Weird times call for weird fictions. We're all looking over our various shoulders at the lurking shadows and the too-bright lights wondering what fresh hell is lurking in our timelines, poised and ready to assault our once-cosy sensibilities. We are living inside a dystopian Simpsons episode, drawn by Bosch, scored by Ligeti, coated in toxic sugars, owned by the Tyrell Corporation. The internet, globalisation, graphene - shouldn't this be the age of miracles? Shouldn't this be the utopia we've always been promised?
Yes, things are odd. Perhaps every generation thinks their time is the oddest, but surely we've got a special claim for it at the moment. Well, perhaps we need to wait and see exactly what is around the corner. Among all of this, its perhaps not strange to note that Weird Fiction is having something of a moment, best signalled I think by the upcoming film of Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation (which is an excellent way into the weird if you're thinking of dabbling). I have long co-opted 'the weird' as my genre of choice when asked what I write so its kind of in my interest if the world stays a little bonkers. Although a little less terror, sexism and racism would be appreciated, of course.
I was delighted, therefore, when freelance editor and writer of weird fiction Dan Coxon approached me and asked for a weird or eerie or uncanny story for his new paperback journal The Shadow Booth. Never one to duck away from such rare and golden opportunities, I flung myself with abandon into his creaky, shady little booth and offered up a piece of fiction which I'd been labouring on for quite some time. Happily, it was weird, eerie and/or uncanny enough for approval and I now sit beside such luminaries as Paul Tremblay, Malcolm Devlin, Stephen Hargadon, and Annie Neugebauer - as well as a whole load of up-and-coming stars of the fringes of the weird genres.
But. Here's the rub. The thing itself won't be birthed unless it can be successfully kickstarted. Now, don't reel back in horror. Yes, it is being crowdfunded - we are asking you to buy it before it even exists. However, in the world of small press publishing, this process is proving a remarkably successful method of making beautiful books. Liverpool press Dead Ink have made a successful habit of it, Unsung Stories smashed their target for their Orwellian collection 2084, Uncanny Magazine have obliterated their target for a special double issue of disability sci-fi, and Dan Coxon himself crowdfunded his award-winning collection Being Dad. It's a fantastic way for readers and experimental small-presses to enter into agreements to co-produce vibrant and boundary-pushing new works which no major publisher would think of touching.
The Shadow Booth, if funded, will add its own modest boost to the fidgety, fascinating world of weird fiction and help shuttle its creative forces into further murky realms. Dan has confidently slapped 'Vol 1' onto his creepy front cover, so no doubt he intends for there to be further volumes further down the creaky pier.
As for my story, its called 'Betamorphosis' and its about a cockroach who wakes up one day to find he has been transformed into a monstrous Lara Croft. Now then. You want to read more of that, don't you? Well, please do go on over to the kickstarter and pledge a few pounds and pence. A lowly tenner will net you the book itself, more will get you further goodies like postcards, t-shirts, even a signed copy of my collection Spiderseed. And when all is said and done, at the very least you'll have a set of fresh weird fictions to help your subconscious better navigate the uncanny valley that is our current state of affairs. Must be worth a few shekels.