This is the first in a series of conversations with Cirsova contributors. Despite Cirsova being new to the scene it is attracting both well established writers and up and coming talent.
I’ll begin with Adrian Cole, author of numerous SFF and horror stories. Adrian’s contributions appear in Cirsova #2 (The Sealed City) and he has stories lined up for Cirsova #’s 5 & 6*.
Adrian is an award winning author but, to my detriment, I had never come across his work and after familiarizing myself with his Cirsova stories and a few of his fantasy books, I see I’ve been missing out.
I have read and recommend Night of the Heroes, and A Place Among the Fallen. Both are well written, with storylines that don’t get bogged down. Read Night of the Heroes if you enjoy comic book heroes while A Place Among the Fallen will suit those looking to explore a new fantasy universe. I can’t say I’m a fan of horror but after talking with Adrian I have a few of his books, plus many of his recommendations, on my to read list.
The following conversation is wide ranging. Yes, we discuss football, Devon pasties and English Cream Tea but if you don’t like enjoying good food while reading great stories, then, I can’t help you.
A visit to Adrian’s web page is well worth your time.
Scott Cole: I came across your work reading Cirsova magazine. How did you find out about this relatively new magazine?
Adrian Cole: I had a communication from the editor about a piece he was writing concerning my DREAM LORD series (from the 70s) and the covers/blurbs. I sent him back some info, which he used, and of course, I was alerted to CIRSOVA. It struck me that maybe a brand new Dream Lord story might fit the bill for the magazine, so I asked the editor if he’d like me to submit one…and since then I’ve completed 3 and am almost finished writing a novella for them.
SC: I enjoyed The Sealed City in Cirsova #2 and looking forward to Cirsova #5 and the return of the witch finder, Arrul Voruum. Please give the CH blog readers some background info on him.
AC: The Sealed City is the first of the new DREAM LORD tales. It takes place about 100 years after the events in the original trilogy. Earth has been a prison planet, terribly ravaged by (probably nuclear) war in its deep past, and Man has been punished and chained, mainly in Karkesh, the Black City. Subsequently freed from slavery (in the trilogy) Man is now setting about the rebuilding of Earth, although there are still elements of corrupt power hiding (and plotting) in remote parts of the world. Aruul Voruum, the witchfinder and main protagonist of the new tales, is commissioned to seek out these evil forces. He is something of a loner, was brought up and trained on Mars, and has strong mental powers, a throwback to the days when the Dream Lords ruled and used heightened mental powers to control the worlds of the system. He is well versed in Earth history and knows about the Brotherhood of the Goat, the dark power, once run by the now deceased tyrant, Daras Vorta. Voruum is strong-willed, but not merciless, and has a deep sense of justice. Elements of his own past are shady at this point in the new stories – he is clearly not simply a warrior with gifts. Gradually we will find out more about him. For example, we know nothing yet about his youth, his family and how he came to be a witchfinder (but we will in time). I’m hoping that the new stories will eventually blend into what will develop into a new DREAM LORD book.
SC: I enjoy how The Sealed City characters refrain from directly mentioning evil, they allude to it as much as possible as they are afraid of attracting malevolent attention; even though the tyrant is deceased and evil is in hiding.
AC: I’m hoping that Daras Vorta still casts a disturbing shadow over the new stories (I guess a bit like Sauron in LOTR) and, as the new stories progress, the shadow thickens and we meet some nasty types who have been directly associated with the Brotherhood of the Goat, which is very much alive!
SC: Reviewing your web page I found a book you edited, Young Thongor. I followed the link to Amazon UK then looked it up on the US web page where it is available in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Seems Kindle Unlimited is not available in Britain?
AC: I’m afraid I never use Kindle, so I’ve no idea which bits of it are available where! You’ll need to check it out with Wildside Press (US).
SC: I use Kindle regularly but still prefer a printed copy. If I particularly enjoy a book then I want it in hardcover. Problem is, my books account for a sizeable portion of the overall household goods weight when moving. You must have an extensive collection. Do you mind giving the reader a quick overview of your library?
AC : I’m lucky enough to have quite a large, rambling house, part of which was once a commercial garage. I converted the upper part of this into my own man cave/den/library, so I have plenty of space for my large collection. This consists of many books (some of which I bought when I was in my teens, well over 50 years ago!) a lot of magazines and of course, a ton of comics. I could spend several pages telling you about the collection, but to summarize – science fiction, fantasy, sword and sorcery, horror, crime, dark age history, spy fiction, film books, complete Conan comics (think I have everything since Marvel started him off in the 70s) tons of Tarzan stuff, then on to Spawn, Aliens/Predator…and so much more. I also have a very extensive British comics collection, including a complete run of 2000 AD up to date and almost every Dan Dare appearance from his first one in the 50s! I have quite a lot of books on dark age history, as well as classic world stuff, some of which is for research – Roman, Celtic, etc. Then there’s things like complete Dickens, Shakespeare…god, the list in endless. My wife also has a big collection, some of which is shared interest!
SC: At first, I thought you were having fun when writing but now get the feeling that the library in Night of the Heroes is based on your collection, though some of the comics and artists mentioned may be fictional (or I’m woefully uninformed)!
AC: Well spotted, that man! Yes, I thought it would be fun to mix real stuff with some of my own invention – I just hope there are no fans searching eBay, etc., for stuff I made up!! Yes, my own library did inform a lot of the material I cited.
SC: Maybe not eBay, but I put in a few fruitless Duckduckgo.com searches…….
Morgan from the CH Blog covered Lin Carter’s Thonger series. Despite some criticism, he recommends it and categorizes it as if: “Robert E. Howard’s Conan was dropped into Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom. The novels read like 90% Burroughs and 10% Howard”. How would you describe it to those unfamiliar with the character?
AC: I wrote an introduction to the YOUNG THONGOR collection of Thongor stories I edited for Wildside Press and in that I’ve given some detail of the REH/ERB influence as I see it. Briefly, I’d say that Morgan is right – the ERB element is very strong, although I’d also say the REH element is nearer 40%. Thongor is more Conan-like than he is John Carter, although Lin Carter was also influenced by Tarzan, so Thongor is a real mongrel!
SC: It must have been a task to get permissions to use stories from Robert E Howard and others for an anthology.
AC : It was particularly frustrating at the time. Originally I pitched the idea to the editor at Sphere Books (now long gone) and he was very interested, but wanted me to get some bigger names as most of the ones I had were newcomers. I contacted John Jakes and he was happy to let me use a Brak yarn and Glenn Lord (then agent for the REH estate) was fine with my choice of the REH story, THE GREY GOD PASSES. So I’d got a good line up. But time dragged on and the publishers never got round to drawing up the contract. In the end I had to give up – by then others were catching on to the sword and sorcery revival and quite a few anthologies were published.
SC: It’s a shame you couldn’t get it published. Do you still have permissions to use those stories and might Savage Breed be published one day?
AC: No, it’s long since died in the water. The Jakes, REH and Ramsey Campbell stories have all been published (several times) since and I don’t even remember what the others were!
SC: Why do you think Young Thongor found a willing publisher when Savage Breed was denied?
AC: Sphere Books, who I mentioned above, were, at the time, a successful publisher and it was when publishers could afford to take a risk on something new. However, I think they saw a bigger opportunity for sales using already established editors – I was almost an unknown. They did publish a lot of stuff and it did do well, so maybe they were right to turn my anthology down! YOUNG THONGOR was published by Wildside, a much smaller press, with a small print run and then print on demand. You don’t get big sales, but you have a good chance of making a small profit over costs, which Wildside have done.
SC: How would you describe the contemporary publishing scene, both for long established authors such as yourself and the up and coming writer?
AC: It’s very different from when I began writing in the 70s. In those days there were many more professional publishers and they published quite a big range of titles (in horror and sf for example). Over time, though, many publishers were absorbed by the bigger ones until there were far less of them, and of course, far fewer openings. Gradually the small presses have come come to fill a void (helped by the new technology). It’s very difficult to break into professional writing these days, and probably nigh on impossible without an agent. At the moment, anthologies and collections are not flavour of the month with publishers (doubtless because generally they don’t sell well). It would be very easy to get disheartened, but all I can say is, you have to persist. You may have to start small and grow slowly. The good thing (in my view) is that there’s a lot of great support from the writing community, and plenty of good people out there willing to help and advise.
SC: On your web page you mention taking a bus across the beautiful countryside to Plymouth to watch your football team. I’ve been to Plymouth and by riding the train there I have to agree that the countryside is beautiful. Wish I had the time to visit the famous Dartmoor.
AC: I was born in the city of Plymouth in south Devon and my father was in the Army, so as a family we travelled about a lot until I was in my teens. (We spent 3 years in Malaya, for example). I spent various bits of my youth in Devon and Cornwall and in 1976 moved to North Devon, where I’ve lived ever since. The lands around me here are fairly rural – and of course, Dartmoor is not far away, and I’ve always loved it. My fiction is often set in and around the South West, for example the young adults novel, MOORSTONES, which takes place on the Moor, in places you can visit. That bus journey is quite spectacular, as you can see Dartmoor to the east and Cornwall’s tors to the south west as you wind your way southwards! My old stamping grounds in panoramic view.
AC : Yes indeed. In fact, I’m about to have a short story published in TERROR TALES OF CORNWALL, entitled A Beast by any Other Name, which features a local fabulous best, the Beast of Bodmin, as well as such things as tommyknockers, as found in the old tin mines. I mentioned my novel MOORSTONES and that also features a lot of local legends, as does its companion volume THE SLEEP OF GIANTS. My fiction often features these things, sometimes mutated into something else, more inspired by the legends etc. I also have 2 horror stories out over the next few months, appearing in Spectral Press Horror Vols 4 and 5 and both are set in the South West.
SC: Were there aspects of your family’s nomadic military life that helped or hindered your writing?
AC : We’d pretty much stopped wandering about when I started writing, so it was never a hindrance. I think my various travels and experiences influence me even now, probably as much subconsciously as not. The association with jungles in Malaya probably accounts for my fascination for weird plants and growths, which do seem to crop up (excuse the pun) in my stuff.
SC: Many visitors to the UK don’t get beyond London and the main sites such as Stonehenge. What would you recommend as the top three inspirational sites in the South West for fantasy and science fiction fans?
AC: Dartmoor, of course. It’s huge and worthy of a week’s holiday at least. But don’t go trekking about up there unless you have a guide, or at the very least take a map. It’s dangerous! Secondly, the coastal path along North Devon and Cornwall is wonderful. Third – Plymouth itself – do come in 2020, which will be the 400 year celebration of the Pilgrim Fathers with tons of great stuff planned!
SC: How’s Plymouth Argyle doing this year?
AC: I’ll try not to wax too lyrical! They are doing extremely well – if they continue on current form, they’ll win promotion to a higher league. This is particularly satisfying as, a few years ago, they got into dire financial straits and almost went out of business, which would have been appalling for a city their size. However, the rebuild has been good. This year we had a bonus – had to play one of the top clubs in England (Liverpool) in the Cup. Held them to a draw on their ground and only lost 0-1 in the replay on ours. Good news is that we netted £1 million, which is very big bucks for us. On Saturday 11th Feb we host our big Devon rivals, Exeter. It will be a gruelling encounter. If we lose, I won’t speak to anyone for weeks….be warned. (But no worries…we won’t lose.)
SC: Who is the biggest rival?
AC: Exeter City. They hate us because we’ve spent most of our existence in higher leagues. We don’t go out in gangs looking to kill each other, but there’s a lot of needle. I have my ticket for the big game on Saturday, so I’m readying my best shout.
SC: Updated on 11 Feb. That wasn’t you setting off the flares was it? I thought you were only going to have a shout.
For those interested in how the match played out go here.
AC: By now you may know we WON, and not only that, it was a comprehensive victory, 3-0. I have temporarily lost my voice. Packed stadium and great atmosphere. And a huge step towards promotion!
SC: I believe that British football has come a long way from the days described in Bill Buford’s Amongst the Thugs, but noticed a heavy police presence at a train station on match day and being questioned on my destination before being allowed to proceed to my track. Do the supporters still get rough or is all that in the past?
AC: All grounds now are seating only and that’s helped diffuse the hooliganism that did once flourish in some grounds. Glad to report it’s not a big problem these days (in some of the bigger cities/grounds it flares up a little) and as for Plymouth – we’re really a bunch of pussy cats. Fans come down here and love our Devon pasties, so most games you’ll find fans mingling.
AC: There is a strong school of thought that pasties really started in Devon, not Cornwall! To me, the best pasties are the ones made at home! My mum made the best ones I’ve ever eaten and she was from the Midlands! We owned a shop down in Cornwall once and we had a housekeeper come in at weekends, and she made unbelievable pasties! So maybe it’s a draw. Devon cream teas, with Devon clotted cream – now there’s a local treat.
SC: There wasn’t a mention on your web page but will ask anyway: do you wargame or have time for role playing games?
AC : No, never done either. BUT the closest I ever got was doing a book for Wizards of the West Coast. It was set in their fantasy world, Eberron, and entitled THE CRIMSON TALISMAN. It’s a full on fantasy adventure, influenced by everything you could name. But I don’t think the wargaming fans liked it very much! It sold a lot of copies, though.
SC: Do you find you go in cycles between producing fantasy / SF to horror and back or it’s just something that happens unconsciously?
AC: It partly depends on what I’ve had commissioned and deadlines. I can switch from one genre to another easily enough. Sometimes I get an idea from somewhere for a new yarn and although the genre is generally evident, I might chew it over and change my mind and twist it into another. Some of my Nick Nightmare yarns began life as straight horror, but were so weird they worked better as NN yarns, and being more tongue-in-cheek. (Or tongue-in-cheeky I suppose Nick would say.)
SC: I haven’t yet checked out your Voidal series. The description reads as a mix of fantasy with a heavy horror component?
AC: I wanted to write sword and sorcery that broke through a few basic barriers, and they were influenced by Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, Clark Ashton Smith’s bizarre stories and the art of the fantastic Frenchman, Philippe Druillet. So you do have fantasy, horror and sword and sorcery. I was delighted to see some reviewers said something about the books being well worth reading for the author’s fantastic imagination! So they worked for them.
SC: You have listed HP Lovecraft as an influence. Where else do you get inspiration for your horror tales?
AC: I love a lot of “classic” horror – Algernon Blackwood, MR James and many of their contemporaries. I loved the old Weird Tales stuff, too. There seems to be an amazing amount of exceptionally good horror around today, from both male and female writers. The best of them, for me, are Stephen Volk, Alison Littlejohn and Nathan Ballingrud, but there are lots of others. I can’t keep up!
SC: This may be coincidental but I’ve started reading A Place Among the Fallen and I’m finishing up Night of the Heroes. In both stories unusually strong storms appear in the beginning, causing trepidation and bringing significant change. Not sure how often storms appear in your works but are the ominous storms influenced by your interest in horror?
AC: That’s my absolute love of the elements. You’ll find it again in MOTHER OF STORMS, the first of the Star Requiem quartet. We rarely get electrical storms where I live (too near the coast) but when we do, I’m glued to the windows, digging that wild lightning!
SC: The storms cover wind and water, do you have stories where the elements of fire and earth play a significant role?
AC: Yes, fire comes into a few yarns. I’ve a short in my recent TOUGH GUYS collection, A Smell of Burning and the climax to my sf novel, THE SHADOW ACADEMY has another storm (!) and fire with it! Also, as you read on in A Place Among the Fallen, you’ll meet the Earthwrought, creatures not unlike dwarves, who have elemental earth powers.
SC: By the way, I’m enjoying your writing in A Place Among the Fallen.
AC: You are obviously a man of taste!
SC: How about literature in general? Are there any authors, not necessarily SFF, pulp, or horror, that influenced your works or your writing style?
AC: I am definitely what I eat, and I am, if not omnivorous, not far from it. My own pulp stuff is influenced by people like Mickey Spillane, James Hadley Chase and James M Cain (genius) among others. And fans of NN will recognize the Philip Marlowe dry wit. I’m not sure how my fantasy turned out (say my Omaran books) but one reviewer nailed it pretty well when he said the series read as if Tolkien was writing for WEIRD TALES. I liked that.
SC: You mention you’re a comic book fan and that your collection contains old British comics. For the American reader are there old school (or even modern) titles you would recommend that would give a sense of the best British comic books?
AC: Certainly get the best of 2000 AD magazine – over the decades it’s featured the very best comic scripters and artists, many of whom have gone on to bigger things. For things like spy fiction, there’s a wonderful series of MODESTY BLAISE graphic works that reprint the entire newspaper strips (almost 30 volumes!) and also a JAMES BOND strips reprint in 6 volumes. Other Brit comics worth checking out are ACTION, SCREAM and TOXIC, to name but 3.
SC: What are you working on now?
AC: Just completing a 20,000 word DREAM LORD novella featuring Arrul Voruum. It’s a real blood and thunder adventure yarn, great fun to write, so I hope CIRSOVA and its fans will enjoy it! I then start on a witchcraft story for a WEIRDBOOK special. Several other short stories to follow. We’ve talked mainly about my fantasy and sword and sorcery, but these days I’m doing a lot more horror fiction (shorts). I like to vary my output. You may have come across my Nick Nightmare stories. He’s a particular favorite of mine, a hard-boiled private eye who tangles up with the Mythos, supernatural and other weird stuff. I’m going to start on a new novella of his soon. NICK NIGHTMARE INVESTIGATES, his first collection (from Alchemy Press, UK) won the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection last year and I’m currently seeking a paperback publisher for a reprint of what was a limited edition hardback. I also have the second volume, NIGHTMARE COCKTAILS completed and ready to go!
SC: Do you have any plans for another printing run of Nick Nightmare Investigates? There are only a few used copies available and quick research shows they go for around $68.
AC: Well, the book came out in a very limited hardback edition of 200 copies (from Alchemy Press, UK). It won’t be reprinted by them, and as we speak I am trying to win a contract for a paperback edition with a major publisher. Obviously, if I do get it accepted, there’s a chance that following volumes will also see print (as paperbacks). It’s a case of watch this space!
SC: For your fans in the UK will you be appearing at any shows or events in the near future?
AC: I try to get to a few of the British Fantasy Open nights in London and have started going to the annual Fantasycon again after many years away. I’m hoping to get to even more events as time goes on. I love meeting fellow writers and fans and chewing the cud over all the amazing books and films etc that we all love so much!
SC: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking with you and my list of books to read has grown substantially.
AC: Thank you for your interest and support!
SC: If you enjoyed this interview and especially if your tastes run to horror, Adrian will be interviewed in Fear Magazine, Issue 40, coming out soon.
Hard copies only, individual magazines go for close to 4 Pounds, add shipping to the US you’ll pay a little over $11.
*Subscriptions for Cirsova 2017, Issues 5 & 6 are up on Kickstarter.
There’s a bunch of subscription options, including additions of ¼ page advertisements, choices between soft cover and hardcover editions, digital downloads, etc. Currently, the project has met its funding goals but I urge support from all interested in growing a terrific SFF magazine and its authors. Word from Alex is that #5 should be out no later than 31 March.