Christmas Countdown Day 14

FOR LOVE OF DISTANT SHORES (Tales of the Apt 3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

NewCon Press / 274 pgs / £12.99 paperback / ISBN 978-1910935712

Reviewed by Carol Goodwin

This collection of four novella-length stories concerns the adventures of the scientist and explorer, Dr Ludweg Phinagler as recorded by his faithful-ish (!) chronicler and assistant, Fosse. They are set in the world of the Kinden established in the author’s Shadows of the Apt novels, but again other than understanding the central concept of different types of people with abilities related to a particular animal (usually, but not exclusively, insects) no other knowledge of those books is necessary to enjoy these stories.

They are written in a style that is an obvious allusion to late 19th/early 20th century SFF classics and will be recognisable to anyone who has read for instance, Jules Verne or Arthur Conan Doyle. As Doctor Phinagler searches for the elusive archaeological/historical find that will earn him respect from his less colourful academic colleagues, his singlemindedness and unwillingness to acknowledge danger signs leads him and his unfortunate amanuensis into four perilous, thrilling and utterly entertaining adventures – the latter from the reader’s point of view at least! The four novellas all have their own strong individual and often humorous identities and also incorporate the author’s inventiveness in designing new “kinden” based on his love and knowledge of biology

In the first novella, CITIES OF SILVER the intrepid pair find themselves in an underwater dystopia, complete with technologically superior overlords and an oppressed underclass who help the interlopers in their attempts to escape. Anyone who has seen the 1978 film WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS will recognise the plot but it is skilfully reworked and given its own unique flair to make an excellent story that is great fun to read.

The second novella, WRITTEN IN SAND sees the protagonists explore ancient ruins in the desert, rumoured to be protected by shadowy forces. I found myself thinking of this story as “He Who Must be Obeyed” (to misquote from H Rider Haggard’s SHE) crossed with THE MUMMY films.

The third novella, MASTERS OF THE SPIRE is probably my favourite. In this we see the Doctor and Fosse encountering lost tribes in the jungle (as beloved of many earlier writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs etc) where the story hinges on a very effective use of the particular abilities/biology of the insects that the tribes are based upon (to say more would be a spoiler) and there are some nice macabre scenes and “body horror” in this story which works really well. Add in an Indiana Jones style rival to the Doctor (and potential love interest for Fosse) and I found a lot to like in this story in particular.

The final story, FOR LOVE OF DISTANT SHORES sees the pair embark upon a voyage into uncharted waters. This has three major events including an exciting and gripping battle with a sea-monster (shades of MOBY DICK or JAWS spring to mind) but also tangentially examines some more serious themes such as slavery and the disastrous ramifications of badly handled first contact between indigenous and outsider cultures. For those readers who have read more of the author’s work, this story also links with his Echoes of the Fall series.

As with much of the author’s work, a major strength throughout is in characterisation. The pompous, vainglorious but often charming beetle-kinden, Dr Phinagler and his long-suffering, pragmatic and occasionally manipulative fly-kinden companion, Fosse both have many faults but are also in their own individual ways often admirable as well. The author is clearly relishing the chance to explore aspects of the world on a smaller scale than the grand, world-changing events of the novels. The tone is for the most part much lighter and often tongue in cheek and the prose and comedy are a delight. Like Pratchett, the author excels at the art of effective but affectionate character assassination in a single sentence. Finally, as an unashamed homage to early pulps, a great part of the fun in reading these novellas is in trying to identify and enjoy all the influences and references that have shaped them. An absolute pleasure to read from start to finish! 

Christmas Countdown Day 11

Fave Five Anthologies

Jenny Barber

Anthologies are the best gift a fiction fanatic can receive, so if you’re looking for something a bit special to buy this holiday season, check out some of these and treat your friends, treat your family, and most especially, treat yo’self!

Defying Doomsday, edited by Tsana Dolichva & Holly Kench

Defying Doomsday collects together stories about how to survive in the apocalypse if you’re disabled, chronically ill or neuro-divergent. It addresses questions of what to do when the life saving devices have been shut down and your medication has run out, or how you can turn who you are into an advantage in a destroyed world where everything is so much harder to cope with. It’s a simply stunning anthology with a heavy focus on hope, representation, and how people can come together to survive and thrive, and is most definitely a must read.

Chicks in Chainmail, edited by Esther Friesner

This is one of my foundational anthologies and I will gleefully recommend it to anyone who passes within squee-ing distance.  It’s the first in a series of very feminist, very funny, comic-fantasy anthologies with similarly punny titles, and is positively overflowing with the love of nerdy things.  In this volume, as with the series at large, you’ll find a multitude of stories that wink at how female characters traditionally appear in media-wide SFF, and pushes hard against all the sexist clichés by twisting them around in stories that amuse and amaze. 

And for bonus reading fun, check out the Chicks Ahoy box set that includes Chainmail and the next two Chicks in the series!

The Underwater Ballroom Society, edited by Tiffany Trent & Stephanie Burgis

The Underwater Ballroom Society is a fun, and rather wonderful, anthology inspired by the underwater ballroom at Witley Park in Surrey, and has stories that cover fable and fairytale, murder and mystery, the dark and the weird, and the light hearted and fantastic.  My particular favourite stories are ‘Twelve Sisters’ by Y.S. Lee, Stephanie Burgis’ ‘Spellswept’, ‘The Queen of Life’ by Ysabeau S. Wilce, Patrick Samphire’s ‘A Spy in the Deep’ and Iona Datt Sharma’s ‘Penhallow Amid Passing Things’ but in all honesty, there’s stories to suit all tastes here so add it to Santa’s list!

She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles

For those of you who like horror, particularly of the Lovecraftian variety, you’ll want to get your eyeballs around She Walks in Shadows! Shadows takes the Lovecraftian genre and brings you an illustrated volume brimming over with women and their deliciously dark and dangerous tales.   There are tales of dread and humour, weirdness and grotesqueries, with cosmic horrors and old gods, dark deals, false faces, and the overwhelming sensation that your reality cannot be trusted.  Let these ladies of horror walk you through the shadows!

Glitter and Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas

Glitter and Mayhem makes my urban fantasy loving heart explode with glee as I was forged in the fires of the fantastic intruding on real life; and there is much glee to be had in this anthology. There’s also fun with fairytales, interstellar roller derby, myth and magic, dancing with aliens and clubbing with cryptids, glamour and, yes, glitter and mayhem aplenty. As anthologies go, this is just crammed with unrelenting joy and it’s utterly glorious!

Christmas Countdown Day 9

“New Music for Old Rituals” by Tracy Fahey
Review by Penny Jones

To say I was excited to get my hands on my copy of Tracy Fahey’s collection “New Music for Old Rituals” would be an understatement. I was pestering the publisher so I could pre-order my copy from the moment it was announced – and was even able to sneakily get my hands on it, the day before it was officially released – And was it worth the wait? Of course it was.

“New Music for Old Rituals” is primarily a folk horror collection, but it is far more than that. Tracy Fahey takes the legends, rituals and superstitions of her homeland and interweaves them into new tales which reflect the horrors, anxieties and sadness that can plague our modern lives. Each tale is prefixed with a photograph taken by Tracy to reflect the concept of the following story. The photographs have a beautiful haunting imagery, and as all of them have been taken within a thirty minute drive of her home, so they truly reflect the hidden magic which can still be found in Ireland. Following each of her tales is a succinct explanation of the history and mythology which has inspired each tale.

The stories that make up “New Music for Old Rituals” are both beautifully written and varied in style. My own personal favourite “The Changeling” was one of the best short stories I have read this year. The story is quietly unveiled by the elderly narrator, making the ending even more horrific and visceral when revealed. Tracy Fahey is a master at lulling you into a false sense of security before revealing the horror beneath. So much so, that by the end of the book, you’re read the stories as if you are in some kind of uncanny valley, everything looks normal, it all seems fine; but you just know that it isn’t quiet right, that everything is just off kilter.

As well as the stories in “New Music for Old Rituals” being beautiful, the book as a whole is a thing of beauty. Black Shuck Books have managed to impart a feeling that the tales you are reading have been handed to you personally, that the book you hold in your hands, may have been someone’s diary or memoir. The Polaroid snaps (with their curling sellotaped edges) and the careful use of the handwritten and Dymo fonts really adds to the feeling that what you have in your hands is a personal retelling of someone’s life events.

The main warning though that this collection imparts, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you live, the horrors and fears which infect us never change. Humanity fears change, it fears the outsider; and you – whoever you are – will always be an outsider.

Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction.  In 2017, her debut collection “The Unheimlich Manoeuvre” was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. Two of her short stories were long listed by Ellen Datlow for Honourable Mentions in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 8. She is published in over twenty Irish, US and UK anthologies and her work has been reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. Her first novel, “The Girl in the Fort”, was released in 2017 by the Fennec imprint of Fox Spirit Books. And her new collection, “New Music for Old Rituals” was released in November 2018 by Black Shuck Books.

 

 

 

December Count Down to Christmas

Books make fantastic gifts, I get Papa Fox one every Christmas, it’s his annual book and he always reads it over the few days of Christmas while he has a few genuinely slow days. 

So with that in mind we are inviting anyone who would like to, to send us a review or a short list of recommendations of books people should be reading and gifting this year. 

There is a £5 payment and posts should come to submissions@foxspirit.co.uk
We will continue to accept new posts until around the 14th. Please include your paypal details. Also, for each post we will put £5 into a pot to go to booktrust.org.uk. That’s £125 if we get a post per day, so please do join in. 

To get things going a few Fox Spirit titles you might want to consider for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers.

***

The Judgement Call / Along the Long Road 
by Simon Bestwick and Penny Jones
Two short rural horrors playing with the idea of just desserts. A double date goes horribly wrong in Along the Long Road and in The Judgement Call you have to wonder, would the bell toll for you?

Winter Tales
Anthology
A collection of dark stories to keep you under the covers this winter
Edited by Margrét Helgadóttir

Cover by S.L. Johnson

The Monsters Series
Edited by Margrét Helgadóttir

European, African, Asian and Pacific Monsters are all available now, with Pat 1 of American Monsters coming later this month. Collections of short stories and at in a coffee table format. 

Ghoulsome Graveyard
By G Clark Hellery
Something for younger readers from our Fennec line. Spooky adventures.

And if none of those appeal, head over to our buy links to browse a broad selection of genre treats.

Fearless Genre Warriors -FREE!

The fabulous Jenny Barber contacted a whole den full of Skulk and pulled together a collection that spans all the Fox Spirit anthologies and collections published up to 1st November 2018 and what have we gone and done? Made it free!

It is available for under £3 on Amazon (the minimum they would allow), but keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for the adverts with the passwords in during the run up to Christmas to grab it for nothing in convenient multi format zip files. 

Then just pop to our free fiction page, pop in the relevant password and download. 

If you are heading to Sledge.lit there is a password in the brochures here too. 

Now about that book, In Jenny’s words:

‘Would you like some free short fiction? Would you like some free short fiction from a simply stunning selection of new and established authors? With bonus poems and articles and internal artwork? 

Fearless Genre Warriors covers it all – we have horror tales, fantasy tales, SF tales, crime tales, humorous tales, and tales that blend any or all of the above! So whatever your fiction thing is, we’ve got you covered!’

And here are those wonderful contents, feast your eyeballs on this lot and then maybe consider picking up one of the books they came from, or leaving a few words of review. 

Introduction
The Dragon’s Maw – Cheryl Morgan
Palakainen – K. A. Laity
The Band of Straw and Silver – Andrew Reid 
From the Womb of the Land, Our Bones Entwined – AJ Fitzwater 
The Itch of Iron, the Pull of the Moon – Carol Borden 
Tits Up in Wonderland – Chloe Yates 
Fragrance of You – Steven Savile 
Kumiho – V.C. Linde 
The Ballad of Gilrain – Sarah Cawkwell 
The Ballad of Gilrain – lyrics Sarah Cawkwell, music Adam Broadhurst 
Art is War – Alasdair Stuart
The Alternative La Belle Dame Sans Merci – Jan Siegal 
Thandiwe’s Tokoloshe – Nick Wood 
Unravel – Ren Warom 
The Cillini – Tracy Fahey 
Katabasis – K T Davies 
Train Tracks – W. P. Johnson 
Sharkadelic – Ian Whates 
Feeding the Fish – Carol Borden 
Antichristine – James Bennett 
Lucille –  Alec McQuay 
Carlos – K. A. Laity
A Very Modern Monster – Aliya Whiteley 
You Are Old, Lady Vilma – Jan Siegal 
Winter in the Vivarium – Tim Major 
Always a Dancer – Steve Lockley 
The End of the World – Margrét Helgadóttir 
The Holy Hour – C. A. Yates 
In the Mouth of the Beast – Li Huijia 
Kokuri’s Palace – Yukimi Ogawa 
A Change of Heart A Babylon Steel story – Gaie Sebold 
Indiana Jones and the Pyramid of Envy – Alasdair Stuart 

There is also some bonus stuff in the back, talking about the anthologies we put together. 

Horror Double Feature

Our delightful horror twinset The Judgement Call by Simon Bestwick, a tale to absorb in the run up to Christmas, and Along the Long Road by Penny Jones, are available now for your Halloween delight. No tricks, just dark treats from the British Horror scene.

Penny Jones takes us on a journey of peer pressure and madness on dark country lanes, while Simon Bestwick sees sins answered for. 

Available now on Amazon.

Cover by Neil Williams

 

American Monsters Pt 1 : TOC

TABLE OF CONTENTS – AMERICAN MONSTERS PART ONE
 
Pacific Monsters is presently on the short list for the British Fantasy Society award for Best Anthology. This book has made it to several award shortlists, including the awards Australian Shadows, Sir Julius Vogel, and Aurealis. The lovely people at Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction Social also awarded the book Best Anthology and Margrét Helgadóttir was awarded Starburst Magazine’s Brave New Words Award for her editor work on the book. It’s been a good year for monsters.
 
We are pleased to announce that American Monsters volume one is due out this December. American Monsters volume one is the fifth book in our grand world tour exploring monsters tales continent by continent, told by local authors. Margrét is once more the editor. We have split up America in two volumes. In this collection we explore the old myths and monsters in South and Central America, with short stories, graphic stories and art from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Equador, Uruguay and Guatamala. This book will have five translated stories, something we are very proud of.
 
Our gorgeous cover series by Daniele Serra will continue for this fifth volume. The cover will be released later.
 
Stories from North America (including Mexico and Caribbean) will be out next year before the series end in 2020 with Eurasian monster tales.
 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. Liliana Colanzi: «The Wave»
  2. Santiago Santos: «A Carpet Sewn With Skeletons»
  3. Sabrina Vourvoulias: «Time’s Up, Cerotes»
  4. Ramiro Sanchiz: «The Pearl»
  5. Paula Andrade: «Almamula»
  6. Cesar Alcázar and Eduardo Monteiro (art): «Cerro Bravo» (graphic story)
  7. Christopher Kastensmidt: «A Parlous Battle»
  8. Mariela Pappas: «The Eyes of a Wolf»
  9. Solange Rodriguez Pappe: «The Entangler»
  10. Daniel Salvo: «Jaar, Jaar, Jaar»
  11. Flavia Rizental: «My Name is Iara»
  12. Gustavo Bondoni: «Vulnerable Populations»
  13. Fabio Fernandes: «The Emptiness in the Heart of All Things»
  14. Paula Andrade: «La Perla del Plata» (graphic story)
  15. Teresa Mira de Echeverria: «Lakuma»
 
The book will have illustrations by Paula Andrade, Lynda Bruce, and Kieran Walsh.
 
***
 
The Fox Spirit Books of Monsters is a coffee table book series from Fox Spirit Books, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir. The series has dark fiction from around the world, written by local authors, short stories and graphic stories based on local folklore, legends and myths. Illustrated by local artists.
 
The series has 7 books published between 2014 and 2020, starting with Europe (2014), continuing with Africa (2015), Asia (2016) and Pacific region in 2017. Volume five (2018) and six (2019) will cover South, Central and North America before the series end with Eurasia (including Russia, Eastern Europe and the Balkan) in the end of 2020.

Snippet Sunday : Always a Dancer

The Mermaid’s Tears by Steven Lockley
Published in Always a Dancer and Other Stories

Claire had seen the box before; only once but it had left her with such a strong impression that she would never forget it. In an instant she had taken in every sway of its grain, and the details of the small brass clasp held tight by the tiny padlock. She remembered it mainly because the last time she had touched it her father had hit her; slapping her so hard on the face that finger marks could still be seen hours later. It was the only time that he had laid a finger on her in her twenty years.
That had been five years ago but now he was urging her to open it as he lowered it gently onto the small table and placed the tiny key on its polished surface. She looked up at him, questioning, but he turned away.
Leah just sat her wheelchair, never blinking while Claire stroked the wood and felt its warmth. Leah did what she always did, nothing, just watched in silence, unable to walk and unable to speak. Claire had never understood why her father had taken her in and devoted the last years of his life to a stranger who had come to rely on him totally. Tonight Leah looked old and frail, as though the bones beneath the skin were dry twigs ready to snap under the slightest pressure.
‘Open it, for God’s sake’, her father pleaded, his voice cracking as if he was desperately holding his emotions in check.
Claire slid the key into the tiny lock and heard the slightest of clicks as the mechanism released and fell open. A grain of white dust fell from behind the clasp and Claire found herself distracted. She raised it with the tip of her finger and raised it to her lips, half guessing what it was. Not dust, but salt.
 

Not done yet!

We have had an incredible busy year and launched a wonderful range of titles but we are not done yet!

Coming up before the end of the year we have the Sledge.Lit launch of The Girl in the Fort by Tracy Fahey, we will also be bringing some of this year’s other new titles for a public viewing. If you can’t make Sledge but would like Tracy to sign your copy of Girl, we have done some simple foxy bookplates so let us know.

We have some free fiction to add to our collection which I am looking forward to sharing with you all, from new to us writers. 

Of course we also have three more titles to launch. 

As you know every Christmas we release our newest Monster title and this year it is Pacific Monsters, which an incredible selection of stories and art as ever. Margret Helgadottir has once again worked hard to link up with writers from the region to tell their monsters their way. 

We are also delighted to say that the multi award winning Daniele Serra will be staying on as cover artist to complete the series. 

We also have a poetry collection by the fabulous Jan Siegel who was pure skulk recently on First Date celebrity edition. Jan has guest poems in this collection from people better known in other creative arts including Pat Cadigan and Helen Lederer, who all demonstrate their adaptability here. Multiverse is a wonderful collection, dark, funny, reflective and including cake.

Approach with Caution! The second volume of the Pseudopod Tapes is almost here! A new collection of outro essays from Alasdair Stuart, one of the UK’s best genre voices and author of our own Not the Fox News column. Whether you are a listener or not the host of the world renowned horror story podcast once again offers a collection of essays on genre and life that are more than worth the price of entry. 

We would also like to remind you, if you join your kids up for the Fennec Kit’s Club they get a Christmas card and goodies from Aunty Fox and Kit, so let us know, there are limited places this close to Christmas. 

The Curse of the Mouse and Minotaur

The virgins have been sacrificed, the sage burnt the incense lit and the libations poured.

I am delighted to announce that having done everything except raise the mummy (more luck than judgement tbh), we are finally releasing The Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur, the third and final volume of our Bushy Tales.

This series started with Tales of the Nun & Dragon which is the book that started Fox Spirit and it is the conclusion of our original project. As always a mixture of genres, with humour and darker stuff featuring greek myths and rodents, sometimes both. 

Stories from K.T. Davies, Chloe Yates, James Bennett, Nerine Dorman, Jay Faulkner, Sarah Cawkwell, Pat Kelleher, C C D Leijenaar , Joan De La Haye, Andrew Reid, Ben Stewart, Catherine Hill, Jan Siegel and T.J. Everley