Love Me Tender

I was at alt.fiction last weekend, an excellent little sf/fantasy/horror convention in Leicester. On Sunday I attended the launch of The Mammoth Book of Body Horror edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane. My story, Sticky Eye, appears in the book. I was told it was to be a signing event, but it turned out to be more of a panel. Novelists David Moody and Simon Clark – both excellent company – were also in attendance.

The panel was hosted by Alasdair Stuart, who made a fine fist of pretending to be Ramsey Campbell, who was unfortunately absent. Towards the end of our allotted hour, Alasdair asked the panel what their favourite body horror story was. I might have mentioned either of Stephen King’s stories, Survivor Type or Grey Matter, or pretty much anything of Clive Barker’s, but at the last moment I remembered a story that had horrified me so greatly that I had to put down for a while the book in which it had been anthologised.

All I could remember was that Bob Shaw had written it (now I’ve been able to check, I can reveal that it’s called Love Me Tender), but I fiercely remembered the impact it had upon me. It appeared in Ramsey’s New Terrors anthology in 1980. Remembering that jaw-dropper of a story also reminded me of the time I met Bob Shaw, back in the early 1990s.

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Photo by Mark Tiedemann

I can’t quite remember why he did it (perhaps I’d asked him for any writing mentors or contacts in the neighbourhood, perhaps he was sick of me pestering him and wanted to direct my attention elsewhere) but it was Ramsey who gave me Bob’s phone number, which contained the same area code as my own. I can remember being taken aback by the idea that any writer – particularly one as prominent as Bob Shaw – would choose to live in Warrington, but I was delighted that I might be able to pick the brains of a well-respected novelist without forking out for a train ticket.

I was quite nervous when I called Bob but was immediately put at ease by his charm, and his gentle Belfast accent. He told me he’d be in the Ring O’Bells pub on Church Street and that I would know him by the trim of his beard which he wore, he said, because he fancied it gave him a ‘conquistadorial air’. I went along and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and met him a couple more times after that, but I never mentioned Love Me Tender, mainly because I was unconvinced that someone so convivial could write something so terrifying.

Time passed, I moved to Morecambe, then London, and it was while I was there that I heard that Bob Shaw had died, in 1996. Christopher Priest’s obituary of Bob Shaw can be found here.

So… what’s your favourite body horror story?

Works in Progress

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I’m around 8000 words into Project Bayonet. The die above will feature prominently in the novel… or maybe this will instead:

I haven’t decided yet…

Anyway, some time ago, and outlined here, I was toying with the idea of writing two novels concurrently (the other one was called Project Wishbone). And I did, for a while. But then I was approached by a producer of video games at a prominent company in Los Angeles about the possibility of being involved in the development of a major new game. Lucky accident: they had read a book of mine that chimed with the kind of world they wanted to create for their game. I’ll post a separate piece about those experiences further down the line. Suffice to say, my ongoing work for them has meant that something had to give, so I’ve put Wishbone on ice.

However, although Bayonet will continue, I’ve also had an idea for a child’s book, to be known as – for the time being – Project Factory. It’s not quite YA, but it’s certainly not a toddler’s book either. I suppose I’m aiming for the Dahlings. I completed chapter three today (and a good chunk of chapter four) and last night I read the first chapter to my two eldest boys who gave it a favourable response, despite my assuring them that I’d be grateful for any tough feedback. I wondered if there were any words they didn’t understand.

‘But that’s okay,’ Ripley said. ‘I think it’s important to have some wow words in there. If they’re too complicated, the mummy or daddy can explain them.’

The challenge is to read them a new chapter every night. I’m ahead, but only slightly. No pressure, then.

The novel I need to write for my LA bosses doesn’t need to be commenced until August, so I’ve got a good three months to try to get as much done on these two books as possible before I have to rest at least one. I had intended to lay off the short stories for a year, but I’ve already agreed to write two. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in