St Alban’s Writers’ Festival

It’s a little way off yet, but the website for the St Alban’s Writers’ Festival has just gone live. As I’m going to be a guest there, I thought I’d share it so you can put it in your diaries. I think it’s going to be good fun. This one is a new festival, which is described thusly:

St Albans Writers’ Festival is a new Australian literary festival celebrating writers, books and writing of all styles, genres and forms, based in the small and picturesque village of St Albans. The landscape of the Hawkesbury with its diverse population of farmers, artists, writers, tree-changers and weekenders provides a unique and stimulating setting to meet writers, discuss books and debate ideas. This intimate festival – places are limited to about 350 – happens over two days and two evenings, starting on Friday 18th September with drinks and nibbles at the Festival Centre.

They made me a page on the website here: and you can see all the other guest writers here.

The festival is from the 18th to the 20th September 2015, so get your tickets now before they’re all snapped up. I’ll be there all weekend taking part in a few things, so come and say hi.


New author photo

Alan BaxterI just wanted to make a quick post to show off my new author photo. I hope you like it. I love it! It was taken by the extremely talented Nicole Wells, and I highly recommend that you check out her work.

She has a website here:

And a Facebook page here:

Author photos are notoriously hard things to get right, especially when, like me, the author is no catwalk model. I think Nicole captured just the right vibe with this one, given the dark weird fiction that I write. And even my artist wife, who is very hard to please with this sort of stuff, thinks it’s a brilliant photo. So approval all around. Thanks, Nicole!


Mirrorwalk at Tales to Terrify

tales-to-terrify-logoThose wonderful people at Tales To Terrify have been very good to me, and there’s another of my stories up there now. This time they’ve done a wonderful podcast of “Mirrorwalk”, originally published in Murky Depths #16, back in April 2011.

You can find the podcast here:

Matt Cowens has done a brilliant reading of the yarn. I’m really glad to see this one getting some attention again, it’s a story I still like a lot. I hope you enjoy it!


On the length of a story

There’s been a bit of to and fro via The Guardian recently about fantasy novels and short stories. Firstly Damien Walter wrote this pile of bollocks about how publishers need to stop encouraging big fat fantasy multi-book series. Then Natasha Pulley responded with this bullshit about how fantasy just can’t be done in short books, and especially not in short stories. I do wish people would stop trying to proscribe what the rest of us like to read and write.

You know what? A good story is exactly as long as it needs to be or it’s not a good story. Simple as that. If that means a fat book trilogy, or a ten book mega-series, or one thin novel or novella, or a short story, it doesn’t matter. A good story is good because it’s told in the right amount of space it needs. A really good story is made from great ideas, wonderfully written, using exactly the time and space required.

Sure there are plenty of rubbish, bloated books out there and loads of short stories that fall flat. But even the shite stuff has found its niche if its successful, because people are reading and enjoying it. If people are reading and enjoying something, get the fuck off your high horse trying to tell those people that they should be reading and enjoying something else.

Ellen Datlow, a living legend among short fiction editors, posted on Facebook about the second article I linked above and here’s what she had to say:

As a short story editor who has been reading and publishing sf/f/h stories for over 35 years, I’m astounding [sic] at the author’s ignorance. There are hundreds of brilliant, effective, imaginary world short stories that have been published and continue to be published. I don’t know how someone who claims to have taught a class in short fiction can claim that “That means that there is an incredibly narrow taxonomical window in which short fiction can be recognised as fantasy at all. What we recognise as fantasy is long. Sometimes really long.” Even if your definition of fantasy was valid (and it isn’t), you’re dead wrong.

I agree with Ellen 100%.

On the subject of longer series, to use my own recent books as an example, The Alex Caine Series is (so far) roughly 300,000 words spread fairly evenly over three books. Each book is not especially fat, but each one is a fast-paced dark fantasy story. All three contain details of a bigger arc that tells a bigger story. That’s what I like to read mostly – standalone books that also contribute to a larger ongoing story in series. That’s why I write them. But I also enjoy and write standalone novels, and novellas, and short stories. One day I might write a fucking great three million word epic if I think the ideas therein are good enough.

There are big series out there where each book is the same size as my entire Alex Caine trilogy. Peter F Hamilton writes single novels bigger than some big fat series! And all those things are good. We need that variety. I love to experience a glorious, dense, richly detailed series, then read an anthology of amazing, tight fantasy short stories. I like standalones that aren’t in series. I love novellas. But I only like any of those things if they’re good, and being good or bad is not predicated solely on their length. It’s predicated on being a good story, well told. Some yarns are too long or too short for my taste. I might wish they would get to the point more quickly, or delve more deeply into their world and story. But it’s not the length alone that dictates quality or validity. And I know my taste is vastly different to the tastes of many others, and their taste is equally valid. Even if they’re wrong.

You know the old adage – it ain’t the size that matters, it’s what you do with it.

So stop telling people what to read and publishers what to publish. Put all your energy into sharing the stuff that you think is good, regardless of length. Help the cream rise to the top and let the rest take care if itself.


Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from BCS e-book anthology is now out

CeaselessWest_Cover600The Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies e-book anthology is now out, and it includes my Ditmar Award nominated story, Not The Worst Of Sins. You can find it at (the indie ebook store run by Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press). It’s available for pre-order at Amazon Kindle Store, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo and will be released there on Tuesday.

The table of contents, cover, and links to it at Weightless and the other stores are here.  And it’s only $3.99.

Also, any reader who buys Ceaseless West from will get a free copy of Ceaseless Steam, the steampunk anthology, and a coupon for 30% off all other BCS anthologies and ebook subscriptions.

For Weird Western fans, BCS are doing a special Weird Western issue of the magazine next Thursday, BCS #172, out on Apr. 30.

Here’s the ToC of Ceaseless West:

A Feast for Dust • Gemma Files

The Angel Azrael Rode into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse • Peter Darbyshire

Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride • Saladin Ahmed

Hangman • Erin Cashier

Bandit and the Seventy Raccoon War • Don Allmon

The Good Deaths, Part II • Angela Ambroz

Between Two Treasons • Michael J. DeLuca

Splitskin • E. Catherine Tobler

The Sixth Day • Sylvia Anna Hivén

Enginesong • Nathaniel Lee

The Crooked Mile • Dan Rabarts

Walking Still • C.T. Hutt

The Heart of the Rail • Mark Teppo

The Judge’s Right Hand • J.S. Bangs

Not the Worst of Sins • Alan Baxter

Songdogs • Ian McHugh

Haxan • Kenneth Mark Hoover

Pale • Kathryn Allen