VERSION 2 OF BLOG Welcome to my second attempt at writing this blog. I wrote something yesterday and, while it's technically okay, it just seemed a bit stiff (I've appended it at the end, so you can make your own judgement). Writing's like that, as you doubtless know. Sometimes you're able to say what you mean, but at others the words dutifully plod out onto the page instead, conveying information rather than sense, sturdily doing their job rather than making anyone give a crap about what's being said. I'm not sure this version is going any better yet, to be honest, but...

By way of introduction, I'd like to suggest a new Twitter tag. The tag is #sasp - short for 'shameless act of self-promotion'. The idea is that it should be used when self-pimping your product or services. Deploying it will mean (a) readers can choose whether to read the tweet, and (b) users will feel less of a tool for doing part of what they're supposed to be doing - i.e. convincing poor unsuspecting people that it's worth spending their cash on the products of their so-called minds. I'm hoping the term can also be introduced into common parlance, thus:

"I'll get down to some actual work in a few hours, but first I've got to do some SASPing."

"I unfollowed her. Never tweeted anything interesting. Total SASPer."

To save someone else from pointing it out, it's already occurred to me that trying to promote a tag could be seen as a back-door way of promoting myself, but that's all too ironic and post-modern and recursive for my brain to comfortably handle, so let's just let it go, eh?

And anyway, my real point is this: I'm hysterically pleased to announce that my new story collection, EVERYTHING YOU NEED, is now available from Earthling Publications. And for once, I don't feel bad self-promoting. Why the heck should I? Not only did I spent quite a while writing these pieces of fiction in the hope that people might like them, time I could otherwise have fruitfully spent in the pub, but others — namely the exceptional Paul Miller — have taken the risk of making the stories up into a book (an actual one, that exists in three dimensional space and possesses mass) in the hope that at least some copies of it will wind up being moved from his warehouse and into people's homes, in return for instruments of monetary value.

Sure, I could be all "Aw, shucks, you don't want to read that nonsense...", but frankly, you could do worse. If the alternative is being repeatedly punched in the face by stern men called Alexei or Big Pete, then seriously, give the collection a chance. On the other hand, if you suddenly have the chance to hang out with polar bear cubs, then by all means put it aside for later. Your call.

Actually, I'm not sure this is going so well after all. Maybe you should read the first version instead...

VERSION 1 OF BLOG I'm delighted to announce that my new short story collection, EVERYTHING YOU NEED, has just been published. It's ten years since the last one came out, also from Earthling. Comparing the two, I see some differences. But I'll come to that..

Fans of dark and disconcerting fiction are very lucky in that short stories have always been a core strength of our genre/s, a delivery system for real narrative in addition to attractive groups of words. Sure, there are lots of 'literary' collections out there, but have you tried them? There are admittedly extremely gifted exponents, but so many of these slim, attractive volumes seem to contain little more than slices of languid posturing, pieces that feel like they fell off some more major work, or else are practice sessions for one. Maybe it's just me, and I do try not to be an utter Philistine, but after a few samples of these ending-less meanderings I yearn for something with focus and bite... and a story.

Dark fiction and SF shorts by contrast are often even more powerful and complete than novels: a sense of wonder and a twist of terror are both short-lived emotional states, and tales of restrained length can sometimes be the best way of injecting their payload deep into someone's mind. What a Bradbury, King, Dick, Poe, Matheson, Campbell, Ellison, Lovecraft or Asimov can do in the short form - to barely start on a list, and ignoring the great new practitioners out there right now - defies belief. It's in short stories that the new and interesting stuff usually first arrives, too, re-enlivening and re-inventing the genres in the face of periodic over-exploitation by the mainstream. We're very fortunate to have these writers and these stories, and also owe a huge debt to the editors and publishers out there keeping the form alive, often with very little financial incentive for themselves.

Nobody gets rich out of short fiction. That's not the point. We read and write and publish these stories because we know they're what actually counts, understanding that - especially in genres that touch so closely on our key fears and hopes and concerns - they're the sharpest knives for peeling away the layers of custom and everyday and getting to the truth inside. Don't get me wrong - I love novels. I spend the majority of my life working on them, and a good novel is capable of wonders no other art form can aspire to. People wouldn't have sat around a campfire twenty thousand years ago and told each other novels, however. It'd take far too long, and involve too much time spent on material that's enriching and thought-provoking for people with the leisure to enjoy those added benefits... but isn't really the STORY.

What's a story? It's a series of events that happen to people, real or imagined, after the telling of which you have — to however small a degree — changed. Changed either because you've felt something new, or imagined a circumstance you had't before, or merely because you are one chunk fuller of the ways in which people and incidents and ideas can be placed in relation to one another, one step further along the infinite journey of trying to understand what it's like to be alive. Tales of wonder and unease do this better than any other type of fiction, I believe, and that's why these genres will always be my home.

Having said which... Comparing EVERYTHING YOU NEED with MORE TOMORROW & OTHER STORIES, I perceive I may have gone just a tad more literary in the last decade, at least when it comes to short fiction. There are fewer long narratives. There are more stories which revolve around a particular feeling, or notion. They're more experimental in tone overall. Some of what's between these covers is me playing, trying to capture new things. Don't be alarmed, they have beginning-middle-end, and shouldn't have you frowning and muttering 'And what the hell was the point of that, exactly?' - and actually I believe there are pieces which are as good as anything I've ever done, for what that's worth, including stories which are new to the collection.

Anyway. I'd like to thank Paul Miller at Earthling for being the perfect publisher, and Vinnie Chong for the perfect jacket illustration. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the result of our labours. I can't guarantee it'll be everything you need, but I hope it has something you like.

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