Coming Up Roses

I submitted a story a while ago to an anthology I was very keen to get in. The Spectral Book of Horror Stories was superb and has garnered great reviews and award recommendations, with Alison Littlewood’s story ‘The Dog’s Home’ recently winning the Shirley Jackson Award. It is with tremendous pleasure, then, that I can announce I’ll be in the second volume of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories with a piece called ‘Mary, Mary’. It’s about gardening. Sort of. It’s about nature, and nurture, and how the things we dig up are often the same things we buried in the first place. I was overjoyed when editor Mark Morris told me he wanted it for the book, especially as he’d had 800 or so stories submitted, and especially as the first volume had been so bloody good. It’ll be launched at this year’s British Fantasy Convention, with a signing as well I believe. As you can see from the table of contents below, book two will have me sitting and scribbling in some damn fine company. And check out that gorgeous cover by Vincent Chong.


FLOTSAM – Tim Lebbon


SUGARED HEAT – Lisa L. Hannett


THE LARDER – Nicholas Royle

THE VEILS – Ian Rogers

JOE IS A BARBER – Paul Meloy

LITTLE TRAVELLER – Simon Kurt Unsworth

BEHIND THE WALL – Thana Niveau

MARY, MARY – Ray Cluley

THE MEANTIME – Alison Moore

MARROWVALE – Kurt Fawver



WRONG – Stephen Volk

LUMP IN YOUR THROAT – Robert Shearman

HORN OF THE HUNTER – Simon Bestwick



You can get hold of volume one (and pre-order volume two) at the Spectral Press site, here.

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On the Edge(-Lit)

Just a quick shout out to say that the recent Edge-Lit event held in Derby was terrific fun – many thanks to Alex Davies for organising such a packed and entertaining day and all the sponsors and helpers who made it happen. It was great to catch up with old friends, speak in person to many I only ‘see’ on Facebook, and to meet new people. It was great to hear Stephen Volk, Mark Morris, and Cate Gardener each read from their newest work, launched by Spectral Press at the event. It was also great to attend a couple of panels and to listen to guest speaker John Connolly who, rather than do a reading or interview, gave a talk about his career and the genre, which was interesting and entertaining (the perfect combo). A particular joy for me was getting some great news from Mark Morris (see the next blog post) and having beers and food with friends, talking throughout about writery horror things. I sold a few books, too, which is always a good thing, but most of all it was about the people. The horror genre is in good shape, with a warm welcoming crowd working in the field or supporting with much enthusiasm those who do. I thoroughly recommend next year’s Edge-Lit – this one sold out, and next year is likely to go the same way, so book early.

If you can’t wait until then, there’s a Christmassy version coming soon. You can get tickets for Sledge-Lit (I know, I know) here.


Jess with her John Connolly signed Black Static. (I’m in there too, but apparently my autograph means NOTHING to some people…)

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Devil’s Due

I just received a sneak-peek at the art for my next story, ‘When the Devil’s Driving’, which will appear in July’s Black Static. Thanks go to David Senecal who has done a fantastic job with this.

When the Devils Driving

I also owe my gratitude to Steven Dines who was good enough to read an early version of this story. His feedback stopped me from being lazy with the story and the piece is much stronger for his comments, so thanks Steve.

Peter Tennant is reviewing Probably Monsters in this issue as well, along with Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow, and my Curse of the Zombie story, ‘Bone Dry’. Thanks Pete. He’s asked me some great questions in an interview, too, so I’m kind of hogging a lot of the magazine this time.

You can buy the current issue by clicking here, and I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – it’s well worth subscribing. Black Static publishes some of the best horror stories around. I consider myself very lucky every time I get in.

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Interzone Readers’ Poll

With Suzanne Palmer announced recently via social media as the winner of Interzone Readers’ Poll 2014, and the full results available imminently as the latest issue rolls out, I thought I’d post my votes here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Interzone is a fantastic magazine. If you like speculative fiction in all its forms but don’t already subscribe you should give it a go. Click here to check it out and follow the links for subscription options.

Anyway, my favourites from last year…

Issue 250

Lilacs and Daffodils, by Rebecca Campbell

A beautiful story about memory that isn’t memory, fragmented but linked in that associative way our minds work, emotive yet calculating, human and artificial and everything all at once. I loved this and read it again immediately upon finishing. This particular issue of Interzone had a few stories that played around with memory and perception but ‘Lilacs and Daffodils’ has a warmth to it that resonated with me more than the others, a quietly understated and very evocative piece and just the sort of thing that keeps me buying this magazine.

Issue 251

Ghost Story, by John Grant

Wonderfully intriguing from the outset, and a beautiful portrayal of a strong relationship. What could have been a frustrating domestic story focussing on trust is quickly bypassed so that we can focus on a different relationship and the story’s oddity, a situation involving past love and the passage of years with just a dash of skewed timeline and/or parallel universe. I love the concept here, the universe rewriting itself, but most of all I love its bitter-sweet poignancy.

Issue 252

The Posset Pot, by Neil Williamson

One of the best apocalypses I’ve read in a while. Parallel universes passing, fizzing with the friction, the bubbles giving and taking. The taking is what gives this story a sharp sense of loss, the narrator’s loneliness painful to read but compelling thanks to a small degree of hope. I loved this.

Two Truths and a Lie, by Oliver Buckram 

Wow, where to start? This is a fantastic story, using a narrative technique that surpasses the gimmicky so that the reader plays a very active part in the story-telling, which is exactly the sort of fiction I adore. The first person perspective with its direct address of a specific intended reader provides an effective voyeuristic pleasure and its brevity, with ambiguous absences, makes it all the more striking. Weird and wonderful and original, and bloody brilliant.

Issue 253

Chasmata, by E. Catherine Tobler

A very personal, intimate story (with bracketed asides to make it more so, drawing attention to necessary half-truths and ambiguities) with some erotically-charged language that blurs the alien landscape with the physical bodies of the characters. This explores both the mysteries and the appeal of a different planet and a different person. There’s a lot of desire, not just of the physical but the desire to explore, move, leave, break away, with much of the focus on distance and fracture, still mixing planets and people with a prose style that is often poetic. A beautiful story.

Beside the Dammed River, by D. J. Cockburn 

Beautifully effective in its casual tone, with a touch of the exotic in its foreign (to me) locale and culture, the mystery of what lies under the tarpaulins is revealed with little fanfare so that the focus is on the human story. Petty rivalries are made dramatic yet remain understated, though they can easily be extended to global bureaucracies. The characters are wonderfully full for such a short piece, thanks in part to the observations of the narrator but also the roadside conversations. He has the wisdom of an older man but faces the same temptations of one with youth, making him all the more believable. There’s a deceptive simplicity to this story, the random, somewhat mundane, encounter loaded with much more so that the theft of a set of tools can reflect the theft of millions carried out by an entire country. This won the James White Award, and I’m not surprised. It’s brilliant.

Issue 254

Songs Like Freight Trains, by Sam J. Miller 

An incredibly relatable story dealing with the magic of music and how it can take you back, both metaphorically and literally. The relationships are presented convincingly, be it that of marriage, friendship, or the one between mother and daughter, with the claim that “time takes so much away from us” counterbalanced by how much it gives as well. It’s a story about growing up, about change, and is as much about the future as it is the past. The distances between the two are perhaps best represented in the mother daughter dynamic: as a dancer, the daughter is fully immersed in a world the mother has given up or lost, and yet music allows the mother to live again as a teenager. There’s a longing here but not necessarily regret, and the story is all the sweeter for it.

Issue 255

The Calling of Night’s Ocean, by Thana Niveau

An awesome story. Sections told from a dolphin’s perspective are convincingly ‘alien’ yet familiar enough to remain recognisable. The relationship between the dolphin and the human is endearing but this is really a story about our relationships with each other as humans, or rather it’s about how poor those relationships are, as the Vietnam war context highlights. We are so eager to communicate with animals, with aliens even, yet we remain unable to communicate effectively with ourselves, our inability to ‘feel’ each other very much the point of the story. “Existence is joy” the dolphin tries to teach us but we can’t hear the message. In fact, as the dolphin learns, we seem intent on making the opposite true, a realisation so distressing that the dolphins call to a darkness between and behind the stars to give the story a terrifying Lovecraftian finale, at least for this reader. Absolutely wonderful stuff, and I hope it gets picked up for various ‘best of’ anthologies.

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Nowhere is safe – zombies in the desert

My story ‘Bone Dry’ is now available as ‘Curse of the Zombie’ as part of Hersham Horror’s ‘The Cursed’ series. Here’s the blurb:

“Louisa is in Algeria to cover a celebrity wedding for the BBC, but an encounter with a strange American in a hotel bar reveals there are far more interesting stories out there, in the Sahara, waiting to be unearthed. Stories about the lost ones, the tenere medden, desert men cursed with an undying thirst… The fourth in a series of six novelettes reviving the golden age of the monster from Hersham Horror Books.”

I wanted to do something a bit different to the usual zombie story, and I’m thankful to the ever-wonderful National Geographic for inspiring me as to how to go about that. In particular, articles relating to oil mining in Algeria and the Tuareg (pictured below).


You can grab a copy of ‘Bone Dry’ aka ‘The Curse of the Zombie’ from Amazon by clicking here. Another click once you’re there should take you to the kindle version.




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Monster competition

With Probably Monsters now a reality I thought I’d run a competition. To win a copy of the collection, simply tell me your favourite monster from the world of film and horror fiction, with a brief explanation as to why they’re your favourite. I’ll choose a winner randomly from the entries.

You can leave your favourite monster in the comments here, or on my Facebook post, or via twitter @RayCluley with the hashtag #probablymonsters

Closing date: end of April

PM box

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Coming out of the dark (and the drawers)

At last, it’s here. Well, very very nearly. It’s here if you’re in Canada and the US. BUT it’ll only be a few more weeks before Probably Monsters is slithering on British soil. You can order it from ChiZine if you can’t wait that long.

Don’t they look pretty? My beautiful monsters…

Probably (lots of) Monsters


It means a lot to me, of course, getting this collection out, and I’m very thankful to ChiZine for giving me such an opportunity. I’m also thankful to Michael Kelly for championing it so enthusiastically. Hell, there’s a whole load of thanks in the book. I’ll stop babbling.

I’m just very excited.

I’ll keep you posted as to its progress towards Britain…


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