Zero Bomb’s away

Zero Bomb is published today by the lovely crew at Titan Books, and is now available in all your favourite places.

It’s a book I didn’t quite see coming: I started writing it in January 2017 and finished the first draft late that summer – pretty fast by my usual standards. But the real writing comes in editing, and it was only ready for initial submission as a novel called Automatic England about five months and two extra drafts after that. Just over a year later, and here, somehow, we are. It’s a beautifully made thing – including that genius art by Julia Lloyd – with a set of blurbs I’m still pinching myself over. As ever, there’s a weird sense of exposure, excitement and anxiety. Most of all, though, I feel privileged and immensely grateful to everyone involved. I hope people like it.

Looking ahead, I’ll be at Eastercon in Heathrow over the Easter weekend, and in Derby for Edge-Lit in July. Then, in August, I’m hopping over to Dublin for my very first Worldcon – assuming it’s still possible to leave the country.

For more about Zero Bomb, head over here.

Zero Bomb and The Breach to Titan Books

Massively excited to write that Titan Books have acquired my next two novels for UK/US publication in 2019 and 2020.

Zero Bomb (March 2019) is a paranoid near-future SF mystery set between London, Birmingham and the fringes of Manchester. It concerns ‘news trauma’, neo-Luddite terrorism, crap parenting, ‘70s British SF and a very strange fox.

There’s a cover reveal and short extract from Zero Bomb up at here.

The Breach, meanwhile, is my take on a first-contact story. It’s about a local journalist investigating the death of a climber, and a trainee steeplejack with an unhealthy interest in urban exploration. Fairies, body horror, a massive space elevator scam, completely made-up fall arrest technology… and other fun stuff.

Both books share a fictional northern town called Dillock (which happily rhymes with pillock), but they’re otherwise standalone, and don’t have anything to do with my first two.

They’re also going to be published under a new pen name: M.T. Hill.

Hoping to share more soon, but for now I’m feeling excited and very fortunate to be joining Titan’s list.

End state

2017. A small country, seized by nostalgia for a country that never actually existed to start with, begins to implode…

My writing year peaked early with my trip to Seattle for Norwescon 40 and the Philip K. Dick Awards ceremony. Fittingly, science fiction conventions always have something of the slipstream about them. As Claudia Casper points out in her own excellent write-up, you exist, for a few days at least, in a sort of pocket universe – in this case a very beige airport hotel – into which a hundred different fandoms are squashed. And then you go home again, unsure about exactly what happened, but weirdly relieved it did.

From the moment I landed in Seattle, I was brilliantly well looked after by the convention staff and Angry Robot crew, and felt super grateful to be nominated and there at all. Highlights include signing the back of a Kindle for a woman dressed as a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who; joining the ‘League of Extraordinary Redheads’ (thank you, Lisa M); doing a panel alongside Possibly the World’s Loveliest Man, Ethan Siegel; and walking for miles to marvel at downtown Seattle.

Congratulations again to the wonderful Claudia Casper, whose novel The Mercy Journals took home the prize. Here are the four (of six) of us that made it, looking… writerly? From left to right, winner Claudia Casper, some tosser, Kristy Acevedo, and special citation winner Susan diRende. (Photo by William Sadorus.)


What else? Well, I spent the rest of the year writing a short novel to make two drafted since Graft, and (re)learned five important rules for the game. Namely:

  1. Publishing is weird
  2. Really, really weird
  3. The only thing you can control is your writing
  4. So if you’re on sub, or waiting on news, keep writing
  5. Also, a watched inbox never dings

Elsewhere, and between dadding, working, editing and writing (and playing Titanfall 2, the best multiplayer game ever made), I didn’t make enough time to read everything I planned to. Here are my four favourites of the books I did get to:

Sarah Hall’s new collection Madame Zero enthralled as much as it unsettled. She writes a kind of subtle horror, which, like Alison Moore’s, gets under my skin in a very particular way. These stories seem especially focused on motherhood and parenting, and are acutely honest. Two in particular – ‘Later, His Ghost’ (originally published here) and ‘Evie’ – are ridiculously good.

Lionel Davidson’s Kolymsky Heightswas a masterclass in understated thriller writing. I don’t mean to say it’s a quiet novel – it’s anything but – but the writing, while propulsive, is beautiful without being showy; full of technical detail without ever being dull. That’s how you do it, Mr Weir…

Having watched Tom Ford’s glassy Nocturnal Animals on a plane, I finally picked up Tony and Susan, Austin Wright’s 1993 novel(-within-a-novel). Literate, clever, unashamedly meta. And, in places, unbearably tense. If you’ve seen the film and found the family’s ‘encounter’ with the gang tough-going, the book is even more wrenching, full of impotent anger and melancholy.

My best read this year was Svetlana Alexievich’s astonishing oral history Voices from Chernobyl (recently retranslated/republished over here as Chernobyl Prayer, which I’d totally missed). In some ways this book is almost revisionist for me – I think our cultural understanding of the Chernobyl disaster is skewed away from the apocalypse wrought on its victims and constructed instead as ‘look at these cool photos of a deserted Pripyat.’ I’ve thought about it every day since I finished it. Harrowing, angry, sometimes bleakly funny, and deeply strange. Frankly, it serves to make most science fiction irrelevant.

And that’s really about it. Here’s to 2018, and a good solid bunker.

Norwescon 2017

This Easter I’m jetting out to Seattle for Norwescon 40 and the 2017 Philip K Dick Award ceremony. I’m looking forward to meeting the other nominees, to exploring the city, and to catching up with the Angry Robot crew across the pond.

This will be my first US convention, and while I have some expectations (world-class cosplay, people asking me to repeat myself), I’m also aware it’ll be very different from UK conventions I’ve attended so far.

If you happen to be there, my schedule is below. Otherwise I’ll be wandering about, lost, taking photos, or hunting tacos. Please say hello! I’m the lanky ginger one.

Friday April 14th

Philip K. Dick Award: What It Is, What It Means

12:00pm – 1:00pm @ Grand 2

Administrators and nominees for this year’s award discuss the PK Dick Award and the legacy of Philip K. Dick.

Philip K. Dick Awards

7:00pm – 8:30pm @ Grand 2

Presented annually at Norwescon, with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust, for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by Norwescon and the Northwest Science Fiction Society.

Saturday April 15th

The Year is 2067

7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Evergreen 1&2

From the tablet to cell phones, we live in an era forecast long ago in science fiction. Our panelists look ahead 50 years and extrapolate on what the current stories of today may forecast for tomorrow.

I have a few issues with the idea that ‘good’ science fiction demands ‘good’ futurism, but extrapolation is a fun game. The trickiest decision is whether to be realistic, given the current state of play (increasingly devastating automated warfare; unfathomable heat; general savagery; Scotland fitted with propellers and pootling happily towards the Arctic Circle), or plain hopeful (meaningful peace; meaningful communities; cheap, clean energy; free healthcare). Maybe my grandfather had it right when he recently said: ‘You science fiction authors have vastly underestimated how awful things are going to get.’

Philip K. Dick Award

Today was going to be an odd day for plenty of reasons. This morning’s news that Graft is nominated for the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award has made it all the weirder.

To say this means a lot is a ridiculous understatement. Dick’s work (particularly his short stories) has been hugely influential on my stuff, so to have my strange little novel anywhere near his name is an honour.

Big, big thanks to everyone who’s read and supported the book. To celebrate, it’s currently on sale over at Angry Robot. Pick up the ebook here.

2017 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The judges of the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, are pleased to announce the six nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award:

CONSIDER by Kristy Acevedo (Jolly Fish Press)
THE MERCY JOURNALS by Claudia Casper (Arsenal Pulp Press)
GRAFT by Matt Hill (Angry Robot)
UNPRONOUNCEABLE by Susan diRende (Aqueduct Press)
SUPER EXTRA GRANDE by Yoss, translated by David Frye (Restless Books)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 14, 2017 at Norwescon 40 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year.  The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society.  Last year’s winner was APEX by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot) with a special citation to ARCHANGEL by Marguerite Reed (Arche Press). The 2016 judges are Michael Armstrong (chair), Brenda Clough, Meg Elison, Lee Konstantinou, and Ben Winters.



Where are we?


I realise after the fact that I’ve been hibernating for a while. As I threatened during my chat with the wonderful Anne Charnock at Mancunicon last March, we left that London and returned to the north at the end of May, and have now moved into a little house on the edge of the Peak District. I’ll swerve the hagiography, but it still feels a bit raw to be back after four very happy years down there. (So far I most miss the smell of Turkish ocakbasi in muggy summer as you come up the Kingsland Road.)

If it’s all been a bit hectic on the home front, it’s been a decent run creatively. Time apart, time stolen – our son coming along has forced me to be more disciplined, and in some ways more determined. (So much so that when people say, ‘How do you find the time?’ I feel like I’ve missed something – as if I might have already failed him.) Still, a brand new novel is now drafted (and redrafted) and pretty much ready for submission. So we’ll see…

Politically, of course, there have been profound jolts in the time since I last posted here. As much as anyone is, I’m still processing it all, especially as things continue to metastasise. But I do know that leaving the capital coincided with Brexit campaigning at fever pitch. For me, returning to a fairly conservative environment, this summer provided eye-opening exposure to a lot of anger, and in some cases to a vicious politics I’d not encountered for a long time – especially not in our London bubble. (Which isn’t to say I was ignorant: my fascination with ultra-nationalism in particular – a hangover from writing The Folded Man, I think – has kept me close to the wire. As Jo Cox’s horrible assassination proved, it’s not histrionic to say there are people in the UK preparing or even agitating for civil war.)

Still, I haven’t wanted (or been able) to say much about any of it – whether here or in social media. Partly because others do a much better job; partly because I don’t know enough; partly because I’ve been privately enjoying my son’s development. But mostly because I’ve just been way too despondent. Now we sit and watch a sort of conformity being ruthlessly enforced on all sides of the argument, and see in hindsight how easy it was to retreat into the plushness of our echo chambers. Now we watch the rise of demagogues, and previously unthinkable ideas entering the mainstream. Now we watch our government, apparently unopposed, thrashing around in post-Brexit bafflement – while pushing through things like the IP Bill, which might well lead to a country in which dissenting opinion, niche interest or even honest research will eventually be prosecutable…

And all the while, the dog-whistlers go on whistling, the hard-right marches in total lockstep, and the left continues to fragment and self-cannibalise.

So where are we? For me, at least, fiction is helping – reading to see, writing to understand. Maybe that’s pathetic – it definitely feels like cowardice sometimes. Silence can be consent, after all. But if reading is empathising, writing is also therapy. And, as Nina Allan notes in her excellent round-up of 2016, it can be a powerful form of resistance.

Heart to Heart


Last Friday I was lucky enough to catch a preview of artist Yu-Chen Wang’s new work for The Imitation Game at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry and Manchester Art Gallery. I’ve already waffled on about my involvement with the project – but even after a good few weeks writing and editing fiction with Yu-Chen and museum curator Sarah Baines, it was still a brilliant surprise to see Yu-Chen’s vision fully realised.

Through fiction, film, pencil drawings and live performance (the shot above is Marc Parry playing a Linotype 78), Yu-Chen has created a rich, questioning work that explores and celebrates heritage and humanness. That it works so differently across both sites makes it even more fascinating.

On a personal level, I feel really lucky to have been involved. There’s no point sugarcoating it: writing collaboratively is challenging. It takes patience and compromise on all sides – not often the qualities of someone used to writing alone, obviously. But at the same time, this project is easily one of the most fun, rewarding things I’ve worked on. To go from nothing to three interlinked stories in a fairly short time was a big rush, and I loved and admired Yu-Chen’s imagination and sense of purpose; Sarah’s deep insight and humour. Plus how often do three people get to sit in a room and nerd out about machines?

The whole thing is definitely worth checking out if you’re in Manchester before June. And if you can make May’s live performances at the Science and Industry Museum, even better – the actors are ace.

Here’s more from the press release:

What if machines sitting in museum stores could remember, talk and interact with each other? What would they say, think and remember? Do machines have human qualities? Do humans have machine qualities?

In Spring 2015 Yu-Chen Wang was artist-in-residence at the Museum of Science and Industry. Her research and reflection on the Museum’s collection and historic site has led to a major new work, Heart to Heart for The Imitation Game, which encompasses text, performance, film, drawing and installation. Her work can be seen at both Manchester Art Gallery and the museum.

Following the residency, Wang collaborated with science fiction novelist Matt Hill and museum curator Sarah Baines to write the story of four characters inspired by a chosen group of objects at the Museum, who reminisce about their past and imagine their futures, revealing the interconnections between machine and human histories. The fictional text has become a script for a live performance, featuring the four machine characters.

A film of the performance is showing in the Liverpool Road Station building at the Museum of Science and Industry and an immersive installation using video projection, sound and drawing to evoke the machine dialogues is on display at Manchester Art Gallery.

Heart to Heart live performances at the Museum of Science and Industry run on these dates:

Friday 20 May: 10am, 11am, 12.30pm, 3.15pm, 4pm

Saturday 21 May: 10.45am, 12:45pm, 3pm, 4.15pm

Monday 23 May: 10am, 11am, 12.30pm, 3.15pm, 4pm

Tuesday 24 May: 10am, 11am, 1.45pm, 3.15pm

Tickets are free but places are limited – see for booking soon