“How Do We Kill It?” – Thoughts on Alien: Covenant

May 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

I preface the following thoughts about Alien: Covenant by saying that I actually quite enjoyed watching it as a piece of entertainment; there’s a lot in it that’s well done, tense and exceptionally gruesome. However, while it could be said to be an average sci-fi film it’s a poor Alien film that plays more as fanfic than a studio blockbuster.

Even the soundtrack, good as it is, is essentially an homage to a better one.

There will be spoilers after the jump.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Aether & Ichor

May 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

A previously unavailable story, A Guest In The House Of Ruin (a much-extended version of this fragment), has been published by Aether & Ichor.

Fitful dreams flickered through the mists of sleep, jumbled up across space and time. Memories floated to the surface of my unconsciousness until they coalesced into one image; Annabella. How she’d laughed with glee at a puppet show in Yellow Park, the jerking dances and squeaking voices making her clap her hands in delight. Her tears, hot and inconsolable, when the news was announced of De Pontellino’s death; days spent locked in her room, playing the master’s cascading etudes on her piano instead of eating; listening over and over to the little music box I had bought her. I saw the day she came to me in my rooms as I was reading my mail. The words she said, having undoubtedly been made to say them by her wretch of a brother. Her face as she turned to leave; her blue eyes, red-rimmed, refusing to meet mine. Her hair tumbling from its amber combs as she fell.

No, she said. Please don’t.

Immense personal thanks to the team at Aether & Ichor for their support and editorial rigour. This wouldn’t exist, certainly not in as complete a form, without them.

The Audient Void #1

May 2, 2017 § Leave a comment

The short story ‘The left hand of Aux-Çevoires‘ has been published in the first issue of The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy, with an accompanying illustration by Allen K.Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 15.00.34

More details of contents and contact information are below.


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Almost Insentient, Almost Divine {Review}

October 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

Almost Insentient, Almost Divine
DP Watt
Undertow Publications (2016)

It’s commonly accepted practice, when reviewing story anthologies, to make brief mention of the work as a whole and then pick out a handful of key tales to work through in detail. This is not one of those reviews.

almost-finalAlthough the stories in DP Watt’s collection are almost universally excellent, it’s the sense of world building that develops through them which is the most impressive part of this book; a weirdly out-of-time Mitteleuropa, cut through with theatricals and theatricalities, where masks fall from mannequins only to reveal yet more masks underneath, puppet-mummers snigger in darkened rooms and the human players shimmer between realities, sometimes never to return. Even the handful of stories that don’t fit directly into this milieu are haunted by fragments of a greater whole; mysteriously indistinct figures that lurk outside the circle of firelight or even atavistic thoughts that echo beguilingly from the darkness. The sense of theatre, of the blood-smeared grand-guignol being acted to its terrible conclusion whether wittingly or not, pervades the book and gives the observant reader a more subtle interpretation of that most contentious of themes; the weird. « Read the rest of this entry »

O, the Forests of Bhak’khu

October 22, 2016 § 1 Comment

I heard the song a Traveller sang
Which from his mouth with sadness rang
His words befouled with acrid tang
From the forests of Bhak’khu

He told me first of paths he trod14650165_10153858498955334_9193476899983822235_n
‘Cross singing sands and peat-brown sod
Away from men and dying gods
To the forests of Bhak’khu

He walked on heath and moor and fen
Tramped through valley, creek and glen
Past monuments built before men
Knew the forests of Bhak’khu

One morn upon a mist-cloaked hill
He spied an omen, dark and ill,
A corpse who told him ‘Death waits still
In the forests of Bhak’khu’.

‘You may speak true but my reply
Is everything that’s lived must die.
If Death’s both here and there then why
‘ware the forests of Bhak’khu?

The corpse collapsed back into dust
As time turns iron into rust
The Traveller knew then that he must
Reach the forests Bhak’khu

On sun-scorched pan of glass and salt
A serpent, basking, cried out ‘Halt!’
‘No man of wisdom, nor base dolt
Seeks the forests of Bhak’khu’

‘Return forthwith from whence ye came
Renounce your wealth, renounce your name
Renounce all hope that you might tame
All the forests of Bhak’khu’

‘O snake,’ our Traveller did beseech
‘Beguile me not with fork-tongued speech
For the fastness I shall surely breach
Of the forests of Bhak’khu’

The serpent hissed a venom-curse
‘For good or ill, for all things worse
Your sight will fade, your heart will burst
In the forests of Bhak’khu!’

And with such words it disappeared
As shadows spake that evening neared
The Traveller knew why many feared
Of the forests of Bhak’khu.

One night a slinking, jet-black cat
Whispered softly, slyly that
‘You’ll be as tasty as a rat
In the forests of Bhak’khu’

A girl-child wrapped in blood-stained rags
Flanked by a dozen toothless hags
Said ‘What are kings and all their flags
‘Gainst the forests of Bhak’khu?’

Yet nothing kept him from his road
Not howling shaman daubed with wode
Nor armoured knight of solemn code
From the forests of Bhak’khu

He walked for weeks and months and years
His hair grew long around his ears
His eyes were filled with countless tears
For the forests of Bhak’khu

He saw again the corpse, the knight
The cat that came in dead of night
The girl whose rags were once as bright
As the forests of Bhak’khu

They watched him from beside the trail
The knight stood strong, the girl-child frail
The cat smiled at the corpse’s wail
‘O, the forests of Bhak’khu!’

The serpent and the shaman came
Once each to mock his quest again
‘All you’ll find is loss and pain
In the forests of Bhak’khu’

‘Leave me visions, spirits all!
On my quest I’ll never stall
Even if you raise a wall
Round the forests of Bhak’khu!’

With darkness then the land was crowned
Pale ash rained down, without a sound
The Traveller knew he now was bound
For the forests of Bhak’khu

Yet slowly came into his view
A place he realised he knew
‘What is this place that comes in lieu
Of the forests of Bhak’khu?’

A town, with buildings tumbled down
Ash-stained corpses on the ground
And blackened trees grown all around
‘Like the forests of Bhak’khu…’

Down street and alley he did roam
Past crumbled well, ‘neath shattered dome
He gabbled that ‘This looks like home
Not the forests of Bhak’khu’

He found me huddled not far off
My ravaged body bound with cloth
‘What is this place?’ I spat, then coughed.
‘’tis the forests of Bhak’khu’

The Traveller gasped, fell to his knees
‘It cannot be! Recant ye, please!
My soul, my life! My heart doth freeze!
Curse the forests of Bhak’khu’

He told me then of serpent, child
The knight most stern, the shaman wild
The night-time cat, the corpse reviled
And the forests of Bhak’khu

Loss and pain his prize, they said
I made for him a ragged bed
In moonlight cold he lay there, dead
In the forests of Bhak’khu

I heard the song a Traveller sang
Which from his mouth with sadness rang
His words befouled with acrid tang
From the forests of Bhak’khu.

Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One {Review}

September 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One
Edited by Laird Barron & Michael Kelly
Undertow Publications (2014)

I’ve arrived slightly late to Undertow’s ‘Year’s Best Weird Fiction’ series, this first volume being released in 2014 and presenting the best short tales from the previous year, but the door to the weird is always ajar, so let’s push it open, ignore the protesting creaks and distant mutters, to take look inside.

The conceit of the volume is more clearly explained in its title than in any preamble I could give, and is clarified still further by guest-editor Laird Barron’s short and succinct introduction 9780981317762_outside_front_cover(his description of ‘the weird’ as “a sense of dislocation from mundane reality; the suspension of the laws of physics, an inversion or subversion of order, a hint of the alien” is as good a one as I’ve come across), that I may as well cut straight to the meat and pull out some of the choicest cuts from this weird platter.

Before that, however, it’s worth noting that this volume is remarkable in that, even if some of the stories are not to my precise tastes, none of them are poor; the content has been so well-distilled down from what must have been a screed of submissions, taken from journals like Shadows & Tall Trees and Fungi amongst others, into so select a congregation that all aspects of the weird are covered – from the slight to the outre and from the subtle to the blatant, all are gathered here – so even those that might not quite hit the mark of personal taste are at least technically interesting for the voice they bring to the storytelling circle. Even so, a good handful of stories stand out for me as worth specific comment… « Read the rest of this entry »

A Leering Little Voice

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Within my ear
I hear a leering
Little voice
Who speaks not truth but lie

And now and then
I turn to fearing
Little voice
Speaks not as imp but I?

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