The Catastrophist (Revisited)

I’ve not blogged for a while, mostly because life has kept getting in the way.

But I was going through my computer the other day and came across an old story I wrote, way back at the start of 2009 (2009! It’s almost unimaginably far back, isn’t it?) and because I like it – despite its faults – I thought I’d put it up here for fun.

It’s not the first time it’s been online, although I’ve given it a very quick once over with a lump-hammer since (don’t expect polish. More a sort of… rustic dented effect). It was published in a small online magazine, although I can’t quite remember the name of it – I’ll look it up.

I’m a very different writer now – better, I hope – but it’s nice to look back at the baby version of myself and make tutting noises and say “Wow. You actually did that. Huh.”

So here you go. In all its apocalyptic glory:




Did you ever play that game, you know, the one where you could create a little city inside your computer? You laid the roads, assigned the housing, built the schools… and then, when you tired of it, you could let loose monsters – or start an earthquake or wildfire? Well, that’s sort of my job. You have to understand: it’s just what I do for a living – it doesn’t make me a bad person. You can look at it as destruction testing on a grand scale if you like. If it makes it easier.

There’s a few of us in the department. We all work on the same floor, in Cluster 3. Harry does Europe, Sarah takes care of Asia, Dan is Australasia and Antarctica. I’m the Americas (North and South). There’s a new guy working Africa; apparently the last one we had just didn’t pass muster. Some of us are busier than others. It’s not as easy as you might expect – there’s nothing as simple as pressing a button and sitting back to watch the marauding spaceships blow up a city. It takes weeks of planning to get it right: you don’t want two events clashing, so there’s a lot of team meetings, a lot of co-ordination. You have to share a lot in this job.



The Road to the Tower

I joined Twitter a good while ago now (I suspect it’s about 3 years, scarily enough), and almost 12,000 tweets  (oh, god) later, I finally discovered what it’s for.

It’s for reading The Dark Tower.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Dark Tower series for a while, in a-on-the-periphery, oh-I’ll-read-that-someday sort of way. And so, on a whim the other week and passing my local bookshop, I picked up the first book: The Gunslinger.

I finished it this morning – having stayed up late to almost-finish it, woken up early to even-closer-to-almost-finish it, and finally got to the last page over breakfast.

I should also add that in between the “waking up” and the “over breakfast” bit, there was the “trudging through the rain and wind back to Waterstones, where I dripped my way up to the second floor and bought the next two books in the series” bit. And then sloshed my way back home.

I’ve not been this immersed in a book in ages – and apparently I’m not alone in that.

When I mentioned I was reading The Gunslinger on Twitter, I got a deluge of Dark Tower-related tweets back. I had no idea how much love there was for these books – and if I’d brought it up before I read one, I wouldn’t have got it, not even slightly. Some people liked the first book most of all (and I’ll be honest, I’m pretty besotted with it at this point); others told me that it gets better from the second book… and several people knew it well enough to quote bits at me.

On the latter point, I’m not surprised. The Gunslinger has proved itself to be eminently quotable. I sat in the hotel at AltFiction at one point reading a section aloud to anyone who would listen, and have gone so far as to turn down the corners of pages to mark bits I’ve particularly liked. That’s quite a big deal for an ex-librarian, I can tell you.

Something that struck me while I was reading was the depth of the world – and the sheer ballsiness of King’s refusal to explain it. He expects you to pick it up as you go, following the trail he’s left. And he knows the way – it’s clearly a world he’s been carrying around with him for a very long time. How closely you follow – or, indeed, whether you do – is up to you. But he’s going on ahead with or without you.

I have a feeling I’m along for the ride. And that – despite reading being by its very nature a solitary exercise – I’m not alone.

Zombie Safe-House

We live in strange days. It’s true. We have many things to worry about: the economy, the state of the planet, the near-constant assault on our ears by X-Factor finalists…

But you can consider one thing to be taken care of: come the zompocalypse, if you need somewhere to hide, you’ve got options.

Ladies and gentlemen. For your most apocalyptic appreciation… the winners of the 2011 Zombie Safe House competition.

Made. Of. Win.


The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse

I mentioned briefly before that I’ve been recruited by the amazing Adele, who runs Un:Bound (when she’s not kicking seven bells out of her kickboxing training buddies or generally taking over the world…) as one of the Apocalypse Girls.

We do cheery things like discuss how to survive an undead apocalypse, how to fight zombies, where you should shelter when the Bomb drops, what weapon goes best with a clutch bag, fashion for Fall / nuclear winter…. all those things you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Well, now you can ask us.

This week on the Guide, it’s movie week. So as well as talking about how to grow your own food (provided it’s not brains), we’re posting some of our favourite apocalypse movies.

I’ve just posted two of mine: The Core and The Day After Tomorrow, so if you head on over to the blog, you can join in and tell us what you think of these particular apocalypses. Apocalypsi. Apocalypso.



There’s a bunch of odds, sods and general bits & bobs I need to tidy up, I suspect.

Several are here.

The Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse anthology is now available to buy. Go here (UK Kindle edition) or here (US Kindle edition) for all your end-of-the-world needs. There are some seriously awesome stories in there. And there’s mine, too.


Solaris have put out a press release with a few more details about “Blood & Feathers”, and said some very lovely things indeed. This makes me happy and not a little nervous. But basically, if you’ve ever wondered what Alice in Wonderland would be like if it was set in Hell, I think it’s fair to say you’re in safe hands here. Or possibly insane ones.

Finally (somewhat fittingly) I’ve been recruited by the Apocalypse Girls, so expect to see me popping up on the site every once in a while, along with some fabulous ladies offering their practical tips for surviving mass annihilation. Just because it’s the end of the world, it doesn’t have to mean we can’t handle it with grace, poise, and a truckload of attitude.

Welcome to The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse.

Over the next few months a collective of experts will be posting their top tips for survival of all kinds of apocalypse, large or small. There will be alternative takes on the best way to tackle zombies, what shoes work in the next ice age, weapons selection, care and maintenance and every thing else the modern girl needs in the end of the world.

Be ready for Zombies, Werewolves, Hell literally freezing over, Skynet and the worst hair day ever.

Lock and Load ladies, the end of the world is coming.

Pandemonium: At the Sign of the Black Dove

You’ll have seen me mention the new John Martin-inspired anthology, “Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse” before; partly because it’s veryveryvery cool, and partly because I’ve somehow been fortunate enough to be involved.

Excitingly, the e-book launches this Friday (4th November) at Tate Britain. Last time I checked, there were still a couple of tickets left, but not many. The demand has been absolutely staggering, which is both fantastic and utterly and completely jealous-making as I can’t actually be there. However, lots of other lovely people will be (including many of the other writers as well as Jared & Anne, our apocalyptic editors) and it sounds like it’s going to be a great evening.

Hence the sulking and the pouting over here. Ahem.

If you can’t make the launch, don’t fret. You’ll still be able to buy the e-book (details on the Pandemonium site) and indeed, you should. There will also be an extremely limited hardcover edition available through the Tate.

I am absolutely thrilled to have been involved in a project like this one, with some incredible authors. It’s also been a tremendous privilege to work with Anne and Jared as editors, and to see their enthusiasm for the anthology mirrored by so many others. They have worked so hard on putting together the best collection of stories they possibly can, and I very much hope you’ll buy it and enjoy it.

My story in there, “At the Sign of the Black Dove” is set in and around a pub (called, enigmatically enough, the Black Dove). Look at it as the anti-Winchester, if you like. It’s about faith and friendship, and why you should always tip your bartender. You never know what else he might be…

Jude wasn’t quite sure when it happened.

He remembered the barman ringing the bell, his voice carrying across the bar. “That’s it, boys and girls. Last call.”

He remembered Charley’s face swimming in and out of focus; Hope suddenly lurching forwards, slumping over the table.

He remembered the world tipping. Maya leaning over him, her eyes larger than the moon and shining like all the stars in the sky together. “Jude? Jude…? Can you hear…?”

And then he heard nothing more.

It was dark when he opened his eyes, and Jude had no idea where he was. He was lying on something rough and slightly sticky. It smelled of stale beer and old sweat and other, worse things. Everything was quiet, and his first clear thought was to wonder exactly how much he’d had to drink.

And there was the answer. He was still in the Black Dove. The floor of the Black Dove.

That was not good.

His head hammered as he sat up.

That was even less good.

The room was almost entirely dark, heavy curtains pulled across the windows. One dim shaft of light had found its way through, and dust motes danced in it, spiraling towards the ceiling. Jude listened, his ears straining to hear whether anyone else was in the room with him.


Poor old Jude. He doesn’t know it yet, but that hangover’s really the least of his problems…


Zombie update: the zombie zeitgeist?

Look what I spotted about ten minutes after I posted yesterday’s blog: shuffling off the presses, a piece on why zombies are the Big Thing right now.

Big thanks, too, to @dodgyhoodoo (who you really should follow if you’re on Twitter. Less so if you’re not. Stalking’s not cool, kids) who sent me a link to this (it’s a Cafepress page, but involves “language” and Warren Ellis, so approach with caution if at work).

The Rapture may not have happened (again) but there’s a distinctly End-Timey feel about this whole business…

(Quick update! Look what’s going on over at io9: zombie week – groaning their way onto a screen near you!)

Pandemonium 2: the Pimpening.

You remember me mentioningPandemonium“: the end-of-the-world anthology that Jared & Anne from Pornokitsch are putting together, don’t you?

Of course you do.

Well, I’m mentioning it again. Mostly because, err, I’ll be in it, along with some (frankly) embarrassingly good people.

Two New Contributors

We’re pleased to announce that Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse has two further contributors:

Scott K. Andrews has written episode guides, magazine articles, film and book reviews, comics, audio plays for Big Finish, far too many blogs, some poems you will never read, and three novels for Abaddon (includingChildren’s Crusade, a 2010 Kitschies finalist).

Louise Morgan has plenty of experience when it comes to making things up: just ask her son about the Plughole Monsters who live under the bathroom sink. Her short stories have been published by the British Fantasy Society, Morpheus Tales and Hub Magazine, and her novelBlood and Feathers will be published by Solaris Books in 2012.

Scott and Lou have given us very different looks at the apocalypse. To say more would spoil it, but you may never look at a John Martin painting in the same way again.

I’m incredibly excited to be involved in this, and had a lot of fun working on my story. I can’t wait for you all to be able to read it.

Seriously. You don’t even know the half of it…


Now, has anyone seen my shoes? The ones with the really big heels. With goldfish in them….