Friday, 30 January 2009

More News from Chaosium

Chaosium, publisher of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, have just announced two books that I'm appearing in. In fact one of them I'm the editor.

That book is Cthulhu's Dark Cults which is an anthology of ten interconnected short horror stories set in the same shared world setting of the Call of Cthulhu game.

It's due out in May and here is the line up of authors and their stories:

  1. "The Eternal Chinaman" by John Sunseri

  2. "Captains of Industry" by John Goodrich

  3. "Perfect Skin" by David Witteveen

  4. "Covenant of Darkness" by William Jones

  5. "The Whisper of Ancient Secrets" by Penelope Love

  6. "Old Ghost" by Peter A. Worthy

  7. "The Nature of Faith" by Oscar Rios

  8. "The Devil's Diamonds" by Cody Goodfellow

  9. "Requiem for the Burning God" by Shane Jiraiya Cummings

  10. "Sister of the Sands" by David Conyers

The other is Terrors From Beyond, a book of six Call of Cthulhu scenarios which I posted about earlier. This one is due out in March. I contributed a scenario and some artwork.

2009 is shaping up to be a good year.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Influences: Gorky Park

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith remains one of my favourite novels, which I first read as a teenager when I was going through a period of devouring spy thrillers. The novel published in 1981 is set in Moscow during the era of the Soviet Union. A police investigator called Arkady Renko is investigating the death of three mutilated bodies found frozen in Gorky Park in Moscow. He keeps suspecting then hoping that the KGB will take the case off his hands, since the bodies have had their faces and fingertips removed by the killer, so the case reeks of a contract or political killing. But the KGB won’t let it go, and Renko finds himself embroiled in a case that could cost him his career and even his life, regardless of whether he drops it or follows it to its logical end.

I was first drawn to the book by the movie, but found the book to be complex and rich and so many levels. While most thrillers of the day were told from the Western viewpoint of the cold war, the hero of this tale was a Russian. Similarly, I’d found that the story wasn’t over the top with a race to stop a nuclear World War Three that peppered so many plots in other Cold War thriller writers of the 1980s. I also enjoyed how well Smith captured what life was like inside Russia, which at the time was still closed behind the Iron Curtain.

The skill which Smith used to unfold the mystery interlaced with moments of reflection and tension stayed with me and became a big influence on my own writing, and one of the major contributing factors as to why I chose the thriller approach to structuring my own stories. His character, Arkady Renko with his dogged persistence to solve a mystery regardless of the consequences, influenced my character Harrison Peel who appeared in The Spiraling Worm.

I liked Gorky Park so much I went on to read more of Smith’s work, including more Arkady Renko novels such as Polar Star and Red Square, and his American Indian thrillers Nightwing and Stallion Gate.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Terrors From Beyond Artwork

I'll soon be appearing in a book for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game called Terrors From Beyond, a collection of six horror gaming scenarios set in the 1920s. I'm one of the six contributing authors, with a scenario I set in Haiti called "The Burning Stars". The collection is edited by Gary Sumpter and features well known gaming authors such as Brian M. Sammons, Glyn White, Brian Courtemanche and John Almack.

I'd forgotten about this book as the manuscript was sent to the publisher nearly two years ago and I didn't hear much since. Then I was browsing the web the other day and discovered some of the artwork for my scenario posted online here. The artist is David Grilla and he's very talented. I'm looking forward to seeing what else he contributed to the book.

The other extremely talented artist featuerd in Terrors from Beyond is David Lee Ingersoll, whom I've worked with previously on several books including the cover for The Spiraling Worm. I've seen the two illustrations he did for "The Burning Stars" and they are just as good as David Grilla's work. Very different styles, but as equally effective.

So hopefully this means Terrors from Beyond will be out soon, and that it will be a very impressive looking collection.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

"Six-Legged Shadows"

Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror edited by Ryan C. Thomas and published by Permuted Press is now available for purchase from Read an extract from Brian M. Sammons and my contribution "Six Legged Shadows".

“It’s impossible, Captain, for grass to have mutated this much in such a short space of time.”

Time of course was relative. While it had taken us fifty-two-thousand years to circumnavigate a small portion of the galaxy and return to the Earth, only one-hundred-and-eight-years ship time had passed for us. That was just one of the oddities of faster than light travel. Now the home of our great-great-grandparents was in the midst of an ice-age. Massive ocean-sized snow caps buried most of North America, Europe, Russia, and the tip of South America.

We expected vast changes to Earth when, or make that if, we returned. Our forefathers had left a dying planet choking on the years of pollution it had ignored in the name of progress. So massive climate changes were likely and we planned accordingly.

What we didn’t expect, when our buzz-shuttle landed in the arid lands of northern Australia, were the mutations that had flourished in our absence. Grass now grew taller than trees and spread as vast forests across the planet.

“I mean, what kind of mutations could have caused that kind of evolutionary change?” Julie McKay asked our group as she took a laser to a fibrous strand. She ran a series of standard tests on the sample with her portalab. “It’s exactly like wild grass, only much, much bigger.”

Of course it is not only the grass that is bigger, but you would expect that in a story about giant creatures. Also featured are stories from D.L. Snell, Steven Shrewsbury and Cody Goodfellow.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

First Publication for 2009: "Six-Legged Shadows"

Just got news today from Permuted Press that Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror will be in bookstores in the coming weeks, and it includes my first published short story for 2009. My contribution is “Six-Legged Shadows” co-authored with Brian M. Sammons is a space opera tale set in the far future. Humans have returned to Earth after an absence of tens of thousands of years to find no traces of their ancestors, and in their place giant creatures rule the world.

The Monstrous anthology is edited by Ryan C. Thomas and features a story by another writer I respect and who I have worked with many times in the past, Cody Goodfellow. If you enjoy your giant monster stories, then I highly recommend this collection.

On related news I recently learnt that the other Permuted Press anthology that I’m appearing in this year, Cthulhu Unbound 2, will go to print soon. Purely by coincidence this short story “Stomach Acid” is another collaboration with Brian M. Sammons. Set in the Amazon jungle, this is a new Harrison Peel tale and his first encounter with Lovecraft’s aliens from “The Whisperer in Darkness”.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New Team at Andromeda Spaceways

A good friend of mine and fellow science fiction writer, David Kernot, has recently joined the team at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, as a reviewer and slush pile reader amongst other roles.

David's an up and coming writer best known for his short stories regularly appearing in the e-zine Antipodean SF, and I'm sure we'll see more of his work in the near future. He said he decided to join the Andromeda Spaceways team after being impressed with Issue #37 edited by Tehani Wessely, which amongst other stories included my space opera tale "Terraformer" from my Earth Central series, so that was nice to hear. I'm looking forward to seeing what David does when he gets to edit is own issue of the magazine.

Also joining the team is Felicity Dowker, an new Australian horror writer who in the last six months has made a big impression locally with her output of quality tales.

Both writers are different to what I've seen in the Australian speculative fiction market of late, so hopefully this translates into so really interesting issues of Andromeda Spaceways in the future. Best of luck to them.

Now the big question is, what crew positions will they take up?

Influences: Consider Phlebas

I thought I’d begin a series of posts about books that have influenced me, so I’m going to start with Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas, his first science fiction novel which came out in 1984 after he’d established himself as a reputed literary author with classics such as The Wasp Factory, Walking on Glass and The Bridge.

A space opera with fast paced action, I was blown away by the scope and ideas of this novel. Although I didn’t think about it much at the time when I first read it (early 1990s) it is one of the first new wave space operas that bridged the gap between old style science fiction where computers were isolated machines that couldn’t do much more than a human could, such as those in a Larry Niven or Isaac Asimov novel, and the cyberpunk movement that exploded out of the 1980s where the whole genre became a playground for ‘grey’ characters, flawed and morally ambiguous characters, as opposed to easily defined good guys and bad guys of the past.

I was drawn by the elegant writing style, the detailed characters especially the protagonist Bora Horza Gobuchul who tries to do the right thing by everyone all the time, but just keeps making a mess of everything he touches, and the rich detail of artificial worlds and bizarre cultures and alien species.

Horza is on a mission during war time, when conflict ravages the entire galaxy reminding me of Star Wars, but in a setting that felt so much more realistic and based more squarely on hard science. I was also drawn by Banks’ most famous contribution to the science fiction canon, the Culture, a vast interstellar utopian society where there are no rules and anything anyone wants is possible, and yet an society that felt compelled to meddle with the affairs of governments and species less civilised than their own.

Banks went on to explore this same setting in future novels such as The Player of Games, Use of Weapons, Excession, Matter and others. I’ve read the entire series but I’ve always been drawn back to Consider Phlebas, partially because it was the first one I read, but mostly because of its vision. It is one of the great space opera novels of the Twentieth Century.