I've had two new stories published this month, and an older story has been given a nod by a prominent horror editor.
Having a new story out there fills me with a sensation best summed up as 'gloatcringe'; a combination of pride and shame. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be a parent. I'm not planning to find out.
Dancer of the dying is a story that was inspired by The Music Of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft and by my own experiences as an amateur musician and former advertising copywriter. Here's an excerpt:
This story is now available in the anthology Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities. Here's the complete table of contents:
At first, it sounded like a very high, pure voice, a child’s perhaps, warbling a wordless tune. Then tone and timbre came into focus and he realised it was a flute or some other wind instrument. It played a long, sinuous melody which was almost cheerful in the bumptious way of folk tunes, but prevented from being so by a scattering of diminished notes that deformed the contours of the tune into something more jagged and dismal. Gradually, he became aware of the sound of cymbals, gently chiming the oddly syncopated rhythm underlying the tune. A sound of energetic footfalls making anklets jangle. He drifted back to sleep and dreamed of a dancer wrapped in a black sari, performing on a desolate stage. accompanied by a man in white who sat cross-legged and played some kind of flute and an old, hunched woman in a ragged red robe who beat out a rhythm with hand-cymbals.
“Dancer of the Dying” by Jayaprakash SatyamurthyYou're going to have to buy this one if you want to read it. Here's the Lulu link. It will also be available on Amazon soon, so stay tuned.
“The Neighbors Upstairs” by John Goodrich
“Carcosapunk” by Glynn Owen Barrass
“Architect Eyes” by Thomas Strømsholt
“Slou” by Robert Tangiers
“Ozeelah’s Lake” by Morten Carlsen
“The Statement of Frank Elwood” by Pete Rawlik
“In the Shadow of Bh’Yhlun” by Ian Davey
“The Screamer” by T. E. Grau“Night Life” by Henrik Sandbeck Harksen
“the guilt of each … at the end…” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
The Ouroboros Apocrypha takes my fascination with the eternal serpent (Ouroboros was my online handle for a long time) and plays it out through a story about identity and appropriation. This one has a strong Ligotti influence, if you're into that sort of thing. Here's an excerpt:
‘Relics, are they? Some sort of shrine?’This one can be read online, for free, at the excellent Lovecraft eZine alongside stories by Stephen Mark Rainey, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Anna Tambour and Victor Takac, as well as an essay on Ligotti by Brandon H. Bell.
The voice was a little over-loud, a little startled at itself, as if not used to being heard out loud. I looked around me, startled. Then I saw him. Or her. I’m still not sure; suffice it to say the person speaking to me was a small, slight figure of indeterminate age and gender, wrapped in a motley assemblage of filthy rags, bits of plastic bags and soiled upholstery from long-abandoned furniture. This person had wrapped a remarkable turban composed of police tape, coils of obsolete cabling and more filthy rags around his or her head and inhaled foul-smelling smoke from a makeshift pipe created from plastic tubing.
‘A shrine?’ I asked.
‘Yes, a shrine,’ the strange person replied, hunching over to pick up a sheaf of photographs and quickly compare them with me before squirreling them away somewhere inside its garments. ‘A shrine to yourself? To the self? To the idea of a self?’ With each question, it came nearer to me, fairly enveloping me in waves of rank, salty odour. There was another odour here, too; a sickly-sweet smell of rotting flesh.
I'm particularly thrilled that my stories are appearing along with stories by writers I admire, such as the unclassifiable Australian fabulist Anna Tambour and the walrus-moustached punknoirbeat master Joseph Pulver.
When you write short genre fiction, perhaps the most invisible form of writing today outside of poetry and technical manuals (both of which I also write, or try to - do you see a pattern here?), you start caring a lot about the few venues that recognise what you do. Among these are the year's best anthologies. Ellen Datlow compiles an especially well-regarded 'Best Horror Of The Year' series of anthologies (it was earlier combined with Terri Windling's 'Best Fantasy Of The Year'). Only the very best make into the anthology, but Datlow publishes an extended list of honourable mentions on her blog each year. For the second year in a row, one of my stories has made it to this list.
Empty Dreams was first written in the last decade/century/millennium, scribbled down in a college notebook. I finally re-wrote it a few years back. This story has received the most extreme reaction of anything I've written - several accusations of having ripped off Orwell or at least of having added nothing new to his vision - as well as more positive responses from a few kind-hearted people including Ms. Datlow and the good folk at Pratilipi, who published it. Yes, this is another one you can read online, for free.Here, once again, is an excerpt:
I was locked in with a dead man. A very strange dead man: his body had neither stiffened nor begun to rot; instead, it had become light and desiccated, as if the fleshy, wet life-stuff had been sucked out, leaving behind an empty shell. In the past I would have raised my voice, calling for the guards; I would have pounded on the door, scratched at the walls, even leaped at the vent. I no longer had the energy or the spirit for all that. Instead, I crawled under my cot, as far as I could get from the sight of the dead man and huddled there, whimpering softly. To me, his death was not an end in itself, but a token of my approaching dissolution. He would carry on, in some form; the shedding of his body only meant that a new stage had been reached and my own death was now nearer.
Perhaps as a consequence of all of this I have been invited to participate in two very exciting venues for weird and Lovecratian writing. An invitation is not a guarantee and my submissions may still be too odious to accept, but I'm happy to have the chance. Now to tap a vein and find an empty page to start bleeding onto...