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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The intersection of the timeless moment

I'm constantly telling my old friend, role-playing comrade and esteemed fellow author, John Whitbourn, that he should publish the Binscombe Tales, his cycle of whimsical fantasy/horror stories, on the Kindle, Nook and iPhone.

The Binscombe books, originally issued as hardcovers a decade ago, are now out-of-print and fiercely sought by collectors. My first encounter with the Binscombe Tales was in the late 1980s when John came along to a ghost story evening at my house. We all had a nice dinner, a little fine wine, and settled down around the fire to entertain ourselves with some cosily spooky stories. An activity that Man has only been doing for - what? twenty thousand years and more.

Then John got up and read us "Waiting for a Bus" and a chill dark hand closed over the group. As he read the final words, you could hear the sigh of long-held breath and people looked from one another with that bright-eyed smile that says you know you have just had the bejasus scared out of you. My first reaction: "Get those stories on the radio, John. It'll be an M R James for our times - the Beeb'll bite your hand off." Now I say, "Short fiction is perfect for digital platforms, you need to get the Bincombe Tales on iPhone." But John is more of a traditionalist, like many of the readers of this blog, and likes a book you can hold and stroke and breathe in. On his blog, John describes the stories thus:
There is a real place called Binscombe, located in the south-east of England; but these tales are not about that Binscombe. Instead they concern another Binscombe, linked to the first by subtle but invisible bridges of 'what if?' This other Binscombe is a place rich in history, where strangers are welcome, but not always safe; a place where watching a video is not as harmless a pursuit as it might seem, where waiting for the bus may take much longer than expected, and where churchgoers are advised to pay very close attention during the midnight service on Christmas Eve. It is, in short, a place which takes its history very seriously - and with good reason, as the unwary are apt to find out to their cost. No one takes Binscombe and its history more seriously than Mr Disvan, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of the village and its past seems to have been acquired through more than simply reading history books. We see Mr Disvan and Binscombe life through the eyes of Mr Oakley, a newcomer whose family has long had roots there, and who thus proves the truth of a local saying: 'They always come back'. This local connection gives Mr Oakley an opportunity to see some of the stranger side of life in Binscombe, with Mr Disvan as his guide; but it also shows him that once you come back, it isn't always possible to leave again.
"Waiting for a Bus", that story that gave such a shudder to the dinner party guests who were privileged to hear it first, was picked as one of the World's Best Fantasy stories of that year. Everyone who reads it recognizes that this is a new and authentic voice in English horror-fantasy. And yet, thus far, only a small cult readership has experienced the special delights, dreads and brilliant inventiveness of the Binscombe Tales series, so I'm going to keep on at John to authorize an ebook edition. In the meantime, Fabled Lands Publishing has his latest novel and I'll be telling you all about that in the very near future.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment is England and nowhere. Never and always. - T.S. Eliot "Little Gidding"


  1. Hi Dave,

    With the digital revolution, many business models had to change. I do agree with you that some platforms are today more convenient for (game)books than the ones we used before. However, in 10-12 years, I doubt my son will use an iPad or be able to read today's files. Although I'm a heavy user of new technologies, that's the reason why I purchased the paper version of FL a few weeks ago. Over the years, products/trends come and go. Hence, more than being able to touch or smell a book, I'm buying the certainty that I will still be able to share a passion in the distant future. In your post(s), I feel your enthusiasm to share your passions as well, by creating awareness and making available again long-forgotten stories to new people. In this respect, wouldn't it be safer to continue promoting the paper versions as well ? Not for today's fans, but for the adventurers of tomorrow.

    Kind regards,

    Steve, an RPG veteran from Switzerland and..., I confess, one of the traditionalist reader of your blog -sorry, nobody's perfect ;-)

  2. I'm fairly confident that current ebook formats won't be utterly unreadable in 10 years' time, Steve, though nothing is as certain as print, that's true. Unfortunately for small publishers, print is becoming prohibitively expensive - not just the physical product but the cost of distribution. But I do hope we'll be able to do omnibus print editions at least.

  3. Is it really expensive? Even when it's only print on demand?
    I'm a bookseller myself here in Germany, and not long ago the publisher "BoD - Books on Demand" was here in our store advertising there services. As far as I understood it, everybody could publish their books for FREE and make it available in the online bod store. For something like 40€ bod makes the book available in every bookstore in Germany.
    Getting an ISBN does cost a bit more though...

  4. I love that you did a post about a BBC/Gollancz winning SF author and everybody starts commenting on print on demand prices for like 30 year old gamebooks.

  5. Anon, boy you change your tune :-) Yes, John Whitbourn is one of the leading SF/fantasy authors of our generation(s) and Fabled Lands LLP is really really stoked to have an exclusive deal on his next book.

    As for POD - I know, I think we did that one to death.

  6. Now I really want to read "Waiting for a Bus" its been ages since I've read a spooky story and honestly its hard to imagine that a story could still spook me out at this age. What is the best way to get a hold of this story to read? Is buying the Binscombe Tales off Amazon one of the only options?

  7. I'm afraid you'll most likely have to buy the book from Amazon, Tazar. The Binscombe stories would be perfect for Kindle but, as I said, John is never going to sanction that. But take a look at John's Wiki entry
    as it lists some of the anthologies you can find the stories in.