AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION

Right, nearly there with my recaps of the AUTUMN series in readiness for the UK release of AFTERMATH next week. Today I’m going to look at the various short stories I’ve written to expand and compliment the overall story over the years.

As I’ve already explained, AUTUMN started small but grew rapidly in size, its cast of characters growing with each new novel. Apart from jumping back in time to the beginning of the outbreak at the beginning of THE CITY, and the parallel events of PURIFICATION and DISINTEGRATION, it’s told in a largely linear way. That’s all well and good, but as I introduced each new character, I found myself wanting to go back and tell their individual backstories. To have done that within the books would have made them unnecessarily complicated, and so I came up with AUTUMN: ECHOES.

Originally appearing online only, these (very) short stories explained what had happened to minor background characters from THE CITY to get them from the end of the world to the city centre university where the survivors had grouped at the beginning of the book. It seemed to work so well I continued and did the same with some of the new characters from PURIFICATION too, and it was while I was putting together the third book that these ECHOES seemed to take on a life of their own. Here’s a brief extract from a scene near to the end of the book:

Amy Steadman (day 3) by Craig PatonEight weeks ago this had been an intelligent young clothing store department manager with a bright future ahead of her. Now it was a mud-splattered, half-naked, emaciated collection of brittle bone and rotting flesh. Unlike the majority of the seething crowd, however, this one was beginning to exhibit signs of real control and determination. Unlike those which simply stood there vacantly or those which ripped and tore at the other corpses immediately around them, this body was beginning to think.

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The AUTUMN artists – Michael Dick

Rounding off my series of articles on the artists who have kindly provided artwork for www.lastoftheliving.net, is this piece on Michael Dick. Michael contributed a lot of art for the launch of the site back in 2010, providing several illustrations for the short story HOME, the opening scenes of AUTUMN, and AUTUMN: PURIFICATION. I was keen to have a range of different styles on the AUTUMN site, and Michael’s drawings fitted the bill.

Click the link to read more about Michael and to see some of the other images he contributed.

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The Swimmer

If you’ve spent any time poking around www.lastoftheliving.net, you’ll know that I love to see art that people have produced in response to my work. I was recently honoured to receive the most spectacular piece of Autumn artwork I’ve yet come across. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce The Swimmer.

The Swimmer - sculpted by Patrick CrilleyHopefully you’ll remember this particular character from AUTUMN: DISINTEGRATION. She’s the corpse of a young woman trapped in a swimming pool changing room. The survivors at the Bromwell hotel use her as a kind of barometer to assess the condition of the thousands of corpses outside from a safe distance. You can read a brief introduction to her from the beginning of the book by clicking here.

I’ve talked a lot about the delays which beset the publication of Autumn: Disintegration, and you can remind yourself about that saga here. Back in 2006/7 when the book was first announced, I was speaking regularly by email to Patrick Crilley, a reader based in the US. He told me he sculpted figures for a hobby and offered to sculpt The Swimmer once the book was released. As you know, there followed a delay of several years. I wrote to Patrick last year to tell him the book was finally on the horizon, and he immediately repeated his offer. And here’s The Swimmer in all her glory as a brilliantly realised, 9 inch tall sculpted figure.

The Swimmer - sculpted by Patrick Crilley

I think you’ll agree, she’s a remarkable looking piece of work. I spoke to Patrick about her creation. Click the link below to read our conversation and to see more pictures and designs.

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The AUTUMN artists – Dan Boucher

Continuing my series of articles featuring the fine folks who’ve contributed artwork to www.lastoftheliving.net, here’s a long overdue piece on the great Dan Boucher – excellent artist, Flash guru, and founder of www.thenovelblog.com. I recently talked to Dan about his techniques, philosophies and inspirations. But first, a quick reminder of his work. Dan’s the man behind the animated artwork for Duck and Cover which you might remember from last year. If not, click on the image below.

Duck and Cover - graphics and animation by Daniel Boucher

Dan recently gave the Hater website (www.thehatertrilogy.com) a lick of paint, turning an image of a Lowestoft housing estate (home to Danny McCoyne in THEM OR US) into a post-apocalyptic ruin. He has a talent for manipulating images, as can be seen from the before/after pictures below.

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The Autumn artists – David Naughton-Shires

Earlier this week I showed you the sights of post-apocalyptic Lowestoft thanks to the artwork of David Naughton-Shires. Many of you will know that David also provided a number of pieces of art for www.lastoftheliving.net. I thought it was about time I featured him here and talked a little more about his work.

When the call for Autumn artwork first went out in Summer 2010, David was one of the first to respond. Within days he’d sent me illustrations for Brigid Culthorpe and Jacob Flynn, and even more art soon followed: Karen Chase, Jim Harper and my personal favourite, Office Politics (see below). David’s distinctive style is quite unlike the approaches taken by the other contributors to the site, and I think the mix of approaches works well.

Office Politics - illustration by David Naughton-Shires www.knightwatchpress.info

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The Autumn artists – Antony White

I’ll be posting another free short story to www.lastoftheliving.net tomorrow – THE GARDEN SHED – one man’s desperate fight to protect his home from vast approaching hordes of the living dead. The story has been illustrated for me by Antony White (www.blackpapersky.co.uk). Antony’s already illustrated several pieces of free fiction, and I thought it only right that I spend a little time singing his praises.

I first became aware of Antony several years ago when he sent me a few illustrations inspired by AUTUMN (you can see a gallery at the end of this post). A zombie-junkie before the undead were anywhere near as popular as they are today, he told me that back then “…you really had to look for it. A few years ago there seemed to be a barrage of zombie books emerging from the grave, and Autumn was one of them. The book was released free, so I downloaded, printed and was completely absorbed after the first few pages.”

As you’ll see from the before/after pictures after the break (click to enlarge), Antony’s style really lends itself well to creating post-apocalyptic imagery.

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The Autumn artists – Craig Paton

No updates from me in quite a while… Very sorry. I’ve been working flat out to get AUTUMN: AFTERMATH delivered, and this week I’m actually sat in a caravan in Wales with the family, so my time online has been massively reduced. We’re taking a short break around the locations which originally inspired the first AUTUMN book and STRAIGHT TO YOU. I’ll share some holiday pictures when I get back.

In the meantime, I’ve been planning to put together a series of features about the artists who’ve contributed to www.lastoftheliving.net. Craig Paton, who you’ll know from his magnificent Amy Steadman artwork as well as the covers for Iain McKinnons Domain and Remains of the Dead, has put together a fascinating piece on his blog about how Amy came into being. Head over to his site here and read it.

I’ll be back up to speed shortly and will catch up on my outstanding emails etc. as soon as I’m home. Oh, and I’ll have an AUTUMN: PURIFICATION giveaway for you next week.