Author and Scriptwriter

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

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.