American Monsters Part 1 – Live!

Nope, not a political statement, but we are delighted to announce the first part of American Monsters, covering south and central America, with several stories in translation, is here!

Please don’t be put off by amazon ‘not in stock’ marker, it’s a quirk of using Ingram and the book is available here now.

Here be Monsters!

They lurk and crawl and fly in the shadows of our mind. We know them from ancient legends and tales whispered by the campfire. They hide under the dark bridge, in the deep woods or out on the great plains, in the drizzling rain forest or out on the foggy moor, beneath the surface, under your bed. They don’t sparkle or have any interest in us except to tear us apart. They are the monsters! Forgotten, unknown, misunderstood, overused, watered down. We adore them still. We want to give them a renaissance, to reestablish their dark reputation, to give them a comeback, let the world know of their real terror.

American Monsters pt 1 is the fifth volume in a coffee table book series from Fox Spirit Books with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world, and the first of two volumes covering the American continent.

“A wonderfully eclectic and compelling monster anthology that offers fresh, and often subversive perspectives on the weird, the dark, and the scary. The stories in American Monsters bristle with fangs and claws, introducing us to creatures that are formidable and terrifying, often ancient, and often dangerously capricious. Prowling the outskirts of society and the fringes of reality, many of these monsters live among the poor and the oppressed, and end up using their otherworldly powers to frighten, devour, or punish the oppressors. This is visceral, gripping, and satisfying horror with monsters that will get under your skin to haunt your dreams and your nightmares.”

Maria Haskins, writer and translator with speculative fiction in numerous anthologies and magazines. Blogs about science fiction and fantasy for Barnes and Noble.

Countdown to Christmas Day 24

It’s Christmas Eve, so we are just going to remind you what has been covered so far this month.

December 1st – We gave a quick run down of some of the Fox Spirit titles available that we would define as winter reading.

December 2nd – Sarah Daniels gave us short reviews of five beautiful children’s books for Christmas.

December 3rd – Anna Thomas does short reviews of her five favourites by Japanese Writers, read in 2018

December 4th – Adrian Reynolds reviews The Motion of Light in Water

December 5th – We check out Children of Artifice and it’s author Danie Ware as they get the spotlight on a new writing blog.

December 6th – Michelle Fry does five favourites in brief including the Fabulous Juliet McKenna.

December 7th – Penny Jones reviews Priya Sharma’s new collection of horror shorts.

December 8th – Five top December reads in brief from Lynn E. O’Connacht.

December 9th – Penny Jones returns to take a look at Tracy Fahey’s latest collection.

December 10th  – Highlights James Bennett, regular skulk member and author of the Ben Garston series. 

December 11th – Fave Five Anthologies by Jenny Barber, who has edited some of ours.

December 12th – Carol Goodwin reviews The Enclave by Anne Charnock

December 13th – S. Naomi Scott takes a look at Fox Spirit title Emily Nation by Alec McQuay

December 14th – Carol Goodwin reviews a collection of short Shadow of the Apt tales by the lovely Adrian Tchaikovsky

December 15th – Kim Bannerman reviews Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms, by Eugenia Bone

December 16th – Carol Goodwin reviews Jan Edwards’ Defender, book two of Hive Mind

December 17th – Jenny Barber reviews Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

December 18th – Review by S. Naomi Scott of Kindred by Octavia Butler

December 19th – Penny Jones looks at Laura Mauro’s Naming the Bones

December 20th – Spotlight on K. Bannerman with Damien Seaman

December 21st – Part one of Penny Jones’ examination of tradition.

December 22nd – Part two of Penny Jones’ examination of traditions

December 23rd – Part three of Penny Jones’ examination of traditions

And on CHRISTMAS DAY we have a fabulous short story by K.A. Laity so pop by and read Soot.

Just a reminder that for every post not written by Aunty Fox, we are donating £5 to http://www.booktrust.org/ to help give some kids a happier new year, so thank you to everyone who took part in this years Christmas Countdown. 

We hope those of you visiting the blog found something new to enjoy too.

Christmas Countdown Day 23

Magic and traditions of Christmas by Penny Jones Part 3

He’s been, he’s been. Can I open my presents now?

My final tradition at Christmas is of course the Christmas book. As a child it was always an annual, and I am stupidly excited that this year “The Sinister Horror Co.” have produced a horror themed Christmas annual, it will be my first present opened on Christmas day, and I’m really excited to read it (during their launch at SledgeLit, I closed my eyes and stuck my fingers in my ears so that none of the wonder would be spoiled for me, before Christmas Day). Usually my Christmas book (one of the many of them) is by Stephen King. The one year he didn’t release a new book in time for Christmas, he ruined Christmas for me (still haven’t forgiven him). Christmas afternoon is usually spent playing games and being social, but the whole family are really just counting down the minutes until we can slope off to bed with our newest tomes, and indulge in the real meaning of Christmas. Books.

So if you are looking for something traditional to read this year, you can’t go wrong with Charles Dickens’s “The Christmas Carol”, John Masefield’s “The Box of Delights”, “The Sinister Horror Co. Annual”, or Stephen King’s “Elevation”.

Merry Christmas everyone, and remember… “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.”

Countdown to Christmas Day 22

Christmas Magic and Traditions by Penny Jones Part 2

Where did I put the bloody scissors?

The second part of our Christmas traditions comes when we are wrapping the Christmas presents. Again for this mind numbing, finger cramping, sellotape sticking fiasco, we want something cheery and Christmassy to pass the time. So as I peel the sellotape (and the skin) from my lips (ouch! Yes it did bloody hurt and I no longer rip the sellotape with my teeth), try to find the scissors which have gone walkies again, and wonder why we thought our second cousin’s baby would want a set of handkerchiefs. We put on the ever so Christmassy “Box of Delights”, again another Christmas staple I’m sure of many people. This BBC adaptation of John Masefield’s novel has the Christmas spirit in spadefuls.

From the moment it starts with the tinkling refrain of “The First Noel”, to the snowstorm and Christmas Eve Carol service at its finale, the whole series screams Christmas, and scream it certainly does. With witches, evil clergyman, demons and pagan magic; this is what Christmas is surely about.

 

Christmas Countdown Day 21

Christmas Magic and Traditions by Penny Jones Part 1

The Gordian knot of Christmas lights

Christmas is a time of magic and tradition. But although I’m sure some families gather round their Christmas tree to eat mince pies and drink mulled wine, whilst others may go to their local church for midnight mass or to attend the carol service. Happily watching as their precious cherubs shuffle down the aisle whilst wearing a tea-towel on their head, or scratching at their tinsel halo. Our family have their own traditions (Okay we may do all of the above too; except for the mulled wine, I really hate mulled wine). However our traditions are sometimes a bit darker than the expected jolly frivolity of the season, but I’m pretty sure that when you look closely at your own family traditions, you’ll wonder yourself whether you are waiting for Santa or Satan.

Our festivities start when we put up our Christmas tree. The children (now 21 and 19 years old), still come up for the annual swearing at the tangled mess of lights, “picky food” (their term for a buffet), and the first annual showing of “The Muppet’s Christmas Carol” (one year we made the mistake of watching it before they came up, and they still haven’t forgiven us). Now that all sounds lovely and sweet. I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, how Christmassy, and yes it is. There is a long tradition of ghost stories of Christmas, and The Christmas Carol is a wonderful reminder of the joys of the season. The loneliness of Scrooge, the slow starvation of the Cratchits, and the looming death of their son Tiny Tim, the family arguments with Scrooge’s nephew Fred, and of course poor Bean Bunny freezing on the streets of London.

So the four of us, safe in our warm house and with full bellies, decorate a superfluous tree with decorations that cost an arm and a leg, whilst singing along to the jolly songs that tell the story of greed, death and redemption. Oh happy times.

Christmas Countdown Day 20

Today we turn the spotlight on another skulk member and sometime werewolf, Kim Bannerman.

Kim was recently interviewed over at Damien Seaman’s writing blog, it’s a good in depth interview and well worth a read.

There is also an in depth review of Kim’s latest novel, an Austen inspired tentacle romance, ‘Love & Lovecraft‘. 

Here at Fox Spirit we have adored Kim since our pre publishing days when we reviewed ‘The Tattooed Wolf’. So treat yourself to one of K. Bannerman’s titles this Christmas for something a little less ordinary.

 

Christmas Countdown day 19

Review by Penny Jones

“Naming the Bones” – By Laura Mauro

Laura Mauro is an award winning author and is best known for her horror and sci-fi short fiction. She was born and raised in London, where her BFS nominated novella “Naming the Bones” is set.

“Naming the Bones” is a wonderfully creepy novella published by Dark Minds Press, and is a thing of beauty, with its instantly recognisable cover art by Peter Frain the book grabs your attention, drawing you in, before you even start to read Laura’s mesmerising story.

The title of the novel “Naming the Bones” comes from the coping strategy of the protagonist Alessa Spiteri, who following a bombing incident on the London underground struggles to cope with returning to her day to day life, and uses the simple trick of reciting the bones in the human body as a distraction to her growing fears and anxiety. However it isn’t just the trauma of the bombing that bothers Alessa, but also the disappearance of a fellow commuter who wandered off down the underground tunnel towards a light and what he thought was help; but instead was just a darkness that seemed to swallow him whole. Now that darkness seems to be everywhere for Alessa, and as it encroaches on her life more and more, she realises that the monsters in the dark are more than just figments of her traumatised imagination.

“Naming the Bones” is a gritty urban horror story about PTSD and the fallout following a London bombing. The dark nature of the story however is lifted by Laura Mauro’s beautiful use of language and setting. “Naming the Bones” is definitely worth reading.

Countdown to Christmas Day 18

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Review by S. Naomi Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindred is a dark and deeply disturbing novel that predominantly explores the lives of slaves in the antebellum South through the eyes of a time-travelling protagonist. The fact that this protagonist, Dana, is a woman of colour from the 1970s allows Butler to show a strong juxtaposition between the world that Dana knows and the world she finds herself unwittingly thrust into.

The story itself is told entirely from Dana’s perspective, and follows her as she is bounced back and forth in time. Her home is in 1970s California, where she is settling into a new property with her (white) husband, Kevin, while her trips to the past take her to the pre-Civil War Maryland plantation of Rufus, the son of a wealthy white landowner. Between trips, she piece together evidence to suggest that Rufus could be one of her ancestors, and that the daughter of one of the local freed slaves may be as well. In one trip, she also inadvertently brings Kevin along with her, resulting in him being left behind when she is bounced back to the present. They reunite on Dana’s next trip, though five years have passed for Kevin, leaving him bitter and cold at the atrocities he witnessed while he was in the past. The novel ends with Dana killing Rufus and returning to the present for the last time, losing an arm in the process.

This is not an easy story to read as it highlights some of the worst elements of racism and discrimination inherent in American society during the first half of the nineteenth century, and the almost casual way in which people of colour were dehumanised by their owners at the time. In portraying the slave/master dynamic, Butler rarely pulls her punches. The slave owners are shown to be cruel almost to the point of sadism, though in most cases this appears to be simply a side-effect of the near-institutional belief that the slaves are nothing more than property, objects to be bought and sold, and used for the betterment of the whites. It’s obvious that Butler wants to shock the reader into thinking about the subject matter, that she wants the reader to explore the historical and social notions of slavery that she presents within the narrative, and she does this with skill.

Having read a large chunk of Octavia E. Butler’s work over the last few months, I really wanted to love this book. However, while I found it to be an engrossing and thought provoking read, I don’t think it’s quite worthy of a full five stars.

Countdown to Christmas Day 17

Into the Drowning Deep

Mira Grant

Reviewed by Jenny Barber

To my perpetual annoyance, I’ve never been able to get my hands on Mira Grant’s novella Rolling in the Deep, despite it only coming out in 2015.  I mean, mermaids and Mira Grant is a combination that shouldn’t be missed, amirite?  So the publication of Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep was an immediate buy and I’m not kidding, I have read it at least four times in the last year.

Fortunately, despite Into the Drowning Deep being a follow-up to Rolling, you don’t have to have read the latter to get the full thrills and spills experience of the former. In fact, the necessary details are effortlessly slid into Drowning’s narrative so it gives you the bonus of two books in one!

So, what’s it all about?  Seven years ago, Imagine Entertainment sent the cruise ship Atargatis to the Mariana Trench to film a mockumentary about mermaids.  (Thus, Rolling in the Deep.) Unfortunately for them they found real-life mermaids and the mermaids were not friendly.  History records that all crew and passengers of the Atargatis disappeared, surviving footage shows fragments of the tragedy but most of the viewing public is in two minds on the veracity of what was broadcast.

Tory Stewart, however, is certain the Mariana mermaids are real. Her older sister was one of Imagine’s media personalities working on the Atargatis for the ill-fated mockumentary, and Tory has spent her adult life trying to find hard evidence to prove the truth of what happened to her sister.  After spending years studying marine biology, with a specialisation in understanding the information sonar readouts give about deep sea population, Tory and her lab partner, Luis Martines, discover sonar evidence of something hinky going on in the depths of the Mariana Trench.  And as it happens, Imagine Entertainment are just about ready to launch a follow up mission to discover the truth about the Atargatis and the mermaids. (And fulfil the inevitable corporate dodgy interests along the way. But then, you’d expect nothing less…)

Tory and Luis get invited to be a part of a crew that includes ex-eco-warrior and infamous mermaid expert Dr Jillian Toth; Olivia Sanderson, Imagine’s latest media face; and a motley crew of others who include extreme big game hunters, corporate representatives, scientists of various stripes and trained dolphins. (And yes, the dolphins get a point-of-view chapter of their own!)  Some believe the mermaids are real, some don’t and are just in it for the corporate funding of their work, either way, no-one is ready for what they find when they reach the Trench…

It should go without saying that if you’re reading a book by Mira Grant (or her alter ego, Seanan McGuire) then you’re going to get a healthy range of well-drawn diverse characters centre stage – and Into the Drowning Deep is no exception – here you’ll find characters of a multitude of ages, abilities, sexualities and nationalities, with a delicate balance maintained between recognising their individualities, and exploring how who they are affects their life and interactions with each other.

It’s this kind of easy and consistent representation that makes Grant’s books a must-read, regardless of the specific story, but Drowning is no slouch in the story department either – it’s a juicy romp of a novel that balances monsters of the deep and tense survival horror, with fascinatingly plausible science and a whole host of interesting themes that wind their way throughout. Issues such as environmentalism and the effects of climate change and oceanic depletion form both the foundation of the world setting, and the motivating force for the mermaids’ recent emergence and desperate mass feeding behaviour.

Communication and alternative perspectives are also strong threads that tie the story together – we see the story from the viewpoint of a range of humans, as well as from the mermaids, and the ship’s dolphins, creating a multi-directional view of both general life in the depths and of this particular story of the sea.  But beyond that, there’s a constant push and pull of communication efforts as disparate people try to bridge their differences to find common ground to be understood – from the obvious attempts of humans bodging a common language with dolphins and mermaids, to the more subtle shades of human communication where neurodivergent personnel have to navigate the shifting and often confusing behaviour and language of neurotypicals; or deaf scientists have to find ways to work with the hearing, both with and without the aid of the resident sign language interpreter.

Each thread, and each perspective, makes the story that much richer and when you add to that some intriguing scientific concepts and the sheer pulpy horror fun of killer mermaids swarming a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, what you’ve got is a magnificent tale to chill your bones over the Christmas period and beyond!  Highly recommended!

Christmas Countdown Day 16

DEFENDER (Hive Mind 2) by Janet Edwards

CreateSpace / 354 pgs / £8.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook / ISBN 978-1981728275

Reviewed by Carol Goodwin.

I am not a fan of the term YA as I feel it creates an artificial separation and removes many excellent novels from the attention of “adult” readers. Indeed, many fondly remembered SF books from earlier years such as Andre Norton or much Robert Heinlein, would now probably be classified as YA. Janet’s novels to me have that same appeal to a very wide readership – indeed my son was fighting me to read this book first when he saw I had it which is not something he does with most of my reading material (Jim Butcher and Ben Aaronovitch being the other notable exceptions).

            In the first book, TELEPATH we saw Amber as she turns eighteen and enters the Lottery, the psychological testing that determines the future role and rank of every citizen based on their aptitudes and society’s needs. However, Amber is found to be a very rare and valuable telepath. Telepath’s are vital in detecting criminals and preventing crimes in the vast closed community of the Hive in which she lives. So valuable is this ability that unlike other citizens she will not be imprinted with relevant information (and attitudes) and she must be protected and her abilities kept secret from all but a handful of people.

            In the first book we saw Amber getting to know her team who both protect her and help her hunt. She had to come to terms with incidents from her childhood and adapt to her new circumstances. In this second book, set only a few months later, Amber is now working effectively with her team in identifying potential criminals and preventing incidents. However, finding a dead body of someone they knew without Amber having detected any warning signs of a crime precipitates a crisis. Someone with close knowledge of telepaths and how their teams work is clearly involved. As they try to uncover the traitor and their plans for massive destruction and disruption, Amber must also struggle within her mind as opening her thoughts to others brings its own threats to her sanity and identity.

            As with other books by this author, DEFENDER combines well a strong plot and narrative with interesting and fallible characters. The story is well paced and the reader wants to keep reading to see what happens next. Amber in particular is extremely likeable and shows development and growth as she deals with both professional and personal crises. As well as the plot strands of the traitor and Amber’s psychological health, there is clearly a larger arc plot developing around Hive Societies and the complexities of being a telepath as Amber starts to learn and importantly question her new circumstances. YA or crossover it may be but there is a lot of story and depth in these books while still appealing to that market. The author is not afraid to move to different characters and settings than her previous series and the world of the Hives is interesting and very different from that of the Earth Girl series. The style and SF settings remind me very much of Anne McCaffrey’s non-Pern series (eg The Talent, Crystal Singer and The Ship Who … series) and anyone who enjoyed those will find much to like here. Another thoroughly enjoyable SF novel that will appeal to many.