Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 31 December 2010

Here Goes The Year That Was, or something like that.

So, 2010 is about to slip away. The year I completed The Song Of The Sybil (but not the year of finding a publisher for it) and generally doing a lot of work that hasn't yet paid off. Also the year that Jilly's, aka Rockworld, my favourite club since I was teenager, closed down.

Worst of all, 2010 was the year of my grandmother dying, and the year I couldn't spend Christmas with my family because of the dreaded lurgey. My gran was one hell of a lady, and I will miss her profoundly. But she was a tough, determined woman, and she'd give me the flea of all fleas in the ear if I got mopey. So, may as well acknowledge that 2010 had a few things to recommend it. A few of them were:

The World Horror Con in Brighton, where I got to meet not a few writing heroes of my misspent yoof. In particular, I got to meet the lovely Roberta Lannes, who is now a good friend to boot.

Getting to finally meet the ever-reigning Cate (not to mention living to tell the tale after looking on such awesomeness) and getting to read her first story collection.

Other friends made this year include the writer and film-maker Anna Taborska and a tough, warm-hearted Sheffield lass by the name of Vicky Morris- a tiny dynamo of energy, creativity and good humour on a mission to get young folk writing. Thanks for kicking my arse, Vic.

Christ, I even had a date this year. Miracles happen.

Seriously, there's a point to all this. Goodbye to the loved ones who've gone away; you will be remembered. To the friends and family who made this year worthwhile: thank you.

Have a great New Year's Eve tonight, however you choose to celebrate it, and may 2011 be a happier and more joyful year for all of you- and us.

And so, to play us out... if you're from my generation, this choice will make sense. Air guitar optional.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Bah humbug

No, seriously, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my blog-readers. Have a great one.

I've managed to catch the bloody flu, so it won't be much of a Christmas at this end. Still, I'll survive. But really, December 2010 has to count as one of the crappiest months I've had in a long time. Ah well.

Peace, love and all of that, peeps. Have a good one.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

'Remember' by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

REMEMBER me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

-Thank you to my friend Roberta Lannes for sending me this poem.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Dorothy Ann Smith, 1915-2010

On Thursday night I got home from work. I work late, so it was after 9.00 pm. I had dinner, faffed around on the internet for a while, as you do. Remembered I owed my neighbour for the housework (I'm rubbish at it and never have time, so for £20 a fortnight she stops the place turning into a slum), so went to the bank, paid her, chatted for a while, went home. It's now 10.30 pm. and I remembered I hadn't checked the answering machine on my landline. There's a message from my Mum asking me to call. I did. I don't normally call my parents that late at night, but this time I did. Not sure why. Maybe it was because my Welsh grandmother had gone into hospital earlier in the week after a fall.

Anyway, I spoke to my Dad. "I've got some sad news, love," he said.

This is what I wrote on my Facebook profile later that night:

‘Simon Bestwick’s beloved grandmother, Dorothy Ann Smith, died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon. I have had to wait for a minute after typing that last sentence, because typing it is the most painful thing I’ve done in a very long time. She was a brave, funny, strong, determined and lovely woman who was widowed in the Second World War and then again a few years later, and who raised my father and his stepbrother on her own.

I loved her dearly, and am devastated to know she isn't there any more. She was 95 years old, and had had a good innings. But right now, that doesn't seem to help. Rest in peace, Nanw.'

(Nanw is Welsh for 'Mum', basically. We always called her that because that was what Dad called her.)

Why was I posting on Facebook? Part of this whole 'wear your heart on your sleeve, wash your laundry in public' culture that we've got nowadays? Hardly. Simple fact was, by the time I thought of actually speaking to anyone, it was half-eleven. My neighbour's lights were off, as were
those of another friend across the road (who would later tell me off for not getting him out of bed under the circumstances. ) I rang one of the few friends I know who'd be a) up at that hour and b) wouldn't consider it an imposition. Got his answerphone, left a message. I've got at least one other friend I'd consider calling at that time, but she's just had a baby...

So I was alone in the house, and basically climbing the walls between crying jags. And if you're tut-tutting because you don't think that's manly, or something, then fuck off.

But that's not what this is about.

This blog is about two things really. One, to thank the people who helped me get through that night and the days since. All the people who posted on Facebook or messaged me privately- thank you. A small kindness can mean a great deal at times like that. Thanks to Joel, who rang me at one in the morning, and to Vicky, who rang at two in the morning. Just- thanks, really.

And the other? Because she was my grandmother, and I loved her dearly. We were close, and she was a great lady. She had her faults, of course- in her later years she could be grumpy, and she was always stubborn as a mule. But she was funny, and kind, and full of good stories. And she deserves to be remembered. And because, as Harlan Ellison once put it, 'no-one should be sent down in the dark with too few words.'

Monday, 6 December 2010


TV licence: a hundred and something quid a year.
TV: Easily obtainable from a charity shop.
Radio: Even easier and cheaper to obtain.
Hearing the Culture Secretary called 'Jeremy C*nt' on national radio to a breakfast audience of millions: Priceless.
There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's the BBC.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Strange Men In Pinstripe Suits by Cate Gardner

Figured it was long overdue for me to talk about something other than myself again, so here goes:

Point of interest- I've been familiar with the ever-reigning Cate's (TM) work for a good thirteen years now, and have not only spoken to her a couple of times on the phone but actually got to meet her recently. Back in the late '90s both Cate and her fiction had a bit of a Gothy thing going on, but in 2010 that's a thing of the past. These days the scariest thing about Cate Gardner is that she doesn't look scary, or strange. She just looks... nice. And- dare I say it?- normal. You could pass her in a crowd and never guess who just walked by.

Thankfully, though, Cate is not normal. I say 'thankfully' because... well, have you seen what counts as 'normal' behaviour these days? Watching X-Factor? Regarding Simon Cowell as a personage of importance, rather than an emissary of the Antichrist? Giving a toss what Cheryl Cole thinks about... er... anything?

Nope, Cate's no more normal than I am, and thank goodness for that. Quite understandably, she spends as little time as possible in a world where that kind of behaviour is considered acceptable or even (god help us) mandatory. Wherever possible, she resides in Cate-land. Now, I have no more idea than you do where exactly Cate-land is, but I can hazard a guess at what it's like. It's a world where robots are lovesick (or wage war with fairies in a greenhouse.) It's a world where you have (and may well need) zombie decapitation insurance. A world where serial killers relax on the bed of the local canal between victims, and breakfast on a bucket of crabs.

It's also a world, funnily enough, with rather a lot of strange men. In pinstripe suits.

But you probably guessed that.

How can I describe Cate Gardner's work? Well, the short answer is that I can't. She isn't really quite like anyone else. Her stories often have the feel of strange, dark little fairy-tales. Perhaps there's a little touch of Angela Carter there, then? Hm... not exactly. There's a quirky, inky-dark humour that darts through her tales that isn't quite like anything Carter ever did- I defy any reader to finish The Sulphurous Clouds of Lucifer Matches, for example, without a ripe, rich chuckle- and a deceptive easygoing lightness of touch that recalls Rob Shearman (which I can assure you is high praise indeed as far as I'm concerned.)

But quirky, humourous, even whimsical though the stories can be, they're not all light. The endings of Parasol Dance With The Chalkstripe Man and Other Side Of Nowhere are anything but twee; they're fiercely bleak. Burying Sam, a clever and typically Cate-ish- by which I mean idiosyncratic and not quite like anyone else- take on the zombie theme, grows more poignant with each reading. And it's only a page and a half long. But then again, the opening story, Dandelion Fluff, isn't even half a page in length, and yet it's another piece that packs a sting; one, again, that deepens with successive encounters.

Now there's one of the notable characteristics of Cate's fiction; brevity. The longest of the 24 stories in this book is about 14 pages long. There are others of 10, 11, 12 pages, but most are far shorter. Black Heart Balloon is 3 pages; Opheliac a mere 4. Both are little wonders of dark wit and bizarre invention that pull you through the looking glass into a darker world than anything Lewis Carroll envisaged.

Another defining feature is a child's-eye view of the world, but one that never escapes into naivety or refuses to grow up. A quality, perhaps, of innocence. The protagonists of The Graveyard Of Dead Vehicles and The Sulphurous Clouds Of Lucifer Matches (did I mention she's great with titles too?) negotiate hostile worlds with difficulty, seeking ways to emerge with their integrity intact. In the first, the protagonist needs to recapture a childlike belief in magic and reject the nullifying logic of a nightmarishly prosaic world; in the second, the protagonist is a child who uses guile and wit to win through, in the best traditions of fairy stories everywhere.

That quality of innocence is fundamental to Cate's work. If there's an overriding theme to Strange Men In Pinstripe Suits then it's the struggle to preserve it in a grim, inimical world. It's a struggle to do so; it would be so easy to let that quality be extinguished for the sake of an easy ride, a quiet life. But do so, and you're lost forever.

Perhaps these stories come, simply, from a fundamentally gentle soul, dramatising its own struggle to preserve itself. Perhaps they're intended as survival guides or the rest of us. Or perhaps they're just a collection of- literally- wonderful short stories that are like nothing else you're likely to have read this year. Whatever the truth of the matter, we have Cate Gardner and Aaron Polson of (aptly) Strange Publications to thank for giving these funny, touching and magical tales what they deserve- a home more permanent and enduring than the various magazines and websites they have graced.

For, as Cate Gardner knows so well, some things are more than worth the struggle to preserve.

In case you hadn't got the message already, I loved this book. Get yourself a copy. In fact, with Christmas coming up, it might be worth ordering a few.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Woot and Squee!

Just had a bit of nice news, which is always good on a Monday morning and better still following a six-day week: my short story 'Salvaje' is to be published in a forthcoming edition of Charles Black's The Black Book Of Horror series. (Edited for update: just heard this morning that it will appear in the Ninth Black Book of Horror. Woot, squee and happy dance!)

The Black Books hark back to the good old days of the Pan Books of horror- in the best sense. The stories tend to the more gruesome end of the horror, but they're usually worth reading. 'Salvaje' features a character I hope to write about again, but I'm saying no more than that. It's a story I'm fond of, so it's good to see it find a home at last.

Damn, I went and squeed again. I really must stop that.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Armistice Day

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye,
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
-Siegfried Sassoon.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Drop Everything. Read This. Seriously.

Something that my friend Joel posted this morning on the Ramsey Campbell messageboard as part of a discussion. It's something that deserves being very widely read, before it's too late.

Let's put a few current facts together and see what they suggest in combination.

1. The Government has announced that a million public sector jobs are to be axed.
2. The Government has also announced that a high proportion of people on disability benefit will be reclassified as unemployed, quite regardless of their chances of finding work.
3. Now the Government has announced that people who have been unemployed for a long time will be... not trained, not helped to find work, not given even temporary jobs, but rather forced to do unpaid work that corresponds to the most basic of public sector manual jobs.
4. The DSS estimates the annual cost of benefit fraud to be £1.1 billion. The Inland Revenue estimates the annual cost of tax evasion to be £40 billion.
5. The Government is cutting back staffing levels heavily in the DSS and the Inland Revenue, showing that neither helping people find work nor catching tax evaders is a priority. Catching benefit fraudsters is, however, such a priority that David Cameron has announced that private sector bounty hunters will be hired to track them down.
6. The Chief Executive of the Tory-controlled Birmingham City Council has notified 26,000 employees that they may or may not be made redundant – but their current contracts are null and void, and they will not even be considered for re-engagement unless they sign new contracts that radically diminish their terms and conditions – effectively casualising the Council workforce.
7. Kenneth Clarke, current Justice Secretary and onetime Home Secretary, famously commented that a very high level of unemployment was "a price worth paying" to break the trade unions.

What these facts show in combination is a minority Conservative Government, propped up by LibDem quislings, trying to do as much damage to our public services, the people who provide them and the people who receive them as possible. This is open war on the rights and living standards of the non-rich. It will greatly increase the crime rate, the suicide rate and the mortality rate among the non-rich. It will create a gangster economy of vicious profiteering, with every area of the public sector – most especially healthcare – being carved up into franchises.

The Government has said that the NHS budget is "ring-fenced". However, it will have to be spread much thinner to cover the community healthcare being cut out of the social services budget. Over the next few years there will be a wholesale shift from the NHS budget being used mostly to train and pay NHS staff to the same budget being used mostly to pay private sector health providers... who, as New Labour's Independent Sector Treatment Programme proved, are a lot more expensive than their NHS counterparts. They are also a lot less accountable, because they refuse to disclose their clinical and financial performance data on the grounds that it is "commercially sensitive".

The question is not when the ConDem Government will stop destroying everything that is decent about our society. The question is whether anyone will stop them. It has to happen soon. By the time of the next general election, the damage done to our social fabric and to millions of lives will be irreversible.

This is war.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The End Of The Line- The Guardian Review!

Wotcher folks. Just a quick one, this. The End Of The Line has been reviewed for today's Guardian by Eric Brown . It's a short review, in which only four stories are name-checked. These are Stephen Volk's 'In The Colosseum' (one of the most savage and disturbing stories I've read this year), Nicholas Royle's 'The Lure' (a subtle and elliptical psycholoigical... chiller? Thriller? I don't know what to call it, but it's great), Paul Meloy's magnificent 'Bullroarer' (further proof, were it needed, that Meloy is one of the finest, most original and idiosyncratic short story writers working in the field right now)... and 'The Sons Of The City'.

To say that I am delighted would be a dramatic understatement. But I won't say it... no, I won't...

Must... hold... back...

No, it's no use:


Ahem. Sorry about that.

We now return you to what is laughingly called reality. Unfortunately this includes David C*ntmoron being Prime Minister and Simon Cowell existing. Sorry. It's not my fault.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween, Folks!

Tonight, I'll be staying in, turning the lights off, and watching as many horror movies as I can. Have a good 'un, folks!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Cut This, You Bastards

One week on from the spending review, and I'm still too angry to write anything about it that doesn't involve the words 'hang the bastards from lampposts'. I will, eventually. (The writing, not the hanging from lampposts. Obviously. I've got a bone in my leg, or something.) In the meantime, though, here's a nice little fuck-you to David C*ntmoron, Gideon Osborne, Nick 'Judas' Clegg and the whole damn jackal-pack of greedy, vicious, right-wing millionaire scumbags and their plans to destroy our public services, create mass unemployment and generally crucify the rest of us for the bankers' gambling debts:

La Lotta Continua!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Internet Browser...

...but I'm not here.

Today, I'm over there. At that nice Mr Simon Marshall-Jones' blog. Being very grumpy about chavs and reality TV and other signs of the impending cultural apocalypse. However, I also reveal why Julie Burchill actually serves a useful function, so you might find that interesting. Warning: there are rude words.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

New Model Army

Never Again was launched at the Fantasycon on Saturday 18th September, and I'm glad to say it went very well. Plenty of copies shifted, and plenty of good publicity for this anthology, which deserves to sell widely and well- both for its content, and for its cause.

The Quietus picked the anthology as its Book of the Day on October 1st. Joel and Ally are hoping to get Amnesty International to make it available in their online shop. But the proudest moment of all...

I make no bones about it: New Model Army are, quite simply, my favourite band in the world. Their blend of musical excellence, powerful lyrics, politics, emotional commitment and love of nature (among many other traits) has meant a hell of a lot to me over the years, ever since some saintly soul first played the Thunder And Consolation album to me. They're the best- a great band with guts and integrity who've ploughed their own furrow and gone their own way over a career spanning thirty years and whose latest album, Today Is A Good Day, is as good as anything they've ever done.

New Model Army have listed Never Again on their website, here.

This is- purely personally- a very proud moment.

So if you get the chance to buy this anthology, it is well worth buying. And if New Model Army are playing your town, it's worth going to see them, especially if you've never seen it. I think you owe it to yourself.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Warning: Epically Long Post

Every year I mean to blog about the fun I've had at Fantasycon, and every year I fail to. But not this time! No, this year, finally, there is a Bestwick blog about the event. Assuming you ever wanted the thing in the first place, or felt its lack in your daily life...

Anyway, off we go. Be warned, this is a long one, so you may want to have a cup of tea/coffee/Pepsi Max/whisky/other beverage of choice* (*delete as applicable) to hand...

Well, wow. That was a fun and hectic couple of days.

Arrived later than usual- just shy of six pm., courtesy of a lift from Paul and Cath Finch- with 30 mins to spare till a reading. Tottered round the bar greeting, handshaking/hugging familiar faces and uttering forlorn and desperate pleas for attendees.

A dozen people (at least!) showed up- cheers to Ally Bird, John Travis, Joel Lane, Lord John and Lady Kate Probert, Caroline Callaghan, Gary Cole-Wilkin and the lovely Soozy Marjoram, the fabulously talented artist Daniele Serra and David 'Diamond Dai' Price (and anyone else I've missed out.) Especially good to see David, who I've known for many years, as he suffered a major heart attack earlier this year. Happily he seems to have recovered and back to his usual (if slimmer!) ebullient self, although he was bemoaning his enforced abstinence from good ale. Here's to many more FCons, Dave!

The main event at the reading was 'Pax Deorum', written back in 2000, but dusted off and rewritten. A number of people thought it must have been written specially, given that the Con coincided with the Papal visit. (Ah well, at least the horrid little man is on his way back to Rome now.) For the curious- well, if I say it's a 'vengeful ghost' story of sorts you'll understand.

The Friday night panel ('Get Real') went down very well and was a lot of fun, with much discussion of the Gray Friar Press anthology Never Again, which was launched on Saturday. Sadly this meant missing the heavy metal karaoke competition being organised by Abaddon Books. But as Joel Lane commented elsewhere today, 'The things I missed would make up a second great weekend in themselves'...

Had to weave my way to my hotel afterwards- but more of that anon.

Saturday- to the dealer's room to moon over titles but resist the temptation to buy... then a marathon signing event! First the Solaris anthology The End Of The Line, and then Never Again. One word of warnng to anyone about to do something like that- you'd never believe that signing your own name repeatedly for two hours could be that knackering! But it's better than no-one turning up, especially given the latter book's cause. And it also meant I got to meet Alison Littlewood, who was sat next to me (her first signing!), who's an incredibly nice lady.

The End Of The Line doesn't get its official release until November, but will be well worth getting. The copies that Abaddon/Solaris' Jon Oliver brought with him sold out at warp speed, so even the authors have to wait till next week to read it!

My old friend John B. Ford turned up as well, but we only got to speak briefly. I haven't seen him in years, but him and his wonderful late wife, Lynne- still sadly missed by all who knew her- were always good friends to me. Here's hoping we get to meet and catch up at much greater length soon.

Managed to make the fabled FCon Curry, organised by the lovely Soozy (amazed to discover she's not a teacher- organising a group of writers must be very like riding herd on a class of rowdy teenagers. Especially male writers...) which was great fun. Stayed in the bar during the awards ceremony but was delighted to hear of so many worthy winners- Conrad Williams' stunning and compelling One took Best Novel, Sarah Pinborough's The Language Of Dying (an emotionally wrenching and beautifully written piece) Best Novella and Rob Shearman's deceptively light-toned Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical Best Collection. Lots of other highly-deserving winners, of course, but these were all ones which I'd read, loved and rooted for.

Midnight brought the dual delights of John Llewellyn (aka Lord) Probert reading 'His Beautiful Hands', Oscar Cook's contribution to the original Pan Book Of Horror, which was re-released at the Con, and the sight of Simon Kurt Unsworth passed out, utterly spackered on god knows how much booze. Even moaning into his ear pretending to be Satan didn't wake him up (always a sign someone's far gone.) Finally revived him with Joel Lane's help and watched him wander off toward the Park Plaza Hotel.

And then Sunday. Woke up to find a note from my liver on the pillow beside me, saying it was leaving and going to an abused livers' home. Luckily it didn't get far before I caught up with it and talked it into coming home...

And then the farewells, the hangovers... and Bestwick on the rampage in the dealers' room as what money remained in the small budget could now be blown. Meant banning myself from even looking at the PS Publishing table, sadly, but I'll be seeking out Ramsey Campbell's The Seven Days Of Cain, Gary Fry's The House Of Canted Steps and Rio Youers' End Times as soon as the pursestrings allow. All aboard the Finchmobile and back up to the wastelands of the north through increasingly torrential rain.

All in all, a terrific weekend. Got to meet back up with lovely people like: Ally Bird, John Travis, John Probert, Thana Niveau, Joel Lane, Gary and Emily McMahon, Jon Oliver, David Moore, Mick and Debbie Curtis, Gcw and Soozy, Charlie Black, Johnny Mains, Anna Taborska (one of the nicest and sweetest people you'll ever meet), Conrad Williams, Nina Allen, David Rix, Gary Fry, Wayne and Nadia Mook... I'll stop there because there must be loads more and any attempt at a full list would miss somebody out.

If you write horror or SF or fantasy or just-plain-odd fiction or just enjoy reading it and you've not been to FCon before- really, it's worth going. No-one's going to give you a hard time over your appearance (and this is coming from a guy who until recently was regularly told he looked like Ron Jeremy) and it's as friendly, welcoming and accepting a crowd of people as you could ever wish to meet.

My one regret is that there's no Award for 'Best Dressed'- but then Lord and Lady Probert would win it every year. Hell, there wouldn't even be a shortlist.

A couple of special thank-yous need to be said, because this Con very nearly didn't happen. The payroll department where I work screwed up (or mis-spoke, if you prefer) so that the overtime I'd worked specifically to provide a Fantasycon fund won't go through till next month, followed by a certain not-to-be-named-here hotel in Nottingham cocking up my booking. ('We can still book you in for the Con weekend, but the price will now be over £200') Fool that I am, I hadn't booked into the Britannia but into a different, nearby hotel, and there weren't any places left at the Britannia. So thank you to Sarah Pinborough who came to the rescue on Facebook with calming words and helpful advice- and also to everyone else who posted (within minutes of my initial deranged post.)

Secondly, all at the Jurys Inn Hotel, Nottingham. Not that close to the convention hotel but close enough to be within drunken staggering range: it's a very nice place to stay again, with cheap rates and, best of all, friendly and extremely helpful staff. So a big thanks to everyone there, especially Hilary and Michaela on the front desk! If you need a place to stay in Nottingham, I can heartily recommend the Jurys Inn.

And now I'll shut up.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Fantasycon 2010!!!

Today's the day! I shall be arriving in Nottingham this afternoon, despite the combined efforts of the payroll department and a certain Nottingham hotel (who shall remain nameless here) to balls it up.

Budget or no budget, it's time for a weekend of meeting up with friends I haven't seen in a long time, drooling over books I can't afford to buy, and getting rather drunk. Oh, and there possibly might be curry too.

Have a great weekend, whether you'll be there or not!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

My Gran

My grandmother, Lillian Iris Gillespie, is 100 years old today.

Off to see her later this morning. This is a woman who's lived through two world wars and the Great Depression (plus the current one.) Quite something, really. Her dad- my Irish great-grandfather, was the chief groom to the Earl of Stamford at Dunham Massey; apparently his skill with horses was remarkable. A genuine 'horse whisperer'. His skills saved my gran's life when she was a baby; she caught double pneumonia and he used a poultice on her that he used to treat sick foals (this was in the days before antibiotics.) If not for him, and the skills he had, she wouldn't have lived to grow up, meet my grandfather, raise my mother... and I wouldn't be here. One of those little stories which makes you a little awed by just how much chance, how many random factors, come together to make you who you are.

My great-grandfather was also in the Territorial Army- my Gran was actually born in an Army barracks in Liverpool- and fought at Ypres, losing an arm and possibly also being gassed (he died of throat cancer in 1945.) One of these days I really need to find out more about his family, the Lynams (and yes, I am apparently distantly related to Desmond of that ilk!)

Both of my grandmothers are still alive. It's only in the last few years that I've realised how incredibly rare that is, and how lucky I am. My Welsh gran will be 100 in another five years. I hope I'll get to go to another party like today's.

Happy Birthday Nana.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My Fantasycon Timetable...

If you're attending Fantasycon this year, and you want to know what to attend/avoid, here's my itinerary...

Friday night (17th September)
6.30 pm. I shall be reading... and I've only just realised I'll be the first one up for the whole Con! Eek! So please show up and make a scared man a bit more relaxed. Currently planning to read an excerpt from the new novel I'm writing plus a short story.

Also on Friday night:

10.30pm. I'll be on the panel 'Get Real: Looking at how weird fiction can often be the best tool to address issues in the world around us.' Co-starring with: Joel Lane, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk and Allen Ashley. I'm truly not worthy.

Edited to add...

Saturday (18th September)
1.00pm. Launch for the Solaris Books anthology The End Of The Line, edited by Jonathon Oliver and featuring my story 'The Sons Of The City'. Co-starring with Ramsey Campbell, Joel Lane, Paul Meloy, Rebecca Levene and many, many more. It's gonna be a good 'un, this.

2.00pm. Launch for Never Again, edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane and featuring my story 'Malachi'. Also involving Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Rob Shearman, Tony Richards, Lisa Tuttle, Nina Allan, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Kaaron Warren and Thana Niveau- among many other authors.

Sadly Chris Teague at Pendragon Press tells me that Angels Of The Silences won't be ready for the Con. That's a pity, but what the hell, it'll be out sooner or later anyway. Thanks anyway to Chris for publishing that little tale.

And once that's out of the way, I'll just have fun. Including forays to the Metal Karaoke that's also going on...

See you all there!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

In Praise of Johann Hari

It really can't be said enough times what a vile, abominable, hateful little gobshite Josef Twatzinger is. So here's someone else saying it very eloquently.

I have mucho respect for Johann Hari. He's one of the few people who backed the Iraq war on left-wing grounds that I genuinely believe acted in good faith. He'd actually been to that country and seen what an appalling regime Saddam Hussein's was. But, more importantly, he went back there after the war and he realised that he'd been wrong. And he said so, publicly.

Hari is an intelligent and very witty guy. In addition, he is deeply eloquent and passionate in his beliefs, but can also marshall an impressive array of evidence, as well as rhetoric, to prove his points. You'll find evidence galore on his website. So go check it out.

Oh, and as for Twatzinger- am I the only one who thinks he looks like the Emperor from Return Of The Jedi gussied up for Mardi Gras?

And does anyone else ever associate the words 'The cold dead eyes of a killer' with him?

The prosecution rests, m'lud.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Taking Stock; a long and self-indulgent post

It's been a busy week, what with a job interview to prep for and Angels Of The Silences to proofread (that one has to be finished today- luckily the brave and awesome chap that is Chris Teague of Pendragon Press knows no fear when it comes to cutting things a bit fine), but writing-wise things are on a bit of a pause.

I've put aside a half-finished novella and a new raft of changes to The Song Of The Sibyl to help put together a comedy series pitch for Radio Two, and after that found myself at a loose end. Whereupon the thought of new story collections came to mind. After all, there were a good few tales lying about loose, after thirteen years in the game. (Jesus, that pulls me up short every time I write it. Where the hell does the time go?)

So this meant (ulp) it was time to make an inventory of the uncollected stuff.

You have to picture: there are three computers in chez Bestwick- my laptop, the trusty and nifty little Netbook I'm writing this blog post on and my old desktop. If they were members of the cast of Dad's Army (pause while American readers google that one) the Netbook would be Private Walker (the spiv and wideboy who always got results), the laptop would be Corporal Jones (determined and thinking he was the bee's knees but prone to malfunctiong- that's what you get with Windows pigging Vista) and the desktop would be Private Godfrey (the doddery old one who looked like a strong breeze would knock him over.) The main reason it's still around is that it can still handle floppy disks and there might still be some useful stuff on some of them. Oh, and because that's where a lot of the old material is.

And so, the trawl began. Exporting stories, novelettes, novellas, nearly all unpublished, onto the pen-drive. Quality control was not a factor, just getting them all into one place.

That Protestant Work Ethic thing is securely embedded in the Bestwick brain, if noting else. When I started writing properly, in 1997, I aimed for a story a week. There are 26 stories listed from that year on the inventory. That doesn't include the completed novel, the two unfinished ones and the 20,000 word novella from that year, plus half a dozen lost stories (mercifully, in the case of several that spring to mind) and the ones that need retyping.

Most of the ones from that year and 1998 were published somewhere, but many of those that followed are yet to see print; back at the end of the '90s (I refuse to write 'the turn of the century', except that I just did) the small press scene imploded, losing a lot of markets. My brain seized up at the prospect of actually trying to work out how to post stuff outside the UK and the internet left me decidedly confused. And shortly thereafter there was a several years-long phase of hating nearly everything I wrote. The reasons for that are long and complicated and for another time, but a lot of stories were written and then thrown aside, convinced they were rubbish. There are thirty-odd unpublished stories from 2001 alone, and nearly as many from 2000. Those were two of the years I had the least confidence as a writer, and kept churning out tales in an effort to feel proud of one of them (thanks to Chris and Barbara Roden at Ash-Tree Press/All Hallows Magazine, who were one of the few markets I placed stories with at the time- that boost to the confidence was very welcome)

2002 saw twenty-odd so-far uncollected stories written, but after that short-story production slacked off. Longer projects beckoned, forays into script-writing, a number of novels that are damn well going to stay in their bottom drawer.

But anyway- the final count?

Over a hundred and ninety.

I'm not saying this to brag (well, OK, maybe a bit.) But it did come as a bit of a shock. And that's not counting another dozen to twenty that only exist in hard copy form and need typing up or scanning. Plus some only written in longhand that still haven't been typed up. Oh, and a couple of short novels that might be worth trying to place...

Obviously, there are a lot of stories here that don't merit publication; they're in the bottom drawer for a bloody good reason, and there they shall stay. But even so... there should be enough material for four or five other collections there. It's quite a sobering thought to see that much stuff accumulated.

One reason for writing: a kind of insurance policy against oblivion. A light that glows in the long darkness after your own's gone out (Christ, that's pretentious. But it's also true, so I'll let it stand.) There's a substantial amount of insurance there.

But bloody hell, 190+ stories? After thirteen years?

God, I feel old.

And so now back to Angels Of The Silences. And prepping for the job interview. And the meeting later today. I used to have a life...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Happy Birthday Ray Bradbury!

Yup- today, Sunday 22nd August 2010, is the great Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday.

Thank you, sir, for all the wonderful books and stories you've given the world, and that brightened (or possibly darkened?) my childhood.

That's all, really.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, folks.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Back From The 'Pool...

Ventured forth to the city of Liverpool today, which was great fun. As a native Manc, of course, I'm supposed to disparage our coastal neighbour (although we're guaranteed to close ranks against sneery southerners making disparaging comments- like the dicks who wrote for Private Eye when I bothered looking at it back in the early '90s) but in fact it's a lovely city (the bits I saw were, anyway.) And of course my family have a connection with it- my great-grandfather, Richard Lynam, lived there when he came over from Dublin, and my grandmother was born in the army barracks off Tramway Road (I think) in 1910. She's still alive, as well, which means there'll be a very special birthday party next month.

Anyway, despite my choosing to wear a black shirt (in that weather, decking myself out in the most heat-absorbent colour going might not have been the best idea- knew I should have worn a Man U t-shirt instead) it was a very nice afternoon. Two reasons for the visit:

One, Mr Conrad Williams was signing copies of his new crime novel, Blonde On A Stick, at Waterstone's Liverpool One. Nice to chat to Conrad, as always. The book, incidentally, is a belter and is highly recommended. Watch this space for a more detailed commentary in the near future.

Reason Two- cooler still!- was that I got to go for a cup of tea and a strawberry frappe with the ever-reigning Cate Gardner (yes, I know I've called her that before; I thinking of making it her official title.) Sadly, despite my taking my digital camera with me, no photographs exist of this historic meeting, as I was informed that the sheer glamour and awesomeness that is Cate was of such intensity that mortal sight could not bear it (indeed, I had to wear sunglasses throughout the encounter.)

But seriously, it was very nice to meet at last- given that I've known her, on and off, for about thirteen years, via correspondence, the wonders of the internet and a couple of phone calls! God bless modern technology, eh?

So, anyway, a very nice day. Just wanted to share. ;-)

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled weekend.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Even Ruder Than The One About The Pope

...but a lot more respectful towards its subject.

Now, one of my favourite authors is the great, the one and only, Ray Bradbury. There is no-one like him. I've been reading his stories since I was a little boy, and they're still great. 'The Scythe' is probably still my all-time favourite, but there are so many others to choose from. 'The Next In Line', 'The Fog Horn', 'The Veldt', 'A Sound Of Thunder', 'The Fox And The Forest'... and so many, many more. Never mind the novels, like 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' or the classic 'Fahrenheit 451'.

I love Ray Bradbury. Well, not so much the man himself- I've never met him, though I'm sure he's a nice bloke- but his work, which I revere.

I doubt even I'm quite as passionate about him as Rachel Bloom is, though. This video is brilliant. And extremely funny. But also extremely rude. In addition, gentlemen with dicky tickers may want to seek medical advice before playing it.

I just hope when I'm pushing 90 (and Bradbury hits the big 9-0 on Sunday, folks, the 22nd August) a woman as gorgeous as Rachel Bloom dedicates a song to the idea of jumping my bones....

Now I think I need to go and have a lie down.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The bloke with the dragon tattoo....

There's a nice little feature on the forthcoming Gray Friar Press anthology Never Again, over on the very nice Mr Simon Marshall-Jones' blog. Includes a wee bit of waffle from yours truly. Why not pop on over and have a peep?

(Oh, and on the subject of tattoos- if you've not seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, go check it out. It's a belter. Superb performances all round, especially from Noomi Rapace. The books by Stieg Larsson are very good too.)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

In Memory Of Sophie Lancaster

Today- Wednesday, 11th August, about to pass off into history and be gone- is the third anniversary of the murder of Sophie Lancaster.

I never knew Sophie in life; the accounts I've read describe a bright, intelligent and compassionate young woman. What is also sticks in my memory is that she died trying to protect the man she loved.

For those who missed the story (some non-UK readers may have) Sophie Lancaster and her partner, Robert Maltby, were Goths. That was their crime, if you can call being different a crime. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of people who seem to.

The couple entered a park in Bacup, Lancashire, where they were followed by a group of teenagers, who subsequently attacked Robert. He was knocked to the ground. They turned their attention to Sophie when she tried to protect him by cradling him in her arms. The attackers kicked her in the head, jumped and and down on her head. When the police arrived, they were initially unable to tell which of the victims was male and which female due to the extent of the beating.

Both victims were in coma from the attack. Robert Maltby recovered over the fortnight following the attack; Sophie Lancaster never did. On 24th August 2007, her life support was switched off.

She was 20 years old.


Two attackers- Brendan Harris and Ryan Herbert- were convicted of the murder, and three others- Joseph and Danny Hulme, and Daniel Mallett- of grievous bodily harm. What brave boys they were, kicking and stamping a defenceless girl to death.

Harris and Herbert were sentenced to life imprisonment. Herbert won a reduction in his sentence; why, exactly, no-one is sure.

Understand me; I do not believe in capital punishment. Or at least I do my best not to. Intellectually I know it solves nothing and does not belong in an enlightened or humane society.

But I have a deep hatred of bullies; I have no nuanced or understanding reaction to it. It won't come as a surprise to any readers if I tell you I suffered years of bullying when younger. I don't say that for sympathy but by way of explanation. Malice, the deliberate intention to cause suffering, pain, humiliation- to me, it's unforgivable and whether the setting is a playground or international politics the reaction is the same- I want the people responsible dead. Slowly and painfully if possible.

And no, I'm not proud of that. But that's the way it is. I wish I could reach beyond that and feel something better than hatred. But I can't. What I can do is try to act in a better way than that. Our better emotions, our compassion, temper our rationality, but it's our reason, sometimes, that has to overrule our cruellest and ugliest impulses. Because if you know the world you want to live in, if there are standards and values you want to uphold- then you have to live by them, even when it's difficult. That's what I hope separates me from people- and dear god, how I hate to use that term to describe them- like Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris.

Sophie's mum, Sylvia Lancaster, set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Also known just as S.O.P.H.I.E.- Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere. If you would like to make a donation, or to help in any other way, please click the above link.

Rest in peace, Sophie. You aren't forgotten.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Angels Of The Silences

I'm delighted to announce that my novella, Angels Of The Silences, will be published by Chris Teague's brilliant Pendragon Press this September. I.e. next month. Crikey! Full details and cover will follow in the fullness of time, but I believe the cover price will be a mere three of your English pounds.

It should be out just in time for Fantasycon, then. In fact that's probably where it'll be launched. So if you want a signed copy you know where you need to be on the weekend of 17th to 19th of September. There's still time to register and enter the wonderful world of FCon for the first time. That's not addressed to anyone in particular, honest. And certainly not Cate. Noo, not at all. ;-)

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Very, Very Rude Indeed, So Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

The following categories of people should not click the link below.

-Those of a sensitive and easily offended disposition

-People who don't like bad language

-Catholics, unless you lack the moral dishonesty required to exculpate your church and its doctrine of all wrongdoing by accusing critics of religious intolerance every time they quote an inconvenient fact.

For the rest of you- enjoy this:

Just to clarify (although it's not likely to impact on Benedict XVI's apologists) I have no problem with people believing in God (or gods or goddesses, for that matter) as long as they don't hurt other people.

Nor am I blind to the fact that children have suffered abuse outside the Catholic Church, in schools and care homes and other secular organisations; and I'm also fully aware that many such organisations were more concerned with their reputations at the time than with the interests of the children. But they haven't:

-Kept on covering for the bastards responsible up into the present day;
-Ordered their bishops not to report abuse cases to the police on pain of excommunication (and that's the current Pope, as in the Pontiff Formerly Known As Joseph Ratzinger, personally)
-Only agreed to co-operate with the Ryan Report into child abuse in Ireland if no priests were named and no-one was prosecuted.

(If this doesn't amount to covering for paedophiles, then please tell me how.)

And I haven't even mentioned the Pope's (and the Church's) loathsome attitudes towards homosexuals ('an intrinsic moral evil', according to Joseph Fritzl- sorry, Ratzinger), AIDS in Africa (apparently condoms don't stop its spread but make it worse, which goes beyond 'beliefs I might not agree with but are basically harmless' and into the territory of 'outright lies that could/will/may already have cost the lives of thousands, if not millions of people') and women- Twatzinger has compared ordaining women as priests with sexual abuse of children, and demands the criminalisation of abortion even for the victims of rape, or women whose health will not survive pregnancy. In Brazil last year, the government allowed a rare legal abortion in the case of a 9 year old girl who was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. The Church's response was to excommunicate the doctors who'd carried out the procedure, and the girl's mother. Not the stepfather, you note. He's a naughty boy, but he can still go to church and might not go to hell if he dies, as long as he's confessed. Now if you can defend that... actually, don't bother. I don't want to know you.

And when this malignant little bigot, this loathsome little reptile, comes to Britain this year, the cost of protecting him will, I'm told, be of the order of £12 million. Can you think of better things to spend that money on? I know I can.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Quote Of The Week

This might become a regular (or semi-regular) feature here, who knows? All I do know is that I found this on the blog of Natalie L Sin (an online friend of the ever-reigning Cate) and found it deeply worth sharing for its profound philosophical truth. Well, OK- because it made me laugh:

'If you keep your crush a secret, you don't get to be a pissy little ass-hat when she picks someone else. I don't care if he is your brother, the lady made her choice. Sack up, drawn your sorrows in junk food and masturbation, and hold your head high to lust another day.'

We will now return you to your regularly scheduled Monday. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

This And That

Well, it's been an odd few weeks since I last posted here. Among other things, I've watched someone I've known for a number of years, who I'd had quite a lot of respect for, savage one of my closest friends, in the most vicious, dishonest and cowardly terms, in a public forum. It probably goes without saying that I will have nothing more to do with said person, who's managed to sink to such a depth that I'd need a bathyscaphe to find him if I wanted to. Which I don't.

Meanwhile, The Song Of The Sibyl was turned down by the second publisher I sent it to. Funnily enough, though, that actually comes as a relief, as the process of rewriting the fekking thing was turning into the kind of marathon session that might very well have lasted the rest of my life.

Now, however, I can put that novel aside and start a new one- a decision I made a while back. Two full chapters have been completed along with part of a third, and a general outline just needs some tidying up. By next week I should be ready to rock again...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Where The Heart Is Reviewed

The first review of Where The Heart Is is now up. It's reviewed by the inimitable Des Lewis here. He has good things to say about the anthology, including 'Winter's End.' At least, I think so... Des has such an idiosyncratic view of the world it's sometimes hard to tell! 'Winter's End' is reviewed on the second 'page', for anyone who wants to see.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Never Again

I've been accepted for a few anthologies this year, but none I'm prouder to be included in than this:

Never Again is an attempt to voice the collective revulsion of writers in the weird fiction genre against political attitudes that stifle compassion and deny our collective human inheritance. The imagination is crucial to an understanding both of human diversity and of common ground. Weird fiction is often stigmatised as a reactionary and ignorant genre - we know better. The anthology will be published by Gray Friar Press in September 2010, and edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane.

It will be a mixture of original stories and reprints from Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle and Joe R. Lansdale amongst others. Never Again is a non-profit initiative aimed at promoting awareness of these issues among readers and writers of weird fiction. The editors, authors/artist and publisher will receive no fees for this work. Any profits made from sales will be donated to anti-racist or human rights organizations, e.g. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

The Sophie Lancaster case was one of the most revolting crimes I've ever encountered, and there are few things that fill me with greater loathing than fascism or racism. Or homophobia, for that matter. Prejudice and hatred based on ethnicity or sexuality is contemptible and pathetic. The political organisations that attempt to exploit those impulses and gain power from them- such as the BNP under the repulsive bigot Nick Griffin- are the vilest of the vile and must be defeated.

I'm delighted to announce that my story 'Malachi'- first published in my collection A Hazy Shade Of Winter- is to be included in Never Again. I hope you'll buy the anthology, because the money you spend on it will go to as just and worthy a cause as you could hope to find.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A Short Silly Post For Cate Gardner

Just a quick post to tell the world what the rest of us already know about what happens wherever Cate goes:

Thank you for your attention.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Shameless Pluggage #2: The End Of The Line

Back again, this time to let you know about The End Of The Line, another anthology I'll be popping up in down the line (as it were). This one comes to you courtesy of those fine people at Solaris Books and discerning editor Jonathan Oliver.

An anthology of Underground horror.

In deep tunnels something stirs, borne on a warm breath of wind, reeking of diesel and blood. The spaces between stations hold secrets too terrible for the upper world to comprehend and the steel lines sing with the songs of the dead.

Jonathan Oliver has collected together some of the very best in new horror writing in an themed anthology of stories set on, and around, the Underground, the Metro and other places deep below.

My story 'The Sons Of The City' will be in there alongside stories from Gary McMahon, Adam Nevill, Joel Lane, Mark Morris, Christopher Fowler, Stephen Volk, Al Ewing and many more besides, including the great Ramsey Campbell.

Due for release November 15th 2010, and all for £7.99. What else can you get for that kind of money that'll give you that much pleasure? Er... don't answer that. (Especially not with 'the new Dan Brown book', or I'll have to hunt you down and kill you.)

Available for pre-order here.

Shameless Pluggage #1: Where The Heart Is

First up is this nice little anthology from Gray Friar Press, those lovely people who also brought you Pictures Of The Dark. Hint hint.

Take an alternative tour of Great Britain . . .

Writers are often told to write about what they know best . . . and what do they know better than their own homes? In this anthology, 19 fine authors of dark fiction reveal some of the less palatable elements of their native environments.

My story 'Winter's End' appears herein, alongside work by Stephen Volk, Rhys Hughes, Gary McMahon, Joel Lane, Paul Finch, Gary Fry, D F Lewis, Andrew Hook, Allen Ashley, Stuart Young, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Carole Johnstone, Michelle James, Stephen Bacon, John Travis, Mark Patrick Lynch, Mark West, Mike O'Driscoll

Edited by that very nice chap, Gary Fry.

In stock and shipping now.

Where The Heart Is is available to buy here.

Yeah, I'm back

Hello there. Just to let you know I've not dropped dead. Just been snowed under with work- two stories to proofread, another one to write and then amend, and of course that bloody novel ain't gonna write itself. Oh, yes, and there's that day job...

Anyway. Another reason is that there were various things to blog about and I couldn't decide what to do first- projects to plug, the novel to waffle on and pontificate about, and no, Cate, I haven't forgotten I promised to tell all (well, most- OK, some) about WHC in Brighton, even if it is two months on. We get there in the end...

More shortly.

Friday, 23 April 2010

A Brief Moment Of Pure Geekiness

Having finally watched the Dr Who episode with the Daleks in WW2 last night, on iPlayer, I'd just like to say that the new design is, to put it politely, godawful.

Hunchbacked. Daleks. They look like the latest variant of the Toyota Aygo. No, no, and NO. Whichever donkey-tromboning prat thought this one up needs shooting, and quite urgently. It is the Windows Vista of Dalek design; misconceived and truly naff. Please reboot. Please.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Houses On The Borderland

This is just a quick one, as I try to shake off the melancholia of both Rockworld and, a few days later, the inimitable Pete Steele of Type O Negative going west in the same week (c'mon, Death, couldn't you have taken Robbie Williams instead? Or how about Simon Cowell? Better yet- Michael Bay. Please take that soulless void of directing non-talent. And then flush. Don't forget to spray air-freshener)...

Ahem. Sorry. I said this would be quick, didn't I?

Some of you might remember the BFS anthology Houses On The Borderland, which came out back in 2008. It included some damn good stories from some damn good writers- Allen Ashley, Paul Finch, David A. Riley and Gary Fry- and also a novella of mine called The School House. All in all a very strong line-up of fiction, plus I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that this novella was, and is, very close to my heart, possibly one of the most personal things I've ever written, so it was a crying shame that the anthology seemed to sink without trace. As Oscar Wilde said, there's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that's not being talked about.

All of which is a long-winded preamble to the following: two reviews of Houses On The Borderland have just come out, one on Tales From The Black Abyss and another over at Hellnotes. Cheers to both Colin Leslie and Mario Guslandi for their kind words.

If any of the above piques your interest, you can buy the anthology here. It's always worth supporting the fine organisation that is the BFS.

And that's it from me. Have a nice weekend. Over and out!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Rockworld Mon Amour

Something I love died today.

Not someone, not a living creature- at least not a thing with body organs or hair or warm blood. But something I loved, nonetheless.

Jilly's, aka Rockworld, has closed its doors for the last time.

That might not mean a great deal to many of you; if you don't live in Manchester, it probably means nothing at all. But if you do...

Rockworld was the place to go when I was a teenager. It was where you went to hear heavy metal, goth (that's the real stuff like the Sisters Of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephilim et al, not faux-shocking mummy's-boy poseurs like Marilyn fucking Manson), hard rock, and in more recent years, new wave and 80s alternative. You know- all the stuff that never got played at the parties everyone else went to, or on Radio One. Or Galaxy bloody 102 (or Chav FM as I always called it)

Rockworld was a place to go for people who had a mind of their own, who didn't run wholly with the herd, and were looking for the like-minded. Like the New Model Army song says: 'looking for family, looking for tribe.' And a lot of them found it. Two of my friends getting married this year met in Rockworld. Countless friendships and- erm- romances came out of there. And even at its busiest and most heaving, you want to know how many fights I saw in all my years going there?

None. Zilch. Nada.

It was somewhere to go where you knew you could have a fun and varied night out- three and in later years four rooms, each playing something different. But I guess it wasn't enough for some people. There just weren't enough people going in there. And that, to me, is one of the saddest things of all.

It genuinely feels like a bereavement- something is gone and leaves a hole, an absence behind. The loss is sometimes too vast to feel, and so it hits you over and over again every few seconds as something makes you re-register that it's gone. There's no way of making it leave; all you can do, if you're lucky, is forget about it for a few minutes. And then something reminds you and it's back all over again. It hurts, and the hurt won't go away. Eventually it'll fade a little. The hole will heal up, but there'll always be a scar.

That's OK, though, because without the scar you might forget it was ever there. And that would be the worst of all.

I thought I'd have more to say about this, and maybe one day I will. In the end though, all I've got to say boils down to this:

Something I loved died today.

So here's a song for everyone who ever went there, and everyone who, even just for one night, felt like they were home. In Rockworld, Mon Amour.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Best Horror Of The Year #2- Recommended Reading

The lovely Ms Ellen Datlow of New York, New York has published her Honourable Mentions list over on LiveJournal. Worth perusing in full if you're looking for some pointers of what to read in horror...

But if you're too lazy to bother, here's the bit you really wanted to know about ;)

Bestwick, Simon “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” Pictures of the Dark.
Bestwick, Simon “Never Say Goodbye,” Pictures of the Dark.
Bestwick, Simon “The Proving Ground,” Ibid.
Bestwick, Simon “Jindivik,” Ibid.
Bestwick, Simon “Red Light,” Ibid.
Bestwick, Simon “The Hours of the Dead,” Ibid.
Bestwick, Simon “The Loving of Ghosts,” Ibid.
Bestwick, Simon “The Suicide Chairs,” Apparitions.
Bestwick, Simon“ From Those Dark Waters, Where Lost Bones Lie,” Ibid.

Very, very happy with this.

We know return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

A Short Blog About (Re)Writing

No, I haven't forgotten about the WHC stuff, don't worry. I'll be sticking the next load up at some point, honestly. I'm just a tad busy right now. But not so busy as not to tell you about it.

A couple of my fellow writers, Gary McMahon and Conrad Williams, are blogging about their works-in-progress, and the rather wonderful Cate Gardner (who will soon have her first collection out, guys, so keep your eyes open for it) does so on a regular basis. So might as well jump on the bandwagon...

Somebody once said that writing is rewriting. He or she was right, at least when it comes to novels. You might remember The Song Of The Sibyl, first draft of which was completed back in February. Rewriting is now underway. Here's how it works- at least for this author.

Hunter S. Thompson once said that good writing is all about taking notes. A certain number of notes, musings, bits and pieces, dribs and drabs, have to be jotted down before the story you're telling comes to life and you know how to write the first lines. Next, generally- once the first chapter or two has been roughed out- comes the outline, the plan, i.e. your attempt to con yourself into believing that you have an idea, however vague, of what the hell you're doing and more to the point, where the hell all this is going.

Once that's done, most of the work tends to be showing up- you just write the next right thing and carry on, crossing off the points on the outline one by one. And along the way, you're taking more notes. About stuff that's to happen later on- all the really interesting stuff that's not in the outline, because you didn't know anything about it till you got your characters acting and reacting and talking to each other. Some writers claim not to like writing but to love having written. Never understood that. The actual process of writing, of feeling all these unknown elements flow through you and create something new and (hopefully) vital and interesting, is a blast. Like exercise, maybe- at first you have to force yourself to do it, but once you're underway it's just great and you get used to it, hate doing without it.

Other notes are about things you need to check up on. You know, boring stuff like research. I used to hate that. Now it's interesting. Generally, do the bare minimum before you start, or don't do any at all and wing it. Apart from anything else, once you've finished you'll have a much better idea of what actually needs to be researched. The first draft is the raw material, the framework. The second draft is where salvation lies; the second draft is where you fix things. And you'll find lots of things to fix.

As well as research, there are additional characters who pop up and then vanish, whose little stories need finishing. There are passages where you're telling people what's happened, rather than showing it. There are recurring themes, little subplots that spring into being and have been imperfectly realised, because you can't focus on everything at once in first draft- you have to keep forging ahead and lay the basic framework of the novel- and again, they have to be made complete.

This one's a case in point. Basically, it's got pretty massive, major things happening. Another apocalypse, in a nutshell. And there's chaos, and madness, and suffering and death. All that stuff. It's pretty big and epic. And it's all seen through the eyes of one character, who has a lot of psychological problems to begin with and who also, as the novel progresses, sees ghosts, has visions and generally has quite a few episodes where the reality of what she's experiencing is, well, open to question. All that and, of course, there are other characters in the story, each with their own agendas, their own missions, obsessions, wants.

So on the one hand there's one story, but on the other it's made up of a multitude of others, each of which has to be got just right. This means more and more notes- notes about what needs doing, and how. At first a blizzard of random scribblings, they then get typed up and start getting sorted into order, under different headings. And then, finally, each separate section needs to be looked at and the changes broken down into a series of concrete, specific steps.

There are now 42 pages of notes on The Song Of The Sibyl, and the things that need to be done. It's grown steadily over the last week, not shrunk. But now the first of the changes are being put into place. Please god, let them start to shrink now.

Once that's done, here's still the task of visiting a lot of the locations used in the novel and getting things... just right. Oh, and then, finally, the task of going through the manuscript- which was 171,151 words in first draft, is now a couple of thousand words longer and will be god alone knows how long when all of this is done- and cutting, cutting, cutting. The most famous of White & Strunk's rules- 'omit needless words'. You don't realise how many words you can do without until you get to this point. Alan Garner, of course, is the king of that.

All this has to be done, bear in mind, while still holding down a day job.

So if you run into me and I look a bit tired, dazed and like I might not be quite all there (in the sense of living wholly in the same world as you) hopefully, by now, you should have some idea why.

So much for this being a short blog...

Have a happy Easter, everybody.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Well, There's A Big Fekking Surprise

Goodness. A policeman assaults a member of the public- an unarmed woman, smacking her across the face and whacking her with a riot baton, and he's cleared of assault. What a shock that wasn't.

Oh, and the first fuckwitted brainwashed prick to post on here that 'these protesters bring it on themselves by protesting/being unwashed communists/whatever'... can just fuck off. Fuck right off the planet and keep on fucking.

No- wait. First, google 'Second World War' and remind yourselves exactly what so many soldiers from this country died for. Google 'trade unions' as well, 'Tolpuddle Martyrs' in particular, because you're probably the same dickheads talking bullshit about the BA strikes, just to remind yourself how many rights and freedoms that you have that are owed to them.

And then fuck off.

Monday, 29 March 2010

WHC 2010- Part The First

Right, here it begins. I made a promise to the lovely Cate Gardner (yes, that's her over there) to blog about World Horror 2010, and I always keep my promises, especially to women who have Colin Firth chained up in their basements. Thusly and heretofore, the first instalment:

The convention started on Thursday 25th, but the preamble to it was pretty entertaining too, so I thought I'd shoehorn that in and all. So, here goes...

Wednesday 24th
The calm before the storm, the day before the Con.

Finish work at 12.30 and head for home with plans to carefully pack stuff and get the house reasonably tidy for soon-to-be new housemate who’ll be moving stuff in over the coming weekend. Fail miserably and veg out in front of the internet connection for several hours, throwing everything together at the last minute and dashing for Swinton train station. Catch the train with literally seconds to spare and buy return ticket to Leeds- home of the lovely Gary and Emily McMahon, with whom Your Humble Author is hitching a ride- changing at Salford Crescent and then at Oxford Road. Once in Leeds, all that’s required is a simple phone call to Gary who’ll pick me up at the station. Simple as clockwork and smooth as glass.

Yeah, right.

At Salford Crescent the unwelcome discovery is made that the mobile phone has been left back at Castle Bestwick.

Oh shit.

Too late, though, to turn back now. We are now committed to the path.

The plan was to work on the rewrite notes for The Song Of The Sibyl en route. No soap as succession of anxiety attacks ensue. In the train carriage are mobiles, mobiles everywhere, nor any one to call on. Fail to work up the nerve to ask a fellow passenger for the loan of theirs. Doesn’t help that I can’t remember Gary’s home or mobile numbers beyond the first four or five digits.

Don’t panic. Remain calm.

Thank god Leeds train station has a payphone. But still no memory of Gary’s phone number. Whose phone do I still remember? Calls follow to: Joel Lane (answering machine), Paul Finch (doesn’t have Gary’s number but will try and find Gary Fry of Gray Friar Press’ number as he’s good mates with Gary Mc- are you getting confused yet? Imagine what it was like at this end) and then Bernard, my neighbour back in Swinton (sheer desperation is kicking in by now) who got on with Gary last time he was up my way and became friends with him on Facebook…

Finally another call to Joel gets through and, just as all hope is about to be abandoned he finds Gary’s number. All three mates are automatically owed a pint.

Ring Gary, who’s been ringing my mobile in the growing conviction that he’ll have to pay half the parking fees when he gets to Brighton rather than only a third (private joke). He hoots with laugher and informs me that my life is a cross between a tragedy and a farce.

Thanks, mate. I think.

Back to Gary’s for corned beef sandwiches, coffee, and a late-night viewing of the brilliant Harlan Ellison documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth. Brilliant stuff, with both of us nodding along and uttering heartfelt agreements with virtually everyone of the great man’s pronouncements on creativity, writing, and life in general. We are, truly, not worthy.

And so to bed. Tomorrow, the Con begins.

And may God have mercy on our souls...

Next instalment as soon as I have the time and energy.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Back From Brighton/New Interview

Yup. I'm back from the World Horror Convention. Still alive. Exhausted and with my wallet suffering PTSD, but very, very happy. Will blog in more detail tomorrow. But, until then and in the meanwhile, check out this interview over at Horror Reanimated, where I'm quizzed and interrogated by award-winning author Joseph D'Lacey.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Brighton Rocks (Hopefully)

So, tomorrow I'm off to World Horror down in Brighton.

It promises to be a lot of fun, although maybe not the informal boozeup that is Fantasycon. There will be many publishers, editors and writers there and there'll be opportunities to pitch stuff. Sadly I have nothing, as yet, to pitch- The Song Of The Sibyl (undergoing rewrites) is earmarked for a particular publisher, so it'd be bad form to offer it elsewhere till they have said yea or nay. Probably say nay, now... ah well.

But it'll be a chance to meet the likes of Barbara and Chris Roden, who published my first collection, and Ellen Datlow, face to face at last. And also there will be: Dennis Etchison, Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem, Roberta Lannes, Lisa Tuttle, Lisa Morton... and that's just a few of the American authors whose work influenced me as a writer coming on song in the mid-90s. Most of these names will mean nothing to you unless you read a lot of contemporary horror fiction. But if you do, they'll mean plenty.

And there'll newer writers on the scene, like John Avjide Lindqvist (Let The Right One In) and Gemma Files. And, of course, a host of names I know all too well and I'll be glad to sink a pint with once more...

Oh, and Ingrid Pitt. Takes deep breath and releases it- I'm not of the generation that grew up seeing the Hammer horror films at the pictures, but the one just after that never missed a chance to catch them on the TV.

Meanwhile, I have a new housemate due to move in over the weekend while I'm absent. Hopefully I can trust her not to burn the house down, but tomorrow afternoon, before I set off, I have to knock my pesthole of a house into shape.

I was sure I'd rung a Brighton guesthouse (which shall remain nameless here) and booked a room, but when I rang last night the response was : 'Sorry? We've nothing booked in that name.' And they were now fully booked. A tad mortifying. Either I've had a fairly ultimate blonde moment here and noted down the wrong guesthouse (I'll find out this weekend I suppose, when the real one bills me for not showing up) or they ballsed up.

But hey-ho.

Of course, that wasn't my feeling last night. More like 'OH SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!' Two days to go till a fairly huge convention and now having to look for a place to stay...

Fortunately I found somewhere, which basically seems to be even nicer than the original choice. 'Breakfast served in your room,' the landlady- who had one of those bright, warm, jolly voices that immediately make you like the owner and feel like you'll be in good hands for the duration of your stay- 'either a bacon roll'- fandabidozi- 'or a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel' -squee! (sorry Chris) '-and your choice of douche.'


Of course, she meant juice, but by the time we cleared that one up it was a toss-up which of us was more embarassed.

Ah well.

Anyway. This should be fun...

Monday, 15 March 2010


There really aren't enough hours in the day.

I've been wanting to get back to work on The Song Of The Sibyl for over a week now. Unfortunately, there's only limited time in days eaten up with the wretched day job to write. And I've had an interview to complete and rewrite, plus, now, the opening chapters of the next novel (provisionally entitled Hell's Ditch)

I work a shift that runs from 12 midday through to 8 at night, so I get home around 9 pm, often thoroughly vegged. My best writing time is in the mornings, so:

Up I get around 7.00 am. Scribble Morning Pages- something an American friend passed on to me, basically an automatic writing exercise in which you write continuously, keeping your hand moving till three pages of A4 are filled up.

7.30- ish, usually more like 7.45- I'm out the door for a half-hour brisk walk. It's got to be done as I've got a definite weight problem and am edging relentlessly towards the big Four Oh No. But this means when I get back around 8.15 I've got two and a half hours writing time before I need to run for the bus.

But it's not two and a half hours, is it? Breakfast and putting together a packed lunch take up another fifteen minutes... a shower and getting dressed can be relied on to swallow up another thirty minutes. An hour and a three-quarters are left. Minus a quarter-hour to check emails, Facebook etc.

So, an hour and a half a day to write in. Oh, there's still lunch breaks, of course, at work, but what I'm doing at the moment needs time spent on a computer, and I can't do that at work.

I might have to move the daily walk to my lunchtimes, I think.

Of course, I could still make the evenings more productive if I just moved my damn computer downstairs away from the internet connection. I'll have to.

It's going to take a good two months, minimum, to rework The Song Of The Sibyl into something I can send off. There's a publisher that I hope will like it, and I see other writers I know getting new deals, and the old gnawing fear returns- of being left behind, of going nowhere.

All I can do is what I've always done, what the writer always has to do. Bite the bullet, put my head down, and work my way through. As Doro Pesch once put it, it takes what it takes.

But, Jesus, sometimes it takes a lot.

On the plus side:

Tide Of Souls shows up on Dark Delicacies' Horror Bestseller List in the number 3 spot for paperback fiction, above some pretty big names in the genre. Woot! (But no squee; I promised.) Very proud of this; I never dared hope this little zombie novel would run as long or as far as it has.

So, the moral of this story is?

If you want to write, stay the hell away from the internet, for Chrissakes. Most writers are some kind of OCD to begin with, probably. Last thing you want is to give someone like that a toy like the internet when they're supposed to be working. And especially not if they've got to be their own taskmaster...

Right, that's it for now. Off to bed.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

BFS Forum

Well, there's now another place on the web for me to pour my egomania... I've been invited to start a chat thread about myself on the British Fantasy Society Forum. Right... about... here.

If you like horror or science fiction- or, indeed, fantasy, funnily enough- whether it be on TV, cinema or the page, then it's worth visiting the website. And maybe even joining the BFS itself. You might even want to nip down to Fantasycon, the annual convention, in Nottingham, which is great fun- a very friendly gathering where you can buy cool books and stuff, attend panels on all sorts of subjects, and get suitably ratted in good company. There are regular BFS open nights as well, so have a look-see if there's one in your area. It's always nice to hang out with people you can talk to without being made to feel weird. Even though you are. ;)

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Song, At Last, Is Sung...

Yup- last night, or rather in the early hours of this morning, I finished the first draft of my new novel, The Song Of The Sibyl.

I started work on this nearly a year ago now. Bear in mind, I tend to write pretty fast, so that's a long time for me. Took nearly five months to get the first five chapters written as samples for an interested publisher. Normally if something is such tough going, I'll abandon it, assume that it's just not time to write this yet... but the novel wouldn't let me go.

In the end, I realised that one of the storylines I'd put in there was just pointless and unnecessary, so out it went. And the rest of the chapters were easily written.

So writing this mother started in earnest back in November, with a break over Christmas/January to write a couple of short stories, and finished last night, around about 4.00 am.

It's one big Bertha of a novel. 171,151 words in first draft. I'm knackered, but proud.

Of course, the work's barely started. I still have to do a megaton of rewrites and research, and find a publisher- the interested one decided it wasn't quite right for them- but right now, and for the next few days, me is just gonna chill out, bask (to the extent you can in the weather here oop North right now) and recharge a few batteries.

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to post on this blog more often- like, say, once a week- and to post about shit other than me and my writing. That one needs some catching up on, I know.

But until next time, be excellent to one another, dudes.

Monday, 8 February 2010

New Review Of Tide Of Souls!

That nice Mr Matt Fryer has posted a very complimentary- er, I mean perceptive- review of Tide Of Souls here on his blog. He also lists Pictures Of The Dark as one of his top ten genre reads of 2009. Which is very nice of him indeed. Go and have a shufti if you feel so inclined.

Friday, 29 January 2010

A Brief Thought Apropos The Iraq Inquiry

William Shakespeare put it rather well a few hundred years ago:

Dogberry: 'Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders... thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and to conclude, they are lying knaves.'

Oh, and Tony Blair? Burn in hell for eternity, you lying, traitorous, mass-murdering, sanctimonious little cunt of a war criminal.

My apologies for the strong language. I just felt I had to list his good points.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year everybody!

Hi all. This is just a quick note to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2010. Not been online much lately, as there've been some problems with internet access at home. Abnormal service will be resumed as soon as I've managed to a) brave and b) successfully communicate with Virgin Media's Mickey Mouse call centre in Mumbai.

All the best!