Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Judgement Call

My short story 'The Judgement Call' has had something of a chequered history. It was originally submitted for an anthology of Christmas horror stories, then was going to be a chapbook. When that didn't happen, it hovered in limbo, but finally found a new home with the lovely Aunty Fox, aka Adele Wearing at Fox Spirit.

It's Christmas Eve and businessman Miles is driving home through the rain, when his car goes off the road. Rescued from the crash, he finds himself in a cottage with three strange companions. A mysterious horn begins to blow, and one by one their guilty secrets are revealed. The Judgement Call has begun...

Fox Spirit will be publishing 'The Judgement Call' in chapbook form, together with another story: 'Along The Long Road' by Penny Jones. But I'll let Penny tell you about that:

"Come on, it’ll be fun." 
Beth wasn't sure why she agreed. Sienna's idea of fun wasn't the same as hers. Beth knew that the double date was a bad idea.

If you want to know more about 'Along The Long Road', you'll have to read it.

The cover artwork is by the always stellar Neil Williams.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Shock Against Racism

This one's a bit political. (I know: me, political? Who would have thought...)

There is a real and rising tide of far-right and racist activity in the UK (and in Europe. And in the US. And, let's be frank, damn near everywhere we look.) This is a Bad Thing.

The UK genre community is, on the whole, a fine and welcoming place, one that opposes the politics of division, prejudice and hatred. Certain people have tried to portray it as being otherwise: at best they're mistaken, at worst, liars.

But actions, not words, are needed. Hence: Shock Against Racism.

SAR is a network of horror writers, artists and fans against racism and the far right. Our goal is to raise funding to combat the Right's lies and hatemongering, any way we can.

Two Shock Against Racism events are planned for this year: the first event will take place at Write Blend, 124 South Road, Liverpool L22 0ND at 7.30 pm on Friday 23rd November, and will feature readings by Ramsey Campbell, Priya Sharma, Cate Gardner and myself. Tickets £3.00 on the door, and all proceeds donated to Hope Not Hate.

The second event will take place at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton BN1 4JA at 7.30 pm on Sunday 25th November, and will include readings by Tom Johnstone, Rosanne Rabinowitz and V.H. Leslie. Tickets £3.00 on the door, with all proceeds donated to Brighton Anti-Fascists.

As well as the need to take action against the far right and to show where our community really stand, there's another reason I decided to start SAR. The 25th November will mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Joel Lane, an exemplary author and friend to many of us in the community. Joel was avowedly political and a committed anti-fascist: I can think of no better way to honour his memory.

The Facebook page for the Liverpool event is here.

The Facebook page for the Brighton event is here.

The main Shock Against Racism Facebook page is here.

We hope you'll join us and help spread the word.

Monday, 22 October 2018

We Belong

Laura Mauro. Photograph by Michael Kelly.
So there goes another Fantasycon. Another brilliant event, another brilliant year.

Belonging is important. Finding a tribe, a group of people who share your values, the things you care about and love.

This is a time of year when absent friends come to mind. Today, the day after the con ended, Facebook reminded us all it's Graham Joyce's birthday. October was the birth month, too, of Joel Lane; November will be the fifth anniversary of his death.

Talking to the fantasy author James Bennett this weekend, he told me about his first Fantasycon. He was nervous, if not terrified - a young gay man, taking his first steps into a community he wasn't sure would welcome him or not. Joel saw that, took his hands and said, simply: "You belong here."

Yeah. That sounds like Joel.

That word came up again this morning, while I was reading different people's con reports on Facebook. The author Eliza Chan spoke about how the convention put to bed any fears that she didn't belong.

The British SFFH community gets a bad press in certain quarters, and it isn't deserved. I've always found it to be a friendly, welcoming and open community. No-one who loves the fiction we create and celebrate at Fantasycon should ever feel as though they have no place here. They do. I hope no-one has ever been made to feel otherwise.

The awards ceremony was, for me, a high point of the convention, when I got to see my dear friend, the lovely, talented and ridiculously modest Laura Mauro win the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story for the brilliant 'Looking For Laika'. I don't think I've ever seen someone more genuinely gobsmacked to win. (And I've seen a few.)

A couple of people who are normally mainstays of the convention (for me, anyway) couldn't make it this year - Lynda E. Rucker and Sarah Pinborough. The August Derleth Award went to Victor LaValle's The Changeling, but I was standing by as Sarah's stunt double in case it went to Behind Her Eyes. She sent me a short acceptance speech, and here's part of it:

"Fantasycon as ever evolves and changes and we may bicker on the internet and get riled about stupid things that mainly don't matter, but when push comes to shove, we are a family. Fantasycon has been there since the very start of my writing career, and it was through coming to Fantasycon every year that I made so many good friends, and gained so much inspiration to try harder and do better."

Yep. Exactly that.

So: if you love horror, SF or fantasy, Fantasycon is a place where you will be welcome. Doesn't matter what the colour of your skin is, your gender, your sexual orientation, whether you're cis or trans. Never doubt that you belong here. And never hesitate to let others know that they do too.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Inevitable 'What I'm Doing At Fantasycon' Post For Anyone Who Missed It On Facebook

Last year's FCon, with Priya Sharma, Lynda E. Rucker and Sean Hogan/
My Fantasycon 2018 Schedule: I'm a little on the busy side this year.

5.00 pm
Panel: Writing The Immortal Enemy
Simon Bestwick (m), Powder, Ren Warom, Clint Wastling, Den Patrick
A panel tribute to those villains who refuse to submit, lay down and die. Maybe you wrote an evildoer and you couldn’t let go? Maybe you’re a fan of one that we all know? Our panel talks about those recurring nemesii who we all love and hate.
7.00 pm
Readings (Horror)
Stephen Laws, Simon Bestwick, Tina Rath
Stephen and Tina are both ace writers. I don't know what they'll be sharing with the audience, but I'll be reading one of the tales from Singing Back The Dark.

1.00 pm
Black Shuck Books Launch
Black Shuck's FCon releases include John Llewellyn Probert's The Last Temptation of Dr Valentine, Colleen Anderson's A Body Of Work, and Great British Horror #3: For Those In Peril. This sea-themed anthology of horror fiction includes my story 'The Bells Of Rainey.' So I'll be there.

7.00 pm
Writing Warfare
Simon Bestwick (m), Danie Ware, Andy Remic, Anna Stephens, Anna Smith Spark
From Homer to Warmaster Horus, the battle scene has been a mainstay of epic fantasy and space opera science fiction. Our panel discussion battle scenes, whether up close and personal, from a tactical  perspective or looking down from the god’s eye.

Dead Bodies
Simon Bestwick (m), Steve Toase, GV Anderson, James Brogden, Simon Clark
Many good stories involve a mystery. Whether the case at hand has remained unsolved for hundreds of years, or happened in the first chapter of the book, a good puzzle provides the writer with an opportunity to engage the reader’s brain in finding the answer. Our panelists discuss unsolved conundrums, consider the role of accurate research, and look at a range of tools that are at the writer’s disposal to create intriigue for the curious reader. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Singing Back The Dark

Some great news I've been sitting on for the past few weeks that I'm delighted I can announce now: I have a new book coming out this month! Small, but perfectly formed.

Singing Back The Dark will be published as part of Black Shuck's Shadows series of micro-collections on October 31st, because... well, it's Halloween, biyatches.

The five short stories range from the Lancashire moors to the Georgia woods, the forests of Maine to the Fylde coast, and you'll encounter everything from werewolves to the real, long-forgotten and very dark meaning of Christmas, but one thing connects all the tales: be it a Christmas carol or a bluesman finger-picking on his guitar, music always plays a part.

The collection includes the stories:

The Psalm
Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
And All The Souls In Hell Shall Sing
Moon Going Down
Effigies Of Glass

Apart from 'The Psalm', which previously appeared in Estronomicon magazine in October 2011, all the stories are published for the first time.

My thanks to the brilliant Steve Shaw of Black Shuck Books for bringing this little tome out.

You can order Singing Back The Dark here. And at Fantasycon next week, Black Shuck will have a number of exciting new releases on offer - including the new Great British Horror anthology, For Those In Peril. This anthology of sea stories includes my tale 'The Bells Of Rainey', alongside work by Stephen Bacon, Georgina Bruce, Kayleigh Marie Edwards, Johnny Mains, Paul Meloy, Thana Niveau, Rosalie Parker, Kit Power, Guy N. Smith and Damien Angelica Walters. And you can pre-order that here.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Best Of The Best Horror Of The Year (ed. Ellen Datlow)

Since Ellen Datlow began editing The Best Horror Of The Year, I've had three stories published in the series.
Today, I'm delighted to announce that one of those stories, 'The Moraine', has been selected, from all the tales published in the first ten volumes of the series, for
The Best Of The Best Horror Of The Year.

I am incredibly proud to be included, alongside authors such as Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Livia Llewellyn, Nathan Ballingrud, Gemma Files, Adam Nevill, Peter Straub and Tanith Lee (to name but a few.)

You can buy the anthology here.

Once again, my thanks to Ellen, and congratulations to all my fellow contributors.

The stories:

Lowland Sea—Suzy McKee Charnas
Wingless Beasts—Lucy Taylor
The Nimble Men—Glen Hirshberg
Little America—Dan Chaon
Black and White Sky—Tanith Lee
The Monster Makers—Steve Rasnic Tem
Chapter Six—Stephen Graham Jones
In a Cavern, in a Canyon—Laird Barron
Allochthon—Livia Llewellyn
Shepherds’ Business—Stephen Gallagher
Down to a Sunless Sea—Neil Gaiman
The Man from the Peak—Adam Golaski
In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos—John Langan
The Moraine—Simon Bestwick
At the Riding School—Cody Goodfellow
Cargo—E.Michael Lewis
Tender as Teeth—Stephanie Crawford & Duane Swierczynski
Wild Acre—Nathan Ballingrud
The Callers—Ramsey Campbell
This Stagnant Breath of Change—Brian Hodge
Grave Goods—Gemma Files
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine—Peter Straub
Majorlena—Jane Jakeman
The Days of Our Lives—Adam L. G. Nevill
You Can Stay All Day—Mira Grant
No Matter Which Way We Turned—Brian Evenson
Nesters—Siobhan Carroll
Better You Believe—Carole Johnstone

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Thana Niveau on The House of Frozen Screams and Octoberland

This year's Fantasycon will be a major event for the fantastic Thana Niveau, as it sees the launch of both her new short story collection Octoberland (PS Publishing) and her debut novel, The House of Frozen Screams (Horrific Tales0. So I thought I'd ask her a few questions about them. And about writing. And things.

1) Are you a Planner or a Pantser?

Bit of both! I’m definitely not an outline-the-whole-project writer, as half the joy for me is seeing where the story and characters lead me. I usually start with an image or a character and then start writing to see what happens. Obviously this means cutting a lot of false starts and side quests, but sometimes these brainstorms get repurposed in other stories. Only very rarely does an idea come to me fully formed, where I visualise an entire story. Names, however, do get obsessively planned. Sometimes you can spot their significance and other times they’ll only have meaning for me.

2) Do you aim for a set number of words or pages per day? If not, how do you mark progress on your work?

I’ve tried to do the word count thing, but it feels constricting and tends to stifle my creativity. If I’m up against a deadline, forcing a set number of words per day can help, but sometimes I’ll find myself piling on the adjectives near the end purely to hit the target, stuff I’ll just delete the next day. If I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll jump to a moment I really want to write, or follow a whim, knowing it might lead nowhere. So a set daily word count isn’t terribly useful for me. As for marking progress, I suppose I just have some abstract concept of how long the story will be, what percentage I’ve written, and how much further there is to go.

3) Are there any themes or subjects you keep coming back to?

Definitely! There was a Facebook game a while back: “You know you’re in a ___ story when…” That was fun because I’d never really noticed how many pet themes I have. I write a lot about siblings who are very close, as well as father/daughter relationships. The sea features in quite a few stories, and very often the water itself is a character. I also love to get into the POV of abstract things or ideas - like the burgeoning sentience of AI or bodiless aliens in space who have no language. I’m good at making the writing really difficult for myself sometimes! LOL But these are the kinds of ideas that fascinate me and inspire me to write in the first place.

4) If you had to sum up your novel The House of Frozen Screams in a sentence, what would it be?

Nick and Liz are happily married and don’t want children. But the house they’ve just moved into does.

5) What was the genesis of The House of Frozen Screams?

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is one of my all-time favourite books, and I love the relationship Eleanor has with the house. I wanted to explore the personality, motives and history of a haunted house of my own, and the effects it has on its occupants. What would a house want and why?

6) What was the biggest difference, for you, between writing short stories and writing your first novel?

Well, it’s technically not my first novel. LOL There’s the one I wrote years ago that went through the whole acceptance/editing/proofs process with a very dodgy publisher who then vanished into thin air. For years the book was “available” on Amazon even though it didn’t exist, and I was finally able to get them to pull the listing. I was so disillusioned by the experience I haven’t looked at it since. But I think about digging it out sometimes, updating and rewriting it.

But sorry - I got off on a tangent! I’m definitely more of a novel reader. I do love reading short stories, but I prefer the immersive experience of a novel. And I prefer living in one single world for extended periods as a writer as well. But I have too many shorter ideas not to get them down first, which pushes all my longer ideas to the back of the queue. Some ideas are clearly only short story ones; that is, a novel couldn’t sustain them. But many of them feel like whole worlds I could explore further, and I find myself saddened that I can’t. I often have to trim them to fit a given word count. With The House of Frozen Screams, I found myself having to check the instinct to trim, to “get to the point” of a scene more quickly because I was going to run out of space. It was a real luxury to have the room to spread out and explore everything in the story.

7) Octoberland is your second full-length collection. How do you think it differs from your first, From Hell To Eternity, and from your micro-collection, Unquiet Waters?

Octoberland collects more recent stories than From Hell to Eternity, so (hopefully) my writing has grown and matured. I think I was a lot more confident with the stories in Octoberland as well, much more willing to take chances.

Unquiet Waters features four connected stories, and the theme I chose was water. I’ve written a lot of stories about the sea, diving, snow, a drowned Earth, etc. So those ideas run through all three collections, and I can think of at least three more stories out there in anthologies that are set in the ocean.

8) Whats your favourite story from Octoberland?

Oh, that’s a tough one. “The Calling of Night’s Ocean” is one of my very favourites. (That’s the one that’s partly written from a dolphin’s POV.) But the title story “Octoberland” is special to me as well. There’s quite a lot in it that’s not fiction. Dani Serra’s cover art beautifully illustrates the mood I was aiming for: “gothic Bradbury”.

9) If you could put one piece of work into a time capsule for the future, what would it be?

Definitely one of my SF stories, just to see if my apocalyptic visions came to pass! I think I’d choose “And Fade Out Again”, which is set in a future flooded Earth, with the remnants of humanity living in a sunken city grown from the Eden Project in Devon. (It’s in Great British Horror vol 2: For Those in Peril, from Black Shuck Books.)

10) What does the future hold for Thana Niveau?

I’ll continue to dream of uploading my mind into an android body while I expand my SF writing. I’ve been toying with the idea of a new pseudonym for SF, and keeping “Thana Niveau” purely for horror.

I have two separate SF novels in the works, but in between I’m also writing several horror short stories. (It’s hard to say no when you’re invited!) In addition, I’m working on a Midnight Movies monograph about one of my all-time favourite films: The Descent. But my desktop is littered with works in progress because I find it difficult to focus only on one project at a time. This is why I need a biotech upgrade!

Thana Niveau was born to the wail of the Wendigo and the whisper of warp engines. She is a Halloween bride, sharing her life with fellow scribe John Llewellyn Probert, in a crumbling gothic tower filled with arcane books and curiosities. And toy dinosaurs.
Messages from the beyond: thana.niveau * gmail * com