Category Archives: short stories
Adventure Rocketship is a new series of magazine-in-anthology form from Jonathan Wright (who interviewed me for SFX last year). It’s done as a very tasteful 1950s style paperback, and the first issue, Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco, is a really interesting look at the intersection of science fiction and music. It includes my story “Between the Notes”, about the musicians who die young (and a particular homage to my favourite Israeli musician, Inbal Perlmuter, who died tragically young at the age of 26).
It also has stories from Liz Williams, Tim Maughan and Martin Millar, interviews with China Mieville and Mick Farren, and articles by Jon Courtenay Grimwood and others (including my editor at Hodder, Anne C. Perry, on the music of Ladyhawke!).
We’ll be launching the anthology on Thursday, 16 May, at 6pm, Forbidden Planet Megastore, London! So come along!
And here’s Inbal Perlmuter and The Witches:
My story “A Brief History of the Great Pubs of London” is in the anthology Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke, sales of which go to English PEN, and which is about to go “out of print” (out of digital?) in about a month. The story is also one of three I currently have listed at the annual Locus Poll.
So, for a bit of fun, and to help any visitors to London decide on a suitable drinking place, I present it for you here. It took years of research. Years!
Art (c) Gary Northfield
A Brief History of the Great Pubs of London
By Lavie Tidhar
The Pilot Inn, Greenwich
There is no evidence to suggest that the Pilot Inn (est. 1801) was the place where that barrel of brandy first came.
Certainly, these are the facts as we know them: that Vice-Admiral the Right Honourable Horatio Nelson, fighting at Trafalgar, was fatally wounded; that his last words were “God and my country”; that his body was then pickled in a casket of brandy mixed with camphor and myrrh; that his body was then carried back to London, removed from its preserving spirits, placed in a coffin, and put on display in the Painted Hall in Greenwich, for three days and three nights; and that the casket of Nelson’s Brandy had, in the interim, disappeared.
The Pilot Inn would have been a new pub at the time, being merely four years in existence at the time of Nelson’s death. We know it was popular with smugglers and ruffians of all sorts throughout the course of the nineteenth century. Beyond that we know little; we can merely postulate.
A story is told of a group of men and women who meet, once a decade, in one or another of London’s pubs. They have been meeting this way for just over two centuries. They come singly, in the night, when the fog sings upon the old stones of old London, and the moon is burnished like a copper coin. They have met this way on the night the young Victoria was crowned; and met again a decade later, during the Panic; and again, a decade later, at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny; and so on down the ages. They have seen Jack come and go, seen the introduction of electric lights to the capital’s streets; they had seen the zeppelins and the planes of the Luftwaffe and the erection of the Wheel. They have seen kings and queens come and go.
Their numbers have fluctuated over the years. Occasionally one or two do not show, and are chalked as lost on the blackboard of this unofficial club. Rarely if ever will a new member be admitted. The surviving members guard the source of their longevity with jealousy.
Picture the scene: the hushed night, the pub reserved, on this of all nights, for a private function. The guests come in, one by one. A fire burns quietly in the hearth. Smoke fills the air, the carpets, worn, swallow the sound of footsteps. Hats and scarves are placed away. Members murmur to one another. Exchange news and gossip of the past decade. Tally those who have come, those who are lost to time. And wait.
Slowly a hush settles. Movement stops. All eyes turn to the bar where the Keeper stands.
Quietly, ceremoniously, he brings out the casket.
Tongues wet suddenly-dry lips. There is a shuffle, as of old brittle papers. Eyes blink, shine, wrinkled hands reach, almost unconsciously, forward.
The Keeper brings out a small wooden cup. With shaking fingers he opens the tap, gently, letting a trickle of the brandy – but just a trickle! – into the cup. All eyes are on him. He lifts the cup. Puts it to his lips. Closes his eyes. Sips.
A sigh passes through the assembled members. The Keeper opens his eyes, and nods.
One by one they come to sip of Nelson’s Brandy. Who knows how long it will last? Some say the casket is half full, still. Some say it is three quarters empty by now. The men and women on that night depart the way they’d come, alone, in silence. But London is full of such societies and clubs.
The Mad Hatter, Surbiton
Recently changed both name and owners. Situated on the Ewell Road, near the ancient fish ponds and opposite a very good Indian restaurant. Notable mainly for a drunken night the current compilers of this guide spent there several years ago in the company of some burly debt collectors and a rather attractive young lady.
Surbiton, a leafy suburb situated on the outskirts of London, in the county of Surrey, is known primarily for its good schools, a cottage industry of adult films, and for the 1970s television sitcom The Good Life.
Less well known is the story of Sebastien St. John, an eighteenth century Knight Templar who, it is said, came to Surbiton (then a notorious den of prostitution serving the London gentry) on secret pilgrimage. It is told that, after visiting and spending a night’s vigil at the fish ponds on the road to Ewell, and taking ale at a hostelry on the site of today’s Mad Hatter, he disappeared. Competing versions of this story nevertheless all agree that St. John was carrying a holy relic of some kind. Some believe it was the Grail, which had been given into the safekeeping of a local brothel-keeper. Others argue for Excalibur, which is said to reside at the bottom of the fish ponds, waiting for a true knight to come and claim it.
Whatever the truth of the story, the Mad Hatter offers a range of ales and lagers on tap and has a beer garden at back. It is pleasant in summer.
The Nell Gwynne, The Strand
Tucked as it is down Bull Inn Court, just off the Strand (on the side of the Adelphi Theatre), this pub is all but invisible to the common pedestrian.
The hurly-burly of the Strand rises and falls like the breathing of London itself. Down that mighty avenue come hansom cabs and barouche-landaus, horses and carts, later replaced by automobiles belching smoke, hybrid cars or double-decker buses. Protesters march along the road, waving placards. Tourists come to gawk and take pictures and enjoy the best of musical theatre the capital has to offer.
The Strand is a major artery of the city of London. But down Bull Inn Court the Nell Gwynne sits in silent splendour, untouched by the sun or by crowds, a place of myth and uncertainty, itself built on the site of the older Bull’s Head pub, where Nell liked to take her drink. It is a tiny scar on the flesh of London, on the mighty arm of the Strand.
It is true Nell Gwynne, the famed actress and mistress of King Charles II, used to come here for her ale. And to this day actors from the nearby theatres sit in that tiny, musty room, along the black polished wood counter, beside scenery men and bricklayers, and make, in time, the hazardous journey to the Nell Gwynne’s tiny bathroom, down a steep flight of stairs, under a low ceiling one must stoop under like a peddler before the king. It is said that knowledge of the pub can never come to a person by chance; that it is invisible to all until such a time as the knowledge is transferred, and one is brought to the pub by another who knows the way. It is a refuge from the world, a hidden pocket in this megalithic city. It is a place of calm, and of reflection.
Then there are the magicians who go there.
Underneath Charing Cross Station, a stone’s throw away, there lies a maze of abandoned shops on the level of the underground station. Excavated in the nineteenth century, it has since become the hangout of the homeless and the desperate, a place with the smell of rough sleeping about it. At the end of one dark, echoey corridor there lies a shop as hidden as the Nell Gwynne itself. It is a shop of magic, for both professional and amateur magicians. It was established in 1898 by Lewis Davenport, a magician, not to be confused with the American Davenport Brothers. Like the Nell Gwynne, unless you know it is there, you will never find it.
The Davenport Brothers came to England in the 1860s, bringing with them their famous spirit cabinet. Spiritualism had enjoyed a boom at that time, first in America and then in the British Isles. Could the brothers really contact the dead? The results of a contemporary investigation by the Ghost Club (est. 1862) were never released.
Davenports’ remains the major magical shop in the United Kingdom, and amateur magicians meet there every second Friday. Some find their way to the Nell Gwynne, where acts of magic are routinely performed in the dark interior.
It is said the Davenport Brothers’ spirit cabinet had been buried underneath the pub; and, at certain times, that various spirits make their presence known in that establishment.
When going, exercise caution. It is just possible the gentleman in the period clothes sipping his beer next to you will evaporate like morning mist if you turn your head; or that the pale lady serving drink will regale you with an inappropriate and anatomically precise story regarding Charles II.
A good range of beer is served, however, and the occasional magician, ghost, or stage actor is usually harmless.
The Red Lion, Soho
Now a cocktail bar under new management and a different name. The Red Lion (est. 1793) stands opposite the Pink Pussycat Club and the Windmill Theatre, where nude tableaux vivants were staged by Vivian Van Damm during the Second World War. The Windmill currently hosts nude table dancing.
The Red Lion is famous as being the pub where Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto. Marx worked on his magnum opus in the room upstairs, eventually venturing into the bar below for a drink, or several.
Less well known is the fact that, at the same time, the Red Lion was home to occasional gatherings of time travellers, most of a revolutionary bend. Unlike Crucifixion Tourists or JFK Assassination Enthusiasts, these self-confessed Marxists came to the years of the 1850s to meet the great man and, occasionally, even buy the drinks.
The disappearance of this pub and its replacement with an overpriced cocktail bar is a crime, feel the current compilers of this guide; and one, moreover, that shall see its perpetrators first against the wall when the revolution finally comes.
The Angel, St. Giles Circus
Last stop-over for the condemned as they were led to be hanged. The Angel has a residue of wasted lives; it permeates the walls and the long counter; sometimes, in the downstairs toilets, one can still hear screams. The beer is flavoured with human anguish. One often feels choked on going there. Service can be slow.
The current compilers of this guide miss the days when one could smoke a cheap cigar while sitting in front of the fire at the Angel. And the lack of public hangings in nearby St. Giles Circus means Londoners now must find other forms of entertainment.
The Fortune of War, Smithfields Market
If there is a rule we, as compilers of the present guide value above all others, it is this: never eat at a London pub.
The Fortune of War was popular with body-snatchers. It was located at Pie Corner, on the junction of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane. The Great Fire of London (1666) was said to have terminated at the Fortune of War.
Notorious regulars included John Bishop, Thomas Williams, Michael Shields and James May, known as the London Burkers. They would steal corpses from nearby graveyards and, when one was not available, sometimes find victims who could be persuaded into becoming corpses with the aid of a blunt instrument.
The snatchers – also known as resurrection men – would often bring their trade into the Fortune of War, storing the corpses in the back room while they enjoyed a pint in the front. The corpses were then disposed of to the various local medical schools.
Demolished in 1910 following a zombie infestation.
The Princess Louise, Holborn
As James Laver wrote, in “Women of 1926”: Come drink your gin, or sniff your “snow”, since Youth is brief, and Love has wings, and time will tarnish, ere we know, the brightness of the Bright Young Things.
And he knew what he was talking about.
It is a Victorian building: chintzy, sordid, dirty, and rather charming, full of burnished brass surfaces, odd, faded prints and carpets scuffed by decades of shoes. In the Roaring Twenties it was a place where the Bright Young Things could come and buy their snow: chief amongst their suppliers were Big V and Brixton Peggy, who were arrested there by the police in a single productive raid.
A listed building, it has changed little over the century or more of its existence. It is a favourite of various small and obscure London societies, playing host, variously, to a British folk music revival in the 1960s and to meetings of the British Fantasy Society in the late nineties and early noughties. On alternate Black Sabbaths the pub welcomes the London Society of Necromancers and shuts to regular visitors as pentagrams are drawn, chickens are sacrificed, candles and incense are lit and the dead of London are summoned, however briefly, to tell their tale.
The beer is reasonably priced.
Waxy O’Connor’s, Soho
One of the oddest, psychogeographically speaking, of all London pubs, “Waxy’s” is a nightmare maze of up and down stairs, hidden rooms, levels and half-levels, basements, attics, tilted rooms, hidden rooms, swapping rooms, trapdoor rooms and rooms that extend into other dimensions and alternate realities. It was constructed from plans drawn by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and is the best known focal point in London for timeslips.
One may enter Waxy O’Connor’s at one end, walk up and down a set of stairs, half-turn, swim through an underground sea to the other shore and exit the pub at another London entirely. A mapping expedition sent in 1955 into Waxy’s emerged in 1993 from the same exit. Only a fragmented recording remains from the initial interview with the sole surviving member, replicated below:
“A desert, yellow sands to the horizon … images shaped in bronze, giants towering
above us … the moons! The moons! … I am Ozymandias, king of kings … we
lost Bertram to the winged flying women … then we were back in the pub and
having a pint but we lost Ollie when he went to the toilet … never came back …
we opened the first door we came to … seven years on that horror island! … never
go into the closet… eyes the size of mountains, growing like cancers … found the
bathroom in ’79, but took a wrong turn again … lost Samuelson to the volcano
God … must … must go … must go back.”
The pub serves a range of beers and, of course, Guinness on tap. The clientele includes tourists, transdimensional visitors and the occasional molemen.
The Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden
AKA The Bucket of Blood. One of the oldest pubs in London. Crowded with tourists. The pub food is indifferent. The poet Dryden, who wrote “Lovers, when they lose their breath, bleed away in easy death,” was a regular. It was here, in 1679, at the narrow alleyway beside the pub, that Dryden was attacked and beaten by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. In the nineteenth century the pub was a popular spot for bare-knuckle boxing.
It is said it was here that Sherlock Holmes fought three rounds with the prize-fighter McMurdo, chronicled in the Dr. Watson’s memoir The Sign of the Four. A regular tradition of the pub was to celebrate Dryden Night every December sixteenth. However this has not been done in the past couple of decades, a thing which the current compilers of the guide thoroughly regret.
The White Swan , Richmond-Upon-Thames
One of the current compilers of this guide’s favourite pubs. We could tell you where it is but then you might try to go there yourselves. A quiet country pub complete with log fire, a good selection of draught beer and the occasional shaggy dog or screen personality (naturalist David Attenborough is a local). The White Swan can occasionally get busy during rugby season in nearby Twickenham, but is otherwise a place for calm reflection, the joyful enjoyment of the finer things in life – but probably not, as on one long ago yet memorable occasion, a place particularly suited for dropping ecstasy in.
The Crypt, St. Martin ’s-in-the-Fields
Not a pub in the traditional sense but we like it, having spent at least one boozy occasion there. Also they serve a mean apple crumble with custard.
An eighteenth century crypt below the church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, it has high stone arcs and a hushed but convivial atmosphere. Rumours that this is where Count Dracula made his abode upon arrival in England on board the Demeter are probably false, though it is worth noting many of the staff are notoriously pale. Vampire aficionados do make pilgrimage to the otherwise quiet cafe, and the use of flashlights, like the carrying of wooden stakes, is discouraged.
Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, The Strand
Though primarily a dining establishment rather than a pub, this venerable institution – featuring an excellent bar complete with live piano music – was the favourite restaurant of Sherlock Holmes and his chronicler, Dr. Watson, embodying into popular culture the immortal words, “When we have finished at the police-station I think that something nutritious at Simpson’s would not be out of place.”
Every year thousands of ardent Sherlockians flock to Simpson’s, where one is free to discuss such controversial topics as “What was Watson’s middle name?” or “Was Sherlock really in Tibet?” It is considered good manners to tip the piano player.
Like those Sherlockians, we – humble compilers of this present volume – would not pass the chance at something nutritious at Simpson’s nor, indeed, at any of the pubs so far surveyed. London is a city whose lights burn brightest at the pub. In coldest winter, in the midst of war, in snow and sleet or rare and unexpected heatwave, the pubs are always open, waiting to welcome you in.
We merely advise our readers that smoking is no longer permitted indoors, that summoning spirits is generally frowned upon in polite society, and that drinking in moderation, though admirable in itself, is hardly in keeping with l’esprit de corps.
My latest Central Station story, Crabapple, is now online at Daily Science Fiction:
Neighborhoods sprouted around Central Station like weeds. On the outskirts of the old neighborhood, along the Kibbutz Galuyot Road and Siren Road and Sderot Menachem Begin, the old abandoned highways of Tel Aviv, they grew, ringing the immense structure of the spaceport rising high into the sky. Houses sprouted like trees, blooming, adaptoplant weeds feeding on rain and sun, and digging roots into the sandy ground, breaking ancient asphalt. Adaptoplant neighborhoods, seasonal, unstable, sprouting walls and doors and windows, half-open sewers hanging in the air, exposed bamboo pipes, apartments growing over and into each other, growing without order or sense, creating pavements suspended in midair, houses at crazy angles, shacks and huts with half-formed doors, windows like eyes–
In autumn the neighborhoods shed, doors drying, windows shrinking slowly, pipes drooping. Houses fell like leaves to the ground below and the road cleaning machines murmured happily, eating up the shrunken leaves of former residencies. Above ground the tenants of those seasonal buoyant suburbs stepped cautiously, testing the ground with each step taken, to see if it would hold, migrating nervously across the skyline to other, fresher spurts of growth, new adaptoplant blooming delicately, windows opening like fruit– continue reading.
One of my favourite recent stories, and another one from the world of the Continuity, this pays homage to one of my favourite works of literature, Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches.
For Basho’s haiku I substituted Bislama poetry, which is something I’ve been interested in doing for a long time, and for Edo period Japan I substituted the far future world of the Continuity. This is available to read online and also in a podcast version.
From Bangkok he travelled into orbit, staying as a pilgrim in a Church of Robot mission, where facilities were basic but accommodation cheap. There he stayed for several days, in the orbital they call Gateway, the commercial hub of the system, observing traders and tourists, the meeting of Martian Chinese and Lunar kibbutznkis, of Orang Ulu and Man Tanna miners from the Belt, of tentacle junkies and flesh-surfing Others, of Louis Wu addicts and Guilds of Ashkelon games-world mercenaries. Always Earth dominated the view. In one of the observation decks he wrote:
Mi lukluk wol
From orbit, Earth is the centre of the universe, it is Aristotelian. Yet that is a mirage which the Others do not share. In orbit, I saw the world, turning and turning. I sat in a bar with a view of the planet rotating below, listening to conversations while drinking Lao-Lao, the smooth rice whiskey which tastes different here, distilled from hydroponics rice terraces deep in the bowels of Gateway. Conversations all around me, in Martian Chinese and Hebrew, in Thai and in French and Malay, and whenever strangers met who did not share a language they reverted to the old contact toktok, the beche-le-mar of Old Melanesia and the Belt.
Sometimes you write a story and there is nowhere to send it, and you wait and, if you’re lucky, something perfect comes along.
This was the case with “The Myriad Dangers”, about a boy in Tel Aviv facing successive waves of alien invasions (aliens; simulacra; zombies; vampires, carnivorous plants) on Rosh Hashana. Along came Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, a copy of which just dropped through my letter box. Check it out!
The aliens came marching down the street, like ants, or Israeli Defence Force soldiers. They marched in lines and their hands moved in rhythm but they didn’t make a sound. The whole city seemed to be asleep, its defence systems down, its awareness diminished, a whole city dreaming, restlessly, of other white cities, and coolness, and matzo ball soup.
Originally published in Eclipse Online.
Since 2003 or thereabouts I have been quietly working on a science fictional universe shared amongst my short stories – a “future history”, to use Heinlein’s term. When Jonathan Strahan asked me to write a short introduction to “The Memcordist”, to explain how it related to the other stories, I realised that I had never set down ( to anyone other than myself, anyway) the nature of this shared world, not even that I was working on this project. Perhaps some more diligent reviewers, or editors who bought multiple stories, had noticed (as Jonathan did). By now, these stories easily comprise some three hypothetical volumes, were they to be collected, with more forthcoming.
This world had no name, so for the purpose of this note I have settled on the Continuity – for it is a continuity of stories, a shared universe. I also think of them as the Evolution of Others universe, since it is partly concerned with the evolution of digital intelligences, who form at least the background hum of some of the stories, and also as the Exodus universe, since, at some point, starships begin to depart the solar system towards unknown stars. But any name, or none, will do.
The stories are roughly divided into three spatial sections, presented below. Stories set on Earth, stories set in the Solar System, and stories set beyond the Solar System. The universe they are set in continues to change, evolve and be added to.
And so, the stories.
Note: a few of the links lead to audio editions, when that is the only version of the story available online.
The Night Train (Strange Horizons, 2010)
A genetically-modified bodyguard stops an assassination attempt on board the Bangkok-Nong Khai night train. Introduces the Other, Darwin’s Choice (who reappears in “The Long Road to the Deep North”) and the Kunming Toads, if I remember rightly.
The Shangri-La Affair (Strange Horizons, 2009)
The record of a weapon (The Shangri-La Virus), which is possibly linked to the strigoi strain in Central Station (“Strigoi”, “The Book Seller”) and the anonymous agent sent to destroy it. Set in Thailand and Laos.
Spider’s Moon (Futurismic, 2009)
Set in Vietnam, and concerns Ni-Vanuatu members of the Tarilaka clan (who operate the Gel Blong Mota) and their contract to supply the Other called Dragon with decommissioned battle dolls.
Thinking about it this might be the first story to mention Dragon’s World.
Aphrodisia (Strange Horizons 2010)
Off-world visitors on a night out in Vientiane, Laos. I didn’t make much of this up. Possibly the first mention of tentacle-junkies in the Continuity.
The Insurance Agent (Interzone 2010)
An eponymous agent (possibly of the same agency as that featured in “The Shangri-La Affair” and “The Ambiguity Clock”) is sent to protect a spiritual leader in the Golden Triangle. Possibly first mention of adaptoplant in the Continuity? Ogko pops up, as he does increasingly from around this point.
In the Season of the Mango Rains (Interzone, 2011)
A very brief story, almost a sketch, set relatively early on, with plenty of references to events in other stories.
The Integrity of the Chain (Fantasy Magazine, 2009)
A young tuk tuk driver in Vientiane, Laos, dreams of going to space.
The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String (Fantasy Magazine, 2010)
A slice-of-life story set in Vientiane, Laos. Associational, but fits into the larger Continuity.
A slice-of-life story set in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associational, but fits into the larger Continuity.
The Ambiguity Clock (Daily Science Fiction, 2011)
An anonymous agent is sent into the Golden Triangle to destroy a somewhat ambiguous device… I love the adaptoplant jungle here, with its ill-formed houses.
The Monks of Udom Xhai (Abyss & Apex, 2010)
Concerns a mysterious group of monks in Laos and their possible attempt at creating a singularity. One of the monks makes a cryptic appearance in “The Integrity of the Chain” – elsewhere they are generally referred to as the Singularity Jesus Project.
Needlework (Asimov’s, forthcoming 2013)
Two young Vietnamese dream of going into space.
This, Other World (Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana, 2012)
Follows Rama of Clan Ayodhya on his quest into Laos in search of his lost love, who in turn is related to Boss Gui and the Kunming Toads (“The Night Train”).
Burial of the Dead (Chizine, 2007)
Set in Borneo. An early story, though first introduction of Elvis Mandela’s classic Night of the Tokoloshe.
What the Thunder Said (Strange Horizons, 2007)
Another early story, this one set in Malawi, Africa. Others crop up, and there’s an intriguing mention of the Cetewayo Curse.
A cycle of linked stories set in and around Central Station, a space port between Tel Aviv and Jaffa in a future entwined Palestine/Israel. It follows the lives of several of the residents, themselves the children of African and Asian migrant workers who have arrived in Tel Aviv in the 21st century.
The Indignity of Rain (Interzone, 2012)
The first story in the sequence, in which Boris Aaron Chong returns from Mars and meets his childhood sweetheart, Miriam Jones, and her adopted son, Kranki.
Under the Eaves (Robots: The Recent A.I., 2012)
A romance between Isobel Chong (a starship pilot in the Guilds of Ashkelon virtuality) and a robotnik, Motl.
Robotnik (Dark Faith 2, 2012)
The history of Motl and the Robotniks. In a way this is an expansion/revision of “Crucifixation” in the same way that “The Oracle” revisits “The Breeding Grounds”. Also, it explains just why the robotniks speak Yiddish…
The Smell of Orange Groves (Clarkesworld, 2011)
Boris’s childhood and the history of his family, beginning with Zhong Weiwei’s arrival in Tel Aviv, and the bargain he strikes with the Oracle on the hill.
The Lord of Discarded Things (Strange Horizons, 2012)
There’s a mention here of the Messiah Murder. I still want to write that story one day. This one’s about Ibrahim, the rag and bone man, and the child he adopts.
Strigoi (Interzone, 2012)
Carmel, a Shambleau, arrives in Central Station following Boris, with whom she had been intimate. It follows her own story, from the asteroid belt to Mars and finally to Central Station.
Crabapple (Daily Science Fiction, forthcoming 2013)
Another love story, this one concerning Boris’s cousin, Yan, and his boyfriend Youssou.
The Book Seller (Interzone, forthcoming 2013)
Carmel meets Miriam’s brother, Achimwene, and the two of them decide to play detectives and try to find a cure for Miriam’s condition. I get to introduce a literary genre called Martian Hardboiled so again, I’m happy.
A story about a robot moyel – R. Brother Patch-It. And yes, I’m tremendously pleased about that!
The God Artist (unpublished)
It turns out Central Station has a god artist but then, what good neighbourhood doesn’t.
Vladimir Chong Chooses to Die (unpublished)
This story focuses on Boris’s father, Vladimir.
The Oracle (forthcoming in Analog)
The story looks at the Oracle’s background, and in parallel the true story of St. Cohen of the Others, and the emergence of the Breeding Grounds in Jerusalem.
In Pacmandu (Futurismic, 2010)
The first story, I think, to introduce the games worlds, in particular the Guilds of Ashkelon universe. In Central Station, Isobel works as a starship captain in the GoA (“Under the Eaves”).
The Secret Protocols of the Elders of Zion (The West Pier Gazette, 2008)
Set on the Zion asteroid, and concerning an enclosed-space communication/mind-network based on the movement of marijuana smoke particles. The Zion asteroid heads out of the solar system at the end of the story. Various references to the departed asteroid (and to Zion Special Strength) are scattered throughout the Continuity stories, suggesting this has happened fairly early on.
Temporal Spiders, Spatial Webs (ESA/Bradbury-Clarke Prize winner 2003)
Probably the first story in the Continuity, it follows one of the Spiders, autonomous von Neumann machines seeding communication hubs across the solar system, in this case out in Trans-Neptunian space.
It won the Bradbury-Clarke short story competition organised by the European Space Agency and published in various places since then.
The Long Road to the Deep North (Strange Horizons, forthcoming 2013)
Follows a poet as he travels across the solar system. Darwin’s Choice (“The Night Train”) reappears, as does the Gel Blong Mota (“The Memcordist”).
The Memcordist (Eclipse Online, 2012)
Follows the Narrative (or recorded life history) of Pym, a Memcordist, from birth on Earth and his travels around the solar system, from Earth as far as Jettisoned.
Earthrise (Redstone SF, 2012)
Only Lunar set story to date. Goes into some details with regards to the Jakarta Bomb and the Terrorartist, and Introduces the word “Ubiquing” to describe someone forced into a virtuality, which I was kind of pleased about!
Also recurring in passing are Martian superstars Sivan Shoshanim and Elvis Mandela – Elvis first appeared I think all the way back in “Burial of the Dead” while Sivan appears in Martian Sands.
High Windows (Strange Horizons, 2006)
Introduces Polyphemus Port on Titan (Polyport), as well as the Galilean Republics on the moons of Jupiter. The hero runs away from home – a Baha’i space habitat – to Titan, then to Ganymede on board the Ibn al-Farid, an outer system transport ship. I think it is also the first mention of Joined Others and the golden prosthetics they are usually housed in.
The explicit sex was deemed pornographic by some readers.
Martian Sands (short novel, PS Publishing, forthcoming 2013)
Set mostly in Tong Yun City, the first and oldest city on Mars, and follows several diverse characters across the Martian landscape in a quest for an impossible utopia. The Martian Re-Born are first introduced here, I think. Also New Israel on Mars, and the Martian kibbutzim. One of the characters is a Golda Meir automaton, and I hope she one day returns.
Chains of Assembly (short novel, unpublished)
The second in the Martian Trilogy (because every SF writer needs a Martian Trilogy), but a little too weird, I think, so I never figured out what to do with it. It introduces the long-running Martian soap Chains of Assembly (Which Miriam avidly watches in the Central Stationstories) and dwells into the life of the Martian robotniks. It also introduces the Church of Robot, of which R. Brother Patch-It (“Filaments”) is of course a member.
Set in worlds colonized by the Exodus ships.
Cloud Permutations (novella, 2012, PS Publishing)
Set on the planet of Heven, settled by a Melanesian (Ni-Vanuatu) Exodus ship some centuries in the past. It references Others, and there seems to be a an alien Migdal tree (“Covenant”) on the planet. The end of the story suggests (but does not tell the story) that one of its two heroes, Bani, went off-world and later met Mikhaila Petrova (“Lode Stars”).
Lode Stars (The Immersion Book of SF, 2010)
Set in a society (the Illuminati) who live in a region of space dominated by three black holes, who had built their religion around them, and which they call God’s Eyes.
Generations (Son & Foe, 2006)
A lone human explorer discovers a strange backwards-evolution alien race and follows them through the centuries until only one alien is left.
Covenant (Apex Digest, 2008)
Set on a planet settled by an Israeli Exodus ship, and concerns the symbiotic (and religious) relationship the settlers have with the indigenous aliens.
Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World (Daily Science Fiction, 2010)
On a planet settled by Iban (originally from Borneo, and later migrant-labourers to the asteroid belt) a young woman must go on a journey of discovery and explore the legacy of long-dormant aliens.
There is a handful of early miscellaneous stories that are associational. “The Breeding Grounds”, published in 2003, first introduces the man who would become St. Cohen of the Others, and the Breeding Grounds. “Crucifixation” (2005) first introduces the robotniks, and the religion-drug they are addicted to. “The Solnet Ascendancy” (2010) is referred to several times in the Continuity. Some others are less significant, and are therefore excluded here.
I published 21 new short stories in 2012. Which is quite a lot.
The story of a WW2 pilot crash-landing on an island in Vanuatu, and waking up in the world of the island’s mythology. Based on my year in the Banks Islands of Vanuatu, this utilises the myth stories I was fortunate enough to have shared with me.
20. The Red Menace, Rip-Off! Anthology, ed. Gardner Dozois
It was weird writing a story for an audio-only project – being aware this is to be read aloud. Rip-Off! asked us to select a classic opening line and riff on it. I chose The Communist Manifesto, and wrote a sort of weird alternate history of the 20th century, partly inspired also by Richard Calder’s Babylon.
19. Strigoi. Interzone.
You can download a free e-book version here. A Central Station novelette, and one of several CS stories published this year.
These are divided roughly into three – Central Station stories, non-CS stories set in the world of the Continuity, and misc. SF/F stories.
18. Robotnik. Dark Faith II anthology.
17. Under the Eaves. Robots: The Recent A.I. anthology.
This one was picked up for both the Dozois and Horton Year’s Best anthologies.
16. The Indignity of Rain. Interzone.
Chronologically, this is the first CS story.
15. The Lord of Discarded Things. Strange Horizons
14. This, Other World, The Ramayana Anthology, ed Menon and Singh
Anil Menon asked me to write a story for this anthology published by Zubaan in India. Sort of a cyberpunk retelling of a part of the Ramayana, set in SE Asia and taking place in the world of the Continuity. I like the intensity of it – I wrote it while spending a couple of months in Jakarta, if I remember right.
13. Earthrise. Redstone SF
Only Lunar-set story of the Continuity, so far. I like this one for using “Ubik” as a verb!
12. The Memcordist. Eclipse Online.
The story of a Memcordist, Pym, his life, and love. Moves across much of the solar system of the Continuity. Picked up for Dozois’ Year’s Best anthology.
A mix of SF, fantasy, some steampunk and even a bit of horror.
11. A Lexicon of Steam Literature of the Third Reich. Published on the blog.
I’ve published 3 original stories on the blog so far, two I think in 2011, and this one in 2012. They never really pay for themselves, but what the hell – it’s fun.
10. A Brief History of the Great Pubs of London, Stories of the Smoke anthology.
Continuing in the faux-documentary format, this is a mostly-accurate if somewhat fantastical guide to ten pubs in London. Years of research. Years.
9. The White Hands, Fungi anthology.
Another faux-documentary, but this one somewhat obsessed with mushrooms! Fungi is by far the weirdest anthology of last year.
8. The Stoker Memorandum. Daily Science Fiction
Continuing with some steampunk, this is set in the world of the Bookman Histories and, specifically, sheds some light on Stoker’s journey to Transylvania (from The Great Game). It’s also in Steampunk Revolution ed. by Ann VanderMeer, and should be out in a translation or two soon, I think.
7. The Ballad of the Last Human. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk.
Did someone say steampunk? A story of cats and dogs sharing a setting with my earlier “The Story of Listener and Yu-En”, from Bull Spec magazine.
6. Moon Landing, UFO Anthology.
Ten views of the moon landing. I thought it was funny.
5. Sleepless in R’lyeh, Dark Currents anthology.
H.P. Lovecraft meets Sleepless in Seattle.
Giant robots who turn into cars? Never heard of such a thing.
3. Love is a Parasite Meme, Apex Magazine.
Sort of a post-apocalypse.
2. Zero Game, Fandom Forever
Published in Denmark. Sort of a choose-your-own-adventure story.
1. Choosing Faces. Arc.
Gonzo SF, sort of set in the same world of Enter the Dragon. Later, Enter Another, and continuing my obsession with multiple clones. Published in Arc, the new digital magazine from New Scientist.
My latest Central Station story, The Lord of Discarded Things, is now up at Strange Horizons. They are having their annual fund drive at the moment, so if you like what they do, maybe drop them some cash!
There were still alte-zachen men in Jaffa in those days. There had always been, junk-gypsies, part Jew, part Arab, part something else again. It was the time of the Messiah Murder, of which you must have heard, of which the historian Elezra (himself progenitor of Miriam Elezra, who with the Golda Meir automaton journeyed to Ancient-Mars-That-Never-Was, and changed the course of a planet) has written, “It was a time of fervour and uncertainty, a time of hate and peace, in which the messiah’s appearance and subsequent execution were almost incidental.”
There were still alte-zachen men in Jaffa and Central Station in those days, as there always were and always will be, and chief amongst them was Ibrahim, he who was sometimes called The Lord of Discarded Things.
You must have seen him approach a thousand times. He appears in the background, always in the background, of tourist-taken images, of numerous feeds. The cart, first: a flat top carried on the four wheels of a liberated, ancient car. In Jaffa’s junkyards, dead combustion-engine cars proliferated, towers of them making a city of junk in which hid the city’s unfortunates. The cart pulled by one or two horses, city-bred and born: mismatched grey and white, these Palestinian horses, an intermingling of breeds, distant cousins to the noble Arabian strains. Small, strong, and patient, they carried the cart overloaded with broken-down things, without complaint, on the weekends putting on bells and colourful garb and carrying small children along the promenade, for a price. – continue reading.
Arc is the new electronic SF magazine from New Scientist. Issue 1.3 is now out, featuring my story “Choosing Faces”, and it is free to download for a limited time.
There had been significant arguments and several UN resolutions regarding the genetic copyright ownership of Jesus of Nazareth. The Vatican was first but the State of Israel claimed previous right-of-way, and into the melee stepped various American pastors, the Mormons, and an obscure UFO religion claiming for Jesus under supposed evidence of alien DNA. The dispute was never resolved, but there are few conflicts one can’t resolve with a gun.
‘You will not pass,’ John the Baptist said in passable English. He was holding an Uzi and glared at me menacingly. His bones had been found in a Bulgarian monastery, on SvetiIvanIsland, in the early noughties. Church-approved cloners have since replicated him hundreds of time. He was a thick-armed, wiry Jewish man, dark skinned and humourless. I put a dart in him and was about to approach the reliquary when I found the cathedral’s real defences.
Mother Teresa, multiplied by seven.
Mother Teresa, multiplied by seven, and all of them holding big fucking machine guns.
I ducked as they opened fire.