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It’s Christmas…

17 Dec

Well, okay, not quite, but I probably won’t be online then!

As happens every year, Atlantean Publishing has two Christmas releases out – Xmas Bards 7 and Christmas Chillers V.

Xmas Bards 7 – The Happy Snowman

The seventh annual Xmas Bard is a collection of six haiku, a tanka and five other poems (including the titular one) by DJ Tyrer.

Like all our broadsides (The Bards, Xmas Bards, Xothic Sathlattae and Yellow Leaves) it is available for 10p + 50p postage (or a second class stamp) in the UK. The postage covers upto five broadsides at 10p each. If you order five or fewer copies alongside a booklet or magazine, there is no postage charge.

Overseas the cost is 20c + $2 postage for one copy, $3 postage for two or three, $4 for four to seven copies and $5 postage for eight to eleven copies (email atlanteanpublishing@hotmail.com if you want to order more). If you order a single copy alongside a booklet or magazine, there is no postage charge.

Christmas Chillers V

The fifth annual volume of Christmas Chillers contains three spooky festive tales by DS Davidson, DJ Tyrer and Matthew Wilson. As ever it has an evocative cover by Christopher Catt James

  • Whatever Happened to Santa Claus? sees a quest to restore the Christmas magic go terribly wrong.
  • Murders on Christmas Eve gives us just that as a store Santa finally flips.
  • Christmas Morning sees a visit by Santa to a would-be occultist, who discovers the jolly fat man isn’t a man at all.

All volumes of Christmas Chillers can be ordered for £3 (UK) or £6 (overseas) each and the 3-for-2 booklet offer applies.

How to pay

Purchases can be made by stirling cheque (payable to DJ Tyrer) or cash to the editorial address, or via PayPal.

Channel That Festive Spirit

We release a volume of Christmas Chillers every year and welcome submissions of dark or horrific Christmas-themed tales. We don’t mind a little humour, but the overall tone should be dark. Email your submission to us no later than September 2018 and you’ll hear during October if it’s been accepted for inclusion.

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Hallowed Be Thy Gun

7 Dec

I couldn’t ignore the call to arms

when my neighbours grabbed their muskets

and rushed to the village green

Hallowed Cover

Hallowed Be Thy Gun is the new poetry booklet from Gary Beck and recounts the history of the USA through its wars and military adventures.

It is available for £3 (UK) / £6 (overseas) from the editorial address. You can also pay via https://www.paypal.me/DJTyrer (please also email with details of your order). The 3-for-2 booklet offer applies to all booklets.

Review of Imaro

22 Nov

This is a review of the 2006 Night Shade Books version of Charles Saunders’ African fantasy novel (which replaces the original Slaves of the Giant-Kings with The Afua to avoid awkward similarities to the Rwandan genocide and loses City of Madness to better fit in to volume two; changes only of academic interest to those of us who never read the original version).

The novel is a stitching-together of short stories to tell the story of the titular hero, Imaro, as he adventures in a land analogous to east Africa.

It begins with Imaro approaching initiation into adulthood and discovering that forces are plotting against him. Events lead him to abandon his tribe and become a wandering adventurer in the mould of Conan, even coming to lead a band of robbers.

Imaro is a book of two halves. The first half, inspired by Massai culture, was quintessentially African, presenting a tale infused with African cultural elements that wouldn’t really work in the classic pseudo-European worlds of most fantasy tales. The second half, with its mounted bandits, was a disappointment in comparison because it could easily have come from almost any fantasy setting. That’s not to say it was badly written – Charles Saunders is a great fantasy author – but it wasn’t distinctly African. (The problem is that it deals with an east coast analogous to the real world’s and, thus, heavily influenced by the Middle East.)

If you enjoy fantasy fiction, there is much to enjoy here. Even if you’re not too interest in stepping away from the usual trends of the genre, Imaro is still good fiction. But, you will be particularly pleased if you’re looking for fiction outside the usual run of fantasy tropes as the first half is a brilliant evocation of an African culture.

Charles Saunders created something great, which deserves to be more widely read. Highly recommended.

Equal Opportunity Madness is here!

28 Aug

A panel discussion at Balticon 49 in 2015 about ‘problematic things’ in fiction led to this collection, EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness – A Mythos Anthology. As the editors note, and I’ve discussed before, the relationship between authors and their work can be an awkward one for readers and defies pat responses in either extreme. Instead of rejecting Lovecraft’s creations out of hand, a joking suggestion about creating an anthology of stories that would make the ‘old gent’ spin in his grave was taken up and made reality.EOM colour

Now, I must declare an interest in EOM as I contributed the story The Horror of the Atoll, which heads into Cthulhu’s stomping ground of Polynesia and features native Polynesian characters as protagonists.

Other stories go further in offering characters quite unlike those found in Lovecraft’s fiction. The opening story introduces us to an “old, crippled servant and the even older mute priestess” of Bast, for instance, while the penultimate story features a lesbian Rabbi taking on the evil out of Innsmouth with a golem!

I must say that the final, not exactly serious, story, in which Cthulhu awakens on the first day of Chanukah, bored and grumpy, was my favourite. Luckily, he is entertained then bored back to sleep with a dreidel and humanity is saved!

It’s not uncommon to find Cthulhu Mythos tales that feature protagonists unlike those used by Lovecraft (I’ve written a few myself), but this collection strives to provide a real variety.

So, rather than worrying about the old gent’s views on race, you should read this collection and see just how far his collection can be stretched.

Are we reading the same thing?

12 Jul

About a year ago, I saw a lot of references to John Updike’s novel Rabbit, Run, all extolling just how brilliant it was. Intrigued, I decided to pick up a copy and read it. Boy, was I disappointed.

As I ask above, I had to wonder if we were reading the same thing. The book did open with promise. The description of Rabbit insinuating himself into a children’s game of basketball was a perfect meditation on loss and the disappointment of adulthood for childhood achievers. Had it been a short story, I would have definitely recommended it. (Updike was a short story writer prior to writing the novel.) But, other than two or three brief flashes of something interesting, the rest of the book failed to live up to that promise.

Perhaps the worst thing about it was that the writing was passable. There are novels that are as badly written as they are plotted that are easy to throw aside and there are novels that are badly written, but which contain good ideas – these are the real disappointments as, often, you can’t finish them, but you really wish they’d live up to their potential. Then, there are novels like this where the writing itself is okay, but the story is dire. encouraging you to keep on reading in the hope it will pick up, only it never does.

Updike possessed the technical skills to write a good novel, but this wasn’t it. I really can’t see what other people love about it. I’m not saying they’re wrong – taste is subjective – but whatever it is escapes me. It may be that his other novels would be a better fit for me, but I won’t be trying them – I’ve got far too many books to read as it is, without adding more on a vain off-chance! I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, but there’s always a chance it will be to your taste.

Review of Chasing Cloud

28 Apr

Chasing Cloud is a novel by David M. Smith available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon. Subtitled ‘A Tarxian Novel’, you may imagine it is a fantasy novel, but, while it may well appeal to fans of fictional worlds, it’s actually set in ancient Malta during the Copper Age (although Smith, naturally, has had to be inventive with the minimal evidence available).

Chasing Cloud

The priest Lamaxe finds his life disrupted by the disappearance of his childhood friend, his burgeoning relation ship with a sculptress working on the temple, and a mission to bring back an idol of their goddess to enhance the temple’s standing, requiring him to leave the island. The search for the missing girl, the titular Cloud, and the journey to Sicily to explore a different culture, drawing upon what little is known through archaeology and extrapolating convincingly.

The mystery of Cloud’s disappearance is an effective plot that both provides the skeleton upon which to hang other adventures, such as encounters with pirates, and leads to a showdown of its own, one that will change Lamaxe’s life forever.

Smith has produced a fine novel that will appeal to fans of historical fiction, mysteries and, quite probably, fantasy fans in search of something a bit different, although it is relentlessly mundane in nature. It has an accessible ‘young adult’ feel to it, without compromising on the setting. About the only potential flaws are that it was a little slow to get going, which may put off those readers who have to be constantly stimulated with action, and there is a little sex (neither graphic nor out of place) that prudish readers may be uncomfortable with, as well as references to animal sacrifice that, while not particularly gory, may be off-putting to those who find the thought of any harm coming to animals unpalatable.

Those minor caveats aside, Chasing Cloud is an enjoyable read, unusual and intriguing, that I’d definitely recommend.

Worst Witch review

13 Jan

19 years ago, ITV produced a series based on the Worst Witch books by Jill Murphy (providing the now-famous Felicity Jones with one of her first acting roles). Now, the BBC is making its own series based upon the misadventures of Mildred Hubble (first chronicled in print way back in 1974). A tough act to follow!

The 53-minute opening episode of the series (officially episodes one and two, rolled into one) is currently available to view on BBC iPlayer. As a fan of the Worst Witch in all its formats, I was interested to see how this adaptation fared.

The opening seems to be aping Harry Potter, to the extent that Maud (who seems far more clumsy than Mildred in this version) broke her glasses and had them magically mended. However, Mildred’s briefly-shown towerblock home-life doesn’t exactly  compare to Harry’s awful childhood and the introduction of a masquerade (never explicitly stated in earlier versions) didn’t really add anything to the story.

Mildred and Maud were passable – I did think Mildred looked more like Tracy Beaker than Mildred Hubble, although she grew on me towards the end – but Ethel was spot on. Hardbroom and Cackle were both good, although they didn’t manage to eclipse the portrayals of the characters in the ITV series. Overall, the acting was somewhat variable, although stronger towards the finale, and, while the visual presentation was good, the episode itself was somewhat uneven in tone, especially as it seemed to be trying to present the setting more seriously, yet veered sharply into humour at times. However, it is likely that the players will settle into their roles and the tone of the series stabilise as time goes on, so hopefully these are temporary niggles – and, not too serious ones, at that, if I’m honest.

Given that the plot of the first book was used as the plot of the Worst Witch movie, in addition to the opening episodes of the ITV series, the BBC bravely chose not to rehash it for a third time. Instead, they distinguished their version by crafting (pun intended) an original opening that loosely drew upon Agatha Cackle’s plot (in the book) to take over Cackle’s Academy from her sister. It’s possible purists might not be happy about it, but it works well enough and offers something new to those of us who’ve seen previous versions on the screen, without diverging too far from the source material.

Overall, it does a passable job of relaunching the Worst Witch for a new generation and I’m certainly going to watch future episodes to see how it develops, although I doubt it will displace the ITV series from my affections. Of course, while it will inevitably be compared to the versions that came before, it really isn’t for an adult to judge it. The real test is whether kids, who are probably unaware of the ITV and film adaptations, respond to it. I suspect it will win fans. For parents who might be wondering whether they should encourage their children to watch it, I can say that this first instalment presents no reason not to and is likely to entertain them. Definitely recommended!