Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

In my 2008 review of Chris Beckett’s Edge Hill prize-winning collection ‘The Turing Test’ I described the short story ‘Dark Eden’ thus:
 ‘…one of the best short stories I have ever read...'

‘Dark Eden’ the novel was released in 2012 and, with the imminent release of the sequel ‘Mother of Eden’, now seems an opportune time to reminisce about the book of one of my favourite short stories.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Return to Reviewing

It's almost 4 years since I stopped regularly reviewing books at SF Crowsnest. Since then I've posted the occasional review when I've been sent something independently. And each time I do there's a polite invitation to return to the fold...

So finally I've decided it's time. My first selection of books to review for SF Crowsnest has arrived and reviews will be appearing in the coming weeks...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rose Coloured Tentacles

My flash fiction octopus story Rose Coloured Tentacles is on-line today at Perihilion. This is one of those stories where I thought of the title first, then spent several months mulling ideas over to find a story to go with it.

This is my second story at Perihilion, following last year's multi-author collaboration Crowd Control.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Book Review: The Best Japanese Science Fiction

This anthology of Japanese science fiction was first published in 1988 and is comprised of stories dating back to the 60’s, so in terms of my interest in comparing SF from other cultures, it doesn’t really give me an idea of what contemporary Japanese SF is like. What I did find interesting is that, similar to Anglophone SF of the same period, the protagonists are all male, and female characters play little, if any, active roles in the stories. I can only assume that this has changed with time as it has done to some degree in English SF.


Many of the stories are set in contemporary or near-future Japan, and even where aspects of society are obviously futuristic, the settings themselves are not startlingly different from today. I found several of the stories to be rather, I don’t know, naïve? They told stories of things that were intended to be amazing, but were not at all surprising.  Again, I’m assuming this is due to the age of the stories, and to the fact that I’m very well read in SF.
One thing that stood out is that the stories are often narrated in the style of a parable rather than from an individual point of view. Another thing that particularly struck me is that none of the protagonists have names. They are always referred to as ‘the young man’, ‘the father’, ‘the boy’ etc. In fact the only characters who are named are the non-humans. Again, I wonder if this is typical of Japanese fiction, or just of that time period?

Two stories: ‘The Road to the Sea’ and ‘Fnifmum’ stood out among the collection, the kind of tales that leave you feeling satisfied at have read them. Then I came to the final entry, ‘The Legend of the Paper Spaceship’, a novelette by Tetsu Yano, described as ‘the dean of Japanese SF writers’. For this story, ignore everything else I have written. This is a classic in any time and place.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Book Review: The World and the Stars, Edited by Chris Butler

I’m sure I won’t be the first person to tell you that anthologies and short story collections are very rarely produced by the big publishers any more. This is partly because the average reader is more interested in novels, so short story collections sell much fewer copies, making them less viable for big publishers. Of course, people like you and me enjoy our short stories, so we’re always happy when another anthology comes along.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


This month I wrote my first piece of freelance commissioned writing. I can't say anything about it due to extreme secretiveness and the chance for me to cackle like a megalomaniac evil overlord. It was an interesting experience, writing something specified by someone else, with an extremely tight deadline to get it done. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do some more.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Author Interview: Josh Vogt

Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humour, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

I caught up with Josh midway across the Atlantic where we tethered out hot air balloons together and Josh hopped over for a cup of tea.

GJ:       First off, any relation to A.E.Van Vogt, and how do you pronounce surname?

JV: No relation, though I certainly won’t mind being on the bookshelves next to him. And the name is pronounced the same as “Vote.” Yes, I’ve been told to go into politics, since I’d have the perfect campaign slogan. No, I never will.

GJ:       You write several different kinds and lengths of fiction, including RPG texts and tie-ins. What appeals to you about writing in these settings?

JV: I bore easily, which is one of the reason I quit the 9-5 career track and set out to be a freelance writer. Having a wide variety of genres and forms to write within keeps me from getting into any sort of rut and also provides an excellent creative challenge. For RPGs and tie-ins, I love the chance to bring my personal style, characters, and fresh ideas to an established setting.

GJ:       You’ve also written short stories, novellas and novels. Do you have a preference, or does each have its own reward?

JV: Actually, I feel I do well with novels (usually ranging from 85-100k words) and flash fiction (1k words or less). So I jump  to either end of the spectrum. Short stories have been a struggle for me in the past, but I’m slowly working to refine my technique there. I’ve definitely learned that particular ideas lend themselves to certain story lengths, so if I’m struggling to flesh out a concept into a full novel or novella, then I take a run at it as a flash fiction piece and often find it condenses quite nicely. Or I may start a short story and find myself inspired to worldbuild until it’s novel-worthy.

GJ:       Does gaming inspire you to write, or vice versa? Or both?

JV: Both, for sure. The games I’ve loved best are ones that have the most storytelling or character development potential. If it lacks a storytelling core, then I quickly lose interest in a game and move on. When I encounter a game that gives me an incredible adventure, that makes me want to turn around and write one of my own!

GJ:       Tell us a bit about your new novel, Forge of Ashes.

JV: Forge of Ashes is a sword and sorcery adventure following Akina, a dwarven barbarian, who returns to her mountain home after fighting abroad for a decade. She’s wanting to reconnect with her family and culture, perhaps even rest from the violence for a bit, but no such luck! Not only has her family been disgraced, but her mother has vanished into the foreboding tunnels leading from the city down into the Darklands. Akina determines to do everything in her power to rectify the situation, which means facing down plenty of monstrous foes along the way.

GJ:     What writing plans do you have for the rest of the year?

JV: I’m constantly working on new projects, both short and long form. I’ve got a couple novels I’m polishing to shop around, and then have several others that are in various stages of worldbuilding and drafting. At least one or two of those should be finished by the end of the year, and we’ll see what else is in the works by then.

You'll be glad to know, Josh made it safely back to his own balloon, and as far as I know heade in the right direction to get home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Language Number 27

I've had a story accepted by Slovenian magazine Jashubeg en Jered. Not sure when it will be published yet - I'll keep you posted. This will be my 27th language!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Story Sale: Rose Coloured Tentacles

My flash fiction story Rose Coloured Tentacles has been bought by Perihilion, the second story they've taken from me. They published my multi-author collaboration Crowd Control last year.

This is my 6th acceptance of the year, which I'm very pleased with, following second-time sales to Domain SF and Daily SF, as well as translations into German and Afrikaans. I still have quite a few stories out there looking for homes though.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Writing, With Children

Today my guest post about writing with children (after all, I have 5) is up on the blog of fellow author Spencer Ellsworth .

Take a look and see what you think.

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