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Messages - Paul Campbell

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FantasyCon / Brian Aldiss - special guest!
« on: February 28, 2011, 05:29:30 pm »
Oh you have no idea how buzzed I am at the news concerning Brian Aldiss coming to Fantasycon. Of all the Kaffee Klatches I've attended at conventions, Brian's was the best. An absolutely wonderful human being. I had the great pleasure and honour of having a private lunch with Brian in the Crowne Plaza Hotel restaurant during his attendance at the World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow in 2005. And now he's coming to Brighton - oh, happy news!!!  ;D

One of my last reviews for Prism was of his most recent novel, WALCOT. Read it. The only thing more terrific than that book is the man himself.

TV and Film / Re: A rant on SF films...
« on: February 28, 2011, 05:19:22 pm »
My big disappointment is not having a copy of the original Blade Runner, one of my all time favourite SF movies , ruined by the Director's Cut - which is the only copy I have.  :(

Pick up the 2007 5-disc set; it has all FIVE versions of the movie! You can keep up this boxset secondhand real cheap these days.

Books / Re: Mark Samuels - The Man Who Collected Machen
« on: February 28, 2011, 05:10:33 pm »
Yep, had this on pre-order for a while  ;D

Here's the thing: if I watch a movie and it's just 'all right' then that's fine; after all, it has only been an hour and a half or two hours of my time. But the thing is, of all the forms of entertainment, reading has the slowest delivery. I don't speed read and so, what with working and sleeping and all, even a short novel like "The Harrowing" by Alexandra Sokoloff will be read over a period of 4 or 5 days. That's a lot of investment of one's free time and therefore - call me unfair - but a novel had better be more than 'all right'.

I recently read an interview with and review of Sokoloff in a back issue of Black Static magazine. I have few novels by women writers (especially in the horror genre) and so wanted to discover some new ones -

- and "The Harrowing" is just 'all right'. Or, as the Americans might say, it's got a beat and you can dance to it. Fine. If it was an hour and a half movie. But four or five of my evenings after work? Nuh-uh. It's not just the fact that the story is only ever merely good, the writing too is workmanship. Despite being a short book, there are some 30 chapters and in every other chapter characters 'whirl' and 'gasp'. Must be a record as to how many times these two verbs have ever been used in one work. Doesn't the author's word processing software come with a thesaurus? I'm sure it does, but this kind of by-the-numbers, phone-it-in laziness is symptomatic of the whole book. And more damningly, I was always consciously aware that I was reading; I was never 'in the book' where you achieve that wonderful moment when you forget you're actually reading. Oh, yeah, and how lame was that epilogue?!

I have any number of terrific novels by women on my shelves, but mostly a single book here and there or occasionally two or three by the same author. With the exception of Margaret Atwood and Connie Willis there and no female novelists whom I slavishly follow.

Short story collections by female writers, on the other hand, I have a ton of: Alice B. Sheldon, Lisa Tuttle, Pat Cadigan, Alice Munro, Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link and on and on, including multiple collections by the aforementioned Atwood and Willis. I've recently read some wonderful short stories and a novella by Sarah Pinborough, but have yet to read her novel "A Matter of Blood" released by Gollancz last year (I've heard her Leisure novels released in the States are 'all right'). And Black Static magazine also did a feature on Sarah Langan. Here's hoping ...

... and here's wondering where all the great female horror novelists are.

General Discussion / Re: Small Press titles... and who can afford them
« on: February 06, 2011, 08:42:43 pm »
I stopped reviewing for Prism because I thought I had signed up to be a small/indie press reviewer. Alas, the vast majority of books submitted to the BFS were vanity titles. Should I have felt obligated to read them? Well, I didn't; life is too short. Instead I reviewed any small press titles I happened to be buying for myself. And, then, I stopped even doing that: I'm a reader and most small presses are aimed at collectors. I ain't paying 15 quid for a 40 page novella (at least the vast majority of then would work out at being only 40 pages if you were to reformat them into, say, a B format paperback). Since WHC in Brighton almost a year ago now I've bought very few small press titles: they're out of my price league. Even PS Publishing's Postscripts, which I loved - it went from a £26 a year sub to £50 because it is now exclusively a hardback anthology for collectors. The paperback edition for blue-collar readers like myself was phased out.

As for the whole ebook/physical book argument: well, up until the end of last year, the answer would have been a definite 'yes' in favour of print books.


Neither. Starting from December, my rail line to work changed their time table. So, instead of arriving just in time for work, I would now arrive late. Luckily I live within walking distance. Still, it’s a one hour, 5 mile walk. And the same back. 10 hours a week. Hmmm... that could potentially be a lot of wasted time.

But it isn’t. Audiobooks (converted to mps). I’ve listened to a number of them, sporadically, over the years. But now I’m immersing myself in them. And it’s absolutely fabulous. ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’? A delightful. ‘His Dark Materials’ with Philip Pullman himself doing all the descriptive reading and a full cast doing all the dialogue? Mesmerising. Of course, it has to be unabridged, but then almost all of them are these days.

So, as you can imagine, I’m more likely to visit these days than I am

I still, naturally, read physical books at home outwith my travel time to work... but, I gotta tellya, the only thing I like better than reading now is someone reading to me. I only wish all the books I wanted to read were available in an audio version. I only today discovered an online audio short story magazine, StarShipSofa.

Ah, heaven!  ;D

BFS Publications / Re: The New BFS Journal
« on: December 01, 2010, 10:49:35 am »
Wow, that's one gorgeous looking cover! Look forward to receiving it.

TTA Press / Re: Black Static
« on: November 30, 2010, 12:55:02 am »

I can understand if you dislike movies in general

I don't like movies. I love movies. But - alas - in the 21st century 'movie', 'horror' and 'good' just don't go together!  ;)

TTA Press / Re: Black Static
« on: November 27, 2010, 09:03:17 am »

Of all the writers, Steve Rasnic Tem’s story was the one I was most looking forward to, having just read and enjoyed his contribution to Stephen Jones’s latest anthology, ‘Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts’ (not forgetting his excellent contribution to ‘Subtle Edens’ edited by Allen Ashley).

But it was a crushing disappointment: interminable and with unconvincing dialogue (though I suspect that was affected, but still...). The writing was dead and cold. Now, you could take the cop-out and say, “Well, it was written in the 2nd person, so that’s kinda unavoidable.” Hogwash. All 500 pages of Brian Aldiss’s brilliant new novel, ‘Walcot’, were also written in the 2nd person. It’s warm, it’s moving. It’s his magnum opus. In the end if I’m not ‘inside’ a story - if I’m consciously aware that I’m reading – then no matter what merits it may have, for me it’s failed. I want to lose myself in a story; not feel like I’m slogging my way through a pile of Cliff Notes.

“Beach Combing” by Ray Cluley was brief, but very effective: here a young boy ‘sees’ the memories in the found objects he touches.

Joel Lane is hit and miss for me: his ‘Earthwire’ collection left me cold, but ‘The Terrible Changes’ and ‘The Witnesses Are Gone’ were superb. At his best Lane can completely connect you to the honesty of the emotions he’s conveying. “The Sleep Mask” is good, but I didn’t have a strong reaction to it. It wasn’t a ‘miss’, so perhaps it was just a case of not doing for me what past stories had done better.

Lane’s tale was about a man suffering from a sleep disorder (although with Lane, such matters are just surface details to the deeper layers of his stories). The next tale is “They Will Not Rest” by Simon Clark is also about sleep – only here certain death awaits everyone if they fall asleep. This, then, is a nightmare scenario where people have to stay awake in order to stay alive. One of the best Simon Clark short stories I’ve read in years.

Last is “The Wound Dresser” by Lavie Tidhar. One of the shortest in the magazine, but not a word is wasted. Great tone, extremely effective. Having just read Jones’s angels anthology I was immediately intrigued to see what Tidhar’s angel story would be like – and it’s not at all like any of the contributions to ‘Visitants’! Along with the Clark, one of the strongest stories in the issue.

Despite disappointments, I do admire the range of stories in Black Static, something I never felt with The Third Alternative (although admittedly I bailed on TTA when it had barely reached its teen numbers: for me it was just a miasma of myopic misery. More than anything, what really galled me with the whole ‘slipstream’ malarkey was that all involved were convinced they were reinventing the wheel. Yeah, right. They were doing nothing Brian Aldiss hadn’t already done – better – with his ‘Acid-Head’ stories in the ‘60s. Hell, even on a bad day Aldiss could write circles around the whole lot of them).

All the regular non-fiction comments from Fowler, O’Driscoll and Volk are terrific reads, though all of them concern themselves for the most part with films.

There’s a lengthy interview with Stephen Jones and extensive coverage of recent anthologies. My only real gripe with Black Static is the amount of effort, time and paper – 9 pages – wasted on reviewing the utter schlock of DVD drivel. Really, who cares already? (Leave that nonsense, I say, to Kim Newman and his Empire Magazine column.) I’d much prefer another story or interview...

A note on the layout and design: I have to say, since issue 16 Black Static has become a far more pleasurable read, not least because of the colour; with the b&w everything – I don’t know – just sort of blurred and smudged together. Reading could be a chore at times. Not only does the colour do the artwork more justice, but it helps to separate everything out. Plus I like having all the comments at the beginning, stories in the middle and reviews at the end. It just makes it so much easier to find stuff. For instance, I was looking through some of the b&w back issues and, jeez, trying to find something was a killer: stories, comments and reviews were scattered hither and yon, and not always helpfully labelled. I hope the current design and layout stays the way it is, as I like it just fine.

All in all 19 is a solid issue, if for this humble reader not as good as 18.

Books / Visitants: Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts ed. Stephen Jones
« on: November 21, 2010, 12:43:04 pm »
Editor Stephen Jones's latest book is just out. You can find my review here:

TTA Press / Re: Black Static
« on: November 02, 2010, 09:30:16 am »
I replied to your email of 29th October immediately, saying that the main mailing was actually sent before you subscribed but that your copy was posted later and should have arrived by now, therefore I'd send a replacement.

I also responded immediately to yoru email of the following day, and obviously now I was concerned that my email's weren't getting through. I tried again yesterday.

Please check your spam filter. :)

But don't worry, the original copy obviously went missing, and the replacement copy will be with you shortly.

Cheers Andy!

That's the weird thing - I did check my spam folder! Strange. In all the years I think I've only had one item go astray in the post. Hope you guys can claim the lost issue off the Post Office: I know they cover 1st and 2nd class up to, I believe, £27.

TTA Press / Re: Black Static
« on: November 02, 2010, 01:11:12 am »

I joined/renewed just as BS#19 came out - but I still haven't received it yet. Hate contacting you guys publicly like this through a forum, but I've PM'd via the TTA address three times this pass week and haven't heard anything yet. Double checked my current account and PayPal definitely deducted the £21 in the second week of October.

Ask the Authors and Artists! / Re: Simon Strantzas
« on: October 27, 2010, 05:13:42 pm »
Arrived today, Simon!  ;D

Which can't be said for my subscription copy of Black Static 19. It's been three weeks now since it was published...

Books / Re: Affordable paperback reprint of Mark Samuels's collection
« on: October 24, 2010, 09:38:18 am »
Meant to say -

- was browsing PS Publishing's 'Under £10' catalogue and noticed they were doing Samuels's previous collection, Glyphotech and Other Macabre Processes (2008, 204 pgs) for £6.99 (it was originally a tenner).

AND - just to let you know! - Tarturus Press still have copies of their paperback reprint of his first collection, The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (2003, 144 pgs) for £9.99. The price is INCLUSIVE of P&P. Note: this is - and will be - the only paperback edition of any of their books they have ever done.

The title story has been rerpinted in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen (2004) and The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror (2010) both edited by Stephen Jones.

Going by their other titles, it looks as if Chômu Press while probably be doing their reprint edition for around £12 -

- meaning you can buy up all three of Samuels's books for £30! So, whatcha waiting for?!?!

Books / Affordable paperback reprint of Mark Samuels's collection
« on: October 23, 2010, 06:28:19 pm »
For those, like me,  who despair of the elitism of an author's text ONLY being available in an expensive limited edition, you will be pleased to know that THE MAN WHO COLLECTED MACHEN AND OTHER WEIRD TALES by Mark Samuels is scheduled to be reprinted by Chômu Press next year:

It was originally published earlier this year by the über-expensive Ex Occidente Press. Now, don't get me wrong, if I ever saw their edition I'm sure I'd find it to be drop-dead gorgeous. But 50 quid for a book less than a 150 pages? Thanks, but no thanks...

... besides, I'm a reader. You know? I want to read the story. I'm not buying it so I can have an expensive ornament.

(And here's something else to consider when viewing these fancy limited editions as nothing more than over-priced ornaments: the only thing you ever see of them on the shelf... is the spine.)

Oh, and the paperback reprint of Samuels's book will contain a brand new bonus story.

Other Media / Re: Realms of Fantasy shuts its doors
« on: October 19, 2010, 12:25:15 am »
Damn. As little ago as February they published Harlan Ellison's first brand new short story in years.

I have some back issues of RoF and it was often a beautifully illustrated and laid-out publication.

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