A new story and a ‘year’s best’ inclusion

My story, ‘The Brazen Head of Westinghouse’, has been published on IZ Digital, the online arm of Interzone magazine. It’s about Elektro, the robot that was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, who could walk, talk and (oddly enough) smoke cigarettes. It’s quite a sweet and sad little story, I think.

You can read ‘The Brazen Head of Westinghouse’ for free if you’re a subscriber to the Interzone print edition, or if you’re a member of IZ Digital (only 1 euro per month!). Click here to go to the story.

In other news, I’m so pleased to say that I’ll have a story featured in Best of British Science Fiction, alongside stories by writers whose work I love. My story, ‘The Marshalls of Mars’, is about a married couple on a return trip to Mars (though plans go awry, resulting in a fairly profound detour). Neatly enough, it was first published in IZ Digital, like ‘The Brazen Head of Westinghouse’. My thanks go to Gareth Jelley for first publishing it, and to Donna Bond for selecting it for this anthology.

Best of British Science Fiction 2022 will be published by NewCon Press in July 2023 and can be pre-ordered now. See here for all the info, including the full table of contents.

If you can’t wait until July, though, ‘The Marshalls of Mars’ is currently free to read on IZ Digital.

Open submission calls: April 2023

Apologies – I forgot to post April’s open submissions calls here on my website! Below are the ones that are still valid as of today. To avoid disappointment in future, you might want to subscribe to my email newsletter, which contains open submission calls well ahead of them being posted here (if they are at all, *ahem*…).

Horror Story
A new magazine, with a first issue featuring monster stories – either classic monsters or invented ones.
Word count: 2000–10,000 words
Payment: 2 cents per word
Deadline: Ongoing, with no stated cut-off for Issue 1
Find out more

In Another Time…
Another brand-new publication, this time specialising in science fiction and fantasy. The informal theme of the inaugural issue is ‘beginnings’.
Word count: 3000–5000 words
Payment: 1 cent per word
Deadline: No deadline specified
Find out more

An unusual-but-fun-sounding anthology that will feature ‘cosmic tales with a light romantic twist’. Oddly, the guidelines contain no specific mention of any horror element being required.
Word count: 1000–6000 words
Payment: 1 cent per word
Deadline: 31 August 2023
Find out more

Alternate Antarcticas
Sea Lion Press and editor Jared Kavanagh seek alternate history stories set in Antarctica. You’re encouraged to query first with your story idea, to avoid duplication.
Word count: Around 3000–7000 words
Payment: Royalties only
Deadline: 31 July 2023
Find out more

Favourite albums of the first quarter of 2023

Who says ‘best of’ lists have to be restricted to the end of the year? Here are my favourite new album releases of the first quarter of 2023, for those who might be interested.

Kali Malone – Does Spring Hide Its Joy Three hours of amazing drone work from prolific organist Kali Malone, featuring Sunn O))) guitarist Stephen O’Malley and cellist Lucy Railton.

Tongue Depressor – Bones For Time Ambient drones that sound like the steady breathing of a sleeping giant.

Atom TM – Nacht Intense, moody, minimal techno. (Ideal as background music for writing tense scenes!)

Adela Mede – Szabadság Difficult-to-describe Slovakian almost-pop with beats and field recordings and disorientation.

Bianca Scout – The Heart of the Anchoress More off-kilter beats, and actual vocals, though they’re hazy enough to register only as whispers.

Cisser Mæhl – Innemuseum Listening to vocals while writing or reading works fine for me if I can’t understand the words, and these Danish lullabies put me in the zone immediately.

The Necks – Travel Head-bobbing groove repetition courtesy of Australian’s finest avant-garde jazz trio.

теплота – Skynned Totally nuts jazz-inflected techno that makes a neat partner to the Necks album.

Honour – HBK Vol 1 – Na God Is it an original album? A mixtape? I’ve no idea, but it’s barking mad, and the most fun I’ve had with a hip hop release for ages.

Tresa Leigh – I Remember Rerelease EP of 1970s lo-fi, heartrending songs by a Georgia teenager who, I presume, never quite made it, but should have.

Herman Dune – The Portable Herman Dune, Vol.2 Still my favourite indie band after all these years. These beautiful, stripped-down performances of past triumphs make me fall in love with them all over again. And there’s a third volume still to come!

Adrian Sherwood Presents: Dub No Frontiers An absolute relevation of a compilation: female reggae artists from around the world, singing in Hindi, Romani, Arabic and other languages.

Open submission calls: March 2023

Whereas last month’s open submission calls all seemed to be horror-flavoured, this month I’ve come across a wealth of science fiction venues seeking story submissions. Maybe horror editors prefer the winter, and the impending arrival of spring is bringing out all the SF publishers?

If you’d like to receive notifications of open submission calls direct to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.

Currently, this online venue (which has the strapline ‘Speculative fiction and beyond’) is on the hunt for science fiction, fantasy, or horror flash fiction.
Word count: Up to 1200 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 31 March 2023
Find out more

Utopia Magazine
The focus of this hard-SF magazine is refreshing upbeat: ‘enthralling stories set in a future we want to believe in, one we would fight to make a reality.’
Word count: 100–5000 words
Payment: 4 cents per word
Deadline: Ongoing
Find out more

This prestigious venue is rarely open for submissions, so get in there while it’s open! First up is this slot solely for science fiction stories; an open submissions call for fantasy will follow in late April.
Word count: 1500–10000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: Open to BIPOC-only from 24–31 March 2023, open to all from 1–7 April 2023
Find out more

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores
This well-established online zine seeks SF, fantasy and weird stories, both serious and humorous in tone.
Word count: 1000 words or more
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: Ongoing, but only open on the 1st and 2nd of each month
Find out more

Weird Horror
This newish project from celebrated editor Michael Kelly is now well-established and well-respected. It has two reading periods each year: March and September.
Word count: 500–6000 words
Payment: 1.5 cents per word
Deadline: 31 March 2023
Find out more

They Hunt By Night
An anthology that will feature stories set pre-1950, featuring fearsome creatures that… well, hunt by night.
Word count: 6000–9000 words
Payment: Share of royalties
Deadline: 30 June 2023
Find out more

Alone on the Borderland: Tales of Edwardian Dread
This anthology edited by John Linwood Grant will feature weird fiction set between 1901 and 1919 – from the death of Queen Victoria to the immediate aftermath of the Great War and the Spanish Influenza epidemic.
Word count: 5000–10000 words
Payment: Percentage of Kickstarter net profits, plus percentage of first year royalties
Deadline: 30 June 2023
Find out more

Translunar Travelers Lounge
Perhaps there’s been a shift in tastes recently, as this is another speculative fiction publication seeking stories that are fun (a fun story is defined by the editors as one that ‘works on the premise that things aren’t all bad; that ultimately, good wins out’).
Word count: Up to 5000 words
Payment: 3 cents per word
Deadline: Open 15–21 March 2023 to writers of colour, then 16 March to 15 April 2023 to all
Find out more

Infinite Worlds
This print publication is very smartly designed. While that’s not everything, it’s certainly a factor, let’s be honest.
Word count: 1500–5000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: Ongoing
Find out more

Again, if you’d like to receive notifications of open submission calls direct to your inbox, before they’re posted on this site, sign up for my newsletter.

Buckminster Fuller image from Wikimedia Commons

Open submission calls: February 2023

Here are some of the most interesting open submission calls for writers I’ve stumbled across this month. Good luck!

The Devil Take You: Tales of Medieval Horror
The editors of this anthology seek weird tales set in the medieval period – a terrific theme! And, while I know it’s not everything, it boasts a truly excellent cover design.
Word count: 3000–6000 words
Payment: $125–$200, presumably based on word count
Deadline: 15 April 2023
Find out more here

Chthonic Matter
New quarterly weird fiction journal from editor C.M. Muller, whose previous work includes the excellent Nightscript series of anthologies. Again, is it superficial to note that the first issue has an incredible cover?
Word count: 2000–6000 words
Payment: Two contributor copies
Deadline: Ongoing
Find out more here

BBC Short Story Awards
Entering this contest would involve punching far above my weight, but why not think big? This prestigious short story award is now accepting submissions.
Word count: Up to 8000 words
Payment: £15,000 for the winner, £600 for four shortlisted stories
Deadline: 13 March 2023
Find out more here

The Deeps
This new journal seeks ‘horror and horror-adjacent’ stories, particularly those that are ‘gothic, folkloric, cosmic, or psychological in nature’.
Word count: Up to 6000 words
Payment: 1 cent per word
Deadline: Opens 1 March 2023, closes 31 March 2023
Find out more here

Mother Knows Best: Tales of Homemade Horror
This anthology already has an impressive lineup of contributors including Gwendolyn Kiste and Kristi DeMeester. Writers who identify as women are welcome to submit stories about bad mothers.
Word count: 1000–5000 words
Payment: 6 cents per word
Deadline: 31 March 2023
Find out more here

Dead Dark Things
Another new magazine, this time intending to specialise in ‘horror with heart’, featuring ‘the weird, the sad, and the horrifically fun’.
Word count: 1000–5000 words
Payment: 2 cents per word
Deadline: Ongoing, as far as I can tell
Find out more here

No Trouble At All
Anthology from Cursed Morsels Press featuring ‘polite horror’, a topic that really sets the imagination going…
Word count: 2000–4500 words
Payment: 4 cents per word
Deadline: Opens 1 March 2023, closes 15 March 2023
Find out more here

The Showcase section of this venerable magazine is a big deal, with past judges having included Hilary Mantel and Carol Ann Duffy. For Issue 98, women are invited to submit stories about ‘hauntings, and welcome or unwelcome visitations from beyond the grave’.
Word count: Up to 2200 words
Payment: Unclear, but publication in Showcase section of the magazine, at least
Deadline: 6 March 2023
Find out more here

We Fear Not the Sea
Here’s another appealing theme for an anthology: stories inspired by sea shanties. Tales should have a speculative element, too.
Word count: 2000–6000 words
Payment: 2 cents per word
Deadline: 30 March 2023
Find out more here

Subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates about open submission calls like these, plus news about my own books.

Open submission calls: January 2023

A new year, a fresh start, renewed ambitions, and so on… January is a great time to send out stories you’ve already written, or to be inspired to write new ones. Below, I’ve gathered some of the most interesting open submission calls for writers I’ve spotted this month. If you have a try at any of these opportunities, best of luck!

To receive more open submission calls like this, sign up for my email newsletter.

Ghoulish Tales
New magazine that celebrate ‘fun horror that aims to celebrate all things spooky.’ While plenty of horror films are fun, I think it’s trickier to achieve in written fiction, so this is definitely a worthwhile distinction.
Word count: Up to 5000 words
Payment: 7 cents per word
Deadline: 15 February 2023

Horror Library
This is the eighth volume of horror stories from Dark Moon Books. Their criteria makes for an interesting list: ‘Imaginative and/or harrowing adventure; beauty of darkness; horror (edgy or quiet); exploration through fears or discovery; original monsters and/or strange lands; life events turned slightly askew, etc.’
Word count: 1500–5000 words
Payment: 2 cents per word
Deadline: Opens 16 January 2023, closes 30 January 2023

Triangulation: Seven-Day Weekend
The new volume of this longstanding series anthologies will feature fantasy, science fiction, weird fiction, and speculative horror stories themed around automation. Despite the genre list, the guidelines don’t seem to require that stories are bleak, which is refreshing.
Word count: Up to 5000 words
Payment: 3 cents per word
Deadline: 1 February 2023

Cymera / Shoreline of Infinity Prize for Speculative Short Fiction
Cymera is one of the friendliest and most fun SFF events around. Shoreline of Infinity is one of the most inventive and consistent SF magazines. How could the idea of impressing both of them at the same time not be a good idea? NB it’s open to anyone living in Scotland or who identifies as Scottish ‘by birth or inclination’, which is a lovely phrase.
Word count: Up to 2500 words
Payment: Prize of £150 for the winner plus publication in Shoreline of Infinity, free tickets to two Cymera events for the runners-up
Deadline: 26 March 2023

The First Five Minutes of the Apocalypse
An anthology from Hungry Shadow Press with an excellent theme: ‘the experiences, the points of view, the wild, weird, disgusting, disturbing, beautiful, heartbreaking things that happened at the very beginning of the end of the world.’
Word count: 1500–4000 words
Payment: 3 cents per word
Deadline: Opens 1 February 2023, deadline 28 February 2023

Seers and Sibyls
Another very specific but fascinating theme for this submissions call. In the editors’ own words: ‘We’re looking for stories about the mouthpieces of gods and goddesses. Who interprets their omens, tells their prophecies, sees their visions, and performs their miracles? And to what end?’
Word count: 1500–5000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 31 January 2023

Monster Lairs
This anthology from Dark Matter will feature dark fantasy and horror (and related hybrids such as fairytale horror, gothic fantasy, supernatural horror, cosmic horror). Editor Anna Madden is seeking ‘decidedly inhuman monsters that have been sought out and challenged, befriended, protected, or stolen from their own grounds, roots exposed like naked bone’. I tell you what – the themes for open submissions this month are pretty amazing, aren’t they?
Word count: 2000–4000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 30 January 2023, but then until 5 February 2023 for previously unpublished writers, ESL writers, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers, and other marginalized voices

This is a new magazine that will specialise in ‘optimistic and uplifting short science-fiction stories on any subject’. There’s not nearly enough warmth and positivity in most SF, in my opinion, so this is another very welcome theme. It’s also the first open submission call I’ve seen which states explicitly that stories written or assisted by AI are not welcome.
Word count: 1000–6000 words
Payment: 10 cents per word
Deadline: Ongoing, as far as I can tell

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Exciting news is the very best way to begin a new year! I’m thrilled to announce that Titan Books will publish my novel JEKYLL & HYDE: CONSULTING DETECTIVES, and I’m very excited about it.

Here’s the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

More details soon! If you’re impatient to know more, please consider signing up to my email newsletter, as I’ll be including additional plot tidbits in the first newsletter, to be sent out imminently…

My writing year 2022

This year I had the following work published:

Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men (Titan) – my second Holmes novel (after The Back to Front Murder), featuring cinema pioneer Eadweard Muybridge.

Sherlock Holmes – The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas (Titan) – a ‘Christmas special’ of a Holmes novel, featuring Irene Adler’s ‘advent calendar of crimes’ and with central roles for Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson.

Shade of Stillthorpe (Black Shuck) – a weird, folk horror-ish novella about family, fatherhood and changelings.

The Marshalls of Mars

‘The Marshalls of Mars’ (IZ Digital / Interzone) – a short story about parenthood and isolation, featuring Meryl and Rich, the protagonists of my first published Interzone story, back in 2014.

It’s less than in previous years, but still a substantial enough output overall, I think. Most of all, I’m proud of all of this work.

I’ll be honest: 2022 hasn’t been the easiest year for writing and publishing. The year began with the disappointing cancellation of an anthology that would have included one of my stories, and would have represented a huge ambition fulfilled. It was also the first year in around a decade in which I didn’t begin working on a new original novel, which leaves me feeling that I haven’t made proper progress. Instead, most of the year was spent making revisions and editorial changes to two projects begun last year, and drafting the first half of a commissioned tie-in novel.

While I spent just under 300 hours writing, so much of my time was spent editing that I wrote fewer words than I have since 2018 – just over 172,000 words, compared to 286,000 words last year.

The year also involved a great deal of waiting. Though waiting is a fundamental characteristic of the publishing industry, and usually I’m fairly resistant to it, the long delays for feedback on drafts and submissions hit me hard this year, making progress on new projects far more difficult. It’s the first time I’ve been conscious that my writing career can have a negative impact on my mental health.

Another frustration was that my Christmas Sherlock Holmes title, The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, was affected by the IT software issue that has disrupted Waterstones warehousing and supply since the summer. The book was a month late to arrive in bookshops, and even then it failed to appear in most stores, despite (it seems) copies being ordered by booksellers. Given that it’s very much a seasonal novel, it’s now had its chance.

However – I mention these things not as complaints, but simply as a record of my year. I’m aware that I’m in a privileged position, and that I’m fortunate in that my work is still being published. More than anything, I continue to love writing, and I still have the luxury of plenty of time in which to do it.

The year to come is a little unpredictable, but there is one exciting element: the publication of an original novel that I’m really excited about, and that I’ll hopefully be able to announce soon. In fact, I’m determined to do right by this book in terms of publicising it widely, so I’ll be talking about it a lot. Apologies in advance.

Favourite books of 2022

My favourite book published this year was Candescent Blooms by Andrew Hook. It’s an outstanding, confident, often surreal collection, featuring accounts of the final days of Hollywood actors who died before their time. Despite its strong pitch, it remains difficult to describe – the stories are poetic, subjective, dizzying. Though there’s a huge amount of research in evidence, tone and language take precedence over biography. Normally I struggle to read whole collections from start to finish, whereas in this case I told myself I’d take my time, savour the richness of each story, but then raced through the whole lot in a couple of sittings, so that now they all merge in my mind and I couldn’t tell you which I loved most. It’s a huge achievement and a hell of an experience, and I recommend you get hold of a copy immediately.

Another 2022 novel I loved was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. In many ways it operates as an out-there coda to her previous novel, The Glass Hotel, and though I adored it less than that book, its broader scope, multiple time periods and tangents that double back to become relevant at unexpected moments entirely won me over.

Of the other recently published novels I read this year, the one that meant the most to me was Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (2019). I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this story of humble, modest people achieving humble, modest success. You might describe another of my favourites as an antagonistic twin of this book: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (2021), which genuinely made me laugh out loud in the first half and also cry at the end, and I can’t remember the last novel that managed that. One of the most exhilarating books I read in 2022 was By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar (2020), casting Arthurian legend in bizarre new forms, a 21st-century riff on T H White’s already riff-packed The Once and Future King. I’m saving the second of Tidhar’s Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet novels (The Hood) for a later treat, and I can’t wait to find out which legends the final two novels will address. Other novels that I loved unequivocally were The Rotters’ Club by Jonathan Coe (2001), my first Coe, which sparked a season of reading his other linked books, and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989), a big, bold carnival of a carnival novel which was Very Much My Thing even before the speculative elements showed up.

What else floated my boat? Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017), certainly, but I was late to that party. I thought The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (2020) was superior to his excellent The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, mainly by virtue of several of its high concepts remaining concealed from the reader. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (2019) was one of my favourite fantastical fables of the year. Circe by Madeline Miller (2018) is another novel everybody else read before me, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Similarly, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011) was one of those novels that seem to be everywhere for a time, which makes me contrary about refusing to read – which makes me an idiot, as it’s terrific. Three SF novels that I loved this year were The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (2018), Skyward Inn by the always wonderful Aliya Whiteley (2021) and I Still Dream by James Smythe (2018), an excellent AI novel that seems far more prescient now that my social media feed is full of people opining about AI compositions.

On to older novels. I was blown away by the restrained energy of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1980), and the inventiveness of the Jekyll and Hyde-inspired Two Women of London by Emma Tennant (1989) – I must get on to reading more of her work. I found The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (1962) thrilling in spite, or perhaps because of, its claustrophobia.

Alongside the Stuart Turton mentioned above, my favourite crime novels this year were The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo (1946), which features a murder mystery with the most terrific explanation, and The Riverside Villas Murder by Kingsley Amis (1973), which is startling in its plotting but also its inversion of various mystery tropes, and an unlikely 14-year-old detective.

A list of wonderful novels I read this year and that I should have got around to reading much sooner includes: the amoral The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantis (1903), the lively Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928), the unexpected pleasures of The Club of Queer Trades by G. K. Chesterton (1905), the proto-SF The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (1909) and the intense and startlingly modern The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899). Even odder, and somewhat embarrassing, omissions until 2022 were the wonderfully bizarre The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz (1934) and The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (1895).

Most of the non-fiction I read this year represented writing research of one form or another. My favourite non-fiction book that I read purely for pleasure was The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn (1988).

In total, I read 51 books in 2022. I’m a bit ashamed to say 36 of them were written by men; I’m determined to equalise the ratio next year.

Favourite film, TV and videogames of 2022


Despite a return to cinema viewing being viable for the first time in a couple of years, I saw only two films in the cinema in 2023. However, they were among my favourite films I saw this year, and the atmosphere was certainly an important part of that. Though lighter than my usual fare, I thought that the 1950s mystery pastiche See How They Run (Tom George, 2022) was near-perfect in the sense of achieving everything it set out to achieve. Seeing it with my wife, followed by Italian food and stand-up comedy on our first date night in years, was the happiest viewing experience imaginable. We saw the Bowie documentary Moonage Daydream (Brett Morgen, 2022) together a week later, which I found almost overwhelming, and which prompted intense conversation about art and ambition.

At home, the films I loved the most were the epic Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2015) and the moving SF-inflected social drama Gagarine (Fanny Liatard / Jérémy Trouilh, 2020). On the back of the once-a-decade Sight & Sound poll, my most exciting discoveries didn’t include the new #1, (Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles), which I finally watched and appreciated well enough, but rather the masterful and hallucinatory Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 2000) and the 14-minute Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1943), the missing link between Luis Buñuel and David Lynch.

Recently-released films I loved included the uncomfortable, oddly overlooked family drama The Nest (Sean Durkin, 2020), the heartfelt and sweet time-travel piece Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, 2021), impactful Icelandic folk horror Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson, 2021), the triumphant (though perhaps fractionally lesser than the first film) sequel The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, 2022), the terrific debut of one of my favourite British filmmakers, Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland, 2009), and the effective music documentary The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes, 2021). Honourable mentions go to moral drama A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, 2021, Lady Diana horror film Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021), one-take restaurant-set thriller Boiling Point (Philip Barantini, 2021), sweet coming-of-age drama Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021), and anti-Hangover ‘buddy movie’ Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg, 2020).

Older films that I saw this year for the first time and loved included the startling The Magician (Ingmar Bergman, 1958), the intense, remarkably faithful adaptation Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964), fantastic eco-thriller The Day the Earth Caught Fire (Val Guest, 1961), Wages of Fear remake Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977), Beat-era improvisation Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959) and his much later masterpiece A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and downbeat but ultimately alarming made-for-TV domestic horror The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1982).


My favourite TV shows in 2022 were wonky sitcom The Witchfinder (2022) and the first of the two seasons of odd arthouse documentary How To With John Wilson (2020), both of which delighted me again and again. This is Going to Hurt (2022) was the most important TV drama I saw this year, and I hope it proves influential on policies relating to NHS funding. I loved the understated Drôle (Standing Up) (2022), the first season of Only Murders in the Building (2021) and Peter Jackson’s absorbing fly-on-the-wall documentary The Beatles: Get Back (2021). I finally got around to watching all seasons of Detectorists and Ted Lasso, both of which are as good as everyone says. I enjoyed bitesize comedy Cheaters (2022), sketch show Ellie and Natasia (2022), the first season of rotoscoped time-travel mindtrip Undone (2019), and the overlong but ultimately compelling Bad Sisters (2022). My guilty pleasure was the double-crossing mystery game show The Traitors (2023), though I found myself more preoccupied with the convolutions required of the production team than the bickering of the contestants.


As usual, most of my favourite PC games I played this year were indie affairs: idiosyncratic card-game Lovecraftian mystery Inscryption (2021), monochrome Zelda-esque romp Death’s Door (2021), superb roguelike brawler Hades (2018), plant-detective simulator Strange Horticulture (2022) and compulsive timesinks Stacklands (2022) and Loop Hero (2021). Despite each of these sucking up far more of my time, my favourite indie experience of all was the 5-hour experience of The Case of the Golden Idol (2022), an Obra Dinn-esque mystery based around a series of crude fixed tableau and a click-and-drop language interface, which featured a story as compelling and labyrinthine as any novel I’ve read this year.

This year I finally succumbed to buying a Nintendo Switch for the family. Together, me and my sons  played lots of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017), Super Mario Party (2018) and Yoshi’s Crafted World (2019) as well as charming indie coop gateway-RPG Child of Light (2014) and nutso platform brawler Adventure Pals (2018). In the evenings, I poured hours into (in ascending order) heart-halting Metroid Dread (2021), the beautifully serene The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) and, at long last, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) – though I loved the essentially endless questing, plus in-world card game Gwent, I skipped almost every cutscene. Does that make me a bad gamer?

Favourite albums of 2022

Modern composition / minimalism / drone

California collective Wild Up’s performances of Julius Eastman’s works (Vol. 1: Femenine / Vol. 2: Joy Boy) were two of my favourite albums of 2022, and continue to surprise me each time I relisten. Oren Ambarchi provided two excellent albums this year, both of which build directly on the intense, repetitions of his other recent releases. Ghosted is inflected with Mingus-esque bass grooves, whereas Shebang is lighter and more slippery; both are as wonderful as you might expect from Ambarchi, who rarely puts a foot wrong. Opening Performance Orchestra’s version of Phill Niblock’s Four Walls Full Of Sound is the most engrossing, enveloping drone imaginable. Equally maddening (in the best possible way) is Reich/Richter by Steve Reich, an absorbing soundtrack to Gerhard Richter’s abstract film Moving Picture (946-3). After a run of soundtrack work that doesn’t stand up well without visuals, Colin Stetson released Chimæra I, a chilly drone that features little of his ultra-physical saxophone performances of the past, but is no lesser for it. Anna von Hausswolff’s towering Live at Montreux Jazz Festival is similarly grand, with staggering vocal performances. Sow Your Gold In The White Foliated Earth by DEATHPROD deployed odd instruments designed by experimental composer Harry Partch to great effect. In Promise & Illusion, Ecka Mordecai reaches almost the same heights with her voice. Laura Cannell had a great year, with her folk-drone EP We Long to be Haunted my favourite, closely followed by the lighter but eerier Antiphony of the Trees. Living Torch by Kali Malone is another long drone that ranges from barely-there to punched-in-the-chest. Sarah Davachi continued her wonderful work with the restrained Two Sisters.

Weird / electronica

The most remarkable electronic album I heard this year was I was born by the sea by Hull-based artist Richie Culver, featuring upsettingly jarring, glitchy electronica underpinning dour Sleaford Mods-esque state-of-the-nation pronouncements like ‘There’s more mobility scooter repair shops and bookies than there are bookshops.’  I had no less than three minimal techno releases by Deepchord on regular rotation this year, my favourite of which were the EP Functional Extraits 1 and album Functional Designs. Another act to secure more than one slot on this list is Romance, whose haunting collaboration with Twin Peaks sound designer Dean Hurley, In Every Dream Home a Heartache, is wonderful – but not as wonderful as Once Upon a Time, a vaporwave oddity stretching Celine Dion vocals beyond breaking point. Mattering and Meaning by Dan Nicholls is a superficially beautiful collection of piano loops and field recordings that becomes stranger the more you listen. I loved the ambient soundscapes Nachthorn by Maxime Denuc and the more jittery Koko maailma by Olli Aarni. Finally, I don’t know how to describe Context by Lasse Marhaug, other than it’s as dark and compelling as the entrance to a train tunnel or a looming storm cloud.                         

Indie / rock / vocal

The Ruby Cord by Richard Dawson (or ‘Richard Dawson of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’, as the album cover emphasises) is a towering success, building on previous albums Peasant and 2020. He’s become by far my favourite vocal artist, and no matter how sweet some of his material becomes, his experimental, bloody-minded attitude shines through. Herman Dune brought the nostalgia with reworkings of favourite songs on The Portable Herman Dune. Horse Lords proved themselves reliable Beefheartians with the wonderful Comradely Objects. My favourite rock albums were Most Normal by Gilla Band and Super Champion by Otoboke Beaver, which drove my kids wild. My favourite calm albums were Gravskrift by Vessel, Ghosts by Haress, Optimism by Jana Horn and the sweet indie debut caroline by caroline.

Wild beats

I somehow missed Native Soul last year, but their 2021 release of South African amapiano house tracks, Teenage Dreams, has been on constant rotation whenever I’m driving alone. In 2022 they produced Native Roots, a more minor album featuring guest vocals, but great fun all the same. Twenty-One Sabar Rhythms is a terrific collection of precisely what it promises, from The Doudou Ndiaye Rose Family. Finally, I’m not connoisseur of house music, but Decius Vol. I by Decius & Lias Saoudi strikes me as the best sort imaginable.


There were some terrific compilations this year! My favourite was perhaps Music from Saharan WhatsApp (Sahel Sounds), which contains the most incredible grooves imaginable. The unlikeliest collection I loved was V4 Visions: Of Love & Androids (Numero Group), featuring 90s pop and R&B tunes that sound like hits from a parallel dimension. Very different but similarly out-there was the dark and strange Síntomas de techno – Ondas electrónicas subterráneas desde Perú (1985-1991) (Buh). I loved the uplifting Soul Jazz Records Presents Studio One Music Lab (Soul Jazz), and the first and third volumes of I Had the Craziest Dream: Modern Jazz and Hard-Bop in Post War London (Death Is Not the End). More conventional (for me) delights were found in the drone wash of Hallow Ground presents: Epiphanies (Hallow Ground). Some of the strangest and most exciting compilations I heard this year were Luke Schneider Presents… Imaginational Anthem, Vol. XI : Chrome Universal – A Survey of Modern Pedal Steel (Tompkins Square), the bizarre-but-calm Thorn Valley (World of Echo) and the completely unclassifiable Elsewhere VXIII (Rocket Recordings), which ought to be unlistenable given its breadth of artists, sounds and languages, but which comes across as the most coherent mixtape you’ve ever been gifted.


The biggest reissue release this year was the Super Deluxe edition of Revolver by The Beatles. The mournful demo of Yellow Submarine alone is worth the price of admission. Almost as exciting is the bumper ‘Farewell Horizontal’ edition of my favourite Pavement album, Terror Twilight, and a remastered version of often-overlooked electronica favourite Body Riddle by Clark. The smoky trip-hop Glass Lit Dream by Dawuna is my favourite 2021 release that I missed last year, though its reappearance in 2022 barely counts as a reissue. I played previously-hard-to-come-by Mother Is The Milky Way by Broadcast endlessly, along with the beautiful calmnesses of Tan-Tan Therapy by Tenniscoats and Sings Reign Rebuilder by Set Fire To Flames and the wonderful Peel Sessions by Movietone, and a brilliant album and band I’d never encountered before, Hydroplane by Hydroplane. The funkiest reissues I came across were Air Volta by Volta Jazz, Heart of the Congos by The Congos, Vol. 1 by Orchestre Les Volcans du Benin and the treasure trove of Charles Stepney demos, Step on Step. One of the most exciting discoveries was the Trunk release of the soundtrack to the 1976 TV show Children of the Stones, by Sidney Sager and the Ambrosian Singers.                      

Recommendations aplenty

As anybody browsing my previous blog posts can deduce, I love lists. Yes, they can be reductive, sometimes elitist, but they work amazingly as catalysts in terms of recommendations. Find a top-ten list of any media that includes some things you love, and the chances are you’ll also love the list items you don’t yet know.

On that note, I was recently asked to complete a book list for Given that my headspace has been so occupied with Sherlock Holmes recently, I opted to put together a list of ‘The best books containing satisfying mysteries’. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to show you this image of my choices, and you can read the whole article if you’d like to know my reasons for selecting them.

Tim Major - satisfying mysteries book listIf there’s one thing better than making a satisfying list, it’s being included on someone else’s. Having your work noticed by an amazing editor like Ellen Datlow goes some way to staving off the imposter syndrome (for a while) – so I’m delighted that Ellen included my story ‘The Cardboard Voice’ in her longlist of 2021 recommendations, alongside many writers whose work I love.

The story’s available to read in Nightscript vol VII, edited by CM Muller. It’s about identity, deepfakes and old audio technology.

Most importantly, if you’re interested in the state of horror fiction right now (and in my opinion, it’s in a wildly healthy state), I’d recommend you scour Ellen’s list from start to finish. That’s what I’ll be doing.

Publication day: Sherlock Holmes and The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

My new Sherlock Holmes novel, The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, is published today! Here’s a picture of me in an unironed but halfway-festive shirt to celebrate.

Sherlock Holmes and The Twelve Thefts of Christmas
There are plenty of knotty mysteries within the shiny golden covers of this beautifully designed hardback, but I’ve also tried to make the tone like a sort of ‘holiday special’. It features loads of Holmes favourites in prominent roles: Irene Adler, Mrs Hudson, Mary Watson, Inspector Lestrade, even good old Toby the dog.

Here’s the description:

Sherlock Holmes’s discovery of a mysterious musical score initiates a devious Christmas challenge set by Irene Adler, with clues that are all variations on the theme of ‘theft without theft’, such as a missing statue found hidden in the museum gallery from which it was taken.

In the snowy London lead-up to Christmas, Holmes’s preoccupation with the Adler Variations risks him neglecting the case of his new client, Norwegian arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who has received a series of threats in the form of animal carcasses left on his doorstep. Could they really be gifts from a strange spirit that has pursued Nansen since the completion of his expedition to cross Greenland? And might this case somehow be related to Irene Adler’s great game?

Find out more about the book here.

‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ reading on Podcastle

I was so delighted when this popped up in my Twitter notifications last night, as I’d spent the day being grumpy with a bad cold…

O Cul-de-Sac! by Tim Major

My sentient-house story ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ features on the current edition of fantasy podcast PodCastle, read by Nicola Seaton-Clark. While I haven’t had a chance to listen to the full reading yet, I can tell you that Nicola’s delivery is spot on. Hearing her read my story makes me very proud!
Click here to hear the reading, or you can find PodCastle via your usual podcast app. In addition, you can read the full text onscreen, for free.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you may like to check out the book in which it first appeared: And the House Lights Dim, my first story collection, published by Luna Press.

Open submission calls: October 2022

John Lennon typing

Shall we ignore the fact that I didn’t post submissions calls in August or September? Sorry, sorry, and I’ll try to be more reliable in future. Anyway, as always (though not always, clearly), here are some of the most interesting open submission calls for writers I’ve spotted this month. If you have a try at any of these opportunities, good luck!

Game On!
Anthology featuring stories which represent ‘unique science fiction and fantasy takes on games, game playing, and games in culture’. (Note the emphasis on games; anything that classifies as a sport won’t be accepted.) Several notable authors such as Aliette de Bodard and Cat Rambo have already signed up to provide stories.
Word count: Up to 7500 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 31 December 2022

Our Ocean’d Earth
Anthology featuring non-fiction and fiction focused on ‘defending nature and empowering communities’. The editors are seeking stories ‘from a range of perspectives—from marine life researchers to conservationists, free divers to writers with a deep connection to the sea’.
Word count: Ideally 1000–3000 word
Payment: €200
Deadline: 30 October 2022

A Darkness Visible
Anthology from Ontology Books, with a focus on postmodern horror – reference points include Mark Danielewski, Bret Easton Ellis, William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon.
Word count: 3000–8000 words
Payment: £80
Deadline: 31 October 2022

Come October
One-off anthology from editor C.M. Muller, who’s been responsible for the fantastic Nightscript series. This anthology is dedicated to ‘autumnal horror’.
Word count: 1000-6000 words
Payment: Contributor copy
Deadline: Opens on 31 October 2022, deadline 31 December 2022

ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society’s prestigious annual short story contest.
Word count: Up to 5000 words
Payment: Prizes of £2,000, £1,000 or £500
Deadline: 31 October 2022

FABLE: An Anthology of Horror, Suspense & the Supernatural
Anthology featuring horror, mystery, crime, thriller, and/or suspense stories in which ‘supernatural elements are encouraged’.
Word count: 1000–39,999 words
Payment: 8 cents per word for the first 1000 words, then 1 cent per word after that
Deadline: 30 November 2022

Under the Stairs: An Anthology of Homebound Horror
Anthology seeking ‘horrific stories about what happens when one’s sense of home is lost’.
Word count: Up to 3000 words
Payment: 3 cents per word
Deadline: 31 October 2022

Grendel Press is planning a series of themed anthologies, the first of which concerns ‘a condition or phenomenon involving distorted memory or confusions of fact and fantasy, such as confabulation or déjà vu’.
Word count: 3000-7000 words
Payment: 5 cents per word
Deadline: Open until the anthology is filled

Frivolous Comma
Website featuring SFF/horror stories ‘from or about diverse perspectives and traditionally under-represented groups, settings, and cultures, written from a non-exoticizing and well-researched position, and dealing with transition & intersectionality.’
Word count: 1000–4000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: Open until 300 submissions have been received

This World Belongs to Us: An Anthology of Horror Stories about Bugs
A fairly self-explanatory theme, though the editors elaborate with some examples: ‘Bugs as ill omens, bugs burrowing into bodies or thoughts, bugs taking over your town, giant bugs eating your friends, bugs giving you the side-eye at the supermarket’.
Word count: 500–5000 words
Payment: 5 cents per word
Deadline: 30 November 2022

US publication day – Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men

I was away on holiday when it was published in the UK, so failed to post about it here, but as today is the publication date for my Sherlock Holmes novel THE DEFACED MEN, I thought I’d take the opportunity to celebrate its release!

In this novel, Holmes’s new client is Eadweard Muybridge, the godfather of cinema, whose life is under threat. Holmes and Watson will need to draw on technology associated with cinema in order to solve a mystery that continues to grow and grow.

I had such fun incorporating my love of early cinema into a Holmes adventure! Hopefully it resulted in a satisfyingly knotty mystery, too. You can find more details about the novel here.

Open submission calls: July 2022

It’s that time again! Here are some of the most interesting open submission calls for SFF/horror writers that I’ve come across recently. As always, best of luck if you pursue any of these opportunities!

This excellent new British weird-fiction mag launched last month after a successful Kickstarter. The first issue was terrific, and I have high hopes for this magazine in the longer term. The theme for Issue 2 is water.
Word count: 3000–4000 words
Payment: £30 plus copy
Deadline: 24 July 2022

Diabolical Plots
Well-established online mag featuring any science fiction, fantasy or horror with a speculative element. Open submissions last until 14 July, then from 24–31 July is a specific submission call themed around telepathy.
Word count: Up to 3500 words
Payment: 10 cents per word
Deadline: 14 July 2022 (open submissions) / 24–31 July (telepathy theme)

Augur / Tales and Feathers
Well-respected magazine featuring all types of SFF and horror, plus sister publication Tales and Feathers which specialises in ‘cozy slice-of-life fantasy’ stories.
Word count: Up to 5000 words (Augur) / Up to 2500 words (Tales and Feathers)
Payment: $0.11 cents (CAD) per word
Deadline: 31 July 2022

34 Orchard
Fairly new online literary journal looking for stories that are ‘scary, disturbing, unsettling, and sad’.
Word count: 1000–5000 words
Payment: $50
Deadline: 15 July 2022

Little Blue Marble
Online zine featuring fiction that ‘examines humanity’s possible futures living with anthropogenic climate change’, mainly hopeful in tone.
Word count: Up to 2000 words
Payment: 11 cents (CAD) per word
Deadline: 31 July 2022

The Maul
New magazine that will feature stories that skew towards younger readers, with influences including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl and Shirley Jackson.
Word count: 100–3000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 31 July 2022

Faber Imagined Futures prize
The prestigious publisher is seeking young adult novels or collections of short stories that can be (loosely) defined as science fiction. First prize is a worldwide publishing contract with a £15,000 advance.
Word count: First 10,000 words
Payment: Subject to contract and level of prize
Deadline: 9 September 2022

Favourite albums of the first half of 2022

I always look forward to compiling lists at the end of each year, taking stock of my favourite releases. Today I asked myself: Why wait? The fact that we’ve just passed the summer solstice makes this seem a reasonable enough moment to sum up my favourite albums of the first half of the year.

Modern composition

The most thrilling releases I’ve heard so far this year are California collective Wild Up’s treatments of the works of misunderstood but recently re-evaluated genius composer Julius Eastman. Vol. 1: Femenine is livelier than any other version of this incredible minimalist piece I’ve heard, and Vol. 2: Joy Boy (featuring pieces never performed before) is a revelation, culminating in a version of ‘Stay On It’ more frenzied and lunatic than ever before. Not only is this a huge recommendation, the collective has pledged that another five volumes are in the works! In comparison, Spiralis Aurea by Stefano Pilia is a far more soothing experience, but wonderful all the same. Ghosted, a spiky and playful piece by one of my favourite modern artists, Oren Ambarchi, continues his run of stellar albums.



The pipe-organ-heavy, doom-metal-without-metal, Kate Bush-esque Live at Montreux Jazz Festival is gloriously sludgy yet uplifting, and puts Anna von Hausswolff high on my list of live acts to see one day. Lucrecia Dalt’s gloomy original soundtrack for The Seed (a film I haven’t seen) is varied and, while drawing on familiar horror tropes, nevertheless satisfyingly original. The new version of Phill Niblock’s Four Walls Full Of Sound by Opening Performance Orchestra is almost as arresting as the Wild Up pieces, though you have to pick the right moment to expose yourself to such a wall of sound, and the same applies to Alvin Lucier and Jordan Dykstra’s extended-drone album Out Of Our Hands. The self-titled album by mysterious collective The pale faced family on the hill, featuring Oliver Coates, is aloof, but very good and often very surprising.


Weird / electronica

Mattering and Meaning by Dan Nicholls squelches loops of piano with field recordings, producing a mush of unclassifiable sound, and provides a great background to thought. Mux by drummer Julian Sartorius is more palatable than his recent collaboration with Matthew Herbert, yet his jittery pieces sound more electronic than ‘real’, but that’s no complaint.


Indie / rock / vocal

Actually, You Can proves that Deerhoof still actually can, and ‘Plant Thief’ has become one of my favourite Deerhoof tracks. The Voltarol Years by Half Man Half Biscuit is reliably good, and made me snort with laughter. Movietone’s collected Peel Sessions reveals a band that perhaps ought to have been bigger and more loved. Optimism by Jana Horn provides the low-key beauty missing from Aldous Harding’s most recent release; listening to this album is like falling asleep against the trunk of a tree in dappled sunlight.


Compilations / reissues

V4 Visions: Of Love & Androids is another superb compilation from Numero Group, featuring ‘lost’ tracks from a UK label that between 1990 and 1994 clashed American and Jamaican sounds with some pretty astounding results. Hallow Ground presents: Epiphanies is far slower affair featuring drones and tones, though often majestic. I Had the Craziest Dream: Modern Jazz and Hard-Bop in Post War London, Vol. 1 from Death Is Not The End is an amazing collection of exactly what the title describes, and almost all tracks are infectious fun. (Volume 2 didn’t quite live up to the first, though.) My favourite compilation so far this year is Music from Saharan WhatsApp from Sahel Sounds, certainly the most eye-opening release I’ve heard for months, and foot-tappingly catchy too.

Open submission calls: June 2022

Uncle Travelling Matt

Once again, I’ve trawled the web for SFF/horror open submission calls so you don’t have to. It’s a compulsion, I guess. Good luck if you decide to pursue any of these opportunities!

Monstrous Futures
This anthology to be published by Dark Matter Ink follows a previous volume, Human Monsters. This volume will feature Black Mirror-esque ‘dark sci-fi with an emphasis on exploring our connection with technology and one another through speculative concepts and backdrops’.
Word count: 2000–4000 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 30 June 2022

The well-respected publisher of SF novels is allowing unagented novel submissions throughout June. Such a great opportunity for up-and-coming writers!
Word count: Full novel MS, plus synopsis and bio
Payment: TBD
Deadline: 30 June 2022

Seize the Press
This new online zine is looking for ‘dark, transgressive speculative fiction. bleak sci-fi, dark fantasy and horror’. All the fun stuff.
Word count: Up to 2000 words
Payment: 6 pence per word
Deadline: Always open, it seems

Dangerous Waters: Deadly Women of the Sea
Horror and dark fantasy anthology to be published by Brigids Gate Press, centred around ‘malevolent mermaids, sinister sirens, scary selkies, spirits, and other deadly and dangerous women of the sea’.
Word count: 500–3500 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 30 June 2022

Fusion Fragment
Another online zine, this one twelve issues into its run and centred around ‘science fiction or SF-tinged literary fiction’.
Word count: 2000 to 15,000 words
Payment: 3.5 cents (CAD) per word
Deadline: Open 10–12 June 2022

Orion’s Belt
This online magazine seeks stories with ‘significant speculative elements’.
Word count: Up to 1200 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: 1 September 2022

Apparition Lit
Quarterly magazine currently accepting speculative flash fiction based on a specific visual prompt which changes each month.
Word count: Up to 1000 words
Payment: $30
Deadline: Current call ends on 14 June 2022

Open Submission Calls: May 2022

It’s that time again… Here are some of the most tantalising open submission calls I’ve spotted this month. If you decide to go after any of these opportunities, good luck!

Science Fiction Debuts Prize
I normally post only about short story submissions, but this is a terrific opportunity for any up-and-coming SF novelists. To coincide with its forthcoming Science Fiction exhibition, the Science Museum has partnered with Hodder & Stoughton to launch a new writing prize for unpublished writers who aren’t yet represented by a literary agent.
Word count: Submit 10,000 words of a novel, plus synopsis
Payment: First prize is £4000, plus a full critique of your work, plus a Hodderscape mentoring programme, plus introduction to three agents. Other prizes for runners up.
Deadline: Open 4 June–30 September 2022

Dracula Beyond Stoker
New journal entirely dedicated to Dracula-themed fiction. The first issue will (naturally enough) be themed around the character of Dracula himself, with the second issue revolving around Renfield.
Word count: 1500–5000 words
Payment: 5 cents per word
Deadline: 15 June 2022 (for first issue)

Campfire Macabre: Volume 2
Cemetery Gates Media seeks flash horror fiction for the second volume in its Campfire Macabre series. Stories must match one theme from the following: ‘When We Were Getting High’, ‘My Last Trick ‘r Treat’, ‘Body Grotesquerie’, ‘Ominous Visitors From Deep Space’ or ‘Out in the Fields, Forests, and Lakes’.
Word count: 500–1500 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: Open 1 June–15 August 2022

The Dread Machine
This newish magazine seeks futuristic dark fiction, speculative fiction, cyberpunk, slipstream, and science fiction.
Word count: Up to 5,500 words
Payment: 5 cents per word
Deadline: No deadline

The Consultations of Sherlock Holmes
Belanger Books is putting together an anthology of traditional Sherlock Holmes stories that demonstrate Holmes’s skills as “consulting detective” – that is, stories in which he solves the case without leaving Baker Street.
Word count: 5,000–10,000 words
Payment: $100 or $50 plus a percentage of the Kickstarter project profits (whichever is greater)
Deadline: 15 September 2022

Publication day: Shade of Stillthorpe

Shade of Stillthorpe

Book birthday! SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is published today by the excellent Black Shuck Books. It’s a lost-in-the-forest changeling story. A teen boy disappears during a camping trip & the person who reappears is entirely different – but only his father refuses to be taken in.

“A seemingly impossible premise becomes increasingly real in this inventive and heartbreaking tale of loss.” Lucie McKnight Hardy

“Parenthood is a forest of emotions, including jealousy, confusion and terror, in Shade of Stillthorpe. It’s a dark mystery that resonated deeply with me.” Aliya Whiteley

The novella’s available from all the usual places – but please do prioritise bookshops or buy direct from the publisher.

Finally, here’s a Spotify book soundtrack which acts nicely as a teaser to the story.

Shade of Stillthorpe

Book soundtrack: Shade of Stillthorpe

As I’ve explained in previous blog posts, I create soundtracks for most of my novels and longer fiction. My lost-in-the-forest changeling novella SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is steeped in music, and definitely required a soundtrack, which I created between drafts and which in turn shaped the narrative.

You can listen to the playlist via Spotify or via the widget below.

Here’s a track-by-track explanation of the selections:

1. The Earth With Her Crowns – Laura Cannell
This track represents the ‘opening credits’, for want of a better term. SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is partly a folk horror, and this sparse track evokes plenty of Blood on Satan’s Claw-esque foreboding, and it’s utterly beautiful too. And what a title! If you haven’t been listening to Laura Cannell these last few years, do.

2. The Geography – Belbury Poly
The protagonist, Key, has a relationship with the wild that’s primarily nostalgic, and this hauntological track from Belbury Poly evokes secondary-school textbooks as much as nature. I love the sampled final line – Look for this sign to show you’re on the right track – leading directly into the immediately more pessimistic ‘Get Lost’.

3. Get Lost – Tom Waits
A track that Key might well love, without recognising the implications. Here, the command to ‘get lost’ could be interpreted as an invitation to check out of normal, dull life… but after his camping expedition with his teenage son Andrew, Key will become lost in a far more profound sense.

4. Sirene – Machinefabriek & Anne Bakker
Another folk-horror-ish, hauntological track, its beauty increasingly interrupted by glitches and errors. No spoilers, but it’s all key to Key’s experience in the novella.

5. Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
The first of three diegetic tracks (that is, music that explicitly features in the story). Key loves Sonic Youth, but when his son professes a love for the band, it’s hardly reassuring. Who is this strange boy who insists that he’s Andrew?

6. Cat Claw – The Kills
Andrew – or Andy, as this unfamiliar boy calls himself – plays the simple riff from this song on the electric guitar, and not badly. Why does Key find that so unnerving?

7. The Titans / The Chamber / The Door – Bernard Hermann
Key, Alis and Andy watch Jason and the Argonauts together, partly to allow me to feature this snippet of Bernard Hermann’s score, which accompanies the discovery of the statue of Talos. It’s one of my earliest soundtrack memories, and still gives me shivers every time I hear it.

8. Tulpar – Galya Bisengalieva
This is the turning point, I suppose, when Key finally determines that he’s losing control over his environment. Galya Bisengalieva is leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra, and her first couple of EPs are outstanding, and subtly terrifying.

9. Magic Doors (live) – Portishead
Another band that Key presumably loves, and another track that takes on new meaning in the context of his gradual unravelling. This live version is a little wilder and more frenetic than the album track, with a constant threat of the rhythm section racing ahead too fast and leaving Beth Gibbons behind.

10. 1req – Grischa Lichtenberger
Utterly terrifying, dry, relentless beats, with… what? Bat swoops? There’s no turning back now.

11. Something Big – Burt Bacharach
‘End credits’, and jarringly, deliriously upbeat. Draw your own conclusions.

You can stream the playlist via Spotify, or play it directly below.

See here for more information about SHADE OF STILLTHORPE, published by Black Shuck Books on 26 April 2022.

Open Submission Calls: April 2022

Linus writing

This post comes hot on the heels of the previous list of open submissions, as that one barely sneaked into March. Anyway, here are the most interesting current and upcoming calls for fiction submissions that I’ve spotted recently.  Good luck!

Luna Press
This excellent small press is seeking speculative, SF/F or dark fantasy novellas. But be quick about it – they’re only open this weekend!
Word count: Between 20,000 and 40,000 words
Payment: Not stated
Deadline: Open 8–9 April 2022

The Other Stories
Podcast seeking stories on particular themes: the next three are Octopuses, Ageing, Faeries.
Word count: No limits stated
Payment: £15 per story
Deadline: 15 April 2022 (Octopuses), 1 May 2022 (Ageing), 15 May 2022 (Faeries)

The Fiends in the Furrows III: Final Harvest
Nosetouch Press is looking for folk horror stories for the third (and apparently final) volume of the popular anthology series.
Word count: 3500–7000 words
Payment: 6 cents per word
Deadline: Open 1 May–31 July 2022

IZ Digital
Celebrated British SF/F magazine Interzone is launching a new digital imprint.
Word count: Up to 7000 words
Payment: 1.5 euro cents per word
Deadline: Always open, as far as I can tell

Space Fantasy
New online magazine seeking flash fiction adhering to the title theme, Is There Anybody Out There? They go on to say they mean ‘stories about unexpected encounters in isolated places’.
Word count: Up to 1250 words
Payment: 8 cents per word
Deadline: Open May 1–30 2022

Announcement: Shade of Stillthorpe

New book news! My novella SHADE OF STILLTHORPE will be published by Black Shuck Books on 26th April 2022. It’s a weird changeling story about a teen boy who is lost in the woods and then returns looking entirely unrecognisable – to his father, at least.
It’s had some wonderful endorsements from writers whose work I love. Firstly, from Lucie McKnight Hardy: ‘A seemingly impossible premise becomes increasingly real in this inventive and heartbreaking tale of loss.’
And Aliya Whiteley said: ‘Parenthood is a forest of emotions, including jealousy, confusion and terror, in Shade of Stillthorpe. It’s a dark mystery that resonated deeply with me.’