Out now: Ghosts in the Gaslight

I’m proud to say that I’ve got another story out in an anthology, this time one raising money for charity.


Ghosts in the Gaslight, a Victorian fantasy about love and restless spirits, appears in Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails. This anthology, edited by Michael Cieslak of Dragon’s Roost Press, is raising money for Last Day Dog Rescue, an American charity that rescues dogs from the bleakest situations in shelters and pounds. It’s a good cause, saving our furry friends from being sent to laboratories or put down. I’m really chuffed that I’ve found an opportunity to combine that with writing.

So if you’re looking for some fantastic genre stories, or just want to help out animals in need, please consider buying a copy of the book. It’s currently available in paperback and Kindle versions, and will soon be available in other formats.


New story – A Sheriff in the Deep

I love westerns, and I love science fiction, so I’m pretty excited to say that my sci-fi western ‘A Sheriff In The Deep’ is out this week in Fictionvale.

Excitement, adventure and fishes

‘A Sheriff’ is the story of a lone man, your classic western small town sheriff, protecting a community of homesteaders against the encroaching bully boys hired by a big business. It’s about frontier justice. It’s about a lone hero standing up for the little guy. It’s about brains over brawn. And it’s about living underwater.

Yep, it’s Shane in the ocean depths.

But why this story?

So why did I write a story like that? Well, mostly it’s because I love westerns, especially sci-fi westerns, so the combination of the two was hard to resist.

But I’m also intrigued by trying to explore different sci-fi futures. Space exploration features a lot in sci-fi, but we don’t often explore the briny deeps even though settling there is starting to look more plausible than getting into space. There’s all sorts to explore around the practicalities of this and the international issues it would raise, which I’ve only glanced over in this short story. But I think there’s a lot to do in the deep.

As for the lone sheriff as hero, I’ve been a fan of that since my dad first got me watching westerns as a kid. I’ve previously had a steampunk western, The Cast Iron Kid, published in a steampunk anthology. And as in that story, I really enjoyed writing the part of the plucky underdog here. It’s a big part of the traditional western, and a theme almost everyone finds appealing.

The great folks at Fictionvale

It’s also been a pleasure to work with Jenna and Venessa, the editors of Fictionvale. They’re a relatively new magazine – this is only their second issue – and they’ve been struggling to get this one out amidst all sorts of distractions and setbacks. Despite that they’ve been friendly and helpful to work with, and managed to take a hands on approach to editing that improved my story – something many short story magazine editors don’t have time for.

Go forth and read!

Fictionvale is available for e-readers via their store or Amazon for only $4 American, which comes out around £2.50 for those of us carrying pictures of the queen. You can spend that much on a large coffee. Hell, you can barely even buy a pint for that any more. So why not give it a go?

If you do read the story then come back here and let me know what you think of it. Good or bad, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Out now – Odin’s Mirror

This week I have another story out, Odin’s Mirror in Swords and Sorcery. This one’s free to read on the internet, so there’s  no excuse for not giving it a go.

The idea for Odin’s Mirror came to me while reading about the history of Latin America. Past 1492, that history is increasingly dominated by a bunch of disreputable Europeans, some of whom were, infamously, mistaken for gods. I can’t imagine any of them played that down. If you’re the kind of armed adventurer who’ll cross the ocean to pillage gold reserves at gunpoint, you’re unlikely to draw the line at religious fraud.

As it happened, I’d just finished reading a book about Norse religion. So when I started thinking about reversing that relationship, about what would have happened if the Aztecs or Mayans had come to raid Europe instead, turning the religious misunderstanding on its head was another obvious feature.

This story touches on the theme of empire that I discussed a while back. I wasn’t thinking about it in as much depth then, so didn’t take the opportunity to fully explore that aspect of the story. But it’s there, one of my little historical obsessions shining through.

All of which makes this story sound like an essay. It isn’t. It’s about a viking warrior. It’s about old religion and new circumstances. It’s about facing Ragnarok, and rebelling against destiny.

So go read, and if you have the time comment here on what you thought. Good, bad, indifferent, I’d value any thoughts.

Finally, a quick note on the formatting of this story. The marks for scene breaks have somehow got lost in transferring this story to the internet. Hopefully that’ll get fixed soon, but in the meantime, if you find a point where odd things happen, that’s probably meant to be a new scene. Sorry for any confusion!

Out now – Justice Like Clockwork

I have a new piece published today in the January edition of eSteampunk. ‘Justice Like Clockwork’ is the story of a dedicated suffragette and an obsessive engineer held in a mechanical prison. With the gears grinding as hard as the oppression, and both warders and inmates looking to break their resolve, where can hope be found?

Like many of my stories, this was inspired by something I once studied. The panopticon was developed by a Victorian utilitarian as the ultimate form of prison, where the inmates must behave because they never know when they are being watched. The French philosopher Foucault later turned this into a metaphor for society, and the way that we internalise behaviours and power structures. Both these things made it a natural fit for a story. A chance to create a more intense, steampunk version of a real Victorian invention, and to sit this alongside characters acting against the roles that society has given them. I started writing it at a time when Mrs K. had challenged me to write more decent female characters, so that became part of my aim, and hopefully I’ve achieved that too.

This is also a case of me coming back to a story I’d given up on. Somewhere in my first round of editing, I lost my enthusiasm for ‘Justice’. I didn’t believe anybody would want to read it, and I gave up. But when I dug it out a year later and polished it off, I was proved wrong. The acceptance email from eSteampunk was glowingly enthusiastic, and now it’s out there in the world. So please, go pick up a copy of eSteampunk, give it a read, and see if you agree with them.

Out now – The Wizard’s Stairs

I have a story, The Wizard’s Stairs, in the current isue of EMG-zine. It’s freely available to read throughout June, so go, read, enjoy.

This story came to me while playing with my niece, the Princess. The Princess is three years old, with a three-year-old’s interests. She likes fairy tales, with their particular logic, where ideas have power and magic defies reality. In fairy tales, a phrase like ‘all the towers in the world’ can be meaningful because it catches your imagination – you don’t need to think about the rules of magic or the logic behind the situation. As long as there’s a lesson, it works. So while she may be too young to appreciate it, this one’s for her.

Coming up – Steampunk Revolution

My story Urban Drift has been accepted for the latest in Ann VanderMeer’s series of excellent steampunk anthologies, Steampunk Revolution. Being included in the previous volume, Steampunk Reloaded, was a real highlight for me, and it’s awesome to again be published alongside the likes of Garth Nix, Cherie Priest and Bruce Sterling. If you want to know more there’s a full table of contents here, and the book will be out later in the year.

Out now – The Midnight March

I have a story, The Midnight March, in the April 2012 issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly. It’s a melancholy little piece of flash fiction that scratched the itch of a particular idea in my head.

Humanising monsters isn’t a new theme. From Mary Shelley to Joss Whedon, it’s been used to emphasise our own humanity, or provide contrast with the brutality in man. I’ve used a defining point (maybe the defining point) in all our lives to nudge around that theme, and though I can’t say I’ve covered it too deeply in the space of a thousand words, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, and I hope you will be too.

How We Fall – out now

One of the few pieces of creative writing I managed to get done this summer was a sci-fi short called How We Fall, published now by Redstone Science Fiction. It’s a story of soldiers put in a difficult situation, and the clash between their personalities. It’s also about how the same thing, or in this case the same person, can have very different meanings for different people.

For me, there’s something particularly powerful about the image of angels. I don’t know where this comes from. The religious part of my up-bringing didn’t feature a lot of traditional iconography. I’ve never had a grand vision or vivid dream in which the heavenly choirs descended on me in blinding light and close harmony singing. And yet the lure is there. A large part of what I love about Ennis and Dillon’s Preacher is the use, mostly subversively and occasionally reverentially, of that sort of Christian iconography. So when an ad campaign involving angels appeared across bus shelters around Manchester, it caught my eye. What for the ad-men was a gimmicky tagline, for me became the heart of my story. I’ve not delved deep into the spiritual implications of a winged messenger, but I like to think I’ve at least got more depth out of this than the guys selling deodorant.

The Hunter in the Stacks

There’s something of the tribal to academia, each group living within its own distinct territory and obscure language. And having talked with academics, there’s something of the hunter-gatherer to the way they’re funded too, desperately scrabbling for the low-hanging fruit of a withered public funding tree. My lastest story, The Hunter in the Stacks, is a riff on this theme, as the young academic goes forth to face the fearsome beasts of learning. It’s in the new issue of Flash Me Magazine, available free from their website.