The Golden Hour in Best British Horror – and two real-time reviews for Uncertainties III

20180924_184825I’m pleased to announce that The Golden Hour, originally published in Uncertainties III, has been selected by Johnny Mains for the 2019 edition of Best British Horror. Though I had honourable mentions from Ellen Datlow in 2016 for The Lady in the Yard and Meat, Motion and Light, this will be my first appearance in a ‘best of the year’ anthology. As with any reprint, it is lovely to know that not only one – but two – editors liked a story enough to publish it.

Here’s  the table of contents. I’m thrilled to find myself among such a distinguished and exciting bunch of writers.

CAVE VENUS ET STELLA – Anna Vaught
WORMCASTS – Thana Niveau
THEY TELL ME – Carly Holmes
DISAGREEABLY HITCHED – Gary Fry
PACK YOUR COAT – Aliya Whiteley
VOICES IN THE NIGHT – Lisa Tuttle
THE FULLNESS OF HER BELLY – Cate Gardner
MAW – Priya Sharma
TEUFELSBERG – Madhvi Ramani
THE OTHER TIGER – Helen Marshall
SENTINEL – Catriona Ward
THE WORM – Samantha Lee
THE ADJOINING ROOM – AK Benedict
THE GOLDEN HOUR – Rosanne Rabinowitz
THE PERFECT DAY TO BE AT SEA – Kayleigh Marie Edwards
THE HARDER IT GETS THE SOFTER WE SING – Steven Dines
THE DEMON L – Carly Holmes
BY SEVERN’S FLOOD – Jane Jakeman
FISH HOOKS – Kit Power
OLD TRASH – Jenn Ashworth
BOBBO – Robert Shearman

I thank Johnny Mains for selecting my story and I also thank Lynda E. Rucker, who edited Uncertainties III. The Golden Hour is one of three stories selected from this anthology; the other two are Bobbo by Robert Shearman and Voices in the Night by Lisa Tuttle.

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And while I’m talking Golden Hour, I’ll also post two ‘real-time’ reviews of Uncertainties III. One comes from Des Lewis, which I somehow missed when it was in progress over September and October 2018. The other appeared in Supernatural Tales, which ran a review over several weeks.

Des writes that the anthology is “crammed with unforgettable observations of our imaginarium, our past country that is LP Hartley’s as well as a future rapture when the present is finally transcended.” He concludes a rundown of all the stories with comments about my own contribution. I particularly appreciate the way Des put the story in context with my other work and its recurring locations.

“An effulgent work amid this by-line’s characteristic stamping-ground of 20th interfaced with 21st century inner South London. Working people in interface with rapture and haunting, to try shake off the thrall others have put on them… As a photographer myself in recent years, I cherished the description of this art herein. And the whole ambiance of this equally free-flowing text positively subsumed any of my negativity today.”

David Longhorn’s review of this “nifty new anthology” in Supernatural Tales starts on 27 October : “Uncertainties means just that – the moments when we are unsure if we have glimpsed a ‘little slip of the veil’, exposing us to something that may be supernatural, or at least unknown.” He goes on to review each story and concludes with a look at The Golden Hour.

“The story is strange, and rather wonderful, but it is rooted in the sheer oddness of friendship – how people come together, how they drift apart. Friendship is more mysterious than love, in some respects, and the author explores this mystery while conjuring up a London as numinous as anything in Machen.”

These are the kind of reviews I need to reread if I get downhearted. Thanks very much, David and Des.

 

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Shock Against Racism in Brighton – a great evening of readings

Here’s an account from Tom Johnstone of last week’s Shock Against Racism event in Brighton. This includes a perceptive discussion of the themes in the stories that we read, which finds connections that I hadn’t been aware of at the time. And I’m rather flattered at his description of my story Survivor’s Guilt as “something of a twenty-first century anti-fascist horror classic”. Thanks!

Like Tom I was pleased to have the opportunity to hear Victoria Leslie’s story “Almost Aureate” that recently appeared in New Fears 2, a book I definitely plan to buy (once I get my lost Kindle back).

I’ll also add that I was intrigued with Tom’s extract from his yet-unpublished story “The Topsy Turvy Ones” set during the radical ferment in 1649 – and 350 years later when Pinochet, ex-dictator and great friend of Thatcher, is awaiting extradition in Surrey while ‘The Land is Ours’ squatters commemorate the anniversary of Winstanley’s Digger commune. If you like your horror historical (with present-day political resonances), this is one to look out for.

And look out also for future Shock Against Horror events!

By the way, this is my first attempt at reblogging… The result doesn’t include all the graphics in the original post so I’ll put one of them here: The World Turned Upside Down.

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On the 25th November, I participated in an event that was one of the launching points for a new initiative in the world of horror literature: Shock Against Racism.The recent surge in racism and fascism, whose most obvious global manifestation is the emergence of Donald Trump as US president, has long been a source of anxiety to many of us in the horror community, as in other sectors of society. Some of us have started a group called Shock Against Racism, as a kind of cultural arm of the fight against this phenomenon, because after all the Far Right fights in this arena: the so-called ‘culture wars’.

The group has already held two evenings of dark fiction, with readings from some of the finest talents in the genre. The first was at Write Blend in Liverpool on November 23rd, with Simon Bestwick, Cate Gardner, Priya Sharma and Ramsey Campbell, in…

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R&R review roundup

After that first wonderful review from Des Lewis in May, there was a vast silence of several months on the Resonance & Revolt review front. To be honest, it had me worried.

But eventually the reviews began to appear, starting with a couple on Amazon and GoodReads.  Clare Bonetree wrote: “Rabinowitz has an incredible imagination, but a really down to earth style… Totally recommending this to speculative fiction fans, and anyone who wants to live in a different, more creative world.”

A certain Steve describes “radical and mysterious journeys” and “stories from London, in the recent past and near future, from medieval and contemporary Europe and from a century or so of America. Music, pictures, sounds, and acts of rebellion resonate across time”.

And just before I packed my bags for Fantasycon I came across this post on Peter Coleborn‘s blog.  Peter brought up the same dipping vs devouring question that I mentioned in relation to Uncertainties III. And so it seems that R&R is one for dipping. Perhaps that’s why it took a  while for the reviews to appear, what with all the dipping and sipping going on! 🙂

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“Rabinowitz is a wonderful stylist who writes compassionately about characters you want to care about. She writes from the heart… I suggest that you dip in and out of Resonance and Revolt and savour the tales along with a glass of wine (or coffee or tea or G&T; your choice, I’m not being prescriptive).”

I personally would recommend whisky myself to accompany an R&R reading session, but I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive either.

panNext up is the Pan Review. Like Deborah Walker in her Goodreads (and Amazon.co.uk) review, editor Mark Andresen singles out “Bells of the Harelle” as a favourite story:

“This collection’s finest, most satisfying tale, deserving of future anthologising. Served mainly by its narrative’s sense of urgency, the opening line alone pulls you in…”

Mark also mentions certain stories as ‘lesser tales’ that didn’t quite do it for him. I found this most interesting in light of my deliberations as I put the collection together. When I was reading through the stories I was thinking that a bunch of back-to-back novelette-length historical tales might be kind of… too much at once. So I concluded it’s best to have something short and snappy and lighter between them. I received some advice suggesting this as as well – and I wrote about the process in a guest post I contributed to the Milford SF blog.

Of course, I discovered again that everyone has their own preferences. Later, comments from Steven Andrew at the Morning Star reflected both on the larger themes and the smaller stories:

DrZ0P7BWkAEJRet“Rabinowitz eschews clumsy agitprop-style didactics and doesn’t offer easy answers. Given to open-ended responses, her interest is largely driven by wonder at people’s continued ability to love, think and rebel against capital, often in the most difficult and unlikely circumstances… Another strength is that Rabinowitz brings to her writing a deeply rooted sense of place and many of the passages are informed and affectionate celebrations of her now-native London.”

Along with ‘insurrectionary insights’ this reviewer also enjoyed the quieter and more personal elements of the stories:

“Lots of the radicals dip in and out of struggle, get drunk, fall into relationships and are often wracked with self-doubt, jaded librarian Richard in Pieces of Ourselves being a prime illustration… Often a quiet, gentle and comedic perspective ensures that not all the contributions are full of frenzied street fighting. The magical realism of Tasting the Clouds is kick-started by a chance tasting of Zapatista coffee and an all too familiar conversation about the merits or otherwise of ethical shopping.”

So I found it very enlightening to read through different reactions. All these stories received multiple critiques before they were first submitted and published but there’s nothing like an overview of a collection from a fresh eye. This is all part of a learning curve and offers food for thought as I plan my second collection.

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Later, Phil Smith wrote about my use of realism in writing the fantastical in his Mythogeography blog. That gave me a glow because I’ve always responded most to works that mingle the concrete and gritty with the strange and numinous. This applies to what I enjoy reading and the effects I try to achieve in my own work.

“There is nothing predictable in Rosanne Rabinowitz’s short story collection Resonance & Revolt. Rabinowitz’s writing is very precisely detailed, drawing realist worlds and then infiltrating them; there are only a few monsters here, but mostly everything is monstrous. The most effective of Rabinowitz’s stories are those in which the realist details are radically possessed by shifting energy: tiny patches of skin that become a double in ‘Pieces of Ourselves’, a naff landscape painting that won’t stay fixed in ‘Keep Them Rollin’, a scruffy cap that passes for a mask in ‘The Peak’, an old bloodsucker in ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ and the spirit of ‘The Pleasure Garden’.”

And in the most recent review, Jaine Fenn makes this observation about how the stories fit together and complement each other.

jaine_green_bkgnd“Overall these tales are vibrant and relevant, displaying exquisite writing, passionate characters and strong sense of place. Although each story stands alone, I took great pleasure in spotting the links – or should I say resonances – between them. They cover themes including quiet but persistent rebellion, love without borders and the malleable nature of time and space as revealed by physics or ritual.”

There are also a few words of thoughtful criticism in Jaine’s review that are appreciated just as much as the praise.

Peter Coleborn’s comments have made me think more about the dipping vs devouring approach to anthologies and collections. Is one better than the other? I imagine that a novelist’s first thought would be: ‘I want to keep the reader reading FFS’. On the other hand, one friend has said that a powerful collection for her usually lends itself to dipping – the best stories are so intense that she needs space between them to think and truly appreciate them.

I’d be interested to hear what other writers and readers think on this score. And I’d also like to thank all the reviewers for taking the time to read and write about Resonance & Revolt. If anyone else reading this post would like to review R&R then get in touch with Eibonvale Press, or you can contact me if that’s easier. Or feel free to scribble a line or stick up a rating at Goodreads or Amazon or any review site of your choice.

Last, I’ll mention that not all the reviews were strictly literary. Jason Whittle speaks well of the rugelach that accompanied my reading of “The Matter of Meroz” at Fantasycon; he described my first attempt at concocting the Jewish pastries (with almond, sour cherry and apricot fillings) as “delicious”. So thank you too, Jason.

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Shock against Racism

sar logoShock Against Racism is a network of horror and weird fiction writers, artists and readers taking a stand against racism and fascism. We aim to raise funds for groups that are combating the rise of nationalism, anti-semitism and white supremacist movements while enjoying fiction that confronts these issues.

The main Shock Against Racism Facebook page is here and you can also read thoughts on the founding of SAR from Simon Bestwick. Two Shock Against Racism events are planned for this year, which will also commemorate writer and activist Joel Lane on the fifth anniversary of his death, 25 November 2013. As Simon writes: “Joel was avowedly political and a committed anti-fascist: I can think of no better way to honour his memory.”

 

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The first event will take place at Write Blend, 124 South Road, Liverpool L22 0ND, 7.30pm on Friday 23 November, and will feature readings by Ramsey Campbell, Priya Sharma, Cate Gardner and Simon Bestwick. Tickets will be £3.00 on the door, and all proceeds will go to Hope Not Hate. The Facebook page for the Liverpool event is here.

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I’m proud to be taking part in the second event in Brighton, where I’ll join Tom Johnstone and VH Leslie in a reading at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton BN1 4JA at 7.30pm on Sunday 25 November. Tickets £3.00 on the door, with all proceeds donated to Brighton Antifascists.

I hope to read from “Survivor’s Guilt”, a story that appeared in the 2010 anthology that Joel edited with Allyson Bird: Never Again: Weird Fiction Against Racism and Fascism. It was through this book that I got to know Joel as a friend. He also showed himself to be a sharp editor when he caught a misplaced umlaut in the German word “räterepublik”.

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Speaking of which… “Survivor’s Guilt” also touches on another anniversary that took place this month – the German revolution of 1918. This was an uprising against war, hunger and the monarchy, which led to the overthrow of the Kaiser and the upsurge of workers and soldiers revolutionary councils. There were also councils of writers and artists, who worked and created with the idea that ‘art is bread’. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, check out this article about women in the German revolution, and have a look at this general reading list from the Libcom website.

grande_scarlet1Another possibility will be a reading from “All That is Solid”, a tale of anxiety, art therapy and Brexit that appeared in The Scarlet Soul, an anthology published by Swan River Press that has since sold out. The story starts with a stroll in Covent Garden in the summer of 2016, where young Gosia hears a bunch of lads singing: “Rule Britannia… Britannia rules the waves, first we get the Poles out then we get the gays”.

Tom and Victoria no doubt are hatching plans for their readings. I look forward to them. In the meantime, check out the Facebook page for the Brighton event. And keep an eye on this space for news about a London event in the New Year!

Fantasycon 2018: two panels and a reading, curry and karaoke, plus possible adventures in baking

Fantasycon 2018

Only a week until Fantasycon!

I missed it last year because I was still resting after the pleasures of World Con in Helsinki – both me and my bank account. So this year I’m looking forward to attending Fantasycon 2018 in Chester and catching up with people.

The full Fantasycon timetable is available here. And below you’ll find my own little timetable, which includes a reading on the Saturday afternoon. In addition, there is the usual hanging about in the bar, attending other panels, a curry or two, and perhaps a stab at karaoke. I also intend to take a walk around the city walls of Chester, which I’ll be visiting for the first time ever.

And even if you aren’t attending Fantasycon, if you are in the area you can still visit the Fantasycon Bookfair, which will be open to the public and free for anyone to attend. You’ll be able to stock up on a range of speculative fiction from independent presses, buy artwork and er… possibly a copy of Resonance & Revolt at the Eibonvale Press stall? This event will take place on Sunday 21 October 9am to 1pm at the Hallmark Hotel.

So here’s what I’ll be up to…

Friday 19 October 4.30pm: Role of Class in Fantasy & Science Fiction (and the genre of whatever, I’d add) With Kevin McVeigh (m) Peter Sutton, Laura Mauro, Alison Baker, Rosanne Rabinowitz: The Edward (Panel Room 3)
With the increasing awareness of diversity in SFF where do class issues fit in? How has the genre traditionally considered class roles and is it changing?

Saturday 10 October 1pm: Religion in Genre Fiction   Iain Grant (m), Naomi Foyle, Rosanne  Rabinowitz, Terry Grimwood, Marion Pitman,  Tasha Suri: The Victoria (Panel Room 1)
Whether a story contains a real world religion, an analogue, or an invented form of worship, religious organisations provide a variety of useful functions for the writer. Our panel explores the use of religion in different stories, examining how it can and has been used to further the narrative.

Saturday 10 October 2pm: Reading I’ll be sharing slot with two fine writers, Ray Cluley and Sara Jayne Townsend 
The Disraeli  (Reading Room) 
I plan to read a couple of selections from Resonance & Revolt. One will be from “The Matter of Meroz”. There also might be some bribery with baked goods going on – those of you who came to the launch in May might have some idea of what this entails. I decided to make my own rugelach this time instead of resorting to a certain hipster bakery in Shoreditch – I’ll be able to make them with the fillings of my choice, which will be apricot and almond (as described in the story). I also might try some sour cherry because I have dried sour cherries that need to be used and I do love something sour in my sweets.
However, I’ve not baked anything for years so this will be purely experimental. I have no idea how it will turn out.
I’ve not yet decided on the other piece to read. Any suggestions?

As mentioned, there’ll also be lots of hanging out and chatting. If you see me around and want to say ‘hi’, please feel free. I enjoy meeting new people, but I’m also kind of shy (all together now… awwwww).

Note that a karaoke is scheduled for Saturday night. If the song is available, I’m contemplating a turn doing “Glitter & Gold” by Barns Courtney – but this is neither a definite promise or threat. I came across this song through the Netflix crime drama, Safe. The drama itself turned out to be so-so, but the opening credits with this tune always succeeded in sending those proverbial shivers up my spine, something about that beat and the way he repeats ‘the dark, the dark, the dark…’ in the chorus. 

And who knows? A few of us had a chat on Facebook and possible performances of songs by Bowie, Prince, Janelle Monae and Scot Walker were mentioned.

A few of us might even form a backing group called the Shirley Jacksons, should any aspiring Gladys Knight require a few Pips. Again, like my first-time attempt to bake rugelach these are neither definite promises or threats… we’ll see how things are going on Saturday night 20 October.

So that’s all for now. See some of you in Chester!

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Too large for your letterbox

20180924_184634It’s one of those frustrating non-events of the writerly life when you come home from work on a Thursday evening and find a card from the postie informing you that a package was ‘too large for your letterbox’ and you just know it’s your contributor copies for a long-anticipated anthology. Then the form on the Royal Mail website won’t let you book a redelivery until Monday

Finally, Monday arrives… And the package in question does indeed contain my contributor copies for Uncertainties Volume III. Edited by Lynda E Rucker, the anthology presents fiction by Matthew M Bartlett, SP Miskowski, Adam LG Nevill, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Shearman, RS Knightley, Lisa Tuttle, Ralph Robert Moore, Tracy Fahey, Julia Rust & David Surface and Scott West. In addition to stories by these very fine writers, it also includes my tale “The Golden Hour”. You can order Uncertainties from Swan River Press.

20180924_183804The title of my story refers to the hour before sunset or after sunrise when light is indeed golden and transforms appearances – and perhaps much more. It seems to capture and hold moments, infuse them with layers of meaning that are otherwise lost. It’s the sense of timelessness during the golden hour that inspired my story.

The story also reflects my move to an upper floor in my block and the new perspective it gave me. I became much more aware of the movements of sun and moon, changes in the quality of light and its effect on the cityscape. As for the cityscape itself… I found it glorious, while I was also aware that certain half-built structures reflecting the sunset so beautifully will become empty shells for investment by international cartels. These are sprouting alongside buildings that have been homes for many years. Much of this is social housing, fought for and now contested, touched by the same light. I started to speculate on ways the transfiguring light could affect the people living within those buildings.

When my copies arrived I was inspired to take photos of the books during the actual ‘golden hour’ on a clear autumn day, getting full-on arty-farty with photos of the book as the afternoon shifted into various stages of golden-ness. On that first day I admit that I spent more time photographing the book  (often along with my thumb) than reading it.

However, I’ve now read about half of the book and I’ve been mesmerised and entertained; I’ve also found that this is the kind of anthology I read continuously from cover to cover, when I often dip in and out of them. I’ll add that dipability is a good thing too and dipping in and out of anthologies has been a major pleasure of my reading life. I enjoy both of these qualities. I’m not sure what makes one anthology a ‘dipper’ and another anthology one that is devoured. Could it be the way the stories flow into each other, even when it’s not a themed anthology? Something to ponder. In any case, editing is always a factor in how an anthology works and Lynda E Rucker did sterling job with this one.

I recommend an interview on the Swan River Press website with Lynda where she talks about the experience of editing this book. I’ll end with this cogent observation from Lynda on how the field of horror and weird fiction is perceived:

“My view of horror is that it is a very broad church. It encompasses everything from the subtlest and most enigmatic of tales to the full-on Grand Guignol… I think arguments about labelling literature are incredibly tedious, but it does bother me when people try to insist that something isn’t horror basically on the grounds that it is well-written or well-made, that it has depth and resonance and fine prose or is character-driven or has a political consciousness or whatever.”
Uncertainties Volume III spread

 

Certain about Uncertainties III, plus R&R review

grande_uncertainties3I’m excited to announce the publication of Uncertainties III, edited by Lynda E Rucker and published by Swan River Press. It will be out in September and it is now available for preorder. This anthology contains my story “The Golden Hour”, alongside stories by eleven wonderful writers. Here’s the table of contents:

“Monica in the Hall of Moths” Matthew M. Bartlett
“Warner’s Errand” SP Miskowski
“Wyrd” Adam Nevill
“Wanting” Joyce Carol Oates
“Bobbo” Robert Shearman
“Before I Walked Away” RS Knightley (Rachel Knightley)
“Voices in the Night” Lisa Tuttle
“It Could Be Cancer” Ralph Robert Moore
“The Woman in the Moon” Tracy Fahey
“TallDarkAnd” Julia Rust and David Surface
“Ashes to Ashes” Scott West
“The Golden Hour” Rosanne Rabinowitz

This looks like a wonderful line-up and I thank Lynda for bringing us all together. I am certain that Uncertainties III will be a very special book. When I had The Book of American Martyrs signed by Joyce Carol Oates at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival I had no idea that we’d be rubbing shoulders on the same TOC.

And in case you’re wondering, the ‘golden hour’ refers to the hour just after sunrise and the hour before sunset when the light is indeed golden and transfiguring…

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A bell of the Harelle!

Meanwhile, Resonance & Revolt has received a new review from Deborah Walker on GoodReads and Amazon.

“As well as the fine stories, I was struck by the coherence of the book, which danced with the theme of Resonance of emotion, of music and of Revolt expressing what it is to take action and move beyond the constraints of what is expected of us.”

She mentions a favourite: “The story which wormed into my brain was Bells of the Harelle, a story blending 14th century rioting, heresy, and eroticism with humour and scientific mystery.”

So if you want rioting (be it 14th century, 21st century or somewhere in between), head-banging heresy, eroticism, humour and scientific mystery you just might enjoy R&R.