I've recently completed and published a new book. It is a collection of short stories entitled 'The Splendour of Shadows'.
Unlike my previous collection of short stories, 'Beyond Twilight', all of the stories in this new collection were written in a shorter period of time before publication- between October 2010 and July 2011.
Early versions of the stories 'The Visitor' and 'Bloodlines' were originally conceived way back around 2001/2002 but they have been largely rewritten and reworked by me in the past year while I was creating and compiling this collection.
I'd like to especially thank Janne Olkkonen, who gave me permission to use the artwork 'Fear No More...' as the cover illustration for this book.
A few words about the stories:
Vortex (Genre: SF/Fantasy/Horror)
This is the first of what I would call the 'Arcadian Tales' in this collection, which are linked to a universe where an organisation known as the Arcadian Vortex exist, controlled by a triad known as 'The Matriarchy'. In this story you will be introduced to Peregrine and Victor, two extraordinary and talented men; and Charlie, a very brave little boy.
Planet of the Dead (Genre: SF/Horror)
The story is set in the same fictional universe as the story 'Red' from Beyond Twilight. You will recognise the character Mortius Vendaker from that previous story. This story concerns a space salvager named Johnny Volta, a mysterious and precious artefact and...a planet full of flesh-eating zombies. I mean, what more could you want? It's all good fun in an exciting SF adventure tale with nasty surprises.
The Promenade (Genre: Contemporary Drama)
A change in tone with this story, this is a short piece of fiction written in a contemporary setting. Originally I had conceived it as a play, as I'm working on a collection of plays at the moment too, but I finally decided to develop it in the short story form. It's about a homeless girl and is a tale of unrequited love and tragedy.
Dignity (Genre: Contemporary Drama)
The central character in this story is an elderly man named Walter. His busy daughter can no longer cope with looking after him, so he has to move into a nursing home. There he succumbs to his demons of loneliness, paranoia and sadness while being treated dismissively by the staff. I wanted to write a story about how poorly our Western society sometimes treats elderly people, and this was my attempt at a sympathetic treatment.
Retribution, Repentance (Genre: Contemporary Thriller)
This is a gritty, reflective tale about a hitman who is assigned to one last job before his retirement. He thinks back on his life and the series of events that have led him to that parrticular moment. Essentially, I suppose it's the study of a sociopath on the verge of a breakdown with a macabre twist.
Shadow Play (Genre: Horror)
I've often gone to nightclubs and seen a social phenomenon: girls on the dance floor with their friends, dancing round their handbags and men standing around, sometimes in the shadows, pint in hand, watching them...just watching. They remind me of vampires. Maybe that was the inspiration for this tale set on a Greek island. It's like a cross between an account of an 18-30 holiday and 'The Lost Boys'- a gruesome vampire tale.
The Goddess Tree (Genre: Fantasy)
This is a fantasy tale with a setting that I suppose is recognisably medieval, and also gives a generous nod to classical mythology...a monk must go on a search, both physical and metaphysical, to retrieve the elixir that will cure the terminal illness of his superior.
A Special Boy (Genre: Horror)
A macabre, sinister little tale. Jason does not like his freakishly abnormal little brother...and little Baxter does not like him!
The Silent Path (Genre: SF/Fantasy)
This story is the second of the Arcadian Tales in the collection and connects to the first, Vortex. It introduces the character Anthony Nexus, a dimensional agent turned rogue...and he is walking a lonely and dangerous path, with powerful enemies in pursuit.
The Splendour of Shadows (Genre: Horror)
I wanted to write a horror story in a late nineteenth century/early twentieth colonial imperialist setting, something with the flavour of H.Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling. This story was the culmination of that ambition. It's the tale of Robert Clifton, an English explorer, who leads an expedition into the African jungles and finds something strange and evil lurking there...
The Bell Tower (Genre: Fantasy)
An exotic fantasy tale of magic and myth. Two young men from a nomadic tribe travel across the plains of their homeland to reach the mysterious bell tower and unlock its mysteries...
Bloodlines (Genre: SF)
The third of the Arcadian Tales in this collection, although that is not made clear until the end with a tenuous link to the previous two. An early version of this idea was planned around the idea of genetic engineering and technological 'enhancement', but then I had an idea about introducing quasi-religious themes. Essentially, scientists in the future discover Jesus Christ's 'genetic code'.
The Visitor (Genre: Horror)
This paranoid horror story is centered around a creepy mental patient who speaks of being watched by mysterious beings who have compelled him to commit crimes. Although his claims are bizarre and he is considered insane, eventually his psychiatrist uncovers the truth...
The Fugue (Genre: SF/Thriller)
An SF story involving time travel, time paradoxes and amnesia. Taylor Vector is a sexy heroine and the story takes some twists and turns before a macabre ending...
The Secret Summoner (Genre: Horror)
Of all the short stories that I've written, for some reason this is the one that unsettles me the most. I'm not sure why, but I think it's largely because of what is left unsaid in the narrative, rather than what is said explicitly. Also, it's mainly because even I'm still not sure who, or what, Daniel is. I don't know whether he was evil, or whether he was being used by something alien and terrible, or whether he attracted something that was dark, strange and powerful to him because of his abnormal supernatural gifts. Although, as you will see, meeting Daniel has dark unpleasant consequences for those involved.
There's a a very familiar setting for the story, a university campus, and so at first the tone is very similar to a previous story of mine, 'The Book of Witchcraft'.
A common basic theme which binds the stories together and makes their inclusion appropriate for the collection is the concept of shadow, creeping into each narrative. The presence of shadow, the sinister threat of shadow, the lingering traces of shadow where anything can hide. Shadow as physical darkness, shadow in the form of a presence, shadow manifested as some dark and malevolent double. Hence, the splendour of shadows, a vast collection of them, lurking in the dark corners of our imagination.
Fear No More, by Janne Olkkonen (the cover of The Splendour of Shadows)