08 November 2015

Announcing The Black Archive

Launching in March 2016 from Obverse Books, The Black Archive is a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day.

The series will publish six titles each year, in simultaneous digital and print editions.  Each title is a twenty to forty thousand word study of a single televised Doctor Who story, drawing on all eras of the series’ history.

Authors confirmed for 2016 include Hugo-nominated editor, critic and podcaster L M Myles (Chicks Unravel Time, Companion Piece, the Verity! podcast), biographer and Doctor Who scholar Lance Parkin (Whoniverse, AHistory, Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore), and film critic and occasional scriptwriter James Cooray Smith (Kaldor City, various Virgin Film titles).

The series is overseen by author and editor Philip Purser-Hallard, who explains the premise of the series as follows:
Doctor Who is endlessly fascinating, a powerful storytelling engine about which many millions of words have been written over the years. There are certain stories, though, from all eras of the programme’s history, which are exceptionally deep and rewarding – whether because of their unusually powerful writing, rich symbolism or complex themes. Stories like The Massacre, KindaGhost Light, Midnight or Vincent and the Doctor demand to be explored at greater length and in more depth than a website review or entry in an episode guide will allow.
‘With this series of critical monographs, these Doctor Who stories can receive the detailed treatment that they so eminently deserve. Our primary emphasis is on the stories as stories, rather than the behind-the-scenes history which has been covered in admirable depth elsewhere. While we aim to make an authoritative and significant contribution to the overall critical conversation about Doctor Who, we intend each of these books to be entertaining as well as of academic interest.’
The Black Archive will launch with four titles in March 2016, covering Doctor Who stories from William Hartnell’s tenure as the Doctor to that of current incumbent Peter Capaldi:
Jon Arnold has edited fanzines including Shooty Dog Thing: 2th and Claw, and is a major contributor to Hating to Love: Re-evaluating the 52 Worst Doctor Who Stories of All Time. James Cooray Smith is the co-author of Who’s Next: A Guide to Broadcast Doctor Who, and has contributed production notes to a number of BBC DVD releases. L M Myles contributed to Chicks Dig Time Lords before co-editing its Hugo-nominated sequel Chicks Unravel Time, and has written Doctor Who prose and audio drama for Big Finish. Philip Purser-Hallard holds a doctorate in English literature, specialising in science fiction, and has written prose fiction for Doctor Who spinoff ranges as well as original novels.

Further titles will follow at two-monthly intervals during 2016:
Confirmed contributors for 2017 include Doctor Who novelist Kate Orman and Magic Bullet producer Alan Stevens.

Ebook and paper editions of all titles, along with yearly subscriptions, will be available through the Obverse Books website.

24 July 2015

Furthest Tales of the City

You (Yes, you over there! Pay attention!) will be pleased to learn that the fourth anthology of City of the Saved short stories, Furthest Tales of the City, is due for release some time in late 2015.

The blurb goes like this:

Even the secular afterlife created for humanity by the Secret Architects has its limits – and there will always be those Citizens who chafe against those limits.  Environmentally, culturally, biologically, cosmologically, politically, experientially, some will always seek to go further. 

For instance…

A group mind facing the troubling truth of resurrection.  A comatose giant with human inhabitants of its own.  A civilisation re-enacting an impossible apocalypse.  A woman with negligible human ancestry out on the dating scene.  A cult who inhabit the deep infrastructure underlying the City.  A fictional adventurer starved of the risks his narrative craves.

These are their tales.

And here's the lineup of stories:
Salutation – Philip Purser-Hallard
Weighty Questions – Juliet Kemp
Sleeping Giants – Elizabeth Evershed
Driving Home for Atonatiuh – Lawrence Burton
The Smallest Spark – Paul Hiscock
The Places Above, Between and Below – Louise Sellers
We Only Live Twice (But the City Is Not Enough) – Helen Angove
God Encompasses – Philip Purser-Hallard
Juliet, Liz and Helen are all returning contributors to the City of the Saved, having written stories for the first Tales of the City in 2012. (Liz also wrote for Tales of the Great Detectives in 2014, meaning that she's written more City of the Saved fiction than anyone other than me.) Lawrence Burton is new to the City, but will be familiar to regular Obverse readers as the author of the Faction Paradox novel Against Nature and the Señor 105 novella The Grail, or Señor 105 y el Pueblo del Gobernador Demente, as well as being the regular cover artist for the Faction Paradox books. Paul Hiscock was a contributor to The Obverse Book of Detectives, while Louise Sellers's fiction is published here for the first time.

All of their stories are, in their different ways, marvellous -- variously exciting, weird, thought-provoking and hilarious.

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that a short story called 'God Encompasses' has been up on my website for a while now: this is indeed an updated version of that story. 'Salutation' is a new companion piece. Even more insightful readers may realise that both stories are, very approximately, named after pubs.

I'll update this blog, and my website, when further information -- cover, publication date, that sort of thing -- starts to make itself known.

16 February 2015

Meet the Martians

Iris Wildthyme of Mars
In the event, only one reader entered the competition to identify the types of fictional Martian mentioned in my short story "Green Mars Blues", and that was in fact another of the contributors to Iris Wildthyme of Mars.

I said that I thought there were nineteen types of Martian in the story. I have to admit it depends heavily on how you count.

From the beginning...

1. The Green Man (first appearance p227): A Green Martian from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom sequence.
2. Jenah Pharis (p229): A Red Martian from Barsoom.
3. The Tripods (p232): Obviously, the war machines from H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
4. The Coy Stripper and Her "Snake" (p234): An adult and juvenile of the species described in Philip José Farmer's short story "My Sister's Brother".
5 & 6. The Fake Charlatan and the Incompetent Ghost  (p234): One of the telepathic Martians, and one of the slightly different shapeshifting telepathic Martians, from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.
7. The Locusts (p236): The evil insectile Martians from Quatermass and the Pit, with accompanying aerial psychic projection.
8. The Angels of Pavonis Mons (p238): The Eldila from C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet.
9, 10 & 11. The Spindly Men, the Otters and the Froggy Things (p238): The Sorns, Hrossa and Pfifltriggi from Out of the Silent Planet.
12. The Blue (or Possibly Green) Giants (p240): Either the Argzoon from Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars sequence, or the Ice Warriors from Doctor Who.
13. Great Octopus Things (p240): From Men, Martians and Machines by Eric Frank Russell (though other answers would probably have been acceptable).
14. Merpeople (p240): From Doctor Omega by Arnould Galopin.
15. The Blue Lightning (p240): A Fire Balloon from The Martian Chronicles.
16. The Christmas Visitor (p240): Either Dropo from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, or the Alien Super-Being from Christmas on Mars.
17. The Flashing Eyes in the Dark (p241): The Man from Mars in the Blondie song "Rapture". (The biggest clue's in what he eats.)
18. The Laughers at Potatoes (p241): The robotic Martians from the 1970s Smash adverts. (I wouldn't have thought of including these Martians in the story without the input of Andrew Hickey, to whom thanks.)
19. The Armoured Reptile (p250): Definitely an Ice Warrior.

For bonus points, the title of Marcie's proposed talk "Grokking Vulthoom: The Role of Indigene Legends in Modern Cult Formation" (p242) references Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and "Vulthoom" by Clark Ashton Smith.

To his credit, our entrant Simon Bucher-Jones identified twelve of those (fourteen including the bonuses). He also pointed out several texts that identify Jesus (mentioned on p226) as a Martian, and made a valiant effort to name eighteen works which include Martian tripods (on the basis that Marcie has encountered eighteen variants of the story). Simon wins the signed copy of The Pendragon Protocol by default, but it's certainly deserved.

05 February 2015

Here's the thing

Today I was sent a link to a forum post where someone speaks enthusiastically about how much they've enjoyed some books of mine (among a number of others), and offers to share the ebook versions with other forum users for free.

I don't know how certain people so consistently fail to understand this, but here it is. Books (including ebooks) are as good as they are, and cost the amounts they do, because a lot of people's time -- authors', editors', illustrators', publishers' -- goes into creating them. You're not paying for the paper and ink that make up the book, or the server space the ebook is held on, you're paying for the time -- sometimes months or years -- that people have spent lovingly working on this thing you've enjoyed reading. To then distribute that work for free -- thus ensuring that the publisher's sales and income remain low and that the money they have to compensate their authors, editors and illustrators remains limited -- shows a degree of thoughtlessness and contempt for those people and their work that's simply staggering.

Other people's work is worth your money. If you won't pay, you don't deserve the benefit of the work. It's that simple.

17 January 2015

Competition Time

Right. I have a signed copy of my urban fantasy thriller The Pendragon Protocol to give away, to someone who can demonstrate their close reading abilities and knowledge of obscure science fiction.

To win this you'll need to find a copy of the anthology Iris Wildthyme of Mars. This may sound like a large investment, but a) the ebook version is currently only £5.99 in the Obverse sale, b) The Pendragon Protocol paperback costs £7.99 at Amazon, and c) you'll be getting to buy and keep an anthology I'm very proud of with stories by lots of talented authors that you'll really enjoy. And if you're lucky and win, you'll end up with £13.98 worth of book for £5.99.

The prize will go to anyone who can identify all the types of fictional Martian who are referred to in my story 'Green Mars Blues' in Iris Wildthyme of Mars. There are (I believe) nineteen to identify altogether.
Iris Wildthyme of Mars
  1. Email entries to me at martians@infinitarian.com. Please don't post identifications as comments here
  2. If nobody identifies all nineteen types of Martian, whoever makes the most correct identifications wins. 
  3. Some references are deliberately ambiguous, so I'll accept more than one answer. (Identifying both my intended answers will count as an extra point for the purposes of rule 2.) 
  4. The closing date will be Sunday 15 February.
Feel free to post any queries here or on Twitter.

19 December 2014


A Merry Christmas to all those of you reading this.

Every year I send out a story in my Christmas cards, and every year I put the previous year's online. The past ones are all archived on this blog, but 2013's was a touch experimental, being 720 words of prose supplied on seven cards that could be rearranged in different combinations to create 720 different narratives[1].

That isn't something I can really present via Blogger, but the indispensable Dale Smith has kindly translated it into PHP so I can publish it on my website.

I give you my 2013 Christmas 'story', 'Tableaux'. 

2014's story is more linear, and is a direct tie-in with the Devices trilogy, taking place between The Pendragon Protocol and the second book. I'm not sure quite what's going to happen with that one -- it may appear as an extra in the books at some point. (I'll tell you, though, that it's called "Mummers and Poppers: A Devices Story for Christmas".)

A very pleasing festive season to you all.

[1] Note for the mathematically competent: Yes, I know. One of them always comes first.

17 October 2014


51S94JB1VNLI’m delighted and slightly stunned to discover that, with the publication of The Pendragon Protocol, I now merit my own entry in the science fiction readers’ Bible, John Clute et al’s The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.  I owned the first edition from the age of twelve or thereabouts; I still have the 21-year-old second edition (see right) and its sister volume, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, on my shelves, and I’ve been avidly consulting the third edition since it went online in 2011. It’s difficult to express quite how proud I feel of finally warranting an appearance of my own in this arcane compendium.

Admittedly I don’t entirely agree with the details of my entry. (I’d argue, for instance, that while The Pendragon Protocol does indeed mention Christian values, it’s hardly uncritical of them, and that — while I’m delighted if the novel works for a Young Adult readership — that wasn’t actually the demographic I was primarily aiming for. Also, the Encyclopedia doesn't seem to be aware of Peculiar Lives, which I would have thought was pretty much up its street.)

This is scarcely the point, though. Among other things, John Clute (John Clute! The SF critic's SF critic!) thinks Of the City of the Saved is "ambitious". I'm unbelievably pleased about this.

* * *

Iris Wildthyme of Mars...Well, anyway. In other, not-at-all anticlimactic news, Iris Wildthyme of Mars now exists in hard copy, and is available to order from Obverse Books:
As well as writing the third Devices book (the second having been submitted to Snowbooks at the end of September), I'm talking to Stuart at Obverse about possible future anthologies. Watch this space.