Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Anniversary

Shockingly, it's three years tomorrow that my first story was published, on a now defunct website. It's also the second anniversary of this blog. As it's so close to the end of the year I shall save the retrospective musings until then.

Friday Flash Fiction: Time Did Emit

Not a new story this week, but one that I first posted here several weeks before joining the Fictioneers. I put so much effort into this one that I thought it deserved a second airing.

There are three things you'll notice about this story:

1. It's very short.
2. It doesn't make a great deal of sense.
3. You can read it backwards, hence 1 and 2 above.


Time Did Emit
By Gareth D Jones

I was on a reviled DNA time loop and I saw wolf and DNA flow. Was I DNA pool? Emit and deliver a no, saw I.

The End

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Own Personal Category

The second Orbital 2008 progress report arrived in the post yesterday. It's full of information about guests and programme items, including a brief mention of a writing workshop.

At the end of the booklet is a guest list, with everyone's name alongside a code letter, A for Attending, J for Junior, G for Guest etc. Alongside my name is the letter D. Nobody else has a D. It's not mentioned in the key either. Suggestions on a postcard as to what it means.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pantechnicon

The new issue of UK based webzine Pantechnicon is due next week. According to the editors the 'website is moving to a more dynamic-content platform rather than the quarterly update format.'

This is good news for the UK SF small press (if indeed that term applies to webzines) as it's more like six months since the last issue so I was begining to think it had entered one of those potentially terminal pauses, along with Farthing that has been mysteriously quiet since January.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Results

Well, the results of my little experiment in populism are pretty inconclusive. A minor increase in site traffic of around 20% is hardly significant. I don't seem to have more than a couple of hits directed from Technorati, though there are plenty of unknowns.

Ah well, back to the drawing board...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Flash Fiction: Let Me Entertain You


Let Me Entertain You
By Gareth D Jones


Jake smiled with enormous satisfaction as Paris completed his massage and Heidi brought over his drink of cool juice. The androids’ likenesses were remarkable. No wonder the spa was so popular. After luxuriating for a while longer he left the treatment room and headed off to the games room for a round of poker.

The two attendants slumped down on the room’s two chairs.

“This is so humiliating!” said Paris “I used to be a star! I was the most popular person on youtube!”

“What can we do?” Heidi said, her voice full of resignation. “The androids are so good today they don’t need us any more.” She took a swig of juice. “I just give thanks I have a job.”


The End


This week's story is an experiment in popular culture. It's based on some of today's top search words from Technorati. I shall now sit back and see how many random hits come my way. I'll let you know how it goes on Monday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Now On-Line

...in fact it was available on-line shortly after my last post. Go to the Murky Depths website and download the PDF taster. Let me know what you think of Looking In, Looking Out. It's possibly my best story so far.

Click here to read more about the story and see what people have said about it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Free PDF Taster

Murky Depths magazine is to post a free PDF taster on its website in the near future. This will include the completely fabulous graphics and layout of my story Looking In, Looking Out. Hopefully you'll think the story is as good as the art!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Flash Fiction: Cat Burglar



Cat Burglar
By Gareth D Jones


Existing in an uncertain state somewhere between probabilities, the quantum being flitted across the surface of the Earth, observing, learning, absorbing energy. Occasionally it intervened in the affairs of the probabilistic world. To its senses everything was blurred, each iota of time producing several quantum states that teetered on the brink of existence before one won out and became true.

One such indeterminate state attracted its attention due to its longevity. A corporeal creature hovered between two states – that of life and death – far longer than was probable. Just as the blur began to resolve itself the being intervened, pulling the small creature out from the corporeal world and into a permanent state of quantum flux. The creature, it discovered, was not very intelligent, but made a pleasant travelling companion as it went on its way.

###

“And so ze cat theoretically exists in two states.” The eccentric German scientist was saying to his sceptical audience. “Ven ve open ze box, ve find out if ze cat is alive, or dead.” He opened the container with a flourish and stared into it with amazement.

“Or,” He said, amending his hypothesis on the spot, “whether it has totally disappeared.”


The End


I've been fascinated by the concept of Schrodinger's cat since I first came across it in phyics lessons at school. In fact, any text book on quantum physics is far more bizarre than most SF novels. In both this story and A Few Good Men I take the idea a little too literally.

Elloquent Comment

A kind Greek author, whom I contacted through the Planeta SF group, has provided a translation of the comment about Absolute Zero that I found on a Greek forum:

The feeling I got was like being in a scientist symposium. Cocktail in one hand, strolling from one group of talkers to the other, trying to find a conversation I could understand. A party of mathematicians was laughing with funny equations. I couldn't make heads or tales of it. Another group was taking of an experiment gone wrong. It seemed it might go wrong right from the start. They were looking at me, asking if I agreed with their eyes, but I could only nod foolishly, pretending I understood.


I guess he didn't like it that much, but full marks for elloquence!

Delayed Reviews

You may recall that I promised reviews of Dark Tales #10 and Fiction #4. Sadly there has been a prolonged hiatus at UK SF Review and these have yet to appear. I'll let you know when anything develops.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Do I Edit My Story?

I don’t know about you, but I find it far harder to edit my own story than to write it in the first place. The problem is, I’m happy with the way I’ve written it, and when you read your own work you’re blind to mistakes. Lots of people have written lots of useful advice on editing and critiquing. I don’t claim to be very good at it, but I thought I’d share my experiences.

Hopefully, if you’ve used a decent word processor, any obvious spelling mistakes will be picked up, so you shouldn’t need to worry about that. The problem is when you’ve made up names of people or planets, or created new words to describe some amazing piece of technology. The spellchecker highlights them every time, so then you don’t notice when you’ve spelled one wrong. I always add new words to the dictionary to avoid this happening, after being caught out several times.

The other thing your spellchecker doesn’t spot is malapropisms, where you’ve accidentally used the wrong word. A grammar checker would pick it up, but I don’t like using them as they never like anything I write!

So, now you’ve checked it says what you intended, there are a couple of things I’ve found that help me spot things that need changing. One is to leave the manuscript for a couple of weeks before looking at it again, the other is to read it out loud. That way you’ll more easily notice:

• Sentences that made sense at the time but now just seem gibberish
• Word echoes – using the same word repeatedly
• Tautology – saying the same thing twice
• Pointlessness - explaining things irrelevant to the plot
• Dullness – whole swathes of text where nothing happens
• Info dump – explaining the physics / history behind your story in one big paragraph
• Technobabble – info dump disguised as dialogue
• Other dull dialogue that adds nothing to the story


If you remove all of the above and discover that you have nothing left, it can be a bit disheartening.

Now it’s time to look at the word count. Every story must be as long as it needs to be to tell the tale, but you’ll find that it gets more difficult to find suitable markets as your manuscript gets longer. So now comes the most difficult bit. What else can you cut out without compromising the flow of the story? I know. You don’t want to cut out any of your lovingly crafted prose. So to make it easier, join a critiquing group where somebody you don’t know will go through your newly refined story and hack it to pieces all over again.

It’s all for your own good!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Top Ten Almost Complete

I've added another story to my list of favourites for the year. I originally intended to post a top ten list at the end of the year, though I may not limit the number in the end. So far I have nine stories that have stood out, so I guess either way it'll be pretty close to ten. I don't claim it's going to be as prestigious as the Hugo and Nebula awards, but I think it's nice to acknowledge what's entertained me during the year.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An Ambiguous Review

I found a Greek discussion board with a comment about Absolute Zero. The babel fish translator comes out with this:

"Absolute Zero of" Gareth D. Jones. 9 No 370 - 5/9/07. Translation P. Koy'stas and X. Karakoy'da. The sense that I took, and only sense could be, it was as if I found themselves in conference of scientists. With a cocktail in the hand, I wandered from pigada'kj in pigada'kj trying I find a discussion that I would understand. A team of mathematics they said astej'es equations and xekardj'zontan in the laughters. I I did not touch nor a XI. I fell also in somebodies that discussed a experiment that went askew. It was as it appears olofa'nero from his sti'sjmo and application that the all thing would lead in gka'fa. Me they looked at they see an I agree and I shook my head sygkatavatjka' as the idiot, pretending that "ma yes, light lantern." It should exist certain special warnings in the beginning of similar short stories. Apw'lesa precious faja' substance in my stubborness him I read all. Edit: A hot recognition in the talent and the patience of translators.


Not entirely sure whether that's good or bad!

Friday Flash Fiction: The Ironic Man

The Ironic Man will be appearing in the POW!erful Tales anthology due out from Peryton Publishing in February 2009.


This is a sequel to my 2005 story Too Late the Hero, published on Aphelion.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Submission Update

I've sent another two stories on their way to different magazines this week, joining the four that are already sitting in various slush piles. I don't count the foreign language submissions as you mostly never hear from them again, so I don't know whether they're still waiting or have been rejected.

I currently have two stories accepted and due for publication next year, along with three foreign language submissions accepted. Also lurking on the computer at the moment are two completed stories that have yet to be reviewed and edited.

The most shocking thing is that I only have three items on my list of stories to write. That's the lowest total I've had ever. This is partly due to the fact that lots of new ideas have been turned into flash fiction pieces, and some ideas that have been hanging around for years have gone the same way with the realisation that I was never going to make a full-length story out of them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Friday Flash Fictioneers Flash Fiction Workshop

The organisers of Orbital 2008, next year's Eastercon, are to include a Flash Fiction Workshop again this year, this time to be hosted by the Friday Flash Fictioneers!

Secret negotiations are still underway, but more details will be revealed as they are confirmed. A shorter title would probably be a good start.

Quirks of Translation


My three copies of Ennea have arrived, containing the Greek translation of Absolute Zero. There's a cool little distorted picture of a scientist in a whie lab coat too. I know enough Greek letters to be able to pick out the name of my characters and was amused to note that Portia Callaghan has been transliterated with a hard G instead of a silent one. By coincidence there's also a Greek character named Markos Papadopoluos.

The story is set in a fictional facility called the European Hadron Laboratory, based on CERN-LHC in Switzerland. The translators have obviously decided to avoid confusion and have substituted CERN-LHC for my made up location.

This is the third of my stories to feature the European Hadron Laboratory, the other two being Fluctuations and its sequel, the Mare Inebrium story Turning Over a New Leaf.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Belated Flash Fiction: The Planet Sweets

Been miserably ill for several days, but managed to heroically drag myself to the keyboard to give you this:


The Planet Sweets
By Gareth D Jones

“2006 HH123 Vanishes!” Read the headlines. They were not great headlines. The newspaper editors would have been happier had something more memorable vanished, like Mars or Mercury, or especially Venus that could have provided some great alliteration. The astronomers were aghast nonetheless. How could the 85th largest object in the solar system just disappear?

Unfortunately nobody had been watching at the time. Now that it had been noticed, the entire astronomical community was scouring the skies for any sign of its whereabouts. So this time there was somebody watching when several minor Jovian asteroids blinked out of existence. Quickly the observers became aware of an inky black shape disguised against the inky blackness of space.

Using instruments that didn’t rely on colour perception it was soon revealed that a huge whale-like creature was gambolling playfully in Jupiter’s wake and gobbling down minor celestial bodies like popcorn. When it closed in on Jupiter and made a beeline for Europa there was great consternation. That moon was the greatest hope for finding extraterrestrial life. But in the blink of an eye the space-whale extended its maw and sucked Europa up. Several minutes later it ejected the moon back out again, into a new and highly erratic orbit around its mother planet. Only now it was much smaller. The icy covering was gone, leaving a shrivelled up ball of rock in its place, just as when certain obnoxious people suck off the chocolate and spit the brazil nut back out.

The space whale looped away from Jupiter and began swooping sunward, altering course several times until it became obvious that Mars was its target. With a suddenness that was shocking even after what they had already witnessed, Phobos and Diemos were gulped down like a pair of M&Ms. The whale drifted slowly round in a huge curve that took it back on a course for Mars itself.

Already the Earth was in a state of panic, and as the whale’s targets grew larger the human race seemed doomed. One thing stood in the way though. Greed, which it seemed, is a universal vice. The whale extended its cavernous jaw and engulfed the planet Mars. As many children have discovered however, some sweets are just too large. It was like trying to swallow a gobstopper whole.

Thousands of astronomer watched on as earth-shattering convulsions shook the great beast’s body. It writhed and squirmed, until suddenly the red planet was ejected back into space, its surface scored with enourmous gouges that resembled a network of canals.

Put off by the experience, the whale turned away from the sun and, with a flick of its tail swept off into interstellar space in search of easier pickings.

On earth, millions of children were much more careful with their food from then on.


The End


P.S. 2006HH123 really is the 85th largest object in the solar system.