Andrew Coulthard’s story “Paradise Walk” appears in The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2.
Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I’ve always been interested in stories and the fantastic, both as a reader and creator. I wrote lots of tales as a kid and teenager. I also wrote and illustrated a dramatized “magazine” for the fantasy wargames club my mates and I ran in our teens. After that, however, I laboured on and off over the years with one over-ambitious epic manuscript after another until I finally gave up. Then a few years ago I began writing again, only this time I focused on short fiction.
I enjoy writing all sorts of things – fantasy, sci-fi, slipstream/weird fiction, absurdist/surrealistic tales, horror and more. Whatever piques my interest or gives me energy for the moment to be honest.
What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?
My short story ideas often coalesce out of disparate elements that are floating about in my head/life at the time of writing. I recall that I’d been reflecting on some current social concerns: immigration, political populism and urban crime. At the same time my son reminded me that I’d promised to watch Leone’s Good the Bad and the Ugly with him. So we sat down one Friday night to see the DVD together and being the lame has-been I am, I fell asleep before the end. He saw it right through of course and loved it. Somewhat miffed with myself for missing the climactic gun fight I looked up a rather brilliant version of Morricone’s Ecstacy of Gold on Youtube. Later, while out walking with the music on my earphones, the pieces of the story began to come together.
I live in Sweden, so figures from Swedish and Scandinavian folklore are close to hand for me. The appeal of Urban Mythic settings is that they give you a chance to blur the distinctions between mythical and real, while highlighting both through the contrast of gritty realism and the fantastic. This story is one of standing up for yourself or those dear to you, even when fortune has dealt you a bad hand and you know you’ll probably never really be one of the real winners. It’s also about choosing solidarity over divisiveness and the contrasting values that drive our actions.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I’m an eclectic reader. There are loads of fantasy and sci-fi authors I could list here, including many classics – Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick, Heinlein, Gene Wolfe, Ian Banks, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula Le Guin, Tolkien, Jack Vance, Karl Edward Wagner, David Gemmell, Robert Holdstock and loads more. I have also enjoyed/enjoy reading crime fiction, most recently Peter May and James Oswald, historical novels (especially military history) by the likes of Steven Pressfield and Bernard Cornwell.
Among other more recent authors I enjoy the fast-paced thrillers, SF and fantasy work of Steven Savile; horror by Gary McMahon, Syd Moore and Joseph D’Lacy; slipstream and weird fiction by David Rix, Allen Ashley, Nina Allan, Jet McDonald, Douglas Thompson and Andrew Hook and … I’m going on a bit aren’t I?
What do you think of the current state of the fantasy/sf/horror genre?
It depends how strictly you define the genre, but in general I think it’s pretty healthy. These days Fantasy/SF/Horror are well-established genres and widely accepted as mainstream aspects of world culture. You just have to look at cinematic output to see how many movies come under one or more of these classifications.
When I was in my teens, all three (and fantasy in particular) were regarded as suspect by representatives of the establishment and not something that you should openly admit to liking if you wanted to be taken “seriously”. Most authority figures in my immediate sphere considered fantasy juvenile and a waste of time and energy. English teachers waited impatiently for me to grow out of reading/writing such material; something I’ve yet to do. As a rule, “cool” people at school thought fantasy (and nerd/geekiness in general) highly uncool, although horror fiction and videos enjoyed a more elevated popular status.
Today we have plenty of what you might call classic style, mainstream genre output from big name imprints. Nothing remains static, however, and there are lots of developments going on. LOTR style epic trilogies with a team of adventurers pitting themselves against a dark lord and all those coming of age tales of adolescent farm boys with a secret lineage and destiny have given way to the likes of George RR Martin’s take on fantasy. Then there’s the burgeoning indie press sector, which is constantly expanding and becoming more important. If you sift through indie press output you’ll find everything from classic genre writing to really inventive literary weird fiction and numerous interesting trans-genre approaches to the fantastic. There’s a lot of energy out there and a whole new generation of writers doing their thing, so all in all these are pretty exciting times.
Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?
There’s nothing new under the sun, so it can be pretty hard to avoid using staple plot devices even if we all know that clichés and uninspired use of overfamiliar tropes = bad writing. But in the end I suppose it depends what you do with these tropes and clichés too. Working with staples can also be a celebration of sorts and an inventive writer will be able to present them in a new way or reveal something different about them. Then there’s the use of classic tropes in an unusual context for comic, ironic or some other powerful effect.
Fantasy/SF/horror has so many stock clichés. If I had to choose one from among all the noble savages, daring rough-diamond space pilots and isolated cabins in the woods, I think I’d probably axe humble-orphan-farm-boys who are really princes/subjects-of-prophecy and therefore destined-for-greatness. But then again…
What are you up to next? (Published works/conventions/random fun stuff!)
Hmm…I have several stories coming out in the next few months. There’s a piece of flash fiction in The Ironic Fantastic 3 edited by Paulo Brito and a story in the European beat and surrealist project from Oneiros Books This is NOT an Anthology. There’s also a rather insane bizarro-mystical novella called Peachy Gizzard and the Spheres of Glammeth, which will be released by MorbidbookS in the next few weeks. Another story, this time set in Chris Kelso’s Slave States world, will be released as part of an anthology of such tales towards the end of the year. I also have a science fiction story “Det svåra spelet” (“The Hard Game”) coming out in Swedish this autumn, part of an anthology called Maskinblod 3 (Machine Blood 3).
On top of that I’m currently touting a weird-fiction collection that’s also a novel called The House of Metaphors and working on two fantasy novels: Ruthgher’s Conceit and The Codex.