Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lightspeed Year One Anthology Out (Also, Gigantic)

For a long, long time I made a point of reading every word of every publication I had work out in.  It was partly to judge what I'd signed on to, of course, and partly to see what other writers were up to.  But mostly it just felt like the right thing to do.  So much effort had gone into that book or magazine, some of it was mine, and knowing how much it meant for me that people read my story seemed a damn good reason to read everyone else's.

So it's been one of the sadder aspects of this crazy year that I haven't had the time to do that anymore.  My reading time is more limited that ever before, a few stolen minutes before bed and the occasional lunch break.  But maybe more than that, there's been the tectonic, life-redefining game-changer that is the Giant Thief deal.  As my writing focus has shifted drastically towards novels, my reading has necessarily followed, leaving me next to no time for short stories or anything much else.
One thing's for sure, though.  I'm going to read the Lightspeed Year One anthology from cover to cover if it kills me.

Which it might.  Because the thing is huge.  We're talking forty-eight stories here ... if you drop that on your toe, it's going to hurt.  And if that happens while you're driving a car or piloting a zeppelin or some such, there's a very real chance of violent death.  

Not that I'm planning to read it under those circumstances.  I'm more thinking of curling up with it over my Christmas break, maybe with a glass of cheap sherry close at hand.  In fact, I'll be doing everything I reasonably can to minimise the life-threatening aspects of the experience, because I'd really like to just chill and enjoy this one.  SF's pretty much my favourite genre when it comes to short fiction, and by most accounts, the stuff John Joseph Adams put out in his first year is high amongst the best that anyone's published over the last twelve months.  Plus there are those reprints of classic tales, quite a few of them by people I'm hopelessly in awe of.  I mean, Joe HaldemanThe Forever War was one of the books, maybe even the book, that brought me back to sci-fi after a far-too-long sabbatical - and later, Forever Peace blew my mind almost as much.  Then there's Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin - all writers who changed my perceptions of what it was possible to do with genre fiction, not to mention teaching me what I wanted to do with it.  One thing I haven't stopped doing this year is geeking out to a ridiculous degree when I see my name alongside my writerly heroes.

Finally, while I'm nearly on the subject ... it was great to stumble over the news that John J Adams has taken over ownership, on top of his existing editorship, of both Lightspeed and Fantasy from Prime Books. John's a terrific editor, I'm sure he'll be a terrific publisher, and I wish him the best of luck.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Best Of Necrotic Tissue Out, and Other News

I felt a real twinge when R Scott McCoy's crazy baby bit the dust.  Because although the word gets flung about a lot in genre circles, there aren't many 'zines around that are really willing to go down the pulp route, and there was something deliriously pulpy about Necrotic Tissue.  From its lurid covers to its blood-splattered interiors to the recklessly grotesque tales it filled those fourteen issues with, NT went places no one else was going.  Even just Googling it brought up  disturbing results.

I don't know that something as weird as Caretaker in the Garden of Dreams could have fit so nicely anywhere else.  And I was very glad when Scott saw fit to pick it for his Best Of Anthology ... which, if you happen to be in the market for a good horror collection, you can pick it up at Amazon here.

Also, while I remember, I discovered recently that someone's written a poem based on Zachary Hunt's fantastic illustration for Caretaker, which appeared alongside the Shadowcast podcast.  Does that count as fan fiction?  Will the fact that it doesn't stop me from pretending it does?

As for that other news... 

First up, not only has Adrian Tchaikovsky been saying nice things about Giant Thief, he's gone and written an article that takes it and Damasco as examples to talk about the changing role of the thief archetype in fantasy literature.  Which, obviously, is a subject close to my heart.  I had definite ways in mind that I wanted to make Damasco stand out from what I saw as the traditional fantasy thief ... but looking back, I wasn't necessarily basing those ideas on a whole lot.  So in a way, Adrian's article reads like the research I should have done before I started.  Now I'm going to have to go read all those other books he mentions!  Except it's probably not going to happen any time soon, because I've just started Adrian's own much-adored Shadows of the Apt series, and I'm sucked in enough that I suspect I might have to plow on till the end now.  Which is currently about five thousand pages away!

Couple more things, a bit rushed because it's way past my tea time ... the TOC is up for the Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations collection, to be published early next year by Dark Moon Books.  I've had high hopes for this one for a while now, and some of those story titles have built them up even further.

And there on the right, badly photographed on the floor of my lovely new house, is my first ARC.  When Lee told me it was going in the post, I had images of zapping Nazi's with freaky Angel of Death powers, Indy style, but it turns out ARC in this context stands for Advanced Review Copy.

Still.  Neat, huh?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Dancing in the Winter Rooms Out in Electric Velocipede

A quick post for this one - it's my birthday, goldarn it! - but please don't let that make it seem like I'm not buzzed as hell about both story and market.

I think that if wacky, misguided aliens invaded and threatened to eradicate all my work from existence but for one story (and I realise this may be an unlikely scenario, but then again maybe it happens three times a week, because really, how would you know?) then Dancing in the Winter Rooms might just be that story.  We've been apart for a while, me and Dancing, for reasons we'll come to in a moment.  And usually, when I return to a story after a long absence, all I can see is the flaws.  Not so with this one.

Don't get me wrong, it has flaws all right.  I mean, when I first wrote Dancing, I thought I'd invented the whole Millennium Ship concept.  The harsh blow that this wasn't, in fact, the desperately original idea I thought it was set me off on a five year reading program that basically involved digesting all of the Gollancz Fantasy and SF masterworks series.  But that's another story.  Point is, Dancing in the Winter Rooms isn't the genre-inventing sci-fi revolution I once thought it might be.

I don't care.  I love Millennium Ships, I loved flawed heroes.  And I love the hell out of Doc, fool that he is.

As for Electric Velocipede ... it looked for a while as if John Klima's Hugo Award-winning baby might never make it to issue 23.  I've seen plenty of markets go down since I started selling fiction, and I have boundless respect for John for rescuing EV from that fate.  It takes a lot to come back from the brink, let alone to do it with such style.  It was a little over two years between Dancing in the Winter Rooms being accepted and it being published, and the wait was worth it.  Because the fact that I got to see this particular story published the day after I moved into the first home I can truly call my own is oddly perfect.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

One Week After Two Days Later

So did Match win that Two Days Later film contest I was babbling about a few weeks ago then?

(If you didn't read the post then, long story short, Match is the short film I co-wrote with my friend Loz, and and the Two Days Later film contest is ... er ... a film contest we entered it into.)

Did we win?  Well, not exactly.  But we did do pretty damn well.

Left to right: Me, Loz Axe, a small gold gargoyle and Slade Lamey.
Out of thirteen award categories, Match got nominated in eight.  And of the remaining five, we weren't even eligible for four.  The odd one out, though, Best Editing, is still a slight sore spot for Loz and co-director Slade, what with them both being professional editors and all.

But they can't complain too hard.  Because of those eight nominations, (being ... deep breath ... Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Audience Best Popular Vote and Best Short Film) we walked off with four wins: Sound, Director, Screenplay and the audience vote.  And all the films that beat us in the other categories were undeniably deserving - or in the case of grand prize winner 58, flat out excellent.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it's not the winning but the - actually, no, the winning was  awesome.  We got to go up on the stage and they gave us prizes and for the Audience Vote one they even made us pose with a chilling efigy of shiny evil, which Loz got to keep and can now wait to see how long before it comes alive and eats his kidneys.  And it turns out that if there are three of you, four awards is exactly the ideal number to win, because you all get to go up for one each and then you all go up together and then after that your feet are tired and you're kind of shellshocked and you really just want to sit down and finish your beer and work out what you've actually won, since all the time you were on the stage and they were telling you about that stuff you're brain was going "la la la" and it was a bit like what you'd imagine being kidnapped by aliens would be like.

(What we actually won, by the way, turned out to be DVDs and T-shirts and beer and these brilliant mock-up movie posters of Match.  And about a kerzillion copyright vouchers.  Seriously, if you need a film copyrighting, let me know.)

But while the winning was definitely great, the taking part was plenty good too.  Afterwards - at the afterparty, no less! - we got to hang out with the 58 crew, and most of the other award winners too.  And everyone was nice and unpretensious and only too willing to geek about each others' films and - well, drunk mostly.  The atmosphere all the way through was terrific, and worth the trip in itself.

Anyway.  In case you were wondering, (and while I figure out how to embed it), you can watch the (multi-award winning!) short Match here.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Passive Resistance in Redstone SF

Have I really hit my two hundredth post?  Two hundred posts!  Bloody hell!  I feel old.

Oh well.  To cheer me up, there's the fact that Redstone Science Fiction have just published my story Passive Resistance.

Passive Resistance sure had a troubled time making its way out into the world.  But since this is post two hundred and all, let's accentuate the positive!  Anyone who's interested can finally experience my high speed cyberpunk-for-the-computer-illiterate sci-fi oddity for themself.  I got to do my first interview that's actually about me, rather than a particular story, and thus managed to warble ill-informedly about such diverse topics as the London riots, the highs and lows of writing in far too many genres at once, and ... well ... me stuff.  On top of that, I got to be published alongside Amanda C. Davis again.  I decided a while back that Amanda was one of the best genre writers working today, pretty much solely on the basic of her story being the undeniable highpoint of that awful Zombonauts anthology we were both in.  What do you know?  Turns out I was right.

So there we are.  Two hundred posts.  A long and bloody road travelled since Monday the 2nd of July 2007.  What will post four hundred be?  I hope I have a cyborg arm by then.  Or at least a condo on Mars.  I'd even settle for one of those hoverboards that got passe before anyone even had time to invent them.  Of course, at the rate I'm going, I should hit four hundred somewhere in 2015, so probably a cure for the common cold is way too much to ask.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Crown Thief Update: Not the End, but a Good Start

It looks as though I'll have plenty to talk about here in November - not least, the results of the Two Days Later short film contest I was at on Saturday - so I figure this might be the last opportunity I have in a while to ramble about the one thing eating up my life more than any other: the first redraft of Crown Thief.

I've been thinking a lot about something I've mentioned here before - the fact that the more I write, the less the words THE END seem to mean much.  In the movies, typing those two little words is as final as dying.  It's up there with huge explosions and riding into sunsets in the list of things that nicely round out a film.  Once those two words go down, the author gets to tear the last page from their typewriter with a flourish, slap it on the neat pile at the end of their desk and take a well earned holiday.  They're done.  They have created.

It's an alluring myth.  It's suspect it's done more to confuse aspiring writers than any other.  Because there's something deeply appealling in the idea that when you're finished, you're finished.  That's makes sense, right?  That's only fair.  But what I've slowly come to discover is, the possibility that something is never really done with can be just as attractive.  In lots of ways, the end of a first draft is where things just start to get interesting.

Case in point: Crown Thief.  I made some big goofs in the first draft of Crown Thief.  I reached points were I had to press on regardless, just to stay on my self-imposed schedule.  I wrote lines I knew were lousy, lines that did nothing but move the plot along, lines that did not a lot of anything.  I wrote passages that had all the pace of a gut-shot sloth and passages that skipped over vital plot points because I couldn't figure how to work them in.

And looking back, all of that needed to be done.  I had to let myself screw up in the short term, safe in the knowledge I could go back and fix what was broken.  Because, for my own sanity if nothing else, I had to nail my deadline, and then meant making mistakes.

But damn is it a lot more satisfying to get it right.

Which is, I guess, the point of this post.  Two months through the four I've alloted for my second draft, somewhat ahead of schedule, I'm definitely liking the fact that when I get to the end of each revised chapter, it's more often with satisfaction than cringing and a vague sense of horror.  Just over half way through, I've shaved off over six thousand words; I've rebuilt chapters from the ground up, even mashed multiple chapters together in a couple of places. I feel like I'm slowly but steadily dealing with everything I knew was wrong.  I feel like this is the book I had in my head, and in places, something that's even a little better.  If it's still a ways from perfect, I hope that by the time I finish this time, it'll at least be consistently good.

And after that?  I've got two months to figure out how I make it really good.