Friday 26 December 2014

The Leaf Of Valerian

OK, this isn't Valerian. But it is another awesome photo from Peter Isherwood...
The next story in 'The Machine Sequence' has now been published by Imaginalis!  This is called 'The Leaf Of Valerian', in which the Botanist comes up with a plan. But will they ever find Fenix? 

These flash stories all precede my (as yet unpublished) novel: Machine Songs (working title).  If you want to read them in order, they have a separate page in the blog's main menu.

More to follow over the next few weeks/months.  

Thursday 18 December 2014

The Witch In The Forest

The next flash story in what I am now calling 'The Machine Sequence' is now up on Imaginalis. This is called 'The Witch In The Forest' and touches on some legends of the Black Forest.

These flash stories all precede my (as yet unpublished) novel: Machine Songs (working title).  If you want to read them in order, have a look at their separate page in the menu.

More to follow over the next few weeks/months.  

Wednesday 10 December 2014

FIve Hundred Years Later
Artwork by Iestyn Rhobet

Bento Box #15 is out now, from Mysteria Press!  This features one of my flash short stories 'Five Hundred Years Later'.  Bento Box #15 was edited by Lisa Knight, of Imaginalis fame...

You can download the entire anthology, for free, from here (or click the picture).  Enjoy!

Wednesday 3 December 2014

On The Brink Of An Unknown Future

'Clouds Roll Over The Valley' by Peter Isherwood

The next Flash Fiction in the sequence has been published by the lovely people over at Imaginalis!

This story references a famous quote by John Wyndham, from his 1951 novel 'The Day of the Triffids': '
And we danced, on the brink of an unknown future, to an echo from a vanished past.'  

I'd been wanting to pay homage to Wyndham for a while - you can't really write about aggressive botany without including some kind of Triffid quote! The 80s BBC adaptation of the book which I watched as a child still haunts me to this day...

These flash stories all precede my (as yet unpublished) novel: Machine Songs (working title).  If you want to read them in order, check out the separate page at the head of the blog entitled: 'The Machine Sequence.'

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Grains Of Pollen, In Twilight

Imaginalis has just just published 'Grains of Pollen, in Twilight', the next flash in the sequence of stories that precede my (as yet unpublished) novel: Machine Songs (working title).

If you want to read them in order, have a look at their separate page in the menu.

More to follow.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Time Out at the Café Metropole

I'm very excited to announce that my story 'Time Out at the Café Metropole' has been published in Perihelion! 

This story is in the same 'Universe' as my novel 'The Scion'.  The Sassrit and their henchmen, the shapeshifting Jarthiala, both feature.  The events in the story are however unrelated to the novel, occurring centuries beforehand.

Note: this story is no longer available on line (23.05.15).

Wednesday 29 October 2014

In The Sewer, You Can't See The Stars

Going underground...
Flash fiction update!

The story continues over at  The third installment follows on from 'A Sufficiently Advanced Technology' and 'A Drink With The Botanist'.  More to come later on this week...

Thursday 16 October 2014

A Drink With The Botanist

Weird botany by Rich Grenyer

New flash story up over on Imaginalis!  The continuation of the saga that started a few weeks ago with 'A Sufficiently Advanced Technology'.

The adventure continues HERE.


Sunday 5 October 2014

Very excited to announce that a new serial of my flash stories has just kicked off at, starting with 'A sufficiently advanced technology'.  These bite-sized stories concern the events prior to my third novel (working title 'Machine Song') and are all interconnected.  A new story will be appearing on their site every Friday for a while... Go take a look!

Sunday 28 September 2014

I am not a number. I am a free man.

After days of heady critting in the rarefied atmosphere of the Milford SF conference, at the end of the week it is usual for the writers have a day off: escaping the cocoon of the Trigonos centre and tentatively venturing out into the world together. This year, we decided to head to Portmeirion, which wasn’t so much like greeting the real world again, more like running further away from it.

Portmeirion is an unusual place.  It is a kind of fantasy village built into the cliffs of North West Wales.  It was constructed between 1925 and 1975 by a man called Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, ostensibly as an Italianate village, but it is rather something more.  Nowadays it is a backdrop for Festival Number 6, although many people still remember it as the setting for the cult 60s TV series, The Prisoner.

That day in Portmeirion, it felt like we were in the Mediterranean.  In fact, the light had qualities that Cornish painters would hanker after.  The assemblage of odd architecture, pastel shades captured in the sun, lent the fanciful air that Williams-Ellis had presumably meant for it.  Every now and then, a jangling clock sounded, as if to summon mechanical entities into existence.

At the bottom of the village, there is a stone boat, hewn into the promenade.  Beneath this, miles and miles of sand flats. It was easy enough to imagine some kind of epic SF story happening there. The landscape changed slowly as the tide turned.  As we sat watching, you could almost hear the surrounding minds begin to create worlds set in such an environment.

Admittedly, the sense of dissociation from reality wasn’t helped by a crashing hangover.  The night before, Al Robertson (Crashing Heaven, Gollancz), James Maxwell (Evermen Saga, 47North) and I proceeded to polish off the remaining booze stashed in the Milford library, whilst attempting to put the world to rights. We may have succeeded in the latter, although none of us could remember.

Unlike me, suffering the after-effects of overindulgence, the village seemed to be unscathed following the revelry of the festival a few weeks before.  There was little to suggest a weekend of debauched madness, although I spied an occasional exhausted glow stick.  A few festival T-shirts were for sale in the village shop, but it was mostly filled with loads of Prisoner related tat; my addled brain boggled at the weird selection of items on offer, all which made no sense to a Prisoner virgin.  What was a ‘Rover’?  Who was Number 6?  

Intrigued, when I returned home, I found a few episodes of The Prisoner on youtube.  Fifty plus years later, the setting is exactly the same as it was then.  For an hour or so, I was transported back to Portmeirion, lost in its cobbled streets and trapped once again in this fantasy prison. I pondered how lucky we’d been to somehow escape the huge patrolling balloons which I now knew to be ‘Rovers’, or rather what counted for 60s’ special effects… 

But with the increased prevalence of surveillance in our society, the trappings of Facebook, Twitter, the internet, the distribution of personal data by nefarious organisations, The Prisoner seemed to stand up, seemed to hold its relevance.  We must all remember that we are indeed free men/women and not numbers.  We must not still our tongues for a happy life.  We must not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.  Our lives are our own.


Milford 2014

...was a blast!

Philip A. Suggars (@FelipeAzucares) has done a lovely review of the week, which you can now read on the Milford website or his personal blog.  I'll let him do the talking, rather than add any more about it here (I did my review back in 2012).  There are also photos, some of which include a gurning Guy T Martland. 

I now have a stack of critiques to work through.  So wish me luck!

Where to start? Maybe I'll just listen to the new Aphex Twin album again instead...

Saturday 6 September 2014

The Post Loncon Daze

So, Loncon, there it was: my first ever proper con.  In fact, also my first ever worldcon. Before it fades into a distant memory, before the trials of Milford take over next week, I thought I’d put some words and pictures up.

Initially the place felt hugely impersonal: a massive hangar in London’s docklands, entry queues stretching for miles (I was behind a sweaty Thor for what seemed like hours), hundreds of people milling around and a mind-boggling programme which needed some kind of Einsteinian mind to unravel.  I trotted around, chatting to a few publishers, feeling a bit lost, forever consulting my iPad to find out about another event I had just missed.  There were panels, readings, exhibits, some of which I attended.  I saw some of the SF glitterati cutting through the crowds, but kept my distance.

Then: a familiar face.  We quickly found the bar.  More familiar faces emerged - like elephants drawn to water, writers are drawn to the bar.  And this was the best part of the entire con - hanging around with my fellow Milfordians, chatting about SF writing.  And of course, drinking.  That was when Loncon came home for me.  These are my people.

I raise my glass to you lovely writing folk.  Cheers.  Let’s do it again soon!


The Bone Chair

i honor the faceless 
i bring them beauty without skin 
i am the Chairmaker 
i find forgiveness dwelling only within 

Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks

 Al Reynolds gives us an insight into the third book from the Poseidon's Children trilogy.

The Doctor pays a visit...

Paul J. McAuley signing my hardback first edition of Red Dust, one of the novels that properly got me into SF.

Charlie Stross waving his Hugo around.  Jeez, those things are heavy.

'The factory hadn't been specific (it rarely is), but I had the feeling that whatever it was warning me about was important, and I also suspected it would be bad, but I had been wise enough to take the hint and check my Poles, and now I knew my aim was still good, things were still with me.'  
The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks

Sunday 13 July 2014

The Magic Bullet and other medical stories (feat. Guy T Martland)

Another old story 'Sleeping Sickness' added to the blog. This was written in 1999, around the same time as Vice Versa. Probably in the same coffee shop. It found a home in this medical themed anthology.

Friday 13 June 2014

Words of War published by Fiction Vortex!

I am very excited to announce that my story 'Words of War' has been published by Fiction Vortex this June.

You can read it on their website (click the picture above), or buy it from Amazon with a bunch of other great stories here (UK, US, DE, FR, JP).

I hope you enjoy it.  Here is a teaser, from the wall of a house in Bournemouth:

Monday 9 June 2014

The New Galvanism published in Albedo 2.0 Fiction Showcase!

I am very excited to announce that my short story 'The New Galvanism' has now been published in Albedo 2.0.  You can read it here:

The story features the grave of Mary Shelley in Bournemouth, which I discussed in an older blog post here.

I hope you enjoy the story!

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Blog Tour

So the idea of this is that I answer these four questions, posed to the other writers on this tour.  And then, I pass on the torch to another two people. Thanks to Dave L. Clements, for tagging me; he is currently Disturbing The Universe with his answers.  

1. What am I working on?

I'm currently just romping towards the end of the first draft of my third SF novel, tentatively titled 'The Machine Song Cycle'.  There are some aliens, machines and lots of weird plants. One of the latter, 'Creeping Heartskin', had its own post on my blog before it pollinated and spilled out into the real world, causing an environmental catastrophe in a few small countries. Sorry about that.

I've also been putting finishing touches to a few short stories, some of which are about to be published. Firstly there is The New Galvinism which will be appearing in Albedo One. And I've just had another story Words of War accepted by Fiction Vortex. The latter was one which made it through the whole Milford critting process. Both stories feature graves I have visited.

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre? 

My first (still unpublished) novels were a kind of throwback to the 70's golden age of SF. You know, the thin paperbacks with a spaceship on the front you see in second hand bookshops. I like the idea of a short novel - doorstops aren't the kind of thing I write; while it can be fun getting lost in them as a reader, I'm not sure I have the patience to write one...

With the new one, I've taken some old tropes in SF (think Aldiss' Hothouse, Harrison's Deathworld) and moved things on a bit, throwing tech into the mix. I've drawn on more recent work as well - Faber's Under the Skin informed some of the alien lifeforms, or maybe I was just thinking about Scarlett Johansson.

I suppose being a medic has an advantage when it comes to writing about blood and guts stuff. When I started my training, an anatomy teacher once told me that the terminology we had to learn in five years was the equivalent of learning a new language. That's a lot of words, and some of them get used.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write because I have to. It is that simple. If I don't find time to write a few hundred words a day, the world just isn't a fun place to be. And the ideas start constipating my mind, cloying my thoughts until I have to purge somehow. Honestly, you don't want to know... it is disgusting.

4. How does my writing process work?

I sit in a room at the top of the house, put on some electronic bleepy future music, read through what I wrote last and dive in. I generally have some kind of idea about what I'm going to be writing, where it is going. As I write, other stuff often crops up though and takes me in new directions; this can be fun initially but then a pain later as you realise you have just destroyed/destoryed your manuscript (I nicked that from @jeffnoon). Sometimes the cat bothers me at a crucial moment - it has a fascination with paper and likes to be the first to read printouts of my stories, before eating them.
The next victims: 

....are currently languishing in a dungeon with Tyrion Lannister, awaiting their fate...

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Creeping Heartskin

Croceus Pruriocardiotoxicus

A Xenoc plant, which colonises the trunks of trees, preferentially evergreens.  It subdues native plant life, absorbing resins which are toxic to species of Kletterweed.  Whilst the aforementioned toxins do not kill Kletterweed, the hardiest of Xenoc plants, they can subdue growth.  Creeping Heartskin is a hemiparastic plant, analogous to Viscum album or Mistletoe.  Seeds germinate on the branches of susceptible trees, shoots growing along the substrate, some eventually forming a haustorium.

Like all Xenoc plants, the large amounts of pollen released – the phenomenon of ‘blanket pollination’ - obviate the need for insect pollination.  The flowers are small yellow cups that exude large quantities of pollen for a week or more.  These flowers contain unusual forms of carbohydrate which can undergo accelerated fermentation and this characteristic has been often used to manufacture spirits such as Firenshine.  The bittersweet taste of these fermentation products is also the product of the aforementioned carbohydrates.

When contact is made between the shoots or haustorium and human skin, a form of spongiotic dermatitis can occur.  This is a usually relatively harmless form of eczema, although vesiculation is often reported and in some cases, a form of toxic epidermolysis can ensue.  Cardiac toxicity is also one of the more serious sequelae of contact; arrhythmias can occur when antigenic complexes formed in the allergic reaction interfere with the functioning of Purkinje fibres.  For this reason, those who have come into recent contact with the Creeping Heartskin should undergo cardiac monitoring.  Such effects do not occur when contact is made with the blooms of the Creeping Heartskin and the fermented products of these are safe to drink, providing, as with all alcoholic beverages, one does not overindulge.


Eventhrall J.  Case series: Croceus Pruriocardiotoxicus and toxic epidermal necrolysis – a rare reaction to skin contact. Xen Med J 2151; 4 (15-20)

Eventhrall J.  Croceus Pruriocardiotoxicus – a review of the pathological effects, their mechanisms and current recommended treatment regimes. Clin Xen Med 2152; 3 (45-71)

©Guy T Martland, 2014

As promised - some stuff relating to the new novel... I wrote this as background to the botany featured in the book.  There are other segments concerning other species, some of which are alluded to above, although I haven't worked out what I want to do with them all yet - maybe some kind of appendix?  Needless to say, my protagonist does, of course, overindulge.

Thursday 6 March 2014

In search of Uncle

I first encountered Uncle as a child.  Sometime after Christmas or a birthday I met him for the first time: he was an elephant, drove a traction engine and he wore a purple velvet dressing gown.  And he had something called a BA - I had to ask my parents what that meant.

Having worked my way through all the Enid Blytons and Arthur Ransomes, my parents began to feed me Roald Dahl, the latter illustrated by one Quentin Blake.  And then, presumably due to this artist being associated with the author J.P. Martin’s work: Uncle.  

Of all the books I read in my childhood, the Uncle books are those which return to me, again and again.  Reading Uncle and then its sequel Uncle Cleans Up was an unadulterated pleasure – I choose that word wisely, because there is something very unadult about Uncle, something which truly captures the free, fantastic imagination of a child.  I revelled in the world created by J.P. Martin, the excesses of the wonderful Homeward, Uncle’s home and a place that seemed never ending, full of unexpected wonders.  The scale of Homeward, the scale of J.P. Martin’s creation instilled in me my first sense of wonder at fiction.

I loved the names of the characters as well, with their descriptive and sometimes onomatopoeic qualities: Muncle, Butterskin Mute, Hitmouse, Beaver Hateman, Flabskin, Jellytussle.  At the time of first reading I didn’t really get the social overtones – the satirical way Martin wrote of the castle and its nearby slum, Badfort.  Instead, I was lost in the striking Owl Springs, Lost Clinkers, the subterranean baths, the trains and chutes that connected various elements of Homeward together in a scrambled Gormenghastian fashion.  In fact, looking back on it, this was Gormenghast for children and possibly one of the reasons why I enjoyed that book so much ten years later.

At University I raved about Uncle to anyone who would listen.  Friends looked at me oddly, wondering why I placed so much importance in a children’s book hardly anyone had heard of.  I began to break some of them, buying the readily available Uncle books for friends and girlfriends.  But it could never be the same for them – discovering Uncle in your late teens or early twenties could never do for them what it did for me.

My obsession with Uncle continued.  Having only ever had the first few books, I wanted to read more about Uncle and his adventures, but the last four books were nowhere to be seen.  I searched second hand bookshops in vain, and then the internet, coming across copies at extortionate prices.  I began to realise that there were other people like me out there, other Uncle obsessives, many of whom were Science Fiction fans like myself.  I heard of a writer whose website was called Owl Springs in reference to the aforementioned area just outside Homeward.

Then came the big blow – the reason why it seemed there were none of the later Uncle books to be found.  A number of people reported that there was a rich collector in the US who was buying all the copies he could get his hands on, thereby reducing their availability and raising the price of the remaining books sky high.  Much as I liked Uncle, there was no way I could justify spending 500 pounds on an old children’s book.  It was frustrating – who was this crazy collector?  Why were they destroying everyone else’s fun?  How selfish of them!

I decided to try a different tack.  I wrote to the original publishers, Jonathan Cape, informing them I was a devoted Uncle fan; it was essentially a plea for them to republish.  I was rebuffed, told in no uncertain terms that there were no plans to publish the remaining four books in the foreseeable future.  I got the distinct impression that the person who wrote to me was annoyed I’d even asked this question.

With a bit more research, it turned out that Uncle’s very nature, that of a wealthy, privileged individual and a little bit of a snob to boot, had been under fire.  In short, Uncle was likened to a rich, self-satisfied and gloating public school educated toff – who would want to read about that kind of person in the increasingly socialist naughties?  Could this be the reason why Jonathan Cape were unwilling to even consider republishing these books?  In my mind, this was totally missing the point of Uncle – his character indeed shows weaknesses, but that makes his altercations with the lowly folk of Badfort more exciting – sometimes you even want them to cause more carnage, disrupt the sometimes staid, stuffy existence of Uncle.  Even now, I find myself laughing out loud at the tricks the Badfort crew get up to, lessons of humility that Uncle often comes to accept.

So after a few years I gave up, returning instead, defeated, to my battered paperback copies of Uncle and Uncle Cleans Up.  A few years later, with some savings behind me, I decided that it couldn’t wait any longer.  I managed to pick up a tatty of copy of Uncle and his Detective for £40.75.  I narrowly missed out on a first edition of Uncle and the Treacle Trouble which was going for a steal – only to find out the buyer had immediately relisted it for over 400 pounds.  And then I found the last book, Uncle and the Battle for Badgertown, on an eBay auction that ended some crazy time on a Sunday morning when nobody would be awake.  I made sure I was.  A first edition ex-library copy which I’d purchased for £103.01 arrived a week later.  The other books were however still out of my price range and whilst I cherished my copy of Badgertown, I still wanted to read the other ones first…

A year later, still searching.  Lots more SF people talking about Uncle.  It seemed he’d developed a kind of cult following.  I felt at home – I clearly wasn’t the only nutter out there.  And then I found a website where some charitable person had uploaded pdfs of all the books.  They weren’t great quality files, but at least I could finally read all of the books and in sequence.  I felt a sense of relief, although slightly tainted by the fact that I hadn’t been able to hold the books in my hands, hadn’t been able to fully appreciate Quentin Blake’s drawings, which perfectly complimented the surrealist prose.

Then, last week, everything changed.  I discovered that all the Uncle novels were out there, republished.  I felt a flutter of excitement, the same excitement when my battered copy of Uncle and his Detective first arrived.  I flicked through websites, finally coming across Marcus Gipps’ genius Kickstarter campaign a few months back to get the books republished.  Apparently it had reached its funding goal of £7,000 in about four hours.  Permissions were granted and a book was published: all six volumes together, an omnibus edition.

My copy arrived a few days later: a beautifully bound hardback, nothing less than a work of art – one which you could clearly see had been a labour of love.  Famous writers have been brought in to proclaim their love for this wonderful and generous, if a bit stroppy, elephant.  There is even an enchanting introduction by one of his grandchildren, for whom Uncle must have genuinely been larger than life.

So now I and many other Uncle fans can rest easy, lost somewhere in the spiralling towers of Homeward. Thank you Marcus Gipps.  Thank you!  I hope to meet you someday to express my thanks in person.  You have done Uncle, his friends, even the Badfort crew - as well as the rest of the world - a great honour.

Link to original Kickstarter campaign site

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Vice Versa

Another old story added to the blog: Vice Versa.  This was written in one sitting, back when I probably should have been studying.  I used to hang out in this coffee shop called CB1 on Mill Road in Cambridge - a place where fresh coffee was basically on tap - half price refills as far as I can remember.  The walls of the place were stacked high with second hand books, including a rather decent SF section, which provided a deal of procrastination.  They had open mic nights where I tried out some of my rather juvenile poems on the assembled handful.  Of the many unusual people who used to pop in during the hours I sat there, I clearly remember the man who walked around Cambridge with a raw, supermarket chicken on his head.  He claimed he was a performance artist, or rather someone who used this title to hide his madness behind.  Anyway, I'm sure this chap popped in during the creation of this story, but he didn't stop the flow of words.

The lovely people at Noesis liked this story and published it in what was my third and final appearance for them.  I now realise I am honoured to be sharing the pages with one Philip K. Dick award winning author: Simon Morden, creator of the fantastic Metrozone series.  Many congratulations Simon!  You certainly have set the bar quite high for the Noesis Alumni - but I'm working on it...

The pages are reproduced with kind permission by Noesis.  The artwork is by a chap called Ian Storer, a trainee lecturer in Nottingham at the time.  Oh, and as an aside, the exams worked out ok...

Saturday 15 February 2014

Shoot First!

Going somewhere, Solo?

Between storms... Last weekend I dropped into the Bomo SF convention, or SF Ball as it is known.  Having been in Bournemouth for 7 years and missed them all, I thought I'd finally go and see what it was all about.  And on the threshold, a familiar face - Liz Sourbut, who was at Milford in 2012.  Great to see her again and chat about SF words.  Speaking to her has also made me a bit more proactive - I've since booked tickets for Loncon.

So, there was other stuff going on too.  Lots of people were dressed up of course (see below).  I wasn't, but then again you could probably mistake my natural form for a Wookie's.  I met Greedo (see picture above).  He told me how he'd taken the gun pictured home with him for his kids to play with - a Star Wars nut as a kid, this would have been the best toy ever.  However, one of Greedo's progeny bust the aforementioned and it was jettisoned into a garbage compactor, never to be seen again.  Needless to say, the price tag for this weapon would now be somewhere in the region of £100,000 (apparently).

Doctor 8 and Ace

Paul McGann was also there as a Gallifreyan timelord, appearing on stage with one of the old Dr's assistants, Ace (Sophie Aldred).  The last time I saw Paul McGann was in Bristol, when he narrowly missed crashing his antique Merc into my world weary Ford Focus in a Sainsbury's car park.  He seemed on better form this time: there were some great Withnail anecdotes, including the extrication of a panicking Richard E Grant from a hedge, where he'd somehow ended up on the run from the police.  I also caught Marina Sirtis' talk as well - her Eastenders accent a far cry from the dulcet tones of Betazoid Counsellor Deanna Troi.  She showed us all her Tottenham tattoo.  In the exhibition hall, some pretty cool artefacts were on display from The League of Bournemouth Steampunks - lending life and importance to the genre - they laugh in the face of those who say Steampunk no longer matters (it does). 

So having finally made it to the SF Ball,  it turns out to be the last one in Bournemouth.  Ever.  Typical.  They are shifting next year's across Mordor (New Forest) to Lake Town (Southampton).  I hope Smaug doesn't cause them any problems.  But I guess he'll be dead by then, unless they decide to make a fourth Hobbit.

Data and Picard enjoy some replicated Guinness - just doesn't taste as good...

Saturday 25 January 2014


Just a quick update - the first draft of the as yet untitled new novel is approaching completion.  Have been putting the hours in recently and it is shaping up nicely, thanks.  I might put some related stuff up here on the blog soon.  

Also been working on some short stories recently and I hope to share some exciting news with you about one of these soon!  Watch this hyperspace.