Thursday, 13 July 2017

Haunted Futures

Just finished reading the latest anthology, Haunted Futures, from my publisher Ghostwoods. It got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

You can't see far, and the footing is uncertain at best. Ghosts and phantoms stalk the haze around you, and their chittering will lead you astray. There are no maps to this territory, but sometimes a brave soul strides out ahead into the haunted shadows. Those who return to the campfire of the now often bear tales of the visions seared into their minds while they were out there, in the mists.

We have scoured the earth for these most daring of travelers the ones who have ventured out into the future and returned wraith-laden. Fifteen of them agreed to share their stories. Their enthralling accounts will seize you, and you might find it difficult to fight free of them afterwards, but any risks are overshadowed by the dazzling wonders that await. So muster your courage, and dive into the pages. Haunted Futures of all kinds await you, with open arms and suspiciously toothy smiles.

A collection that spans a huge breadth of styles and concepts. 

A couple that really stood out for me:

Greenwood Green by John Reppion: This one wins the award for 'creepy-arsed shit.' Extremely atmospheric. A young gardener helping to keep the graves trimmed at a long-forgotten cemetery, goes in search of an abandoned railway house which appears as 'a great cocked hat amid the mouldering bricks and twisted iron rib-work; the mortal remains of some gargantuan witch from a Brothers Grimm nightmare.' It's got everything: bumps in the night, disappearing pathways and even a scarecrow. What more could you want? Stayed up late at night to finish it, then couldn't sleep. A place straight out of Hookland.

Spy Drug by Greg Stolze: I'm going to be honest. I can be a bit of a skim-reader with anthologies. I take some convincing into a story, and sci-fi more than most. When I started this one, I was reluctant. It's based around a drug which gives you super-sleuth capabilities: the ability to lie, know when others are, and piece together clues you would usually miss. You get the gist pretty quickly, and I wasn't wholeheartedly with it - seemed a bit far-fetched (said the woman who writes about shamanic dreamworlds, ayahuasca and blood-lusting conjurers). I'm not sure what switched. Possibly just Stolze's style pulling me in but, by the end, this was the story I most wished there was more of. The implications caught up with me and he left it on an annoying cliffhanger. What if the drug were tainted? What if you picked up on all the clues, but jumped to all the wrong conclusions? What then? Highly entertaining.

Mercury Teardrops by Jeff Noon: Purely for his writing style. It's unusual and deliciously poetic. Plus it broached a subject I do find particularly enticing: the idea that we will soon be integrating technology with our bodies. Enhancing our physical capabilities. Really loved the descriptive and gave the far future a really human edge.

A really interesting read, and I loved Alex Acks's assertion that 'There are no haunted places. Only haunted people.'

You can listen to interviews with some of the authors online: Tricia Sullivan, SL Huang, Alex Acks, Felicity Shoulders and Lynnea Glasser.

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