A Surprise Plot Makes An Appearance

Dark Forest by Sergio-CAbout a month ago I was in a bit of a rut with the story I was working on, a science fiction tale set on a distant planet. In order to head off an approaching case of writer’s block I decided to take part in a few Twitter challenges, which resulted in the micro stories you can see on this blog.

The one image that stuck with me the longest during that couple of weeks was of Lucien and Aldous, my vampiric characters. It was enormous fun to come up with little vignettes for them and it got me to thinking about vampire fiction in more detail.

It’s not a genre I had ever considered tackling before, basically because every time I think about it I find myself rolling my eyes at all the old (and some new) Hollywood cliches I hate. But the idea that I could write a vampire story that bypassed all that baggage by returning to the pre-Stoker source material was intriguing. There are literally hundreds of mythical blood drinkers from around the globe. Even in Europe there is a staggering variety, ranging from vengeful fairies to zombie vikings and including a blood drinking German succubus called a Trude – something I really should take up with my parents at some point.

Anyway, a lifetime’s interest in folklore, myths and ghost stories, seems finally to have paid off, as a brand new plot idea bubbled up from my brain pretty quickly and within the space of a few days I had plots for not one, but four new stories, covering over 1000 years of history and detailing the relationship between two supernatural characters.

My science fiction tale is now definitely gathering dust on the shelf, as I tackle these new adventures, but I’m extremely excited to do so. Going back to the old myths, and bypassing all the modern concretions that vampires are saddled with has been a wonderfully cosy experience, like sitting by a roaring fire with a cherished book of ghost stories. I feel like I’m rediscovering horror.

Microfiction: Lucien & Aldous #4

“I’ve always preferred the eighty-nines myself.” Aldous announced with a noticeable slur. “A more full-bodied vintage for the true sanguinarian.”

Lucien picked a shred of flesh from his teeth with a fingernail. The nail was long and scarlet and didn’t belong to him.

“Aldous, you are such a snob.” He muttered.

Flash Fiction: The Gluemn In God’s Eye

For years I’ve been fascinated by the idea that life may exist under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In particular I wondered how an intelligent species might mythologise their landscape when the limit of their universe is a miles thick ceiling of ice. This is a glimpse in to life beneath a frozen ocean.

The vault of heaven broke open and a beam of divine light surged through the crack, bringing with it colours, the like of which the Gluemn had never seen before.

Heaven had not been glimpsed like this for many generations. A rumour had even started amongst the Gluemn that it didn’t exist, but as the bravest amongst them ventured closer to the light, the doubters began to proclaim their faith renewed. Some even denied having lost it in the first place.

“See! God is watching over us!” They chanted, lifting their tentacles towards the light.

And God was indeed watching. His single, great eye peered down though the crack in the vault of Heaven.

“God is scary.” One young Gluemn murmered, scurrying for cover amongst his father’s many arms.

“God loves us.” His father said, petting him gently with his suckers. “He plucked out his other eye for us. To give us the Deep Fires that keep us warm, and bring the food from below.”

“I don’t know.” The little Gluemn replied, letting one, tentative tentacle drift into the light.

God’s remaining eye glared down at him, red and boiling.

“If you ask me.” He said, as the vault of Heaven shifted once more, and the light began to fade. “God looks mean.”

Book Review: Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler

Wild Chamber (Bryant & May, #14)Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a huge fan of the Bryant & May novels by Christopher Fowler and have read them all with relish. They’re particularly fun for me as a Londoner and a history nerd. The author blends historical fact with fiction so well that on occasion I have found myself fact-checking several of the novels in order to distinguish between historical fact and flights of the author’s fancy.

Crime buffs will notice straight away that this story is a variation on a classic crime set up; the locked room mystery. A variation that could only really work in a London setting. The author does a great job of misleading the reader with several red herrings, and I didn’t start to zero in the the killer and his motive until the last few chapters. Even then it remained a rather nebulous notion until the denouement, when all was revealed.

Film nerds might also notice a passing resemblance to a certain 1960’s art house movie starring David Hemming. It was an impression that was with me right from the start, so it was immensely satisfying, in the last third of the book, to see Arthur Bryant attend a screening of that very film.

Speaking of Arthur Bryant, he is on sparkling, bonkers form as usual, but I couldn’t help feeling that John May was very much fading in to the background of this story, almost to the point where he was little more than a device to prop up the narrative in some of the chapters.

Another criticism I have of this outing for the PCU is the inclusion of Raymond Land’s memo to his staff. It was overly long, and I found myself able to skip most of it, without it impacting on my ability to understand the plot. Raymond’s neuroses and incompetence are usually the source of much of the series’ humour, but in this case it was done to death. I also felt the scenes in which the author chose to present dialogue in a script-like format similarly dull to read.

Finally, whilst I realise that having the PCU permanently under threat from the Machiavellian shenanigans of the civil service adds pace and a sense of threat to the plot, once you’ve read more than a few of the novels it gets a bit tired. I can’t help but hope that one day Bryant & May will called to investigate the grisly demise of one Leslie Faraday, especially if Raymond Land is the one found standing over the corpse, bloody knife in hand.

Despite those criticisms this was still a great outing for the Peculiar Crimes Unit, with all the expected eccentrics and geeks fans have come to expect, as well as plenty of spot on observations of the utter lunacy of London life.

Microfiction: Lucien & Aldous #3

Lucien stared in glum resignation at the tightly drawn curtains. One chink in their folds and the sun would burn them both to a crisp.

“You appear upset.” Aldous ventured.

“This is the true curse of the vampire, Aldous.” Lucien sighed. “To always be denied the matinee discount at the movie theatre.”

Microfiction: Lucien & Aldous #2

For the #writethurs challenge in Twitter.

Lucien slurped at his bloody fingers. Gobbets of crimson gore oozed down his chin. Aldous was appalled.

“Manners.” He hissed, proffering a napkin.

Lucien grimaced at the crisp white linen.

“Seriously?” he said, sucking a juicy clot from this thumb. “Who taught you how to be a vampire?”