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Sunday 10 February 2013

The Mechanical Gorilla

Here is a new novelette packed with Fortean themes. It’s got cryptozoology (ghostly-seeming apemen in the woods), sinister government secrets (Cold War bunkers and Men in Black) and a gateway to a parallel universe. It even name-drops the one-and-only Nick Redfern!

I used to write quite a lot of fiction, until it dawned on me there is a lot less demand for it than there is for non-fiction. So these days I generally refrain from writing fiction – unless, that is, I’m presented with a challenge I just can’t resist. That’s what happened a few years ago with The Case of the Invisible College and Other Mysteries (the challenge in that case being to come up with a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Morse)... and it happened again at the end of last year.

In this case the source of the challenge was Peni Griffin’s excellent Idea Garage Sale blog. Anyone who is interested in creative writing and has never come across Peni’s blog really ought to check it out. It’s exactly what the title says... or perhaps not exactly, since “garage sale” suggests you have to pay for the ideas – in fact they’re free with no strings attached! Last November, Peni did a couple of posts based on news stories she’d seen in Fortean Times magazine – The Mechanical Gorilla and Roadside Bigfoot. It struck me these could easily be two scenes from the same story – my initial thoughts on the subject can be seen in the comments to the “Roadside Bigfoot” post.

Once I’d started thinking about it, I realized I could merge in various other ideas that were at the back of my mind – Nick Redfern’s theories about the nature of British “apeman” sightings, and my fascination with Cold War politics and secret underground installations. Mix in some convincing-sounding technobabble and an old-fashioned beginning-middle-end plot, and The Mechanical Gorilla was the result!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of the wacky world of A. E. van Vogt, one of the most popular science fiction authors of the 1940s. It’s often said that van Vogt wrote his stories in scenes of 800 to 1000 words, each of them introducing a new and totally unexpected sci-fi twist. I’m not convinced van Vogt really used this technique as rigorously as some people claim... but I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it! I finally got a chance to do just that in this story – ten short chapters of a thousand words each. I won’t spoil things by giving away the twist introduced in each chapter, but you can get a flavour of things from the (deliberately pulp-style) chapter headings:

1. On The Trail of the Apemen
2. Cryptic Visitors
3. Encounter in the Woods
4. A Transdimensional Portal
5. Idol of the Apemen
6. The Soviet Connection
7. Secrets of the Cold War
8. Astounding Revelations
9. Prisoners of the Apemen
10. The Mechanical Gorilla

The Mechanical Gorilla is currently available in Kindle format from and, and should eventually be available on iTunes and Nook as well (ISBN 978-1-291-29955-7). The “cover image” at the top of this post is the first one I produced, which I thought was very artistic. However it was rejected by the Kindle system because the contrast was too low! The final version (seen on the Amazon site) is more garish, although it does work better at thumbnail size. The Japanese text in the image is supposed to read gorira robotsu, which is the closest I could get to “gorilla robot”... but with my luck it probably means something rude!


Ross said...

Any mention of van Vogt has me drooling. A fascinating writer and person.

Will THE MECHANICAL GORILLA be available in non-electronic, paper format?

Andrew May said...

Thanks - it's great to think there are other van Vogt fans still around, although having said that this story isn't particularly van Vogtian in its theme -- only in its fast-moving plot structure. At just 10,000 words it isn't really practical as a printed book, but (in my opinion) this is the perfect length for an ebook. You don't need a Kindle to read it -- I haven't got one myself. There are free Kindle apps for most platforms, and once they're installed getting a new purchase onto any of them is a matter of seconds. I've got Kindle on my PC, iPad and phone!

Ross said...

I purchased, read, and thoroughly enjoyed THE MECHANICAL GORILLA. I recommend it to readers of this blog, especially if they also like quirky, inventive science fiction (and sexy, female, Japanese roboticists). I appreciate your reference in the story to the 1960s television series TIME TUNNEL; it's nice to know I'm not the only one who remembers that show. And it's nice to know I'm not the only one who's fond of A. E. van Vogt.

Andrew May said...

Thanks very much Ross, both for buying the ebook and for providing such positive feedback. I'm really glad you enjoyed it! I tried to write a story I would enjoy reading myself... but I know I have offbeat and rather old-fashioned tastes, so it's great to find a reader who shares them!

Rick Sheridan said...

Check out Robert Crumb's comic "White man meets Bigfoot." Funny, and well-drawn.