He is a guy who tweets as @frogcroakley, and is probably best known for Daniel Barker’s Birthday, a prank on a friend that somehow lurched into being a 75-day serialised space opera. He lives in south London and is getting a bit uncomfortable about talking himself in the third person.
Your debut novel, The Sea Hates a Coward, will be published by Abaddon in October. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
It’s the story of a rebellion among dissidents who have been executed, then reanimated to work as forced labour aboard a city-sized whaling ship. On an alien world. As such it’s a zombie story, but it’s also a whaling story and a sort of dying-world dystopian story too. At the moment it’s a standalone, but the setting is a corner of a much wider world I’ve got in mind, so there are potentially lots more stories to tell.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I’m a bit obsessed with marine life, the intrinsic horror of the open ocean, and doomed efforts by people to tame it. When Abaddon approached me to write a zombie story, it all just sort of fell together.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
Dad used to make up SF stories to tell me at bedtime when I was a kid, and I was onto SF as soon as I could read. I have a great memory of reading The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter when I was 10 and having my mind utterly blown.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
This is all terribly exciting. It was never something I thought would happen, but it’s great fun.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I like to work at night, listening to really OTT music and drinking forgivingly weak cocktails.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
When I was 11 I decided to write a Star Wars book. I still have the first 50 pages of it in a spiral bound notebook somewhere. The villain’s name was an anagram of Darth Vader and I thought that was incredibly clever at the time. I always wanted to be an author but had pretty much given up on it by the time I was 16, so it’s a nice surprise that I’ve got a shot at it now.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I genuinely can’t keep up with the volume of wonderful things being published at the moment. I adore reading but I am slow as hell, so my “to read” pile is taking over an entire bookshelf. Who knows where I’ll fit in, but I’d love to write the kind of thing that gets excitedly blurted about in pubs when conversations turn to the kind of things I enjoy writing about.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I’ve written an animated series with a very old friend, which is launching on November, and which I may be able to say a bit more about by the time this publishes. Also, I’m working on my second novel — it’s an idea I’ve had knocking around for a few years, and I’m hoping to finish it up next spring.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
Currently wolfing down the Shattered Sea books by Joe Abercrombie, plus the Southern Reach series by Jeff Vandemeer and Three Moments of an Explosion by the spectacular China Mieville. I’m also doing a lot of research on drying meat (it’s a hobby), and brushing up on Pseudodoxia Epidemica by Sir Thomas Browne as inspiration for the next book.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I once accidentally punched a fish while wearing a 19th Century diving suit.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Who knows! I hope I get to put out some more writing, and I can’t wait to get the animation out. I’m also saving for a trip back to Fiji, where I would like to ride a bike and look at some crabs. I went there years ago and it got stuck in my brain. Lovely place.
Schneider Wrack was never a dissident. But since he’s serving the sentence anyway, he may as well become one.
Because in the city, the sentence for sedition is death. Death, and then reanimation, before being shipped out to Ocean to work until you fall apart – or something gets you. There’s always a need for fresh bodies in Ocean. In the 70 years the city has been under siege, it’s been the only place to get food, and so the whaling barges work night and day to haul in enough meat to keep three million people from the edge of starvation.
Human labour isn’t an option – Ocean’s too big, too cruel, too full of monsters – so it’s the dead that man the whaleboats. They’re meant to be mindless, empty vessels, but the procedure isn’t perfect. Schneider has woken up months into his sentence, trapped in a living hell of meat and brine, and he’s not happy.
It’s going to take a lot to stir the workforce into revolt; few of them have all their original limbs, and fewer still can remember their own names. But you’ve got to do what you can with what you’ve got.
It’s time to bring hell back to the city…