Friday, 4 November 2011

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse

I won second place in a school-wide creative writing competition when I was twelve. My story, the title of which I can't recall, was a shameless ripoff of Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model."

My innovation? My great improvement over Lovecraft? I changed the narrator's gender.

Twenty years later, I'm staggered to find my name keeping august company among the contributors for Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by the folks over at Pornokitsch. Jon Courtenay Grimwood! Lauren Beukes! And, erm, me!

Daniel Brown at Stuff & Nonsense has some astounding words for Pandemonium, and, thrillingly, called my own story "a relentlessly black, magnificently downbeat exercise in the stripping away of humanity." A good review, as it turns out, is much more rewarding than a crummy certificate of (second-place) achievement. Thank you, Mr. Brown.

I'm delighted to inaugurate this blog with a little excerpt from "Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion," the story I wrote for Pandemonium. The anthology is available for purchase as an eBook from Amazons .com and, and a limited edition print run will be sold exclusively at Tate Britain.

 June 24 
Mist rises between the hillocks as the sun sets, a skin of methane that hangs over the water and burns off when the sun rises again. It stinks of rot, would suffocate us if we inspired it. It killed two dogs before we learned to tie them up at night, out of it. 
We watch it coalesce in the spaces between us after we set up our evening camps. Whirls and eddies in the vapor indicate that something, at least, can survive it. Kreach suspects they're bats, but they avoid our campfires and we have been unable to capture any, though she sets out mist-nets most nights. 
We do not know how they can breathe the poison. 
In the miasma, lights. Little flickering candle flames. They sway and flicker out of reach. They’re the ignis fatuous, of course. Corpse candles, hinkypunks, will-o'-the-wisps, friar's fires, ghost lights. The pops of light in the methane are the fire of decay, we know. Johanne tells us the native myths. That the lights sway because they're candles held by the ghosts of men killed a thousand years ago, building the railroads that once ran through this land, when it was dry. Imagine, this stinking, sucking wetness was once a desert of salt. 
At first we would follow the lights, children chasing fireflies through the dusk. Now we sit and watch them. The campfires of the dead.

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