The Books What I (Help) Write: Fox Pockets: Piercing the Vale


I just got my contributor copy of this anthology from Fox Spirit. It’s a great book, crammed with fantastically turned out idea grenades of stories and you can get full details of the excellent line up and the other books in the series by clicking on the cover.


This is mine. This little story’s taken me to some interesting places. It was printed in Hub, listed in some form for a BFS award I think and was an offshoot of one of the first jobs I had. In the late ’90s, I did a ton of content for a now defunct site called Opi8. It was a lot of fun, and I basically had free reign to do whatever I wanted. That’s where I cut my teeth on a lot of film criticism and it’s also where I did X Minute Theatre.

X Minute Theatre was basically my attempt at a Harlan Ellison cover version. I’d give myself 30 minutes, no prep time and go flat out to try and finish a story in that time. If I did, I got to edit it and submit it. If I didn’t, then it was recycled for ideas later.

Most of them were okay, a couple were actively bad and one was great. This. I’m still really proud of this story and that’s rare for me. It’s also a really personal story. Not in the way any of this actually happened.

Well, not all of it.

The inspiration for the story was two fold. Some of it came from my first mobile phone, that I would later accidentally kill using a single drop of milk, in 1996. The thing wasn’t quite a surfboard but you could put it in a sock and get a pretty effective blackjack. My dad got one for Christmas the same year and I remember wondering who had the number just up from mine or just down from his.

Then there was Edge of Darkness. An epochal piece of TV drama that managed to combine science fiction, tragedy, crime and horror in a way that peeled the top of my head off and still does to a point.

There’s one moment, towards the end where the lead character is on the run through the tunnels of a very, very bad place indeed. He arrives at a room full of old telephones and frantically grabs handsets as gas is pumped into the room. At long last he gets one with a dial tone and dials out.

We cut to a quiet office somewhere in White Hall. The phone is picked up. Our guy screams for help.

End scene.

Start of story.

Like I say, this one’s a traveler and it was really fun to update it for the collection. Piercing the Vale is available now and features great stories from Alec McQuay, Jonathan Ward, Paul Starkey, Jen Williams, Darren Goldsmith, Chloe Yates  Colin Sinclair, Tracy Fahey , Jenny Barber, Craig Leyenaar, Jo Johnson Smith,  Carol Borden, Steven Poore and me. I’m delighted Connected is both in there and in such good company.


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