Not so secret society

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I guess over the last few months an insidious and influential group has slowly been showing its hand. You may not have been aware of them, at first. They are an organisation who were cloaked in shadow. However, you may have met some of them, maybe at an author event, maybe passed them in the street. They have guided civilisation from the earliest days, raised kings and toppled princes, manipulated the stock market and contributed to the success of numerous creative artists. They have agents everywhere. Well, mainly in the UK. Actually, mainly in Manchester really with a couple elsewhere. To be honest, not all that many even in Manchester… but, so great are these agents they don’t need many to fulfil their schemes.tea society badge2

The name of this epic organisation? Why, it is none other than the Tea Society.

And if you are at this point thinking ‘Who?’ then that is testament to our ability to so totally blend into the background.

The origins of the Tea Society go back a number of years when a handful of writers who lived in Manchester started having sort of not very regular meetings to talk about writing. The name was a joke that rose out of the fact that we could not think of a name and all we seemed to do at the meetings was drink tea and in the end it sort of stuck.

Later, after some discussions around a shared trade table at a steampunk market, we came to the conclusion that it was really difficult sharing a table as we tended to do and maintaining a solid identity for customers to recognise. So, Elizabeth Morgan arranged for there to be a banner and Rachel Bostwick (Queen of trailers and other graphic design goodness) was hired to give us some brand identity with our official logo.

The banner debuted at the Yorkshire Cosplay con earlier this year and was also seen briefly at the World Book Night event at the Fab Café. It will next emerge this weekend at the Literally Literary event at Leeds Central Library and then at the MancsterCon in Salford on August 29th.

stallSo, now that we are out in the open, you may be able to guess some of our members… they include R.A Smith, Ninfa Hayes, Miriam Khan and of course myself. But there are others such as Pat Keheller, Erica Hayes and Alex Campbell (whose book is out soon, you should totally check it out).

If you see any of us at an event, especially if we have the banner up, feel free to come over and have a chat about books in general or our books in particular (and maybe even buy some). I am also currently pondering a special deal where if you promise to do some publicity – take some leaflets to be delivered to local businesses, tweet or share on Facebook, or otherwise spread the word – you may qualify for a special limited edition Tea Society badge. I’ll get out more details of this once I work them out properly.

Hope to see you all at an event soon!

Updates and news

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It has been a while since I did a post on here that was not a review, something which I intend to rectify over the next few months as a number of ideas for posts have been bubbling up in my brain and just need to be committed to blog. Well, some of them need to be committed full stop, possibly with the full strait jacket and padded walls treatment, but I am sure I can keep them all under control.wpid-imag1791.jpg

For now, you will have to satisfy yourself with this digest of random snippets.

First, Vampire month has proven to be a very popular feature on this blog. It makes for a very busy March for me but that effort is well worth it especially when one of your contributors gets their post referenced in an article as happened to Jonathon Ferguson. Of course this is an article from quite a while ago (late last year in October 2013) but it seems to have emerged out of the social network woodwork like some termite to go viral again. Rumour has it the article that LM is referenced in was posted on the Facebook page of the Ravenmaster of the Tower of London but I have looked and cannot find it there (but then I did not look that hard… if anyone spots it let me know :) ). The upshot is that Vampire month is totally now and thing and I am aiming for international acclaim as soon as possible so please help to make this happen.

You can do this by sharing posts, spreading the word and commenting on the blog posts or Facebook posts I make on the subject. You can also help by volunteering to contribute to Vampire month next March… contact me to discuss how you can do this.

Secondly, we are coming up to a Month of conferences.

First off we have the Literally Literary Steampunks at Leeds Central Library event on the 1st August. Here Leeds will play host to a number of authors including LSM regulars such as Craig Hallam, JP Bernett and Alex James. There promise to be readings and other events and the chance to talk to authors and, of course, buy their books. See the Facebook page linked above or the webpage on the flyer for details.

Then, we have the Mancster Con which is set to kick off on the 29th August 2015 at the University of Salford Media City campus. This conference seeks to celebrate Sequential Art in the North West, by which we mean graphic novels and comics. There is a small, elite team of non comic writers, several of whom you may be familiar with from this blog, who intend to infiltrate this event ninja style and who are setting up on a panel entitled ‘Irony in Fantasy’. In this we intend to talk about common tropes in fantasy novels and I for one will be asking everyone for their opinion on this issue in a later blog and through my Facebook page so I have some ammunition to use. What tropes do you think are common? Why are they common?

This week (until Sunday) both the US and UK Amazon versions of Lurking Miscellany are on special offer. Go to the relevant site to see what bargains you can gain…

Finally, I have been making progress on a number of projects but nothing significant is ready for release yet. Gods of the Deep is getting there slowly, Mercury Snowstorm is gaining new stories to add to it and I’ve been pondering ideas for an upcoming anthology collaboration with R.A Smith, Ninfa Hayes and a few others. Hoping to have something ready to launch before Mancster con…

If you want to contribute to this blog, either with reviews or articles, feel free to contact me. Plenty of space for any blogger who wants a guest spot. I am currently pondering a more regular review section and would like some more people who might want to contribute to this… If interested contact me.

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D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles

Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

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[Review] Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Children of Time

Written by Adrian Tchaicovsky

Published by: PanMacMillan

Children of Time opens with a rather neat concept. An obsessive scientist, Dr Avrana Kern, an excellent characterisation of the very definition of hubris, is seen at the culmination of her life’s work – about to release a colony of apes and a gene modifying nanovirus onto a terraformed planet. Her goal is to create a species of sentient ape and to collect data on their evolution and cultural development from a satellite in orbit. Clearly this is a universe in which ‘Planet of the Apes’ was never created otherwise she may have thought twice… However, a terrorist group who are opposed to such experimentation* target the experiment leading to the apes being destroyed, the nanovirus infecting a colony of insects and our arrogant professor trapped in the monitoring satellite slipping in and out of suspension as the centuries pass.

What follows are two separate stories. In one we see the development of the insect cultures created by the virus, in particular the species of spider who form the dominant lifeform on the planet. They go from primitive creatures not too different from our own earthly spiders to establishing a complicated society with religion, social issues and technology. Each iteration of this story sees a new leap in evolution as the spiders learn new tricks, helped by the virus, and make attempts to commune with their ‘god’, the AI in the satellite which is set to find evidence of sentience.

The other thread follows the last remnants of the human race, asleep in a generation ship called the Gilgamesh, travelling through the centuries in search of a new home. Here we have our hero, Holsten Mason, a mild mannered classicist – an academic who studies the ancients. Just as a modern day classicist would study the culture of the Romans or the ancient Greeks, Mason is an expert on the languages and cultures of the long dead culture who were capable of terraforming planets.

The story set in the Gilgamesh is fairly standard SF fare. Generation ships, light years of travel, changes in the crew each time the PoV character comes out of suspension. There is very little here that has not been seen before, though I am enamoured of the concept of the equivalent of a modern day Latin master – an expert in the culture and language of a civilisation millennia old – being used to translate documents and transmissions that could be vital for humanity’s survival. Mason is an entertaining and sympathetic ‘everyman’ who interacts well with the other characters on the ship, being the unwitting participant in the mutinies and insane plans that happen around him as the others vie for power when all he really wants to do is carry out his studies and conduct his somewhat understated and pathos filled affair with the ship’s chief engineer.

Where this book really shines, however, is in the wonderful treatment of the spider culture.

Tchaikovsky clearly has a thing for insects, in particular spiders. You can tell that simply by reading the fantasy series, Shadows of the Apt, for which he is more well known. All of that Arachnophilia also comes out in this. Indeed, I did harbour suspicions that Children of Time could very well end up as a prequel to that series. When reading Shadows of the Apt I did sometimes wonder how a planet could be populated by races descended from insects and here is a plausible explanation. In the end, however, this seems to not be the case but you do have to wonder if the author was riffing off his previous ideas and trying to justify them in some way? Certain plot events make this idea less likely but it was still an entertaining thought for a while. Whether linked to the Apt books or not, the spider culture in this novel is fascinatingly established with a clear line of development from primitive savages to a modern culture that explores some modern societal issues in an interesting way. For example, gender equality is given a lot of time, which is understandable in a species where the females traditionally eat the males after mating, and there are debates about religion and the ethics of survival. These sections of the story have an unusual feel to them, being written from the PoV of characters who do not communicate via speech but rather via vibrations on webs and a complicated body language involving multiple limbs. This means little or no dialogue in the traditional sense and this adds a little edge of ‘uncanny valley’ to the feel of these parts of the story.

The spider story could have faltered due to lack of characterisation. After all, each time we see them we are progressing several generations in their development. However, the author neatly avoids this by following set lineages of spider as they progress – the representative of each one being called the same name. So the story follows successive Portias, Biancas and the males that serve them which adds a false sense of continuity to the characters. This works well and allows the reader to gain a greater sense of empathy with the characters.

In all there is little not to like about Children of Time. It hits a number of SF concepts that have been revisited before but does so in an entertaining and novel way. Speaking as a biologist, the science aspects of the fiction are well represented and while on the edge of what may be possible, do not feel too far fetched with even the blatant deus ex device of the nanovirus to paper over any cracks in the evolutionary biology being not all that obvious. Definitely recommended.

*Maybe they have seen Planet of the Apes?

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D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles

Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

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[Review] Demon’s Embrace by Scarlett J Rose

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Demon’s Embrace: Book one of the Redemption of the Fallen

By Scarlett J Rose

Published by: Far Horizons Publishing

This book kicks off with a dramatic concept. The end of the world is not just nigh, it has already happened. Armageddon, the battle between Heaven and Hell, has occurred and in the final stages both God and Lucifer vanished leaving their armies trapped on earth and entirely without purpose.

Enter our hero, Evie MacIntyre, whose job it is to find work for the dispossessed and bereft former denizens of the higher (and lower) realms in a world where demons walking the street is a every day occurrence. A series of ugly encounters with Marius, one of her clients, a demon who thinks humans like her are just playthings to be used and abused as he wills, sees Evie saved by Decimus – a demon who has slightly more honourable ideas about what he wants to do with Eve and who becomes our hot love interest.

What follows is a strange mix of erotica and urban fantasy which does not really seem to decide fully on what it wants to be. The development of Evie’s relationship with Decimus is definitely along the lines of an erotica with decidedly BDSM tones. His tastes, while more vanilla than Marius’s fantasies of Evie as a very Gor like slave, still carry the forceful and domineering traits that make such alpha male characters so popular in romance and he is certainly not averse to the use of bondage and blindfolds. Sex scenes are described in exquisite detail with no risk of fading to soft candlelight and there is no doubt that the author intends to arouse the reader with her writing.

However, overlaid on this is a good urban fantasy tale that explores the changes brought to the world by the presence of Angels and Demons. Such things as the existence of an agency that specifically works to integrate demons into human society being a rather neat example. The plot follows Marius’s attempts to claim Lucifer’s throne at the expense of the people of earth and Decimus and Evie’s attempts to stay under the radar as they carry out their love affair but of course ending up dragged straight into things. The supernatural elements are nicely underplayed – neither the demons nor the angels are woefully overpowered – and the changes wrought on earth seem appropriate to the events that have occurred. Overall a decent Urban Fantasy novella.

The main issue comes in the fact that the story seems torn between its two halves. Some UF fans may be put off by too much erotica and erotica fans may be alienated by not quite enough sex. Though, having said that, the style is very similar to other self published UF such as Dianna Hardy’s Witching Pen series (which has the angel as the BDSM dominant rather than a demon) so maybe there is more of an audience out there for this than I think. Still, for my personal preference, I would have liked to have seen more of the world building and plot development showcased and hope that this will be possible in future instalments.

Another, relatively minor issue comes in an aspect of the formatting. There is a tendency for some phrases in the text to be bolded and in a slightly larger font than the rest. I am guessing this is in order to provide emphasis and give tone, especially to dialogue, but in practise I am not sure it works and can in fact be distracting, especially when there are pages that are mostly dialogue. It is also not really necessary as the tone is quite well portrayed by other means. I suspect that this is a case where the writer needs to trust her audience to understand what she is saying.

Minor issues aside, I found this to be an entertaining read with some very interesting ideas which I look forward to seeing developed in future instalments of the series. Recommended if you like your demons kinkily dark and your angels a bit grubby.

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D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles

Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

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On mentors and evil

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On Thursday evening, I got a piece of bad news about an old friend. An old friend who I had never actually met who is now in a critical care ward in Canada, apparently in a bad way. This news came to me from another friend who I have never met. Said friend being a member of an organisation calling themselves the Evil League of Evil Writers who are dedicated to performing evil* for the good of humanity, she posted this blog post:

Evil for Judy

This post says more about Judy Bagshaw than I ever could, about the sort of person she is and why she deserves acclaim. Not surprising as it was written by someone I consider to be a great writer. I urge anyone reading this to go visit the blog linked above, read it and perform at least one of the tasks of ‘evil’ that are requested. When done, leave a comment so Skyla can read out your deed to Judy and let her know that there are people out there doing evil on her behalf.

Why am I involved in this? Well, I owe Judy a hell of a lot. She is the evil person who got me involved in this writing lark. Not only that she was an enabler who kept me writing when I wanted to quit. She is a true mentor, a great cheerleader and an inspiration. Without her Transitions would have never been written because I would not have bothered to try this insane experiment in romance writing. She was also instrumental in getting Transitions published and performed a lot of the really hard work involved in that.

She was one of the insane collaborators from the BBW Romance Writers group on our bizarre collaborative novella, The Curse which you can download for free from her site and has her own collection of romance novels out there for you to buy.  She beta read Transformations (now published in Lurking Miscellany) and finished her critique with a cheery ‘well done’ which remains my most awesome review yet. When Lurking Miscellany was published, she told me that she was not going to buy it from Amazon because she wanted to buy it direct from me at greater postage cost so I could sign it for her. I lied about the postage cost to Canada so she actually ended up paying less. It was the least I could do.

I beta read some of her stuff and had a lively online conversation with her that has lasted almost ten years so far. I really hope that conversation is going to continue. The last we spoke she was talking about getting Shades of Love, the novella anthology we collaborated on that includes Transitions, published as a collected print edition. That needs to happen and if she cannot do it, I intend to.

In her honour, I spoke to some of my students yesterday about reading and writing (among other things, it was a long conversation). That was my act of evil. I intend to do more of that when I get back to work. Please perform your own acts of evil and pass the details. The ELEW can’t do enough evil by itself, it really needs your help…

* I say evil. For the ELEW the term evil has a specific meaning. The following is copied from the above blog post and covers that definition very well..

“Standard Evil Explanations for Newbies:

Wait, what’s this about evil? I’m a member of the Evil League of Evil Writers. Everything we do is evil, including charitable acts.

Aren’t charitable endeavors inherently good? Judy has fostered evilty in many children, including me, who co-founded the ELEW. Also, by supporting this endeavour, that might make people cry happy tears. Making people cry is of course evil. See? It all comes back to evil, folks.

As a friend said, when the universe kicks one of us, we kick back twice as hard.

I’m kicking.” Skyla Dawn Cameron (2015)

D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles

Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

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World Book Night

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This Thursday (23rd April) sees the annual World Book Night event explode across the world again. In venues the world over you can pop in to meet with authors, chat about reading or writing, listen to readings and, of course, pick up free copies of one or more of this year’s World Book Night special editions. The aim is to promote reading across the globe so, if you are someone who doesn’t normally go in for that reading lark, why not find an event local to you and give one of the free books a try. There is quite a range of genres to choose from so there is something for every taste and if you are already a reader why not

The Literary Critic from the Skaro Evening News

The Literary Critic from the Skaro Evening News

wander out of our comfort zone and read something new?

As last year, there is an event on at the Fab Café in Manchester which I will be attending along with R.A Smith, Ninfa Hayes and Miriam Khan. This has been organised by the team at Starburst magazine as represented by the wonderful Mr Ed Fortune (who is their Sequential Arts editor). Also, as last year where Frances Hardinge agreed to grace us with her presence, we have a special guest in the form of SF and Fantasy author Tony Ballantyne.

Unlike last year, where we were fashionably late, this event will actually be on the right night (assuming they work out how to set the controls of the TARDIS correctly, that thing is notoriously hard to navigate due to the vagaries of 4 dimensional space) and there is talk of panels and discussions and readings. Obviously the resident critic from the Skaro Evening News (News to Exterminate to) will be in attendance as he was last year to exterminate any who fail his strict critical standards, so authors and attendees had better be on their best behaviour!

So if you happen to find yourself in Manchester City Centre on the night of Thursday 23rd April, 2015 and you fancy some free books why not pop along to 109 Portland Street and head down into the basement. We’ll be there so feel free to say hello!

A day of Yorkshire cosplay

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Security by Skaro Extermination services

Security by Skaro Extermination services

After a very polite (and totally out of the blue) invite from the organisers I trotted ‘oop norf’ to Sheffield for a day at the Yorkshire Cosplay convention at the Magna conference centre. I was accompanied on this trip by Elizabeth Morgan, who you may remember from Vampire Month. Our stated goals were to promote and sell books. Our actual goals included such things as seeing lots of cool Cosplayers and maybe buy some comics.

Luckily, the organisers had guessed our secret agenda and therefore placed us facing the food area where a lot of the Cosplayers were hanging out and right next to a comic stall, the owner of which quickly picked up on Elizabeth’s fangirl thing for Gambit…

stall

You can see the temptation of the Comic stall right next to us…

Regular readers will be aware of my dilemma about dressing for public appearances. For Steampunk it is usually a waistcoat and cravat, for more mundane events a t-shirt and jeans. As this was a Cosplay con, I thought I’d go the whole hog and regency-up in a full tailcoat ensemble and play a character from one of my favourite books – Mr Johnathon Strange from Susanna Clarke’s novel Johnathon Strange and Mr Norrell. I even completed the ensemble with an appropriately titled book of magic (from the list of titles found in the Library at Hurtfew and created by Anachronalia) to make sure everyone was aware of exactly who I was Cosplaying. Not that anyone asked. But then why would they be interested in an unassuming, polite Regency magician when Darth Vader was stalking around with a squad of Stormtroopers, Loki was doing interviews, the Terminator was hamming up a bad Austrian accent, Bumblebee was posing for photos with fans and a great big AT AT was stomping around…

loki interview

Loki does a piece to the camera for his TV show

ATAT

This was one of the most impressive costumes I saw. And yes, it is a costume not a model

darth

Vader making an appearance

stormtrooper

One of Vader’s honour guard

Oh and Elizabeth got her dream and met her hero…

Gambit meets Elizabeth Morgan

Gambit meets Elizabeth Morgan

One advantage of my Cosplaying was I got to go into the dressing room and see the real Cosplayers getting ready. This was an experience. The amount of effort and detail that goes into what even the amateur Cosplayers do is phenomenal and these guys were Pros. A lot of elaborate costume, all home made, along with complicated electronics and props all gave the impression of the dressing room for an actual film set rather than a convention in Yorkshire.

The day included a number of interesting discussions with various people who visited the stall. Conversation veered from women in gaming (Gamergate reared its ugly head a little) to women in fiction and LRP. If nothing else I may have managed to steer one young lady who lives in Cornwall towards contacting my old friends in the Blood Red Roses LRP group. During quiet times we tried to keep a count of the number of different versions of the same characters. There were many Catwomen, several Harley Quinns, a couple of Black Widows but only one Black Cat (amazing how much variety a simple black catsuit can give a female Cosplayer). There is a probably a discussion to be had at some point about the lack of female role models leading to many having to dress as the same few characters but that can wait for a later day. Disappointingly we only saw a few versions of the Doctor (why does no one Cosplay William Hartnell? Has to surely be an option for the older Cosplayer) but did see an excellently well done gender switched 10th Doctor and of course there were a number of Daleks and a TARDIS. There was also an Amy Pond in ‘strippergram police uniform’ and a few Poison Ivy’s. In all some excellent costumes.

It was also International Hug A Wookie day. Maybe...

It was also International Hug A Wookie day. Maybe…

Elizabeth’s stock of badges with quotes from her books went

The 11th Doctor finds time for some comic shopping

The 11th Doctor finds time for some comic shopping

quickly with the common refrain being ‘are you sure they are free?’ and a number of swagpacks and postcards were taken up. I claimed one of the more popular badge choices before they all went.

The planned panel discussion with some of the authors who were present unfortunately had to be cancelled due to lack of interest. Maybe next time we can draw a few more into the panel room…

In all it was a very entertaining if tiring day. Next event for me is the World Book Night at the Fab Café on 23rd April. After that I am in Salford for the Mancster con… more on those in a later post.

D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles

Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

Buy Lurking Miscellany (Kindle)

[Vampire Month] A stake in the heart

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Waiting for Dawn

Well, that is Vampire Month over with for another year. I’d like to extend my thanks to all the talented writers who have contributed to the fun this month and made this the very special event that it always is.

I’d also like to thank Ste and Izzy of Quattrofoto for supplying some of the photos we have showcased this year including the lovely one above of me as a Buffy style Watcher. They do weddings and other special occasions too and promise to only add lightening bolt special effects and demon horns to your wedding memories if you ask them to.

We’ve learned a lot this year. How to date a vampire, why they are so appealing, a little of the history of Vampire literature and why Alex Campbell rarely gets any sleep (because of all the famous vampires knocking on her window). I was going to contribute a post of my own to add to this collection but frankly I’m in awe and would feel out of place amongst such great articles. Also, the evil time goblins stole all my free hours. Oh and I did my Pratchett obituary and revealed how this blog helped stop the vampire apocalypse, so that was sort of my slot anyway.

Vampire month will be back next year. Same Vamp month, same Vamp url. If you want to get involved, feel free to contact me. We accept contributions from any writers, artists or academics with an interest in the topic of vampires. The format rarely changes – an interview and a guest post, spread over the course of a week. Four victims a year, repeat offenders welcome. First four to contact me get the four slots.

Also get in touch if you want to make suggestions about how to make Vampire month even more awesome than it already is. Suggestions for article topics feedback on posts… anything you want to talk about. You can email me on: dalascelles-writing@yahoo.co.uk, leave a comment below or find me on Facebook or twitter

I’m still waiting for Ann Rice, Rachel Caine or Bram Stoker to get in touch… Though Stoker is proving very difficult to contact for some reason. He doesn’t even seem to have a Twitter account…

[Vampire Month] The Vampires of my life by A.J Campbell

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For her guest post, Alex gives us this quirky little play… Spot the not so subtle political metaphor for bonus points…

Scene: A bedroom, at night. Long white curtains billow at a casement window. Three redhaircandles, in a tall wrought-iron stand gutter threateningly in the draft. Our protagonist lies, in a gauzy nightgown, on the high four-poster bed. Suddenly, she awakens to a rapping at the window.  

Protagonist: Who’s there? What is it? [Through the window enters a small, scruffy boy, ghostly pale with small fangs poking over his bottom lip.]

Boy: Muahahaha! I am here to suck your blood!

Protagonist: What? Who the… Oh, it’s you.

Boy: [Strikes a pose] Yes! ‘Tis I. The nightmare of your childhood! The creature who gave you sleepless moonlit hours and began your life-long fascination with the denizens of the night!

Protagonist: You’re The Littlest Vampire, aren’t you? When did you learn a word like “denizens”?

LV: Ah… you remember me!

Protagonist: Yes, I remember you. I remember hiding your book as far away from me as possible in my room so you wouldn’t crawl out of the pages and nibble on me in my sleep. I was still in junior school at the time though.

LV: [Looks pleased with himself] And since then? Do I still terrify you?

Protagonist: Are you kidding me? I used to think that sleeping with a scarf on would stop you being able to get to my neck. You were a good first introduction to the genre, but the only thing making you scary was the fact that I was a bit too young when someone gave me your book to read.

LV: [Subsides, crestfallen] Oh.

Protagonist: Go on. Go home before it gets light.

[The Littlest Vampire exits, and our protagonist settles back down to sleep, but is soon awakened once more by a knocking at the window.]

Protagonist: Littlest Vampire? I thought I told you to go home.

Sultry Voice from Outside: “Littlest” Vampire?

[At the window, David Boreanaz appears, doing his best to smoulder.]

Protagonist: Oh my… What are you doing out there?

DB: I can’t come in unless you invite me.

Protagonist: Oh yes… I remember that little bit. That’s about the first thing that stopped me being quite so terrified of Vamps. The idea that they couldn’t get at me unless I let them in. Problematic idea, really, tallying with notions of victim-blaming and bad things only happening to bad people. But it’s very much a case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, only able to be countered with a lot more knowledge. Like the time we did the Black Death in school, and I had nightmares for weeks until Mum told me about Penicillin.

DB: So…

Protagonist: Oh no, you’re not getting an invite. You can stay right there, mister. I remember Angelus. And your Irish accent Sucks.

DB: You’re a… fan then?

Protagonist: Oh, I used to love Buffy. Still do. It’s a cult classic. Makes me feel very old knowing it finished over ten years ago now. It was something of a defining feature of my teenage years – forget Edward or Jacob – the question was always whether you fancied Angel or Spike more.

DB: Which team were you on?

Protagonist: I was a geek. I fancied Xander.

DB: Oh. I should probably go then. See, I had this whole bit worked out about coming in, representing your every teenage fantasy, showing you how sexy vampires can be…

Protagonist: Nah. Sorry. Not tonight. Whilst it might be fun someday to revisit my burgeoning youth, I just want to crack out this article and get to bed.

DB: Another time then?

Protagonist: Perhaps. Shut the window on the way out?

[Boreanaz blows a kiss, and exits. Our protagonist again addresses herself to sleep, when a further knock on the window disturbs her attempt at slumber…]

Protagonist: Again? Really? Who is it this time?

[A tall, immaculately dressed Victorian gentleman appears at the window, incongruous only because of the small, round, black-tinted spectacles he is wearing.]

[Guest Post] What is Horror? by Rebeka HarringtonProtagonist: [Squealing like a completely star-struck fan-girl] Oh My God, it’s Garry Oldman as Dracula… Oh, this is the Francis Ford Coppola version! I remember this! I’d just read Bram Stoker’s book, and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread! My English Teacher at the time had this theory that if Stoker was alive today he would have published the book as an interactive work – just a box full of diaries and notes and newspaper clippings and “phonograph recordings” which would probably be MP3s or something these days. You’d get the entirety of Dracula on a USB stick and have to piece it all together. Wow! And I saw that film, and I was thinking, I don’t remember all those sexy bits in the book, but I was seventeen, so I didn’t care, and… and… and… Keanu Reeves was a perfect Johnathan Harker, because he has all the acting ability of a wet dishrag, and that’s absolutely fine, because Johnathan Harker is a wet dishrag – seriously, who cuts themselves shaving, watches a grown man that he’s only just met lick the blood off the razor and then hurl the mirror out of the window, and his only thought is “That’s most inconvenient, I’ll have to get a new shaving mirror.”? Oh my God, I am amazingly psyched to meet you, sir, this is fantastic.

GO: [Mildly perturbed] Are you going to be like this all evening?

Protagonist: I’m sorry, I may settle down soon, but I’m not at all certain.

GO: In which case, I think I’d probably better go. It was a pleasure meeting you. [He tips his top hat]

Protagonist: No, don’t go! See, that’s exactly why you were amazing, you showed how vampires could be suave and sophisticated, yet also menacing and creepy and sexy and… and… [realises how over the top she is being.] Ok. I get it. You probably should go. I’m really sorry, I’m not usually like this. I don’t know what’s come over me…

[Gary Oldman turns into a bat and flies away, blowing the entire special effects budget in the process. With a sigh, our protagonist once again turns to the bed. She has not long laid down when there is a clicking sound, like that of a camera shutter, and a doctorwhotwilightsmall flash of light.]

Otto Chreik: Vonderful! Simply vonderful! Ze vay ze candlelight shines on ze flowing curtains, and ze hair spread like zat on ze pillow! Ya, ya, von more! Svoon please! Ya, more svooning, zat is perfect!

Protagonist: Otto?

Otto: Ya? Von second please… [he takes another picture, then puts down the camera.] Can I help you?

Protagonist: Otto Chreik? Otto: Ya, ya, it is me?

Protagonist: You must be here to represent my Pratchett phase. Which, in fairness never really ended. It’s wonderful to see you. I’m so, so sorry about Sir Terry. He was a master of the genre, this must be a terrible time for you.

Otto: Ya, ya… Vell, unlife goes on, as they say.

Protagonist: Pratchett’s vampires taught me so much about the genre… Count Magpyr and his family – the fact that the worst villains are those who pretend they’re doing this for your own good…

[A spectre of David Cameron floats lazily past]

Cameron: Don’t mind me, I’m just a metaphor.

Protagonist: [after his retreating back] Now there’s a vampire I could quite happily stake.

Otto: Indeed.

Protagonist: Even the comic vampires – I’ve always loved comedy, wish I could write it myself, but I tend to overdo it. Comedy is the best teacher, because it allows learning to sneak in round the edges while we’re laughing. Even a character like yourself can show us that there is so much that vampires can teach us about the nature of humanity, the nature of evil – your own comic persona being just that, hammed up round the edges deliberately to seem non-threatening, because we all know where we are vis a silly accent, and we forget about the blood.

Otto: [Bows slightly] Vell, I’m glad to haf been of service. But now, I really must be goink, I haf a scoop to catch for ze evenink edition.

Protagonist: Send me a copy of the pictures, won’t you?

[Otto exits with a dramatic flourish.]

Protagonist: Well, that really must be everyone – I can’t see how…

[At this point Edward Cullen pops up at the windowsill]

EC: You know, you’re like my own personal brand of…

Protagonist: No! No, no, no, no, no! You can fuck right off! I had to read your books when I was considering writing my PhD, but that was only ever so I could rip them apart!

EC: But teenage girls love me! Protagonist: Yes, and I probably would have done so when I was fifteen, but I’m a lot more savvy now, and I’ve discovered feminism, so screw you and the dodgy paperback you rode in on! You’re as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey, what with teaching impressionable young girls that stalking is the basis of a good relationship. And I don’t even think you’re a real vampire – you’re some sort of crystalline blood-powered golem anyway. Vampires don’t sparkle!

EC: I’m only sparkling because I love you…

[At this point, our protagonist punches Cullen square in the face, causing him to fall out of the window. There are loud cheers. She then pulls down the casement and locks it firmly against any further night-time intrusions. Finally, she manages to get a good night’s sleep, though what she dreams about is anyone’s guess…]

Bio

Alex Campbell was born in the wilds of Northumbria, and from an early age cut her teeth on legends like that of the Lampton Worm, which formed the inspiration for her first book, Wyrm’s Reckoning, out later this year..

She obtained a degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick, then in a shameless attempt to avoid Real Life, followed this up with two Masters Degrees in Science Fiction and in Writing from the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores respectively.

Now, she lives in Portsmouth, at what she insists on referring to as the “wrong” end of the country, with her fiance and a number of dead house-plants. She is a keen gamer and LARPer, for which she makes many of her own costumes. She is not ashamed of being a geek

You can find her on her blog:  https://galacticavoice.wordpress.com/ and also on her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/AJ-Campbell/1525096601059912

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