Darryl SloanI was born in 1972, in Portadown, Northern Ireland, where I live to this day, a town once infamous across the globe as the epicentre of the province’s volatile politics (although a better word is probably tribalism). Despite the tension between the Protestant and Catholic communities, this is actually a pretty nice place to live.

In my boyhood I couldn’t care less about politics, and I still don’t. While some kids were painting the Red Hand of Ulster on their school jotters, I was more interested in drawing space battles. Art was my favourite subject, but on leaving primary school my creativity had escalated to the realm of computers, and by age fourteen I was trying to get my first computer game published, a graphic adventure called Alien Complex (which is now sadly lost). That was at a time when home computers were a new thing and their design was uncomplicated enough that games could be programmed by a single person.

Around the same time I discovered the joys of reading. Thanks are due to my junior high English teacher for selecting Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien as the class novel, through which I discovered that all books are not designed to bore the reader to tears.

The creativity bug unsurprisingly got a hold of me in this new realm of words, and I began to write short stories. In high school I hated homework, like any normal kid, except when my English teacher got us to write a short story - I felt exhilarated. I remember one particular occasion when most of the class was given a story to write as punishment for disruptive behaviour. Not me; I was quietly reading when the others were getting up to badness. But I had the writing bug so bad that I wished I’d been included in the penalty. The reason was simple enough: my English teacher was my readership. She may have been just one person, but she was still a reader, one who would care and comment on my work. I remember our class being asked to write a 500-word story called “The Dark,” and I ended up being unable to stop before 3,000 had flown out of my pen.

When I was sixteen, in the late 1980s, computers were getting more advanced. They could display photographic-quality pictures and near-CD quality sound. You might think computer art was the next logical step for me, but for some reason I got hit with a passion to explore the art of making music. Those years were exciting. A worldwide computer scene emerged, of bedroom programmers and graphic artists and musicians, all of us sharing our work using a disk-swapping network across the postal service - a precursor to the file-sharing that goes on using the internet today.

When I was seventeen, I started thinking seriously about God for the first time, and I became a Christian. However, it wasn’t long before I became quite uncertain about the whole thing. Doubts and uncertainties plagued me for over ten years, during which time my belief changed from Christian to agnostic and back again, more times than I can remember.

In my late teens I stayed in school to pursue A-levels, working towards a career in computers, but secretly hoping that I could do something special with one of my creative pursuits.

Before my teens were over, video cameras were becoming an affordable purchase, and my friend Andrew Harrison had one. We dabbled in making our own little horror and science fiction films for a while. The breakthrough came one evening when we sat down and planned a massive epic entitled Zombie Genocide. Deciding on the name Midnight Pictures for ourselves, we “hired” our friends to act and embarked on the quest of making a feature-length movie. Andy would handle the gore, I would compose the music, etc. We managed to get it finished, which is a miracle because we stuck at it for two and a half years. Even more remarkable is the fact that today, after the experience of making several subsequent films, Zombie Genocide remains a firm favourite with many fans.

Art, programming, fiction, music, film. At varying periods in my early- to mid-twenties, I kept myself busy in all these areas, but it was clear that there were two favourites: fiction and music. In 1995 I got my first break, after submitting stories to the small press for years. Gavin Wilson, editor of Really Quite Cosmic (a small press fiction zine), published my time-travel story “The Paradoxical Son.” After running several more of my tales in subsequent issues, I got an ever bigger break in a bigger mag, Samhain, known as Britain’s longest-running horror film magazine. I’d written this zany story about Stephen King called The Pen-Name, where I pretended that Richard Bachman was a real person whose work King had stolen. What made this sale special was not only the calibre of the magazine, but the fact that they only ever published one story per issue, and I’d ma