Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: The Gift of Joy by Ian Whates

Before opening ‘The Gift Of Joy’ it already comes across as a quality volume. The cover art as another impressive and stylish creation by Vincent Chong and it even feels superior. Inside is a solid collection of stories that Ian Whates has produced in a relatively short space of time. There isn’t a single let-down in the book and several of the stories have already received accolades in their own right from anthologists, the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. I’ll limit myself to telling you about a few of my favourites.

Read the rest of my revies at SF Crowsnest.

Magazine Review: On SPec #76

This is my first look at Canadian magazine ‘On Spec’, a long-running, quarterly, digest-sized magazine that boasts a matte colour and several internal B&W illustrations. Most of these accompany an artist interview plus there’s another interview with veteran author J. Brian Clarke. There’s an enjoyable selection of stories, touching on SFnal themes but leaning more towards the fantastic, completing a good solid publication.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Book Reveiw: Starship Fall by Eric Brown

Although the novella ‘Starship Fall’ is the sequel to Eric Brown’s earlier ‘Starship Summer’, this book is an entirely independent story that doesn’t rely on previous knowledge. There are references to earlier happenings, but which of these formed the basis of the earlier book was not apparent and didn’t matter to this story.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Magazine Review: Interzone #222

There’s a whimsical air to this edition of ‘Interzone’, the stories have a more fairy-tale feel than usual and there’s a distinct absence of hard sci-fi. This feeling arises from Adam Tredowski’s cover onwards, where a small crowd watches on as a magnificent structure is assembled from the sky. Inside there’s an enjoyable interview with Paul DiFilippo and Jim Woodring, along with the usual collection of reviews and news. So, what of the fiction?

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Friday, June 26, 2009

White Gold

Another of my former Friday Flash Fiction stories gets a second airing today. White Out is published in the on-line version of Golden Visions #7.

This is the fifth Friday Flash Fiction to have been reprinted, aside from seven that have been translated into other languages. Another two are due to be translated and two more reprinted. Maybe it’s time I started writing some new flash fiction.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Few Good Men

The Spanish translation of my alternate history story A Few Good Men appears on the Argentinian webzine La Idea Fija today, translated as Un Punado de Buenes Hombres. This is to be the final issue of La Idea Fija, so I feel priveleged to have been included.

This story was my first profesional publication when it appeared in Cosmos in September 2007.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Return of The Last Adam

I make my second appearance on daily flash fiction zine Flashshots today with the return of The Last Adam.

This is my shortest story at 78 words and was my very first Friday Flash Fiction entry. It was originaly published in the now defunct Static Movement ezine where it was accompanied by this fabulous illustration by John D Stanton. Both were later reprinted in the Static Movement print anthology.

The Spanish translation appeared in Efimeras in March 2007 and was reprinted in Quimicamente Impuro in December 2008. Earlier this year the English and Welsh versions both appeared on E-Bych.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ralan's Revised

I’ve discovered that Ralan’s now has separate sections listing Twitterzines, podcasts and flash fiction markets, which makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for. I write a lot of flash fiction and I’ve become fascinated with twitter fiction and only one of my stories has been podcast so far, so I shall be working my way through the listings to see what else I can submit.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Editors: Stephen Theaker

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction is a quarterly, and sometimes bimonthly, magazine of speculative fiction named after its founder Stephen Theaker, a man who continues to deny any egomania. We met up at Stone Henge and watched the sun rising over the monument as we discussed publishing and speculative fiction. Or maybe we corresponded by email.

GDJ: TQF has reached the very respectable total of 29 issues. How has it grown since the beginning?

ST: The magazine was online from the start, but we kept it fairly quiet. We knew there was a long way to go before it would be respectable. We had a handful of copies of each issue made up at our local copy shop, but it was clearly a bit of a chore for them. Round about issue 16 and 17 lots of things changed: our details went up on Ralan’s Specfic Webstravaganza, Duotrope and the AA Independent Press Guide, so we began to receive external contributions; we discovered printing with Lulu was cheaper and let us have glossy colour covers and worldwide distribution; and I joined the British Fantasy Society and the Whispers of Wickedness forums, bringing us into contact with the wider world of fantasy for the first time.

Things chugged along nicely, and then last year I took over as the editor of Dark Horizons, the journal of the BFS. It’s put a bit more time pressure on TQF, but it’s brought me into contact with lots of new people; for example Douglas Thompson, a very interesting surrealist writer from Scotland, who appeared in Dark Horizons twice and then placed two additional stories in TQF to promote his upcoming book, Ultrameta.

Another big change came after I joined Goodreads and got into the habit of reviewing everything I read. Goodreads lets you export your book reviews to an Excel file, which can then be merged into appropriate style sheets in Word: hey presto, an instantly-typeset and sizeable review section! It’s become a very important part of the magazine.

Most recently, the launch of Feedbooks was huge for us, letting us distribute TQF in half a dozen ebook formats in return for half an hour of copying and pasting. It’s a little frustrating to think that there are people out there reading TQF on their Kindles when we can’t buy them in the UK yet – but it’s also rather smashing!

GDJ: You started off with the intent of publishing your own stories. What was behind that idea?

ST: My own writing has only ever been fodder for my publishing experiments – I’ve yet to submit a story anywhere else – but I do enjoy it. I work much better with an assignment in hand, one reason I enjoy National Novel Writing Month so much. So I hoped the mag would get me writing all year round. At the very least, I thought I’d be able to crank out enough to keep the mag going.

We tended to end up serialising the novels John Greenwood (my eventual co-editor) and I wrote each November, and for the rest of the year we wrote other bits and pieces to pad it out. Once we started to receive external submissions I was more than happy to hold my writing back for emergencies.

John’s Newton Braddell serial continues to run in almost every issue, which on its own justifies all the work I put into the magazine. Without TQF it wouldn’t exist, and it’s one of my favourite things ever, the next best thing to getting more Cugel stories out of Jack Vance!

I do get envious as I watch the writers submitting their stories, using submissions tracking software and noting response times on Duotrope – it seems like a great game, one I’d like to play too. And I learn a lot from reading their stories and having to decide between them: it would be interesting to try to put that into practice. But it’s generally best to focus on what you do best, and I’m much better at putting magazines together than I am at writing. A scrappy novel each November is enough to get the bug out of my system.

GDJ: How valuable do you think magazines like TQF are for new writers?

ST: For a good writer, especially one whose goal is to be a professional writer, they can be a trap – it’s easy to pour your work away, work that perhaps could have found a commercial market with a bit more patience. We warn writers on our submissions page of some of the pitfalls of publishing with us, and refer them to places like Writer Beware. (For a bad writer there’s an even worse danger – that of being published, and having your work held up to ridicule.)

But while amateur magazines may not have money to offer writers, that doesn’t mean we can’t offer other things, such as our time and respect. Respect for the integrity of their texts, for example. I'm stunned by the number of contributors to TQF and Dark Horizons who say they've never been sent proofs before, often writers with a long list of credits.

We can also offer artistic freedom, both in terms of subject matter and length – there are few venues for long stories these days, which I think has let TQF punch above its weight in that class. If we’re aiming for a niche, it’s for stories that are uncommercial – whether because of length, fashion, subject matter or narrative approach – but good.

Writers published in TQF get a taste of what it’s like to work with an editor, to deal with proofs, learn the process, and sometimes make beginner mistakes without it costing anyone money. Also, we give personal feedback on every story submitted. It may not be lengthy, especially for a story that has no particular flaws, but we don’t send form letters (except to acknowledge receipt).

One other thing every writer gets from TQF is a lot of gratitude! We’re always happy to run free adverts for contributors’ new projects, for example. We’re not doing them a favour by publishing these stories – they’re doing us a favour by letting us publish them, and it leaves us in their debt.

GDJ: How far do you think TQF can go? Do you plan to move in to the semi-pro market, or are you happy with your current position?

ST: I don’t think TQF will ever be a paying market. The entire publication – its distribution, especially – is predicated on it being an amateur, non-paying publication that we can give away to as many people as possible. If we had costs to cover, we’d have to try and make money from the publication, which would mean taking it off Feedbooks, taking it off our website, upping the cover price, and accepting a vastly reduced readership. If I began to feel that there was a market we could tap, I’d start an entirely new publication, built from the ground up around the need to make a profit.

On any project, you have to be clear about your goals – that makes all your decisions easier. Our goals are to (i) keep going (ii) catch up with McSweeney’s number of issues and (iii) get a little bit better each year. Whichever way I look at it, making TQF a paying venue would make it less likely to continue, and would certainly make it much less frequent. It means some writers will never submit to us, but that’s fair enough; professional writers and would-be professionals should look to professional venues for their work, and I’d never try to persuade them otherwise.

We’re taking a slightly different approach with our new POD book line, Theaker’s Paperback Library, since we’re selling those rather than giving them away. Once costs (which have to be agreed with the writer before being incurred) are covered, the writer gets all the money from sales.

GDJ: Like several other magazines, you’ve opted for the mixed-genre approach. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to that choice?

ST: It gives you more to choose from. More horror submissions come in than anything else, both to TQF and Dark Horizons. Maybe it’s that science fiction’s evolved to a point where it seems fairly inaccessible to a new writer without a science background, and fantasy writers are busy working on their triple-decker novels? I’m just guessing. When I get sf and fantasy submissions they are often very good.

There aren’t really any disadvantages, since I don’t have to take sales into account. One good thing about the unfortunately egotistical title of the mag is that it doesn’t limit us. If I want to devote an issue to hard-boiled crime, I could. The only reason I wouldn’t is that once you’re off your own turf it’s much harder to tell the good from the bad, the original from the derivative.

GDJ: What kind of stories do you like reading? Do you have a favourite genre or author?

ST: My preference is for science fiction and science fantasy. My favourite short story (or novella) writer at the moment is James H. Schmitz, though that may change if Joe Hill writes more in the vein of Gunpowder. I think James Blish’s Star Trek adaptations are very nearly perfect science fiction stories, though maybe that’s just because they were the first books I borrowed from the grown-up library – I judged everything else against them. I was recently dazzled by a collection by Bob Shaw, and I’m currently getting my head around the work of Rhys Hughes – I pity his translators! My favourite novelist at the moment is Robert Silverberg, partly because I have so many of his books still to read, while my favourite writer of all time is Jack Vance. I love Moorcock, Lovecraft, Farmer, Brunner, Pohl, Aldiss, Brin, Asimov, Leinster, Diana Wynne Jones, the plays of Racine and Sartre, and the comics of Moore, Morrison, Ennis, Ellis and Vaughn.

In terms of magazines, I adore McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, which was an obvious early inspiration for Theaker's Quarterly Fiction, in particular Michael Chabon's Thrilling Tales issue. I started reading PostScripts recently, and it's hugely impressive in its range, freedom and quality. Interzone is publishing superb material. Peter Tennant of Black Static makes me embarrassed to write reviews, his are so good. Andrew Hook's New Horizons for the BFS is a gem that deserves a wider readership. As an editor I look up to people like Pete Crowther, Andy Cox, Dave Eggers, Stephen Jones and Eric Flint.

Two of my favourite moments in fantasy are a scene from a Bob Morane novel, Les chasseurs de dinosaures, where the hero gets depressed and almost starts crying, and an issue of Superman where he sweeps the road by spinning on his head. What I love about that Superman moment is the follow-through on the premise, the internal consistency, that Superman does everything in a Super-way. You can see the same thing in Joe Hill’s Gunpowder: it builds to a totally logical but unexpected extrapolation of its premise. The Bob Morane moment breaks every cliche of the hero in a single paragraph, while making absolutely perfect sense. It’s funny, but also heartbreaking and frightening.

So that’s one or two of the things I look for in submissions. I like them to surprise and entertain me, preferably make me smile at least once, and not require too much work to render publishable. I like stories with a clear purpose. For me, the ideal short story takes place just after something interesting has happened, takes us through an interesting event, and leaves the reader thinking about the interesting things that are about to happen – but maybe I think that today because I read a submission like that yesterday! The deciding factor is always whether I feel the time it took to read the story was well spent.

GDJ: What plans do you have for TQF and for Theaker’s Paperback Library?

ST: We’ve just published our first book in Theaker’s Paperback Library, The Mercury Annual by Michael Thomas. We have a couple of other titles in the works, but won’t announce them till they are ready. Keeping TQF on schedule is the first priority, and we’ll work on the books when time allows. At first we'll concentrate on material that's already been edited and typeset for TQF, but it would be nice to expand the range later on, probably once I’ve been deposed from the Dark Horizons post.

TQF will live up to its name next year and go sort-of quarterly, to keep my workload within sensible limits. There will be four issues a year, but spaced out around Dark Horizons. Personally, I’d like to work on writing better reviews: it’s a fascinating discipline. The tension between your responsibilities to the writer and the reader, between describing the book and not spoiling it, between judging the book and being judged by it in return: all of that thrills me. I’m in awe of how the reviewers for Black Static and Interzone make every word count.

GDJ: Thanks for taking part.

ST: Thanks for asking!

Previous editor interviews are available via the right-hand side bar.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Transcontinental Gondolier

The Gondolier can now be read in Hindi, appearing in the March-May issue of Vigyan Katha, the only Hindi SF magazine, published May 10th. The Gondolier appears on the very last page.

This is a rather late announcement due to the fact that even after google.translate had done its bit I didn’t realise that you could download a PDF of Vigyan Katha from their website. There’s no TOC on the website so I didn’t know my story was in that issue.

Hindi is my 12th language, the 8th new language this year, and the 4th that The Gondolier has been published in. Of course you can also read it in several other languages on this blog:

Scottish Gealic

Cornish, Greek and Welsh versions are also due to be published this year and I have another 7 translations looking for a home that may end up here too.

I've already been published in Europe, North and South America and Australia and I can now add Asia to my map.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Art Imitates Art

I’m currently reading Ian Whates’ collection The Gift of Joy, and yesterday read Ghosts in the Machine, the story of a man who discovers a strange underworld beneath his city. Last night I dreamt I was lost somewhere in the middle of London. I had an A to Z, but as I turned each page it showed succeeding layers of streets below me rather than on the surface.

Now there’s a great idea for a story, inspired by a dream, inspired by a story.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vanishing Print Zines

I spotted an interesting and nostalgic article about vanishing print zines on Bill Ward's website today. Why not pop over and indulge in a spot of reminiscing?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Coming Up...

I have a few publications due to appear in the near future. The Spanish translation of A Few Good Men is due in La Idea Fija in the spring, which is fast drawing to a close. In July I’m expecting my non-fiction article What Does An Editor Want Out Of Life? in the BSFA’s Focus, my first twitter fiction Falling in Jetse De Vries’ OutShine and a reprint of my flash fiction White Out in Golden Visions. The Greek translation of The Gondolier is also due to appear in EF-ZIN some time during the summer.

As for the rest, for the most part I don’t have definite dates, but altogether I currently have a total of 14 stories accepted and awaiting their appearance.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Return of The Editors

It’s been a few months since I last posted an editor interview, although you can still find links to all of them on the right-hand sidebar. I distilled some of the wisdom I gained from the interviews into an article for writers and this is due to appear in the next edition of the BSFA’s Focus magazine in July.

With this approaching I decided it’s about time I hunted up some more editors to interrogate. There are still a couple of genre magazine editors I didn’t get round to last year, plus I’m expanding my horizons to include small press editors. I’m still sticking to the UK, so if you know of any editors you’d like to see interviewed, or you are one, drop me a line.

I already have three lined up, and the first of those will be on-line next week.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


My story Launch is launched on Flashshots today, the daily flash fiction email subscription magazine.

Launch originaly appeared here on this blog and you can read the Scottish Gaelic translation here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hub's 100th Issue Approaches

If you're one of Hub's 10,000 subscribers you'll have noticed that the magazine is heading for its 100th issue - an impressive number for any magazine. I asked editor Lee Harris what he has in store for the occasion:

Issue 100 is a big deal for us - we never imagined it would actually
*last* for 100 issues! That's just crazy talk! But here we are...

We'll be running the winning entry in our short story competition,
alongside a feature from a well-known author.

A round-up of the highs and lows of the previous 99 issues, and we'll be
plugging the first ever Hub book. Possibly two (depending on time
availability between now and then). There'll be a competition to win one
of these, too, and maybe some other stuff.

Oh, and some podcast fiction, and the re-opening for subs (but in a more
controlled way than before - we rather let it get the better of us,

Issue 100. Who'da thunk it?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Flash Fiction Update

I noticed today that the Flashshots publication schedule has been updated for June, and my two stories are now in the line-up:

June 11: Launch
June 24: The Last Adam

This reminded me that Launch was accepted for translation into Spanish, along with Frozen, back in December. I’ve chased them up to see when they’ll appear or if they’ve been lost. I’m also expecting to see The Gondolier in Hindi and I have a Welsh translation ready to go too. I’ll let you know when I have dates for any of these.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Aliette De Bodard’s story Ys in Interzone #222 is set in Brittany, an area I’ve visited on holiday several times. It starts off in Quimper, a town that made me smile at the memory of trying to follow the signposts to a place that everyone was pronouncing differently.

The story includes a poem in Breton, the celtic language of Brittany that’s closely related to Cornish. My short story The Gondolier has been translated into Breton and I thought I’d found a market for it at one point. That fell through so I may post it here instead.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Book Review: Flinx Transcendent by Alan Dean Foster

Flinx Transcendent is the fourteenth and final Pip & Flinx adventure, bringing a conclusion to long-running story arcs as the duo and their friends face up to the Great Evil that threatens to engulf the galaxy. This has been put off for at least the last two books as Flinx wandered off on various other random adventures while his girlfriend Clarity was left to convalesce following an assassination attempt. This book has far more sense of purpose to it as Flinx faces up to his destiny and finally gets on with saving the galaxy.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Magazine Review: Murky Depths #8

The fact that I get a mention in the editorial just makes ‘Murky Depths’ #8 even better than usual. I’ve been won over by the graphic strips and my first comic script has been accepted for a future issue. That’s still a way off though, so what does this issue bring? Well first of all another strikingly different cover. Editor Terry Martin is evidently intent on displaying as wide a range of graphic styles as possible and this is shown not just by the cover but throughout the magazine.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Book Review: Patrimony by Alan Dean Foster

This is my second Pip and Flinx book in a row, and also includes elements dealt with in the stand-alone novel Quofum that I read recently. As a result I found Patrimony much more accessible, though there were still numerous references to incidents and characters from earlier books that presumably have more meaning for long-term fans of the series. Aside from this limitation for the casual reader, I found this episode far more enjoyable than the previous volume Trouble Magnet as this time there was a definite point to the plot.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.