29 April 2013

More Tales of the City: Trailer #4

Jay Eales' story isn't quite like the others in More Tales of the City:
     As the clapping subsides, a harsh voice says, ‘That sounds like my cue.’ The old man with the disfigured face is standing by the fire-pit, ready to speak his piece.
     ‘This one’s from a very old friend of mine...’ he begins. ‘Jim Sheldrake.’ The storyteller pauses to let his name-drop take effect. ‘You might have heard of him.’ He smiles, as he pushes back an unruly dreadlock and casts a hooded glance at his audience, looking for recognition, but finding none. He presses on, the gravel in his voice grown organically over years and lifetimes beside one fire or another.
     The name he has chosen for himself is Story. It is not his birth name, or any of sundry identities he has worn, but it is the one he has borne the longest, both before and after his rebirth. In truth he has always been Story. Every wrinkle and blemish upon his skin tells its own tale, so no wonder he was rebirthed exactly as he went out.
His author biog isn't either:
Jay Eales, ya say? I knew the fella, once upon’a. On the road to St Ives or somesuch. Northampton? Sounds about right. Land a’ the Blessed Alan. Back in them days, people had holes in they shoes, they gots Elves ta do the fixin’. Well, somebody gots ta pay ’em, right? Fer his sins, that’s what he done. Paid off them Elves ta keep ’em tap-tap-tapping soles ’n’ heels all night long. Elves being Elves, it din’t last, so he sold elbow grease ’n’ long weights ta simple folks, and a spell lockin’ up wrong-uns. But all through, he’s scritch-scratchin’ away at his stories. Some got bought and some didn’t. Did he ever make it here to the City? There’s the thing. I ain’t rightly sure he atcherly died... Plain forgot to pick up the knack of it from ol’ Sister Death, he tole me. Laid hisself down, but it just never took. He be out there somewhere, pissin’ an’ moanin’ ’bout editors, I ’spect.
I mentioned the "fanthologies" which I -- and Susannah Tiller, and Simon Bucher-Jones and Kelly Hale and Dale Smith, and any number of writers who've been professionally published since -- contributed to, around the turn of the century. The two specific ones I wrote for were edited or co-edited by Julian "Jay" Eales, an author, editor and publisher with an impressive track record in small-press prose and comics. His most recent editing work was, in fact, the Faction Paradox anthology Burning with Optimism's Flames, for which I wrote "De Umbris Idearum".

Jay's fiction is weird and spiky, with a habit of defying clear categories, and indeed description. His More Tales of the City story, "Born among Briars", draws heavily on the folklore of Br'er Rabbit, hence the style of that biog. It's a sequel of sorts to "Mightier than the Sword" in A Romance in Twelve Parts, the story of a convict over whom a pulp author named Sheldrake exercises an inexplicable influence, and it's fantastic.

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15 April 2013

More Tales of the City: Trailer #3

Introducing More Tales of the City's third narrator:
     Arianrhod calls for silence, and as Harry scurries back with his tray of drinks, Akroates is surprised to see that the next storyteller, a young human-standard woman – he suspects genuinely young, rather than a resurrectee – is another whom he had pegged as strictly audience material. He saw her earlier, a petite brunette in sober clothes with an immodest price-tag, sitting quietly attentive as Lewis spoke his piece, alone but for a small personal drone.
     That machine buzzes unhappily now, but stays in place guarding the young woman’s wine, as she abandons it for the mikedrone at the fire-pit.
     ‘When I was little, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I say “kitchen”, but it wasn’t just one room, it was a whole labyrinth of them. The actual room where all the cooking was done, the pantry, the rooms where the servants lived, cool rooms, and more. It was its own little world down there. And Mrs Gladstone, the housekeeper, was like its own Resident. Whenever I went downstairs, she’d always be in the middle of everything. Even if she was off in a corner somewhere adding up accounts, the staff would still come to her, and ask her advice, and make sure that she knew what was going on.’
Considerably before I had anything resembling a writing career, I contributed stories to two Doctor Who 'fanthologies' -- unofficial, unlicensed short-story collections, written, edited and pubished by fans, and tolerated by the BBC solely because they had minuscule print runs and were produced on an entirely not-for-profit basis in aid of charity. 

Back then -- as now, of course -- there was a thriving community of Doctor Who fanfic authors, and Susannah Tiller was one of the best. My favourite story of hers was "Caveat Emptor", in which the Doctor saves the last survivor of humanity from being sold at auction. Many contributors to those collections had gone on to professional writing careers, within or even outside the broad and varied universe of Doctor Who and its spinoffs. Susannah was not one of them, which seemed to me an injustice, and one I wanted to rectify.

I'm very glad I did, because 'Eternity Is Just for Starters', Susannah's first professional writing commission, is very good indeed: a tale of a City-born student with an isolated, privileged upbringing, and the political awakening she experiences through the unexpected medium of gastronomy.

With a doctorate in psychology, Susannah Tiller’s writing, both fiction and non-fiction, reflected her interests of people interacting with technologies, human relationships, and ethical issues. She was a noted fan-fiction writer in the Doctor Who universe, and contributed to numerous anthologies. ‘Eternity Is Just for Starters’ was her first professional fiction work, unless you count her second place in a Choose Your Own Adventure synopsis competition when she was twelve. Susannah’s plans for world domination led to her untimely death, in an accident involving industrial quantities of chocolate. Since Resurrection Day, Susannah has lived in the City’s arts and crafts district. Learning from the world’s best chefs, embroiderers, and psychologists, she creates edible delicacies that double as wall hangings and personality tests. Her plans for world domination continue. She dedicates her story to Tom, her partner in life, and in dining. Together, they created and shared many memorable meals.
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11 April 2013

Horizon, or Señor 105 contra las Momias Locas de Odinhotep

...is the title of my e-novella, number 006 in the Periodic Adventures of Señor 105 series, published today and available for download for £1.99 from Manleigh Books.

Though written solely in English, all the Periodic Adventures e-novellas have dual-language titles, with the English and Spanish bearing no noticeable resemblance to one another. It's a tradition. Although I've been referring to the ebook as "Horizon" for short (and that's what's on the cover -- see right), I see the two as equal halves of the full title, the stolid austerity of one counterbalancing the lurid hysteria of the other.

Here's the blurb:
Horizon, Nevada is suffering a mass haunting. Ghosts and UFOs harass the townsfolk while mysterious graffiti in no known alphabet are found inscribed across their walls. Señor 105 and his friends Sheila and Lori suspect extraterrestrial intervention, but the truth – as the enigmatic Ms Wood and Mr Stone could tell them, were they so inclined – is far stranger.
I previously posted an extract from the book (quite early in the writing process, so some of the wording has changed a bit).

I've added a page for the ebook at my website, including a larger cover image and some background notes. At roughly 23,000 words, Horizon's the shortest thing I've written for separate publication: pretty much half the length of Peculiar Lives, but twice that of my last Faction Paradox short story.

In unrelated news (apart from the facts that Manleigh Books is the electronic imprint of Obverse Books, and that the editor of the Señor 105 novellas, Cody Quijano-Schell, is also Obverse's graphic designer and thus the creator of both books' covers), I can also now share the full and final version of the cover of More Tales of the City (which will be appearing in both paper and ebook versions). Click on the preview below to see a full version:

Lovely, isn't it? As is the Horizon cover, of course. Further trailers for More Tales will follow in due course.

01 April 2013

More Tales of the City: Trailer #2

Here's Hal Benson, the narrator of Simon Bucher-Jones' story in More Tales of the City, seen through the eye of Akroates the cyclops barman:
     To his surprise, though, after the obligatory foot-shuffling and eye-contact-avoidance, it is one of the stag party – a lean young man in a natty houndstooth suit, with a slightly puzzled look in his blue eyes – who is inveigled into telling the evening’s third story. His protestations that he ‘was just about to get a round in’ are met with scant sympathy from his peers, who are braying, ‘Tell ’em the one about the bodysnatchers, Hal!’
     Arianrhod nods graciously, and the mikedrone swoops across to hover next to the young partygoer.
     ‘My turn to tell a tale then? That’s fine, if you can get the drinks in. I think I’ve got them pegged, but I can barely afford the ink to jot them down for you.
     ‘A rum and splash, a finnegan’s slake for the corpusclevore, two whampagne fizzles, a G.&T. and a Castrol GTX. And for me?
    ‘Well that’s kind, a glass of Worpelston’s finest ale. It’s good of you to stand the round. I would get these if a recent investment on the racecourse hadn’t let me down in the handicap. I mean, I should have known Shergar wouldn’t turn up to a face-off against Red Rum...’
Simon's one of the most outrageously creative talents to emerge from the Doctor Who novels of the 1990s and early 2000s, a writer of enormous invention, verve and erudition. His novels are full of brain-stretching concepts like a 'haunted' dolls' house whose unique properties are the result of a colony of quark-sized lifeforms taking up residence, or a community of poets who progressively lose the faculty of language as a 'memeovore' eats their alphabet, or the revelation that fairytale giants are of no fixed size.

Here's his biog:
Born in 1964, Simon Bucher-Jones worked for the Old United Kingdom Civil Service in the years 1988-2030, before his retirement at age 66. He also augmented his eWorth on the then primitive YouExchange by writing, and originating the Oceanic Ocelot Meme. A conscientious objector to the Proactive DeAging of 2037, which applied a post-SNPD Solution to the ‘pensions time-bomb’, he remained a Natural Ager until his death in prison at 78. A woolly-thinker, then a Christian, then an atheist, then a surprised atheist, since Resurrection Day Simon has been a writer-librarian and is presently dedicated to reading every book ever written. His most notable work (with Jonathan Dennis) remains the unfinished and cursed The Brakespeare Voyage, which he is promising to complete soon. At the last count it has now had the highest number of prospective publishers of any long-awaited twenty-first-century novel.
Simon's also an astonishingly literate man, one of the most voracious readers I know, and his story for More Tales, 'Double Trouble at the Parasites on the Proletariat Club', reflects his reading of the works of P.G. Wodehouse in particular (though it by no means stops there). Faced with the challenge of writing a story set in a world where the threat of physical violence is absent, Simon has turned to a literary world where (although sometimes present) it's never actually put into practice, and where loss of status, social ostracism and sheer overpowering embarrassment are the chief motivating factors.

Like Ian Potter's 'The Long-Distance Somnambulist', 'Double Trouble at the Parasites on the Proletariat Club' was originally submitted for Tales of the City last year, but I kept it back confident that it would sit very happily in a second volume. And so it does.

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(Incidentally, that's a first glimpse of the wonderful Cody Quijano-Schell's fantastic cover for More Tales above. I'll be posting a fuller version on my website in the fullness of time.)  

Meanwhile, Back When There Were Fewer Tales of the City...

In coincidental but not exactly unrelated news, I can report that my original Faction Paradox novel featuring the City of the Saved, Of the City of the Saved, is now available as a Kindle ebook from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and as a Nook ebook from... well, currently Barnes and Noble, but presumably from other retailers (including some UK-based ones) later.

This is a revised Mad Norwegian Press edition of the 2004 novel, which corrects a number of errata in the first edition, and restores some passages which had to be cut due to the pressures of space. It also incorporates some extras first published on my website. I may post a definitive list of the changes here at some point, but in the meantime I'll let you discover them for yourselves.