Is it too late for a favourite books of 2018 post?

Don't be silly! Of course it isn't. I read 58 books in 2018 and these were my favourites. Note that this doesn't mean they were necessarily published in 2018.

1: Strange Weather by Joe Hill. Honestly, I was knocked out by this. Four short novels (novellas if you insist) that demonstrate just why thirty to forty thousand words is the optimum length for most stories. Get it. You won't regret it.

2: The Last Weekend by Nick Mamatas. As the author himself notes, possibly the last zombie novel that ever needs written. This was an absolute blast: zombies are essentially somewhere off to the side while the lead character goes about making as much of a mess of his life post-zombie apocalypse as it was before. He still drinks to excess, still screws up his relationships, and still can't get more than one story published. Loved it.

3: October Song by RU Pringle. Me and RU share an agent in John Jarrold, who asked me if I'd like to read this book with a mind to blurb it. It turned out to be terrific: a brutal near-future thriller with more than a touch of Children of Men to it. It's set in a mid-21st Century Scotland that's become independent, lost its independence and been essentially colonised by an English state unable to cope with accelerating climate change and the sudden enforced transformation of the global political and economic landscape. The story follows a former policewoman hunted by essentially everyone for the murder of the prime minister as she flees up the coast trying to reach safety on the European mainland.

4: Kindred by Octavia Butler. Somehow I managed to get through my life without having read any Octavia Butler, an unfortunate error I've now corrected. A deserved classic.

5: All Systems Red, Martha Wells. Well, this book has been the hit of the year for a lot of people and I can see why. Read it if you haven't yet.

6: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I should probably apologise for not having got around to reading this one yet...

Honourable mentions: Mohsin Ahmed, Exit West
Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist


Forthcoming in 2019: books, books and more books

In 2018, I had two books out: Ghost Frequencies, and Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds. In 2019, if certain cards fall the way I hope they will, I'll have another two books coming out - and possibly even three if things work out the way I'm hoping.

One of these three works is caught up in negotiations at the moment, so let's just leave that to the side for now and talk about the other two regarding which I'm much more certain. This is going to take a little explaining:

I recently completed a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, to be called Doomsday Game. It completes the story of Jerry Beche, Rozalia Ludke, Katya Orlova and the rest of the Pathfinders as they face up against their greatest challenge yet. If you've bought Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds, you already know at least one part of that story as The Long Fall, a novelette included in that collection.

However, I don't intend just yet to publish it, at least not in the conventional sense. The simple reason for this is that I'm hoping to eventually win back the rights to the previous two volumes from my former publisher, and it doesn't make sense to publish the third book until I once again have the rights to all three books in the series begun by Extinction Game. It would benefit Tor UK far more than it would benefit me.

Really,  I should have thought of this before I embarked on writing it, but you live and learn. So I've decided that I will make Doomsday Game available...after a fashion. For the moment at least, I'm planning on making it available only to people who subscribe to my Patreon.

I haven't quite figured out the details, but it's like this: Patreon is a subscription site where you pay to get updates from me on a regular basis. The subscription payments help me to afford the time I need to work on my writing. Over the past year, I've posted the chapters of Doomsday Game to my Patreon feed as and when they're completed. Soon, the book will become available to my Patreon subscribers as a formatted ebook.

So if you're looking for a copy of that third book, you'll be able to get it - so long as you join my Patreon. It won't be much - a couple of pounds a month, perhaps, with no requirement to keep up that payment any longer than you want to. But figuring out the specific terms of how it will work is something for the beginning of next year.

But wait, there's more! Along with Doomsday Book, once I've finished formatting and designing it, you'll also get a free ebook of Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds. You'll also be able to follow along as I write the third book I'm hoping to publish sometime next year, called Ely Strong. It's a kind of steampunk/dieselpunk/hard sf mashup I've been working on and planning for a long, long time. I've already posted up the first three chapters and hope to keep posting them on a regular basis and through subsequent drafts and redrafts.

Once Ely Strong is finished, it will go on sale as an ebook at Amazon and at other digital online stores and as a paperback. That's some months away, however: at least six months, and possibly as many as nine.

I appreciate this all sounds a little complicated, but once I've ironed out the details it'll all seem perfectly simple. 


Sixteen years

 I just realised I've been maintaining this blog for sixteen years come this December. SIXTEEN YEARS. Sure as hell didn't think it'd stick around that long when I started it, mainly to embarrass myself into actually getting some serious writing done.

That means this blog is older than Facebook and Twitter, for Christ's sake. That's practically prehistoric in internet years. Okay, sure, so nobody's really blogging any more. Well, much.

Sixteen years. It's old enough to get married. 


Michael Cobley and Splintered Suns

Following up from my first promo for Ruaridh Pringle and Hal Duncan a few weeks back is the following piece by Mike Cobley, whose new space opera, Splintered Suns, is released today, the 4th of December.

An introduction:

Mike's past several books are very much in the same vein as a number of my own, what you might call "widescreen space opera". It helps quite a bit that his new book, Splintered Suns, has a frankly awesome title and an even more awesome cover courtesy of Steve Stone, who also did the artwork for all my own books.

Mike Cobley has been on the scene even longer than I have: he produced a mimeographed sf news sheet back in the 80s and 90s called Shark Tactics, then began selling short fiction to magazines like Interzone and anthologies like Other Edens. 

His first novel, Shadowkings, published in the early 00’s, was in the small-but-lively fantasy subcategory of “what if Sauron won?”, and had two sequels before he shifted gears to space opera and published Seeds of Earth through Orbit.

That also had two sequels, followed by a fourth book, Ancestral Machines and, now, Splintered Suns. Here’s a brief outline of the plot to whet your appetite:

For Pyke and his crew it should have been just another heist. Travel to a backwater desert planet, break into a museum, steal a tracking device then use it to find a ship buried in the planet's vast and trackless sandy wastes. 
Except that the museum vault is a bio-engineered chamber, and the tracking device is sought-after by another gang of treasure hunters led by an old adversary of Pyke's, the devious Raven Kaligara. Also, the ship is quarter of a million years old and about two kilometres long and somewhere aboard it is the Essavyr Key, a relic to unlock all the treasures and technologies of a lost civilisation...

Hi, Mike Cobley here. 

First off, a tip of the hat to Gary for inviting me to ramble on about my new printed creation, due out from Orbit in early December. What's it about? - it's about 150K words long, ba-dum-tish! (there, now I will never be tempted to make that joke again, ever!)

Why you should buy Splintered Suns: 
Just the thing for a spot of festive reading when the mince pies have had their evil way with your digestion! 

You don't have to take my word for it - here’s Ken MacLeod's kindly provided blurb: ”Splintered Suns splices new and old space opera, cyberpunk, quest fantasy and heist caper -- the maddest thing I've read since Van Vogt!

The story’s origins: 

When I initially sat down to conceptualise Captain Pyke and his merry band of ne'er-do-wells, first in Ancestral Machines and now in Splintered Suns, I'd wanted to do a kind of homage to the long-gone, much-missed Firefly TV series, and set it in the same universe as my Humanity's Fire trilogy. 

All the components were there, smuggler captain, handy ship, crew of misfits, etc, but as these elements were projected through the kaleidoscope of my mind it took on some rather different overtones. 

I mean, Brannan Pyke is not Malcolm Reynolds - Pyke is a gobby spacer of Irish extraction convinced of his undoubted genius and ability to overcome ungodly gougers by sheer force of wit and will. And his crew...well, they just don't want to disappoint him so they go along with his mad schemes and by chance and crazy-mad juggling they manage to scrape a win out of the impossible doom into which he originally pitched them.

The previous volume in the Humanity’s Fire series, Ancestral Machines, really was my shot at doing a Megastructures In Space kinda book, my answer to Ringworld, Riverworld, Rama, and Dyson Spheres. The setting, three hundred planets orbiting an artificial sun, acted as a backdrop to a sprawling melodrama of war games and bio-mechanical evil.

Splintered Suns, on the other hand, starts off as a heist which goes off at a bizarre tangent - the going gets tough, and the tough get weird and before you know it you've been possessed by a warped AI from a previous aeon hellbent on unleashing all manner of hellish destruction, harbingers of dissolution, and soulless horror!

Buy Splintered Suns


New books, and stuff coming up

I'm continuing with my policy of trying to feature new books published in the UK, and the next up, in just a couple of days, will be Michael Cobley talking about his new book Splintered Suns. That will also go out to the mailing list. Following that, in January, will be Keith Brooke and Eric Brown talking about their latest collaboration.

If you've got a book coming out from a trad publisher in the UK, let me know and I might be able to feature you here. It's a case of first come, first served, and while I can't guarantee I'll feature you - I'm thinking here in terms of what I think the people who like my stuff would also like - I'll certainly take a look.

And just to reiterate - that's traditionally published books I'm prepared to feature, at least for the moment. I may make exceptions, but again that's down to my decision.

Okay: new books, and stuff coming up.

The current state of play is that a novella is in the midst of discussions with a publisher, but I don't know yet whether that's going ahead or not. I also recently finished a new short story, 'Warsuit', that may or may not be the basis for a book or books set in a space opera-like universe.

I've been holding off on writing much in the vein of, say, Stealing Light or Thousand Emperors for reasons perhaps too complex to get into. Part of the reason, perhaps, is that the self-publishing revolution has led to an absolute glut of quickly-written space opera books filled with space marines. To my mind, this sets science fiction back about seventy years, and if I'm going to write anything remotely in that area again, it's got to have a solid underlying theme that runs absolutely contrary to the 'shoot anything that looks like an alien' mode that seems to have overtaken the field.

This is actually not an easy decision, because I could write 'shoot anything that looks like an alien' style fiction pretty much on automatic and blow the competition out of the fucking water, but I don't because I have actual principles.

'Warsuit', needless to say, does not hew to this aesthetic. I'll be submitting it to magazines as soon as I've revised it - I workshopped it this weekend - and see if they agree with me or not.


I've been making enquiries about getting back the rights to my past books. That could, frankly, take a very long time. When I started writing a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, I figured i could just toss it out there. However, that no longer seems like a sensible strategy if I don't first have control over the previous books in the series.

That leaves the question what to actually do with the third book in the series, which is now complete and awaiting some final, if relatively minor, revisions.

So I've decided, at least for the moment, that the only place it's going to be available until the day comes when I have control over the rest of the series is on my Patreon page. If you sign up right now, you can read the book in a series of posts made over the last year.

Sometime soon, I'm going to format it as an ebook which will also be exclusive to Patreon supporters. That all has to be sorted out, however.

And because I'm not one to rest on my laurels, I've started work on a brand new book quite unlike anything I've done before. The title of that book, for now at least, is ELY STRONG. And that is also going to be published, chapter by chapter, as it's written on my Patreon. The first chapter is already up.

See you in a couple of days when I post Mike's piece. 


Cover Reboot, and Ruaridh Pringle and Hal Duncan tell you why you should buy their books.

While I’m pretty pleased overall with the look of Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds, I did get to thinking it could look a little…jazzier, let’s say. So with that in mind I hired a graphic designer to have a go at redesigning the layout. The results are pretty spiffing, as you can see.

If you’ve already bought the ebook with the previous look, you can see this new cover on your device by deleting the book and then downloading it again. Or at least, that’s how it worked for me on my Amazon Kindle.

An Experiment, You Say?

As I said last time, I wanted to experiment with promoting more UK writers by allowing them to tell you about their books. I’m trying essentially to do a British version of John Scalzi’s The Big Idea or Chuck Wendig’s Five Things About. There doesn’t seem to be anything equivalent in the UK for up and coming releases, so I figured I might as well find out if it’s a gap worth plugging. I’ll try it for a short while and see how well it goes.

About the same time I was thinking about all this, my agent John Jarrold asked me if I’d like to read and possibly provide a blurb to a book coming out from one of his other clients, a writer by name of Ruaridh Pringle. He’s been previously published in Interzone and has a couple of far-future novels available as well.

I not only read Ruaridh’s new book, OCTOBER SONG, I thought it was pretty magnificent. And so do Neil Williamson and Ken MacLeod, both of whom have provided their own separate recommendations as well.

I then found out that Hal Duncan, author of Ink and Vellum, two extraordinarily complex - and extraordinarily successful - fantasy novels had a new book coming out about the same time. So I figured I’d make this a double-header and feature both of them talking about their new releases.

First is Ruaridh Pringle telling you why you should buy OCTOBER SONG. It’s a rip-roaring chase thriller set in a mid-21st Century Scotland plagued by climate change, the aftermath of invasion, and a world with too few resources for too many people. It reminded me of Iain Banks at his fiery best.


A bit of background first. October Song didn't begin its life as a book, but as a screenplay. I had an actress I know in mind for the leading role, but as the story evolved I began thinking, 'hold on, there's a novel in here.'

Much to her disgust as I still haven't finished the screenplay.

The story's set a few years in the future, but I hope it's real and immediate enough to appeal to readers who like their thrillers 'straight up' by writers like Lee Child as much as devotees of SF.

It follows events after a terrorist bombing outside the council offices of the recently annexed territory of “North Britain” (read: Scotland), focusing on several characters whose lives become intimately bound up in the bombing, in ways of which they themselves are often unaware.

Among them is a woman wanted for the crime, who is forced to flee a combined police and Mi5 manhunt up the territory's wild west coast in a kayak, and the officers chasing her down, as forces unknown seem to be doing their best to prevent the two sides meeting.

There are quite a few facets to the book. On one level, it's a direct extrapolation of a tumultuous time both for the United Kingdom and the world as a whole. Geopolitics, particularly the history and the present status of Scotland's place in the UK, is a big part of the backdrop and the setup to the story.

That said, for me the location isn't fundamentally what the story's about. Similar tales could be set in any number of nations around the world faced with the 'perfect storm' of climate change, overpopulation, resource collapse and the consequent migration of billions of people happening (largely off-page) in October Song.

Disparate love affairs (not always between people) lie close to its heart, and it's also a kind of travelogue. The etherial, and deeply altered, landscape of the west coast of the Scottish Highlands is a looming presence throughout the book: something I was able to write having spent a good chunk of my life exploring the area. It's also the story of a woman with some deep, deep scars finding that she is more of a survivor than she, or anyone else, ever thought.

So, if you like your thrillers thoughtful with strong female lead characters and lashings of darkness, grime and political intrigue, this is for you.


Introduction: Hal Duncan and A SCRUFFIAN FUNFERAL

Hal Duncan first came to light with critical darlings Vellum and its sequel Ink, two vast fantasy epics with a strongly experimental bent about what might be a war in heaven, or might be something altogether far stranger. Since then he’s had songs recorded by well-known Glasgow bands, starred in films for other bands, written a musical and had it put on in the States and produced any number of wildly inventive works that Jeffrey Ford described as “mad genius”.

Most recently. Hal has been writing books about the Scruffians - children who, like Peter Pan, never grow old thanks to a magical device called the Stamp.

The stories are set in various times, including Victorian London and latter-day squats, and sometimes take the form of twisted variations on well-known fairy tales. To be honest, like much of Hal’s work, they’re hard to categorise - but I especially like his own description of “punk fiction for yer inner feral child”.

The latest release in the Scruffians series is A SCRUFFIAN FUNFERALpublished on 21 October 2018. There’s also A SCRUFFIANS PRIMER to get you up to speed on the series, available for just 99p. 


What are the Scruffians?

Well, think of the musical Oliver! by way of Clive Barker. Or something Neil Gaiman might come up with if he was a bolshie queer.

Or think of J.M. Barrie's Lost Boys crossed with Michael de Larrabeiti's snot-nosed squat-dwelling Borribles. Or imperishable street punks who didn’t so much choose to never grow up, like Peter Pan, but were instead “Fixed" that way by a magical doodad called the Stamp.

Why? Because, hey, waifs that can’t be damaged...they're perfect for child labour, eh?

Only these Scruffians are made to be serfs and skivvies, so they're gonna be resilient.

And they're gonna be fuckin rebellious.

There are now four chapbooks of Scruffians stories. The latest, A Scruffian Funferal, is just out — and all of them are designed to work for new readers, so you can dive right in anywhere and just explore from there.

You've got stories set at the height of the Trade, with vengeful imperishable urchins taking on a Waiftaker General and the Institute that Fixed and sold them.

You've got stories going back to the Children's Crusade, fables of the earliest Scruffians as told by one Gobfabbler Halyard-Dunkling, Esquire, who's sort of equal parts Artful Dodger, Mother Goose and Begbie from Trainspotting.

And you've got stories set in the present day with the Trade long since gone, swept under the rug so's most folk don't even know Scruffians exist, but with threats still out there in this era of Trump and Brexit, fascism on the rise and billionaires needing eaten.

It's dark AF satire here, shameless Dickensian sentimentalism there, and sorta Grand Guignol revenge comedy everywhere--if that's a thing. Like if the Bash Street Kids went...a wee bit Sweeney Todd.

I dunno why anyone wouldn't want that in 2018, to be honest, a bit of comic relief from the ongoing shitstorm, but with deadly serious intent.

Depth doesn't have to mean solemn miserabilism, because escapism can be about getting the fuck out of a Dire Situation so you can return, backed by your queer punk cribmates, armed with a fuckin straight razor and a molotov cocktail to slit throats and burn the whole fucking system down.

As Gob says in one of the stories in A Scruffian Funferal, Sometimes yer needs spoons to make shivs, and that's kind of the entire ethos here. Punk fiction for yer inner feral child, to make ye laugh and cry and fire ye the fuck up for the fight.

Nuff said.



October 2018 update

By way of an experiment, I’ve been trying to get in the habit of writing an occasional, actual newsletter, as opposed to just some once or twice a year blast of I HAVE BOOK OUT BUY IT NOW sent to the poor, unfortunate souls who subscribe to my mailing list. By way of a further experiment, I thought I'd tweak it a little and also post it up on my official writerly-type Facebook page, and now here it is, at last, on my actual blog. This got emailed out a good few weeks ago, so if you want to hear from me sooner, sign up to my mailing list.

Before I get to the news part, the ebook of SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS is now available on most non-Amazon ebook sites, including iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc (I'm still working on a few others, such as Google Play). So if you prefer getting your ebooks from places other than Amazon, click the following link and choose your preferred store: books2read.com/u/bP58lj

In the next couple of days, I'll be workshopping DOOMSDAY GAME, a sequel to EXTINCTION GAME and SURVIVAL GAME with some fellow writers here in Taipei. If you bought my short fiction collection SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS, one of the stories, THE LONG FALL, is in fact drawn from it.

I've actually been serialising DOOMSDAY GAME on my Patreon for a while now: about two thirds of the book has been posted so far. There’s other stuff in there, like deleted chapters from SURVIVAL GAME and other bits and pieces. I post new chapters from DOOMSDAY GAME roughly every two weeks.

I don’t yet have a set publication date for DOOMSDAY GAME. When it comes out depends on a lot of things being sorted out first. When I have some idea, I’ll let you know. But right now, the only way to read it is to join my Patreon which, for your information, would cost you a quid a month. That's all.

Otherwise, I have a novella doing the rounds of publishers. One has expressed interest, but traditional publishing being very, very slow, I don't yet know if that's going to lead to something.

Right now, I'm working on a novelette called WARSUIT. It will surely gladden the heart of many of you that it’s a return to the kind of far-future hard sf I’m best known for.

Why novellas and short stories and not full novels? Mainly because while I was writing novels, I had ideas for other stories that didn’t necessarily need a full novel to tell, and now I have the opportunity to write them.

Curiously, many books now sold as novellas aren't much different in length from what would have been considered a full-length ‘novel’ up to, I think, the late 70s. It's a great way to tell a story at exactly the length it needs to be, which has the advantage of letting you tell more stories with the same amount of effort.

I’ve otherwise been planning out a separate series of linked novellas, starting, hopefully, with MOON MAN, set in the 19th Century. It's about gunmen, P.T. Barnum, and something otherworldly. A second will be in the 1980s and a third in the 2050s. NEW WRITERS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I just finished reading OCTOBER SONG by a new writer from Scotland, RU Pringle, at the suggestion of our mutual agent JOHN JARROLD. The novel is a gripping, almost Banksian thriller set in a near-future Scotland. It's currently on pre-order, and I should be telling you more about that very shortly.

Probably the reading surprise of the year for me so far has been Martha Wells' novella ALL SYSTEMS RED. It’s a far-future story of a security android who is both more and less than human. If you’re looking for a quick read that’ll stay with you, I can’t think of anything better.

Of all the things I didn’t expect to come across, a Taiwanese version of Black Mirror would be pretty high on the list (if you weren’t aware, I live in Taipei, in the Far East). It’s on Netflix, so if you’re subscribed to that service there’s a pretty good chance you have it too, wherever you are. I’ve only started watching it, but it does seem to me to nail some aspects of Taiwanese culture pretty firmly. Worth checking out.

Elementary. How can this be so good? I’m already a third of the way through the fourth season.


New Directions in Blogging

(Hands up if you're old and nerdy enough to get the reference of that blog post title)

I haven't blogged for a while, which is usually the part where a writer says 'and I probably won't be again', but that wouldn't be true: I am indeed still blogging, but the rapidly shifting nature of publishing in the face of radical technological change means the changes they are a'coming.

These days, you will find my blogging primarily in two places: in my Patreon and in my newsletter.

I post regularly to my Patreon, which of course is for people who are willing to contribute financially towards my writing. In return, I try and give them things. Advance digital copies of forthcoming books to check out, deleted scenes, and even all the chapters from whatever I'm working on, posted at regular intervals.

At the moment, I'm posting up chapters from a draft of DOOMSDAY GAME, the sequel to EXTINCTION GAME and SURVIVAL GAME. It doesn't cost much to get access: about a dollar per month, if I recall. And in return, you're increasing the amount of time I can afford to spend on writing rather than other stuff to keep a roof over my head.

I haven't really made use of my newsletter yet, even though I have several hundred people signed up to my mailing list. So I'm shifting a large part of my blogging activities there. Every month or two months, I'll try and put together an email blast of news and other stuff, and also, for the sake of extra value, interviews when and as I can get them with other writers.

I just sent out a newsletter earlier today. If you don't want to miss the next one, which is intended to feature a bright new star on the UK publishing scene, you should sign up. And of course, you get to download an ebook copy of my novelette Scienceville.

In terms of what I'm working on other than Doomsday Game, all I'll say for now is that I've got various projects up in the air while I wait to see what way they fall. Sign up to the mailing list for more details. 



This week, I’m celebrating the release of my new book (novella if you want to be technical about it) GHOST FREQUENCIES, published in paperback, ebook and hardback by Newcon Press.

Just so you can share in the joy a little bit more, I’m dropping the price of my recently-published short fiction collection SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS to just 99p/$0.99 for the next week. So if you’ve been holding out, now is the time to grab it. But you’d better hurry! It’s almost certainly going up in price once the sale is over. 

Now I get to tell you a little more about Ghost Frequencies and where the specific inspiration came from. 

Ghost Frequencies is:
A ghost story.
A murder mystery.
Diamond-hard science fiction that explores the edges of known science. 

A few years back, I was commissioned to write a chapter of a book about different genres of science fiction. In the article, which focused on hard sf, I made the argument that hard science fiction, rather than focusing only on what is actually possible within the current limits of human knowledge, is more often the place where fiction touches the genuinely unknown and, within the limitations of the human senses, possibly unknowable

The difference, I further argued, between hard science fiction and other forms of literature such as horror and fantasy, is that it most often tries either to explain what it encounters, or uses the failure to find such an explanation as a literary gambit to trigger feelings of awe in the reader at the seeming vastness of the universe.

Examples abound: in Greg Bear’s Blood Music, an experiment in microbial genetics leads to the creation of a new form of cellular life that quickly swamps the entire planet - but in doing so, apparently surpasses the intellectual limitations of humanity, finally and profoundly altering the universe itself on a fundamental level. 

The best example is still, probably, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, closely followed by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic. In both, human explorers are confronted by unknown and possibly unknowable artefacts that imply strong limits to the human mind’s ability to comprehend the wider universe. 

For my own personal tastes, the best science fiction is that which pushes just a little bit beyond what we know to be true - fiction that suggests or implies the existence of an unknowably vast reality hewing to as yet undiscovered laws of nature, just beyond our ability to see it. 

In 2001, impossibly advanced and apparently benevolent aliens use their incomprehensible technology to humanity’s benefit. In Roadside Picnic, the aliens are indifferent to humanity; and in the work of HP Lovecraft, they’re actively working to destroy us. In all cases, humanity is, by comparison, insignificant. 

There’s a particular and very British approach to this kind of science fiction, and probably the best examples were created by Nigel Kneale. In the various Quatermass series and movies, these dark and alien forces are always malevolent, and - most importantly - hint at a history that encompasses large tracts of British folklore. When an unexploded bomb beneath a London underground station turns out to be something far older and far more alien, Quatermass soon learns that the whole area surrounding the station has long been haunted by “spirits” - manifestations of alien forces locked within a million-year old spacecraft. 

Other British TV shows, such as The Changes and Nigel Kneale’s non-Quatermass teleplay The Stone Tape, further explored the hinterland between scientific knowledge, horror and folklore, applying a technological sheen to an essentially MR Jamesian mode of fiction. 

Thinking about all of this led me to write Ghost Frequencies, published this week by Newcon Press. I’ve long wanted to write something that explores these same uniquely British hinterlands of scientific enquiry. The whole story is set in a small fictional English town; before now, much of my fiction has been set either in the States or some other world altogether. The protagonist, Susan MacDonald, is trying to build a  communications array utilising particle entanglement in a newly-refurbished mansion called Ashford House that now operates as a fully modernised research establishment. 

The mansion belongs to the sole remaining member of the Ashford family who now makes a living investing in Silicon Valley start-ups. He’s keen that Susan come up with results, but there are problems. People hear whistling coming from empty rooms; the night caretakers keep quitting; and Ashford himself is strangely evasive when Susan discovers a team of paranormal researchers have been given full access to the mansion.

And to top it all, there’s something really weird about the way Susan’s quantum communications array is behaving...

Much of the theory behind the story involves a purely theoretical phenomena known as “quantum retrocausality”. I’d say about half of the effort of writing Ghost Frequencies was just trying to get my head around that. If you want to feel like your head has been twisted off, you could do worse than to watch this video. 

What happens when science meets the apparently inexplicable? What happens is, you get the kind of science fiction I love to read and to write.

Except this time, I’m trying to scare you as well. 


Ghost Frequencies: it's coming for yooooooou

Spotted in the wild:

As you can see, up there on the top right is a glimpse of the paperback of my new short novel Ghost Frequencies picked up at Glasgow's Satellite Convention, most likely at a Newcon Press event.

I also spotted it listed on Amazon the other day with a release date of 19th June: you can see it listed at mybook.to/ghostfrequencies. Depending on where you are, it might say 'currently unavailable'. If it does, the yellow 'purchase' button should have a message telling you it can send you an email when it does become available. So if you'd like to pre-order it when it's available, click that button.

Once both the paperback and ebook are available either for purchase or pre-order, I'll post here to let you know.

But what's it about, Gary? Well, I'm glad you asked. Here's the back cover blurb:
Susan MacDonald is desperate. Unless she makes a breakthrough soon, Ashford, the millionaire businessman financing her project, will shut it down and disband her research team. She knows she’s close – that she’s on the verge of proving the existence of retrocausality, which will enable her to harness quantum mechanics to produce a revolutionary new form of instantaneous communication – but results are proving frustratingly elusive.
The last thing Susan needs is a team of ghost hunters moving into her base of operations, Ashford Hall – a building with a troubled past. Nor does she need the odd sounds – snatches of random conversation and even music – that are hampering her experiments; but does this interference represent the presence of ‘ghosts’ as some claim, deliberate sabotage as suggested by others, or is there an even more sinister explanation? 
The story to some extent focuses on Electronic Voice Phenomena, or essentially, tape recordings of what are supposedly ghosts speaking. Some of my older readers will perhaps remember an old Nigel Kneale teleplay from the early 70s called The Stone Tapes, and it was a definite influence.  


Paperback edition of Scienceville now available

Just so you know, after much fussing over photo-editing and formatting software, Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds is now also available as a paperback! And a nice little package it is too. Slim, but delightful.

You can get it here. mybook.to/SVPB


Cover Art Reveal: Ghost Frequencies

Ian Whates of Newcon Press posted the artwork for Ghost Frequencies, amongst others, in just the last couple of hours, so I guess it's okay to talk about it here. GF is one of a set of four forthcoming novellas/short novels, with the others written by Ricardo Pinto, Adam Roberts and Hal Duncan - making a strong Scottish representation with three of us from north of the border.

The artwork, by Ben Baldwin, is created as a single piece and divided up between the four books. The art for Ghost Frequencies, therefore, is the first quarter of the painting - the ghostly lady in front of a burning mansion. I have to say that I think Ben has done a great job not only overall, but also of capturing the spirit of my own book. I can't wait to see it in print.

No word yet on the publication date, but as soon as I get it, and as soon as I feel able to speak more directly about the nature of the story itself, I'll post here.


Scienceville five weeks on, and vague future plans

I just posted Chapter Three of Last Tour of the Apocalypse to my Patreon page. So, a reminder: if you not only want to read a new book by me, one following on from the events in Extinction Game and Survival Game, you can not only read it as it appears chapter by chapter every couple of weeks, right now, you can see it in its raw form, meaning somewhat edited, but not quite polished. And it'll only cost you a dollar or so a month to read them as they appear.

It's a bit over a month now since I published Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds and, well...it's done pretty well, actually! It's sold a lot more copies than I thought it would. As for how much it's made - enough for me to take my ageing and wheezing 2012 MacBook Pro to the GuangHua Digital Plaza in central Taipei a couple of weeks after the launch and get it upgraded to a shiny new 256Gb SSD drive. And now it just whizzes along.

And, you know, if you haven't read it yet, you could always click on that link on the right (if you're seeing this on a computer screen, anyway) and buy Scienceville. If you're reading this on a phone, here's a link to the relevant Amazon page.

And the collection does continue to sell, I'm delighted to say. There are several four or five star ratings on Goodreads, but just the one lonely five-star review on Amazon UK. If you read it and liked it, consider leaving a quick review on Amazon.

For the moment, I'm keeping the collection exclusive to Amazon, but at some point eventually I guess I'm going to have to 'go wide' and sell it on other platforms as well. I'm also - slowly - designing a paperback version too. My hope is I might even be able to persuade some convention vendors in the UK to take a couple of copies, but we'll see.

One side note: while the book is selling well, about 95% of those sales are in the UK. Sales in the US, by contrast, remain very low. Why this is, or why none of my books have gained traction in the US, at least not in terms of scoring a Stateside book deal, is something that's long escaped me. But I also know it's the case that many, many British sf writers just don't seem to appeal that much to American readers, bar a certain minority, so perhaps that's the case here. If so, fair enough: I know where my audience lies.

The collection is doing well enough - and will, one can only hope, continue to do well enough - that I'll now seriously consider writing something specifically for future self-publication. To be clear, this does not mean I am abandon traditional publishing: far from it. But I am a fan of the hybrid model, wherein you can pursue a career in both. 


Last Tour of the Apocalypse: an update.

I mentioned a while back I've been working on an "unofficial" third book in the series begun by Extinction Game and continued by Survival Game. "Unofficial" because it'll be published, most likely, by me, and certainly not by Tor. It's the third book that people ask for, that Tor didn't want, and which I wrote anyway.

I also started a Patreon in the hopes it might provide me with at least a little extra financial support while I wrote that book. There's some, but I wouldn't mind a little more.

Last week, I completed a second draft of Last Tour. It's still rough around the edges, because it changed a lot between drafts. Altogether, I cropped out maybe a third of the book and introduced new ideas and situations to replace those sections. Those amongst you who are professional writers will know this is often part of writing a novel: figuring out what works and what doesn't.

However, the book is getting close enough to its final shape I've decided to start posting chapters, as they've edited, to my Patreon. The chapters are, naturally, locked to my patrons, so if you're really, really super-duper keen to see what happens in the third book, that's where you'll find it: I'll be posting chapters on a rough schedule of maybe/kinda/sorta once every two weeks. Maybe less, maybe more. I'll see.

I'm calling it the 'beta' draft, by which I mean, like a piece of software pre-release, it has a lot of rough edges to be smoothed out, and I'm hoping you can help by adding your comments to each chapter as it's posted. To find my Patreon page, you can click on the button up there on the top right of the page as seen on a computer. Hope to see you there. 


Scienceville & Other Lost Worlds: a collection of five stories

I spent the last week putting together a short collection of mostly previously published stories called SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS, available, for the moment at least, exclusively on Kindle.

Here's the link to buy it: myBook.to/Scienceville. The link is universal, meaning wherever you are in the world, it'll take you to the Amazon website for that region.

The stories are:

SCIENCEVILLE, a novelette, first published in Interzone magazine in 2015.

SENSELESS, first published in Shoreline of Infinity magazine in 2016.

THE LONG FALL, a previously unpublished novelette set in the world of Extinction Game and Survival Game.

GUATEMALA, previously unpublished; and

THE RANCH, first published in an anthology of science fiction by Scottish writers called Thirty Years of Rain.

All of these stories, bar one, were written over the last three years. The exception is The Ranch, which I wrote sometime back in the mid-2000s. There are other, earlier stories published in Interzone and other places, dating from the early 90s onwards, which I could have included, but I think they're showing their age a little.

I've published ebooks on Amazon before, but the difference this time around is I'm publishing my stuff, rather than someone else's. I learned a lot from working on those books, all of them by writers I knew, and looking back I can now see what mistakes I made. Most of them were also collections of short stories, and what I know now that I did not then is that short story collections do not sell very well, certainly when compared to their novel-length brethren. It doesn't help that few people are willing to take a chance on names they don't recognise. The very few book-length projects I worked on under the Brain in a Jar Books umbrella, by contrast, did notably better. Well, most of them, anyway.

But Gary, you might ask, if nobody buys short story collections, why are you putting one out?

Well, if you've paid any attention to what I've been saying here over the past few years, I've been  busy writing a third book in the Authority series that started with Extinction Game and Survival Game. Right now, that's perhaps a few months from being ready for beta readers, perhaps even just a few weeks. And since it's unlikely anyone else will want to publish it, there's a very good chance I'll be going it alone once it's ready and publish it myself.

Putting out a short story collection will give me the opportunity to do a deep dive into how the modern Kindle market works, and that experience may w ell be invaluable. And I happen to think these stories are the best short fiction I've written. I'm particularly happy with how Scienceville came out - and remember, you can download a free copy of that novelette by signing up to my mailing list.

And a reminder; this collection contains an exclusive novelette set in the world of Extinction Game and Survival Game. A modified version of it will also form part of the third Extinction book, which I'm currently calling Last Tour of the Apocalypse. I do get occasional emails asking if there are going to be any more books set in that universe, so now is your chance to get a first taste of one.

Of course, if you're a Patreon supporter, you'll already have seen rough drafts of parts of Last Tour,  as well as some other bits and pieces. Anyhow! Buy it, download it, read it, and for God's sake, leave a review. Remember: the more sales I have, the more I can keep writing. 


A podcast of Scienceville is now live

I'm happy to say that my novelette Scienceville, which first appeared in Interzone and which is also available to download here for people who subscribe to my mailing list, is now also available as a podcast from Starship Sofa. The Starship Sofa podcast has been running for years now, and it's one of the best science fiction audio drama podcasts going, indeed perhaps even the best. The story is narrated by Thomas Pipkin, who does a terrific job of handling all the many accents, both male and female.

If you want to take a listen, go here


Libraries, and why they're important to writers as well as readers.

Apart from the fact they're a really good place to borrow free books, libraries - and I'm talking about British libraries here specifically - can be a source of sometimes significant income for a writer.

I'm not sure enough people are aware of this, and since a new annual payment has just rolled around, I think it's worth highlighting. Every year, the UK library service takes all of the loans its made of an author's book and pays the author based on the number of loans. The amount of money varies from year to year, but this year, it's 8.2 pence per loan.

That's one of the great things about UK libraries; not only do they let you find writers you like for free, they still pay the author. Yes, it's a minimal sum, but it's also a good way for people to find writers they like - and to later go and buy their books instead of just borrowing them.

Again, 8.2 pence a throw might not seem like much, and it isn't: but it adds up, and fast, especially if you've got a good few books out, like me. It's one of the things I look forward to and factor into my annual income.

This year, I'll be getting about £450 in total - the equivalent, at current exchange rates, of $620. It's not the highest, or the lowest, payment I've had. The lowest was £251 in 2008, the highest £840 in 2016.

I had ten novels published through Tor, and all are represented in the latest statement. Extinction Game this time around has the highest number of loans: just under one and a half thousand. Against Gravity has the lowest number of loans, at just 67. All the others range between that figure and the one for Extinction Game.

You can see how it adds up quickly. That money goes towards food, bills, mortgage, etc, etc. and the  less libraries there are, the harder it will be for most working writers. So if you can't afford to read my books or anyone else's, remember: every time you borrow one of my books, I will benefit. 


New Year, New You!

So, you know, I've been busy doing stuff, and some of that stuff has been on Patreon (see the link on the right).

I feel slightly awkward shilling for myself in this respect, because, as I've said in the past, I don't see myself as being terribly good at doing things like hand making chapbooks or dashing out quickie short stories for an exclusive audience: I'm more of a quietly-working-in-silence-and-refining-everything-to-the-nth-degree type of writer. Patreon is really a form of performance - musicians using Patreon perform music, artists post artwork, and writers write in whatever public ways it's possible to do that.

But I'm not really a performer that way. Instead, I've been posting some occasional exclusive and more semi-exclusive stuff. Over the past three months, my few Patreon supporters have got from me: a couple of deleted chapters from Survival Game (including story notes), a short story first published in a Scottish sf magazine, and a novelette set in the same universe as Extinction Game and Survival Game.

Anyhoo, next time around I'm going to be putting up a blog post exclusive to Patreon supporters. If you've ever wondered what the next book in the Shoal Sequence would have been about, you can find out - but again, only if you're a Patreon supporter. The blog entry should go up on Patreon a couple of days into February.