Out now and ready to read!

I have a few short stories out there in the wild at the moment which hopefully may interest anyone reading this.

Flash Fear cover

Most recently published is Things To Do In Whitby When You’re Dead, a little comic horror tale which you may identify with if you’ve ever been in the legendary English coastal town of Whitby in the rain!

It’s been published in an anthology entitled Flash Fear, edited by Jonathan Butcher, which can be purchased on Amazon in paperback format via the following link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flash-Fear-Theresa-Derwin/dp/1533655073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466524454&sr=8-1&keywords=flash+fear

New Tales of the Old Ones cover

Also out now and dabbling in the horror/dark SF genre, there’s my little tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, The Nameless, which you’ll find, if you dare, in the new edition of New Tales of the Old Ones, edited by Theresa Derwin and Paul Simpson and published by KnightWatch Press.

Note: Don’t confuse this anthology with the 2013 version, which had some issues and didn’t review well…

For more info about the contents of this new volume, see:

http://knightwatch.greatbritishhorror.com/new-tales-of-the-old-ones/

You can buy this on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats via the following link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Tales-Ones-Theresa-Derwin/dp/1519355521/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467711914&sr=8-1&keywords=new+tales+of+the+old+ones

Steam Flashes cover

Still keeping my hand in with the Steampunk genre, you can find a little tale from me, High Mission to Sagarmāthā, in Tenebrous Texts’ Steam Flashes anthology.

It stars my own creation, the Gravship Turbinia and her crew, when they undertake a rescue mission to Mount Everest, and you can buy the paperback from the publisher’s Etsy page:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/275820132/steam-flashes?ref=shop_home_feat_1

Rat-A-Tat Cover

And for the moment, last but very definitely not least, still available is my very own hard-boiled space opera tale Minor Planet Mambo, which you can pick up as part of the multi-genre anthology Rat-A-Tat – Short Blasts of Pulp from Pro Se Productions, again in paperback or Kindle formats via Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rat-Tat-Short-Blasts-Pulp/dp/1500133752

Watch this space, as I have a few other irons in the fire!

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Time, space and much ado about nothing

 

The Colour of Magic
Marnix Van Den Broeke
©RHI/Bill Kaye

I suppose it’s a given that, however much time we think we have, we never have enough. Especially if it’s teatime, or lunchtime, or holiday time. Or the time we thought we’d be able to set aside to do all the things we ever wanted to do, and to become the people we thought we wanted to be.

Indeed, the only certain knowledge of time travel that we have, despite the dafter theorising of physicists, cosmologists – and science fiction writers – all of whom, let’s face it, just don’t really know for sure, is that we are continually, inexorably,  moving forward, one nanosecond at a time. And we can’t go back.

Which pretty much concentrates the mind, if you really think about it, on the fact that there’s just no point at all in wasting time, in procrastinating, in putting things off, in saying “I’ll do that tomorrow.” Because, if truth be told, tomorrow never comes.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because if wasting time were a criminal offence I think I would have been up before the beak for most of my life!

I don’t consider myself all that old, and most of my bits still seem to be working, despite my health problems of recent years.  But I am old enough to realise that time IS going to run out, and much faster than I thought it would when I was a lot younger. After all, one day the sand in the hourglass is going to run out for each and every one of us, and if we spend too much time iffing and butting and faffing about well, we might as well never have bothered being here in the first place.

So from now on, as far as writing and stuff is concerned, I’m not only going to be concentrating on doing more of what I enjoy and less of what I think might get me somewhere in some parallel universe which I’m unlikely ever to reach.  I’m also going to be cutting back on really, really  time-wasterley things such as Farcebook and Twatter, and concentrating more of my online efforts on this blog, which at the very least will mean I’m only wasting my time on one thing instead of three.

As for ‘real’ life, well, I think I’ve now got to the stage where I have a lot less choice about what I can do, and I’m just going to have to get on and do what I can, as best I can.  At least then, I won’t be wasting quite as much time as I have in the past, which thankfully, according to current temporal theory, is actually long gone, and if I work hard enough, it might even be forgotten…

A. Stuart Williams 

 

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Brushing away the Moondust…

A Fall of Moondust (art by Franco Brambilla)

A Fall of Moondust (art by Franco Brambilla)

It’s been quiet… Too quiet! But the times, they are a changin’…

This blog has been bogged down in the dust of aeons for far too long, and is in urgent need of digging out and rescuing. The many and varied things I do have been changing over the past year, and it’s high time this blog reflected that.

So, over the next week or two I’ll be adding some past updates from elsewhere, and some new ones specifically for this site, as well as making a few design changes and rewriting some of the old info here.  I hope you’ll find these changes and additions of interest, and worth coming back for as further updates continue.

I’m also making a serious effort at integrating and streamlining my social media and this blog, both from a writing and personal point-of-view. So expect some clouds of the grey stuff to be rising from today onward!

Watch out for those craterlets…

  • A. Stuart Williams

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Public reading coming up!

A Stuart Williams

Hi everyone!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be reading some of my science fiction work on Saturday 29th August 2015 as one of a number of guest authors at Southcart Books in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, England.

The special event – Southcart Sci-Fi Summer – will be the the shop’s last for this summer and will take place between 11am-4.30pm. As of the time of writing I’ll be reading for up to 25 minutes from 11.10am.

Programme

This is the full reading programme as it stands today:

10.00am Southcart Books Opens

11.00am  WELCOME by Scott & Amy
11.05am  INTRO by MC Adrian Middleton
11.10am  A. Stuart Williams
11.35am  Theresa Derwin
12.00pm  Neil Sehmbhy

12.25pm – 1.10pm Lunch Break for Mingling and Browsing

1.10pm-1.35pm  Adrian Middleton
1.35pm-2.00pm  Sean P. Chatterton
2.00pm-2.25pm  Steve Jones

2.25pm-2.50pm  Mid-Afternoon Break 

2.50pm-3.15pm  Alex Davis
3.15pm-3.40pm  Simon Marshall-Jones
3.40pm-4.00pm  Colum Paget
4.00pm  Thanks & goodbyes by Scott, Amy and Adrian

4.30pm  Shop Closes

Admission is free of charge and there will be book signings, readings and refreshments. Seats are limited so I recommend you arrive early!

Poster

Here’s the poster below – click to get a larger version for printing.

Southcart Sci-Fi Summer poster

Southcart Sci-Fi Summer poster

Facebook

If you’re on Facebook you can also sign up the event page there, and get more information and interaction that way. Here’s the link:

Southcart Sci-Fi Summer

Hope to see some of you there!

Stuart

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A New Year’s Revolution?

Father Time

An old friend of mine always sends out a ’round robin’ letter with his Christmas cards, commenting on things that have happened to him over the past year. He’s a good amateur writer, so these are always fun, but it’s not something I tend to do, at least not in that way.

Sometimes, though, if I can drag myself off the powered recliner where I tend to hibernate over the festive season, I will prop my eyelids up and spend a bit of time dusting off my (oft-neglected) blog, reflecting on the fact that shit happens and there’s usually not much you can do about it.  Occasionally there are, however, diamonds to be discovered in the rust (Judas Priest allusion there), but they can be tricky to find.

For me, the past year has been full of more ups and downs than the peaks and troughs on a heart attack patent’s monitor.  Some of this has been family related, some work, some hobby or community-related, some in my new ‘speculative fiction’ writing career, and more.  Some things have been a long time coming and expected, others have been surprises, sometimes happy, sometimes not. That’s life, as “Her with the teeth, London” used to say (showing my age there), and I won’t go into it all here…

When Time Ran Out

The Society for the History of Astronomy, Greenwich, 2003

The Society for the History of Astronomy, Greenwich, 2003

Particularly, 2014 was the year when I finally ran out of time to do a lot of the things which have happily occupied me in past years and sometimes over decades, caused most significantly of late by my mother’s health taking a nosedive and me becoming her carer. She became housebound, and in many ways we’ve reversed the roles we had when I was very young, and I have to do a lot more for her now than ever before. I love my dear old mum and I know my duty, but being a carer is hard and stressful work at times, and let nobody tell you otherwise. Especially when you’re holding down a full-time day job and also working on a second career as a writer in what little spare time you have left.  I don’t begrudge that, but it’s left me very tired at times – and in the year in which my 55th birthday also hove into view, in September!

Part of what I’ve had to set aside, with much regret, has been my local journalism and local history writing in the way of ‘The Bloxidge Tallygraph’ and ‘Bloxwich Telegraph’ websites, which I’ve written, photographed, designed and published since 2006.  I’ve also been obliged, very sadly, to cut back on my astro-historical activities with the Society for the History of Astronomy, which I co-founded in 2002 at Wadham College, Oxford.  But I’m still keeping a finger in both pies, albeit at a much lower level.  Hopefully I will be able to do more in future.

Then, when I thought things were bad enough, in November I was told to expect a massive upheaval in my life, redundancy from my day job of more than thirty years. This may yet come about for good or ill; I’m expecting to be informed of the final decision this month.  In a weird way, I’m looking forward to to it, though it will make things difficult financially.  Sometimes, life gives you a kick up the ass for a reason, though I have to say I wish it had been decades ago. At my age, making a new way in the world is not so simple, though I’m not one to give up, and I’m taking it as a challenge. I can’t honestly see any other way out.  I’m starting to feel like one of my old pulp writer heroes, who didn’t eat if they didn’t write, and didn’t eat much then. Exciting in many ways, and I do need to lose weight, but it’s still frightening. I’m a pulpster at heart, I think, and have started collecting the old magazines again.  Better get banging away on my 1925 Underwood, hadn’t I?

All in all, I’d have to categorise 2014 as the year the shit hit the fan – and gummed it up!  There were also good things which happened to me during the year though, which is just as well.

Friends and family

Jumble and Mum

Jumble and Mum

I’ve made many new friends through writing, Twitter and Facebook in the past year, all over the world as well as locally, and I’ve also kept in close touch with old pals, most of whom I’ve known since the great days of the Serious Micro User Group and Walsall Astronomical Society in the 1980s-90s, others from my space and astro-historical activities with The Planetary Society and the Society for the History of Astronomy.

In April 2014, though, a new pal came to live with me and mum, by the name of ‘Jumble’ (after ‘Just William’s’ dog) – a two-year-old ‘Patterjack’ terrier (cross Patterdale/Jack Russell) whom we adopted from the Rosedene Rescue establishment in Rushall.  A bouncy, slightly mad, stir-crazy little chap, he has a unique personality quite different from our previous four dogs, who were more laid-back Beagles and Bassets.  He can be a tricky customer at times, but the term ‘loveable rogue’ certainly applies to Jumble Williams (who now also has the middle name ‘Short Round’!), and he’s (mostly!) a joy to have around. We’ve become very close, and he keeps mum good company when I’m at work or out and about. Jumble’s since become well-known to my Facebook friends and followers, who seem to like him.

Writing and Reading

Reading in Space (pic by Craig Beas)

Reading in Space (pic by Craig Beas)

 

2014 was the year when my writing moved up a gear, which is just as well as I need to get my act together fully on this front in 2015!  I’ve had some short stories in science fiction, steampunk and horror genres published here and in the USA, and the most important important result of the latter is a book contract signed with my US publishers, the prominent New Pulp specialists Pro Se Productions.  They’re aiming to have a book of my ‘hard-boiled space opera’ stories out around June, entitled ‘Rings Around The Sun’. This is based on characters and scenarios created by me in ‘Minor Planet Mambo’, which was published by Pro Se in June, in their excellent multi-genre anthology ‘Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp’.  This is the book I’m working on at the moment, and it’s one of my biggest commitments in 2015.

I finally managed to get a lot more reading done in 2014, and in the summer I deliberately took a week’s holdiday to travel around the West Midlands and Staffordshire looking for classic science fiction books in June-July for my ‘Bookish Week Off’, which was great fun – see myseparate previous post about this.

I’m not yet prominent as a genre writer in the UK (as it says on my Twitter page, I’m famous in a parallel universe!), I’m still very much ‘paying my dues’, but I did at least put my head a little way above the parapet this past year when I had the good fortune to fall in with two really nice people who were following their own dreams, Scott Southey and Amy Carter, who opened their own independent bookshop, Southcart Books, in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, in July.

As luck would have it, they were keen to support the writing community, and since by then I’d built up some useful contacts and a few friendships amongst local and regional writers by then, we became co-conspirators in a series of ‘Writers’ Gatherings’ which I then led in what has since become ‘The Reading Room’ at their shop.  They have gone to a lot of trouble and no little expense to facilitate this, so it’s great that it’s given them useful publicity and advertising for their shop and made them a lot of friends as well as offering a valuable and unique showcase for mostly independent genre writers and publishers in the region to sell, read and promote their work in addition to networking and making new friends. We hope that success will be built on this year, and already the game’s afoot, in more ways than one…

On 8 November, Walsall Writers’ Circle’s book ‘Winter Festivals’ was launched (see below), including a story by yours truly.

That day was a busy one, as I was also privileged to be invited as a guest at ZZUB Fest in Wolverhampton, where I had the particular pleasure to be interviewed about my genre writing by Hayleigh Power, before an interested audience.  I also had the pleasure of meeting the legendary Nikki Stormtrooper of Wolverhampton, whom some of you will know from Facebook and cosplay circles.

Hayleigh Power and myself (arty version!) at ZZUB Fest

Hayleigh Power and myself (arty version!) at ZZUB Fest

Like a circle, in a spiral

Winter Festivals

Winter Festivals

In 2014 I had much more to do with our local writing group, Walsall Writers’ Circle, than in past years. In fact, I ended up as Vice Chair, which is a privilege and has been fun!

I was also asked to become a a member of the Circle’s newly-formed Technical Committee, which came about due to a long-felt need to move the Circle into the publishing of members’ work.

The first result of that has been the publication of both a paperback and an ebook anthology of fact, poetry and fiction entitled ‘Winter Festivals’ (my contribution included designing the cover) which was the work of a large number of the members, then worked on by several members editing and proof-reading before being assembled and published by the Technical Committee.  The book was launched at Southcart Books in November and has sold quite well locally.  My Britpulp science fiction story ‘Christmas on Mercury’ was written especially for the book.

There’s a lot more going on now at Walsall Writers’ Circle and I’me giving a talk/workshop on ‘Plotto’ at the February meeting, which should be a lark.

Local history work

My books in Waterstones, Walsall!

My books in Waterstones, Walsall!

Last year was also the year in which I saw three of my local history books being sold at the same time! The Christmas 2013 volume Walsall Borough Past & Present – for which I’d held a successful signing session in the Walsall branch of Waterstones – was joined by Billy Meikle’s Window on Walsall and Reflections of Old Walsall, all published by Walsall Local History Centre and sold as a package during winter 2013/14 (they are still available, if you’re interested, at a small discount from the Centre!). As well as writing and typesetting these books I also took and reproduced all the photos and did design work on the covers.  2014 was also the 14th year of my writing local history articles for the Walsall Chronicle on behalf of the Centre, making me the longest-published local history journalist in the area. That particular well now looks like it’s run dry, but it’s been great fun, and has allowed me to raise the profile of a lot of local people who deserved to be better remembered in the town, for which opportunity I’m particularly grateful. In any case, all that basically set the seal on my local history writing.

As it stands I’m not expecting to do any more writing for the Centre, and possibly not for local papers either (but never say never) so it’s obviously time for something new.  I don’t know if I’ll write any more local history now, but I often work such things into my steampunk stories, so that remains to be seen.

2015 – ‘watch this space’

Rat-A-Tat Cover

So, what’s for the New Year? Well, as I mentioned earlier, there’s ‘Rings Around The Sun’ for Pro Se Productions around about the middle of the year with luck. There’s my homage to H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Nameless’, which will be published in the KnightWatch Press anthology ‘New Tales of the Old Ones 2’ early this year.  There’s my Lovecraftian Steampunk novel ‘Still Waters’, set in an alternate Victorian Walsall which is bubbling under…

Gravship Turbinia - artwork by Jeremy McHugh

And apart from numerous feelers I have out with various publishers, waiting in the wings there’s the rewrite of my first ever Steampunk story, ‘Gravship Turbinia’, which will be…

…the first publication from my own imprint, the new publishing company and bookselling emporium ‘Timewarp Books’ which I’m currently in the process of setting up.  ‘Gravship Turbinia’ will be the first in a series of steampunk novellas/chapbooks, working title ‘The Gravship Quartet’, and will be the beginning of this new venture, which will also entail a specialist speculative fiction bookselling operation, mainly online but also in a small way at book fairs and conventions.  Who knows where and how this will develop?

More about all that in due course, anyway.   Everything will hang on the work I’m doing for Pro Se Productions and my own writing and publishing activities this side of the pond. I’m under no illusions that this is going to be easy, for all sorts of reasons, ad I am a small frog in a big pond, but at least it should be bloody good fun!

There should, all being well, be more Writers Gatherings as previously mentioned at Southcart Books in Walsall.

Oh, and of course I’m naturally having to get back into circulation at science fiction and related conventions again, after a gap of many years. That, I’m particularly looking forward to.

A sting in the tail

Anyway, to conclude this rambling retrograde rant, I must say that I’m only too pleased to see the back of 2014, but I’m not yet sure of whether to welcome in 2015 with open arms; we’ll have to wait and see on that.  It will be a year of massive change, a lot of which will be out of my control, and even a science fiction writer can’t always predict the future.

The times they are a-changin’…

A. Stuart Williams

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Book contract signed with US publisher

A. Stuart Williams  Reading in Space - photo courtesy Beasty

I am delighted to be able to announce officially, following a press release by my publisher in the USA, Pro Se Productions, that I have signed a contract with them to write a science fiction book, to be published next year.

I was really pleased to find my first outing in New Pulp, Minor Planet Mambo, being published in such good company in Pro Se Productions’ recent action-packed anthology Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp. It’s a great book and to be seen in it is a ‘wow moment’ for me.

That was one small step for a writer – now I am, quite literally, ‘over the Moon’ to be asked to sign a contract with Pro Se Productions after sending them a proposal for a book based on Minor Planet Mambo.

Rings Around the Sun will be a collection of old-school ‘hard-boiled space opera’ – kind of ‘Hammett meets Heinlein’ – stories recounting the earlier career and adventures of the short story’s hero, ex-Commander Bob Howard of the Solar Federation Space Patrol. It’ll be a blast!

The book will begin by winding back the clock to the end of Howard’s time at the SolFed Academy, the first story in the collection revolving around his graduation as a Space Patrol officer, which is tinged with tragedy as his first case as a Fed will be to solve his own estranged father’s murder.  Further stories, set a couple of centuries from now, will take Howard and his comrades to every criminal haunt, hideout, battleground and planet of an old-school Solar System which returns Venus to the jungle planet it was once believed to be, and Mars to a conflicted, canal-crossed, lonely world that is home to the remnants of an ancient race having to deal with brash, sometimes brutal youngsters from Earth.

Here’s a quote from Pro Se Productions’ press release:

“One thing,” says Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Productions Editor in Chief and Partner in the company, “that we look for is an author who can tell a good story. Stuart does that with such an enthusiasm and passion that every word pops off the page. Combine that with the fact that he writes hard boiled science fiction, a mash up of sorts that very few can pull off well, as if it were the easiest thing in the world and it’s a foregone conclusion that Pro Se would love to have him be a part of what we do. And with Rings Around the Sun, he brings us the further adventures of Bob Howard, a character who we hope will be fighting his way through the spaceways for years to come here at Pro Se.”

Rings Around the Sun is currently scheduled to be published in June 2015 by Pro Se Productions.

For the full press release, including press contact details for Pro Se Productions, please follow this link:

http://prose-press.com/blog/

For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com and like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

My thanks go to Pro Se Productions for their confidence in me, and to my good friend ‘Beasty’ for the picture above.

A. Stuart Williams

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A Bookish Week Off: Fahrenheit 451

The Writers Gathering - picture courtesy Beasty

The Writers Gathering – picture courtesy Beasty

Yesterday was all lined up, for me at least, as the logical conclusion to my ‘Bookish Week Off’.  It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was still a great day for many reasons.

For the past few weeks I’d been working with Scott Southey and Amy Carter, proprietors of Southcart Books, the new independent bookshop in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, to present a new event at their shop to mark Independent Booksellers Week – The Writers Gathering.

Scott and Amy of Southcart Books

Scott and Amy of Southcart Books

This was conceived as a chance to not only promote the bookshop, which needs every bit of support it can get locally and from further afield, but also independent writers and publishers in the region, and so I hatched a cunning plan, in consultation with Scott and Amy, for them to host this first open meeting of local and regional writers, authors and publishers. Nothing quite like this has previously been organised in Walsall, as far as I know, so it seemed about time to give it a go. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

Steampunk author and singist LM Cooke (right) listens to Alison Reed of Walsall Writers' Circle

Steampunk author and singist LM Cooke (right) listens to Alison Reed of Walsall Writers’ Circle

Well, surprisingly in my experience, everything went well yesterday afternoon as far as the event was concerned (between 12pm-4pm) due to the enthusiasm and support of a number of writers and publishers of my acquaintance in the Facebook-O-Sphere.

They are Alison Reed (author and Secretary of Walsall Writers’ Circle), LM ‘Linzi’ Cooke (Steampunk author and singist), Theresa Derwin (author and publisher, KnightWatch Press) , Adrian Middleton (author and publisher, Fringeworks), Lucy Onions (author, photographer and singer), Rob Grimes (author and publisher The Penguin’s Head) and Ian Billings (children’s author, playwright, and entertainer) who all read from their work and spoke about it. Scott and Amy of Southcart Books were the perfect hosts, providing light refreshments in between (thankfully) flogging books!

Enthralled: Steve Jones, Theresa Derwin, Adrian Middleton and Lucy Onions

Enthralled: Steve Jones, Theresa Derwin, Adrian Middleton and Lucy Onions

We also had the pleasure of the company of Jan Edwards and Peter Coleborn of The Alchemy Press, Steve Jones, and Ben Morgan and Neil Sehmbhy of The Penguin’s Head, romance novelist Margaret Mayo and many others, including members of Walsall Writer’s Circle and numerous customers who popped in and out throughout the afternoon.

For more pictures, please see the event page on Facebook for links:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1518888991663801/?fref=ts

Fahrenheit_3

Sadly for me, my dear old mum took a fall at home part way through the event, so I had to dash off home like the house was on fire, having to miss the rest of what was a lively and popular event.  I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with my unavoidable and unexpected disappearance, and also Alison Reed and Lucy Onions for covering the bases on my behalf subsequently.  The show must (and did) go on, thankfully.

Also thankfully, mum was ok, albeit somewhat bruised and battered, and is now recovering well.  After all that, I hope to hear a lot more from our guests and more at future events, but that’s another story, yet to be written!

But what about the books, you ask?

On my way to the shop in the morning, I wandered into the Victorian Arcade which I mentioned in a previous post, and having a casual glance at the Acorns Charity Shop book carousel but not expecting much, was pleasantly surprised to find the following apparently unread collection of short ‘Golden Age’ SF novels for just £1.99. Right up my street!

The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction

The last word, however, I have to leave to the Walsall area’s newest and only independent bookshop…

I’ve been to Southcart Books quite a few times now, and have combed Scott and Amy’s second-hand science fiction and fantasy shelves, coming away with the odd bargain here and there since they opened.  They are increasingly good on this sort of thing, and have a growing and rapidly changing selection of genre books, particularly fantasy and also horror as well as a modest but also growing range of comics.

On this occasion, then, I was lucky enough to spot a nice little hardback containing ‘100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories’ edited by Isaac Asimov et al at £3.95 so I said “I’ll have that!”, and it swiftly disappeared into my camera bag.  Thanks, Amy!

100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories

Weirdly, though, I left the shop that day leaving more books than I went away with – five copies of my US publisher Pro Se Productions‘ anthology Rat-A-Tat: Short Blasts of Pulp, in which my ‘hard-boiled space opera’ story Minor Planet Mambo, read by me to The Writers Gathering earlier in the afternoon, features on page 55.  I’ve provided these for the shop’s local authors shelves on sale or return, at my own expense (no, I don’t get a discount from the publishers on these books!).  Signed by me, naturally.

It’s a cracking 28-story multi-genre new pulp anthology by a range of great authors you need to know about, and with something for everyone – so please do pop into Southcart Books and buy one, so I can get my money back!  If they’ve run out, you can get the book and ebook on Amazon (unsigned, natch).

Yours truly, as always, 'Ready to Read!' [Picture by Beasty]

Yours truly, as always, ‘Ready to Read!’ [Picture by Beasty]

You’ll also find, thanks to Saturday’s Writers Gathering, a range of other nice new independent books on the same shelves as mine, in Walsall’s nice new independent bookshop, which is as it should be, isn’t it?

So, his is the end of my Bookish Week Off.  After crackling and fizzing all over the Midlands, this rocket ride through the world of second hand bookshops ended in a crash landing.

But thankfully, no books were burned and the exciting sight and sound of everyone reading their work with such enthusiasm and feeling showed me there has to be a future for new initiatives promoting reading and writing in the town.

Thanks for reading, folks!

Stuart Williams

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A Bookish Week Off: Astounding Days

Boswell, St Mary's and Lichfield Market

Boswell, St Mary’s and Lichfield Market

Today was the last but one day of my ‘Bookish Week Off’ – just one more to go, tomorrow (Saturday 5 July) when I’ll be at Southcart Books in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, where I’m helping organise a new free event The Writers Gathering, and will be amongst other authors reading and talking about their work there. Should be fun!

Today was indeed an ‘astounding’ day in some ways – when I visited the cathedral city of Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England.  Astounding both for the weather, which turned to brilliant sunshine after I arrived, and for one ‘astounding’ discovery, literally.

Lichfield is easy to get to by train or bus alike.  There is an hourly Arriva bus from Walsall, which is my usual mode of transport there.  It takes about an hour.

I’ve been to Lichfield many times, over many years.  Both second-hand and new bookshops have come and gone, and now only three second-hand bookshops remain, all charity shops in a way.  There are a few other general charity shops as well.  Over all none of them are much known for their science fiction stock, but I always pop in when I visit there, in hope, and have occasionally come away with a gem.

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum

The first and foremost of the three specialist shops, if you’re into collectable books of the traditional variety, is the bookshop in the Dr Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in Market Street, off the Market Square.  I hardly ever find science fiction there but it’s a great museum to visit, I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re a literature fan.

I didn’t find any books to take my fancy there today, but I did renew my acquaintance with this lovely old listed building and its fascinating displays, which is always worthwhile, and spent some peaceful time in the small library there, blogging my last post.

These days I always visit the two specialist charity bookshops, also in Market Street, which have sprung up in recent years after the closure of the old Staffordshire Bookshop.

The Oxfam specialist bookshop

The Oxfam specialist bookshop

One, the Oxfam bookshop, has a good long shelf of mainly fantasy paperbacks, but occasionally a good hardback such as the first BCA edition (1980) of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I picked up there a few months ago.  Always worth a look, more so if you are looking for more general bookshop fare, or even recorded music.  I didn’t find anything there to my liking today, though.

The St Giles Hospice bookshop

The St Giles Hospice bookshop

The other, the St Giles Hospice Bookshop, has a good general selection of especially older books, but very little SF and a small quantity of generally paperback fantasy, so I never expect much in that line.

I was however pleasantly surprised today to discover something I had never heard of before – an illustrated 1978 Harlan Ellison screenplay for a film of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot which was approved of by Asimov but never made.  NO, it’s not the Will Smith version. This was published by Edgeworks Abbey and ibooks in 2004. Not bad in trade paperback format for just £1.99.

Some Astounding swag...

Some Astounding swag…

The thing that really made today truly astounding for me was, however, a market stall full of collectable magazines, books, nick-nacks, coins, collectors’ items and ephemera etc run by Andy Hendley and Wendy Deavall – see: www.overthegardenwallantiques.com

Andy Hendley and the Over the Garden Wall stall

Andy Hendley and the Over the Garden Wall stall

It was here that I was shown a bundle of classic pulp science fiction magazines from the 1950s and later, and was encouraged to dig my way through the collectors comics to find the following…

Simply Astounding - my find of the day

Simply Astounding – my find of the day

A December, 1950 British issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine containing an article by the legendary Robert A. Heinlein on the shooting of the film Destination Moon which was loosely based on his book Rocketship Galileo, as well as several stories by other authors. Yowza!

Also, a February 1961 British issue of Analog magazine, edited by the also legendary John. W. Campbell, containing a few stories and articles including a science fact article The Self-Repairing Robot, penned by the editor himself.

And, I just couldn’t turn down three 1983 issues of the reboot of the Eagle comic, which were of interest to me because of their Dan Dare stories.  A pity they were not 1950s issues, but who knows next time…

Andy has his stall on Lichfield Market every Friday and Saturday, so needless to say, “I’ll be back”.

Dr Samuel Johnson looks down on Lichfield Market, wishing he had a copy of Astounding to read

Dr Samuel Johnson looks down on Lichfield Market, wishing he had a copy of Astounding to read…

I always recommend Lichfield for a pleasant day out.

If you’re into history and books, and historic architecture, you’ll find much to interest you, especially Dr Johnson’s House, the Erasmus Darwin House Museum, the Garrick Theatre, the parks, one of which contains a statue of the captain of the RMS Titanic and of course the world-famous Lichfield Cathedral, amongst other things.  Not to mention the historic pubs…

As well, there are often special events in and around Lichfield, including for one the Lichfield Festival which started today, and occasionally book fairs.

So whether you are on the hunt for classic science fiction like me, or not, you could do a lot worse than have yourself a relaxing day out in this lovely old city.  Who knows, it might be as ‘astounding’ a day as mine was!

Stuart Williams

 

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A Bookish Week Off: Between Planets

On Thursday I decided I would not travel quite so far afield.

The obvious candidate for book shops within easy travelling distance was Birmingham, yet despite there being two massive Waterstones stores bang in the middle, there is now apparently only one second-hand bookstore in the city: Reader’s World, a short walk from the Bull Ring Centre, down past St Martin’s Church almost at the top of Digbeth on the left.  Sadly, the legendary Andromeda Bookshop, once the mightiest source of science fiction and fantasy books in the UK, is long gone and much-missed.

The only other candidate was in Erdington, a small ‘satellite’ town away from Central Birmingham. I hadn’t been to Erdington since the 1990s so I thought I ought to give the Anchor Charity Bookshop a try in Central Square, off High Street, Erdington.  So I went to Birmingham City centre first, and travelled out to Erdington.

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What a disappointment! Instead of the specialist charity bookshop I expected, the Anchor Charity Bookshop listed in the Inprint online book guide turned out to be just a run of the mill charity shop full of the usual tat, although it does have more books than usual. The stock is mainly general fiction and non-fiction, with only a couple of modern science fiction books amongst a small section of fantasy and Young Adult horror titles.  Nothing there for me, sadly.

Erdington classes itself as a village, but it has become surrounded by the remnants of heavy industry and the only significant shopping street, High Street, is  a nondescript but busy street full of tatty Post-Victorian emporiums and mobile phone and charity shops, the highlight of which for me was Poundland.

Erdington’s biggest surprise is, however, its parish church, which appears to have been converted by the Cybermen…

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Beware of visiting the ‘minor planet’ of Erdington by public transport if you’re not a good walker – the railway station is nowhere near the ‘village’ centre and the buses have all been banished to a nearby main road.

Determined to return to the mother planet that is Birmingham, I wended my weary way back into the city centre by bus.

I walked it from the bus stop to the aforementioned Reader’s World, a tiny shop which I had not entered for many years.

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Once past the dusty but tidy looking shop front,  one enters a wholly different world of tens of thousands of books and magazines of all kinds crammed in up to the ceiling, with one of the two staff members tightly enclosed behind a tiny counter. Take my advice – don’t take a big bag with you if you visit this shop as an injudicious turn may leave you crushed under a paperback avalanche!

There are another two tiny rooms at the back almost equally crammed, with cheaper books and some old collectable comics, pulps and magazines.

Most of the science fiction and predominantly fantasy consisted of piles and piles of relatively recent modern paperbacks, interspersed with the odd collectable hardback, not much to interest me though. I was sniffing for the old stuff!

It was in the second small room that I found a few familiar gems – a small stack of hardbacks from the 1960s – 70s, classics published by Dobson Science Fiction (remember them?) and the Science Fiction Book Club.

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In lieu of any rarer fare, then, I snaffled up a pile of eight small hardbacks at a quid each (see pictures above), and got out while the going was good, as my hay fever was playing up. Whether it was the weather or the accumulated book dust I cannot say, but in any event I think I shall be visiting Readers World again…

I now consider myself an SF archaeologist!

Book fans may care to note that this post was edited and uploaded via iPad in Dr Samuel Johnson’s house in Lichfield, England (yes, he of dictionary fame) while listening to baroque classical music!

Stuart Williams

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A Bookish Week Off: Sargasso of Space

The STourbridge Spaceport entrance!

Sargasso of Space is of course a 1955 (first British edition 1970) book by one of my favourite childhood authors, the wonderful Andre Norton.  It’s about a planet called Limbo, which seems to attract spaceships to it, pulling them with an overpowering force until they crash upon its surface.

The book is named after the Sargasso Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is the centre of a major system of ocean currents forming the North Atlantic Gyre. All the currents deposit the marine plants and refuse they carry into this sea.  So it is, it seemed at first, with second-hand books and Stourbridge…

Stourbridge High St and the fabulous clock

While studying The Bookshop Guide website, which lists many second-hand and antiquarian bookshops in a number of English counties including the (non-existent, really) West Midlands, I spotted that there were apparently two very interesting shops in Stourbridge, which like my home village of Bloxwich, is in the Black Country – though Stourbridge is certainly better-known as being so, and has in the past been famous for its glass manufacturing.  It also has quite a nice town centre and a number of historic buildings as well as many modern shops.

The bookshop that caught my eye on the list at first was Idwal’s Books, claiming a stock of some 15,000 second-hand books of all varieties.  Great! Sadly, when I looked at the location on Google Maps and Google Earth, it readily became apparent that this once epic shop had now gone ‘into the west’, and had at some time been replaced with a gallery, which had itself popped its clogs, and was now performing a genuinely dead parrot sketch.

So, what else?

The Book Stop, at 52-53 High Street, Stourbridge, then became my target for the day.

The Book Stops upstairs!

You might feel there’s a theme developing here when I tell you that this is another charity bookshop, or rather a large and high quality department of what is effectively a charity ‘department store’, with the usual charity goods downstairs, and the books and a nice little coffee shop upstairs.  This all supports the Mary Stevens Hospice at Stourbridge, though you’d be hard put to tell from their website, which says more about the coffee shop than the books! They do also have a rather quiet Facebook page, so please do give it a Like, and tell them I sent you.

I had a hard time finding this one on Google Earth and Maps, because the shop frontage is set back under the frontage of a building with pillars and arches shading the downstairs windows.  Thankfully, I did spot it in the end because it turned out to be, despite being smaller and less pleasantly located than Books Revisited in Coleshill, the most useful one for me so far this week.  And that also was a surprise.

I travelled by bus from Bloxwich to Walsall, then on the 311 Walsall to Dudley and finally the 276 Dudley to Wollaston via Stourbridge.  I tell you, that bus was nearly the death of me in today’s heat, it took an age to rattle all the way to Stourbridge, but it showed me more of Black Country hills, houses and pubs than I ever dared dream of… Seriously, when I came back I got the 246 to Dudley, which missed out most of the houses and returned via Brierley Hill, thankfully!

Anyway, like Coleshill I’ve never been to Stourbridge, and I discovered that despite the usual Black Country post-industrial blight in parts of the area, it’s a surprisingly attractive town centre with many historic buildings remaining, a long High Street and a fabulous Victorian pillar clock.  Some nice pubs, and many modern shops as well as older premises.  The new bus station (they call it Stourbridge Interchange) was very swish, better than the disastrous flying saucer at Walsall, despite a few of the computer displays being dysfunctional! And it’s next to the Stourbridge Town railway station for those of you who want to train it.

It's behind me!

After walking out of the entrance to the Interchange, I was pretty much right on Stourbridge High Street, and it only took a few minutes to locate the shop.  There wasn’t much evidence of books downstairs, but once I found my way up to the first floor, it opened out nicely to the left at the top of the stairs with the coffee shop on the right. Note: there isn’t a lift.

The Book Stop looking towards the counter

I moseyed on in and had a potter round the general books before homing in on a single bay of what was mostly fantasy with a bit of horror, not much science fiction at all. I was feeling disappointed until I spotted the antiquarian and collectable section at the back of the department, just under a window looking into a combined staff and stockroom.  A quick search below the window came up with three elderly but good condition Science Fiction Book Club hardbacks dating from 1978-1982 – Somerset Dreams by Kate Wilhelm, The Night of Kadar by Gary Kilworth, and The Five Doors by Jack Rhys, plus a 1974 Readers Union edition of The Tenth Planet by Edmund Cooper. Each was £2.50.  Not the cheapest, but not bad.

Four venerable hardbacks

Then came the big surprise.  When I took these to the counter I told the young chap on duty, Matt, I was interested in old science fiction books and his face lit up. He told me they had a big pile of these in the back as they weren’t worth a lot but the manager was sci-fi buff who said they should be kept instead of disposed of.  So he got them all out and piled so many old paperbacks on the counter I thought he was building a wall!

Matt and The Great Wall of SF!

He had to leave at that point but his equally friendly volunteer colleague, Mike, was very helpful, and I subsequently, while trying to figure out what was in the collection before me, had a chat with him and his other volunteer colleague Joyce.  Nice folks all three – and if they read this, thanks again for your help!

Joyce and Mike, both knowledgeable and friendly Book Stop volunteers

Any road up, there was no way I could cart that lot home – over fifty paperbacks at a guess – so I picked just fifteen (!).  Well, at three for a quid I could hardly say no, could I? Especially as so many of the authors brought back happy childhood memories of reprints of classic US pulp stories, and a lot of these books don’t even seem to have been read before.

I’m not writing down all the titles of those I brought back in today’s hall from Stourbridge, it’s nearly 2 in the morning now and I need to get to bed, but just have a look at the photo below, you can click on it for a bigger image!

Classic SF paperbacks, yay!

Now, I’m telling you straight, if you like classic science fiction and you’re within a reasonable distance of Stourbridge, you owe it to yourself, dear reader, to beat a path to The Book Stop, before I become too tempted and go back there…

The Book Stop in Stourbridge? Definitely recommended, as long as you ask to see the old SF paperbacks ‘out the back’! You might even care for a cup of coffee.

More info here:

http://marystevenshospice.co.uk/support-our-work/hospice-shops/mary-stevens-coffee-stop/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stourbridge

Stuart Williams

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