The Book of the Dead features Middlesex University students and alumni in addition to creative writers from the UK, the USA and Canada.
The compendium of short stories explores the history of, superstitions about and various spiritual practices involved with death, drawing upon the Book of the Dead (1550BC) which pre-dates the Bible.
MDX lecturer and fantasy author Dr Adam Dalton-West, who writes under the name A J Dalton, provides the academic introduction that invites the reader to learn how ancient tombs once worked as portals to the afterlife, find out the truth behind the judgement of Anubis, consider the arcane rituals of embalmers and spirit boards and be inspired and despairing with Loki and Hel.
The Gollancz author said: “'We teach genre writing on both our BA Creative Writing and Journalism and our MA Novel Writing - the interest and demand for fantasy, sci-fi and horror seems stronger than ever - perhaps as a response to the pandemic or greater concerns about the fragility of our place in the world.”
The Book of the Dead features stories from Marisa Mustafa (BA English graduate), Jodie Hammond (BA English, then MA Novel Writing student), Jen McDonald (MA Novel Writing alumna), and Laura Keating and JF Mulvey (current MA Novel Writing students), along with tales provided by prize-winning authors A J Dalton (www.ajdalton.eu), Steven Poore and Isabella Hunter.
Jasmin Mulvey is an MDX employee and alumna, having studied an undergraduate degree in Herbal Medicine and returning to complete her MA.
She said: “It was a great opportunity for me and an honour to be writing alongside A J Dalton, who is so successful.
“I work in the fantasy young adult, dark-romance genre. The story that I have written reflects a little bit of that aspect. The collection is a wide variety of stories, the themes being around death. Some are historic, some are more fantastical."
Jasmin's short story had a theme of Pagans and witchcraft.
She said: “It’s a real blessing to be involved in a project like this. I’ve been a wannabe writer for a long time. I’ve written things but I’ve never been published so to be involved with someone like Adam, and other successful writers and other MDX students and alumni who are all coming from different perspectives and who are all really good, is a great thing.
“I have absolutely loved the course. Using my experience I want to be able to talk to a young adult audience about a lot of different aspects including mental health.
"That’s something I want to include in my writing going forward.”
Laura Keating agreed that the opportunity to get published was “amazing”.
“I actually wrote my short story in the back seat of the car on the way to and from Nashville looking at the surroundings for inspiration,” she said.
“It was a lovely experience and so relaxed.”
Laura, who completed the distance learning Masters from her home in Tennessee, said her short story basis was the imagining of the afterlife.
“It was about our focus in life and where we put the things we find most valuable and what it might look like having those all present themselves as we are about to leave this life,” she said.
“Mine is about astral (a term used to describe an intentional out of body experience) travel and the woman visits all the places that she has dreaded. She sees all the actions of her attitudes facing her.
“She’s given opportunity to return to the life that she misses so much but she actually returns as her one-eyed dog. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek.”
MDX alumna Jodie is just finishing her MA in Novel Writing.
She said: “I jumped at the chance to be part of this book. It’s a great stepping stone after the course.
“From a young child I have always been obsessed with Ancient Egypt and Egyptian Mythology and the Great God of Anubis, the God of the Dead. When I heard that death was being featured, I knew that I needed to claim Anubis.
“My piece is about a young guy who’s trying to keep his family afloat in Ancient Egypt and needs to take drastic action to keep his children fed so decides to steal from a tomb, which is a big no. He meets Anubis.
"I’m stoked by the finished product.”