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WILLIAM MEIKLE

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Captain’s Log – A commentary on the state of the world

 

“It appears to be organic, Captain,” the technician said. The huge viewing screen in mission control confirmed that there was indeed something new in the skies overhead. The ISS had spotted it first, some thirty minutes earlier—a darker patch in space almost dead ahead in their plane of orbit. It covered over a thousand cubic miles of space, and seemed to be getting bigger at an exponential rate.

“I can see that,” Captain Rogers said. “But what is it?”

“Spectrographic analysis coming in five, sir,” the technician replied, then, under his breath. “But I know what it looks like.”

Rogers had been thinking the same thing.

It looks like a wet cowpat. A bloody enormous wet cowpat.

The ISS comms link crackled into life.

“Houston, we have a problem.” Colonel Franks, the British head of the team, had lost some of his normal reserve. “It’s starting to smell like crap up here. We need to get to a higher orbit, and fast.”

That was the last broadcast of note from the vessel. Two minutes later they heard strangled retching. Franks shouted.

“Shit.”

The line went dead.

*

By the time Rogers got called into a command meeting five minutes later the phenomenon—nobody wanted to give it a name yet—occupied two thousand cubic miles of space. The ISS was lost, somewhere inside.

“Is it still showing up on radar?” someone asked.

“No,” Rogers replied. “All we can see is…decaying organic material.”

“What do you mean by that?” the General asked.

“Crap, General, to put it bluntly. As far as we can tell it’s a waste product emanating from a sub-space anomaly at its center.”

“A waste product? From where?”

“That’s what we’re trying to determine right now, sir.”

“And the station is somewhere inside this stuff?”

“We believe so,” Rogers said. “If it maintains orbit, it should come out the other side in ten minutes or so.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

If it doesn’t, we’re all in the shit.

*

The ISS was declared lost an hour later. The decaying organic matter—spaceshit as it had become known everywhere except the command room—now covered a huge expanse of space, currently in an almost geostationary orbit over North America.

“We should nuke it,” the General said. “Nuke it now, before it gets any bigger.”

“We risk turning one pile of crap into a million small piles of crap,” Rogers replied. “We’d all be up to our necks in it.”

“I’m there already,” the General replied. “The President wants answers, and he wants them yesterday.”

“Well here’s an answer for him,” Rogers said grimly. “Given its current rate of expansion, the whole planet will be engulfed in less than a day. It’ll blot out the sun completely.”

And when that happens, we really will be up shit creek.

*

Dawn brought with it a chocolate brown sky and an odor that drove everyone inside—but even there the stench pervaded everything and everywhere.

“It could be worse,” Rogers said, with a macabre sense of humor. “It could be raining.”

Thick brown droplets began to spatter out of the lowering clouds.

“Nuke it,” the General snarled. “Let’s nuke the bastards.”

*

The Russians and the Chinese had the same idea. Five separate nukes were sent up. The spaceshit swallowed them all without so much as a burp; the only outcome was an even faster rate of growth.

Rogers’ estimate was proved right. Within a day the planet was completely engulfed. The brown rain fell over everything, too thick to run off to sewers and rivers. It just lay there, stinking and putrid.

The President demanded results, and Rogers’ team was expected to deliver. Rogers held a command meeting, but the outcome was less than edifying. Beyond sending up more nukes the best minds at NASA came up blank.

“We can’t exactly hose it all down,” someone said, but nobody laughed.

“We should try communicating with it,” one of the scientists said, his voice little more than a whisper.

The General barked a laugh.

“If you think I’m going to try to talk to shit…”

Rogers put up a hand.

“Maybe he has a point. This stuff is coming out of a sub-space anomaly. Whatever’s on the other side might be capable of listening.”

The General sighed.

“Nothing else has worked. Do what you can. But best make it fast. We’re two feet deep outside the door already, and rising fast.”

*

“Just to get this straight. We’re using the most sophisticated, most powerful piece of broadcast technology on the planet to talk to a pile of shit?” the General said as they prepared the message.

Rogers nodded, unwilling to reply, as that meant opening his mouth and tasting the air—it had become noticeably more foul in the past hour or so, almost palpably so.

“Make it so,” he said.

The message got delivered.

The world held its breath, for several reasons.

The response came as a string of beeps, whistles and static—a message, of sorts, but one that was going to take a while to decode. All Rogers knew was that they had been right.

“It’s slowing down, sir.”

*

The cleanup operation took several years, and the smell lingered for a long time afterwards. At the same time, teams of interpreters and code-breakers from all over the world attempted to decipher the message that had come out of the anomaly.

When Rogers finally saw the translation, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“We’re terribly sorry. It was a genuine mistake. We saw what you were doing to the planet and thought we’d come to the right place.”

 

New Release info – Deal or No Deal

My latest novella, DEAL OR NO DEAL is out today, and is a return to the world of Derek Adams, the Midnight Eye, and the streets of Glasgow

Three beers and a packet of crisps is a tempting offer for your soul when you don’t really believe you have one. But when it comes time to pay up, suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a sweet deal. You’re going to need help, but who are you going to call?

I read widely, both in the crime and horror genres, but my crime fiction in particular keeps returning to older, pulpier, bases.

My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the ’40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.

That, and the old city, are the two main drivers for the Midnight Eye stories.

When I was a lad, back in the early 1960s, we lived in a town 20 miles south of Glasgow, and it was an adventure to the big city when I went with my family on shopping trips. Back then the city was a Victorian giant going slowly to seed.

It is often said that the British Empire was built in Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde. Back when I was young, the shipyards were still going strong, and the city centre itself still held on to some of its past glories.

It was a warren of tall sandstone buildings and narrow streets, with Edwardian trams still running through them. The big stores still had pneumatic delivery systems for billing, every man wore a hat, collar and tie, and steam trains ran into grand vaulted railway stations filled with smoke.

Also by the time I was a student, a lot of the tall sandstone buildings had been pulled down to make way for tower blocks. Back then they were the new shiny future, taking the people out of the Victorian ghettos and into the present day.

Fast forward to the present day and there are all new ghettos. The tower blocks are ruled by drug gangs and pimps. Meanwhile there have been many attempts to gentrify the city centre, with designer shops being built in old warehouses, with docklands developments building expensive apartments where sailors used to get services from hard faced girls, and with shiny, trendy bars full of glossy expensively dressed bankers.

And underneath it all, the old Glasgow still lies, slumbering, a dreaming god waiting for the stars to be right again.

Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye, knows the ways of the old city. And, if truth be told, he prefers them to the new.

He’s turned up in three novels so far, THE AMULET, THE SIRENS and THE SKIN GAME, all out now in ebook at all the usual online stores and in shiny new paperback and audiobook editions from Gryphonwood Press.

THE AMULET is also out in a Portuguese language edition from Retropunk Publicadoes (with the other 2 to follow) and there’s a German language edition of THE AMULET from Blitz Verlag.

There’s also an ever growing list of Midnight Eye short stories and this new novella, DEAL OR NO DEAL.

Derek has developed a life of his own, and I’m along for the ride.


Coming up from me…

After a relatively quiet patch on the publications front, I’ve got a lot of material coming out in the rest of 2017 and through 2018.

On the longer works side I have the following:

  • Songs of Dreaming Gods, a Sigils and Totems novel from DarkFuse
  • The Boathouse, a Sigils and Totems novel from DarkFuse
  • Ramskull, a Hammer horror homage novel from DarkFuse
  • The Ghost Club, a Victorian supernatural short story collection from Crystal Lake Publishing
  • Carnacki: The Edinburgh Townhouse, a short story collection from the Lovecraft ezine imprint
  • The Job, a Sigils and Totems novella from DarkFuse
  • Deal or No Deal, a Midnight Eye novella from Gryphonwood Press

As for stories in anthologies, there’s these to look forward to:

  • The Root of All Things / By the Light of Camelot / EDGE Publishing
  • The Last Quest / Through a Mythos Darkly / PS Publishing
  • Blacktop / I Am The Abyss / Dark Regions Press
  • Nocturnes and Lacunae / Transmissions From Punktown / Dark Regions Press
  • Call and Response / The Arkham Detective Agency / Dark Regions Press
  • The Longdock Air / Shadows Over Main Street 2 / Cuttingblock Press
  • The Pied Piper of Providence / Once Upon An Apocalypse / Crystal Lake Publishing
  • Outposts / Further tales of Cthulhu Invictus / Golden Goblin Press
  • Tumshiehied / Between Twilight and Dawn / Golden Goblin Press
  • The Needs of the Many / The Stars at Our Door / April Moon
  • The Mouth of the Ness / Cryptid Clash / 18th Wall Productions
  • Carnacki: The Lusitania / Fearful Fathoms / Scarlet Galleon

There’s also a whole load of German Language editions of my books in the works at Blitz Verlag and Voodoo Press, with THE INVASION from Blitz Verlag being next in the pipeline.

So there’s that lot, a couple of secret projects I can’t talk about, and a load of other things currently out on submission. More than enough to keep me busy well through 2017 and past my 60th birthday in January.

If you want to keep up to date with publication dates and releases of the above, announcements will be made first on my newsletter.  ( there’s a free ebook of my HOME FROM THE SEA collection in it for you too if you sign up ).

Onward!

 

And now for something completely different…

I don’t think I’m going to be writing any straight horror fiction for a wee while. I looked my worst nightmare in the face a couple of weeks back (those of you who need to know, already know ), and came out the other side of it with a different perspective on life, and how I want to spend the rest of it.

I won’t be giving up writing – I don’t think I could at this stage – but my focus will be different.

Quite how that will manifest itself is yet to be seen. I certainly envisage writing more Carnacki tales, and I can’t quit weird fiction entirely, as it’s in my blood. But as I said, I’ve faced my real horror; the written thing isn’t going to cut it for me, at least for the time being.

So right now I’m reevaluating the way ahead. A big project has fallen in my lap that gives me some breathing room, a sprawling, epic, historical thing with only hints of the supernatural, and I’m going to dive into that to see where it takes me.

There’s a couple of invitation stories I need to write first, but neither of them are straight horror either, so they’ll get done in the next week or so. Then it’s head down and head first into something different.

I think that’s what’s needed about now.

I probably won’t be on social media all that much for a while either. If you want to follow irregular updates on progress, sign up for my newsletter. 

Onward.

Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man, out now.

My new Sherlock Holmes novel, THE DREAMING MAN launches today from Gryphonwood Press.

There’s a paperback too for anyone who prefers hard copy.

THE DREAMING MAN is a novel length expansion to my earlier novella, REVENANT ( that makes up about the first 1/3 or so of this new story.)

Cover art once again by the great Wayne Miller.

AMAZON    SAMPLE

Meikle’s authorial voice is a thing of wonder as you find yourself drawn into the story and racing along after clues with Holmes and Dr. Watson, sometimes losing sight of the fact that this is a horror/armchair mystery mashup created by William Meikle and not one of Doyle’s own creations. – Hellnotes

After being called to help Mycroft with a case in the House of Lords, our duo find themselves on the run, pursued by the law and beset by a foe who cannot be traced.

The clues lead Holmes and Watson to an alchemist in Scotland, and deeper mysteries where they find their case linked to the quest for immortality, and a plot that might bring down the British Empire.

But even as the case appears to reach a conclusion, a series of seemingly unrelated robberies proves that the matter is larger – and more personal – than even the great detective can imagine.

A dreaming man, lost in a fugue, leads them down dark passages, through the streets of London – and underneath them.

Soon Holmes’ brother, Mycroft has to become involved, and the details of a fiendish plot become clearer when Mycroft is abducted.

A friend is lost and found again, an old enemy resurfaces and Holmes must walk perilous paths for a second time.

A fall is coming, a fall that has haunted Holmes’ dreams, and now must be faced again, in the place where past and present become one, and two old foes meet for a final battle.

Back in Glasgow with The Midnight Eye

I still can’t settle on my next big project.

Part of that is because I have so many things out in the pipline already sold and waiting to be published, and part of it is that I overloaded my brain last year in a frenzy of writing that seems to have, temporarily I hope, emptied me out a bit.

At times like this, I fall back into old patterns, familiar characters. The last time it happened I ended up writing a Carnacki collection.

This time, I’m back with Scottish P.I. Derek Adams. I wrote a novella back in early March that’s out on submission, and I’m working on a new story right now that’s growing like Topsy. It was just going to be a short story, but it’s just crested 10K words and gaining plot as it goes. It’s definitely going to be another novella, and might even be a novel if the stars are right.

I’m going way back to my roots with this one. I began it after a Facebook thread about selling my soul for three pints of beer and a packet of crisps, and I wondered, ‘what if…’

Derek came along, said he’d take it from there, and away we went.

Stepping into his shoes is like putting on a favorite jacket; it just feels comfortable to me, and I fall quickly into the voice and speech patterns of the Glasgow man.

The Glasgow in my Derek Adams stories is an idealised one, more the place I lived in forty years ago than it is now.

But as I said, I’m comfortable there, and so is Derek.

I’m excited to see where this one goes from here.

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.

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?

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

 

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