Tag Archives: Carole Johnstone

Halloween Reads

One great thing about visiting the dealers’ room at British Fantasy Con (FCon) is that it reminds me how passionate people are who dedicate their time and energy to the small press and how much people still love the printed page.

I’m proud to have had work in TTA Press–  I love it because there’s nothing quite like it publishing short genre fiction in the UK.  Andy Cox, the editor, has an eclectic eye for work and high production values. Interzone, Black Static and Crime Wave win awards, as do the stories that Andy chooses.

As a horror fan, Black Static has contained some amazing stories that have stayed with me, such as “White Rabbit” by Georgina Bruce (British Fantasy Award Winner in the short story category) , “Shark! Shark!” by Ray Cluley (BFA Winner short story) , “When the Moon Man Knocks” by Cate Gardner  (BFA nominated), “Sunshine” by Nina Allan (BFA nominated), “Lullaby” by Steve Rasnic Tem, “Prespective” by Steve. J. Dines,  just to name a few.  It features work by a plethora of talent like Simon Bestwick, Stephen Bacon, Stephen Hardagon, Laura Mauro, Damien Angelica Walters, Kristi Demeester, Helen Marshall, Andrew Hook, Ralph Robert Moore, Gary McMahon, Stephen Graham Jones…

Black Static Issue 60The 60th issue is now out and contains excellent work by Ray Cluley, Stephen Hargadon and Tim Lees.  It also contains the tremendous “Skyshine (or Death by Scotland)” by Carole Johnstone. I become a fangirl after reading her BFA winning story “Signs of the Times”, which was also first published in Black Static. There was a real buzz around “Skyshine” at the conference and I read it when I got home. It’s early to start talking about next year’s awards but I think it would be criminal if this wasn’t nominated. It’s inventive, clever and wry. Oh, and new subscribers can get Issue 60 free by using “B60 FREE” as their Shopper Reference during the checkout.

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I read “The Beauty” by Aliya Whiteley, published by Unsung Stories last year. It was a stunning bit of work about men in a post-woman society, that manages to be both body horror and an exploration of gender roles. I wanted to buy everything on the stand at FCon. In fact, I was deeply put out to find Malcom Devlin’s debut collection, “You Will Grow Into Them”, was sold out by the time I got there. It’s already garnering praise – see James Lovegrove’s review in the Financial Times, no less.

Did I also mention their books are also extremely handsome?

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Daniele Serra won a British Fantasy Award this year for his artwork. I came home with a copy of “Five Feathered Tales” by Alison Littlewood, which Daniele illustrated. It truly is a thing of beauty and Alison’s stories are delicate and dark. Incidentally, I also bought her new novel “The Crow Garden” after I enjoyed “The Hidden People”.

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Black Shuck Books is a relatively new venture from Steve Shaw that launched an HB-Cover-400anthology at FCon called “The Dark Satanic Mills”. It’s the second in his annual collection showcasing British writers (plus an international one), containing original work by Cate Gardner, Charlotte Bond, Paul Finch, Andrew Freudenberg, Gary Fry, Carole Johnstone, Penny Jones, Gary McMahon, Marie O’Regan, John Llewellyn Probert and Angela Slatter. Steve also launched John Lllewellyn Probert’s collection “Made for the Dark”.

Black Shuck’s catalogue is interesting. I’m thinking of Black Shuck Shadows, micro-collections by Thana Niveau, Paul Kane and Joseph D’Lacey.  “A Suggestion of Ghosts: Supernatural Fiction by Women 1826-1897”   is curated by the very knowledgeable Johnny Mains, who has scoured periodicals, archives and collections for work that hasn’t been republished since it was first released.

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Another launch that I attended was Titan Books’ New Fears, edited by Mark Morris. It’s a stellar line-up with writers like Ramsey Campbell, Nina Allan, Conrad Williams, A.K. Benedict, Alison Littlewood and Stephen Laws, to name a few.

For an alternative Halloween read, I’d suggest Simon Bestwick’s “The Feast of All Souls”, which pulls off the trick of being a haunted house story, a Victorian gothic novel, flirts with quantum physics and is a study of loss. Another recommendation would be Laura Mauro’s novella “Naming the Bones”. I’ve watched her career with interest as she’s a fine writer.

While at FCon I saw James Everington read from his novel “The Quarantined City”, in which the protagonist’s search for an author takes him deep into the man’s short stories. James Everington’s fiction is quiet and unsettling, having drawn very favorable attention from The Guardian reviewer Eric Brown. I have to mention Kit Power at this point too, who has a very different (set of) voices, all of them convincing, and who is the only person at the convention who could carry off a reading with a hammer in his hand. His collection will be out next year.

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“The Doll’s Alphabet” by Camilla Grudova is a truly weird collection, repeating motifs
and ideas. Even the stories that non-plussed me left me pondering their meaning long afterwards. Her dystopic short story “Waxy” was nominated in the short story category of the BFAs this year and was a strong contender. Read The Guardian review which draws comparison with Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood and David Lynch.
I’m going to sneak in a mainstream author here. I’m a big fan of Sarah Hall.  Her new collection “Madame Zero” is pure genre. It contains “Mrs Fox” which won the BBC National Short Story Award, in which a woman is tranformed by pregnancy into a vixen. Elsewhere she explores a wind drenched world, the liberation of sexual appetites and an era where a change in antenatal priorties mean to chose a woman’s life over that of her unborn child is illegal.
She’s been twice nominated for the Booker prize and this book reveals the poet at her heart in the concise beauty of her writing.
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Last but not least is Undertow Publications, a Canadian venture run by Mike Kelly. It’s fast gained an excellent reputation for its Year’s Best Weird Fiction and Shadows and Tall Trees, as well as its single author collections, being nominated for Shirley Jackson Awards, World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Awards.
Mike Kelly is releasing the range in both hardback (below) and paperback.
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I think they’re good looking books too, with as much style as substance. Does that mean I’m shallow?

 

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British Fantasy Awards 2014

I’ve waxed lyrical about Carole Johnstone’s work before but I’m tremendously pleased that “Signs of the Times”, which appeared in Issue 33 of Black Static, won the British Fantasy Award 2014 short story category. It’s a fabulous, affecting story.

A massive congratulations to Carole and all the other winners who were announced on Sunday, 7 September 2014, at the awards banquet at FantasyCon 2014 in York:

Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer Press)

Best horror novel (the August Derleth Award): The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes (HarperCollins)

Best novella: Beauty, Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)

Best short story: Signs of the Times, Carole Johnstone (Black Static #33)

Best anthology: End of the Road, Jonathan Oliver (ed.) (Solaris)

Best collection: Monsters in the Heart, Stephen Volk (Gray Friar Press)

Best small press: The Alchemy Press (Peter Coleborn)

Best comic/graphic novel: Demeter, Becky Cloonan

Best artist: Joey Hi-Fi

Best non-fiction: Speculative Fiction 2012, Justin Landon and Jared Shurin (eds) (Jurassic London)

Best magazine/periodical: Clarkesworld, Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker (ed.) (Wyrm Publishing)

Best film/television episode: Game of Thrones: The Rains of Castamere, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

Best newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award): Ann Leckie, for Ancillary Justice (Orbit)

The British Fantasy Society Special Award (The Karl Edward Wagner Award): Farah Mendlesohn

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Three things I don’t write about (and three things I do)

I’ve been tagged by the marvellous Carole Johnstone for this blog hop. Carole has been nominated for a British Fantasy Award for her fantastic short story, “Signs of the Times”. TTA have recently published her latest novella, “Cold Turkey”.

So, what don’t I write about?

I know I’m playing fast and loose with the question here but I don’t/can’t write humour (but I wish I did). I love a bit of gallows humour. “Shark! Shark!” by Ray Cluley made me laugh out loud, as did Carole Johstone’s “Cold Turkey”. It’s a skill to be able to grant the reader that relief from the darkness and it acts as a great counterpoint.

There are comic actors that are so good at their craft that they can elevate their part beyond caricature.  They switch from comedy to pathos seamlessly. They’re the whole package and I feel that way about authors that can walk that line.

Again, this may seem like a fudge, but I can’t/don’t write poetry  (but wish that I did). I don’t even understand most poetry but the bits that I do get blow my mind. I envy the ability to write succinctly and distill an image/emotion into a single line. I know authors do this to some extent but to have a real grasp of the rhythm of words and real economy would make me a better writer. In “Zen and the Art of Writing”, Ray Bradbury said that all poetry is compacted metaphor or simile and that every writer should read poetry. Even if they don’t get it, their synapses will. I like that.

Here’s the reason it may seem that I’ve been evasive in my answers. In a world of protocols, guidelines, directives and deadlines, writing is my freedom. I like the idea that eveything is on the table. I don’t have to censor myself. I’m happy to tackle tropes when they can help me express what I need to say- “Sweetpea” (a vampire story about child abuse), “Fishskins” (a mermaid story about marital love) and “The Fox Maiden” (a shape shifter story about the suppressed self). I haven’t got anything against zombies, but I’ve yet to think of an original take on or use for them.

And what do I write about?

This is going to sound banal, but I’ m a simple creature and want to keep this simple. If it doesn’t move me, then I can’t write about it. If it doesn’t press my buttons, if I’m not in love with it or disturbed by it, then it doesn’t work. Writing is free therapy. People who know me well know what bits of my work are real, albeit in a veiled form. I need a bit of my own truth on which to build my fiction. In short, I write about my inner freak. Or at least from my inner freak.

I got to the end of my latest story, “The Rising Tide”, and realised that I’d called my protagonist Cariad. It’s Welsh for darling. Priya is Hindi for darling. And Freud says there are no accidents.

Many of my stories are set firmly in the present, but I’m partial to a bit of historical fantasy/alternative history/mythology. I enjoy researching for a new story and then skewing what I’ve learnt for my own needs. It’s the escapist in me. I can play dress up in my head and go anywhere in my personal time machine.

I hope that relationships are at the heart of everything that I write. Bewildering, messy, difficult relationships. They’re the biggest puzzle of all. Ideas are exciting but without relationships my stories would fall apart. If I’ve failed to convince you of what my characters are feeling (and what I’m feeling) in  my writing, then I’ve failed.

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I’ve been greedy about handing on the baton.

Steven J  Dines ‘s numerous stories have appeared in Black Static, Interzone and Crimewave (yes, he’s one of the TTA triathletes). He never fails to impress me, but my personal favourite is “The Sound of Constant Thunder” (Black Static issue 37). I hope to see more of his work all over the place this year.

Sean Demory  The first piece of work that I ever read by Sean Demory was “The Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore”. It got an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 5.  I think he’s a superb stylist of the weird. He’s the sort of writer that makes me wonder what he’ll produce next.

Steve Toase is an archeologist and author. Steve’s story, “Call Out” is  quite rightly getting rave reviews following its appearance in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 6.

Sharon Kae Reamer is a seismologist and author who is currently working on a mammoth five book epic that mixes science with magic. The first three volumes of Schattenreich series are now available.

Neil Murton  is truly economical- he produces little gems of flash fiction. I particularly like his reinvention of King Arthur as Arfa, a scrawny young girl. A collection of his work will soon be out in paperback, but you can suscribe to his site and get regular stories in your inbox.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Signs of the Times by Carole Johnstone nominated for a British Fantasy Award

The British Fantasy Award nominees for 2014 have now been announced. It’s a pretty dazzling list that includes Neil Gaiman, Adam ImageNevill, Sarah Pinborough, Joe Hill, Alison Littlewood, Lauren Beukes, Graham Joyce, Nina Allen, Stephen Volk, Thana Niveau, Karen Tidbeck, Ramsey Campbell and Pat Cadigan. Congratulations to everyone on the list.

I have to confess a massive soft spot for “Signs of the Times” by Carole Johnstone, which has been nominated in the short story category. My proof is in my recent interview with her. Good luck to her with this amazing story of friendship that appeared in Black Static( issue 33).

Carole Johnstone’s blog.

Carole’s latest novella, “Cold Turkey” is available from TTA Press.

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