Sunday, 8 July 2018

The reviews are coming in.....and they're great!

It's been about a month since Broken on the Inside, my micro-collection from Black Shuck Books, was released. There's always a nervous feeling when you launch a new book, your baby out there in the world. Will people like it? Will they hate it? Will they even read it?

With Broken on the Inside I lined up a number of reviews with different sites in the genre and I've opened each review as they've been published with excitement and trepidation. I needn't have been apprehensive. Suffice to say I have been blown away with the love being shown. And thank you to all the reviewers for taking the time to read Broken on the Inside and give their thoughts. Here's a few links to show what people have been saying:

Jim McLeod, Ginger Nuts of Horror: "Broken on the Inside, is a magnificent collection of stories. Writing about mental health issues is never easy, it can result in some clumsy, heavy-handed writing that does nothing to address the issues that the writer is trying to address, but to attempt this within a genre story, that demands the inclusion of certain aspects and themes makes this task even more daunting. Sloman has more than risen to the challenge, all of the five stories transcend the trappings of the genre to deliver a set of intelligent, heartfelt, and haunting incursions into the broken minds that so many of us suffer from. If this book doesn't win awards this year then there is something seriously wrong with the world."

Gavin Kendall, Kendall Reviews: "Phil Sloman is unquestionably a talent, someone I definitely want to read more of. Sloman has a writing style that leaps off the page and offers near perfect characterisation, Broken on the Inside is a superb collection. Five excellent shorts that evoke all sorts of emotions. For a book with such dark, and serious, subject matter it’s not a heavy read in the slightest."

Chris Hall, DLS Reviews: "It’s savage and cold and utterly unforgiving.  But then that’s what Sloman does best.  He might be a happy smiling fella on the outside, but in his stories he’s slicing and dicing the souls of his characters until there’s nothing left but broken shells and insanity."

Anthony Watson, Dark Musings: "It’s a strong ending to a very strong collection. Along with the clever ideas already mentioned there’s a great deal of intelligence in the writing. Ideas are great but it takes skill to craft them into stories that are as enjoyable to read as these five are. This skill, along with a keen eye for the minutiae of human behaviour in all its dark reality mark Phil out as a writer to watch for in the future."

Yvonne Davies, Terror Tree: "Each story was completely different and whilst there were not monsters and demons in this book, it shows how frightening human nature and conditions can be. Each story built up to unexpected endings. I love this author’s short stories and I hope there are more to come. If you have not read any of this authors work before than this is a great collection to get you started."

Charlene Cocrane, Char's Horror Corner: "These stories were all heavy hitters and combined, make up this powerful narrative as a whole. I enjoyed it as entertaining storytelling on one level, but it also caused me to think deeply about life as we know it and how we go about living that life. Every single person in this book had problems-addictions and obsessions. They were broken on the inside. This led me to thinking about the people I know and even myself. Aren't we all BROKEN ON THE INSIDE in one way or another? Highly recommended for fans of extremely well written dark fiction!"

Daniel I Russell, Horror Writer: "In summary, goddamn this Phil Sloman and his book. It's a perfect example of how strong the horror game can be, particularly on reaching levels of characterisation other authors may require chapters to reach. Goddamn him."

Broken on the Inside can be bought here.


Sunday, 13 May 2018

A trio of announcements

As usual, have been a bit quiet on here. Perhaps one day I will get good at this blogging lark! Anyway, it is with good reason as I have been busy on the writing front and with something to show for it. Over the next two months I have three writing related ventures out in the wider world.

To start with I have my first solo collection out with Black Shuck Books. Steve Shaw approached me at FantasyCon 2017 to ask what my plans were for the next year and offer me a deal to pull together a mini-collection. Naturally I jumped at the chance. Steve has been doing some great work and building a respected name under the banner of Black Shuck Books. My collection, Broken on the Inside, will be the sixth in the Shadow Series which has featured such names as Paul Kane, Joseph D'Lacey and Thana Niveau among others. What a line up to be alongside!

Broken on the Inside features previously published stories Discomfort Food, The Man who fed the Foxes, There was an Old Man and Virtually Famous alongside a story penned specifically for this collection, the titular Broken on the Inside. And Steve himself produced the cover art based on a concept I gave him which he ran with and then some! I hope folks notice the gradually expanding fracture in the dolls which Steve went above and beyond to sort out. It is released on 4 June and pre-orders are available

Next up is my short story Dust which appears in Holding on by our Fingertips from Grimbold Books and featuring some brilliant writers at the top of their game. I was approached by Amanda Rutter to submit a story with no promise of acceptance. The premise was those early days when the end of the world is imminent. Fortunately Amanda liked what I came up with and there is a launch on 8 June at Waterstones, Oxford alongside two other superb books from Grimbold.

Dust tells the tale of a couple in their retirement, holed away in the remoteness of the countryside. How does someone tell someone the world is coming to an end when they have dementia? Does it matter or do you struggle on and pretend everything is normal? A sad tale as the world lurches towards its end game.

And finally a book a long time in the making yet well worth the wait. In Dog We Trust launches on 14 July at EdgeLit in Derby. The brainchild of Anthony Cowin, In Dog We Trust brings us a collection of tales from some amazing writers about our four legged friends and the horrors which exist in the world. All proceeds go to the Birmingham Dog's Home.

My story A Dog is for Death is a grim tale exploring the world of dog fights and dishes out revenge to the vile scum who run this racket. Another offering from Black Shuck Books.

 So there you go. Three books for you to get your hands on with some cracking tales therein. I hope that you enjoy them if you're kind enough to pick up a copy or two.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Onwards into the unknown!

Onwards into the unknown! Okay, that was a mildly more exciting title than it needed to be but I've had a multitude of food, booze and cheer and so it was the best I could do in these trying circumstances. What I wanted to say was 'here is what I am up to in 2018' but it's less snappy and filled with wonder and unknownness.

2018 is one of those years where I'll look quite busy (and I invariably will be) but a lot of the initial legwork has been done in 2017.

Plans for writing work to come out are:

La Vacation - this is a novella length French folk horror story as part of a small anthology being edited by Dean M Drinkel who has published a number of my stories previously. It follows Frank and Elizabeth, a middle-aged English couple, as they take a trip to France the latter half of the last century. Think Hammer horror with a touch of Gallic flare. My first dip into folk horror so will be interesting to see what people think.

I've about three charity anthologies which I have contributed stories to (one story still to be written). The causes will go to help people with autism (Child Autism UK), homeless people (Shelter) and a dog's charity (charity being finalised). Will plug properly as they become available.

On top of that I have four other short stories which have been accepted in to anthologies with themes ranging from monsters, ice cream trucks, the end of the world and industrial horror. There are also a couple of open submissions I might chance my arm at.

I am also really excited to have my own mini-collection coming out with three or four re-prints and a new short story which I shall be penning next month.

And final current work in progress is a novella I have embarked on off my own back entitled Stanley Sebastian Solomon. It's a dark psychological tale about a lad on probation housed up in a halfway house and the residents he lives with. I'm about halfway through and this one feels quite angry as I am writing it (I think a reflection of a personally dark 2017 I have had where my head has been an interesting, if not pleasant, place to be) and hopefully offers something a little different to other works out there. Currently considering whether to experiment with self-publishing or pitching it to established publishers.

Then the real push for 2018 is to put a novel together (isn't that what most writers say at this point?). I have the plot in my head and it feels like something both commercial as well as something I want to write. Sitting in the psychological market I hope I can ride on this year's BFS Best Newcomer nomination but we'll see. The first thing is to get the words down on paper otherwise wishes and dreams count for nothing!

Looking forward to an exciting 2018 and also to reading the vast quantity of books from others coming out this year. I'm am in awe of so many other writers out there at the moment and the quality they are producing month after month. We truly are in a golden age of horror.

Love, hugs and kisses and an amazing 2018 for all of you!

Phil x

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Imposter Syndrome

Next weekend sees me at SledgeLit where I shall be doing a reading from a great anthology I am in entitled Imposter Syndrome published by Dark Minds Press and edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth.

Here's the blurb:

What if you thought your family had been replaced by identical copies? 

What if you could no longer trust the faces of people you met? 
What if you saw someone who looked exactly like you? 

Dark Minds Press brings you an anthology of doppelgängers, clones, changelings, Capgras-delusion and pod-people, featuring stories from some of the best writers of horror and speculative fiction around. 

And the line up of authors is amazing! Just check out the TOC below:

James Everington & Dan Howarth

Gary McMahon

Laura Mauro

Timothy J Jarvis

Holly Ice

Neil Williamson

Stephen Bacon

Ralph Robert Moore

Tracy Fahey

Georgina Bruce

Phil Sloman

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Does the West need to be quicker on the draw?

Before the magazine was no more, I did a bit of film reviewing for John Gilbert' Fear Magazine. One of the articles I wrote had a look at animation in horror films. Below, with the permission of John, is the article in full. Hopefully some new films for people to discover and old favourites to be reacquainted with.

Ever since I was a kid I have loved animated films. And it’s not just me. You simply need to look at the money taken by smash hits such as the Toy Story, Shrek, Despicable Me, and Madagascar franchises as well as the likes of Frozen, Cars, A Bug’s Life, Antz, The Lego Movie and so on and on and on. Going back into the history of cinema we have a dominance of Disney in the box office from Bambi, Pinocchio and Cinderella through to the Lion King, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid alongside other animated films from Europe such as a spate of Asterix films and Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin.     Millions and millions spent to entertain us. The target audience for these films is predominantly children with the right mix of content to keep parents engaged too. Yet where is the darker side of this painted cinematic world? What is out there purely for an adult audience? Where are the terrors which come to life from the skill of the artist’s pen in celluloid framed glory?
A quick look on IMDB under horror will suggest 5,545 animated horror films with a further quick look showing that a lot of those are either shorts, TV series, Japanese or a combination. As with a lot of things horror, Japan latched on to this idea and has run with it in a unique and wonderful style. I remember first coming across Japanese animation in the 90s whilst working out how to navigate the social interactions of university campus life. A friend of mine was heavily into anime and introduced me to a plethora of films which pulsed with life in their exaggerated fashion. Some films people may be familiar with are Perfect Blue, Blood: The Last Vampire, Vampire Hunter D and Demon City. Now several years later I came to pondering why this visibility in the Japanese market hasn’t translated itself to the Western world. Therefore I decided to spend the last few weeks seeing how prevalent animated horror films are on this side of the globe.  
Over here you might think that animation is solely a gateway drug to get children into horror though I suspect the influence would more likely come from online games nowadays. Kids’ horror films do great business. If you don’t believe me then look at the figures below from a small selection:
The Nightmare Before Christmas (33rd highest ranked film for worldwide box office in 1993)
The Corpse Bride (Budget $30 million, sales $114 million)
Hotel Transylvania (Budget $85 million, sales $470 million)
Frankenweenie (Budget $39 million, sales $106 million)
Monster House (Budget $75 million, sales $218 million)
(Source: The
And this ignores the behemoth which is Scooby Doo with its massive horror traits. To this day I swear they paid homage to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in an episode of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
Horror in children’s animation is nothing new. These of you who grew up in the late seventies or early eighties will invariably have been scarred by the images of General Woundwort ripping out throats in Watership Down combined with the more spectral imagery of the black rabbit El-ahrairah. And though whilst firmly in the fantasy camp, it would be impossible not to mention Ralph Bakshi’s incomplete telling of The Lord of the Rings whose raw animation style through the use of Rotoscoping made for a dark and gruesome film at times.

A few years after both Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings we were presented with Jimmy Murakami’s adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel When The Wind Blows. This was back in an age where the fear of nuclear war felt omnipresent and when films like the grim (but unanimated) Threads would be shown in schools up and down the country as educational pieces. Set in rural Sussex, When The Wind Blows presents us with a naïve elderly couple who can readily be described as quaint in their approach to the oncoming destruction (one scene has the wife, Hilda, rushing to get the washing in as the three minute warning sounds). There is almost a charm to the film, as much as there can be for one dealing with nuclear holocaust, filmed in similar style to the likes of The Snowman and Father Christmas (both Briggs again with the former also directed by Murakami). Surprisingly, When The Wind Blows carries a PG rating in spite of the stark reality of radiation sickness and the inevitability of the storyline.
Nuclear war is also the subject of Peter and Joan Foldes' short animation from 1956 A Short Vision. In a little over six minutes we are given a brutal, bleak, matter-of-fact depiction of what happens when the bomb drops: “Their leaders looked up, their wise men looked up, but it was too late.” Originally funded by a BFI Development Fund, A Short Vision can be found online as part of the BFI National Archive. And as we’re discussing war films, let’s give a little nod to Ray Harryhausen who was chief animator on Tulips Shall Grow (1942), a short animated film set in Holland. A Dutch boy and girl’s lives are ruined when Nazi-like creatures called Screwballs lay waste to their land but redemption is on hand. If we were to focus more on science fiction and fantasy then a whole section could be given up to the late, great Harryhausen who has rightly inspired and awed generations of cinema-goers and filmmakers alike.
Speaking of science fiction, before we move up the age ratings, it would be remise not to mention the work of René Laloux. Back in 1973 he presented us with La Planète Sauvage (The Fantastic Planet), a joint French/Czechoslovakian production. A film about oppression, slavery and revolt with the humans (Oms) captive to their giant masters (the Draags) on the planet Ygam. The film won the special jury prize at Cannes in the year of its release. Perhaps lesser known is Laloux’s Franco-Hungarian film called Les Maîtres du Temps (Time Masters) based on a novel by Stefan Wul and released in 1982. French comic book artist Mœbius (who people will also know from his work for Alien, Tron and The Abyss) provides the visuals for this clever futuristic science fiction film which has some reasonably dark scenes for a children’s film. Both films have stunning visuals which are worth the entrance price alone.

So, what about the non-PG market?
Michael Gornick’s Creepshow 2 from 1987, a mixture of Stephen King’s works and George A. Romero’s screenplay, brings us a trilogy of live action tales with animated interludes which follow young Billy alongside Tom Savini’s The Creep though these pieces total little more than six minutes of the film’s running time. Creepshow 2’s animation team featured the talents of Rick Catizone, Gary Hartle and Phil Wilson. Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice from 1988 brought us stop-motion animation sandworms developed by Doug Beswick who was also involved with Evil Dead 2, where he provided the stop-motion animation to bring to life Linda’s dancing corpse, as well as a host of many more films everyone will be hugely familiar with. Beetlejuice itself went on to spawn its own animated series running from 1989 – 1991 with an eye-popping 94 episodes as well as a video game and Burton clearly continued with using animation in later films (see our list of children’s films earlier).
Sticking with stop-motion, let’s take a moment to look at the incredible work of Jan Švankmajer, a Czech filmmaker and artist. His first theatrical release was a short film in 1964 called The Last Trick with over thirty more shorts and feature length films made since then. His take on Alice in Wonderland entitled Něco z Alenky (Alice) is a dark and surreal interpretation of Lewis
Carrol’s masterpiece and features a taxidermed rabbit who leads Alice into misadventures where she meets a whole gamut of bizarre beasties along the way. I thought it excellent but was more taken with another of Švankmajer’s films called Otesánek (Little Otik). Little Otik was made with his wife Eva, as was Alice, and is a glorious example of how the use of stop-motion animation can work within a film shot in ‘real life’. Little Otik tells the story of a childless couple who create a child from a tree stump. However, the child needs feeding and it has a taste for the family’s neighbours. There is a deliciously dark humour running throughout Little Otik and Švankmajer does a superb job of creating perhaps the most disturbing baby since Eraserhead and one you end up rooting for, if you will forgive the pun, as his demise begins to seem apparent. Both films are to be highly recommended.
On to a cruder type of storyline. In 2009 Rob Zombie gave unto us The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. The blurb pitches this as ‘a washed-up luchador and a super-spy investigate Nazi zombies, a nefarious scientist, and a stripper with a Satanic birthmark’. It falls under the reasonably unique category of ‘adult animated exploitation musical black comedy horror’. Personally, I only mention it here for a bit of completeness but if it sounds like your thing then go check it out. Equally, if that does sound like you then you may wish to view Hell and Back (2015), a Claymation comedy featuring the vocal talents of Bob Odenkirk, Mila Kunis and Susan Sarandon. A feature film where two best friends have to rescue their mate who is dragged to hell. The jokes are puerile and not especially funny though it does feature some great animation from production company Shadowmachine. It would be good if both could have taken a leaf from the book of City of Rott (2006). While not the greatest film ever made, City of Rott is a fun 2D animated zombie feature which has the feel of an early nineties video game. A pensioner called Fred braves the hordes of zombies in his town to go and get himself some loafers. His companion is his metal walker which talks to him in his head and warns him of danger. This is a work of love from Frank Sudol who was a one man production machine having written, directed, animated, edited and voiced the entire piece. At seventy-five minutes it does feel a bit overlong for the storyline but worth a one-off watch for those seeking something a bit different in the zombie genre – grab some mates plus some beverages of your choice and you could have some fun with this splatterfest.
For something more stylish and chilling then Fear(s) of the Dark (2007) is an excellent French horror anthology. The film boasts six different directors: Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire. This mix of directors gives us different styles in this largely black and white offering. In the film we meet a man who collected insects as a child, a Japanese girl bullied by her classmates, a mysterious beast brings death to a village and a man fleeing a snowstorm seeks safety in a spooky house. All these stories are interspersed by an aristocrat out hunting with his dogs and the voice of a woman talking about her fears. Worth seeking out for those who like a quieter horror and the fifth story is one of the tensest pieces I’ve seen on screen in a long while.

Another anthology film I would give a nod to is Extraordinary Tales. Raul Garcia (who has worked on the likes of The Lion King, Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) brings us a collection of five stories based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Released in 2015, Extraordinary Tales features the vocal talents of Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi (taken from a recording in 1946), Julian Sands, Guillermo del Toro and Roger Corman. We are treated to The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Pit and The Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death all depicted in differing animation styles. My favourite was the starkness of The Tell-Tale Heart, drawn in the style of Uruguayan born Argentine cartoonist Alberto Breccia and narrated by Lugosi. Other adaptations of The Tell Tale Heart worth highlighting are a version from 1953narrated by the rich tones of James Mason and more recent version from this decade by German animator Annette Jung which has a dark humour running through the film. Both are under ten minutes in length and can be found quite readily online.

And it was here my journey ended for now in my brief foray to find what was out there. At this point I fear that I have only scratched the surface of what Western animation has to offer to the cinematic world of horror. There will undoubtedly be films I will kick myself for missing off this list. I haven’t mentioned Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic made by a mix of US and Japanese studios, I have overlooked the wonderful ‘9’, a delightfully dark science fiction affair about handstitched dolls come to life in a world destroyed by war between robots and man, and I have completely failed to mention the animated movies of the Hellboy franchise which I am sure may be one of the more glaring omissions. This has been a whistle-stop tour and there will be many others you, as readers, will be aghast have not been listed. It strikes me that perhaps we should be seeing animation used more readily in cinema horror releases than we do currently. I think it is a medium which has a lot to offer. Over the past few weeks I have gazed with glee and awe at some of the films I have watched, marvelling at the style and imagery to be found therein. All I hope from this article is that I’ve highlighted a few treasures people may not have been fully aware of and that maybe there’s an animator or two reading this who may feel inspired to provide us with some new horrors on the silver screen. In conclusion, the West has a lot to offer in the world of animation and horror but it isn’t half hard to track down!