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Science Fiction & Fantasy INTERZONE ISSUE 253 OUT NOW!

TTA Novella 1: Eyepennies by Mike O'Driscoll OUT NOW

28th Nov, 2012

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Mike O'Driscoll's Eyepennies was inspired by the death in March 2010 of musician Mark Linkous who recorded and performed under the name Sparklehorse. Here is Mike's introduction to the novella:

Introduction: It’s A Wonderful Life
‘Eyepennies’ is a song written and recorded by Mark Linkous, an American songwriter, musician and producer, who recorded and performed five albums under the name Sparklehorse. The last of these, Dark Night of the Soul, co-written and produced with Dangermouse, saw Mark collaborate with an eclectic mix of performers and artists, including Vic Chesnutt, The Flaming Lips, and David Lynch. It was officially released, after contractual problems had caused a delay, in 2010. ‘Eyepennies’ appeared on the 2001 album It’s a Wonderful Life, which was my first encounter with Sparklehorse’s music. I saw them late in 2002 supporting Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy at a gig in London. Throughout the hour long set, Mark’s vocals were probably the quietest I’d ever heard at a live gig. This had the effect of causing the audience to concentrate all the more intently on his hushed, elusive lyrics, as we strove to understand the mysterious truths they allowed us to glimpse.

Some people interpreted the title of It’s a Wonderful Life as an ironic riposte to those who perceived of Mark as being preoccupied with mortality, madness and the dark side of human nature, but I prefer to take him at his word. This despite his struggles with depression, addiction and the long, painful recovery from an all too close brush with death in 1996 while touring the UK to promote his first album Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot.

That Mark recovered from that, and the near loss of both legs, spoke volumes about his determination to see the rich beauty and weirdness in life. His fascination was not with death but with the simple, mundane pleasures we so often take for granted. Dogs, trees, sunshine, birds, horses, dusk; he loved motorcycles, old songs, old engines, the American south, its dark history and literature. His music and lyrics – spooky, elusive, surreal, and raw – are imbued with these things, though the songs speak to us obliquely, filtering his ideas and passions through the prism of an extraordinary life. They serve as surreal reminders of things we’ve forgotten, and reveal to us something of the dreams we never understood.

Mark Linkous took his own life in March 2010. That he fought on for fourteen years after his first close encounter with death is a testament to his strength and zest for life. We are left only with his eerily beautiful and haunting songs, and for that we are blessed.

I wrote this story for him.

Eyepennies has already received many very positive reviews. Here are some brief extracts from a few of them:

“A musician emotionally scarred by a near-death experience is haunted by his past, his present and his future in this chilling, slow burn of a ghost story. Read it!” Ellen Datlow

“Mike O’Driscoll is without doubt one of our best writers. I often wish he wrote more, because when he does produce something new – such as the excellent Eyepennies – it’s truly an occasion for celebration” Tim Lebbon

“A musician struggles to come to terms with his existence following a near-death experience, in a world where reality is something elusive and the darkness is always waiting. A beautifully written, evocative novella” Alison Littlewood

“A beautiful story suffused with the entangled mysteries of pain and life, as radiant as it is dark: the best kind” Stephen Volk

“Full of symbols and dread, a Cotard’s delusion set to O’Driscoll’s cool bluesy prose, Eyepennies makes a refined contribution to the TTA Press canon” Paul Meloy

“An oblique yet beautifully written story that slowly builds a number of emotional layers. O’Driscoll’s story reflects music, life and, of course, fear. The launch of the TTA Novella series is off to a very strong start with this daring yet emotionally grounded piece of writing that will linger in the brain of the reader like a haunting Sparklehorse melody” Dan Howarth, This Is Horror

“The author lures us in with vivid imagery. He draws us further with non-linear, chaotic sequences that mirror Mark’s inner journey. Mr O’Driscoll ensures that we are along for the wild ride by putting us in Mark’s head and letting us experience the creepy surreality of his life” Cyd Athens, Tangent Online

“This is classic psychological horror, and it’s beautifully written. The prose is a dream, and rolls poetically off the page into images and metaphors that O’Driscoll paints effortlessly and with such clarity that even the abstract nature of the subject matter cannot cloud” Matthew S. Dent

“A novella crackling with raw power, this manages to be incredibly realistic whilst embracing hints of the supernatural, a story of the darkness for readers who want more to their horror than blood and gore. Well written, thoroughly gripping, I highly recommend this” Mark West

“Like many of the great supernatural stories the reader is left wondering whether what you are reading is real or if it is just a figment of Mark’s broken mind. This is a brilliant story that pushed me as a reader, as much with its clever writing and beautiful prose as it did with some shocking scenes” Jim McLeod, Ginger Nuts of Horror

“A fine, insightful piece of psychological horror, Eyepennies is an effective showcase of Mike O’Driscoll’s famous storytelling ability and enticing prose. Highly recommended to anyone who prefers classy dark fiction rather than gory horror” Mario Guslandi

“The prose is effortless and compelling, creating images in the minds eye both chilling and insightful. The pace is brilliant, you don’t realise that you are being drawn in and carried along until you reach a satisfying, and haunting, end” Sean P. Chatterton

“This had many unsettling images and some truly horrifying scenes. The theme of pennies on the eyes (to pay your passage to the next world) is present and used effectively. This is a good start to the TTA Novellas series and I will be looking forward to future tales. I highly recommend this one” Sam Tomaino, SF Revu

Eyepennies is a fine portrait of a person under psychological strain. O’Driscoll maintains the ambiguity over whether Mark’s experiences are supernatural or delusional in origin (and, indeed, over whether that makes any practical difference). The novella’s fragmented structure (reaching back into different periods of the protagonist’s life) further underlines the diffuse state of Mark’s mind. This is a good start for the novella series, and I look forward to future instalments” David Hebblethwaite

“O’Driscoll has written a tightly-constructed and sympathetic homage to a doomed artist where one man’s memory, dreams and timeline overlap to mind-bendingly nightmarish effect. If you like horror that is a bit out of left field, this will be right up your alley” Alan Kelly, Rue Morgue

The wraparound cover art of Eyepennies is by Rik Rawling. You can buy Eyepennies only or you can take advantage of our special subscription offer: FIVE NOVELLAS FOR JUST £25 POST-FREE TO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!

Coming soon from TTA Novellas:

Item image: Spin

Spin by Nina Allan (23,000 words, cover art by Ben Baldwin)
Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone (40,000 words)
The Teardrop Method by Simon Avery (26,000 words)
Country Dark by James Cooper (41,000 words)

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