"The modern master of the gamebook format" (Rob Sanders)... "Can do dark very well" (Jonathan Oliver)... "Steampunk-ninja" (The Eloquent Page)... "My evil Steampunk nemesis" (Robert Rankin)... "BBC Wiltshire's very own Mr Christmas" (Simeon Courtie)
Rob Spalding is a short fiction writer with an eye for the pulp homage. In fact, his story is the one in SHARKPUNK that probably celebrates the original Sharkpunk movie JAWS most directly. Here's what he had to say about the experience of writing the piece...
Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring
fascination with sharks?
Robert Spalding: I think it's the silence of them that continually terrifies
people. If you think about all the other monsters and fearsome
creatures we are scared of, they roar and hiss and yowl. Sharks don't do any of that.
They just appear and start eating you without a kindly forewarning sound. Couple that with the fact that they patrol an area that is
physically off limits to humans, in that we cannot survive where they live
without specialist equipment, and you've got a creature that it would take an
awful lot of effort to encounter in the wild. They are mysterious and I think that's what keeps them alive
in our minds.
SP: What was the inspiration behind your story Rise of the Übershark?
RS: To anyone who reads it, the most obvious inspiration for this
story will be anime. Specifically Mecha
anime. I've always enjoyed seeing big
robots smash the hell out of each other and all of their fancy weaponry. What I first pitched to Jon when he told me about the
anthology my suggestions (Sharks in Spaaaaaace!) were met with “Someone's
already doing that.” So I thought about the type of stories I wanted to
tell. Post-Apocalyptic Waste World is my
favourite phrase in the English language.
I love the sound of it (the phrase, not the reality). So it had to be a post-apocalyptic shark story.
Where do I go from there? Well, very quickly I had my world and the weaponry and the
big idea behind it all. The one thing I didn't actually have was a story to tell. I actually started this story four times in different ways
with different characters because I couldn't find an “in” that was going to be
just a short story. Finally I landed on the “last survivor of an elite squad
discovers a terrible revelation.” And then I had it. The hero of the story in all its variations was always a
woman because I hadn't tried to write a story with one before.
SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in
writing your story?
RS: Finding a story that I could tell in the word limit. I completely fell for the world I created for this
story. Then I created a character that I
thought would be unique or at least less obvious than the norm for the type of
Mecha-Monster-Military mash up I was planning. But then I realised they needed a novel length story to fit
in everything I wanted to say about them. As such I had to set them aside and start again, new
protagonist, new conflict for the story.
New everything except the world.
I have to say I have never had more trouble getting
something started that I was excited about than I have with this story. I was constantly having to revise my central ideas until I
ground it down enough to fill just the one story. Even then I opened up a whole new level to the world with
the ending. I think I might have found a place I want to spend my
writing time in future – which isn't something I ever expected when I started
to think about a submission to this anthology.
SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be?
RS: I think I'd have to say Hammerhead. I know the Great Whites are the Daddy of shark fiction, but
just look at a Hammerhead. The
description of them is right in the name! They have such a distinctive look.
SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics,
films, or video games)?
RS: I've got a soft spot for the smart sharks in Deep Blue Sea,
especially for their sense of dramatic timing in saying Samuel L Jackson's part
has served its purpose. But my favourite shark in all of fiction is Sharky, from
Sharky and George. He was one half of a crime-busting aquatic duo and they had
the best theme tune. I'll be honest and say I haven't watched an episode in years
because I'm worried it will taint my memory of the show. But yeah, Sharky.
SP: Apart from SHARKPUNK, what's coming next from Robert Spalding?
RS: I am currently writing a quirky novel called Lost on the Traveller's Road.
Its based on several ideas I've had over the years all being amalgamated into one crazy road trip story. I've only just started it but I like where its heading so far.
Then I plan to try my hand at some serial fiction. I've got a few worlds to work in and one of them will be the world Rise of the Ubershark is set in.
I'm planning them out like an anime series (the influence strikes again!) and hope to be releasing them for free on the web with collected editions sold as ebooks with added extras when they are done.
At the moment this will probably end up being a self-published idea, but if I can find a publisher then I'm going to go for it.
Robert Spalding lives in Sussex, quite near the seaside but
he never goes for a paddle. He had stories published by Whispers of Wickedness
near the turn of the Millennium but then went radio silent for a few years due
to what he describes as “Purely mundane reasons.” His recently had Men with False Faces published in Terror
Tales of the Seaside. Rise of the Übershark marks the beginning of what he hopes will be a
series all set in the same world. He occasionally blogs and posts short fiction at
robspalding.wordpress.com and Tweets at @robspalding.
Michael Jecks is a writer of historical mystery novels. Indeed he is known as the master of the medieval murder mystery.
Probably best known for his Knights Templar Mysteries, his latest book is FIELDS OF GLORY, the first in his new Hundred Years War series, from Simon and Schuster (available in paperback and ebook format), with the second, BLOOD ON THE SAND, coming out in June as a large paperback and ebook.
Why not check out Michael's website for more information? I can also highly recommend the videos he posts weekly on YouTube. In these he not only talks about his books, but also about the nitty gritty business of being a writer, and he has some great pearls of wisdom for anybody wanting to follow in his footsteps.
Alec Worley is probably best known as a comics writer and film reviewer, but he is also a skilled prose writer, as is evidenced by his forthcoming story in the forthcoming SHARKPUNK...
Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks? Alec Worley: The fascination, I think, is more to do with the myth we’ve created around sharks than the animals themselves. Great Whites are actually at a high risk of extinction in the wild due to trophy fishing and you’re more likely to be hit by lightning than eaten by a shark. Reality has nothing to do with the reputation we’ve built for them. Sharks have become this symbol of our fears about the natural world, and, I guess, are a reminder of our vulnerability in the face of an element that covers 71% of our planet. Then there's our uncertainty about the future of the natural world and our place within it. Scientists are limited in what they can observe in sharks and this just adds to their mystique. I mean, even the name sounds cool: Sssssssh-arrrrrgh! Kkkkk! Death in miniature.
SP: What was the inspiration behind your story, Sharkcop 2: Feeding Frenzy? AW: I had an idea for a story that began with someone waking up naked on a beach somewhere and with no idea how they got there. Are they a shark that’s turned into a person or a person that can turn into a shark? But the story ended up turning into a comedy, specifically a send-up of '80s buddy cop movies. I just wanted to write something that made me giggle as much as possible while still telling a solid story, as well as maybe getting into why we find sharks so cool.
SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story? AW: I always seem to find comedies harder to write than straight drama. I’ve found this writing Robo-Hunter and Dandridge for 2000 AD. I end up spending hours agonising over whether ‘dog’ is funnier than ‘warthog’ or whatever. You have to get that tone just right, which is really hard.
SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be? AW: Megalodon or a giant octopus with a Megalodon head on the end of each tentacle.
SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)? AW: I’m fascinated by Bruce the mechanical shark from Jaws. Physical special effects like that just mesmerize me and I love the story behind what happened to the three mechanical Bruces. Two were left to rot on the Universal backlot while another ended up as a mascot in some California auto-junkyard. There’s a real ‘uncanny valley’ thing going on for me there, like they’re somehow both objects and living creatures.
SP: Apart from your story in Sharkpunk, what's coming next from Alec Worley? AW: Nothing I can really talk about right now as they haven’t been announced. But more Judge Dredd and Dandridge from 2000 AD, hopefully, and more Judge Anderson for Abaddon Books.
Alec Worley was a projectionist and a film critic before he got to write for legendary British anthology comic 2000 AD, for whom he’s written Judge Dredd, Robo-Hunter, Age of the Wolf and Dandridge. His prose credits include the Judge Anderson: Rookie series for Abaddon Books. His lifelong love of sharks began when he saw Jaws at the age of 7 and fell off his chair in fright at the bit with Ben Gardener’s head. More recently he achieved a lifelong dream of going cage-diving, which he did off the coast of Guadalupe, Mexico. He got pooped on by a Great White.
Friday 1 May sees the launch of the anthology you've all been waiting for... SHARKPUNK!
Review copies have gone out, and here's what one reviewer has reported so far:
I also visited the London Book Fair yesterday where I caught up with publisher Emma Barnes and managed to take a sneaky selfie with the very cool SHARKPUNKbanner.
So keep an eye out for SHARKPUNK, coming your way in just 2 weeks! And don't forget, if you're in London on Saturday 9 May, why not come along to the official launch at Forbidden Planet, and have your copy signed by 13 of the contributing authors?
I have known Clint Werner since we both wrote for Inferno! magazine back in the early days of the Black Library. So I was delighted when he agreed to write a brand new short story for SHARKPUNK...
Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks?
Clint Werner: I think the
appeal of sharks is two-fold. First there is, of course, the fact that your
bigger sharks are quite capable of eating a person. As a species we have a
vested interest in keeping tabs on the creatures that can kill us and most
especially the ones who sometimes add us to the menu. Most of your ‘man-eaters’
are heavily represented in folklore, heraldry and language, as though by
invoking these creatures we might also draw on their power and in some way
control their ferocity.
point when it comes to sharks is that they are largely an enigma. We still
can’t say for certain how old or how large some of these animals can get. Their
social lives, limited as they might be, are an utter mystery. We aren’t even
sure what can drive some species to explode into the gruesome spectacle of a
feeding frenzy. These are creatures that defy many of the rules laid down by
science. They haven’t changed in any substantial manner in millions of years.
It reminds me of Nestor Pavia in the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon: ‘I tell you what I think, this
thing is stronger than what you call evolution.’
SP: What was
the inspiration behind your story ‘Feast of the Shark God’?
CW: I suppose the
germ of the idea began with an episode of In
Search Of…, a paranormal/speculative series that aired in the late 1970s
and early 1980s when I was growing up. Hosted by the late Leonard Nimoy, the
show always presented interesting topics, some more based in reality than
One of these episodes was devoted to Dakuwanga, a shark god worshipped
in the FijiIslands. While presenting this
tradition, the show also explored anecdotal accounts that the islanders who dutifully
worshipped Dakuwanga were never menaced by sharks, even swimming about in
waters infested with known man-eaters. Of course, the catch there is that when
they did mention a local who was eaten by sharks, he was of course somebody
who’d fallen out of his faith.
So, the idea
of doing a story revolving around Dakuwanga was there. Over time, it
metamorphosed into a fantasy tale removed from our own world and set in the
sword-and-sorcery landscape of Shintaro Oba. I conceived a story pitting the
demon-hunting samurai against a fearsome shark god and the community who
challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story?
CW: One of the
biggest challenges with my Shintaro Oba stories is trying to maintain a
Japanese mindset within them. Prior to the Meiji Restoration which saw the end
of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japanese society was broken into a very strict caste
system and the majority of the Japanese people abided by the traditions and
obligations of that system. The concept of self, of the individual, was trivial
compared to being a part of something bigger, whether that be a farming
community or the retinue of a great samurai clan.
I think the
big surprise for me when writing the story was realising that, well, let's just
say the end turned out a bit different than I’d envisioned it in my outline!
SP: If you had
to pick a favourite shark, which would it be?
CW: I’m sure it
is as stereotypical as possible, but the Great White. Ever since I was a kid,
these immense monsters have been a source of awe. Going to the beach in California, it was
always at the back of your mind that these sharks were out there, somewhere
under the very water you were looking at. To drive the point home, there’d be
news stories when a Great White would hit a surfer or maybe swim up to a pier
and nab somebody’s catch.
SP: Do you
have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)?
CW: Again, I’ll
be stereotypical and say Jaws. When I
was growing up, the spectre of the first Jaws film and of course Peter
Benchley’s novel, still loomed large over the landscape. There were Jaws shirts
and toys and such and when the movie played on broadcast TV it was a major
event that they’d hype for weeks beforehand and take full-page ads in TV Guide.
there was the Jaws attraction at Universal City Studios, the highlight of their
tram tour. I’m not sure how old I was, certainly not more than six, when my
parents took me to Universal for the tour. Now, I wasn’t so terribly interested
in the Bates Motel or the I Love Lucy
bungalow, and there was only passing interest in seeing the Munsters mansion. I wanted to see Jaws, and
I kept letting everybody on the tram know it. Well, when the time came and the
tram approached the lagoon where the mechanical shark lurked, my father took
hold of me and held me over the side so I’d get a real good look as Jaws came
lunging up from the water. Being a snot-nosed punk I screamed and cried out
that, ‘Why doesn’t somebody shoot that thing?’
years later, I still like Jaws.
SP: Apart from Sharkpunk, what's coming next from C L Werner?
C. L. Werner was a diseased servant of the Horned Rat long
before his first story in Inferno!
magazine. His Black Library credits include the Warhammer Hero books Wulfrik and The Red Duke, Mathias
Thulmann: Witch Hunter, the
Grey Seer Thanquol and Brunner the Bounty
Hunter trilogies. In the Time of Legends series he has penned the Black
Plague trilogy and Curse of the Phoenix
Crown, the final volume in the War of Vengeance series. Deathblade is his contribution to the
Warhammer ‘End Times’ event, featuring the dark elf tyrant Malus Darkblade. His first full-fledged foray into the gothic
sci-fi universe of Warhammer 40k occurred in 2012 with The Siege of Castellax. He is the author of Moving Targets, a novella set in Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms
featuring the iconic heroes Taryn and Rutger. In the sci-fi Old West of Wild
West Exodus, he contributed An Outlaw’s
Wrath in the Jesse James trilogy as well as some short fiction for an
upcoming anthology. Samurai warrior Shintaro Oba has previously appeared in
several anthologies published by Rogue Blades’ Entertainment. More recently,
his short fiction has been featured in anthologies like Kaiju Rising, Fantastic
Futures 13, Marching Time, A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests and Sharkpunk.
An inveterate bibliophile, he squanders the proceeds from
his writing on hoary old volumes – or at least reasonably affordable reprints
of same – to further his library of fantasy fiction, horror stories and occult
I thought it a worthy landmark to celebrate. My history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks has received its Return to Firetop Mountain of reviews. That's right, the 50th review of my 50th published book has been posted on Amazon.co.uk, and it's another 5-star one.