Forgive me going off on one a little here but, as you know, I find it difficult to contain myself sometimes.

So I have a few comments to make in response to today’s Guardian/Review (today being last weekend) notably their contributors’ lengthy and entertaining listing of what constitutes their favourite short story ever. We’ve played this game, you and me, and it’s a favourite at occasional desert and cheese courses over littered dinner tables at PS Towers.

If you buy The Guardian regularly (and you should, you know) then you can read the full list there or here

We all of us have faves and I’m no different but it’s worth underlining the occasional genre picks from The Guardian’s list, such as: Poe’s ‘The Tell-tale Heart,’ Bierce’s ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’ (not strictly speaking true genre but it was adapted for TV by Rod Serling so that’ll do for me), Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ and Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘A Village After Dark’ (recommended to me by Ramsey Campbell long before Ishiguro had become fashionable), all of them notable and worthy for inclusion, to be sure.

But here’s a top-of-the-head bunch of personal picks on this cold and drizzly morning . . .

. . . and it would seem churlish—to me, anyways—not to kick off with Ramsey’s ‘The Companion,’ one of several Campbell offerings I reckon. Sticking with genre, let’s rattle off a few sure winners: how about Robert A. Heinlein’s ‘All You Zombies’ or ‘The Love Letter’ by Jack Finney? Also worthwhile is Bradbury’s The Black Ferris,’ John Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer,’ Stephen King’s ‘One For The Road,’ Joe Hill’s indispensible ‘Pop Art’ or ‘Best New Horror,’ (for my money, the latter two from the King camp being perfect sides of the coin that we all of us know as ‘Genre’).

There’ll be many more, I’m sure, and if you have a spare minute then I’d love for you to send your own picks to me.

I’ll reciprocate your indulgence by rewarding the three most interesting listings with a handful of choice quality short story PS titles (anthology or collection) . . . They’re all of ‘em my choice, of course. Anyway, give ‘em a try if they’ve passed you by.

And talking about great short stories—and even great GENRE short stories—

—there’s only really one place to go and that’s to Stephen Jones’s BEST NEW HORROR series, now on its 29th volume . . . While the editor himself is chalking up 150 books.

"There is a dichotomy in publishing at the moment. Book sales are on the increase. This is particularly true of ghost and horror fiction which, according to Nielsen Bookscan, in 2017 saw its highest sales in four years, up almost a third in value to £4.2 million.

"The reasons given for this increase are given variously as the popularity of horror in the media—from a new generation discovering Netflix’s Stranger Things and the remake of Stephen King’s It—to the increase in reprint anthologies (really?), the exploration of gender and sexuality by new female writers exploring the #MeToo movement, or as a reaction to the “scary” state of world events and politics—with concerns over everything from Brexit to Donald Trump’s unpredictable presidency of the US driving readers to the relatively “safe” scares of horror fiction."

And so to the line-up for volume 29:

  • “Introduction: Horror in 2017”  THE EDITOR
  • “Survival Strategies” HELEN MARSHALL
  • “Lagan” GEMMA FILES
  • “The Entertainment Arrives” ALISON LITTLEWOOD
  • “His Heart Shall Speak No More” JOHN LINWOOD GRANT
  • “Banishments”   RICHARD GAVIN
  • “The Flower Unfolds” SIMON STRANTZAS
  • “The Voice of the People” ALISON MOORE
  • “Carnivorous”   WILLIAM F. NOLAN
  • “A Song of Dust”  ANGELA SLATTER
  • “Border Country”  DANNY RHODES
  • “In Stone” TIM LEBBON
  • “Speaking Still”   RAMSEY CAMPBELL
  • “Underwater Ferris Wheel”  MICHAEL BAILEY
  • “In the Complex”  MARK  SAMUELS
  • “After Sunset, in the Second Drawing Room Garden”  FELICE PICANO
  • “Dispossession”   NICHOLAS ROYLE
  • “The Endless Corridor” REGGIE OLIVER
  • “Whatever You Want” STEVE RASNIC TEM
  • “The Seventeen-Year Itch”  GARTH NIX
  • “To Drown the World”  THANA NIVEAU
  • “Necrology: 2017” STEPHEN JONES & KIM NEWMAN

The book will be published once again in two states—a deluxe signed and slipcased edition and one of our regular trade paperback editions. And if you pre-order the deluxe state then you will also receive the tpb state as well, free of charge. But do bear in mind that the signature pages for the deluxe are currently going the rounds.

Now, here’s a fab and funky review...

. . . from Dave Brzeski of Ian Whates’s THE SMALLEST OF THINGS which we put out last autumn. With the permission of Geoff Willmets and the funky folks at SF Crowsnest, here’s the full review. But in order to avoid disappointment—SF Crowsnest being the biggest SF website in Europe and second biggest in the world—you should get onto their mailing list pronto.

I’d been aware of Ian Whates as a Science Fiction author for some years, but never got around to reading any of his work. To be honest, while I’ve always been an SF fan, I have tended to favour the supernatural over science for my reading material in recent years.
         More recently, I’ve become aware of Ian Whates as a publisher of some repute under the name, Newcon Press. I’ve since met him at a couple of conventions and picked up a few books from him for review purposes, even some Science Fiction.
         It was while chatting to him at Novacon last year about a couple of books I was interested in reviewing that it occurred to me that I should finally get around to reading some of his own work. I was aware that he’d had a novella recently published by PS Publishing, but he’d already sold out of copies on the day so I arranged for him to send me a .pdf copy, which this review is based upon. Having previously pigeon-holed Whates as a Science Fiction author, it was interesting to discover that this novella was more along the lines of an urban fantasy of sorts, with occult detective leanings, albeit with a strong science fictional basis.
         The main science-fictional basis for the story is the fact that it’s involves the multiverse, a trope that will be very familiar to fans of the CW adaptations of DC Comics characters for TV. In this case it’s specifically set in various different versions of London. Chris is able to sense places where the barriers between the realities are weak, which allow him to pass through.
         He receives a panicked text from an old friend, Claire. Her boyfriend has been murdered and the perpetrators are now after her. Claire is aware that Chris works as a sort of interdimensional PI-come-fixer and turns to him for help, because the perpetrators looked…wrong. They do prove to be, as one would expect, ‘not from around here’. They pursue Chris and Claire through several variant Londons until they finally come face to face with the mysterious organisation known as the Faramund.
         It became clear to me very quickly that this is something of a set-up story for the protagonist, Chris. This is not to say it isn’t a satisfying tale in its own right, but I was rather left wanting more and I expect and hope that Whates has a lot more to tell us. We establish here who Chris is and what he does. We’re provided with a classic dodgy organisation designed to fill the role of an arch-enemy and we briefly meet a few of Chris’s friends and contacts, while leaving a fair bit of history to be filled in as the series progresses.
         I wasn’t initially clear on whether or not this was actually the first appearance of Chris (who has never been given a surname), so I decided to simply track Ian Whates down on Facebook and ask him. I was informed that the character first appeared in a story that was published in a webzine as long ago as 2007 and that there’s another story in the December 2018 edition of Bruce Bethke’s ‘Stupefying Stories’. PS Publishing have apparently commissioned a further novella, so there’s certainly more to look forward to. I’m rather hoping that the earlier stories (Whates didn’t tell me how many there actually are) might be collected one day.
         I suspect it’s apparent by this point that I liked the book quite a lot. It’s so well-written that I didn’t actually notice the writing style, I simply fell into the story. PS Publishing are well above average when it comes to the quality of their editing, so I wasn’t pulled out of the story by bad grammar or typos, which is a sad factor in so many books these days. I was interested enough that I bought a Kindle edition of Stupefying Stories # 22, and am in the process of reviewing that, too.

Dave Brzeski

Thanks for that, Dave—and to Geoff for bringing the review to our attention. I can confirm that I did indeed ask Ian for a follow-up and he was enthusiastic in his response: now I’ll include the character’s other appearances in the next PS novella (though I haven’t asked his permission yet—let’s just keep our fingers crossed).

And here’s something a little special to close off this week.

Our chum Dani Serra has produced a brand new Tommyknockers painting for the book’s 26-copy deluxe traycased edition. This picture did not appear on the regular slipcased trilogy edition. We asked Dani if we might offer the painting for sale on his behalf and he jumped at the opportunity. And please do bear in mind that there is only one painting. So it’s first come, first served. Okay art lovers, here we go. It’s watercolour on paper measuring 40 cm x 30 cm. And the price is 950 euros postage paid.

Okay, that’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, look after each other and happy reading.


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