Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Just because...

My favourite films watched in 2015

1. Frank

2. Ex-Machina

3. Birdman

4. It Follows

5. Lucy

6. Nightcrawler

7. The Martian

8. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

9. Miss America

10 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Favourite novel read in 2015
The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford

Some of my favourite short stories I read this year (I include links where the stories are available to read online):

Little Men With Knives by L.S.Johnson  (Crossed Genres)

Queen of Lakes by L.S.Johnson (published in Fae, World Weaver Press)

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Muchado (Year's Best Weird Fiction Vol.2)

The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy by Rich Larsen (Year's Best Weird Fiction Vol.2)

There Used to be Places by Louis Rakovich (Dark Lane Anthology Vol.2)

The Redfield Girls by Laird Barron (The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All)

The Stone by Rebecca Llloyd (Mercy)

Northwest Passage by Barbara Rodin (Northwest Passages)

Getting There & Away by Austin Bunn (The Brink)

Hungerford Bridge by Elizabeth Hand (Errantry)

Sing by Karin Tidbeck (Tor.com)

The Wilds by Julia Elliott


Silence Yourself by Savages
Too often these days rock or indie rock or however you want to describe this kind of music is so careerist and sanitised that it makes me want to vomit.  What happened to the days when this kind of music was made by the marginalised, the outsider, the weirdo?  These days it feels like it's been co-opted by upper-middle class kids enjoying a gap year as indie-rock stars, and the music they make leaves me cold. I'll take a Kurt Cobain, a Morrissey, a Siouxsie Sioux, a Robert Smith, or a Johnny Rotten, over your Chris Martins of this world any day of the week.

Savages' music feels like a return to the days when music was intelligent and angry.  I initially dismissed this album as some kind of weird hybrid of Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees but the more I listened the more it drew me in.  My favourite tracks: She Will, I Am Here, and Shut Up.

Dark Little Dreams

I can now reveal that my novelette, The Wilds, will appear in the anthology 'Dark Little Dreams' from Bad Dream Entertainment, due to be released in March 2016.  There are a few familiar names in the table of contents who I'm especially pleased to be appearing alongside.  I'd like to give a huge thank you to editor Brett Reistroffer for selecting my story for inclusion.  The book is available for pre-order now.  You can find out more in the Bad Dream Entertainment website.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Recommended Weird Tales: The Familiars by Micaela Morrissette

With only a handful of short stories to her name (only four that I'm aware of) Micaela Morrissette is fast becoming one of my favourite weird fiction writers.

The Familiars is a beautifully written and perfectly judged tale of a mother vying for her son against the imaginary friends who keep appearing from under his bed.  The great thing about this story is that there is so much detail and such ambiguity that it can be read and enjoyed anew again and again with the reader noticing different things each time.  I’ve read The Familiars about five times now and I still haven’t quite grasped what’s actually going on in this tale.  Are the boy’s friends real or only imaginary?  There does seem to be some sort of magic going on.  In one scene the mother visits her dead husband’s grave, then goes to a stream and casts away some of his belongings.  Yet we are never told why.  This made me wonder if the friends are actually the father returning in a different form, and this was the mother’s way of trying to be rid of him/them.  Or perhaps the story is about the mother’s attempts to reign in her son’s imagination before he starts school and enters the real world.  Or perhaps it’s merely about loss and mourning, and the ways that people deal with it.  That’s the beauty of this story, it seems designed to make you ponder and speculate; an approach which in the wrong hands could simple frustrate the reader, but here it keeps you coming back again and again to re-read.  If I had to describe this story with one word it would be: enchanting.
Find it: The New Black anthology by Richard Thomas; The Weird anthology by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Also recommended by the same author : Porn and Revolution in the Peaceable Kingdom

Set in a future world where animals have out-evolved human beings, Porn…tells the story of Tim, a lonely sentient slime mould who works in Wall-Mart and whose only source of companionship is his pet human, Fifi.  The story follows Tim’s frustrations as he tries on-line dating (with a Parrott!), attempts to keep Fifi from mating, and tries to find some sense of purpose in life.  Essentially, this is a tale of modern-day living with a twist.  Projecting it into an animal-ruled future allows the story to be both humorous (the scene where Tim comes home one day to find Fifi rutting on top of a neighbour’s car was a laugh out loud moment for me), and thought-provoking.  Some people have and will object to one scene near the end of the story, but for me this was a very enjoyable read.  Again, Morrissette delivers with her exquisite writing and fantastic world-building skills.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Outliers of Speculative Fiction

I am pleased to have had my short story, No Other, included in the Outliers of Speculative Fiction anthology edited by L.A. Little.  Out now!

No Other is a sci-fi/horror mix and concerns two people - Dawn and Nishi - lone survivors of a deadly disease which has decimated mankind.  The theme of the story is a familiar one in my work - the increasingly mad lengths people will go to when they fall in love.  I won't dwell too much on No Other here, as I'd like to discuss some of the other stories in the anthology.  All the stories in the book were of a high-standard, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.  Each story offered something new and surprising. Here, though, are some of my favourites:

Stepping On Sand & Gods by Cory Skerry gets things off to a fine and unexpected start.  This is an excellent magic-realist tale set in a South American desert littered with lost gods, and where an expectant mother goes to birth her child in honour of ancient traditions.  This leads to the mother encountering some of those immortal beings and having to fight not only for her own life but that of her newborn baby.  I found this a convincing, beautifully-written tale; enigmatic but satisfying.

When We Go Flying by Kama Post is another enjoyable story; although as a frequent-flyer myself I found it equally disturbing.  The author imagines air travel as are place where travellers no longer sit politely in their seats for the duration of the flight, but instead indulge in all manner of debauchery. In this tale, the sky is a consequence free zone, and all is forgiven and forgotten - even death and destruction - once the plane touches down on the runway.  This is a well-written story that grips the reader.  I was also impressed by the way this female author managed to write such a convincing male first person narrator.

Somnambulant by L.A Little is a clever take on the idea of a dealer who can't help getting high off his own supply.  The dealer in this case is The Sandman, the supply being the grains of sand he doles out to make people sleep.  Horrified by the brutal realities of human life and hurting from a failed love affair, The Sandman turns to his own stash for solace.  There was an emotional resonance to this story.  I found this tale both thought-provoking and oddly moving.

Meanwhile on a Different Earth by Anya Penfold is a tale about  people forced to make bombs taking the threat of apocalypse into their own hands.  Though a quick read, this carries a strong message and left me with a smile on my face.