Wild Chrome by Greg Mellor – review

TITLEGreg Mellor is a relatively new voice in Australian science fiction, but his debut collection from Ticonderoga Publications places him firmly in the upper echelons of SF writers at work today. Wild Chrome is a collection of 21 short stories, ten of them new and original to the collection and the other eleven reprints from such august publications as Clarkesworld, Cosmos, Aurealis and more.

Mellor has a background in astrophysics and is one of those writers who can dream big ideas and back them up with believable and potentially realisable science. His stories play mostly around the ideas of the post-human singularity, the arguably inevitable conjoining of humanity and technology, which opens up all kinds of questions about mortality and our place in the universe.

Mellor manages to keep an entirely human aspect in all his work, however big or deep the subject matter. That is, unless it’s one of his stories from the point of view of an alien species, and then he manages to write a very convincing non-human.

Not every story in this book hits the mark dead on, but all the stories are imaginative and entertaining, really nailing the excitement and wonder that we should expect from science fiction. And some of the stories are nothing less than brilliant. I’m looking forward to anything else Greg Mellor writes, but he’s set himself a high bar with this collection.


A Killer Among Demons (featuring me!) cover reveal

A Killer Among DemonsAs if the announcement about the new CSFG anthology, Next, wasn’t enough, there’s also this. Check out this freaking awesome cover by the amazingly talented Vincent Chong.

This is the cover for the Dark Prints Press anthology, A Killer Among Demons, which is coming out around April next year. It features ten tales of paranormal or supernatural noir and will contain my story, The Beat Of A Pale Wing. Check out the table of contents:

Stephen M Irwin – ’24/7′
Angela Slatter – ‘Cuckoo’
William Meikle – ‘Truth Decay’
Alan Baxter – ‘The Beat of a Pale Wing’
Marilyn Fountain – ‘The Intruder’
Greg Chapman – ‘A Matter of Perception’
Chris Large – ‘New York, New York’
SJ Dawson – ‘The Tape’
Madhvi Ramani – ‘Angel’s Town’
Stephen D. Rogers – ‘Grievance Visitation’

Seriously, how cool is that selection of names? And if you’re not familiar with them, pre-order this book now and I guarantee you’ll get ten stories that are just awesome (even if I do say so myself!) You can pre-order the book now right here.

Go on, get yourself some dark, spooky, supernatural crime action.


“Next” anthology – table of contents announced

I’m a very proud member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, better known as the CSFG. I’m proud for many reasons, not least among them the fact that I’m a two and half hour drive from Canberra, but they’ll still have me. Living in the country like I do, it’s difficult to get involved with anything like a writers’ group, so it’s nice that the CSFG extend their welcome to people like myself.

The CSFG is a great and supportive group of people, with regular gatherings, short story and novel crit groups, a very active mailing list and more. And they also have a publishing arm, through which they produce regular anthologies of short fiction. All the anthologies are managed by a slush wrangler, so all the submissions are read blind by the editors, which means there’s no favouring friends or Guild members, as the submissions are open to everyone, Guild or not.

The latest project from CSFG Publishing is the “Next” anthology. Here’s how they pitched the anthology theme:

Sequence. Succession. Cause and effect. Show us what happened. next.

Next suggests ‘change’, perhaps, but it doesn’t have to invoke change, it can simply be an account of cause-and-effect. Soemtimes it’s the absence of change, the sense of inevitability, that gives the story its terrible power and its resonance. Or it might be a rite-of-passage; of invention and exploration; of the testing and transgression of boundaries; or a story laden with doom or hope or just the inevitability of inescapable repetition. Yup, this theme is a theme for all seasons; it’s a cut and come again theme that can mean pretty much whatever people want it to mean.

Today, the CSFG announced the table of contents for the book and I’m very happy to say that my name is among them. It’s going to be a big book, with 30 stories from established names and newbies alike. Here’s the full ToC:

Next Table of Contents (in alphabetical order):

Kris Ashton: ‘The Midway Hotel’

Daniel Baker: ‘Stories in the Square’

Alan Baxter: ‘Quantum Echoes’

Adam Browne: ‘Animal the Colour of Waiting’

David Coleman: ‘Gambler’s Blues’

Craig Cormick: ‘Ned Kelly and the Zombies’

Elizabeth Fitzgerald: ‘Phoenix Down’

Ross Hamilton: ‘When Money Talks’

Richard Harland: ‘Here’s Glory For You’

Edwina Harvey: ‘Next, cried the Faun’

Rik Lagarto: ‘The Wild Hunt’

Chris Large: ‘Girl Finds Key’

Martin Livings: ‘Cause and Effect’

Tracie McBride: ‘Wooden Heart’

Chris McGrane: ‘The Cat and his Zombies’

Ian McHugh: ‘Vandiemensland’

Claire McKenna: ‘The Ninety Two’

Shauna O’Meara: ‘The Dream Tracker’

Robert Phillips: ‘A Dream of Something More’

Gillian Polack: ‘Someone’s Daughter’

Angela Rega: ‘Almost Beautiful’

Nicky Rowlands: ‘On the Wall’

Leife Shallcross: ‘A Little Warning’

Daniel Simpson: ‘Those Days’

Steve Simpson: ‘The Electrician and the Circus’

Helen Stubbs: ‘Casino Five’

David Versace: ‘Imported Goods—Aisle Nine’

Janeen Webb: ‘Hell is Where the Heart Is’

Catherine Whittle: ‘The Room’

Suzanne Willis: ‘Of Starfish Tides’

Editors: Simon Petrie & Rob Porteous

It’s a great cross-section of authors, and there are several names there I’ve never come across before, so it’ll be good to read their work. Out of those 30, there are 11 CSFG members, including myself, which is a good result for the Guild.

The book is scheduled for release at Conflux 9, which is next year’s Australian NatCon, so that should be a lot of fun. When there’s a cover reveal, I’ll let you know.


Tuesday Toot – Jodi Cleghorn and Deck The Halls

Tuesday Toot is a semi-regular feature here. An invite-only series of short posts where writers, editors, booksellers and other creatives have been asked to share their stuff and toot their own horn. It’s hard to be seen in the digital morass and hopefully this occasional segment will help some of the quality stuff out there get noticed. It should all be things that regular readers here will find edifying.

This time, it’s Jodi Cleghorn talking about something I can really get behind. Take it away, Jodi!

Who is Jodi?

Jodi (@jodicleghorn) is an author, editor, publisher and innovator.

By day (and sometimes night), she runs the many facets of eMergent Publishing (eP), a small press dedicated to nurturing next-crop authors, editors and visual artists.

Between the cracks she chases her own characters in a blending of themes and genres best described as “dark weird shit”. Fruits of these adventures include the collaborative epistolary serial Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and Elyora (Review of Australian Fiction—special edition), a horror novella set just off the New England Highway.

She’s occasionally known to loiter at her blog 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky.

What are you tooting about?

Deck the Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer, the first and most recent (I can explain) publication from eP’s Literary Mix Tapes imprint of conceptual anthologies. But first…that explanation.

Born From…

The origins of Deck the Halls are bizarre, to say the least.

In December 2010 I created a shit storm on Facebook when I commented about my displeasure with the overtly Christian tone of the carols night at my son’s school. (He goes to a state school with a diverse ethnic demographic and I felt it totally inappropriate to push any one brand of religious fervour, when their Easter bonnet parade is included as a ‘cultural’ event on the school’s calendar, devoid of religious connotations).

I know, I know, Christmas is a Christian holiday… but, historically, it was many other things before the Christian’s got their pesky hands on it.

Rather than whinge—or delete the exploding Facebook thread (with people telling me, among other things, how intolerant I was)—I decided to publish a bunch of twisted, non-traditional Christmas tales. It’s apparently the sort of therapy an editor-writer-publisher seeks out in the wake of a social media implosion.

In The Beginning

The original idea was to rope nine friends into writing stories based on the lyrics of Deck the Halls (the idea of a troll for Christmas set my imagination on fire as I sat there in the hot, humid school hall!) and then publish the stories online on Christmas Eve. First, I contacted Jim Wisneski to get his blessings (I was riffing off his idea from 12 Days project) and then sent announcements out through the usual channels to see who was interested. I referred to the project as a Literary Mix Tape (a concept everyone immediately got and a name that’s stuck.)

Nine places became nineteen places, with the caveat everyone was to beta read for each other—I was too busy to edit. On Christmas Eve twenty twisted stories—rocking the dark and light side of the Christmas and New Year period—went up, one an hour, on a dedicated website. Christmas Day I made all the stories available as a free eBook.

Beyond Christmas

The ideas of writing to musical prompts and cooperative submission (a term later coined by Tom Dullemond) found traction. That traction spawned the official launch of Literary Mix Tapes (as an imprint under the eMergent Publishing umbrella) and three more anthologies: Nothing But Flowers: tales of post apocalyptic love, Eighty Nine and From Stage Door Shadows [I have a story in that one! – Alan]. Two years on I am still amazed that of all the ideas I’ve had over the years, this was the one that garnered the most enthusiasm. Many of the cornerstones of the LMT imprint, and the way each anthology is released, can be directly traced back to that very first Christmas adventure.


I felt the original authors deserved to see their stories in a paperback, so I rebooted Deck the Halls in 2011, opening ten (then twelve) new places in the anthology. Andrew McKiernan offered to do the front cover (based on Susan May James’ chilling story, “Bosch’s Troll”). This Thursday (6th December) a revised, revamped, extended and fully edited edition of Deck the Halls goes on worldwide sale as Deck the Halls: tales of festive fear and cheer.

DECK THE HALLS traverses the joy and jeopardy of the festive season, from Yule to Mōdraniht, Summer Solstice to Years’ End. The stories journey through consternations and celebrations, past, present and future, which might be or never were.

Along the way you’ll meet troll hunters, consumer dissidents, corset-bound adventurers, a joint-toking spirit, big-hearted gangbangers, an outcast hybrid spaceship, petrol-toting politicians, mythical swingers and a boy who unwittingly controls the weather.

Heart-warming and horrifying, the collection is a merry measure of cross-genre, short fiction subverting traditional notions of the holiday season.

At under $20 for the paperback (or $4.95 for the eBook) it’s a brilliant stocking stuffer or Secret Santa present. Better still, treat yourself to a copy and use it as an antidote to everything irritating, painful and nauseating about the holiday season.


Dreaming Of Djinn and Urban Occult

I love being able to announce new forthcoming publications, so you can imagine how happy I am to be announcing two. This is a fine way to round out the year. Two new anthologies have bought stories from me and both will be published in the first half of 2013.

The first is Dreaming Of Djinn from Ticonderoga Publications, edited by Liz Grzyb, which will feature my story, “On A Crooked Leg Lightly”. The blurb goes like this:

Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights stories have captured imaginations for a millennia. Fairy tales and fables abound, telling of the fantastic and mysterious, the comic and dramatic.

This anthology will explore romantic Orientalism through a speculative fiction lens. You might find lost cities, magical lamps, mummies, thieves, intrepid explorers, slaves, robotic horsemen, noble queens, sorcerers, outcast princes, harems, dancers, djinn, assassins and even smart-talking camels and cats, set in exotic Persia, Egypt, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, or a modern incarnation of these. More information on the exact mysteries contained will be revealed shortly.

I can tell you that my story contains assassins and djinn and palaces and market bazaars and all kinds of dark magical goodness. I’m very happy to have scored a place in this book. Here’s the full ToC:

Marilag Angway – “Shadow Dancer”
Cherith Baldry – “The Green Rose”
Alan Baxter – “On A Crooked Leg Lightly”
Jenny Blackford – “The Quiet Realm of the Dark Queen”
Jetse de Vries – “Djinni Djinni Dream Dream”
Thoraiya Dyer – “The Saint George Hotel”
Joshua Gage – “The Dancer of Smoke”
Richard Harland – “Tale of the Arrow Girl”
Faith Mudge – “The Oblivion Box”
Havva Murat – “Harmony Thicket and the Persian Shoes”
Charlotte Nash-Stewart – “Parvaz”
Anthony Panegyres – “Oleander: An Ottoman Tale”
Dan Rabarts – “Silver, Sharp as Silk”
Angela Rega – “The Belly Dancing Crimes of Ms Sahara Desserts”
Jenny Schwartz – “The Pearl Flower Harvest”
Barb Siples – “The Sultan’s Debt”
Pia Van Ravestein – “Street Dancer”
DC White – “A Dash of Djinn and Tonic”

No cover for this one yet, but I’ll be sure to share it when it comes around.

The other publication I can reveal today is Urban Occult from Anachron Press, edited by Colin F Barnes. As you can see, this one does have a cover, with artwork by Sarah Anne-Langton.

The blurb for this one says:

Urban Occult is a horror/weird anthology due for release around February 2013. The exact date will be announced closer to the time. It will contain fifteen stories of the weird and the strange events set within urban environments. We have a rich collection of authors spanning the globe.”

My story in this one has strange amulets, time-bending and lost love.

The ToC for this one is:

Gary McMahon – “Just Another Job”
Gary Fry – “On the Horizon”
K.T Davies – “Wonderland”
Jennifer Williams – “Spider Daughter Spider”
Alan Baxter – “A Time for Redemption”
Saran Anne-Langton – “The Strange Case of Mrs West and the Dead”
Chris Barnhem – “The Other Woman”
Adam Millard – “Elevator”
Julie Travis – “Pieces”
Jason Andrew – “A Simple Job”
A.A. Garrison – “A Kind of Love”
James Brogden – “Remover of Obstacles”
Nerine Dorman – “Probatio Diabolica”
Mystery Writer 1 – TBA soon
Mystery Writer 2 – TBA soon

Mystery writers! Exciting stuff.

So keep an eye out for these. I’ll blog again when they’re available.