Thursday, November 27, 2008

Meanwhile, back in the present

In the past couple of weeks I’ve completed reviews of Murky Depths #6 – which is by far the best-looking magazine in existence, and of Perfect Circle by Carlos J Cortes. Both should be appearing at SF Crowsnest at the beginning of December.

I’m now reading Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley. This is the earliest ARC I’ve seen – not due for publication until March. Interzone #219 arrived yesterday and as usual I turned straight to Ansible Link which is always entertaining. Also this week I caught up with recent issues of Hub and particularly enjoyed James Targett’s fabulous story Automatic Swan, Fusion Heart.

Two other exciting developments this week:

• For the first time I’ve received advance payment, for a story due out next year.
• I’m in secret negotiations to have a story translated into Catalan. That will be really cool.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When I Was Young (Part 2)

I remember the first book I got from the adult section of the library, when I was 11 and had started secondary school. I managed to convince my parents that I should be allowed an adult book as it was a Space 1999 novelisation, which I’d watched on the telly so must be OK. This was 1984, when everyone except me was watching the new Dune film. So Dune was the second book. I remember loving the little quotes at the beginning of each chapter but finding the book as a whole quite hard going. I also read a short story collection that included a Dragonriders of Pern tale and from then on became addicted to Ann McCaffrey’s series and still read each book as it appears now.

I also remember being put off PKD’s books by the strange titles and pictures on the cover. It’s only in the past five years that I’ve discovered his brilliance. Strange how youthful impressions can affect reading habits for years to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When I Was Young (Part 1)

I’ve been thinking back to when I was young and the kind of books I used to read, wondering what it was that led me to read SF almost exclusively.

From when I was about 8 until I was 11 (when I first got books out from the adult section of the library) I read things like the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Three Investigators and The Hardy Boys. I also loved Willard Price’s Adventure series and the Choose Your Own Adventure books which led on to fantasy role playing books.

The SF books that stand out in my mind are Douglas Hill’s Last Legionary quartet, which I read four times altogether. There was also his Huntsman and ColSec series, Dragonfall Five (don’t know who wrote those) Asimov’s Norby the Mixed Up Robot and numerous one-off books, the most memorable being one called Citizen of the Galaxy. Plus all the Dr Who novelisations.

I also read some fantasy, notably The Chronicles of Narnia (which I read three times), but also the Black Cauldron series, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 11.

There weren’t any Young Adult books in those days and despite having read a lot of mystery books, the adult mystery section never appealed to me. Moving on to the adult SF section of the library seemed like the natural thing to do, and of course the Fantasy section that was always adjacent. So I moved on to a whole new set of shelves…

Monday, November 24, 2008

Amazon Quote

I was tickled to discovers this weekend that my review of Paul McCauley's The Quiet War is partially quoted on Amazon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Flash Fiction: Blue Men

This is more of an anecdote about an anecdote, which reminds me of the old saying: 'Two anecdotes don't make a story.' Or was that 'Two cooks don't make the broth'?


Blue Men will be appearing in the 2011 Daily Flash anthology from Pill Hill Press.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spanish Double

Spanish flash fiction webzine Efimeras, who have previously published four of my stories, is planning to close after issue #135 which was scheduled for release by the end of the year. They’ve fallen behind with the last few issues though, but I’ve had word from the editor this week that the final five issues will all still appear by year’s end.

Two of my stories are included in the line-up: Parallels and The Emperor’s New Forcefield, which is slated for the penultimate issue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


A seemingly significant juncture was reached this evening when I completed the penultimate subsection of the penultimate section of the Roadmaker novel. I'm closing in on 65,000 words, which isn't much progress since last time I reported in, but it's going well when I am writing.

The previous section has been critiqued by three members of my Orbiter writing group and their comments are helping me as the story progresses further. More detailed planning of the final section is now underway somewhere in a secretive department towards the back of my brain.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Scheduling Update

I've heard from the editors of Portuguese magazine Phantastes this week who are publishing a translation of 'A Word in the Right Place'. They have just switched to electronic instead of paper publication and the next issue including my story is now scedulaed for December.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Editors: Gordon Van Gelder

Having spoken to many of the UK's SF magazine editors, I decided it was time to go international. Hopping aboard the glorious steam-powered airship SS Imperial I crossed the Atlantic in luxurious comfort. Over the skies of New Jersey I leapt from the craft at 4000 feet and swooped back to Earth using my patented retractable piston-powered dragonfly wings, landing unerringly on the office roof of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. There I was joined by editor Gordon Van Gelder.

GDJ: F&SF has a long and venerable history behind it. Do you find this weighing heavily on your shoulders, or is it more of a privilege?

GVG: That’s a good question . . . but I don’t have a good answer for you. Some days the magazine’s reputation is a great boon, other days it’s a real burden. I guess that when I stop to think about it, overall the good aspects outweigh the bad.

Back in my first editorial, I compared editing *F&SF* to managing the New York Yankees. I still think of it in those terms. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of such a storied franchise, but you’re also always aware that you’re part of a larger tradition and sometimes that sense of working for a big enterprise does grow heavy. Joe Torre left his position as Yankees manager last year and he admitted this year that the last two seasons hadn’t been much fun for him. I can understand how he felt.

GDJ: ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ is a description as well as a title and typifies the titles from the Golden Age. Do you think it adds to the air of authority? Would you consider ever changing the title?

GVG: I think the name has defined the magazine for six decades and I wouldn’t change it. There are plenty of other magazine titles available, if I ever want to publish a different magazine.

GDJ: People like short stories and novels for different reasons. What appeals to you about the short story form?

GVG: A lot of things. As you probably know, I was a book editor for a long time and I like novels just fine. What I like most about short stories are their concision (naturally) and their ability to strike quickly. A novel can be a bit like a prize fight that goes the distance, while a short story can be more like a one- or two-round knockout.

I also like the way a short story can take an idea and explore its ramifications without overdoing it. Some nifty ideas---a lot of ideas, actually---work well as stories but won’t support a full novel.

GDJ: In a previous interview you agreed with the general opinion that British SF tends to be pessimistic. Does American SF have any identifying qualities or does the size of the country result in greater diversity?

GVG: Oh gosh, I wish I could sum up identifying qualities of American SF. (You’re asking great questions, by the way.) I definitely think there is *a* strand of American SF that is relentlessly positive in its outlook. It’s the strand that maintains mankind will conquer the stars in some sort of intergalactic version of Manifest Destiny and it will turn the universe into a vast utopia. Time and again, I see American writers trying to tap into that theme, with varying success.

As for other strands in American SF, well, I’m not sure if this really answers your question, but it might. Last summer I held a panel discussion with Jonathan Lethem on genre vs. Mainstream and Jonathan said he was never really an SF fan so much as he was an enthusiast of a group of writers he termed “American Bohemians”---like Theodore Sturgeon and Avram Davidson---and he was always interested in the ways in which they took other forms (like the Southern Gothic) and adapted them to the SF genre.

Jonathan went on to say that while he was never a big SF fan, his friend Michael Chabon was---Chabon was the one with the whole set of Gnome Press books and Doc Smith books and so forth.

It occurs to me that Jonathan’s answer might point up two major strands of American SF, but I’m not sure if either strand is inherently American.‘

GDJ: You recently received the Hugo for best short-form editor. How important is that for the magazine and for you personally?

GVG: Since we’re doing this interview by email, you can’t see the expression that crossed my face and you can’t hear my laugh. The short answer is that it’s not important to me at all. I’m pleased and flattered to get the trophy, but I don’t believe I’m the best editor in the field, not by a long shot.

How important is it to the magazine? Not much that I’ve been able to measure. It hasn’t brought us vast hordes of new subscribers or elevated the quality of the submissions we receive.

GDJ: What plans do you have for F&SF next year, assuming they aren’t secret?

GVG: Well, you can see some of them already---starting with the December issue, we’ve been running reprints in the magazine, each one introduced by a current or former F&SF staffer. We’ve also been running some special covers that artists created for the anniversary. And of course we’re planning a special extra-large issue for the anniversary.

I’ve also got a couple of other things in the works, but I can’t guarantee that they’ll come to fruition, so I won’t say anything yet. But if you’re online, keep an eye on our blog or our forum for the news.

GDJ: Thanks for your time.

GVG: My pleasure. Thanks for the interesting questions.

Unforunately, Gordon mentions that the interview was conducted by email. without that you would probably not have guessed that my introdcution was a fabrication.

Other editor interviews can be found on the left-hand sidebar, or you can read all of them here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Latest Happenings

My review of Eddy Shah's Second World is on its way to SF Crowsnest, so I've managed to read Jupiter XXII this week. Very enjoyable as usual, and not just because of my contribution. I'm also reading Murky Depths #6 and I've started on Carlos Cortes' Perfect Circle.

Meanwhile, due to a problem with errant emails, It's A Sign will now be appearing in VW Camper & Commercials in the spring. That means I still have eight stories accepted and awaiting publication.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Roadmaker's Return

My recent Friday Flash Fiction, Dog's Best Friend, was set in the world of the Roadmaker and received some positive comments from readers. In fact, Jupiter editor Ian Redman liked it so much that he's asked to reprint it in Jupiter. So look out for the Roadmaker's return in a future issue of Jupiter.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Roadbuilder Reviewed Again

Another reveiw of Jupiter XXII is on-line at SF Crowsnest and has this to say about Roadbuilder:

Gareth D. Jones' road stories have eventually run their course with 'Roadbuilder', the last of the five part series. I'll try not to make any puns about transport, which is difficult, but it has been an excellent journey. The people of this quaint land get to grips with computer technology in order to control the road-making machine. Whatever happened to make this a post-apocalypse world we don't really know but the machine has acted to connect disparate communities, strengthening society and advancing communication. However, one wonders how long will be before double yellow lines are painted along the new roads and parking wardens make an appearance?

Now there's an idea for the novel...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Book Reveiw: Quofum by Alan Dean Foster

I haven’t read an Alan Dean Foster book for years. I don’t know why, I enjoyed some of the early commonwealth novels – they were always exciting and entertaining. You know the problem when you return to something from your youth: it’s just not the same.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Book Review: Diaspora by Greg Egan

Many of the themes and grand concepts from Egan’s earlier works come together in ‘Diaspora’, a book that left me dumbfounded with its astonishing scale. You’ve likely read other books that span millennia or even billions of year or that cross universes, but believe me this book will leave them all behind.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Book Review: The Last Reef by Gareth L Powell

I’ve been following Gareth L Powell’s work, or ‘the other Gareth’ as I like to call him, since we both had stories in ‘Aphelion’ in April 2005. ‘Six Lights Off Green Scar’ is one of the stories reproduced in this collection. What struck me about it at the time was the terse prose that somehow conveyed a mass of sensory information in few words, a quality that continues to define GLP’s work. Since then we’ve corresponded regularly and met up a couple of times, I joined Gareth’s Friday Flash Fictioneers, though I believe I coined the title, and we’ve collaborated on a flash fiction anthology (still available from OddTwoOut press). Having read all of this you may conclude that my review will be rather biased. Well you’d be wrong and I resent the implication.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Magazine Review: Interzone #218

Having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Chris Beckett’s collection ‘The Turing Test’, I was very pleased to discover that ‘Interzone’ #218 contains not one but three new Beckett stories. There’s also an in-depth interview with him as well as an interview with Gareth L Powell and the usual selection of reviews and columns to provide a diverse read.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Book Review: Teranesia by Greg Egan

Teranesia is the made up name of a remote Indonesian island that forms the backdrop of this novel. It is the island where Prabir grows up with his biologist parents and where he and his sister return years later to investigate strange new creatures that have been discovered. In this book Egan shows that he can talk biology as convincingly as he can discuss maths and physics.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

When Gareth Met Gareth

I recently attended the Convention for Science Fiction Authors Named Gareth, ConsFang, at the NEC in Birmingham where over 12,000 Gareths were present. While there I tracked down Gareth L Powell to find out what he was up to and how he got to where he is today.

You can read the full interview at SF Crowsnest.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

First Final Review

The first review of Jupiter XXII containing my final Roadmaker story has appeared at SF Revu. Of Roadbuilder, Sam Tomaino writes:

The third story, "Roadbuilder" is, alas, the last installment in Gareth D. Jones' "Roadmaker" series. In this one, we get updates of the characters we have come to love from the other installments and more old technology is discovered and made to work. Things get wrapped up somewhat but I do hope that sometime Jones will turn this into a novel. He is talented at creating characters and has a style I enjoy.

Regular readers of this blog will know that there is indeed a Roadmaker novel in the pipeline, currently hovering around the 60,000 word mark.

October Poll Result

In line with my own thinking, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back were voted best Star Wars films in last month's poll. There was one vote from some heretic for 'They're all tripe'.

No poll this month as I haven't give sufficient thought to coming up with something deep and meaningful.