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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.

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Halloween in the Hall of Corpses

If you follow some of the Team Mushens (as in Juliet Mushens, our lovely agent. Yes, she has a posse. I know.)  group on Twitter, you’ll probably have heard about the Halloween Shorts thing we’ve got running, arranged by the marvellous @mygoditsraining.

I say “we”, because I’m kind of cheating on this one and going slightly off-campus. While the others have all been terribly good and clever and written proper actual new short stories for Halloween, I’ve not had time and am horribly disorganised and, well, me.

However, the other day while I was rummaging through my hard drive looking for yet another file that I’d managed to save to completely the wrong place and then lose (because – again – me) I came across this. Think of it as something from the catacombs.

Murderess Lane is an old story of mine… I must’ve written it around 2009, 2010 – something like that and it was published online by Hub Fiction magazine. I’m very attached to it, partly because it’s set in Smithfield and the City of London. This has long been one of my favourite places and I’ve both lived and worked there. It’s part of my history – which is probably why I feel an incredible urge to go back and mess with it. This is also the story which introduced the Hall of Corpses – which is the closest thing to a mythos I’ve got. It’s turned up (either alluded to, in disguise or flat-out as itself) in a couple of things I’ve done, for no other reason than my idiotic affection for the idea.

So, ahead of Halloween (and posted now because come tomorrow I disappear down the convention rabbithole for a week)… welcome to Murderess Lane.

 

MURDERESS LANE

 

I once met a man who had a habit of finding strange places. I say “habit” rather than “gift” although that’s what I’d call it, myself. He was a man who could be found next to a bar – no matter the time of day or night; the kind of man who, if asked the right sort of questions and given the right sort of drinks, would tell you anything you wanted to know. Just the kind I was looking for.

I met him in a pub in west Smithfield, where he was slowly but steadily working his way through the row of bottles behind the bar: he wasn’t especially pleased to see me, but I sat down beside him anyway and began by asking if he was the man who had found the Hall of Corpses. The question didn’t surprise him, and instead he squinted across at me, then laughed. “So you know about that one, do you?”

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The Return of the Black Dove

You might remember a while back, Jurassic London launched their series of anthologies with Pandemonium: Tales of the Apocalypse. Stories of destruction, chaos and… John Martin. It was an anthology I was very proud to be part of – I say “was” because, as is the way with Jurassic anthologies, it went out of print after one year. This meant my story in there, At the Sign of the Black Dove… apocalypsed.

Until now.

It appears in this week’s episode of the Tales to Terrify podcast, read by Simon Hildebrandt (the story starts at around the 24:00 minute mark if you want to skip straight to it) – and while I’ve still not entirely got used to the idea of someone reading out my stories – and you know, my actual words – he does an amazing job.

As well as the website. you should be able to get it via iTunes, too: search for the Tales to Terrify podcast and look for episode 71.

It’s the story of a group of friends who wander into their local pub one night for a drink, and find that they’ve got more than a hangover to worry about the next morning.

So if you missed it as part of Pandemonium and you’d like to hear it now (or maybe you’re brave enough to venture back to the Black Dove…) click away… and bottoms up.

If, by the way, you can ever get your hands on one of the limited edition hardcovers, I really do recommend it – and not purely because I was involved in it. There are some incredible stories in there by incredible writers, and you won’t be disappointed.

Join the REBELLION giveaway

It’s less than 2 months to the release of BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION (eeeeeeep!) on July 9th, so I’m going to do one more giveaway. This one’s a little different to last time.

Why?

Because as well as a signed copy of the first book, I’m giving away the opening chapter of the REBELLION manuscript, marked up with notes and amendments.

This means that you’ll be able to see the changes between the draft I sent to Solaris and the text that will appear in the finished book, giving you an insight into the edits we made – as well as getting a look at the first chapter before anyone else.

Publishing being the modern and new-fangled thing that it is, all my edits are sent through in soft-copy. However, me being the Luddite that I am, I always work in hard-copy, and transfer everything back onto the screen. This does, unfortunately, mean that you’ll be getting pages covered in my scrawl, but hey.

All you have to do is tell me where you think you belong.

I’ll explain…

In the world of BLOOD AND FEATHERS, the angels are divided into choirs. Each choir has their own specific talents and gifts.

Every choir has a part to play in the battle.

Michael’s choir – like the Archangel who leads them – are the elite soldiers. They’re known for their loyalty and their single-mindedness… and the fact they tend to burst into flame. Quick to anger, they’re by far the smallest choir, but are almost certainly the strongest.

Gabriel’s choir are able to control lightning (and, by extension, electricity). They often come across as aloof and detached… but they’re simply considering all their options, and it gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to emotional situations.

Speaking of emotions: next comes Zadkiel’s choir. Able to manipulate memories, thoughts and feelings, they can read your mind – or make you see exactly what they want. It’s a more useful trick than you’d imagine. Or maybe that’s just what they want you to think…

If you’re a gambler, it pays to have Barakiel on your side. His choir are, generally speaking, lucky. This manifests itself in funny ways: some of his choir are always in the right place in the right time, some can influence the outcome of a fight or a hand of poker… some keep getting themselves in a mess. The thing is, they always get out again.

Raphael is a healer. They say time heals everything? They mean “Raphael”. Many of his choir are also healers – and others are empaths. Able to feel what others around them feel – not to alter or influence, like Zadkiel’s choir, but to understand. Sometimes, though, feeling what others feel hurts...

And then there’s the Fallen. The outsiders. The rebels. Dangerous and desperate, how many of them wish they could go back and make different choice – and how many of them like things just the way they are?

 

See? Easy.

Which choir do you think you would belong to, and why?

I’d love to know!

 

You can leave a comment on this post, tweet me or mail me. I’ll randomly draw one response this Sunday, May 19th. I’ll also collect all the entries and put them on the blog a bit further down the line – along with my own answer.

Choose your choir.

The REBELLION is coming.