Darker Companions, a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology

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Darker Companions, a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology, is out now from PS Publishing, with cover art by the great JK Potter.

Here’s the glorious lineup:

  • Introduction: Hymns from the Church in High Street by Scott David Aniolowski 
  • Holoow by Michael Wehunt 
  • The Long Fade into Evening by Steve Rasnic Tem 
  • Asking Price by S.P. Miskowski 
  • Author! Author?  by John Llewellyn Probert 
  • Meriwether by Michael Griffin 
  • The Entertainment Arrives by Alison Littlewood 
  • Premeditation by Marc Laidlaw 
  • A Perfect Replica by Damien Angelica Walters 
  • There, There by Gary McMahon 
  • We Pass from View by Matthew M. Bartlett 
  • Meeting the Master by Gary Fry 
  • Saints in Gold by Kristi DeMeester 
  • This Last Night in Sodom by Cody Goodfellow 
  • The Whither by Kaaron Warren 
  • Uncanny Valley by Jeffrey Thomas 
  • The Dublin Horror by Lynda E. Rucker 
  • The Sixth Floor by Thana Niveau 
  • The Carcass of the Lion by Christopher Slatsky 
  • The Granfalloon by Orrin Grey 
  • Little Black Lamb by Adam L G Nevill

When Joe Pulver first asked me to contribute to a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology he would be editing with Scott Aniolowski, my reply was something like Try and stop me! Ramsey Campbell has been one of the most significant influences from the horror genre on my own writing, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to honor him in this way.

I first read Ramsey Campbell as a teenager—a copy of The Face That Must Die, the Scream Press edition with the JK Potter photographs and the harrowing essay by Ramsey about his childhood somehow made its way into our house in rural Georgia. (I have no idea how. Perhaps through some demonology on the part of Ramsey himself.) That was quite an introduction to his work. To be honest, at the time, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. I’d never encountered anything like it. But a couple of years later, I’d started reading his stories in Year’s Best anthologies and picked up The Hungry Moon, a tale of ancient pagan evil and modern fundamentalism in a small English village, at my university library. I loved it.

Not long after that, I went to Ireland for a few months on a student work visa. I waited tables in a pub in Dublin, a dreadful yuppie establishment that used to be on Wicklow Street, thankfully now long gone and forgotten, and drank a lot of Guinness. I was pretty broke, and books were expensive in Ireland even then, so I relied on charity shops and my two flatmates to keep me in a steady supply of reading material. At one Oxfam shop near where I lived in Rathmines, Ramsey Campbell paperbacks started turning up, one or two a week. It became a kind of ritual, stopping in to see if whoever seemed to be working their way through Ramsey’s bibliography and then passing them more or less directly on to me had left me another. It was during this time that I fell well and truly in love with his work, his allusive and often intricate style, his descriptions of a world in which realities shifted in front of characters’ eyes, and his themes, including those of alienation and the oppressive nature of organized religion–two that I borrowed for my own story in this anthology. I remember how sad I was when I’d read all the novels he’d written up to that point, and there were no more new books coming in.

It was with all this in mind that I set out to write “The Dublin Horror.” I wanted my main character to be a 1980s teen goth girl—perhaps not so different from Amy of Ramsey’s 1998 novel Nazareth Hill, one of my favorites by him. I wanted her to discover a writer in the same way I’d fallen in love with Ramsey’s books, and as I once owned a copy of his Night of the Claw written as Jay Ramsey, in a moment of cheekiness I gave the writer the first name of Jay. After that it got cheekier—I won’t spoil my own story, but suffice it to say any resemblance to Ramsey Campbell, the writer and the person I have come to know a little over the years, ends there.

At its core, though, I wanted to tell a story that evoked the same sense of disorientation and isolation that so many of Ramsey’s stories have done for me. I set out to write something that felt, to me at least, Campbellesque, as filtered through my own style and preoccupations. I’m just so pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to this anthology and to pay my respects to a writer who has meant so much to me—not just as a writer, but as a reader. Like many of my colleagues, I wouldn’t be here in quite the same way without him.

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The Old Roads and Other Stories

First of all, I am delighted to say that my story “The Old Roads” is up at the Burrow Press website, where you can read it for free. It’s the start of their Month of Horrors, which will bring you a new horror story every Tuesday for the rest of the month, so be sure to check back for the rest of the fiction that editor Teege Braune has lined up for you. Speaking of Teege, he is a wonderfully insightful editor and was a joy to work with.

Now, onto other stories!

“The Seventh Wave,” which was originally published in Paul Finch’s Terror Tales of the Ocean, has been reprinted in Undertow Press’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction vol. 3 and it’s available now in hardback or softcover from Amazon or from Undertow Press themselves. The guest editor this time around was Simon Strantzas.

Also, just a reminder that the anthologies Something Remains, a tribute to/collaboration with Joel Lane published by Alchemy Press, launched at Fantasycon (which was brilliant! amazing! Best FCon since Brighton 2012!) as did Newcon Press’s Ten Tall Tales, and both are also available now.

 

Ten Tall Tales

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(and ten limericks, courtesy of Ramsey Campbell)

It is the tenth anniversary of NewCon Press, which is a very fine small press indeed run by Ian Whates. In celebration, NewCon has been releasing a series of publications including this one–in which we were asked to write a story of dark fantasy or horror that incorporated something about the number ten. Just look at that terrific lineup! My story, “One Little Mouth to Kiss You Goodnight” is in there along with ten other excellent writers (nine stories plus ten limericks from Mr. Campbell). It will be launched at the British Fantasy Convention (with wine!), but if you can’t attend, fear not. It’s also available for pre-order at the NewCon Press website.

books to buy and read

Mostly, this blog post is all about telling you to buy things. Let’s think of it as an embarrassment of riches!

First of all, my new collection, You’ll Know When You Get There, which officially launches at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival this weekend, is now available. All pre-orders have now been sent out, and the first 100 numbered copies are history, but unnumbered copies are still available! If you happen to live in Dublin or will be in Dublin, there are also copies at Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines.

Also available! Uncertainties: Volume I, which contains my story “The Seance.” For reasons not worth boring you with here, there is also, already, an Uncertainties: Volume II, which I am not in, but which a lot of other fabulous people are in, and so you might as well pick up the pair while you are at it.

Fear not! I am not merely a shill for Swan River Press. You should also pick up the Alchemy Press title Something Remains, now available for pre-order at Amazon UK and Amazon US and, I am certain, all the other Amazons out there. This is the tribute anthology that is (sort of) co-written with Joel Lane that I blogged about recently. This will launch in September at the British Fantasy Convention and a lot of contributors will be on hand, so if you’re attending, you may want to pick up your copy there.

Finally, not something to buy, although I expect you will want to buy things or at least pay a visit to your local library after following this next link! This is very late, but weeks ago Mark West posted the American Horror Mixtape, companion to the Brit Horror Mixtape. This time around my candidates included Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Summer People,” and a number of my other favorites made it on there as well. I was also surprised and happy to see that Laura Mauro (a very good writer whose short fiction you should check out) had included one of my stories on the list! Go there to see whose story ultimately made my cut.

 

New collection: You’ll Know When You Get There

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I am delighted to announce that my second short story collection, You’ll Know When You Get There, is now available for pre-order from Swan River Press. This is a limited edition of only 400, so buy early and often before they are all gone!

I was fortunate enough to get a lovely introduction from Lisa Tuttle, a writer whose own stories have been very influential for me, and the cover art is by Savannah artist Tobia Makover–I love Tobia’s haunting photographs, go check them out for yourself!

I’ve also been interviewed about the book by the very fine writer (and fellow Shirley Jackson Award winner for 2015) Steve Duffy. You can read that over at the Swan River Press site as well.

The book will be officially launched in August at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival, where I will be a guest along with a whole slew of luminaries.

 

Something Remains: A tribute to Joel Lane

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Last year, Peter Coleborn of the award-winning Alchemy Press contacted me about a project he was working on with Pauline E. Dungate that I couldn’t possibly have said no to: an anthology based on some of the unfinished work of the British writer Joel Lane. After Joel’s untimely death in 2013, his loved ones found that he had left a lot of fragments behind. Those of us working on the project were sent scans of the manuscript fragments to choose from, and I selected a fragment called “The Other Side.” What I had to work with were two handwritten pages, one partly notes and prose and the second all prose based on the notes of the previous. I used Joel’s second page of prose almost exactly as it appeared and built my own Lane-esque story around it.

It was an enormous honor to work on this and also an extremely moving experience. I had selected the fragment that spoke to me the most personally, and worked hard to get into a mindset that would produce a story that was truly a collaboration between Joel and me. As someone who had only a passing acquaintance with Joel personally (but who has loved his work since the 1990s), it was surprising how close I felt to him over the course of writing the story. I do not literally believe that I was visited by some spirit in the process of writing it, but I absolutely felt his presence and influence throughout. I was happy with the result–not something that I always feel on completing a story–and I hope Joel would be as well. Above all, I hope his friends and those who admired his work think I have done a decent job in acting as his collaborator.

Something Remains will launch at the British Fantasy Convention in September, and copies will be available there and through Alchemy Press. No one is making any money from this effort; all proceeds will be donated to Diabetes UK in memory of Joel.

I’m sharing the table of contents with a number of talented writers, many of them close friends of Joel’s:

  • Foreword by Peter Coleborn
  • Introduction by Pauline E. Dungate
  • Not Dispossessed:  A Few Words on Joel Lane’s Early Published Works by David A. Sutton (Essay)
  • Joel by Chris Morgan (Verse)
  • Everybody Hates a Tourist by Tim Lebbon
  • The Missing by John Llewellyn Probert
  • Charmed Life by Simon Avery
  • Antithesis by Alison Littlewood
  • Dark Furnaces by Chris Morgan
  • The Inner Ear by Marion Pitman (Verse)
  • Broken Eye by Gary Mcmahon
  • Stained Glass by John Grant
  • Threadbare by Jan Edwards
  • The Dark above the Fair by Terry Grimwood
  • Grey Children by David A. Sutton
  • The Twin by James Brogden
  • Lost by Pauline Morgan (Verse)
  • Through the Floor [1] by Gary Couzens
  • Through the Floor [2] by Stephen Bacon
  • Bad Faith by Thana Niveau
  • Window Shopping by David Mathew
  • Clan Festor by Liam Garriock
  • Sweet Sixteen by Adam Millard
  • Buried Stars by Simon Macculloch
  • And Ashes in Her Hair by Simon Bestwick
  • The Pleasure Garden by Rosanne Rabinowitz
  • Joel Lane, Poet by Chris Morgan (Essay)
  • The Reach of Children by Mike Chinn
  • The Men Cast by Shadows by Mat Joiner
  • The Winter Garden by Pauline E. Dungate
  • Natural History by Allen Ashley
  • The Second Death by Ian Hunter
  • The Bright Exit by Sarah Doyle (Verse)
  • Blanche by Andrew Hook
  • The Body Static by Tom Johnstone
  • You Give Me Fever by Paul Edwards
  • The Other Side by Lynda E. Rucker
  • Of Loss and of Life: Joel Lane’s Essays on the Fantastic by Mark Valentine (Essay)
  • Shadows by Joe X Young
  • I Need Somewhere to Hide by Steven Savile
  • Coming to Life by John Howard
  • The Enemy Within by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Afterword: The Whole of Joel by Ramsey Campbell (Essay)

Shirley Jackson Award–Best Short Story

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So, while I was sitting on a beach in Whitstable enjoying a beer on Sunday, I found out I had won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Short Story for my story “The Dying Season” that appeared in Aickman’s Heirs, edited by the fabulous Simon Strantzas and published by Mike Kelly’s Undertow Publications. This is an amazing honor, as was the original nomination–I genuinely did not expect to win and am just thrilled to have done so. Also, the anthology itself won the Best Anthology award.

The rest of the lineup of winners is amazing–Best Novel to Gemma Files for Experimental Film, Best Novella to Liz Hand for her wonderful Wylding Hall, Best Novelette to my compadre Steve Duffy for “Even Clean Hands Can Do Damage” from Supernatural Tales, and Stephen King for best single-author collection with The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. But as you’ll see from the link above, the nominees themselves were equally impressive (the novella category being a particularly tough one this  year).

I’ve never even been nominated for an award before, so to be nominated and win all in one fell swoop the genre award that is perhaps the one I hold in highest regard is just, well, massive. I’m very happy. Now go and read all my fellow nominees and all the other wonderful stuff on that shortlist, because it truly demonstrates the literary skill and depth of so many people writing dark fiction today.

The following day, Aickman’s Heirs also received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Best Anthology, as did another anthology I’m in, Cassilda’s Song, while Selena Chambers’s story from that same volume, “The Neurastheniac,” was nominated for Best Short Story. A good few days for awards and award nominations!

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Oh, and here is the acceptance speech I wrote that Simon Strantzas was kind enough to deliver at Readercon, where the awards ceremony took place:

It was a real honor to share this ballot with four other talented women writers—or, as I like to refer to them, just writers—Shannon Peavey, Alyssa Wong, Nadia Bulkin, and Letitia Trent. I want to thank Simon Strantzas, for requesting a story from me and putting together such a wonderful anthology; Mike Kelly, for publishing the book and for his general encouragement over the years; Sean Hogan, for introducing me to the place that inspired the story (a place I actually like!), and for his encouragement; and, of course, the spirits of both Robert Aickman and Shirley Jackson, who remain constant sources of inspiration to me. Thank you so much to the jury too—this is the first nomination I’ve ever received for my fiction and so my first award as well, and I am so happy!