Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 2

Interview abut my story in The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 2. I discuss the nature of pulp fiction, my musical tastes and why W.E. Johns is such a big influence on my writing. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best of 2013

Ginger Nuts of Horror lists Demons & Devilry as one of the best horror anthologies of 2013. I'm deeply touched by this honour and I would like to thank all the contributors to the book for their dedication and tireless efforts. I'd like to thank them but frankly they did bugger all, I did all the hard work. Struggling to decipher the childish crayon scribbles in Peter Mark May's manuscript; wiping all the blood and other bodily fluids off John Llewellyn Probert's story; keeping David Williamson supplied with groupies; bailing Thana Niveau out of jail every time she went off to do some "research." The success of this book is purely down to me. Me, I tell you! ME!!!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Stocking Filler

Ginger Nuts of Horror has included Demons & Devilry in their list of horror Xmas gifts.

Yes, I know Christmas is virtually upon us but the book makes just as good a gift at Easter, birthdays, wedding anniversaries and any other occasion you can think of.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ginger Nuts interview

For all of you desperate to read my interview that I did last year over at Ginger Nuts of Horror the website has moved so there's a new link to follow if you want to revel in my words of wisdom.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Demons & Devilry Review

Excellent review of Demons & Devilry over at Ginger Nuts of Horror. "Demons & Devilry is a brilliant anthology, one which manages to perfectly balance stories of a lighter tone with more dark and heavy tones."

Well done John Llewellyn Probert, Thana Niveau, Peter Mark May and David Williamson. And me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Impossibility Dissection

My story The Impossibility Dissection appears in Strange Aeons 12. I know The Impossibility Dissection sounds like an episode of The Big Bang Theory but it's actually cosmic horror with a dash of black humour. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac

I've a story in Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac from Alchemy Press. Other contributors include Joel Lane, Ralph Robert Moore and Storm Constantine.

I discuss my story, Star-crossed, in this interview, in which I am incredibly witty and charming and only offend a major religion once.

Friday, November 15, 2013

That About Covers It

When Peter Mark May asked me to edit Demons & Devilry for Hersham Horror the one thing I was confident about getting right was the cover. I have a soft spot for the old painted covers that used to grace pulp paperbacks and felt that a sleazy mix of sex and danger would be the just the thing for a book of tales of black magic that followed in the footsteps of Dennis Wheatley. Even better, my friend Bob Covington -- a British Fantasy Award winning artist -- is a Dennis Wheatley fan. He would know just the kind of thing I was looking for.

"A pentagram; a menacing figure (either in robes or with a bare torso and a goat's head) waving a sacrificial dagger about; and an altar with a girl sprawled across it, preferably with her dress torn open," said Bob as soon as I told him what the book was about. "Leave it to me."

The problem was that the more I thought about it the more I thought that this wasn't quite the right approach. Yes, I wanted the artwork to invoke those old style covers by being dark and scary and sleazy but I didn't want it to be exploitative. It needed to be dark, decadent, depraved and diabolical -- but in a tasteful way.

That posed a problem. Should I ask Bob to go for the style of Bruce Timm's pin-up work, where the cartoonish line  lends the cheesecake an air of innocence? Or should the picture be rendered realistically but offering equal opportunity titillation, with as much male flesh on display as female flesh? I was leaning towards the second approach but that caused more problems. To generate the full-on sleaze effect the cover girl would probably need to be showing her nipples, anything else would seem coy in this context. This would be difficult justify -- this isn't the '70s, nowadays female readers (and a lot of male ones) won't stand for female nudity on a book cover. And even if we could get away with it how would we do the male equivalent? A naked male torso isn't anywhere near as taboo as a female one. To be on the same level of titillation we would probably have to show male buttocks and that led to problems with the composition -- in order to get a clear view of both the female and the male character who loomed over her and show off his buns of steel we would probably end up with a pose where it looked like he was raping her. That went waaaaaay over the line of good taste. I tried figuring out ways to work a mirror into the composition so that both characters' goodies were on display via their reflections but that just led to cluttered and incomprehensible layouts. I was tying myself up in knots trying to come up with a solution (getting tied up in knots was also on my list of things I wasn't sure if we should include on the cover.)  But as frustrating as all this was ultimately we ended up with an even bigger problem.

Bob was struck down with a  frozen shoulder. He could barely move his arm, let alone draw.

As the deadline drew nearer Bob's shoulder began to heal but he still wasn't up to full fighting strength. After discussing it with him we both decided it was more important for him to heal properly than to hinder his recovery by dashing off a book cover.

Time for Plan B.

Mark West had supplied all the covers for the previous Hersham Horror books and now it was to him I turned to help get the cover completed. Mark shares my love of painted covers -- which is why he was happy for Bob to be the original choice of cover artist for Demons & Devilry -- but his chosen medium is Photoshop so I shifted gears in terms of what I wanted for the cover. Instead of a scene of a Black Mass I now felt the best course was to go for a minimalist cover with just the title, the authors' names and one, maybe two, occult symbols.

Mark, however, knew that the reason I initially wanted Bob for the project was because of my desire for a sleazy cover. So he told me he had a photo that not only walked the line between sleazy and tasteful but which also fitted in neatly with the black magic theme. Unfortunately Mark hadn't looked at the photo in a while and when he emailed it to me he sheepishly admitted that it was much more explicit than he remembered. This proved to be something of an understatement. The photo was of a naked woman in the famous Christine Keeler pose, but instead of a chair covering her nether regions she had a goat skull. "Sorry, mate," I said. "We can't use this. Not only can you see her nipples but it looks like she's got a goat skull vagina."

Mark conceded the point. He had tried to use a sleazy cover for Anatomy of Death, the anthology that he had edited Hersham Horror, but had been shot down by his test audience who found the image sexist, so he knew how sensitive people can be about these things. Still, he struggled gamely on, trying to find a way of getting Demons & Devilry that old school feel without offending anyone.

And then we got some unexpected help.

By a strange coincidence the day we were spitballing ideas for the cover I received an advertisement in my Facebook feed, one of those random suggestions that don't come from any your friends but which just pop up unexpectedly even though they have nothing to do with anything you are interested in, and will serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

Except this one did.

It was an ad for bikinis emblazoned with pentagrams. Suddenly we had a way to make the cover sleazily Satanic but without resorting to offensive nudity. Granted, a photo of a woman in a bikini would still offend some people but compared to the goat skull vagina it felt positively prudish.

Mark came up with his own version of Satanic swimwear and Photoshopped it onto a picture of a female model. Somehow it didn't quite work. Instead of looking sexy the picture came across as sad and desperate.

But Mark wasn't beaten yet. Switching tack he found a tasteful drawing of a nude woman being confronted by a menacing phantasm and worked it into a cover design. But although Mark did a good job I didn't feel that the artwork really popped out the way I wanted it to, socking the reader in the eye.

It was then, trying to save Mark the trouble of trawling through the entire Internet for days on end trying to find something suitable yet copyright free, that my sleep deprived brain came up with the worst idea I have ever had.

I would try to draw a cover image myself.

Every once in a while, when I have decent photo reference, and the stars are in alignment, I can produce pictures where the subject matter can be identified in as few as five guesses. In my fatigued state I reasoned that if I could manage to fulfil that criteria this time then the reduction in the picture's size to fit it onto the book cover would hide the many flaws in my draftsmanship. And so, with the blind optimism of someone who has forgotten that they can't actually draw, I set out to cobble together a picture.

Flipping through The BFI Companion to Horror I found a picture of Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs and Tippi Hedren in The Birds and fitted them together with an occult symbol cribbed from Arthur Edward Waite's The Wordsworth Book of Spells. I didn't capture a very good likeness of either actor but that was the point, I wasn't trying for portraits, I was just using them for reference to create my own characters. So the fact that my picture of Tippi Hedren looked like a bleach blonde Amy Winehouse was actually a good thing.

As for all that pesky perspective stuff and background detail I would just get round that by having the occult symbol fill the background and cover everything else in black ink -- kind of Mike Mignola's Hellboy meets Frank Milller's Sin City. Unfortunately I didn't have any proper drawing materials so the solid black inks came out looking scratchy and indecisive. Plus, as I've already mentioned, there was the minor matter of my not actually being able to draw. Halfway through the picture I came to my senses, realised it was awful beyond belief, and asked Mark to go back to the minimalist cover with an occult symbol.

I was offline for 24 hours or so at my day job and when I next corresponded with Mark I found that he had come up with a cover based on an occult symbol we had stumbled across on the Internet. Also, Peter Mark May had joined the discussion and said he felt the cover should be a striking shade of red to catch the reader's eye in a suitably devilish fashion. We all agreed that with this new design we were finally on the right track. A few minor niggles -- mainly about the title font -- were ironed out and suddenly we had a book cover on our hands. Thanking the others for their hard work I looked forward to finally getting some rest.

Then I realised I still hadn't finished writing my story for the anthology ...

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Devilish Ditties

Some little rhymes about the stories in Demons & Devilry.

The Abhorrent Man by Peter Mark May

The man is dubbed abhorrent.
And his title is not without warrant.
They ask: "Is he scary?'
I reply: "Opinions vary.
"But he made me empty my bowels in a torrent."

Little Devils by Thana Niveau

These kids really are little devils,
With pranks, teasing and revels.
But they get such a fright,
From a horrible sight.
It's terrifying on so many levels.

The Devil in the Details by John Llewellyn Probert

The devil is in the details:
Lots of scares, or else tedium prevails.
Some tales of black mass
Need a kick up the ass.
But not with one of JLP's tales.

The Scryer by David Williamson

The hero of 'The Scryer'
Is lazy; a cheat and a liar.
He could try to work,
But he'd much rather shirk.
He wouldn't move if his arse caught fire.

Guardian Devil by Stuart Young

Despite the odd spell, ritual and hex
This story is all violence, cursing and sex.
But it's not easy
Being this sleazy.
No wonder pulp writers end up nervous wrecks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Demons & Devilry

Somehow I've ended up doing something I thought I would never ever do -- I've edited a book. Blame Peter Mark May, he caught me at a weak moment and I agreed to edit an anthology for him before I realised what I was doing. The book is available now if you want to see how much of a hash I've made of it.

Demons & Devilry, the fourth anthology in the Hersham Horror PenAnth range, brings you five chilling tales of diabolism and black magic. With their twisted roots buried deep in the works of Dennis Wheatley, these stories reach out to embrace even darker, more horrifying, territory. Tremble with fear and wonder at the depraved imaginings of Peter Mark May, Thana Niveau, John Llewellyn Probert, David Williamson and Stuart Young.

The Abhorrent Man by Peter Mark May -- An ancient evil awakens in 1920s Tunisia.
Little Devils by Thana Niveau -- A group of mischievous schoolchildren encounter something whose wickedness far surpasses their own.
The Devil in the Details by John Lllwellyn Probert -- The race is on to find a suitable victim for a blood sacrifice.
The Scryer by David Williamson -- An unexpected inheritance leads to mysterious visions.
Guardian Devil by Stuart Young -- Will a journey through the Qabalistic Tree of Life bring enlightenment or damnation?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lovecraftian Legacy

Part 2 of my Sparking Neurones column on Lovecraftian fiction. This time round Robert E Howard, Fritz Leiber, Neil Gaiman and others. It also includes snazzy artwork by Bob Covington and Frank E Schoonover.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spare Parts review

Review of Spare Parts from Philip K Dick Award-winning novelist Simon Morden.

Stuart Young’s Spare Parts dwell on the fantastic which grows from the ordinary: if this wasn’t genre, posh reviewers in mainstream magazines would call it magical realism. Young serves up six stories -atmospherically illustrated by Bob Covington and Dave Bezzina – on the theme of love and loss, and the quiet desperation of ordinary lives suddenly transformed by accidental magic.

"Boxes" is about memory: Peter is ditched by girlfriend Elaine for a newer model, and all he’s left with are his memories. An experimental drug leaves him with total recall, but being able to remember everything he’s ever seen or said or done has a catastrophic effect on his sanity. "Midnight in a Perfect World" is a classic story of destructive co-dependency, made possible by a mantelpiece clock that is able to keep a relationship new and exciting, just so long as the hands on the face are set right. "Spirits of Darkness and Light" is a ghost story – a dead Royal Flying Corps pilot appears to a colleague, asking him to finish what he started. But just what is the ghost’s mission? When the life expectancy of a new pilot is measured in minutes, taking deliberate risks is the kiss of death. "Swamp Gator Blues", "Face at the Window" and the title story "Spare Parts" complete the collection – not quite as strong as the other three, but still fine stories in their own right. Perhaps Young has yet to find his own unique voice, but his range and depth of storytelling is already well crafted.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Mask Behind the Face competition

Chris Teague has just informed me of this competition over at the Pendragon Press site:

Ten copies of Stuart Young's The Mask Behind the Face up for grabs if you can answer the following question: who wrote the introduction to this collection?
First ten folk to join the Pendragon mailing list by this Friday and confirm their answer via email to chris at pendragonpress dot net will receive a copy – unfortunately, I'll have to invoice folk from overseas postage costs.

The  book was short-listed for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection and the title story won Best Novella.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


In the latest instalment of Sparking Neurones I talk about H.P. Lovecraft. I am very respectful and do not take the mickey at all.