Thursday, July 31, 2008

Poll of the Month

Not content with having added every imaginable widget to my blog, I've also decided to introdcue a monthly poll. Sometimes it will adress a deep and meaningful issue, other times something entirely trivial. I'll analyse the results and report back on this first poll at the begining of September.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Writer's Glut

Writer’s Glut. It’s the opposite of Writer’s Block and is well explained in Doug Smith’s answer to the perennial question ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’:

Actually, from a writer's perspective, the experience is more like this: "Arrgghhh!!! Not another idea! When the @%$#^*! am I ever going to have time to write all these stories?"



I’m experiencing that crisis right now. The Roadmaker novel is crawling along slowly, holding up work on five other story ideas:


• The complex society that has developed on a malfunctioning colony ship. I’ve had this one waiting in the background for years and now have a whole host of information to go with it.
• A mystery story involving bio-augmentation. This one has all the basic ingredients ready to go.
• A lost colony world inhabited by a variety of human-descended races. Ideas still in progress.
• A story that may be set in a Roadmaker-style post industrial future, or possibly a Victorian steampunk past. Just a concept with no plot at the moment.
• A brand new idea, only a couple of weeks old, for a tale set on a planet gravitationally locked with the same face always to its sun. That’s not the main feature of the story, but I don’t want to give away the fun part!



Meanwhile, via the Velcro City Tourist Board’s fabulous list of writing advice, I read an article by Tobias Buckell on trunking stories. I have a couple that I thought might have to go that way, and after reading Tobias’ advice they are definitely heading to the metaphorical trunk. Sniff.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Greg Egan Bonanza

The friendly neighbourhood postlady delivered another parcel of goodies for me yesterday: almost the entire Greg Egan back catalogue in their smart new re-issue matching covers.

• Permutation City
• Distress
• Diaspora
• Axiomatic
• Luminous
• Teranesia
• Quarantine


I already have Incandescence, so I’m only missing Schild’s Ladder. I’ll be producing reviews for five of these for SF Crowsnest. That should keep me busy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Flash Fiction: Stone Quarry


Stone Quarry
By Gareth D Jones


This story is now under submission.


This story is a sequel to Delayed Reaction, and Rufus Balikind previously appeared in Shooting Stars and Now You See Me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Friday Flash Anniversary

This month sees the anniversary of Gareth L Powell’s Friday Flash Fiction. I joined in after 3 weeks, making it a whole year for me too. I haven’t managed every week, particularly in the past 3 months, but throughout the year I’ve written 34 stories averaging 260 words each.

Some of my favourites are:

Delayed Reaction
Frozen
The Gondolier
Gone with the Window
Never Talk to Strangers

Additionally, 3 have been translated into Spanish and another 2 are due in the next couple of months. Eight appeared in the Illuminations anthology and one is to be printed in amended form in VW Camper & Commercials.

Now that I’m concentrating on the Roadmaker novel and have a couple of other short stories on the go I shall be mostly retiring form active duty with the Flash Fictioneers. I’m sure inspiration will still strike randomly and oblige me to join in from time to time.

Tomorrow will be the final entry of my year as a Fictioneer. In an Asimovian kind of way I’ve managed to link 2 totally unrelated stories in a tale that sees the return of Rufus Balikind, the Galaxy’s greatest hunter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm in Focus

The latest Focus and Vector magazines arrived at the weekend from the BSFA. On the back inside cover of Focus – the magazine for writers – is an advert for Jupiter, with my name listed among the contributors, along with Neil Beynon. The Flash Fictioneers are rather well represented in fact. Martin McGrath is the editor and there’s an article by Paul Raven.

Meanwhile I’m in the early stages of planning an article for the next issue of Focus. I’ve had indications of interest in the idea, so I shall start work on it pretty soon. It’s quite daunting to think about writing some non-fiction for a change, but I guess it’s no different from some of the waffle on this blog. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Also in Focus is the news that the BSFA is to take over administration of the James White Award. This gave me the sudden and pleasing thought that I no longer qualify to enter that contest, or others such as Writers of the Future. My three professional sales rule me out.

One of the other articles was about planning a novel. I found that particularly enlightening as I tend to keep plots and plans in my head. There are some very practical suggestions that I think I shall adopt.

Over in Vector magazine I glanced through the book reviews to find that a large proportion of them were of fantasy books. Nothing against fantasy, but I thought I joined the British Science Fiction Association?!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Short Delay and a Long One

I received word of two delays in publication in the past week:

First, news from ClonePod that the podcast of Inside Every Successful Man has been put back a few weeks.

That’s nothing compared to the Portuguese translation of A Word in the Right Place due to appear in Phantastes. Originally scheduled for August 2006 and delayed for 2 years, it has now been postponed again. Phantastes is also changing from print to an on-line PDF format.

As any author will know, patience is a big part of the process.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Interzone #216 Review


This is the Mundane SF special issue, a subject that I came to without many preconceptions as I haven’t really been keeping up with the discussions on the subject. As usual the magazine looks competent, with striking cover art and a nice clean layout within.


Read the rest of my belated review at Whispers of Wickedness. This is my final review for that site folowing anouncement of its closure.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So far this week

Books Received: The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederick Pohl
Celebration – BSFA 50th Anniversary anthology

Just finished reading: Jupiter XXI – enjoyed the whole magazine as usual.

Waiting to be read: Interzone #217

Review submitted to SF Crowsnest: Incandescence by Greg Egan

Critiqued: 2 stories from my Orbiter writing group, and received 2 sets of comments on my latest short story.

Stories submitted: 1 English, 2 other languages

Stories written: None. Drat.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Looking In, Looking Out Reviews

After gathering the Raodmaker reviews together, I thought I’d do the same for all of the reviews of Looking In, Looking Out :


Booklove

"Looking In, Looking Out" by Gareth D. Jones is the first story offering, thought it's not in a traditional story form. Told in brief daily log style this story is about an alien reaching out to attempt first contact with the human race. The ending is somewhat expected once the reader gets the flavor of the tale, but is no less effective.



Murky Depths Forum

Gareth D Jones’ Looking In, Looking Out nearly made me cry. Which was the last thing I expected from a double page, diary-style piece, told from the dispassionate and innocent viewpoint of an alien, that can’t have been more than a few hundred words. I read it on the bus and hastily had to pull myself together for fear of losing face in front of the village school kids. It’s not what he says, it's what he doesn’t.



SF Revu

The first prose story is "Looking In, Looking Out" by Gareth D. Jones and is one of the best in the issue. An alien intelligence makes contact with an unborn child. Its observations make for a very good short-short story.



Neil Beynon

It was interesting as I said - to expand: it was also well executed and it brightened up my journey into work - always a good thing.


Anne Stringer

...a standout



Jonathan C Gillespie

...runaway hit



Tangent Online

Looking In, Looking Out by Gareth D. Jones is a visually interesting story consisting of a double page spread of several paragraphs, almost thought balloons, arranged in a counterclockwise circle around a picture of a fetus and the Earth. Each paragraph is a log entry by an alien species attempting to communicate with people on the planet. They find the only mind flexible enough to understand them as a fetus and so begin to interact with and teach it. Then comes the twist. Simple, quick, and pleasant.



Matt Wallace

This glaring low-res snapshot doesn't come close to doing "Looking In, Looking Out" by Gareth D. Jones justice. This was one of the very first stories I pushed for the issue. Inventive, funny, poignant. But that layout just takes it to another level. *** gorgeous beyond all reason, man. It's easily my favorite presentation of any piece in the 'zine. Any piece in any 'zine, in fact. First big house I buy, I'm having Terry blow this one up to ridiculous scale so I can hang it on my wall.


We've got one of the most unconventional and touching tales of first contact I have ever read.



UK SF Review


Looking In, Looking Out written by Gareth D. Jones is an unorthodox piece, set across a double-page spread, read anti-clockwise in chunks of days. In centre there is a neat bit of art of a baby in front of a planet which reminded me in part of the film 2001.

Each day text is in the form of a report from an alien on his attempted communcation with humans on Earth. An easy read, which packs a not so obvious sad ending when it’s realised just what the alien is communicating with, and why communication ends.

The layout and presentation, and the diary form of the story makes it a compelling read; a truly memorable story.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Look

You may have noticed that I've been faffing around with widgets and designs for the past couple of weeks; this may be why I haven't written much. So today I've uploaded a stylish new template. I like it.

All that remains is to re-instate all my widgets and links, and do something about the ads that came with the template.

This may take a while...

Friday Flash Thoughts

My idea for this week’s FFF hasn’t got any further than that, I’m afraid. It’s another story featuring Rufus Balikind, the galaxy’s greatest hunter who previously appeared in Shooting Stars and Now You See Me. Hopefully it’ll be ready for next week.

Meanwhile I received a rejection from Interzone in the post today, :o(
But also my review copy of Interzone #217 :o)

My review of Interzone #216 got lost somewhere in e-space, but should now be appearing at Whispers of Wickedness fairly soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Spanish Emporer

One of my earlier Friday FLash Fiction stories, The Emporer's New Force Field, has been accepted by Spanish flash fiction webzine Efimeras.

This will be my sixth and final story with them. It's scheduled to appear in issue #134 in October and editor Santiago Examino plans to close the magazine after issue #135.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Where could you put 7 million people?

I know it’s 3 weeks later, but this point from Dr Who has been bugging me.
Presumably others have spotted this but I haven’t had time to go surfing the net.

In Turn Left, London is destroyed and the South East contaminated so 7 million people have to be re-homed. An army convoy delivers lorry loads of people to a street somewhere up North and Donna and her family end up sharing a tiny terraced house with 20-odd other people. It makes for great drama, but somebody overlooked the maths.

I’ll use round figures to avoid getting picky:

If 7 million need re-housing and 3 million were killed in London, that leaves 50 million people in the UK. Only one person to be re-housed with every 7 inhabitants. With an average of 3 people per home in the UK, the army would only need to squash one extra person in every second home. There are plenty of single people in large houses, loads of holiday homes and even caravan parks. They didn’t need to send them all to one street.

Maths lecture over.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Intergalactic Joyriders

Here's an amusing little lego animation space adventure that a friend of mine made: Intergalactic Joyriders. It's along the lines of Wallace & Grommit's A Grand Day Out.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Postman

Not only one of my favourite novels, but also someone who delivers post to my house. Well, we actually have a postwoman. Usually, as with most people, the post is nothing to get excited about – bills and junk mail mostly. Today we received 4 envelopes though:

• A pair of free cinema tickets
• My contributor’s copy of Jupiter XXI
• An extra copy of Jupiter XXI that I’d bought
• My cheque from Nature

I’ll probably never get such an exciting delivery again!

The Science of Fiction

After 2 ½ years I’ve finally given my blog a title. But what does it mean? Is it:

• Implying that fiction is a science rather than an art?
• Referring to the science included in my fiction?
• Referring to the fictional science in science fiction?

Probably all of the above. It’s just a title.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Recording

Today should see Inside Every Successful Man recorded for ClonePod. It’s to be read by Rufus Nagel, who you can hear reading Now That I’m a Robot. He has just the right ironic inflection for reading my story. The PodCast is scheduled to be ready in a month.

I’m quite excited.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Roadruler Reviewed

I've not yet received my copy of Jupiter XXI, but the first review is already up at SFRevu. Here's what it says about Roadruler:


Next up, we have the latest in Gareth D Jones' "Road" stories. This one is "Roadruler" and we are told is the penultimate one. Here, the Road has linked many towns and the Mayor of Pallas has proclaimed himself Comptroller of the Road and imposed onerous taxes. Jones gives us a look at many people on one end of the road or the other and how their lives are changing. This is all told in a breezy, fun style and makes us hungry for more. Only one more chapter? I'd like to read more!


For anyone else who feels the same, and hopefully there are a few, I'm hoping to have the Roadmaker novel finished by the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Latest 'Zines

Two new zines out this week, both with great cover art:




-Issue #1 of Concept Sci Fi, which I shall be reviewing in due course.




-Jupiter XXI, which contains Roadruler, the penultimate Roadmaker story.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Editors: Pete Crowther

PostScripts magazine is now a well-established cross-genre magazine publishing a high calibre of authors. I tracked down editor Pete Crowther on the centre court at Wimbledon and we batted some questions back and forth. Well, we actually sent emails back and forth. Not at Wimbledon.


GDJ: More than any of the UK's other genre magazines, you publish a wide variety of stories, not necessarily of an overtly speculative nature. What is it you look for in a story?

PC: Oh, that's almost too easy: quality and style. Both Nick Gevers and I know exactly what we're after: storytellers working at the top of their game. Doesn't matter whether it's SF or Fantasy or Horror . . . good work will out. The way I always figured it, we read across genres: I do and all the people I know do. That's why magazines such as the much-loved old Saturday Evening Post scored so well -- they mixed genres. Mags such as Playboy did the same. In either of those you'd have the likes of Ed McBain and Hemingway and Bradbury rubbing shoulders . . . westerns alongside police procedurals alongside colonisation-of-Mars stories, together with maybe a Dobie Gillis college tale from Max Shulman and possibly even a war story . . . and articles from Art Buchwald and Woody Allen. How wonderful. We're not quite so eclectic yet with Postscripts but we're keen to broaden our readers' outlooks. So far it seems to be working.

But actually within the story itself, we watch for good description, believable characterisation and dialogue, and tight plotting . . . a sense of wonder and awe, of mystery and imagination, and the all-important frisson of unease. Is that too much to ask for? Well is it?


GDJ: What was the inspiration for producing the hardcover collectors' editions of Postscripts?

PC: Don't forget, we're a collectibles house, a specialist publisher. Our customers like that little extra something. I love getting my books and mags signed by contributors but it's a drag carting bags of them around to various conventions looking for those elusive signatures. It's good to get them all done for you. Believe me, it can be a nightmare . . . and there are times I wish we had never started it. But they are so popular that we simply could not consider dropping it now.


GDJ: You also run PS Publishing, which now publishes quite a number of books per year. Does that give Postscripts a stability that other independent magazines might not have?

PC: Postscripts 'stable'?! My word! But yes, I guess it probably is . . . though, of course, everything is relative. Being a part of a much bigger picture -- ie being part of PS rather than being just a magazine and nothing more -- probably does imbue Postscripts with a greater sense (or appearance) of stability and security . . . makes it slightly less exposed and less isolated in a way. And, naturally, we take every opportunity to promote the mag in our books and, similarly, to promote our books in the mag. In that regard, Postscripts is an essential -- indeed, the primary -- element in our advertising strategy.

But, to be fair, the mag's success is purely down to Postscripts itself . . . and, more specifically, to Editor Nick Gevers. Nevertheless, when that wonderful first issue appeared in 2004, Postscripts had some five or six years' worth of publishing triumphs on which to draw its strength. Then we started to worry about issue # 2 . . . and then double figures with # 10, then # 13 (unlucky for some) and now the 180,000-word monster that is # 15. After that I suppose it'll be # 20 to worry about . . . but heck, as any parent will readily confirm, you always worry about your kids!


GDJ: Postscripts seems to be well regarded and attracts an impressive array of authors. What's the secret to developing a magazine to this status?

PC: There isn't a secret . . . but, hey, if there were one then I wouldn't tell you now would I? It all comes down to this: we -- that's Nick and me -- publish what we like. When we come across a writer whose work we enjoy -- whether that writer is a household name or a brand new discovery -- then we'll get in touch and ask them to try us with something. If we like what they send us then we'll buy it. We reach a decision quickly -- usually within a matter of days -- and we pay immediately, even if the story isn't scheduled for a couple of years. So maybe that's the secret: treat people professionally and pay promptly.


GDJ: Do you think you could eventually compete with the big-selling professional mags, or would you even want to?

PC: I didn't and still don't set out to compete with anyone, either as a publisher or as a magazine. I set out to publish exactly what I wanted to publish. Let's not forget that we're small fry next to the likes of F&SF, Asimov's and Analog but yes, we'd like to build our reputation so that some of the readers of those fine titles decided to try our wares. But I don't want any success for us to result in a reduction in take-up for them -- we need more mags not fewer, and there's room for all of us. We need to get back to the halcyon days of many, many venues for the short-form.


GDJ: Are you likely to increase the frequency of publication, or do you think quarterly is the optimum for this type of magazine?

PC: I think that, at least for the forseeable future, four issues each year is about as much as we can manage. We'll see. I certainly wouldn't rule out going bi-monthly -- my preferred frequency -- but there are no current plans to do so.


GDJ: Which magazines or authors do you enjoy reading?

PC: I love F&SF -- that's the only mag I still never miss (I have them all, from # 1). There are occasional stories in other magazines that press a lot of the buttons but I'm afraid I can't get through as many as I used to manage, so my opinion as to what constitutes the best story in a given year should not carry the weight it perhaps once did.

As for authors, well . . . the same as it's always been: Bradbury, Campbell, King, Robert B. Parker (Spenser) and Richard Ford are five who spring to mind most readily but there are lots more. I also enjoy reading DC's re-issued comicbooks from the 1950s and '60s.


GDJ: What plans do you have for this year for Postscripts or PS Publishing?

PC: More of the same, on both counts. And that goes for next year and all the years thereafter. We all of us get a big charge from putting out the books and issues of the magazine. If that were ever not to be the case then I'd stop in an instant. But the general consensus seems to be that people like what we're doing . . . and heck, we certainly do love doing it!