Hot on the heels of the Interzone cover (art by Jim Burns), here is the incredible interior artwork for my contribution, THE MACHINEHOUSE WORKER’S SONG. The artist is Wayne Haag, whose film credits include: THE LORD OF THE RINGS; THE FIFTH ELEMENT; SUPERMAN RETURNS; and the forthcoming THE WOLVERINE. He also worked on the science fiction television series, FARSCAPE. Wayne has created two oil paintings for the May/June issue of Interzone, the first of which you can see below. If you click on the image, not only will you be able to enjoy the painting in more detail, but you should be able to read the opening of my story. Copies can be purchased from TTA Press.
Here’s the cover of issue #246 of the UK’s leading science fiction magazine, INTERZONE. Out next month from TTA Press, it features stories from Aliette de Bodard, Georgina Bruce, Priya Sharma, Jess Hyslop, Nigel Brown, Lavie Tidhar, and yes, me (a 6,300 word tale, THE MACHINEHOUSE WORKER’S SONG). The cover painting was created by Jim Burns.
Yesterday, I delved a little into the process by which new ideas arrive. I described my latest idea as WATERSHIP DOWN meets POST OFFICE meets…something else. Well, after waking up with toothache (not for the first time) this morning at 5am, I lay in bed and watched the story slowly unfold in my mind. It wasn’t quite like a movie as you see it in the theatre, more like the disjointed footage seen only by a film’s editor, but I began to form an impression of where the story wanted to go. The “something else” or missing ingredient, I discovered, was “post apocalyptic story.” In high concept terms, that’s THE STAND or such like. Once I had this aspect of the tale, the plot began to spool through my mind until I had no chance of ever getting back to sleep. So, I staggered downstairs and fired up the laptop. Fifteen hundred words later, I have the blueprint for my next story, THE SOUND OF CONSTANT THUNDER.
It is the kind of story idea that excites me, the kind that arrives as a gift. It is almost as if it wants to be written. It’s preternatural, but at the same time completely natural. It’s a beautiful thing.
All there is for me to do now is write the words, put them in the correct order, and pray I don’t f#ck it up.
Since my return to writing short fiction last year (following a three year hiatus in which I finished my novel), I have found the process of getting new ideas spookily consistent. An idea invariably comes to me either while I am writing the current story or right after its completion. I’m not one of these writers who walks around with a thousand of them jostling for attention inside my head. Yes, I have other ideas, usually in note form and stockpiled in a box somewhere, but recently they’ve all arrived at precisely the right time. Which is: Just When I Need Them.
Take the new one, for example.
At the time of writing this blog post, it is shaping up as WATERSHIP DOWN meets POST OFFICE meets…something else. The inspiration struck on Saturday, while my wife and I were out walking in Salisbury. When we crossed a bridge over the river Avon, I saw below us, on the river bank, a number of (what I assumed were) rabbit holes. I stopped. I took it in. I walked on. During the next few hours, I thought about the road traffic noise and what it must be like for those rabbits in their holes, how it must drive them insane sometimes. Right there. The spark. And all going well, THE SOUND OF CONSTANT THUNDER should end up being my next project. The bones need a little meat still, but that should come, if the pattern continues, while I am putting the finishing touches to my current project, a love story with a dark, supernatural twist called MEN PLAYING GHOSTS, PLAYING GODS.
I know. I probably shouldn’t question or analyse inspiration and the origin of ideas, but after many years of writing, the process – if it can be called that and not simply good fortune – still amazes me.
After the recent passing of two prominent figures in horror literature, I thought the best tribute I could make was to sit down and read some of their work. I have only read a couple of James Herbert’s novels in my lifetime, I am ashamed to admit – The Magic Cottage and The Rats – so I chose as my starting point the follow-up to the latter: Lair. After a slow but never dull opening, the action and horror is classic Herbert. Herbert wasn’t the best writer, but he was an expert in those scenes that matter, the scenes that punch and bite. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, his ‘Rats’ trilogy is as good a place as any to start.
Before Rick Hautala’s death, I was unfamiliar with his work (actually, I had read and enjoyed his story Goblin Boy in Cemetery Dance #64 but did not connect it to him until after his death). I took advantage of an offer to download (for free) his Best Of short-story collection, Glimpses. Although the first story did not connect with me at all, those proceeding it have shown me Rick was indeed a skilful and economic writer of dark and unusual prose. I haven’t finished reading the stories yet; I am dipping in and out, savouring each one. But I’m pretty sure this won’t be the end of my Hautala experience…
Unlike many of the tribute blog posts I have read, I cannot claim to have extensive knowledge of either man’s catalogue, but I believe it is never too late to start on a journey. After all, that’s what legacies are made of. And besides, what better tribute is there to men of words than to read the words they lived for?
This week, the publishers of Shock Totem are giving away the first 5 issues for FREE. Starting today with #1, you can download each issue direct from Amazon. If you’re into horror fiction, either as a reader or writer, or simply enjoy Kindle freebies (all three apply to me) then check out this excellent offer.