Author and Scriptwriter

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

Saturday 26 February 2022

Ukraine, and what you can do

As you'll all know, Russian forces began an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, in a blatant act of military aggression by Dobby Vladimir Putin. (That's the only joke I'll be making in this post, so enjoy it.)

The Ukrainian military - and people - are putting up the kind of resistance that can only be described as awe-inspiring. Grandmothers give sunflower seeds (the national flower of Ukraine) to Russian soldiers, telling them to put them in their pockets so that sunflowers will at least grow when they die. A young soldier, Vitaly Skakun Volodymyrovych, sacrificed himself to blow up a vital bridge and delay the approach of Russian tanks. The tiny garrison of Snake Island in the Black Sea died to the last man rather than surrender to a Russian warship (and actually turned up the volume on their loudspeakers to make their last words - "Russian warship, go f**k yourself!'" as loud and clear as possible.)

War is vile, and brings out the worst qualities of humanity. Sometimes, though, it also shows some of the best - courage, self-sacrifice, endurance and compassion. But acts of self-sacrifice, such as Volodymyrovych's and the Snake Island garrison's, shouldn't be necessary. 

How will this end? I have no idea. In the meantime, I've been trying to find out what I can do as an individual to support Ukraine? It hardly needs saying that sticking a Ukrainian flag on your Facebook profile pic isn't going to help anyone in concrete terms. 

I don't know about you, but as well as being a complete physical coward I'm also something of a physical wreck, and wouldn't be much use to any army except as a sandbag. So here are some options:

The Red Cross have launched a crisis appeal, which you can donate to here.

Care International are providing emergency relief for their partner People In Need. You can donate here

SumOfUs are also taking donations for aid to Ukraine here.

For anyone who wants to involve themselves more directly, the Kyiv Independent has an article here on how to support the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force as a foreigner, including enlistment. (This article is a month old and may be out of date, but if nothing else might at least shut up a few of the inevitable tedious bar-room commandoes who'll be spouting on about how they'd show the Russians a thing or two.) 

ETA: Unicef taking donations for children in Ukraine here.

International Rescue Committee donations here.

ETA: UNHCR taking donates to help refugees here.

ETA: Ukrainian feminist Olesia Sagaydak on how to help women in Ukraine.

ETA: Donate to UN Populations Fund to support women and girls impacted by the conflict here.

Countries neighbouring or close to Ukraine such as Poland and Estonia are waiving visa restrictions for Ukrainian nationals fleeing the war - including pet passports in Poland's case - as has the Irish government. The UK government has, (of course, being arseholes) done no such thing (although Boris Johnson did light 10 Downing Street up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag last night - words fail.) has a petition here to get them to waive restrictions as well.

ETA: Link to Support Ukraine Now, which details multiple ways for foreigners to support Ukraine, here

Please share this post as widely as possible. If you're aware of any other ways in which ordinary citizens in the UK can provide any form of concrete support to Ukraine, please let me know and I'll update this post - I want to make it as helpful a resource as I can.

Whatabouters and Putin-apologists will be told to get stuffed.

Monday 7 February 2022

2022 so far...

Well, the New Year is already no longer so new, rushing by at a rate of knots; we're already a week into the second month of it.

Various things are in motion at this end; I finished one novel on New Year's Eve and have a few last revisions to do, and am about 30,000 words into what will hopefully be a new one. 

The new issue of Phantasmagoria magazine is out, featuring my story 'Nemesis Of Wire' alongside new fiction by Caitlin Marceau, Evangelia Papanikou, Mike Chinn and many others. 'Nemesis Of Wire' is a Christmas-themed chiller (the issue was originally slated for December) set in a trench on the Western Front in World War One, where amid all the state-sanctioned slaughter, the legacy of one heinous act still lingers...

Reviews of Ellen Datlow's body horror anthology Body Shocks continue to appear, including
this one from Anthony Cardino, which concludes: "If I had to choose the most disturbing story in the anthology in terms of body transformation and trauma, it would be a three way tie between Simon Bestwick’s “Welcome to Mengele’s,” which involves bodily abuse of clones; Cody Goodfellow’s “Atwater,” which contains both the most disturbing birthing scene I’ve read and a scene reminiscent of the climax of the movie Akira which made me physically ill the first time I saw it on VHS; and Michael Blumlein’s “Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report.”

I still haven't settled down to read Body Shocks, believe it or not, but I'm looking forward to it, and I'm inordinately pleased that a story I wrote all the way back in 1998 is still disturbing the hell out of people.

Reviews of Devils of London have shown up thick and fast, with Linda Nagle raving over it at Ginger Nuts of Horror and more qualified, though generally positive, reviews from the Future Fire and Horrified. I suspect they're right that there maybe should have been more to this story than there was; maybe I need to return to the theme in a novel. Or maybe I'm just too quick to believe every criticism. Even if I am, though, I kind of like the idea of exploring the premise at greater depth and in greater detail...

Finally - and I've been meaning to blog about this all year! - I was delighted to find I'd made two people's 'top ten' list for 2021.

On Twitter, Ian Duff listed 'ten books I read for the first time in 2021 and really enjoyed', which were:

1) Last One At The Party - Bethany Clift
2) Roth-Steyr - Simon Bestwick
3) One Day All This Will Be Yours - Adrian Tchaikovsky
4) Never - Ken Follett
5) Tidepool - Nicole Willson
6) The End Of Men - Christina Sweeney-Baird
7) The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
8) Zero Day Code - John Birmingham
9) The Burning Girls - CJ Tudor
10) Nine Ghosts - Simon Bestwick

Making the list twice is brilliant enough, and even better when I'm sharing it with the likes of Margaret Atwood, CJ Tudor, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Ken Follett...

And last but far from least, Tony Jones published his Top Ten Reads of 2021 at Horror DNA, in which A Different Kind Of Light leads the list, alongside work by Adam Nevill, Ronald Malfi and Philip Fracassi:

"A Different Kind of Light is top-heavy with genuinely standout creepy scenes which leave a lasting impression once the final page is turned... Out of the blue Ash receives a message from Danie, an old university friend, who is seeking help in authenticating a piece of vintage sports film footage, which features the aftermath of the 1955 Le Mans Disaster. In this crash, the driver Pierre Levegh swerved into spectators, killing 84 and injuring 120 in the deadliest accident in motor racing history. The pair agree that there is no way this footage could have been faked and investigate further, buying the oddity on behalf of a third-party collector.

Building horror novels out of real historical events is a tricky business and A Different Kind of Light totally nails it. When Ash realises there is something very dodgy with the film, his research takes the story into unpredictable directions, with the balance of the developing supernatural storyline convincingly interconnected to the dynamics between the two main characters, and an enticing investigation into the origins of the film.This haunting novella will remain with you long after the killer ending."

All of which makes me a happy man, as we forge ahead into the uncharted waters of 2022....