My YA SF novel MACHINERIES OF MERCY is published by Luna Press today! It’s a bit Westworld, a touch Battle Royale, a smidgen Existenz… but set in a tranquil English village that’s really a virtual-reality prison.
My YA SF novel MACHINERIES OF MERCY is published by Luna Press today! It’s a bit Westworld, a touch Battle Royale, a smidgen Existenz… but set in a tranquil English village that’s really a virtual-reality prison.
Author copies! This is the smart-looking new Luna Press edition of my YA SF novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY. Elevator pitch: Westworld meets Battle Royale/Tron/Existenz/the Doctor Who serial ‘The Deadly Assassin’, but in a sleepy English village.
A bunch of HOPE ISLAND articles have appeared online in the last couple of days:
Five of the biggest influences on HOPE ISLAND, including books, films and music – at The Dreamcage.
My ‘favourite creepy children’ – that is, my favourite books and films featuring creepy children, all of which influence HOPE ISLAND to some degree – at The BiblioSanctum
My list of ’10 sideways slides into fantasy’ – that is, classic novels in which weirdness creeps up on you, or pops up at unexpected moment – at Horror Tree.
A book soundtrack for HOPE ISLAND, including a Spotify playlist and reasons for each track pick – at Daily Dead.
In addition, more reviews have appeared in various places. For example: Ginger Nuts of Horror, the British Fantasy Society, the Morning Star, and Sublime Horror. Here’s an excerpt from the latter one:
“Intelligent and with a warm, beating heart at its core, Hope Island is that breed of novel that transcends genre definition… The portrayal of Nina’s emotional pain is soaringly honest and had me hooked from the get-go. In truth, I could have written this review using one word only – brilliant – and it would be enough. Hope Island is a claustrophobic, paranoid and exhilarating read.”
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t expected this. Yesterday my new novel, HOPE ISLAND, was reviewed in The Times! There it is, alongside books by David Mitchell, Cixin Liu and Chris Beckett. I’m very chuffed, not least because the write-up is so positive. It concludes:
“Tim Major is not yet a 21st-century Alan Garner but he’s getting close, creating an unusual mystery centered on the island’s soundscape, a thing of whispers, screams, susurrations, keenings and — thanks to the presence of the artists’ community — doppler and volume effects and binaural wizardry. Hope Island is arty, arch, chilling, and utterly cock-sure of itself. It is also the only novel I have ever read that made my ears tingle.”
I’ve written a fair few articles to support the publication of Hope Island; they’ll be popping up around the internet during the next couple of weeks. The first two have appeared today:
The first is a big one for me: SF writer John Scalzi allowed me to write a ‘Big Idea’ piece for his ‘Whatever’ blog. I wrote about how parenthood can affect writing, and how I’ve managed to write despite parenthood, and the ways in which Hope Island is a product of my parental fears. Read the article here.
The second is a post I wrote for the wonderful Ginger Nuts of Horror website, about the development of Hope Island, from an initial attempt to write a straightforward, commercial novel, and ending with a moral: How can you spend 200 hours working on a novel and not introduce yourself in every scene, in every sentence? Read the article here.
Book birthday! HOPE ISLAND is published today in the UK.
It’s obviously not the ideal time to be launching a book, and it feels really strange that none of us can wander into a bookshop right now. So, here’s a convincing simulation of HOPE ISLAND on the shelf, not least so that you can appreciate Julia Lloyd’s terrific spine design. (I don’t normally alphabetise my books, FYI.)
Workaholic TV news producer Nina Scaife is determined to fight for her daughter, Laurie, after her partner Rob walks out on her. She takes Laurie to visit Rob’s parents on the beautiful but remote Hope Island, to prove to her that they are still a family. But Rob’s parents are wary of Nina, and the islanders are acting strangely. And as Nina struggles to reconnect with Laurie, the silent island children begin to lure her daughter away.
Meanwhile, Nina tries to resist the scoop as she is drawn to a local artists’ commune, the recently unearthed archaeological site on their land, and the dead body on the beach…
If you’re in the UK, the book is available for only £7.99 on Hive.co.uk, and part of the money goes to an independent bookshop of your choice.
The story was originally published in Synth #2, and it’s about a father transferring his rationed sleep credits to his young son. I wrote it when I was badly sleep-deprived myself, if that wasn’t already clear enough…
You can see the full line-up and preorder the book from the NewCon Press website.
Simon Bestwick was kind enough to invite me to take part in his series of lockdown interviews with writers. So, click on through to Simon’s website for talk of Doctor Who (and my thwarted attempt to win a Blue Peter badge), routes into writing, creativity during lockdown and a hint of my work-in-progress.
I’m very happy to tell you that yesterday I signed a contract for NewCon to publish my novella / short novel UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE, a Martian murder mystery.
Here’s the blurb:
Abbey Oma may be a fine Optic private eye, but she isn’t a people person. When she’s summoned from Earth to investigate a murder within a remote Martian settlement, her lack of social skills is as much an obstacle as the lack of clues. Could aye-aye robot Ai383 really have overridden its programming to kill a human scientist? Who else might stand to profit from the death of Jerem Ferrer in his airlocked lab? With docile Franck Treadgold co-opted as her Watson, Abbey begins to uncover a network of conflicting ambitions involving a ring of illegal diamond prospectors, the colony’s misguided leader, the Martian church and a dream epidemic.
Though it’s a standalone, it’s set in the same version of Mars as a bunch of my short stories, which have appeared in Interzone and Shoreline of Infinity, among others. I had lots of fun writing this one, and after selections in their Best British Science Fiction and Best British Fantasy anthologies, I’m thrilled that I’ll be a bona fide NewCon Press author.
More info soon!
The Super Relaxed Fantasy Club were nice enough to ask me to do a reading – here’s the video, including an extract from Hope Island (available in the US now, and in the UK in 2 weeks!) and my lockdown reads. Bonus appearance of my favourite mug.
Today you can read (for free!) my story ‘Red Sky at Morning’ over on the Unsung Stories website. It’s about a lighthouse keeper in the Farne Islands in the 1930s… and monsters.
Unsung Stories has been on my publishing wishlist ever since I started writing seriously, after I read Aliya Whiteley’s duo of astounding novellas, The Beauty and The Arrival of Missives. For a small publisher, their list each year has been of the highest quality, and precisely to my tastes, such as the recent novels Always North by Vicky Jarrett, The Willow By Your Side by Peter Haynes and Dark River by Rym Kechacha, plus the excellent This Dreaming Isle and 2084 anthologies. I’m delighted to have finally published a story with Unsung – it feels like a real milestone.
HOPE ISLAND is published in the US today! Here it is, modelled by my youngest son, who I can assure you is nothing like the creepy (murderous?) children in the novel.
The first reviews of the novel are starting to appear online, too. Starburst said there’s ‘a dash of John Wyndham and a soupcon of The Wicker Man in the richly-atmospheric latest novel from Tim Major’, and To the Ends of the Word blog concluded that ‘you should definitely check out this novel if your idea of horror is the psychological type, where the eeriness creeps upon you slowly but surely.’
HOPE ISLAND is out today (5th May) in the US, and 8th June in the UK, published by Titan Books. More details here.
Ian Whates at NewCon Press has achieved the impossible and pulled together the most enormous anthology of stories in just a few days. It’s available from today as an ebook, with all proceeds being donated to support NHS staff and other healthcare workers.
It really is enormous: 53 stories, 600 pages, 253,000 words of fiction. And the list of contributors is staggering, with giants of SF/fantasy and loads of terrific newer writers.
I have a story in there too: ‘Like Clockwork’, which is one of my idiosyncratic Mars stories, revolving around an engineer operating a millionaire’s full-size train set.
It’s for the best cause imaginable, and reading it would surely take you a week at least. I really think you should buy a copy.
So happy to say that I’ll have a story in THE BEST OF BRITISH FANTASY 2019, edited by Jared Shurin and available in June from NewCon Press. ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ first appeared in my collection AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM, published by Luna Press, and features a sentient house desperately concerned for the wellbeing of its peculiar new residents.
Congratulations to everyone included in the table of contents! It looks like a fantastic list, all round.
Another of my stories received an honourable mention, too – ‘The Forge’, which was also first published in AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM.
Here’s a new way for bloggers, reviewers, librarians and booksellers to read HOPE ISLAND ahead of publication – Titan Books is now on NetGalley! Click here for all the details if you fit the bill.
HOPE ISLAND is described as:
A gripping supernatural mystery for fans of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos from the author of Snakeskins. Workaholic Nina Scaife is determined to fight for what remains of her family after her partner walks out on her. Relocating to the beautiful but isolated Hope Island is not the fix she had hoped for. Struggling to reconnect with her daughter, the island’s strange silent children begin to lure her away. And then Nina finds the dead body.
By the way, like some other Titan titles, HOPE ISLAND will now have a staggered publication: 5th May in the USA, 8th June in the UK.
It’s not just my novel available – there are five titles in Titan’s initial batch of releases. I’ve been lucky enough to have read two of the books already (as well as the one I wrote, obv). I described EDEN by Tim Lebbon as ‘visceral, cinematic and utterly wild’ and A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS by Shaun Hamill as ‘a staggeringly good debut novel, by turns warm and terrifying, tender and devastating’. And while I haven’t read James Brogden’s BONE HARVEST yet, his earlier novels HEKLA’S CHILDREN and THE PLAGUE STONES are some of my favourite recent horror novels. And DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by Joan He sounds truly awesome too!
I hope you’re all managing in these strangest of times. After the first two weeks of lockdown and homeschooling, my brain’s starting to come alive again, little by little, by which I mean I’m writing again.
I’ll have updates about my next novel, Hope Island, very soon – but for now here’s a turning-back of the clocks by almost a year, to my last novel, Snakeskins. The article below was originally intended to feature in BSFA Focus, but after a mix-up it’s now without a home, so I thought I’d put it up here. It’s an overview of the writing and route to publication, which may be of most interest to upcoming writers.
In July 2015 I noted the following idea in a Word document:
Instead of the body’s cells gradually being replaced every 7–10 years, it all happens in an instant. This produces a ‘snakeskin’ version of yourself that is able to live independently, for a time. Somebody living a full life might produce eight Snakeskins, each of which continue to live for a short period after being ‘discarded’.
It sounded a rich idea, and even had a title built in. I began writing a story about a teenage girl experiencing her first ‘shedding’, roughly coinciding with her entry to adulthood. The result was… all right. I liked the depiction of the shedding ceremony well enough, but the aftermath felt too brief, constrained by the short story format. I had concentrated on this aspect: Perhaps Snakeskins tend not to be inhibited because they know they have limited time to live. Are they therefore more effective people? But this seemed only one possible repercussion, and more occurred to me over the following days. I wrote this list – the first item no doubt informed by the fact that I was considering quitting my job at the time:
Pros of Snakeskins:
The short story had been vague about the world in which the characters existed. I began to wonder about aspects that might affect wider society. Had people always produced Snakeskins? Did everyone produce them? Did the process have some scientific basis, or was it essentially magic? How would Snakeskins expire – an ordinary death, or something stranger?
My young adult SF novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY, was first published in November 2018. It’s about young offenders trapped in a virtual-reality prison modelled after a sleepy English village. It’s creepy and fun!
It was originally published by ChiZine. In late 2019 various revelations came to light about ChiZine’s business practices, which turned out to be… well, all sorts of awful. I won’t summarise them here – you can find various accounts by googling, or start with the Writer Beware overview. While I wasn’t affected as profoundly as many other writers – just a series of very long delays between acceptance and publication – I’ve yet to receive a single royalty statement, and who knows whether that’ll happen now. It goes without saying: please don’t buy copies of this edition.
But – good news! First off, I’ve now regained rights to publication of the book. Secondly, and more importantly, I’ve signed a contract with the wonderful Luna Press, and a new edition of the novel will be published in Autumn 2020. I’ve worked with Luna Press before on my first story collection, and they’re friendly, professional and just all-round excellent.
I’ve updated the MACHINERIES OF MERCY page on this site – where you’ll also find a Spotify soundtrack to the book to act as a teaser for the new edition – and you can read my introduction to the many influences on the novel on the Luna Press blog. More info soon, including a new cover!
It’s been a good start to 2020. I’ve read a lot, watched good films, Hope Island is done and dusted and ready for May 2020 publication, and I’ve finished the first draft of my Victorian novel and now I’m into the second pass. A few random nice writer things have cropped up recently, so I thought I’d gather them all here, mainly so I don’t forget any of them myself:
I’m happy to say that this year I’ve written more words than in any previous year – 182,000 words, which is a great deal more than my previous record of 133k last year. However, I only spent 30-odd more hours writing this year (282 hours in total), so in fact the high word count is probably more reflective of the fact that I’ve done a lot of drafting and little editing in 2019.
Other achievements this year included:
And some of my work was published:
One other milestone this year – I finally passed the 1 million words mark. It was always an arbitrary target, but when I started out in 2012 it seemed unimaginable that I’d stick at writing fiction for this long and this consistently, and I’m proud that I have. Right now, there seems no danger of me slowing down, so I don’t feel the need for a second million words-ometer.
This year it’s been a little unnerving writing a novel that doesn’t yet have a home and therefore may never be published, after the pleasant experience of writing Hope Island in 2018 as part of a two-book deal. Added to this, my current work-in-progress is knottier than any of my previous novels, mainly because it’s required a lot of historical research in several different areas. But I think it’s good, and I hope it’ll find a home next year.
Looking ahead to more certain aspects of 2020, I have three new short stories already lined up for publication, plus a reprint. Three of these are important publications to me for different reasons – more about those in the new year…
…and my second Titan Books novel, Hope Island, will be published in May 2020, which is something for me to look forward to and dread at the same time. It’s about parenthood, creepy island kids and strange aural phenomena, and it gets quite weird.
Hope you all had productive and happy years too, and here’s to the next year and decade!
*Thanks to the Titan marketing team for the photo of the Snakeskins-inspired bauble.
Goodness, what a lot of good drone albums there were this year! The Sacrificial Code by Kali Malone is a towering achievement – almost two hours of austere, subtly shifting pipe organ drones that slip me into a liminal space the moment they begin. I’ve listened to Genera – Live at AB Salon, Brussels by Bana Haffar more than any other album this year and still I understand it very little, but find it totally absorbing, strange and inspiring. The Gaelic smallpipe drones of The Reeling by Brighde Chaimbeul are utterly stunning – it’s an album that I’ve returned to far more than I’d expected on first listen. Bioluminescence by Shorelights is a far more manufactured confection, but there’s an organic element to the pulses, bird calls and wind beneath the surface. I can’t get enough of it. The field recordings of Vegetal Negatives by Marja Ahti are far more comprehensible, but conjure a soundscape that’s no less weird and no less hypnotic. Kimberlin (Original Soundtrack) by Abul Mogard continues Mogard’s incredible run of form, no less crucial and enveloping than any of his non-soundtrack work. Futuro (Music for the Waldorf Project) by Not Waving is an arresting soundtrack for literally anything you might be doing, and which sounds utterly different on each listen, as if the recording might respond to one’s mood. The title track of Epistasis by Maria w Horn, with its live string quartet and brooding – is it a harmonium? – is the standout track of a standout album. Traveller on the Road by Skin Crime recalls the most dread-filled moments of David Lynch movies, and sits well alongside other Hospital Productions artists such as Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement. Industry / Water by Michael Gordon / Jonny Greenwood is the best release so far from Greenwood’s Octatonic label, as much a drone record as modern classical, and bodes well for future releases. Pyroclasts by Sunn O))) is awesome in the most awe-filled sense of the word. Pale Bloom by Sarah Davachi is another wonderful album from the Californian artist – particularly the 21-minute final track, which brings us all the way back to the organ dirge of Kali Malone.
That’s a valid category, isn’t it? Atto IV by Vladimir Tarasov is an astounding album of jazz riffs and pulses that recall one of my favourite Oren Ambarchi albums, Quixotism. The man himself is present on Oglon Day by Oren Ambarchi, Mark Fell, Will Guthrie, Sam Shalabi, which delivers dizzying overlapping rhythms and a sense of huge regret at not seeing the performance live. Pink Nothing by Tom Richards, performed on an emulation of Daphne Oram’s unfinished ‘Mini Oramics’ machine, is maddeningly hypnotic. Triumvirate by Carter Tutti Void isn’t quite up to the level of majesty as their Transverse release, but it’s still ace. I by Föllakzoid is an unremitting forward march into the alien unknown.
All My People by Maria Somerville is comfortably my favourite vocal album of the year, neatly stepping in for the lack of new Grouper. 2020 by Richard Dawson retains Dawson’s lyrical precision and his wonderful voice, but lacks the lunacy of his previous releases. Arrival by Fire! Orchestra is more accessible than the band’s recent releases and features a surprising amount of vocals. ANIMA by Thom Yorke is assured and full of earworms. The Age of Immunology by Vanishing Twin is joyous and undemanding despite its complexity. Look Up Sharp by Carla dal Forno is strikingly familiar hauntology, an album half-remembered from childhood. The Envoy by Gavilán Rayna Russom is majestic and deeply weird, and features Cosey Fanni Tutti on vocals and arrangements by Peter Zummo.
Three Highlife albums provided me with lots of happiness – the first being Hitsville Re-Visited by Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas, Uhuru Yenzu, also from 1982, the most joyous recording I’ve heard all year. However, the more overly funky Control by Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & Zantoda Mark III, from 1980, and Grupo Pilon: Leite Quente Funaná de Cabo Verde by Grupo Pilon, a collection of 1980s recordings of Electro-Funaná from West Africa’s Cabo Verde Islands, give Ebo a run for his money. Oren Ambarchi rears his head again, curating a vast selection of experimental, drone and unclassifiable recordings from his own record label for the compilation Black Truffle At 10. The rerelease of Michael O’Shea by Michael O’Shea from 1982 is a revelation – Indo-European voodoo played on, according to Boomkat: a hybrid of a zelochord and a sitar, made on a wooden door salvaged in Munich, and with the crucial addition of electric pick-ups and the ‘Black Hole Space Box’. Hissing Theatricals by Tapes, a rerelease of the 2009 dub album, is wonderful, as are the 1980s synth post-punk experiments contained on Beside Herself by Michele Mercure.
Two guest blog posts popped up online during the last week:
First off, Book Stewards put together a really nice Q&A, covering reasons I began writing, happy accidents that resulted in publications, upcoming projects and the elusive ‘Tim Major thing’. I also got to recommend a load of my favourite recent reads. You can read the full article here.
Secondly, Speculative Chic were nice enough to ask me to write an article for their ‘My Favourite Things’ series – I chose the SF, horror and classic films that are floating my boat at the moment. Here it is.
The current issue of Black Static features a terrific review of my short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM. It’s insightful and detailed (a page and a half long!), and enthusiastic and kind. It made me cry a little. It includes careful analysis of each story in the collection, and ends with the following summation:
“And the House Lights Dim is an immensely worthwhile read. A liquorice allsorts of genre and theme which nonetheless coheres thanks to the enduring prose style and strong sense of voice… If you like your stories strange, eerie and thought-provoking, this one is for you.”
I’ll be attending FantasyCon in Glasgow this weekend, and this is what I’ll be getting up to:
Launch: The Shadow Booth
Launch of Shadow Booth Vol 4, edited by Dan Coxon, with readings by Robert Shearman, Gary Budden and Tim Major.
Panel: The 13th Doctor
The Doctor is back and she’s better than ever! What are the best moments in series 11? What do we love about Whittaker’s Doctor? How has the series riffed on existing concepts but explored them in new ways? And what kind of stories do we want to see next?
David Thomas Moore, Mark Morris, Tim Major, Una McCormack
Launch: Luna Press
Launch of the Harvester series of single-author collections by Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Nick Wood and Tim Major.
This is the official launch of my collection And the House Lights Dim, which was published in July this year.
Workshop: Short Fiction Submissions
Alongside my BFS Horizons co-editor, Shona Kinsella, I’ll be running a workshop about how to make the best possible impression when sending short stories to editors.
…and then I’ll be attending the banquet for the first time – exciting!
…and then I’ll be attending the British Fantasy Awards for the first time – also exciting!
(Not least because my monograph about the 1915 film Les Vampires is on the shortlist for Best Non-Fiction – though it’s up against some fine competition, any of whom I’d be delighted to see win. Still, the nomination is a great excuse to finally stick around long enough to see the awards presented.)
Another first: I’ll be staying in the convention hotel. Hopefully this will mean a more flexible approach to planning my days, and less lugging around everything needed from morning until night. And more chance to bump into people and hang around with people I like, which surely is the point of FantasyCon in the first place.