Why ‘weird stories’? Short answer: it won a poll on Twitter when I asked what readers would like next. Long answer: I have an overactive imagination, encouraged by the thousands of books, films, TV shows and songs I’ve consumed over the years. I’m apparently unable to write anything ‘normal’ because the story always takes an odd direction. So with this collection I’ve embraced the weirdness.
What genre is the book? I discuss this in the introduction. ‘Weird fiction’ is by some definitions a sub-genre of science fiction, horror or fantasy. It can also be fiction with a weird writing style or premise, without being these genres. As usual, I’m writing something that is not easily pigeonholed. A Strange Belief is in the science fiction category on Amazon, but that is only one element of the content.
How do you come up with such strange ideas? Dreams, half-remembered fears, ‘what-if’s and looking at the world from different perspectives. I’ve also read several collections of weird stories which have influenced me, including those from Kate Folk, Sayaka Murata, Un-su Kim, Ray Bradbury and the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series.
Is this book very different to After the Burning? It’s around the same length but has eight stories instead of five. What both collections have in common are the science fiction element and the twist endings I like to use. After the Burning, however, is more serious in tone, influenced by issues which are a threat to the world, while A Strange Belief has its grim moments but also a helping of humour.
What do the reviewers say? “Fabulous and fun”, “imaginative writing”, “intriguing”, “unusual”, “unique”. It’s only a couple of weeks since publication but feedback is looking good! I was a bit worried the stories might be too weird, but I think there is no such thing, providing that the plot makes some kind of sense and isn’t just a lot of random things stitched together.
What’s the story behind the cover? I knew early on that a pylon would grace the cover. If you want to know why, read the story ‘Tentacles and Concrete’. I decided it would look better upside-down, suggesting that the bizarre can be found in the mundane. I changed the pale blue sky to a lurid mix of peach, purple and blue. I have to admit it’s very ‘me’. I made it myself using free Canva and MS Paint.
Will the book be available in paperback? As with After the Burning, this is a quick read only available as an ebook. I might possibly do a ‘collected stories’ edition in the future which would be available in paperback. That depends on me writing lots more stories!
A few fun facts:
The first story I wrote for this collection was ‘Dinosaur Party’. I was very pleased with it but once I’d written the other stories, it was clear that this story, being the only political satire, didn’t fit in. Certainly it’s weird, just not the same kind of weird. It was another one of those ‘what-if’s – what if the dinosaurs had never died out and ruled over humans today?
I love storylines where the characters don’t know if they’re dreaming or awake. It’s a recurring theme in science fiction; two examples off the top of my head are the Doctor Who episode ‘Amy’s Choice’ and the Futurama episode ‘The Sting’. This, along with an annoying dream I often have, influenced my story ‘You May Open Your Question Papers and Begin’.
On October 7th, the book reached No.7 in the Hot New Releases on the Science Fiction Anthologies Kindle chart in the UK. I believe that’s the highest any of my books have been in any ranking so far. At the same time, it was No.51 in Science Fiction Anthologies for Kindle, No.104 in the same category but not exclusively Kindle, and No.319 in Contemporary Short Stories.
I now have a series page on Amazon, called Short Story Collections. I guess this means I’ll be adding to it! There are definitely two more genre collections I want to write. The description on the page: ‘Read these entertaining, thought-provoking short stories from N S Ford. Ideal quick reads for coffee breaks, travel and when you’re looking for something out of the ordinary. Currently available in the series – After the Burning: spine-chillingly plausible dystopian tales for our times, and A Strange Belief: weird stories, some dark, some delightful.’
The wonderful Whispering Stories blog recently had an interview with me. I highly recommend you check it out for some more insight into my writing, a photo of my cat and what a talking owl would say to me when he has finished reading my book (their question, not mine).