These days, many of us wake up every morning and find ourselves wondering just what is going to go wrong today. Even before breakfast you've probably fallen over twice, almost choked on your own saliva, set off the smoke alarm thanks to a recalcitrant toaster, and had a cold call from someone trying to convince you that their electricity is the best electricity, a lot more electricity-y than any of their competitors, and cheaper than other electricity because it's from Aldi or Lidl or something. By the time you've sat down with your burnt toast and dug the Lego bricks out of your heels, you're already pissed off and ready to go back to bed, which will, if you're lucky, still be nice and warm and away from the perils of modern-day life.
But you soldier on, because you're an adult, and adulting in this world requires tenacity and backbone, even though you've almost broken yours twice already this morning. You decide to turn on the morning news, "Just to see what's going on in the world," because it's good to know these things. An uninformed person is an idiot. What if someone asks your opinion about current events in the canteen at work? A simple shrug or nod might be enough to make them go away and quit staring at your sandwich -- yes, it's just bread and butter, the fucking crab paste was fluffy -- but you might have to provide them with a more profound answer, and how can you do that if you don't watch the morning news before you leave?
Firstly, though, you've got to get the kids up and make their breakfast. They have three choices. Burnt toast, cold toast, or bread and butter, the last two being the same but they're kids and haven't developed enough yet to realise it. They both want Coco Pops, but you ran out yesterday. And the milk's soured. And there aren't any clean bowls. And the water's been cut off because apparently that's something else you have to pay for. After moaning about the charred toast, you tell the kids to get dressed. Today's an important day -- it's not really, it's just Wednesday, some point in July or August, no one really knows any more -- and it's not going to royally screw you in the arse until they've got ready for school.
The news is, as always, one big clusterfuck of atrocities. Wars, pandemics, unemployment figures, recessions, racism, death tolls. You wait for the weather report, by which time you're exhausted by all the terrible things happening in the world, but when the weather comes it's announced by some poor, piss-soaked woman standing in the middle of a field while a cow lows miserably behind her. "It's expected to be the wettest summer since records began," she tells you, and you don't doubt it because this is 2020. The only thing missing so far is Bruce Willis in a spacesuit while Aerosmith sing a love ballad at you from somewhere nearby.
You've had enough of the news, so you decide to drop the kids off and go to work, but on the way to your car you realise it's been mugged when you were not looking. Your stereo's gone -- it was probably only Aerosmith anyway, you remind yourself -- and for some reason they've even taken your soft mints from the glove compartment, the thieving little shits. Also, it's not raining. It's the hottest day of the year. You're already sweating into your own butt crack when you realise the cheeky little fuckers have also stolen your air-con.
By the time you get to work (three people have gone into the back of you, and you've been stopped twice by police because, not only have they taken your stereo, your air-con, and your soft mints, they've also taken your indicator bulbs) you're ready to face the long, hard day ahead.
"Did you see what Trump said yesterday?" one of your colleagues asks, face-mask muffling his voice. You nod, because you know you can wing this one: something about drinking bleach, or nukes in tornadoes, or how he's going to intercept mail by following every mailman around the country like Pokemon and catching 'em all. "Unbelievable!" you exclaim, and that's enough to get away with it. Your colleague, satisfied with your informed response, returns to their desk and spends the rest of the day making shit ghosts and stinking out the office.
Work goes about as well as planned. Only three people die in the office that day, which is considered to be 'good numbers' considering everything going on, so you go home happy you weren't one of the unfortunate ones, who shouldn't have been anywhere near that leaky gas line in the first place.
The evening news is much of the same, only now something in some faraway place has blown up, but thankfully it's far away enough not to affect you. You mutter to yourself how terrible this is, and make a mental note to #thoughtsandprayers later on, if you get around to it. You make some toast, setting off the fire alarm once again, and watch a documentary about Women Who Kill, just to cheer you up. Turns out most of the men deserved it, and you find yourself rooting for the murderers and hoping they're not having too much of a bad time in prison.
Time for bed. You made it through another day. You survived work and the myriad idiots out there concocting conspiracy theories about how 5G is going to melt your skin off, but not before it shares everything you've ever thought about on Twitter, with the hashtags #yourgranniesnext and #4Gsucks.
You sigh with relief as you climb into your bed, which you now have to share with half a dozen cockroaches whose names you haven't yet learned, although one of them looks like a Dave. That's when you remember you forgot to pick the kids up from school, but it's okay. They'll still be there tomorrow, albeit teary-eyed and wearing a pair of pants with the wrong day of the week printed on them.
Life is perverse. It is challenging. It is hectic and scary and filled with tribulations, but it could be worse. We still have art to enjoy. This month alone saw the release of new work from Josh Malerman (Malorie), Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians), and Paul Tremblay (Survivor Song). Even during lockdown, creators have continued to create -- I point you in the direction of Shudder's HOST which is a remarkable piece of film-making, and even more so because it was filmed after Covid became the most used word EVER and 19 became everyone's least favourite number, knocking 666 off the top spot.
Toilet paper is back on the shelves, which is handy if, like me, you like to clean up afterwards, and Ghislaine Maxwell is in prison, where she is either going to face trial or get 'Epsteined', either of which suits me just fine but preferably the former, so that her victims can finally find some kind of peace and the whole damn ring is exposed.
People are finding new hobbies, things they've never had time for before, and many of them won't return to their old jobs because there's money to be made from inventing trainers that are also treadmills or knitting spaghetti socks. By this point, many of us could open a hair salon and call it The Wonky Bob or the Down to the Bone, and there are now at least a million people out there whose lower body and weaker arm are now covered with rudimentary, self-inflicted tattoo designs that should have instead been sellotaped to the fridge, but at least they tried something new. And besides, wolf-cat-dogs howling at the moon might be the in thing in 2021.
The earth has miraculously begun to heal from its years of abuse. Pollution levels have plummeted, and while it may only be temporary -- that Hummer parked outside ain't gonna drive itself and we're all so desperate for a holiday that we're booking four flights, just in case one or more of them falls through -- its effects can only be a good thing. Animals are joining hands and dancing around the forests and pandas have started fornicating again. There is significantly less roadkill, thanks to a decrease in traffic and the fact the badgers are all doing the Macarena in the trees. Mother Nature is doing her bit; it's time we met her in the middle, at a distance of 2m, of course.
Life is perverse, for sure, but it could always be worse.
You could be a porn addict with no dick. You could have constipation and diarroeah at the same time, resulting in some sort of inexplicable Inception of the bowel. You could come second in a 'You' lookalike contest. You could be in North Korea, and if you were you wouldn't be able to read this right now (suck it, Kim!). There are a million ways it could be worse, so continue to power through each day as if it is your last, do the things you've always wanted to: write those stories, paint those paintings, have a threesome with twins, get abducted by aliens, swim with mermaids, change your name by deed poll, marry a mannequin, shave your eyebrows off, learn to enjoy avocado, read a book about pencils, divorce a mannequin, binge-watch Eastenders from the start, whatever makes you happy.
Life is perverse, but it's ours, and we've only got one shot at it.
Let's give it all we've got.
(apart from the book about pencils).
Returning to Work in a Pandemic (or My Goddess and the Tale of the Turgid Flaxen Clown on a Santander Bicycle)
As of the time of writing this, I am over halfway done with a new novel. Has it been easy in this strange and often terrifying new world we find ourselves living in? Hell no. There are times when it seems impossible to be productive, instances when, after watching a particularly jarring news report or stumbling upon a shocking social media post (anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers/someone from the horror community whipping their dick out and being rightfully screenshotted for their efforts/Fascism - delete as appropriate) all motivation to write is stripped away. Instead you find yourself sitting there, angry at people, staring at Boris Johnson's bumbling balloon head on the TV screen and wondering whether things will ever return to normal.
For me, things are returning to some sort of normality. Before last month, I had not composed anything longer than a few incoherent sentences, a silly poem here or there, a shopping list, a 'LOVE YOU' note to the woman keeping me sane. Fuck, just a few short months ago things were much worse. I was without a home just as the pandemic was back in the changing room doing stretches, limbering up for its big moment. I was about as productive as a chicken with sellotape covering its arsehole.
Something had to be done. Something drastic that will henceforth be known as 'The Right Thing'. I have spent much of my life doing the opposite, which has led me into various troubles along the way. I drank too much (enough to put most sailors into an early grave), was far too promiscuous (enough to put most porn stars into an early grave), and had become a misanthrope. Why bother with reality when the world was inherently broken? I had convinced myself that I had no place here, that I was being shit on from a great height; my writing career was over, I had lost a Goddess who had meant more to me than anything, and was living my best life in an alleyway at the back of a Greggs bakery. And now there was a virus on the loose, and selfishly I wanted it. That's how bad it got back there for a moment, but I don't want to dwell on that. As I said, normality is resuming, and I am once again happy. Let me tell you why.
When I was homeless, a family took me in. I was spending much of my day in the pub, just to get out of the cold, and it was there that one of the barmaids offered me a sofa. For months, without asking for anything in return, they put me up, fed me, and we played board games late into the night. We were on lockdown together, all with a severe case of Stuckhome Syndrome. But it got me out of that alleyway and back on my feet.
I cut down on my drinking, eventually stopping altogether, and the Goddess returned to my life. When it was safe to do so, I moved to Birmingham so that we could be together more, and in the months since we have enjoyed each other's company almost every night.
I did 'The Right Thing' and it paid off handsomely, and the Goddess continues to encourage me to write every single day, because, "Isn't that what you do? You make things up and people enjoy them and then you make some more things up?" She tells me daily how proud she is of me and what I am doing, and I tell her how proud I am of her (she is currently putting the finishing touches to her thesis and will be published herself shortly, albeit as a Dr., which is a little bit intimidating as I've always fancied having letters before or after my name).
So in this age of the pandemic and with maniacs seemingly running the show ("Do go out, but don't, but if you have to, wear a mask, or don't in restaurants, but don't go to restaurants, here's 50% off, you fat bastard!") life is still a beautiful thing, and it is made that way by the people around you. By the families who help you to get back on your feet when you're drinking rainwater from the gutter (slight exaggeration, it was piss wrung from a fellow tramp's chinos), by the Goddesses who, despite all your shortcomings, have never stopped loving you and continue to love you, by the men and women out there doing everything in their power to save lives, by the people who wear masks even though their breath smells and they're only just realising it, by children and babies who are having to go through this with us and don't know if or when they'll see their friends again or whether it's even safe to do so. Life is beautiful because, well, one moment you're drinking vagrant piss (slight exaggeration, it was arsenic from a leper's shoe) and the next you're safe again and in love. Not only that but you're halfway through what could possibly be the best thing you have ever written and can't wait to get it into the hands of your readers.
Covid-19 is a horrible shit-show. Boris Johnson is a turgid flaxen clown on a Santander bicycle. Fascists can suck my dick, which will never be making its unsolicited way into anyone's DMs anytime soon (believe it or not, gents, no one wants to see it. If your wife or girlfriend were being truthful, they would say it looks like it crawled out of the ground in Perfection, Nevada, and Kevin Bacon blew it up).
Will things ever get back to normal? Who knows, but I for one am taking everything one crazy day at a time. And that is all we, as a people, can do for now.
Now, back to work, while the homeschooled kids are still trying to figure out where I hid the Netflix remote and the Goddess stares lovingly at me from across the table, blissfully unaware that this is what I've been working on for the past half hour.
It's that time of year again, with FantasyCon just around the corner. This year I will be sitting on three panels, and performing a reading. So, without further ado, here is my schedule for the weekend. I look forward to catching up with friends, new and old, from the 28th September.
Steampunk - Saturday 11.30am (Panel Room 2)
Andrew Knighton (mod)
Anthony Laken, Adam Millard
Saturday 1.20pm - Science Fiction (Reading)
Humour in Genre Fiction - Saturday 2pm (Panel Room 1)
Donna Bond (mod)
Heide Goody, Chris Brookmyre, Adam Millard, Duncan Bradshaw, Jen Williams
Short Fiction: Markets, Outlets, Awards - Saturday 3pm (Panel Room 1)
Allen Ashley (mod)
Stephen Bacon, Tim Major, Pat Cadigan, Adam Millard, Lynda E. Rucker
It is with great pleasure that I’m able to announce that DarkFuse will be releasing Swimming in the Sea of Trees in May, 2017. It’s an honour to join such an immensely talented stable of authors, and is something I’ve been looking to achieve for several years. Thank you to Shane Staley, Dave Thomas, and everyone over at DarkFuse for gifting me the best possible end to 2016.
A year after the death of their son, Dan and Kelly are visiting Aokigahara, the infamous Japanese forest. Dan knows of its past as the place where souls come to die, to commit suicide, either through hopelessness, debt, or love. Kelly does not, but all that changes when the forest’s ghosts begin to reveal themselves.
Aokigahara knows what they fear, and will stop at nothing to claim two more souls.
The book will be released as an ebook and a limited hardcover (100 copies) sold only through subscription.
Larry 3D | January 2017 | 250pp | Cover Artwork by Jim Agpalza
The theatre is packed, the popcorn is still warm and severely overpriced, and the curtains are about to open for the first time. Horror fans have gathered for the annual FearFest convention, and this year, despite the myriad reboots and remakes, an anxious buzz permeates the theatre.
It is the premiere of Larry 3D (or Larry 3-SQUEEE,thanks to the assholes behind its marketing campaign). Based upon true events (no, seriously!), the film recreates the rise, demise, and reanimation of Larry ‘Pigface’ Travers – a remarkable performance by Willem Dafoe which critics are already calling, “Unhinged!” and, “Truly awful!”.
But when the film starts rolling, the terror becomes all too real. Somehow, Pigface has passed through the dimensions, escaped the movie and landed himself slap-bang in the middle of reality. And now he has a theatre filled with horny teenagers to butcher. Magically pursuing a group of survivors in and out of classic horror films – Psycho, Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, and an accidental stop-off in Labyrinth (where a battle with Jareth’s crotch almost sends him back to the grave) - Pigface targets his highest body-count to date.
Only one man can stop him.
And that man is Willem Dafoe.
To preorder your signed copy now, and to receive Larry 3D at least two weeks before its official release date, please use the PayPal buttons below. Top one for the UK, bottom for everywhere else.
More great Kindle Countdown Deals this morning. You can now get MILK (UK and US), JURASSIC CAR PARK (UK and US), and CELEBRITY HELL HOUSE (UK and US) for only £0.99/$0.99 each. That’s less than the price of an Asda trolley! Please share far and wide. This offer won’t last long. Hit the self-explanatory links below to be magically transported to your local Amazon store. The UK countdown has begun already. The US should follow shortly. Keep checking back if it’s not yet discounted. Cheers.
With the release of Stuff That, a new comedy-horror novel, fast approaching, it's time to get the word out, and what better way to do that than with an excerpt (the first chapter in its entirety) and a Goodreads Giveaway (open to entries from July 9th). So here are those two things, one after the other, as promised by the title of this post. You can also pre-order the book in both digital and paperback editions using the links at the bottom of the excerpt. Stuff That will be released on July 16th 2016.
The woman approached the counter, carrier bag dangling from her emaciated wrist on one side and a small child dangling from the other. The child’s feet were barely touching the floor, which might have had something to do with the fact it was upside-down, for the woman fairly carried that kid the way one might carry a refuse sack or drunken midget. The child knew better than to complain, though, even when its upside-down face clonked against a leg of the proprietor’s workbench.
Ted Barker stopped what he was doing--The Sun’s prize-winning Su-Doku—and gave the woman his full attention. He immediately wished he hadn’t, for she looked like something which had passed through the interior workings of a hungry lion. Her eyes were too far apart, for one, giving her the appearance of a reptile, and her aquiline nose extended down almost to her chin. In other words, Ted didn’t fancy her at all. “Can I help you?” He leaned across the counter and glanced down at the child dangling from the woman’s left hand. He sighed. “You do realise,” he said, “that this is a taxidermist’s, and not an orphanage?”
The woman cursed—and a terrible curse word it was, too—and flipped the child over so that it was the right way up.
Ted recoiled in horror; there was no mistaking the child belonged to the woman. It had the same eyes, the same nose, poor little bastard.
“You’ll have to excuse Marnie,” said the woman, motioning to the unfortunate pile of limbs and flesh comprising her daughter. “She’s got this thing, you see, where her features are all jumbled up. Looks a right bloody mess, don’t it?” She poked at Marnie’s face. Marnie simply went on drooling.
“Er, yes,” Ted said, for what else could he say? “I wonder where she gets it from?” Apparently he could say that. Turning his attention to the woman—lest the sight of Marnie get the better of his gag-reflex—Ted nodded at the carrier bag. “I take it you have an animal for me. Was it a pet? Are you selling a cadaver? Is it something you and your daughter just jumped out on, thusly terrifying it to death in an instant?”
The woman shook her head. “Cat,” she said, slamming it down on the counter. “Misty, female tortoiseshell. Don’t want her back, just selling her on, you know.”
“And am I right in understanding that this cat, Misty, was a friend of your daughter’s?” He looked sadly upon the little girl across the counter, heaved twice, and said, “No, I tried, but is there any chance you could ask Marnie to wait outside. I had a lovely mushroom omelette for breakfast, and it would be a terrible shame to see it perform an encore.”
“Marnie, go and wait outside,” said the woman, waving the girl away dismissively. Once she was gone—and the little fucker kicked Gerry the baby giraffe in the shins as she went—the woman began to peel the plastic bag from the dead animal. “She’s a lovely specimen, if I do say so myself.”
“And you do, do you?”
“I do what?”
“Say so yourself?”
“That I do, my friend,” said the woman. “You ain’t ever seen a dead cat like this one, I can guarantee it.”
Ted was intrigued, which was strange, really, since dead cats seldom intrigued him. They were ten-a-penny, thanks to the ring road. Now, bring him a dead chimp and he would be impressed, and not just because chimps are usually very good at crossing duel carriageways. Exotic animals were his favourites. Cats were not exotic; you could dress a tabby in a Hawaiian tee-shirt and drape a lei around its neck and it would still look shit. No, Ted had a whole box of dead cats in the freezer out back. He didn’t know whether he would ever get around to stuffing them, or if he’d end up selling them, as he had done on one or two occasions before, to Ho Chi Minh’s Dragon Lounge Buffet and Bar—eat as much as you like, but don’t take the piss.
“Mom, there’s a man out here offering me sweets if I get in the car with him,” Marnie said as she reappeared in the doorway.
“Ask him what kind of sweets,” said the woman as she continued to fiddle with the carrier bag.
Ted was shocked, and appalled, and shocked yet again as the ugly little sprout proceeded to ask the man idling at the kerb the nature of his suck. After a few seconds she shouted—and dribbled a little—into the shop. “Says he’s got blackjacks.”
The woman shook her head. “You don’t like blackjacks, Marnie. They make your mouth all dark, remember.”
“Oh, yeah,” Marnie said. She called outside. “I don’t like blackjacks. They make my mouth all dark.” Then came the sound of a car making off at speed, and Marnie returned to the outside world, where she would be fortunate to ever receive such a generous offer again.
“Is this going to take long,” Ted said, watching the woman working away at a double-knot. “I’ve got a parrot to do for a client this afternoon, and it’s a tricky one.” Parrots were not usually tricky, but the customer—a little old dear by the name of Martha Tickle—wanted Derrick (not all parrots are called Polly, you know) to be part of a nice scene, with deckchairs, and beach huts, and sandcastles. And Ted had never attempted to stuff a sandcastle before, so he wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.
“Hang on,” said the woman. “There, got it!” She upended the carrier bag and out onto the counter fell a dead cat. “See!” she said. “Told you you ain’t never seen a dead cat like our Misty.”
Ted nodded. “You are correct, madam,” he said, “because that cat is very much alive.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” gasped the woman. “That is the deadest cat I have ever seen in my life!”
Meow, said Misty.
“It just said ‘Meow’,” Ted said. “Dead cats don’t meow.”
“Yes they bloody well do!” The woman was exasperated, and also completely mental. “I saw a programme once which said that a gassy build-up can manifest after death by way of the vocal cords—”
“I am fully aware of what is possible following death,” Ted said, “but your cat is now urinating all over my Su-Doku.”
“I know. Sad, isn’t it? Poor Misty, taken too soon.”
“Are you on medication, lady?” Ted was fairly losing his rag now, and not just because his chance of winning £100 cash plus free entry into a Bognor Regis camping holiday prize-pot had gone for a Burton. “I can’t take your cat on account that it is not dead. It still breathes. It’s very much alive and well, apart from possible brain-damage from being double-knotted into a plastic carrier-bag.”
“Well, if you won’t take it,” the woman said, scooping Misty up into her skeletal and liveried arms, “then I’ll have no other choice but to sell it to Ho Chi Minh’s Dragon Lounge Buffet and Bar.”
“There is a cattery not three miles from this very building,” Ted said.
“Ho’s is closer,” replied the woman, and with that she turned and marched for the door, leaving her shit- and piss-filled carrier bag on the counter. She yanked the door open and yelled, “Marnie… what have I told you about playing in the road? Look out! Ah, fuck it! Marnie? Marnie, bloody hell, you’re all squashed!” She turned to Ted, who was trying to dry his puzzle out by rubbing the pages upon his person. “I don’t suppose you buy the cadavers of flattened children, do you?”
“I suggest you call an ambulance,” Ted said.
“Just what is the point of your shop?” said the woman, seemingly disgusted, and then she was gone, screaming at the top of her voice—No, she’s not a Chupacabra, you cheeky bastard, she’s my daughter! Stop taking pictures! --and the door slammed shut.
It would be an hour before Ted heard sirens out in the street, which just goes to show that the uglier your child, the less fuss the emergency services make about getting to them in a good and reasonable time.
Stuff That - Amazon UK
Stuff That - Amazon US
Barnes and Noble
Stuff That Cover Artwork by Jim Agpalza
Stuff That, a new novel, is available to pre-order now from the usual suspects. Released on July 16th, and launching at Edge-Lit 5 in Derby on the same day, Stuff That is the only killer taxidermy novel you need to read this year.
Ted Barker has been running Barker’s Taxidermy Emporium (We stuff things so you can stare at their dead eyes forever!) for decades. Business is booming, thanks to the busy London roads and the stupidity of cats, but when Don Paparella, a local gangster, arrives at the shop, everything changes. The proprietor is gunned down in cold blood, and with seemingly no witnesses, Don Paparella and his lackeys go on with their plot to run London.
But the taxidermy saw it all, and now Buffalo Bill, Vladimir the Unicycling Rat, Jemima/Jessica the two-headed duck, Hooter the racist owl, Gerry the baby giraffe, and Fairfax the posh fox, are out for blood. With the help of a pair of 1980s buddy-cops, Ricks and Murtow, the taxidermy will stop at nothing to avenge their creator.
Dead animals never pelt so good…
Barnes & Noble
Adam's novel MILK will be receiving a facelift and re-release over the coming days due to parting ways with its previous publisher, Wetworks. The paperback edition will shortly be readily available from all the usual booksellers and distributors as a 4.72 x 7.48 trade paperback (282pp), and will feature an all-new design. If you missed it first time around, we hope you will check out this 2nd edition. Alternatively, the book will once again be available digitally from the Amazon store in your country HERE.
In a post-apocalyptic world, Lou, a goods trader (batteries, cloth, books, pornographic devices) stumbles upon a new business opportunity when he miraculously begins to lactate. Milk is a rare commodity in a world gone to hell, and so before long everyone in town wants a piece of the action, but there's something not quite right about the milk - other than the fact it came from a fifty year-old man. The milk is bad, turning everyone that consumes it into radioactive mutants with a penchant for human flesh. Now it's up to Lou to put things right, before everyone he knows becomes a milk-guzzling cannibal. Whatever you do, don't drink Lou's Milk…
Writer of bestselling "The Dead" Series. Author of paranormal novels, The Susceptibles and Deathdealers, and bizarro novellas Larry, Hamsterdamned!, Vinyl Destination, and The Human Santapede.