On October 7th I posted a blog about the Gothic Manchester Festival, and how I was hoping to write a new short story in time for a reading I was scheduled to perform at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation along with Ramsey Campbell and Stephen McGeagh. I intended to write something “brisk and baleful”, around 1500 words. Well, I didn’t. Not brisk, anyway. It ended up being around 6000 words, and I ditched my original title, Way Out Via 30 Steps (although I like that title too much to discard it completely). It is now called Shaddertown, and it will be appearing early next year in the excellent Shadows & Tall Trees (edited by Michael Kelly), alongside Alison Moore, Kaaron Warren, Myriam Frey, David Surface, CM Muller, Robert Levy, Charles Wilkinson, Tara Isabella Burton, VH Leslie, Brett Cox, Michael Wehunt, Ralph Robert Moore and Ray Cluley.
As part of the Gothic Manchester Festival I’ll be reading (alongside Ramsey Campbell and Stephen McGeagh) at an event run by the excellent Twisted Tales people (27th October). The evening is an opportunity for us to talk about why we have chosen to set so many of our stories in Manchester. It was lovely to be invited along, but after confirming my attendance I began to have a bit of a panic. How many stories had I actually set in Manchester? I went through my files… plenty set in Warrington and London… a handful set abroad in the Charente-Maritime, in Venice, in the Northern Territories of Australia… but Manchester? Er… one. Which is fine, I suppose. I could read a bit from that (Late Returns, set in Didsbury, if you’re wondering), and try to relax this idea of boundaries to include Warrington while we discussed our reasons and motivations.
But I thought I’d use my Manchester shyness as a spur to write something new. And something audience-friendly. By which I mean short. Something brisk and baleful, under 1500 words if I could manage it.
I’d been on a tour of Manchester’s subterranean tunnels and long wanted to use that as a location in a story, but it was only while travelling back from Ormskirk last week, when I saw a sign at a railway station (WAY OUT IN 30 STEPS) that I made connections and felt the prickling of an idea. There was every chance it would simply end up on an index card under a pile of Urgent and Pending and Do this NOW you complete sac-head. So I started posting it on Twitter, deciding that I couldn’t cope with the shame of not finishing a project that I was releasing piecemeal to the public.
It’s first draft, warts-and-all, so please be gentle with me if you decide to tag along. You might hate it (you might even enjoy it), but remember first and foremost it’s there to act as a fire under my backside…
I’ll be headlining a night of spoken word and poetry at a special Halloween version of Manchester’s highly-regarded Bad Language.
The event takes place on Wednesday, October 31 from 7:30pm until 10:30pm at The Castle Hotel, 66 Oldham Street, M4 1LE.
Open mic slots are available. If you wish to take part you can do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org from 5TH OCTOBER onwards.
At least five slots are reserved for people who have never performed on the Bad Language stage before and this month they are encouraging, in particular, horror writing.
You can keep up with Bad Language’s events by following their Twitter feed: @BadLanguageMcr
Conrad will be reading from his novels Blonde on a Stick and Loss of Separation at the Alderley Edge Book Festival at 12pm on the 15th September. The festival carries on to the 16th and features such writers as Nicholas Royle, Erica James, Livi Michael, Zoe Lambert, Elizabeth Baines, Sherry Ashworth and Melvin Burgess. Conrad follows on directly from festival opener Edwina Currie who will be revealing, from her diaries, further juicy reasons as to why she should never have been elected to office.
The Festival will feature storytelling sessions to entertain younger readers and sales of donated books. Visitors will also be treated to live music and refreshments will be available.
There will be a £1 Festival admission charge. Some events will be ticketed.
See you at the Festival Hall, Talbot Road, Alderley Edge on the 15th!
Join multi-award-winning authors Ramsey Campbell and Conrad Williams in celebrating the sub-genre of Body Horror, including readings from the new, critically-acclaimed anthology The Mammoth Book of Body Horror (Constable & Robinson).
Editors Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan will introduce the event, plus there will be a Q&A and book signing session afterwards. A must for all horror fans! Signed copies of the book will be available to purchase courtesy of Waterstone’s. Light refreshments provided.
Saturday 7 July, 1.30pm – 4pm, Bolton Central Library, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton, Lancs BL1 1SE
To book contact email@example.com or call Helen Romaniszyn on 01204 332209.
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.
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?