New Free Fiction – A Piece of the Puzzle


I released another free short story in the Wizard’s Tower Lockdown Reading series today. This one is by me.

Yes, yes, I know. But I wanted to encourage people to buy the book it comes from. The Hotwells Horror is an anthology put together by a group of Bristol-area writers to honour the memory of David J Rodger. All of the proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to Mind. That’s a charity that will be very busy right now. There are better stories than mine in the book, promise.

On the other hand, mine has tentacles. Well, not exactly, but it does have a few familiar faces from the Cthulhu Mythos. The story also features a young widow from New York called Sonia Greene. She has a passion for weird fiction, and a need for a husband. If you have a bad feeling about this, you are probably right.

You can get the story, for free, here.

She Walks In Shadows #WITMonth

She Walks In ShadowsNow isn’t that lovely?

Yes, there are tentacles. And a woman. Also I gave the whole thing away with the title of this post. She Walks In Shadows, the anthology of Lovecraftian stories by women writers, is now available for pre-order from Innsmouth Free Press. If you didn’t back the crowdfunding campaign, now is the time to go and reserve your copy of the book.

There is a fine list of contributors which I am pleased to see is very international. There’s even one story originally written in Spanish by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, and translated for publication by editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia. As this is Women In Translation Month, I’m pleased to have discovered another woman writer of weird fiction. A quick Google tells me that Nelly is Mexican, so I guess I won’t get to meet her in Barcelona, but I’ll certainly be looking out for her work from now on.

I had a really good idea for a story for this anthology, and had even managed to get it mostly written. Then I discovered that a small but vital piece of historical evidence that my story hinged on was incorrect, and that blew the whole thing out of the water. Still, I’m sure all of the stories that did make it into the book are better than anything I could have done. I’m looking forward to getting my backer’s copy.

While I’m on the subject of women and weird fiction, you should also check out Daughters of Frankenstein from Lethe Press. Not all of the stories in this book are by women, though most are. However, all of the stories are about lesbian mad scientists. Goodness only knows what they have been inventing.

Join #TeamSquid Now!

Team Squid


Yes, it is another one of those anthologies. Women Destroy Lovecraft? Actually I think Howard had quite enough difficulty with women when he was alive. Women Destroy the Cthulhu Mythos, perhaps. Anyway: women, tentacles, what’s not to like? Go back She walks In Shadows on Indiegogo now, please.

This one, of course, came out of some male editor excusing the cockforest of his contents list by claiming that women don’t write Lovecraftian stories. So we have to prove him wrong.

By the way, my story in Airship Shaped and Bristol Fashion is totally Lovecraftian. And it has a lesbian heroine. Because there were lesbians in 19th Century Bristol, some of them quite famous.

The End is Nigh

As those of you watching the UK news will know, the world is being destroyed in wind and rain today. I came back from Darkest Somerset on the train today, and was really rather lucky. There’s a tree down on the line between Tiverton and Taunton, so long-distance services from the West Country are severely disrupted. Fortunately I only needed local trains, which were only mildly chaotic.

Mind you, we are doing better than Toronto. From what I am seeing on Twitter, they are suffering an attack by Frost Giants. I hope that Thor & Co. turn up soon.

Coming back on the train south of Bath I could see that the Avon was close to bursting its banks. Many of the fields near Trowbridge were flooded. And judging by the number of people braving the wind and rain to throng to the shops there is a great deal of insanity about. There can be only one explanation. It is that time of year. It won’t be long now before we see Deep Ones swimming their way up the High Street.

Last Minute Shopping Under a Gibbous Moon

Forgotten someone this Christmas? Never fear, online shops never close, and I have the perfect gift for you! I am talking, of course, of An Abhorrent & Ancient Solstice, a squamous and eldritch collection of tentacle-fueled seasonal jollity now available from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society as a digital download.

Sadly this one isn’t on it, but it gives you a good idea of what to expect.

While you are at the HPLHS store, you might like to check out their jazz album: Ogham Waite and the Amphibian Jazz Band Live at the Gilman House. It’s fabulous stuff. I’m particularly fond of “Somewhere Under the Ocean”. I can’t find that one on YouTube, but here’s an extract from “My Slimy Cephalopod”.

Of course you could always buy a book instead, but advertising my own store seems a bit unseasonal. To teach me a lesson, here’s the very wise Tom Lehrer.

Happy Winterval, everyone!

Squid On Film

A Discovery Channel press release brings the exciting news of the first ever live film of the Giant Squid, Architeuthis dux, in its natural habitat. A program featuring the film is due to be broadcast (presumably in the US first) on January 27th. Deep Sea News has some speculation as to where the film is likely to have been shot, and who was responsible for this triumph of natural history film-making.

Rumors that the squid was seen holding up a placard that read, “Thanks Jeff & China, the checks are in the mail”, have been hotly denied by Discovery.

Silicon Valley Gets Desperate

So there you are, kicking out one great software idea after another, and all you need to get them to market are a pile of top class computer science graduates. You want the very best people, no matter where in the world they come from. Unfortunately your government makes it very hard for those people to get work visas. What do you do? You buy a cruise ship, anchor it 12 miles off Half Moon Bay, and put them all on that. At least, that’s the proposal for Blueseed, one entrepreneur’s solution to a desperate need.

Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to afford a berth on it. More to the point, it sounds distinctly like one of those Libertarian seasteading projects. I can see there being a mutiny on board, and the whole thing turning into a live action single person shooter game. Worse still, the ship might get attacked by the most vicious predators on the planet.

Every Spawn Should Have One

I’ll have a lot more to say about the Bristol Comics Expo tomorrow, but for now here’s a little something that I discovered in the dealers’ room. If you want to corrupt your spawn early, this is a good way to destroy their sanity.

Cosmic Horror Colouring Book

The person responsible for this, and much other tentacle-related humour, is Bristol artist Jess Bradley. You can see more of her work at her blog, Squid Bits!.

Book Review – The Drowning Girl

OK, I have made a start on 2012 books. Naturally I started with the book I was most looking forward to. It may be all downhill from here. Sorry, everyone else.

Of course what works for me may not work for you. But Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl has got enthusiastic recommendations from Peter Straub, Brian Evanson, Elizabeth Bear, Catherynne M. Valente, Holly Black, Elizabeth Hand, Roz Kaveney and Gary K. Wolfe, to name but a few. You can see why I thought I would like it, can’t you? I explain in more detail (and find an excuse for gratuitous mention of squid) here.

You’ll Believe A Squid Can Fly

Things have been a bit heavy around here for the past few days, so I figured that you folks deserved some light relief. Here it is.

For the benefit of those of you who didn’t click through, it appears that squid, the smaller varieties thereof anyway, can indeed fly. They use the same jet propulsion system that they use under water. The biologists concerned think that they developed this ability because flying takes less energy than swimming, and perhaps to escape predators.

Now all they need to do is work out how to achieve escape velocity.

Who Is King of the Squid?

Those of you who have read China Miéville’s Kraken will be aware that there is something of a debate amongst squid aficionados as to which tentacled monstrosity is the true king of the high seas. China sides with the Giant Squid (genus Architeuthis, of which there are several species), which is much bigger, and apparently much more dangerous, than the violent Humboldt Squid that terrorizes the California coast. The Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) is an even bigger animal, but is generally held to be a bit of a wuss as it is believed to be more of an ambush predator than a ferocious hunter.

Over at Deep Sea News Kevin Zelnio points to recent research that appears to back up the case against Mesonychoteuthis, but Zelnio isn’t convinced and points us to this article by Mara Grunbaum defending the big guy.

I think she may have a point. You know, the tiger is an ambush predator.

Update: Via Twitter PZ Myers suggests that the true King of Squid is the Blue-Ringed Octopus, which is very small in comparison but both beautiful and deadly. Note that I am not going to argue biological classification with Prof. Myers, but here’s some reference material about cephalopod orders.

We’re All Going To Die x 144

Curiously timed to coincide with Worldcon, Slate magazine is running a week-long feature entitled “How Is America Going To End?” This exercise in futurology plans get all sorts of clever (and perhaps a few not-so-clever) people to predict the form that America’s demise will take.

In addition you can play along yourself, via the Choose Your Own Apocalypse game. This provides 144 imaginative sources of terminal decline, ranging from the mildly plausible to the downright whacko. Slate‘s writers have done a pretty good job. Here are some examples of the sorts of apocalyptic disasters they predict:

  • The Rapture happens;
  • The Mayans were right about 2012;
  • Alien invasion;
  • Asteroid strike;
  • Gray goo;
  • Robot overlords; and
  • Invasion from Canada

But I am sure we can do better. There is, for example, no explicit mention of tentacled beings from beyond the stars; of the Humboldt Squid inventing machine guns; of re-animated dinosaurs; of sex change drugs in the water; or of Americans becoming addicted to yaoi. Besides, we all know that there cannot be only 144 causes of apocalypse. There have to be 666.

Your mission (Jim, should you choose to accept it), is to come up with lots of crazy new ideas. Let’s see how creative we can be.

(Hat tip to Kelley Eskridge who pointed me at the Slate article.)

Know Your Squid

Deep Sea News tries (probably in vain) to teach journalists the difference between a giant squid and a Giant Squid.

While tiny in comparison to their more illustrious kin, the Humboldt squid is nevertheless a fearsome predator. It can grow up to 6 feet or more in length and 100 lbs or more in weight. While the recent attempt of a group of Humboldt squid to attend ComicCon in San Diego was an embarrassing failure, their plan to lay siege to California is still progressing well. The only problem the squid have are mysterious aliens in flying saucers boats who insist on capturing them and giving them anal probes and the like, as this KQED film reveals.

Wellywood

Many thanks to Kelly & Daniel for looking after me in Wellington. I have seen lots of things. I have been to the Weta Cave; I have been to the Cake Tin (Go ‘Canes!); I have been to Rivendell; and I have been to Te Papa where I have see the Colossal Squid. Surprisingly, despite all of the dire warnings I received from various people in Auckland, I did not freeze to death. The weather was actually rather good. I gather that I may have been lucky to see three consecutive days with no wind, but I did none the less.

Some compare and contrast is doubtless in order. Auckland is a large (huge by NZ standards) city that you probably need a car to get around. Wellington, in contrast, is small and compact and walkable. I did a lot of walking. You need a car (or bus) to get out to Miramar, where there Weta offices are, but there is a whole lot you can do around the city and, being the national capital, Wellington boasts some fabulous museums.

Both cities have absolutely amazing natural scenery within an easy drive of the town center. I have lots of photos and video that I shall get on with processing as soon as I can. New Zealand is an extraordinarily beautiful place. I wish I’d had more time for just touring around (or indeed for just sitting on beaches watching the waves).

While there are a lot of Middle Earth sites that you can visit, most of them have been cleaned up, and a huge amount of the film scenery was CGI anyway, so there isn’t necessarily a lot to see. There are no elf houses at Rivendell, and no elves either, or at least if there were they were being very secretive. Also no one makes a great fuss of the sites. It wasn’t until we were inside the appropriate national park that we saw small signs saying “Rivendell”. You had to know where to go in order to get there.

The national museum, Te Papa, is a fabulous building and has all sorts of wonderful things ranging from moa bones (that was one big bird) to Maori cultural artifacts. The Colossal Squid is a bit sad these days, but the museum is very proud of it and as a result I now have my very own pet squid.

One thing you can’t do is tour Weta’s studios. There is way too much sensitive work going on in them, and they can’t have people traipsing around peering at things that Hollywood doesn’t want peered at. However, there are a few things that they do want us to see. Here’s a trailer that Norm showed at the convention. Look out for the marvelous steampunk spaceship.