Archive for October, 2010

The Big C anthology

Posted in Guest-blog, News with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Yesterday, I announced in a somewhat oblique manner that I had been asked to provide a cover painting for a forthcoming book – well, I can now reveal that it is The Big C anthology, to be edited by Willie Meikle and Stephen James Price (of Ghostwriter Publications), dedicated to raising awareness of cancer and money for cancer charities. Here, Mr Meikle explains why he decided to put this together.





—()—

My Dad has cancer. More than one kind in fact. He’s fighting hard, but cancer is a devious bugger. It hides, it lurks, and it pounces when you think it’s down and defeated.

Cancer is a monster.

I write about monsters, and have been doing so for a long span of years. Just recently I’ve started thinking more about why and taking a harder look at my motivations. A look back at several recent things I’ve done was revealing. The Invasion features an alien invasion that comes in the form of an organism from space that eats anything in its path, transforming it into something different and unnatural. My short story The Colour that Came to Chiswick features a colour out of space that gets into beer and, when consumed, eats the drinker away from the inside out. A story sale to another anthology features gross body changes and loss of identity, and even my current work in progress, ostensibly just a little creature feature disaster story, features genetic modification leading to crawling chaos. I may not have been consciously aware of it, but it’s obvious to me now that the Big C has been on my mind.

Cancer has been a presence in my life for as long as I can remember. I first came across it in the late Sixties. My Gran’s brother came back to town to die with his family. I was fascinated by this man, so thin as to be almost skeletal, wound in clothes that were many sizes too large for his frame, his skin so thin that I could see his blood moving… not pumping, for it had long since stopped moving enough to keep him alive long. He rarely spoke, just sat by the fire as if trying to soak up heat, his eyes frequently wet from tears, not of sadness, but of pain. He lasted for months in that condition until it finally took him and I knew then that cancer was a monster.

Since then it has taken others, both friends and family, a young mother with two pre-teen children, a cousin who was like a big brother to me, and a girl I never got to know for she was taken before her twentieth birthday. Other family members are still fighting. There’s my Dad, who meets it all with a good humour that is humbling, and my godmother who has battled bowel cancer into remission twice.

Cancer is a monster. I can’t fight it for them. But as a writer there is something I can do.

Just yesterday the idea came to me. I’m not the only one who writes about monsters. Maybe together, there was something we could all do. The idea grew and grew in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. So I did something about it.

I’ve been discussing a possible cancer-themed anthology with Stephen James Price who has taken over Ghostwriter Publications. He’s agreed in principle to a POD paperback and ebook release, all proceeds to cancer charities. Steve and I will be joint editors (and possibly contribute a collaborated story.)

Provisional title is THE BIG C.

I’ve been inviting some writers I’ve always wanted to work with and whose work I admire. I’m proud of these virtual friends, as they’re coming through for the project with enthusiasm.

Recruitment is going well. Provisionally signed up so far I have: Gary McMahon, Scott Nicholson, Steven Savile, Steve Lockley, Steve Duffy, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Allyson Bird and John Shirley.

And we’ve got a cover artist signed up too… Simon Marshall Jones. He does great work that’ll be perfect for the book.

I’m still waiting to get decisions from others I have invited, but I already feel energised and ready to take the project on.

Cancer is a monster.

I plan to fight it the best way I know how. Watch this space.

—()—

I am really rather chuffed that I was asked to provide a cover for this endeavour – my wife Liz went through an ovarian cancer scare last year, and her mother and aunt died through the disease’s ravages. So, even if Wille was unaware of this before he asked me, this project is something that actually has some relevance to me and my nearest and dearest. Which makes it even more important that I produce my best work – I already have an image in mind for this, one that I feel will express the dread this disease holds for many.

The book will be published next year, in time for the convention season. Keep checking here for regular updates.


Even MORE news…

Posted in News on October 30, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

I have just received another painting commission – to do a portrait of horror writer GARY MCMAHON…. looking forward to going completely batty on this one and creating something that will truly reflect both him and his writing… I’m already buzzing with ideas…

I’ll be starting on it in the new year (as I have so much on in the meantime) and when I do, there’ll be progress reports on both this blog and Gary’s, so you can watch the painting taking on a life of its own… so look out for that!

(Maybe this could be the start of yet another new venture… horror author portraits… who knows, eh?)

Onwards and upwards, as they say!! =D

Spectral Press subs – imminent availability

Posted in News on October 30, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Okay, so the new bank account has been opened, which means that within a week or so, you’ll be able to pay for privilege of having the whole of the first year’s publications sent right to your door (I have to wait until the debit card comes through before I can set the Paypal account up). You’ll be able to pay through that site, and each sub will cost £10UK/£12EU /$20US/ $25US RoW (all prices inclusive of postage and packing). Individual chapbooks will be available for £3.50UK/£4EU/$8US/$12RoW (again all prices inclusive of p+p).

Please email me at spectralpress@gmail.com for expressions of interest or further details.

Spectral Press is definitely on its way!!

Some quick news…

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

I’m not sure just how much I can say or not say at present, so I’ll just give a quick hint here of something else I’m now involved in… I’ve been asked to provide the cover painting for a charity anthology, scheduled to appear sometime next year in time for the convention season. What I will also say is that, judging from some of the messages already flying into my inbox there are some exciting authors already on-board, with some potentially mind-blowing ones put forward as possibles – if they say yes, then it looks set to be THE anthology of 2011.

Talking of such things, Simon Kurt Unsworth gave a charity reading for Cancer Research at his local shop-branch in Morecambe on Thursday evening. On top of that, some of his wife Wendy’s legendary cakes were on sale too. Much money was raised, but they could always do with more. There were some limited edition chapbooks available of his story The Pennine Tower Restaurant – I don’t know whether there are any of them left, but it might be worth your while contacting Simon to see if there are any still for sale. They only cost £3, a £1 of which goes toward Cancer Research UK’s continuous efforts to find a cure for this devastating disease – thousands are affected every year, and it’s all too likely that every one of us will know someone who has been so affected, or will be. You can contact him through his blog here.

Now, it’s become apparent that I have a whole pile of books here waiting  to be reviewed – so this is a forewarning that I will be going through them this weekend and prioritising which ones I will be looking at first. As I mentioned elsewhere, I will be cutting back my reviewing activities to a more manageable level next year in order to concentrate on my other projects – however, I am a man of my word and there fore I will review what has already been sent to me. I won’t be giving up reviewing entirely, as I enjoy it too much. Apologies to anyone who has sent material but not seen a review yet – I may be tardy, but my reviews are thorough and in-depth.

That’s it on the news front today – there may be a main blog-piece later, but I am opening a bank account for Spectral Press this morning, so I have no idea when I’ll be back. In the meantime, please feel free to wander around the rest of this site, while I go and indulge in some breakfast before venturing outside.

Books galore….

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Just a quick post to tell you about some books I received today, which were:

For review –

The Call of Kerberos (Twilight of Kerberos Book 2), by Jonathan Oliver (Abaddon Books)

The End of the Line, by Various, edited by Jonathan Oliver (Solaris Books)

Especially looking forward to the latter, as I have heard some great things about it and I am attending its launch in London in November- autographs aplenty, mateys… =D

I also received a rather nice book this morning, one that I have already reviewed – Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits and Other Curious Things by Cate Gardner (Strange Publications). It was signed, of course, by Cate and she also thought to include a signed bookmark, too. But, what really makes it special is what’s on the back cover – above an excerpt from the introduction by Nathaniel Lambert is a quote from my review of the collection, posted at Beyond Fiction some months ago and reposted here a month later. That has really made my day,  even after I managed to lock myself out of the house earlier…. and accidentally insult Steve Duffy by forgetting to include his name in the list of Spectral authors in the previous blog (and of course, I am now suitably contrite)…

Spectral Press update and other plans…

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

It’s been a while since I posted anything about my Spectral Press project , so I thought it a good idea to let you all know what’s happening. So here goes:

For starters, this is the line-up for the first year’s publications:

What They Hear in the Dark, by Gary McMahon (April/May 2011)

The Abolisher of Roses, by Gary Fry (September 2011)

Nowhere Hall, by Cate Gardner (January 2012)

More details and blurb about each very soon. There’ll only be the three in the first year, mainly to judge the kind of reaction to what Spectral has to offer. If it looks like the imprint will be successful then I will increase the frequency to every quarter. My aim, eventually (and this is only maybe), is to publish a chapbook every two months OR two every quarter.

The subscription price for the first year is £10 – I’ll be working out the price very soon for both the rest of the world and the $ price for the US. I’ll be setting up the new bank account tomorrow so that within the next week or two I’ll be able to start accepting subscription payments should anyone wish to take one out.

Other writers who have either agreed to write, or have expressed an interest in writing, for Spectral Press are (in no particular order): Alison Littlewood, Steve Duffy, Thana Niveau, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Steve Lockley, Stephen Volk, Mark West, John Llewellyn Probert, Johnny Mains, Simon Bestwick, Nicholas Royle, RB Russell, Willie Meikle and Angela Slatter. Something for everyone there, I should think. Plus it’ll keep the imprint going for a while….

Jumping the gun maybe, but I am also thinking about Spectral Press in the longer term. This is more of a visualisation exercise than anything else, but this is what I would like to see happening with the imprint.

As well as the main Spectral Press chapbooks, I envision two other, parallel series further down the road:

Spectral Old Masters – republishing ghostly and supernatural tales from the early part of last century and before. I don’t quite know how to go about sourcing public domain/out-of-copyright stories (which, intially, I think they would have to be due to financial constraints) so any help in that quarter appreciated. I imagine them to look something along the lines of the main Spectral line, but with more of a Victorian/Edwardian feel to them.

Spectral Pulp – this would be more of a fun line of chapbooks, giving authors a chance to write something they wouldn’t normally attempt as an hommage to the ‘golden age’ of 50s and 60s pulp publishing. This could take the form of a hard-boiled detective story, or a fantasy story, or maybe a science fiction one, accompanied by some lurid and gloriously technicolour cover artwork that reflects the kind of thing that used to grace newsstands and airport lounge book-racks back in the day. The more outré the better in the last two cases….

Even without the two other ideas coming into being, I’ll be plenty busy enough. This ultimately means that next year I will be cutting back on the reviewing (although the books I have here now will be dealt with, I promise), as I want to concentrate on making Spectral Press the success I think it deserves to be, plus I want to resume my own story-writing. I’ve neglected the latter for far too long, I feel. I have many stories, and story ideas, that I’ve been toying with over the last four or so months, none of which have got very far because of time constraints plus certain personal issues that have deigned to intervene. Those latter are now slowly being resolved, so I should have more time to deal with reviews and Spectral business.

At any rate, I hope you can all join me on-board this exciting new venture. I am definitely looking forward to getting the first chapbook out next year – it promises to be quite an interesting ride.

Old vs New

Posted in Books, Film, General Musings with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

A couple of blogs back, in my review of the final episode of BBC4’s A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss, I intimated at the end of the first paragraph that my tastes in horror have changed over the years. Thinking about it since, I have come to realise just how much they’ve actually changed, more so than I thought. Which, I happen to think, is a very good thing.

Wind back about 20 – 25 years ago. Then, I wasn’t much of a horror film fan, although I loved reading horror – Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, TED Klein, HP Lovecraft, and Clive Barker were amongst my favourite authors. I absolutely revelled in the verbal bloodshed. Films, however, were a different matter. I was incredibly squeamish, and always had been. I remember a particular event, when I was around nine or ten, when one of the Sunday colour supplements ran a feature on open-heart surgery, accompanied by photographs of the operation. I distinctly remember feeling dizzy and nauseous after reading it, almost fainting in the process. My parents laughed, obviously thinking it was highly amusing.

Don’t get me wrong – I did watch horror films occasionally, but they were mostly the Universal/RKO Pictures ones. I loved all those oldies, principally because I owned all of the Aurora ‘Monsters’ model kits, with their glow-in-the-dark hands and faces. I was an avid collector of those things, much to the dismay of my parents, I should imagine. Even in my early twenties, my preferred horror-fare was print based, along with those fairly ‘safe’ b&w films.

Then, sometime in my mid-20s, a friend introduced me to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead film, championed by no less a figure than Stephen King himself. That first time I barely made it though the first twenty minutes, in part because of the expectations I’d gained from reading the video cover hyperbole. A couple of months later, I rented it out, and got a little further in this time, but still bailed out way before the end. Third time, some months later still, and I got through it all, and you know what? I loved it.

Then, of course, I wanted more – much more. And the more horror films I saw, the more horror I wanted to see. After a time, simple scares were no longer enough. I started buying Fangoria magazine on a regular basis, and I learnt about all these films that were available over in the US, the stills of which seemed to imply that much bloodiness abounded in them. Some of these films, I discovered, were almost impossible to get over here because of censorship issues, or those that were available were heavily cut. I was adamant that I would only see the uncut versions. Eventually I found a video search service that not only found them for me, but also supplied me with many of the banned films (including the so-called ‘video nasties’).

And so, that was the pattern of my film viewing for years thereafter. I went looking for more and more extreme films, just to push my boundaries. Then, no more than a couple of years ago, I started to tire of it all – in fact, I got to the point where I could barely watch any kind of film ( something which occasionally still happens today). Over the last year especially, my horror reading tastes have also changed – mainly, I think, after having become a book-reviewer, where I’ve come across the more subtle and imaginative takes on what horror can be. Additionally, I’ve started reading older authors (older as in beginning of last century rather than anything to do with a writer’s age) and reading them has given me a greater appreciation of how they were able to imply horror effectively, without recourse to gory pyrotechnics.

I think it’s got something to do with age and growing up, this whole shifting of tastes thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there’s a place for the Saw-type films of this world, but I have to say that such things no longer have quite the same appeal for me as they once did. Certainly, in the wake of Mark Gatiss’s recent series, I am inclined to go back to all those old films and watch them again. I think it’s also got a lot to do with the peculiar atmosphere and ambience, qualities that appear to be better created through b&w films than colour (that’s not always the case , of course, and is an entirely subjective opinion). Plus, the cut-away at the very last second in some scenes suggests something more horrific than that which was probably intended. I like having to use my imagination, rather than having it served up on a platter to me.

I’ve no doubt a certain amount of nostalgia for the old-style of film-making plays its part, too. In these days of CGI and ultra-realistic effects, it’s far too easy to make things look so real that it could be a documentary. You know, however, that it’s all done very cleverly with computer trickery, and that knowledge often blunts the enjoyment. It takes the fun out of it. Those b&w films can be genuinely creepy and horrific in a way that’s missing from modern horror.

I realise that today’s horror films reflect current concerns and are extrapolations of them, and therefore most definitely have a place. But I can’t help thinking that, even given that, I get far more enjoyment and a lot more spooky thrills from the old ones. Plus, in some ways, the lack of ‘sophistication’  in those oldies (but only in comparison with modern films – many b&w films of yesteryear were very sophisticated in their own way) lends them a certain charm. Some of them worked very cleverly within the range of the restrictions placed on film studios back then, bypassing them in surprising and innovative ways. I sometimes feel that present-day audiences dismiss them too readily out of hand, simply because a) they’re old, b) they’re shot in b&w and c) they don’t show things explicitly enough. Perhaps modern horror films (or maybe cinema in general) has taken the edge off of our ability to bring something to the viewing experience.

This new-found appreciation of more subtle horror will manifest in ways other than just in my film-watching and reading tastes – I’ll be doing much more than that. If things go to plan, then I’ll be more than just reacting, I’ll be returning the pleasure that stories and films like those old b&w ones have given me. Keep your eye out on this blog for more information as and when it becomes available – good times are ahead….