All Ten Of My “Halloween 2018” Short Stories :)

Happy Halloween everyone πŸ™‚ In case you missed any of them, here are links to all ten of this year’s Halloween stories. If you want more stories, be sure to check out my 2017 Halloween collection, my 2016 Halloween collection and the interactive story that I wrote in 2015. You can also find lots of other short stories here too.

Anyway, the theme of this year’s collection was “The modern world”, which allowed me to include a good mixture of horror, dark comedy, satire and even a little bit of dystopian sci-fi too πŸ™‚ If you don’t have time to read the whole collection, the best stories are: “VR“, “Zero“, “Update“, “Void” and “Killer App

The production for this collection was also a bit random too. In short, due to being busy with lots of stuff, I’d expected to only have time to write five stories rather than the full ten. Because of this, I also wrote (and queued up) this year’s stories in the opposite order to the order they were posted here. So, if you want to read the stories in the order I actually wrote them, then start with the tenth one and work backwards.

Anyway, here are the stories πŸ™‚ Enjoy πŸ™‚

VR: In the neon-drenched future, Trey is on the run from Blue-Corp’s security bulls after a hack went wrong. But, things aren’t quite what they seem.

Rules: University students Joanne and Toby have got tickets for the Halloween party at the student’s union. But, can they comply with the union’s costume policy?

Zero: Bert is congratulating the branch managers of his company after a few contractual changes have resulted in increased profits and relatively little grumbling from his employees. What could possibly go wrong for him?

Update: Sally isn’t enjoying her date with Tom. There’s just something strange about him…

Pop Up: When a giant ossuary appears in the middle of the high street, Dan and Tina aren’t sure whether to go inside and take a look…..

Limelight: Two people sit in a cafe and discuss the sorry state of the modern horror genre.

Void: Reza is combing a field for historical artefacts. But, just as he detects something, it starts to rain…

Let’s Play: ‘Tis the season for low-budget jump-scare indie games and two people are determined that their ‘let’s play’ video will be hilariously watchable.

Remnants: Driven off of the high street by the rain, Steve takes refuge in a large chain bookshop. But, something is very wrong with this shop…

Killer App: Laura is bored, so she goes shopping on her phone’s app story. One of the apps on offer looks a bit unusual. But, hey, it’s free…

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Review: “Antediluvian Tales” By Poppy Z. Brite (Short Story Collection)

Ever since my very early twenties, Poppy Z. Brite (the pen name of the one and only Billy Martin) has been my favourite author. Although I could probably write an autobiography about the effect that his novels had on me during the two most important years of my life, I want to keep this article below two thousand words.

If you’re new to this author, then the thing to remember is that Martin’s stories are almost always more about the journey than the destination. They’re about spending time in various versions of New Orleans, hanging out with fascinating characters and just soaking in the atmosphere rather than about following a specific story.

Likewise, Martin’s exquisitely lush, vivid writing style is something that has to be read to be believed. Even if you don’t like horror or romance, then his books are still worth reading just for the narration alone!

But, one of the annoying things about being a fan of Martin’s stories is that they aren’t always the easiest thing to find in the world. Aside from his more well-known novels and short story collections, a fair portion of his works are rare, small-press “only published in America” type things. Sure, you can probably get them as e-books, but they are the kind of stories that I feel demand to be read on paper, the old-fashioned way.

Still, when browsing online a couple of weeks before writing this review, I happened to notice that a second-hand copy of “Antidiluvian Tales” was going cheap on Amazon. Well, relatively cheap. Even though it was an ex-library copy from America that would take a fortnight to cross the Atlantic, it still seemed worth getting. Hence this review.

So, let’s take a look at “Antedivulian Tales”. This review may contain some SPOILERS:

This is the 2007 Subterranean Press (US) hardback edition of “Antediluvian Tales” that I read (And yes, that blue thing below the angel is some kind of elaborate ink stain from the library it used to be from.)

“Antedivulian Tales” is a short story collection from 2007 which collects several New Orleans-themed stories that Martin wrote before Hurricane Katrina, in addition to a non-fiction piece about the hurricane. Given that the effects of the hurricane were one of the reasons why he retired from writing, there’s a certain poignance to this collection. It’s a glimpse back at a better time of the author’s life.

One cool thing about this collection is that it is only about 116 pages in length. Although this might sound like it’s a bit too short, it also means that it can be read cover-to-cover within the space of an hour or two. It’s a relaxing, satisfying experience that can be enjoyed without the time investment that would come with a longer collection. Plus, with the vivid narration and deep characterisation on offer here, the collection’s length feels like a brilliant example of quality taking precedence over quantity.

Another interesting thing about this slender collection of stories is how much of a mixture of Martin’s older and newer fiction it is. There are several stories that serve as short prequels to Martin’s “Liquor” novels. But there’s also a random story about absinthe, Mardi Gras and the 1990s. And there are a couple of 1990s-style horror stories featuring Dr. Brite, the coroner of New Orleans. Not to mention that one of the “Liquor” prequel stories is also an old-school 1970s-style ghost story too.

Yet, despite this large amount of variety, the stories are all linked together surprisingly well. This is mostly because of their shared New Orleans setting, Martin’s uniquely brilliant narrative voice and several of the themes running throughout the collection (eg: food, Catholicism, family, death, love, mystery etc..)

So, let’s take a look at the actual stories…

“The Feast Of St. Rosalie” is a slice of life story, focusing on Rosalie Stubbs during the titular “Feast of St. Rosalie”, a Catholic holy day in New Orleans. The story is one of those vivid, atmospheric and mostly plotless stories that is more of a character study than anything else.

“Four Flies And A Swatter” is this wonderful little story about a bar in 1990s New Orleans, the day after Mardi Gras. With only four random customers at the bar, one of the bartenders decides to dust off an old bottle of absinthe that he’s found. Not only does this story contain some very slight hints of “Lost Souls“, but it also contains an absolutely brilliant ending which is simultaneously uplifting, tragic, funny and creepy at the same time.

“Henry Goes Shopping” is a slightly funny short character study about Henry Stubbs. He’s about to buy some condoms, but finds himself in the embarrassing situation of standing behind a nun in the checkout line.

“The Working Slob’s Prayer” is more of a concrete prequel to the first “Liquor” novel, giving us a fascinating “slice of life” glimpse at the kitchen of the Peychaud Grill, where Rickey and G-Man worked before the events of “Liquor”.

Although this story is only sixteen pages long, it feels more like a novel πŸ™‚ Not only do we get to see lots of interesting characters, but there are several story threads and even a possible author insert too. Seriously, how Martin managed to cram all of this amazing stuff into less than twenty pages, without the story ever feeling rushed or superficial, I’ll never know.

“Crown Of Thorns” is the first of the two ‘Dr. Brite’ stories. The story focuses on both a rather strange autopsy and Dr. Brite’s relationship with his new boyfriend Hank.

Although the mystery of why a dead body was found with an unusual gourd in his chest is deepened rather than resolved at the end of the story, the conclusion still feels oddly satisfying. Plus, this story also contains an amusing little reference to “Liquor” at one point too.

“Wound Man And Horned Melon Go To Hell”
takes the form of a gleefully irreverent letter written to Jesus by Dr. Brite, relating the strange events that befell him and Hank whilst visiting a Russian-themed restaurant.

This is another mysterious horror story (with some brilliantly funny moments), that is also wonderfully evocative of the gothic fiction that Billy Martin used to write during the 1990s. Plus, the title is just awesome too.

“The Devil Of Delery Street” is probably the most unusual short story in the collection. It starts out as another prequel story about the Stubbs family, but soon turns into a 1970s-style ghost story with an atmosphere that is very vaguely reminscent of something like “The Exorcist” or “Carrie”. Like with the other horror stories in this collection, there’s a real emphasis on mystery here – which really helps to give the story a surprising sense of realism.

“The Last Good Day Of My Life (A True Story)” is an account of a holiday to Australia that the author took about a month before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

The segments about Australia are written in the lush, vividly descriptive way that you would expect – but all of this beauty is, of course, contrasted with the uglier events that would follow. Although the later part of the account focuses more on Martin’s emotional reaction to Katrina, it is chillingly punctuated with a couple of understated excerpts from a journal that he kept at the time.

All in all, this is a really interesting collection of stories. Yes, it’s the kind of thing that avid fans of the author (like myself) will get the most out of, but it also possibly serves as a really interesting introduction to the different types of fiction that Martin wrote before he retired. What this collection may lack in length, it more than makes up for in both quality and depth.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Short Stories – March 2018

Well, although I’ve decided to take a break, possibly an extended one, from writing daily short stories (don’t worry, normal daily articles and art posts will continue πŸ™‚), I thought that I’d collect links to all 24 of the short stories I posted here this month in case you missed any of them (like I did with the nine stories I wrote in February). You can also find links to lots of other short stories on this page too.

I’m still amazed that I managed to write a total 33 short stories in a row (the most I’ve managed before is fourteen stories) and the highlights of this month’s collection include: ‘Floor Seven‘, ‘Stage Fright‘, ‘Rusty‘, ‘Expo‘, ‘Haunt Of The Horror Comics‘, ‘A MΓ€rchen In March‘, ‘Village‘, ‘Demo‘ and ‘Last Refuge Of The Splatterpunks‘.

Anyway, here are the stories πŸ™‚ Enjoy πŸ™‚

Haunt Of The Horror Comics“: This is a short story, set in mid-1950s Britain, about a couple who visit a corner shop shortly before horror comics are banned.

Culture: This is a random character study – set during the ’00s – which follows a goth who visits a goth club for the first time. Originally, this story was supposed to be a sarcastic comedy, but it ended up going in a slightly more serious/literary/poignant direction instead.

Floor Seven“: This is a creepy horror story, set in 1990s America, that I wrote because I wanted to try writing something that evoked the grungy claustrophobic gloom of many classic mid-late 1990s Hollywood horror movies, TV show episodes and videogames.

Expo“: This is a random story, set in 2000/2001, about a games journalist who visits a videogame trade show/exhibition in London.

A MΓ€rchen In March: This is a vaguely Lovecraftian horror/fantasy story (with some very mild thriller elements too) that was inspired by the recent snowy weather. It’s a little bit more of a descriptive and “serious” story than usual, but it was interesting to write.

Background Music: This is a somewhat rambling, semi-autobiographical “stream of consciousness” style piece that I wrote about having random daydreams during heavy metal concerts. It probably isn’t my best story, but it was kind of fun to write.

Food Court ’95“: This is a slightly random and mildly comedic vignette, set in mid-1990s America, that I wrote when I was tired (so, it’s probably filled with historical errors, Briticisms etc..). It basically just involves a punk and a frat guy sitting in the food court of a shopping centre and trading sarcastic and/or cynical dialogue with each other. Still, for something I wrote when I was tired, it turned out relatively well, I guess.

Heist: In the distant future, two criminals are trying to hack their way into the vault of a storage facility. But, there’s a problem! The security robots are closing in on them and they’ve only got one plasma pistol between them.

Frat House Blues ’95: Here’s the long-awaited sequel to “Food Court ’95“. Ok, I actually wrote this because one line in “Food Court” made me wonder what Roy and Lucy’s Friday night would actually be like. Needless to say, it includes lots of sarcastic dialogue and a couple of ’90s pop culture references (including a potentally anachronistic one).

Plain Sight: This is a descriptive urban fantasy/magic realism story that I had a lot of fun writing πŸ™‚ But, even after trimming something like four paragraphs from it, it’s still marginally longer (at 1000-1100 words) than many of my other stories. Then again, this might be because of the genre – I mean, fantasy fiction isn’t exactly known for brevity…

Common Factor“: This bizarre cyberpunk story was the result of both spending too much time reading “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson* and watching multiple Youtube videos about obscure musical instruments. (*due to major scheduling differences between these short stories and my daily articles, my review of this novel won’t appear until next February. Even so, there will be a review of Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age” in December ).

Rusty: …And this cyberpunk comedy story is what happens when I play “Doom II” for the first time in about two weeks (how did I get that out of practice so fast?) and then find an absolutely hilarious pirate-themed music video [Explicit lyrics] on Youtube. This short story is also something of a spiritual successor to this cyberpunk story I wrote in 2016 too.

Trance“: This is a cyberpunk story that includes no electronic technology whatsoever. And, although I tried to write something like this in 2016, this one actually technically fits into the criteria of “cyberpunk without electronic technology“.

Chess: Somehow, this ended up being a story about… chess.. of all things. It’s kind of a mildly “literary” story, with some comedy elements.

Stage Fright: At a heavy metal concert, something evil is lurking in the audience! This gloriously cheesy 1980s-style comedy horror story was sooo much fun to write πŸ™‚ I wrote the first draft of it on the day that the new Judas Priest album came out, so no prizes for guessing what I was listening to when I wrote it.

Order: In a dystopian future, someone is questioned about membership of a mysterious secret society. And, yes, I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to write any dystopian fiction. And, if anyone is curious, the meme mentioned in the story also makes a secret appearance in this article I posted in February.

Last Refuge Of The Splatterpunks: An old 1980s horror author discovers something terrible about one of his old books and decides to drown his sorrows at the pub with a fellow ’80s horror author. And, yes, this story was inspired by something I saw when looking online for modern splatterpunk fiction that brought out my inner grumpy old cynic and literally made me say something like “In my day…“. And, well, I only discovered splatterpunk fiction during the 2000s!

Village: A couple get lost in the countryside and find themselves in a small village – but, the village isn’t on the map! This gothic horror story, set in the late 1980s/early 1990s, was inspired by a recent visit to a small village called Southwick.

Grim: A man is shopping in a run-down shopping centre when he notices that a certain robed, scythe-wielding fellow is following him.. This story, set in the 2000s, was kind of fun to write (and I’m seriously surprised that it’s taken me this long to use the Grim Reaper as a character) although it was a little bit rushed, and it probably shows.

Demo: Ok, I mostly wrote this cynical nostalgia-themed comedy story so that I could include an “extract” from one of the fictitious 1980s splatterpunk horror novels mentioned in this story. And, yes, it was really fun to write πŸ™‚

Letters: Sometimes, the local paper is accidentally delivered to Joanne’s house. Normally, she doesn’t mind, but she has noticed something happening with the “letters” page…. Although this story was a little rambling, I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to write something in this genre πŸ™‚

Deadline: This random Lovecraftian/magic realism/2000s nostalgia story was something I wrote when I was in an uninspired mood. It probably isn’t my best work, but I’m still surprised that I managed to write something.

Snow Beast: Wow! I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to write a monster story πŸ™‚ This story was inspired by the recent “mini beast” snowstorm here in the UK, and it can also be read as something of a prequel and/or companion piece to this story from 2-3 weeks ago.

Blank: I had writer’s block, so this story is the ultimate lazy cop-out (a story about a writer getting writer’s block). It’s a bit like the story a couple of days ago (“Deadline“), but with more comedy and commentary about the horror genre. The final two paragraphs of this story turned out vaguely ok, but the rest of it isn’t brilliant.

Short Stories – February 2018 :)

Although I plan to write more stories next month (stay tuned for the next one tomorrow night πŸ™‚ ), I thought that I’d take a break tonight in order to compile a list of links to all of the stories I’ve written this month, in case you missed any of them. You can also find links to some of my older story collections on this page too.

Since my return to writing short stories was something of an unplanned thing, I foolishly didn’t prepare a “buffer” of stories in advance. As such, at least a couple of the stories were plagued by writer’s block and didn’t turn out that well.

Even so, I quite like how a few of them turned out and my favourites are probably: “Specimen“, “Temple” and “Wake“.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the links to the stories – enjoy πŸ™‚

Amusements“: This is a random comedy horror short story that I wrote somewhat unexpectedly.

Temple“: This is a short story about abandoned shopping centres, nostalgia, ubiqity, folklore, US pop culture, early 2000s Britain etc..

Off Hours“: This is a mildly comedic “film noir” style story that I wrote whilst experiencing writer’s block.

ESP: This is a short story about someone who develops a psychic connection… to the internet.

Wake: This is a vignette about three university students at a house party. It was more of a random practice piece/literary experiment than anything else, but it’s also something of a mildly comedic nostalgia piece about the 2000s (of all things) too.

Alarm: This is a sci-fi comedy story about space stations and software updates.

Wave: This is a slightly random short story about 1990s nostalgia, car boot sales and a university student trying to write a dissertation proposal. It’s a little bit on the rambling side of things (and it borders on being pretentious “literary fiction”) but it was fun to write.

A Playlist For Suburbia: Well, I had writer’s block. So, I ended up writing this random character study about a guy listening to punk music. And, yes, this ended up being another 1990s nostalgia story.

Specimen: This is a fearful tale of the macabre, with some moments of levity, set during a 19th century anatomy lecture. It’s probably riddled with anachronisms, but it was a lot of fun to write πŸ™‚

All Ten Of My “Noir Christmas 2017” Short Stories

Well, in case you missed any of them, here’s a handy list of links to all ten of my recent “Noir Christmas” short stories.

These stories are best read in order, although many of them are fairly self-contained. If you just want to read the basic underlying story arc, then read the first, third, fourth and tenth stories. My personal favourite story in the collection is probably the ninth one.

Surprisingly, this was the first collection I’ve written in quite some time to feature a single unnamed main character throughout the collection. Surprisingly, the stories also ended up being set in something resembling present-day Britain rather than the more traditional “1920s-50s America” setting I’d originally thought about using.

Anyway, here are the stories πŸ™‚ Enjoy πŸ™‚

1) “Preludes And Portents – A private detective hasn’t had a client in days. Perhaps a piece of junk mail holds the answers….

2) “Headlines“: The detective muses about Raymond Chandler, only to find that a mysterious man with a gun has appeared outside the office door.

3) “Stakeout“: The detective decides to investigate the slick new detective agency that has recently appeared in the local shopping centre. However, things may not be as they seem…

4) “Amateurs“: Finally! A client! And, perhaps many more…

5) “Magic“: The detective is asked to explain a magic trick…

6) “Espionage“: The detective’s latest client wants the private computer codes of a senior German politician. Not only is the case illegal, but it’s too much *ugh* effort. What will the detective do?

7) “Night Off“: The detective takes a night off.

8) “Paranormal“: A rich property developer needs the detective’s help. Ever since he planned to turn the local community centre into luxury flats, he’s been hearing ominous noises at night….

9) “The Twelve Cases Of Christmas“: Twelve clients in one morning!? What will the detective do?

10) “Finale“: The detective’s new business strategy has ruffled some feathers…

All Five Of My “Back To The 1990s” Short Stories :)

2017-artwork-complete-back-to-the-1990s

Well, in case you missed any of them, I thought that I’d provide links to all five short stories in my “Back To The 1990s” series. You can also find links to many more short stories here.

This collection was something of an experimental project and, in part, I consider it to be something of a failure. It was one of my first attempts at writing vaguely “realistic” stories (compared to science fiction, horror etc..) in quite a while and, well, it isn’t exactly my best genre.

Likewise, whilst I’d expected to write a lot of stories about different years in the 1990s in both Britain and America, I hadn’t really put aside enough time for research. So, most of the stories were set in mid-late 1990s Britain because, although I was fairly young at the time, I still actually remembered it. Likewise, I’ve never actually been to America, so “realistic” (as opposed to stylised) American settings quickly seemed like a bad idea.

Anyway, here are links to all five stories, with brief plot summaries. Enjoy πŸ™‚

1) “Grey Cartridge” By C. A. Brown: Two game journalists in early 1997 receive a strange parcel in the post…

2) “One Hit Wonder” By C. A. Brown: A singer has found fame! Or has she?

3) “Routine” By C. A. Brown: American stand-up comedian Jack Carlicks dazzles London with his brilliantly cynical humour. It’s just a shame that there’s a time traveller from June 2016 in the audience, who is hell-bent on heckling him.

4) “Silly Rules” By C. A. Brown: Back in the 1990s, film censorship in Britain was hilariously strange.

5) “Booze Cruise” By C. A. Brown: A couple go on a short holiday to France, displaying the high level of international knowledge and cultural sophistication that makes British tourists so widely respected and well-loved around all of mainland Europe.