Space Opera and Playable Novels


Steinbeck famously described Of Mice and Men as “a kind of playable novel, written in novel form but so scened and set that it can be played as it stands.” His words popped into my head when I recently read Shards of Honor, the first full novel in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga; this is not to say that Shards of Honor is as stage-ready as Of Mice and Men – it manifestly isn’t – but I can still imagine it being adapted for the theatre far more easily than might be expected from a space opera.

The novel opens on an alien planet where a research expedition has been attacked by a military patrol. The expedition’s leader, Commander Cordelia Naismith, is taken captive by Captain Aral Vorkosigan. But while Vorkosigan is a representative of the military force responsible for the atrocity, it turns out that he was not personally involved with the attack, and he agrees to help obtain medical aid for Cordelia’s injured ensign Dubrau.

Intelligent life has yet to be discovered, but plenty of alien fauna can be found, and the main plot of the second chapter is the characters trying to survive the planet’s dangerous wildlife. Weapons technology is also present in the early stretches of the novel, but never becomes the main point; it instead serves to shuffle the storytelling pieces into the right places – paralysing a character so that he can be moved into the background without killing him outright, for example – and it manages to do so in a naturalistic manner, never seeming forced. The focus is always on the characters, and there is little here that an inventive theatre couldn’t handle.

Continue reading “Space Opera and Playable Novels”

Werewolf Wednesday: A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (1605)

In relation to folklore, Richard Verstegen’s 1605 volume A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities Concerning the Most Noble and Renowned English Nation is probably most notable for containing the first English version of the Pied Piper story. The book also has some relevance to lycanthropy, however. One section is a glossary (or “explanation of sundrie our moste ancient English woords”) that includes an entry on werewolves.

The author appears to have accepted the literal existence of such beings, although his wording suggests that he believed lycanthropic transformations to be illusions rather than true bodily changes.

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How I Spent February 2023


This wasn’t a bad month for me. I got to announce three new short stories, one of which — Transgef in P is for Poltergeist — is already out. I also got started on this year’s Splatterpunk Award finalists, so you can expect reviews to start soon… once I’ve finished last year’s contenders, anyway.

I’m still at work on my next Women Write About Comics series. Got a draft of the first article in the bag, and the next is nearly done. Looking forward to announcing it…

Article topics for March and beyond:


Out Now: P is for Poltergeist, Featuring My Story TRANSGEF


P is for Poltergeist, the latest instalment in Red Cape’s A-Z of Horror series, is out today! I’ve got a story in the anthology by the name of Transgef. Here’s a quick synopsis:

If adolescent girls attract poltergeist activity, then what kind of poltergeist might visit a transgender adolescent? A single mother finds out as the legend of Gef the Talking Mongoose is updated for the era of rapid-onset gender dysphoria.

Pick up the book and you’ll also get twelve stone-chuckin’, door-knockin’, false-vocal-cord rattlin’ stories by Stephen Loiaconi, Pauline E. Dungate, Michael Gore, Bob Johnson, Jay Kleem, Sarah Jan Huntington, Malina Douglas, Connor Mellegers, Nicole Iversen, Paul Lonardo, Christopher Pate and Daniel R Robichaud.

Baker’s Dozen, ed. Candace Nola (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


Its title a cute double-meaning, this anthology gathers together thirteen horror stories that are all, in one way or another, themed around baking. One – “Next Best Baker” by Jeff Strand – was also a finalist for Best Short Story. But what of the other twelve…?

Some of the stories treat the baked goods themselves as the sources of horror, with various questionable morsels issuing from ovens. In “My Lil’ Cupcake” by Lee Franklin, a gross and slobbish fisherman eats a cupcake made by his wife before a round of angling. This morsel has unforeseen effects: he has to deal with painful bodily functions at one end and bizarre hallucinatory visions at the other, in what turns out to be the start of a shaggy dog story involving a love triangle. In “Just a Local Thing” by Kenzie Jennings, a preteen girl visiting Florida with her parents is delighted to find a novelty bakery selling a cake shaped like an alligator eating a naked man – and markedly less delighted when she later sees the real thing. Daniel Volpe’s “Of Dough and Cinnamon” starts as a Last House on the Left-esque story about a Jewish baker, his daughter and a gang of rapists, and for much of its run it is a solid execution of an overfamiliar premise. Then comes a fantastical twist ending that makes novel use of both the story’s cultural backdrop and the motif of baking…

Continue readingBaker’s Dozen, ed. Candace Nola (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 4 (1580)

In recent weeks I’ve devoted not one, not two but three posts to the chapter on lycanthropy in Jean Bodin’s 1580 book De la Démonomanie des sorciers, partly through the abridged 2001 English edition by Randy A. Scott and Jonathan L. Pearl. Now, here’s one last post to round off my summary of the chapter…

I’ll start with another section that Scott and Pearl left out of their translation. This dips into classical mythology, with Bodin pointing to Ovid’s story of Lycaon becoming a wolf, and Homer’s account of how Circe turned Odysseus’ men into swine. The latter tale, argues Bodin, is not mere fable, as it was repeated by St. Augustine — who also recounted a story of Arcadian sorceresses turning passers-by into beasts to carry cheese.

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Between a Spider’s Eyes, ed. River Dixon (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


While some of the anthologies on the Splatterpunk Awards ballot are bulked out with large numbers of stories, Between a Spider’s Eyes offers a selection of tales that are comparatively few in number (there being eight in all, hence the title) but quite substantial in length.

The opening piece is “Carla’s Conundrum” by Aron Beauregard, about a woman who copes with personal loss by using a pair of puppets as alter egos; the story becomes an oddball character study as we see her behaviour through the eyes of various different members of her social circle, before arriving in a visceral climax. Elizabeth Bedlam’s “Poached Eggs” is similar in that it likewise brings to life a rather thin narrative through well-drawn characters. This time the protagonists are a meth-addled couple, Ron and Crystal, the latter of whom develops a strange rash after scraping her back on the wall of a public lavatory. Not a large amount happens here – until the twist ending, the plot consists largely of the rash growing worse while the characters try without success to diagnose it. Yet the story works thanks to a portrayal of the couple’s low-life existence that is as textured and as toe-curling as the growth on Crystal’s back.

Continue readingBetween a Spider’s Eyes, ed. River Dixon (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Bludgeon Tools, ed. K. Trap Jones (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


Bludgeon Tools is an anthology with a straightforward premise: all of the stories involve violence inflicted by household tools. So, how did the assembled authors interpret their brief…?

In “To the Devil his Due” Sam Richard offers a tightly-packed slasher narrative in which the killer is a grown man who wears a child’s devil costume and, of course, uses tools as murder weapons. Brian Keene comes through with “Delivery”, a brief story about a delivery man handing a package to a resident who turns out to be a murderer – with further twists in store as someone else turns up on the scene. Taking no prisoners is “Jesus of Jim Beam” by Anton Cancre; the narrator here is a shock-rock singer who, tired of his lot in life, starts murdering his audience. The protagonist’s desolate worldview comes through as strongly as the brutal violence.

Continue readingBludgeon Tools, ed. K. Trap Jones (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 3 (1580)

I’ve written a bit about Jean Bodin’s 1580 overview of werewolf lore here and here. In doing so, I’ve drawn heavily upon Randy A. Scott and Jonathan L. Pearl’s annotated 2001 English translation of Bodin’s book, On the Demon-Mania of Witches — which is an abridged edition. In this post, I’ll be looking at one of the sections that was cut out.

Bodin begins the section in question by talking about lycanthropes of Livonia, a subject also discussed by Olaus Magnus. He cites a personal acquaintance of his, a learned man from Burgandy named Languet who served the Duke of Saxony (could this be the sixteenth-century diplomat Hubert Languet?), as having travelled to Livonia and heard of a widespread belief in lycanthropy. He also mentions an unnamed German correspondent who identified Livonia with a land described by Herodotus as being populated by men who turn into wolves (I believe this refers to Herodotus’ account of the Neurian people).

Bodin also cites claims by Herodotus and Olaus Magnus regarding sorcerers who can control storms. Returning to the topic of lycanthropy, the author introduces us to Boyan, legendary son of Simeon I of Bulgaria, who — according to tenth-century historian Liutprand — could turn into a wolf.

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 3 (1580)”

Three New Stories for 2023

I’m pleased to announce that, over the next few months, you’ll be seeing me in three all-new fiction anthologies.

First off we have P is for Poltergeist from Red Cape Publishing, which includes my story Transgef. I was inspired by the saga of Gef the Talking Mongoose, but time’s moved on and Gef has turned up in a very different social climate: if adolescent girls attract poltergeists. Then what sort of poltergeist might a transgender adolescent attract…?

P is for Poltergeist is out 24 February and also features stories by Stephen Loiaconi, Pauline E. Dungate, Michael Gore, Bob Johnson, Jay Kleem, Sarah Jane Huntington, Malina Douglas, Connor Mellegers, Nicole Iversen, Paul Lonardo, Christopher Pate and Daniel R. Robichaud.

Next is Tales from the Clergy from October Nights Press This features my story Her True Calling, about one woman’s battle against a fanatical religious sect. All of the stories in the anthology are inspired by songs from the band Ghost — mine vibes with “Call Me Little Sunshine” — but I’m hoping that even those unfamiliar with the group will find something to enjoy.

Tales from the Clergy is scheduled for a summer release and will also include stories by Brian Smith, Pedro Iniguez, M. Wesley Corie II, Michael Balletti, Michael Paige, Vivian R Kasley, Everett C. Baudean, David West, Colt Skinner, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Jo Kaplan, Robert Bagnall and Mackenzie Hurlbert.

Finally, we have my latest contribution to the Doctor Who universe. Operation Fall-Out is an anthology of linked stories focusing on the exploits of the Brigadier and his UNIT colleagues; my story, The Four Callers, introduces an all-new character in Lance Corporal Mary Savage. Her job at UNIT is to answer telephone calls from the public — a role that turns out to have more intrigue to it than might be expected.

Operation Fall-Out is available for pre-order and its line-up includes Gary J Mack, James Hornby, Jamie Hailstone, Tessa North, Matthew Griffiths, Matthew Kresal and Tim Gambrell.  See the official press release for more information on the stories and comments from all of the writers.