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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
My next novel, HOPE ISLAND, has a cover! Once again, it’s by the wonderful Julia Lloyd, who also designed the SNAKESKINS cover.
The novel features a remote island, creepy children, ethereal cave songs and, after a fairly quiet start, quite a lot of dead bodies.
HOPE ISLAND will be published by Titan Books in the UK and USA in May 2020.
This 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.
By the way, the beautiful cover image is by Daniele Serra. Do check out his incredible work.
SNAKESKINS is published today! This is my grateful and baffled and happy and anxious face.
Thanks 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tea 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.
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.
Everyone, look! SNAKESKINS, my first novel for Titan Books, has a(n incredible) cover… It was created by the amazing Julia Lloyd, the book will be released in May 2019, and I am very very excited. See this Barnes & Noble blog post for a little more information about the announcement.
My first novel for young adults, an SF adventure called Machineries of Mercy, is out now in the US and Canada, and will be released in the UK on 15th November. It’s published by ChiZine, through their YA imprint, ChiTeen.
And today I received my author copies!
Yesterday I returned from FantasyCon. From about the halfway point of the convention I started feeling quite overwhelmed – but not in the what-am-I-even-doing-here? sense that I used to feel at such events. This time I was overwhelmed because I felt comfortable, and because the people I was speaking to are no longer intimidating but are my friends, and because those same people are so very, very talented. Each time I looked around at the faces in a reading room, or a panel session, or at the bar, I felt awed at the thought of all the wonderful fiction these people were producing, and even more awed at all the potential still to be tapped.
Also, it was fun.
In the midst of all this, I failed to take stock of the fact that a book I wrote was released at FantasyCon. My non-fiction book about the 1915 French crime serial, Les Vampires, was launched at the PS Publishing event on Friday. I held a copy – briefly – when somebody asked me to sign it. I picked up a copy for myself the next morning, and jammed it in my rucksack along with books I was far more excited about, including novels by Aliya Whiteley and Stephen Volk and collections edited by Dan Coxon and Mark Morris. When I rolled into my hotel room at 2am I picked up the Les Vampires book, smiled, fell asleep.
I was tired on the train home on Sunday. I decided I wouldn’t begin reading any of the books written by my friends; in my addled state I wouldn’t have paid close enough attention. So, with the guilt of vanity, I started flicking through my own book. Then I ended up reading the whole thing. I felt very emotional.
I realised that I’m proud of my book. In published form, I found it easier to enjoy and appreciate than other books I’ve written, perhaps because it’s primarily factual, but also because it’s a response to a film I adore, and because I think my enthusiasm is clear and real and honest.
I still don’t know whether the book would be comprehensible to somebody who hasn’t watched Les Vampires, and the film is over 100 years old, 7 hours long, and is frustratingly difficult to buy on DVD in the UK right now, all of which makes my book hilariously niche. But I think it’s a good book, and I really do like the 10 pieces of weird fiction I wrote and slotted in between the analyses of each episode of the film. I hope the book is noticed and read.
Anyway, to tie in with my overwhelmed and glowy feelings about FantasyCon in general, I feel very grateful that I was allowed to write Les Vampires. Neil Snowdon, founder and editor of the Electric Dreamhouse Press imprint (he even designed the excellent cover of my book!), was indulgent in letting let me spend legitimate time exploring a film I love. He’s been supportive of my work in general and he was responsible for introducing me to many of the writers who are now my friends. I spent several hours with Neil on Saturday, after having met in person only once before, two years previously, and then for only 15 minutes, and we felt like old friends. I hope we’ll continue to collaborate in the future. I hope the Electric Dreamhouse monograph series will continue to grow, and that the books will find readers and recognition.
So. I had a great weekend, and things are great. I have a new book out, and I’m proud of that.
And if you haven’t already – and regardless of whether you buy my book – you should watch the film. Les Vampires is utterly wonderful and deserves to be seen.
I’ve been writing stories and novels since 2011. Before that point, I liked the idea of writing but put down barely any words – the classic error of waiting for ‘inspiration’. I was an idiot back then.
So now it’s seven years later. I guess that’s quite a long time – my wife and I had two kids during that time. We moved house twice and moved town once. I got a promotion, then quit my editorial day job to go freelance. But on the other hand, it’s not that long. I’m trying to focus on achievements here, so let’s say it isn’t that long at all.
I’ve stuck with writing. I didn’t know I was a sticker, but it turns out I am. Happily, it turns out that writing is what I love doing. (And editing too; it would be tough to get very far with all this if editing was entirely a chore.) Another thing in my favour is that I’ve never seen rejection particularly as a critique. My first aim when I started writing was to submit a story to Interzone—not to get published, you understand, only to have put in enough work to allow me to send the story without feeling ashamed of myself. Receiving that first rejection slip was a triumphant moment: here I am, doing this whole writer thing!
Anyway. Seven years. In that time I have written:
This all adds up to around 840,000 words—i.e. around 120,000 words per year (plus editing).
Of the novels, one has been published and two are due to be published within the next year. The two first novels were honestly never intended for publication (they were NaNoWriMo-style exercises when I was learning how to go about the whole business) and the last-but-one novel has been shelved, perhaps never to be published. Both novellas have been published. Twenty-nine of the short stories have been published or have been bought, and three of the remaining eight stories will appear in my first short story collection next year. The non-fiction book will be published within the next few weeks.
That’s good, I think. I’m very bad at telling myself that. It’s good.
But 2018 has been really good. Like most people, I tend to move goalposts, so that any ambition fulfilled becomes just the first step to the next thing. I’m writing this blog post so that I can appreciate that things are happening that I should stop and maybe marvel at.
Then there’s that warm feeling of having book publications lined up. Over the last month I’ve been checking onscreen proofs of three books: a monograph about the silent crime film LES VAMPIRES for Electric Dreamhouse Press; my first YA novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY, for ChiZine; my first short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM, for Luna Press. And edits on SNAKESKINS, steady work on the next novel, and plans for the thing after that.
I’ve been working hard. I haven’t finished what I think of as my writing apprenticeship and I hope I never do, but I’m busier than ever. More importantly, I’m busy doing what I love doing.
I’m very bad at recognising where I’m at. I announce stuff when it needs announcing, but beyond that I struggle to know how to talk about it all. I don’t think I’m likely to get better at that any time soon… but this blog post—self-indulgent as it is—is an attempt to face up to the fact that I’m very happy with everything that’s happening. A lot has gone on, and yet it still feels like the start of something.
[Oh, that image at the top of this post? That’s a chart generated by my writing tracker spreadsheet. It shows the accumulating number of words of all my long projects since around March 2013. The steeper the slope, the more concentrated the work. The gaps represent phases of writing short stories or having children.]
So… here’s something I’ve been keeping under my hat for a while:
I’m very pleased to announce that my SF novel SNAKESKINS will be published by Titan Books in spring 2019. Huge thanks to Gary Budden at Titan for picking it up.
Also, a related development: I’m now represented by Alexander Cochran at C+W literary agency.
Here’s a blurb:
Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.
Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.
SNAKESKINS is an SF thriller examining the repercussions of rejuvenation and cloning on individuals’ sense of identity and on wider society, with the tone of classic John Wyndham stories and the multi-strand storytelling style of modern TV series such as Channel 4’s Humans.
My contributor’s copy of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR VOLUME TEN just popped through the letterbox! Having a story included in it is a very big deal for me. I’m very grateful to Ellen Datlow for selecting my Greenland Shark story, ‘Eqalussuaq’, which was originally published in Not One of Us magazine.
You can buy BEST HORROR 10 now from Amazon in a variety of formats: paperback, ebook, audio CD and audio download.