Tate, Hope, The Unliked, and Cicatrix City

So, while I’m buried deep in a new book (and still partially facially paralyzed). I thought I’d revisit the last books. I don’t know if I had a lot of time for reflection while writing them. So here are some notes and thoughts on bits of the Night Bound Land and Death Works books. If they’re a bit mixed up, I’m sorry. I’ll be splitting them up and putting them on their respective book pages some time down the track.

The City of Tate.

Tate was always a city that loomed. In my mind, and hopefully on the page.

I kind of imagined it as that first real classic cinematic fantasy city The Emerald City* in The Wizard of OZ, but a darker version of it.

Tate was less a part of the landscape than something forced on it, visually, politically, environmentally. In the time of the Night Bound Land the city not only loomed it fumed with a dark and terrible energy and heat. – despite its frozen walls and roads.

I originally described it as a looking like a wedding cake. But then I picked up Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. And there was his description of his city looking like a great big old wedding cake. So scratch that. (But it still does, dammit.).

Tate is ultimately a city at war with its landscape. A war that it cannot hope to win.

People often draw similarities between this and William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and the Last Redoubt. I was aware of the book, I even have a copy somewhere, but I haven’t read it -well, I tried, but let’s say that I didn’t get very far. That said, the sense of creeping horror, of a force monstrous, relentless, and slowly winning is very much part of the SF DNA.

I got to destroy a lot of cities in the Night Bound Land, but Tate’s destruction was the most fun. Tate was the Metropolis most prepared, and the most set up for failure. It set the tone of the books.

Tate – she looms and fumes.

I also have the beginnings of a novella set in Tate from a Sweepers perspective. I’ll get to it soon, I promise.

*Metropolis is there, too. But Metropolis is far more like Mirrlees-on-Weep. It’s also part of the SF DNA.


All of my books are hopeful. I’m really not that much of a pessimist. I don’t see any of these books as being absent of hope. But I do like to undercut humour with tragedy and vice versa. The one thing I hope I never do is write books that are pompous. My books are about frailty.


Characters being not particularly likeable.


I like to write about people that I don’t necessarily like. Steven, for example, contains a lot of the elements of my personality that I dislike. He starts off as a somewhat selfish slacker who thinks he’s funnier, brighter, more rebellious and a better worker than he actually is. He is terribly flawed, and as the books progress he shifts from folly to understanding his flaws, to actually doing something about them – even if those actions are directed through the prism of his flawed characteristics. He’s not exactly a hero, or an anti-hero (he’s never quite cool enough for that, there’s too much of the klutz in him) just a flawed individual who steps up and tries to do their best.

Hell, we’re all fragile and prickly. We’re all a bit broken, a bit annoying, a bit foolish. It’s those elements that make characters fun to write about – and read.

You could say the same about David, I guess. All David wants is peace and quiet. And he never really gets it. David, Margaret, Medicine Paul, Mayor Stade, Mother Graine and Kara Jade, all of them live in a world toppling into destruction. They’re doing the best they can in the face of impulses of despair, hedonism and doubt. The world of Shale itself is somewhat punch drunk. I wanted the first book to shudder, to feel almost uncertain of its own narrative, the second book was about action in the face on uncertainty. Of course, Roil being one of my first books I don’t quite think I managed to pull it off, but then again, I wouldn’t change it. You’re meant to feel as if the world is shaky that it’s crumbling, and that your guides aren’t quite what they should be. I kept snipping back the beginning of the book (and the backstory) because one, I wanted to start in the action of the story, and two I wanted it to feel as if there was a chasm of knowledge behind the reader. The histories in each chapter opening were deliberately contradictory. They were supposed to obfuscate as much as illuminate.

This by the way is no defence of the books, just an observation of my intent (which is constantly mutable during the writing of a book). The reader’s just as entitled to the throw the book against the wall and yell – that totally sucks shit. Are there things I would change about the books? Yeah, but not much.

Shale is as real to me as the Brisbane in the Death Works books. These characters still stomp around in my brain. I really do adore them.



Cicatrix City

This is the ultimate urban space of the Pomp. The blood of a Pomp will send a Stirrer back to their city in the Underworld. It’s the lock on the door that a dead body presents to the undead. Cicatrix City is the lines on the palm of a Pomp, the scars that produce a map of their pomping career.  Scars are a mark of the living, of a life lived. Look  at your own flesh and you and you will see this. Every scar is a story.

Look at a Pomp’s hand and you will see this.

You won’t see that on Google Maps.

So, my Urban Fantasy, is contained in a hand which has seen the sketch marks of a Pomp’s blade.

I’m working my way through other elements of the books, so there’ll be plenty more of these over the next few weeks – with added lame drawings.

And, yes, there are plans for new stories in both of these worlds.


Finally you can buy my books from Avid Reader here

Amazon here (while you’re at it, why not write a review. Night’s Engines could do with a few – hey that rhymes)

and Angry Robot for DRM free versions of the Night Bound Land here

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