22 January 2012


I have created a Twitter account. It's @alchemy_press -- if you feel inclined to follow it. So far, I've posted random words, but that does seem to constitute the Twitter-verse.

Shiny Shorts

My good friend Jenny Barber has created a new website / blog: Shiny Shorts. Here's why:

"Shiny Shorts was born out of a passion for a fiction form that perhaps doesn't get talked about as much as it should. Whether it's flash, short stories, novellas; podcasts, print or online magazines; anthologies or collections; horror, SF, fantasy or crime - if it's story we're there, so drop by and share the love."

Now it's time to visit Shiny Shorts.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I may have read an Agatha Christie novel once before but it was a long time ago – it would’ve been in 1973, on a beach in Tunisia (honeymoon, if you must know). The book was was quickly read, quickly forgotten, and then discarded. This week I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – so I can now confidently state that I am no longer an Agatha Christie virgin.

Of course I have watched TV and film adaptations of her Poirott (David Suchet is good in this role) and Miss Marples stories. I enjoy them to an extent, especially when I play the game: trying to work out who did the dastardly deed. But after a few episodes, they are all too familiar, all too similar.

It's important to remember that this novel first appeared in 1926, part of the country house tradition of crime stories. Nevertheless, reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd I felt exactly the same. I found everything was too predictable even if the clues leading to the dénouement were tenuous. But in book form, it took longer than an hour or two, as in the TV versions, to reach the final answer. I read the first half of the book very rapidly; and then a sense of ennui crept in and I had to find excuses to sit and finish the novel. I got to a state when I just didn’t care who did it.

In case you don’t know, Roger Ackroyd was discovered murdered with a dagger thrust into his neck. The suspects included his wife, daughter, secretary, butler, the colonel, the house keeper, step son, etc, etc. All have alibis of course – a couple somewhat slight – and all have motives or at least appear downright suspicious. And naturally all suspects have secrets they try so hard to retain. There is, of course, the not-too-bright police inspector (but not Inspector Japp!).

Typically, the only person able to solve the crime is the little Belgium detective (as he’s so often described). I didn’t deduce – or guess – who was the villain. The story ends with a twist and thus in retrospect the culprit was blooming obvious. I am informed that the Agatha Christie novels are mostly all the same. If so, I can’t see me reading further AC novels.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has been re-released recently as the first volume in a new part-works series. The next book is The Murder on the Orient Express. Oh, all right, I may read that – after all, it is one of her most famous titles.

20 January 2012

The Hammer Out Book of Ghosts

I am delighted to report that Jan Edwards -- my better half -- has a story in The Hammer Out Book of Ghosts, edited by Dexter O'Neill. The book is published in aid of the Hammer Out charity -- fighting against brain tumours. A link to the Hammer Out webpage can be found on the Piper at the Gates of Fantasy blog. Jan's story, "Orbyting", is an amusing take on those silly ghost hunting programmes that we sometimes see on television.

Ken Coleborn, RIP

Ken Coleborn, my father, died recently -- earlier this week, in fact. I was reminded of a very old photo he sent me a couple of years ago of his father Arthur (my grandfather). The photo was in a poor state and he (Dad) hoped I could PhotoShop it (or tweak it) to remove the creases and stains. Above right is the original, left the corrected image (meant to be sepia toned). Father was very pleased with the result.

I never knew my Grandfather -- he died before I was born. My Grandmother had remarried by the time I entered this world, to a man called Charlie Thoumine. It took me a long time before I figured out why my father's parents were not called Coleborn. Charlie Thoumine originally came from Guernsey or Jersey, one of the Channel Islands.

11 January 2012

Scream Quietly...

My contributor’s copy of Scream Quietly: The Best of Charles L Grant (edited by Stephen Jones and published by PS) arrived today. It’s nice to see so many of my photos included – but sad to be reminded of Charlie’s passing. Here’s a picture I took of him at FantasyCon XI. More details here.

Photo © Peter Coleborn

10 January 2012


Here's an illustration I did in 2009 for a story in New Horizons, edited by Andrew Hook. It's based on some of my photos ... but zapped through Photoshop. Illustration (c) Peter Coleborn

06 January 2012

Wise guys...

Here's a photo taken at Peter Atkins' home in LA in 2008. Left to right: Stephen Jones, Tony Richards and Mr Atkins. Photo (c) Peter Coleborn

The Piper at the Gates of Fantasy

If you have the time, pop over to one of my other blogs, The Piper at the Gates of Fantasy. Here, I post occasional reviews of books I've enjoyed, and snippets of news on items that offer such a promise.

03 January 2012

FantasyCon XX

FantasyCon XX was held in the International Hotel, Marsh Wall, London, over the weekend 4-6 October 1996. The Guests of Honour were Tom Holt and Christopher Fowler, with Kim Newman the Master of Ceremonies. It was an incredibly small organising committee, just the four of us: Mike Chinn, Jan Edwards, Debbie Bennett and me. And this was a rehearsal for the following year’s World Fantasy Convention, at the same venue!

The FantasyCon XX Souvenir Book was edited and produced by me – my first A4-sized publication. The cover art, depicting Chris Fowler’s fine story “The Man Who Wound a Thousand Clocks”, was by Bob Covington.

For the record: I attended my first FantasyCon (it was FantasyCon 2) in February 1976. FantasyCon 2 was held at the New Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. The Guest of Honour was Robert Aickman and Ken Bulmer was the Master of Ceremonies. The “highlight” of the film programme was, probably, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

In October 1980 I found myself on the FantasyCon VI organising committee. I think I had also been voted in as BFS secretary / treasurer by then. And I seemed to have been involved with the BFS and/or FantasyCon in one or another role for many years thereafter…

Elsewhere in the UK in 1996, Andromeda Bookshop was celebrating its 25th anniversary – and its move to bigger, better premises in Suffolk Street, Birmingham.

02 January 2012

Taking pictures...

Back in the late 1970s I bought a camera – a single lens reflex (SLR) model manufactured in Russia or East Germany, some country east of the Iron Curtain. Two or three years later I bought a Canon FTb QL SLR – my first “real” camera. With these instruments I taught myself how to balance f-numbers and shutter speeds and ISO values in order to obtain the right exposure. It was of course a film camera, and everything was adjusted manually.

I also bought a second-hand enlarger and all the paraphernalia necessary to develop and print B&W photos. And I created a dark room – the box room of our house was ideal, just next door to the bathroom – and learned new photographic skills.

I’m not sure when I started taking photos at conventions. Judging by the illustrated article (by Stephen Jones and others) in the FantasyCon 2011 Souvenir Book, it was around 1982. I don’t have access to my collection of magazines from that era (that’s the trouble with a broken leg and two floors to negotiate to get to my study), so I can’t confirm if my pictures saw publication in the BFS Newsletter.

Anyhow, I must have done something right because I was asked by Ian Watson, one of the SFWA’s Regional Directors, to take photos at the 1988 World Fantasy Convention, held in London. I did, and my pictures appeared on the front and back cover of the SFWA’s Bulletin (winter 1988 issue).

The Guest of Honour at the 1988 WFC (which incorporated FantasyCon XIII) was James Herbert. Other main guests were Michael Foreman, Diana Wynne Jones and Clive Barker. I was one of the "Assistants".

The FTb served me well, until I upgraded to a T90 then an EOS1n. I also bought a digital camera that cost over £200, a lot of money in the late 1990s. It was a pathetic affair – less than one megapixel, if I recall, with only a small built-in memory. It had novelty value and was soon discarded, unloved, and I continued using my film SLRs. But inevitably, as decent DSLRs appeared, with the technology to match the quality of film cameras, I too “went digital”. And I took many more photos at fantasy conventions.

Photo of James Herbert (c) Peter Coleborn

01 January 2012

Dark Horizons 38

Dark Horizons 38 was edited by me (Peter Coleborn) and Mike Chinn – Phil Williams stood down after the previous issue. Joel Lane remained the poetry editor. It was published by the BFS in 1999. I think this may have been the first perfect-bound issue of DH, a change that’s been with us since. This binding certainly made the magazine look and feel more substantial. It also boasted over a hundred pages – a step up from past issues. And at last, DH used a decent-sized font that made this issue easy to read; it still is, even with today’s aged eyes. Contents:

“Invasion” by Rudy Kremberg
“The Suburban Vampire” (verse) by Norman J Olson
“The Ichor of Ilyus Benz” by Linda Talbot
“Clockwise Cryptonia” (verse) by echo syzygy
“Roots of a Writer” by Anne Gay (NF)
“Draining Away” (verse) by Brian Maycock
“Noodles” by James Mac
“The Testament of Empedocles” by P G McCormack
“Monopoly” (verse) by John M Edwards
“Lavender and Lilac: Ghosts, Visits and Old Ladies” by John Howard (NF)
“Queen of Clubs” by Allen Ashley
“A Soldier in Rohgate” by D Harrigon
“The Bezaloo” by Bill Wilensky

The front cover artwork (illustrating “Queen of Clubs”) was by Bob Hobbs. Alas, there no interior artwork in this issue, barring a photograph of Anne Gay (by Jerry Bauer) and cover reproductions accompanying John Howard’s article. This piece carried a second sub-title: “A Look at Some Old-time American Domestic Horror”. Note: NF denotes non-fiction.

This was my final issue as DH editor -- at least for a long, long time.

Originally published on the Alchemy Press website.

Dark Horizons 37

After Chills, I teamed up with Mike Chinn and Phil Williams to edit and produce the British Fantasy Society’s main publication, Dark Horizons. Unfortunately, our first issue of DH took far too long to appear. The editorial note offers apologies but no excuses – and it’s too far in the past to remember all the details. I think that organising a FantasyCon or two, along with launching the Alchemy Press, were involved in some part. Anyway, Dark Horizons 37, edited by the aforementioned team, along with Joel Lane, poetry editor, appeared in 1998 with a cover price of £3.00.

DH37, although neatly produced, used a too-small font, which must have made it hard on the eyes. Dark Horizons included both fiction and non-fiction:

“The Lake” by Linda D Acaster
“Para Dice by the Landing Light” by G W Greenwood. Illustrated by Dallas Goffin
“Worms Feed on Hector: the Gothic Novels of Simon Raven” by Howard Watson (NF)
“A Fence in Rohgate” by D Harrigon
“Terminal” by Simon MacCulloch. Illustrated by Janet Morris
“Heart of the Machine” by Rick Cadger
“Scapegoat” by Alan Casey
“Queue” (verse) by Brian Maycock (R)
“Scraps” by Paul Finch. Illustrated by Alan Hunter
“Roots of a Writer” by Storm Constantine. Illustrated by Bob Covington (NF)
“Jenna’s Home” by Rick Kleffel
“Looking Through the Glass” (verse) by Steve Sneyd
“Horrorscopes: a Lover’s Guide” by Peter Tennant
“Kwaidan Revisited” by John Paul Catton (NF)
“A Rather Improbable God” by David Andreas
“Bio” (verse) by Mark McLaughlin
“The Last Story in the Book” by D F Lewis

Cover art was by Bob Covington with additional artwork by Alan Casey. Only three items were specifically illustrated. Note: R denotes a reprint and NF is non-fiction.

Glancing through DH37’s pages, I note that the first Alchemy Press title, The Paladin Mandates, had just appeared. That year’s Fantasycon, FCXXII, was held at the Albany Posthouse Hotel in Birmingham over the weekend 11-13 September. The Guests of Honour were Freda Warrington and Jane Yolen. Ramsey Campbell was the Master of Ceremonies. And I was one of the organisers – again. Finally, about this time websites were becoming more popular, with the BFS’ first site appearing on the Geocities server.

Originally published on the Alchemy Press website.