Saturday, December 4, 2010

Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies

Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies by Ian Edginton and Davide Fabri. Wildstorm (Titan Books £14.99)
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Yet more zombies! The undead are everywhere, it seems, breeding like flies. Do I really want any more? However, Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies is a jolly jaunt through Victorian London, a city besieged from within by the undead, created by a particular evil mastermind (guess who). Holmes and Watson are called to Scotland Yard to help solve a case, that of a man pronounced dead -- but now very much ‘alive’, a monster craving human flesh.

The secret service warns the great detective off but Holmes being Holmes… Well, you know that wouldn’t work. And so he and Watson climb down into the tunnels far beneath the city’s streets, only to encounter an army of revenants. They are rescued by that other great mind, Mycroft Holmes, and an elite contingent of the British Army.

And over dinner at the Diogenes Club the full story begins to emerge, about a comet and an earlier outbreak of the undead. And Holmes’ nemesis is still alive (well, sort of) and controlling an army of the undead. It is up to the fearless duo to re-enter the necropolis that was London and put an end to yet another evil scheme…

I was in two minds about buying this graphic novel. I had read the first issue of the monthly series on initial publication and dismissed the series. I was wrong to do so and I’m glad I bought the book. I love Ian Edginton’s script -- Victorian detective story, steampunk science fiction and, of course, zombie horror. The dialogue works well; you could easily imagine 19th Century gentlemen talking and acting as depicted, albeit in a subtly altered alternate reality. And Davide Fabri’s artwork illustrates it to perfection. It thankfully avoids excessive lingering details of death and destruction and zombie decay, using these images when necessary and thus causing greater impact. Full marks.

An anthology of geezer noir

A new anthology has hit the book shelves recently: Damn Near Dead 2: Live Noir or Die Trying! edited by Bill Crider (Busted Flush Press $18.00 -- you can buy this via Amazon). The book cover states that this in an ‘anthology of geezer noir’ -- so it seems as if it should be a fun read. There are two dozen stories here, all new, by the likes of Neal Barrett Jr, Christa Faust, Ed Gorman, Joe R Lansdale, Tom Piccirilli, Kat Richardson and SJ Rozan.

Blurb on the back cover says that these stories make ‘Miss Marple look like a Girl Scout’ (Chicago Tribune). We’ll see…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Los Angeles Noir edited by Denise Hamilton

I’ve just come across this series of crime books, of which Los Angeles Noir volume two, edited by Denise Hamilton (Akashic Books, $15.95) appears to be the latest addition. It seems that Akashic began this series in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir and in 2007 Los Angeles Noir volume one saw publication.

LA Noir 2 includes 15 stories by the likes of Leigh Brackett, James M Cain, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy and Walter Mosley. The stories cover a period in LA’s history from 1933 to 2007 and are grouped into four sections: “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “After the War”, “Killer Views” and “Modern Classics”.

A very tasty book – and series – I’m sure.

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington

The next title in Freda Warrington’s Aetherial Tales series, Midsummer Night (Tor $27.99) is now available.

“Decades ago, at a remote British estate where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials – the fair folk – is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death.

Decades later, the estate has become an art centre presided over by Juliana Flagg, a noted visionary sculptor and the daughter of one of the long-ago pranksters.”

Meanwhile, a man “stumbles through the portal, into our world, begging for help. The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of a man in this story of loss and redemption.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Greek Street volume 2 by Milligan and Gianfelice

Greek Street volume 2: Cassandra Complex by Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice. Vertigo $14.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

The comic’s title says it all: Greek Street. It involves characters called Furey and Dedalus and Medea. There are visions and vengeance and Oedipal crimes… You won’t need a second guess to work out that in this graphic novel Greek drama is heavily – and cleverly – interwoven: a tragedy repeated as a contemporary thriller.

The action centres round a strip club in Greek Street, Soho, London, run by the thuggish Fureys. Eddie is on the run from just about everyone. (In the previous volume he arrived in Soho searching for his mother. He found her, slept with her, and killed her – he insists that these last two events were both accidental.) Meanwhile, Lord Menon has his own issues: girls seduced and cast off, a daughter maddened with visions, murder, dark secrets – and a wife who apparently commits suicide.

Writer Peter Milligan and artist Davide Gianfelice have wrought a superb Greek tragedy, of discovery and loss – with references to the plays of ancient Athens. They obviously understand their source material but never overload the story with research. The plotting is tight and fast paced. There is little space for reflection or exposition, no long-winded explanations. You got to keep up. If you don’t have a good memory re-read volume one before embarking on Greek Street: Cassandra Complex. In fact, re-read it anyway – and saviour the complete story (although, annoyingly, the drama is not resolved by the end of this book).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl by multi-award winning Paolo Bacigalupi is published in December 2010 by Orbit (£7.99). Time Magazine named The Windup Girl as one of the ten best novels of 2009. The book won five of 2010’s SF awards: Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook and the John W Campbell awards.

“Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he comb’s Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the Windup Girl – Emiko – now abandon to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich.

Lake becomes increasing obsessed with Emiko. Conspiracies breed in the heat of political tensions… But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.”

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year

The 2010 edition Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (volume 4) is now available. Here, you’ll find 29 stories first published in 2009. Authors include Stephen Baxter, Peter Beagle, Holly Black, Pat Cadigan, Andy Duncan, Diana Wynne Jones, John Kessel, Ellen Kushner, Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link. The editor sourced the stories from a wide range of publications including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Postscripts, Interzone and the online Clarksworld Magazine.

Amy Pond sculpture

Hey... Some of these sculptures actually look like the character they model. I like this one. You can buy it for around £50.

Back to the Middle of Nowhere

Back to the Middle of Nowhere edited by Jessy Marie Roberts & Jessica A Weiss. Pill Hill Press. $16.99
Reviewed by Jenny Barber

When reviewing short story anthologies, it’s rare to find one in which all the stories appeal and sometimes the best we can hope for is that the balance is weighted towards the ones that do. Luckily, Back to the Middle of Nowhere has plenty of stories that hit the spot – and strangely, most of the good ones involve food.

Take “Specialty of the House” by Michael Giorgio, an excellent story set in a road-side café where visitors are rare but always gladly welcomed. There’s a thread of dark humour running through this tale and while the denouement isn’t unexpected, it’s seeing how it gets there that will keep you reading.

Out in the wide open spaces, it’s no surprise that strange breeds of flora pop up so don’t eat the apples in “In Apple Blossom Time” by Colin Insole. Once you get past the slow opener, this grows into a beautiful story with an ending that promises creepiness to come.

In “Land of Enchantment” by Mark Souza, the fruit to watch out for is the humble blackberry; this fruit bites back. The characters are unlikeable which does mar it somewhat, but the story is tasty enough to satisfy.

Moving away from food is the slightly predictable but still very good “Clutching at Straws” by Jay Raven. You know where it’s going as soon as the scarecrow is mentioned, but like “Specialty” the journey is going to keep you entranced.

As a whole, this is something that could be said about the anthology – many of the other stories have elements you’ve seen before, some of them take you there in ways that will keep you reading, others will flip you into a surprise turn-off just when you think you’ve got the route figured. So while the road may be a little bumpy in places, for the most part, the destination is worth it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse! edited by Stephen Jones

Zombie Apocalypse! edited by Stephen Jones. Robinson £7.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

To be honest, I get bored with trends – very quickly. The rash of books all about vampires and werewolves and zombies tend to pass me by. So I was a little apprehensive at first when I obtained Zombies Apocalypse! Fortunately, I had no reason to be concerned. Zombies Apocalypse! was a joyride, from page one to the end.

With over 15 contributors one might expect an anthology. Wrong. This is a mosaic – an epistolic – novel, cleverly woven together by Stephen Jones. Michael Marshall Smith kicks off the saga. Here, a man writes a long missive to his mother, almost a suicide note full of loss and regret. It hints at the tragedy to follow. The entry by Christopher Fowler describes the source of the zombie plague: a church yard being redeveloped for a New Festival of Britain. There then follows a series of police reports, medical reports, diary entries, and so on, and the horror of the plague becomes clear – there is no easy solution (if, indeed, there is a solution).

It’s not obvious exactly when the events are set. Based on clues sprinkled throughout, I suggest 2013. It appears that London’s Olympic Games were a flop – or didn’t take place – and so the Government forces through plans for the New Festival. Picture the Millennium Dome. At the same time, surveillance and the militia-like police create a society of fear and unease. But that society needs something to be frightened of and the zombies fit that bill. The zombies are clearly a metaphor for today’s bogymen (your choice).

Does this mean that the Government deliberately released the plague? Or just try to take advantage of it? Whatever, they failed to control the situation and the end of civilisation becomes inevitable.

Besides Smith and Fowler, other the contributors are (in order of appearance) Mandy Slater, Paul Finch, Sarah Pinborough Jo Fletcher, John Llewellyn Probert, Jay Russell, Kim Newman, Lisa Morton, Tanith Lee, Paul McAuley, Tim Lebbon, Peter Crowther, Robert Hood, Pat Cadigan, Mark Samuels, Peter Atkins, and Scott Edelman. There is no contents page, so it takes a bit of detection to work out who wrote what. It’s fun to do so but not necessary: just get on and read the book. A few characters reappear over the length of the book, notably Sarah Pinborough's young girl writing in her diary about the death of her mother and father. It felt realistic -- very touching.

Zombies Apocalypse! is a mix of horror and science fiction, with added supernatural elements. There is an end, of sorts, but not a satisfactory conclusion to the plague. It’s a scary read, reminding me of The Andromeda Strain and other convincing post-apocalyptic novels. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Unwritten 2 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Vertigo $12.99
Review by Peter Coleborn

This is volume two in Carey and Gross’s clever story arc, about Tom Taylor who may be the model for Tommy Taylor, hero of a children’s fantasy series. Or is he, in fact, the caricature himself? But Tom has disgraced himself, it appears. He’s imprisoned for several murders (see volume 1). Even in prison he’s not safe from the people who want him dead, and somehow he escapes. Perhaps he is magical, after all. Tom and his two companions find themselves in alternate realms, one a Nazi-like world.

It’s clear that the borders between Tom’s ‘real’ and ‘fantasy’ worlds are thin, that things are not as black and white as the words on the pages in the Tommy Taylor books. Inside Man ends with Tom and friends preparing to meet his long-dead (he believed) father.

This is an intelligent tale, about stories within stories, with plaudits from USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Paul Cornell and Eisner Award nominations.

Wild Stacks update

Issue 1 of Wild Stacks: The Library of the Imagination will feature new fiction by Rob Shearman and Rod Rees. Coming soon.

Songs of Love & Death

I can’t resist an anthology, especially one packed with new stories. Songs of Love & Death fits the bill perfectly. Edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, you can be sure of the quality, as well. This anthology includes fiction by Peter S Beagle, Jim Butcher, Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, Tanith Lee, Melinda M Snodgrass, Lisa Tuttle and many others – 17 stories in all.

According to the blurb, this book explores “the borderlands of their [the writers’] genres with tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods to faery-haunted fields, from high fantasy to a galaxy-spanning empire … these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate.”

Songs of Love & Death is published by Gallery Books ($26.00).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wine and Rank Poison by Allyson Bird

Now available from Dark Regions Press: Wine and Rank Poison by Allyson Bird:

“Revenge. Best served cold. Here are ten stories involving most of the deadly sins: greed, lust, envy, wrath, and pride. Strange stories woven in time and place from Ancient Greece to 1929 Odessa, Italy to the modern United States ... stories that mix reality, mythology, legend, half-humans and the inhuman...

‘The stories in Allyson Bird's Wine and Rank Poison draw us into a world of dark magic, infinite possibility and abiding terror; and she does it with a style reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Robert Bloch. Highly recommended.’ -- NY Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry, author of Rot & Ruin

With cover art by Dani Serra and an introduction by Joe R Lansdale.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Art of Zombie Warfare by Scott Kenemore

How to kick-arse like the walking dead: “This manual provides a review of the tactical combat advantages enjoyed by zombies and gives the reader a step-by-step guide to adopting them for him or herself.

Have you wondered where the great military leaders of modern history have found their collective inspirations? Well look no further. It is the walking dead upon whom the most important tactical infantry innovations of the last three hundred years have been based. Do you dream of becoming a soldier who fights with the efficacy and skill of a zombie? Are you a general or commander seeking to imbue your troops with the ruthless, soulless killing-efficiency of an animated corpse? Are you a voodoo priest or wizard desiring to raise an actual army of zombies to help you conquer the land and install yourself as ruler? Then, friend, this is the book for you.”

The Art of Zombie Warfare by Scott Kenemore is due from Robinson in January 2011.

Apocalyptic SF edited by Mike Ashley

Now available: The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF edited by Mike Ashley (Robinson 2010, £7.99). This is the type of book that Robinson is good at: tasty, hefty anthologies edited by some of the best anthologists around. This time Mike Ashley has selected 24 stories all about … yes … the end of the world.

“Humankind has long been fascinated by the precarious vulnerability of civilisation and of the Earth itself. When our fragile civilisations finally go, will it be as a result of nuclear war, or some cosmic catastrophe? The impact of global warming, or a terrorist atrocity? Genetic engineering, or some modern virulent plague?”

Contributors include: Robert Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm, Cory Doctorow, David Barnett, Frederik Pohl, James Tiptree Jr, Fritz Leiber and Stephen Baxter.

Essentially a reprint anthology, six are original to this book.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zombies in New York by Sam Stone

Piper friend Sam Stone's collection of horror and dark fantasy, Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings, is set to appear in February 2011, published by Telos Press (£12.99). Vincent Chong provides the cover illustration and Russell Morgan the interior artwork. This promises to be a fine-looking book. More details on the BFS website.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ghost Talkers...

Will ghost talkers or whisperers be the next big thing, the monster to oust vampires and zombies? Jan Edwards thinks they stand a good chance.

The Castings by Pamela Freeman

The Castings Trilogy by Pamela Freeman hits the bookshops early December, published by Orbit. This omnibus edition contains: Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle.

“Bramble is impetuous with a talent for trouble, and she finds it when an accident brands her a criminal. But she expects no mercy with her Traveller blood - so when the village gods tell her to flee, she hits the road. In ghost-ridden Turvite, Ash leaves the road for an apprenticeship, the only one available for a Traveller such as himself. Then his employer trains him to kill on demand and his future looks bleak.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wild Stacks magazine announced

The Alchemy Press has announced its new online magazine: Wild Stacks, The Library Of The Imagination. The first issue will be posted in a few months. Meanwhile, issue 0, the pre-launch issue, is already available. Wild Stacks aims to publish stories from all corners of the diverse fantasy world.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Out this month on Orion, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. “'What is it? What does it want? Why is it angry with me?'

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it.

Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken.

But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return - when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark.

A terrifying 1930s ghost story set in the haunting wilderness of the far north.”

Now watch the video trailer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

He is Legend

Published in 2009 but just arrived on my "to be read" bedside heap is He is Legend, edited by Christopher Conlon, an anthology celebrating Richard Matheson (Tor $25.99). This book collects 15 original stories inspired by Matheson. Contributors include Stephen King, Joe Hill, F Paul Wilson, Ed Gorman, Joe R Lansdale and Richard Christian Matheson -- and others. The book won the Bram Stoker Award, so it promises to be a very tasty read.

Hellblazer: India by Peter Milligan

Hellblazer: India by Peter Milligan and others. Vertigo $14.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

"Why does the newborn baby cry?" asks the priest of his flock. "It cries because it has been separated from God," he continues. Then John Constantine enters the room and the priest? He says "Oh fuck, no!" And that is why I so like the Hellblazer comics/graphic novels. Peter Milligan’s writing creates a sense of verisimilitude, of the sleazy magical world in which Constantine lives. The subtle artwork by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini only helps to further effect that sense of unease.

Constantine is in India, looking for purity -- he is trying to bring back to life his dead lover. He hopes Charles -- the aforementioned priest -- will help. However, Charles is imbued in something dark and evil: a demon stalks the streets of Mumbai preying on beautiful young women. But did Constantine travel to India voluntarily or was he summoned to destroy that demon? Tied in with this arc there are several strands that deal with love, lost and forfeited, and with duty and responsibility.

The second story in the book is "No Future", which links Constantine with his punk days, when he fronted the band Mucous Membrane. Here, a bunch of dead Conservatives/demons are making plans to usurp the British Government. Naturally, Constantine becomes embroiled in the sorry events, dealing with punks and thugs with his usual armory: sarcasm and sleight of hand. This story was also written by Milligan and embellished with Simon Bisley's dark images.

As ever, Hellblazer is an excellent graphic novel that's aimed for readers who want complex illustrated stories of black magic and cynicism. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paul Finch: new blog

That fine writer Paul Finch has started a new blog. It's called "Walking in the Dark" and you can catch it here.

The Double-Edged Sword by Sarah Silverwood

The Double-Edged Sword: The Nowhere Chronicles, Book One, by Sarah Silverwood. Gollancz 2010. £9.99
Reviewed by Jan Edwards

Finmere Tingewick Smith’s sixteenth birthday, and his odd world is just about to get a lot odder. Abandoned as a baby with nothing but an old woollen blanket and a man’s ring to identify him, he was raised by the venerable Judge Brown and the old men of Orrery House. Strange enough one might think; but he in fact spent alternate years at separate schools – meaning that he has two very different best friends. Then the Judge is murdered and Fin is plunged into a dual world: the London that he recognises in what is called the Somewhere, and an alternate London that exists in the realm of Nowhere. It’s the Knights of Nowhere with their double-edged swords, and the missing woman known as the Storyholder, who are tearing his previously comfortable world apart.

This is a fun book full of swashbuckling sword play, with secret doorways into hidden realms, and old men who are not at all what they seem. It cracks on at a breakneck pace, never dwelling on any one section for long so that the attention does not have the time to wander. Yet even at full-tilt The Double-Edged Sword remains a fully fleshed world inhabited by three-dimensional characters.

The ending is, of course, of the cliff hanger variety in true Saturday Cinema tradition. It just begs the reader to hang on for the next thrilling instalment, and I am certain most readers will be queuing avidly for future episodes in the life of Finmere Tingewick Smith. (As an aside, the acknowledgement page owns up to a number of borrowed names – and for those in the know it can be fun spotting them.)

The main protagonist is sixteen but does feel somewhat younger at times. This, I suspect, is because the book is aimed at a target audience of nine-plus – readers invariably prefer to read ‘up’. That said, this book is not confined to that demographic: it is eminently readable by just about anyone, male or female. Search no longer for that elusive Christmas stocking treat for the young fantasy reader in your family: this is it. Excellent storytelling; recommended.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tales of Dark Fantasy 2

Subterranean Press news: All of the stories for Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2, edited by William Schafer, are in hand, and the book has been designed and undergone its first round of proofing. The cover illustration is by Dave McKean. The anthology includes the Joe Hill's "Wolverton Station", Kelley Armstrong's "Chivalrous", David Prill's "A Pulp Called Joe", "Smelling Darkness", a new Black Company novelette by Glen Cook, and "A Room with a View", by K. J. Parker. Dark Fantasy 2 is 20,000 words longer than the first volume in the series, Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy.

If you order the limited edition you'll also receive a copy of The Cases of Dana Roberts, a chapbook by Joe R Lansdale. Ordering information is available on Sub Press's website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Renegade Writers' Group

The people behind Piper have set up a new writers' group, Renegade Writers. It's located in the Hartshill area of Stoke-on-Trent, but it welcomes people from as far as they wish to travel. The group meets every Wednesday at 7.30pm in the Jolly Potters pub. It's a friendly group, so come along and help members improve their writing -- and have a drink or two. For more information visit the Renegade Writers' blog.

Jan Edwards: new blog

Jan has created a new blog which lists all her publications todate -- plus forthcoming titles. To visit her blog click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Major US rights deal for Rod Rees

Emma Thawley, Rights Director at Quercus, has sold US rights in two novels by UK novelist Rod Rees, The Demi-Monde: Winter and The Demi-Monde: Spring, to Gabe Robinson of HarperCollins, in a significant deal. The books will be published in hardback on the Morrow imprint. World rights in Rod’s series, The Demi-Monde, were acquired pre-emptively by Quercus (who publish the first volume in January 2011) from agent John Jarrold for a major advance in 2009.

"The Demi-Monde is set in a wonderfully imagined virtual world – the Demi-Monde of the title. Originally conceived by the US military as a training ground for their troops in the twenty-first century facing street fighting and enemies who use guerrilla tactics, rather than modern technology-based armies, the Demi-Monde was created by the world’s first quantum computer. Young singer Ella Thomas is sent there to rescue a VIP (she ticks all the boxes to blend into the world, which has a late-Victorian technology base) and discovers the world and its thirty million inhabitants, or ‘avatars’, are all too real. Especially those who run the world’s city-states, based on famous human monsters such as Reinhard Heydrich, Shaka Zulu, Empress Wu, Godfrey de Bouillon, Selim the Grim and Lavrentii Beria, with whom the world was seeded to make it more of a test…and that is only the beginning."

There is already a fascinating website -- pop over there now.

Zombie Apocalypse edited by Stephen Jones

News from Constable & Robinson: Zombie Apocalypse is a 'mosaic novel' set in the near-future, when a desperate and ever-more controlling UK government decides to restore a sense of national pride with a New Festival of Britain. However, controversial plans to build on the site of an old church in South London releases a centuries-old plague that turns its victims into flesh-hungry ghouls whose bite or scratch passes the contagion on to others. Even worse, the virus may also have a supernatural origin with the power to revive the dead.

Despite the attempts of the police, the military and those in power to understand and contain the infection commonly referred to as “The Death”, it soon sweeps across London, transforming everyone who comes into contact with it. With the city – and the country – falling into chaos, even a drastic attempt at a “Final Solution” to eradicate the outbreak at its source fails to prevent it from spreading to Europe and then quickly throughout the rest of the world.

Soon there is no more news coming out of Britain . . . and it is up to those survivors in other countries to confront the flesh-eating invaders within their midst. Will humanity triumph over a world-wide zombie plague, or will the walking dead ultimately inherit the Earth?

Told through various disparate and overlapping eye-witness accounts, through texts, e-mails, blogs, letters, diaries, transcripts, official reports and other forms of communication, a picture builds up of a world plunged into chaos – where the dead attack the living, and only one of them can be the ultimate victor.

Written by some of the biggest and best-known names in horror and science fiction, these interconnected narratives create a unique vision of the End of the World brought about by a plague that may have its origins in both science and the occult.

Zombie Apocalypse is created by Stephen Jones and includes contributions by Michael Marshall Smith, Christopher Fowler, Sarah Pinborough, Jo Fletcher, Kim Newman, Paul McAuley, Tim Lebbon, Peter Crowther, Pat Cadigan, Peter Atkins, Mandy Slater and many, many others. Published by Robinson this month at just £7.99.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adam Roberts guests at the BSFG

Just received from the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. Their guest speaker for the Friday 8 October meeting is Adam Roberts: "Roberts holds a degree in English and Classics from the University of Aberdeen, and a PhD at Cambridge. Currently he works as a senior reader at Royal Holloway, University of London, teaching English Lit and Creative Writing.

He has published twelve SF/fantasy novels since 2000: two of them, Salt (2001) and Gradisil (2007) were nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; and the latter was also nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award. Robert’s forthcoming book, Beggar’s Banquet, is to be published in May 2011.

Adam Roberts will give the Birmingham Science Fiction Group a talk about his works on Friday 8 October, 2010, at 8pm (entry from 7.30pm). Venue: The Briar Rose on Bennett’s Hill in Birmingham. Price: £3.00 BSFG members, £4.00 non-members. Please email for more details."

If you live anywhere in or around the West Midlands, the BSFG is for you. For further information, and a copy of the monthly newsletter, please visit their website.

The Innsmouth Free Press

The fifth issue of the Innsmouth Free Press has just been launched. Here, you can find: "eight tales of horror and the bizarre, a number of them connected by the thread of dark gods. Sword-and-sorcery meets horror in 'The Song of Tussagaroth', while a deity of the forest haunts a widowed man in “The Green World” and a terrible plague must be contained in 'The Night We Burned Our Hearts Out'. A goddess of the Egyptian variety might be the cause of a strange infestation in 'Nibbling'. A shape-shifting creature seems to haunt modern city streets in 'The Changeling'. Strange aquatic creatures prey on unwary fishermen in 'Beneath the Cold Black Sea' and 'Borgan’s Deli' is open for business but not in a prime location."

Full details can be found on the press's website.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Celebrity by Christopher Fowler

Tickets for Christopher Fowler's play Celebrity, starring Victoria Jeffrey, Neil Burgess, Mark Martin and Lucy Clements are now on sale at just £10.00. To book telephone 020 7836 1077 or email: (plus 50p for credit card bookings). Tickets are limited so book early.

The play is set to run from 23 November to 4 December 2010 (nightly 7:30pm; matinees Sat 4:00pm; No performances on Sunday and Monday) at The Phoenix Artist Club,1 Phoenix Street, London, WC2H 0DT. (Off Charing Cross Road next to the Phoenix Theatre).

Celebrity is part of the London Fringe Festival.

Synopsis: Once there were stars. Now everyone wants to be a celebrity -- how did we get from Cary Grant to Jedward? It’s 1968. Helena runs Albion PR in London’s Wardour Street, looking after ‘difficult’ stars. She hires 19 year-old Billy to teach him the secrets of the business. Saving the reputations of her clients involves an outrageous amount of lying and cheating, but neither Helena nor Billy realize this innocent era is about to come crashing to an end…

Celebrity is based on the life of a real London PR agent. Only the names of scandal-struck celebrities will be changed to protect us from libel!

Now Visit Christopher Fowler's website.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One Monster is Not Enough by Paul Finch

One Monster is Not Enough by Paul Finch includes eight novellas and novelettes, including two winners of international horror awards. "From the icy wastes of the Russian Steppes to the grimy backstreets of industrial north England, from the depths of the ocean abyss to a forgotten corner of inner London, Paul Finch brings you eight stories about monsters that will guarantee you never dismiss the notion of 'mystery beasts' again."

Available as a flat-signed jacketed hardcover in a limited edition of just 100 at £18.00 (a paperback version is on its way, apparently). Order from Grayfriars Press.

FantasyCon 2011

You can now visit the official website for FantasyCon 2011, the year FantasyCon goes to the seaside! The venue for next year's convention is the Royal Albion Hotel, situated directly opposite the landmark Brighton Pier.

Mistress of Ceremonies for FantasyCon 2011 is award-winning author Sarah Pinborough, author of A Matter of Blood, the first novel in the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy. More guests to be announced shortly.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cold Magic by Kate Elliot

Now available from Orbit is Kate Elliott's Cold Magic:

"From one of the genre's finest writers comes a bold new epic fantasy in which science and magic are locked in a deadly struggle. It is the dawn of a new age... The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.

Cat and Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?"

Surface Detail by Iain M Banks

This just in from Orbit books:

"Iain M Banks fans take note -- Surface Detail is out at the end of October, and here's what you need to know: General Systems Vehicles, Special Circumstances, Orbitals. Plus Unfallen Bulbitians, Smatter, Hells and Intagliates.

For those of you who have no idea what we are talking about, don’t worry. It is never too late for you to join the Culture. You can start with Surface Detail."

If you need further tempting, read the first chapter here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wildside Press coupons

According to Wildside Press’s newsletter, they conducted a survey last month and it was “a real eye-opener. We were amazed at how few of our newsletter readers have seen our magazines.” To remedy this they are offering coupons:

$5.00 off any magazine subscription (new subscribers only.) Use coupon code 5OFFWT.

$6.00 off any magazine subscription (existing subscribers only.) Use coupon code RENEWME.

Save $10 off any purchase of $40 or more (including magazine subscriptions) — "a great way to save on the more expensive Adventure Tales or Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine" — use coupon code SUB10.

Save $25 on any purchase of $100 or more (no exclusions). Subscribe to all our magazines! (Or pick up books.) Use coupon code SUB25.

These coupons are valid only at the Wildside website. I'm not sure if the coupons are valid outside the USA -- please read the small print on their website first.

OK, I've just had a good look at the Wildside website and it looks as if they only handle subscriptions for US addresses only.

Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett

And now it’s time for some exciting stories from the Pulps. Leigh Brackett may be best known for her screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, but her lush tales of interplanetary adventures were thrilling readers long before Star Wars. Here’s the evidence: collected in this book is the short novel Black Amazon of Mars (the final magazine appearance of her hero, Eric John Stark), as well as "A World Is Born" and "Child of the Sun."

Wildside Press published Brackett’s Black Amazon of Mars and Other Tales from the Pulps earlier this year for $9.95 (copies are still available at around £6.00 on Amazon).

The Demi-Monde by Rod Rees

Look out for The Demi-Monde by Rod Rees: "The Demi-Monde is the most advance computer simulation ever devised. Thirty million people ruled by history's cruelest tryants, locked in eternal civil war. The intention: to create the closest thing to hell, preparing soldiers for the nightmarish reality of war. But something has gone badly wrong inside the Demi-Monde...

Heydrich. Beria. Torquemada. Robespierre. History's most notorious mass-murderers -- or at least simulacrums of these monsters -- plot to escape their virtual world; their sights are set on the real world."

The Demi-Monde is due in January 2011 from Quercus in trade paperback (£14.99) and hardcover (£16.99) editions.

New books from Angry Robot

Coming soon from Angry Robot: Andy Remic’s Soul Stealers, Book II of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, will be published on 7 October for £7.99. “They came from the North and the city fell. Now it is time for Kell to organize the resistance. But there are vampire assassins on his trail.” Remic has been described as “the Tarantino of fantasy” – so it should be fun.

Also due on 7 October is Damage Time by Colin Harvey (at £7.99). This SF novel is set in 2050, where the USA has been sold (it says) to the highest bidders. “Detective Pete Shah is a Memory Association Specialist with the NYPD. When he is arrested for murder, the secrets he brings to light threaten to bring the city to its knees.”

According to C C Finlay, Damage Time is for SF readers “who love The Wire, a gritty cop drama set in a future New York on the verge of collapse.”

Then on 4 November Angry Robot publishes Amortals by Matt Forbeck (at £7.99). Another SF novel set in another future USA: “For some, death is a thing of the past. But then they brought Secret Service agent Ronan ‘Methusaleh’ Doonan back with a new clone body, to hunt his own killer. That was their first mistake.”

The Pan Book of Horror Stories

Deja vu? A trip down memory lane (for those with long memories, at anyrate)? Pan has just republished the initial volume of The Pan Book of Horror Stories edited by Herbert van Thal. Just over 50 years ago – in 1959 – this book first appeared, marking the start of an incredible publishing history in the world of horror fiction, one that lasted about 30 years. What's especially pleasing is that Pan has retained the original cover artwork -- including the price of 3/6 (that's about 17.5p in new money); alas but understandably the current price has risen to £7.99.

This volume includes an extra introduction by Johnny Mains, who describes the publishing history of the series. In fact, we must thank Mains for persuading Pan to republish this book.

There are 22 stories here, including tales by Joan Aiken, Jack Finney, L P Hartley, C S Forester, Nigel Kneale and Bram Stoker. If you don’t have a copy of the original book you should buy this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Best New Horror 21 edited by Stephen Jones

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, edited by Stephen Jones, has reached its 21st volume. And as ever, it is an indespensible guide to the world of horror fiction. Jones reads hundreds, if not thousands, of stories in order to present the very best. In this volume there are 19 stories by the likes of Stephen King & Jo Hill, Ramsey Campbell, Reggie Oliver & M R James, Michael Marshall Smith, Robert Shearman, Stephen Volk and Brian Lumley.

The book kicks off with a hundred page introduction, by the editor, that details the year in horror, 2009. And to conclude the book, Stephen Jones and Kim Newman presents a Necrology, obits of those who died last year -- always a sad read.

Best New Horror, due soon from Robinson at £7.99, is essential reading for the horror reader.

Angry Robot sign up Jo Anderton

New Australian author Jo Anderton has signed with Angry Robot for at least two novels in her Veiled Worlds series. The worldwide deal, covering physical books and eBooks, was done by agent Anni Haig-Smith and Angry Robot’s publishing director, Marc Gascoigne. Debris will be published in the autumn of 2011, with direct sequel Suited to follow in 2012.

Series opener Debris introduces Tanyana, leader of a energy-harvesting team. Following an accident, she’s demoted to little more than a garbage collector, but it soon becomes obvious she’s been manipulated into that role by the faceless faction she calls the Puppet Men, to uncover a world-shattering secret.

Angry Robot’s Marc Gascoigne said, “With the ever-increasing popularity of Japanese and Korean anime, manga and computer games, it’s been surprising that there hasn’t been more SF and fantasy showing its influence. Debris’s mix of SF and fantasy themes, exotic future-medieval settings, Dune-esque warring factions, and a fabulous kick-ass heroine is exactly the sort of on-trend science fiction Angry Robot was set up to publish. We’re damned pleased to have Jo on board.”

Clash of the Geeks

Wil Wheaton, John Scalzi and Subterranean Press have announced Clash of the Geeks, a special and fantastical electronic chapbook. It features stories by Wheaton, Scalzi, New York Times bestseller Patrick Rothfuss, Norton Award winner and Hugo Best Novel nominee Catherynne M. Valente, Hugo and Nebula Award nominee Rachel Swirsky, and others, and is for the benefit of the Michigan/Indiana affiliate of the Lupus Alliance of America.

The chapbook is available in multiple DRM-free electronic formats here. It is free to download, but voluntary payment is strongly encouraged, via Paypal or by tax-deductible donation. All proceeds from this chapbook will go to the Michigan/Indiana affiliate of the Lupus Alliance of America.

Dread Island by Joe R Lansdale

Subterranean Press has announced Dread Island, a major new novella by Joe R. Lansdale, an 84 page, printed in two colors mash-up of Huck Finn, Brer Rabbit, and Lovecraftian Horrors. Expect publication in the fall.

"Dread Island appears but once a month, in deepest fog. During its current appearance, Tom Sawyer is trapped, and it's up to Huck Finn and Jim to save him before sunrise or lose their friend forever. Here's a taste of Lansdale's narrative voice in the tale:

'This here story is a good'n, and just about every word of it is true. It's tempting to just jump to the part about where we seen them horrible things, and heads was pulled off and we was in a flying machine and such. But I ain't gonna do it, cause Jim says that ain't the way to tell a proper yarn.'"

Pricing and ordering details can be found here.

Bryan Talbot signing at Forbidden Planet

Bryan Talbot will be signing his graphic novel Grandville, Mon Amour at Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR on Thursday 2nd December, from 6.00-7.00 pm.

"The Badger is back! Set three weeks after the finale of Grandville, Grandville Mon Amour pits Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock of Scotland Yard against an old adversary, Edward 'Mad Dog' Mastock -- a psychotic serial killer whose shocking escape from his execution at the Tower of London begins this fast-paced, Hitchcockian steampunk thriller. With a range of new and fascinating characters and a mix of Holmesian deduction, knowing humour and edge of the seat action, Grandville Mon Amour continues the vein of high-octane adventure begun in the first volume. Can even LeBrock escape the past or do heroes have feet of clay? Follow the badger!

Listing the accomplishments of Bryan Talbot is a daunting task – arguably the creator of the first British graphic novel, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. He started in the underground comics scene of the late 1960s and his work has spanned the flagship series of 2000AD as well as Batman, Sandman, Hellblazer amd Fables. The Observer described his last graphic novel, Alice in Sunderland, as ‘…one of the most exhilarating books in years’."

The Monster Book for Girls: submission guidelines

"While helping a friend clear out her parents' effects, recently, I stumbled on a tatty old pre-war tome called The Monster Book for Girls. It was adorned with pictures of jolly school lasses wielding hockey sticks and was full of 'thrilling adventure stories for girls'. I loved the title so much I’ve stolen it for a new Exaggerated Press anthology.

First it is not a book for teenagers or children. What I’m looking for are stories inspired by the title, whatever (within the realms of decency, the title does, I’m afraid lend itself to a bit of nudge-nudge, wink-wink- sordidness) springs to mind and kick-starts the creative engine.

It doesn’t even have to be of the horror/fantastical genre. What is a monster anyway? Slipstream, thriller, romance, a mixture of genres would be interesting, whatever floats your (and my, of course) boat. Be warned; I don’t want (or like) teenage vampires, vampire angst or zombies or any other over-their-sell-by-date beasts. High-ish fantasy might be okay as long as it is original and features no grumpy dwarves or ethereal elves. Please don’t hurt children or gratuitously torture women (or men come to that).

Length: 3,500 words max, but I will negotiate if absolutely necessary. Submission deadline: 27th February 2011. Submit as an RTF attachment to"

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 2010 British Fantasy Awards

The 2010 British Fantasy Awards were announced at the British Fantasy Awards ceremony at FantasyCon 2010.

Best Novel: the August Derleth Fantasy Award: One by Conrad Williams (Virgin Horror)

Best Novella: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough (PS Publishing)

Best Short Fiction: “What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night” by Michael Marshall Smith (Nightjar)

Best Anthology: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20 edited by Stephen Jones (Constable and Robinson)

Best Collection: Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical by Robert Shearman (Big Finish)

The PS Publishing Best Small Press Award: Telos Publishing published by David Howe

Best Comic/Graphic Novel: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert (DC Comics/Titan Books)

Best Artist: Vincent Chong

Best Non-Fiction: Ansible by David Langford

Best Magazine/Periodical: Murky Depths published by Terry Martin

Best Television: Doctor Who (head writer Russell T Davies, BBC Wales)

Best Film: Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson (EFTI)

Best Newcomer: The Sydney J. Bounds Award: Kari Sperring for Living With Ghosts (DAW)

The British Fantasy Society Special Award: The Karl Edward Wagner Award: Robert Holdstock

Ghost Dance by Rebecca Levene

Now available: "Morgan is sent on a new mission for the Hermetic Division, investigating the murder of the world¹s foremost expert on the Elizabethan alchemist, John Dee. The killer is an agent of Mossad with superhuman powers. In America, a powerful medium called Alex is employed by the CIA to investigate a cult called the Croatoans, who seem to be able to possess animals. Alex and Morgan¹s paths cross when Morgan is drawn to the US in pursuit of Dee's greatest treasure and a dangerous young man who plans to use it to achieve immortality!"

The Infernal Game: Ghost Dance by Rebecca Levene (Abaddon Books) continues this series of supernatural thrillers, mixing espionage with diabolism.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fantasycon Art Show

Make sure you go to the show!

Australian Ghost Stories ed by James Doig

I've just obtained a copy of Australian Ghost Stories, published by Wordsworth for around £3.00. Crazy price!

Here are 17 short stories by the likes of Louis Becke, Guy Boothby, Mary Fortune, Beatrice Grimshaw and Roderic Quinn. James Doig also provides an introduction which wonders if Australia can be a home to Gothic fiction. The introduction gives a brief history of the Gothic novel (story) before concentrating on Australian writers, those included in this slim volume. Needless to say, they are mainly 19th century writers with a few stories appearing in the early 20th century. I haven't had a chance to read the book, yet -- but it looks as if it will be a most enjoyable read.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shoes, Ships and Cadavers: Tales from North Londonshire

Due soon: Shoes, Ships and Cadavers: Tales from North Londonshire by the Northampton Science Fiction Writers Group; with an introduction by Alan Moore.

Twelve tales of science fiction, fantasy and horror…

Northampton: a town that sits at the heart of England. A town that has played host to kings, saints, parliament, public hangings, and hot air balloons. A place steeped in history, laden with mystery, and bursting with wonders just waiting to be realised. Let us be your guides...

Established in 2002, the NSFWG exists to enable local writers of genre fiction to learn their trade and hone their skills. The group includes both established novelists and exciting new talents. This volume features twelve original stories set in Northampton and acts as a showcase for their work, including Ian Watson, Ian Whates, Sarah Pinborough and Mark West.

'I read this in a single sitting, something that I can’t remember managing with an anthology for a considerable while. I don’t expect to read a book this year that is more personally satisfying or a greater cause for optimism. Passionately recommended' – Alan Moore, from his introduction.

Available as a limited edition (of just 50) dust-jacketed hardback (£15.99) and an A5 sized paperback (£9.99). Available to pre-order at the Newcon Press website.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The 2010 Hugo Awards

The 2010 Hugos were announced recently at Aussiecon 4. the 68th World SF Convention.

BEST NOVEL (Tie): The City & The City by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK) and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

BEST NOVELLA: "Palimpsest" by Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace; Orbit)

BEST NOVELETTE: "The Island" by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)

BEST SHORT STORY: "Bridesicle" by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)

BEST RELATED WORK: This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is "I") by Jack Vance (Subterranean)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY: Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION - LONG FORM: Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION - SHORT FORM: Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM: Patrick Nielsen Hayden




BEST SEMIPROZINE: Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan

BEST FAN WRITER: Frederik Pohl

BEST FANZINE: StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith


German deal for Mark Charan Newton

Volker Busch at VGS Egmont has acquired German rights in two fantasy novels by Mark Charan Newton from Jon Mitchell, Rights Manager at Pan Macmillan. Julie Crisp acquired World rights in the books from agent John Jarrold. The books will be published on Egmont's 'Lyx' imprint. Other authors on the Lyx list include Jacqueline Carey, Jennifer Fallon, Tanya Huff, R. A. Salvatore, and Seanan McGuire.

Brian Froud book signing

Brian Froud will be signing the deluxe collector’s edition of Faeries at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR on Saturday 2nd October from 1 to 2 pm.

"A quarter of a century after its initial publication, and with more than a million copies in print worldwide, Faeries is a fantasy classic. Now, Froud returns to hs most enduring and beloved work in this deluxe anniversary edition. This ultimate collector’s book features eight new pieces of art by Brian Froud and Alan Lee with the original pencil drawings and watercolors. More than just a reissue, this deluxe revised and updated edition contains essays from both Froud and Lee on the continuing influence of Faeries. There is also a foreword by bestselling author Jane Yolen."

Poole Literary Festival

The Poole Literary Festival takes place over the weekend 29–31October 2010:

"50 events, 30 writers, 10 workshops, three days, one amazing festival!

Poole is set to welcome over 30 acclaimed writers from across the UK with three days of fun filled activities for people of all ages to enjoy. Poole Literary Festival (PLF) will play host to a wealth of literary talent, outstanding live art performances, music and thought provoking workshops, it’s a weekend not to be missed!

With over 50 events, PLF is a family friendly festival, offering activities for children as well as adults, welcoming literary enthusiasts, arts enthusiasts or anyone looking for a fun and inspiring day out! It’s an opportunity to meet and discuss works with top listed authors, take part in creative workshops, enjoy a coffee, listen to some music, get creative and have fun with your family and friends.

The impressive line-up includes Michael Morpurgo, Carol Ann Duffy, Minette Walters, Gervase Phinn, Adele Parks and Katie Fforde. Tickets go on sale in late August, and the full programme will be downloadable from our website in September, you can also sign up to our enewsletter to hear about Early Bird Offers."

Halifax Ghost Story Festival

Something ghostly takes place over the weekend 29-31 October in Halifax:

Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentlemen and Ghost Stories) discusses a lost literary genius and screens his film, The Cicerones; Lawrence Gordon Clark in conversation, plus the screening of four of Clark’s famous MR James BBC film adaptations; Tartarus Press on the latest in haunted fiction (with Dr Gail-Nina Anderson and Mark Valentine); readings from horror writers Mark Morris, Nicholas Royle and Conrad Williams, alongside screenwriter Stephen Volk (Ghost Watch and Afterlife); Fine Time Fontayne reads classic tales late into the night (drinks optional – candlelight obligatory); Ghosts in 60 Seconds presents 50 one-minute plays; GP Taylor invents site-specific stories; Chris Priestley (Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror) talks about his love of weird tales; writers and illustrators Chris Mould (Something Wickedly Weird) and David Melling (Hidden Goblins) team up to draw youngsters into their world – literally; Howard Priestley (Phoenix FM) on comicbook layout...

... more details on their website, including details of a writing competition for school kids.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Dark End of the Street edited by SJ Rozan & Jonathan Santlofer

The Dark End of the Street edited by SJ Rozan & Jonathan Santlofer. Bloomsbury £7.99/$16.00
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

I checked the city's two large bookshops recently and short story collections of crime fiction were a rarity. So this one promised to be a treat -- and it is a promise handsomely fulfilled.

Here are 19 stories by some of the finest crime writers around with tales themed on sex and violence. I'm pleased to report that we do not get a series of serial killers hacking hapless victims and then having sex with their corpses; oh no, we get some sophisticated and thoughtful stories that explore the boundaries of sex and crime. And sometimes the sex part is barely present; it's somewhere in the background or in the past. Sometimes it's love gone awry; sometimes, it's just lust -- and power. It's all about control.

I'll only mention a few stories, the ones that stood out for me. "Dragon's Breath" by Madison Smartt Bell deals with drugs in New York. Meanwhile, "Scenarios" by Lawrence Block is a humorous examination of the serial killer -- rather the potential to be one. "The Heredity Thurifer" by Stephen L Carter is about a 30 year old murder that haunts a community and is, in effect, a rather good ghost story.

"Sunshine" by Lynn Freed and "Daybreak" by SJ Rozan both have similar themes and similar penalties for the villains -- much deserved, I say. "Tricks" by Laura Lippman is all about serial relationships while "Deer" by Janice YK Lee shows how an unexpected event -- the dead deer -- can fracture friendships. "Midnight Stalkings" by James Grady reminded my of Mr & Mrs Smith (the movie) but in a good way; it's a twist-in-the tail story that works well. "The Creative Writing Murders" by Edmund White is an effective story of ambition in academia, and how deaths appear to be beneficial to the protagonist. Co-editor's Jonathan Santlofer's "Ben & Andrea & Evelyn & Ben", one of my favourites, is about the breaking relationship between Ben and his wife Andrea.

In fact, all good fiction deals with people and their relationships with others and their world, and how they deal with it -- or not. And that's one of the strengths of this anthology: it's a microcosm of humanity touched by, and touching sexual crime. There were just two or three stories that didn't work for me, but out of 19 ... well, that's like worrying over a zephyr whilst being battered by a hurricane. (Besides, an anthologist once told me that he doesn't expect an individual reader to like every story in a book -- if he or she did, they'd be that anthologist.)

The Dark End of the Street is a brilliant collection of stories, no doubt about it. The writing is crisp and the stories (with the aforementioned proviso) gripping. These are noir crime tales that eschew rote detectives and wise-ass, cynical cops. If Crime Wave magazine is on your reading list you should get hold of this book. An additional treat are the illustrations scattered throughout. These, by Santlofer, capture the black & white & grey tones of the genre. I really enjoyed this book: recommended.

Dark Valentine 2 now available

The autumn issue of Dark Valentine magazine is now available to download from their website. Contents this time (issue 2) include: "Affairs of Estate" by Eric Stone, "Discord" by Kate Kelly; "Shipwreck" by Kaye George; "A Soldier of the Reich" by Anna Sykora; and "April Love" by our own Jan Edwards.

Cinema Futura edited by Mark Morris

Some of the leading lights of the SF genre provide an insight into their favourite films in this collection of essays on SF cinema, Cinema Futura, edited by Mark Morris and published by PS Publishing (to be launched at Fantasycon 2010). The contents include:

Stan Nicholls on Metropolis; Joe Lansdale on Invaders from Mars; John Connolly on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad; Christopher Golden on Day of the Triffids; David Schow on The Andromeda Strain; Sarah Pinborough on Logan's Run; and Anne Gay on Serenity. And many more!

PS Publishing: special offers

PS Publishing has issued the following: "We're all of us sitting with digits crossed waiting for the results of the World Fantasy Awards. We did pretty good nomination-wise, so let's hope we end up with a rosette or two when the tape across the finish line is broken. Meanwhile, we thought we'd spice things up a little by doing a special deal on all the nominated books.

So check out Paul Witcover's Everland (slipcased copies only -- £25 instead of £50);

John Berlyne's kitchen-sink-sized Powers: Secret Histories (signed trade edition only -- £20 instead of £40);

The Very Best of Gene Wolfe (jacketed hardcovers at £20 instead of £37.50 and slipcased hardcovers, £40 instead of £75);

and Andy Duncan's The Night Cache (signed edition £10 instead of £15).

New book deal for Rjurik Davidson

News from John Jarrold: "James Frenkel, Senior Editor at Tor Books in New York, has concluded a two-book world rights deal for Australian SF author Rjurik Davidson, for a good five-figure sum in US dollars. The agent was John Jarrold. The first of these books will be Davidson’s debut novel. It is presently titled Caeli-Amur after the city in which it and its sequel take place.

James Frenkel said of Rjurik Davidson, 'He's a unique talent, with a fabulously imagined world that is both enticing and strange, the sort of place that makes one at the same time afraid and excited, thrilling to discover as its many secrets are revealed. Peopled with engaging characters who seem entirely real, it's a world with a rich, deep history and a strange, compelling destiny.'

'Rjurik’s writing is wonderful,' said John Jarrold. 'I’m very happy that this marks my first direct deal with a major US publisher. I know that Jim has admired his short fiction for several years.'

Rjurik Davidson is a freelance writer and Associate Editor of Overland magazine. He has written short stories, essays, screenplays and reviews. His short collection, The Library of Forgotten Books, was recently released by PS Publishing. His work has been published in Postscripts, Years Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volumes One, Two and Four, Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror 2006, SciFiction, Aurealis, Borderlands and elsewhere. He has been short-listed for the Ditmar Award for Best Short Story three times, the Aurealis Award once and won the Ditmar award for Best New Talent in 2005."

The House of Canted Steps by Gary Fry

You can watch a YouTube video promoting Gary Fry's new book, The House of Canted Steps here. The book is due from PS Publishing, with a launch scheduled for FantasyCon 2010. Those not attending the convention can order online. A tray-cased edition will also be available.

Mail on Sunday competition

The Mail on Sunday is running a novel competition. All you need to do is to write the opening of a novel (50-150 words) introducing the word 'set'. "It could be a set expression, a set to, setting off; you could use it as an adjective, noun or verb." The prize is £400 in book tokens and a place on an Arvon writing course. Send your entry to arrive no later than 29 October to The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, PO Box 150, Rochester, Kent, ME1 9AG. Further information here.

New signing at Angry Robot

Angry Robot has signed new British science fiction author Guy Haley for two books in his Richards and Klein series. The first book in the series will be published by Angry Robot in autumn 2011, in both the UK and USA. The deal includes worldwide physical and eBook rights.

In Reality 36, readers are introduced to investigators Richards and Klein – the Holmes and Watson of the 22nd Century. Except that Richards is a highly advanced artificial intelligence,
and Klein his German ex-military cyborg partner. Their first case takes them into the renegade digital realm known as Reality 36 and through the Great Firewall of China in search of a missing Artificial Intelligence Rights activist.

More press releases can be found here.

Incwriters: network for writers, publishers, etc

Incwriters (International Network & Community of Writers Society) was founded in 2004 by Andrew Oldham, William Park, Bixby Monk and Ian Parks, created initially as Inc. in 2002-2003, it has grown into the one stop website for promoters, agents, publishers, readers and writers. Incwriters creates networks, protects literature (of all genres), promotes writing, publishing and reading. Incwriters promotes individuals and organisations not involved in vanity publishing. Incwriters is actively involved in visiting venues and festivals providing talks, workshops and panels discussions. Incwriters Patrons are the novelist Janice Galloway, and the poets, Esther Morgan and Clare Pollard. Visit the Incwriters blog for further information.

The King of Elves by Philip K Dick

This just received from Subterranean Press, exciting news for Dick fans:

"More than two decades ago, another small press issued The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick in a hardcover edition limited to only 500 sets. Earlier this year, the Dick estate approached us to see if we'd issue them in hardcover again, with a uniform set of dust jackets by Bill Sienkiewicz, two stories that weren't in the previous collected set, as well as additional story notes.

We enthusiastically said yes, and The King of the Elves is the first volume of our set, due in December. As our description notes: The King of the Elves is the opening installment of a uniform, five-volume edition of The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, expanded from the previous Collected Stories set to incorporate new story notes, and two added tales, one previously unpublished, and one uncollected. This generous collection contains 22 stories and novellas including Dick's first published story, "Beyond Lies the Wub," together with such landmark tales as "The Preserving Machine," in which an attempt to preserve our fragile cultural heritage takes an unexpected turn, "The Variable Man," a brilliantly imagined novella encompassing war, time travel, and the varied uses of technology, and the title story, in which Shadrach Jones, owner of a dilapidated gas station in Colorado, stumbles into an ongoing war between trolls and elves, and encounters a fantastic - and utterly unexpected - destiny. Like the best of Dick's novels, these stories offer a wide variety of narrative and intellectual pleasures, and provide an ideal introduction to one of the singular imaginations of the modern era."

Ordering and price details can be found on the Sub Press website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Virago £7.99
Reviewed by Jan Edwards

WW2 has just ended and like many of its ilk Hundreds Hall in Warwickshire is spiralling into decay, as is the society that had supported it in bygone times. Dr Faraday is called to an emergency at the Hall. He is curious about the place since his mother had been a maid there between the wars. He had once sat in the kitchen as a small boy eating left-over jellies from a village celebration; and he had stood in reverence as a teenager at the funeral of the owners’ then only child, victim of the diphtheria epidemics that ravaged Britain at that time.

Taxes, changing laws and the general decline of the gentleman farmer’s lot had brought the Ayres’ and Hundreds to their knees despite all Roddie Ayres could do – injured RAF ace and now, at age 24, the reluctant owner of Hundreds. So when Dr Faraday arrives he is shocked by its condition. As Faraday is drawn into the family’s activities he becomes aware of other factors. Is there an insipient streak of insanity running through that family? Or is it the Hundreds, or something in it, that is causing one disaster after another?

Essentially, this is a romance between Faraday and Caroline Ayres; between Mrs Ayres and the memory of her eldest daughter who died so long ago; between all of the Ayres family and Hundreds itself. And with that love comes the hate, and the class and gender prejudices.

Beautifully written as one expects from a book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. But slow; very slow. I reached page 240 (out of 499) before very much at all has happened. Yes, it is a page turner that sucks you into Hundreds’ claustrophobic world so that you are compelled to read on. But it was also an effort not to turn to the last chapter to get to the end of the novel.

The house and the family are stock Gothic in many ways, albeit well drawn, and the paranormal elements (or psychological – depending on how you read it) are well researched. But I suspect that most readers of Gothic or horror or paranormal fiction will find that part of it quite tame. There is a lot of telling rather than showing which defuses much of the tension. And there is a first person narrator in Faraday who does far too good a job at debunking any theory that dares be ‘unscientific’.

If this is a ‘paranormal romance’ the emphasis is definitely on the romance. As for the paranormal element: the cover puffs call The Little Stranger ‘chilling’ and ‘unnerving’ and the reader is told to ‘sleep with the light on’. Really? These reviewers apparently led very sheltered lives.

Verdict: a beautifully written book that comments on the social and, to some extent, the political history of those post war years, and a book that I found very curiously satisfying in its conclusion.