Exalted on Bellatrix 1 by Eric Brown

SNEAK PEEK EXTRACT:

Eric Brown

Hendrick stood before the wall-window and stared out across Paris.
The lights of the city scintillated like an incandescent galactic cluster. Firefly air-cars threaded their way along colour-coded air lanes, zipping past Hendrick’s penthouse apartment in a flash of sleek coachwork and running lights. To the south, at Orly, the Telemass station stood tall on its tripod of scimitar legs. As he watched, a brilliant white beam of light arched through the night and hit the translation pad, delivering a cargo of demolecularised passengers on their multi-light year journey from the stars.
It was five days since he and Mercury Velasquez had returned to Earth from Alpha Reticuli II. In that time Mercury had followed mind-leads all across Paris in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of Hendrick’s ex-wife and daughter. On arriving on Earth, Mercury had forecast that she would have a viable lead within two days, but she had come up with nothing so far. Hendrick was experiencing mood swings, the euphoria of his new-found love for the telepath alternating with despair that he might never again see his daughter.
His wrist-com chimed and his heart skipped. Every time he heard the distinctive double note he expected Mercury with good news.
A grey-haired man in his sixties stared up from Hendrick’s metacarpal screen.
“Thierry. How’s things?”
Every month his lawyer, Thierry Duvall, contacted Hendrick with the latest news. More often than not, there was no latest news.
“Sit down, Matt.”
Hendrick moved from the wall window and lowered himself into a foam-form, feeling a little sick. “Bad news?”
He’d hired Duvall five years ago to liaise with Europe’s top research labs and notify him if there was any breakthrough in the quest to discover a cure for his daughter’s condition. He lived in hope but always, on receiving Duvall’s monthly call, feared that the labs had declared Sam’s condition incurable.
Mercury had chided him on this point. “Brighten up. The companies won’t give up. Research is ongoing. They want to cash in on the Euros, no?”
“I was contacted by Omega-Gen a week ago,” Duvall said, “while you were off-world. I would have contacted you as soon as you returned, but I wanted to be sure.”
Hendrick leaned forward, his heart beating fast. “Be sure?”
“That what Omega-Gen told me was a one hundred per cent, nailed on certainty. So I took a flier down to Madrid and talked to the medics myself. There’s no doubt, Matt. They’ve found a cure for Sam’s condition.”
Hendrick stood up, choking. He strode to the window and stared out. He’d lived for this moment, anticipated his reaction, for  years. The lights of Paris blurred beyond his tears.
“The Piserchia team made the breakthrough a month ago,” Duvall went on. “It’s something to do with telomerase reversal and chromosome replacement. I don’t really know – they blinded me with science. But Dr Gonzalez is flying to Paris tomorrow and he’ll tell you all about it then. I’m so happy for you, Matt.”
Hendrick shook his head. “Thanks… I mean, thanks, Thierry, for everything you’ve done.”
“Things is,” the lawyer interrupted, “you any closer finding your daughter?”
“Mercury’s working on it,” Hendrick said. “She expects to find something pretty soon.”
Duvall nodded. He looked suddenly grim.
“What is it?”
“Just one thing…” Duvall hesitated. “This isn’t going to be cheap. The cure, it comes at a cost.”
“I never expected anything else. How much?”
“I think you should sit down again.”
Obediently, Hendrick returned to the foam-form. He had a couple of million stashed away, and was confident he could raise double that it need be. How much, after all, was his daughter’s life worth?
“Okay,” he said, “I’m ready.”
“We’re talking about staggered payments. Omega-Gen know you’re a private individual, not some corporation or government body. So they’re trying to make it manageable for you.”
“How much?”
“They suggested three payments over a couple of years. An initial deposit of five million Euros, then five million on completion of the treatment – which shouldn’t take more than a week – and then, a year later, a final payment of five million.”
Hendrick swallowed. He felt as if something very heavy and painful had hit him in the stomach.
“Fifteen million Euros?” he said.
“I know, I know… It’s a hell of a fee.”
Hendrick tried to compose himself. He didn’t want Duvall to see his shock and intuit that there was no way he could raise such an amount. “You’re telling me. Okay…” He let out a long breath. “Okay. I need to talk this over with Mercury. We’ll find some way…”
“I’ll be in touch about tomorrow. Gonzalez is due in at eleven. I suggest we meet over lunch.”
“Sure… that’s fine.” He thanked Duvall again and cut the connection.
He moved to the window and stared out. He raised his wrist-com and tried to get through to Mercury, but she wasn’t taking calls. He turned and strode across the lounge, back and forth, working off nervous energy. They had a cure for his dead daughter, a miracle that would bring her back to life.
He closed his eyes and felt the little girl in his arms again; she was five years old, on the colony world of Landsdowne, alive and looking forward to going to the zoo.
And a year later his daughter was dead, sealed into a coffin-like suspension pod against the day when medical science might discover a cure for her ailment.
Hendrick’s insurance didn’t cover the cost of the cure, and barely covered the monthly fee of the suspension pod. He’d saved over the years, juggled investments and lived frugally – a regime not helped by having to pay Telemass fees in order to race from world to world around the Expansion when his ex-wife absconded with the pod in a hare-brained attempt to find a cure herself.
Now a miracle had happened. His daughter could be cured. All Hendrick had to do was find Sam… and fifteen million Euros.
His wrist-com chimed. Mercury looked up from his metacarpal screen, her tricorne askew and stray strands of jet hair pasted to her sweat-soaked forehead. She looked out of breath as she grinned at him.
“Done it, Matt.”
His heart missed a beat. “You found her?”
“Well, I found out where your ex and Dr Hovarth fled to.” She peered up at him. “Hey, you okay?”
He hesitated. “Fine,” he said.
“You don’t look fine.”
She had the amazing facility, when her tele-ability was switched off, or when speaking to him over the net, of being able to discern his moods. She’d honed the skill of subliminally reading the facial tics and mannerisms of a subject so that, even when she wasn’t reading the mind in question, she was able to discern temperament and mood.
“Well done,” he said. “So where are they?”
“They led me a hell of a dance,” she said. “I thought it’d be a cinch to pick up mind-trails leading from the Orly station, but I was wrong on that score. Every one finished up in a dead-end. Thing was, Maatje and Hovarth didn’t know themselves where they were heading after Paris.”
“So how…?”
“I haunted the station every day this week, reading every worker there. No one knew anything, until I came across a wisp…”
He smiled. “A wisp?”
“That’s what I call them. Not really conscious thoughts in the head of a subject, but subconscious visual memories. Wisps, lasting a fraction of a second – fleeting images. I was reading this receptionist at the station when I caught a fragment – the visual of your ex and Hovarth in conversation with a short, stocky off-worlder. From the woman’s memories, I worked out the meeting had taken place four days ago. So I backtracked and read the heads of everyone working at the station that shift, and hit pay dirt. Someone knew the off-worlder: he was a Telemass agent working for the Berlin station, with an office in Montmartre. So off I went, staked out his office, and read him when he came in a couple of hours ago.”
“Go on.”
Mercury clicked her jaw sideways, skewing her lips. “Ah… I found out where they went, Matt, but I’ll tell you when I get back, right?”
“There’s a problem?” he said, his spirits sinking.
“I’ll tell you later.”
Hendrick closed his eyes.
“Matt,” he heard her say. “What’s wrong? You’re holding something back…”
“That’s the trouble with being in love with a  telepath,” he said. “They know damned near anything.”
“I wish…” she said. “So, spill.”
“I just had a call from Duvall. Gonzalez at Omega-Gen has found a cure.”
Mercury stared at him with her big, Spanish eyes. “But that’s… great,” she said. “But there’s a problem, hm?”
“You said it.”
She sighed. “Look, I’ll be back in thirty minutes. We’ll trade problems then, okay?”
“Sure…”
“Fix me a long, ice cold G&T, would you, Matt? See you then.”

* * *

Every time he set eyes on Mercury Velasquez after an absence – not that there had been many absences in the two weeks he’d known her – he marvelled anew at the fact of their love. He also experienced a retroactive sense of dread at the thought of how, but for the twist of chance that had taken him to a certain bar at a certain time, he might never have met the woman.
He heard the roar of turbos as the taxi-flier landed on the roof of their penthouse, and thirty seconds later the door swished open and Mercury padded across the thick-pile carpet. In a form-fitting black one-piece and tricorne, she looked like a cross between an attenuated matador and a catwalk model. She was forty-two, severely slim, and heart-stoppingly beautiful.
They embraced, and Hendrick handed her a long, ice cold gin and tonic. She frisbee’d her tricorne across the room, stretched out on the sofa, and lodged her bare feet on his lap. He massaged her insteps.
She took a sip, closed her eyes in bliss, then said, “Hokay, Matt. Your problem first.”
“You’re not reading?”
“I’m not reading, but let me guess…” She studied his face. “They have a cure… but it’s damned expensive, yes?”
He stared at her. “You’re amazing, Ms Velasquez, you know that?”
“Well, wasn’t much else it could be. So they want… what, three million Euros? Five?”
“No.”
She looked aghast. “What? Eight?”
“Try again.”
“Ridiculous! Ten…?”
He shook his head. “Fifteen.”
“Fifteen!” She was on her knees now beside him. “That’s extortionate. Hokay… We can do this, Matt. I can raise a couple of million if I sell all the artwork I’ve squirrelled away over the years, And I have half a million in savings. You?”
He sighed. “A couple of million saved, and I reckon I could raise that much again.”
“That’s six and a half…”
“There’s no way anyone would loan us more than eight million,” he said. “Anyway, I’ve arranged to meet Duvall and someone from Omega-Gen for lunch tomorrow.”
She reached out and stroked his five o’clock shadow with her knuckles. “We’ll work something out. Maybe they’ll be amenable to a deposit and spread payments.”
“Duvall said they want five million up front, same again at the time of treatment, and five million a year later.”
“The bastards.”
He laughed, without humour. “He said Omega-Gen realised I wasn’t a corporation, so they’d make it manageable for me.”
“Manageable? That’s generous!”
“It’s ironic, isn’t it? Duvall informs me of a cure, and you find out where Maatje’s fled to.” He looked at her. “So… let’s hear your problem.”
She finished her drink, uncurled herself from beside him and crossed to the bar. “You want anything?”
“A beer.”
She returned with the drinks and sat beside him, a hand on his thigh.
She said, “Maatje and Hovarth left Earth early yesterday morning, from the Telemass station at Berlin.”
“Headed to?” He sipped his beer.
“A planet called Beltran, orbiting the star Bellatrix in Orion, around two hundred and fifty light years from Earth.”
“Do you know if they had the suspension pod with them?”
“They did,” she said, and went on, “Beltran is home to the Vhey, to give the shortened version of their name. The most secretive race of ee-tees known to humanity.”
He sat up, spilling his beer. “Just a minute… I’ve read that access to the planet is limited.”
“It is. Very limited. You can’t even Telemass straight to Beltran, but to an orbital station. From there you take a shuttle down to the planet’s surface.”
“And they’re secretive, I recall reading, because they’re a civilisation perhaps ten thousand years more advanced than the human race?”
“That’s the reckoning, Matt.”
“So…” He shook his head. “Why have Maatje and Hovarth been allowed onto the planet?”
She rubbed thumb and forefinger together. “They paid, and paid a lot.”
“They wouldn’t do that just to get away from us,” he said. “Perhaps Maatje’s on another alien-race-can-cure-my-daughter kick?”
Mercury sipped her drink and considered. “I don’t know,” she said at last. “But we might find out more tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?”
“When I learned where they’d skedaddled to, I pulled in a favour with high-ups at the Hague. We’re meeting with a couple of suits tomorrow afternoon who, I hope, might be able to pull a few strings and get us to Beltran.”
“Not only are you beautiful, Mercury Isabella Velasquez, but you’re a genius.”
She stood up, reached out with both hands, and pulled him to his feet. “I’ve had a hell of a day and I’m dog tired. But not too tired, Matt…”
Later, he stared up at the stars through the diaphanous roof and wondered how he might have gone about the daunting task of locating his daughter all by himself. The thought made him shiver.

Order yours, here.

Alan Baxter chats about his new novella, THE BOOK CLUB.

Mashing Genres by Alan Baxter

3D The Book ClubI’ve always loved genre mashing. It’s not something I ever did consciously. I didn’t even really realise until other people started pointing it out to me. Just like I didn’t know I was a horror writer until other people started referring to me that way. Or to my work as horror, at least. But I don’t think I am a horror writer, especially. I just include a lot of horror in my work. Same as I’m not a fantasy writer or a mystery writer, but include loads of those tropes in my stories. I’m most definitely a genre writer. I love all the genres – horror, fantasy, thriller, mystery, crime, and so on – and the more of them I can get into a story, the better I like it.

My novels, especially the most recent ALEX CAINE trilogy, are decidedly cross-genre. They’re fundamentally thrillers in pacing and style. They’re heavy on the supernatural. They’re incredibly dark in places, definitely delving into the realms of horror, they have extreme fantastical elements. I tend to usually say that I write supernatural thrillers, dark fantasy and horror, as that description is relatively short and seems to encompass most of what I do.

With THE BOOK CLUB, my new novella coming from PS Publishing, I wanted to combine the weird with a straight up mystery. I’ve played a lot in the cosmic horror sandpit over the years. I’ve never written actual Lovecraftian mythos, but I love the concepts involved: the examination of humanity as a speck in the greater universe, the possibility of eldritch entities more massive or complicated than we can possibly imagine. Many of my novels and short stories explore those ideas to one degree or another in a variety of ways. When it comes to THE BOOK CLUB, I’d recently read GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn and loved it. It became a bit of an inspiration. I’ve long been a fan of crime and mystery, those elements appear regularly in my stories as well, and I wanted to address a disappearance. It’s truly one of the greatest existential horrors, I think, certainly for me, that someone might go missing. When a loved one dies, it’s traumatic, but there’s a certain closure. We know they’re dead. But I often read about missing persons and think that must be so much harder. There’s no proof they’re dead, so the spark of hope can never really die. It remains to gently burn, to torture those left behind forever. GONE GIRL played brilliantly with those themes in one way. I wanted to play with them in another. I considered what might happen when the missing person, or aspects of their life, are found? Of when details of the disappearance are uncovered but the person is still missing? What secrets and truths might float to the surface, what light may shine on things best left in shadow? And THE BOOK CLUB slowly took shape.

When I started the book, I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be a novel or not. It had that potential, but I knew it was one of those stories drawing on so many pulp tropes – horror, crime, mystery – that it was potentially a perfect candidate for the novella length. That turned out to be true and it comes in at around one third the length of an average-sized novel. And I think it works best that way. Now I can’t wait to see it out in the world, to see if people find it as engaging and exciting to read as I found it to write. And with that awesome Ben Baldwin cover, I can’t wait to hold it my hands.

Order yours, here.

Genre Chat with Stephen Volk

What’s in a Label?

THE-LITTLE-GIFT_coverOn the occasion of the publication of THE LITTLE GIFT, my new novella from PS Publishing, a thought comes to me unbidden, and it’s this:

Sometimes I have absolutely no idea of the genre of what I’ve just written.

It’s true.

It’s not like they come with the labels sewn on: “XL” or “Hand Wash Only”; “PG-13” or the late and much lamented “Certificate X”.

I’m not reluctant to call some of them Horror, and I’m certainly not disapproving of the word, like some people. Personally, I consider it a perfectly respectable, nay noble, appellation. It’s also where I come from, culturally speaking. My home turf, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

But the truth is, sometimes the stories I want to tell have Horror writ large—supernatural, frightening, disturbing—with monsters, often the human kind—and sometimes they don’t.

Increasingly, I must admit, I want to rein in the “H” quotient so it doesn’t splatter you with gore. Maybe it’s just a pinprick on your thumb that you have to suck. Maybe it’s not a painted skeleton dropping in front of your face on a ghost train ride, maybe it’s a line from today’s newspaper, or one of those thoughts you get before you drift asleep, or in that paranoid hinterland before waking.

To scare the pants off you and nothing more interests me less and less, because (here’s a secret not many will divulge . . . ) it’s kind of easy.

So what does interest me?

Not sure.

Never sure, until I start tapping the keyboard.

Science Fiction? Yeah—but never stuff that would turn on fans of Robert Heinlein or Greg Bear.

Fantasy? Once in a blue moon, but they’re as far from Terry Pratchett as even Terry Pratchett (were he alive) could imagine.

One or two might be Humour, I think (others might strenuously disagree): but they’re not exactly Martin Amis, let alone P. G. Wodehouse.

Then there’s Crime. A genre without boundaries, if there ever was one. And then it becomes complicated . . .

The simple fact is, like all writers, my touchstones are manifold—not just H/SF/F authors.

(And that’s, surely, as it should be.)

One person who lit up my imagination with a mega-ton bomb of illumination as to what a short story could do was Raymond Carver, who (some say with the aid of scissor-wielding editor Gordon Lish) honed a pared-down style of poetic naturalism that pretty much held in thrall every aspiring fictioneer who came after him.

Richard Ford and Suri Hustvedt are two contemporary writers who follow in that tradition, demonstrating (to me) that the deep observation of seemingly ordinary lives can reveal contradictions and dark, spiky insights, all the more effective than weary, tried-and-tested Horror tropes because they came from psychological realism and a kind of honest, un-showy reportage.

Ian McEwen’s early stories, too, had a big impact, using as they did disarmingly benign prose to convey shadowy perversions, straight-up grotesquerie and creepy menace without recourse to the safety net of the gothic. As Poe said all along, you don’t have to look further than the human mind, and its endless abnormalities, to find what to be fearful of.

(Yet what was McEwen dabbling in, if not Horror, or at least Crime? The Comfort of Strangers is about a psychopath. Enduring Love, a stalker. Saturday, a home invasion. Literary, schmittery!)

Furthermore, I’ve always had a very soft spot for Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell, unfettered from her Inspector Wexford), whose protagonists are often shambling, unremarkable creatures shoved reluctantly centre stage. Absorbingly, if there’s a crime, you seldom know who’s going to commit it, or why, or when. And that’s riveting.

For the exact same reason I have been engrossed by certain recent television dramas of a similar bent—Bloodlines from Netflix and the excellent BBC drama Apple Tree Yard—both of which have hardly a police officer in sight.

They’re all about broken lives, not neat, Cluedo resolutions. We get a chance (as one actress recently put it in an interview), to “sit with the character’s pathology” and “see them unravel”.

That fascinates me far more than the crossword-puzzle allure of Inspector Morse, (and for that read Endeavour, Lewis, Foyle, and for that matter Rebus and his army of hard-drinking, hard-boiled clones). If I ever use a detective I always think they should be, like James Stewart in Vertigo, part of the mystery, not the solution. My characters should contribute to the mess, not merely the tidying up.

So which of the above notions, you might ask, amidst all this rambling, has directly influenced my rather uncharacteristic, I’m told, novella, THE LITTLE GIFT?

I couldn’t tell you.

Well, I could. But I don’t want to.

For a start, I think a guy who reveals to you the punch line of the joke he is about to relate is the very definition of a pub bore.

Secondly, the bottom line is, I don’t think many writers want their work to be labelled. Most want to simply see it out there amongst readers and have a life, like a paper boat you put in a stream you hope doesn’t run aground or get swallowed by a drain.

The rest in is the lap of the gods.

But if a story takes you, the reader, by surprise, even unsettles you because you were expecting something different? Great. I’ll be happy.

And if you can’t put your finger on what genre it is . . . I’ll be even happier.

Order yours, here, and decide for yourself.

The Little Gift by Stephen Volk

SNEAK PEEK EXTRACT:

Untitled-1

THE NOCTURNAL SCAMPERING invariably signals death. I try to shut it out. The cat might be chasing a scrap of paper or a ball of silver foil across the bare floorboards downstairs, say a discarded chocolate wrapper courtesy of my wife, who likes providing it with impromptu playthings. I tell myself it isn’t necessarily toying with something living, but my stomach tightens.

What time is it?

I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to have to fumble to find my glasses and look at the clock. I want to go back to sleep, but dawn is cracking through the slatted blinds. I want to ignore what destruction and mutilation might be going on below, but now the cat is in the room, hopping onto the bed and I have the awful feeling, eyes still closed, it might drop a mouse, alive or dead, in the valley between us.

It settles, purring, relaxes, and so do I. For once no ghastly surprises.

Its head nuzzles against my outstretched hand. I feel its small pointed incisors against the soft skin below my little finger. This is my early morning call. I sink back to sleep. My wife is up first as she always is, kettle on before the children wake. I dimly perceive her weight leave the bed, but a minute later her cry from the ground floor cranks me off the pillow. I hurry down in boxer shorts and bare feet asking her what’s the matter, but I already know.

The room is full of feathers—never a good sign. There’s no doubt the cat has been to work, had its fun, prolonged the killing process in the way that millions of years of evolution has engineered it.

“Look!”

“What kind of bird is it?”

She sobs, tightening the belt of her dressing gown. “A beautiful one.”

They are always beautiful to her. Whatever our beloved feline brings in from the garden, whatever dire state they are in, however bloodied or punctured or lifeless, she thinks in some way they warrant saving—I swear, like they are Stuart Little or something. For the last few years we’ve been hoarding plastic soup containers, their sole purpose the catching and liberation of garden kill. My wife makes air holes in the lid with a kitchen knife and drips in water and feeds them bits of granola or Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, even if they’re at death’s door. She knows I think it’s ridiculous the way she insists on caring for the doomed creatures like some Mother Teresa of vermin. There again, I’m not always right. Once we had a field mouse with an eye missing, eviscerated down one side. I walked to the other side of town and emptied it into the river and it swam off happily. This time, though, it’s a bird and still alive, lolloping along the skirting board.

My wife grabs our cat, a haughty and self-satisfied Abyssinian, in her embrace and decants it into the utility room, shutting the 17th Century door and throwing the 17th Century bolt. I return to the living room wrapping a glove of kitchen roll round my hand to see the bird isn’t moving now, not even when I lift it up in cupped hands.

“Monster,” I say under my breath.

Order yours, here.

PS Australia

PSI logoWe had already decided at last week’s meeting . . .

. . . that we would do a bit of a hoo hah this week to promote our Aussie cousin, PS Australia . . . and what better way to start than with a healthy extract from a hugely enthusiastic review of Jack Dann’s epic DREAMING IN THE DARK anthology written by Colin Steele at SF Commentary. Take it away, Colin:


71aef99546cc2f579f3bc3f32342593ddbefc358“The good genre news is that Pete and Nicky Crowther, founders and publishers of the British specialist genre imprint PS Publishing, have begun an Australian publishing operation, PS Australia. Well known author and anthologist Jack Dann is PS Australia’s Managing Director.

The first PS book to appear, DREAMING IN THE DARK, edited by Dann, brings together a number of Australia’s leading science fiction, fantasy and horror authors, whom Dann labels under the catch-all term “Australian fabulists”. It’s a nicely produced hardback with cover and artwork designed by Greg Bridges. An illustrated slipcased edition, signed by the contributors, and limited to 200 copies, is also available.

Dann has assembled an impressive set of names: Venero Armanno, Alan Baxter, James Bradley, Paul Brandon, Simon Brown, Adam Browne, Rjurik Davidson, Terry Dowling, Lisa L. Hannett, Richard Harland, Rosaleen Love, Kirstyn McDermott, Sean McMullen, Jason Nahrung, Garth Nix, Angela Slatter, Anna Tambour, Janeen Webb, Kim Westwood, Kim Wilkins and Sean Williams. All the stories come with postscripts from the authors.

 As ever with anthologies, there is a wide range of stories in style and content and DREAMING IN THE DARK is a collection to be much welcomed and a fine beginning for PS Publishing in Australia.”

Hey, way to go, Colin.

DREAMING IN THE DARK [an anthology edited by Jack Dann]

dreaming-in-the-dark-hardcover-edited-by-jack-dann-4112-p[ekm]298x442[ekm]A celebration of Australia’s current Golden Age of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realism. Jack Dann—the multi-award-winning author and co-editor of the classic Dreaming Down-Under, the anthology that “has been credited with putting Australian writing on the international map” and the first Australian book to win a World Fantasy Award—has collected a wonderfully eclectic range of short fiction that showcases what our best fantasists are doing right now at this genre-bending moment in time.


 

16985966fa90bab8316711dc106fe175c630abc6And way to go, too . . .

. . . for PS Oz’s showing in the Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier speculative Awards—a wonderful recognition of some tremendous work. Here are the PS nominations—11 PS OZ showings in eight categories.

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“A Right Pretty Mate”, Lisa L Hannett (DREAMING IN THE DARK)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“The Red Forest”, Angela Slatter (WINTER CHILDREN)

BEST HORROR NOVELLA

“Served Cold”, Alan Baxter (DREAMING IN THE DARK)

WAKING IN WINTER, Deborah Biancotti

“Burnt Sugar”, Kirstyn McDermott (DREAMING IN THE DARK)

BEST FANTASY NOVELLA

“Burnt Sugar”, Kirstyn McDermott (DREAMING IN THE DARK)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“Trainspotting in Winesburg”, Jack Dann (CONCENTRATION)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA

WAKING IN WINTER, Deborah Biancotti

BEST COLLECTION

CONCENTRATION, Jack Dann

WINTER CHILDREN, Angela Slatter

BEST ANTHOLOGY

DREAMING IN THE DARK, Jack Dann (ed.)

Good luck to all authors mentioned.


CONCENTRATION [a collection by Jack Dann]

aa3204c5531d54ea41677a44c1765612f3259ad1JACK DANN’S groundbreaking anthologies Wandering Stars and More Wandering Stars used the tropes of science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism to ask—and try to answer!—what it means to be a Jew. In his new short-story collection Concentration, Dann enlists the techniques of fabulation to illuminate one of the defining events in human history: the Nazi Holocaust.


WAKING IN WINTER [a fantasy novella by Deborah Biancotti]

eb2c6b159c26a35dd6c9018c8faf2c1a6e409217On a far, frozen desert world, Muir the pilot discovers an ancient artefact in the ice. She sees a mermaid at first, but later comes to wonder if it is Ningyo, a fish god from her homeland in Japan. A god that brings misfortune and storm. A god that—by all means possible—should be returned to the sea. The rest of Base Station Un see something else. Bayoumi the lab rat sees Sekhmet the lioness goddess, daughter of the sun god. Partholon the creep finds in its shape a ‘good, old-fashioned cruxifix’. But all of them want to possess it. All of them want it for themselves.


WINTER CHILDREN & OTHER CHILLING TALES [a horror collection by Angela Slatter]

3e83e46ce810df7fe99390e22022824e12136453Winter Children and Other Chilling Tales collects some of Angela Slatter’s finest horror stories to date. From the Lovecraftian laments of “The Song of Sighs” and “Only the Dead and the Moonstruck” to the uncanny notes of “The October Widow” and the stunning new “The Red Forest”, it’s clear that Slatter is, in the words of Stephen Jones, ‘a powerful and eloquent voice in horror fiction.’ Each tale is a darkly crafted gem.


So that was PS OZ 2016. What about 2017/18?

Well Jack Dann has found us another raft of stars for our schedule, here they are:

  • THE BOOK CLUB, a novella by Alan Baxter
  • ODIN’S GIRL, a novella by Kim Wilkins
  • PHANTOM LIMBS, a story collection by Margo Lanagan
  • A DYNASTY OF DRAGONS, a novella by Janeen Webb
  • UNGENTLE FIRE, a story collection by Sean William
  • THE RAYS SLIP AWAY, a novella by Veny Armanno
  • And Terry Dowling’s complete ‘Rynosseros cycle’

And more on the way but we’ve got to keep a few things under the hat.

“Alan Baxter’s THE BOOK CLUB is nearly ready to go to the printers,” Nicky tells me, “and ODIN’S GIRL by Kim Wilkins is being copy edited as I write this.

“Also hitherto unallocated are possible reprints of Terry Dowling’s acclaimed CLOWNS AT MIDNIGHT (PS, 2010), Will Elliott’s THE PILO FAMILY CIRCUS (2008) alongside Jack ‘The Man’ Dann’s PROMISED LAND (subtitled ‘Stories from another America’) from 2007. And yet didn’t we say we’d calm down the line-up a little?”

Heh, who can remember. But thanks Nicky.

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So what are you waiting for? Check out some of these wonderful titles from way down under!

 

TALES FROM THE MISKATONIC LIBRARY edited by Darrell Schweitzer and John Ashmead.

2341dfdf44cb4af5a5100ada4b36d83f830e6a70Darrell has managed to gather another great bunch of story tellers, plus artist Jeff Potter to complete the package. Here’s John to tell you more:

Triskaidekaphiliacs rejoice, triskaidekaphobes despair—there are exactly thirteen stories. Quite by coincidence! (and nothing to do with the fact that thirteen is my personal lucky number). And you get intros by both Darrell & myself. Quite a range of stories: funny, grim, grimly funny, paradoxical, and terrifyingly straightforward. Our ultimate criteria was that both Darrell and I enjoyed reading them—and hope you will as well.

And here is the line up

  • Don Webb. “Slowly Ticking Time Bomb”
  • Adrian Cole. “Third Movement”
  • Dirk Flinthart. “To be In Ulthar”
  • Harry Turtledove. “Interlibrary Loan”
  • P. D. Cacek. “One Small Chance”
  • Will Murray. “A Trillion Young”
  • A. C. Wise. “The Paradox Collection”
  • Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen. “The Way to a Man’s Heart”
  • Douglas Wynne. “The White Door”
  • Alex Shvartsman. “Recall Notice”
  • James Van Pelt. “The Children’s Collection”
  • Darrell Schweitzer. “Not in the Card Catalogue”
  • Robert M. Price. “The Bonfire of the Blasphemies”

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BEST NEW HORROR #27

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In this latest edition of THE WORLD’S LONGEST-RUNNING ANNUAL SHOWCASE OF HORROR AND DARK FANTASY you will find cutting-edge stories by such authors as Robert Aickman, Storm Constantine, Gemma Files, Neil Gaiman, John Langan, Helen Marshall and Steve Rasnic Tem, amongst many others, along with the usual OVERVIEW OF THE YEAR IN HORROR and NECROLOGY of those who have left us.

 

Here’s the line-up:

  • Introduction: Horror in 2015 — The Editor
  • The Coffin House — ROBERT AICKMAN
  • The Lake — DANIEL MILLS
  • The Barnacle Daughter — RICHARD GAVIN
  • Exposure — HELEN MARSHALL
  • The Larder — NICHOLAS ROYLE
  • The Seventh Wave — LYNDA E. RUCKER
  • Underground Economy — JOHN LANGAN
  • The Drowning City — LOREN RHOADS
  • The Chapel of Infernal Devotion — RON WEIGHELL
  • Alma Mater — KATE FARRELL
  • Hibakusha — L. P. LEE
  • The Offing — CONRAD WILLIAMS
  • Marrowvale — KURT FAWVER
  • Hairwork — GEMMA FILES
  • Black Dog — NEIL GAIMAN
  • In the Earth — STORM CONSTANTINE
  • In the Lovecraft Museum — STEVE RASNIC TEM
  • Necrology: 2015 — Stephen Jones & Kim Newman

Order yours now.

WE ARE THE MARTIANS: THE LEGACY OF NIGEL KNEALE

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WE ARE THE MARTIANS, conceived, compiled and edited by Neil Snowdon, is a multi-contributor celebration of the life and works of the incomparable Nigel Kneale. The book was originally due to appear from Spectral Press but circumstances caused a re-think. Thus it’s now on the PS schedule for early 2017. Here’s the full line-up:

 

 

  • Foreword – Mark Gatiss
  • Introduction – Neil Snowdon
  • King Of Hauntology – Mark Chadbourn
  • The Literary Kneale – Tim Lucas
  • The Quatermass Conception – Stephen Bissette
  • A Conversation With Judith Kerr – Neil Snowdon
  • On Nigel Kneale – Ramsey Campbell
  • The Quatermass Legacy: A Personal Reflection On Kneale And His Influence – David Pirie

Creeping Unknown Pt1:

  • Wuthering Heights, The Crunch, Nineteen Eighty Four – Kim Newman
  • Phenomena Badly Observed, And Wrongly Explained: Quatermass, The Pit, And Me – John Llewellyn Probert
  • Under The Influence – Maura McHugh
  • A Conversation With Joe Dante – Neil Snowdon
  • Brief Encounter – Stephen Laws
  • Adaptation And Anger, Or The Nigel Kneale-John Osbourne Synthesis – Richard Harland Smith
  • ‘The Promised End’ Nigel Kneale’s Lost Masterpiece from 1963: The Road – Jonathan Rigby
  • A Conversation With Mark Gatiss – Neil Snowdon
  • Cool The Audience, Cool The World: Media, Mind Control & The Modern Family – Kier-La Janisse
  • Pushing The Door He Unlocked: Ghostwatch And The Stone Tape – Stephen Volk
  • Beasts: An Overview – Mark Morris
  • It Would Have Been Suckled, You Know’: Beasts And ‘Baby’ An Appreciation – Jeremy Dyson
  • Quatermass: Rebirth & Ressurection – Jez Winship
  • The Quatermass Conclusion: An Interview With Nigel Kneale – David Sutton.

Creeping Unknown Pt2:

  • Kinvig – Kim Newman
  • In Pursuit Of Unhappy Endings: Chris Burt & Herbert Wise on The Woman In Black – Tony Earnshaw
  • Where’s Kneale When You Need Him- Thana Niveau

Creeping Unknown Pt3:

  • Sharpe’s Gold & Kavanagh QC – Kim Newman
  • On Wishing For A Nigel Kneale Childhood – Lynda E. Rucker

Appendix:

  • The Big, Big Giggle with introduction by Nigel Kneale.
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index

The order pages for WE ARE THE MARTIANS, and the next three Midnight Movie Monographs titles, will be up before the end of the month.

Jack Dann’s Psychological Horror, CONCENTRATION.

aa3204c5531d54ea41677a44c1765612f3259ad1Jack Dann’s groundbreaking anthologies WANDERING STARS and MORE WANDERING STARS used the tropes of science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism to ask—and try to answer!—what it means to be a Jew. In this new collection, Jack enlists the techniques of fabulation to illuminate one of the defining events in human history: the Nazi Holocaust. Author and critic Marleen Barr has written that “Dann is a Faulkner and a Márquez for Jews”; and CONCENTRATION is a testament to that claim, for these confronting and thought provoking stories are written from a perspective rarely seen in literature. CONCENTRATION is nothing less than an attempt to describe the indescribable . . . to come to terms with the unthinkable. The Holocaust was so terrible, so far on the edges of comprehension, so surreal, so psychologically cyclonic and horrific in dimension and effect that perhaps it might best be glimpsed through the reflections of metaphor and fantasy.

Dann answers the historian Hayden White’s call to revise our notion of what constitutes realistic representation in order “to take account of experiences that are unique to our century and for which older modes of representation have proven inadequate.”

And given the historical amnesia that seems to characterize our time, a work such as this is also . . . necessary.

And here’s artist Amanda Rainey’s note as to how she came up with the cover idea and design…

My thought process was mostly ruling out a lot of things first. I also didn’t want to risk offending people by using explicit Nazi imagery or anything that might seem like we were making light of the history, or being too glib about it. So I started thinking of a more abstract way of representing the feeling rather than the actual events, and I came up with an infinity symbol made of barbed wire. I think it combines one of the more literal symbols of the concentration camps, and hints at the time travel aspect and the links between past, present and future that Jack’s stories are about.

I then thought that hinting at the Nazi style guide, the solid reds, whites and blacks, but with a softer red, to again hint at the concepts without being too literal with swastikas etc.

The fonts also have historical links. The black letter is obviously suggesting the Nazi style. The other font, Futura, is was part of a set of fonts that were “outlawed” by Hitler, and the designer himself was an anti-Nazi activist. It’s also the font the Americans used for the plaque they left on the moon! So another good symbol of past and future…

Order yours, here.

The Perfect Gifts for Book Lovers

1. DAMAGE by Rosalie Parker

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BUY NOWREAD REVIEWWATCH TRAILER                                                                                                               .

Each of the stories that make up DAMAGE represent a new take on the theme of difference and strangeness in human life. There are elements of traditional horror, fantasy and the supernatural, but also of beauty, humour, compassion and love.

  • In ‘Homecraft’ two children learn to survive in a derelict building;
  • a rock singer deals with her addictions in ‘Siren’;
  • in ‘Selkie: A Scottish Idyll’, the traditional Celtic tale is given a modern twist;
  • the title story follows an asylum-seeker leading a double life;
  • the strange rituals of a group of bird watchers are charted in ‘Boom Bird’;
  • and in ‘Northern Light’ an Icelandic myth unravels in a contemporary setting.

DAMAGE explores the fragility of life and love and how they can sometimes survive against the odds, despite the damage that is done to them.

“Parker is back . . . displaying once again her elegant and perceptive narrative style, but also a high degree of eclecticism in her choice of subjects, atmospheres, and genres.”

2. THE WRACK LINE by Robert Edric

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BUY NOWWATCH TRAILER                                                                                                                                                                                  .

An isolated stretch of the North Sea coast. A place of endless tides and shifting sands. A place of blurred boundaries, where land, sea and sky merge into seamless, unknowable patterns, and where every calm surface conceals its unexpected, turbulent depths.

A man arrives to spend the overheated summer in an abandoned chalet. Adrift in his own faltering life, he slowly embraces the failed and struggling world in which he unexpectedly finds himself, existing in a kind of limbo between an unfulfilled past and an uncertain future, the days and weeks merging into a season of restless abandonment as he allows himself to be drawn into the deceptively powerful currents of the place.

“Clearly drawing from the stories of both M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, THE WRACK LINE examines the disorder, apprehension and, ultimately, the fear which forever lies beneath the calmest and most ordinary of surfaces. It is a tale of lost conviction and squandered expectation, and one in which the briefest glance of a shape in the evaporating mist or a handful of fine, warm sand trickling through trembling fingers is equal to any other horror of the world, dreamed, imagined or real.”

3. THE PARTS WE PLAY by Stephen Volk

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BUY NOWREAD REVIEWWATCH TRAILER                                                                                                                                                                                             .

An illusionist preparing his latest, most audacious trick . . . A movie fan hiding from a totalitarian regime . . . A pop singer created with the perfect ingredients for stardom . . . A folklorist determined to catch a supernatural entity on tape . . . A dead child appearing to her mother in the middle of a supermarket aisle . . . A man who breaks the ultimate taboo—but does that make him a monster? . . .

In this rich and varied collection of Stephen Volk’s best fiction to date, characters seek to be the people they need to be, jostled by hope, fears, responsibility, fate, and their own inner demons—and desires. These tales of the lies and lives we live and the pasts we can’t forget include the British Fantasy Award-winning novella, NEWSPAPER HEART.

“Stephen Volk is gradually earning the label as a master of the British horror short form. If MONSTERS IN THE HEART gave us a glimpse of this excellence, then THE PARTS WE PLAY has blown the screen door wide open…”

4. THE STONES ARE SINGING by R.B. Russell

BUY NOW

BUY NOWREAD REVIEWWATCH TRAILER                                                                                                                                            .

The view from John Dowson’s living room window is a miniature masterpiece. It reveals Venice in decay; crumbling, soft pink brick, and the ever-changing jade waters of a minor canal. But one morning the composition is marred by an old jacket draped carelessly over the iron railings of the balcony. This almost insignificant alteration to the perfect, arranged order of Dowson’s life is just the first of many changes which become more profound as the days pass.

THE STONES ARE SINGING suggests that even the smallest of changes in our world can hint at parallel existences, and the ability, for some to move between alternative realities.

“A remarkable novella . . . Raymond Russell confirms, once again, his extraordinary talent as a perceptive writer of elegant, subtly disquieting fiction.”

5. THE SEARCHING DEAD by Ramsey Campbell

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Dominic Sheldrake has never forgotten his childhood in fifties Liverpool or the talk an old boy of his grammar school gave about the First World War. When his history teacher took the class on a field trip to France it promised to be an adventure, not the first of a series of glimpses of what lay in wait for the world. Soon Dominic would learn that a neighbour was involved in practices far older and darker than spiritualism, and stumble on a secret journal that hinted at the occult nature of the universe. How could he and his friends Roberta and Jim stop what was growing under a church in the midst of the results of the blitz? Dominic used to write tales of their exploits, but what they face now could reduce any adult to less than a child…

Ramsey Campbell recently returned to the Brichester Mythos for his novella THE LAST REVELATION OF GLA’AKI. His new trilogy THE THREE BIRTHS OF DAOLOTH further develops the cosmic horrors he invented in his first published book, THE INHABITANT OF THE LAKE. THE SEARCHING DEAD is the first volume, to be followed by BORN TO THE DARK.

“A novel which looks set to become one third of Campbell’s masterpiece: a trilogy about who he is as a man and what he’s always striven to achieve as an author.”

6. LIMERICKS OF THE ALARMING AND PHANTASMAL by Ramsey Campbell

Ever mischievous, Ramsey Campbell has delighted his fans—and certainly the team here at PS Towers—by regaling them with a staggering ability to limmer (or whatever the verb might be for producing small five-line rhymes designed to amuse and promote groans). Able to create these mini poem-ettes at the drop of a hat (or even a cleaver), it didn’t take much to persuade him to fill an entire book and, furthermore, for us to approach the equally prolific Pete Von Sholly to come up with some illustrations to boot.

 

Let me hope this collection of folly

Leaves the reader less saddened than jolly.

It might well be a mess

If it weren’t for PS

And the equally great Pete Von Sholly.

 As you’ll very soon see when you look,

All the names of the tales have been took.

If not knowing the titles

Should nibble your vitals,

There’s a list at the end of the book.

7. QUIETER PATHS by Alison Littlewood

Take the paths less travelled, to the flooded caves of Mexico, the remote forests of Croatia and the vibrant cities of Morocco. Discover the secrets whispered by a Neolithic stone circle and the ancient tales of Ilkley Moor.

Alison Littlewood’s brand of quiet dark fiction will lead you through lands rooted in myth, legend and mystery. Alison’s short stories have been picked for Best British Horror 2015The Best Horror of the Year and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies.

8. A WIZARD’S HENCHMAN by Matthew Hughes

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BUY NOWREAD REVIEWS                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             .

Erm Kaslo is at the top of his game: a hardboiled confidential operative in the ultra-high-tech civilization of The Ten Thousand Worlds that spans the entire galactic arm known as The Spray. But the universe is about to arbitrarily change its fundamental operating premise from science to magic. Technology will cease to function and all of Kaslo’s hard-won skills and abilities will be useless.

As the change nears, a handful of would-be wizards are jockeying for position in the coming race for supremacy, squabbling over the few ancient books and paraphernalia that survive from the long-forgotten age when magic last ruled the cosmos.  Kaslo goes to work for Diomedo Obron, a wealthy dilettante with more money than common sense who hopes to emerge as a powerful thaumaturge.

But there’s worse to come: an ancient evil has been biding its time for millennia, waiting for the age of science to end. Now, its moment finally arrived, it reaches out from another plane to strike with deadly force. And only Kaslo can stop it—if he can live long enough.

“Hughes has been the best-kept secret in science fiction for too long: he’s a towering talent.”

“If you’re an admirer of the science fantasies of Jack Vance, it’s hard not to feel affection for the Archonate stories of Matthew Hughes.”

9. THE FIENDS OF NIGHTMARIA by Steven Erikson

The king is dead, long live King Bauchelain the First, crowned by the newly en-cassocked Grand Bishop Korbal Broach. Both are, of course, ably assisted in the running of the Kingdom of Farrog by their slowly unravelling manservant, Emancipor Reese.

However, tensions are mounting between Farrog and the neighbouring country of Nightmaria, the mysterious home of the Fiends. Their ambassador, Ophal D’Neeth Flatroq, seeks an audience with King Bauchelain who has thus far rebuffed his overtures. But, the evil necromancer has some other things on his plate.

In order to quell potential rebellion nearly all the artists, poets, and bard wannabes in the city have been put to death, however a few survivors from the Century’s Greatest Artist competition languish in the dungeons bemoaning their fates. Well, just moaning in general really… and maybe plotting escape and revenge. An added complication is that the Indifferent God is loose somewhere in the bowels of the castle.

10. THE SINS OF ANGELS by Keith Miller

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BUY NOWREAD REVIEWS                                                                                        .

When literary and detective agent George Zacharias finds a fallen angel on a Cairo street, his first thought is profit. Zacharias and his sidekick, Tomo, hide the angel as they try to figure out who she is and where she came from. However, they soon find themselves pursued by sinister forces.

Terrified, the two hapless detectives flee with their catch, first to the city’s seedy underbelly, then into the desert, where they take refuge in a hidden monastery. There is no escape from their pursuer, however, for he is Lucien Yaldabaoth, the prince of darkness. As Zacharias slowly pieces together the angel’s story and uncovers Yaldabaoth’s nefarious purposes, he realizes there is more at stake than he had imagined.

“Written in a terse, noir style, the evocative mix of the mundane and the fabulous has a dreamlike quality.”

 

Browse through other titles for more amazing gift ideas on our website.