Where Everybody Knows Your Name – now available

Issue 250 of AntipodeanSF is out, and my short story ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name‘ is available for reading amongst over 50 stories and images produced exclusively for this edition.

Image by Michael Connolly https://www.antisf.com.au

AntipodeanSF was the first place I published a story, way back in 2012. Writers out there will know what that feels like, the first time someone believes in your work and likes it enough that they are willing to put their name to it as editor, and send it out into the world. AntipodeanSF will always have a special place in my heart as a result. But over the years, what has really struck me is how many authors I admire and respect have a similar story to tell about AntipodeanSF. So many excellent people producing work to this day in part because Ion “Nuke” Newcombe believed in them, and gave them an early credit. You only have to look down the table of contents of this excellent anthology to see what I mean. 

Congratulations Nuke on 21 excellent years, with hopefully at least another 21 in front of you.

Publication news – AntipodeanSF issue 250

I received some very exciting news this weekend. A short story of mine, Where Everybody Knows Your Name, has been accepted for publication in the upcoming 250th issue of AntipodeanSF.

Long time readers will know that I’ve published quite a few flash fiction pieces in AntipodeanSF over the years, so when Ion “Nuke” Newcombe put out the call to the community of writers that have previously published with him to do a special, longer short story for the 250th issue I knew I had to try to be a part of it.

I snuck my story submission in with a whole hour to spare before the 31 March deadline, and I got the great news back today that my story made the cut.

AntipodeanSF has been going since 1998 – that’s 21 years ago – and Nuke was a pioneer of the internet age, back when most of us couldn’t even spell internet. He has given so many authors their first writing credit over the years, and is an absolute stalwart of the Australian speculative fiction community.

Issue 250 is exciting stuff. There will be over 45 stories (see the end of this post for a list of just some of the titles), and Nuke will be producing the issue as an anthology as well as an online read, so you can actually read your favourite AntipodeanSF authors in print, if you so desire!

There are so many stories that Nuke will be leaving them up for 3 months on the website, with issue 251 not appearing until August 2019.

I’m very excited, and proud, to be a part of such a fantastic milestone for AntipodeanSF. If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy my story.

As well as my story, the issue will include excellent work such as:

  • 10 To The Six And The Natural Order Of Things by Shaun A. Saunders
  • A Place Of My Own by Zebuline Carter
  • A Rift Of No Return by Laurie Bell
  • A Witch’s Place by Zena Shapter
  • Between The Ticks by Lynda Young
  • Beware! The Blab by Tony Owens
  • Cassini Falling by Cat Sparks
  • Cloned + Apocalypse by Eugen M. Bacon
  • Colour by Jason Butterfield
  • Dissonance by Jason Nahrung
  • End of Days by Ray O’Brien
  • Evidence Of A Dark Transformation by Phllip Berrie
  • Frank’s Best Friend by Col Hellmuth
  • Halloween Party by Kim Rose
  • Hatch by Trent Jamieson
  • In A Phobos Garden by Rick Kennett
  • In Salt And Starlight by Pamela Jeffs
  • Neanderthal by Edwina Harvey
  • Off Planet by Tony Steven Williams
  • Once Upon A Moonlit Clearing by Rebecca Fraser
  • Pictures Of You by Ishmael A Soledad
  • Possession by Lee Battersby
  • Sandbox by Kevin J. Phyland
  • Science Fiction by Jackie Hosking
  • Serratoria by Chris Gladstone
  • Sit Up And Beg by Michael T. Schaper
  • Slower Than The Speed Of Light by Kris Ashton
  • Soylent 7 by Shane Griffin
  • Sparks by Martin Livings
  • Special Delivery by Garry Dean
  • The First Law Of Havoc by David Kernot
  • The Forgotten Sea by Louise Zedda-Sampson
  • The Optimist by Simon Brown
  • The Past Begins by Jan Napier
  • The Slow by Antoinette Rydyr
  • Trespassing by Sue Clennell
  • when Willie came home from the war hoorah hoorah by Bart Meehan

And more… 

The Reclaimers – out now in Dimension6 #13

Well, it has finally happened. My novella, “The Reclaimers”, is available in issue 13 of Dimension6.

I’m very excited to have this novella see the light of day. Regular readers might recall my post when the story was first accepted by Keith Stevenson. In that post I talked about some of the history of the story, and thanked a few people who helped along the way. Go back and have a read of that post if you’re interested. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

A little blurb to whet your appetite:

Ulanda wanders along the edge of civilisation, cleansing border towns of a deadly residue that lingers from the magical weapons of mass destruction that ended the war. It’s the only job still allowed for the paranormally-inclined and life is adequate, until an old girlfriend appears with a questing opportunity that Ulanda knows she absolutely should refuse…

Or the much more succinct:

Wizard garbage disposers – the pay stinks but the hours… yeah, they’re pretty bad too.

Not only will you get to read “The Reclaimers”, but you’ll also get to read two other excellent stories by Emilie Collyer and Robert Stephenson:

‘Reckoning’ by Emilie Collyer
The Earth was broken. Gia was broken. Could they save each other?

‘Water for Antiques’ by Robert Stephenson
Dravid couldn’t believe his luck. Maybe he was right not to.

And how much will these three stories cost you? Well, inexplicably Keith gives away Dimension6 absolutely free! Now you can’t ask better than that.

Go to the Dimension6 page at Coeur de Lion Publishing, or you can even get the issue here (this site is an affiliate for D6). I hope you enjoy reading “The Reclaimers” and would love to hear from you with feedback (good or bad!).

Great publishing news!

I had some exciting news a couple of weeks back. Dimension6, an excellent Australian speculative fiction magazine, accepted my novella, The Reclaimers, for publication.

The Reclaimers is a secondary world fantasy, where a magical weapon of mass destruction has left a world impacted by magical waste. The only use of magic now allowed is reclaiming, absorbing the magical waste to allow crops to grow, and people to not get sick. The story revolves around two reclaimers as they make their way around the edges of society where they are still tolerated.

I’ve had this novella kicking around for some time, but could never get it quite right. There also aren’t that many venues that take novellas, especially from little known authors. So, the story languished – sitting on my hard drive, enduring a little tinkering now and then but not really going anywhere.

And then, earlier this year, I decided I might self-publish it. I liked the story but I had got it into my head that no one would publish it. But only I had looked at it – and if I was going to self publish, I needed an external perspective. So, I put a call out for beta-readers and three people answered that call.

Ion “Nuke” Newcombe is the editor of Antipodean SF, who have published some of my flash fiction. Nuke gave some high level comments, and encouraged me to shop the story around before considering self-publishing. I’m very grateful for that friendly push – without it, I probably wouldn’t have made the effort to submit The Reclaimers to Dimension6!

Rhonda Selg also answered the call. Rhonda went through and provided some excellent, thought provoking comments that really helped sharpen the story. Rhonda has recently released her own book, Filigree Rings and other Fae things, which I’d encourage everyone to check out!

And finally, Kathryn Flaherty. Kathryn went above and beyond, and provided some of the most detailed comments anyone ever has for one of my stories. This feedback was invaluable, and really improved the quality of the story. If The Reclaimers is of publishable quality, it is in a large part because of Kathryn’s feedback. Kathryn recently had a flash fiction piece published at Antipodean SF, and also occasionally blogs.

If you eventually read and like The Reclaimers, it will be because of the excellent work of these three beta readers. If you don’t like it, you can definitely still blame me!

The Reclaimers is slated for release in Dimension6 in April 2018. I have nothing but appreciation for the most excellent Keith Stevenson, editor and publisher at Coeur de Lion (the creators of Dimension6) for the faith he has shown in my story.

The Devil Wears Shapeless Ugly Garments Covered in Dog Hair (a story)

A colleague and friend once said to me (in a moment of rare frustration) “You know Mark, you should write a story called ‘The Devil Wears Shapeless Ugly Garments Covered in Dog Hair’”. I really liked the title, so I decided to oblige.

At their worst, public service performance reviews can feel like being savaged by a pack of wild dogs. This story does not contain a particularly subtle metaphorical treatment of the subject.

It is, I guess, a sequel to ‘In the Service of the Public‘, if flash fiction can have sequels.


The Devil Wears Shapeless Ugly Garments Covered in Dog Hair

Oh god, performance appraisal time,’ Alison thought as the mauve indicator light flashed in the corner of the screen. It was her supervisor, T’ahmar.

Ever since Earth’s artificial-black-hole-induced implosion, Alison had drifted from job to job throughout the bureaucracies that made up the Interstellar Coalition Public Service. Initial sympathy for her plight had morphed into curiosity, which had then solidified into indifference.

The years danced by. No alien race was willing to take on the burden of the million or so human refugees who happened to be away from home when the accident happened. The reality of it was that governments only allowed proper citizens to take senior positions in their public services.

So Alison, once considered the bright future of the Earth Department of Foreign Affairs, was reduced to menial filing in a backwater colony of the Frusbian Empire — a grand name considering the Frusbians had colonised only three moons and a mining asteroid in their own solar system.

Still, human beggars like Alison couldn’t be choosers. With no place to call their own and so little in the way of aid from the other races, humanity drifted towards the edge of extinction. The Sol system had been evacuated and was still off-limits. Any habitable planets in what had been known as human space were claimed by civilisations with military capability. The few nascent human colonies were relocated, “for their own protection”. Humanity was the new underclass of the civilised worlds.

The indicator flashed again. T’ahmar didn’t like to be kept waiting. Not that her previous supervisor Z’utpok had been lenient, but he had at least recognised that Alison — despite being human — had significant skills to offer. Z’utpok had allowed her to help with issues of policy, and she had been instrumental in getting his bureaucratic pièce de résistance approved by the Frusbian government.

Flushed with success and singing Alison’s praises, Z’utpok immediately retired. Unfortunately, the senior bureaucrat brought in to replace him moved to populate senior posts with former colleagues selected more for loyalty than competence. Before long Alison found herself on the wrong side of her new boss T’ahmar through a combination of her connection to the previous regime, her non-Frusbianness, and her all too human tendency to speak her mind.

Now T’ahmar had insisted on a traditional performance review. While theoretically still legal, the orthodox Frusbian performance review was considered barbaric and tasteless by most modern commentators. Still, if Alison was going to save up enough money to get off this rock she’d have to go through with it.

Alison donned the traditional Frusbian review garb (which looked to her more like a hessian sack) and mentally reviewed what she knew about the D’armen attack dogs that T’ahmar favoured. Once she was as ready as she would ever be, she grabbed her favourite duelling dagger from her desk and headed out towards the Review Arena, trying all the while to think of a better way to earn a living.

THE END


‘The Devil Wears Shapeless Ugly Garments Covered in Dog Hair’ was originally published in Antipodean SF, in issue 171 (September 2012). It is also available in the free collection of my published flash fiction and short stories A Flash in the Pan?See my bibliography for more details about my published work.

New story “Narration Blues” published on AntipodeanSF

One of my flash fiction pieces, titled “Narration Blues”, is in the latest addition of AntipodeanSF, an Australian publication.

It cannot be denied that “Narration Blues” is a silly story. I was listening to the voice over at the start of a fantasy television series, and I thought to myself “gee this is a lot of backstory – lucky they got the right person”. What if the hero died? Didn’t quite finish the quest? Gave up to become a carrot farmer? All that wasted destiny…

“Narration Blues” is the result.

As always, many thanks to Ion “Nuke” Newcombe, the editor of AntipodeanSF, for his support of my work. This is the 11th flash fiction piece that Nuke has published of mine, for which I am very grateful.

In the Service of the Public (a story)

To be honest, this story occurred to me as I sat in a prestigious program for promising public servants listening to a self important lecturer drone on about his own greatness. When I realised there was still an hour to go in the lecture I started to wish the world would end. So in some ways this story was semi-autobiographical. Sans the black hole of course.


In the Service of the Public 

Alison’s vision blurred as she stretched the skin of her forehead towards the ceiling in a desperate attempt to stop her eyes from drifting shut. The eminent professor was pleased with his own accomplishments. He droned on, happy to let the audience bask in the light of his genius.

With an effort, Alison snapped the fuzzy image before her into a sharp, three-dimensional representation of the source of her lethargy. After all, it was an honour to have been selected for the Interstellar Coalition Public Service leadership development program. It offered Alison the chance to rub shoulders with colleagues from the seven Coalition planets, and it was a hopeful sign of things to come back on Earth.

Not to mention that the prestigious Hawker Memorial School of Interstellar Government was named after the woman who had bound the human race together after its first encounter with intelligent extraterrestrials — the reptilian Aazorks. As Earth’s inaugural President, Hawker had also negotiated the first Aazork treaties. That, in turn, had paved the way for the Coalition, and inevitably the ICPS.

Six months of dedicated training about the habits and cultural traits of the various species that made up the Coalition was a huge investment by the Earth bureaucracy. Alison’s heart swelled with pride just thinking about it. The trip out to this giant space station in the middle of nowhere had taken nearly three months, and the trip back would take just as long — a full year out of Alison’s life, but time well spent.

As the professor’s self-important drone continued unabated in the background, Alison couldn’t help but wonder what she would do upon her return. She certainly wished that a better faster-than-light drive had been invented, and that the relativity effects had been overcome. Being away for a year was difficult, but by the time she returned over 10 years would have passed on Earth. She’d been a perfect choice — no family, excellent at her job, and practical enough to see the time invested as worthwhile. This trip would propel her to the heights of the Earth Department of Foreign Affairs, but she didn’t even know who would be in charge when she returned, let alone what position she might hold.

A wave of muted noise suddenly rippled across the room. The professor stopped speaking, visibly struggling with the concept that anything could be more important than his lecture.

Alison turned to the man sitting beside her. He was staring at his datasheet in horror.

‘What’s going on?’, she asked.

Her fellow student’s face was ashen. It took him some moments to formulate a reply. ‘News just in on the quantum entanglement coms system. There’s been an accident back home. Scientists started that damn Extra Large Hadron Collider and the Earth has been swallowed by the black hole it generated!’

Alison slumped back in her seat trying to process the shocking information. She could only wonder what a career in the Aazork public service might be like.

THE END


‘In the Service of the Public’ was originally published in Antipodean SF, in issue 169 (July 2012). It is also available in the free collection of my published flash fiction and short stories A Flash in the Pan?See my bibliography for more details about my published work.

Striking Twice (a story)

Time travel stories have always bugged me a bit. Especially the part where essentially the same people wander around changed timelines except with nothing altered except slightly different personalities. I mean come on – wait five seconds to have sex and you’ll end up with a completely different child. If someone did go back in time and start to change things you most likely would end up with completely different people populating the planet. Worrying about this really takes me out of a time travel story. Striking Twice was the result of trying to work through that frustration on the page.


Striking Twice

Roy sat in the delivery room clutching his wife’s hand while the surgeon worked. Breech birth. It was a good sign. The original pregnancy had been breech.

Yes. The right day, and the right time at the culmination of a similar pregnancy. An excellent match as far as his fuzzy and somewhat overloaded memory could tell.

‘Here she comes!’ cried the surgeon with her professional, practiced enthusiasm.

Roy looked up, a wild, desperate hope clutching at his heart. The baby emerged — first the legs, then the stomach and chest, and finally the head. She was beautiful: perfectly formed, and already filling her lungs to scream her displeasure at the world.

Roy slumped, disappointment and despair vying for supremacy. It wasn’t Ella.

He raised leaden fingers to the device on his wrist and tapped a few keys. The room shimmered, then faded away. As his existence unraveled, he wondered how it was that a disembodied consciousness could feel so sick to its stomach.

After a period of time that was both instantaneous and infinite, the world snapped back into focus.

Roy felt the strength and energy of his reduced years flood into him. He was always 18 after the transition — there didn’t seem to be any way to avoid that. Since he had created that first connection it was as if his consciousness had no choice but to follow the same path whenever he activated the device.

That first journey had been unforgettable. He had abandoned his ancient and ravaged body, and regained the glory of youth with a whole life stretched out before him — one where he essentially knew the future. Wealth, power, wine, women and song — Roy had loved every minute of it. This time he had invented the device much earlier, and lived in the sure knowledge that if anything truly bad happened he could go back and start again.

But as Roy’s 20s faded into the distance and he marched confidently into his 30s, he found himself thinking more and more about his daughter Ella. He hadn’t considered her potential lack of existence when he’d jumped. Anxious, Roy had sought out his former, and hopefully future, wife. But his new über-confident personality had cooled her interest. When the original date of Ella’s birth came and went, he decided to try again, and fired up the device.

Since then Roy had lived a hundred partial lifetimes, trying in each one to recreate the circumstances that had brought Ella into his life. He’d soon worked out how to match the broad events, but the critical detail proved tricky.

It all came down to Roy’s sperm. The average man carries billions of the little buggers. Which one makes it over the line to fertilisation depends on fragile, delicately balanced factors — factors that had so far frustrated his efforts at replication.

Roy squinted into the bright sunlight, squared his shoulders, and set out on yet another attempt to make lightning strike twice.

THE END


‘Striking Twice’ was originally published in Antipodean SF, in issue 168 (June 2012). It is also available in the free collection of my published flash fiction and short stories A Flash in the Pan?See my bibliography for more details about my published work.

Creative Commons License

This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Publication – Narration Blues

Some excellent news over the summer, when Ion ‘Nuke’ Newcombe, the editor of Antipodean SF, picked up one of my flash fiction pieces, called ‘Narration Blues’.

‘Narration Blues’ will feature in issue 226 of Antipodean SF, due out in May 2017.

This will be the 11th flash fiction piece I’ve published in Antipodean SF, and I remain very grateful that Nuke has been such a big supporter of my work.

Make Mine a Macchiato (a story)

I wanted to try something a little away from science fiction as well as something a little silly. ‘Make Mine a Macchiato’ was the result. It was also the first time I showed a story in progress to a non-writer friend. While I didn’t agree with all the feedback, I did gain an appreciation for the benefit of better understanding what your potential audience might like. In this instance, my friend wasn’t a big fan of the ambiguity at the end of the story. I liked it so in the end I kept it, but it was a good reminder that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.


Make Mine a Macchiato

Jack was used to tickles of insight that warned him when things weren’t quite right. His talents didn’t lie in proper prognostication — even the thought of tracking the probabilities of multiple potential futures gave him a headache. But every now and then he got a nudge, an inkling that things were about to get ugly. Mostly, those flashes were frustrating and vague. Fortunately, the crushing waves of terror helped him pinpoint the problem this time.

A portal hung open in the middle of the footpath, like a malicious shimmering eye. Through it Jack could see the hazy image of a person. Well, perspective was a little tricky. Perhaps larger than a person. In fact, if he wasn’t an avowed atheist Jack could have sworn he was looking at…

“A demon?” Jack muttered.

“Come on, Jack,” the purported demon said. “You don’t believe in all that supernatural bullshit. Psionics are a completely natural phenomenon. Why would this be any different?”

Jack squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose in the universally acknowledged mechanism for dispelling hallucinations.

It didn’t work. Some form of response seemed in order.

“If you are human that’s a bloody good disguise,” Jack managed. “You seem to have more horns than I’m used to seeing on the average pedestrian, and the red marbling throughout your suspiciously stony skin…”

“Yes, well, I’m sure there are plenty of rational explanations,” it interrupted. “Anything from a complicated government conspiracy involving a new form of sensory mind control through to that dodgy kebab you ate last night. Does it really matter?”

Jack supposed not, although interpretations that pointed to mental instability would be of concern. The fact that no passersby were freaking out seemed to lend that branch of thought credence and Jack said as much.

“Look, Jacky boy,” the devil shaped entity said. “I’m really just looking for someone to buy me a macchiato. The cafe across the road is my favourite, and it isn’t every day that a certified level 17 psionic walks by. Do a demon a favour and pick me up one would you?”

Jack remembered enough stories to know that he was in dangerous bargaining territory. But he didn’t believe in demons. So why was he still standing here? He started to back away, slowly.

The as yet unproved daemon raised its hands in placation.

“Jack. Mate. Look at it this way. Right now you’re worried you might be crazy. If you hand over the coffee and it actually disappears you’ll know you’re sane. If it doesn’t, well…early psychiatric intervention can only be a good thing.”

The apparition made a reasonable point. Jack shrugged, crossed the road, and purchased a macchiato for it — and a flat white for himself. He used the cardboard carrying tray to pass the small cup through the portal’s glistening threshold to the eagerly waiting fiend on the other side, then stood back to find out if demons were real.

THE END


‘Make Mine a Macchiato’ was originally published in Antipodean SF, in issue 166 (April 2012). It is also available in the free collection of my published flash fiction and short stories A Flash in the Pan?See my bibliography for more details about my published work.

Creative Commons License

This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.