New Short Story: Filthy Shades Of Grey

I’ve just uploaded a new story to the site, Filthy Shades Of Grey, a 2016 short story ostensibly about alien first contact, but from the perspective of a protagonist suffering from the strange and debilitating mental illness Schizoid Personality Disorder. It’s a different type of story, then, but one that I hope still is enjoyable, human, and offers food for thought about differing ways of perceiving the world, and differing ways of being perceived by others.

Culture War: It’s not Past vs Present, it’s rescuing your father!

The supposed “culture wars” get a lot of airtime these days. The most infuriating part of it is that, once again, everything (and I’m looking at you, Social Media) is engineered to force people into camps that are binary in their delineation, and must by definition be diametrically opposed. This reduces complex areas into zero sum games. I don’t believe in zero sum games very often; it’s certainly possible for two (or more) parties to be elevated through a transaction, but just as likely for both parties to be dragged downwards into the mud.

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Confirmation Bias: The Green Man Problem

I’ve made some very encouraging headway in completing the first draft of my third novel, The Green Man, a speculative historical fiction set in 14th century England. As such it’s quite a dramatic departure from Man O’War and The Hole In The Sky. The differences are in one sense quite plain with respect to the setting, tone and style, but there also emerged a strong difference in the problem which I was trying to tackle by writing the book.

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Book Review: Needful Things by Stephen King

“If we take responsibility for the things that cause us pain, we can inoculate ourselves against the temptation towards malevolence.”

After eating Christine’s dirt in the last episode of The Constant reader podcast, I’ve been invited back by host Richard Sheppard to do an episode on Needful Things, which I’ve just finished. I’m looking forward to having a proper conversation about it soon, as it is a tremendous book. But for now, here’s my take on his 1991 novel Needful Things.

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Book Review: The Gulag Archipelago by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

His scream is a vivisectionist’s scalpel, and the bloated, poisonous trunk of the Soviet state is his living subject.

The magnitude of the part played by The Gulag Archipelago in the unfolding of twentieth century is already well known, and I cannot add to the sense of that greatness here. It is well acknowledged as being one the axe blows that felled the mighty tyranny of the USSR. It has been on my TBR pile for some time, and the release of the recent abridged version, complete with new foreword by psychologist Jordan Peterson, seemed like a good time to dive into it.

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YAWB: Evolution Of A Synopsis in Four Stages

The SFF Publisher Angry Robot has opened up its 2020 open submissions window, and I’ll be submitting The Hole In The Sky. As part of the submission package they have requested a one-page synopsis of the plot.

Synopses are nasty, brutish things to write, because they force you to kill your darlings; unless your story is quite simplistic and linear it’s almost impossible to include chunks of exposition, plot and/or character development. The other thing about synopses is that you are required to reveal the ending of the story – spoilers are necessary!

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Man O’War – Evolution Of A Cover Story

Trawling through my inbox the other day I found the draft covers that Snowbooks designed for Man O’War, before we settled on the final cover. The first one was interesting if a little sketchy, and I really liked the next two – they really captured the sense of the sea juxtaposed against something looming and technologically monstrous – specifically the oil rigs in the Niger Delta, but in the end I think we made the right choice with the final design.

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Subbing in Lockdown

From my (very) limited conversations with agents in lockdown, it seems that the literary agency sector is also taking a hit owing to Covid-19, with staff unfortunately being furloughed and laid off, as in so many sectors. This is causing response times to subs to lag, so that authors are going to have wait even longer than usual. I have no gripes with agents or agencies about this; times are tough for all, and I’d be happy to wait a bit longer for a response. But the seemingly interminable wait for a response (especially for Godot-esque responses that don’t actually come at all) is somewhat dispiriting to say the least.

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Makin’ Music Part 1

Necessity is the mother of invention, and while the commercial outlet for creativity has been stifled, people are ever-ready to innovate to stave off lockdown boredom and do something fun.

So it was that, after a chat with my old mate Ryan Barquilla, with whom I use to play in Tom Likes Dogs, The World’s Greatest Covers Band*, and decided to get the band back together in lockdown. It seems odd that, with the four members of the band in Essex, London, Newcastle and Berlin, it was a good opportunity to get the band back together, but there you go – that’s definitely one good thing about t’internet.

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