Archive for December, 2009
I tinkered with an alternative history short story in which someone very much with Albert Einstein’s bio discovers un-relativity. Steve Upham is the publisher of Screaming Dreams and his SF ezine is released today with a Christmas special.
My Patent Non-Science story is at http://www.screamingdreams.com/ezine/Christmas2009.pdf
The Christmas issue eZine has finally made it online – just in time. Feel free to spread the word and Merry Christmas
PDF version :
A man thought he had amnesia but it turns out he is a little girl’s imaginary
friend. His urge to stay an entity is the story. Called In Absentia, the story
is the Editor’s Pick story of January 2010 at
There’s a good reason for this image in the story.
Once a week I put writing to one side and become inspired, with my wife, looking after 10-month-old baby Oliver. Like most babies in Manchester he has a ton of fancy pants toys but which one does he like best? Books, of course. Especially the stiff card pages he can turn, then open up hidden flaps to see what’s behind, and to look through holes. Hungry Caterpillar gets him making Ooooo sounds every time.
But what’s this? Are we being slave-drivers, child usurpers? Doubt it, but check it out for yourself. What’s certain that of the large toys he has, this is the only one at which he cries when it stops and is put away.
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
A tense literary gem from the award-winning warped mind of the author of the highly original ‘in limbo’ noir masterpiece, Pit-Stop.
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: L-L Publications (20 Nov 2009)
Having decided that Ben Larken’s Pit-Stop was my favourite noir thriller of 2009, I was delighted to be reading The Hollows. Although not a sequel as such, the main character of Pit-Stop, Scott Alder is the older brother of protagonist David Alder, who is also a lawman. Maybe it is more than a coincidence that a pit is also a hollow.
That link aside, The Hollows is a completely different story. In Middle America lies an unusual geographical phenomenon. It takes David Alder a while to appreciate the time-travelling and spine-chilling nature of the housing complex known as the Hollows. He is understandably distracted. For ten years he’s been searching for his missing wife. Will he find Elise who vanished leaving David with his young daughter, Melanie? This mystery is a hook and the source of much angst, father-daughter tension, and would fuel the reader on its own, but there’s so much more to this novel. The secrets inside a grandfather clock, its disembodied ticking that annoys Melanie, the other occupants of the housing complex who seem to know too much and have their own nightmares, all combine in turmoil.
Ben Larken knows how to scare his characters, and then some. There are many cunning phrases I wish I’d written. Listen to Elise berating herself: “I suck. Badly. Someday the stories of my suckage will be legend.”
Then an example of how an author can tease us with speech body language (rare in all novels except for the clichéd shrugs, sighs and nods). ‘“Sooo,” he said slowly, as if unsure where the sentence should go from here.’
Here we have a sound bite, or rather a clever non-sound bite. ‘None of them heard that inner panic alarm clanging in Rennie’s ears.’ Sometimes my tinnitus is so loud I’m sure the neighbours can hear it but at least I hear my whistles and bells whereas Rennie feels his panic alarm and Larken transposes it to a kind of alert to sound that isn’t really there. Quite brilliant.
The plot is a braid of subplots set in three time periods, 1949, 1999 and 2009. The time-travelling aspect, though restricted to a few characters, raises opportunities for intriguing recursion events, cleverly executed. Instead of shying from the time-paradox issues, Larken employs them so that the same person not only meets himself, but … ah, you wait and see.
In true Ben Larken style the main characters stand out in three dimensions. We care for what happens to them and urge their survival, not always successfully.
There are aspects not completely explained – the purpose of the blood, the origin and location rationale of the ‘whispering hollows’, and why certain people were targeted – but the clues lurk, and there is a sequel on its way; salivate in anticipation.
If you are an aficionado of noir fiction The Hollows will immerse you in a nether world, terrifying yet scintillating at the same time(s). This Ben Larken noir mystery thriller is strongly recommended.
A few years ago I had a short soft horror story published at HorrorMasters called No Way. It was inspired by Brian, an eccentric loner who used to dangerously walk from his village to my City most days. A round trip of 14 miles or so but 10 of those along a narrow twisting lane along which hurled trucks, buses and me on my bike. Brian had many narrow scrapes on that road.
In my story he is about to be struck by a white van but is pulled through a hedge by a mysterious benefactor. The saviour shows him a little-known ancient footpath that runs parallel to the road. This footpath exists in reality in part as an old Roman road. I shant spoil the ending but will put a link at the end for you to freely read.
I discovered a few days ago that Brian had died. Police, alerted by neighbours, broke down his door in the village of Dodleston, Cheshire, UK, and found his body. An inquest is pending but it is estimated he’d died ten days before discovery. A sad lonely demise for my protagonist and yet pertinent to the story. I wonder if he realised he was in that story though others did know. On Friday I walked much of the route he did from Dodleston to Chester as a kind of commemorative tribute. Rest in Peace, Brian.
Jessie Lilley(Editor of Mondo Cult in California) wrote a screenplay version of No Way and transported the action to America. I believe it is waiting for a wise film producer to pick it up.
Here’s the original story (apologies for the looseness of my early writing style).
A short soft horror story, In Absentia, has been accepted by The Horrorzine published by Jeani Rector. In Absentia is in the point of view of a man who thought he had amnesia but realises with horror that he is the imaginary friend of a little girl. There are twists – of course.
Steve Upham at Screaming Dreams is putting together a Christmas edition of horror stories. He has accepted Patent NonScience in which a young Einstein discovers unRelativity during his time in the Patent Office in Geneva.
Both stories have been critiqued at Cafe Doom and in the Orbiters crit group of the British Science Fiction Association.
Blood River by David Greske
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
- Publisher: Charles River Press (November 2, 2009)
- ISBN-13: 978-0982094648
A group of teenagers are generous enough to pick up a drop-dead gorgeous female hitchhiker. Sadly, that was an error and the blisteringly hot weather becomes locally freezing as they discover the chills of a vampire sub-culture. This is no standard vampire story; you are taken on a veritable smorgasbord of erotic sensual blood-letting. A must read for aficionados of the genre. It seems that every vampire cliché lurks around the next page but Greske works those around formula-breaking scenarios. For example, we have become used to vampires sizzling up in daylight, but that has only been the case since early film versions of Dracula. In the Bram Stoker original novel, the vampire didn’t avoid sunshine though his powers were reduced. Hence the luscious Annabella in Blood River can be in the sun (she is said to be a minion) so we have a little though welcome departure from the stereotype.
There are some neat writerly phrases using sensory Show. For example many writers forget to use sound other than in speech but this is a nice example where your brain is obliged to trigger other memories: ‘Agnes dropped the trio of stakes next to the font … sounded like dried bones when they slapped against each other.’
There are a few old jokes (you rent beer) and some corny sub-plot clichés but it is a fun read – made quicker by the surprise of a large typeface, and the contemporary fashion of short chapters. Of the characters, Godfrey is the one I most empathised with, and not just because it is my real first name! He carries his thoughtfulness and reading experience into the mystery to the benefit of his friends though some die before they are convinced.
Blood River would make a fine extra birthday or seasonal present for anyone you know who would hug you for an erotic bloodfest.
To buy from Amazon.com click here
Tescos is taking over the retail landscape of the UK and is influential in
deciding what we buy for our homes and how we eat. Particularly large Tesco
supermarkets are called Tesco Extra.
I enjoy a country bike ride to my nearest Tesco Extra on the border between
Wales and Cheshire. I used to be able to buy many vegan foods there but sadly if
they make slightly less profit than other foods they vanish off the shelves. The
fact that vegans find it more difficult than non-veggies to find food doesn’t
factor into Tesco’s rationale. They are big enough to be socially responsible
but are that bothered.
Today I discover that my favourite vegan stir fry ingredients – tofu, Cauldron
make of marinated Tofu along with falafels are no longer stocked. Plenty of
Quorn but they are not vegan.
Shame on you, Tesco.
More Tesco Minus than Tesco Extra.
On my bike the extra 10 miles for Sainsbury!