Thu
Jun 27 2013 9:00am

Unearthing The Book of the Dead

Jurassic London logo

In this very special, standalone edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry, it’s my immense pleasure to give you an exclusive look at the next promising project from Jurassic London, the not-for-profit small press who previously published The Lowest Heaven.

If you loved that inspired and inspiring anthology—as I indubitably did—you’re going to be over the bloomin’ moon about this new book! It’s another anthology of original short fiction, with an equally telling title—a lot like this column, come to think of it—and I’ve got so much more than what it’s called to talk about.

I guess I’ve already given the name of the great game away—no prizes for guessing that Jurassic London’s forthcoming short story collection is called, yes, The Book of the Dead—but we still have to work out what it’s all about.

Why, only “the most mysterious, versatile and under-appreciated of the undead: the mummy!”

Mummies, eh? Well... all right. They’re certainly under-appreciated! And unfairly, I dare say. Personally, I blame Brendan Fraser.

Anyway, if anyone can do the mummy justice, it’s Jurassic London—particularly considering that they’re working with the Egypt Exploration Society on this project.

But enough from me for the very moment, methinks. I don’t usually feature complete press releases in the British Genre Fiction Focus, but for The Book of the Dead, I’m well and truly willing to make an exception:

Jurassic London is delighted to announce The Book of the Dead, a collection of new short stories, all themed around the most mysterious, versatile and under-appreciated of the undead: the mummy.

The Book of the Dead will be published in collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society, the UK’s oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt, dedicated to the promotion and understanding of ancient Egyptian history and culture.

John J Johnston

The Society’s Vice Chair, John J. Johnston, who provides the volume’s introduction, explains:

“The mummified remains of Egypt’s ancient dead have fascinated travellers, scholars and museum visitors for millennia and for around the last 180 years, they have provided a potent source of inspiration for authors, artists, and film makers. As an Egyptologist who studies the reception of ancient Egypt in the modern world, I view the fictional mummy as a compelling figure, lurking in the dark recesses of our collective imagination, having been resurrected and refashioned as the object of exotic fantasy; the tragic paramour, tortured by long-lost loves and, most frequently, as the terrifying instrument of ancient vengeance. As such, I am delighted to see this grand literary tradition continue in Jurassic London’s impressive and original collection of new, mummy-inspired short fiction, The Book of the Dead.”

The anthology collects 19 original stories, ranging freely across time periods, genres and styles. Paul Cornell takes an Egyptian monarch on an unusual—and contemporary - journey to redemption in “Ramesses on the Frontier”. Gail Carriger gives readers a peek into the history of the Parasol Protectorate series and the Tarabotti family in “The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn’t, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar.” Maria Dahvana Headley raises discomfiting new questions about the candy industry in “Bit-U-Men” and Jesse Bullington features a young man who finds an unlikely role model in “Escape from the Mummy’s Tomb.”

The Book of the Dead also contains new stories from David Thomas Moore, David Bryher, Molly Tanzer, Sarah Newton, Lou Morgan, Maurice Broaddus, Adam Roberts, Michael West, Den Patrick, Roger Luckhurst, Jenni Hill, Glen Mehn, Jonathan Green, Louis Greenberg and Will Hill.

The Rainbow Orchard

The stories are illustrated by Garen Ewing, the creator of The Adventures of Julius Chancer, the acclaimed ligne claire adventure nominated for two UK National Comic Awards and currently serialized in The Phoenix.

The Book of the Dead will be released this October as a limited edition hardcover as well as in paperback and digital formats.

You want more? How about an early look at the entire Table of Contents?

  • Maurice Broaddus—“Cerulean Memories”
  • David Bryher—“She is Cleopatra”
  • Jesse Bullington—“Escape from the Mummy’s Tomb”
  • Gail Carriger—“The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn’t, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar”
  • Paul Cornell—“Ramesses on the Frontier”
  • Maria Dahvana Headley—“Bit-U-Men”
  • Jonathan Green—“Egyptian death and the afterlife: mummies (Rooms 62-3)”
  • Louis Greenberg—“Akhenaten Goes to Paris”
  • Jenni Hill—“The Cats of Beni Hasan”
  • Will Hill—“Three Memories of Death”
  • Roger Luckhurst—“The Thing of Wrath”
  • Glen Mehn—“Henry”
  • David Moore—“Old Souls”
  • Lou Morgan—“Her Heartbeat, An Echo”
  • Sarah Newton—“The Roof of the World”
  • Den Patrick—“All is Dust”
  • Adam Roberts—“Tollund”
  • Molly Tanzer—“Mysterium Tremendum”
  • Michael West—“Inner Goddess”

A very promising collection of contributors, then.

The Egypt Exploration Society

I also reached out to Jared Shurin—whose work, up to and including our own reread of The Folding Knife, many of you will be familiar with—for a comment about the anthology he’s editing. Here’s what he had to say:

“The Book of the Dead is a dream come true. Although the opportunity to go poking around in forbidden tombs has always been (wisely) denied me, thanks to all these fantastic authors and the EES, I still get a chance to unleash some ancient evils on the world.

“I’m delighted by how the themes of the mummy have been brought to life (pun intended) by the stories in this volume—not only brilliant tales of both revenge and romance, but also explorations of race and imperialism, immortality and humanity.”

Satisfied? No?

Well aren’t we hard to please!

Tell you what... how about news of a whole other ebook?

Jurassic London will also be releasing Unearthed, an ebook collection of classic mummy stories, also introduced by the Egypt Exploration Society. Unearthed contains over 50,000 words of vintage adventure, including rare tales from Louisa May Alcott, Herbert Crotzer, George Griffith and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sounds to me like a superb supplement to The Book of the Dead itself.

It’s all coming in October, folks. Safe bet I’ll be there with something more to say on the appointed day.

For the very moment, though, pop your thoughts on The Book of the Dead in the comments, please! An exciting prospect, is it not?


Niall Alexander is an erstwhile English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, where he contributes a weekly column concerned with news and new releases in the UK called the British Genre Fiction Focus, and co-curates the Short Fiction Spotlight. On occasion he’s been seen to tweet, twoo.

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