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WILLIAM MEIKLE

Supernatural Fiction

No retreat, no surrender.

I was tidying up my Facebook history and came across this, from Sep. 2008.. It seems I was going through something of an existential crisis with regards to my writing. These nine or more years later I can’t really remember feeling that low, but I suppose I must have been; I wrote this, after all…

I turned 50 this year. At the time, back in January, I though little of it, but slowly and steadily it’s been preying on me at the back of my mind.

It’s not that I mind getting older. Hell, I went mostly bald when I was 30, and grey when I was 40, so it’s not as if I didn’t see it coming.

No, what I mind is that I can hear the clock ticking. For most of my life until now I’ve been too busy living to notice, but I recently realised that my dreams and aspirations are no longer those of a young man looking ahead. They’re in danger of becoming the regrets of an old man looking back.

I still have the drive. I still want to write books, and have them read by a lot of people. But I’m wise enough to realise that the mass market deal I’ve been coveting is probably less rather than more likely to happen now. My view on life, tainted as it is by my experiences, is that of a middle aged man. Today’s fiction markets are full of youthful exuberance with their young fads I know little about and care even less.

The last novel rejection I had told me that I wrote well, but I needed more cultural references to connect with the readership demographic. I don’t know if I have the energy to try, never mind the will.

In two years time I’ll have been writing for twenty years. I’ve been asking myself, is a dozen pro story sales and a handful of small press novels enough for me? Can I lay down my pen, happy I did my best?

Or do I keep going, keep searching for that one sudden inspiration that will get me over the hump?

Truthfully, at the moment, I’m having trouble seeing a way forward.

I can still feel that clock ticking.

But if I’d given up then, I would have missed the best of my writing career so far. I wouldn’t have all the novel, novella and collection sales to Dark Regions, Dark Renaissance and DarkFuse among others, I wouldn’t have that shelf of hardcover editions of my work, I wouldn’t have a bookcase full of anthology appearances, and I would have missed out on another sixty or so ( so far) professional short story sales.

I wouldn’t have those 5 sales to Nature Futures, or the sales to ‘The Mammoth Book of…’ series.

And I wouldn’t be having fun writing Carnacki stories.

I’m bloody glad I didn’t give up.

Book Review – 5/5 stars to The Nickronomicon by Nick Mamatas

The NickronomiconThe Nickronomicon by Nick Mamatas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a keen intelligence at work in Nick Mamatas’ fiction, and he’s not afraid to let it show. This collection of Lovecraftian works of his shows off his various talents in great fashion. His voice is distinctive, with noir touches mingling with philosophical musings, and a hint, and often more than a hint, of razor sharp sarcasm.

There’s tentacles here, and Mi-Go, nameless dread and ancient books, but it’s the shifting nature of reality that gets much of the focus in these stories, and the ground is rarely solid underfoot.

It’s a great collection, and heartily recommended to anyone wanting to see how Lovecraft’s vision can be molded into fiction relevant for a new day and age.

Great stuff.

View all my reviews

Dreamlands – Shall we talk about the black bird?

The black bird has been with me for a long time – 50 years and more now.

I think I first saw The Maltese Falcon in around 1963.

My granddad was a big Bogart fan, and I remember long Sunday afternoons spent sitting at his feet watching movies on the tiny black and white TV that was the norm back in the UK in the early Sixties. Back then everything was Britain was still in black and white – the Beatles were about to change all that, but Bogey would stay eternally gray and eternally Sam Spade for me. Even at that early age there was something about the snappy dialogue and the larger than life character that spoke to me.

I saw the film several times before I got round to reading the book – aged around 12 so about 1970. In much the same way as the film had, the book also spoke to me, touched something in me – the stuff that dreams are made of if you like.

When I started writing for myself, back in school, my voice was heavily influenced by teenage longings – I hadn’t learned enough of the ways of the world to be confident and sparse, I wanted to be flowery and intense and intellectual.

University, then ten years of being a corporate drone quickly drummed that nonsense out of me. I developed cynicism and from that my own voice started to emerge, enough to ensure I could cope with being an adult but not yet enough to turn me into a writer.

The booze did that. Booze and nightmares and a new wife that understood me better than I did myself.

The booze is part and parcel of being brought up in a working class environment in the West of Scotland. Beer came easy to me in my late teens, a love affair I still have to this day. Whisky I had to work a little harder at, but I persevered and developed a taste for single malts that means my habit is largely curtailed by the expense. It doesn’t mean I don’t get the thirst though.

The nightmare? I’ve been having it off and on since I was a boy. It’s of a bird – a huge, black, bird. The stuff that dreams are made of.

In the nightmare I’m on the edge of a high sea cliff. I feel the wind on my face, taste salt spray, smell cut grass and flowers. I feel like if I could just give myself to the wind I could fly. Then it comes, from blue, snow covered mountains way to the north, a black speck at first, getting bigger fast. Before I know it it is on me, enfolding me in feathers. It lowers its head, almost like a dragon, and puts its beak near my ear. It whispers.

I had the dream many times, and always woke up at this point.

Then, in 1991, I heard what it said.

“Will we talk about the black bird?”

The next morning, for the first time since 1976, I wrote a story. It wasn’t a very good story, but something had been woken up, and the day after that I wrote another, a wee ghost story. It didn’t have a black bird in it, but it did have some jazz, and a sultry broad, a murder and some dancing. When that one made me 100 pounds in a ghost story competition, I was on my way.

The bird comes back and whispers to me every couple of years – I’ve come to think of it as my spirit guide. Although it terrifies me, it also reassures me in a weird kind of way. As long as it’s around, I’ll still be a writer and not just a drunk with weird ideas he can’t express.

One of the bird’s recent appeareances was a few years back, and the next morning I had an idea that fused my own history, my favorite movie and my bad habits into one coherent whole – BROKEN SIGIL, my Darkfuse novella is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s also among my favorites of all my works.

Will we talk about the black bird?

That favorite movies for every year I’ve been alive thing

That favorite movies for every year I’ve been alive thing… a long one, as I’m an old fart…

1958 The Vikings
1959 North By Northwest
1960 Village of the Damned
1961 The Innocents
1962 The Manchurian Candidate
1963 The Haunting
1964 Zulu
1965 The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
1966 Harper
1967 Quatermass and the Pit
1968 Where Eagles Dare
1969 Kes
1970 M.A.S.H.
1971 The Devils
1972 Deliverance
1973 The Sting
1974 Young Frankenstein
1975 Night Moves
1976 Assault on Precinct 13
1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind
1978 The Deer Hunter
1979 Alien
1980 The Fog
1981 Southern Comfort
1982 The Thing
1983 Local Hero
1984 Ghostbusters
1985 Brazil
1986 The Name of the Rose
1987 The Untouchables
1988 Die Hard
1989 Dead Poet’s Society
1990 Jacob’s Ladder
1991 The Fisher King
1992 Unforgiven
1993 Tombstone
1994 Pulp Fiction
1995 12 Monkeys
1996 Fargo
1997 L.A. Confidential
1998 Dark City
1999 Arlington Road
2000 Memento
2001 Mulholland Drive
2002 Road to Perdition
2003 Master and Commander
2004 Hellboy
2005 A History of Violence
2006 The Prestige
2007 Zodiac
2008 Batman: The Dark Knight
2009 Inglorious Basterds
2010 Unstoppable
2011 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
2012 Skyfall
2013 Prisoners
2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2015 Mad Max: Fury Road
2016 Star Trek: Beyond

FUNGOID

There’s been a bit of chat around about FUNGOID in the past few days. Here’s some thoughts from me on how it came about.

When the end came, it wasn’t zombies, asteroids, global warming or nuclear winter. It was something that escaped from a lab. Something small, and very hungry.

In this one you’ll find a chunk of Newfoundland, a fireman, some nasty rain, a bit of real science, a lot of unreal science, some Canadians, many cigarettes, some trucks, boats and planes, and plenty of spores, mushrooms and rot.

It’s for fans of John Wyndham, William Hope Hodgson and H P Lovecraft, and is a wee homage to a lot of the things I’ve loved since childhood. As such, its origins come from several different life strands.

There’s something a lot of people don’t know about me: I used to be a botanist. And no, it doesn’t mean I know about gardening. For my honors thesis I studied how much archaeological information could be gleaned from analyzing pollen grains in the strata of peat bogs in Central Scotland, I spent a year after graduating in cataloging the plant fossil collection in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, and after that I had an abortive attempt at doing a PhD in the causes of rot in apples as they ripen.

Along the way I also learned quite a lot about fungi. The pollen analysis stuff hasn’t made it into a story of mine yet, but the fungi have; there’s something insidious about the creeping of mycelium, something obscene in the flesh of the caps, something scary in the fact that they spend so much time in the dark, just sitting there… growing.

I started to get a germ (or should that be spore ) of an idea a few years back of a fungal takeover of the planet, and I tried it out in a piece of flash fiction that I sold to NATURE FUTURES. It was just one image I had in mind, of a dark sky and vast, endless fields of high fruiting bodies. The image wouldn’t leave me, and it came back in another story, THE KEW GROWTHS, in my Challenger collection where the Prof has to tackle a giant fungal menace threatening London. That story was fun, but the image I had in my head was still for something a lot darker – something insidious, obscene and scary.

Then in early 2016, another, accompanying, image came, this time of a man in a HAZMAT suit, with nothing inside that was remotely human, just creeping filaments and bursting spores. As soon as I had him in my head the story all came together.

So that’s one thing. Another is the fact that I love end of the world stories.

There’s something cathartic about seeing everything being torn down. It also makes for amusing daydreams when the boss is being a tool or when the commute seems to take forever. And who doesn’t think they couldn’t do better at building a society if given a chance?

So there’s that, and there’s also the sheer spectacle of the thing… the same reason people like to slow down to look at car crashes. There’s a “there but the for grace of God” vibe you get when watching or reading the world being torn down. Emmerlich and Devlin hooked into that early and have made a pot of money out of those very same vibes.

I started my fandom of the genre young and at first it was from a Science Fiction perspective. The British ones from the ’50s and 60’s got my attention, in particular John Wyndham’s DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and THE CHRYSALIDS. Them, and A CANTICLE FOR LIEBOWITZ were my earliest introductions to the form. After that came tales of cosmic disaster, mainly Lieber’s THE WANDERER and Niven and Pournelle’s LUCIFER’S HAMMER. My interest was further piqued by Terry Nation’s TV show THE SURVIVORS, and Stephen King’s THE STAND, the first to being real horror to the genre IMHO. But my favorite in the genre is by Robert Macammon. His SWAN SONG is a roller coaster blockbuster which eschew’s King’s religious trappings for non-stop action and gritty realism mixed with a slug of the supernatural. My kind of tale.

There is much that is good about civilisation that I’d certainly miss if it went, such as books and entertainment, central heating and modern medicine. But on the whole, civilisation as mankind defines it is hell-bent on destroying the ecosystem and we’re too stupid to stop shitting where we eat. I don’t think it’s a matter of why or why not. We’re now at a stage where it’s only a matter of when. I just hope it’s a few more years yet.

As for FUNGOID – it’s pretty obvious there’s a big Day of the Triffids influence, and that’s deliberate, as Wyndham was one of my favorite writers when I first started reading in the genre back in the late 60s/early 70s. There’s also several William Hope Hodgson touches, again, mostly deliberate. If there’s any unintentional ones there, I haven’t spotted them.

The third strand that weaves its way through FUNGOID is a sense of place.

Having written a lot of stories set back home in Scotland or in London, and now a bunch in Canada, there’s no real difference between them at all for me. A story is a story is a story. This one, however, is set firmly in my new home.

We came over for a holiday in 2005, and fell in love with the place. I was considering writing full time, and when the opportunity came up to sell our house in Scotland, we took the plunge and came on over and got a great house on the shore with a sea view for a tenth of what it would have cost back in the UK. I’ve got a great view from the writing desk, I can write full time, and watch the eagles fly over the bay and icebergs go past in Spring. It’s a quiet fishing village, and it suits me just fine. It’s still pretty rural and unspoiled, a lot of the old traditions, mainly Irish ones, are still followed, and a lot of the old songs are still sung in the bars. It feels more like a Scots/Irish community than anything else. It feels a lot like home to me.

The story begins with spore-filled rain over Newfoundland. I’ve trashed my new homeland in this book. Sorry.

All of the above were in my head when I sat down to start. And thats the fourth strand that makes this book what it is – the writing of it itself.

Below are two quotes from reviews of FUNGOID, and both of them pleased me greatly. I love it when I connect with a reader who gets what I’m up to.

“William Meikle is a talented writer, the story is perfectly paced so that the story isn’t bogged down by character, drama or the science – instead it’s a perfect blend of all three. He doesn’t mince words or add any excessive detail, each word he writes is essential to the story.”

“The story is extremely fast paced, leaving little room for breathing as you flip through the pages.”

I work hard at getting the pace and flow of my work right. Actually, I work hard at all of it, but the pace and flow is what I concentrate on. FUNGOID came through fast and hard, and I let it come at its own speed. It rolled along so smoothly it was as if a film was being unwound in my head.

And that’s how I think of it, now that its done – a glorious, ’50s influenced, B-movie with a creeping menace, an end of the world scenario, and plucky survivors – and scientists – trying to save the day.

I love it, and I hope you do too.

Get it HERE

 

Dreamlands – Part 1 of several

Anybody that has known me for a while knows that I’ve always had a penchant for the weird and wondrous side of life. But sometimes life surprises even me.

This happened a good few years ago now, but stays fresh in my memory.

It starts the night before a long car journey. I had split the journey and was staying overnight with my parents. Just sleeping in the same bedroom in which I’d spent my youth was strange enough, but the dream that came to me was stranger yet.

I am driving along a stretch of road I know well. Ahead of me the fields are a very bright green, but they seem to waver, as if in a heat haze. Suddenly my view is obscured by smoke. In the rear view mirror everything goes red and, as the smoke clears, I see a truck heading straight for me.

And then I woke up.

The dream had the quality of reality, and, unusually, I remembered it all, even hours later. I put it to the back of my mind….as I said, I had a long drive ahead of me.

The drive went fine, until I reached the Scotland England border. Just as we entered England, I looked in the rear-view mirror.

The fields behind were bathed in bright sunshine, so green they looked luminescent. But they wavered, in a heat haze that seemed to be rising from the back of the car. Suddenly thick black smoke billowed behind us and the dashboard lit up in red warning lights as the engine blew up.

I remembered the dream, and I had already pulled into the hard shoulder, just as a truck barrelled past from behind – a couple of seconds later and it would have flattened us.

So there you have it…..smoke behind instead of in front, red light in front instead of behind, but the rest as it had been in the dream.

I pay more attention to any vivid dreams nowadays, but so far none have proved such a close glimpse into how things really work.

Where do you get your ideas? – An answer

I think all writers get asked “where do you get your ideas?”

The correct answer, of course, is I make shit up, in my head. But the clarity that brings an idea forward into a plot and a story or novel is the end of a process that’s a bit more convoluted in nature.

For me, it starts with the drift.

And that starts as soon as I’ve finished a piece, or even sometimes during. My mind goes blank, almost empty, and I fill it with random stuff; snatches of music, images from films, bits and pieces from books, song lyrics and poetry and general nonsense from my memories ( there’s a lot of that.)

Sometimes this drift lasts for weeks, sometimes it’s only a matter of minutes. If I’m receptive, an image comes to me, like a still from a movie, or a photograph, one that is usually either the start, or the end of a story. And once that image starts to move and the soundtrack kicks in, that’s when I know I’ve got something I can work with.

Occasionally though, I get too many of these static images at once. Writing them down in a notebook helps, as I can then go back later, read the notes, and see if it still grabs me. Often, I’ve lost interest by that time though. If they then come back again later, I’ll take a closer look at them, but if nothing says ‘write me’ in big letters, I go back to the drift.

I’m in the drift today.

The first thing that came to me was two words. “Mission Improbable”, and an image, of Ethan Hunt ( not the Tom Cruise version) facing off against a squad of Lovecraftian entities in the London Underground system. I dropped that one as being too much like Delta Green.

Next up was an idea I thought I’d partially nicked from Moorcock, of giant steampunk cities in towering spires ( like Londra in the Hawkmoon books), pirates on Zeppelins and a fusion of steampunk and magic. While looking around to make notes I discovered Jim Butcher had done / will do most of it already in his Cinder Spires series.

So it’s back to the drift again, waiting for the stars to be right.

Drifting and drifting, like a ship upon the sea.

Musings on the path ahead of me.

 

I’ve spent a lot of this past week wondering about which direction I want to take my writing as I get older. I’m coming up on sixty next January, my enthusiasms have changed, markets have changed, publishers have come and gone and the whole writing scene is a very different place from the one in which I started out in the early ’90s.

This is a stream-of-consciousness ramble as I sort out some thoughts.

I used to call myself a horror writer, and for a while, up until around 2007 anyway,I think I was, mostly, although I forayed off into swashbuckler territory in the Watchers series. Most of the markets I was selling stories to back then were small press horror oriented ones.

But about ten years ago, I started selling to pro paying markets, and a subtle change happened. My work became more science fiction and fantasy than horror, albeit always including supernatural overtones. And the stuff that sells for me now leans more into the science fiction and fantasy arenas than the straight horror side. The Invasion, for example, is my best selling work by quite some way, and my best pro story sales have been mostly to science fiction markets.

Alongside that, there’s the pastiches. The Holmes, Carnacki and Challenger books were all great fun, and I’ve started selling short stories, Holmes in particular, to big publishers. With that, and the new Carnacki, and ghost story collections coming this year, I’ll probably continue writing shorts in this vein for a while, although I want to veer more away from the pastiches towards doing my own thing.

I’ve been considering writing more sword and sorcery, as that has been a love of mine since childhood. But I’ve taken the Augustus Seton stories down off Amazon. It’s been a year since any of them sold a copy. It’s also put a dent in my enthusiasm to write in this genre. However much I enjoy it, there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for it in short form at the moment.

However, last year I also wrote a fantasy novel for the Rowan Casey Veil Knights series, and I had a lot of fun with that. It loosened me up and got me into a flow that felt natural. I want to try more of that kind of material.

As for the short form literary horror side, I look at other writers in that arena, and I know they’re better than me, better able to articulate the horrific in literary terms whereas I bring on the monsters and let them rampage. I don’t think my future lies in that direction. However much I covet more success there, it seems to be getting ever further away from me.

So what I think I’m coming round to is that I’ll be concentrating more on long form work with science fiction or fantasy elements, and short form historical supernatural stories.

I think I’m about to embark on a fantasy-tinged novel using my sigil and totem mythos, so we’ll see how that goes.

Thanks for listening. 🙂

Onwards.

The Lovecraft eBook Bundle

The Lovecraft Bundle

Curated by Nick Mamatas

H. P. Lovecraft is undoubtedly one of the most influential writers of the pulp era, leaving an indelible mark on the last hundred years of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Not only is Lovecraft a central element of genre fiction today, he has ascended to the heights of mainstream literature, thanks to editions of his stories published by the definitive Penguin Classics and Library of America lines. Lovecraft was also a cult writer whose themes were explored in underground comics, in rock music, film, and fine art. And this all while being the sort of racist, anti-Semite, and homophobe that would exclude him from dinner parties…even during his own era.

For a long time, Lovecraft’s mantle was carried in the small press, where slavish pastiche and careful avoidance of his politics were rules to be carefully followed. These days, however, Lovecraftian fiction is wider and more diverse. His themes and voice are being remixed, detourned, and exploded by a new generation of writers, and his distasteful opinions critiqued and parodied. This Lovecraftian Literature bundle explores the Lovecraftian idiom in a diversity of ways, from intense erotica to beat literature, from neo-pulp fun to theological exegesis.

Among the goodies in this bundle is the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology of She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a bundle-exclusive collection Home from the Sea by pulp master William Meikle, the Pynchonesque (!) Lovecraftian military thriller duology Radiant Dawn/Ravenous Dusk by Cody Goodfellow, a real-life attempt at “keeping it R’lyeh” by examining the metaphysics of Lovecraft’s vision of the universe by Scott R. Jones…and a whole lot more!

And StoryBundle’s a cool form of alternative publishing, letting indie and small press authors join together to present bundles that pack a whole lot of reading into a price that you choose (as long as it’s $5 or above). For that $5 you get the basic bundle of six books in any ebook format. $15 (or more if you want to support the writers even further) gets you the bonus books as well. – Nick Mamatas

The initial titles in the Lovecraft Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • When The Stars Are Right by Scott R Jones
  • RESONATOR: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond by Scott R Jones
  • Gateways to Abomination by Matthew M. Bartlett
  • Sword and Mythos by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Nickronomicon by Nick Mamatas
  • Radiant Dawn by Cody Goodfellow

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all six of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Home From the Sea by William Meikle (details below)
  • Priestess: The Collected Blackstone Erotica by Justine Geoffrey
  • Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis by Scott R Jones
  • She Walks in Shadows by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas
  • Ravenous Dusk by Cody Goodfellow

This bundle is available only for a limited time via https://storybundle.com/lovecraft.

It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books.

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

 

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price.

Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

HOME FROM THE SEA Details

In these pages you’ll find some glowing fog, some mad scientists, some tentacled things, booze, dreaming gods, cigarettes, some boats of various sizes, a bar or two, some stiff upper lips, a ghosthunter, a great detective and a multitude of universes, among other things.

Home from the Sea contains 14 tales of Lovecraftian Terror

Contents:

  • SymbiOS
  • Carnacki: The Island Of Doctor Munroe
  • The Terror that Came to Dounreay
  • Inquisitor
  • The Tenants of Ladywell Manor
  • Carnacki: The Larkhall Barrow
  • The Invisible Menace
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Color that Came to Chiswick
  • Professor Challenger: Ripples in the Ether
  • The Doom that Came to Dunfield
  • Home From the Sea
  • Amoeboid
  • From Between
  • #Dreaming

 

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