Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Interzone

Britain's leading science fiction and fantasy magazine, founded in 1982, celebrates its silver anniversary. Shortlisted for the Hugo award (science fiction's equivalent of the Oscar) many years running, winning it in 1995. Interzone appears bimonthly and contains short stories plus reviews, interviews and news.

2007 is a year worth celebrating for Interzone with issue #209 marking 25 years of great stories. M. John Harrison, who featured in Interzone's very first issue is back with 'The Good Detective.' Other returnees this issue are Alistair Reynolds and Gwyneth Jones. The other half is made up of Rising British stars like Hal Duncun, Daniel Kaysen and Jamie Barras. The editors say: 'We're trying to make Interzone the fresh breeze it once was, the wind of change SF used to be.'

Such a kaleidoscope of images entails Hal Duncan's The Wherever at the City's Heart - I've never read a story quite like it. On one hand it is so vast in scope as to be unassailable; my already fevered imagination could hardly keep up with the sensory perceptions evoked by this stunning author. On the other this almost burdens it down. But not quite. Because of its sheer originality and fecundity of invention you'll probably have dreams (or nightmares) about it for weeks. And that makes it worthy of inclusion. Taking off my professional language shoes for a moment, I'll say that it’s kind of like a David Lynch film; you might be asking yourself: What the Hell? But in the same breath mouthing the word Brilliant! I realise I'm giving away almost no plot except to say there's a Sandminer, a Dreamwhore, and a watchtower that is like gathering point and axis of existence itself.

A ponderous story, Winter by Jamie Barris is somewhat alternate history. In 1953, technologies were acquired that enabled a certain group 'The Wintermen' to expand memories with a virus. After releasing it to an unwary population they flee to the stars, only to return a half a century later to see the consequences of this viral strain: a futuristic society much like the one we envisaged for 2000 in the sixties but didn't quite pan out. The reader is flip-flopped between these two eras as our main character (Dr Christian) is brought in to garner information from the returning 'Wintermen'. Although very Interzone-ish, I personally feel a little frustrated with the common approach to these stories. If you like a tale where starting in the middle is the norm (kind of like walking into a movie halfway through and trying to follow the plot), by all means latch onto Winter. The structure is chipped away layer upon layer - in this case ponderously - to a climax with a rather predictable twist.

Although set in a modern day city, The Good Detective by M John Harrison is lent a speculative edge with the musings of our scribe. Allocated the task of finding missing persons, the detective gives us the dark language of
London as he goes about this. Like many stories throughout Interzone's history, it's the poetic vocabulary that ultimately wins out. In a snippet regarding a person's personal effects and belongings left behind, such as a laptop, the author gives us:

It's all much as you'd expect - that naive, eviscerating attempt they always make to express their inner life as a record of the outer...

Good Stuff.

In our world, the environment is preforming a gradual backlash against Homo Sapiens. In Big Cat by Gwyneth Jones this has already occurred and we the reader join a few people from diverse backgrounds in a rural setting as they cope with an unsettling situation involving a deceased wolf. Alas, the same formula ensues as the previous tales. Unwittingly pushing myself, I had trouble finishing this one. Not wanting to sound harsh, I must here: Big Cat is unbearably bland for a science fiction story. Although it almost - but not quite - saves itself with well-rounded characters.

In another foray into post-apocalyptic
London, Alistair Reynolds gives us The Sledge-Maker's Daughter. It's a welcome piece, a breath of fresh air without the murkiness of its predecessors. Young Kathrin (the sledge-maker's daughter), embarks upon a small journey though a world that has only a fragmentary notion of what it was. Told through metaphor and reverential whispers (Alistair describes a helicopter as a windmill made of tin) Kathrin seeks out the guru-witch Widow Grayling who teaches her of an unseen war and technologies bequeathed. Kathrin learns that sometimes Gods can fall from the sky, and bring hope to mortals before dying themselves.

Lastly, Daniel Kaysing delivers a knockout with Tears For Godzilla. If a movie like Memento could be condensed into a quick-witted and savvy story that was also funny, Tears for Godzilla would be it. Here, a coffee shop queue becomes the stage of a horror novelist’s bizarre imaginings whilst catching up with an old flame from school. If anything, this story re-affirms my belief that all novelists are crazy. And this is a good thing. Ah, the imagination ... can't live with it; can't live without it. My favourite story in the collection.

Perhaps not as entertaining to me personally as some previous issues, this anniversary edition is still a worthy purchase. One thing about Interzone that continually astonishes me is the haunting quality of the illustrations ... leafing through Interzone can bring almost as much pleasure as reading the stories. Order directly through their website. 

Monday May the 14th 2007

Not many personal entries here of late. I'm pleased to announce that my story Soft Tissue will be appearing in next year's fusion of dark art and flash fiction 'Black Box'. That's the sequel to 'Shadow Box'. I'm really looking forward to it; should be published January 2008 , because I know the stories this time around are going to be a lot darker. Also, the digital side of things will definitely be amped up notch, I reckon.  

The Ditmar nominations came through and I was stoked that this year I've been nominated for best fan writer - I'm in the company of some very cool people. Although my input into HorrorScope hasn't been as prolific, I think the quality of the one's I have put up surpass those earlier reviews.  

For this years AHWA competition I've entered a very stripped down and raw version of TERRICA. Hope it's not too gratuitous for the judges. I sometimes hate pouring over my own work but TERRICA is a story I can just read over again and again. It's just so - Matthew Tait , if such a thing exists -

Finally, I'll be interviewing author Steven Savile soon for HorrorScope. It was supposed to take place in April but things just got on top of me. I'm glad, actually , because I can now refine the questions and talk about everything and anything. Also gives me a chance to re-read TEMPLE (of which my name appears on the back cover). The review was quite lengthy but a small smidgen got taken out by Apex maestro Jason Sizemore for publication.

Apex Magazine of Horror and Science Fiction

Apex Magazine a quarterly print magazine in what could be termed science-horror. Jason Sizemore, the editor, found this niche in the small press market and Apex has evolved to publish authors such as Kevin J Anderson, Bev Vincent, and William F Nolan.

Old themes are revisited in Kevin J Anderson's The Sum of all His Parts: that of the prodigy child Frankenstein. Readers might be aware of Kevin's collaboration with Dean Koontz regarding this creature. In a brief afterward, Kevin reveals that this story was a personal attempt to bring some history to the myth and really flesh out the milieu of this famous monster. As stated, an old theme, but Kevin really breathes some life into it with carpeted, stitched together frames revolving around Castle Frankenstein and the town that sits below it like a macabre human farm. For the inhabitants have secrets - sins past and sins present that reminded me of the motif King used to a much broader extent in his novel Needful Things. There's a love tryst that becomes homicidal, a drifter that is reeled in as though the town has an infectious mental disorder - and even an arsonist without much of a conscience, who will pay for his crimes in a most arbitrary way. Like a dish coming to full boil, all are shoved together in more ways than one and with enough force to make this a memorable story.

Next, we have The End of Crazy by Katherine Sparrow. Although this tale isn't exactly original - to me it felt original. Like something obvious and hidden in plain sight, you'll wonder why you hadn't conjured it yourself. In this police-state future, schizophrenics and their like are given the ultimate weapon for mental illness: Sanify. A drug that induces the cunning illusion of a logistical mind and actually suppresses something far greater and stranger than any mere psychosis. What I loved here is that we have thriller that anybody can relate to: who hasn’t thought about going crazy at one time or another? It's a tad depressing, but we're in horror territory here, and bad feelings are a stock in trade. Imagine this one as a short-dizzying two minute film and you'll be rewarded.

Every story that pops up these days (outside of the hard-core western genre) and features the word 'Gunslinger' might elicit a sigh. It certainly does for me, anyway. King's story of Roland and his ka-tet soaked the annals of horror and science fiction (Western and Arthurian too - if you wanted to be picky about it) so much that it seems almost blasphemous to embolden that word in type. However, even now writing this, I'm strongly reminded of the influences he used to springboard his characters into action, so by all means give The Gunslinger of Chelem by Lavie Tidhar a go. Here, we have a pair of cops in the future where working is dreaming. Sound cool? It is. It's how they go about catching the killers ... and a man named Stephen Cohn is one nasty killer in the extreme. Although short, I think this particular story would've fitted into Aegri Somnia nicely.

A piece of flash follows next with Locked In by Mary Robinette Kowl. It wouldn't be included here if it wasn't engaging. It concerns euthanasia in a domestic setting involving a mute participant. Of course, with any cool piece of flash, the ball doesn't get rolling until the final sentence ... and this one literally.

A drug addict is lined up as an unwitting hit-man in Projector by Daniel LeMoal. Latticed with surreal horror elements, Projector is a rip-roaring read that's easy on the eyes. A small cabal of druggie-misfits hopped up on goofballs are given a task when their lives are bought hook, line, and sinker by a crime overlord. The added extras concerning the psychic 'projectors' ensue a appreciatively vile and funny ending.

Following on is another amusing story entitled At the 24-Hour by regular William F Nolan. We feel like we're in a kind of sixties 'pulp fiction' mystery at the start, where trench coat's ruled, cigarettes were endorsed by doctors, and waitresses spouted dialogue that could only come from a hacks pen. This all takes place in a 24-Hour coffee shop, where one hungry man named Allen pulls up a chair and steps up to order black coffee. Only black coffee. Then we find out why . . .

Welcome to Eursupia, the gargantuan city of Jeremy Adam Smith's Pyramus and Thisbe. Reminiscent perhaps of a globular Star Wars necropolis, it even has an identical city built beneath it to house the inhabitants once they have died. At its most basic, this is a simple speculative tale of a cyborg (Pryamus) who falls in love - something that is forbidden in Eursupia. Jeremy's use of language, however, makes it so much more. It's told as though encoded in myth, foreseeing future generations looking upon the mythology as though Biblical in nature. I found this story hugely entertaining, and wouldn't be surprised if it saw its way toward a commendation in some competition or other.

Winner of the 2006 Apex Halloween short fiction content, Sufficiently Advanced by Bev Vincent is a riotous and simple story with prose as blunt and to the point as the big guy we all know Bev has written books about. After crash landing on an unknown planet - the only one to escape his ship The Odyssey - Henry comes into contact with what appears to be a primitive race. Appears. The flip-flopping that comes next is nasty and hilarious. A short, sharp piece.

Teeth. The subject of which trillions of writers for the horror genre can scrutinize, dissect and ultimately use to scare. The possibilities are endless and Rob D Smith's Don't Show Your Teeth is a fine example. On an off-planet construction consortium, Nik has a friend who has somehow acquired the very stage teeth used in the Nosferatu movie. Rob uses futuristic slang and just the right amount of dialogue robed with prose to make this entertaining.

This particular issue of Apex is as dark, funny, and entertaining as ever (the cover definitely conveys this - and the illustrations inside are more compact). Perhaps I'm just easy please but the stories here genuinely resonate with quality. Of course, minor editorial adjustments could have been made in some of them but (in my opinion) these aren't worth mentioning here.

Also begun is the first part of a four part serial entitled CainXPII: The Voice of Thy Brother's Blood by Geoffrey Girard (the illustration to that one looks like something from American Psycho, so it should be good). Then there's a funny and original interview with the writing machine Kevin J Anderson by Althea Kontis - and another with Liz Williams by Lavie Tidhar. Order directly from their Website

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: Disturbia

After the unfortunate road-death of his father, bitter and rebellious Kale (Shia Lebeuolf) 'pops' his Spanish teacher in the face and is sequestered to home imprisonment for three months. With an electronic device secured around one of his ankles to make sure he does not leave his home (police are notified immediately if he breaches its sensory perimeters), Kale then resigns himself to outwit the cerebral sufferings confinement can impose on the human psyche.

This is the premise at its most basic, and - of course - sudden influences spring to mind. We have Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) , but even that, in essence, was just a retelling of a film made five years previous entitled The Window. One could argue that Disturbia is just a slavish and dumbed-down imitation featuring teenagers - and to some extent it is. Although this does not take away any of the viewing gratification. The teenagers who come to the forefront are Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and Ashley (Sarah Roemer) - Kale's new and much coveted beautiful next door neighbour. Both Ronnie and Kale then proceed to spy on their neighbours using all the numerous technologies one can harness in today's modern home. Things crank up a notch and the audience is slowly introduced to those that surround Kale: there's the young brats also next door, responsible for menacing poor Kale whilst being at his most vulnerable; also the mysterious lawn-mowing obsessive Mr. Turner (David Morse) whose suspicious behaviour leads the kids on an internet goose-hunt when the similarities between Mr. Turner's description and car match those of a recent spate of disappearances in another state. Ashley soon joins the boys in a stake-out and it isn't long before humour plays a key role in getting us to like them before the thrill ride begins.

And begin it does, blended so smoothly and efficiently through I had almost forgotten it was coming. Hackles were raised in the audience , this was obvious. Director D.J Curuso (Taking Lives,
TheSalton Sea), shows he obviously has a knack for film of the darker persuasion. Yes, another crowd might bemoan the end of an era and like to see it made a little more stylishly , but (in my opinion), that nostalgia period might well be over. A yearning for the 'olden days' does not put some critics on a pedestal and give them any leverage of 'higher thought.'

Of course with any film like this there are corny trappings and the modern thriller aficionado might find themselves grimacing at tid-bits that could obviously have been executed differently and to greater effect. However, push all these small things aside; Disturbia is indeed a creepy and compelling film.

March 20th 2007

In a bid to consolidate and streamline dark fiction news in Australia, Brimstone Press and the Australian Horror Writers Association have formed a collaborative partnership.

As a result, HorrorScope
will now be the official news source for the AHWA. The AHWA's hard-working News Editor Talie Helene retains her role in the merger, and will bring her enthusiasm for genre reportage to HorrorScope as resident news editor. Talie will continue to post AHWA news items on HorrorScope, as well as occasional reviews and other items.

The AHWA news page will soon be phased out, but the AHWA site will still continue to feature information valuable to Australian dark fiction writers, such as the article archive, member forums, and entry rules for the AHWA short story and flash fiction competition and the Australian Shadows Award.

With Talie at the helm of the AHWA News, dark fiction authors, editors, and publishers can be assured that their media releases and news items will be aired on HorrorScope without bias. Instead of posting news items directly on the AHWA website, interested parties are encouraged to email their news directly to Talie.

Other dark fiction sites and newsfeeds such as 
Horror On the Vine will remain unaffected by the change, although it is hoped the HorrorScope/AHWA merger will streamline the syndication of Australian dark fiction news elsewhere.

For the latest dark fiction news and reviews, LiveJournal users can subscribe to the HorrorScope syndication feed by clicking here.

Review: They Hunger by Scott Nicholson

I was lucky enough to obtain an advance readers copy of Scott Nicholson's sixth book They Hunger, due for release from Pinnacle books in April of this year.

'Write what you know' the old codgers advise bourgeoning writers when they start along the literary path. Scott Nicholson certainly 'knows' the Southern Appalachian Mountains and soon his name (if it already isn't) will be part and parcel with them as King is to Maine. In They Hunger, the Unegama River and its serpentine rapids are the centre-piece for a group of characters that meet under sinister duress - the kind that hides in darkness and feeds off blood.

I know Scott has a lot of professional admiration for Dean Koontz and this is reflective (not in stylistic imitation), but in the way he brings incongruent characters together and shoves them into a god-awful situation. In They Hunger, we have religious zealot abortion-clinic bomber Ace Goodall who flees to the Unegama wilderness in an effort to escape his pursuers. (Think Ed Deepneau from King's Insomnia with a Charles Manson twist). Riding shotgun with him is Clara Bannister, a self-destructive, semi-believer in Ace Goodall gospel. The seekers on his trail to bring him to justice are two FBI agents: Jim Castle and Derek Samford, hardboiled types from a thousand Cop movies. Not too far away are an odd assortment banded together for a collective agenda: to test flight a kind of prototype white water raft for outdoor adventure conglomerate ProVentures.

Regrettably, it was these particular characters on the raft that made me a little uncomfortable with the whole thing: Bowie Whitlock, who leads the expedition, is making his 'final jaunt' so he can retire because he blames himself for his wife's death. Such a back story felt modestly clich├ęd, and reminded me of a corny Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger. Then there's the solitary female of the group, Dove Krueger, contracted to photograph the voyage and create coitus longings among the males. Rounding up the gang are a wrestling Indian Cherokee on a spiritual path; a ProVentures representative; bicycling champion C.A McKay and slippery, vulgar-mouthed reality show winner Vincent Farrengalli. Their bad timing and lack of coalition will inevitably see them run afoul of ancient creatures, released from their prehistoric underground hideaway after the FBI agents accidentally set off a trip wire bomb engineered by Ace Goodall.

One could argue about the cardboard characters or not, but I found They Hunger to be an expedition certainly worth taking. Like his previous book The Farm, Nicholson gives you a kind of comforting horror tale; you'll feel that the terrain is well-mapped and the gore, when it comes, brings an almost malign grin to your face. His flying vampires are old-school and at times They Hunger can be like taking a trip down memory-lane - one where horror movies were in their infancy stage but at the same time at their peak. Humour is also a large component, as the battle of wills and ego merge with that of survival. Like the river he takes you down, Scott Nicholson’s They Hunger is a fun roller-coaster ride and the journey is at times hair-raising. Here, Vampires come back to the forefront of the horror-novel, and Scott Nicholson ultimately does it in style.

Review: Chizine

The Chiaroscuro (Chizine) WebZine is an electronic 'Zine featuring original work from today's best dark fiction authors and edited by Bram Stoker winning editor Brett Alexander Savory.

Opening up the fiction is Camp by Jeremy C Ship. Like the title suggests, this story could be classified in the same realm as Camp/Horror pictures. It's a Russian Doll piece of fiction, as layers are slowly stripped away to reveal a school of slaughterers that bequeath to their children the time honored traditions of the 'Camp.' Told in first person, Jeremy pulls no punches with quick, savvy lines delivered to shock and repulse. We have only a vague notion what, exactly, the Camp is for as girls and boys go through slaying initiations involving victims that are certainly not animals. Not for the squeamish, Camp fits into ChiZine nicely.

The second story felt a little bewildering; unfortunately, The Burial of the Dead by Lavie Tidharjust didn't resonate with my personal taste. There is nothing overtly wrong with the prose or sentence structure, but I dislike puzzling plots that (too me) have no meaning whatsoever. A gambling drifter in Asia is our main guy, a young man who has bought into 'The Game.' Said game seems to be played with communion wafers procreated from the corpses of the dead, which in turn hold the elements for physical transformation. It's a short-story that seems to have ingredients like that of Clive Barker's The Damnation Game, but I suspect it will hold a different structure for others.

The last of the short-fiction is The Teacher by Paul G Tremblay. Now, this story is unquestionably more entertaining. Told in an honest and eccentric first person narration, The Teacher will keep you reading until the end with its morbid, slowly-building connotations. Our female narrator is often funny and metaphorical, juggling two plot-strands related with her home life and her perverse school Teacher and his unconventional lessons. I'd be lying if I said I completely understood it , but that's just the way some stories are - and become better for it.

ChiZine also features poetry (of which I am certainly no critic). Plus the added extras of book and movie reviews. Best of all, its free of charge!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Hannibal Rising.

Right off the bat I wish to inform HorrorScope readers that I have not yet read the novelization by Thomas Harris. This point of view will be purely seen through the lens of the celluloid version - an adaptation that went well beyond my pre-conceived notions.

Of course, by now, many of you have either seen it or read other evaluations , or have imbibed an inkling of the plot through the advertising campaign. But let's re-hash that particular skillet of information, anyhow: Hannibal Rising tells of the formative years of Hannibal Lectar's life before we first meet him in Red Dragon. With the Nazi's retreating from the Russians at the end of World War Two, Hannibal and his sister Mischa (Lithuanians) are quickly orphaned after their parents are caught in the cross-fire at a hunting lodge. Thereafter they are alone with nothing but the elements and wolves; soon a company of Lithuanian collaborators seek shelter in the same hostel; they, too, have nothing to eat - and soon turn their starving eyes upon the innocents who share their space -

Journeying with Hannibal Lecter as he finds a sliver of long-lost oriental family , exploring his character as she teachers him the ways of her warrior ancestors, I was completely taken in. Unknown French actor Gaspard Ulliel playing Hannibal was totally convincing, attractive and dark in his pursuit for retribution. I was wary that my allegiance would lie with Hannibal; (the audience would root for him, in other words), and this happened to a certain extent. But it was still all too easy to see the monster inside; the fiend that replaced the boy who died out in the snow an adolescent.

There are several supporting roles that string the film together, most notably Dominic West who plays an almost sympathetic inspector on the trail of Hannibal's blood-letting. Also Li Gong as Lady Murasaki Shikibu, another who has lost everything and protects Hannibal like a dangerous but elegant snake.

Condensed and layered like a jigsaw puzzle, mystical and ambitious, by and large television Director Peter Webber has pulled off a stylish prologue that obviously had an insurmountable amount of pressure attached. Many pundits out there will probably disagree, as it seems fashionable to smear such polarizing popularity and one has to ask the motives behind these pessimists. For this truly is a film that has some bite -

January 10th 2007!

I have to up-grade this part of the site to a blog format (not unlike HorrorScope) and everybody else's friggin journals. This site might be off-line for a while after the 19th while I string some dollars together to keep it up. It's been such a positive year so far; I've already made a story sale to Afterburn Sf, and I received a cool little cheque for $10.00 US which is roughly just over $11.00 Australian. It honestly doesn't get any better than receiving money for the sweat you pour into this crazy thang called writing dark fiction. Life is good, ladies and gentleman , I've grown so much spiritually over the past couple of months. Hopefully the new blog format will be up soon -

2007 ... sounds cool, futuristic and fat with potential - don't you think?

Review: Interzone

British science fiction publication Interzone is a magazine founded in 1982 and continues to maintain its position as one of the leading professional science fiction and fantasy publications. Recently, the magazine has gone through a renovation making it a fresh and exciting periodical to look at in Glossy A4 format as well as read.

Science fiction blended with inter-species romance; this is the harbinger for Mercurio D Rivera's 'Looking for Langalana'. It's a tale told as though the protagonist is put on a witness stand. Shimera, a Wergen, tells her story to an emissary - the son of the human named Phinny she once loved. Although a little too quixotic, I really enjoyed this one. With strange mating rituals on the Wergen's part, descriptive language of their beguiling anatomy's , and a pesky native of Langalana that cannot be tamed, this opener to the issue will be sure to stay with you long after the last sentence.

Haunting and lyrical, Tim Akers The Song is like a short poem for the soul. For me it speaks of metamorphosis, of transcendence. A gifted musician in a futuristic society where music is on the fringe, Jack has been struggling to capture the espial of a life's dream through his music; the ultimate melody that plays like a discordant baritone in his subconscious, but is impossible to capture with his current instrument and audience. He enlists the help of a complicated creature , one that could finally give birth to The Song -

A tale that inspires research - that's pretty much the most positive thing I can say about Martin J Gidron's 'Palestina'. If one is not familiar with the politics surrounding Middle East occurrences in the years after Hitler's death, then I doubt this tale will hold much allure. Earning a place here solely on the merit of being somewhat 'alternate history', Girdon's message (if there is supposed to be significance) is obscure and not easy to comprehend. Protagonist Palestina , a Jewish concentration camp inmate , is swept up in the intrigue revolving around a Russian infiltrator and a Rabbi who is more than he appears. With the world's current climate, it might inspire a few of us to dig through archive trenches and lather our brains with history. Otherwise, the message here is a non sequitar.

Whilst boasting the most imaginative illustration in this story collection, 'The Rising Tide' by Australia's C.A.L is a piece probably better suited to a novella or even something more grandiose. The beginning is a treat; tied with the art, it evokes a true ultramodern landscape:

Beneath the night-clad sky of a golden colonized globe, Raleigh Marsonnet walked the light-swept roads as any Free-born citizen might do -

After this (for me, at least) it kind of falls apart. That's not to say it's a bad story or un-readable in anyway. C.A.L has constructed a vast mythology, and it's hard to digest in such a small stanza without repeat readings. In this future, The United Starion Republic will activate a weapon which will see a rebellious world cut off from its infrastructure. The code has gone missing which will enable this and Raleigh Marsonnet must return to the world and woman he betrayed.

Another story that would shine in novel length is 'Summers End' by Jamie Barras. Jamie imagines a world where the whole population of earth wakes up simultaneously five months after a comatose period. Said period was caused by 'hijackers' , unknown entity's that decided to take up residence in humanity's collective skulls. It's a scary scenario; absolutely terrifying, if truth be told, as possession in the genre of science fiction has always given me the heebie-jeebies. The story is not global, however, and basically centers on a domestic issue. I get the feeling Jamie Barras is not done with this universe.

Lastly, we have the winner of the James White award: 'A short History of the Dream Library' by Elizabeth Hopkinson. No doubt about it, this one's a gem. Its fiction packaged as neatly as the title suggests, interspersed with laugh-out-load moments. Set in England, the tale of Milton Bissit and his addictive dream that involves a 'Hindi speaking goblin' is a genuine classic. If Elizabeth continues to work, I think her name could eventually be used in the same sentence as Douglas Adams.

World Horror Day: Friday 13th 2006

I'm not sure if I posted this before or not but on Horrorday an anthology was put together by authors Martin Livings and Stephanie Gunn. It featured some of the cream of the crop of Australian authors and my story written for Dad on father's day Skating on Thin Ice was included in there. Apparently it was quite popular, and even garnered US and UK interest. Here is a break-down of the anthology. Hopefully, it should be availble in some format or another soon -

In celebration of World Horror Day, an anthology of horror fiction by fifteen Australian writers is being made available online. The website will only be accessible for the duration of Friday the 13th, 2006, though for rather longer than twenty four hours, given world timezones.

Contributing authors include

Brendan Carson, Stephen Dedman, Stephanie Gunn, Robert Hood, Martin Livings, Robbie Matthews, Brett McBean, Chuck McKenzie, Nigel Read, Rhidian Rhead, David Schembri, Mark Smith, Cat Sparks, Matthew Tait and Marty Young.

October 25 2006

A Few kind words from Shane Cummings concerning HorrorScope. He was interviwed in the Asif! Forum:

The same applies for projects like HorrorScope. In those dark days before HorrorScope and ASif existed, reviews of Australian short fiction were as rare as hen's teeth. After promoting Shadowed Realms in the US via the web and gaining some reviews over there, I realised how few reviews venues like Shadowed Realms were getting in Australia. A fortnight later, HorrorScope was born and continues to flourish.

As a project, I consider HorrorScope an unequivocal success. It far exceeded my expectations both in terms of committed reviews (Miranda, Matt, Mark, Andrew, Stephanie, and AD are just brilliant) and review quality, and also scope. Because of the work done by Miranda and others, we're now reviewing most of the world's pro spec fic publications and bringing an international audience to an Australian website. That to me is changing the culture.

Review: Apex Magazine

Apex is a quarterly print magazine specializing in what could be termed Science-Horror. Jason Sizemore, the editor, found this niche in the small press market and Apex has evolved to publish authors such as Ben Bova, J A Konrath, James P Hogan and Tom Piccirilli.

Preferring not to simply read magazines such as Apex from front to back, I will scour through the text and illustrations as though dipping in and out of a carnival rollercoaster ride: whichever narrative appeals most to my sense of the fantastique I will go with first , and so on until the end. In the case of issue six it was 'Cut and Paste' by Peter Gutierrez. The illustration features a typewriter with malign sentience - the sort of graphic display that tickles any writer's heart, no doubt.

'Cut and Paste' is short and perplexing. We are given only basic clues from a narrator that certain 'masters in the future' have gone about the process of eradicating the written word and our ability to even give birth to them in thought form. I would be lying if I claimed to understand its hidden ramifications; aside from this, it is somehow entertaining with bristling intellectualism. Perhaps an individual with more erudition in the S/F sector could shed light on it.

Long time contributor and prolific author Ben Bova has supplied 'Duel in the Somme.' Here, Bova's characters are young adolescents in the future. Although simple, it seemed strangely familiar and after a while it came to me: Starship Troopers. In a kind of love-triangle, young space cadet Tom tries to win the girl of his dreams in a duel. In true S/F style, both boys go at it in a V/R environment - a virtual simulation dominion of World War Two dog-fighting. Now that's a way to win the fair ladies hand!
A former nominee for the Nebula, Sturgeon and Hugo awards, Christopher Rowe gives us previously published 'Whether to Go Through.' Reminding me of another journey into celluloid , this time with the movie Cube, we find ourselves accompanying a rag-tag motley crew of space explorers finding each other in an unexpected environment. Although highly trained, their skills will not help for what lies in wait. Very short - and very satisfying. No complaints here.

For an author's first published piece of fiction, Robby Sparks has made 'Indigestion' the absolute stand out of this collection. Funny, serious , and with surprising plot-twists and pre-planned overtures, I found myself wanting more even though its length exceeds the rest. Here, earth is ruled by callous alien superiors and one fragile human named Hardin has had enough. With alien delegates having names like 'Girobian' (one gets the feeling of delicious caricatures resembling Star-Trek aliens of the sixties), and toilet happenings that take on a scientific edge , Indigestion will leave you frazzled but pumped. It's an electrifying tale and I hope to see more of Robby's work soon.

Another surprising thing happened when I came to 'Cerbo en Vitra ujo' by Mary Robinette Kowal. What started out as an almost light-hearted piece that could've been 'romance in space' suddenly dovetailed into dark regions I know of all to well of from my personal writing endeavors. Grete's boyfriend has recently left Banwith Station to attend school on a planet-based school. Then he goes missing. Suffice to say the conclusion is unprecedented and I cannot say more than this. Only readers with a strong stomach may apply.

Two gay queens in space. Yep; you heard that right. If this isn't enough to lure you into 'Queen of the Stars' by Bryn Sparks, nothing will. In this tale, both Aaron and Moesha have been charged to herald one of humanity's first attempts to be ambassadors to the stars. Things take a turn for the worst when they are highjacked by bestial Australian pirates. With me? Good. It gets even better -

In another intellectual foray, we have 'The Deep Misanthropic Principle' by Brandon Alspaugh. Alspaugh manages to convey what is perhaps his own philosophical questions riding on the plot of a Noah's Ark in Space. The Pistis is filled with survivors from whatever cataclysm befell the earth to bring them to their singularity. It is filled with 'Fugues' , survivors from this information holocaust. And 'Teachers' to guide the benefactors with scripture before they reach they're allotted 'destination.' This is certainly one of those tales that will hold different meanings for different people.

With this issue, the science fiction facet is strong; however, ripples of horror abound and coming out of it I got much the same feeling as though I'd read a piece by Orson Scott Card - where maturity and immaturity intertwine to create a unique tapestry. One of the things that irks me about this sort of format is the solicitous way we are pushed almost rudely into a story. I can't help but think a slight blurb or introductory are necessary to goad a reader in so he or she doesn't get cold feet. Of course, this is one man's opinion. But some of these stories are brilliant , exceptional even; and without a sufficient gateway of a line to usher me in, I feel like turning away.

All that aside, I wish Apex well in its impeding endeavors and will continue the journey with them. As some of you might know the future of its continued existence has come into jeopardy, so rally behind this faithful little magazine and grab a subscription.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 11th 2006

Okay, so I haven't been here for approximately millennia. This is , after all , a kind of journal that discusses my private life; and this year, believe me: nobody would want to read about much of it. Anybody's who's been through the motions of separation and divorce will attest to that. Feelings of abandonment, betrayal and an overall shake up of one's existence are all hallmarks that just take time to work through -

The fiction writing, however, has been quite strong. And all things horror are quite vocal around the country at the moment. Conflux, the convention I attended in June, was an absolute blast. It was a bit of a weekend of debauchery, smiles, and chatting to a few famous individuals I've been fans of for quite some time. If it was having lunch with Rob Hood, shooting the shit with Sean Williams and Shane Cummings, or just my own plain philosophic thoughts regarding the city I live in - it was certainly a hoot. I say that about Adelaide because this was the first time I'd traveled to Canberra; nothing but a strange metropolis full of embassies and no ocean; and I gained a new perspective upon Adelaide after returning.

I finally got Davey Ribbon off the launch pad, and am pleased with the results so far. What can be so irritating about the writing process , for me, at least , is the creative spurt will only last intensely for three days or so; then - nothing. Where the fuck does the muse go? And why doesn't he let me know he'll be taking a few days off. Well, I'm pleased I have one at all , so beggars can't be choosers.

One of the main reasons for this entry is a need to inform everyone about Internationl Horror Day. The links page on this site will probably never be working. If you google these advents they'll definitely come up. IHD is unprecedented in that it's world wide. Basically Horror Day is a call to arms for all fans of dark fiction to buy a horror book, give away a horror book, buy or rent a horror movie, or read ghost stories to the kids. In short, it is a day to raise awareness of the genre.

The Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) has sent a media release to many Australian newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and TV stations, to encourage awareness of horror literature. AHWA committee members and some prominent Australian horror authors will also be participating in media interviews to further promote Horror Day.

So please support Australian dark fiction by spreading the word - and remember to pick up a book or DVD next Friday.

If you're in Perth, Brimstone Press is sponsoring a Horror Day reading at Fantastic Planet bookstore (Shafto Lane, Perth) at 6pm, Friday the 13th. The reading will feature many prominent WA dark fiction writers, including Stephen Dedman, Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Carol Ryles, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, and others. The event will be MCed by Shadowed Realms and Brimstone Press editor Angela Challis.

Recently released Australian horror titles include the Lothian 'Dark Suspense' line: Carnies by Martin Livings, Prismatic by Edwina Grey, The Mother by Brett McBean, and The Darkness Within by Jason Nahrung (the latter available Jan 07); the Prime Books collections: Never Seen By Waking Eyes by Stephen Dedman, Through Soft Air by Lee Battersby, and Doorways for the Dispossessed by Paul Haines; Ek Chuah by James R Cain (Active Bladder Press); Cemetery Dance Publications' Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear by Terry Dowling; and the Shadow Box e-anthology (Brimstone Press).

Australian dark fiction magazines include Shadowed Realms, Dark Animus, and Borderlands.

This is great news for everyone. A stepping stone to be taken seriously in all aspects of the media and business side of things.

Lastly, I'd like to say a big Hello to everybody working in the genre here in Australia. Although you don't know it, you're input, work and networking support has provided me with invaluable encouragment and inspiration. We're not alone! Yippie!

June 18th 2006

Well, Conflux is over , it's been a few days since I arrived back from this advent... Many things have occurred; not the least of which a few days before leaving I received an e-mail from Marty Young (president of the Horror Writers association) that my short story Car Crash Weather had been nominated for an award. That award in question was none is none another than the AHWA short of the year in the category of -well -shorts. As you may have guessed, such news made my day, week, and all round year!!!!

April 25th 2006

Sorry about the delay again, folks , I've spent the last couple of weeks just trying to get healthy after writing off my car in the wee hours of the morning; funny thing was , I wasn't even drunk, but suffered something similar to what can only be described as an epileptic seizure . . . but that's a story for another day . . .

The time off has given me an excellent opportunity to immerse myself completely in other worlds. I'm currently sloughing through John Saul's The God Project. Dean Koontz's Life Expectancy; The Crooked Letter by local Adelaide science-fiction genius Sean Williams; The House by Bentley Little (stay tuned for some interesting insights into that one at HorrorScope , Ghost Beyond Earth by WA author G.M Hague , I've been perusing this guys books on bookstore shelves for years and had no idea he was Australian; hope I get to meet him at a convention one day . . . Jarka Ruus by Terry Brooks and The Communion Letters , a compilation of abduction experiences from people the world over put together by none other than Whitley Strieber and his wife Anne.

Speaking of conventions, I'll be attending Conflux in our nation's capital from June 9th to the 11th (I think). This is where net-working plays such an important role; I'll finally be able to meet some of my fellow editors at HorrorScope and perhaps flog Meridian around while I'm at it. HorrorScope has just won a Ditmar award in the category of fanzine, with my boss Shane Jiraya Cummings taking out best fan writer. Congratulations, dude! And thanks for mentioning us all in your acceptance speech. It is inspiring to watch HorrorScope grow locally and internationally. For those interested the award ceremonies took place at Conjure in Sydney. From what I've read and the photo's I've seen the advent went off without a hitch . . .

For my reviewing duties, I've been heavily ensconced in both Interzone and Apex Science Fiction and Horror digest; please check out the review I did for Apex , although it was delayed, I'm quite proud of that one.

On the home front regarding work, I'm just putting the final touches on my novella Terrica , that's the one about a gang of serial killers who use cars to slaughter people (I got the idea from a dream, believe it or not). The Devil's Playing clocked in at about 8,000 words and I just have to print that out properly before I start submitting it. After I'm happy with the final editorial touches on those I'll properly push myself to get Davey Ribbon off the launch pad. Then, in between drafts, the world of Olearia and the character of Meridian will be explored in full. Ahh, the life of a struggling writer, always fucking in-between something. J

So . . . drop me a line if you have the time. Or better yet, send me a cheque cause I sure as shit haven't made it yet . . .

Matthew Tait.

March 3rd 2006

Hello world , long time no see!!!

Life , what a precarious business! It can offer you all kinds of joys and substance, but it can also offer you a Cimmerian darkness of the soul where nothing exists but your own tortured reflection staring back at you; an eternal mirror where depression is the master and sole arbiter of all your emotions.

And I've been there, ladies and gentlemen. As I suspect we all have. Yet, being a creative individual, I've also suffered the nuances of depression at an everyday level . . . so, when the big one comes: that seismic earthquake of a spell that only happens once every millennia but which must happen, when that big one comes we almost fall off of life's shelf. It was certainly touch and go there for a while. Touch and go. And of course I won't tell the tale (well, perhaps in some memoir in the future when I'm famous)! Let's hope that part forever stays in the abyss where it belongs.

So . . . I'm back from the netherworld and will be posting here regularly from now on.

I've given Shane Jiriaya Cummings (managing editor of HorrorScope; Shadow Box messiah, talented writer and all round nice guy), Meridian in its entirety in PDF format. Initially I was just going to send the prologue. However, considering I'll see him in Canberra next year at Conflux, I thought it prudent to send the whole thing as the first volume is only two-hundred pages and we'll be able to discuss it face to face.

Is it publishable?

I'm not sure , but I think its one hell of an accomplishment for only my third effort. (Not including aborted attempts) Olearia and The Hope of Kinfold really flesh the story out and bring it up nearly nine hundred pages; I hope he can reserve the harshest criticism until after he's read the conclusion.

I feel excited about a project I'll be working on with my younger brother Tom. He's a gifted artist with a creative mind just waiting to be sculpted. After drawing some initial pictures of Meridian following a brainstorming session at his house, I was impressed enough with his illustrations to put up the notion of a total collaboration involving not only illustrations but ideas. The Result? Davey Ribbon , a haunting, surreal tale borrowing elements of small town milieu and myth in the tradition of King and movies like The Blair Witch Project. It was conceived by Tom from one of his illustrations (a really cool one), that just begged to be converted into a story. If I can pull this off and it's publishable, I'll have to share half the goddamn royalties with him , that, and call it Davey Ribbon by Matthew Tait and Tom Tait. Or , and this is funny: Matthew and Tom Tait.

I saw King Kong today (with Tom, incidentally); and am slightly, just slightly disappointment because there were so many reviews that built it up. All in all an awesome film, however , the dinosaurs were the monumental achievement and highlight, not Kong. Go figure.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

November 22, 2005

I guess a few things have occurred since my last entry: I've obtained the dreaded 9-5 job at a place in the city . . . the writing suffers terribly, and with little time left for HorrorScope . . .

TERRICA is going though phase draft two, while the new scenes in DARK MERIDIAN are done and just waited to be corrected. Once that's a reality , and it's transformed into PDF format - the light of the world can shine on the novel all it wants. Started writing flash pieces to get into the groove of reviewing Shane and Angela's SHADOW BOX multi-media extravaganza. It promises to be one hell of an escape party; already I'm in thrall with the amount of work Shane contributes, and this adds to his overall resume impressively.

On the HorrorScope front: you can find some thoughts I've put up regarding The Amityville films entitled THE AMYITIVLLE APOCRAPHYA , it's more like a take on the whole book, legend, and everything in between. Also a review for SAW 2 (it promised to be good, and Christ it didn't let down)! And I finally completed the second part of SHADOWED REALMS take; I felt pretty supercilious with my observations, so that's probably a good sign . . . (sorry about links not being up, its this fucking American web-site server).

I have to update all the little blurbs in the GHOSTS IN A DESERT WORLD SECTION; there's a lot more stories to harp on about there , but it seems such a trivial thing, and that's why it's taking so long. In fact, this whole fucking site needs one goddamn makeover, but unless I get more letters that people are coming here, there doesn't seem to be any point.

Currently, I'm reading OLYMPOS by Dan Simmons; it's the sequel to ILIUM. Nothing but good stuff there. Hell, it might be a revisionist take on Rodger Zelany's LORD OF LIGHT but its still rocks anyway. Also, THE HOUSE by grand master Bentley Little . . . just happy horror fun there, kids. Musically, there's still INSTITUTE (of course) and the new JIMMY EAT WORLD ep to get through. Wish I could've fucking seen them in Melbourne.


I have now decided to take the stories from Ghosts in a Desert World off the site. Originally, I had intended these to be for free as tasters of what one can expect from my fiction; however, I do not have any money and need to eat so I should never have resorted to such terms. After transferring them to a PDF format, I will sell Ghosts in a Desert World as an e-book with over seven tales more and one novella not detailed on the fiction page of this site. It will eventually be a chunky tome - value for anybody's money in anybody's language. Stories over four years old will be omitted -

On a personal note: the writings going well. I'm managing the god-like figure of 1,500 words a day. Little bits here, little bits there , it all counts.

I will be appearing on the website:

The Writing Show [] for 'The fourteen days of Halloween' reading from Ghosts in a Desert World as a download. The readings will have added sound effects, much like the radio shows of old and feature members of 'The Australian Horror Writers Association' (please just google these sites, as my links page isn't working)

Be sure to check it out, guys. Luv you all,

Matthew Tait

Welcome to Different Masks

This is my Blog in it's entirety dating back from 2005:

September 24, 2005

Matthew Tait is now one of the new associate editors of the New Horror web-zine HorrorScope
The Blog aims to be a source of news, reviews, and everything you want to know about horror,
dark fantasy and speculative fiction. Reviews by Matthew are now up and running, including:
Stephen King's Riding the Bullett, The Glory Bus by Richard Laymon, and reviews of the e-zine's Shadow Realms and AntipodeanSF.