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Buying, Making, Reviewing, Judging

Mammoth Book of Ghost StoriesA very quiet week on the blog which means there may be "mass reviews" in the near future as I try to catch up. Oops.

First, a few new finds:

The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, edited by Marie O'Regan. I started reading up on this because, well, they're a competitor. Then I saw that it had folks like Kim Lakin-Smith and Gaie Sebold and Nina Allan and...

Now that I've got it in my hands, I'm even more excited - some of the 'vintage' contributions are amazing. Amelia Edwards and Mary Wilkins Freeman are especially fun to see - authors that I started reading while doing the research for Lost Souls. This is a really impressive anthology. (Darnit.)

The Theatre of the Gods by M. Suddain. A+++ for the marketing campaign, down to creating an utterly plausible "new" imprint. Also A+++ for this review from, which was about as intriguing a write-up as I've ever read. The book itself is also a work of art - absolutely beautifully produced. The conclusion is... well, it, just feels like someone at the publisher loves this book, and that kind of passion is pretty infectious. Looking forward to it. (Also had a chance to meet the author and get a couple bonkers inscriptions. Yay!)

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Announcing... The Book of the Dead & Unearthed

Jurassic Dino Logo -midAs revealed by the nice folks of, our next anthology is on its way! The Book of the Dead is new collection of original stories, themed around the most mysterious, versatile and under-appreciated of the undead: the mummy.

The Book of the Dead will be published in collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society, the UK’s oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt, dedicated to the promotion and understanding of ancient Egyptian history and culture.

Table of Contents:

  • Maurice Broaddus – “Cerulean Memories”
  • David Bryher – “She is Cleopatra”
  • Jesse Bullington – “Escape from the Mummy's Tomb”
  • Gail Carriger - “The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn't, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar”
  • Paul Cornell – “Ramesses on the Frontier”
  • Maria Dahvana Headley - “Bit-U-Men”
  • Jonathan Green - “Egyptian death and the afterlife: mummies (Rooms 62-3)”
  • Louis Greenberg – “Akhenaten Goes to Paris”
  • Jenni Hill – “The Cats of Beni Hasan”
  • Will Hill - “Three Memories of Death”
  • Roger Luckhurst – “The Thing of Wrath”
  • Glen Mehn – “Henry”
  • David Moore – “Old Souls”
  • Lou Morgan – “Her Heartbeat, An Echo”
  • Sarah Newton – “The Common Cause”
  • Den Patrick – “All is Dust”
  • Adam Roberts – “Tollund”
  • Molly Tanzer – “Mysterium Tremendum”
  • Michael West – “Inner Goddess”

The stories are illustrated by Garen Ewing, the creator of The Adventures of Julius Chancer, and introduced by John J. Johnston, Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society.

The Book of the Dead will be released this October as a limited edition hardcover as well as in paperback and digital formats. 

October also sees the publication of Unearthed, a digital collection of classic mummy stories, selected and introduced by John J. Johnston and Jared Shurin. Unearthed contains over 60,000 words of vintage adventure, including rare tales from Louisa May Alcott, Herbert Crotzer, George Griffith and Arthur Conan Doyle. 

For more information:

The Book of the Dead


The Egypt Exploration Society

Garen Ewing

David Gemmell Legend Awards: Longlists announced & voting begins

David Gemmell Legend Awards season! The organisers have made the sensible decision to organise this year's prize around major conventions - with the shortlist announcement coming at Nine Worlds and the winner at World Fantasy. 

So... Longlists for the Legend (Novel), Morningstar (Debut) and Ravenheart (Art) are all up. Some folks are already bandying around the world "finalist" which is... wrong. We've got a round of voting then the shortlists, so don't get too excited just yet.

It is fair to say that my past posts on the DGLA have been a bit... mixed. But, the award gets better every year and I understand (even if I don't wholly agree with) the desire to have an award that is solely about celebrating the genre. Above all, I really like that it is a popular award - I don't always (read: almost never) agree with the results, but I do like that the DGLA adds a completely different perspective into the mix.

With that in mind, I'll be continuing the Pornokitsch tradition of reviewing all ten shortlisted novels & debuts, as soon as they're announced. I'll get a schedule in place as well, so everyone can join in with the fun.

Meanwhile, have a gander at the longlists. The site is a bit of an epic quest in and of itself, but here are the links:

You have until the 31 July to vote at this stage. So get cracking. If you don't vote, you can't bitch about the results. (Them's the rules.)

A few tips for writing flash fiction

Jurassic LondonJurassic London is one of a few publishers in the flash fiction market. There's plenty of advice about pagination and font selection already out there, so I thought I'd throw in a few tips about what we look for when we go through submissions.

Please note that these are my own opinions for the types of stories I like and commission. Other editors and publishers will look for different things, but these may be worth keeping in mind when you tackle a flash fiction brief.

Really short stories are still stories. A story should develop a character, have a clear setting or atmosphere, introduce a conflict (internal or external) and resolve it. I paraphrase China Miéville on this subject a lot - I want a story that "begins, middles and ends". The ending doesn't need to tidy up all the pieces (even a novel can't do that), but the reader shouldn't go away dissatisfied. One good example is Robert Sharp's "(0,0)" from Crossroads, which resolves the central conflict while still leaving an atmosphere of mystery. Jenni Hill's "Georgia", from the same chapbook, introduces an unusual character with an interesting problem. She develops the character, establishes a status quo, neatly overturns it and then ties the whole thing up - all while still meeting her tight word count.

That said, pick a thing. Introduce a conflict and resolve it. There's no room for sprawl with this kind of word count, and if you introduce multiple story lines, they'll either get cheated or left hanging.

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Underground Reading: Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer

Dead at DaybreakDead at Daybreak (2000) is my first Deon Meyer. Which isn't seem a huge confession in the great scheme of things, but after seeing Mr. Meyer's blurbs on the covers of all the South African literary/crime fiction that I've been reading, well, it seemed inevitable.

Daybreak's protagonist is Zet van Heerden, an ex-cop turned self-loathing mess/private eye. At the start of the book, he's living in a shed in his mom's garden (more on that later). An idealistic attorney, Hope (more on that, too) hires him to find a missing will. If the will turns up in a week, a mourning widow (at least, "unmarried life-partner that deserves to inherit") gets her money. If it doesn't, she doesn't. A nice simple scavenger hunt with no moral ambiguity. At least... to start.

For one, the will belongs to a man killed in extremely awful circumstances (involved: blowtorch, M16). For another, the man doesn't even seem to exist: his entire identity is fabricated. What exactly is going on here? As the mystery thickens, a half-dozen different figures all get involved - sinister crimelords and even creepier government agents, well-meaning cops and innocent-ish civilians. 

The book begins in fits and starts, with Zet quitting the case an infinity of times, only to think better of it and return after an appropriately dramatic interval. But Daybreak picks up speed, and, by the time it hits the end, everything is crashing together like a waterfall. Two waterfalls, in fact. Zet's childhood nostalgia, a parallel narrative thread, quickly develops into a second mystery with its own climactic resolution. 

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Underground Reading: Say It With Bullets by Richard Powell

Say it with BulletsThis is the latest installment in my steady quest to review each and every Hard Case Crime publication, one every week (two this week, as we're making up for lost ground). You can follow along here. 

Richard Powell's Say It With Bullets (original publication, 1953) is a serious (or not so) change in pace from the last few books. If Charles Williams was some sort of rough whiskey, burning all the way down, Richard Powell is serving us a big fizzy glass of soda pop. Possibly with a bendy straw and everything.

Bill Wayne was a pilot in China in 1949. Betrayed by his buddies and business partners, he's shot in the back and left to die. He doesn't, and, a few years later, upon his return to Philadelphia, someone takes a shot at him again. Bill's a little pissed off and understandably so. He's got his buddies' addresses and is determined to check in on each and every one of them. Someone tried to plug Bill (twice), and he's going to plug them right back.

The answer? A bus tour! In a set-up so ridiculously contrived that people are probably still rolling their eyes sixty years later, Bill hops a bus that goes from point A to point E, with stops at B, C and D - all conveniently the locations of his old pals. Because the gods of pulp never take a break, the tour operator is a foxy (but spunky!) blond... and another blast from Bill's past: Holly, the kid that grew up with him and never got over her crush (naturally).

Bill's presence on the bus is so goofy that even Holly makes fun of him, pointing out that he's the only one there that's not middle-aged. (A line actually ruined a few chapters later, when Powell mentions a twenty-something in passing.) And, indeed, Bill's clearly having a rough time. While the other passengers enjoy arts, crafts, rodeos and sight-seeing, he's grumping about in the back of the bus and eschewing all sorts of human contact. Bill's not dumb, and he knows he's drawing attention to himself, but he just can't bring himself to perk up and play part of the crowd. Nor does it help that, with every new city, he's disappearing to stalk his human prey.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Say It With Bullets by Richard Powell" »

Has Samsung given us the greatest fantasy story of all time?

Today's Stylist featured an advertisement for the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8, impartially illustrating the difference between books (BAD) and the e-reader on the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (UTTERLY AMAZEBALLS).

Not sure about you, but I'm a little worried that Samsung thinks this is reading at its "best".


Double K(DK) is being persued by vicious enemies and is injured in Souron’s sneaky trap.. He decided to go into The Darkest Forest..where even little light cannot go through..

The Darkest Forest.. traces of human, animals, even wind, but any evidence of escape cannot be found in this death place.. no one knows what exists, what can survive.. but, DK does not have any other choice

he has bleeding too much  and it is a matter of time before he gets caught.

Darkness, heavy fog,, does not allow DK to see even an inch ahead..

He finally takes a step into the silent death place.. “I know this smell..I can even predict how many dead animal bodies are rotting when I walk on them.. How long can I last? I cannot get caught by Souron’s Army although I meet my death here.”

DK is lying down on his horse, his old friend, ‘Thousand’. Even Thousand’s beend shot by an arrow on his leg and back, he is protecting and sharing his heat with DK and walking into the darkness.

“A day? A week? A month?.. how long have I been in this forest?I dont know I can survive this night. You never give me up Thousand even you also have dreadful injuries. Thank you so much my friend..
But I shall stop now.. I want to meet my death. I am too weak. I cannot fight with Souron anymore.. I shall go to meet my parents..”

DK close his eyes on Thousand……then…. ‘Splash’…. ‘where am i going? how deeper will I go? It is as cold as ice but I feel easy and peace.. I am sorry Thousand but I want to meet my parents [and] it is..

Continue reading "Has Samsung given us the greatest fantasy story of all time?" »

The Lowest Heaven - Paperback pre-orders & Forbidden Planet Launch!

Cover - the lowest heavenWe're releasing The Lowest Heaven in its non-limited formats, and we'd love it if you could join us for the fun.

We'll be at Forbidden Planet with piles of paperbacks on the evening of Wednesday, 3 July, alongside authors E.J. Swift, Lavie Tidhar, Esther Saxey and David Bryher. We'll be signing, shmoozing and eventually heading to the pub. Plus, the crafty people at FP have whipped up some special bookplates based on Joey Hi-Fi's design.

Here's the Facebook whatnot with the details.

Even if you can't make it - now's a lovely time to start pre-ordering the book from Forbidden Planet (bonus: signed). (It will be carried by Amazon US & UK, the National Maritime Museum and other retailers as well.)

That fated July day is also when the ebook comes out - those with digital readers will be able to snaffle it on both Kindle and Kobo.

"Was a time when I knew the earth."

...thus begins Sam Sykes' "Wish for a Gun" from A Town Called Pandemonium

In many ways, that's how we felt when, coming home last night, we discovered that A Town Called Pandemonium and "Wish for a Gun" are both finalists for the British Fantasy Awards

A huge congratulations to all the contributors to A Town Called Pandemonium. As a shared world, it was a shared effort, and the ten authors, two editors and one badass illustrator who worked on it should all be enormously proud of themselves. And a separate-but-still-incredibly-hearty congratulations to Mr. Sykes, whose "Wish for a Gun" is an amazing piece of work. 

We pity the competition, because, as Sam writes: 

"Ain’t know what the earth is until you put someone in it."

(Just kidding. Honest. Congratulations to them too!)


A Town Called Pandemonium is available on the Kindle (UK / US) and Kobo. Last we checked, there were a few remaining copies of the limited edition at Forbidden Planet (they're signed by multiple contributors, including Sam Sykes) [Update: they're not on the website, but I do think they're in stock. Maybe.]