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Team Solaris on what keeps them up at night

In the Christopher Fowler’s chilling new novel Nyctophobia he addresses one of humanity’s oldest, and most primeval fears: darkness.

“It’s a strange thing, nyctophobia. You’re not born with it. It can start at any time. It comes and goes, and it’s one of the only phobias you can transmit to other people.”

In anticipation of the book’s release I sat down with some of the Solaris publishing team and in a badly thought out form of group therapy got them to reveal what keeps them awake at night…

Jonathan Oliver, Editor-in-Chief

As with so many things, you can blame it on TV. Well, you can blame it on one specific TV show that I saw around Christmastime when I was 6 years old: The Box of Delights. Yes, The Box of Delights for a time gave me a phobia of wolves. I blame the opening title sequence with that grinning wolf’s head; that haunted my dreams for years afterward. I would wake from a nightmare where a man in a suit with a wolf’s head was standing in my bedroom doorway. It’s certainly a silly thing to be afraid of, especially living in the UK where there aren’t that many wolves around. But the surreality of the wolf imagery in that old BBC show probably exacerbated the fear. For a while I found werewolf movies scarier than they probably were intended to be, and even images of wolves in documentaries gave me a frisson of fear.

No longer, however; I’ve grown out of it. There are much more horrible things to be scared of as an adult. Ali – my wife – and I recently revisited The Box of Delights, watching the BBC adaptation. It’s still quite weird, but it’s showing its age, and it’s particularly sad to watch Robert Stephens put in a lacklustre performance, clearly unwell, clearly suffering from the ravages of addiction.

Children take images and turn them into something way more sinister thanks to the power of imagination, and in the winter of 1984, and for several years afterwards, for this young boy, the wolves were running.

Ben Smith, Publishing Manager

Who needs a phobia when you have experienced real, rational terror?
My brothers and I were going to see Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark at the cinema, but when we got there it was sold out. However my mum – normally a careful, caring woman – spotted another movie that had Spielberg’s name on the poster and got us tickets to that instead. The movie was Poltergeist. I was six years old.

I had nightmares FOR YEARS.

So no, I have no phobias.

But if a television set comes on by itself, let’s just say I’m not staying in the building.

David Moore, Editor

My phobias – although I’d hesitate to call either of them phobias, for different reasons – are spiders (sort of) and heights.

I hesitate to consider my discomfort with spiders a phobia, since phobias (phobiae?) are irrational, and – frankly – I grew up in Australia. Spiders over there will fuck your shit up. I don’t scream, scarper, freeze or any of that nonsense; my response can generally be classed under “unrestrained bloody carnage.” Man, fuck those things. I actually like spiders – they’re beautiful, fascinating, extraordinary creatures – but if I see one of the fuckers in my house it gets the shoe.

Vertigo is an odd one. As a kid, like most kids, I scampered up and down climbing frames, trees and all sorts left, right and centre. I don’t even have a trauma to refer to, or remember developing vertigo; it crept up on me over the years. I think when we stop climbing stuff, we lose the nerve to do it. The weird thing about vertigo is, it’s almost more physical than anything else. Rationally, I can look over a balcony or down from the London Eye very calmly, knowing I’m perfectly safe. But if whatever I’m standing on and holding onto isn’t obviously, visibly, very secure, my legs start to tense, my knees tingle, my back tenses – everything, in fact, starts to react except my mind. It’s weird.

So I guess my greatest fear would be falling from a great height into a nest of spiders. Or falling off a big spider or something, I dunno.

Lydia Gittins, Digital Promotions & PR Assistant

Needles. Even just writing the word makes me feel anxious.

In theory this is a totally logical fear; it’s letting someone deliberately insert a foreign object THROUGH YOUR SKIN.

Sadly though, as someone with multiple piercings when I present this phobia (normally in the context of a busy doctor’s surgery, to an over-worked nurse and via the medium of the ‘dead faint’) it somehow gets a little harder to rationalise to other people and a lot harder to sympathise with…

So basically, don’t come anywhere near me with a needle, unless you’re covered in poorly thought-out tattoos and work in a dubious piercing salon.

Oh, also morph suits. I bloody hate morph suits.

Simon Parr, Head of Art and cover artist for Nyctophobia


(except for Hulk Hogan)

Ed: The image used for Simon’s phobia is the one supplied by him with his statement. It has also directly contributed to a more general office-wide fear of the Hogan-infinity-beard. Thanks Simon.

Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler is out October 2014

Order: UKUS

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A day in the life of the Solaris PR department

The story that follows is a totally, 100% typical day in the life of our PR department.

Publishing overlord Ben Smith summons the PR department. “There’s been a delivery,” he says “it’s got your name on it,” he says.

There’s something about his smile… the fear in the department is tangible.

The walk down to reception seems to take forever. Then there it is.

The box.

Oh god, it’s huge.

“I said 5’6!” PR cries.
“Maybe it’s just a trick of the light,” editorial offers up.

As the un-boxing commences PR nervously retreats into a corner, rocking gently.

“No, wait! It’s not that bad. In fact it looks great!” editorial coaxes.

Shuffling gently forward the beautiful object contained within the box is slowly revealed, and PR’s mood rapidly shifts from “Shitshitshit they’re totally going to fire me for this” to “Take my photo with the monkey. Take my photo with the monkey.”

Rapidly followed by “Hey wait, no you didn’t let me sort out my lipstick.”

If you’d like your photo with Ack Ack Macaque catch him on tour with his pet author Gareth L Powell from January next year. We’ll even let you brush your hair first.

Thursday 15th January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Bristol Megastore
Friday 16th January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Cambridge Store
Saturday 17th January 1:00 pm – Forbidden Planet London Megastore
Wednesday 21st January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Southampton Megastore
Thursday 22nd January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Birmingham Store
Thursday 29th January, 6:30 pm – Waterstones Liverpool 1
 Waterstones Liverpool 1

Macaque Attack by Gareth L Powell publishes January 2015.

Order UKUS