A collection of varied short stories, SF, Fantasy, and not a little Horror. Featured themes include belly bombs, cultured meat in another dimension, sentient fiction, Lovecraftian Horror, Jack Vance tributes, car worship, desperate architecture, undead hair-dressing, the usefulness of decapitated heads, and more.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Really, it's inspiration over decades, being a collection of short stories I've been writing all my adult life. Jack Vance has flavoured many things I've written; but there're also Lovecraft and many, MANY, others of the -I like to think- better end of the SF, Fantasy, and Horror genres… with a sprinkling of C S Barlow.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I tend toward first person, so my characters usually have a bit of me in them, one way or another. Other than that, they're often a mash-up of folk I've met and fictional characters I've read/ watched… with a tendency to lean toward the earthier end of temperaments.
Mary Baxter sat at her caretaker’s console, looking over Alfred House’s utility and systems tell-tales. Everything appeared normal, though one of the building’s twenty-sixth floor intestinal tracts was getting a little blocked. ‘Looks like you need a wash out, my love.’
Alfred House groaned. Its voice filled the small office as it filled every room within its body where it dared to speak. But it was never loud. ‘Another enema? You know how I hate those — they’re very undignified.’
Mary smiled, and lightly smacked the console. ‘Bugger off, you. What about me? I have to get up at two o’ clock in the bloody morning so no-one sees me doing it. Forty-three is too old for that kind of carry-on. Blame Mrs Mountjoy in fifty-seven. God knows what she’s flushing down.’
The building chuckled warmly. ‘Very well. But not tonight, my love — we have other plans, remember?’
Mary’s smile broadened, and her cheeks reddened slightly. ‘Less sauce, you.’
Finding no other problems, she switched the screen to BBC7 NEWS. What she saw immediately dissolved her happy mood: a live transmission of steeplejacks attacking another living building, the caption giving the location only as Surrey. Mary sighed. As an alternative to the endless footage of the endless war, the assaults made popular viewing – attempts by the buildings to prevent petrifaction were often desperate and spectacular.
The picture began to hop through four different views of the office block under attack, each one focusing on a steeplejack team and their harpoon platform and chemical tanker, gleaming in the bright morning sunlight. The excited reporter gave a continuous commentary, reeling off team statistics, its members, their past conquests, family history, hobbies, and so on. Almost as if they were famous footballers or cricketers.
Sickened, Mary reached out to switch channels.
She was surprised when Alfred House said, ‘Don’t. It’s Octagon Towers. I can smell it.’
Since the early days of organic buildings and utilities, genetic designers had engineered primitive conversational ability into their creations. This allowed warnings of minor blights or meteorological information to circulate, much in the manner various plants were known to communicate. As time passed this ability evolved until the more intelligent buildings and a few of the utilities could hold pheremonic conversations of a complexity surpassing human speech… or any real human understanding.
‘So,’ said Mary, ‘You could smell the others when they were murdered. It doesn’t mean we have to watch, too.’
‘No, my love. We should watch. Octagon Towers is hiding something from them. It’s desperate. Terrified. But it’s got something planned.’
Mary didn’t say anything else. She could sense Alfred House’s simultaneous alarm and fascination. She left the channel on.
Three of the four Steeplejack teams were in position, and two had already fired their harpoons. The cruel lances of barbed metal were sunk deep into the lower floors, easily smashing through the outer disguising layer of dead skin that so resembled concrete, through to the soft flesh beneath. Blood pumped freely from the wounds, streaking the windows below crimson. The picture switched again to the third team as their harpoon fired off halfway up the building, shattering the complicated Rococo patterning that camouflaged the waist-belt of sensory organs. More blood fountained — to the cheers of watching crowds kept at a safe distance by barriers and policemen. The reporter was getting more and more excited.
‘…perfect shot from Harry Denson, there — he really is a top targeter.’ A horn blared. ‘And, oh, there goes a horn. I wonder… It’s… It’s June Warbouys’ team! June Warbouys’ team are the first to begin pumping! Nothing new there, she’s been first in the last ten attacks, and has never been further back than second since she joined Fred’s steeplejacks two years ago in January. An excellent performance. Who’ll get their hose winched up next… There goes another! Tina Leverton’s team. A disappointing launch from them. It’ll take a lot of petrifaction fluid to have an effect with her ‘poon lodged between floors like that. I’m sure Fred’ll be having words later. Still, she makes up for it though, doesn’t she? Lovely tee-shirt, that, Tina! I… Yes, I can actually hear the building screaming now… Can we see how Fred himself is getting on? Can we? Yes, there he is. Him and his faithful tanker-man, Warren Laxley, are just about in position. They have the hardest shot — right to the top of Octagon Towers. It’s going to take nearly all the catenary cable, so they have to get close. And Fred’ll have to judge it perfectly… Here’s Fred now. There’s the man, jumping up on to his platform. Most popular Steeplejack in the country, if not the Empire! Fred Dibnaigh, Master Steeplejack! Was that another horn? Yes? Henry Wright’s team is now pumping. Fred signals to Warren… Targeting… Targeting… Harpoon away! A lovely shot, straight into the upper sensory band! Still no sign of retaliation from the building. Is this going to be an easy day for Fred? But… Wait. Even as I speak, the ground is erupting right beneath them!’
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