My blog senses are tingling… I have an overwhelming urge to blog…
Yet I am tired and in pain, and cannot think of anything wise or witty to say. Please imagine that I have inserted a Sad Face here.
Emergency covers, to the rescue! I knew there was a reason I hadn’t posted these yet. Two new books, due over the summer, each containing splendid new story-blasts from me to you.
First up is More Tales of the City, edited by Philip Purser-Hallard and with a cover from Cody Quijano-Schell. Forthcoming from Obverse Books, this smart paperback features stories set in the City of the Saved, a galaxy-sized metropolis at the end of time where every human and partial human who ever has or will be is resurrected to live an everlasting afterlife.
My own tale is ‘The Mystery of the Rose’. The story is (deep breath) a first person narration from Ian McKellen’s version of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, who is spending his unlikely afterlife trying to be something other than the schemer he was writ to be, and ends up investigating the dark mysteries of his own historical namesake. The story is told in blank verse (as befits the source material). Richard III was the first of Shakespeare’s plays that I ever read parts of aloud, while studying it at A level. My love of his plays stems back to that moment.
So, Shakespeare’s Richard III at the end of time, sharing a city with neanderthals and cyborgs, as he roots around in the misdeeds of the actual, historical Richard III? All narrated (in my head anyway) by Ian McKellen? Needless to say, this was challenging to write – but absolutely insane fun. I hope you put this on your list of things to buy this summer – I think the whole book (I’ve read the manuscript, including the other stories) is the sort of thing that will surprise and delight you. Although just about everything I write has dark threads woven through it in some way, this story is one that people who don’t take well to outright horror stories can safely pick up (the same goes for everything I’ve written for Obverse Books to this point, though I may spoil that slightly later this year). The City of the Saved stories are set against the backdrop of all humanity, and thus they can and do contain all sorts of storytelling styles and themes.
One thing I took care to do when I wrote ‘Mystery’ was read it aloud, a lot. It’s easy to forget sometimes, so powerful was his impact on English language storytelling, that Shakespeare made plays. Everything he wrote was designed to be spoken out loud, and I wanted this to work that way too. In the not too distant future I’ll record myself giving a reading of the opening of the story (um… me, playing Ian McKellan, playing Richard III, in the distant future… don’t think about it too much or you’ll give yourself a headache). I hope some of you might be tempted to read it aloud too, when you get your copy. If you’re brave enough to post a video online of you doing so, I’ll even send you something awesome for free. Details to be… um… invented.
Second up, I give you Nightscapes, the first volume in what will be at least a trilogy of modern horror anthologies from Nightscape Press. Last year Nightscape published Richard Salter’s World’s Collider anthology, which many of you checked out. Richard took that book to them already finished, they loved it, and they published it. Nightscapes is a bit different, in that it’s their own in house anthology, and the first in what they hope will be a signature series for their line. I have high hopes for it too – in the eighteen months or so that they’ve been in business, they’ve already shown that they have excellent tastes in fiction.
My story is called ‘Skins’. It draws from Scottish mythology, and modernises some of the still very relevant themes found therein. I give you selkies, human trafficking, brothels hidden on city streets, and the loss of innocence. A much darker affair than ‘Mystery of the Rose’, firmly rooted in horror, but possibly not quite what you expect.
I wrote it in a blur one Sunday, longhand, in a single session. That only happens for me when a story has been stuck in my head for months and is pretty much bursting to get out. The result is something complex, but very pacy and driven – it’s thrilling, sad, and hopefully horrifying in a way that’s about the real world and not just made up beasties of lore.
And look, the fools have put my name on the cover! No longer is my formal alias ‘and Other Authors…’. That alone makes this a landmark book, that you should definitely own. Practically a collectible.
Both books coming very soon indeed, and paperback and ebook versions. Watch this space.
Currently reading (novel): The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
Currently reading (novel): The Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris
Currently reading (collection): The DIamond Lens and other stories, by Fitz-James O’Brien
Currently reading (anthology): The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stores, edited by Anne and Jeff Vandermeer
Currently reading (non-fiction): The Anatomy Murders by Lisa Rosner