Wednesday, 27 October 2010

So much news my head may fall off!

I have so much exciting news this week I hardly know where to begin… So let’s start with this!

Dark Fiction Magazine ( is pleased to announce the launch of a new service for fans of genre fiction. Beginning Oct 31st (Halloween), Dark Fiction Magazine will be launching a monthly magazine of audio short stories. This is a free service designed to promote genre short fiction to an audience of podcast and radio listeners. A cross between an audio book, an anthology and a podcast, Dark Fiction Magazine is designed to take the enjoyment of short genre fiction in a new and exciting direction.

Dark Fiction Magazine publishes at least four short stories a month: a mix of award-winning shorts and brand new stories from both established genre authors and emerging writers. Each episode will have a monthly theme and feature complementary tales from the three main genres – science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Co-founder Del Lakin-Smith said: "I love reading short stories, and with the increased uptake of mobile and portable devices this really is a growth area. But like many I find I don't have as much time as I would like to read, so I tend to listen to many podcasts on the go. The idea of replacing my podcasts with high quality, well performed audio short stories is something I find highly appealing, so Sharon and I set about making that a reality."

Sharon Ring, co-founder of Dark Fiction Magazine, said: “From technophobe to technophile in less than two years; I spend a great deal of time working online. To while away those hours, I like to listen to podcasts and drink copious amounts of strong coffee. Now, while I don’t recommend you drink as much coffee as I, I do recommend you check out what Del and I have created. We love podcasts; we love genre fiction; we built a site to bring the two together.”

The theme of Dark Fiction Magazine’s first episode is The Darkness Descends and will feature four fantastical stories:
‘Maybe Then I’ll Fade Away’ by Joseph D’Lacey (exclusive to Dark Fiction Magazine)
‘Pumpkin Night’ by Gary McMahon
‘Do You See?’ by Sarah Pinborough (awarded the 2009 British Fantasy Society Short Story Award)
‘Perhaps The Last’ by Conrad Williams
Lined up for future episodes are Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Ramsey Campbell, Rob Shearman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Ian Whates, Lauren Beukes, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Gareth L Powell, Jeremy C Shipp, Adam Christopher, and Jennifer Williams, among others.

With a team of dedicated and passionate narrators, a central recording facility and a love of genre, Dark Fiction Magazine delivers a truly outstanding aural experience.

Dark Fiction Magazine will also be producing special editions with seasonal stories and topical issues, competitions, flash fiction episodes and novel excerpts. Each episode aims to shock and delight, to horrify and confound as Dark Fiction Magazine takes its listeners on an aural tour through the world of genre fiction.

Dark Fiction Magazine is a collaborative project, created and developed by Del Lakin-Smith and Sharon Ring. For further information, contact Del or Sharon at

You might have noticed my name on the end of a pretty impressive list there, so unsurprisingly I am quite chuffed. But not only have I got a story coming up in later episodes, I am also doing some “reading out loud” duties- Nerve-wracking indeed, but I can tell you now that the story I got to do my Jackanory voice on was aces. As soon as it actually launches I will be straight on here to do a little snoopy dance for you all.

In other news, the lovely people over at the Un:Bound blog have let me taint their marvelous pages with a new short story at part of their Writer Wednesdays. This odd little thing has long remained one of my favourites, even though I sense it may be an acquired taste- I’d love to know what you think!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Possibly Pointless Mini-Sulk

We watched Fanboys at the weekend; an enjoyable little film about a group of friends who set off on a road trip to steal a rough cut of the Phantom Menace some six months before it is due to come out (not knowing, of course, exactly how crap it is going to be). Hit and miss in places maybe, but there were enough geeky references to keep me happy and the beardy Hutch was entertaining enough on his own, as a sort of poor man’s Jack Black. I laughed a lot and even felt a little sad at the poignant ending.

There was one bit that did annoy me however, and it’s taken a couple of days to figure out why.

At one point their female geek friend has to rescue them from their own stupidity, and she comes into conflict with Windows, the bespectacled object of her affections. When she starts doing stuff he doesn’t understand, i.e. behaving like an emotional human being, he essentially tells her, “Look, you can’t pull this girl stuff and still want to be one of the boys”.

At first I thought I was annoyed at the character, and then I realised that was sort of the point. He was being a berk. And then I thought I was annoyed at the film, in a knee jerk reaction sort of way- “how dare you say I can’t be a girl and be friends with boys!”

But I think it was actually more complicated than that. What aggravated me, I believe, was the inference that by being a geek, she was attempting to be one of the boys.

Which is all wrong.

The majority of my friends are male, and all of them are geeks. I didn’t start reading 2000AD when I was kid so that one day, just maybe, I could hang out with blokes and know what they’re talking about. I don’t spend way too much time being Commander Shepard on the Xbox so that men will be impressed by my fairly amazing biotic slam, and I don’t know all the words to Ghostbusters because boys dig chicks that do (and I don’t think they do). I am a geek because that is what I enjoy, and I am friends with people who enjoy the same things- as it happens, most of them are male, but I’m sure this is just because I don’t know very many ladygeeks. And I know you’re out there, ladies!

Being a geek isn’t a “boy thing”. It’s a “people with intelligence and taste” thing. ;)

Sunday, 10 October 2010


By Jennifer Williams

The first thing it changes is your sense of scale. Not that I think we’ve ever considered ourselves the biggest animals on the planet by any means; I’ve been to the Natural History Museum and stood under the Blue Whale like everyone else, after all.
And of course those old movies don’t seem so funny any more. I don’t know when we last had contact with the Japanese, but I bet they aren’t laughing.

I stood by the entrance to the hangar, just daring to poke my head out, watching the creature as it moved over the distant remains of the city. It was night time, and cold, and I could see my breath in the air.
It roared, and I winced, moving back again so I was slightly hidden by the hangar doors. You’d think I would be used to it by now, but the edges never get any blunter. They brought a terrible instinct with them, these things, one that I suspect Man hasn’t felt for hundreds, maybe thousands of years; we know ourselves to be prey, so we cower.
“It’s time.”
Halloran laid a hand on my shoulder and tipped his head back towards the shadowy recesses of the hanger.
“You sound apprehensive, Bill. This thing is your baby, aren’t you ready to see it do its job?”
I shrugged, and looked back at the dark shape moving on the horizon, impossibly big. The moon was bright and full, and the light picked out its huge fleshy flanks and dorsal spikes. If there’s one thing you can say for them, they definitely hold your attention.
“I just… There’s an awful lot riding on this, you know? And it’s not my baby, Hal, we’ve all had a hand in this.”
I was a little angry with his inference that this was all down to me. Perhaps I was annoyed on behalf of my team, who had labored nearly non-stop for the last few months, or perhaps I just didn’t want the responsibility if it went wrong.
“I know, Bill,” he said. “Come on, you want to be there when she wakes up.”
Tearing my eyes from the immense creature roaring in the distance, I walked back into the hangar towards the thick plastic sheet that took up half the floor. Something twitched sleepily beneath the folds.

In the confused months after the first wave of behemoths appeared we launched ourselves into research of all kinds, despite the restricted circumstances. We moved what we could underground and hurriedly threw everything we had at the problem; conventional weapons did nothing, nuclear warheads only made them bigger and more powerful, extremes of heat and cold had no effect.
As an expert in the field of entomology I believe I was brought in as a last resort. We went through all the rare toxins we could think of, one after the other, all the time aware of how difficult it was to get hold of the blood samples we were using, and how many men and women had died to bring them to us. When the breakthrough came it was so unlikely that I refused to believe it for some days, and had the team run the tests over and over.

On the surface of it, the moth isn’t an obvious choice. They are a nuisance, certainly, and people have been known to have severe allergic reactions to the bristly hairs of some caterpillars, but toxic?
To the behemoths, they certainly were.
But it wasn’t enough. Getting close to the creatures to deliver a dosage of the toxin proved near disastrous, with whole military units wiped out in gouts of radioactive fire, or crushed under the enormous claws. And when we finally succeeded, the toxin failed; for whatever reason, the refined material had no effect on the monsters.
So we were given access to the project that started this whole mess.

Outside under the starlight, she twitches faintly as we move down her thick body with the adrenalin shots. We are all working as fast as we can, all too aware of the dangers of being above ground and exposed. Halloran stands by her huge, swollen head, making sure the tech department’s equipment is properly attached. He stands away and gives me the thumbs up. When the last injection is completed, I motion at them all to stand away, and our creation flickers into life, crouched on her coarsely furred legs.
She is beautiful.
Her huge dusty wings, each a hundred feet long, blur into sudden flight, knocking us all back on her feet. She lets out a high pitched squeal and as one we cover our ears, and then she is off, up into the night air like a dream, a soft cloud of silky dust drifting down after her. Not toxic to us, luckily.
“Look at her go!” calls Halloran.
I nod, and risk a smile. The banks of computers whirr into sudden life and the tech team busy themselves at the controls. Far above, our moth spins and twirls as the lights on her helmet blink on, blue and green.
“It’s all good,” says a man by the controls, Jim, I think his name is. He tweaks a dial and the squeal comes back into range for us all. It is steady, attentive, everything it is supposed to be. “She should be moving into range now.”
We watch, barely daring to breath. Above us the giant moth flutters and jumps and twirls through the air. And by the crushed buildings, eyes that are a baleful green turn in our direction.
“It’s coming our way,” said Halloran. He doesn’t sound panicked, not yet.
“Give her a moment,” I say. “The impulses will need a few seconds to kick in.”
There are two sounds then, equally dreadful. The thunder of the approaching behemoth, and a screaming over the speakers.
“What’s that? What’s happening?”
Our moth, our last chance, spins away from the roaring lizard and up and up and up… Up towards the moon. She travels so far that even at her great size she begins to look tiny, and then she hovers there, back and forth, in front of that great white light, dipping and swerving crazily. She shows no interest in us, or the monster. Only the moon.
“Oh, shit,” says Halloran.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Stealth post!

Hello! Yes, here I am! I've cocked up the last couple of weeks, bloggingly speaking, so here is a random update.

I've been away mostly because a) I finished The Steel Walk finally (thank christ) and b) threw myself immediately into planning the Nanowrimo book, which has a working title of "Dead Zoo Shuffle".

The Steel Walk was a rough journey at times, and it very nearly went all tits up at the 60,000 word mark (I seemed to be cursed at that stage of the book) but I dragged myself through and although I believe it is somewhat flawed, I'm glad I got to see what happened to Eri, Joseth and Saul. In that weird slightly lost state you have after finishing such a big project, I started to think about what exactly I've learnt over the course of the last four books, and what I'll take with me into Dead Zoo Shuffle. I actually wrote some of it down, due to my memory being like one of those things with wotsits in.*

1) You need a subplot to balance the main narrative.

2) I like writing about cities. Lots of trees- not so much.

3) You've got to have some idea where you're going. Let's not do another "A Boy of Blood and Clay".

4) Stories are secretly all about people and how they deal with each other.

5) Know your characters.

6) Don't worry so much. You're trying to find your own voice.

7) Chapters are useful. Try and keep track of them, yeah?