First acceptance for publication!

Well, it is all excitement here at Webb HQ. A little while ago I submitted a flash fiction piece to Antipodean SF, a long running website devoted to the publication of short form (flash) science/speculative fiction. I’ve been following the Anti-SF site for a while now, in particular through their weekly podcast which keeps me entertained on my walk into work.

(Flash fiction refers to very short stories that are usually in the 500 – 1000 word range. Antipodean SF focuses on the shorter end of that range, around 500 words. It is very interesting to write, because you can generally only explore one idea and you have to make every word count – it instills a real discipline in your work).

Last night Ion Newcombe (the editor of the site and presenter of the podcast) wrote back to me to say that my story (Shipwrecked) had been accepted. My very first publication! As well as the story getting published on the website, it will also be broadcast on the radio/podcast. I’m in the process of trying to work out how to use GarageBand on my Mac to record myself reading the story for that purpose. And I thought recording a voicemail message was stressful!

Ion made some very sensible editorial suggestions – it was interesting to go through an editorial process for the first time. The changes were small but did help the story track better. I can see why authors often talk about how invaluable an editor is – it was excellent to have someone read the story from a completely independent viewpoint, where the only criterion is making the story better.

So, Shipwrecked will be included in issue 164 of Antipodean Speculative Fiction due out in February 2012. And I’ve had to create a bibliography page on the website! And I’m having a day off work!! It doesn’t get much better than this.

(For more about Antipodean SF, have a look at the Magazines and Podcasts pages under the Links menu item on this website).

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #51 – review

This is the first issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) that I’ve read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think I’m going to have to stop saying things like “it was a bit of a mixed bag” in these discussions on magazines – that is true of every one of them.

In this particular issue, I quite liked Basil Hawthorne and the Cliff Tomb by E Catherine Tobler, which describes an old fashioned adventurer and his brush with the spirit of Hatshepsut in one of her tombs. I liked the style of the writing it was a short piece but well rendered. I liked that almost Indiana Jones feel to a bit of swashbuckling adventure.

A Mirror, Darkly by Keith Stevenson struck a chord for different reasons. It is set around where I live, so the references to places I’m familiar with was both cool and a bit distracting. It is a horror story and well written. This kind of story isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I found myself intrigued right through to the (somewhat grisly) end.

I also enjoyed Children of War by Rachel Zakuta. This story, describing some of the aftermath of humanities rebellion against alien overlords, was interesting. I didn’t feel a strong connection with any of the characters, but I thought it described the detail of the universe well in a very short period of time. The end was a little unsatisfying, but did fit in with the rest of the story.

Now you won’t hear me say this often about poetry, but I actually liked Lacking an Adequate Metaphor for the Human Brain by Darrell Schweitzer. The layout of the poem was cool, the content was witty and the subject matter interesting. I like the thought of hyper intelligent but zen like goldfish.

Merchant’s Run by Calie Voorhis was a fun story to read, describing the adventures of Merchant and her ship Old Maid’s Mercy in the far future, and in particular the perils of dealing with bubbles in the pirate trade economy. I liked the style of the writing and it was consistently amusing all the way through.

Nessa 1944 by Ellen C Glass was an enjoyable tale about the evolution of an AI told from the point of view of a high tech cleaner she befriends. The character of Robbie was well realised.

This is a quarterly magazine and there were a boatload of other stories/poems/articles, including:

  • Bonsai by Robin Shortt
  • Aberrant Artifacts Found in Two Owl Indian Mound by Lee Clark Zumpe
  • The Household Debt by Chris Miles
  • The Story of the Ship that Brought Us Here by Stephan Case
  • The Birds, the Bees, and Thylacine by Thoraiya Dyer
  • Following in Harlan’s Footsteps by Sandra M Odell
  • A Cup of Smoke by Rachel Manija Brown
  • The Tectonics of the Misty Mountains by Chris Large
  • Review of the film Limitless by Jacob Edwards

I believe issue # 52 has just come out, looking forward to getting my copy.

Aurealis #44 – review

I subscribed to the magazine in mid-2011 and they recently sent out a copy of issue #44. This edition was published in 2010 and afterwards the magazine went into an extended hiatus (I believe the editor, Stuart Mayne, retired). According to the Aurealis website the next edition should be out in late 2011/early 2012. I hope so, this was a good read.

I really enjoyed gunning for a tinker man by Jason Fischer, a story based in a post-apocalyptic world where the main character, Lanyard, is a fallen “jesusman” (a caste of warrior priest types who can kill the ‘witches’ that prey on the remnants of the human race). I also enjoyed for the want of a jesusman that I heard on the Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction podcast (number 18) set in the same world. The characters are not clean cut hero types and I enjoyed the way the world was described and realised. Fairly gritty and violent in places – not for the faint of heart or those that like a neat happy ending. I understand from Mr Fischer’s website that he is working on a full novel set in the same world, which I am now very much looking forward to reading.

I also particularly enjoyed Storm in a T-Suit by Simon Petrie (a good rescue story based in an interesting depiction of the frontiers of colonisation of the solar system), The Death of Skandar Taranisaii by K J Taylor (love a bit of swords and sandals action) and A Billion Tiny Lights by Adam Ford (I am quite fond of the flash fiction format at the moment).

The other stories in the edition were fine stories, overall I liked the magazine a lot.

  • Runners by Christopher Snape
  • We All Fall Down by Kirstyn McDermott
  • Jumbuck by Christopher Green

Analog – September 2011 – review

This month’s Analog is a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve been enjoying the serialised novella  Energized by Edward M. Lerner. It is part III of IV this month and the race by Russian sponsored terrorists to use a prototype microwave power transferring satellite as a weapon of mass destruction gathers pace. There is some interesting exploration of potential alternative energy sources when the world runs short of usable oil. The action in space is more interesting than on the ground, but this story has kept me engaged all the way through and I’m looking forward to the finale in next month’s issue.

I also enjoyed Asteroid Monte by Craig DeLancey – a short space detective story (but then I’ve always been a sucker for a space detective story). It’s a pretty straight forward and quickly resolved mystery with perhaps slightly too much time on the setup given the length of the overall story, but still I enjoyed it.

The other stories in the issue were OK, but none of them stood out for me. I don’t know that I would strongly recommend them but none of them were offensively bad or anything.

  • Therapeutic Mathematics and the Physics of Curve Balls by Gray Rineheart
  • Helix of Friends by Carl Frederick
  • Hostile Environment by Emily Mah
  • The Chaplain’s Assistant by Brad R. Torgersen

Game of Thrones – Season 1 – review

I suspect that anyone that isn’t already thoroughly sick of people reviewing Game of Thrones has probably spent the last 6 months in the speculative fiction version of Siberia, but for those that haven’t heard of it Game of Thrones is a new American TV series (10 episodes) based around the A Song of Ice and Fire (ASIF) series of books by George RR Martin.

I’ll be clear up front – it has been over a decade since I read any of the ASIF books. I read the first three and really liked them, but it was so long between drinks that by the time the fourth book came out (A Feast for Crows) I would have had to go back and read the first three again, which I never quite found time to do. There are 7 books in the ASIF series (5 released, 2 more planned) and I’ll probably wait until all 7 are out before I try to read the lot (I’ve learned my lesson from trying to keep up with the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series).

Each season of GoT is based around one of the books in ASIF series. So I had a hazy recollection of the plot, just enough for me to remember major plot points about 5 minutes before they happened. This was a bit distracting.

Putting that aside, I really liked this series. The acting was excellent. At the time of writing, Peter Dinklage (playing Tyrion Lannister) has just won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie and it was absolutely deserved. While his was the stand out performance, I find it hard to fault any of the actors.

The plot stayed true to my (admittedly incomplete) memory of the novel. The opening credits are something to behold – I believe they might have won an Emmy for those too (although why there is a “Best Opening Credits” Emmy is beyond me).

I won’t give any spoilers – many Australians without pay TV may not have had a chance to see the series as yet. But if you like your fantasy to reflect a cold, hard world and you don’t mind a bit of nudity, this is almost certainly the TV series for you.

Worldshaker by Richard Harland – review

Went on a course by Richard Harland at the NSW Writer’s Centre on September 3 2011. Thought I better know something about his work, so I’ve started reading one of his successful recent novels Worldshaker. Alternate history steam punk styled work, based on a society that lives in a juggernaut – a giant mobile fortress rolling across the world (called Worldshaker of course). Aimed at young adults but interesting so far for adults as well.

Wish there had been more novels like this when I was a young adult!

Writing Imaginary Worlds workshop

Went to the Writing Imaginary Worlds workshop with Richard Harland on Saturday 3rd September 2011, hosted by the NSW Writer’s Centre.

It was my first writing course of any sort, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ten people came together to listen to Richard speak on the realities of writing in the speculative fiction genre in Australia. I found it really interesting – not just in hearing from Richard, but also being in a room with 9 other early stage speculative fiction authors.

It took me quite a while to steel my nerve enough to go along to a writing course. I was as much worried about interacting with the other writers (all of whom I was convinced would have oodles more credibility than I did) as I was about whether I was prepared enough to get a lot out of the session.

I’m pleased to say that my fellow writers were as pleasant a bunch of people that I could have hoped to meet. While my writing output was towards the low end (some people had done a very impressive amount of work) I didn’t really feel out of place after my initial butterflies subsided. Indeed I learnt a lot just listening to some of the other stories and experiences of the others. I’ve even made two email pals out of the process (you know who you are K and P).

The content of the workshop itself was very much aligned with Richard’s writing tips website, but it was interspersed with practical exercises which were very thought provoking.

Richard very generously stayed back to spend time with each of the students. I went through the basic plot of Unaligned with him, which was very useful. First time I’d tried to explain the plot to anyone. I found his feedback very helpful and have made some changes as a result.

Marks Tips for Surviving a Workshop

  • DO turn up 10 minutes early. I was there right on the dot and all the eager beavers were already half way round the table doing introductions!
  • DON’T be too concerned with how much writing you’ve done going in – obviously having done some is helpful, but there was a lot of encouragement in the room no matter how new to writing people were.
  • DO chat to your fellow writers in the breaks. Some of my highlights for the day came from those informal conversations.
  • DO take any offered opportunities to chat to the lecturer. By this I don’t mean try to sell them your book or anything, but it gives you a chance to ask some of those questions.
  • DO try and take the time to exchange contact details with anyone who is interested. I’ve had some great email conversations with two of my fellow writers in the weeks after the course and I wish I’d grabbed the details from even more people attending.
  • DO encourage people to add tips for surviving workshops or any other general thoughts on workshops in general in the comments sections below any posts you’ve written about the workshop…