IT’S HERE! Architects of the Flesh is available for sale!

Do you like your socialism angry, your body horror Lamarckian, your alternate histories brutal and convoluted and your protagonists greyer than a London sky?

You’d better, because that’s what’s on offer, just in time for Christmas if you hurry!

(Unless you’re buying an ebook version, which case you can pretty much just buy it on Christmas day and hide in a corner devouring the misery, vengeance, and weirdness without listening to your family!)

If you don’t do Christmas, this book also serves brilliant as a Generic Winter Experience.

There is basically no reason not to buy, on Kindle (all regions, link goes to UK), iBooks, Nook, Barnes & Noble online, or in print and ebook at Lulu.com. You can also request it at many major bookshops!

the book cover for Architect of the Flesh shows the title, author attribution, and an image of a sketched medusa head on one piece of paper being menaced by a diagram of a surgeon's knife on another piece of paper: the background is Charles Booth's London Poverty Map

COMING SOON: ARCHITECTS OF THE FLESH

Coming soon from House of D Publications! A chunky and compelling novel full of strife, fantastical features, surgery, and really horrible phone calls! The birth and probably death of the genre Lamarckian Horror, by the author who brought you Saxonpunk.

the book cover for Architect of the Flesh shows the title, author attribution, and an image of a sketched medusa head on one piece of paper being menaced by a diagram of a surgeon's knife on another piece of paper: the background is Charles Booth's London Poverty Map

What?

That’s right! Before the close of the year, available in print and approximately a million (small exaggeration) e-reader formats including Kindle .mobi, .epub, .pdf etc, and available on iBooks, Kobi, Amazon, etc: ARCHITECTS OF THE FLESH is London as you’ve never seen it and hopefully will never see it, in a world where Lamarckian inheritance works, and just about every other science lags behind xenotransplant surgery.

Wait, back up. Lamarckian?

You may remember Darwin. At least, I hope you do. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection turned out to be right: the idea that organisms develop physical (and indeed behavioural) traits over time as those individuals who display them fare better in whichever environment they’re in than those who don’t, and so have more babies.

Well, in the heady days of the 19th century, when everyone was still trying to figure out what the absolute hell was going on with a world they’d previously assumed was static and unchanging after the Oh Shit discovery of fossils, he was far from the only thinker trying to work out how we’d got from dinosaurs to chickens and whether those things had happened at the same time.

Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck (or just Lamarck)’s idea of how environment enacted biological change was that changes to individual organisms during the course of their lifetime were then demonstrated in their offspring: so if you cut the tail off a mouse, it would have tail-less offspring. If a giraffe stretched and stretched for leaves, it would have offspring with younger necks.

Now… that does seem pretty easy to test via empirical if somewhat cruel methods. Mice are not hard to get hold of and were pretty abundant in the 19th century too. And it certainly hasn’t withstood such a simple test as obviously your surgically mutilated mouse does not beget mice without tails (mice with human ears and mice with green fur are the result of genetic tampering, and are outside the scope of this novel).

Yes but: “xenotransplant”?

In the 1790s, eminent surgeon and co-author of Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, William Hunter grafted human teeth onto a rooster’s head and said rooster grew a coxcomb of tooth enamel. You can see the results at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London (or you can in 2021, when the museum re-opens).

See that? More of that.

So much more of that. Animal husbandry meets 18th century attitudes where theology of predestination props up chattel slavery. Human rights? Never heard of her. Animal rights? Don’t make me laugh. Technology without overriding morality? Wealth without conscience? People with fashion transplants? You got it.

Grab yourself a copy and see how bad things can get–but also just how hard it is to prevent people from trying to make things better.

What, in theory, is happening with my writing?

First of all: Vulture Bones Magazine have a short story of mine in their current issue, #5, available to buy on their website. The story is called The Invention of Terms, and it’s about data architecture and gender outlaws, and is not as dull as that probably sounds. It’s botanical sci-fi, because John Wyndham Happened To Me at a formative stage.

What’s ahead?

I have A Project brewing with my comics collaborator, Emma, but it’s going to be a while before I can tell you all about that. Suffice to say it is very exciting.

My howevermanyth novel, Architects of the Flesh (a hellish Lammarckian dystopian fantasy London where literally self-made characters go head-to-head with a eugenics-based class system and there are absolutely no winners), is currently at the first-proofing stage, and will with good wind and no catastrophes be coming out later this year. I can’t wait to introduce everyone to the book’s five terrible protagonists, Levi, Jonah, Amara, Margaret and James.

Currently in the “critical feedback” stage between first and second draft is Tourist’s Guide To The Ideal London, a multi-reality London contemporary fantasy about the toxic and panegyric forms of belief, about the nature of London and the nature of people, and about how avoiding your problems does not make them go away. Bodge, Alec, Ed, and Opportunity await to take you on a tour through near-infinite Londons but, unfortunately for Opportunity, absolutely no Manchesters.

At the “drawer time-out” stage after first draft is Eggs & Rice, a noir murder mystery set in 1920s Harlem–with a twist. Less Jazz Funtimes and more PTSD and conspiracy, this will leave you on the edge of your seat or possibly actually sitting in the aisles depending on what you’re expecting from it.

In the planning phase I have The Noble Art of Treachery, a bird-heavy fantasy novel about, so far, conspiracy, identity, the unwholesome threesome between politics, religion and commerce, and what happens when you don’t take responsibility for your fuck-ups, especially when that fuck-up is also a whole human person.

Awaiting further input but well into the heavy brainstorming stages are Hooked, a historical romance/murder mystery set in the the end of the studio era of Hollywood; an as-yet untitled sci-fi calamity about nanobots, corruption, the power of framing a story for yourself, and revenge; and the aforementioned Secret Comics-Related Project.

Slowly being collected is my first proper collection of short stories: some are awaiting the end of a contractual obligation to their original publisher; some are already available as individual shorts on the books page, and some are completely unpublished bonus material! Keep an eye out.

FOCUS ON FICTION: Heavy

I’ve been doing one of these a day (ish) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel again today, because I’m out of individual shorts, and with this I’m also out of self-published material altogether! Everything else is either in anthologies or still being edited or is poetry etc. What a ride it’s been!

If you’ve read and enjoyed my (or anyone else’s) work, here’s an article on why it’s important for you to say so in public: beware of monsters: why you should review books you love.

HEAVY

What if not only everything you knew about yourself was wrong, but everything everyone else knew about you was wrong too?

Pig is in hell.

He’s been in hell for the twenty years since half a continent was atomised; since his own ignominious and contentious escape from a fate that never came; when a face from his past comes offering alleviation, he inadvertently drags behind him a young revolutionary, an extracted spy, and an admin assistant way out of her depth on an unexplained mission that will take them across the world, and which may well solve nothing at all…

“I’m always pleased to see Derek Des Anges writing, with his acute understanding of the horror we do to each other and the tactics we take to survive it.” – Kieron Gillen (Wicked + Divine, Darth Vader)

Within the last couple of days, a friend informed me that “I think I really am going to have to by a copy of this for [their 90-year-old Godmother], she was very taken with the idea when I described it to her,” which I think goes to show that you’re never going to predict quite who will go for what book, no matter how certain you are of something’s niche appeal.

Its genesis was longer ago that I realised. In fact, when I say “I usually take a year to plan and write a book and then another year to edit it, because I hate editing”, I’m being disingenuous. Books overlap. Ideas for one come up, get toyed with, doodled over, put back down, a book about something previous comes out; the new idea ferments disgracefully in the back of my mind and resurfaces later, gets played with again, reshaped, and eventually dragged to the front of the conceptual queue God knows how many years down the line, often radically changed.

So it was with Heavy. I wrote what was to become a version of the first few stories as a short exploration of what might happen to the boys of Lord of the Flies (a book I have loved with fascinated horror since my adolescence) sometime between 2007 and 2008, when I was working on Pass the Parcel.

I think I thought that was the end of it. But the opening line: Pig is in hell, kept echoing around my head. I knew enough about PTSD, and began to learn enough about gaslighting – a central theme in this book – to understand that I hadn’t finished what I’d wanted to say when I wrote that short. Also, the world that had grown up in 5,000 words of speculation nearly a decade before I wrote Heavy had the potential for scope and range beyond the small glimpses I’d given of it.

I’ve been writing multiple-PoV fiction in earnest since Pass the Parcel. Prior to that there might be the odd glimpse into one character’s thinking but overall I was wedded to a specific genre convention (for example, detective fiction may or may not do this as much as others) that “one character’s perspective is all you need”. It works for Lolita, after all. This is the first time I think that the wider potential of a multiple-PoV story saw realisation in my work, where structure and major themes echoed each other.

It’s also the first time I’ve written about faith, and loss of faith, and the importance of faith to characters. I’m an atheist: always have been, always will be, unless something dramatic happens. But I have friends of faith, and friends for whom the abrupt divorce from faith under less than favourable circumstances didn’t create a happy or happily antagonistic atheist as it does in some cases, but rather someone with a profound sense of loss and sorrow – grief, really – at being closed off from something so inherent to themselves and so important to them. And, well. I like a challenge. Part of me wants to write about things I am very familiar with – and that part has had lots to work with in Heavy – but part of me thinks that’s lazy. And so that part got to write some very unfamiliar experiences indeed.

What else? There’s a cat, who doesn’t die (I am informed that every time I include a named animal in these books I have to clarify that they don’t die, because otherwise Nasty Shocks Happen); there’s an honest-to-gods car chase although perhaps not in a very cinematic fashion; there’s spycraft, adventure, derring-do, giant mecha suits, a stealth plane, an undercover mission–

–And it is nothing like what that list makes it sound like. At least, not to all of the characters involved. That’s the thing about stories; everyone in one is living a different one.

If any of these focus on fiction posts have left you curious about the works mentioned, be aware that the title of each book links to the original launch post, where links to the Lulu and Amazon pages for each can be found. Alternately, append “/books.html” to my main blog URL for a brief outline of all my publications so far and links to their Amazon pages. 

If you’ve read and enjoyed any of them, please tell your friends! Tell the internet! Tell your mum and your boss! If you didn’t enjoy them tell people too, and say why, because I guarantee that what you didn’t enjoy, someone else will love, and it’s cool to give people a chance to find that out for themselves.

The author is currently laboriously researching for this year’s draft, and editing another draft novel, which I promise I will talk about very soon. There is also an exciting, writing-based, art-based long-term project slowly taking shape, and I promise when there’s more on that I will return to this blog and shower everyone with details.

FOCUS ON FICTION: The Next Big One

[I paused these for a while because I didn’t want to drive traffic towards Amazon during a worker strike].

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel again today, because I’m out of individual shorts.

THE NEXT BIG ONE

With the number of UK cases hitting a hundred, it’s clear that KBV is a problem which isn’t going away. Downing Street have released the following statement: “The total number of KBV cases in the UK is still comparatively small, and we are confident that the disease can be contained. NHS leaflets advising on lifestyle and behaviour changes which can help protect against infection will be available soon. We ask the public to remain calm and to continue to behave responsibly about their health in all areas.

Vocational journalism student Ben Martin is the last person who ought to be investigating a major viral outbreak. He doesn’t know a single damn thing about biology; he pays his rent by DJing for hipsters. He’s nervous, easily-discouraged, and not over his ex.

But it’s him who ends up with the assignment, and it’s him who ends up facing down the truth: there is more to this than meets the eye.

The Next Big One is definitely a watershed novel for me. It was the first book I wrote where I actively looked at what I was writing in the planning stage and said, “Does this character really need to be [white/cisgender/male/able-bodied] in order for the plot to work”, and when they didn’t need to be, I changed something about them. It was such a simple alteration, and yet somehow it brought so much more depth and affection for the characters, so much more realism to my experience of writing them.

Drawing on life helped, too. Many of the locations are subs for places that I’d been to, or vague nods to people that I’d met, rather than just being a kind of Londish place which disappears into vagueness. It helped, too, that I’d been getting out more, in the intervening years, as my mental health continued on its slow upwards trend (unlike the protagonist of the book, the poor sod); the more you see of life, the more qualified you are to write about it.

Research, too, helped. While I set out to look into what was possible and plausible with disease design in mind, I picked up a lot of peripheral knowledge as I tried to get to grips with virology and epidemiology from a starting point of being so scientifically illiterate that I’m still not sure I understand what mitochondria are, never mind things like apoptosis.

It grew from frustration with how public health issues are reported; it grew from my general distrust of the ethics of large corporations; it grew from my overall fascination with the brutality of sickness and the fragility of the human body balanced against the surprising strength and resilience of human bonds. But the characters, once the groundwork was done, more-or-less wrote themselves.

What I set out was to write an epidemic thriller, but it’s not pacy enough. It’s not suspenseful enough. And it’s far, far too much about the people, and very little about the disease. That’s the thing about the way I write, I’ve come to understand: I am interested in how people work and how they stop working, and I am interested in the effect of squeezing one part of their life on all the other parts of their life. Larger mechanisms of society and the universe, while operating in their own casual frameworks, do kind of narratively exist for the purpose of making the protagonist’s life harder. Sorry about that, protagonists.

While it’s not exactly a dramatic story of the world battling a deadly evil together, I still hope it’s exciting. The smaller dramas within it kept me entertained while I was writing them, at least.

FOCUS ON FICTION: As Simple As Hunger

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel again today, because I’m out of individual shorts.

AS SIMPLE AS HUNGER

FOCUS ON FICTION
I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available. If anyone’s read any of them and wants to add their impressions or things they think people...

Non-occult engineer Hajar Al-Fihri is about to find herself dragged into a world of intrigue, mystery, exploding ornithopters, intelligent parasites, and some Very Large Arthropods. Right now her only problem is that her colleague and friend Benjon is, in all probability, about to swear on the wireless again, but that happy state of affairs cannot last. This is, quite simply, the fantasy fiction saxonpunk universe with giant bugs and zeppelin cities to end all fantasy fiction saxonpunk universes with giant bugs and zeppelin cities.

Somewhat undermining my insistence that I was definitely not ever going to write fantasy because (list of reasons including horses), this is solidly in that category. It’s got: oil rigs, universities, trains, zeppelins, and a radio system but it’s still fantasy. Or Saxonpunk. Or we’re not really sure what the logic is here but there’s a massive quantity of enormous bugs and some unresolved mysteries, some political wrangling, some bad mother/daughter relationships, some highly protective friends, some unconventional romance, and a lot of world-building.

There’s even horses.

I need everyone to know that I read a huge quantity of entries for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle while doing preliminary research for this, and then just manfully flung all my research out of the window while bellowing “well what if helicopters”.

I think you can, if you squint, see elements in this novel which got further development in Heavy; I’m not going to tell you what they are, only that there’s a degree to which old fixations cycle through works in different forms even with the best of us.

I think this is the only story I’ve written that has a character who is unequivocally, incontestably A Hero, meaning someone who does what is right and what is brave and all the rest. That the character happens to perhaps not be the one anyone might expect is part of the fun.

FOCUS ON FICTION: The Breaking of M

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A Melissa Snowdon novel today.

THE BREAKING OF M

The Breaking of M by [Snowdon, Melissa]

Matimeo Calvisia, spy and rake, finds himself in 16th-century Venice and faced with an apparently insurmountable challenge: the widely-read but narrowly-lived Padre Vito Bonifatigo is calling his credentials into question. The prickings of Matimeo’s pride lead him through a moral maze and dog him all the way across the Atlantic, but sooner or later something has to give…

This factually inaccurate tire fire gay sex Venetian Orgy Piracy Colonialism – I hesitate to say “romp” but it probably is one – started as a series of jokes. It features two priests (TWO), an ex-pirate spy conman, and more drama and sodomy than you can shake a stick at. There’s also bad horse-riding and torture because, IDK, that’s how I rolled when I wrote this. That’s still how I roll now. For added fun, know that the three main characters are to be imagined as a largely unknown male model, and Lee Pace and Ezra Miller, both of whom have since come out as queer. Evidently, I am very psychic.

Notable not least because this, being an m/m (m/m/m) romance novel, has attracted more angry reviews than anything else I’ve published, although The Next Big One did get a brilliantly cross review about it being “a philosophical book” (what a great praise by faint blame situation?) – but also had an oil-painted fanart of the protagonist. So, swings and roundabouts, really.

I didn’t plot this. I usually do, but this time I just let Mat kind of do whatever he wanted and then whenever it seemed like his actions should have consequences, they did, and he had to deal with them. It’s the G W Dahlquist route of “throw things at your characters and force them to keep dealing with the problems until there are no more problems left”, and while I wouldn’t recommend it for every genre this seemed to bear it fairly well. It definitely works best with a journey format.

Despite having a headcast for it, I’ve always pictured it more as an animated feature. I think it’s because it’s so ludicrous, so lush in its colours, and so ridiculously cartoonish in all of its emotional strokes. I think it’s a fun time, at any rate – and like all Melissa Snowdon books it has a guaranteed happy ending.

 

FOCUS ON FICTION: In the Trenches

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A short story today, and my most recent independent release.

IN THE TRENCHES

Deep sea exploration engineer Euan navigates the various tensions aboard a vessel which houses both those interested in the future of the oceans’ wildlife and those only interested in profiting from it, and on dipping below the waves discovers that they’re not the only ones with an interest in the contents of the abyss.

I was going to write this as a novel. I was also going to make it into a romance, but sometimes stories don’t cooperate, and you have to cut your losses, and take the monster horror and environmental message as it comes. Much like the horror itself, it swims up from the abyss and kind of takes you by surprise.

You can, incidentally, take it as read that this is the same species as that in Pick Your Poison‘s contribution from me, “The Krake-Hunter”; as with my space stories now adhering to the self-imposed rule that all space travel stories must be undertaken by Africans, so I’m apparently operating on the self-imposed rule that all protagonists in sea monster stories have to be deaf or HoH. Why?

Well, that – and the next paragraph after this one – is because of my exciting approach to casting, implemented in 2014 when I was writing The Next Big One. My exciting approach is the world’s laziest “how to increase representation and diversity in fiction with zero (0) cost to yourself” mantra; flip “why should this character be [underrepresented group]” to “why shouldn’t they?”. What plot-related reason prevents it? What privilege do they need to still have access to for the story to continue working? The sneaky part is that, once you’ve done that, the character expands. Plot-related reasons FOR them to be [X] start cropping up as you’re writing.

Mostly. While I have other works in progress where the protagonist is transgender, this definitely marks the first one I’ve actually published. And there isn’t any plot-related reason for Euan to be trans, other than I wanted him to be. Much as I said when I wrote Luke, sometimes you have to be the noisy fictional trans representation you want to see in literature. And you know – there wasn’t a plot-related reason for him not to be, either.

This story is heavily – HEAVILY – influenced by the books I loved in my tweens. The horribly dated, patronisingly racist, homosocial natural history lectures with a bit of action thrown in that were the Willard Price-penned “____________ Adventure” books. Please don’t read them on my recommendation; they’re unbelievably bad and I’m not overstating the racism / imperialism. If anything, I’m underselling it by a long chalk. But I was obsessed with wildlife and travelogue and my Achilles’ Heel is perpetually Boys’ Own Adventures (if you can get them Solving A Crime as well I’m in Shit Writing Heaven). But I gobbled those things down repeatedly as a kid and the luscious, vivid descriptions of the undersea world stuck in my mind; they got overwritten a bit by avid watching and rewatching of Blue Planet and Blue Planet II, but the origins remain and I hope I’ve brought some of the terror and alien wonder effectively, considering you couldn’t actually pay me enough to get me to dive anywhere, ever.

Suspense is something I absolutely revel in writing. I’m never sure if I’m getting it right – if I draw things out too much, or not enough – pacing is such a fine art that even when other writers are appalling at everything else I always feel somewhat envious of them when they can pull off a good fluctuating pace, playing the reader (me) like fiddle. Maybe that’s just their editors, though!

Anyway, here’s a book with sea monsters/mermaids in it, and a strong environmental message for these increasingly terrifyingly polluted times, from someone who has been worried about this shit since about 1987: please stop shitting up the ocean because we’ll all die if you don’t. Thank you!

FOCUS ON FICTION

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel today.

BROWN BREAD, BOYS

The King is dead: long live the King. Or so the echoes suggest. But Craig Williamson has barely murdered his way to total dominance of his London crime family when already his lieutenants are plotting against him: not greedy, just concerned. Or so they say.

One thing is for sure: whoever wins, it’s bad news for the police, who still don’t know how to prosecute or even properly investigate the gruesome, ancient blood magic used by the gang…

…even the gang themselves don’t fully understand it.

I lecture people a lot about different ways of approaching how to plot and populate a novel, and I think one of the reasons I’m qualified to do that is, apart from knowing everything, I have kind of come at the process from a lot of different angles by now. Sometimes you run at a book with a vague idea of a story and a vague idea of some characters and then as you build a bit more of the plot and the world the necessary characters crop up (which is what’s currently happening to me, and what happened recently with a couple of other novels I’ve drafted and am now editing). Sometimes you have a really great stable of characters and relationships already and some cool mental images and you don’t really know how to structure a plot yet and so you say, “Okay then I will just steal from Shakespeare.”

I’ve done it before – The Other Daughter is, to all intents and purposes, a mutant form of Titus Andronicus which I had to fight to keep on course – and learnt one important lesson: when the story wants to go somewhere other than the Shakespeare-approved plot, you let it. Don’t drag it somewhere it doesn’t want to go. If what’s in character for your character dictates a specific chain of events, follow them.

So that’s what I did this time. I have my stable of characters: this is the cast that I had the clearest mental image of before I started writing, what people refer to as a “headcast” for almost all of them. I shoved them into Julius Caesar. I watched the story mutate around the characters and the characters around the story.

This is also the first time since writing Pass The Parcel that I returned to my geographical comfort zone, and dropped face-first in London. Not the alterna-London of that world, either, but the real London – or as real as it was going to be with this network of ancient, stored blood magic steeped into the brick-and-bone of the world. I think that shows in the story, too. I’m never really able to hold off getting into the bursts of detail, usually about how inordinately smelly this place is in the height of summer. Which it is! Right now! So if you want an accurate atmospheric description of the stank of North London right at this minute, this is definitely the book you want to read.

As usual – and which I am still grappling with in more recent novels – there is a lot happening under the surface, things which I wanted to bring up but didn’t have the time or opportunity for, and which move like shadowy fish beneath the narrative. I am never sure if this frustrating to readers or how much they can extrapolate from what’s given. Judging by editorial feedback, it varies enormous depending on who they are and when they’re reading it!

This represents a meeting point of several different personal obsessions – London history, the idea of buildings holding power, organised crime structures, London in general, complex relationships, and Shakespeare’s Roman Plays. So hopefully it’s also fairly decent.