apocalypse

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:

 

THE CATASTROPHIST

 

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.

(more…)

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Jukebox

Lots of writers use playlists when they work: I’ve seen some great ones online over the years, for all sorts of different books.

I’ve lost track of the number of songs I’ve killed by listening to them over and over and over and over again while I’m writing – a couple of Nero’s songs being a case in point. I had the two of them running as background while I wrote “At The Sign of the Black Dove” – my story in “Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse”.

The problem was that I put in a lot of hours on that story. Which meant the same two songs on a loop for many hours. This isn’t exactly helped by the fact that they turn up very early on the album, and it’s one of my husband’s favourite records.

We have the routine down to a fine art: he goes pottering off down to the kitchen. He puts some music on. Two chords later, there’s a howl of despair from my study, followed by my stomping down the stairs, grabbing the remote control (all the while muttering expletive-laden things like “Are you trying to kill me? Are you? ARE YOU?!”) and then disappearing back into my study. Door slamming optional.

It’s not that I don’t like the songs – I do – and it’s not like I’m scarred by the process of having written a story to them (well, only a little) but the second I hear them, I’m back in “work mode”. It’s the strangest thing.

Anyway. Because someone asked me a while back about the music I wrote to, I thought I’d round up the obvious ones. I do rather give away my love of dubstep, particularly when it comes to the short stories, I’m afraid…

BLOOD & FEATHERS:

I relied on this massively when I was writing. Given I wrote it in 4 different places: my old house, two rented flats and – most memorably – the balcony level of the Barbican Foyer (and yes, I still remember exactly which scenes I wrote there!) the playlist was the rock I clung to in order to keep things on an even keel. Now there’s a nice mixed metaphor for you.

Some of the songs go with particular scenes, some with particular characters, but the song on here which matters the most, if you like, is Linkin Park’s “When They Come For Me“. In part that’s because, hey, I like Linkin Park – but it’s also because this is where it all made sense. I can hang the whole book on this song.

All the Right Moves: OneRepublic

Make Me Wanna Die: The Pretty Reckless

Believe Me: Fort Minor

Slip Out the Back: Fort Minor

It’s Not the End of the World: LostProphets

Only Man (Jakwob Remix): Audio Bullys

Burning in the Skies: Linkin Park

When They Come For Me: Linkin Park

New Divide: Linkin Park

Dreamcatcher: Unicorn Kid

The Island, Pt I (Dawn) & Pt 2 (Dusk): Pendulum

Witchcraft (Rob Swire’s Drum-step Mix): Pendulum

Ich Tu Dir Weh: Rammstein

Bulletproof Heart: My Chemical Romance

The Only Hope For Me is You: My Chemical Romance

Teeth: Lady Gaga

Walking in Circles: Dead by Sunrise

Dead Reckoning: Clint Mansell

End Credits: Chase & Status with Plan B

For those of you on Spotify, my friend Paul (better known as @pablocheesecake on Twitter) has been an absolute sweetie and put a Spotify playlist together for all your BLOOD & FEATHERS listening needs. And you can find it here: spoti.fi/zGhqZN

The only thing not on there is Rammstein (which, let’s face it, isn’t surprising…). It’s very neat, and I’m incredibly grateful to Paul: thank you!

STORIES:

At The Sign of the Black DovePandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse.

An apocalyptic story needs an apocalyptic soundtrack… and in my head, this is exactly what the end of the world sounds like…

Nero – Doomsday

Nero: Fugue State

Murderess Lane: Hub Fiction

“Murderess Lane” is a story about another London – a London which always was, and always will be: the kind of London which has flagellants roaming the streets, and an underground chamber hung with bodies hidden in the heart of the City. It’s not a very nice place, and it’s confusing and noisy and frightening. So, naturally, while I was working on it, I listened to this.

Pendulum: Through the Loop

Kudos and cookies if you can name the sample. It’s easy, honest.

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.

Whatever.

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.

Nothing.

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

 

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….

 

Signal Boost: Pandemonium

Anne Perry and Jared Shurin – better known collectively as the team behind amazing website Pornokitsch – today unveiled their latest dastardly plan to enslave humanity… project: “Pandemonium“, a post-apocalyptic anthology of original short stories.

Or, as they put it:

We’re very pleased to announce our first anthology of short fiction, Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse.

The collection features stories set at the end of the world, as imagined by some of the biggest names and hottest newcomers in science fiction.

Pandemonium collects over a dozen original stories inspired by the art of John Martin, and will be released this October to coincide with the Tate Gallery’s new exhibition of his work.  Martin (1789 – 1854) was a Romantic painter with a taste for sweeping Apocalyptic scenes. Although he never received much positive critical attention, his huge and wildly imaginative paintings were popular with the masses. Since his death, Martin’s reputation has gone through periods of complete insignificence and others of great renown. In short, he’s our type of guy.

Pandemonium will be edited by Pornokitsch’s Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin, with a foreword by Tom Hunter, director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Pandemonium will be available to purchase as an ebook through Amazon or the project website. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the UK’s most prestigious prize for science fiction literature.

For more information and to join the mailing list, check out www.pandemonium-fiction.com. A partial list of contributors is already on display, with several more to be announced soon.

This promises to be an outstanding collection, with some fantastic contributors, and looks about as exciting as anything which doesn’t feature Gerard Butler pouring me a margarita possibly could.

And anyway, who doesn’t love an apocalypse…?

Zombie School

I loved the story the BBC are running on their website today about the university running a zombie studies course, particularly as I only got round to seeing Zombieland on Tuesday.

I’m just wondering what I’d major in, given the option.

You know, trying to work out which of the course modules might prove most useful in the long run.

Parkour for Beginners, maybe. Hack ‘n’ Slash 101, an Introduction to Howitzers and Flamethrower Shop – these are all good, not to mention the extra-credit Athletics (Running Veryveryvery Fast) module.

So let’s ignore for a moment that the college in question is billing this as a sort of pop-culture-but-a-bit-serious-too course and consider it as a straight degree in how not to get eaten by zombies, shall we?

Tell me: what classes would you take to help you survive the zompocalypse?