Sunday, December 30, 2007

Friday Flash Fiction - The Stories So Far

Inspired by Neil Beynon, I thought I'd take a look at the flash fiction I've posted since joining the Flash Fictioneers what seems like a very long time ago. I was surpised to discover a list of 19 stories; not quite every week due to various circumstances, but almost.

My favourites, I think, are:

The Gondolier - my first entry, and also my first drabble.

Delayed Reaction - received several nice comments and I was pleased with the subtlety I managed to evoke.

Frozen - short, and not very sweet. A new style of writing for me.

All of them have been fun, enabling me to experiment with content, style, form, tense and viewpoint in a way that I would never have done with full length stories. I'm looking forward to continuing next year in the build up to the Flash Fiction Workshop at Eastercon.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pantechnicon #5 Review

I came to Pantechnicon expecting the usual kind of webzine for a non-paying market – a few stories and maybe an editorial. What I discovered was a pleasant surprise. There are a couple of stories available to read on the actual web page, but the magazine itself is a colourful 82 page PDF, packed with illustrations, reviews, columns and articles along with the stories. Of course by the time I’d printed it out double-sided, 2 pages to a side in black and white it didn’t look quite so good, but then that’s the test of a decent magazine – does the fiction compare favourably with the presentation?

Read the rest of my review at Whispers of Wickedness.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Flash Fiction: Get Knitted

As discussed yesterday, this week's story comes fresh from the 1950s:

Get Knitted
By Gareth D Jones

This story now appears in the Illuminations anthology.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Golden Age

I read a lot of old sci fi, from Victorian stories by the like of H G Wells, through to story collections from the 50s and 60s, with occasional stories from in between. While there are regular Victorian style stories still written today, the 50s and 60s don't tend to be emulated very often. Maybe this is because it seems quite chauvenistic and sexist by today's standards, while Jules Verne et al seem merely historical.

When reading stories from the 'Golden Age' you'll note that female characters are quite limited. They get to either:

a. Wait at home for their heroic astronaut husband to return.
b. Use their technological labour saving devices.
c. Go a bit hysterical and need to be slapped.

In the spirit of appreciating the culture of the age, rather than being outaged by it, I'm working on a 50s style story for this week's Friday Flash Fiction. Letters of complaint about its sexist content should be addressed to:

Gareth D Jones
c/o The 1950s

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sceince Fiction, Fantasy & Horror

Discussions and debates have been ongoing for quite some time about the fate of genre magazines. Many encourage subscriptions as a way of giving a magazine a solid readership and some cash to put into production. Others advocate contacting the editors to let them know what you do and don’t like. Of course, there are so many magazines that if only we could read them all we’d all find one we like.

I’ve bought and read individual copies of a number of magazines recently, as well as reading on-line zines. One of the main reasons I don’t want to subscribe to most of them is that they’re frequently a mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror. I presume that there are many people who like all three, else there wouldn’t be so many cross-genre magazines out there, but it might just as easily put off single-genre readers. I only read science fiction. Fantasy and horror don’t really interest me. Of course that takes us to a whole different discussion on the definitions of each genre, but the fact is that I know what I like and, however it’s marketed, it’s most definitely SF rather then F or H.

So, if I’m going to pay good money for a magazine, I’m not going to buy one in which only 1/3 of the contents interest me. Or, possibly worse, a mixed genre magazine that does a ‘Fantasy Special’ occasionally that I’m really not bothered about at all.

Now, before I’m accused of narrow-mindedness, I have come across some fantastic stories that are probably leaning more towards F and H in the course of my reading. Murky Depths, for instance is a fabulous cross-genre magazine. With so many zines to choose from though, readers can afford to be picky. Each magazine has to do enough to attract a section of that audience. I recognise that it must be exceedingly tough to launch a new genre magazine, and I don’t have the answers any more than the next fan, but its something to think about.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Flash Fiction: Frozen

By Gareth D Jones

This story now appears in the Illuminations anthology.

This is the first time I've written a story in the present tense. I've always thought it a bit of an odd tense to write in, especially in the first person. When I conceived of this idea it just seemed the right way to write it though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flash Fiction Galore

Two sites of note for lovers of flash fiction that I've become aware of this week:

The Daily Cabal posts flash fiction every week day by one of a group of several authors.

Guy Hogan posts flash fiction on his blog, but also lots of interesting and useful tips on writing flash fiction. However much you write I always find it of benefit to hear what others have to say on the subject.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Market News

News on three short fiction markets this week:

UK magazine Fiction is having a major re-think and plans to return next year. The first two issues were in print, followed by three PDF issues, never quite managing their ultimate goal of becoming monthly. The fiction they've published so far has been of good quality, and fresh presentation made it fun to read. Let's hope they do manage a come-back next year.

Meanwhile I found two new markets of note on Duotropes:

Transmitter is the on-line magazine of Illusion TV, a US digital cable SF channel. It pays pro rates and could possibly be a replacement for the SciFi channel's own on-line zine that disappeared last year.

Wrong World appears to be an entirely new idea, as far as I can see. They plan to publish fiction exclusively on DVD, with each story given its own Twilight Zone style intro and conclusion voice over. The DVDs can be bought or rented and they're paying pro rates plus royalties to authors. It's a brave new idea and will be interesting to see how it develops.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Post-Apocalyptic Musings

Friday’s story X Factory was what’s often called post-Apocalyptic fiction. You may have noticed though that there’s no mention in my little tale of why the remnants of humanity are forced to live in underground caves. They’re circulating air from somewhere, so there’s presumably not radioactive or biological contamination to worry about. There’s also a low level of technology, so presumably there wasn’t time to set up much infrastructure.

The fact is, I don’t know what happened, and for this story it doesn’t really matter. In flash fiction there’s only time to make one point. This week’s story will also be post-Apocalyptic, by coincidence. This time the world is frozen and there’s mention of a dust-laden atmosphere. Was that caused by nuclear fallout? Meteor impact? Volcanic eruption? Again, that’s not the point of the story so it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve read a couple of short stories in recent months where the author likes to go into detail about how man ravaged the environment and brought disaster on himself. Global warming, extinct animals, atmospheric pollution, general gloom and doom. The problem is, it’s often irrelevant to the plot and I can watch the news if I want to be depressed. I like my fiction to be a diversion. If your story is based around the melting of the arctic ice caps, I don’t need a moralistic lecture thrown in too.

The Postman is one of my favourite novels. I’m pretty sure David Brin does explain what led to the post-apocalyptic setting of the story, but in a novel you’ve got plenty of room to do that without making it too blatant. Interestingly though, I don’t remember what the explanation was. I just remember what a brilliant story it was. The exploits of the Postman didn’t depend on why it had happened, he was just coping with the consequences.

I may try some apocalyptic fiction next. They’re the stories where you get to describe and explain the end of the world. I just need to think of some totally bizarre way of destroying the Earth…

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Flash Fiction: X Factory

X Factory
By Gareth D Jones

Thi story will now be appearing in Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine

This week I move a significant step closer to fulfilling my ambition of having a story title beginning with each letter of the alphabet...

New Venue

I'm pleased to say that I've joined the Whispers of Wickedness reviewing team, which is one of the best known review sites. I'm joining a team that includes many well known names from the world of fiction. I'll let you know when any of my reviews appear over there.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Upcoming Award

I mentioned previously that I've alsmost finalised my list of favourite stories of the year. I'm not likely to read more than another couple of magazines this year, so in early January I shall present my favourite stories along with a comment or two about each of them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Forthcoming Stories

Following on from The Gondolier, another of my flash fiction tales, Delayed Reaction will be appearing in Efimeras in the next month or so.

Coming up in January will be Roadwalker in Jupiter, the sequel to the criticaly acclaimed Roadmaker.

I'm also currently working on a review of Pantechnicon #5.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Do I Sound in Spanish?

Kind multiligiual fellow author Sara Genge took a look at both the English and Spanish versions of The Gondolier for me and offered the following observations:

I read both and I think it's fair to say the translation is very good. There's a bit of alliteration in the Spanish version that wasn't so obvious in the English. I wonder if the translator did it on purpose: it works really well.

You still sound like yourself in the Spanish version (except for the differences in language, which always lends its own flavour to anybody's writing).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Spanish Flash Fiction

No flash fiction on Friday, as you may have noticed, though I do have a sick note from the doctor to let me off. Instead, you can read the Spanish translation of The Gondolier, my first entry in the Friday Flash Fiction meme.

El Gondolero was published on Friday in Spanish flash fiction webzine Efimeras, the third of my stories they've published.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I've Been Stumbled!

A while back I came across a reference to my Friday Flash The Emporer's New Forcefield on the Stumble Upon site. Since then it's produced a mild flow of traffic. I've been attempting to add a 'Stumble It' button, but somehow it just doesn't seem to work. Any technicaly brilliant suggestions would be welcome.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust?

There have been no new issues of Farthing magazine since January, and this week the link to their site is dead. They're still listed on Ralan's and Duotropes as 'closed to submissions until further notice', but it's not looking good.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fiction #4 Review

Fiction Magazine #4
Review by Gareth D Jones

Since issue #3, Fiction magazine has moved to PDF format, with the possibility of moving back to print in the future. I don’t find on-line magazines as exciting as having an actual printed magazine in your hand, but the editors are maintaining the standard of fiction established in their first two print editions.

The first and longest story is An Act of Mercy by Sarah Hughes. It’s a multi-stranded story that initially left me confused due to the similarity of character’s names in different threads (Ryan, Rayne, Reuben). This meant that I had to keep checking back , breaking the flow of the story. Several typos didn’t help too. Getting past these problems, it was an interesting story of viruses, nanobots, androids and a sprinkling of very diverse characters to add to the interest. I’m tempted to say it was almost too ambitious, introducing enough characters to sustain a much longer piece. The complex plot was entertaining though and the android characters were particularly well developed.

Fellow Flash Fictioneer Gareth L Powell’s contribution is A Necklace of Ivy, a realistically rendered tale set against the backdrop of a mysterious alien plague sweeping through Cornwall. A young couple are making their way out of the county in advance of an army curfew, but make the mistake of stopping for one last break. The realistic dialogue and briefly sketched description make it a compelling little tale.

Andrew Knighton’s The Secret in the Sewers is great fun, a cross between Alan Quartermain and The Wild, Wild West in which two intrepid, presumably Victorian, explorers discover something unusual beneath the city of Venice. It’s written with flair and charisma and is very entertaining.

The old question of Artificial Intelligence and self awareness is given an intelligent outing in Bob Lock’s Do We Not Bleed? A hung-over scientist is excited at the prospect of solving the aforementioned problem, but discovers something rather startling. Again the characterisation and dialogue are realistically portrayed and result in an intriguing story.

I still like my magazines to arrive in the post though.

Dark Tales #11 Review

With no end in sight to the unfortunate hiatus at UK SF Review, my two recent reviews are rapidly going past their sell-by date. Rather than look for an alternate venue at this late stage, I've decided to post them here instead. I really prefer to have them posted elsewhere as they are more likely to be seen by larger numbers of casual readers which provides more exposure for both the publications and the authors. Still, for now, here we are:

Dark Tales #11
Reviewed by Gareth D Jones

Another large helping of dark and disturbing fiction arrives in the form of Dark Tales #11. The whole issue is entertaining and varied in contents, and looks and feels quite smart too.

The opening story this issue is A. Reader’s Half Life, which is the name of a drug that reduces the patient’s age by half. Sounds like miracle, but as is usually the case there are unforeseen and rather unsettling side effects. The story is well written, and does a good job of outlining the true horror of the situation, with a profoundly thoughtful ending. At least, I thought it was the end, only to find another few paragraphs over the page that I thought rather blunted the impact. So, choose for yourself which end you think best.

Niall McMahon recounts A Dream of Faces, the touching tale of a young boy’s encounter with a terribly scarred burns victim who touches his life for a while. His initial reactions, the subsequent development of their relationship and her ultimately profound effect on his life really are engagingly told. The feelings of both come across well and ensure that the story will stay with you.

Debt is a story of lycanthropy by Andrew J Oliver. It’s only short, so there’s no real development of the characters or motivations beyond a brief setting of the scene. It’s also written in the second person, which I always find a little odd, but that’s just a matter of taste. The confusion and disorientation are conveyed well, but no real explanation is given. The success of the story then depends on whether you like reasons for the strange goings-on, or whether you’re happier with the unexplained.

A man attempting to retrieve his lost wallet from an eccentric old woman is the setting for Davin Ireland’s Growing Season. There’s some good descriptive work of the decrepit house and the overgrown garden, with the old lady becoming more and more creepy. The tale develops well as bewilderment and frustration set in, slowly giving way to horror as the old lady’s true purpose becomes clear. I’m giving up gardening after reading this.

Seeing Red is a vampiric tale by Mel Wright, in which a young boy develops a taste for blood through a series of seemingly innocent incidents. The story becomes more and more disturbing, with a horrifying finale in an allotment that doubles my resolve to give up gardening!

An unsettling guest in a B&B provides the chills in Reception by Peter Hynes. He seems to be watching particularly gory horror films in the privacy of his room. When the proprietor finally learns the truth he quickly wishes he hadn’t. The creepy guest is developed well as the owner becomes more and more fixated on discovering the truth, but like Debt I was left slightly nonplussed at the conclusion.

In Prize Pelt Valentine Roberts describes a suitably creepy artist with a fur fetish. The man’s unusual tastes are revealed slowly and build up the expectation to round the story off nicely.

Tall Flowers by Mark Reece is similar in concept to Growing Season, but I wasn’t really sure whether to take it seriously or not. The main character, who becomes fixated with gardening, doesn’t act with any kind of logic, and neither does the librarian whom she meets. Admittedly she’s a bit eccentric, but the plot seemed to be rushing to its conclusion without much thought to how to get there.

The final story is also the strongest. David Robertson’s The Blackford Folly is set in a Scottish stately home in Victorian times, where two men investigate the disappearance of the Laird who lives there. There’s plenty of atmospheric description – the servants, the study, the folly itself, strange goings-on in the night. The Arthur Conan-Doyle style also adds to the flavour. A very enjoyable and engrossing tale to round out the issue.