favourite Ray Bradbury story, “The Emissary”.

 

 

Bradbury wrote tons of gold. You’ve probably heard of “The Martian Chronicles” or the film made from one of his short stories “The Beast from 20,000 fathoms”. He also wrote the screenplay for “Moby Dick”, a few “Twilight Zone” episodes, as well as the Rod Steiger classic “The Illustrated Man”, and the dark fantasy novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

But for me it’s his collection “The October Country” that is my fave. The preface states it is about:

“… that country where it is always turning late in the year… whose people are autumn people thinking only autumn thoughts.”

It still sends shivers up my back. Rumour has it one story, “The Homecoming” was the seed for “The Addams’ Family”, especially as Charles Addams himself illustrated the early editions of the book.

“The October Country” contains some great stories like “The Jar” and “The Scythe”. But for me “The Emissary” is the best of the lot.

 
It’s a story about a boy who is sick in bed and whose dog is his only link to the outside world. Dog is an explorer, and he always comes back carrying the scents of everything he comes into contact with. One night, Dog goes missing. Then he comes back. But he’s not exactly alone…

 

The Emissary – from the Ray Bradbury Theatre TV show!

 

Here’s a sample:

“Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees. In dark clock-springs of hair, Dog fetched goldenrod, dust of farewell-summer, acorn-husk, hair of squirrel, feather of departed robin, sawdust from fresh-cut cordwood, and leaves like charcoals shaken from a blaze of maple trees. Dog jumped. Showers of brittle fern, blackberry vine, marsh-grass sprang over the bed where Martin shouted. No doubt, no doubt of it at all, this incredible beast was October!”

The story combines childlike innocence and beautiful prose with an eerie dread. It’s the kind of story you grasp instantly, but you still get more out of it on repeat readings. The exquisite prose reminds me of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. It twists language to create new words out of old. But more, Bradbury captures the exuberance of sheer living. His exclamation mark at the end could be either the boy’s viewpoint or our own.

 

Martin makes sure anyone who finds his dog knows where to come looking for its owner…

 

For me, Bradbury evokes a kind of timeless, 1950’s era America of small towns that was about as foreign as you could get from inner-city Manchester where I grew up. His America is a place of wonder, mystery, nature and a million fabulous scents, smells and activities. A kind of Fourth of July of the mind. “The Emissary” conveys all this in one brisk paragraph. The rest of the story is even better. I encourage you to read it. And then to read everything else Bradbury ever wrote.

One of things writers sometimes forget about is that writing should be fun. It should move us, make us laugh or weep. We live out our fantasies and our nightmares in our writing. So be like Bradbury, who said : “You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.”

Stay drunk!

Eastercon 2017 Review!

For those who don’t know, Eastercon is the annual British National Science Fiction Convention. Now in it’s 68th year, it draws together an eclectic mix of sci-fi, fantasy, comic book and horror fans, creators, writers, illustrators, artists, cosplayers, and booksellers, as well as a whole host of other interesting people. This year it took place in Birmingham, England, under the moniker of Innominate. Its logo  was a ( presumably) green alien head. I went along and took part. He’s what happened…

 

 

I had two events planned for Innominate. The first was a panel on comic book legend Jack Kirby. Most people know Kirby from his days with Marvel  in the Sixties. In fact, Jack “King” Kirby, or Jolly Jack Kirby (whichever you prefer) was an influential comics creator who co-created Thor, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Superman’s nemesis Darkseid and a whole host of other even wilder characters. This was a lot of fun, even though it took place less than an hour after I had arrived and before I’d even booked into my hotel.  But bringing my hastily-acquired knowledge of how Kirby actually invented modern superheroes was very enjoyable. My fellow panellists, Stephen Aryan, Ali Baker, Kin Ming-Looi and Adele Terrell all brought their considerable knowledge and talents to bear.

Panel over, it was time to get my bearings and have a breather from the 2 hour drive down a congested M6. There were almost a thousand people in attendance, with sci-fi legend Pat Cadigan, illustrator Judith Clute and art connoisseur Colin HArris all being the guests of honour.  I checked in with a few friends I hadn’t seen since… well, the last Eastercon, missed several interesting-looking panels. I then attended the “The Explosive Opening Ceremony”. Thanks to a scientists from the Royal Institute, it was indeed explosive, and I will never forget the impressive sight of a luminous courgette.

Missing panels is something of a hobby of mine at Eastercon. I missed a couple more that night, but managed to attend both the art show reception and a Gollancz launch party. Both were curiously low-key affairs, with guests simply milling about with little or no introduction. I got the impression these were for “people in the know” whoever they were, and felt a little excluded, but even so I managed to chat briefly to some intriguing folks.

I decided to skip the Regency ball (not being a fan of how people were actually treated in the Regency period) and the Blake’s 7 Wobblevision (which I’m sure was good fun) and tried to grab some actual sleep. Car parking was a bit steep in Birmingham. Fortunately, I left my car next to the A-Team’s van ( I never did find out who it belonged to) and saved some cash courtesy of a reduced parking ticket from the con hotel, which was great value for money!

 

Jack Kirby shows his trademark style!

 

Saturday was a busy day indeed. I lost some time trying to find my way around the NEC (not a good idea when there’s a 24-hour gaming convention on) and ended up driving to Coventry! Thankfully, and against all odds, I managed to arrive in time for my kaffeeklatsch. These were great ways to speak with several fascinating guests at the con, including author Adrian Tchaikovsky and lit agent John Jarrold. After that, I missed a few more panels chatting in the bar, before heading into the panel titled *punk. This was a very entertaining and informative talk on the various “punk” genres, including steampunk, cyberpunk, and even weirdpunk ( which I never knew was a thing) . The discussion was lively with issues of class inevitably being thrown up against steampunk. The panellists were all fantastic, and I left with the feeling that I knew more than when I entered. Which is always a good thing.

I am embarrassed to say that I attended very few other panels that day. Some of these were just fun (Towel-fu, Sofa Racing and Hungry Human Hippos) some were a bit too technical for me (Neurodiversity, 3D printing, and a workshop on a Dremel – something about which I am still unenlightened), and some of which conflicted with lunch. Although this last point sounds trite, when you’re on your feet for 18 hours a day, lunch becomes a necessity. Unfortunately, many of the panels conflicted with the street food that was on sale in the fan lounge, while the hotel food was exorbitantly priced. For someone with certain dietary needs, food became an increasing problem, resulting in nachos for breakfast. Suffice to say, I left the con never wanting to see another baked potato. May I suggest some salad, vegetables and pasta in the future?

But otherwise Saturday night was (as I remember) filled with good conversation around the bar, mainly involving 2000AD, and the world’s most insanely difficult sci-fi pub quiz. So afterwards I headed back to my hotel to get a well-earned 5 hours rest!

Sunday was another busy day. Beginning with a sci-fi criticism masterclass by Manchester University’s Geoff Ryman on Afrofuturism, it continued with a panel on writing scifi with and about disability. This was a terrific discussion which made me realise just how few positive portrayals of people with disability there are. Even heroic disabled characters have to either overcome their disability or are given some great super-power to compensate (I’m thinking of you, Georgie Laforge). A lively talk from Pat Cadigan topped the day off with a session entitled “Pat Cadigan Explains It All”. And she did, with a rather graphic demonstration that I feel I will never forget. The other panels were mostly sci-fi, and  I would have liked to see  a little more fantasy and horror in the programme. But I guess that’s why it’s called a Sci-Fi convention! Much of the rest of the evening was mainly preoccupied with dinner. Sadly, the Groan-Along showing of Ed Wood’s sci-fi fiasco”Plan 9 From Outer Space” was cancelled due to someone bringing the wrong DVD. The replacement, “Transformers” failed to find an audience. So instead I had a long and lively talk with many people who wandered in and out of the fan lounge until the wee hours, when I realised I still hadn’t decided (due to a variety of reasons) on what I was going to read for my author reading at 10am the following day!

Now, 2am is not a good time to decide what you are going to be reading in less than 8 hours. However, I think I pulled it off. Sadly, my reading conflicted with my friend Arthur Chapell’s fascinating talk on sci-fi pub signs, so I had to miss that, as I couldn’t very well be absent from my own reading! Myself and grimdark author Anna Smith-Spark expected a low-energy crowd, it being the fourth day of the convention at 10am! However, the opposite was true. Many faces that were far too fresh for my liking turned up (probably due to Ms Smith-Spark’s presence, I may add), and I realized I had better be on top of my game. Fortunately, my last-minute preparation prevailed, and the reading seemed to go very well, with a lively Q&A sessions afterwards that involved such diverse subjects such as Dungeons & Dragons and the poetry of William Blake.

The con ended on a high note with the closing ceremony, attended once against by the guests of honour, and the giving of the Doc Weir award. I spent the rest of the day catching up, saying goodbye and generally making a nuisance of myself before heading home up the M6 once more. Maybe it was just that the traffic was less congested, but I felt a new surge of energy and hopefulness. It seems to be a common thing at Eastercon. The experience of being around so many creative and passionate people renews you, and you go forth into the world once more, ready to apply pen to paper, confident that there are other people out there who feel just the same as you!

My thanks to the organisers for letting me participate, and my apologies to anyone I didn’t get to speak to. See you next year!

(P.S. Some of the above may be exaggerated… just a little).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exciting news!

I am very happy to report that my latest novel “The Autumn Man” is going to be published in the very near future!

I’ll release more details when and as I can, but this is a horror novel that is very close to my heart.

You can read my fist novel, the sci-fi horror “Project Nine” here.

The story behind how  both “The Autum Man” and “Project  Nine” got published is an epic one and I will share it with you at some point in the future. But for now, I’m just excited  and looking forward to sharing more with you as this develops. Stay tuned for a sneak preview of the cover and for more screenwriting tips and secrets!