Wednesday, 29 April 2009

New Cover for Cthulhu’s Dark Cults

I was recently browsing the Chaosium website when I came across the new cover for Cthulhu’s Dark Cults, my first edited anthology out in a couple of months. It is by the very talented Steven Gilberts who is arguably the finest Cthulhu Mythos artist currently working in the field. Visit his website here for more examples of his creepy and evocative work.

I really like this cover, not that I didn’t like the previous cover, but Steve’s work really encapsulates thematically what the collection is about. Is it a scene from a specific story? No, but that doesn’t matter. Like a said, Steve’s image says everything it needs to. The silhouetted figures dancing in a naked frenzy around a materialising Cthulhuoid god in a dark and uninviting wood says it all. These are what the stories are about. I’m glad Steve came on board.

Steve has done some amazing work for other Chaosium covers including The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson, Secrets of New York, The Necronomicon and Mysteries of the Worm. Chaosium can thank William Jones for finding him, as he started out illustrating for the Journal of Dark Wisdom and covers for Elder Signs Press anthologies and novels, which is William’s flagship publishing house.

I look forward to seeing what Steve comes up with next.

Influences: Chasm City

I’ve only been reading Alastair Reynolds recently but boy did he make an impression. One of the new wave British science fiction authors who write strong, believable space opera, Reynold’s Revelation Space series is stunning in its scope and imagination.

Chasm City was the first Reynolds novel I read and was the most visually impressive of everythign that I've read by him.
The story centres around two characters. The first is an ex-soldier turned security expert who finds himself on a strange high tech world recovering from the aftermath of a devastating alien plague. His memory is sketchy, but he knows he is chasing a man who wants to kill him to kill him first. The other story concerns a questionable leader of a fleet of slower-than-light starships racing to colonise a distant world, and the coup that results. Both characters are separated by both time and space, but their relationship is closer than anyone might suspect.

Reynolds is influenced by Larry Niven’s Known Space series and it shows in its grand scope and amazing ideas, but what Reynolds does so much better are his characters, his easy to read style and sense of pace. He even has transhumans or posthumans, highly evolved species of men and women who have transgressed the frailness of the human condition, and live almost immortal lives. However unlike many of his contemporaries, Reynold’s posthumans don’t lose their ‘humanness’ with their super abilities.

I also like that high tech is not available for everyone. For example his world of Sky’s Edge is reminiscent of a Latin American country stuck in a perpetual civil war, while his world of Yellowstone is like New Orleans after the cyclone, an amazing vibrant city struck down into squalor after a horrific external event. There are other high tech worlds out there, but they are keeping it to themselves. Unlike many science fiction writers, Reynold’s knows how to build believable political and cultural backdrops to his worlds.

Aliens feature in his stories and they are creepy, enigmatic and highly creative, often with bizarre Lovecraftian like characteristics.

Chasm City is not the only tale in the series, there is also the trilogy Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, short story collections Diamond Dog, Turquoise Days and Galactic North, and the stand-alone novel The Prefect. If you like space opera big, exciting and action packed, this is a great series to read.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

"The Octagon" in Jupiter #26

I'm on a real roll this year with publications, already outstriping my output of 2008 with another story scheduled for release this year. Ian Redman, editor of Jupiter Magazine just accepted my space opera tale "The Octagon" for issue 26 out in November. The tale concerns a reality game show held inside an alien artefact the size of a city and is set in the same future series as "Terraformer" and "The Entropy Collapse". More news when it is published.

The Ditmars: Time to Vote for Your Favorite Australian Speculative Fiction Stories

It’s time to vote for the Ditmars Awards for stories and articles published by Australians in 2008. The awards are open from now until May 4 and the rules are explained here. Shane Jiraiya Cummings has posted a news item about nominations and award categories on HorrorScope.

Nominations are very simple, just email them to All you need to do is list the work, author or editor and the publisher or venue from anything you read and enjoyed by an Australian. You can nominate as many times as you want in as many categories as you want. You can even nominate yourself.

To be able to nominate you need to be seen as a person active in fandom, such as being an editor, publisher or writer, or as simple as having attended a convention for being a member of a professional organisation such as the Australian Horror Writers Association.

If you want to vote for anything I wrote in 2008, here is the list with all the appropriate information you need to cut and paste into your nominations email:

Novella Category:

  • “Soft Viscosity” in 2012 (Twelfth Planet Press).
Short Story Category:

The William Atheling Jr Award:

If you are eligible to vote and are interested in reading any of the above stories, please email me and I’ll make a copy of the story or article available to you. I'm not going to comment on who I will likely vote for or why, predominately because I don't believe I've read widely enough in all the categories (or any category) to be able to comment objectively (but I will still vote).

Thanks for voting, and if you vote for me, thank you for that too.


The senator stormed into the office of Hell’s Ambassador, with half his skull missing. The smoking shotgun hung limp in his blood-soaked hands.

“I’m not dead?”

“No, you’re not.”

“I can’t take it anymore! The lies, the scandals, the looming criminal prosecutions.” He shot himself again, through the heart, splattering red meat on the oak furnishings. “Just take my soul now, take me to Hell? Release me from my horrors here!”

“No!” Hell’s Ambassador shouted. “I keep my souls with me on Earth. Too many demons downstairs would claim you as their own. I’m never there to keep them in line.”

Desperate, the senator shot himself again, disintegrating the other half of his skull. “Bastard!” he bellowed, as blood gushed from his mouth.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Recommended Books: New Ceres Nights

Just released from Twelfth Planet Press and edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely is New Ceres Nights, an anthology of shared-world space opera tales set on planet that insists on embracing the Age of Enlightenment of nearly two hundred years ago. Meanwhile the Earth has been destroyed and interstellar conflict looms, and the success of this planet-wide experiment balances on the brink of collapse. The collection includes stories from Dirk Flinthart and Stephen Dedman, amongst others.

Twelfth Planet Press is an up and coming small press outfit from Western Australia who have previously released two prior books, 2012 of near future science fiction tales (well mostly, some were horror and some were fantasy) including my own rumble-in-the-jungle tale "Soft Viscosity", and Angel Rising by Dirk Flinthart which incidentally is also set in the New Ceres world.

Recommended Books: Shards by Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Shane Jiraiya Cummings has just released his first book, Shards, out this week from Brimstone Press. The collection contains much of his short fiction, all of it dark, and some previously unpublished tales. The book is also enhanced by the wonderful illustrations of Andrew J. McKiernan.

Shane has been active in the dark fiction scene in Australia for many years editing several anthologies including Shadow Box and Black Box, and is the managing editor of OzHorrorScope. He and his wife Angela Challis also produced the very slick online flash fiction site Shadowed Realms, and Black Magazine. So he’s really contributed a lot to making dark fiction and horror as big as it is in Australia.

That said, I recommend Shards because Shane is a great writer. Last year he contributed a tale to the anthology I edited Cthulhu’s Dark Cults, and it was a great action packed tale of horror, “Requiem for the Burning God”. This story won’t appear in Shards, but plenty of other great tales will. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Sci Fi is Go: "Black Water" in Jupiter #24

On the short story front I’m doing really well this year, with five tales out already and it’s only the start of April. Today saw the release of “Black Water”, my future Africa novella published in Jupiter #24: Locaste, a UK science fiction magazine edited by Ian Redman. “Black Water” was short-listed for the Aeon Award in 2006-2007, and now finally it is in print in none other than prime position in the magazine: the opening story. This is one of my personal favourites of my own work, even after three years when I wrote it. Also of interest to some, it’s in the same setting as “Aftermath” which was a Ditmar and Aurealis short-listed novella also set in Africa.

This is what the judges of the Aeon Award said about "Black Water":

“Black Water”, for me, stood out almost immediately from the several hundred other entries I read for the Aeon Award [2006-2007] this time around. Not that the bulk of the entries I read were bad, in any sense, just that this story was better than the “good” stories. What more can I say to explain that? The confident style, pacing, and the motivations of the characters. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the tension in the story, that sense of will he or won’t he get away with it. Excellent work.

[Black Water] exhibited a great sense of place. Read it and you’ll see. It isn’t for me to try and out-do the story with my own words here. What I will say is that not many of us will ever get the chance to experience Africa, but this story will certainly take you a long way towards experiencing it as it is now, and unfortunately, where it may be headed in the future. This holds true not only for place, but character, and the interaction between Donna, the privileged white lady and the down and out Nuwangi is thoroughly convincing, and regrettably, probably not too far away from the truth of things.

Table of contents for Jupiter #24: Locaste is as follows:

  • Black Water - David Conyers

  • Sides of the Coin - Gustavo Bondoni

  • Our Man in Herrje - Andrew Knighton

  • The Ninth Circle - A.J. Kirby

  • If You Can’t Beat Them... - James McCormick

  • Dog’s Best Friend - Gareth D Jones

If you want to read my story and the rest Jupiter #24 (and back issues) can be purchased here (with a very nice cover by S. Cerulean). The opening scene to “Black Water” follows:


Dust blown from the arid interior rained on the streets of Dar es Salaam. Vendors and buyers in the Kariakoo Markets looked to the skies, the hope in their eyes sought rain. They were to be disappointed, but not surprised. It had not rained along the East African coast in five years.

Joseph Nuwangi pushed through the crowds of African faces. Most slung deteriorating gas masks about their belts or necks, prepared when the dust became too thick to breathe. Masai cattle-bleeders offered dirty cups of bovine blood with chiseled plates of goat cheese. Somali traders pressed wares of cheap electronics, second-hand guns and faulty robotic machines. Nuwangi sought the water sellers, and of these there were many. He selected a Hehe trader, whose water sloshed in a heavy translucent canister precarious upon the trolley of a rusted tricycle.

“What’s the quality?” Nuwangi asked glancing at the digital clock embedded in his cybernetic arm. The metal prosthetic groaned as he swung it near his face, ached where it gripped the flesh just below his left shoulder.

The water seller spoke through rotten teeth. “Grade A effendi, pure water from the snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Nuwangi laughed. “Kilimanjaro hasn’t had snow since before you were born, old man, and I don’t for a second believe that’s Grade A.”

Across Africa all water was dirty and polluted. Inevitably Grade A water had become the continent’s rarest commodity. If properly recycled in a closed system Grade A was more pure than the mountain springs of old. It couldn’t be produced cost-effectively anywhere in Africa, so where it was available it was protected by the strictest security measures. If the Hehe man’s water proved pure, then he had no need to hawk in a dirty market, he would be wealthy beyond measure. In the Kariakoo Markets the freshest water was found in the guts of flies feeding on human tear ducts, and even this water wasn’t worth drinking.

“I don’t believe you.”

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Extract from "The Lord of the Law"

Here is an extract from "The Lord of the Law", which appears in The Fourth Black Book of Horror now available on and This story is in the same series as my tales "Cactus" appearing in Midnight Echo #1 and "Hell's Ambassador" in Black Box.


I’m forced to sit upon the ceiling, because gravity has reversed for me. I’m trapped in a hotel room. I dare not look out the window, afraid of what I’ll see. At least I had the courage to confirm the window is locked, so I can sleep at night.

This morning the Lord of the Law has returned. He deems to reverse gravity and sit with me. His clothes don’t hang downwards like mine, bunching at my neck and armpits. His clothes are clean.

“Are you ready to apologise?” he asks me.

I look at him. He wears the shape of a man, but his density is all wrong. When he’s still it’s like he’s painted on the wall, a two-dimensional picture of him on a canvas. The occasions when he does move I feel it is the room that shifts and warps around him, propelling him forward in its flux.

“I still don’t know what you want me to apologise for?”

He won’t look at me.

“Haven’t you tormented me enough?”

He doesn’t say anything. Instead the cracks in the ceiling and walls extend. They open silently, run before my very eyes.

I feel an unseen density press upon me, like swimming in water.


“Mr Skolling, self-denial serves no one. Not me and especially not you.”

“But I don’t know what I have done.”

He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t move.

So I sob. I’ve been sitting on the ceiling for two weeks, trapped in dirty clothes, trapped with nether-light that casts shadows on every surface. All the time I’m wondering if I’m ever going to escape.

“What do you want me to do?”

“We’ll talk again tomorrow.”

“Please, just tell me?”

He rises, walks onto the wall, turns, walks to the floor, turns and goes to the bar fridge, every step silent as if he is not there.

He takes a beer, opens it, and pours it into a dirty glass. I can smell it. I want it. He knows this. He places it on the side table, its liquid suspended above me.

“What did I do?”

He leaves me, not through the door, but by melding into the wall, vanishing like a shadow surprised by a bright light.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

"The Lord of the Law"

Another short story is out today, "The Lord of the Law" in The Fourth Black Book of Horror edited by Charles Black and published by Mortbury Press. This is my second story in the this series, and it seems, the last story in the book. "The Lord of the Law" received a commendation in the Australian Horror Writers Assocation's Short Story Competition 2008. So I'm on track for this year's goal of getting one story published each month.

Here is the blurb and table of contents:

A tale of shear terror, a witch's curse, the horror of Halloween, the phantom in the priory and other unspeakable evils haunt the pages of The Fourth Black Book of Horror.
  • Soup - Craig Herbertson
  • Words - Paul Finch
  • A Cry For Help - Joel Lane
  • With Deepest Sympathy - Johnny Mains
  • Many Happy Returns - Carl T. Ford
  • All Hallow's Even - Franklin Marsh
  • Dead Water - David A. Sutton
  • And Still Those Screams Resound...'- Daniel McGachey
  • Love is in the Air - Gary McMahon
  • The Head - Reggie Oliver
  • The Devil Looks After His Own? - Ian C. Strachan
  • Bad Hair Day - Gary Fry
  • Flies - Hazel Quinn
  • Nails - Rog Pile
  • The Lord of the Law - David Conyers

"The Garden Fortress"

2009 is definitely turning out to be a good year for me. I've just learnt that a story I wrote about five years ago is about to see print in Thrilling Tales #4 from Rainfall Books. The Chapbook produced by Steve Lines and John B. Ford features two other tales from Lee Zumpe Clark and Pierre Comtois.

Steve and John previously published two chapbooks of my Cthulhu Mythos fiction, Cthulhu Australis 1 and Cthulhu Australis 2. One of those stories, "From the Sick Trees" went on to get honourable mentions in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008 and the Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Vol 4.

"The Garden Fortress" is a dark fantasy piece set in the Garden of Eden. Eve discovers that all is not well outside the walls that protect her and Adam in paradise, and that nothing is as it seems, even the people she trusts are hiding grave secrets from her.