News hot off the presses: Dead Letters, published by Titan Books, has been shortlisted for the 2017 British Fantasy Awards (Best Anthology). I couldn’t have had a happier time editing this book. All of the contributors were a pleasure to work with and their stories were outstanding. I’m thrilled their collective efforts have led to this recognition.
The winners will be announced on the weekend of September 29th. Good luck to all the nominees!
Writer and editor Gary Fry has posted a glowing review of Dead Letters at his website.
And We, Spectators Always, Everywhere, Kirsten Kaschock
When they finally come back to the playground, the boy is in pain. He does not say so, but affects a slight limp. His left foot makes less viable connection with the balance beam than the right. She holds his hand, failing to register this new asymmetry. The boy’s gait is his first test for her and she fails. The mother clearly prides herself on attention to minutiae – so says the unnatural lift of her brow. The boy has a bruise on his heel, but it might be bone cancer. After the initial fever, polio can look like this, in other boys. In other times and countries.
Distraction is written all over. The blue sky scrawls with plane sign, and worms are fingering bottle caps and butts near the exposed roots at my feet, covered in boot. My book, soaked through days before, is illegible – each page polluted with the next, warped, stuck, tearing if turned. A buzz emanates from the mother’s purse. She checks it, smiles, and puts him down. She is no longer beside him. She is somewhere else.
Ledge Bants, Maria Dahvana Headley & China Miéville
Scores of aspects of my memories, my strength, my powers, were exiled from the world. Which turned out to mean that they were hidden, camouflaged in matter, in lost places, fabled gulleys, reachable only by impossible ways. Hence those years of monster-hunting.
You should never underestimate the magic of magic’s passing. The strength of the death of that strength. Eventually, I came to clock that the things I found – eggs and jewels and chains and trinkets that were, in part, me – I found in more and more quotidian places and forms. Protected by forces that would have raised fewer eyebrows, less high, among populace by now utterly skeptical of the sort of mythic shenanigans with which I used to divert myself. Each piece shifting with the epochs, each still some snide material joke, a pun or a prod from my missing ex, but now camouflaged not in the hearts of dragons, but in shapes and places appropriate to the age. All without breaching the terms of the spell.
I hunted them, and I hunted her too, but of my Nyneve, there was no word or sign. I was convinced that I couldn’t find her because I’d lost my powers.
Change Management, Angela Slatter
What would it be like to be loved, to be wooed, by someone like Lucy?
Dangerous. Uncertain. Different. Oh, so exciting. There would be no ordinariness, nothing banal or commonplace – no status quo, only constant change. The idea threw a frisson down Eva’s spine that was part terror, part elation. What on earth was happening to her?
She examined the last page, with the red-brown dots – the reason, Eva was certain, the woman wanted the letter. Little stains that, when sniffed, touched to her tongue, smelled and tasted ever so faintly of old iron.
L0ND0N, Nicholas Royle
I wasn’t questioning my view about the likability or otherwise of characters, but I was concerned about what I might be getting into. A widely held opinion is that it is a mistake to conflate narrator and author, yet a convergence of Ian and his narrator was precisely what I feared.
What if Ian was like his narrator? Did it even matter? Well, yes, I tended to believe it did. Not in general, but in this particular case. I kept a Wankers Shelf – a section of my library reserved for authors so narcissistic they asked their publisher to stick their author photo on the front cover of their book, or they wrote a piece for publication constructed around extracts from their fan mail; for authors so convinced of their own greatness they refused to ‘get out of bed for less than a grand’ when invited to contribute to an anthology; for authors who were just wankers – wankers to their editors, wankers to their publicists, wankers to booksellers, wankers to their readers. Just wankers.
The Hungry Hotel, Lisa Tuttle
Soon I was treating him as if we’d met for the first time that day. I ‘made conversation’, asking him about the band, their touring schedule, and he obliged with answers and anecdotes. He tried to take my hand, and I flinched.
We had a late, heavy lunch in an ostentatiously German restaurant, and talked about food, our favourite dishes, the fact that neither of us knew how to cook. Then we talked about recent movies we had seen.
Driving back to the city, the sun going down behind us, we were silent, exhausted by the effort of working through every possible subject for conversation. I noticed, as we drove through the practically deserted back road leading into town, that there was a new development on this western outskirt. In addition to the houses, town-homes and a shopping mall still under construction there was a brand new hotel, towering over the landscape from its hilltop perch, its multitude of windows glittering like faceted gems in the last rays of the sun.