Interview – Bristol Literature Festival

Here’s my recent interview with Sophie Davies of the Bristol Festival of Literature. I’m on of the authors involved in the Kraken Rises open story-writing event, which should be a lot of fun.


1. First of all, we’re massively looking forward to having you at the Bristol Festival of Literature… Tell us about what you’re going to bring to the Kraken event? 

Thank you. I’m really quite excited about being at the Festival. Kraken Rises is a great idea, it’s been fun so far and the day itself will be filled energy and fun. It’s flash-mob fiction, collaboration and invention combined, deliberately bringing together the sources of inspiration that usually are spread across time and space to hot-house an anthology. I’m looking forwards to meeting everyone who will be exploring the strange alternative Bristol we’ve invented, or simply discovered seeping from our dreams and find in the shadowed angles and corners of the streets and buildings as the city itself remembers and is changed by things the inhabitants have long forgotten.

2. Is there anybody else that you’re looking forward to seeing at the festival?

Yes, absolutely. It’s always great to meet new people, and of course there will be a few friends I haven’t seen for a while. As for events, I’m really hoping I can make Nick Rawlinson’s audio master class.

3. What do you get up to when you’re not at the Bristol Festival of Literature

I work 3 days a week in IT Technical Support, and write for much of the rest of the time. My SF novel, ‘Shopocalypse’ has just been released, I’ve an anthology due out in November, and I’m coming to the end of the first draft of a sweeping modern fantasy adventure – so I’m keeping pretty busy. Recently I’ve also been learning and experimenting with spoken word on Youtube. I’m also just restarting my leatherwork – I used to make costume, armour, and accessories for live-action gamers. I had to stop when my father became ill.  I’ve realised I really miss working with my hands. I also garden a lot, grow tree ferns (they make excellent pets) and at the moment watch an awful lot of Farscape.

4. Who’s your favourite writer and why?

Writers whose work I really enjoy at the moment are Chris Beckett (Dark Eden, Holy Machine), and Mike, Lin & Louise Carey for their City of Silk and Steel. These are all extraordinary books, filled with imagination and humanity, and hugely enjoyable.  I grew up reading a vast amount, mainly SG and Fantasy. These days I also read a lot of non-fiction – history and autobiography of less well-known people and their lives. Two of the later are Beryl Markham’s ‘West with the Night’ is an amazing story of childhood in Africa and the pioneering adventures of an early aviatrix. Greg French’s ‘Frog Call’ is nominally about fishing in Tasmania and is anything but – mythic, spooky and uplifting.

Jack Vance and JG Ballard are probably the writers who have had the most enduring influence with their body of work. I wouldn’t say I try to emulate them, but I love to read their books. Vance’s style and imagination are unique – and so is Ballard’s voice, his darkly suspicious view of human nature, as if he stood in a different place and saw things askew.

5. Any advice for aspiring writers?

There’s endless amounts of advice available from many places. You need to find your own methods and techniques. I can recommend Dwight V Swain’s ‘Techniques for the Selling Writer‘ as a practical pragmatic book on nuts and bolts writing.  Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey makes a good contrast with its emphasis on mythic structures. My own advice?

  1. Writers write
  2. Finish what you start
  3. Write for yourself
  4. Focus on process not production


I’ll also be back in Bristol the weekend after, taking part in BristolCon. Maybe I’ll see you there?


Friday Flash – Mother is Late

Mother is Late

At a time like this. On days like this. Gehena peered down the empty street then stepped away from the window. The thin curtain fell into place. Gehena subsided into her chair hunched with worry.

Shadows swung slowly across the room. At long last Gehena heard the key scrape in the lock. She sprang to her feet, ‘Where have you been?’

Her brother sagged against the door frame, exhausted. Behind him the growing cone loomed over the quiet city. He tossed the package onto the floor, ‘There was another fight. I’m sick. You have to leave. Now.’


This is #12 in the ‘Beyond the Streets‘ sequence.

Audio narration will be here soon.

Friday Flash – Mexico


‘Ready, my Lord?’

It was Lord Ustral now. That was less of a laugh than a sick joke. Ustral scowled at the burning keep across the immense breadth of the turbulent river. His keep.

Down on the quay ships laden with knights, cavalry, siege engines and men-at-arms waited.

The three queens had kicked him in the nuts. Kicked the whole empire in the nuts. There really was very little choice.

High summer, the sun was merciless. Overhead a buzzard wheeled. Ustral realised this was likely his last day.

He blinked back tears, spun on his heel. ‘Ready. Lead on.’


#11 In the ‘Beyond the Streets’ sequence. Audio version coming soon.

Cover Art – Mick van Houten

MVH - Always Coming Home

Always Coming Home, by Mick van Houten
Cover art for the book by Ursula Le Guin

Yes, Jack Vance is one of my favourite authors, and Mick van Houten‘s evocative and romantic illustrations added enormously to the editions I owned. To my mind Mick is one of the finest cover artists there is, his covers always add to the stories, bringing mood, texture and visual detail specific to the work. I used to dream that one day, when my own books were published, I might have a Mick van Houten cover for one of them.

MVH - Road to Corlay

The Road to Corlay, by Mick Van Houten.
Cover art for the book by Richard Cowper

Painting in the pre-digital era, using acrylic and ink on watercolour board, Mick produced beautiful fine-art covers for many writers, including Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, and Ian Watson. I particularly like his use of light and mood, which often evoke a twilight calm. I think he deserves far more recognition than he receives.

I’m not sure if that dream of mine is now likely to happen, but to console me I have just bought some prints of some of Mick’s work. The quality is astonishingly good, detail and colour are wonderful,  and I am absolutely delighted with them.

Night Lamp, by Mick van Houten

Night Lamp, by Mick van Houten.
Cover art for the book by Jack Vance



Of course I had to get some Vance covers. The one shown here is for Night Lamp. I also bought the Lyonesse trilogy covers as well.

Now I need to get them framed! And get some more walls.


(Mick’s web site displays several pictures per page so the links for the pictures here go to the page not the picture. Always Coming Home is page 1, row 2, right; Road to Corlay is Page 1, row 2, left; Night Lamp is page 3, row 2, middle.)

This is where it all began…?

The latest ideas that the appearance of the dog star, Sirius, for the first time in their history inspired the temple builders of 11,000 years old Gobekli Tepe, the world’s oldest known temple, are fascinating.

It’s a site I’d love to visit, as I would Catalhoyuk, another neolithic site in Turkey, and one of the worlds first cities. A honeycomb place without streets, footpaths, windows or any public buildings. Why would thousands of people choose to live that way?

So it looks like religion came first – or maybe it was astronomy. I rather like the idea of neolithic scientists. Perhaps in those days there was no distinction between the two. Trying to imagine the world-views of people from that era, that lost culture, intrigues me. Perhaps it’s impossible. Whatever their reasons and beliefs, I think they were trying to understand and measure the world, with the desire to predict, or even control it.

Like Stonehenge the questions Who? How? and Why remain.Culture there must have been – to move the 40-60 tonne stones and carve the accomplished animal designs. The theory that dawning agriculture drove society, religion and art seems overthrown, at least here.  Rather than spare calories driving innovation somehow it’s nice to think that first they looked up at the sky in awe and dreamed, and then acted on those dreams.


Friday Flash – She Likes Shoes

She Likes Shoes

She likes them a lot. Clip-clat; the sound, the shape, the different ways you walk. The aroma, the textures of shoes.  She likes shoes much more than feet – her own, yours, mine. Much more than Cara’s feet.

Feet are an ugly necessity.

Cara, I’ll remind you at this point, is her best friend.

Life without shoes? Never! Without Cara, regrettable but not inevitable. Life without ugly feet on the other hand (oh, haha).

When she comes into the operating room Cara stops screaming and crying.

‘Now, Cara,’ she says, ‘these gentlemen are going to try something new.’


#10 in the ‘Beyond the Street’s sequence. An audio version is available here.

Honest blurbs – the what and the how.

When I was a young reader I soon learned to trust – or not trust – the reviews on the back of books. My default weekly selection at the local library was one anthology, one book with a bright yellow cover and the VG logo (I’d soon learned to trust that as an implicit recommendation, and another novel. Back then it was all SF and fantasy, that was what I read, that was all I wanted to read. The blurbs on the back helped me pick and choose. One I learned to rely on was, as I recall, the reviewer for the Oxford Mail. I wondered why a provincial newspaper was so good at spotting good SF and fantasy (years later I found out: again, as I recall, Christopher Priest who was the reviewer). The thing was, I learned to trust their opinion.

Reviews I understood, but I didn’t get how one author got to pass comment on another’s work. I came up with some convoluted and, if I’d taken the time to think about it, implausible ideas.

Now, years, decades later, I have a book of my own and I know the answer. This is how it goes, and it’s pretty simple:

You, your agent or publisher asks some writers who you think will like the book if they’d be kind enough to read it, and if they like it, to write a blurb. If they don’t want to, they say ‘Sorry, too busy’.

That’s it. Then you sit and wait in fear and trepidation for the emails. Every single one of mine when they came I couldn’t open. I had to wander round the house for a bit, conclude I was being foolish, and go and read it.

I don’t have an agent so I decided I’d rather ask people myself. My book is SF, so, feeling like some pushy little gobshite, I got in touch with people who wrote SF of one kind of another. I wondered if they’d be so kind…

One said ‘Sorry, too busy’, one was flattered to be asked, one offered to read it before I asked them, one just said ‘Yes, sure’ and one said ‘I will if you want, but i hated the last thing you wrote.’  Which was, really,  just what I wanted.

So I got my blurbs and that’s how it happened. Thank you, Mike Carey, Chris Beckett, Jaine Fenn and Francis Knight. Praise from the praiseworthy.. I’m happy as anything.


“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


Kraken Rises at Bristol Festival of Literature

Running over 9 days, featuring over 50 authors, the Bristol Festival of Literature runs 19-27 October at various locations city-wide in Bristol

This year I’m one of the six writers involved in the Kraken Rises! event on the 19th October.

“A comet in the sky heralds weirdness for Bristol. Write your way to safety! Join a one-day writing competition, with the help of six authors based at secret locations. Make your own book, try ‘cut-up’ techniques, investigate digital futures, explore interactive maps. Ten best entries win publication in an anthology by Angry Robot. The winning tale will be performed at the Unputdownable Speakeasy,.”

With – David Gullen, Jonathan Howard, Tim Maughan, Emma Newman, Gareth Powell, Gaie Sebold.

We’ll be there with clues, pointers, suggestions and ideas for characters and situations – then it’s up to you to write your own story set against the backdrop of the comet, and the Kraken! This is going to be great fun – if I wasn’t already on one side of this event I’d be on the other, writing my own story.

There is also a competition to design cover art for the Angry Robot book – more details on the Festival web site.


Shopocalypse – The Book Launch!

I’ve know about this for ages so it’s lovely to finally be able to announce the launch of my SF novel, Shopocalypse.

This will take place on Wednesday, 9th October, upstairs at theTwo Chairman, 1 Warwick House Street, SW1Y 5AT.  This is just a short walk from Charing Cross or Piccadilly Circus. If you can make it, please come along and help me celebrate. It will be a pleasure to see you.

We’ll be starting at 18:30, I’ll be reading a short extract a little later on, followed by an informal conversation between myself and Colin Tate from Clarion Publishing about the origins and themes of the book. As Colin says:

“With (some) complimentary drinks from Clarion Publishing, and (lots of) good craic on the night, there will also be a reading by David from the novel, as well as a conversation between David and Colin Tate (Clarion Publishing/Monico) about the world of ‘Shopocalypse’.

You’ll be able to pick up a copy at the event, but should you want to keep your hands free – you can pre-order a copy here.”


Friday Flash – A Second Chance

Number nine in the ‘Beyond the Streets’ sequence. The audio version is available here.

A Second Chance

If she had one regret it was that she had never experienced conversion. Not wanting to know, not needing, just curious to understand how it had felt. Beyond life, beyond the actuality of living – that outmoded phase of being – there was no desire but necessity.

The fulfilment of necessity was extremely satisfying.

First of the post-animate, she and her sisters had arisen without conversion. Flawed and imperfect they had studied each other, seen the necessities, and fulfilled them. With every extension and amputation flesh became cooperative.

This was the new truth: Cooperation would be extended.