Black Dogs and Lost Places is no more.
This is a strange blog to write, because for the first time I have little positive news and a fairly hefty piece of sad news. Now, that may please those of you who were getting a bit teeth-grindingly tired of how chirpy I can be, and of how positive and light most of what I write in this blog is, so to you I say: stick with it, here’s your darkness!
So, anyway, this week I took the difficult decision to withdraw my work from Ghostwriter Publications. This was far from a pleasant thing to do, and I spent a long time considering it and my other options and studying my contract before deciding to go ahead, but I honestly felt that I had reached the point where I had little choice. Ghostwriter is a new firm, and it has signed some excellent, talented and nice writers (some of whom I’m happy to be able to call, if not friends exactly then certainly friendly acquaintances who aren’t friends yet simply because I’ve not actually managed to get inside a room with them), but I was struggling more and more with how it was going about doing business. Ultimately, it boiled down to a simple clash of philosophies, with a very clear set of differing priorities developing between us. In the end, I came to the conclusion that our relationship was simply not viable, because I didn’t feel I could work with them effectively, and I’m sure Neil had started to think of me as an ego-driven diva (for the record, I’m not. Well, not much, although I am finally confident enough in the quality of my writing to be clear about what I want and how I expect it to be treated, and clear enough about how I expect people I’m working in partnership with to act). Practically, what this means is that Black Dogs and Lost Places is no more, and the other proposed work (the Strange Gateways mini collection and the possible novel next year) won’t come out either, which is a shame. And I won’t get to use the cover Neil came up with, or have my launch and signing at FCon, but that does mean I can go along to that particular weekend and not worry about anything. So, beer and insanity for the whole 48 hours it is then… Of course, I’m still linked in to Ghostwriter because of my stories in Creature Feature, although Neil tells me he’ll remove them from any new print runs which isn’t particularly what I wanted but is, of course, his right as editor and overall boss of Ghostwriter. I hope to receive my contributor copies of Creature Feature this weekend, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I hope that Ghostwriter sorts itself out, because it would be a huge shame if it didn’t, and I wish the company and especially all the authors still involved it all the best with their future endeavours.
So, now I’m considering my options. I’ve spent so long (just shy of a year – okay, it’s not that long but it’s still quite a chunk of time) considering and working on Black Dogs that it feels very odd to think it no longer exists even in potentia. Its definitely sad, but it’s not entirely bad news. Clearly, I hope that I can interest another company in working with me on a collection and whatever I produce can include some of the more recent stuff that I’ve been doing, but honestly, at this point, I think I’m going to sit back and take a breather for a few days. A lot’s happening for me at the moment (new jobs, rapidly growing children, just life generally) that I’m going to enjoy just writing for writing’s sake again. I’ll concentrate just on enjoying the stories for a bit – after all, its what got me into this game in the first place.
Having said all that, I did manage to complete one story in draft, the long-delayed animals tale that I originally wrote longhand on holiday and which has been lurking in my notebook and daring me to type it up ever since. I had a couple of train journeys this week, so used them to get that particular joy sorted, and the result is pretty good I think – certainly, initial feedback is positive, anyway. It still needs a polish, and I want to add some detail about scorpions and spiders (Wikipedia here I come! fuck accuracy, I like simple user interfaces!) but then it should be ready to unleash it on the big, wide world. Watch this space…
No reviews. Still too lazy and been a bit distracted with sorting the Ghostwriter stuff out. Promise I’ll do some soon. Honest.
Okay, Lords and Ladies, that;s your lot. Go back to whatever you were doing, there’s nothing more to see here…
And we continue apace…
This week, Ghostwriter Publications head honcho Neil J sent me a proposed cover for the collection, Black Dogs and Lost PLaces, which (after some back and forth tinkering) I like very much. It incorporates everything I asked for (nothing too gothic, a doorhandle and lock, creepy overtones without being overtly horrific or too pulp – I’ve said before and stand by the fact that I love pulp writing, but I’m not sure I write pulp so I didn’t want a pulp cover). The end result is, I think you’ll agree, really rather special:
I’m getting all tingly again just looking at it… Spurred on by the arrival of my cover, I also finished proofing the galley, which is now done. Acknowledgements, Barbara Roden’s introduction, the stories themselves and the afterword are all now proofed and in the post back to Neil.
I’d just tlike to point out, if you hadn’t already noticed, that I have a rather lovely blurb by Stephen Volk. BAFTA award-winning Stephen Volk. Ghostwatch and Afterlife author Stephen Volk. How cool is that?
Did I mention it was Stephen Volk? I did. Oh. Never mind. Stephen Volk! Fantastic!
Anyway, work on the collection is progressing nicely, and as I get more news about its appearance, I’ll blog about it here and on facebook (probably at nauseating length, boring everyone senseless, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s my first collection and I’ll bore you about it if I want to).
I’ve been thinking a lot about the writing generally this week. I finished another story (which is either a complete piece of junk or really quite good, I can’t work it out), and I have several plans that I’m going to start work on in the next few months. None of them are specific enough for me to blog about yet, but rest assured when they are, I will! I have decided one thing, however: given that there are currently no specific anthologies for me to write/submit to, so this might be a good time to start work on the long-discussed novel. Ages ago, I submitted the first few chapters of a novel to a mainstream publisher for consideration and although I haven’t heard back from them yet, I reread the chapters and have decided that I like them a lot. So, my decision is to start seriously writing the novel. I’m certainly not stopping writing the short stories – I enjoy them too much to leave them alone, and suspect that they act as something of a safety valve for me, but I’d like to get my teeth into something more substantial now. Of course, if I get requests to submit to specific anthologies, I’ll still do it (partly because I love writing the shorts, but also because being in multi-author anthologies is fun and it’s always nice to be in company!), and I’ll certainly want to put out another collection of stories at some point if I can, but now it’s novel time. Time to imperil the world, I think…
Only other news is that I have someone building a website for me – at last! My friend Andrew has been putting something together and we’ve spent the past week sending photos to each other, discussing colours and fonts and arcane computer progams, searching out copyright free images that we can use, etc. Anyone know a good site for old woodcuts that are copyright free incidentally? I have some but I want more!! We’re hoping to get the site ready to launch in the next few weeks, so watch this space…
Still no reviews. I’m being lazy.
Right, off again. Later, one and all!
It’s been a hell of a year. I found out in August 2008 that The Church on the Island had been nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best short story, and things haven’t stopped since then. I got a publishing company interested in doing a collection of my work (and then more than interested, in that they agreed to do it) I went out to Calgary for the World Fantasy Convention (where i met some excellent people and made friends with some folk whom I’m hoping I’ll know for a long time yet, even if I didn’t win the award), I’ve had 6 stories accepted for publication in different anthologies and I’ve submitted a novel proposal to a major publishing house. So, where does that leave me?
Well, Church on the Island was included in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #19, which is pretty good, and I did my first signing sat next to an author whose work I love, Christopher Fowler (at FCon, if you’re interested). I was on a high for days afterwards!
Creature Feature (as you may or may not be aware, but if you’ve read this blog before you will be aware!) comes out in the next couple of weeks and contains 3 of my stories (Day Ten, Last Option and Peek A Boo), as well as 18 other tales of giant, wild creatures and other pulp delights.
Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales Of Sherlock Holmes, containing my story The Hand Delivered Letter is scheduled to come out in November of this year – this is a particularly gratifying acceptance for me, as it was the first time that I’ve written using someone else’s world and/or characters (in this case, Conan Doyle’s
Sherlock Holmes). It was a huge test for me as a writer, I think, both in terms of how to do it and also, could I do it at all? When you read the story, you’ll see that I’ve not written a ‘traditional’ Holmes story, because I felt I didn’t know the originals well enough to do them justice, but I’m hoping that what iIhave produced doesn’t let the side down.
My story Vernon, Driving is being published in the Ellen Datlow anthology Lovecraft Unbound, due for publication in October.
When I tell you that this was the 4th story I submitted to Ellen for this particular anthology, the first three having been rejected, you’ll maybe have some inkling of how proud I am to have finally made the cut. The other contributors to Lovecraft Unbound are a high-powered and well-regarded bunch, and you might ask yourself the question, what am I doing in there? Keeping my head down! is the answer, and hoping no one notices the interloper…
And, lastly on the anthlogies front, it is my huge pleasure to announce that the Zambia story (Mami Wata) has been accepted for inclusion in the forthcoming Ash Tree Press anthology Exotic Gothic 3. Again, having seen the lineup of other authors involved, you might wonder how the hell I got in there. Me, too, folks, me too! I’m not complaining, though…
As for other works, the collection Black Dogs and Lost Places is still set for a September release (we’ve had confirmation that we can launch at the British Fantasy Convention, so although this isn’t arranged yet, my hope is that this will happen and I’ll see you there!). It contains 10 stories, of which 6 are new and 4 reprints, and advance word via the blurbs I’ve had are simply astounding. Mark Morris has described it as “emotionally devasting” and the work of a “powerful new voice in horror”, Stephen Volk has said the stories are “creepy and impressive”, Lawrence Connolly that it is “the most impressive debut [he’s read] for a long time”, Rob Shearman that the stories are “deceptively amiable, but creepy as hell” and Gary McMahon that I’m a “writer who knows the value of [his] craft”. Jesus! I thought maybe people would like them, but this kind of feedback is simply beyond what I ever expected. It’s enormously gratifying, slightly scary and makes me think that Black Dogs is something I can be very proud of and that people may actually like it. We’ll see…
Strange Gateways, the mini collection (5 new stories) I’ve decided to put back until December, to give me chance to concentrate on Black Dogs, but it will definitely come out, and will be a limited edition of 100 numbered, signed paperbacks. It’ll probably be available for pre-order from about August. In addition to this, Ghostwriter Publications have also released two chapbooks by me, Button and Marley’s Haunting, both of which will also be available as audios soon and will also be included in an audio collection due later in the year. There may also be audios of Strange Gateways and Black Dogs, if you’re very lucky!
The novel I don’t know about yet. I’m still waiting…
It’s not been a year without it’s downsides (although, if I’m honest, not many) – I’ve been rejected from a few anthologies that I wanted to get into, and one major piece of work seems to have fallen through (or at least, gone very quiet), which is a shame. My personal circumstances have changed which might affect the writing in the future if I’m not careful – having to get a proper job is never pleasant, but the one I got is excellent and will still hopefully leave me time to write each week. Mostly, though, this year has been incredibly successful. As well as the writing, I’ve set up this blog and have managed to update it regularly, I’ve got a presence on facebook (fun) and twitter (sorta pointless as far as I can see!) and have purchased the domain name www.simonkurtunsworth.com – I’ll set the site itself up during the coming months. So, I’ve been efficient, written a huge amount, and am starting to feel like a real author now (whatever one of those buggers is!). But you know the most important thing?
I’m having fun. No more, no less, this is the most fun I’ve had for ages, and I hope to carry on like this for the forseeable future!
See you after the holiday, when I shall be refreshed, relaxed and full of new ideas. I hope…
A quiet week, all told. Most of the time, I’ve been tied up with non-writing stuff, so that main focus has been getting the Zambia story sorted. The original draft (once again expertly critiqued by the messers Duffy, Thorley, Worgan, et al) was submitted to Danel Olsen, who seemed to like it but had suggestions to make to improve it. Danel is a great editor, who makes really tight, smart comments about the text and explains why he’s making them (and, perhaps even more importantly, wasn’t pissy when I camended his comments to something I liked better or ignored them completely), so we spent a few days batting around various drafts before we came to an agreement on the absolute last, final verion of the tale that we both liked. It’s been fun, watching my story evolve further than I thought it would. Along the way, the name of the story has changed (from Copperbelt to Mami Wata) and it’s tightened up a good deal. Mami Wata is now a really good story, I think, and although I’m still not sure if it’s made it into Exotic Gothic 3, I’m really rather proud of it.
I also wrote a piece of flash fiction this week for a competition – a 500 word story. Now, any of you who’ve read my stuff will know that 500 words isn’t usually enough for me to get out of the starting blocks, because I am a windy bugger, but I did manage it. Honest. It probably helped that I only found out about the competition a day before the closing date, so I didn’t have time to worry – just blasted the piece out on a train to London, and editing on the train back 4 hours later. It’s been submitted, but I haven’t heard back yet, but even if it doesn’t place (a distinct possibility!), it was fun to do and I might be able to expand the it later. The two characters I created, Cheshire and Poe, have started something sparking in my brain and I might try to flesh out them and their universe at some point. They join an ever-growing group of demons and nightmares that I’m gathering together ( take a bow, Mr Kobe and Mr Twomouth!) who are standing in the wings. Dunno what I’ll do with them yet, but their time is coming…
Not much else to tell, really. I’ve been editing the stories for Strange Gateways, which continues to develop nicely – more news as I get it. Got some more really good advance feedback on the stories in Black Dogs and Lost Places from World Fantasy Award-winning (and Doctor Who scriptwriter) Rob Shearman and the excellent horror author Mark Morris, so that was really positive. I’m really beginning to think that Black Dogs might be a critical (and hopefully commercial!) success. I’ve also had it confirmed that we can launch it at the British Fantasy Convention in September, so if all goes to plan I’ll do some kind of launch/signing there – the weekend of the 19th – 21st September, folks! Put it in your diary…
Oh, yeah, don’t forget, Creature Feature is out on Monday and should ship from Ghostwriter this week some time. 21 tales of creature both large and small, but all ( I would imagine!) deeply vicious. Includes three of my tales, so worth a look in anyone’s book. If you still aren’t convinced, I’d urge you to watch the excellent trailer on youtube (where you can also find trailers for other Ghostwriter Publications forthcoming releases, including my own Black Dogs and Lost Places collection, due September 2009. Did I mention that already? Did I?).
Okay, that’s enough. Don’t want to overload you.
I finally finished the story for submission to Charles Prepolec’s Gaslight Grotesque anthology. At the moment it’s in draft, but the feedback from the critical circle has been pretty good (better than anticipated) so I’m hopeful that Charles (and Jeff Campbell, the other editor and also a thoroughly nice fellow) will like it. The feedback has picked up on one or two things that need fixing with the story (nothing major), so the plan is to make the fixes this week and submit it by Friday if not earlier. Fingers crossed…
The other writing this week has been the story for submission to Danel Olsen’s Exotic Gothic III – a gothic story but not set in the traditional home of the gothic (the UK, Germany, Italy, France – basically western Europe!). I’ve been struggling with this for some time, trying to find a central peg to hang the story on. I knew what I wanted to do, sort of, but not quite how to do it, so this week I did a fun thing: I freewheeled through google. A while ago, I found a small document online about Zambian myths and cultures (I’m setting the story in Zambia for no reason other than an old family friend lives there and it’s certainly exotic in Gothic terms and i wanted to write a completely sunlit horror story )so I used one Zambian word from it to search and read what came up, took one Zambian term from one of the search results and searched for that, etc, and disappeared into Google’s merry depths. I ended up with an academic paper about a particular myth, a travel blog about a sort of beer made from corn and a weird little ‘my God’s better than your God’ blog by a kid in Africa, and somewhere in the middle of that, the story appeared. It’s not fully formed yet, but I have an opening couple of sentences that seem to work, an idea of where it’s going and a series of what feel to me like good, creepy images to incorporate. It’s working title is Copperbelt and I hope to have it written in draft during next week. Then it’s off to the critical circle and the nervous ‘awaiting comments’ period. I need it done in final version and submitted by June 20th, so I’ve left this one a bit late. Oops…
Final news this week: the full contents for Creature Feature have been released! The list is an exciting one, especially for me as three stories of mine are in there!
Guy N Smith – The Fish Thing
Guy N Smith – The Beast in the Mist
William Meikle – Rickmans’ Plasma
William Meikle – Stingers
Simon Kurt Unsworth – Day Ten
Simon Kurt Unsworth – Last Option
Simon Kurt Unsworth – Peek-a-Boo
Maxwell Dowie – Late Shift
Ian Faulkner – Sun
Barry J. House – Opening Night
David Jeffery – It Lives In Dark Places
Steve Jensen – The Devil Of Mons
Rakie Keig – The Moths That Ate New Jersey
Steven Lockley – The Flies
Kevin Lumley – Le Carcajou
Peter Mark May – Wookey Hole
David McAfee – Lakeside
Robert Morrish – Each Step I Take Is In Darkness
Stuart Neild – Old Slippery
Daniel I. Russell – Belvedere
Brooke Vaughn – Creeper
Details of how to order, cost, etc, can be found by following the link to the Ghostwriter Blog in the blogroll at the side of this page.
My other Ghostwriter projects are progressing well. Black Dogs and Lost Places is pretty much in the bag. Barbara R is nearly through reading the stories and tells me she’s enjoying them so far (thank God!), so the intro is on its way. I need to chase the outstanding blurbs, but that’s no hassle really. The mini, limited collection, Strange Gateways, is on track as well. I have to do final edits on the stories and order them, but that should be easy enough and will only take a day or two. It’s definitely looking like a July release, and it will be a numbered paperback limited to 100 copies. Start saving those pennies now…
Reviews: The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom. Oh. Dear. Me. Not a bad book, exactly, but not good. It’s one of those iritating books that presents itself as a haunted house book, but then never really commits to the supernatural and bounces around the ‘is it maybe the main character’s madness’ motif as a story driver. It’s mostly well written, although the characterisation is poor and the characters mostly unbelievable, and the ending veers dangerously close to cliche. One to get out of the library, but not to buy.
I also watched the older movie The Woman in Black, based on the book by Susan Hill and written for the screen by Nigel Kneale (of Quatermass fame). This is a great movie, both creepy and upsetting, and it’s an object lesson in how to make creepy imagery without a massive budget or special effects. The sight of the woman in the abandoned graveyard will send shivers down your spine! Copies still turn up on ebay, so I’d urge you to track one down if you can.
Okay, there’s writing to be done and tasks to be completed. Until next week, Lords and Ladies, goodbye.
Good week bad week.
I had two rejections this week, both from the same anthology. Damn. The reasons for the rejections were, on first sight, slightly odd: that my stories were good but ‘too commercial’ and that the horror in my stories was ‘too overt’. Surely commercial is good? Well, no, in this case, it’s not! When I look at the other anthologies that the press have produced, the comments makes sense (and it’s reassuring that, despite not wanting them, the editor thought my stories were good and competently written) – there’s a subtlety to the stories in earlier anthologies and a strangeness that I haven’t quite mastered yet. I need, for this anthology, to let go of some of my more ‘concrete’ notions and try to think about those more delicate, less horrific incidents in life that are, nonetheless, creepy or in some way disturbing. And then I need to write about them… I’m hopful that I’ll be able to pull something together before the closing date that the editor will like. It’ll be a challenge to create something more emphemeral, so clearly I need to put my subtle head on…
Better news: I have another story in Creature Feature! That’s makes three stories, which I’m very excited about. I’m not going to say much about the content of the stories, as I don’t want to give anything away, except to say that the third story is currently labouring under the title In the Kitchen, Hiding and that I’m enormously proud of the creature I created and I really, really wouldn’t want to meet it in a dark alleyway. Or in a well-lit street. Or, indeed, anywhere. The anthology is shaping up to be a really good one, with stories in from a range of excellent authors, so I’m looking forward to reading it. June the 1st is release day, and it’s only weeks away. Hurrah!
My other writing news is also pretty exciting: I’m still finalising the details, but it looks like there’s going to be a very limited edition mini-collection of my stories coming out in June or July. The collection will be another Ghostwriter Publications release (I’m getting on well with Ghostwriter – can you tell?). It’ll be hardback and slipcased, contain 5 new stories and its working title is Strange Gateways. Neil J and I are still discussing it to agree the final look, content, etc, but the likely ToC is:
- Where Cats Go
- The Station Waiting Room
- A Meeting of Gemmologists
- The Drunks’ Totem
- A Different Morecambe
This is a really cool development as far as I’m concerned – the stories in it are ones I’m proud of but that didn’t quite fit into Black Dogs and Lost Places so knowing they’ve found a good home is really gratifying. It does mean I only have one ‘unplaced’ story, Stevie’s Duck – a weird little thing about suburban nightmares and a giant duck. I may put it into Stange Gateways yet, as it’s a story I’m really very attached to that’s a bit different from my normal stuff. I’m sure I’ll find a home for it soon, so don’t feel too sorry for it! I feel a little naked with a stash of stories to draw on, though, so I need to write some more to get my reserves back up soon. More news as I get it…
Reviews: Putting the Pieces in Places by Ray Russell. Now I’ll admit a little amount of bias, as Ray is a friend of mine, but this 5 story collection from the Ex Occidente Press is an excellent read. Ray’s stories are far, far subtler and more delicate than mine, often refusing to some to any hard and fast conclusions and making the reader work for their conlusions. Are there any supernatural experiences going on here? Maybe, but you’ll need to think hard about what they are and what they mean. Are there ghosts? Possibly. Are there flawed and confused human beings, struggling to make sense of a world that’s shifting around them? Oh, yeah! The stories are uniformly excellently written, and this beautifully bound and presented book is a definite recommendation. Enjoy.
Haven’t quite finished Garbage Man yet, although I’m not far off and I’m definitely enjoying it so far. I did read Guy N Smith’s Bats Out of Hell which was fun but not his best, and I watched … nothing. No films or TV at all this week.
More later, folks. Life calls.
I was going to leave the pulp thing alone – last week felt like quite long enough on that subject. I got some responses agreeing with me, some that disagreed, and I decided that enough was enough. NO! more opinion pieces, NO! more rants about books I ought not to like but do, NO! more defending fiction that’s big enough and ugly enough to take care of itself.
And then Neil J mentioned one I’d forgotten
Now, I’ll be honest – I have always been and will always be a sucker for two types of story: aquatic monsters and antarctic terrors. If something swims and splashes and eats people, I tend to like it, or if it hangs around somewhere really cold and generally scares the balls off people, then that’s cool (no pun intended). Incidentally, I have precisely one speciifc aim in my writing life: I am going to write one really really good water monster story, and one really really good antarctic monster story ( I realise that reads like two aims, but it’s not, it’s one – they’re wrapped up together into one bundle for me. Look, it’s my aim, stop complaining). Watch me. Anyway, the purpose of this little wander is to set my stall out: I have no idea why I like this book so much, but I do. It plays to one of my two major enjoyment criteria, it’s fast, it’s visceral and it (to use cliches for a moment) takes no prisoners. I read it as a kid, loved it and have reread it on several occasions since and you know what? It’s still great. The book?
David James’ Croc: genius. Crocodile in the sewers eats people (thereby exploiting an urban myth for that well, it could happen. possibly feel). It escapes and eats people. People, understandably irritable, fight back. Who wins? Give you one guess! Well written, engagingly dumb and you know what? Just brilliant. Go and find it in a second hand shop near you and love it. Pulp at its very, very best.
What else? Oh, yeah – writing. No news on the novel yet. Keep watchin’ this space, ‘cos I am. During the last week, I’ve finished (I hope) editing all but one of the stories for the collection. The one left to do is the genuine ghost story, but I hope that I’ll have that one done by the end of the week. Then the collection is complete besides the intro, story notes, story order…oh God, there’s loads to do! One positive thing, however, is that the foreword is coming together. My original choice of foreword author unfortunately fell through, so I took a flyer and asked someone that I was sure wouldn’t agree in a million years…and she surprised me and said yes! I’m incredibly pleased (and proud) to announce that Barbara Roden is doing my foreword.
Yep, that’s right. Barbara Roden. The World Fantasy Award-winning editor/co-owner of the AshTree Press (who first published me in print, incidentally: smart woman!) and World Fantasy Award-nominated author whose short stories are seriously brilliant. She has a collection of her own called Northwest Passages coming out in September 2009, and you can trust that I’m in line for a copy. Barbara has agreed to do my foreword, which is massively cool news. This whole collection thing is shaping up to be a good deal all round really…
The other nice thing this week was I did my first interview (sort of) for the Ghostwriter blog site. I’ve done some local press before, but that was mainly a photo of me looking gormless in front of the Priory Church of St Mary in Lancaster (my fault: they wanted somewhere to take a photo of me and I jokingly said, well the Priory’s spooky, and I write horror stories, not thinking they’d take me seriously). The interview’s only short, but it was fun to do and can be read here: http://ghostwriterpublications.wordpress.com/focus/
Not much else to report, really. No reviews (apart from the Croc stuff earlier, obviously!) because, basically, I’ve been crap at reading and watching stuff. Caught the new Red Dwarf, which is nearly as good as the Dwarf gets but not quite. If you see what i mean. I’ve been reading Mike Carey’s Thicker Than Water, the fourth Felix Castor novel, which is brilliant. Not, maybe, quite as good as the first three, but still brilliant. Of course, I’m only two thirds of the way through, so everything could go to shit yet. Hope not….
Oh well, back to the writing.
I”ve been tying up some loose ends this last week, so the first thing I did was submit the final draft of the Creature Feature story (called, by the way, Implementing the Least Desirable Solution) and was pleased to hear back from the editor that it was ‘perfect’ (his word, not mine!) and needs no more work. Hurrah! Editor Neil also sent me a photo of one of the promotional items he’s producing for Creature Feature: genius!
I also finished the novel chapters and sent them off. I’m really pleased with them, and think that they’re amongst the best things I’ve written, but I have no idea whether the publisher will like them. No more about this for now – don’t want to jinx it! More news if and when I get it.
No reviews this week because I’ve not had time to actually finish reading or watching anything, but a mild rant: pulp fiction! This week, one thing I did do was buy about 20 Guy N Smith books from the local charity shop. Now, I actually bought them for a friend of mine who collects GNS although there are a couple I’m going to read before I pass them on, but from the reaction I’ve had from a couple of people when I mention this, you’d have thought I’d been buying kiddie porn! It started me thinking about the difference between ‘literary’ fiction and pulp, and whether those differences are actually real or invented. There seems to be an assumption that ‘literary’ fiction (horror or otherwise) has more value than pulp, and I\’m not convinced that’s true. For sure, GNS and his contemporaries didn’t spend a great deal of time on in-depth characterisation, and their female characters often leave something to be desired (mainly, actually having a character rather than being sex objects), but their plots are tight and their books are never less than fun. I also suspect that, for people of my generation, our introduction to horror fiction was via King, Herbert and then people like GNS, Richard Lewis (who wrote the truly bad but enormously good fun Spiders and, I think, a couple of books about scorpions attacking the Home Counties), Shaun Hutson. All of them write pulp at some level or other, and I certainly read them before I moved on to James and Lovecraft and Stoker and Shelley and all the other ‘proper’ fiction (both horror and non-horror) that I enjoy . In fact, I went on to those authors and a host of others because of the pulp I was reading – I wanted to know what else was being or had been written in a type of fiction i was coming to love. Can i write pulp? No, not really. I’m too long-winded, and my heart sits firmly in the camp of the classic ghost story, but I still love to read it and I bet most of my contemporaries still have a dirty little secret stash of it in their psyche. In fact, I’m prepared to make a small bet: if you’re around my age (37) and from the UK, you’ll likely have come to your love of horror via pulp writers: for me, it was a battered copy of King’s Carrie that started the ball rolling, read in my grandparents top room over a series of Sunday afternoons. What was yours? That copy of Night of the Crabs being passed around school? A library copy of Spiders or Scorpions or Web, found buried on the stack? I’ll go a step further – no matter what sort of book you love these days (and I certainly prefer my horror subtle and delicate and about emotions as much as bodily violence), at some point you’ll have read a GNS novel or equivalent,and know what? You’ll have enjoyed it! Yes you did! They might not have changed your world view or offered any new philosophical position for you to mull on (although, let’s face it, reading about the destruction of Birmingham in GNS’s Thirst was alway a joy) but they were fun. If you reread them now, they aren’t always great (although, again, GNS\’s crab novels are still fun, and always have the best covers – how can you resist a series of books whose covers all were variation on the theme of giant crab, its mouth bloody, stand on a broken No Fishing sign whilst waving a triumphant claw aloft and looking generally evil?), but they do their job. Fast, aggressive and fun, they offer simple, undiluted entertainment, and that’s surely the point above all else? And it’s worth remembering that most ‘literary’ authors who step into horror (or decide to use some element of horror fiction, most ghost stories) fail because they don’t understand the fundamental rule: horror stories should, if nothing else, be scary/creepy/affecting, and make you look differently at the darkness/water/abandoned house just down the road. Perhaps they should leave it to the experts? So, I say, embrace the pulp within you! Love your GNS? Remember your Lewis with fond affection despite its many faults? Think Hutson’s Slugs is a thing of beauty? Sing it out, friend, loud and proud! You are not alone!
Oh well. That’s it for another week. I’ll have reviews next week, and maybe more writing news.