The 15 author meme

There’s this meme going around Facebook: In no more than 15 minutes list 15 authors who have really struck a chord with you and will stay with you. I did this a while ago, then it came up again. I couldn’t find my original post, so I just did a new 15. Then I started wondering how much crossover there might be, so went and found the original post after all. There’s quite a bit of crossover. Here’s my original 15:

1. Clive Barker
2. Stephen King
3. Ursula Le Guin
4. Alan Moore
5. Anne McCaffrey
6. Robert Silverberg
7. Arthur C Clarke

8. Iain Banks
9. William Gibson
10. H P Lovecraft
11. Garth Ennis
12. James Herbert
13. Philip K Dick

14. Peter Watts
15. Douglas Adams

And here’s the second version:

1. Clive Barker
2. Ursula Le Guin
3. Iain Banks
4. Michael Moorcock
5. Alan Moore
6. H P Lovecraft
7. Anne McCaffrey
8. Garth Ennis
9. William Gibson
10. Peter Watts
11. Douglas Adams
12. Stephen King
13. J R R Tolkien
14. Neil Gaiman
15. A A Milne

Authors who only appear once are bolded. A variation between lists of only four people. That means I have a definitive list of 19, I guess. Interesting. For list 1 I had a more sci-fi brain on and list 2 a more fantasy brain. I have to say, as a list of 19 it’s pretty awesome.

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Bound – This is the really real world!

Bound-proofSo HarperVoyager AU tweeted a blurry image today of the proof copies of Bound, Book 1 of The Alex Caine Series. The proofs have just arrived in the office there. It’s really real. Look! It’s an actual freaking book right there in the picture in the really real world. To say I’m a bit excited about this is like saying the Catholic Church has a couple of bucks stashed away for a rainy day. In other words, it’s a celestially massive understatement. It’s really actually happening, you guys. This also constitutes a sneaky little cover reveal for the first book.

I’m glad it’s a bit blurry because, as far as I know, there are going to be a couple of small artistic tweaks to the cover yet before the final version that will officially go to print. Plus it maintains a little but of mystery. It’s quite normal for advanced copies like these to have a few small last minute changes, as I understand it.

But I can tell you that the next two books will have covers like this one, obviously with a 2 and a 3 in the background respectively, with variations in the distance background and in the character poses, but all three make a kind of connected triptych design. Honestly, how cool is that? For anyone wondering, the title, Bound, is big and clear on the spine. I should be getting a copy of this proof myself this week, so I’ll post another picture of it then. Probably with my maniacally grinning face right next to it. Now scuse me while go Snoopy dancing.

EDIT: HarperVoyager posted a better picture, so I’m sharing that too.

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True Detective – true storytelling

true-detectiveI’ve just finished watching the eight episode HBO drama, True Detective, and feel compelled to write about it. I mainlined eight episodes in about three days, which is some going given I have a 5 month old son and very little time. It’s an absolutely amazing achievement in storytelling. This post is mostly spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen the series I’d recommend going in without reading this or anything else and having as unprepared a mind as you can. I’m glad I avoided all spoilers before watching, especially as I kept thinking I’d got part of it figured out only to realise I was wrong. There was one thing I thought of that turned out not to be the case that I was particularly disappointed about. It would have been really cool, but hey, I didn’t write the thing and I’m no Nic Pizzolatto, so there you go. Anyway, go watch it, then come back to read this.

True Detective follows the story of two detectives – Marty Hart, played by Woody Harrelson, and Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey – and their hunt for a serial killer over the course of something close to twenty years. But, of course, it’s actually so much more than that. It’s written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto and the writing is first class. It’s multi-layered storytelling in so many ways. First and foremost, the serial killer hunt is something bigger than a single man. It’s a whole complicated mess of people, it has devil worshipping, there’s ritual sacrifice and all kinds of associated paraphernalia adding a sense of deep horror to what would otherwise be standard police procedural stuff. It’s set in Louisiana and that combination makes this excellent Southern Gothic fare.

There’s a distinct resurgence of Southern Gothic lately and I love it. True Blood and American Horror Story: Coven are two other recent shows I’ve really enjoyed which play on the theme, but nothing I’ve seen evokes it so well as True Detective. That’s primarily due to three things – the acting, especially Harrelson and McConaughey, is fantastic; the soundtrack is absolutely bang on (in fact, when I’ve written this I plan to go and look for the soundtrack album. I hope there is one!); and the direction by Cary Fukunaga. In fact, it’s Fukunaga’s direction that really stands out – the cinematography, the locations, the lighting are all sublime. There’s so much space in this production, so many slow pans and high aerial shots of the Bayou and cane fields. The best stories always evoke and develop a strong sense of place and this one does it brilliantly.

This is not a spoiler image - it's the opening scene of the series.
This is not a spoiler image – it’s the opening scene of the series.

Outside of the Southern Gothic trappings, the reason this series is so good is because the story has as much room to breathe as the visuals and the drawling soundtrack. We get to see two cops who are partners but this is no buddy movie. They are both deeply flawed and they don’t like each other. Hell, Cohle doesn’t like anyone. We watch the development and breakdowns between these two and their various partners and work colleagues all the way through the series and it’s all handled really well. The secondary characters are no less fleshed out and real, and they play as excellent foils for the two leads.

There are some small flaws for me. I felt a bit of a disconnect with the amount of time Cohle spent away in the middle of the story and I would have loved a bit more development of the history of the “cult” and the Tuttle connections. I feel like we missed out on some juicy details somewhere along the line, but I guess that’s because the focus was on the main characters. There was certainly enough of the case that I didn’t feel cheated of some resolution. I would just have liked a little more resolution in terms of the activities and complexities of the criminals. Of course, there are no real resolutions in real life and that’s partly what this whole series is playing with. I had one other issue that I’ll address below after the spoiler warning.

But that aside, there’s philosophy and reflection throughout that never overshadows the narrative and that’s the beauty of well-written character-driven stories. This is dark, mesmerising, stylised, beautiful and horrible. It’s compelling drama and creeping horror. It’s absolutely human. I honestly can’t recommend this highly enough.

SPOILER! Beyond the image below is a question that is also a massive SPOILER! Also, be advised that there may be spoilers in the comments if anyone chooses to answer my question.

true_Detective

So, at the start of the series there’s the ritual killing in the cane field, with the woman kneeling before the tree with the antlers and all that. It’s what kicks off the whole investigation. But why the fuck was she there like that? The whole thing turns out to be a complicated cult with ritual child sacrifice and all that stuff in the deep woods and it’s been going on for years and Hart and Cohle finally track down the man with the scars and expose the whole thing, even if loads of connected people will never be caught. But what the hell was with that first killing? Why was she there and not at the place they discover at the end? Was it the scarred man trying to get caught? The cult showing off? It’s one big unanswered question that I can’t figure out – I can see no reason for them to have killed her there like that. Did I miss something? Please comment if you have any theories! (And please start your comment with a spoiler warning if you do.)

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The little anthology that could – Suspended in Dusk

I’m glad we can finally announce this one officially. Editor, Simon Dewar, approached me a while ago asking if I’d be interested in submitting to an anthology he was putting together called Suspended in Dusk. The theme was exactly what the title suggests and loosely based at that. He wanted a collection of horror and dark fantasy stories and the publisher was already lined up.

botd-logoI sent him a story which he liked and everything was going ahead when he ran into some problems and the publisher had to put the book on indefinite hold. No one’s fault, just one of those industry things that happens from time to time. Rather than hold on to everyone’s stories indefinitely, Simon said he would try to find another publisher or let our stories back to us if he couldn’t. Another publisher cropped up but didn’t eventuate. Simon was prepared to give it all up as an unfortunate series of events, but like a good terrier, he gave the whole project one last solid shake and landed the anthology with Books of the Dead Press and it’s all going ahead after all. Simon’s official announcement is here.

As Simon says:

Over the last few months I’ve collected 19 short stories which I feel are a broad representation of some of the established and new talent within the horror/dark/weird genres. I am also very pleased that over one-third (42% unless I screwed the maths) of the table of contents are women who, frankly, scare the crap out of me every bit as much as their male counterparts (probably more!).

The anthology has a great lineup of names including Ramsey Campbell (Bram Stoker and British Fantasy award winner), Angela Slatter (British Fantasy Award Winner and Aurealis Award winner) and John Everson (Bram Stoker Award winner) along with myself and a bunch of other emerging and established names. The full Table of Contents will be announced in due course. I’m very pleased to be in such august company. My story is called Shadows of the Lonely Dead and I’m very proud of it and glad it’s found such a good home.

Watch this space for further announcements.

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