Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Spiraling Worm: A Retrospective

It’s been eighteen months since the publication of The Spiraling Worm, which is either a novel or a collection of interconnected stories linked by characters and setting depending on how you look at it, which I wrote with American horror writer John Sunseri. In summary it is a Cthulhu Mythos novel written in the style of a political thriller. When I tell people it is like The Bourne Identity meets H.P. Lovecraft I’m told this is a great way to sum it up.

As an overview The Spiraling Worm is about three spies, Harrison Peel of Australian Army Intelligence, Jack Dixon of the NSA and James Figgs from the British Secret Service. The three agents are embroiled into the world of cosmic horrors, of other dimensional monsters breaking through into our universe, our world hell-bent on destroying it. Peel and Dixon fight the good fight to stop them, and Figgs … well his motives are a little more clouded. Of course there is lots of action, gun play, exotic locations from the Congo to Russia, Antarctica and the Australian Outback, and as my friends like to point out, lots of explosions. I’m also told regularly that it is very visual, very cinematic.

The book was not something that was originally planned. It started out innocently enough with a few short stories featuring Harrison Peel which ended up in a few magazines and anthologies. One story however, got noticed quickly, and that was “False Containment” which involved government conspiracies, nuclear waste, wormholes into the past, FBI agents and a flesh devouring monster, and the saving of the world by the quick thinking of the hero, Harrison Peel. This story appeared in the Elder Signs Press anthology Horrors Beyond, which also featured a story from John Sunseri, and he was the one who noticed it.

When John read “False Containment” he liked it so much he wanted to borrow Peel for his own tale, “Resurgence” about the rise of the shoggoths (If you don’t know what a shoggoth is, I suggest you read H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness and find out, but in a nutshell they are one of the creepiest monsters ever to come out of 20th Century literature – vampires and werewolves have nothing on these guys). I liked his story so much I wrote a sequel, “Weapon Grade”. Suddenly John and I realised we were a couple of stories away from completing a collection, and so we got to work.

When we started submitting the collection to publishers Chaosium Inc. snapped it up quickly, pushing it up their publication schedule. Renowned and respected Cthulhu Mythos writer C.J. Henderson best known for his Teddy London wrote us a wonderful introduction, and before we knew it, the book was in print.

So what happened in eighteen months since its release? To our surprise the collection did remarkably well. It’s been a continuous seller on regularly dipping into the top ten horror anthology best selling list – word of mouth is definitely what keeps it flying out the Amazon warehouse doors. It spawned its own Wikipedia page, got rave reviews from OzHorrorScope, SFReader, GameGeek and Amazon, and three of the stories received honourable mentions in the Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. The book also received two honourable mentions in Australia’s most prestigious awards, the Aurealis and the Australian Shadows. I was interviewed by the ABC and OzHorrorScope about the book, and Chaosium decided to publish it as their first, and so far only, hardback fiction edition.

Looking back on The Spiraling Worm I’m still proud of what John and I achieved. It had its faults of course, which are much easier to see in hindsight, and if I did it again I’d approach the whole thing differently. But at the end of the day, it did well and is still doing far better than we ever could have hoped for.

Will there be any more Harrison Peel and Jack Dixon tales? We certainly hope so and there are enough fans out there who keep asking me when it will happen. Unfortunately for various reasons the sequel got delayed, and then finally ground to a halt. John and I have discussed some options on what we could do with a sequel down the track while we work on other projects. In the meantime we’re still writing more short stories in the series, and when they come out in print, I’ll post here. Peel and Dixon are just too much fun to write about to end the series now.