On Imposter Syndrome (and Demonic Bowling Balls)

There’s a new issue of The Dark Magazine out, with fiction by Michael Wehunt, Alison Littlewood, and Kristi DeMeester. I’ve also got a story in there – a story about a murderous, possibly demonic bowling ball.


Until I actually saw the story in there, I half suspected that there had been some kind of admin error.

I mean, the story is about more than that – it takes a kind of sideways look at responsibility, inaction, and passive culpability – but it’s also about, well, a supernatural bowling ball. And the whole thing originally started out as nothing more than an exercise in voice and unreliable narration, written in pretty much one sitting, and with only one redraft. And then I submitted it to The Dark, and they said they wanted to publish it.

Then, this month, I saw the names I was alongside. Between them, they’ve got Shirley Jackson Award nominations, wins, and loads of “Best Of…” anthology appearances. They’re writers I admire, respect.

I’ve had plenty of moments before when I’ve felt as though my writing wasn’t good enough to have sat alongside so-and-so’s work, or I shouldn’t have been on the same table of contents as Writer X. I think it’s probably a normal part of being a writer or any other creative type, or indeed anyone who engages in some work or hobby or pursuit that involves some level of craft or skill. But that doesn’t change how it feels when you see those names you’re alongside, and you think: there’s been a mistake. Or, this was a fluke.

But what you’ve got to realise is, everyone gets this at some time or another. It’s normal, and it’s part of it. Maybe it means you’re not getting too comfortable, that you’re not taking it for granted. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let yourself enjoy success. You’ve got to remember that you did your best, you put your best work out there, and someone decided it was good enough.

I’m writing this as much for me as for anyone who happens across this blog.

Other writers have written far more eloquently about imposter syndrome. Gemma Amor, for one. Go and read her post. She says it better, and in more detail, than I am here.

I’ll end with this. If you’re a writer, particularly if you write in the more fantastical genres, and if you ever find yourself doubting what you’re writing, thinking it’s too wacky or that you’re not good enough, or that you don’t fit in, just remember:

Someone managed to get a story published in a respected horror magazine, and that story was about a demonic bowling ball, of all things.

Now, go check out the story, as well as the awesome stories by Michael Wehunt, Alison Littlewood, and Kristi DeMeester.

Take care out there, and look after each other.

Some Things I’ve Read Recently

Having recently finished the first draft of a novella, I’ve been able to dedicate a little more time to reading these last few weeks. I’ve been sticking to short fiction and novellas. Here are some recent ones, in no particular order.

A short story called “In the Wake of my Father” by Ray Cluley. One of the highlights of Black Static #74, which can be bought here. A meditation on fathers, childhood, memory and grief. Excellent. Another of Ray’s stories, “The Whaler’s Song,” is in the May issue of The Dark.

“Emergent” by Rob Costello. This was in the February issue of The Dark. A very different take on a father/son relationship – this one’s full of toxicity and resentment, all of it wrapped up in the supernatural and swirling around one very sad incident.

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I’m woefully behind on my Kiernan reading, and clearly I’ve been missing out. A really tightly structured novella of cosmic horror, end-of-the-world cults, and shadowy government agents. Kiernan’s writing is great. It’s the first in a trilogy, published by Tor.

I was going to read Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl next, but then I heard about the Shirley Jackson film, so now I’m rereading We Have Always Lived in the Castle, just because. Then I’ll get back to The Drowning Girl.

April Round-up

April has been a pretty cool month.

“Glass Eyes in Porcelain Faces” will be in the next volume of Paula’s Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. The full table of contents (Joyce Carol Oates!) can be found here. It’ll be published by Pyr and will be out later this year. It’s an honour to be included in this – Paula Guran’s anthologies are essential reading if dark short fiction is your thing.

Also, “Pomegranate Pomegranate” was included in the honourable mentions for The Best of British Fantasy 2019, edited by Jared Shurin. Check out the full list. The anthology will be published by Newcon Press in the summer and is totally worth getting – the table of contents is basically a who’s who of British speculative fiction.

Both “Glass Eyes…” and “Pomegranate Pomegranate” originally appeared in Black Static in 2019. My thanks to Andy Cox for publishing them.