Turns out I've got a fair few significant publications on the way this year. It feels real good to be having some substantial stuff coming out after something of a dry spell during the PhD (which I guess is understandable). The big ticket item - the novel - still eludes publication, but I'm working on that with steely determination. This year, however, is going to be all about the short story. The short story on its own like a defiant gunslinger; the short and sharp flash fictions like a gang of bandits; and the full-length short story collection like a fierce end-of-level boss. Here are each of those things in turn:
Pigskin (Fly on the Wall Press) - coming 26th Feb
This glorious thing isn't officially launched until Friday 26th Feb, but some reviewers and subscribers have already got their hands on it and Mr Pig has been filling up my social media feeds like some kind of super-keen new best friend. This is actually quite an old tale of mine, having had its first outing some years back in an issue of Black Static, but it's been revamped by the brilliant Fly on the Wall Press as the first in their series of single-issue political short stories they're calling, rather succinctly, their 'Shorts Season'. There are five more Shorts in the season coming out throughout the year and if you head on over to the Fly website you can subscribe to the lot for a mere 30 quid. That's six chapbooks of fabulous stories, along with some limited edition signed postcards (I had a lot of fun signing mine), which will drop through your letterboxes throughout the year. What a lovely initiative.
Pigskin tells the tale of an uprising of animals in a farm led by a disgruntled Pig. If that sounds familiar, well then that's the point - this is a veganized, animal-centric version of Orwell's tale for the age of industrial farming. It's an angry, sniping, unhinged story designed to leave a festering bite mark on your soul (how about that then). I wrote a full post about it years ago when it first came out which expresses some of the thinking behind the tale. Also: totally join me next week on Twitch for a live launch of Pigskin. I'll be reading an extract, taking questions and I'll also be reading the writings of the five other Shorts authors: Mark Wilson, Clare Reddaway, Claire HM, Louise Finnegan, and Ruth Brandt. It'll all go down 8pm, Friday 26th, over on Twitch. Bring the drinks, lets get silly with words:
Incorcisms (Arachne Press) - coming May 2021
At the back end of spring, as we hopefully head towards some hazy, heady summer of love and freedom and hugging and beer gardens (too hopeful?), my next collection of weird flash fiction / short-short stories will be sneaking out into the world. It's a ragtag bunch of weirdo tales about hauntings, possessions, rifts in time and quiet apocalypses and looks like this:
The cover is a picture of a piece of sculpture by my artist friend Camille Smithwick and I love it. While there aren't any tales in there about a handsome-yet-sneaky wolfcat with a hairband, there's something in this guy's eyes that speaks to the devilry that lurks within. Some of the tales have seen the light of day elsewhere - most notably the title story 'The Incorcist' which featured in The Ghastling in 2019 - but a whole bunch of them are originals that have never been seen before. When I put the collection together following the call-out by Arachne Press, it felt like I was bringing the waifs and strays of my tales into an awkward little alliance, but then reading the collection back, I'm really happy with how they all compliment each other. I think this collection will stand as a reflection of some of my passing concerns over the last few years: identity, neurodivergence, companionship, the neighborhood, political unease, the fracturing of community. Y'know. All the easy subjects.
But it's also, hopefully, quite a playful collection with a fair bit of experimentation. I'm really intrigued to see what people are going to make of it. To that end, if anyone reading this would like a review copy, get in touch via the Contact page and I'll hook you up with Arachne. As I understand it, the thing is currently being proofread and will soon be a physical item to hold and admire. I'll likely do another launch type thing when this baby is birthed (on my birthday, May 27th, according to the Arachne website), so keep your wolfcat peepers peeped for that.
Fauna (Fly on the Wall Press) - due September 2021
Finally, as we fall messily from our summer Bacchanalia towards an autumn of vague regrets and, probably, a fourth national lockdown, my full-length short story collection Fauna is due for release with Fly on the Wall. No cover art to show you yet but I can't wait to see what that's going to end up being (covers have been strong so far, I'm sure you'll agree). Fauna collects together my animal-based short stories that I've been harping on about for the last five or six years. There's a whole menagerie of creature features following in the wake of Pig from Pigskin. We've got a mimed elephant, mythological guinea pigs, vengeful birds, a trickster fox, and various other beasts and critters all caught up in weird shenanigans.
I've been trying to flog this collection for years and had a few knock backs with it. Weirdly, a few presses rejected it because it was a themed collection, which they apparently 'weren't looking for'. I always thought this was odd because the idea of themes has always thrilled me, but then again short story collections have always been a hard-sell for writers. So I was, of course, totally delighted when the irrepressible Fly on the Wall agreed to take it on. And they've done such a brilliant job with Pigskin that I'm fully confident they will kill it with Fauna too. We're already fishing around for people to do reviews of the full collection but, again, if you're reading this and fancy it, drop us a line.
And that's it. Very exciting stuff. A shame, at the moment, that I can't get out and about to flog these wares in person, but such things can be exhausting and embarrassing anyway so perhaps this lockdown literature process is better in many ways. Plus, its particularly exciting to receive nice packages through the post at the moment, so consider me your letterbox literary lover this year and grab yourselves the full collection of Dr Hartley's Weird Stories to shore up those Zoom background bookshelves.