It came as quite a surprise to find my collection, High City Walk, shortlisted for Best Short Story Collection in this year's Saboteur Awards — a very pleasant one, I might add. Voting in currently underway to decide the winner and we'll find out the results on 13 May.
High City Walk was roughly ten years in the making, although I hadn't the foggiest what I was up to at the time. Instead, I wrote most of the stories for the love of writing (only two were actually written in the hope of publication and, of those, only one ever made it into print — so thanks, once again, to Allen Ashley for accepting "The Third Face of Virgo" for Alchemy Press' Astrologica: Stories of the Zodia all the way back in 2013). In many ways, all the stories in this collection are "experimental" — I was trying things out, seeing what worked, trying to learn from what didn't (not as easy a trick as it sounds :) ) — and it's very much the case that I taught myself to write in creating these and the dozens (hundreds, I shouldn't wonder) of other pieces I wrote during this period. I came to think there was no reason why I couldn't attempt serious themes and deep emotions, take care over language and structure, and generally be a bit "literary" when writing about alien worlds, alchemists and post-catastrophe settings — creating a world or using a trope such as a post-apocalyptic wasteland seemed like a very extreme form of pathetic fallacy and the conditions and limitations of such locales helped concentrate the narrative. I likewise much taken with placing the Fantastic into the everyday, whether that "everyday" was an historical setting, as in "The Third Face of Virgo", or something closer to home, as in "Scales" — treating the weird and wonderful as being no stranger than TV or a drive home from work was an interesting tension and a much needed antidote to the endless glut of secondary world fantasies and the like that never, for me, seemed quite convincing or quite fantastic enough. And, when all else failed, I'd content myself with being just plain odd. I was, as I said, experimenting.
My memories of writing the stories in High City Walk are, yes, of a lot of concentration, a lot of hard work and a lot of redrafting (actually, lots and lots of redrafting) but also of a lot of fun and of the sheer glee of messing around and trying things out, which, in the end, should be what writing should be like, I guess. I got a lot of pleasure from putting together these pieces and hope you get the same enjoyment from reading the book … and that that enjoyment will encourage you to support High City Walk in this year's Saboteur Awards.