23 January 2011

My short story ‘Operation Stack’ is going to appear in a forthcoming issue of the Irish sf magazine Albedo One. It’s set around the Channel ports of Kent in an alternate 1985 – inspired by histories of the UK secret state, eighties and neo-eighties TV drama, and an idea that first came to me when I thought I heard a radio traffic report say that the time tunnel, rather than the Tyne tunnel, had had to close…

The meaning of hard work

30 December 2010

My (very) short story ‘The Meaning of Hard Work’ is now up at Every Day Fiction. Enjoy!

Edge of seat

3 December 2010

I currently have two stories shortlisted in very exciting places.

Now if only I had enough time at the moment to keep writing more like those…


30 November 2010

I’ve just heard that my flash fiction crime story ‘The Meaning of Hard Work’ is going to be published at Every Day Fiction. (One of the readers calls it ‘light years beyond politics’ and another enjoys its ‘nice level of dark suspense’.) I’ll update with a publication date once I have one…


22 September 2010

What’s the next likely movement in speculative fiction? According to Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., one of nine writers asked by SF Signal, it’s neo-oriental cyber-imperialism:

Take a near future post-colonial setting — best in Asia, but even the Balkans will do –, place it in a future dominated by natural environmental catastrophe and the global manipulations of Euro-American corporations allied with native elites, include AIs with retro-national qualities (this makes them seem “neo-indigenous”), simulations of archaic beliefs, neo-Ruritarian political intrigues — add a dash of feralized GM animals (cyber-beasts will do) — and a plotline with no possible realistic political resolution, since neither nature nor technology has any redeeming value any more. Good stuff and diversity — from Air to River of Gods to Wind-Up Girl, maybe even City and the City fits here (ironically).

And that’s four of my favourite books right there…


23 July 2010

Ian McDonald’s interview with the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography makes me realise what fascinates me so much about the worldbuilding in his near-future India, Brazil and Turkey (River of Gods, Brasyl and The Dervish House): he sees himself as an ethnographer, to all intents and purposes:

It takes years. I read a lot. I travel a lot — and as much as I can afford. I talk to people, I read the papers. I cook the food. I buy the music, I follow the sports teams. I try to second-guess what the government will do in international politics. I learn a bit of the language. I study the religion. I study the etiquette. I try and work out what the day-to-day details are like. I watch people. I have a very strong visual memory and I can recreate an entire scene in my head and observe details. I cultivate an eye for detail. I take thousands of photographs of boring everyday things. I look at what’s on sale in gas stations and what that tells you about a culture. I study the ads. I talk to more people. I get hammered on the local booze. I try to take the country’s political position in the world news. I watch television. I read books for those tiny details. Is this like Method Acting? WTF are you doing with those lights?!?

Teaser Tuesday 19

13 July 2010

This is how it works:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) ‘teaser’ sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your ‘teaser’ from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

A quick one from The Red Tree by Caitlín R Kiernan – a diary-format horror novel about a writer having an even less productive summer than I am. (At least I’m not being haunted by a dead lover or an old oak tree.)

Anyway, I’m left to conclude that the late Dr. Harvey’s unfinished book, in all likelihood, went to the local landfill or a bonfire or whatever, if it’s true that the daughter in Maine claimed none of his effects. I can’t imagine why Blanchard would have lied about something like that. All that survives is that one peculiar page, incomplete reflections on ‘bloody apples’ from a tree that died seventy years ago. (p. 67)


2 July 2010

Even for someone with more spatial awareness than I have, my workplace’s location would be best described as ‘the back of bloody beyond’ (with, of course, all due respect). If you miss the bus – no thanks to the print shop man who’s commandeered the street outside his shop front for huge posterboards that obscure the single-deckers coming – there’s no margin for error. Run out of sticky tape before an authorised person can procure you some more through the approved channel, and it’s going to be the best part of an hour’s round trip.

Somebody has wheeled a supermarket trolley on to a grass verge by the road. This isn’t (you would think) a favourite area for drunken louts. I can’t imagine anyone was wheeling their shopping home with it until an acquaintance drove past and offered them a lift. That supermarket doesn’t even have a branch anywhere near here.

So what did they think that they were doing with it?

Anthropology fail

1 July 2010

Marie Brennan, the author of Doppelganger, Warrior and Witch and the Onyx Court series (and a trained anthropologist), is not very impressed with the representation of her discipline on Bones:

How is she atrocious? Let me count the ways, starting with her lack of people skills. Fieldwork is a fundamental part of cultural anthropology, and the primary component of fieldwork is talking to people. Building a rapport with them. Being a student of what they have to say (rather than lecturing them on what you think), and trying to learn to see things as they do (rather than explaining how their ways of seeing don’t make sense). You have to have patience, and respect for alternate points of view, and a knack for making friends.

None of which sounds like Temperance Brennan.

On ghostpigs

29 June 2010

Instead of a proper post today, some advice on opening paragraphs from Catherynne M Valente, who recently became the fiction and poetry editor of Apex Magazine:

Dudes, a short story is not that long. You do not have 50 pages to hook a reader (you don’t, really, in a novel either, but that’s another post), you cannot lazily dick around for a page and a half before being all CHECK IT OUT GHOSTPIGS. Because no one ever made it to the GHOSTPIGS, who were buried under: “Robert walked down the street. The sky was cloudy. All the houses were brown. He thought about work.”