Thursday, 23 March 2023

THE FACES AT YOUR SHOULDER by Steve Duffy (Sarob Press 2023)


Excellent cover illustration by Paul Lowe

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher and am an old friend of the author.  This review contains a few spoilers.

In this introduction, Steve Duffy points out that the novelette - there are six here - offers the author a chance to build atmosphere and develop characters in a way shorter tales do not. He also concedes that M.R. James didn't need the long run-up but (rightly, I think) sees this as a mark of the man's brilliance. Whatever your view, though, this book is certainly substantial. Here are half a dozen strange worlds in capsule form. They all resemble our own a little too closely for comfort. 

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Codex Antarctica by Cardinal Cox

Codex Antarctica, you say? If there's one region I like, it's the polar region. Something about the vast wastes of ice and snow (with the odd penguin here and there) strikes deep into my Anglo-Saxon soul. Perhaps it's because Antarctica so anomalous in so many ways. A continent that once flourished, rich with life, but is now locked within mile-deep layers of compacted snow. I am not alone of course, and some of the big names in horror and sci-fi are referenced in this, the poet's nineteenth (sort of) in the Codex sequence. 

If you don't know the Cardinal's work, it's well worth seeking out just for the arcane knowledge on offer. Here we have a pamphlet of nine poems (most of them sonnets, interestingly) that cover some of the weirdest fictions and strangest facts or factoids about the great southern continent. 

Thursday, 2 March 2023

NOW IT'S DARK by Lynda E. Rucker (Swan River Press 2023)


*Note - I received a review copy of this book signed by the author, Robert Shearman, who contributes an excellent introduction, and artist John Coulthart, whose brooding imagery adorns the cover.

Am I proud to have been one of the first editors to publish Lynda E. Rucker? Yes, very. When her story 'The Last Reel' turned up in my inbox, did I think 'This one, yes, definitely a star in the making'? Well, to be honest, I can't remember. It was a long time ago, and I'm knocking on a bit. But I do remember loving the story and thinking that the author had that combination of originality, love of the genre, and playful energy that distinguishes a fine writer from the merely competent. More stories came, and books, and accolades and awards. I am proud that, in her story notes, Lynda counts me as a friend who helped her get a foot on the ladder's first rung. She's climbed quite a way since then.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

One for the Discerning Reader

Lynda E. Rucker's third collection of short stories, Now It's Dark, is available from Swan River Press. I'm in the middle of it, and a review will be posted here shortly. It contains two stories from ST, proving that I sometimes have good taste. Just not in socks. Seriously, this is brilliant stuff and should scoop the awards. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Patterns of Orbit - Stories by Chloe N. Clark


Science fiction was my first love. Long before I became acquainted with M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, or any modern masters of horror and weird fiction, I was having fun in outer space. Asimov, Clarke, Niven, Shaw, Vance - these were my cicerones among far stars and strange futures. Around the same time, my early teens, I also discovered something odd, a thing called 'New Wave', and it too seemed welcoming. Ballard, Aldiss, Spinrad, Disch, Moorcock - they were altogether stranger than the old-school sf writers but just as interesting. Inner space beckoned. And sometimes it was hard to tell the two apart. James Tiptree Jnr (Alice B. Sheldon) was a case in point, as were Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delaney, Keith Roberts, and many others.

All of which leads me to a remarkable new collection by frequent ST contributor Chloe N. Clark, whose new book is rather wonderful. I'm proud to say that I accepted two stories here, 'Even the Veins of Leaves' and 'Who Walks Beside You'. They both stand up well, I'm glad to say, and are a good fit. This book is also concerned with inner space while not neglecting the outer kind. The themes and ideas range from interstellar voyages to lost loves. Some are 'true' short stories of several pages, many are vignettes (a thankfully revived art thanks to flash fiction) just a few paragraphs long. All are worth reading and then re-reading.

'The Woman in the Veil' by E.F. Benson