Author cites value of a close community in the face of growing environmental despair.

Glasgow author Douglas Thompson honours his late brother’s UFO obsession with new sci-fi novel considering the abductee as divine outsider.

DARTFORD, KENT – 15 July 2022 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is committed to publishing outstanding books by incredible authors. One of those authors is Douglas Thompson, from Glasgow.

Douglas was always sceptical of the fanatical belief in UFOs of his elder brother (the artist Ally Thompson 1955-2016), but since Ally’s untimely death from alcoholism, international news stories leaked from the American military have made Douglas wonder if his brother might ultimately be proven right. ‘White tic tacs’ and ‘off world vehicles’ have recently been publicly accepted as having ‘buzzed’ US boats and airplanes during military exercises while moving at speeds beyond any known terrestrial technology. Although the meaning and origin of these objects remains unknown, their existence is no longer denied or in doubt. Even NASA are entertaining the possibility that alien life may have located us before we’re able to locate them.

In homage to his late brother’s obsession, and bearing a dedication to him, Douglas Thompson’s new novel from Elsewhen Press, Stray Pilot, takes the notion of extra-terrestrial existence seriously by asking what would happen if a military pilot abducted by a UFO were to return 80 years later to his hometown to find everyone and everything aged while, for him, only a year has gone by (an effect known as time dilation according to Einstein’s theory of special relativity). Thompson has taken the starting point for his novel from classic UFO cases of the 1940s and ’80s that his brother ‘indoctrinated’ him with when he was in his early teens. The most famous of those was the tragic Mantell incident of 1948, when a 25-year old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot Captain Thomas Mantell was killed when he lost control of his P-51 Mustang while pursuing a mysterious silver disk as it rose to high altitude. Mantell’s crashed plane and body were recovered; but, in a similar case in 1978 in Australia, 20-year old pilot Frederick Valentich went missing in pursuit of a UFO and neither airplane nor pilot were ever found.

Rather than set his novel in Kentucky or Australia, Thompson wanted to use the story to shed light on his own contemporary Scotland, and its currently tense and complex relationship with the British state, which has a history of suppressing UFO data. He chose to turn Thomas Mantell into one Thomas Tellman and set his departure and return in a fictitious small town on Scotland’s north-east coast. Thompson explains: “Nobody says they won’t read or watch Shakespeare’s Macbeth because they don’t believe in the supernatural. And likewise I wonder if it’s time the contemporary taboo on talking about UFOs was lifted in favour of seeing the potential of this trope as a metaphor for the age-old idea of some divine messenger, be it angel or demon, coming to live among us for a while and thereby throwing light on the irony of human society, the weaknesses and strengths of homo sapiens. There’s always also the ‘changeling’ myth, the ancient anxiety that the missing child returns as something else in disguise…”

Thompson’s novel explores the creative tension between the closed intimacy of a small rural community and an outsider whose mind has been opened not just to an international, but stellar and cosmic perspective. Creating his own fictional setting for his altered version of the Thomas Mantell ‘myth’ has also enabled Thompson to add other ingredients into the plot mix. His fascination with his mother-in-law’s dementia has transmuted into the character of Tellman’s daughter now grown to be a bed-bound octogenarian, her loss of memory of the last 80 years standing in eerie parallel to her father’s disappearance. Tellman’s return also enables a penetrating perspective on the environmental damage humanity has done in that same time period.

So does Thompson now regret dismissing his brother’s ‘crank’ theories? Rather, he sees them as a message to the future whose value he has come to belatedly understand: “I still suspect that a lot of the UFO theories over the last five decades have been elaborate busking around a small core of mysterious facts. It’s the same with religion, in that the human brain won’t accept the unknown and seems always compelled to invent its own explanations. But just as with gothic cathedrals, we should never lose sight of how beautiful these inventions are, the stories we tell ourselves, since they are the very essence of all literature and art and essential to what we are as a species. If anyone or anything is studying us now and capable of being emotionally moved enough to find value in anything about us, I can’t help thinking it will be in precisely that capacity for invention and in our longing to meet something greater than ourselves. But regardless of any of that, maybe the real challenge is for us to try to become that greater thing we can already imagine and thereby save ourselves and our beleaguered natural environment before it’s too late.”

Stray Pilot, was published by Elsewhen Press in eBook format on 1st July and will be out in paperback on the 1st August.

Notes for Editors

About Douglas Thompson

Glasgow writer, Douglas Thompson, won the Herald/Grolsch Question Of Style Award 1989, 2nd prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2007, and the Faith/Unbelief Poetry Prize 2016. His short stories and poems have appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, including Ambit, Albedo One, Chapman and New Writing Scotland. Variously classed as a Weird, Horror, Sci Fi, Literary, or Historical novelist, he has published more than 17 novels and collections of short stories and poetry since 2009, from various publishers in Britain, Europe and America.

About Stray Pilot

Stray Pilot cover design by Tenebrae
Cover design by Tenebrae

A passionate environmental allegory

Thomas Tellman, an RAF pilot who disappeared pursuing a UFO in 1948, unexpectedly returns entirely un-aged to a small town on Scotland’s north-east coast. He finds that his 7-year-old daughter is now a bed-bound 87-year-old woman suffering from dementia. She greets him as her father but others assume she is deluded and that Thomas is an unhinged impostor or con man. While Thomas endeavours to blend in to an ordinary life, his presence gradually sets off unpredictable consequences, locally, nationally and globally. Members of the British Intelligence Services attempt to discredit Thomas in advance of what they anticipate will be his public disclosure of evidence of extra-terrestrial activity, but the local community protect him. Thomas, appalled by the increase in environmental damage that has occurred in his 80 year absence, appears to have returned with a mission: the true nature of which he guards from everyone around him.

Douglas Thompson’s thought-provoking novel is unashamedly science-fiction yet firmly in the tradition of literary explorations of the experience of the outsider. He weaves together themes of memory loss and dementia, alienation, and spiritual respect for the natural world; while at the same time counterposing the humanity inherent in close communities against the xenophobia and nihilistic materialism of contemporary urban society. Of all the book’s vivid characters, the fictional village of Kinburgh itself is the stand-out star: an archetypal symbol of human community. In an age of growing despair in the face of climate crises, Stray Pilot offers a passionate environmental allegory with a positive message of constructive hope: a love song to all that is best in ordinary people.

Cover design by Tenebrae


“a sharp collection” – 8/10 review of Existence is Elsewhen on Starbust Magazine

Artwork by Alison Buck
Artwork by Alison Buck

Tommy James has just written a review of Existence is Elsewhen for Starburst Magazine. Describing it as a “sharp collection” of short stories, Tommy writes that Existence is Elsewhen presents an “eclectic range of ideas” producing an end result that is “extremely well written” and “rich with a wide variety of material”. That variety is shown in the choice of tones of the stories with some “genuinely amusing pieces which nicely punctuate the darker stories”, while singling out Douglas Thompson’s Bird Brains as a “provocative tale whose ideas will manifest themselves long after you’ve finished reading”.

Tommy concludes that Existence is Elsewhen is a “smartly presented collection” that anyone who enjoys short fiction “would be well advised to familiarise themselves with”, awarding it 8 out of 10 stars.

You can read Tommy’s full review on the Starburst Magazine website here.


“excellent and wonderfully imaginative” – review of Existence is Elsewhen on Risingshadow

Artwork by Alison Buck
Artwork by Alison Buck

On Seregil of Rhiminee has just reviewed Existence is Elsewhen. He starts by saying that as an anthology it “wonderfully showcases” what Elsewhen Press has to offer and is “something special and mesmerising”. He especially liked the fact that there was a wide variety of stories “that highlight the imagination and writing skills of various authors” ranging from “entertaining stories to thought-provoking stories” with a diversity from “colonising new planets to reverse evolution”. He adds that it is “an interesting anthology to those who want to read something out of the ordinary and want to be thrilled by stories that push and stretch the limits of normality and strangeness in various ways”.

He then gives a brief overview of each story, with his comments on each (all good, I’m pleased to say), followed by a slightly more detailed review of some of the stories that particularly interested him. I won’t try to summarise his detailed review in any more detail, except to say that he concludes by describing it as “a perfect anthology for readers who want to experience something different. Some of the sights and wonders explored in these stories are seldom found in modern speculative fiction, and thus make for an intriguing reading experience”. You really should read his full review here.


Published today – Existence is Elsewhen, Science Fiction anthology headlined by John Gribbin

Twenty stories from twenty great writers, also including Rhys Hughes, Christopher Nuttall and Douglas Thompson

DARTFORD, KENT – 18 March 2016 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is delighted to announce the publication today of Existence is Elsewhen, an anthology of twenty science fiction stories from twenty great writers. According to Peter Buck, Editorial Director at Elsewhen Press, “The title paraphrases the last sentence of André Breton’s 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism, perfectly summing up the intent behind this anthology of stories from a wonderful collection of authors. Different worlds… different times. It’s what Elsewhen Press has been about since we launched our first title in 2011. We were thrilled when John agreed to headline.”

Artwork by Alison Buck
Artwork by Alison Buck

Headlining the collection is John Gribbin, with a worrying vision of medical research in the near future. Future global healthcare is the theme of J.A.Christy’s story, while the ultimate in spare part surgery is where Dave Weaver takes the reader. Edwin Hayward’s search for a renewable protein source turns out to be digital; and Tanya Reimer’s story with characters we think we know, gives pause for thought about another food we all take for granted. Evolution is examined too, with Andy McKell’s chilling tale of what states could become if genetics are used to drive policy. Similarly, Robin Moran’s story explores the societal impact of an undesirable evolutionary trend, while Douglas Thompson provides a truly surreal warning of an impending disaster that will reverse evolution, with dire consequences.

On a lighter note, there is satire as Steve Harrison uncovers who really owns the Earth (and why); and Ira Nayman, who uses the surreal alternative realities of his Transdimensional Authority series as the setting for a detective story mash-up of Agatha Christie and Dashiel Hammett. Pursuing the crime-solving theme, Peter Wolfe explores life, and death, on a space station, while Stefan Jackson follows a police investigation into some bizarre cold-blooded murders in a cyberpunk future. Going into the past, albeit an 1831 set in the alternate Britain of his Royal Sorceress
series, Christopher Nuttall reports on an investigation into a girl with strange powers.

Strange powers in the present-day is the theme for Tej Turner, who tells a poignant tale of how extra-sensory perception makes it easier for a husband to bear his dying wife’s last few days. Difficult decisions are the theme of Chloe Skye’s heart-rending story exploring personal sacrifice. Relationships aren’t always so close, as Susan Oke’s tale demonstrates, when sibling rivalry is taken to the limit. Relationships are the backdrop to Peter R. Ellis’s story where a spectacular mid-winter event on a newly-colonised distant planet involves a Madonna and Child. Coming right back to Earth and in what feels like an almost imminent future, Siobhan McVeigh tells a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of using technology to deflect the blame for their actions. Building on the remarkable setting of Pera from her LiGa series, and developing Pera’s legendary Book of Shadow, Sanem Ozdural spins the creation myth of the first light tree in a lyrical and poetic song. Also exploring language, the master of fantastika and absurdism, Rhys Hughes, extrapolates the way in which language changes over time, with an entertaining result.

Existence is Elsewhen, published today by Elsewhen Press on popular eBook platforms, will also be available in paperback from the 25th March with a launch at the 2016 Eastercon in Manchester.

Notes for Editors

About John Gribbin

John GribbinJohn Gribbin was born in 1946 in Maidstone, Kent. He studied physics at the University of Sussex and went on to complete an MSc in astronomy at the same University before moving to the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, to work for his PhD. After working for the journal Nature and New Scientist, and three years with the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University, he has concentrated chiefly on writing books. These include In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat, In Search of the Big Bang, and In Search of the Multiverse. He has also written and presented several series of critically acclaimed radio programmes on scientific topics for the BBC (including QUANTUM, for Radio Four), and has acted as consultant on several TV documentaries, as well as contributing to TV programmes for the Open University and the Discovery channel.

But he really wanted to be a successful science fiction writer, and has achieved at least the second part of that ambition with books such as Timeswitch and The Alice Encounter, and stories in publications such as Interzone and Analog. But as John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi so nearly said “Sf is all very well, John, but it won’t pay the rent”. Another thing that doesn’t pay the rent is his songwriting, mostly for various spinoffs of the Bonzo Dog Band. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, as well as being a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical and Royal Meteorological Societies.


“superbly surreal adventure” – review of The Rhymer on the British Fantasy Society website

The Rhymer cover image
Palimpsest derived from photos of Leonardo’s work by Janaka Dharmasena/
Original artwork by Alison Buck

On the British Fantasy Society website, Stewart Horn has written a review of Douglas Thompson’s satire on contemporary society and especially the art world, The Rhymer, an Heredyssey. He admits that a dry description of the book – the travels of the narrator throughout the region around Urbis, written in free verse – may make it seem quite a heavy book, but “it’s actually lots of fun” he says, adding that once adjusted to the “playful writing style” he found himself “chuckling … and enjoying the wordplay”. In summary, he advises readers to “think of the whole book as an experiment and an experience, and a thoroughly enjoyable one”.

You can read the whole of Stewart’s review here.

“startlingly original” – review of The Rhymer on The Future Fire

On The Future Fire website, Djibril al-Ayad has written a thoughtful review of Douglas Thompson’s comic-poetic satire The Rhymer, an Heredyssey. Djibril starts the review with the observation that The Rhymer is “one of the more surreal and absurdist tales Thompson has written” and goes on to add that it is “entirely written in a style somewhere between free-association, free-verse, and comic semi-rhyme, which sounds like it would be hard to read, but actually isn’t”. Confessing “to not particularly liking any of the characters, or indeed the narrative voice, but I did find it pleasant to read, challenging in the way that literature should be, and sometimes startlingly original.”

The Rhymer cover image
Palimpsest derived from photos of Leonardo’s work by Janaka Dharmasena/
Original artwork by Alison Buck

Describing The Rhymer as a “deeply satirical and allegorical book”, Djibril admits that the style is “challenging to define—and occasionally distracting to read. Narrated in the first person by an obsessive rhymer, all narrative, description, action, dialogue and quoted speech or text are peppered with random, strained, sometimes inappropriate or malapropos rhyming, semi-rhyming or alliterating words.” When the narrator reports others’ speech in the same way it is “a hint to the reader that not all in the world of this novel is as it is being described”.

Summarising the story, Djibril identifies that the protagonist “one might even say the only real character, is the narrator, an aged, unwashed, amnesiac tramp with antisocial habits but a gift of the gab” who is attempting to “catch up with his world-famous but corrupt brother”, adding that the “fortunes of both turn on a dime, sometimes reversing or plunging to hell at the turn of a page—in time-honored story-telling tradition”.

Djibril admits that the review “has not really done justice to the turns and twists” of the novel, “partly because it would be unfair to give too much away, and partly because any attempt to summarize the plot in this medium would be inadequate”. In conclusion Djibril says that The Rhymer “is clearly a painstakingly and expertly crafted piece of writing, speaking to surrealist and absurdist aesthetics as well as the antiquarian’s love of subverted folklore and retro-science fiction. As often with Thompson’s novels, I came out of reading this book not entirely unambivalent, but certainly not unmoved.”

You can read Djibril’s full review here.


“A towering achievement” – review by Terry Grimwood of Douglas Thompson’s The Rhymer

The Rhymer cover imageAuthor Terry Grimwood has recently posted the following review of Douglas Thompson’s The Rhymer, an Heredyssey on Facebook:

Just read “The Rhymer” by Douglas Thompson. A towering achievement; fantastical, surreal, vivid, witty, original, slippery, and what sublime prose, or was it poetry? Someone described it as Shakespeare on speed – not a bad description. Recommended.


“an extraordinarily gifted writer” – Charles Packer reviews The Rhymer on Sci-Fi Online

Palimpsest derived from photos of Leonardo’s work by Janaka Dharmasena/ Original artwork by Alison BuckOn the sci-fi online website, Charles Packer has written a 10/10 review of Douglas Thompson’s latest novel The Rhymer. He starts by pointing out that the book defies genre pigeonholing “being many things, a puzzle, contemplation on the follies of art and artifice as well as a comic look at civilisations”, although he subsequently suggests the “the nearest description would be that the story falls into the category of existential surrealism”.

Having described Douglas as a writer of “almost unparalleled skill”, he says that the “first thing which really strikes you about the book is the beautiful prose” and goes on to say “This is an extraordinarily gifted writer whose lines are infused with poetry”. In fact, he says, “The beauty of the prose drags you into the tale and holds you there”.

He concludes by saying “I’m not sure what more a reader can ask for than a thought provoking provocative plot, written in such skillfully poetic prose. Buy it, your brain will love you forever.”

You can (and should) read Charles’ full review on sci-fi online here.


readers will be spellbound and bewitched – review of The Rhymer on Murder Mayhem & More

Palimpsest derived from photos of Leonardo’s work by Janaka Dharmasena/ Original artwork by Alison BuckOn Murder Mayhem & More, there is an entertaining review of Douglas Thompson’s latest novel The Rhymer, an Heredyssey by Rowena Hoseason (who is also an Amazon Hall of Fame top 50 reviewer). The title of her review says it all – “The Rhymer: outstanding. Original. Odd”

On the one hand she suggests that readers may be bamboozled, baffled and bewildered, but on the other hand she suggests they will also be spellbound, bewitched and, like her, “enjoying the sensation of being swirled along by the author’s imagery”. She goes on to say “So while The Rhymer contains myriad moments of well-crafted word-wrangling – the like of which most writers couldn’t hope to accomplish if they digested a thesaurus before breakfast – it’s not a pompous publication. There are plenty of laughs crammed in between its stylish covers.”

Her conclusion, before giving it a score of 8 out of 10, is as intriguing and complex as the book itself, and I hope she won’t mind me quoting it below. However you should really read the whole review here. Rowena’s conclusion:

“Even now, having left The Rhymer to settle a while after finishing it, I’m not entirely sure what I think about it. Admire it? Immensely. Enjoyed reading it? Enormously. Like it?

I’ll get back to you on that.”

Which, to be fair, is probably exactly what Douglas was aiming for 😉


“a true masterpiece of surrealism and imaginative storytelling” – review of The Rhymer on Risingshadow

On the Risingshadow website, Seregil of Rhiminee has written a review of Douglas Thompson’s latest novel The Rhymer, an Heredyssey. He describes it as “one of the most rewarding and challenging reading experiences of the year. It’s an exceptionally rich, beautifully written and complex novel for adult readers.” Seregil continues by saying that he has enjoyed Douglas’ novels in the past and this (Douglas’ eighth novel) is his “most daring and original novel to date”.

Artwork by Alison Buck
Artwork by Alison Buck

Seregil says that Douglas “has succeeded perfectly in creating a wonderfully strange, satirical and compelling story that pulls the reader into a world that’s a fantastical blend of fantasy and realism.” Going on to point out that it is “in equal parts speculative fiction, surreal fiction, visionary fiction, metaphysical fiction, satirical fiction and contemporary fiction”, he says that this might sound like a strange combination “but trust me when I say that it works well in this novel. Douglas Thompson is one of the few authors who are capable of writing this kind of beautiful and complex literary fiction.”

Describing the comic and poetic way Douglas “handles such delicate themes as love, loss, life, death and morality” he says that he “writes beautifully about these themes and avoids easy solutions.” Seregil is very complimentary about the complexity and depth of the novel, and appreciative of the way that the reader is expected to be able to follow a complex story that “never underestimates the reader’s intelligence.”

There’s much more in this review than I can excerpt here, he describes the satire as “stingingly humorous” and bordering “on being almost diabolically funny”. He says that “The lyrical and evocative prose is nuanced and beautiful”. He also says that the cover and interior illustrations designed by Alison Buck are “beautiful and fit the story perfectly”.

He concludes by saying the book is “a stunningly original and genre-bending novel that showcases the depth of Douglas Thompson’s imagination and his writing skills. It’s a true masterpiece of surrealism and imaginative storytelling that needs to be experienced personally to fully understand its nuanced and intricate beauty.”

You know, I think he liked it! You can (and should) read the full review here.