I’m told there’s a good crop of other ARC authors in there too – congratulations to you, and everyone else on the list.
One day I asked him: How do you cope?
He showed me his basement, a well-lit, clean and empty space. Against the back wall was a sea-chest, the old type with iron straps and reinforced corners. The padlock was as big as my fist.
‘I go through it, now and again’ he said. A key hung on a nail. ‘Go ahead, take a look.’
Alf sat forwards, ‘And did you?’
‘I didn’t need to. There was a luggage label on the handle, brown card, tied with a bit of string. On it he’d written, “Not Needed On Voyage.”’
Number 17 in the ‘Beyond the Streets‘ sequence.
Cash Flow Problems
Along these streets people didn’t sit on the carriages, they rode inside them. Night lamps glowed atop metal poles, and high, oh so very high, enormous flying things with motionless wings slid through the rumbling sky.
There were no horses.
Clegan had walked through a door, a very ordinary-looking door, and everything changed.
He didn’t understand any of it.
He knew he didn’t fit. He tried not to look vulnerable. This city, like any other, would have predators.
His heart shook. Where on earth was he? More important, how in heaven was he going to get home?
This is #16 in the ‘Beyond the Streets‘ sequence.
This anthology came out of the Kraken Rises event at this year’s Bristol Literature Festival in partnership with Jared Shurin of The Kitschies, and Lee Harris of Angry Robot. The whole event was organised and co-ordinated by Pete Sutton. I was one of the three authors who designed the creative brief, and one of the six around on the day to provide story prompts and (hopefully) inspiration for the writers/contestants. I had nothing to do with the actual writing, judging and selection, or editing, so I was very interested to see the anthology and read what people had been inspired to write. The result is impressive.
Kraken Rises is a flashmob book, true popup publishing. Stories were written in 24 hours using a creative brief not released until the day of the event. Entries were judged and selected the next day – and the anthology was created. This makes it, I believe, the fastest book in the world. As Pete Sutton says in his introduction, these stories, “were written under extreme pressure and in a very short period. Many of the participants hadn’t written before or hadn’t written for a long time … Due to our self-imposed deadlines there hasn’t been time to ask for redrafts or to do much more than correct typos.”
From this you might expect a rather scrappy collection of half-realised projects. It’s a pleasure to say the collection is no such thing. Considering the ferociously tight deadline for writers, editing and production, the anthology is remarkably well put together. From the absurdist and surprisingly mature humour of The Kraken Rises: The Dragon Slayers, by Jake & Riley Bailey (Aged 8 & 5) to my first encounter with a Politician as Hero in Ian Millstead’s Kraken Rises (There’s a theme to this anthology you know) there is consistently good writing, imaginative story-telling, and a real sense of fun.
There are two text/mail stories in the collection. Kraken’s Go d, by Elspeth Penny is a complex and ambitious gem I really enjoyed. Competition runner-up Kevlin Henney’s #KrakenEvent twitter-feed is witty, irreverent, and sadly poignant. One day we will all write about the end of the world in 140 characters.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Return, Rosie Oliver’s mythic tale of trees, time-travel and transcendence is charming and uplifting, a complete contrast to the joyfully apocalyptic tales forming the rest of the anthology.
Scott Lewis’s Kitty McLure and the Cult of the Kraken is a deserved competition winner. In Lewis’s richly inventive steampunk adventure the resourceful Miss Felicity Hartnett-Bly takes the role of Watson to Kitty’s Sherlock. Together they fight dastardly cabals. I sense a novel brewing in Mr Lewis’s cranium.
The second collaboration, The Kraken Binding by Claire Fisher and Helen Elliot-Boult is playfully rooted in genre fiction. The only Lovecraftian tale in the book, it also includes doomed redshirts, an opinionated view of Bristolian architecture and a hybrid guardian spirit of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein’s monster. If Ballard every wrote whimsy he surely would have written this.
A book in 48 hours. I don’t think it’s ever been done before. Should it ever be done again? Absolutely!
All profits go to support the Bristol Literature Festival, which receives no external funding.Kraken Rises, £1.53
Pub:The Bristol Festival of Literature with assistance from Angry Robot
Sylv is a vampire hunter, an ex-vampire hunter. He’s carried his past failures with him all his life and now he’s getting out of this deadly game. Except now there’s a woman. And now there’s one last job.
This novella is a real gem. If Chandler wrote vampire fiction he’d write it like this. Bite is hard-boiled noir all the way through, with great dialogue, fist-fights, beautiful women, and lonely evenings in the same old bar with the same old buddies. Goldsmith has taken the style and pace of this genre, made it his own, and added a dash of the supernatural.
What I really like about this story is the focus on Sylv, his life, his hopes, and how in the end he’s prepared to risk it all for one final chance. Destroying vampires is a job, Sylv isn’t the best but he’s good enough. This one last job gives Sylv the chance to open up and take some chances for a shot at the main chance. He takes risks, he puts his life on the line, and all to help a stranger. A beautiful stranger. And all the while he knows he shouldn’t be doing it, that he should walk away and take the safe path. Sylv isn’t just trying to save her, he’s trying to save himself.
Goldsmith gives us glimpses of the real Sylv beneath the tough guy, that hard-bitten street-wise gun for hire. It’s grudgingly given, revealed in brief introspections and slips of the tongue, the questions and comments of Zeke the barman and the other people in Sylv’s life.
Bite is Gardner Goldsmith’s debut novella and I thoroughly recommend you get a copy. Enjoy.
Bite, ISBN 978 1 906864 39 2
Pendragon Press, 2013
‘So, yeah, this is where I crash. Come in.’
‘I found the lamp in a skip. The mattress was already here.’
‘I need a proper light so I can read.’
‘The books? Charity shops.’
‘Yeah, I know it’s still stealing. I can’t go to libraries-‘
‘Here? It’s just me.’
‘Most nights I sit and read. I read for hours.’
‘No, I don’t pay for the electricity.’
‘Candles? How the fuck can I afford-?’
‘Sorry. It’s just…’
“Look, ah, before you go- You couldn’t see your way-‘
‘Thanks, man, really appreciate it. Seriously, dude.’
‘Yeah, anytime. See you around.’
~Number 15 in the ‘Beyond the Streets‘ sequence.
Benford is one of the SF greats and Great Sky River one of his great books. As an act of imagination it’s a triumph, as a piece of storytelling and writing it is by turns soaring, lyrical, and poetic. And sometimes it falls a bit flat on its face. That’s OK because in the main Great Sky River works very well and the failings are because Benford seems to be pushing his considerable talents as a writer to the limit – and those sorts of failings you can easily forgive.
So sometimes he over-indulges himself with explanation, and sometimes he doesn’t quite break free of the preconceptions of his own era. As a result the narrative can meander or jerk in a few places. On the other hand his views of machine intelligence, its struggle and failure to understand organic life and the catastrophic consequences that result, all told through the story and characters of this bold novel, are as thoughtful and profound as anything you’ll find in fiction.
It’s his gifts as a writer, his empathy with the human condition and universe-building that make me think of him as a kind of Ian Banks of his era. Except in Benford’s universe humanity lives in no perfect culture. The glory days have long gone, mankind is flat on its face and struggling to rise again. Still bold and brave, still striving to understand, broken, bloody, and in its beaten and bested way still magnificent.
Cervelaf sprawled on his mossy woodland throne. An empty tankard dangled from one finger, his great antlered head lolled.
The doe-woman, Devnet, emerged from the forest edge, bow in hand. Graceful as ever, she crossed the clearing and bowed before Cervelaf. ‘The Marasmus has returned.’
Blood surged through Cervelaf’s heart. At last! He leapt to his feet, seized his hunting horn and gave three blasts.
Echoes of the horn faded among the trees. Cervelaf drove his fist into his palm and paced the clearing. Boar-warriors, fox-people and collared men gathered around.
It was time to hunt.
Number 14 in the ‘Beyond the Streets‘ sequence.
On the Beach
The north paddock was waterlogged. McAndrews studied Thea’s letter then walked her to the south side of the village. That runway was in no better condition.
‘When will this weather break?’ Thea said, frustrated. Hastily she added, ‘Sir.’
McAndrews shrugged at the slate-grey sky, filled his pipe, tamped and lit it, and took a few mournful puffs.
High above the clouds lay the blue vault of the sky, brilliant sunshine – and the reason for Thea’s existence.
‘Why have they posted me here if there’s nothing to do?’ Thea said.
McAndrews gave a wry smile. ‘Well spotted, captain.’
This is #13 in the ‘Beyond the Streets‘ sequence.
A last shout-out about the launch party for Shopocalypse.(not that I haven’t mentioned this a bazillion times)
Wednesday, 9th October, 18:30, upstairs at the Two Chairmen, 1 Warwick House Street, SW1Y 5AT. (Just off Trafalgar Square.)
Hope you can make it! I’m really looking forwards to seeing you there.
“Dave Gullen’s debut novel is huge, enthralling, packed with bold ideas and genre-shattering extrapolations. And his characters get so deep inside your head you’re still arguing with them days later. Seriously, you need this book.” – Mike Carey
“Global warming has really begun to bite, but human consumption of resources has become more frantic than ever in this clever, dark and often very funny satire on rapacious capitalism.” – Chris Beckett
“A sharp and witty take on the perils of consumerism. To be honest, it was fairly terrifying — very believable.” – Francis Knight
“Subversive. Hilarious. Touching. Brilliant.” – Jaine Fenn