New interview (with me)

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction have published a new interview with me today. It’s quite a wide-ranging one, covering writing habits, recent publications, my work editing the British Fantasy Society’s BFS Horizons, as well as a minor revelation about my previous brief sideline as a bassist in a band that was actually pretty good. You can read the full interview here.

My WorldCon schedule

Dublin WorldCon

I’m going to be quite busy at Dublin WorldCon in a couple of weeks’ time! Here’s my schedule:

Panel: When good futures go bad: dystopia as horror fiction
Friday 16 Aug 2019, 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Room-1 (CCD)
It’s not just for science fiction any more! How do horror dystopias differ from those in SF, and what are some examples, old and new, that we should be reading?
Prof David Farnell (M), Tim Major, Pat Cadigan, Emil Hjörvar Petersen, Nina Allan

Panel: Hammer Horror
Friday 16 Aug 2019, 14:30 – 15:20, Odeon 3 (Point Square Dublin)
Terry Pratchett, Guillermo del Toro and writers of Doctor Who (during the Tom Baker period) have all evinced admiration and  inspiration from a set of horror flicks produced by a long dormant British film producer Horror Films from the 1950s and 1960s. Our panellists look at what makes them so enamoured of their productions.
Genevieve Cogman (M), The John Vaughan, Tim Major, Helena Nash, Mr Grzegorz Aleksander Biały

Panel: Rural pagans, haunted forests: folk horror revival
Saturday 17 Aug 2019, 11:00 – 11:50, Liffey Hall-2 (CCD)
With its roots in folklore and rural life, ‘folk horror’ has enjoyed a huge resurgence in the last few years. What is folk horror, and why is it suddenly so popular? Is it nostalgia-based, or are there new anxieties at work that have driven its rise?
Tim Major (M), Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle, Neil Williamson

NewCon Press book launch
Saturday 17 Aug 2019, 17.30 – 18.30, Point Square: Warehouse 2 – Performance space
Inc. launch of Best of British Science Fiction 2019, which features my story, ‘Throw Caution’.

Les Vampires shortlisted for British Fantasy Award

This morning I was delighted to discover that my monograph on Les Vampires has been shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award, in the Best Non-Fiction category!

I’m very flattered, and surprised – and as always, I’m grateful to Neil Snowdon of Electric Dreamhouse Press for giving me the opportunity to write the book.

British Fantasy SocietyThe full list of shortlisted works is well worth checking out. More than anything, what strikes me is the reminder/realisation that I know so many of the shortlisted writers, editors and artists personally, from various genre events, and how much of a pleasure it is to see them achieving and progressing so swiftly in their careers – and being so supportive while doing so.

Find out more information about my Les Vampires monograph here.

Book birthday: AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM

And the House Lights Dim - Tim MajorThis came around fast… I’m happy to say that my first short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM, is available as of today! It’s published by Luna Press and is billed as strange stories about houses, homes and families.

Here’s something I wrote about the collection when it was first announced:

AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM is my first collection of short stories, which were written over a three-year period. They’re pretty diverse, spanning weird fiction, horror and SF – but I confess that when I wrote them they seemed more diverse than they really are. It was only recently that I realised just how prevalent particular themes have been in my writing: houses, homes and family.

Perhaps it’s no surprise. The earliest of the stories was written when my wife was pregnant with our first child; one of the novellas was written in a mad hurry in the weeks before his birth; nowadays I write in a fog of fatigue due to my second child’s sleepless nights. I think about family constantly and as a freelance editor I’m trapped in my home for the greater part of every day.

In this collection are stories about a sentient house overprotective of its new occupants, a supernatural Greenland shark that attacks a family via sound, a married couple alone on a lengthy space flight, two young girls who live in isolation and in fear of the world beyond their walls, a camping trip that turns a family feral, a post-apocalyptic Center Parcs, a man who has defragmented his mind and another who splices a rival’s brain patterns onto his own.

Most of the stories have been published in various places, including Interzone, Not One of Us, The Literary Hatchet and anthologies published by Fox Spirit, Jurassic London and Hic Dragones. ‘Carus & Mitch’ was previously published as a standalone novella by Omnium Gatherum and was shortlisted for a This Is Horror Award in 2015. People have been very nice about it: Lynda Rucker said it was a ‘compelling, unconventional page-turner… blending a John Wyndham-esque melancholy with a dose of existential despair’. Adam Roberts called it ‘punchy and scary and tense and genuinely moving’ and James Everington at This is Horror said it was ‘an intimate, original, and character-driven take on the post-apocalyptic genre’, all of which made me feel awfully proud.

One thing I neglected to mention in that description are the stories that are new to the collection: O Cul-de-Sac!, The Forge and Honey Spurge. I’m particularly proud of O Cul-de-Sac!, the 10k-word story that opens the collection – though I’m also nervous on its behalf, as if I’m forcing it out into the world rather it being there on its own merits. It’s an unusual story, written once I recognised the theme of the collection – it’s narrated by a sentient house who is proud and then wary of its new occupants.

You can buy AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM direct from Luna Press or from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

By the way, the beautiful cover image is by Daniele Serra. Do check out his incredible work.

My Edge-Lit 8 schedule

This weekend I’ll be heading to the Edge-Lit convention, a one-day genre writing event on Sat 13th July in Derby. It’s always a terrific event, and incredibly friendly. I’m really looking forward to it.

In fact, Edge-Lit was the first writing convention I ever attended, back in 2015, after I’d published only one novella and a couple of short stories. I was very nervous and hung around at the backs of rooms, but the few people I spoke to were lovely. I found the panels and workshops particularly encouraging – they provided me with some useful expectations as I started out on what would hopefully become a writing career.

And I suppose I did end up with a writing career – or at least, I’m still on that trajectory. So, it feels like important milestone that on Saturday I’ll be attending Edge-Lit as an invited guest, appearing on stage, at launches and conducting a workshop.

My workshop is intended to pay back the favour of that help I received when I first attended. It’s titled ‘Routes to Becoming a Novelist’ and is aimed at new writers – I’ll be discussing a sort of apprenticeship route to building up a writing CV.

Here’s my schedule:

10am Cinema 1
Short Cuts: Does a Background in Short Fiction Help You Build a Career as a Novelist?
Panel – with Simon Bestwick, Zen Cho(Chair), Jan Edwards, Tim Lebbon, Tim Major

11am Digital Studio (1st floor)
Workshop – Routes to Becoming a Novelist
Intended for writers at the beginning of their career – see description above.

2pm Participation Space (ground floor)
Shadow Booth Launch – with Tim Major, Robert Shearman and Aliya Whiteley
Featuring readings and discussion about weird fiction, led by editor Dan Coxon.

3pm Cinema 2
Black Shuck Books launches PAREIDOLIA , edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth and THE FINITE by Kit Power
(I have a story in the Pareidolia anthology)

6pm Participation Space (ground floor)
Readings – Anne Charnock and Tim Major
As well as reading a snippet from Snakeskins, I’ll probably read from my short story collection, And the House Lights Dim, which will be published 4 days before Edge-Lit.

Do you have an Edge-Lit ticket yet? You should come. If you do, please do come and say hello at any time – particularly if you’re a new writer looking for the same kind of reassurance that I needed when I first attended four years ago.

Another SNAKESKINS review and a ‘best of’ pick

I figured that the review cycle for SNAKESKINS was probably at an end, but it seems I was wrong. Last week the novel was reviewed in the Sun newspaper, of all places, and very favourably too! Take a look at the (slightly grainy, sorry) scan =>

Not only that, but following the Financial Times review of the novel at the end of May, the same newspaper has now selected SNAKESKINS as one of its best books of the summer! It’s only one of four SF titles selected, alongside Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful, MG Wheaton’s Emily Eternal and Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection. It includes only a short summary of the book, but featuring on this list, with those authors, is something that makes me feel enormously proud.

A sobering, startling satire set in an alternate UK where a privileged few live lives that are longer and healthier than most by means of generating clones of themselves — “Skins” — which instantly disintegrate. When Caitlin Hext’s Skin doesn’t die as planned, terrible truths about her world come slithering into the light.

You can see the growing list of reviews for SNAKESKINS, and read blog posts and listen to the book soundtrack etc, here.

Cymera Festival

Claire North & Tim MajorAll told, the inaugural Cymera Festival in Edinburgh was a triumph. Organiser Ann Landmann did a terrific job of booking writers, setting up events and apparently managing to keep her cool throughout. I got a chance to speak at length with lots of SFF authors I’d only met in passing before, and hang out with the Titan Books editorial and marketing team, who are all ace.

And it was a personal triumph, too. The event I was scheduled to take part in – a discussion with Claire North (or Cat Webb, to dispense with the pseudonym) – was a far bigger event than I’ve ever done before. I mean that quite literally – we were onstage in the main theatre, with stage mics and everything. But the festival was so casual and friendly, as was Cat/Claire when we spoke in the Green Room, that I found myself more relaxed and confident than at previous events.

And I think the actual discussion went well, too! I certainly enjoyed it, Cat/Claire’s opinions are always fascinating and her recent novel 84K is an absolute marvel, and I think I was mostly coherent and mostly on topic. I so appreciated people stumping up for the event – most would have paid for the event individually rather than as part of a weekend pass – and a bunch bought copies of Snakeskins and asked me to sign them, too. All in all, I was allowed to feel like a Real Author, which was very exciting.

I’m told that Cymera will return next year, so watch out for more details – I highly recommend coming along.

SNAKESKINS reviewed in the Financial Times

This is a cheering end to publication month… SNAKESKINS has been reviewed by James Lovegrove for the Financial Times, and he seems to have enjoyed it very much! Here’s the final paragraph of the review:

“Tim Major masterfully weaves his plot strands together, studding Snakeskins with images of duality and metamorphosis to create a dark and compelling vision of corruption and conspiracy with a subtly satirical edge.”

You can read the full review online here.

Update: It was also published in the FT Weekend edition on 1st June! Click the image to enlarge.

 

Hannah’s Bookshelf radio interview

Last week I was interviewed by Hannah Kate for her show Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. I really enjoyed it, and felt far more comfortable than I expected – it was a long, detailed conversation, but there always seemed plenty to discuss, which has done wonders for my confidence with regards to forthcoming public appearances.

We talked about my recent novel Snakeskins, my upcoming short story collection, And the House Lights Dim and my non-fiction book about Les Vampires – and also my preoccupation with houses, nostalgia and baked beans in fiction.

I also picked my books to cling onto after the apocalypse: John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, John Updike’s collected Rabbit novels and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.

If you fancy listening to the interview, it’s available to stream on Mixcloud.

SNAKESKINS – two weeks in the world (almost)

SNAKESKINS, my novel about a group of people who produce spontaneous clones, was published by Titan Books on 7th May. That seems a long time ago now! Today marks the end of an intense and intensely fascinating period – a fortnight-long marketing blitz which involved huge numbers of book bloggers and Instagrammers posting information, snippets, Q&As, giveaways and responses to the book. It’s been unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past. As I noted in my previous blog post, it took me a while (that is, all of launch day, which I frittered refreshing webpages obsessively) to understand that this process didn’t directly involve me – though of course I’d generated interview responses and blog posts etc before the event.

Snakeskins Interzone review May19As I’d hoped, week two has been markedly more casual and enjoyable. As well as my easing up on the F5 key, this was also the week in which a greater number of reviews began to filter through – culminating with the new issue of Interzone popping through my letterbox yesterday. The Interzone review is very positive and I’ve been buzzing ever since I read it. The fact that the reviewer is so enthusiastic about the novel is incredible (‘unflinching characterisation and at times deadly prose’ … ‘he’s set the bar high if he’s going to top this’), but just as incredible is the fact that Interzone contains a full-page review of my novel at all. When I first started writing fiction in 2013, my stated ambition was to receive a rejection slip from Interzone. Seriously, a rejection slip, rather than publication, because it would signal that I was giving this writing thing a real shot. I was delighted with that rejection slip. Then the next year my first story was accepted for Interzone – my first big sale, and the moment when I felt like I might have something to offer as a writer. To have graduated to a full-page review of my new novel feels equally as significant a milestone.

So, that was a big moment. What else? I was tipped off that a full-page ad for the book appeared on the back cover of Locus magazine (the US genre trade mag), which is pretty ace (thank you, Titan!). But while I wait for more reactions from readers and reviewers, the main activity has been updates on various book blogs. On top of the interviews and guest posts I mentioned last week, these pieces were published this week:

Oh, and I recorded my first radio interview! If you’re in the Manchester area you can listen to me talk at length to Hannah Kate on her show, Hannah’s Bookshelf (Saturday 18th May, 2–4pm). After the broadcast I’ll share links to listen online. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, but I’ll be wincing in embarrassment when I listen to the show, no doubt.

And there have been more reviews. Here are just a few:

Snakeskins has so much more in it than you might first imagine. It’s packed full of slowly revealed alternate history, it has mystery that unfolds at a great pace, and characters who aren’t superheroes but real people with believable motivations and personal stories. I read Snakeskins in one day because I couldn’t put it down, but the story, the world, and those who inhabit it will stay with me much, much longer.” Set the Tape

“Snakeskins is an excellently crafted and often horrifying look at identity and what it means to be human. … A keen look at human nature and the workings of a corrupt government” Pythia Reads

“I really went into this one not knowing what to expect, and ended up devouring it in two days! It’s fast-paced, the characters are well developed, it’s weird, and it’s totally British … I think folks who are into things like The X-Files or Orphan Black would love this!” Grimdark Dad

“This is an intriguing SciFi conspiracy novel which, as with all good SciFi, uses high concept ideas to explore prescient issues about our society’s treatment of people, and it’s bloody good too.” The Hebridean Reader

There are a lot more reviews besides those – I’m doing my best to collect them all on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page.

On top of this, I’ve been keeping an eye (okay, checking twice a day) on the Goodreads page for the book. It’s looking okay, I think! As of today there are 20 ratings, with a mean average of exactly 4 stars. If you do read the novel, I’d be grateful if you could post an honest review on Goodreads and, even better, Amazon. I’m told that amazing things happen if you get to 50 reviews, and I daren’t even imagine what that might be.

So, in short, all still going well. I suspect I’ll feel slightly adrift next week, without the tangible evidence of book blog updates. I’ve have to keep reminding myself that I have proof that people are reading the book right now, because that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

SNAKESKINS – its first few days in the world

Well… It’s been a dizzying week. SNAKESKINS was published on Tuesday! It’s in hundreds of bookshops in the UK and the USA – I have photographic evidence! It’s being read right now! People seem to like it!

If I’m honest, I didn’t much enjoy publication day itself. My jittery anxiety translated into me checking my phone every 10 minutes for updates (and there were updates, every time). Wednesday was a bit better. By Thursday I was in the groove.

Because all that goodwill I mentioned a few days ago? It seems that it wasn’t just talk. To begin with, people are buying the book. They’re walking into bookshops or adding it to their Amazon cart. Phew. Furthermore, people who’ve read it seem to have genuinely enjoyed the experience. Whether all of this leads to more sales and more readers, I have no idea, and it’s out of my control. But things are still going as well as I could possibly hope. I keep trying to take snapshots of the current state of things, and the snapshots keep encouraging me.

The most visible evidence that the book is real and out there is the social media promotional tour going on right now. I’m a newbie to Instagram, but there seems a lot of traffic surrounding the book, ably orchestrated by the Titan marketing team, who are amazing. Part of learning to go with the flow this week has been making a decision that the Instagram activity doesn’t need to involve me, and perhaps is better off for me watching but not participating – as mixed in with the Q&As, giveaways and terrific photos are reviews and comments. I’m applying the age-old author rule of not responding to reviews, even when they’re positive. (But do you know what? They really are positive reviews, hooray!) If you follow #snakeskinstour or #titanbooks, you’ll see what’s cooking. The photos alone warm my heart.

Book blogs are more my comfort zone, and there’s a lot of blog activity too. Here are some handy links to everything that’s been published so far on this two-week social media blitz:

And there’s lots more to come!

Snakeskins blog tourFinally, reviews… any author’s waking nightmare. Except these are really positive! Here’s a taster:

“A heart stopping & thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances & challenge your perceptions of acceptance.” (5 stars) Paperbacks and Pinot

“I read a lot of YA, yet this adult SF novel is by far one of the most convincing portrayals of burgeoning maturity I’ve ever read. … It’s a remarkably thoughtful consideration of identity and humanity, as the best sci-fi thrillers invariably are.” The Frumious Consortium

“…bizarre, and deeply resonant … glimpses of Adrian Barnes and Atwood at her very weirdest … Somehow otherworldly and yet so incredibly human, politically relevant but also touching on universal themes of identity and mortality, Snakeskins is a novel I will be thinking about for a very long time.”  Folded Paper Foxes

“It’s an unusual setup for an intricate political thriller that coils in on itself, tightening the tension as it circles toward satisfyingly shocking answers.” Barnes & Noble blog

So… I’m more than happy with the ways things are going. Here’s to lots more anxiety and (hopefully) more pleasant surprises next week, as more reviews come in. I’m doing my best to collect articles and reviews on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page. Or you could just skip all that and buy a copy? Just saying.

Snakeskins Titan newsletter banner

SNAKESKINS publication day!

SNAKESKINS is published today! This is my grateful and baffled and happy and anxious face.

Tim Major - Snakeskins publication day 1Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy already or shared promos or just been generally supportive, to the authors who provided blurbs, to Titan editorial and marketing, to Rose. I’ve no idea how it’ll pan out from here on in, but the book has had the best possible start in life. Thank you!

Find out more about SNAKESKINS here.

SNAKESKINS social media tour

The day is almost upon us… SNAKESKINS will be published in the UK and US tomorrow!

Snakeskins blog tour

To mark the occasion there will be a ten-day book blog tour, starting today – two blogs every day. I know, crazy!

First up today is my guest blog post at Bibliosanctum, about a SNAKESKINS soundtrack to an imagined adaptation. It includes doubles, identity issues, an isolated Britain thirty years behind ours. There are full explanations of each track choice in the article, and the soundtrack’s intended to work as a primer to the book too – no spoilers, I promise!

Snakeskins Instagram tourIf you’re one of the really cool kids, there’s also an Instagram tour – follow #snakeskinstour to see all updates. The first post is a mini-review, and it’s a very positive one, phew!

Finally, one of the book blog reviews went live already, on Paperbacks and Pinot, who said that ‘Snakeskins is a heart stopping and thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances and challenge your perceptions of acceptance.’

‘Throw Caution’ selected for Best of British Science Fiction 2018

I’m very happy to say that my Mars story ‘Throw Caution’ has been selected for the next volume of BEST OF BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION from NewCon Press, edited by Donna Scott. The story was originally published in Interzone #276.

It’s a terrific lineup, too! Here’s the full table of contents:

Providence – Alastair Reynolds
Talking to Ghosts at the Edge of the World – Lavie Tidhar
The Miracle Lambs of Minane – Finbarr O’Reilly
Territory Blank – Aliya Whiteley
Throw Caution – Tim Major
Golgotha – Dave Hutchinson
Salvation – Dave Bradley
Waterbirds – G.V. Anderson
Buddy System – Mike Morgan
Do No Harm – Anna Ibbotson
A Change of Heart – Hannah Tougher
Birnam Platoon – Natalia Theodoridou
Good – Sunyi Dean
Hard Times in Nuovo Genova – Chris Barnham
The Escape Hatch – Matthew de Abaitua
P.Q. – James Warner
The Purpose of the Dodo is to be Extinct – Malcolm Devlin
Cat and Mouse – David Tallerman
Before They Left – Colin Greenland
Harry’s Shiver – Esme Carpenter
The Whisperer – J.K. Fulton
Death of the Grapevine – Teika Marija Smits
Rainsticks – Matt Thompson
The Veilonaut’s Dream – Henry Szabranski
Doomed Youth – Fiona Moore
F Sharp 4 – Tim Pieraccini

Head over to the NewCon Press website for more information and preorder links. The book will be launched at WorldCon in August.

Why I *almost* don’t want my novel to be published next week

In exactly one week, my novel SNAKESKINS will be published. That’s a good thing! And yet I’m feeling… I don’t know. Mixed. Mixed is how I’m feeling.

Here’s the thing. I’ve really enjoyed the long lead-up to publication of this novel. I sold it to Titan Books (…checks calendar…) eleven months ago. I wrote a bunch of additional material in September, signed off on the copyedit in October, received final proofs in January. Since that point the book has been complete, simply waiting to become a real object. I held an ARC copy in my hands in February, then a copy of the real actual book earlier in mid-April.

But even now, with hundreds of actual, tangible copies of the novel having been printed in two continents, the book remains unreal. In one week, on 7th May, the novel will be available to purchase in the UK and the USA. And I’m not ready for it.

This whole long period has been characterised by positivity. SNAKESKINS secured me a two-book deal and an agent. The ARCs were sent to authors I admire a huge amount, who not only read the book, they provided the most incredible blurbs. At various events, friends and friends-of-friends have wholeheartedly wished SNAKESKINS all the success in the world. The goodwill I’ve been receiving has been overwhelming.

I’m not saying that this goodwill is an illusion, or that it’ll evaporate in a week’s time. But I appreciate that all this goodwill is just that – a pleasant wish. In many ways, I’d prefer to stay in this period of daydreams and potential rather than face the hard reality of reviews and sales figures.

I can’t help myself from trying to read the tea leaves about how this is all going to pan out. There’s not a huge amount to go on, and I’m only slightly ashamed to confess that recently I’ve been googling the phrase ‘Tim Major Snakeskins review’ at the beginning and end of every day. But each of these tea leaves* gives me a Good Feeling:

Tea leaf 1: Titan Books are in a fantastic place right now. Within just the last couple of months they’ve published M.T. Hill’s deliriously inventive ZERO BOMB and Helen Marshall’s THE MIGRATION, which is as close to perfect as you could reasonably expect. I’m just about to dive into David Quantick’s ALL MY COLORS, which from the blurb sounds so much my thing that I’m cross that I haven’t written it myself. James Brogden’s THE PLAGUE STONES is out in a couple of weeks and Aliya Whiteley’s SKEIN ISLAND will follow soon. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be in the company of such writers.

Tea leaf 2: The guys at Titan, and my agent, are friendly and not really scary at all. Seriously, they’re lovely. Considering they’re THE GATEKEEPERS to this industry, they’re doing kind of a crappy job of being fierce and forbidding. I had lunch with Cat and George from Titan a couple of weeks ago and we talked about books and films and Art Garfunkel and it was as if they were just interesting normal people, which obviously is madness.

Snakeskins on Instagram Tea leaf 3: The Titan marketing team are clearly incredible at their jobs. There’s going to be a book blog tour, beginning the day before publication! And over the last few days SNAKESKINS has been popping up in the feeds of Instagram book bloggers. Each sighting of Julia Lloyd’s incredible cover gives my heart a little sharp prod.

SnakeskinsTea leaf 4: THAT COVER. When I visited the Titan office I met Julia Lloyd, the seriously talented cover designer, and I swear I thanked her seven times. It was only back when I was shown the cover that I first allowed myself to believe that a bookshop customer might actually pick up my book and buy it, and they totally should because even the spine is awesome and it’ll look really good on their shelf. Also: a great use of spot varnish.

Tea leaf 5: THOSE BLURBS. I’ve bumped into a couple of the authors since they provided blurbs, and I looked deep into their eyes, Larry David-style, and still they swore that they liked the novel.

Tea leaf 6: There have been a couple of early reviews, and they’re good! Booklist called it a ‘taut and fast-paced sf thriller’ and Publishers Weekly used phrases like ‘delightfully tense’ and ‘uncanny tale’ and ‘strong voice’. There are currently three Goodreads reviews (book bloggers, I presume), with one of them giving it 5 stars. I’m prepared for the bad reviews, really I am, and in the past I’ve rarely disagreed with criticisms and not felt too badly stung. But good reviews are good.

Anyway. This time next week the book will be out in the world, and either it’ll be liked or it won’t, and either it’ll sell well or it won’t. I’ve already delivered my second novel to Titan (it’s unconnected to SNAKESKINS), I’ve more or less completed a novella and I’m planning a bigger, weirder novel. My only ambition thus far has been to be allowed to keep writing, and to spend more time writing, by making it a legitimate part of a cobbled-together career. I’m writing more than I ever have before, so I’m winning on that score.

It’s only right to acknowledge that I do have a fair amount at stake. SNAKESKINS isn’t my first novel but I feel wholehearted about it. If it crashes and burns, it’ll hurt.

So all of this is why I’m trying to pay full attention to this moment, when there’s only potential, when I feel able to introduce myself to people as a writer and feel halfway convinced that that might actually be my valid identity, when I’m swimming in goodwill, when at times I’m able to imagine that this whole thing might actually turn out well.

It seemed important to write this blog post to capture a snapshot of a particular moment. I promise to provide an update from the other side. Wish me luck?

* Clearly, I have no idea how tea leaves are supposed to be read.

Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles

C.M. Muller’s doppelgänger anthology, Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles was released last month. It’s a beautiful book and I’m very proud to have a story included in it.

Indefatigable book-reviewer Des Lewis has been working his way through the collection, and had the following to say about my story, ‘The Bath House’:

42, as we know, is a significant age, and on this birthday, Mark (with seemingly plain backstory of marriage and two daughters back home) is given, by a friend, the gift of being hitchhiked as it were by a new self, via a ritual – which is compellingly imparted to us – within the genius loci of the eponymous replacement of an old church, a new baptism as it were where the water is hauled by Mark himself from a well, heavy by counterweight of his perhaps not-so-plain backstory’s ill-threaded pulley from the past, and the last line of this work is a particularly frightening one in the context of not only this work but also of the whole book so far. You will not forget that last line, I suggest.

Thanks Des – I’m happy with that summary! I found it pretty creepy to write, too.

You can get hold of Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles here.

In conversation with Claire North at CYMERA SFF festival

Over the weekend the full programme for the new SFF literary festival, CYMERA, was announced. The festival will take place on 7–9 June 2019 in Edinburgh, and features some amazing guests, including Marian Womack, Tade Thompson, Gareth L. Powell, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Charles Stross, Christopher Priest… and many more – it’s a heck of a list. And Claire North! And me!

I’d been told a while back that I’d be on a panel with Cat Webb (otherwise known as Claire North), but I’d assumed there’d be a bunch of us onstage. Instead, the event is the two of us in conversation – and while this is SO cool, I’m also feeling SUCH anxiety. I love Cat’s/Claire’s books.

We’ll be chatting about unequal societies in fiction, related to my upcoming novel SNAKESKINS (in which a small group of Britons have the power to shed their skins every seven years, rejuvenating in the process) and the Claire North novel 84K (in which anyone can get away with any crime, if they have the money to pay for it). 84K is a superb novel and if you haven’t already read it, you must.

The event will be on Sunday 9th June at The Pleasance in Edinburgh. There are more details on the CYMERA website.

SNAKESKINS author quotes

Good grief. Here are the quotes that have been provided for SNAKESKINS by some of my favourite writers. Honestly, I feel a little faint. I’m very, very grateful for this support.

“Startling imagery, deft storytelling, and assured and engaging writing make Snakeskins simply unmissable.”
Tim Lebbon

“John Wyndham meets Black Mirror in Tim Major’s scintillating novel, a parallel world thriller, which takes as its themes duplicity, paranoia and what it truly means to be human. Snakeskins wrapped its coils around me and wouldn’t let go.”
Mark Morris

“A premise worthy of Wyndham becomes a twisty political SF thriller in the hands of Major. Snakeskins is full of action and surprise, keeping me reading, but the real hook lies in the rich seam of humanity within.”
Aliya Whiteley

“Another great page-turner from Tim Major! We follow Caitlin, a teenage girl, whose ability to produce ‘snakeskin’ clones causes emotional ripples that spread more widely than she’d ever anticipated. It’s a gripping and thought-provoking tale, with Major exploring the wider implications of cloning and extended life-spans in the growth of a corrupt new government which has consequences for all.”
Alison Littlewood

“The world-building is subtle and convincing, a plausible alternate UK where isolationist foreign policy has retarded the country’s technological and economic progress. A cautionary tale for our times.”
James Brogden

“Whether as page-turning thriller, coming of age story, or timely satire on a broken Britain, Snakeskins is a delight.”
Robert Shearman

“Tim Major has a talent for combining big ideas to create something exciting. With Snakeskins he gives us a SF thriller brimming with questions about identity.”
Priya Sharma

Here’s a page with more information about SNAKESKINS, and preorder links. It’ll be out on 7th May – not long now!

Best of 2018 roundup

Though I haven’t written any fiction yet in 2019, the year has got off to a good start in terms of votes of confidence in my earlier work…

I was pleased and surprised to find that my story ‘Throw Caution’ has been longlisted for the BSFA Awards. It was first published in Interzone #276 edited by Andy Cox. It’s a terrific list of nominees, with lots of writers who I now consider friends – I’m very proud to be listed alongside them.

Dev Agarwal at BSFA Vector included my books in his Best of 2018 article: “Tim Major, (who along with Shona Kinsella co-edits the British Fantasy Association’s Horizons magazine) published a young adult SF novel called Machineries of Mercy (ChiZine) and a non-fiction book that appeals to genre consumers, about the seminal 1915 silent film, Les Vampires (Electric Dreamhouse Press). In both works, and in his co-editing of Horizons, Major brings a clear and vivid sense of location and character to bear that makes his narratives — fictional and biographic — come vividly alive to the reader.”

On his Scattershot Writing blog, James Everington included ‘The House Lights Dim’ (from Dark Lane Anthology #2, Dark Lane Books) in his list of his favourite short stories read in 2018.

Finally, and now looking forward to 2019, I recently learned that my story ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ has been picked up by editor C.M. Muller for Synth: An Anthology of Dark SF. There’s a list of my upcoming short story publications here, which includes a story in one of Muller’s other projects, Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles, due out in February.

SF Showcase interview

SF Showcase recently interviewed me about my YA novel, Machineries of Mercy, as well as the upcoming Snakeskins and even a glimpse of the novel after that. The conversation covers the influence of John Wyndham, the original Westworld film and one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, ‘The Deadly Assassin’. Click here to read the interview.

My writing year 2018

This year I wrote about 135,000 new words – more than any other previous year (I usually average around 125k, and in 2017 this fell to fewer than 80k as much of my free time was taken up with moving house, twice). I wrote:

  • Hope Island – novel, in progress (currently 85,000 words)
  • ‘Red Sky At Morning’ – weird short story (2800 words)
  • ‘Throw Caution’ – Mars SF short story (3000 words), published in Interzone #276
  • ‘What Can You Do About A Man Like That?’ – weird short story (8600 words) for unannounced anthology
  • ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ – SF short story (2800 words)
  • ‘Dear Will’ – weird short story (2900 words)
  • Three pieces of non-fiction for as-yet unannounced projects, by invitation

This year, I spent 254 hours either writing or editing. I’m not sure if that sounds a lot, but on average it works out as 21 hours per month doing what I love doing – not quite 5 hours per week. When you put it like that, it doesn’t seem like much at all. In 2019 I’m determined that I’ll find the time to write for at least 10 hours per week.

When I wrote my summary of my writing year 2017, I noted that it had been a year of paving the way for an interesting 2018, and I suppose that panned out as I’d hoped. This year I had the following published:

  • Les Vampires – non-fiction book about the 1915 serial, as part of the Midnight Movie Monographs series (Electric Dreamhouse Press)
  • Machineries of Mercy – YA SF novel (ChiZine)
  • ‘The Pale Shadow and the Conjuror’ – mystery short story, Mystery Weekly
  • ‘To Ashes, Dust’ – Mars SF short story, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #61
  • ‘Throw Caution’ – Interzone #276
  • ‘Cast in the Same Mould’ – Shoreline of Infinity Issue 13
  • Six of my older stories were reprinted, including two stories in ‘best of 2017’ collections: ‘The Walls of Tithonium Chasma’ in Best of British Science Fiction (NewCon Press) and ‘Eqalussuaq’ in The Best Horror of the Year Vol 10, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books).

But, once again, this year has mainly felt like prep for a more exciting next year. Because the biggest news for me this year was the double-whammy of signing with Alexander Cochran at C+W literary agency, and securing a two-book deal with Titan Books. Snakeskins will be published by Titan in May 2019, a milestone around which much of my year will be arranged. (And Hope Island will follow in May 2020. Knowing that my novel-in-progress already has a home has changed my attitude to the writing process, though it’s hard to say whether the net result is that it’s more or less pressurised.)

Secondly, my first short story collection, And the House Lights Dim, will be published in July 2019 by Luna Press. Alongside 13 stories that have previously appeared elsewhere (including a novelette that was originally published as a standalone title, Carus & Mitch), there will be three new stories:

  • ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ (10,600 words)
  • ‘The Forge’ (7000 words)
  • ‘Honey spurge: Confidential report into dispersal, growth and catastrophe’ (300 words)

Other stories not written this year but to be published for the first time in 2019 include:

  • ‘The Bath House’ – weird short story (4000 words), Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles anthology edited by C.M. Muller
  • ‘A Crest of a Wave’ – Mars SF short story (2400 words), Shoreline of Infinity
  • ‘Kraken Mare’ – Mars SF flash (250 words), Martian magazine
  • ‘Hangers-on’ – weird short story (2800 words) for unannounced anthology
  • ‘What Are We Going To Do With You?’ – horror short story (6000 words) for unannounced anthology

In addition, behind the scenes I’ve been lining up various events and projects. Next year is going to be busy. More on all that in the New Year.

Perhaps most importantly of all, I’m genuinely closing in on the one-million-new-words mark:

Favourite albums of 2018

My favourite album of 2018 is Double Negative by Low. Low are a fine band with a discography built up over 25 years that, while unshowy, must surely make any other band weep. Like the songs of, for example, Leonard Cohen, beneath what may appear like superficial gloominess has always been a beating heart of optimism and beauty. Double Negative is a departure, and my favourite Low album since Secret Name. Alan Sparhawk’s and Mimi Parker’s ordinarily ice-clear harmonies are buried within fuzz and distortion, often squeezed out as a Sparky’s Magic Piano-esque squelch. I’m a fan of deteriorated sound, that’s for sure, but amidst all this degradation the occasional surfacing of untampered-with vocals feel like glimpses of something divine. It’s the most wonderful album, and ‘Tempest’ is my favourite song of the year.

Modern soul isn’t usually my thing, but Childqueen by Kadhja Bonet absolutely is, filled as it is with gorgeous melodies and lush orchestration. For the most part, the best aural (as opposed to vocal) comparison I can think of is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, though there are shades of Kamasi Washington’s The Epic and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, and the slick production of ‘Mother Maybe’ reminds me strongly of one of my 80s guilty pleasures, Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’. I can’t think of another 2018 album that feels so pleasurable throughout its running time. In addition, Kadhja Bonet was responsible for the entirety of the album; everything written, sung and played, and she produced and mixed it too, which I find incredible.

The drone album I’ve enjoyed most this year is Rausch by GAS. It’s difficult to describe why one lengthy drone is preferable to another, but there’s a depth to these seven tracks that just, I don’t know, takes me away… It’s only now, listening carefully and attempting to analyse it, that I’m able to identify particular elements: tapping hi-hats, bass thrums, reversed cymbals. Previously, I wouldn’t have been able to describe what produced the effect, only that’s the whole is absorbing and hypnotic. For me, this album is up there with Biokinetics by Porter Ricks and What?? by Folke Rabe.

Click ‘Continue reading’ for lots more picks and a playlist.

Continue reading Favourite albums of 2018

Tim Major – writer & editor

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