Hey, shucks, OK . . .

We’re kinda jazzed up here about all these folks saying nice things about us. In fact, the only thing that’s missing is an accompanying drink—but maybe that’ll follow a little later in the year. Meanwhile, let’s kick off with Patrick Mahon’s damn near resounding thumbs up on SF Crowsnest (www.SFCrowsnest.org.uk):

"I reviewed the first two novellas in Eric Brown’s ‘Telemass Quartet’ for SFCrowsnest a few months ago. REUNION ON ALPHA RETICULI II is the third instalment in what has so far been a highly enjoyable SF romp. Can it keep up the momentum?



"As with the earlier volumes, my copy of the novella came in the form of a collectible hardback which is beautifully bound and features another stunning wraparound cover image by artist Tomislav Tikulin. This time, the picture shows a succession of the kilometre high sky hotels that feature in the early chapters of the story.



"Once again, the tale picks straight up from where we left our hero, Matt Hendrick, at the end of the previous volume. Matt arrives by telemass at the luxury resort world of Tourmaline, the second planet orbiting the double star system of Alpha Reticuli A and B. He is still trying to catch up with his ex-wife Maatje, her lover Dr. Hovarth and the cryo-pod they stole from him, which contains the perfectly preserved body of his and Maatje’s ten year-old daughter Samantha, who died from an alien virus several years earlier. Hendrick is a scientific rationalist, who thinks his daughter’s best chance lies with the medical profession back on Earth as and when they discover a cure for the alien virus. Maatje, on the other hand, is not prepared to wait, so is taking their daughter’s frozen body to any planet where there are rumours of aliens who can allegedly turn back time and cheat death.



"Matt is approached by a freelance telepath called Vizzek who read his thoughts as he left the telemass station and felt sympathy for his plight. He tells Hendrick that he also read Maatje when she passed through the station the previous day and, for a fee, he will help Matt to find her. At a loss for any other firm leads, Hendrick doesn’t think twice but takes this stranger up on his offer immediately. A little later on, he also receives assistance from an attractive local woman called Mercury, whose interest in him seems to go beyond the merely professional.



"In due course, Hendrick finds out that Maatje is trying to contact an insectoid alien species that can supposedly raise the dead. Can he catch up with her before she does anything precipitate with Samantha’s body?"

"Like a lot of Brown’s stories, REUNION ON ALPHA RETICULI II explores the issues of death, redemption and resurrection. Here, he makes some interesting observations about the damage that can be done to those left behind when death intervenes suddenly, particularly if the grieving party or parties refuse to let go of the past. In addition, Brown sets up an entertaining verbal equivalent of a no-holds-barred fist fight between rigid scientific rationalism and a more spiritual view of the universe’s potential to surprise us.



"Another thing I like about Brown’s books is that he never seems to get tired of inventing aliens. Even in this short novella, we get two new species: the Krinthians, who look like sea-elephants with far too many arms and legs and the Zuterainians, human-sized stick insects that wear suits. Each species is distinctly different from humanity or each other and they provide a great deal of the novelty and entertainment to be found in this book.



"As with the first book in the series, my main gripe about this story concerns Matt Hendrick’s alleged ‘goodness’. We aren’t far into the book before yet another woman throws herself at him, sleeping with Matt at the first available opportunity because he’s such a ‘good’ man. However, readers see very little evidence of Hendrick’s moral rectitude because he is so single-mindedly fixated on getting his daughter’s body back from his ex-wife. It is, of course, entirely understandable that someone in that dreadful situation might well react in this way. Even so, I would have welcomed any incident, no matter how trivial, which showed Matt thinking about someone else’s interests for once. Without that, it’s difficult to understand why so many of the female characters seem to find him irresistible.



"Overall, I thought this third outing for Matt Hendrick was both enjoyable and thought-provoking, putting him through the wringer once again and setting us up nicely for the series finale. I understand from a recent post on the author’s website that he will be writing the fourth novella fairly soon.

"I’ll be waiting."

Thanks, Patrick. Your reservations regarding Matt’s sexual shenanigans aside . . .

You’ll undoubtedly be pleased to learn that we have now received Eric’s fourth outing, EXALTED ON BELLATRIX I. As movie guru Mark Kermode might say, here’s a clip:

On his long quest to locate his daughter, Matt Hendrick is approaching the end game. His lover, telepath Mercury Velasquez, has traced Matt’s ex-wife and his daughter to the planet of Beltran, Bellatrix I, home of the advanced but reclusive alien race known as the Vhey.



But why have his ex-wife and her lover Dr Hovarth taken Matt’s daughter to Beltran? Are they in search of an alien cure for the girl’s illness?



Hendrick and Mercury Telemass to Beltran and find a secretive artists’ colony ruled by the renowned crystal artist Edward Lincoln—and discover the secret of Lincoln’s fascination with the Vhey.

In a moving and horrific dénouement, Hendrick at last finds his daughter—but she is in mortal danger from a source other than the natives of Beltran.



And ever helpful, here’s Eric’s brief for artist Tomislav Tikulin.

"Beltran is a big tropical planet covered with jungle and dotted with vast blue lakes; mountainous, two moons in the sky. No Telemass station, but a small spaceport like an oil rig, with a single shuttle coming in to land. Maybe an open-topped flier with two people aboard. A sprawling futuristic villa next to a blue lake.

 Aliens, small (a metre tall) and red, shaped like tree-frogs, big black eyes; knees lower than on a human leg. No clothing. Cling to the trees like bush-babies."

EXALTED ON BELLATRIX I will be available this summer with the series’ 10,000-word Coda following in the autumn. Then maybe we’ll be able to persuade Eric to do another four-parter. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, here’s another glowing review of Stephen Volk’s THE PARTS WE PLAY.

This time from Crab Man on mythogeography.com

"Across stories stitched together from video footage, distorted and trashy newspaper articles and a magician’s illusionism, Stephen Volk has presented us with a new monster in the moment of its transformation from analog to digital.

"Taken on their own, these are all admirable and gripping tales; each one differently twisty, moving, fantastic or incisive. More importantly, they stretch a theme and vision across the varied narratives, developing as they span the slippery changes within and through their horrors. From the Michael Jackson surgical mash-up, the hyperactive manikin, the woman who hides someone away and finds ‘The News’ already there, the vampire that comes when you keep quiet about something you shouldn’t, the folk tale that can visit its collector (“Our stories are ourselves”), plain old phantoms, irrational concealment of information from an unrealistically vulnerable public, to, perhaps  most impressively, a Derren Brown-like set piece that turns on itself, these are tales about how representations are not flimsy unrealities, but have an agency and mass of their own. How, in an age of fictional information, our “parts” are not necessarily something we have control of, but may have control over us.

"Probably like many people, my first encounter with Stephen Volk’s work was through his monstrously misunderstood TV play GHOSTWATCH; only tangentially concerned with ghosts or the supernatural, Volk’s drama remains one of the few moments when the endlessly reflexive medium of television was fully turned against itself. But in turn, it turned against Volk, and he found Great Manipulators accusing him of manipulation of a defenceless public. In THE PARTS WE PLAY, Volk, in numerous ‘voices’ attends to this mysterious Ouroboros quality in mass media, incrementally speeded now; at least one spectator from the sidelines is drawn too intimately into the illusion and finds out what a dark coffin an ‘insider’ is. Volk gets within individual myth-making; the revelatory self-justification of a child murderer, the subjective experience of a media-monster, the horror of a folk-horror expert when expertise itself becomes haunted.

"Taken on their own these stories are gripping and impactful—and there is a tremendous range of voice, from genre fiction, through a nostalgic Wells-like yarn with a fabulous twist, to simple and naturalistic empathic writing—but together they constitute an attempt to triangulate a Spectacle that has no form and every form, to trap a post-truth truth about how authenticity is equally valorised in pure and fabricated forms, about how an increasingly digitised culture, for which there are no longer any authoritative texts, is eating itself and parts of us."

And here’s Mario Guslandi’s review of Angela Slatter’s WINTER CHILDREN in SFRevu.

Australian writer Angela Slatter has by now established herself as one of the best authors of dark fantasy. Her critically acclaimed collections include THE GIRL WITH NO HANDS, SOURDOUGH, THE BITTERWOOD BIBLE and A FEAST OF SORROWS.

The current new collection WINTER CHILDREN assembles a number of Slatter's stories scattered in various horror anthologies to which she had contributed, plus an original piece which has never appeared in print before,

  • "The Red Forest", a dark fairy tale where a sick girl receives a new, vigorous heart which allows her to face pestilence and war.

Slatter has a knack for revisiting classical themes under a very personal, delightful light. Fine examples are two Lovecraftian stories;

  • "The Song of Sighs" which is cleverly built as a suspenseful mystery and "Only the Dead and the Moonstruck", a creepy tale portraying a family becoming the target of an unearthly, evil creature.

If you prefer zombies, you will enjoy the offbeat;

  • "The Dead Ones Don't Hurt You" featuring a lonely girl who buys herself a zombie as a fiancé, and the equally unusual "The Way of All Flesh" where a predator is hunted in a post-apocalyptic setting.
  • "Pale Tree House" is a brief, blood curling story depicting a young man devoted to a disreputable task involving little children.
  • "Sun Falls" is a quite original piece where a vampire "assistant" helps her master to regenerate himself in exchange to her freedom; "The Burning Circus" is a nasty tale where a woman takes her long due revenge on the Circus artist who ruined her life.

The following stories really stand out as unforgettable masterpieces;

  • In the enticing novelette "Home and Hearth" a wayward teenager goes back home after being cleared from a terrible accusation. Described with cold realism, the hidden horror gets finally revealed with sudden ferocity;
  • "The October Widow" is a spellbinding, perfectly crafted story of witchcraft and revenge apt to chill the reader to the bone;
  • The title story, "Winter Children", an extremely dark and unsettling piece, tells us how a young woman troubled by the memory of her murdered sister at last meets the assassin in a final, tragic confrontation.

Highly recommended.

No, don’t go away, here’s another one . . .

. . . this time from Gardner Dozois’s column in LOCUS magazine, a few well-chosen words with which we have absolutely no argument.

2016 was a strong year for short-story collections, by some of the best writers working at shorter lengths in the field. Reviewed in 2015 but only available this year, THE BEST OF IAN MCDONALD contains a selection of some of McDonald’s best work from 1988 to 2013 and is one of the best collections of the year, perhaps the best, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

(And just in case you’ve given up hope, rest assured we still have Ian’s THE BEST MARS STORIES OF on the cards, along with a new Mars novella, THE LOCOMOTIVES’ GRAVEYARD.)

More great news . . .

. . . with the announcement that Nick Mamatas’s THE LAST WEEKEND has been shortlisted for the Theaker's Quarterly Awards. Here's the link:

theakersquarterly.blogspot.co.uk

As the site explains, “The only items eligible are those that have been reviewed in our pages (regardless of when they were published—and whether we liked them!), and the only categories are those that have appeared in the Quarterly Review, plus three about our own magazine: best story, cover art and issue. Voting is open to everyone, and you can vote for as many items in each category as you want.

Here’s a nice capsule review . . .

(by Ken at Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff) of Elizabeth Hand’s WYLDING HALL, naming it as the pinnacle of this week's book choices. Liz’s ILLYRIA (also from PS a few years back) along with RADIANT DAYS were also noted along with (thus the article's title, “The Post with Three Hands”).

WYLDING HALL(Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2015) Another (and one of the best) of Hand’s effortless blendings of art and the uncanny, in this case a folk-rock band encountering a faerie in 1972 during a lengthy summer stay at the titular Hall. There is nothing twee or forced about this short novel, and everything horripilating and oblique and terrible and wonderful: think Fairport Convention opening for Arthur Machen.
ILLYRIA(Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2007) Cousins Madeline and Rogan Tierney, scions of a theatrical lineage, fall in love in 1970s Yonkers. In this tight, intense novella the only magic is that of love and the theater, although little touches of “the fey” lurk in the wainscoting.
RADIANT DAYS(Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2012) Time-shifting story (written for YA?) of a graffiti artist in 1978 Washington DC meeting Arthur Rimbaud in 1870 lives and dies by Hand’s gorgeous language. Not quite enough myth or secret history for hard-core Powersians, but plenty of art and setting for Hand-philes.

TALES FROM THE MISKATONIC LIBRARY is the latest anthology edited by Darrell Schweitzer with John Ashmead.

This is very close to being sent to the printers. Darrell has managed to gather together another great bunch of story tellers and then Jeff Potter’s artwork to complete the package. Here’s John to tell you more:

Triskaidekaphiliacs rejoice, triskaidekaphobes despair—there are exactly thirteen stories. Quite by coincidence! (and nothing to do with the fact that thirteen is my personal lucky number). And you get intros by both Darrell & myself. Quite a range of stories: funny, grim, grimly funny, paradoxical, and terrifyingly straightforward. Our ultimate criteria was that both Darrell and I enjoyed reading them—and hope you will as well.

And here is the line up

  • Don Webb. “Slowly Ticking Time Bomb”
  • Adrian Cole. “Third Movement”
  • Dirk Flinthart. “To be In Ulthar”
  • Harry Turtledove. “Interlibrary Loan”
  • P. D. Cacek. “One Small Chance”
  • Will Murray. “A Trillion Young”
  • A. C. Wise. “The Paradox Collection”
  • Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen. “The Way to a Man’s Heart”
  • Douglas Wynne. “The White Door”
  • Alex Shvartsman. “Recall Notice”
  • James Van Pelt. “The Children’s Collection”
  • Darrell Schweitzer. “Not in the Card Catalogue”
  • Robert M. Price. “The Bonfire of the Blasphemies”

More from PS AUSTRALIA . . .

THE BOOKSHOP by Alan Baxter is the next title in the PS Australia Schedule that Jack Dann has been spearheading. The manuscript has been copy-edited and Ben Baldwin has read the book and is now is putting together the rough drafts for the artwork. More as soon as we have it.

Jason Wilkes’s life takes a turn for the worse when his wife fails to come home from her book club. Jason calls Kate’s ‘book buddy’, Dave, who assures him she left hours ago. Contacting the police, Jason finds them equal parts sympathetic and suspicious. He tells them almosteverything, except that he’s been hearing Kate’s voice, calling as if from far away. He certainly doesn’t mention that he’s seeing shadows that reach for him. With the police getting nowhere fast, Jason takes matters into his own hands, even as nightmare images and Kate’s distant cries continue to haunt his waking moments and his dreams, and the strange, grasping shadows persist. Jason begins to unravel the mystery, but he’s at odds with the police, he’s being lied to by Kate’s book club friends, and his chances of finding Kate slip ever further away. It seems that everything is going to go as wrong as it possibly can.

Another manuscript out with a copy editor is KNUCKLEBONES by Marni Scofidio.

Here’s what Chet Williamson had to say:

KNUCKLEBONES is a brilliant debut novel―written with a poetic eye, filled with characters that truly live, and a pace that had me barrelling 
 through the last half of the book. For decades, Marni  Scofidio has written such incredible short stories that I've long wished for a 
full novel, and KNUCKLEBONES  is even better than I dared hope. It's 
 dark, chilling, and delicious, written with a unique  and individual 
style. You'd be a knucklehead to miss it. A marvellous  book.

. . . and check out the cover art here, credited to Doidge & Scofidio.

Our next title from Ian Macleod will be RED SNOW.

It’s already at the design stage and David Gentry is in the middle of preparing ideas for the artwork.

RED SNOW brings depth and historical realism to an age-old myth. Combining the lush baroque of Anne Rice with the unflinching grittiness and cinematic vision of the Coen Brothers, RED SNOW is an epic story of science, death, myth and magic that plays out over generations. By turns horrifying and hauntingly beautiful, this epic vampire story is the stuff of real nightmares.” —Tim Powers

Described by The Guardian as '. . . set to become a writer of the magnitude of Dickens or Tolkien’ Ian R. MacLeod is a much respected and highly decorated veteran of British genre fiction. He is the author of six novels, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award winning SONG OF TIME (from PS). His other novels, short stories, novellas and collections have received many accolades including two World Fantasy Awards, two Sidewise Awards, a Locus Award, the John W Campbell award and the Asimov's Reader Poll award, as well  as many nominations for other such prizes.

In the years prior to the French Revolution, a craftsman in Strasbourg is commissioned to paint a series of portraits that chart the changing appearance of a beautiful woman over the course of her life . . . even though the women herself does not age.

In the wake of the last great battle of the American Civil War, men lie dead and dying on the plains. Union medic Karl Haupmann passes between them, doing what he can to save their lives or ease their suffering. There he is confronted by a withered, maniacal creature picking over the bodies of the dead. the encounter is violent, and leaves this former man of science much changed but somehow impossibly the same. Though he seeks to understand it, Karl cannot ignore his new-found blood-lust. He embarks upon a quest to seek out the roots of this evil, and finds it stretches back through Medieval Europe to the gloom of a cave overlooking the Black Sea.

After decades of wandering, he returns to New York where the Roaring Twenties are in full swing. There he traces not only the old portraits of the ageless woman but also a young anarchist who is somehow an echo of the subject herself. The stage is set for a bloody finale and a final confrontation during the turbulent glamour of the last days of the Prohibition era.

'MacLeod’s originality enriches and enlivens the genre, and his fiction—though often grim—should be read by everyone looking for something that is truly out of the
ordinary.' —Publishers Weekly.

‘Confirms MacLeod as one of the country’s very best literary SF writers.’ —The Guardian

‘Ian R. MacLeod is one hell of a writer . . . literary, inventive, always surprising. Pay attention: this guy is important.’ — Michael Swanwick

‘Stands beside the achievements of China Miéville. A must-read.’ —Jeff VanderMeer

BEST NEW HORROR #27.

. . . has had its final nips and tucks and is now with the printers.

The trade paperback will be with us reasonably quickly but please bear in mind that the hard cover has to have the signing sheets tipped in and the slipcase made before we can send copies out to you.

Okay, I think that’s about it this time.

My thanks to Nicky who pulled a lot of stuff together for this week’s Newsletter and made it seem pretty coherent—if you could see our desks!!—to Mike, as always for helping keep this monolithic leviathan of a cruiser afloat, and to our latest conscript, Tamsin not only for twittering and tweeting so delightfully but also for keeping us all amused at her uncontrollable shivering at the weekly production meetings. (We now have a special place for her in front of the radiator in the scheduling room. Bless!)

There’s lots more I could mention but Mike will kill me if I don’t get this across to him pronto (it’s almost 8 pm on Thursday right now and I want to get a little writing in before I break for coffee and Question Time on TV.

The Yorkshire coast has been splendid this past few days but today was bright with the best sunset we’ve had this year. Maybe the weekend will be good for us—heck, we deserve it, right?! Have a good one, folks, and look after each other. Seems like every time I put on the news or open a newspaper, I see more sadness. So be careful out there and watch what you’re doing. Happy reading.

Hugs!

Pete

PS Publishing

Grosvenor House, 1 New Road

Hornsea, HU18 1HG

Contact Phone 01964 537575

Website www.pspublishing.co.uk

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