Neon Books http://www.neonbooks.org.uk Small, Weird Books Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:22:04 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 https://i1.wp.com/www.neonbooks.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-Site-Icon.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Neon Books http://www.neonbooks.org.uk 32 32 116276687 The Ultimate Guide To EBook Retailers (Spoiler: They’re All Terrible) http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/08/10/ultimate-guide-to-ebook-retailers/ http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/08/10/ultimate-guide-to-ebook-retailers/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:00:41 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7688 We’re in an odd place with eBooks right now. While Amazon has, without a doubt, established itself as an eBook giant, the jolly orange conglomerate is by no means the only player in the game: there are at least a dozen other eBook retailers scrapping over the marketplace – and most of them, in at least a few respects, are fighting dirty. It shouldn’t really matter where you buy an eBook – just like it shouldn’t matter where you purchase a paperback novel. And yet we find ourselves in a bizarre situation where buying an eBook from the wrong store could mean you never get to read it.

In their rush to corner the market, many eBook retailers are keenly trying to lock in their loyal customers by making it unduly expensive or difficult to ever shop anywhere else. Thus, if you happen to own a Kindle, the chances are you shop at the Kindle Store. Purchased a Nook? You’ll be buying most of your reading material from Barnes & Noble. But are you getting a decent deal? And what can you do if you don’t like the store you find yourself locked into?

Presented here is a simple guide to your options when it comes to purchasing and reading eBooks. Given the range of devices available, we’ve organised it by retailer, and started with the big ones. We’ll keep adding to this guide as we research more eBook stores. Whether you’re trying to decide which eReader device to buy, or looking for another place to shop that will be compatible with your current device, the listings below should be a good place to start.

One caveat though: there’s actually no particularly good option. Every single retailer we’ve looked at has some glaring flaws. At this stage of the game – unless you’re willing to engage in some DRM-stripping (the subject of a future article, watch this space), you’re down to picking the best of a bad bunch. Sorry!

Kindle Store

The Amazon Kindle Store - a great selection, but severe issues with DRM.

Amazon Kindle devices and apps only.

As evil as Amazon is sometimes, there are still some good things to be said about the Kindle Store. It has an excellent range of titles, from bestsellers all the way down to obscure self-published numbers. And it’s great value for money as well – books are priced aggressively cheaply, and often promoted through discount deals and “free” days, when whole books can be downloaded for absolutely nothing. It also allows some limited gifting and lending of purchased books.

Amazon falls down, however, when it comes to DRM. That’s Digital Rights Management – a catch-all term given to the technological attempts to make books difficult to copy, share, or access at all if the original retailer doesn’t like you. Amazon uses a combination of complex DRM technology and a unique book format not recognised anywhere else to ensure that you can only read books from the Kindle Store using Kindle devices or apps. Not only that, but they have a history of remotely taking back books that they feel aren’t being used appropriately. When you buy an eBook from Amazon, you aren’t actually buying it at all – you’re merely purchasing a licence to read the text until such a time as Amazon decides otherwise. Beware.

Smashwords

Smashwords - an excellent eBook retailer with a very limited range.

Any eReader you like!

Independent eBook retailer Smashwords, on the other hand, takes a rather more positive approach to DRM – in that they don’t use it at all. When you purchase a book from Smashwords, that book is yours. They trust you not to copy or redistribute it, but don’t take any technological steps to prevent you from doing so. This means, of course, that you can access books purchased from Smashwords on almost any device or app, or even just from your computer, in some cases without installing or purchasing any extra software.

On the downside, the range of books available via Smashwords is extremely limited. While the store is overflowing with self-published titles, most mainstream novels and popular books are not available via this platform. Similarly the interface isn’t terribly slick or clean, and can sometimes be difficult to navigate. The whole thing feels as though it might break if you lean on it too hard… which isn’t to say it isn’t clever – Smashwords converts books into a huge range of formats, so you can read any way you like. It also offers several nifty features missed out by larger, more corporate competitors, including the ability set your own price for certain titles.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook

Nook Store - a basically decent eBook store, with a few DRM issues.

Any Nook device or Nook app.

Had they made different choices, Barnes & Noble might have been a serious competitor when it comes to eBook retail. They’re slightly more expensive than other retailers, but their prices are still reasonable, and their website is clean, intuitive and easy to use. Not only that, but they have a fairly decent range of titles available, including both bestsellers and more obscure reading material.

Unfortunately, while Barnes & Noble do present their books in the commonly-used EPUB format, they also insist on wrapping them in some awkward DRM shenanigans. The upshot of this is that you may only read Nook books on a Nook device or app, and won’t be able to move your books around freely between devices, or keep your books if Barnes & Noble go bust. That last little detail is a significant one, as Barnes & Noble have already withdrawn support for Nook products from the UK – a move that decimated the libraries of any reader who wasn’t quick enough to download their books.

Kobo

Kobo - a pretty decent reader that doesn't have quite the same range as the Kindle.

Any Kobo device or app. Some books may work with other devices or apps.

The Kobo Store is among the better non-Amazon solutions for buying eBooks. It does have a number of weaknesses though, not least among them a fairly limited range of titles. If you’re content to forgo some of your favourites, though, you’ll find the store clean and easy to use, with some good daily deals and discount offerings. You can even collect points each time you purchase an eBook and put them towards discounts on future acquisitions. Despite this pleasing infrastructure, however, the Kobo Store doesn’t permit you to give eBooks as gifts, although you can purchase some rather-fiddly gift cards instead.

Some Kobo eBooks come wrapped with DRM and some do not – it varies in accordance with the policies of the publisher. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether the book you’re purchasing will work on the reader you own – if it happens to be a Kobo device you’re probably safe, but shopping in the Kobo Store will be extremely hit and miss with any other device or app. You’re not quite as locked in as you are elsewhere, but the difference is minimal.

Apple Store

iBooks Store - a good option, if you're already a user of Apple products.

Apple devices and apps only.

Apple like to keep their cards close to their chest – their eBook store is a walled garden, to which only those with an Apple device are granted access. This means, of course, that anyone thinking of picking up an Apple device for the purposes of reading won’t know until after they’ve got their purchase home whether they can actually get the books they want on their shiny new machine. Some investigation reveals that their selection is, as it happens, pretty comprehensive, but anyone who has a taste for obscure literature should hesitate before selecting an Apple device as a reading option.

Another reason to pause before shopping with Apple is the tight control they keep over some of the books you buy. When you buy from the Apple store, you definitively cannot access your books in any non-approved manner. While most of the books sold via the Apple Store are in the commonly-used EPUB format, many are also wrapped in a unique kind of DRM, ironically called “Fair Play”. This DRM system is unique to Apple products, and as such you will only be able to access these books from an Apple device. This means that, unless you own a Mac as well as an iPhone, there’s no way to access your books via a desktop, and you’ll have to content yourself with the small screen until you splash out for a Mac.

Google Play

Google Play - easy to use and functional, but with very few books to choose from.

Most devices or apps, with the exception of Kindle and Nook devices and apps.

The Google Play book store isn’t really a serious bookshop. It is, for the most part, something of an afterthought. The selection is extremely poor and prices are generally higher than you’ll find anywhere else. That said it does have a lot of free out-of-copyright titles, and the store is wonderfully clean and easy to use. You can download titles for the desktop, or for almost any device using a process that’s straightforward, quick and intuitive.

The Google Play Store does impart some of its titles with DRM, but it’s among the more user-friendly DRM schemes you’ll find. You should, with some effort, still be able to read your books on most devices, although owners of Kindle and Nook devices will likely be out of luck. Some books come, at the behest of their publisher, without crippling DRM, and as such can be freely copied, backed-up and transferred after purchase. While the Google Store isn’t really an option for the bulk of your reading material, you may be able to find a title or two there to supplement your collection.

 

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Review: “Brief Eulogies For Lost Animals” by Daniel Hudon http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/07/13/brief-eulogies-daniel-hudon/ Thu, 13 Jul 2017 10:00:38 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7660 Publisher: Pen And Anvil | Author: Daniel Hudon | Buy: Amazon USA

Most readers will be able to picture, with some degree of accuracy, a dodo. These flightless birds disappeared from existence sometime shortly after 1660, and are known now only through paintings, sculptures, and displays of their preserved remains. Popularised by various cultural cameos, they now serve as a shorthand for extinction: “dead as the dodo” being one commonly-used aphorism.

But the death of the dodo is just one in thousands. Can you picture a Glaucous Macaw, a Tecopa Pupfish, or a Hawaiian Rail? Probably not… but that’s because you’ve yet to read Daniel Hudon’s Brief Eulogies For Lost Animals, a collection of touching, minutely-observed elegies to species which have been wiped clean from the face of the earth.

The book is comprised of one hundred short pieces of creative nonfiction, each one dedicated to a different extinct animal. The entries are organised according to region, beginning with “Lost Animals Of North America” and ending with “Lost Animals Of The Indian Ocean”. There’s also an appendix which groups the featured species by taxonomic classification, and a second one that supplies a series of interesting notes, along with sources for further background reading.

Does that description make Brief Eulogies For Lost Animals sound somewhat like an encyclopaedia? It’s not. Hudon askes, in the introduction, whether the stories of extinct animals are being told – and concludes that in many cases (high-profile extinctions like the dodo and the passenger pigeon aside) they are not. The book is an attempt to redress that, and it is very much the story of the creatures memorialised here that is the focus, rather than their taxonomic classification, their measurements, their biological facts.

The real power of these vignettes, then, is to render these animals real. A monstrous extinction rate is an easy thing to ignore when you can convince yourself that the thousand species lost last year were probably mostly insects, and probably mostly quite dull anyway. To be faced with a hundred short, vital, often beautiful narratives of the lost creatures, on the other hand, makes their absence a much more difficult thing to shake.

This is all the more the case because of the sheer poetry of Hudon’s writing. Entries range in tone from the dejectedly factual to the keeningly poetic. Quotes are mixed with statistics, vivid descriptions with history. Startling observations await on every page. We are treated to visions of groups of Caribbean Monk Seals basking on atolls “like old men, feeling the warm breeze on their whiskers”, or Huais “flying and leaping in succession to some favorite feeding place far away to the silent depths of the forest.”

The pieces compiled in Brief Eulogies For Lost Animals leave you with a real appreciation of the sheer variety and vibrancy of what has been lost. There’s a bittersweet tang to the beautiful prose and arresting descriptions. As the introduction says, these animals exist only as recordings now. Each and every one is exactly as dead as the dodo, and they’re not coming back.

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The Lit Mag Graveyard: Stranger Box http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/06/29/stranger-box/ Thu, 29 Jun 2017 14:58:32 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7621 Literary magazines are fragile creatures. They come and go. Some last barely longer than the average butterfly, and many venerable institutions are only ever one bad month away from folding like an origami stepladder. When a small literary magazine shuts its doors, it often disappears so thoroughly that you might wonder if it ever existed at all.

Which is a shame, because each defunct lit mag represents hundreds of hours of work and commitment – both from the editor and the writers featured. Each lost publication is another voice that will no longer be broadcast – another unique vision that will no longer be there for the world to see.

To redress this, we’ll occasionally be memorialising literary journals that bit the dust. This week, an obscure but beautiful little gem: Stranger Box.

Stranger Box was a brief candle, even by literary magazine standards. The last Internet Archive capture (from 2006 – just a couple of years after the invention of Facebook) shows that only three full issues were published, each one featuring half-a-dozen stories and poems, as well as some beautiful and haunting illustrations. Images aside, the site was fairly stark – the content was presented in a single narrow column with no adornments or wasted energy. It was an art gallery of a lit mag.

The magazine also had a seriously strong grip on tone. The submissions guidelines spelled out its mission: “I’m looking for offbeat writing, preferably on the dark side, with a general theme of what Kierkegaard called ‘fear and trembling;’ in other words, the natural sense of dread that comes with knowing our own impermanence.

And, indeed, the featured pieces did seem all to point towards an apprehension that everything was temporary, that the world was – however slowly or strangely – grinding to an end. Despair and dread permeated the narratives on offer. There were derelict houses falling to pieces, lovers losing minds, and widespread literary death and destruction. You can still browse a couple of online issues using the Internet Archive – we recommend “The Door At The Edge Of The World” and “The Clifford Olsen Murder Poems” – if, that is, you can find them in the broken remains of the archived pages.

It was rare, back in 2006, to find an online magazine with such a clear sense of purpose and such a rich, nuanced flavour. Stranger Box knew exactly what it was, and what it wanted to be. It paid for the work it published at a time when few online journals did, and presented its words cleanly and beautifully. It’s a shame it didn’t last – but, then again, for a magazine that’s all about the inevitability of decay, perhaps an ending was always on the cards.

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Review: “Recycled Glass” By Fred McGavran http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/06/15/recycled-glass-fred-mcgavran/ Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:45:02 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7608 Publisher: Glass Lyre Press | Author: Fred McGavran | Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon USA | More: Goodreads

Recycled Glass isn’t a bad title for Fred McGavran’s second short story collection. The eleven tales contained within are brightly-coloured and angular, and come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Some are smooth to the touch and translucent… while others are more opaque or sharp around the edges. Generally speaking, though, each little nugget of glass represents a witty, slightly strange, sometimes melancholy voyage into the unknown and the unpredictable.

Indeed, McGavran is at his best when he lets reality take a back seat. The first story, “Watching Time”, sees a man with a broken wristwatch drift loose from the flow of time altogether. Yes, it’s possible that it might all be a hallucination caused by the gentleman’s medication, but it’s much more fun to buy into the conceit that a mild-mannered pensioner has suddenly found himself adrift in the fourth dimension – especially when his visions of ancient empires and long-concluded wars start meshing with his present-day existence in a fairly average retirement home.

Other stories are a little more grounded, both narratively and temporally. “The Man Who Ran Away From The Sea”, for example, relates a tale that could for all intents and purposes be true. The protagonist, scarred in his youth by an encounter with the unforgiving sea, spends his life in close proximity to (but mortally terrified of) water. His eventual, somewhat unitended, conquering of this fear brings the tale to a satisfying conclusion. Despite not having the same surreal magic that you find scattered through the rest of Recycled Glass, the story is pleasantly entertaining, and bears all the other hallmarks of McGavran’s work, from a middle-aged protagonist with a military past, to hints of legal trouble on the horizon.

The story I enjoyed the least, ironically, was the titular one. “Recycled Glass” sings the virtues of recycled glass countertops – one fine specimen of which is due to be installed in the narrator’s kitchen as part of a seemingly never-ending overhaul. When the miraculously beautiful countertop arrives, however, it appears that there’s a startling price for its beauty. Although just as odd and engaging as the other stories, “Recycled Glass” never quite adds up. There are plenty of times when one is able to sit back and wonder why the characters are behaving the way they are, and the ending feels as though it runs out of momentum rather than boiling up into a climax.

That said, McGavran recovers momentum with the very next story – “Death Without Taxes” is, intriguingly, a retelling of an earlier tale from the collection, “Larson Bennett And The Flight Into Egypt”. This earlier tale examines the chaos that ensues when the extended family of a soon-to-die billionaire descend on his hospital bed, frantic over the massive taxes that will be levied on his estate should he die before the end of the year. In “Death Without Taxes” the situation is reversed, and the same family are instead cheering the dying man on towards the finish line – should he live beyond the end of the year, most of his estate will be seized by the government. This playful approach to narrative is typical of McGavran, and it’s a pleasure to read a story that spools out in two so completely differnet ways.

Perhaps that’s enough to give you a flavour of the kind of strangeness you’ll find in the pages of Recycled Glass. These stories are an odd combination of mild and bizarre, domestic and yet otherworldly. McGavran’s style is simple and straightforward, favouring plot over elegant writing – but nonetheless he does have an excellent ear for dialogue. Each story raised a smile – usually several. This is a gentle, well-crafted collection of stories, most of which firmly hit home. If you enjoyed McGavran’s first collection, or if you’re new to his work altogether, you’d do well to give Recycled Glass a try.

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The Big List Of UK Literary Magazines http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/06/12/big-list-literary-magazines/ http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/06/12/big-list-literary-magazines/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:06:29 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7603 Literary magazines publish fiction, poetry, criticism and other writing. They range from online blogzines to printed publications sold from university bookstores. The list below is a reasonably-comprehensive run down of magazines based in the UK.

If you’re an aspiring writer or poet it’s well worth submitting some of your writing to literary magazines. As well as gaining you a readership, they will help you get used to the publishing process and can be valuable credits if and when you decide to try and publish a full book or collection of your poems. Some magazines will even pay you for your work.

If you’re completely new to sending your work out for publication, you can check out a short guide to the process here. And if you live outside the UK, then we recommend Duotrope’s Digest – it requires a small monthly fee, but is a frequently-updated and reliable resource for discovering new markets.

Do you know of a UK literary magazine that I haven’t listed below? Tell me about it using the contact form!


A3 Review

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

The A3 Review is a literary magazine that folds out like a map, and publishes writing under 150 words. Published pieces are selected by means of a monthly competition.


Acumen

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes poetry and reviews. Acumen is long-established and well read.


Agenda

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes poetry and reviews. Agenda was founded in 1959 by Ezra Pound and William Cookson. It publishes regular anthology issues and occasional special issues that focus on just one poet.


Albedo One

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Based in Ireland, this magazine is “Europe’s westernmost outpost” of science fiction writing. It publishes at least one Irish writer per issue, as well as work from writers around the world. They also publish reviews and interviews, and run the annual Aeon competition.


Algebra Of Owls

Format: Online | Frequency: 365 x Per Year

This “no frills” Yorkshire-based webzine updates on a daily basis with new poetry, and also promotes spoken word poetry events in the region. Every month a “Readers’ Choice” and “Editor’s Choice” prize are awarded.


Allegro Poetry

Format: Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This online magazine publishes four issues each year, two of which are for general poetry and two of which follow a set theme. The editor is Sally Long.


Amaryllis

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

The poetry blog of Poetry Swindon. Publishes new material twice a week, every Monday and Thursday. Open to submissions from writers anywhere in the world.


Ambit

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, artwork and reviews. Ambit has been around for more than forty years. It combines illustration and artwork with prose and poetry.


And Other Poems

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

The aim of this online literary magazine is to give readership to poems which would not otherwise be available: out of print or unavailable poems, poems published in print but not online, competition poems, and unpublished poems.


Anima Poetry

Format: Print | Frequency: 1 x Per Year

Seeks to publish “contemporary poems which dare to look beyond the materialist paradigm of mainstream western culture”. A new magazine, currently seeking submissions for its first edition.


Antiphon

Format: Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This long-running online poetry magazine is dedicated to publishing the best in contemporary poetry, as well as reviews of books and pamphlets and articles about all aspects of poetry.


Arete

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, reviews and articles. An arts journal. Publishes lots of commentary, reportage and critical articles.


Atavic Poetry

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

An online magazine which specialises in traditional and fixed-verse poetry, as well as poetry in translations, articles and essays. They welcome reviews of UK poetry events.


Bare Fiction

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Despite the name this magazine publishes poetry, theatre and other forms of writing along with fiction. See the website for event listings and details of a planned competition.


Black & Blue

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

This eclectic magazine is looking for “drama, poetry, prose and other”. Its goal is to be a “fresh and vivid counterpoint to the conventional aspects of the literary world”. The editors are willing to give feedback on rejected submissions.


Black Static

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, artwork and reviews with a focus on horror. Originally published as The Third Alternative. TTA Press also publishes Interzone and Crimewave.


Brittle Star

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and articles. Back issues of Brittle Star can be found online on the Poetry Library website.


Bunbury Magazine

Format: Online | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

An arts magazine with a strong bias towards creative writing. Each issue has a theme. Although the magazine has no official website, you can follow it on Facebook and Twitter.


Butcher’s Dog

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

A new biannual poetry magazine, founded in the North East of England by seven poets who each won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2010 or 2011.


Cake

Format: Print | Frequency: 1 x Per Year

Based in the English Literature and Creative Writing department at Lancaster University this magazine was set up by students in 2009. It features short fiction and poetry from anywhere in the world. Each issue is named after a different kind of cake.


Cannon’s Mouth

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

The Cannon’s Mouth is the quarterly journal of Cannon Poets. It aims to stimulate interest and encourage the participation of members and the wider community in the writing of poetry and its presentation to the public.


Clear Poetry

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

A free-to-read online poetry magazine, that aims to promote engagement with “accessible, approachable, astonishing” poetry. The editor also curates a yearly eBook anthology of the best poems from the site.


Compass

Format: Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

This online magazine comes out of North West England but is in no way restricted to that region. The tastes of the editors don’t adhere to a particular school and they aim to publish a range of quality poetries. The site also features news, reviews and articles.


Confluence

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

A creative writing magazine produced by live lit organisation Wordsmithery, based in Kent. Aims to publish an equal quantity of works from the Medway Delta and from the world beyond.


Crimewave

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, artwork and reviews. One of the UK’s few magazines dedicated to crime fiction. TTA Press also publishes Interzone and Black Static.


Dark Horizons

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork. The magazine of the British Fantasy Society. Only available to members.


Dawntreader

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This fifty-two-page perfect bound literary publicaton has an international readership, and gives readers the “opportunity to let the imagination run free”. Produced by Indigo Dreams, who also administer a number of other literary magazines and chapbooks.


Doppelgänger

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

This magazine publishes three pieces of magical realist fiction and three pieces of realist fiction in each issue, with the goal of creating an interesting juxtaposition of genres. New and established writers are equally welcome.


Dreamcatcher

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, artwork adn reviews. Dream Catcher also runs various workshops and events in the East Midlands.


East Of The Web

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Publishes fiction in all genres. One of the most widely-read online publications in the UK.


Envoi

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes poetry, reviews and articles. Established for more than fifty years. Cinammon Press also publishes anthologies and runs several competitions.


Far Off Places

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

A Scottish magazine which publishes fiction, poetry, drama and illustration, as well as hosting occasional events. Describes itself as “a magazine of written whimsy”.


Fiction Desk

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

The Fiction Desk publishes a regular anthology series dedicated to new short fiction, as well as running a number of other literary projects.


Firewords

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

A beautifully-illustrated literary magazine which aims to feature both powerful writing and bold design.


Fortnightly Review

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

A frequently-updated periodical featuring fiction, poetry and commentary which dates back to 1865, when it was founded by Anthony Trollope. It describes itself as “an editorial experiment”.


Foxglove

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

This online journal aims to be a haven for poetry and short fiction, featuring work that “thrills, comforts and stimulates”.


Frogmore Papers

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork. Frogmore Press also publishes several other titles and runs a poetry competition.


Fur-Lined Ghettos

Format: Print | Frequency: Unscheduled

A slim but exciting publication which features a wide range of genres and forms. An online sampler is available in addition to the printed issues.


Fuselit

Format: Print | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork. Each issue is themed around a “spur” word. Print issues are handmade in limited runs.


Gloom Cupboard

Format: Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, non-fiction, artwork and reviews. International writers welcome.


Granta

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, artwork and nonfiction. Long-established and well-read. Issues are generally based around a theme.


Here Comes Everyone

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

A Coventry-based magazine with an international readership. Each issue of Here Comes Everyone has a different theme, and the magazine aims to be accessible and supportive to both published and unpublished writers.


High Window

Format: Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This online magazine publishes work in English by new and established poets from The UK and around the world. Alongside a lively and eclectic mix of poetry, each new issue contains an editorial, a literary essay, a selection of poems in translation, poetry reviews and occasional features.


Ink, Sweat & Tears

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Publishes fiction and poetry. Their website states that “Ink Sweat & Tears explores the borderline between poetry and prose in the digital age”.


Interpreter’s House

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

A long-established literary magazine, which has now been published for more than thirty years. Features short fiction and poetry. Also runs a yearly poetry competition with a top prize of £500.


Interzone

Format: Print | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, artwork and review. One of the largest sci-fi magazines in the UK. TTA Press also publishes Black Static and Crimewave.


Iota

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and reviews. Iota‘s main focus is on poetry, but it does publish occasional fiction issues.


Jupiter

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork with a focus on science fiction. Jupiter is available on Kindle. First published in 2003.


Lager

Format: Online | Frequency: 12 x Per Year

An online magazine which aims to provide useful feedback for the creators it features. When submitting work writers are asked to provide a comment on one existing piece from the magazine – these comments are then passed onto the relevant author.


Liars’ League

Format: Online | Frequency: 12 x Per Year

Publishes fiction and nonfiction. Accepted pieces are read by actors at a monthly live fiction night.


Lighthouse

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

“We look to publish the best short fiction and poetry emerging from the UK writing scene.” This journal is run by Gatehouse Press (a publishing company based in Suffolk).


Litro

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 12 x Per Year

Publishes fiction. Over 100000 copies are distributed for free around the UK each month.


London Journal Of Fiction

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

This online magazine is a new platform for writers of fiction, poetry and literary essays. It aims to foster new talent and good writing, regardless of style or genre.


London Magazine

Format: Print | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and reviews. One of the oldest literary magazines in the UK, founded in 1732.


Long Exposure

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Long Exposure Magazine is dedicated to new voices, new ideas, and to seeing the world in different and innovative ways. This project aims to explore both the textual and the visual, bringing to light their dialogues and creative possibilities.


LossLit

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

This project attempts to explore the various influences of loss in literature, both by collating original fiction, poetry and essays, and by building a canon of important existing titles.


Lunar Poetry

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 12 x Per Year

A young but strong publication. The editors also publish a readable and enthusiastic blog, and put together podcasts and London-based launch events.


Magma

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

A long-running poetry magazine. Each issue of Magma is compiled by a different editor, and adhered to a different theme.


Misty Review

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

A magazine with a focus on “identifying breathtakingly beautiful words”. This new magazine is open to online submissions as well as applications from potential editors.


Monkey Kettle

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork. Based in Milton Keynes. Also produces records and runs events in the area.


Moth

Format: Print | Frequency: Quarterly

The Moth was launched at the Flat Lake Festival in June 2010 and is now winner of a DAA Arts Award. This Irish magazine publishes poetry, fiction and pictures from artists in Ireland and abroad.


Mslexia

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction and poetry. Publishes only writers who are female, but contains useful articles and entertaining work that can be enjoyed by either gender.


Neon

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and reviews. Included here for the sake of completeness. Neon maintains this list of literary magazines.


New Fairy Tales

Format: Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork. Aims to publish new fairy tales, and is “passionate about good writing, beautiful illustrations, and sharing fantastic new work“.


New Walk

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

From October 2017 this international print journal of art, writing and review will be replaced by a series of pamphlets, available by subscription. During its run the magazine featured poets such as Andrew Motion and Alice Oswald.


New Welsh Review

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, reviews and articles. New Welsh Review is concerned mainly with writing from Wales. Most feature articles are comissioned, but it is open to submissions of fiction and poetry.


Nottingham Review

Format: Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

A new British digital literary journal, publishing original short stories and flash fiction from around the world.


Obsessed With Pipework

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

A quarterly magazine founded in 1997, and prouduced by Flarestack Poets. The magazine aims to “surprise and delight”. Although it has a limited web presence, back issues can be browsed on the website of The Poetry Library.


Octavius Magazine

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

This literary magazine publishes short stories, drama, poetry and flash fiction written by students based in Scotland. It is open to any form or genre of writing.


Open Mouse

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Originally developed as part of the Poetry Scotland site, The Open Mouse is now an independent online publication which features poems by writers from anywhere in the world.


Open Pen

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

An entirely free magazine that aims to “create a print movement that is interesting and relevant, and encourage the growth of London’s talented, fertile, literary underbelly”. Publishes fiction, articles and columns.


Orbis

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and reviews. Primarily a poetry magazine. Welcomes suggestions for features in addition to prose and poetry.


Peeking Cat Poetry

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

This magazine publishes “a fusion of poetry and flash fiction written by people from all walks of life”. It believes that poetry should be accessible and a part of everyday life.


Picaroon Poetry

Format: Online | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

A web journal which publishes unthemed and eclectic poetry. The editor is seeking “rogue” poets, but has a fairly open definition of that term. Picaroon Poetry also occasionally publishes chapbooks.


Poetry London

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes poetry and reviews. Publishes contemporary poets alongside new voices. Runs a competition and regular readings.


Popshot

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

A fully-illustrated literary magazine that publishes short stories, flash fiction, and poetry from the literary new blood.


Prole

Format: Print | Frequency: Unscheduled

Prole is a print magazine that publishes high-quality, accessible poetry and prose. It aims to challenge, engage and entertain – but never exclude. The publisher, Prole Books, also produces chapbooks.


Quarterday Review

Format: Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This magazine aims to publish outstanding poetry in multiple formats on the four traditional Celtic quarter days: Imbolc (February), Beltane (May), Lughnasagh (August) and Samhain (November).


Reach Poetry

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This magazine has now been published for more than a decade, with a stunning two hundred issues in its archives. Features poetry. Produced by Indigo Dreams, who also administer a number of other literary magazines and chapbooks.


Rialto

Format: Print | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Publishes poetry. Publishes established poets alongside emerging voices. Established in 1984.


Riptide

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

Publishes fiction. Seeks “short stories with an undercurrent”. Based in Exeter.


Rockland

Format: Print | Frequency: 26 x Per Year

This magazine takes the form of a wax-sealed scroll of new poetry and prose, distributed freely around London every fortnight.


Sarasvati

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Each successful contributor to this print magazine has three or four pages dedicated to their work – be that poetry or prose. Produced by Indigo Dreams, who also administer a number of other literary magazines and chapbooks.


Savage Kick

Format: Print | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

Publishes fiction. Seeks writing that displays “misery, joy, psychosis, hope, isolation, disgust…”


Scrittura

Format: Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

An online literary magazine founded in 2015 that aims to provide a home for exciting writers from across the world. Scrittura publishes prose, poetry and dramatic scripts.


Sein Und Werden

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry, reviews and artwork. An experimental literary magazine that seeks to explore the concepts of Expressionism, Surrealism and Existentialism.


Shoreline Of Infinity

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

This science fiction magazine wants stories that explore the uncertain future of the world, and play around with both big and little ideas.


Short Fiction

Format: Print | Frequency: 1 x Per Year

Publishes fiction. Published by University Of Plymouth Press. Also runs an annual short story competition.


Shots

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Publishes fiction and reviews. A crime and thriller ezine.


Stand

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction and poetry. Established in 1952 by Jon Silkin. Has editorial offices at Leeds University and Virginia Commonwealth University in the USA.


Stimulus Respond

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

An online magazine each issue of which revolved around a given theme or “stimulus”. The pieces featured in the magazine form a response to this starting point. Among the most recent stimuli have been “Post-Truth”, “Handmade” and “Toys”.


Storgy

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

An online magazine dedicated to the literary short story. Built around a core group of dedicated writers, Storgy also accepts submissions and runs an annual competition.


Stride

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Publishes fiction, poetry and reviews. Regularly updated online magazine that publishes an eclectic range of material.


Structo

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

This magazine publishes short stories, poetry, essays and interviews, and often features slipstream fiction and poetry in translation. Recent interviewees include Ursula K Le Guin and Margaret Atwood.


Tears In The Fence

Format: Print | Frequency: Unscheduled

An international magazine which publishes a variety of contemporary writers. It provides critical reviews of recent books, anthologies and pamphlets and essays on a diversity of significant modern and contemporary English and American poets.


The Letters Page

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 3 x Per Year

Produced by the School of English at the University of Nottingham, this journal publishes correspondence-themed writing, with the letter as its main form.


The Reader

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Established in 1997, The Reader features a mix of poetry, fiction , interviews, thought pieces, advice and research with a focus on shared reading as a therapeutic activity. Their goal is to make shared reading widely available across the UK.


The Red Line

Format: Online | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

A magazine based around a bi-monthly short story competition with a fifty pound cash prize. The overall winner is selected from a shortlist by a different group of judges each time.


Three Drops From A Cauldron

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

An online journal for poetry, flash fiction, or any hybrid of the two with a focus on myth, legend, folklore, fable and fairytale. The name of the journal comes from a legend about the legendary Welsh sorceress Cerridwen.


Thief

Format: Online | Frequency: 26 x Per Year

A micropublication produced by the international media charity Tribe, dedicated to poetry, haiku and very short fiction.


Thi Wurd

Format: Print | Frequency: Unscheduled

A fiction magazine based in Glasgow which aims to give an outlet to those who exist “outside the narrative”. The publisher also organises events.


Transect

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

A new magazine that aims to cut across human borders, eradicating boundaries between nations, ethnic/racial groups, languages and cultures.


Tribe

Format: Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

A multi-disciplinary arts magazine run by international media charity Tribe. Describes itself as “interested in the art of creativity, not the creativity of art“.


Under The Radar

Format: Print | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

The flagship publication of Nine Arches Press, Under The Radar features fiction, poetry, reviews and articles. The magazine was founded in 2008, and the press began publishing chapbooks and pamphlets shortly thereafter.


Valve

Format: Print | Frequency: Unscheduled

A literary journal dedicated to publishing new and experimental work. “Valve will always be a platform for poetry and fiction that doesn’t fit the mould“.


Visionary Tongue

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction and artwork. Established in 1995 by Storm Constantine. One of few regular British fantasy magazines.


Volume

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: 2 x Per Year

Publishes fiction, poetry and artwork. Creative magazine concerned with arts, music and fashion. Also publishes material online on the Volume blog.


Wasafiri

Format: Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

Publishes fiction and reviews. Wasafiri has a strong international focus, publishing work with a background in many different cultures.


White Review

Format: Online & Print | Frequency: 4 x Per Year

The White Review publishes material both online and in print, with a focus on fiction and poetry that is “artistically or educationally meritorious”. It also runs an annual competition.


Whatscene

Format: Print | Frequency: 12 x Per Year

A free print publication focussed on life in East London and beyond. Publishes poetry online on its Facebook page, and may possibly feature it in print in the future.


Wildness

Format: Online | Frequency: 6 x Per Year

Seeks to publish poetry, prose, art and photography. A brand new journal, currently seeking submissions for the first edition.


3:AM

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

Publishes fiction, poetry and reviews. 3:AM Magazine publishes a wide variety of work. Its slogan is “Whatever it is, we’re against it”.


404 Ink

Format: Print & Online | Frequency: Unscheduled

A new publication that aims to showcase incredible writing in an exciting and well-designed package. The publisher is funded by Creative Scotland, and has plans to bring out books as well as a literary magazine in the future.

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The Apocalypse Primer: Films http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/06/09/the-apocalypse-primer-films/ Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:10:52 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7594 With the “Apocalypse” issue of Neon slowly rumbling over the horizon, we’ve been exploring the end of the world in a variety of literary forms. Last time we brought you our top five apocalyptic books. This time it’s films.

If any of these cataclysmic endings sparks something in your imagination, please do send along the end result – whether it revolves around a plague of zombies, an asteroid or a devastating nuclear attack, we’d love to consider it for the magazine.

Children Of Men

Children Of Men

In Alfonso Cuarón’s gritty dystopian thriller, women everywhere have become suddenly infertile, and the world is shambling slowly towards its own self-destruction as a result. The ageing population is encouraged to commit suicide, migrants are turfed out of a newly-fortified Britain, nukes detonate in cities across the globe, and the roads beyond London are no longer safe to travel (not that the capital is exactly lovely either). The film is notable for its brutal realism, journalistic long takes and really, really good action sequences. It also presents a terrifying and grimly-credible portrait of a Britain which has given up the pretence of civility in favour of isolationism and violence.

28 Days Later

28 Days Later

A zombie story which re-invograted the genre by turning zombies from shambling comedy-fodder into a reasonably credible threat. The straightforward story is brought to life with strong characters and some brilliant visuals of an empty London, courtesy of director Danny Boyle. Our protagonist, Jim, wakes from a coma to find that the world as he knew it has all but ended. As one of very few survivors he must seek out companionship, shelter and safety in a world now infested with the wandering dead. The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, doesn’t capture quite the same feel as the original, but is nonetheless a passable continuation of the story.

Threads

Threads

A 1984 British television drama produced in collaboration with the BBC that, despite its age, still retains its ability to shock and appall. Writer Barry Hines opts for realism over any notion of heroic survival in his story of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom. After spending the first hour or so getting to know various characters in and around Sheffield, we are then party to their sudden or gradual demise when a flurry of bombs detonate nearby. Gruesome, visceral and sickening, Threads is among the most compelling end-of-the-world dramas that exists – all the more so because it depicts an apocalypse that could very easily actually happen.

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Director Bong Joon-Ho brings to life a rather weird apocalypse based on a graphic novel by two French artists. The world has frozen into a giant snowball, and the only living humans that remain are those fortunate enough to have scored a place on board a implausibly-long train which constantly circumnavigates the globe. After years of opression by the gits in first class, however, the third class passengers have had enough of being trodden on, and begin a revolt. Despite being utterly bizarre, this is a masterfully-done film with much to commend it, not least its striking visual design. For a more in depth look at Snowpiercer, check out our full-length review.

These Final Hours

These Final Hours

These Final Hours is set in Perth, not long after a massive asteroid has collided with the earth. With an all-encompassing firestorm fast approaching, our protagonist James has just one day to live the rest of his life – and he intends to spend it at the (literal) party to end all parties. His journey, however, don’t go quite to plan. It’s a simple story, but plays out exceptionally well in the hands of writer and director Zak Hilditch. With constant radio updates on the approach of the apocalypse, there’s a very real sense of threat and urgency. Spoiler: there’s not exactly a happy ending.

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Five New Ways To Read More Books http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/06/01/five-new-ways-to-read-more-books/ Thu, 01 Jun 2017 08:43:35 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7588 The way books are published and consumed has changed more in the last decade than it did in the previous hundred years… and yet, for the most part, the (basically awful) Amazon Kindle is the only new innovation in reading that most people are aware of. The good news for anyone who doesn’t enjoy wrangling poorly-formatted romance novels onto expensive, DRM-locked pieces of hardware? Amazon is not the only choice. In fact there are dozens of new and interesting ways to get your monthly, weekly or even daily reading fix. Why not try one of the below…

Get A Book On Subscription

We’ve already reviewed a couple of The Pigeonhole‘s titles, and so can attest to the quality of fiction on offer from them. Unlike other publishers though, they don’t simply unload the book on you and let you get on with it. When you sign up for a particular title you receive a chapter a day, direct to your inbox or the Pigeonhole app. You can then read along with others, leave comments on the text, and enjoy an array of supplementary media in addition to the text itself. Not only that, but – in line with The Pigeonhole’s mission of making reading a more communal activity –  you can also create your own private book club to read along with friends.

Download An Interactive Book

There’s an ever-increasing range of book-based apps that take storytelling beyond simple words on a page, and invoke various other forms of media to make reading into a multi-sensory experience. Some feature ambient music to set the mood, while others use illustration and animation as part of their narrative. A few even come with puzzles to solve or secrets to discover. iPoe and iLovecraft are highly recommended for fans of classic literature, but you can also try the Interactive Fiction Database for a huge range of titles that will play with your expectations of what a book can be.

Listen To An Audiobook

More books than ever before are now available in audio format, thanks to the rise of services such as Amazon’s Audible. Sign up, and you can download a book each month to listen to on your phone, tablet, laptop or other device. Excellent, independent publications like Pseudopod and Escape Pod are also worth checking out for a mix of short and very short audio fiction to fill in any gaps. But what if the title you’re after doesn’t yet have an audio version? Reading apps, like eReader Prestigio, often come with a text-to-speech option that will read the text aloud to you on demand. Although the quality is nowhere near that of a human reader, it’ll do the job until a real audiobook is available.

Sign Up For “Netflix For Books”

Scribd is often said to be following the “Netflix for books” model – you pay a subscription fee, and gain access to their entire catalogue of titles, allowing you to read as much or as little as you like each month. It has a pretty excellent range of books available too, with a catalogue that runs from the latest offerings from the big five down to a host of obscure, independently published projects. For heavy readers this is likely the most economical option, but given that Scribd offers a thirty day free trial (during which you can read as many books as you wish) there’s nothing to be lost by giving them a shot.

Subscribe To A Book Box

A number of subscription boxes for physical books are now available. Sign up to The Willoughby Book Club, MyBookBox, or The Book Drop, let them know your preferences, then sit back and wait for an appropriately themed read to arrive on your doorstep every four weeks or so. Apart from allowing you to enjoy the pleasantness of a physical book, these services also introduce you to titles you might otherwise never have picked up. If the services about don’t quite suit your tastes, do shop around – there are dozens of different options, with book boxes that focus on everything from Young Adult literature to horror.

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Interview: Richard Dent http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/05/25/interview-richard-dent/ Thu, 25 May 2017 13:48:47 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7584 We talk to Richard Dent, author of the comic book series Myopia, about what it takes to write a successful graphic novel, and how it ties in with other types of writing.

What is your writing background? Had you ever written a graphic novel or comic before Myopia?

I started writing poetry as an undergraduate, then went on to get a MFA in Poetry at the University of Arizona.  While there I started branching out into fiction and screenwriting and have been jumping in between the three ever since. Myopia is my first graphic novel, but I wrote comic books in high school and distributed them to my friends.

Out of interest, what would you say is the difference between a graphic novel and a comic?

I’ve noticed Marvel and DC tend to throw together a series, no matter how it comes together, and call it a graphic novel. That’s not to say that a good comic book series can’t qualify as a graphic novel – The Sandman and Watchmen are the most popular examples – but to me, a graphic novel is planned from beginning to end before production starts. If it is being released as a series, I would hope that the writer or editor had planned at least four issues out before getting started. That way if they decide to call it a graphic novel once it’s finished, it will more likely read like one.

I read on your Kickstarter page that the idea for Myopia started as a screenplay. What was it about the story that made you certain it could work as a graphic novel? Why did it belong in that form?

The world of Myopia is rich and layered, but only briefly touched upon in many areas of the screenplay in order to fit the limitations of the screenplay format. This extra material I didn’t include, the world not addressed, is what made me most certain the screenplay would work well in graphic novel form. This is one of the strengths of the graphic novel. It can speed forward visually but also stop and hold your attention like a book. There were other visions I had as well: how the vehicles should look, what colors should be used, what expressions the characters might have – decisions usually left up to the director, but something I have more control over when collaborating with an illustrator.

You had the funds from your Kickstarter to get you going, and the support of Dynamite behind you. How did that all come together?

The graphic novel market is brutal unless you have a strong track record of selling comics (think Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis), and even if you do find a comic book publisher the deals are nothing like novelists get when selling to a traditional publisher. This is because graphic novels cost a lot to produce. You’re not just paying for formatting and marketing like a traditional publishing house. People need to get paid: illustrators, colorist, inkers, letterers and, yes, even writers get paid from time to time. Running a Kickstarter and proving there were people willing to pay for Myopia (and raising some initial capital) was a necessity. Once the Kickstarter was successful, I went back to the market place and everything changed. Dynamite had been supportive of my Kickstarter and were familiar with my work, so it was a nice match.

What was your process like while working on Myopia? Did you write a script, draw sketches, or produce some other kind of outline? When we talk about “writing” a graphic novel, what are we actually talking about?

Outlining is always a good idea. I didn’t for Myopia, but I had a completed script to work from. That isn’t to say I just copied the screenplay. I stopped along the way and created extraneous world-building material that I wasn’t sure would make it into the book. A lot of it didn’t. What I did include had to be placed in a way that didn’t distract from the primary mode of storytelling, which was pictures. That’s what writing a graphic novel entails: telling a story primarily with pictures and choosing just the right amount of words to string them together.

Are there a lot of commonalities between writing a screenplay and writing a graphic novel? What other forms is it most comparable to?

They’re both collaborative forms.  The screenwriter and the comic book writer must keep in mind the different people who will be working off their script once it’s complete. In the case of a comic book writer they must ask themselves questions like will the penciler/colorist/letterer be able to fit all this information in the panels/pages indicated? Have I given enough detail to make sure that the art is reflective of what I’m imagining? Likewise, the screenwriter must visually organize his scenes so that they are efficient and effective.  Is the dialogue moving the story forward? Does it compliment the accompanying imagery or does it simply mirror it? Writers of both mediums must also keep budget in mind. A five issue comic book is going to run you around fifty thousand dollars… and that’s without the writer being paid. Likewise a movie can cost anything from fifty thousand, to five hundred million or more to produce.  The writer in both mediums can control the budget by making choices about what to include and what not to include in their script. This sense of economy is reminiscent of poetry. A good poet is always asking if their lines are creating complex images and if those images are creating movement. Of course, bad poems are only going to cost the writer his or her time.

What do you need to think about when writing a graphic novel? Was there anything that you found surprisingly difficult or easy?

In film we throw around a term called parallel action, which is a narrative device for showing two simultaneous events by cutting between two pieces of action which are shown concurrently. These pieces of action are dialogue and what’s being shown on screen. In comics, it’s dialogue and the images happening in the panels. If the images mirror the dialogue then you’re not taking advantage of the medium. However, if dialogue and imagery are working together and separately at the same time to move the story forward, you will be telling a much larger story in a smaller space. Knowing how to layer the right words on top of the right images without the pages feeling cluttered is the most difficult aspects of writing comics. At the same time this is what’s easy about comics: so much can be shown in a picture, it saves the writer a lot of work.

How did you find an artist to draw Myopia? What is your relationship with your artist like? How much say do you have over the style and visual look of the finished article?

Dynamite works with a regular stable of extremely talented illustrators, and when it was time to get started on the first issue of Myopia, they paired me up with a dozen or so illustrators they thought would work well with the story. Out of that list Patrick Berkenkotter‘s work stood out to me because of its incredible detail. He’s worked with Jim Kruegger and Alex Ross on the Avengers for Marvel Comics, as well as The Torch, a direct spin-off from Avengers, and with Dynamite on their own titles such as Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dark Shadows. Working with Patrick has been fantastic. After reading the script, he storyboards and sketches out anything that will need to be drawn with regularity (for consistency purposes). While pencilling he’ll make notes for the colorist and the letterer; this comes in very helpful down the line when it’s their turn to work on the issue. He takes pride in his work, and it makes my job a lot easier, especially considering that the editorial policy for creator-owned property at Dynamite is more hands-off. This is both a blessing and a curse. I love the creative control, but as a writer, sometimes I feel in over my head. For instance, we had a hell of time finding the right color scheme for Myopia. I knew I wanted to do something different but had a hard time expressing that in “art” terms. As a consequence, there was a lot of going back and forth during the color stage where I was simply saying “I don’t like that,” or “more blue,” or “it’s not dark enough.” Mohan the colorist was a saint throughout and when the final product was printed I realized I should have trusted him more. Not to make it sound like I’m totally alone over at Dynamite. My editor Anthony Marquez, who used to be an editor at DC Comics (and is a talented artist himself), is there for us if we need him.

What other functional things did you need to think about while making Myopia a reality?

After the script is handed over to the penciler, storyboards are created. They must be scrutinized before the penciler starts to draw. That’s step one for the editor (me). Once storyboards are approved then the drawing begins. As the pencils come in they must be compared to the script. Redraws are a big no-no so the editor/writer must pay a great deal of attention to the storyboards. If that all goes well then the pages either go to an inker or to production to be digitally darkened. This depends on the style of the illustration. With Patrick’s style an inker (someone who highlights shadows and lines) would make it harder for the colorist to do his job, so instead his pencils are darkened digitally so that the images are clear enough for the colorist.  The colorist then gets to work… and this is a whole other ordeal with the editor. There is the aesthetic level (do the colors compliment the pencils?) but in Myopia‘s case colors are also important to the plot, as different colors indicate different types of lenses being used. Colors also need to be honoured in various other ways – for example if a memory or flashback is lens induced (fabricated) those panels need to incorporate that primary lens color being used. There are also a lot of general notes on how I want things colored, and on top of those the illustrator makes his notes on color.  Unlike pencilling, color goes through a lot of corrections, but with digital coloring this isn’t that big of a deal.  After color is complete the letterer does their thing. I have a lot of notes to the letterer, more than most. Not only do bubbles need to look different if dialogue is done through lenses, but I also incorporate a lot of letters, notes and journal entries throughout the book. The illustrator also makes notes to the letterer. Making letter corrections isn’t that big of a deal, but this is the final stage to check for the dreaded typos. Once that’s all done a cover needs to be designed and production needs to lay the whole thing out, both for print and digital.  There are so many layers to producing a comic book I frankly don’t know how companies like Dynamite and Marvel can put out such high-quality issues on such a regular basis.

Was there anything that didn’t go to plan, or any mistakes that you learned from throughout the process?

For the first script I didn’t scrutinize the storyboard enough and it caused delays. I also didn’t have a clear vision of what the color should look like. Production-wise I should have started hunting for a cover artist earlier – it’s customary for the cover artist to be a different artist than the interior artist – and as a result Myopia‘s cover artist, Cezar Rezek, was put under the gun to get the cover done fast. He did a great job but I don’t like to make people work like that. By the way, the colorist for Myopia was Mohan and the letterer Tylor Esposito – both of whom also did a great job.

Do you have any advice for aspiring graphic novel writers?

It really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.  When I teach graphic novel writing I usually charge the writer with the responsibility of doing their own art (just for them to see how challenging the process is). I get everything from stick figures to cut-and-pasted photographs. If you’re actually talented enough to draw, you’re going to have a lot more control over the timeline of your product and also creative control. If you can’t draw and you’re going to work with an illustrator, you’re going to have to ask yourself some hard questions. Do I want to pay someone up front to draw the entire book? (very expensive); or do I want to form a partnership with someone? (very complicated). If you want to be a writer for hire, there are a lot of entry-level opportunities out there with smaller companies. You might be writing for free or for next to nothing for a while but that can change over time if your work is good. Some of my favourite writers like Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood write in different mediums. Don’t be scared to try something new. It’s scary but at the end of the day, it makes you a stronger writer.

*

Richard Dent is the creator and writer of the comic book series Myopia, published by Dynamite Entertainment. He also writes short stories, poetry and screenplays, many of which have been recognized by organizations such as The American Academy of Poets, Francis Ford Coppola and the Austin Film Festival. When he’s not writing he teaches writing as part of the National University MFA program. Vist him online at www.richdentwriter.com.

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The Apocalypse Primer: Novels http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/04/24/the-apocalypse-primer-novels/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:23:20 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7459 The apocalypse has long been fertile ground for the literary imagination. There’s something irresistably fascinating, it seems, in the idea of total destruction – whether that be by means of war, plague, natural disaster, or something more odd and unpredictable.

Now more than ever, a sense of doom seems appropriate – and with our apocalypse-themed issue on the distant horizon, we thought we’d put together a series of posts on the apocalypse as it appears in all manner of literary forms.

Here you’ll find our five favourite books about the end of the world… but we also plan on sharing our favourite cataclysmic short stories, poems, games and films. We hope you find this fabulously bleak reading material inspiring. If you do, submissions to the magazine are currently open…

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy - a beautiful but depressing read.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It seems odd to call such a brutally depressing book beautiful, but McCarthy’s prose is a pleasure to read, even when it’s describing a planet burned beyond recognition by an unspecified (but likely manmade) disaster. The story is simple: a man and his child amble across the blasted continent of North America in search of food, shelther and salvation, but find very little of anything. The Road is a deeply affecting read – one that can be, at times, difficult to face. If you fancy an easier ride, try the movie: it features Viggo Mortensen and completely misses the point of the book, but is, at least, a little less bleak.

"Z For Zachariah" by Robert C O'Brien - an intense post-apocalyptic thriller.

2. Z For Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien

The half-finished manuscript of this classic young adult novel was completed by the author’s wife and daughter following his death. The book, published posthumously, tells the story of Ann Burden – a teenage girl who believes herself to be the last human left alive after a deadly nuclear war. When this turns out not to be the case after all, she is forced into a terrifying game of cat and mouse with another survivor. With the protagonist trapped by radiation in the valley that was once her home, Z For Zachariah has a lot in common with classic horror stories, but there’s enough apocalyptic majesty to make it feel distinct and interesting.

"Level Seven" by Modrecai Roshwald - a bleak, anti-nuclear novel.

3. Level Seven By Mordecai Roshwald

This 1959 novel tells the story of a nameless soldier forced to take shelter deep underground in preparation for a global nuclear war. Taking the form of a diary, the narrative avoids situating itself in any particular country or province – instead referring only to “enemies” and “neutrals” in the world outside. Given that most of the action takes place in a deep underground bunker, the sense of suffocating helplessness is palpable, and only grows stronger as events unfold. Level Seven is clearly intended as a warning against the folly of nuclear war, and – saturated with utter despair as it is – it should be a fairly effective one. A pity, then, that nobody who actually has access to a nuclear button is ever likely to read it.

"The Stand" by Stephen King - morally unambiguous end-of-the-world fun.

4. The Stand by Stephen King

At over eight-hundred pages in length, it’s safe to say that The Stand is something of an epic. It begins with the accidental release of a strain of weaponised superflu, and goes on to describe the collapse of civilisation. In the aftermath, survivors gather to form two new communities – one basically good, and one very obviously evil (The Stand is the first novel to feature King’s recurring antagonist Randall Flagg). Hints of the supernatural give this three-part story a fantasy flavour, but in King’s talented hands the magical elements don’t feel corny or overdone, and there’s plenty of good old-fashioned end-of-the-world-ness to languish in.

"Flood" by Stephen Baxter - a sci-fi take on rapidly rising sea levels.

5. Flood by Stephen Baxter

This wide-ranging science-fiction novel examines an unusual apocalypse, which has a tenuous but fascinating grounding in real science: underground oceans are swelling the earth’s sea levels, swallowing up more and more land each day. Billions of refugees are driven ahead of the steadily rising tide, while others take shelter on self-contained cruise ships, in raft cities, in submarines, or in domes at the bottom of the ocean. Baxter’s narrative spans many years, but feels consistently fast-paced and urgent – and there’s even a sequel (Ark) if you want to know what happens to the few survivors who decide that a watery Earth really isn’t worth the hassle.

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Interview: Ed Cottrell http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/2017/04/20/interview-ed-cottrell/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:45:23 +0000 http://www.neonbooks.org.uk/?p=7450

We talk to Ed Cottrell (whose story appeared in issue forty-four) about parasites, horror, and how to pronounce the unpronounceable.

The world is filled with interesting parasites. Did any in particular form part of your research or inspiration for “Catastrophe (Or Larva)”?

There isn’t a specific parasite, but perhaps, somewhere in the back of my head, I was thinking of the parasitic wasps which lays eggs inside the bodies of mice.

When I started writing this story I had no clear image of the larva. I still can’t visualise it – except for specific parts (particularly its teeth, belly and legs) which become visible at particular moments. I was mostly interested in finding ways to describe it that were both cute and repulsive. I invented various physical characteristics as I needed them to appear in the story. That’s partly because it’s more fun to write that way, and it also meant the characters who care for the larva never really “see” it. I pictured the larva weaving a cocoon of cute fantasies around itself, through which it is occasionally visible.

Sound seems to be important to your story. There are howls, clacks, clicks and murmurs. It would be an interesting piece to hear read aloud – but do you have an idea in your own head of how the name of the larva might sound?

Exoskeletal mouthparts are necessary for some of the larva’s clacking sounds. As it sounds in my head, you could approximate the larva by smacking your teeth and snapping your fingers at the same time. The trilling sounds are a bit like a parrot.

The name of the larva (in my head) does not have a particular sound. (If anything, I think of it as an anti-sound, a kind of inverted language or a vanishing point. But this isn’t really in the story, it’s something in the back of my head.)

Some characters in your story are disgusted by the larva, while some are loving and affectionate towards it. Did you aim to make the reader feel a certain way about the larva? What are your personal feelings towards creepy crawlies?

I was hoping to produce a kind of sensory oscillation – flipping between fear or disgust on the one hand, and caring instincts on the other. That’s actually quite similar to how I feel about insects in general…

“Catastrophe (Or Larva)” could be classified as a horror story. How do you generally categorise your work? Does genre matter?

Genre doesn’t matter hugely to me – I’m more drawn to an author’s style rather than the genre or category they’re fitted into. When I’m reading I don’t immediately differentiate between realism and fantasy or horror. That said, a lot of the time I am drawn to monsters and monstrous or transformed things. My earliest interest in weird creatures probably goes back to the stop-motion animation in Jason And The Argonauts (harpies are imprinted on my earliest memories). I love the strange creatures and the skewed logic of many Studio Ghibli films (particularly Porco Rosso). I also love Tove Jansson’s Comet Over Moominland (which is in some ways an apocalyptic story full of imaginary creatures). The Melancholy Of Resistance by Laszlo Krasznahorkai is maddening and apocalyptic, and includes a gigantic taxidermied whale and a strange, stunted character known as “The Prince”. I’m currently reading the collected stories of Leonora Carrington, which are brilliant and funny and weird and horrifying… But I’ll stop here, to avoid turning this into a list of books I like at the moment…

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Ed Cottrell lives in London. He was a winner of the 2014-15 Ideas Tap “Inspires” national story competition, and in 2015 spent two months as a resident writer at Toji Cultural Foundation in South Korea, where he worked on a novel manuscript.

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