Category Archives: news

Brief updates

Firstly, I’m delighted to announce that Nevsky Prospects will be publishing a Spanish edition of The Race, currently scheduled for spring 2017. Huge thanks to Marian and James Womack for their continuing commitment to my work. I’m thrilled that this is happening.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m currently hard at work on the third draft of The Rift. I’m very excited about the book now. It’s now just over a year since I first began writing it, although the basic idea (and some of the characters) had been floating around inside my head for quite a bit longer. At this stage, the novel feels fully formed and really here.

Immediately prior to starting in on this third draft, I had a lot of fun first-drafting a horror story – quite a long and involved one – which I’ve been commissioned to write as part of a project that should be seeing the light of day sometime next year. It’s been quite a while since I wrote any horror – the story I wrote for Aickman’s Heirs in the summer of 2014, in fact – and I don’t mind admitting it felt great to be back in that territory. In fact, it’s inspired me to read, write and blog more horror next year. Plans are already afoot, so watch this space!

Come in Howard, your time is up

Cthulhu BarneyChris’s ‘Howard’ was awarded to him in 1996, for The Prestige. Although he was delighted to accept the award itself, he always considered the trophy to be a thing of unsurpassed ugliness, and until I went up there to fetch it so he could take this photograph, the unfortunate effigy was residing in our loft.


  1. The trophy is hideous – there’s no denying it.
  2. The World Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award trophy are not the same thing. The former is a highly regarded juried award, designed to recognise the year’s most outstanding works of fantasy literature. The latter is a pewter statuette on a wooden base.
  3. Changing the form of the latter does not in any way diminish, impugn or invalidate the worth of the former.
  4. H. P. Lovecraft was a horror writer, and a niche horror writer at that. He rarely travelled anywhere and when he did he didn’t enjoy the experience. His literary output was similarly restricted. He also held racist views that would be considered extreme by most standards. The idea that Lovecraft can be an appropriate emblem for ‘world fantasy’ is wrongheaded, and that’s putting it mildly.
  5. Given that an increasing number of readers, critics and above all World Fantasy Award nominees are becoming uncomfortable with the idea of Lovecraft’s image being used as the figurehead for the World Fantasy Award, it is difficult to understand how anyone who truly cares about the award as a standard-bearer for world fantasy can themselves remain comfortable with it.

A dear friend of mine won a Howard this week. Many other good friends and esteemed colleagues have either won or been nominated for Howards in previous years. I understand nostalgia – I’m British, for goodness’ sake, our engines run on the stuff. What I don’t understand is why there are people who seem to be conflating the current physical representation of the World Fantasy Award – Gahan Wilson’s bust of H. P. Lovecraft – with the award itself. Why many of these same people seem determined to read the recent WFCB decision to retire the Howard as an attack on Lovecraft’s literary legacy is beyond me.

I’m not a Lovecraft expert but I have read him. I consume his work sparingly these days – too much at once and the overblown, repetitive drone of it can become tedious – but there are things about his oeuvre that I find consistently inspiring. His disturbingly persuasive conception of ‘cosmic horror’, of course, but for me personally as a writer, Lovecraft’s obsessive portrayal of introverted scholars ferreting their way through dusty libraries and untold reams of obscure documents in their feverish search for evidence of Elder God involvement in human affairs awakens more than a shiver of horrified excitement each time I revisit him. Lovecraft’s influence on weird fiction is far-reaching and ongoing. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the kind of wilful negation of documented fact that tries to insist that Lovecraft the man wasn’t really a racist, but a product of his time.

H. P. Lovecraft was certainly a complex, conflicted and frequently misanthropic individual. There is an argument to be made that some of the more outlandish expressions of his racist views arose either directly or indirectly from his general loathing and mistrust of the human condition. But to pass off the views themselves as anything but egregious, to soft-soap them as little more than the ubiquitous background racism that was then endemic is an act of self-delusion, or to put it less kindly, a lie.

“The New York Mongoloid problem is beyond calm mention. The city is befouled and accursed—I come away from it with a sense of having been tainted by contact, and long for some solvent of oblivion to wash it out! … How in Heaven’s name sensitive and self-respecting white men can continue to live in the stew of Asiatic filth which the region has become—with marks and reminders of the locust-plague on every hand—is absolutely beyond me. … There is here a grave and mighty problem beside which the negro problem is a jest—for in this case we have to deal not with childlike half-gorillas, but with yellow, soulless enemies whose repulsive carcasses house dangerous mental machines warped culturelessly in the single direction of material gain at any cost. I hope the end will be warfare … In New England we have our own local curses … in the form of simian Portuguese, unspeakable Southern Italians, and jabbering French-Canadians. Broadly speaking, our curse is Latin just as yours is Semitic-Mongoloid, the Mississippian’s African, the Pittsburgher’s Slavonic, the Arizonian’s Mexican, and the Californian’s Chino-Japanese.”

(Letter from Lovecraft to Frank Belknap Long, August 21, 1926. More here if you can stomach it.) 

We can choose to call this ignorance, we can choose to call this paranoia, we can choose to call this heightened sensitivity to social change. We MUST call it racism. It’s contemptible and vile and cannot be gainsaid. Admitting these things does not mean we have to consign Lovecraft’s oeuvre to the cultural scrapheap. Those who feel the need to constantly apologise for Lovecraft would be advised to ask themselves why they rush to do that. His work stands by itself – it doesn’t need our apologies. There can be no apology or excuse for the views on display in that letter to Belknap Long. These two facts stand side by side and we have to live with them. Any discussion of Lovecraft’s work that does not acknowledge the problematic nature of Lovecraft’s racist worldview is incomplete.

Far more worrying, at this point in time, than Lovecraft’s racism – Lovecraft died almost eighty years ago, remember, he’s beyond pamphleteering – is the number of notable voices in the field of horror fiction who clearly consider it more important to retain a particular incarnation of an award trophy than to work towards any kind of true understanding of why an increasing number of readers, writers and critics now find the signal that trophy sends inappropriate and offensive. That certain authors and editors should abuse the platform they are privileged to occupy by dismissing people’s rightful anger and discomfort with the Howard as shrill whining or malicious censorship is, quite frankly, appalling.

It is also the most urgent demonstration of the need for change.

ON LOVECRAFT: Against the World, Against Life by Michel Houellebecq. Houellebecq could hardly be cited as the most reliable witness in the case of Lovecraft’s racism, to say the least, but as one writer exploring his passion for another there’s no doubt that Houellebecq’s extended essay makes for mesmerising reading. As a bonus, it also includes an introduction by Stephen King and two HPL originals.

ON THE NEED FOR CHANGE: Lovecraft’s Racism and the World Fantasy Award Statuette by Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the WFA for Best Novel 2011:

“I too am deeply honored to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It feels so so so right and so so good. The awards jury was clearly progressive and looking in a new direction. I am the first black person to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel since its inception in 1975. Lovecraft is probably rolling in his grave. Or maybe, having become spirit, his mind has cleared of the poisons and now understands the err of his ways. Maybe he is pleased that a book set in and about Africa in the future has won an award crafted in his honor. Yeah, I’ll go with that image.”

World Fantasy Awards – what did I say? by Sofia Samatar, winner of the WFA for Best Novel 2014:

“I just wanted them to know that here I was in a terribly awkward position, unable to be 100% thrilled, as I should be, by winning this award, and that many other people would feel the same, and so they were right to think about changing it.”

THE NEXT GENERATION: Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has provided inspiration for new writers even from the time HPL was still in the active process of creating it. Indeed, Lovecraft encouraged and welcomed the idea of others working in his universe. The Mythos is, if anything, more popular than ever before, with writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn and Caitlin R. Kiernan producing works that – to be perfectly honest – often outshine ‘the master’ in their psychological acuity and stylistic virtuosity. There is a lifetime’s worth of superb material to be explored here, but for new voices it’s worth checking out Paula Guran’s anthology New Cthulhu and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s recent all-women anthology She Walks in Shadows (gorgeous cover, too). For those seeking an instant online tentacular fix, Ruthanna Emrys’s ‘The Litany of Earth’ is a fine example of how skilfully Lovecraft’s prejudices can be turned on their head. The tale is of of one Aphra Marsh, and some deeply traumatic memories of a town called Innsmouth… Another favourite recent story comes from Michael Cisco, one of the most brilliant and consistently underrated writers in the field of weird. It’s actually an excerpt from a work-in-progress, Unlanguage, but reads perfectly well as a standalone short story. The Mythos isn’t referenced directly but it doesn’t need to be. Needless to say I am eager to read Unlanguage in its entirety.

The Race – cover reveal!

I’m delighted to be able to reveal the brand new cover for the brand new Titan edition of The Race, which will see its official launch date next July.

the race cover (2)

I am so thrilled with this! Julia Lloyd has created a beautiful design, strongly contemporary and yet also timeless, an image I could never have imagined beforehand, and yet one that felt perfectly right from the instant I saw it.

You can read the official press announcement – as well as an excerpt from Chapter One – over at

FantasyCon, Scar City and Nottingham Contemporary

I’ll be in Nottingham for FantasyCon this weekend. The con is taking place at the East Midlands Conference Centre in University Park, and looks like being a very good gig all round. I’ll be taking part in two panels, both on the Saturday:

Room: Conference Theatre
3.00pm British Horror Present & Future
Horror fiction and fiction have a rich history in the UK. But where is it currently at and what does the future hold? Our panel of writers and horror-lovers explores the state of play and tell us whose work is exciting (and terrifying) them at the moment.

  • the market: are there enough horror writers, readers, publishers?
  • what trends are we seeing in terms of different types of horror?
  • how much is diversity changing the nature of British horror?
  • horror as an increasing element of fantasy, crime, SF fiction

Moderator: James Everington
Panellists: Nina Allan, Cate Gardner, Stephen Jones, Alison Littlewood, Adam Nevill, Simon Kurt Unsworth

Room: Suite 1
6.00pm The Short Story: Short-Lived or Part of the Long Game?
Our panel of published short story writers and anthologists considers some of the key challenges of the form, what makes for a memorable short, and the differences between writing short stories compared with novels.

  • markets for short stories: publications, anthologies, collections, competitions etc. What are they looking for?
  • what impact has ePublishing had on the longevity of the short?
  • the business of submitting: persistence, patience and dealing with rejection
  • the role of short stories in a writer’s development & career

Moderator: Allen Ashley
Panellists: Nina Allan, Gary Couzens, Andrew Hook, Laura Mauro, Marie O’Regan

aickman1-682x1024I’m looking forward to both of those! I’ll also be signing copies of Aickman’s Heirs at the official UK launch for the anthology, which is taking place on the Saturday also at 9pm. Undertow Press will also be launching V. H. Leslie’s debut collection Skein and Bone, so make sure you come along and grab a copy – Victoria is a talented writer, and it’s fantastic to hear that it won’t be long before we get to read her first novel, Bodies of Water, which is out from the equally wonderful Salt Publishing early next year. skein-and-bone-cover

In another piece of exciting book news, FantasyCon also sees the first appearance of a new collection by Joel Lane, Scar City, which is published this month by Eibonvale Press. Scar City is the book Joel was putting together shortly before he died, and assembles twenty-two previously uncollected stories first published in magazines and anthologies in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, broadly spanning the length of Joel’s career. Scar City was one of the last things Joel and I spoke about by email, so seeing the collection finally coming to print feels very special. The book also contains my essay on Joel’s three novels, which I wrote specially and with great pleasure.

If you can’t get along to FantasyCon, you can order Scar City direct from the Eibonvale website here. There will also be a London launch, closer to Christmas – details at the Eibonvale blog once the date is confirmed.



And as if all this wasn’t enough for one weekend, I will be staying on in Nottingham to do an event on the Monday evening at Nottingham Contemporary, in which Dave Hutchinson, Farah Mendleson and I will be assembling for Thinking Worlds, discussing ‘the alien’ and, I suspect, current trends in science fiction generally as part of Nottingham’s Popular Culture lecture series. This should be great fun, and what’s more, tickets are free! You can book your place here.

This is why we love Strange Horizons

core of the sun.sinisalo“People like to think there is a very sharp line between animal and human being, and I disagree. I think there are lots of little steps between the two, and between each other, and we really shouldn’t think that we are somehow separate from nature. We should recognise that we are animals, that we are hierarchical pack animals and that dominates our behaviour every day, in the ways that we are competitive and so on, but we don’t want to think about it. Our originality and uniqueness is an illusion. I want to have a prominent role for nature and the environment and other creatures, so that we understand that we can’t survive on this planet by ourselves.”

This quote is taken from Niall Harrison’s wonderful interview with the Finnish science fiction writer Johanna Sinisalo, just one of the items of special bonus content that SH has been putting up as part of its annual fund drive rewards scheme.

Sinisalo is, to my mind, one of the most original, committed and intelligent SFF writers currently working – I reviewed her 2014 novel The Blood of Angels for SH here – the kind of writer I feel privileged and blessed to have access to (thank you, translators!) Sinisalo demonstrates all by herself how important it is for those of us in UK/US/ANZ SFF to become aware of and immersed in writers from non-Anglophone backgrounds, how they enrich the genre and give it substance and question its assumptions. It is writers like Sinisalo who provide the rocket fuel that propels us all forward.

Right from the beginning, it has always been a large part of Strange Horizons’s remit, to promote new approaches and diverse talent, to keep science fiction on the radical edge of literature, as is its rightful place. Strange Horizons is a vital and irreplaceable part of the speculative literary landscape, and I would encourage anyone reading this to make a donation to the fund drive. SH is run by volunteers, and its contributors are paid entirely through donations – by you, in other words. Please help keep up the good work.

I’m beyond excited that Johanna Sinisalo has a new novel out soon, also that she’ll be a Guest of Honour at the 2017 Worldcon. If, like me, you can’t wait that long to read more of her, you can find a transcription of her 2015 GoH speech at this year’s Archipelacon here.

Look at The Harlequin!

IMG_0056I’m thrilled to announce that my novella The Harlequin has won The Novella Award, the prize competition organised by Manchester Metropolitan and Liverpool John Moores Universities with the specific remit of celebrating and promoting the novella form and which last night celebrated its second birthday. A wonderful evening it was, especially since it offered me an excuse to revisit lovely Liverpool. As a form, the novella is particularly dear to my heart – as evidenced by the fact that I do keep stumbling into writing them – and I would urge any writer who feels the same way to start thinking seriously about entering next year’s competition. This year’s award was judged by Alison Moore and Nicholas Royle, both writers I admire enormously, which makes their kind words on The Harlequin all the more gobsmacking, frankly.

I’m doubly excited to be able to tell you that The Harlequin is now available in paperback (eBook to follow shortly), published by the wonderful Sandstone Press and with stunning cover design by Jason Anscombe. Huge thanks to Bob and Moira at Sandstone for their helpfulness and attention to detail in bringing this project to fruition so swiftly and with such professionalism – I could not be more delighted with the way the book has turned out. Thanks also to Lucy Ellam, Abigail Inglis and Robert Graham of The Novella Award for organising the competition and for making the event such a pleasant success. Here’s hoping that next year’s award in Manchester goes every bit as smoothly and helps to keep building the profile of the novella as a literary form.

You can read a short Q&A I did about The Novella Award and The Harlequin here.

Booker shortlist 2015

Well, that was a surprise. The two longlisted books I most wanted to get on to the Booker shortlist actually made it. I’d previously thought that Satin Island in particular wouldn’t have a chance of being selected – too terse, too prickly, too abstract to be a Booker book, and I had the feeling that A Brief History of Seven Killings wouldn’t make it either, mainly because the judges – who were definitely going to wave A Little Life straight through the starting gate – might baulk at shortlisting a second 700-page epic (the 2013 shortlist wasn’t big enough to include both The Kills and The Luminaries, after all, and although both are outstanding novels, for me The Kills still stands the test of time as the more outstanding of the two).

Well, I’m intending to read at least two more of the contenders before the final announcement, so I’ll report back once I’ve done that and give my final guess as to which of these six novels might actually win.

At the moment, I still have the feeling it might end up being A Little Life. As discussed in my previous post, I think that novel is all over the place in all kinds of ways and should definitely not take the prize. But, for reasons that elude me, it seems to have gathered a momentum that makes it unstoppable. And as I said before, it has Booker book written all over it.

Helsinki 2017

Well, it’s now official: the 2017 Worldcon will be held in Helsinki. This is a cause for massive celebration, not least for the Helsinki bid team, who have been tireless in promoting their bid, and thoroughly deserve this excellent result. It could also be argued that the Helsinki win is the most positive thing to have arisen – be it directly or indirectly – from this year’s Puppy debacle. The site selection voting process is quite complicated – something that may have deterred voters in the past. If events this year spurred people on to be that little bit more focussed, that little bit more determined to see things play out differently in the future, then I for one count that as a net gain.

The statistics speak for themselves, in any case – the number of ballots cast for site selection came close to being an all-time record. We’re very much planning on being in Helsinki for the 2017 Worldcon and from the looks of things it’s going to be a great one. Truly an event to look forward to and we can’t wait.

As for this year’s Hugo Awards, whilst I’m happy to join the host of well-wishers stepping forward to congratulate Noah Ward, who swept the Hugos in five separate categories and left the opposition reeling  (3,000 votes to 500 is quite a rout, after all – I mean, it’s as bad as what happened to the Lib Dems!) I would also want to remember and commiserate with those fine writers and editors who were denied their shortlist placings and possible Hugo wins because of the slate voting tactics employed by the Puppy factions. The official voting stats have now been released, and people have been putting together alternative ballots, showing what the shortlists might have looked like in the absence of Puppy pooping.

It’s painful to contemplate. For those who lost out, of course, but also for the rest of us. Perhaps the best thing we can take away from this is a RESOLUTION TO NOMINATE in the 2016 Hugos. If all the people who voted in this year’s Hugos take the time and trouble to nominate for next year’s, it won’t really matter much if Sad Puppies 4 kicks off or not, because their chances would be stuffed anyway. Resolutions to amend the voting procedure in a manner that would hopefully prevent wholesale slate nominations in the future are already in process, and although we’ll have to wait a number of months to see whether these resolutions are ratified, the determination of the Worldcon as a whole to effect change can be seen as a positive development in itself.

In the meantime, I’d like to point readers towards this interview by Ken Liu (translator of Liu Cixin‘s Hugo-winning novel The Three Body Problem, and whose own novella The Regular would and should have been on the shortlist in a slate-free world), these two short stories by Aliette de Bodard and Amal El-Mohtar (likewise) and in particular Kai Ashante Wilson‘s novelette The Devil in America, which I count as one of the finest (and most important) pieces of SFF short fiction from the whole of last year. That it lost out on a shortlist place, and thus wider recognition, is a great loss for everyone.

And not forgetting Abigail Nussbaum, Natalie Luhrs, Mark Oshiro and Liz Bourke in the Best Fanwriter category. If not for the Puppies, this category would have looked and felt very different, and would have offered us, you know, some actual fan writing to celebrate…

Dead Letters

A little under two years ago, I received an email from Conrad Williams inviting me to submit a story for a new project he was involved with:

“I’m putting together a themed anthology (working title DEAD LETTERS) dealing with all the parcels and post cards and love letters we send but never arrive, or end up at the wrong address or sometimes come back to us, slashed open and changed somehow… 

Each contributor will be sent a mystery parcel from the dead letter zone: a trinket or photograph, an aide-memoire, a promise… or a threat… of fidelity. How you respond to this visual stimulus is up to you, but I’m looking forward to shaping a very dark, very inventive cluster of stories…”

I love anything to do with stamps and letters and the post in general, so this was an irresistible challenge, to which I agreed immediately. The project was only in the planning stage at that point, and I understood that it would be a while before my package arrived. As I was deep into final edits and revisions on The Race, I put all thoughts of Dead Letters on hold until after the London Worldcon.

At that point, something odd happened. Conrad was pretty amazing in the way he put the ‘dead letter’ packages together. When mine arrived, the whole thing was just so weirdly convincing that for a couple of minutes I found myself wondering what the hell the thing was, even though Conrad had pre-warned everyone the day he sent them out. Once I twigged, I found myself so instantly captivated by the story possibilities on offer it was difficult to decide which one to go with.

Nina Dead letter 96


And then I started writing and couldn’t stop. I’m not good at writing ‘short’ short fiction at the best of times, but it wasn’t long before I had 30,000 words and no end in sight. It was at this point I realised that what I was writing wasn’t a short story at all, but my next novel. An exciting discovery, except for the fact that I believed my Dead Letters story was doomed, that I was going to have to write to Conrad and withdraw from the project.

I hated the thought of doing that – the anthology had been part of my thought process for quite some time by then, I didn’t want to let Conrad down, and I loved the idea of Dead Letters as much as ever. I wanted to be a part of it. I carried on drafting the novel – a loose initial draft that would soon become the bedrock of The Rift – and hoping that I’d find a way to perform a detour, go back and complete the Dead Letters story – a different story – after all.

I used the Christmas/New Year hiatus as a springboard to do that. By then, I knew so much about the characters in my novel and the problems they were facing that I thought I could take a risk, write a story that ran off at a tangent from them but that was not itself part of that main theatre of action. I am not the kind of writer who thrives on having several projects on the go simultaneously – in order to write to my strengths I need to be totally immersed in whatever it is I’m currently working on. One workaround that does seem productive for me though is to write linked stories. That way, I keep the mental connection with the main project whilst giving myself the freedom to work in territories adjacent to it.

This is how ‘Astray’ was written. One of the main characters from The Rift does make an appearance, but ‘Astray’ is not her story.

I was pleased (and extremely relieved) to be able to deliver the story to Conrad before the deadline…

The full table of contents for Dead Letters has now been released. You can see why I’m pretty chuffed to be a part of it:


The Green Letter                          Steven Hall

Over to You                                   Michael Marshall Smith

In Memoriam                                Joanne Harris

Ausland                                         Alison Moore

Wonders to Come                       Christopher Fowler

Cancer Dancer                             Pat Cadigan

The Wrong Game                        Ramsey Campbell

Is-and                                            Claire Dean

Buyer’s Remorse                         Andrew Lane

Gone Away                                  Muriel Gray

Astray                                           Nina Allan

The Days of Our Lives               Adam LG Nevill

The Hungry Hotel                      Lisa Tuttle

L0ND0N                                      Nicholas Royle

Change Management              Angela Slatter

Ledge Bants                              Maria Dahvana Headley & China Miéville 

And We, Spectators Always, Everywhere           Kirsten Kaschock


Dead Letters: an anthology of the undelievered, the missing, the returned will be unleashed upon the world in April 2016 by Titan Books.

Titan(ic) news!

Well, this is all very exciting.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve recently signed a 2-book deal with Titan Books. Titan have acquired rights to my novel The Race, which they will be publishing in a new and expanded edition in both the UK and the US next summer. They will also be publishing my second novel, The Rift, in 2017.

Cath Trechman, Titan’s Senior Fiction Editor, has been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive, and I’m delighted to be working with her. She and her team are dedicated to building Titan’s fiction list by bringing in fresh and innovative work across the SFFH genres and I’m proud to be a part of that.

When Cath suggested that we should make the Titan edition of The Race truly new by including some extra material, I was only too happy to agree. The new edition of The Race will include a brand new novella-length appendix, ‘Brock Island’, which I’ve just finished writing. ‘Brock Island’ is not supposed to be read as a new ending, but it does expand our knowledge of the characters and their world, so anyone wanting ‘more’ will not be disappointed! Creating this extra material was a real challenge -‘Brock Island’ not only had to work as a story in its own right, it also had to complement the metafictional aspects of the main text – but it was also hugely rewarding to re-enter the book’s atmosphere and find new things there.

As for The Rift, I’ll have plenty more to say in due course. For now, I can tell you that it’s a science fiction mystery about a woman named Julie who believes she’s been abducted by aliens. The first draft is written – in fact I’ve begun work on the second draft just this afternoon. I don’t mind admitting that this is absolutely the most addictive story I have worked on to date and it’s wonderful to know that the book has found such a good home.

I’ll be telling you more about The Rift, and about the new edition of The Race here before too long. In the meantime I just want to say thank you to Cath and to Natalie and to the whole Titan team for bringing me on board and making me feel so welcome.

You can read Titan’s official announcement at here.