Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday 31 July 2015

Edward Woodward and the Armenian Genocide

Have you ever heard of the Armenian Genocide? And if so, how did you hear about it and when? How old were you?
Me, I was in my late teens, in 1991, and it involved Edward Woodward.
Woodward was, of course, an extremely accomplished actor, and had a long and fruitful career, but if you were a teenaged boy in the 1980s you’d be most likely to know him from The Equalizer, in which he played a former CIA agent who takes to playing knight errant on behalf of New Yorkers being persecuted by one set of bad guys or another.

But that night, he appeared in a BBC2 series called In My Defence. In My Defence was a series of monologues, in the vein of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, except that each character in the series was a real-life person, one whose convictions had driven them to a famous – or infamous – stand. The first in the series had been Derek Jacobi as the French novelist Emile Zola, on the verge of penning his famous J’Accuse letter. The final episode starred Woodward as a man called Gourgen Yanikian, an Armenian engineer and novelist who shot and killed two Turkish diplomats at a Santa Barbera hotel in 1973.Seeing him in In My Defence was a revelation in more ways than one, partly because it showed that Woodward was an actor of real range and ability, but mostly because, as he/Yanikian told his story, I learned for the first time about the first major genocide of the twentieth century.
From 1915 onwards, the Turkish Government set out to finally purge itself of those non-Turkish
Gourgen Yanikian
ethnic minorities, especially the Christian ones: principally the Armenians, but also the Thracian and Anatolian Greeks and Assyrians, all of whom were to suffer genocidal persecution. You can find out more here. (Content warning: both the images and the descriptions of events are pretty graphic.)
Men, women and children had been killed – burned alive, drowned at sea, killed by lethal injection, butchered and mutilated or marched into the desert wilderness of Deir Al-Zor to starve to death. In total, one and a half million people were murdered with the kind of inventive, gleeful sadism we wouldn’t see again till almost eighty years later, with the break-up of Yugoslavia – and were forgotten, it seemed, almost at once.
So why had I never heard of it before? Because within a few years of the end of the First World War – and on the heels of that, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, which killed more people than the war itself – the Soviet Union had emerged as a major power, which the Western Governments saw as their principal enemy. Turkey, which shared a border with Russia, was a valuable strategic ally – and even more so after the Second World War, when the Cold War began. Even by the 1930s, the Armenian Genocide had been forgotten: Adolf Hitler, seeking to garner support for his own exterminationist policies, was famously said to have asked: “Who now remembers the Armenians?”
The programme has never been repeated or released on video or DVD, but some kind soul has uploaded it to YouTube, so here it is. It’s a comparatively gentle introduction for anyone who hasn’t previously heard about the subject.
It's stayed with me all these years, anyway, so I thought I'd share it with you.
Have a good weekend.

Get your own valid XHTML YouTube embed code

ETA: I realised I hadn't actually included a picture of the real-life Gourgen Yanikian. I've now corrected that.

Monday 27 July 2015

The Lowdown with... S.P. Miskowski

I've decided that this little blog of mine needs to be about more than just me harping on about myself and my works, so there's going to be a lot more cool stuff on it. One of them will be The Lowdown - a series of mini-interviews with authors you really ought to be reading.

First up is S.P. Miskowski, author of the Skillute Cycle, the first book of which, KNOCK KNOCK, was published shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award. S.P.'s short stories have been published by Supernatural Tales, Horror Bound Magazine, Identity Theory, Other Voices, The Absent Willow Review, and in the anthology Detritus. Her home town is Decatur, Georgia where she began writing stories and poems as a child. She now lives in California with her husband, the novelist and game design writer Cory J. Herndon.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

My family is matriarchal. I don’t fully understand systems in which women don’t play important

If I’d had the aptitude for structural engineering instead of fiction, I’d be on a construction site right now. At least, that’s my fantasy. I tend to see my stories in structural terms. I visualize their shape, the parallels and juxtapositions, the connecting themes and recurring images or colors. The stories I like to read are those in which the ideas or philosophy are embedded in the structure rather than resting on the surface.

I worked full-time for 35 years, at everything from editing a newspaper to transcribing data to managing a photocopy center to caring for children to working on a product assembly line. I never run out of material.

2. What was the first thing you had published?

A poem, in a high school newspaper.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

I’m pleased with my short story, “Strange is the Night,” in the anthology Cassilda’s Song, edited by
Joseph S. Pulver Sr. This story was waiting for its moment. I wrote the first two pages a few years ago and set them aside. All I had was the beginning of a portrait of a theatre critic, a man on a mission to discourage artists he found unworthy.

When Joe Pulver invited me to submit a story connected to the King in Yellow mythos, I discovered those first pages in my archive and something clicked. There is an obsession with artistic ambition woven into Robert Chambers’ KiY tales. The critic in “Strange is the Night” is an exclusionist, a privileged person. The girl he excludes is someone who embraces all experiences. Her openness is disgusting to the critic, and he sets out to crush her spirit. I hope the resulting story is explicit yet mysterious.

4. …and which makes you cringe?

Hm. I had a couple of stories published in literary magazines years ago. And I wish I could revise those.
5. What’s a normal writing day like?

Take vitamins. Drink coffee. Sit at my desk surrounded by walls of research and reference books. Go
back to the last page I wrote yesterday. Read that page and try to go forward. Resist the urge to watch “Masters of Sex.” Resist the urge to visit Facebook, where I will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed by the great accomplishments of friends and acquaintances, and guilty about not keeping up with all the wonderful books they’re writing and publishing. Stay focused and write until I get hungry. Eat and return to writing.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?

Probably my novel, Knock Knock, which is the first book in the Skillute Cycle.

7. What are you working on now?

A novel, a murder mystery set in the recent past. It’s a bit noir and a bit supernatural. The protagonist
is a young woman who steals a friend’s writing in order to get a job. I think it’s fairly nasty. It’s also funny, and dark. Liberating, after all the time I spent in the world of Skillute (where my first novel and three novellas were set). The challenge is to move forward with every chapter. I tend to follow the characters on side adventures. A dangerous habit, at times.

S.P. on Goodreads
S.P. on Amazon UK and
S.P. on Twitter

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Me And My Shorts

No wait, come back! This blogpost does NOT feature pictures of me showcasing various trouser-related clothing items. No-one needs to see my hairy thighs; Cate suffers enough of that.

No, this is about short stories! There are things afoot, and of course you want to know about them. What? Yes, you do. Stop struggling. Come back here.


First and biggest - My short story Horn Of The Hunter has been included in Mark Morris' anthology THE 2ND SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES, alongside stories by some truly excellent writers. Very good company indeed, and I'm proud to be included. The anthology will be released in October, at Fantasycon 2015.

My story from WORLD WAR CTHULHU, Now I Am Nothing, will be reprinted in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF KAIJU next year, edited by Sean Wallace.

My story The Face Of The Deep will appear in Jonathan Green's upcoming arcade-game-themed anthology, GAME OVER. Basically imagine a cross between Frogger and the Book of Genesis and you're getting there...

Two stories are forthcoming via TTA Press:

The Gaudy, Blabbing And Remorseful Day will be published in BLACK STATIC.

If I Should Fall From Grace With God will be published in CRIMEWAVE.

And, of course, The Judgement Call will be published at the end of the year as a Spectral chapbook, in tandem with the incredible Robert Shearman's Christmas In The Time Of Ennui - a single volume, so I shall be between the covers with Rob, as it were. At least he'll make me look good.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

It's Fingers In Your Ears Time...

'They put that maniac on the RADIO AGAIN?'
Here I am, on Hannah's Bookshelf on North Manchester FM, being interviewed by the fabulously talented Hannah Kate on life, literature, and the three books I'd save for the Library At The End Of Days. Brace yourself; here it is.