Friday, November 14, 2008


Edited by Allen Ashley


Catastrophia will be a collection of stories loosely themed around the theme of catastrophes, disasters and post-apocalyptic fiction. I will be looking for original, unpublished stories which deal in a modern manner with these classic SF- and Horror-based tropes.

Rights and other technical details

I’m looking only for original material - no reprints. I will be buying First British and First North American Rights for your story with a one-year moratorium subsequent to publication. I can offer 3p/6c a word up to a maximum payment of £100 / $200 per story. The book will be published by PS Publishing and the current expected pub date is summer 2010.


The submission period will open on 1st August 2008 and will last until 31st May 2009 or whenever the book is full. Unless specified otherwise, all submissions should be sent as disposable hard copies to:

Allen Ashley
Editor: Catastrophia
110d Marlborough Road
Bounds Green
London, N22 8NN

Please include an email address for reply or a stamped and addressed envelope. Response time will be three months or less.

Stories should ideally be in the range of 2000 to 6000 words although both longer and shorter tales will be considered.

Catastrophe? What catastrophe?

In short, some event that rapidly changes the world social order, threatens the survival of humankind or the Earth, reduces people to a state of mere hand-to-mouth existence, puts the clock of progress back a couple of thousand years almost overnight, takes our attention off the exploits of celebrities, footballers and politicians and instead focuses it on keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive until sundown . . . and so on. As I said in my own story ‘The Overwhelm’ (in which the world was engulfed by fog): “Truly it didn’t take much for the veneer of civilisation to be stripped away.”

I will be taking a broad view of what constitutes a catastrophe/disaster / apocalypse but authors should note that I am not seeking gratuitous rape and violence fantasies.

A brief history of catastrophes

These tales have a long and prominent history within the genre and are among the first titles that spring to mind when listing SF classics. Discounting Biblical, mythical and similar precedents, this sub-genre probably started with:

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (invading Martians destroy Britain) and M. P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud (Polar toxins kill everybody bar the protagonist).

Brian Aldiss famously labelled many of these stories as “cosy catastrophes” but that certainly hasn’t got in the way of our enjoyment. Your editor grew up on these stories and with Catastrophia expects to reinvigorate the genre for the twenty-first century. Indeed, recent films such as The Day After Tomorrow (environmental disaster), Deep Impact (comet strikes Earth) and the re-make of The War of the Worlds suggests the desire is there to be faced with the apocalyptic all over again.

Further reading

  • Brian Aldiss - Greybeard (no children are born);
  • Brian Aldiss - Barefoot in the Head (LSD contamination causes social breakdown);
  • J. G. Ballard - The Drowned World, The Drought, The Crystal World, The Wind From Nowhere - early quartet of psychological /environmental disaster novels from the master;
  • Edmund Cooper - All Fool’s Day and Richard Matheson - I Am Legend (benchmark post-apocalyptic last man on Earth tales);
  • Edmund Cooper - Kronk and Charles Platt - The Gas (rampant venereal disease / sex plagues);
  • John Christopher - The World in Winter (new ice age);
  • John Christopher - Death of Grass (aka No Blade of Grass) (All grass / wheat / rice crops fail);
  • Keith Roberts - The Furies (giant wasps);
  • John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids (blindness and killer plants);
  • John Wyndham - The Kraken Wakes (marauding sea monsters);
  • Roger Zelazny - Damnation Alley (Mad Max started here).

For a really modern catastrophe story in the short form, I recommend that you track down ‘Approaching Zero’ by John Lucas (contemporary lifestyles as catastrophe!), most recently available in my anthology from Elastic Press, The Elastic Book Of Numbers (2005).

Catastrophes for the new millennium

With the current prominence of ‘Green’ issues, you may well decide to try your hand at environmental disaster, biological agents running amuck, responses to the future fuel and water shortages or similar themes . . .

I’ve always quite liked the idea of the animal and plant kingdoms getting their own back on Humankind (See The Furies, Day of the Triffids, the film Them, etc) - so I would be quite receptive to an idea along those lines. No zombies or vampires, though, which have been done to death.

Similarly, I’m open to something based on our dependence on technology in the so-called Information Age. But no cyberspeak gobbledegook, please, and no rehash of Transformers.

I’m sure there’s plenty of material to extrapolate from. Better still, come up with a fresh catastrophe idea, something that has not been explored before but is still close enough to the real world to convince as an extrapolation or a possibility.

Good luck!

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