Monday, 27 December 2010

Some Comic News

While there hasn't been a heck of a lot happening on the prose front lately that I haven't already posted about -well, except for the ginormous bit of news that I can't mention yet - there have been a few fun and interesting developments on the comics front.

I've talked a few times about my script Endangered Weapon B, which has had a troubled existence so far, to say the least.  The gist of that backstory is that I wrote it for Futurequake Press's imprint Mangaquake, the editor there picked it up but suggested some major alterations - expanding the story and changing the titular protagonist from a panda because some other studio did a lot of books with pandas in - and then, months later, told me it wouldn't be getting published after all because Mangaquake had folded.

So that sucked.  But not to be defeated ... well, actually, I did kind of give up for a while there, since there aren't a heck of a lot of places that take short comic scripts, to say the least.  After a few months, though, I got around to doing a bit of market research, and discovered the neat-looking Underfire Comics.  I sent Endangered Weapon to the editor there, Bob Molesworth, and he also really liked it.

A month or two after that, I was contact by Duncan Kay, who did a completely brilliant job of illustrating my story The Unleashing of the Ineffectual for the recently-released Something Wicked #6.  Duncan asked if I had anything going and I mentioned Endangered Weapon.  Duncan liked the script too, and said that he'd like to draw it, which was fine with me.

Then some more time passed, I likely got distracted by something shiny, and before anyone knew any better it was last month.  Duncan got back in touch again to say that he'd started on some concept sketches, and at that point I figured I'd better get in touch with Bob again to see what was what.

At which point, I found out that Bob had finished drawing, colouring and lettering my script.  And that he'd done a ridiculously great job of it.

Since, due to me shabby lack of research, I had no idea that Bob was even an artist, this came as a bit of a surprise.  A good surprise, though, all told, since like I said it looks fantastic, and especially since Duncan was cool about the whole thing and suggested that rather than pass up on the opportunity to work together again we start thinking about putting together some kind of comics collective and involving all his hugely talented professional artist mates in it.

So the upshot is that Endangered Weapon B is pretty much finished and just waiting while we figure out how to get it out there, and that I've been insanely busy attempting to churn out scripts that Duncan and his mates can draw. Which, considering that a month ago this whole comics thing was little more than a fun sideline, is both interesting and quite exciting.  Will it come to anything?  Well, I hope so, and there's plenty of enthusiasm going around, so I'd say that right now the signs are good.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Jenny's Sick now up at Lightspeed

I'll keep this brief, since I've already plugged this sale about a half-dozen times already: my story Jenny's Sick is now up to read for free at Lightspeed - or, if you're not a reading person, to listen to in a superb podcast by actor Mirron Willis.*  And afterwards, there's an interview with your truly, and a related non-fiction article by Genevieve Valentine explaining exactly how we're all going to die really soon in impossibly unpleasant (but undeniably interesting) ways.

This is probably the biggest sale I'm made thus far, and perhaps the best story, so if you're going to read just one then I guess it should be this one.  Plus, Lightspeed is utterly great, and deserves the support of all sentient life on earth.


* I can't say for sure that the Mirron Willis reading Jenny's Sick is the same Mirron Willis who's on IMDB, but if it is then my story was read by someone whose CV includes Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Independence Day, and that's so absurdly cool that I'm just going to let it slide.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Film Ramble: Monsters

It's an interesting time to be a fan of science-fiction cinema.

I've been thinking that for a while now, but it was it was really hammered home to me by Gareth Edward's Monsters, released in UK theatres last week.

For anyone who doesn't know, the film offers a near-future scenario where alien lifeforms brought back by a NASA satellite have infested a band of land across the north of Mexico.  Into this situation are plunged a stranded US tourist trying to return to America and her waiting fiance, and a world-weary photographer pressganged by his employer, her father, into escorting her home.

That's pretty much the length and breadth of Monsters.  Don't go expecting a frantic war against the alien invaders, because to the best of my recollection, neither protagonist ever so much as handles a weapon.  In fact, don't go expecting much action of any kind.  Monsters is a character drama, something of a romance, a film about two lost souls pushed together in strange and remarkable circumstances and forced to face themselves, each other, and - to a much lesser extent - the implications of sharing their world with giant, squidy, potentially lethal extraterrestrial life forms.

Monsters is also sedate, thoughtful, maybe somewhat slow by mainstream film standards, but heavy with small moments and details that add up to something that, for me at least, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.  It's art-house sci-fi of a kind that no one's really tried to make since it's closest spritiual and thematic antecedent, Andrei Tarkovsky's phenomenal Stalker, and if that thought doesn't turn you off then I can't recommend it enough.

 But, all of that aside, I think (and hope) that Monsters is a touch-stone movie for altogether different reasons.  Filmed on high-definition digital handheld cameras, with special effects and much of the mise en scène added entirely in post production by the director himself, and with a budget that might possibly have covered Sam Worthington's hair styling in Avatar, Monsters is a film uniquely of its time - because it simply couldn't have been made even five years ago.

To put it another way, we're now living in an age where a first-time director* can choose to make an effects-driven science-fiction movie, where a smart indy sci-fi movie can be as visually spectacular as a megabudget Hollywood blockbuster.

And that, at least to me, is pretty exciting.



* Edwards has done lots of TV and documentary work, including the superb In the Shadow of the Moon, but this is his first non-documentary feature to make it into cinemas.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

December Lightspeed out in E-book

As of the first of the month, the e-book edition of Lightspeed issue #7 is available for purchase in every format you could possibly want.

Not only does it have my story Jenny's Sick in it, I also got to be interviewed about it at some length by Editorial Assistant Erin Stocks (who insisted on posing really difficult and interesting questions), and not only that but said story and interview are followed up with a related non-fiction article, Five Upcoming Plagues (We’re Doomed) by Genevieve Valentine ... and (deep breath) not only that, but when Jenny's Sick becomes readable for free a couple of weeks from now, it'll also be available in podcast - something I only just discovered.

Clearly, this is all quite awesome.  But none of it holds up to the fact that I get to have my work appear alongside, respectively, a story by and an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin and Greg Bear.  Having just recently read (again, respectively) The Lathe of Heaven and Blood Music, and having found both to be brilliant beyond words, it's quite an honour to share a contents page with their authors.

All told, it's another stunning issue of what, let's face it, is pretty much the best sci-fi ezine out there, wrapped up in a beautiful cover by World Fantasy Award-winning artist John Picacio - and available for about the price of an egg and cress sandwich.

Friday, 3 December 2010

York Ghost Story Event Cancelled Due to Unexpected Ancient-Norse Apocalypse

It doesn't seem like more than a few days ago that I was explaining how I was going to spend this weekend sharing a new ghost story, Prisoner of Peace, with a bunch of fellow writers and anyone else who cared to listen, (probably because it wasn't).  And now I find myself having to report, with no small degree of sadness, that said ghost story reading event has been cancelled.

The reason?  Ragnarök.

Since York is buried beneath almost seven feet of snow, with temperatures approaching absolute zero and the sun nary more than a memory, it's hard to fault the decision to call it off.  It was probably also a factor that the national transport network has completely collapsed, perhaps because the zillions of tons of frozen water that have plunged from the sky over the last week are the wrong type of snow (hopefully, scientists somewhere are labouring right now to discover a kind that makes trains and buses run with exceptional efficiency).

Will it be rescheduled?  Not so far as I know - and really, with the world ending, what would be the point?  But maybe if the Fenris-wolf decides the sun doesn't taste that great after all and the Ice Giants realise they have something far better they could be doing, it will come along again next December - in which case I'll be ready and waiting.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

York-based Spookiness 2010

If all goes to plan and the trains don't get snowed off, I will be spending next Saturday in The Minster Inn in York, drinking beer and swapping ghost stories with a group of fellow writers.  This is how I've passed the last three first-Saturdays-of-December, and I hope I get to do the same for a fair few more, because it's become one of the high points of my year.  I mean, beer, ghost stories, more beer ... it's hard to go wrong with a recipe like that.

It also means that I've had to write a new ghost story - otherwise what would I read?  So far, the results have been pretty positive.  In 2007, I read The Untold Ghost, which ended up as the editor's pick in Pill Hill Press's Haunted anthology,and in 2008 I went with The Burning Room, which should be out in Bull Spec next month.  Last year's story, Knock, Knock, is still looking for a home, but it's a strong tale and I've faith that it'll make it eventually.  Meanwhile, this year I'll be debuting a tale I put together last month and literally just finished the first redraft of, called Prisoner of Peace.  I'm really pleased with it, I think it might even be the best of the bunch, and it'll be interesting to see if anyone else likes it as much as I do.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, I guess, depending on your perspective), I'll be trying to hold me own against some serious competition.  I'm not sure just who's going to be around for this one, but previous years have featured the likes of author / editor David Stuart Davies, the excellent Mark Valentine and my friend Mr Rafe McGregor, who introduced me to the whole thing, (and gets mentioned in this blog almost more than I do!)

So if you happen to be in the vicinity six days from now, around one in the afternoon, why not drop in and listen to a bunch of ghost stories?  Did I mention there's going to be beer?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Strive Critiqued at Flashfiction.net

I mentioned a few weeks back that I'd been approached by a student, named Heather Vann, who wanted permission to reprint my story Strive to be Happy, (originally published a couple of years ago in Flash Fiction Online), on the site flashfiction.net so she could critique it as part of her course.  At the time I'd given my permission with a couple of stipulations, hadn't had a reply back from Heather, and wasn't sure if she planned to go ahead.

Though I never did hear back from Heather, I was pleased to find out from the owner of flashfiction.net that she'd gone ahead with the article (weirdly, it was scheduled for the day after I finally got round to querying.)  The story, followed by Heather's commentary, can be found here.  In her opening sentence, Heather describes Strive as "a piece that manages to encompass the vast emotional roller coaster of the human psyche", so I guess it's safe to say she liked it.

It's deeply weird, though undeniably kind of nice, to have written something that affects people enough that they tell others how much they enjoyed it, or - more bizarre still - write essays about it.  It's also rare as hen's teeth in my experience, and I don't entirely know what it is about this one story that gets such a response.  After all, this isn't the first time something like this has happened.  Strive was also discussed at length last year by author David Erlewine at Five Star Literary Stories, and in the same year was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Flash Fiction Online editor Jake Freivald.  I even had someone approach me about adapting it into a short film, though unfortunately that was back in the days before I got my website e-mail forwarding set up and by the time, months later, that I replied, it was too late.  Still, pretty neat, huh?

Anyway, whatever I got right that's struck a chord with a few people, I'm definately glad, and hopefully one of these days I'll pull it off again.  Thanks to Heather and Randall Brown at flashfiction.net for putting Strive to be Happy in front of more readers.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Glass Houses out in Theaker's #34

Hot on the tail of last week's publication in Encounters, I've just discovered that I've another story out - and sticking with the theme of the month, it's another shortish, slightly mad sci-fi tale.  Only this one is called Glass Houses, and the magazine is the always delectable Theaker's Quarterly Fiction.

I've made no secret of my fondness for Mr Theaker's eccentric magazine baby, it's odd as all hell and a labour of love in the best possible way.  One of the things I really admire about it is that each issue is a noticable step forward from the last, and issue 34 is no exception. For once, I've actually managed to get my hands on a copy before blogging about it, and it's definitely the finest TQF I've seen. 

First up, the cover is by Howard Watts, another TQF regular whose art - despite a knee-jerk resitance I have to computer generated imagery - I've come to seriously like.  Isn't it neat how that building in the background looks just like the Statue of Liberty until you actually concentrate on it?  The details in Howard's work - like those banks of poor, exposed trees - hint at whole cultures, whole worlds even, just waiting beyond the edges of the image, which has always been one of my favourite qualities in genre art.

Inside, you have a whole ton of fiction - including what might possibly (but hopefully won't be) the last published story by my semi-retired author friend Rafe McGregor - a quite staggering number of reviews, and a fair amount of editorial content from the always entertaining Mr Theaker himself.  At 156 pages, it's a particularly colossal issue.  And, all else aside, (and not counting the milliseconds of life it takes to download a copy), it's completely and utterly free.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Some Theories out in Encounters #4

I just got word that the new issue of Encounters is out from Black Matrix Publishing, with my story Some Theories Regarding the Current Crisis nestled somewhere in its nether-pages.

Normally at this point I'd say that I can't actually comment on the magazine because I haven't seen a print copy, and while that second bit is true - I believe it literally just came out today - the first bit isn't.  That's because Black Matrix make canny use of some neat technology to let readers sample the first few pages on their site.  (This tool, by the way, is something I've seen nowhere else, and I'm bewildered that more magazines haven't adopted it.)  So I can say with confidence that Encounters is one of the best-presented small press 'zines out there, with an emphasis on clarity and readability (something else I'm often puzzled by the lack of, even in the professional publishing world) and some nice, eye-catching artwork.  I was also impressed by Guy Kenyon's editorial, the gist of which is that he wants to put out a magazine full of good fiction and get it read by as many people as possible.  Needless to say, that's pretty much exactly what I want to hear from an editor who publishes my work.

Of course, these are all things that Guy's been getting right since day one, and pretty much the reasons I submitted to him in the first place.  I've mentioned many of them before, but I figure they warrant repeating - one of the reasons why being a discussion that I touch on at the end of this post.

Before that, though, a few notes about Some Theories Regarding the Current Crisis.  I've mentioned the gist before, I believe, (think atmosphere-driven sci-fi with an emphasis on spooky weirdness), but it occurred to me a few days again that I've never credited Alasdair Stuart's considerable input.  Some Theories was actually written for a planned shared-world antho that Al was cooking up with the York writing group he hosts, and much of the background (as well as a fair share of the weird) is his contribution.  After I left York I rewrote it to help it stand on its own two snow-shoe'd feet, and of course I'm far too mean to consider giving Al a co-author credit or anything like that, so I'll settle for pointing out what an excellent writer (and human being) he is, that he has more good ideas in the tip of his pinky than I do in my whole damn head, and that some of them went towards making Some Theories what it is today.

That being, spookily weird.  I said that, right?


Lastly, something that readers may possibly find interesting: In the early days of Black Matrix Press, author John Scalzi wrote a blog post castigating them for their low pay rates and Guy Kenyon responded on his own blog.  This is a subject that I've written on quite extensively myself here, and one I find both interesting and under-discussed within the industry.  I've been thinking a lot about the small press lately, and what I'd like to see it doing in a perfect world, and I plan to put some of those thoughts down here when I get a spare few minutes.  In the meantime, I find John and Guy's comments interesting because they sum up so well the fors and againsts of what Duotrope's Digest calls token-paying markets.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Film Ramble: Bridge To Terabithia

It's been a while since I rattled on about a movie here, mainly because it's been a while since I've seen anything both excellent and generally underappreciated enough to warrant the effort.  And it hasn't exactly been a slow news week, either, but the interesting stuff that's been going on is too up in the air for me to talk about - and anyway, Bridge to Terabithia just kicked the emotional hell out of me.

Bridge to Terabithia goes without apology or compromise for themes that have come off as cliches in so many other films: the power of imagination, the scope for fantasy to enrich reality, the possiblities of story to save us from - or arm us for - the harsher aspects of reality.  And it hits every one so well that you wonder how you became so jaded to these concepts in the first place, or how Hollywood has managed to make them seem so trite and absurd. In its better moments - of which there are plenty - it even makes them feel new.  It also strays into some very dark places, and does so honestly and unapologetically.


In its trailer, Bridge to Terabithia was missold as an alternate-world fantasy, perhaps to cash in on the relative success of the Narnia movies.  I've no idea if this worked for Disney, (though I get the impression that Terabithia didn't do great business), but it still seems like a dumb move, since a) it's a blatant fib that's bound to annoy anyone who actually sees the film and b) it fails completely to clue you in on what's great about the movie: its subtletly, its carefully detailed realness, and it's willingness to present a fantasy world as precisely that without, in the end, diminishing its importance one iota.

So if the trailer put you off, give it a go anyway.  Likewise to the fact that it's basically a kids film - after all, kids have to deal with most of the same stuff adults do, as Terabithia so amply illustrates.  It's not perfect - some wonkily integrated CGI from should-know-better effects studio Weta derails a couple of scenes - but it is unexpectedly and consistently great.  It has Zooey Deschanel and a classroom of kids covering Steve Earl's Some Day.  It has some fantastic performances, including a bravely unsympathetic turn from Robert Patrick.  It reminded me of some of the essential reasons I love fantasy as a genre, and why I choose to write it, and by the end, it made me blub like a three year old who'd just had their favourite toy stolen by zombie pirates.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Something for Nothing

A couple of recent e-mails have got me thinking about the writing business, and how writers and their work are perceived.  One of them was probably quite innocent, the other turned out not to be, but the common factor was that both were trying to get something I'd created for nothing.  This is a topic I've posted on before, and there are definitely circumstances where I don't mind giving stories away, particularly ones that have already seen print, but I also like to think it should be the exception rather than the rule.  Anyway...

First came an e-mail from a student who said that she'd connected with my story Strive to be Happy, as published a couple of years back on Flash Fiction Online (and still available here), and wanted to reprint and discuss it at flashfiction.net.   I checked them out, decided that they were kosher, (and indeed, well worth a look if you're at all interested in writing flash fiction), and said yes - with a few conditions.  I wanted it to be clear where the story was originally published, that I still held copyright, and that it was being reprinted by permission.

Said student never got back to me. Of course there are a zillion reasons why that might have been, ranging from rudeness to alien abduction - but it did make we wonder if my answer, and my desire to keep copyright and reproduction rights over something I'd created, were a factor.

A couple of days after that, an individual by the name of Kenney Mencher got in touch out of the blue to invite me to take part in a contest: write a flash story based on a portrait of his and win an original sketch.  The portrait was quite good, the sketch was pretty sucky, and all in all I thought he had a bit of a nerve.  But the concept intrigued me, so I started putting something together, and the story - as stories will - sucked me in more and more.

I was already wondering if I really felt like giving it away for the chance of winning a picture I didn't particular like when I had another look at Mr Mencher's blog and realised, belatedly, what he was up to.  To briefly summarise the paragraphs of legalise gibberish under the "Disclaimer for Flash Fiction Contest" section, I would - just by posting my story - be giving up all rights whatsoever over my work and also, bewilderingly, my contact details, not only to Mencher but to anyone else he liked the look of.  He could republish my story under his own name, or rewrite and then publish it under his name, and I'd have no legal comeback.  For that matter, he could sell my contact details to the Mafia if he felt like it.

Like I say, there's a fair bit of legalise going on.


Having dug further, it's pretty clear what Mencher is up to.  He's got a painting exhibition planned, wants some text to accompany it, and has no qualms whatsoever about screwing over his fellow artists to get it on the cheap (or rather, effectively, on the free).  Of course, the way he's going about it means that he can use not only the "winning" entry but the others as well, without the hassle of crediting any of the respective authors.  Way less bother than doing the whole thing scrupulously, right?  He has, by the way, another forty or so of these "competitions" planned - and somehow, I don't think I'll be entering those, either.

Well ... my story was mostly done by the time I realised all this, and I'm quite pleased with it as a first draft.  I plan to finish it and then sit on it, with a view to rewriting it somewhere down the line, so the effort shouldn't be wasted.  As for the rest, I guess I'll be a little more wary in future when people contact me out of the blue.  It's easy to get blindsided by someone showing interest in your work - but if that interest means trying to get rights over it for free then it's really not such a great compliment, is it?

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Ineffectual Unleashed

Many and odd are the roads a story can take from weird little idea throbbing at the back of your brain to full-on published goodness.

The Unleashing of the Ineffectual began life as a short story about four years ago.  The idea - of a bunch of teenage Lovecraft groupies trying to summon something the master might have been proud of and getting less than they bargained for - was definitely fun, but it just didn't work the way I first wrote it.  I sent it out a couple of times and realised it didn't have much of a future.  But I still liked the concept, I just felt like I'd slipped up on the execution.

Some time after that I was looking around for an idea for a follow-up comic script to my first attempt, Fleshworld, as published in Futurequake #10.  It occurred to me that the problem with Unleashing was that it needed too much exposition to get it moving. That isn't so much of an issue in a comic, you just write instructions like "It’s a surreal landscape, with an extra sun or two, huge distorted trees, strange crystalline towers, and vast mountains in the background" and shift the problem onto your poor artist.  So I hacked Unleashing up, turned exposition into panel notes, and sent it to the Futurequake guys, who also happen to publish a horror comic imprint by the name of Something Wicked.

 This time it got accepted straight away, and the artist who got landed with the unenviable task of interpreting those instructions was none other than the phenomenally talented Duncan Kay. I try not to throw around phrases like 'phenomenally talented' too much, so to put that in context, I now have two pieces of Duncan's work framed and sitting on the bookshelves in my study.  Not only is Duncan a fine artist, he was a spot-on choice for this particular story, and I really couldn't have got much luckier.

Anyway, things went from there.  Duncan and I got the comic strip version of Unleashing finished a little over a year ago, for the 2009 issue of Something Wicked, and then for behind-the-scenes reasons it didn't appear in that issue - at which point, what with having the memory of a confused marsupial, I mostly forgot about it.  But now, finally, it's out, and I should soon have my contributor copy.  In the meantime, there's the entirely neat cover in the top-left - and the full TOC can be found here.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Fallen From Grace

Last Monday was a good day.

I got out of work early to find some seriously unseasonal sunshine waiting for me, and decided that rather than waste it, I'd head out into the countryside.  I've been doing a lot of this since I moved to Cheltenham, since I've got the Cotswolds on my doorstep and the Cotswolds are one of the most downright beautiful parts of the country I've ever come across.  But this was the first time I'd ventured out on the spur of the moment.  Luckily, I knew a short walk within reasonable biking distance, and had just enough daylight left to get there, get round and make it home again.

An hour later I was standing on the hillside above Cheltenham, looking down over the city and for miles past it, the sun beating down, a little knackered from the bike ride and the hike up there but still feeling pretty great - when my phone gave its little 'new e-mail' warble.  More spam?  Amazon trying to sell me a ton of stuff I didn't want?  Nope, it was Northern Frights Publishing, writing to tell me that my story Fall From Grace had been accepted for their forthcoming collection Fallen: An Anthology of Demonic Horror.

I've had my fingers crossed for ages on this one - because NFP have been putting out some really imaginative, exciting and stunningly designed books, and because Fall From Grace is so dark and fundamentally twisted that I wasn't sure anyone would ever agree to publish it.

So ... like I said, a good day.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

My First Fantasycon, Part 2: All the Stuff That Is About Trying to Sell My Novel

For Fantasycon this year, I decided to try something a little different.

In fact, I decided to try plenty of different things, I guess - actually attending being the main one - but for this post I'm just going to focus on one, since I covered the rest in the first part (Buying art!  Spending £20 on a book!  Staying in a hotel that had clearly been designed by Stalinists!)

For a variety of reasons, most of them to do with my day job, I ended up going almost directly from finishing my first novel, Giant Thief, to beginning my second, currently known as Funland.  That meant I didn't have much time or energy with which to submit or promote Giant Thief - and the more time passed, the more my enthusiasm waned.  With novel number two out of the way, I knew I had to turn that around, but even when I started tentatively submitting my heart wasn't entirely in the process.

I'd been telling myself for months that if I made it to Fantasycon, one of the justifications for the expense would be trying to sell Giant Thief.  I had a few ideas, but one in particular stood out, something Rafe McGregor had suggested.  Rafe's idea - perhaps influenced by the decidedly unconventional theories of self-promotion ninja J. A. Konrath - was to print up a promotional sampler via a print-on-demand service like Lulu, and to hand that out in place of the leaflets, bookmarks and such that authors tend traditionally to go in for.

Now, before Rafe accuses me of trying to pass the blame for my dumb ideas, it's worth mentioning at this point that I'd completely misremembered the conversation.  In fact, Rafe had been considering the samplers as a method to promote an existing novel, not as an alternative to the traditional submissions process. This, of course, makes far more sense than my version, which possesses very little logic at all.  Unfortunately, by the time Rafe reminded me of this, and pointed out what a potentially terrible idea it was, I'd already decided to go ahead.  I figured that the risk - of alienating publishers by appearing to buck the traditional submissions process - was worth the potential gains.  It wasn't that it seemed like a particularly great idea any more, or that I thought for a second it might lead to a sale.  But thinking about my samplers had done far more to rekindle my passion for Giant Thief than cobbling together synopses and sending out sample chapters had.  For the first time in months, I felt excited about it, and could remember why it had consumed me for the better part of two years.


So, at great expense, and with much screaming and throwing of furniture at Lulu's bewilderingly obtuse cover-designing software, I put my samplers together.  I compiled three chapters, my bio, and a short story - Imaginary Prisons, as published in issue #29 of Theaker's Quarterly Fiction - the latter partly because I was still hanging onto my misremembered version of Rafe's theory, and more rationally, because I thought I might conceivably peak the interest of anthology-only publishers.

The end results, pictured left, weren't exactly mind-blowing, and were a million miles away from what I had in mind, but at least they looked half decent.  I was particularly lucky to discover that Francisco Goya had been decent enough to illustrate an image from my first chapter in his 1818 painting "The Giant".  Unfortunately, neither of us banked on Lulu's deciding to reproduce it approximately thirty-seven shades darker than it had originally appeared, but it still looked just about okay.  I was armed and ready.

Now, it's worth pointing out at this point that I'm not the most naturally gregarious of people, and even if I was, I doubt that attending a conference on my own and then harassing complete strangers with samples of my novel would have been an entirely pleasant or relaxing process.  Despite encouragement and interest from the likes of Alisdair Stuart, Alison Littlewood and Geoff Nelder, the Saturday proved less than productive, and most of the samples I got rid of ended up with friends and acquaintances.  By five o'clock, I was a little despondent, not to say exhausted, and I'd barely shifted one in three of my Giant Thief booklets.

Sunday, however, went a little better.   Perhaps I was still drunk from the previous night - it's physiologically unlikely that I could have sobered up much from four hours sleep - and it definitely helped that the seller's room was much quieter.  Maybe more importantly, I was a little clearer on what I wanted to do ... that being, get rid of samplers, say 'hi' to complete strangers and learn a little about the publishing scene.  With my expectations realigned, I found that I was actually enjoying myself.  The highpoint of the whole experiment came from Nicky Crowther of P S Publishing, who was kind enough to actually be impressed, and to point out that my pamphlets would be much easier to read in bed than normal submissions.

So would I recommend this approach to other writers?  Not hardly.  It was expensive, time consuming, stressful and probably won't be in the least productive -certainly no one's expressed any interest yet, despite me including my contact details not once but twice!  But it did open my eyes to a lot of things that as a writer I can and perhaps have to be doing.  I can see now that it's vital to take the opportunity to talk to publishers - too often the only communication between our two camps is submissions and rejection letters, which gives each side a false impression of the other.  It's no bad thing to look at my work with fresh eyes, and failing that, in a fresh form.  I don't think anyone was grossly offended by my unusual take on submitting, so I guess it's okay to push the envelope a little.

Anyway, thanks for everyone at Fantasycon who encouraged and took interest in my mad endeavour, and especial thanks to the publishers who accepted my samplers.  It would have been a much, much less fun weekend without you.

Now to think of a crazy scheme that actually succeeds in getting Giant Thief published...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

My First Fantasycon, Part 1: All the Stuff That's Not About Trying to Sell My Novel

So I not only went to but survived, and not only survived but enjoyed my first Fantasycon - that being, for anyone who doesn't know, the annual conference organised by the British Fantasy Society - and it seems only right that I say a few words about it.

I went to Fantasycon with a few ulterior motives - to be discussed in part 2 - but I mainly went because it seems to be the UK event that people consistently rave about.  I had no idea what to expect, but as a miserable cynic, that didn't stop me expecting the worst: perhaps me and and two other people in a room slightly smaller than the average broom cupboard, forced to debate the relative merits of the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings for thirty two hours straight.

That didn't happen, (believe me, I wouldn't be taking the time to post about it), but tons of other stuff did.  That said, because I missed the first day and it took me a few hours to tune into the whole thing I suspect I missed more than I saw.  I completely failed to go to any readings, for example, and I only made one panel, though at least it was thoroughly interesting - Robert E. Howard discussed by folks including the prodigious Ramsay Campbell and Stephen Jones, who edited the excellent Gollancz volumes of Conan that really got me interested in Howard.  Similarly, although I only went to one signing, I picked a good one: the Never Again anthology from Gray Friar Press, including too many great writers to name but specifically from my point of view my friend Alison Littlewood, whose work never fails to impress me.

Apart from that and the stuff I'm going to talk about in part 2, I mostly spent my time browsing stalls, mingling, drinking (oh, so much drinking) and catching up with people.  Some of these were old friends that I haven't seen in ages like the multi-talented Alasdair Stuart and Angry Robot and Hub editor and all-round nice bloke Lee Harris.  Others were well-known names that I finally got to put a face to, like Stephen Theaker (who between Dark Horizons and Theaker's Quarterly Fiction has accepted more of my work than any other editor, and is every bit as nice in reality as he seems in the digiworld) and author-editor Geoff Nelder, who I hope I run into again so we can finish the conversation I rudely rushed out of.  A few were complete strangers - and I realise that isn't catching up, exactly, but it's a way of mentioning just how damn friendly most people were, and how willing and eager to share their knowledge and experience of the industry.  Of these, BFS Publicity and Events Co-Ordinator Martin Roberts particularly stands out, since I only approached him in a muddled attempt to sell my novel to PS Publishing and we ended up chatting for about half an hour.


I was determined not to spend too much money, or at least only spend it on absolute necessities like food and alcohol, but in the last couple of hours I went a little mad, and I still think I got off lightly given how much awesome stuff I could have splashed out on.  Most expensive single purchase was PS's sci-fi movie essay antho Cinema Futura (pictured left), and I also picked up The Places Between by Terry Grimwood, (right), because I was bothering Pendragon Press's editor Christopher Teague and that lovely cover kept catching my eye.  But my biggest purchase was five art prints by the astonishingly talented Les Edwards - four of these, a series based on Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth, can be found in the bottom right of this page.  I nearly split them up to save a few quid and I've never been so glad to have defeated my cheapskate Yorkshireman instincts.  Now if only I had some frames and wall space!

Were there any low points?  Well, having to point out to Terry Martin which issue and then which page of Murky Depths he'd published me in before he remembered who I was was a sobering moment, though completely understandable in retrospect (and congrats, by the way, to Murky Depths for picking up the Best Magazine / Periodical award, it was well deserved.)  Complimenting Lisa Tuttle on a story actually written by Sarah Pinborough wasn't my finest moment, (and then I completely failed to tell Sarah I liked it either - Sarah, if you should happen to read this, Snow Angels blew me away).  There was the point where I realised that all the less miserly and antisocial people had all gone off for the banquet and that I'd have to find somewhere to eat alone amidst the sinister and alarming surrounds of Nottingham - although that ended up in fantastic take away pizza, so all was more than well.

Apart from that, the two days ranged from relaxing and interesting to flat-out great, and I know that I'll have a better time next year for knowing the ropes.  The really great bit was seeing, with my own eyes, that the British genre scene is truly healthy - definitely struggling, who or what the hell isn't these days? - but definitely alive and definitely kicking.  And the best bit?  That'd have to be getting to feel like a part of that scene for a couple of days.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Spotlit at Lightspeed

It's been a fair few weeks since I've posted anything here, mainly because not a damn thing has happened that's been good enough - or resoundingly bad enough - to be worth mentioning.  That only makes me that bit more grateful to Lightspeed Magazine for giving me something to talk about - and even making it a pleasant something.

I now have a definite month for Jenny's Sick appearing in Lightspeed, December this year, but that's not the news; the news is that I also get to be the spotlighted author for that issue.  And what that means is that I get to answer a load of really, really difficult (but also really considered and interesting) questions about my story, and both the questions and my rambling answers will appear in Lightspeed for the world to try and make sense of.

What the team at Lightspeed don't know is that I never have the faintest idea of why anything happens in my stories!  Unfortunately for me, I'm guessing that answers like "I only write this stuff" or "the moon was in the forth quarter and I'd eaten too much peanut butter that day" probably won't cut the proverbial mustard.  So I should probably stop posting about it and start coming up with some vaguely coherent answers!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Funland (Finally!) Finished

There could have easily been another F-word in that title, because it was a heck of a travail towards the end, but as of a week last Wednesday the first draft of the novel so far known as Funland is in the can.  Not only that, but I'm fairly happy with the final part, which isn't something I really expected to be saying.

So what now?  Now I have a bit of a break, or the closest thing I'm ever likely to allow myself where writing is concerned.  My current plan is to leave the second draft of Funland until the start of next year, and concentrate in the meantime on writing new short fiction, editing the remainder of my steadily shrinking back-catalogue ready for submission, and trying to find a loving home for novel numero uno.  And if all of that doesn't sound amazingly relaxing then you probably haven't spent most of the year slaving over a difficult second novel!

I've already finished one short story (intended for Rogue Blades Entertainment's forthcoming Assassin-themed anthology) and I'm about to start another, so if anyone would be interested in sending me their work for proof-reading and would be willing to do the same in return then now is the time to get in touch.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Some Theories Regarding Monsters, and Other News

A couple of bits of good news to enliven what so far has been a slow and somewhat agonising month on the writing front:

First up, I'm pleased to announce that Encounters magazine, from recent upstart press Black Matrix Publishing, will be including my story Some Theories Regarding the Current CrisisSome Theories is a short science-fiction tale, which I wrote a couple of years back for an anthology that (so far as I know) never saw the light of the day.  Since I'm still catching up with myself on the editing and sending stuff out front, that makes it one of the most recent of my stories to appear.  That period of the end of 2007, beginning of 2008 was when it first started to really feel like I was finding my feet, so it's great to see this stuff beginning to get out into the world.

In other, really belated news, I mentioned a while back that my poem Doppelganger - as published in Chiaroscuro webzine - received an honourable mention for anthologist-extraordinaire Ellen Datlow's annual horror best-of anthology in 2008.  What totally passed me by was that my story Rindelstein's Monsters (from the Comet Press Death Panel antho) got a nod too, for the 2009 edition.  Pretty neat that, and I fully intend to actually get into one of this things, by 2027 at the absolute latest.

Finally, if anyone's been paying attention they might have noticed that my novel wordometer doohickey has been mutating.  The good news is, I've finally broken my 100'000 word target; the bad news - you guessed it - is that there's still a ways to go.  Funland is raging out of control, and the focus now is on finishing it before it tries to take over the world or eat my brains.  I'm hopeful for getting it knocked on the head by close of play on Wednesday.  Frankly, if it isn't done by the end of the week then I might just stop.  Endings are overrated, right?

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Weird and Strange Return of Rafe McGregor

Rafe McGregor, excellent crime / horror writer, author of the great and depressingly hard-to-find The Architect of Murder, has just rereleased paperback / electronic versions of two of his short story collections via Lulu.

Now it's no secret that I'm friends with Rafe and thus completely biased when it comes to his work.  But in my defence I'd point out that, since I'm far too honest for my own good, I only ever manage to stay friends with writers whose work I really like, and that's certainly always been true of Rafe.  For that reason, I feel totally justified in pimping these collections - and also because I've read (and pulled apart earlier drafts of) all of the stories therein and I know that they range from good to excellent.  For the record, my personal preference would lean slightly towards Six Strange Cases, which contains three of my all-time favourite Rafe McGregor tales, but if you have any affection for the authors Rafe namechecks below then you won't go far wrong with either.

Sherlock Holmes makes an unexpected intervention in a murder case.  A curious woman investigates the dark secrets harboured within the ancient chapel of a ruined castle.  An antique ivory hunting horn will spell fame and fortune for Professor Goodspeed.  An age-old duel ends in Ruritania.  An eldritch voice draws a lonely man ever closer to the drowned town of Lod...


Eight short tales, each directly inspired by a master of the mysterious or supernatural - Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Anthony Hope, or M.R. James - which will send chills down your spine...

http://stores.lulu.com/weirdbook

Private investigator Titus Farrow is doomed by an encounter with the Chambers Scroll.  Roderick Langham solves the mystery of the ‘Demeter’ from his armchair by the sea.  A failed author goes in search of the barghest for inspiration.  A missing person case turns even nastier than blackmail.  Sweeney Todd meets his match.  These six stories make a gripping journey through ‘The King in Yellow’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Sweeney Todd’, and the noir fiction of the pulp era.


http://stores.lulu.com/weirdbook

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Told Ghosts on Amazon

It seems like only last week that I was blogging about how my story The Untold Ghost had been picked up by Pill Hill Press for their Haunted anthology - and soon after, on how it had been selected as the editor's choice and headline tale.  Now, already, Haunted is out to buy from both Amazon US and Amazon UK.

While I've seen the proofs I didn't do more that flick through, so as usual I can't comment on the collection as a whole, except to say that I've had a good vibe about Pill Hill ever since they began.  As for The Untold Ghost, it's another of my older stories, dating from about four years ago if memory serves correctly, although it got a hefty overhall before I sent it out this final time.  It's an unusual one for me in that there's a fair bit of truth mixed in with the fiction.  I don't normally hold with the old "write what you know" adage, and would argue that unless you get routinely whisked off to faerie kingdoms, kidnapped by aliens or stalked by psyschotic killers, it's pretty dim-witted advice for the genre writer.

The Untold Ghost was different in that I went to a place that cried out for its own ghost story, and elements of what I saw and did there were just interesting enough to provide the basic furniture for one.  The hotel described is based on a real one that I stayed at, and a few things that the protagonist  does - like a reckless trip out onto a rickety fire escape - were my own experiences with a few dashes of added colour.  As for the ghost?  Sadly, (or come to think of it, perhaps happily), she's cut from whole cloth, although the place was easily spooky enough to have had a couple lurking in the rafters.  Maybe I was just too busy thinking my own tale up to notice them?

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Free and Fairly Easy

Something I meant to mention a while back, when I actually did it ... I've created a new page on my website listing and linking to all of my work that's available for free, be it on webpages or in some downloadable form, with little summaries and wordcounts and whatnot.  I want to make it as easy as humanly possible for people to get to this stuff if they so want to, and my initial plan of e-mailing everyone in the human race was going pretty well until I discovered that there are still tribes in the jungles of South America who ... get this! ... don't have a workable IT infrastructure.  So, once I accepted that cutting words into the moon with a giant laser was prohibatively expensive, this seemed like the best bet.

Said page, rather bafflingly titled because my rubbish website software limits me to supershort page names, can be located here.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Third Acceptance to TQF

I'll keep this brief, since said magazine should be out in the next two or three weeks: the marvellous Mr  Theaker, editor of the equally marvellous Theaker's Quarterly Fiction, has accepted my story Glass Houses for his imminent next issue.  My mission to appear in ever second issue continues apace!  I'll hold off saying anything about Glass Houses until the issue's out - suffice to say that, in keeping with my last two TQF acceptances, it's a bit of an oddity...

Monday, 7 June 2010

Untold Ghost Headlines Haunted

That's to say, I recently found out that my story The Untold Ghost came first in the three editor's picks for Pill Hill Press's forthcoming collection of ghost stories, Haunted, and is also the opening tale.  Congrats to Rich Matrunick and Miguel Lopez de Leon, whose stories The Unseen and The Bath took second and third place respectively, and of course to everyone else too; having seen the proofs, it looks set to be a great collection.

Also, I blithely assumed in my last post that it wouldn't be out for ages.  Actually, it should appear in the next few weeks, either towards the end of this month or the start of July.  Normally I'd consider this rushing, but in Pill Hill's case it has more to do with canny use of technology, including a neat online proofing system.  I know I work in IT and shouldn't be so impressed by these things, but I still am!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Funland: Weeks Eleven through Thirteen (and Onward...)

So tomorrow I go back to full time work of the non-writing variety, and what I've been referring to in my head as the Funland Experiment will come to an end.  Not quite the end I wanted - that, obviously, would have been getting the novel finished - but not a disastrous one by any means.  The current word count is around the 87'000 mark, and I guesstimate there's another 15'000 or so to go.  I hope I can do that by the end of the month, although I'm by no means sure.  To give some context, I'm typing this in a B & B, since I've moved out of my Newcastle address but can't move into my new flat in Cheltenham until the end of the week.  So there's still plenty to do, even aside from the day job.  Frankly, I'm torn between wanting to wrap Funland up and the urge to put it aside for a little while until I've settled in.  At the moment I'm edging towards getting it finished, but that plan may change quickly depending on how the next few days go.

Inevitably, I'm left to wonder if I did the right thing taking time off to write a novel.  Perhaps equally inevitably, the best answer I can come up with is "yes and no".  In retrospect, the experiment was flawed from the start: writing with the Sword of Damocles of unemployment and dwindling supplies of cash hanging over your head is less than conducive to the creative process.  That's how it seemed at the time, anyway - most writers, professional or no, have worked with the risk of financial ruin at their back, so maybe it don't do as much harm as it seemed to.  It'll be a long while yet before I can look at what I've done with anything approaching objectivity, but there's a fair chance that what I've produced is better than it seemed at the time.

Either way, I don't think this is something I'll try again any time soon.  There are two main reasons: firstly, I think it's going to be well over a year now before I'm ready to start a new novel, and secondly, I came far too close to running out of money and having to hammer my savings.  Getting a new contract took longer than I'd expected, and if I hadn't been relatively lucky it could have taken much, much longer.  On the other hand, I hope that when the smoke's cleared I'll discover I've written something close to what I intended, in a quite solid first draft.  To achieve the same around a day job would have taken a year or more.  And there was something strange and eye-opening about having some sustained time off from work; I think I've gained a little perspective for doing it, and my 'to read' pile is definately much smaller.  I certainly don't regret taking the opportunity - I just don't know if I'll have the nerve to try it a second time.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Lightspeed Launches!

New Online Science Fiction Magazine Lightspeed Launches

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: publicity@lightspeedmagazine.com


ROCKVILLE, MD, JUNE 1 -- Lightspeed, lightspeedmagazine.com, the new online science fiction magazine published by the award-winning independent press Prime Books, launches today with the publication of "I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan.

Lightspeed is edited by John Joseph Adams (Fiction Editor), the bestselling editor of anthologies such as Wastelands and The Living Dead, and Andrea Kail (Nonfiction Editor), a writer, critic, and television producer who worked for thirteen years on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

Lightspeed's focus is exclusively on science fiction. It features all types of sf, from near-future, sociological soft sf, to far-future, star-spanning hard sf, and anything and everything in between. No subject is considered off-limits, and Lightspeed writers are encouraged to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.

Each month at Lightspeed, you will find a mix of original and reprint fiction, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Lightspeed, it is our hope that you’ll see where science fiction comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.
Lightspeed also features a variety of nonfiction features, fiction podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories.

Lightspeed's regular publication schedule each month includes two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with four nonfiction articles. Fiction posts on Tuesdays, nonfiction on Thursdays. Additionally, award-winning audiobook producer Stefan Rudnicki, will be producing the Lightspeed Magazine story podcast, which will feature audio adaptations of two Lightspeed stories every month.

Lightspeed's debut issue features four all-new, never-before-published stories: from newcomer Vylar Kaftan, an interstellar love story dealing with the perils of communication and time-dilation; from bestselling, award-winning author Jack McDevitt, a tale about Earth’s moon and the mysteries it might still possess; from David Barr Kirtley, an adventure of a young catman who must face the last of the dogmen and something else entirely unexpected; and from bestselling author Carrie Vaughn, a cautionary tale of the near future that shows some of the extremes we might be pushed to if we don’t start implementing now the seeds for a sustainable future.

Additional features include an article about relativity and the speed of light by astronomer/author Mike Brotherton; a list of the top ten reasons why genetically-engineered animals won't make good pets by humorist Carol Pinchefsky; a profile of astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, by Genevieve Valentine; and a primer for sustainable living by ecologist Amanda Rose Levy.

As a special feature of the debut issue, in conjunction with the popular podcasts Escape Pod and Hugo Award nominee Starship Sofa, Lightspeed will present two bonus podcasts: "I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan will appear on Escape Pod on June 1 and "Cats in Victory" by David Barr Kirtley will appear on Starship Sofa on June 15. This is in addition to the Lightspeed Magazine story podcast's offerings, which will present "The Cassandra Project" by Jack McDevitt and "Amaryllis" by Carrie Vaughn.


Future issues of Lightspeed will include fiction by the likes of George R. R. Martin, Joe Haldeman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Carol Emshwiller, Catherynne M. Valene, Tobias S. Buckell, Tananarive Due, Yoon Ha Lee, Cat Rambo, and Adam-Troy Castro, as well as from newcomers such as Genevieve Valentine, Alice Sola Kim, David Tallerman, John R. Fultz, and Corey Joshua Mariani.

Lightspeed held a launch event at the science fiction convention Wiscon, in Madison, WI on Memorial Day weekend. Limited edition Lightspeed Magazine samplers in digest magazine format were made available for free to all members of the convention. This special hardcopy edition of Lightspeed features "I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan, "Is There Anybody Out There That Wants to Go Fast" by Mike Brotherton, "Amaryllis" by Carrie Vaughn, and an Author Spotlight on Carrie Vaughn. The launch event included readings from Vylar Kaftan, Alice Sola Kim, Cat Rambo, and Genevieve Valentine.

About John Joseph Adams (Fiction Editor)

John Joseph Adams (www.johnjosephadams.com) is the bestselling editor of many anthologies, such as Wastelands, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), By Blood We Live, Federations, and The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Barnes & Noble.com named him “the reigning king of the anthology world,” and his books have been named to numerous best of the year lists. Prior to taking on the role of fiction editor of Lightspeed, John worked for nearly nine years in the editorial department of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. In addition to his editorial work, John is also the co-host of Tor.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

About Andrea Kail (Nonfiction Editor)

Andrea Kail (www.andreakail.com) is a graduate of the Dramatic Writing Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has spent the last two decades working from one end of New York’s television spectrum to the other: HBO, MTV, A&E, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, as well as thirteen years at NBC’s Emmy Award-winning Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Her fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, and her novella, “The Sun God at Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom,” was a first-place winner in the Writers of the Future contest and appeared in Writers of the Future Vol. XXIII.  Since 2005, Andrea has also been writing lively film criticism for such venues as Paradox Magazine and CinemaSpy.

About Stefan Rudnicki (Audio Editor)

Stefan Rudnicki is an independent director, producer, narrator, and publisher of audiobooks. He has received more than a dozen Audie Awards from the Audio Publishers Association, a Ray Bradbury Award, a Bram Stoker Award, and a GRAMMY Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for The Children’s Shakespeare. Outside of the audiobook industry, he’s probably best known for the dozen books he’s written or edited, from actor’s resource anthologies to a best-selling adaptation of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. He is also president of Skyboat Road Company, Inc. (www.skyboatroad.com), the most respected independent audio production team on the West Coast. 

About Prime Books

Prime Books (www.prime-books.com), edited and published by Hugo Award-nominee and World Fantasy Award-winner Sean Wallace, is an award-winning independent publishing house specializing in a mix of anthologies, collections, novels, and magazines. Some of its established and new authors/editors include John Joseph Adams, KJ Bishop, Philip K. Dick, Theodora Goss, Rich Horton, Nick Mamatas, Sarah Monette, Holly Phillips, Tim Pratt, Ekaterina Sedia, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jeff VanderMeer.

Contacts

Sean Wallace, publisher, sean@lightspeedmagazine.com
John Joseph Adams, fiction editor,
john@lightspeedmagazine.com
Andrea Kail, non-fiction editor,
andrea@lightspeedmagazine.com

Lightspeed's complete posting schedule for June 2010 follows:

June 1

Fiction: "I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan
Author Spotlight: Vylar Kaftan
Podcast: "I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan (on Escape Pod)
Editorial by John Joseph Adams

June 3

Nonfiction: "Is There Anybody Out There That Wants to Go Fast" by Mike Brotherton

June 8

Fiction: "The Cassandra Project" by Jack McDevitt
Author Spotlight: Jack McDevitt
Podcast: "The Cassandra Project" by Jack McDevitt, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki

June 10

Nonfiction: "The High Untresspassed Sanctity of Space: Seven True Stories about Eugene Cernan" by Genevieve Valentine

June 15

Fiction: "Cats in Victory" by David Barr Kirtley
Author Spotlight: David Barr Kirtley
Podcast: "Cats in Victory" by David Barr Kirtley (on Starship Sofa)

June 17

Nonfiction: "Top Ten Reasons Why Uplifted Animals Don't Make Good Pets" by Carol Pinchefsky

June 22


Fiction: "Amaryllis" by Carrie Vaughn
Author Spotlight: Carrie Vaughn
Podcast: "Amaryllis" by Carrie Vaughn, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki

June 24

Nonfiction: "Every Step We Take" by Amanda Rose Levy

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Untold Ghost at Pill Hill

I've been trying to get into a Pill Hill Press anthology pretty much since they started, so I was very pleased yesterday to get the news that co-editor Jessy Roberts had caved in and accepted my story The Untold Ghost for her forthcoming Haunted anthology.  It would be intelligence-insulting to explain much about what either the story or the anthology is about, so I'll just say that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one - Pill Hill have been putting out great-looking books since day one and I'm a sucker for a good ghost story.  (Damn!  And I was doing so well...)  No idea if a release date's been set yet, but I'd guess it'll be towards the back end of the year.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Death, Destroyer of Worlds : A Tweet

Wednesday saw the publication of my second twitter fiction sale, which you can read here at Thaumatrope if you've got approximately seven seconds to spare.  I'm conscious that this post is already longer than the story it's about, so I'll try to be brief!  Los Alamos, 1945, as my tweet would have been called if tweet-fiction allowed for titles, is an idea that I've been kicking about for years now, presented in probably its shortest possible form.  Unfortunately, this makes it a bit obtuse unless you happen to know quite a lot about the Trinity atomic bomb tests.  Oh well ... maybe one day I'll get it up to flash length and it'll all make sense...

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Today the War Ended in OG's Spec Fic

Monday saw the publication of my most prog-rock titled story yet, Today the War Ended, Tonight the Sky Burned, in issue 24 of free e-zine OG's Speculative Fiction.  Wow, what was I thinking?  A title so long that it's completely mucked up the carefully planned formatting on my website!  Still, it does a fairly good job of summing this little tale up, so maybe I shouldn't give it too hard a time.

I seem to remember having already said quite a bit about Today the War Ended.  It's kind of a science-fiction love story, although that shouldn't put anyone off, because there's very little in the way of either science or love to be found.  It's me in thoughtful mood, and definately a bit of an oddity. 

Also, nods of appreciation to Jeff Ward for his fantastic cover.  I seriously recommend taking a few minutes to check out Jeff's site, there's some lovely work on there.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Funland: Week Ten

Not a great amount to say about last week ... things were going badly, so by Wednesday I decided to go with the backup plan and spent a couple of days trimming what I'd already done of part four and plotting out the remainder.  It wasn't fun or satisfying, but it got me back on track, and I hope to have the section finished off by the end of this week.

The big news now, however, is that I finally have a new contract confirmed, with a pretty solid start date  - the 7th of June.  That means two and half more weeks for Funland, and that around some seriously hurried flat-hunting and packing.  Am I going to get finished?  Not a cat in hell's chance, but I shouldn't be far off, and I'll be suprised if I'm not done by the end of June.  I always figured that if I got to the 80K mark I'd be happy enough to finish up around a day job, and I'm almost there now.  So while it would have been cool to type THE END on the night before I start, I'm still pretty happy with how things are falling out.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Endangered Weapon Slightly Less Endangered Than a Week Ago

I posted a while back on the fact that my third comic script, currently titled Endangered Weapon B, had found itself looking for a new home after the magazine I'd written it for went the way of the Dodo itself.  This was a hard blow, not just for me personally but for the entirety of global civilisation, which I firmly believe is psychically crying out - even if it doesn't know it - for a comic featuring a mechanized grizzly bear, Nazi space dolphins, and a mad Norse-god-worshiping scientist going to extreme lengths to cure his "unfortunate social sicknesses".  Of course, the only way I can prove this perhaps vain-seeming theory is to get the thing in print, at which point I'm confident that world peace will ensue, or something equally unlikely.

Anyway, point is, I think I may have found a new publisher for Endangered Weapon B.  Since it's very early days, I won't say any more for the minute, except that they've put out some really nice-looking books in the past and it'll be immensely neat if it comes off.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Funland: Week Nine

Just a quick'un this week, since I've nothing remotely interesting to say.  I hit my target for last week, although it was a lot like pulling teeth, particularly towards the end.  Even working around checking my e-mail every three minutes for news of the job I'm waiting on I kept up a steady (if painful) 1500 words a day. 

Now, I'm not sure of my next step.  Do I try and push on through to the end of part four, which is looking like being another 10'000 or so words off?  Or, since I have no real deadline, do I go back to the drawing board a little and focus on getting the remainder as right as can be?  The latter seems to make sense, but then I have a feeling it might just be my subconscious urge to skive and prevaricate talking.  Anyway, the two things that occurred to me yesterday are that a) I don't really need to make a decision right now and b) any decision I do make stands a good chance of being changed by a development on the job front. 

So for the moment I'm plodding on as I was, eyes firmly on the tantalisingly close three-quarters point!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Funland: Week Eight

Last week was another no-news week in many ways, I lost three full days in travelling to an interview at the other end of the country (which thankfully the interviewer turned up for this time) and was so knackered from the unaccustomed driving that the last couple of days were hardly productive either.  I did at least reach the crucial three fifths (60'000 words) mark that's been eluding me for so long, finally finishing part three around Saturday lunchtime.

This week, though, things should be seriously looking up again.  I've no more interviews on the horizon, which is potentially awful news from a not-ending-up-sleeping-on-the-streets perspective but really good news for Funland.  Today was the first day in a while that I achieved the magic two thousand words, and you know what?  It felt good.  I see no reason I shouldn't hit 70'000 by the end of this week.  Of course, the devil makes work for rolling stones and all that, so maybe I shouldn't be tempting fate, but it would be nice to return to the kind of productivity I set out with, if only for a little while.

I'd thought about trying to actually write something about the whole novel-writing process this time around, but I suspect I'm too much in the thick of it right now to make any sensible observations.  I still wonder if I've been overambitious trying so many new things and stretching myself in so many directions all at once.  Writing with a big cast is new to me, and writing from multiple third-person perspectives is something I've only tried before on a much smaller scale, (in fact the only time I can think of off the top of my head is in The Painted City, recently published in Andromeda Spaceways).  I've never written anything with such a strong crime element before.  I've written my first proper sex scene - the only other one had a golem as one of the protagonists and probably doesn't count.  I've eschewed chapters in favour of this weird parts system, which may or may not have been a terrible idea.

Perhaps trying to jump just one or two of these hurdles might have been the wiser plan, instead of going for the lot in one go?  Time will tell, I guess.  To anyone facing a similar quandry, I would say that at least I'm learning more and faster than I ever have before, and I have a feeling the risks taken this time around will pay off if and when I get round to a third novel.  Either way, part of the intention for Funland was always to take the chance of being over-ambitious - and at three fifths and counting, it's too late to worry about it now.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Escape Velocity Magazine is grounded

PRESS RELEASE
 

Escape Velocity Magazine is grounded

By Geoff Nelder

A few years ago, a gap existed on the bookshelves of readers of science fiction, who also enjoyed reading snippets and arguments of fact. Robert Blevins was playing with the idea of a publishing venture featuring stories of adventure – mainly science fiction, but other genres too along with true-life stories of inspiration. Out of Adventure Books of Seattle came Escape Velocity: the magazine of science fact and fiction. Co-editors Robert Blevins in the USA, and Geoff Nelder in Britain were privileged to read thousands of stories and articles from amateurs and professional writers. Their model of production was unique in that instead of printing thousands of copies and sending them to wholesalers for distribution, the relatively new Print on Demand method was employed through Lulu.com. It allowed readers to select either an e-book, at the price of a coffee, or a beautiful print version at the price of a roadside lunch. Sadly, in spite of ferociously brilliant reviews, insufficient copies were purchased to make the venture worth the considerable effort involved.

Thousands of the e-books have been downloaded, when they are offered free – and still are from the website of Adventure Books of Seattle. It seems that the world isn’t quite ready for the necessary culture shift for the paradigm of purchasing magazines via the web. People enjoy selecting and buying magazines from stores, or by mail subscription, and are reluctant to try a different approach. Nevertheless, the four issues gave flight to over 50 writers, a debut publishing experience for many. It also saw book reviews, puzzles, marvellous illustrations, cartoons, poetry from Magdalena Ball, interviews with literary agents, actors and others in the science fiction business. It’s been a blast, as they say.

The ending is not sudden. There are enough accepted stories in the files of the editors to fill an anthology – with the Escape Velocity name. Those writers are being offered a place in that anthology along with payment, as they would have had in Escape Velocity.

Apart from the online nature of purchasing Escape Velocity up until now, the magazine had a good reception at conventions in both the US and UK, and will be missed by those friends who had bought their copies annually.  Besides the effort and financial resources taken up by the magazine by the publisher and editors, their time has recently been occupied by other ventures. In particular the intriguing true life story of D.B. Cooper, who’d daringly leapt from an airplane in the 1970s with his skyjacked loot, never to be caught. Robert Blevins and P.I. Skipp Porteous have collaborated on a project to reveal the identity of the daredevil robber, and after many interviews and going over the files, have come up with not only convincing evidence of D.B. Cooper’s real identity, but a compelling adventurous read with Into the Blast.

Escape Velocity may be grounded for the foreseeable future but the editors and others involved with the magazine would like to give a heartfelt thanks to the contributors and many well-wishers, who had encouraged them along the way. 

Refs:

Adventure Books of Seattle: http://www.adventurebooksofseattle.com

Into the Blast: The True Story of D.B. Cooper  http://amzn.to/9kFlvv

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Funland: Week Seven

Something of a no news week, which is one of the reasons I'm posting two days after it ended.  Between an interview last Tuesday that I travelled four hundred miles for only to have the interviewer not show and another interview yesterday at the opposite end of the country, I haven't had much time and my head hasn't really been in the novel-writing game.  Getting back into work is now the priority, and the more of Funland I can do around that the better but I can't let myself worry about it.

Taking that into account, I didn't do terribly last week, I'm a hair's breadth off the three fifths mark and the end of part three, and again I'm quite happy with most of what I produced.  But I'm once more behind where I'd hoped to be and worse, I haven't done the planning I'd intended.  So I should be able to get part three finished pretty easily, but whether I can roll on into four is another matter.

All of that said, if I get the job that I actually interviewed for (and for that matter if I don't) I should have ample time to get, at the very least, part four done, and a good chance of getting finished completely.  It would be fantastic to know I had a start date and return to the carefree innocence of last month, when writing really was the only thing I had to think about.  Ah, the halcyon days of four weeks ago...

Friday, 23 April 2010

Film Ramble: The Fall

I only heard about The Fall quite recently.  In fact, to say I heard about it is an overstatement, I saw a trailer somewhere and thought, 'hey, that looks interesting'.  I'm baffled as to how it managed to pass me by for four years, because it's one of the best fantasy films - indeed, one of the best films - I've seen.

The Fall covers similar thematic ground to The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen and Pan's Labyrinth - and while those are two of my all-time favourite movies, I wouldn't hesitate to say that it holds its own.  In 1920's LA, a young girl and a heart-broken Hollywood stuntman are recuperating in the same hospital.  After a chance encounter, the stuntman begins to tell an elaborate, fantastical story to the girl, for reasons that only become apparent as the plot develops.  We see both the events unfolding in the hospital and the tale the stuntman narrates, a bizarre and ever-shifting fable filtered through a child's perceptions and director Tarsem Singh's gorgeous imagery.  And by gorgeous, I mean gorgeous.  I can't wait to pick this up on blu-ray, it's like somebody animated a National Geographic calendar and then somehow worked in a surreal, exhilarating fantasy story just for kicks.

Oh, and if the poster looks familiar, it's because it's based on Salvador Dali's painting Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as an Apartment.  Why?  I have no clue, but it's kind of neat.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Reasons to be Afraid of Superheroes

I mentioned this when I first posted about the sale of my story Wunderkind to Bards and Sages Quarterly, but it bears repeating: if superheroes actually existed then they would be really scary.  I don't just mean the ones that are supposed to be scary either.  Superman?  Scary.  Sure, he means well, but he happens to get his x-ray vision and his heat vision mixed up when he's trying to read your T-shirt size and you're going to end up a twiglet.

So as a small step towards redressing all the pro-superhero propaganda out there, Wunderkind appears in the April issue of Bards and Sages, available in print from Amazon.com and CreateSpace, and electronically from DriveThruFantasy.  For once, I've actually seen a copy, and it's an extremely nicely put together 'zine.  One thing that really struck me is that the decision to offer plenty of very short stories is a good idea, a few times I've bought a magazine only to find that half the issue was taken up with a single tale that I didn't get on with.  Also, it's another truly beautiful cover, amongst my favourites of the magazines I've had work in.

While I'm plugging, the latest issue of Andromeda Spaceways, with my bizarre sci-fi mini-epic The Painted City within, is now available from their website, although oddly with an entirely black cover.  How much more black can you get than that?  Why, none more black, of course.