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.