Tag Archives: predictions


In my post “2015” I mentioned a few things I’d particulary enjoyed that year.

Black Static 48I praised Cate Gardner‘s “The Bureau of Them” and “When the Moon Man Knocks”, both of which have received British Fantasy Award nominations.

Ditto Kelly Robson for “The Waters of Versailles” for which she is a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, and the Prix Aurora Award.  (Her short story “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” is a Illustration for Kelly Robson's Waters of Versaille by Kathleen Jenningsfinalist for the 2016 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award).

It’s even more tremendous when you consider that Kelly only made her debut in markets like Clarkesworld, Tor and Asimov’s in 2015.

On the same theme, I am very much looking foward to Issue 54 of Black Static out  in September as it will contain “Perspective”, Steve J Dines’ new novelette. I am expecting heaps of darkness if his last few stories are anything to go by.

I am now tagging my predictions. Sadly my attempts at foretelling the National Lottery numbers have been less successful.

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January is the time for looking back and looking forwards – it’s when people blog about what they’ve read and enjoyed, when reading lists appear and when “best of” anthologies are finalised.

In the last few years, I’ve singled out one story annually- previously “Shark! Shark!” by Ray Cluley, “Signs of the Times” by Carole Johnstone and “Ptichka” by Laura Mauro.

I have to admit that I’m woefully behind with my reading but of what I have read from 2015, a few things spring to mind immediately.

I have to confess a bias in that Cate Gardner is my friend but I do genuinely admire her work which is steeped in darkness, loss and grief. She has a unique The Bureau of Themtake on the world. “The Bureau of Them” is her novella, published by Spectral Press. Black Static has featured her short stories this year, Illustration for Kelly Robson's Waters of Versaille by Kathleen Jenningsincluding “When the Moon Man Knocks” in Issue 48.

In that same issue of Black Static was “The Suffering” by Steven J. Dines. I’ve always enjoyed his writing but I hope he’ll forgive me for saying that there’s been a change in what he’s had published this year. It feels raw and heartfelt, as if he’s struck a particularly rich vein of inner-strange that’s enriched his fiction. I think it heralds more exciting things to come. I know many people would pick his other story – “So Many Heartbeats, So Many Words” (Black Static , Issue 46) but I’m going with “The Suffering” because it’s unrelenting in its horror.

The final story is pure fantasy- “The Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson, which can be read in its entirety here. What appears initially to be a frothy historical drama is a tale of self interest and ambition versus responsibility and love. Kelly Robson pulls off the fantastic elements with aplomb. It’s already appeared on many reading lists.

Gardner Dozois has included her other excellent story, “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill”,  in his upcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction (Thirty-third Annual Collection). This first appeared on the Clarkesworld website.

As to my own stuff, a lot of people have been very kind about “Fabulous Beasts”, so thank you for the support.



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Twisted Tales of Austerity

The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, based at Manchester Metropolitan University, has launched its second Gothic Manchester Festival. Its programme includes a tour of the John Rylands Library (a neo-Gothic stunner), a Victorian lantern show, an afternoon of Steampunk and panel discussions by the UK’s leading scholars on a variety of subjects around Gothic art, literature and architecture and its influence on modern culture.

Iwent to Twisted Tales of Austerity, an event at Manchester’s Waterstones hosted by Twisted Tales exploring how the Gothic can critique the current mainstream political consensus surrounding poverty and the welfare state. There were readings by authors from Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease,  followed by a panel discussion and Q&A.

Twisted Tales of Austerity

Twisted Tales of Austerity

Left: Tom Johnstone

Centre: Rosanne Rabinowitz,

Right: Lauro Mauro

Tom Johnstone, the anthology’s co-editor, read Joel Lane’s  “A Cry for Help”, the final sentence of which packed a hard punch. Rosanne Rabinowitz, a Shirley Jackson Award nominee, read from her affecting story, “Pieces of Ourselves”. My personal favourite was Lauro Mauro’s “Ptichka”, which was a vivid and visceral piece of writing about an immigrant who finds herself pregnant in a post-NHS Britain.

It was also great to catch up with Simon Bestwick, who also contributed to the anthology, Cate Gardner and Roy Gray from TTA Press.

A reprint of my own story, “The Ballad of Boomtown”, is also included in the volume.

A note on Cate Gardner: She quietly gets on and does her thing. And what a thing! Cate’s shy about it though. She’ll never tell you that Damien Walter (of The Guardian) listed her Theatre of Curious Acts in the top five of his Indie Sci-Fi and Fantasy Hunt.

Twisted Tales aims to promote horror across a range of different media, from live events across the North West to critical reviews. It was founded by David McWilliam (a doctoral student and Associate Lecturer at Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moores University, and Manchester Metropolitan University) and Glyn Morgan (Ph.D researcher and tutor at the University of Liverpool) in 2010.

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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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Georgina Bruce

I have an addition to my “Three Things I Don’t Write About (and Three Things I Do) tagees. What can I say? I’m greedy.

Georgina Bruce has just got back to me, agreeing to post this weekend on her blog, Monster Soup. I’ve had my eye on her since I first read “Crow Vodoo”, a few years ago. I look at her work and think, Damn, why can’t I write like that?

Her gut wrenching “Cat World” appeared in Interzone last year and is being reprinted in Salt’s Best British Fantasy 2014.


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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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Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone

TTA Press has released the third in its novella series. The first was Eyepennies by Mike O’Driscoll, which was nominated in the novella category of the Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone from TTA Press  British Fantasy Awards 2013. The second, Nina Allen’s Spin, won the British Science Fiction Award 2013 for Short Fiction.

Having been lucky enough to see an advance copy of Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone and I’m sure it will garner the same sort of acclaim.

I’m a fan of Carole’s work, particularly after reading Signs of the Times (Black Static 33). Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She has been published by PS Publishing, ChiZine Publications, Night Shade Books, TTA Press, Apex Book Company, and Morrigan Books among many others. Her work has been reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series and Salt Publishing’s Best British Fantasy 2013 and 2014.  Her debut short story collection, The Bright Day is Done, is available from Gray Friar Press and her other novella, Frenzy is available from Damnation Books.


Carole was kind enough to let me collar her to ask her a few questions.

Tell us about Cold Turkey.

Cold Turkey is, on the surface, a story about a man called Raym, who is trying to give up smoking. He’s already a pretty unhappy guy: his parents have just died, he’s never managed to escape his Lanarkshire hometown or his long-term girlfriend, and he teaches at the same school that he used to attend as a pupil.

However, as soon as he tries to give up his pack-a-day habit, his life really begins to fall apart. He suffers nightmares and hallucinations; he starts to inexplicably lose time. And when Top Hat, one of the worst monsters from his childhood, starts stalking and threatening him, and taking a very literal tally of his shortcomings, Raym begins to wonder if he’s losing his sanity as well.

At its heart, Cold Turkey is a very dark comedy about addiction and the demons that we all harbour, but it’s also about how we create them, deal with them, deny them, manipulate them, feed them, need them. And I’m sure that there will be plenty readers who recognise at least a part of themselves in Raym, and who will certainly suffer an empathetic shiver or two at his predicament.


When I read The Pesthouse (Black Static 28) and my personal favourite, Signs of the Times (Black Static 33), I thought Modern Scottish Gothic. Why did you return to Scotland for Cold Turkey? How does it shape your writing?

That’s a great description! And it describes exactly how I feel about both the country and my writing about it. Scotland has a wildness to it, a beautiful bleakness that I’ve never really encountered elsewhere. Even in a city, you’re never very far from space and silence. I’ve lived in the southeast of England for a long time, and the two places couldn’t be any more different. That’s not down only to the Scottish landscape or weather, although both invite vivid and easy description. Scotland is home to me; it has an honesty and immediacy that welcomes anyone and everyone. If it was a character in a story, it would be stubborn yet kind; harsh yet sentimental.

Although I often write stories set elsewhere, I find myself returning to Scotland more and more often, party down to familiarity, I guess – write about what you know and all that – but also because I love and miss both it and the people who live there, and never cease to find inspiration in both.


Top Hat in his tally van is delicious. Tell us more about his evolution.

Thank you, I think he is too! And Warwick Fraser-Coombe’s cover illustration of him was just terrific – exactly how I’d imagined him.

At his most basic, he’s a mash-up of all that frightened me as a kid: the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; clowns (Pennywise is definitely in Top Hat); a myriad of Roald Dahl characters.

Top Hat’s most frightening aspect, for me, is his humour rather than his horror. In many ways he’s personable, nearly charming. You almost want to laugh along with him, despite his psychopathy. I was hugely affected by Heath Ledger’s Joker. He was by turns narcissistic, funny, charming, unpredictable, threatening, vulnerable, and incredibly frightening. There is a lot of him in Top Hat – even down to the dodgy make-up!


Cold Turkey balances a plethora of childhood fears with very adult modern day concerns and horrors, such as disease, death and anxiety about where we are in our lives and where we think we should be. What made you think about smoking as a gateway in to all that?

In the life of a smoker, I think that there’s always a moment when you start being afraid of it; a moment at which you think, “shit, I’d better think about stopping now.” It goes hand in hand with that slow-sliding recognition of your own mortality. In your teens and twenties you are nearly completely oblivious; certainly, you give it little thought, and then at some point that denial just stops.

We all go through that transition, but we deal with it indifferent ways. I went through a period of intensely obsessing over how I was going to die, but that kind of anxiety is, I think, unsustainable. I read somewhere once that our evolution into developing a sense of our own mortality was, by necessity, offset by a reflexive and subconscious optimism over which we have no control. That might come as news to pessimists like me, but apparently the only people who see the world as it actually is are those in which this ‘offset’ is unable to work, for example, the clinically depressed. I have no idea if this is true or not, if it is then it’s certainly depressing, but it is true that we have so much to deal with in our lives, so many decisions, so many uncertainties. Being afraid of a monster is easy, it’s passive. Knowing that your own choices are dangerous, but being unable or unwilling to change them is much harder to reconcile. Smoking is just the most obvious metaphor for that. But so are so many other things: staying in a job you hate, a relationship that is wrong or abusive, a mindset that is destructive.


You have an enviable ability to balance your horror with humour and a succinct style (such as “he died parchment thin and raving”). Who, if anyone, influenced the way you write?

Ah, you can interview me anytime, Priya! Most of my writing, even that which could be called mainstream, tends to veer towards the dark, but there is almost always humour in it too. I find that the most engaging, interesting, touching and affecting stories, the kind of stories that speak to me as a reader, a person, almost always embrace both. For me, humour can make the frightening more frightening in a way that relentlessly miserablist or horrific writing can’t. It renders characters more human, situations more believable; I immediately want to invest more of my own emotions into the reading.

It can be hard to get the balance right: you don’t want to come over as flippant or disjointed or just plain confusing, but so many writers that I love – that I basically want to be when I grow up – do that unbelievably well. Stephen King is the most obvious one perhaps, particularly as I spent my teenage years reading him more than anyone else, but I think that Joe Hill does it even better. Horns is an amazing novel. Other examples would be Irvine Welsh, Christopher J Yates, Denise Mina, Michael Marshall Smith, and Graham Joyce among many, many others.


What other work can we look forward to from you this year?

I have a short story collection called The Bright Day is Done coming out from Gray Friar Press in the next month, which I’m really excited about. I also have a story, Catching Flies, appearing in Ellen Datlow’s Fearful Symmetries anthology, coming from ChiZine Publications in May, and my Interzone short, Ad Astra, is being reprinted in Salt Publishing’s Best British Fantasy 2014, coming in June. There are a few other possibilities in the pipeline, but they remain, alas, only possibilities as of this moment, so nothing I can blab about yet!

I am definitely turning towards novel writing as opposed to the short story form though – Cold Turkey is, I guess, my attempt to bridge that gap, although novel-length writing does tend to take you out of circulation a bit.


I understand that you plan to return to Glengower as a setting for a novel? Can you tell us anything about it?

It’s been put on the backburner for the moment because of other projects, but I certainly intend to return to it one day. I was a little leery of turning Glengower into a Castle Rock or Innsmouth, but fictional towns that resemble places and geography that you know as a writer are pretty irresistible. This particular as yet unnamed novel takes place in Glengower over one weekend, and involves a sinkhole, a BB parade, and a badminton marathon – oh yeah, and a few murderous nasties!

Will you ever return to the world of Signs of the Times again? (I ask hopefully).
I love Edinburgh, Leith in particular, as it’s where my mum’s side of the family is from and I know it very well. I guess my Leith is very far from Irvine Welsh’s Leith; it’s very different from Leith full stop: the Leith of my childhood and the Leith of today, but I loved writing Signs of the Times. I loved imagining the place as some eerie last bastion on the edge of the world, the edge of oblivion. When I wrote Signs of the Times, I always felt that it was only a small part of a potentially larger work, and I certainly find myself coming back to it again and again in my mind. So to answer your very kind question, yes! At least I hope so.


You are a physicist- will we see any “hard” science fiction from you in the future, or is this something that doesn’t attract you?
Unfortunately, my knowledge of physics doesn’t extend much beyond the medical and radiation fields. I’m nowhere near clever enough to attempt anything too cerebral or theoretical! I do enjoy reading sci-fi, but struggle to stay engaged with the hard stuff. I love the more character-driven novels of writers like Michael Marshall Smith and James Smythe. I’ve only ever written two sci-fi stories, both for Interzone, and of those, Ad Astra is probably the only one that counts as proper sci-fi: it features a couple exploring the furthest reaches of the solar system in a solar-sail-powered ship, and disliking (very much!) what they discover. I had a blast writing it, but to be honest, the amount of research I had to do was a bit prohibitive. I’d rather stick to fictional Lanarkshire towns and apocalyptic docklands!

Thanks  Carole!

Buy Cold Turkey





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Accolades for Ray Cluley and Interzone

The winners of the British Fantasy Awards 2013 have been announced. Ray Cluley won the short story category with Shark! Shark! which appeared in Black Static (issue 29). It couldn’t have happened to a better story or a nicer bloke, despite some very tough competition.

Interzone, Black Static’s sister magazine at TTA Press, edited by Andy Cox, won the best magazine/periodical category.

A big congratulations to both. I know it’s smug to say this but in a previous post I put my money where my mouth is and stated that Shark! Shark! was my favourite short story of the year. It cleverly deconstructs a whole film genre while managing to be funny and horrible at the same time, which is no mean feat.




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British Fantasy Awards 2013

I’ve just seen the British Fantasy Award 2013 nominees and am really pleased to see that there are two fabulous pieces of work in the short story category:

Shark! Shark! Ray Cluley (Black Static #29) (TTA Press)
Sunshine, Nina Allan (Black Static #29) (TTA Press)

Andy Cox is nominated for TTA Press in the Best Small Press category (the PS Publishing Independent Press Award) and for both Interzone and Black Static in the Best Magazine category.

Previously on this site I stuck my two penneth in and said that Shark!Shark! was my favourite story of the year, so good luck to Ray.

Congratulations to everyone nominated.



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Ellen Datlow’s Honorable Mentions 2012

Ellen Datlow has released her list of Honorable Mentions that will appear in print at the back of The Best Horror of the Year volume V.

I am thrilled to bits that my story,”Pearls”, is included there. This appeared in Bourbon Penn last year.

The list includes horror stalwarts like Ramsay Campbell, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Gary McMahon and Alison Littlewood. There are also some other brilliant stories in there-

“The Pest House” by Carole Johnstone, Black Static 28 (and if you thought  this was good, check out “Signs of the Times” in Black Static 33).

“The Churn” by Simon Bestwick, Black Static 27.

“Cracks” by Jon Ingold, Black Static 28.

“Skein and Bone” by V.H. Leslie, Black Static 31.

“The Little Things” by Jacob Ruby, Black Static 27.

“Eyepennies” by Mike O’Driscoll, TTA Chapbook. I couldn’t find a link to his site, so here’s an interview with him instead.

“The Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore” by the marvellous Sean Demory.

There are stories that aren’t on this list from 2012 that I thought were superb and if I can be so bold as to make recommendations, they are Ray Cluley‘s “Shark! Shark!”, which appeared in Black Static 29, closely  followed by his story, “All Change” in Black Static 30. Both are very clever stories, in very different ways.

My other news is that I’ve had a couple of stories accepted, about which I’m chuffed-

“After Mary” by Alt Hist magazine, (thanks to editor Mark Lord), and “Thesea and Astaurius” by Interzone (thank you to Andy Cox and Andy Hedgecock).

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