Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favourite Books of 2015

This year I read my usual mixture of some brand new novels, a few from ongoing favourite series and a few of those books hailed as classics. These are the ones I particularly enjoyed, in chronological order of reading:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Children of Time by Adrian Tcaikovsky
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 in Writing

This year was not my most productive for writing, but I still managed to complete 7 stories: 4 flash fiction, the slightly longer than flash Englebert that was published in Daily Science Fiction, and 2 much longer stories, one novelette that took over a year altogether, and one that was almost long enough to be a novelette.

Coming up: a story for an invitation-only anthology, and lots more ideas still to make it onto paper...

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

The hype over Anne Leckie’s ‘Ancillary’ books is not exaggerated. The judges and nominators of all of the various awards were all correct. I was blown away by Ancillary Justice and equally impressed by Ancillary Sword, so I already knew I was going to love the third volume, Ancillary Mercy, before I started reading it. If anything, it exceeded expectations.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Wastelands 2 - More Stories of the Apocalypse

Who doesn’t like a good post-apocalyptic tale? ‘The Postman’, ‘Waterworld’ and ‘I Am Legend’ are among my favourite films. In a short story collection, like ‘Wastelands 2’, there is plenty of opportunity for broad, sweeping adventures, including the original version of David Brin’s ‘The Postman’ as well as shorter, more individual and quirky tales that focus on a specific person or incident or scenario.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Author Interview: Frank Roger

Frank Roger has been my friendly nemesis for some years. Every time I have a story translated into a new language, Frank has stories in two new languages. I decided to catch up with him in the hopes of capturing the secret of his success...
How did your first translated sale come about?

I had been writing for a number of years and had a series of stories published in Dutch, in various Belgian and Dutch magazines and the odd anthology. For a few years I was happy to see my work published in those small magazines. However, I quickly understood that if I continued this way, little else would happen for the rest of my life. Somehow I felt there had to be more to writing, that there had to be a way to reach a bigger readership. I needed to break out of the relatively small part of the world where Dutch was spoken. After all, why limit oneself?

So when I had a story in French, I submitted it to a fanzine put out by a Walloon friend, the late Alain le Bussy, and it was published in 1990, my first publication in another language than my native Dutch. I tried a few more magazines: some stories in French ended up in French fanzine Octa, a story submitted in English was published in Finnish magazine Tahtivaeltaja in 1991 – my third language. Then I discovered German magazine Solar-X, which ran a whole bunch of stories by me over the years. Lithuanian magazine Dorado Roganos followed, and I just kept going as I knew by then that there was an interest for my work abroad.

Do you write in both French and Dutch, and does your style vary depending on the language?

I usually write in English, and afterwards make a Dutch version (rather than a translation) of the story – sometimes it’s the other way round. Occasionally I translate my stories into French. I think my style is the same regardless of the language I’m working in.

Did you set out to lead the way in translations, or did it just happen by accident?

I submitted to magazines and anthologies in other languages on a regular basis, and as it seemed to work, I just kept going. There was no plan behind it really, but after a while I grew curious as to how many languages I might reach, and I actively started looking out for new markets. I’m still doing so, with (at the time of writing) work published in 44 languages.


Is there another language you’d really like to be published in?

Basically, all the languages I haven’t been published in so far. Japanese would be fine, for instance, or some African languages. Some European languages are still missing, like Czech. We’ll see how far I can take this.

You write stories in a variety of genres. What appeals to you about writing in those different styles?

Although my work is quite varied, I don’t feel as if I’m working in different fields or styles. I tend to think of my work as a big jigsaw puzzle - each story is a piece of that puzzle, and each piece may have a different shape, size or colour from the rest, but all the pieces together form the puzzle, the complete picture.

Which publication are you particularly proud of, or excited about?

I’m proud of all my publications, but naturally of the professional ones especially, such as my twenty or so stories in Greek magazine Ennea, or my stories in magazines/anthologies in France (Galaxies), Poland (Nowa Fantastyka), South Africa, India, China… And of course my story in the anthology “Chilling Horror Short Stories” from a major UK publisher.

What do you have planned for next year?

As always, I hope to do more and better work. And I may add a few more languages…



Saturday, November 07, 2015

120 Stories

This week I finished writing my 120th short story - a 7000 word complicated time travel story - which added together brings my total word count to almost 1/4 million words. That doesn't include my 3 completed novels.

Must write more...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures

This is my second large dollop of steampunk in recent weeks, having polished off ‘The Mammoth Book Of Steampunk’ in short order. I’m optimistic about this volume, simply due to the addition of the word ‘Adventures’. I like steampunk but I find many of the stories in anthologies I’ve read are more fantasy or romance stories than the Science Fiction or adventure-type steampunk that I particularly enjoy.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk

It’s been a while since I had any steampunk to read, so the chunky 500-page ‘Mammoth Book Of Steampunk’ was, I decided, an excellent opportunity to catch up with a wide selection of authors and stories. The volume contains 30 stories, including a handful original to the collection, gathered together by regular Mammoth editor Sean Wallace.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I shared a Table of Contents with Adrian Tchaikovsky in the NewCon Press anthology ‘Looking Landward’ a couple of years ago. His story was about ants and mine was about worms. I subsequently met him briefly at EasterCon this year and stood next to his wife while ordering a sandwich. I’d not read any of his ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ fantasy series though because I only read Science Fiction. ‘Children Of Time’ is definitely Science Fiction and also includes ants.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

Dave Hutchinson’s novella ‘The Push’ was nominated for the BSFA award a couple of years back and was a very fine piece of space opera indeed. His new novel ‘Europe In Autumn’ was also nominated for the BSFA award. It’s of a completely different style and sub-genre but is a very worthy nominee.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Mammoth Reprint

I discovered today that Gord Sellar's story The Clockworks of Hanyang that first appeared in The Immersion Book of Steampunk edited by my very self, was reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, published last year. The elephantine anthology also includes Aliette De Bodard's Memories in Bronze, Feathers and Blood that appeared in my anthology too, though as a reprint there.

It's a pleaseing affirmation of my taste in stories to have two of them reprinted in such a well-respected anthology series.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review: Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs

I enjoyed the film ‘John Carter’ a lot, even though the critics didn’t seem to like it. I enjoyed it so much in fact that it prompted me to buy the three-volume omnibus edition of the entire Barsoom series, comprising all 11 books, which I then read over the course of the following year. Towards the end of last year, I picked up the omnibus edition of the first three Pellucidar books, too. I didn’t enjoy them as much as the Barsoom novels, but having got a taste for Edgar Rice Burroughs I was intrigued to see ‘Worlds Of Edgar Rice Burroughs, edited by Mike Resnick and Robert T. Garcia, Baen’s anthology of new ERB-inspired stories set in all of his famous series.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Gondolier

A comment yesterday made me realise I don't really know where you can read The Gondolier in English any more, so here it is again:

The black prow of my gondola cut smoothly through the calm waters of the canals.  The sleek craft had served me well for many years, carried passengers through the city’s waterways under the guiding hands of generations of my forebears.

 The sun was setting over the ancient city, turning the water to an inky ribbon lain between elegant sandstone buildings.  I breathed deeply of the cool evening breeze.

 Is there any place more beautiful than this wondrous city of canals?  As the boat eased into its mooring I stopped to gaze with satisfaction up into the darkening skies of Mars.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Englebert at Daily Science Fiction

My short story Englebert is on line today at Daily Sience Fiction. This is my second story to appear there after last year's Hiking In My Head, and like that one also follows a non-linear chronology.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Filling Up My Bookshelf

My contributor copy of Slovenian magazine Jashubeg en Jered arrived, which includes my story The Gondolier. It's the first print magazine I've received for a while, and I realised there's barely any room to squeeze it onto the shelf with my other magazines.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: Grand Crusades: The Early Jack Vance, Volume Five

Since I first read Araminta Station over 20 years ago, Jack Vance has been one of my favourite authors. I’ve read just about every SF book he wrote and over the past couple of years I’ve been getting hold of the last few older and more obscure books on my to-read list. Subterranean Press have brought out several Vance volumes and this latest includes 5 novellas/short novels, including two that I haven’t before read.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Gondolier in Indonesian

Indonesian is the 37th language for The Gondolier - 16 translations have been published in print and on-line while the rest have been posted here on my blog.

Haluan perahu gondolaku membelah pelan air yang tenang di terusan kota. Perahu yang indah ini telah melayaniku selama bertahun-tahun, mengangkut penumpang melalui terusan-terusan kota melalui tangan-tangan terampil beberapa generasi nenek moyangku yang mendayung di terusan-terusan kota ini.

Matahari mulai terbenam melintasi kota tua tersebut, merubah warna air menjadi seperti pita bertinta yang terbentang di antara bangunan-bangunan batu pasir yang Nampak anggun itu. Aku menghirup dalam udara melalui angin sepoi petang yang dingin.

Apakah masih ada tempat yang lebih indah dibanding kota dengan terusan anak sungainya yang menakjubkan ini? Ketika perahu merapat pelan ke dermaganya, aku berhenti untuk menatap puas ke atas memandang langit-langit Mars yang mulai gelap.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Catching Up With the Classics

There are lots of novels hailed as classics of the genre – those that won the Hugo and/or Nebula awards, those that were reprinted a lot, or that have been included in the SF Masterworks series, or that are often included in various ‘best of’ lists. In recent years I’ve made an effort to get hold of as many of these ‘classics’ as possible to fill in the gaps in my literary heritage. They haven't always lived up to their reputation. Here’s a brief review of what I’ve read recently:

Childhood’s End – Arther C Clarke – it was OK but rather dated now.
Desolation Road – Ian McDonald – wonderfully lyrical

The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin – Pretty good, but a little dated.
Non-Stop – Brian Aldiss – Brilliant.

The City and the Stars – Arthur C Clarke – Good but slow.
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin - Brilliantly evocative.

Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein – Don’t know what the fuss was about.
Ringworld – Larry Niven – Didn’t enjoy at all.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein – Enjoyable, but not great.
Gateway – Frederick Pohl – Genius.

The Songs of Distant Earth – Isaac Asimov – It was OK.
Hyperion – Dan Simmons – Brilliant.

Lined up on my shelf I have Helliconia Spring

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Author Interview: Doug Smith

Douglas Smith is an award-winning Canadian author whose work has appeared in twenty-five languages and over thirty countries. You can see already why I feel an affinity for him. His fiction includes the urban fantasy novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, and the collections Chimerascope, Impossibilia, and La Danse des Esprits.
Doug is a three-time winner of Canada's Aurora Award, and has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, CBC's Bookies Award, Canada's juried Sunburst Award, and France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane. A short film based on Doug's story "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" won several awards when it toured film festivals around the world.
I took the short cut to Canada, via Greenland, and our teams of huskies sniffed around each other as we dismounted our sleds and settled down to drink tea from thermos flasks and talk about writing and translations.
GJ: How did your first translated sale come about?
DS: It was 1998. I had started to sell my short fiction regularly by then. Somewhere (in Locus, I think), I came across a reference to a German anthology series that was looking for stories, including stories originally published in English, which would be translated at no cost. I sent them two stories that I'd already sold in English, which they accepted for two separate anthologies, one SF and one fantasy.
GJ: Did you set out to lead the way in translations, or did it just happen by accident?
DS: I'm not sure I'd say I'm leading the way. There are other writers, Frank Roger, most notably, with more foreign language sales than I have. Currently, I've sold stories in thirty-one countries and twenty-five languages.
No, I had no plans or expectations that I'd end up selling so many foreign language reprints. I just enjoyed the idea of having my stories read more widely, in other countries and other languages. Plus it's found money. And there's a fun factor too, Foreign language reprints bring the chance to see your name alongside of some of the biggest names in fiction. Even when I was starting out writing short fiction, my foreign language sales let my byline appear with the likes of Steven King, Neil Gaiman, Larry Niven, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Tanith Lee, Neal Stephenson, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, not to mention James Branch Cabell and H.P. Lovecraft. 
GJ: What led to the development of the Foreign Market List?
DS: My first pair of sales to those German anthologies got me interested in foreign language markets, so I started to research how many might be out there. The industry magazine, Locus, ran articles periodically reporting on the current state of science fiction and fantasy in other countries, and these articles often mentioned local short fiction markets in those countries. From there and from Google, I gradually built a list of the various non-English short fiction genre markets around the world.
Since I found it useful, I assumed that other writers might as well. I was also looking for something to add some extra value to my brand new website, so once the list grew to a sizeable number of markets, I added it as a feature to my site. Having it on the website also brings the advantage that writers and editors regularly provide me with updates, additions, corrections to the information on the FML, so everyone gains since the list is kept as current and accurate as possible, thanks to all the various interested parties.
GJ: Is there a language you’d really like to be published in?
DS: Hmm. Interesting question. I've never really thought about it. Esperanto would be fun. And maybe Welsh, since I'm part Welsh on my dad's side.
GJ:You write a variety of SF, fantasy and horror. What appeals to you about writing in those different genres?
DS: As a kid, I read widely across speculative fiction genres, especially SF, fantasy, and mystery, but general fiction as well. So when I began writing, it just seemed natural to write across genres.
As a writer, I don't feel restricted by one particular genre. I can tell any story I can think of in the way I feel is best suited to that story idea. I really don't think about genre when I write. I don't think "oh, this is an SF story. I can't do *that* in an SF story." Which is probably why I tend to mix genres not only across the stories I write, but within a story as well. As a reader, I've always enjoyed stories that mix genres. One of my favourite writers, Roger Zelazny, was a master of "science fantasy", stories which have the veneer or trappings of fantasy, but have a core logic of SF, stories like "Lord of Light" or "Jack of Shadows."
Not being restricted to a single genre, there are fewer (no?) limitations to the types of stories that I can tell. The stories still need an internal logic and consistency, but I'm not bound by any concerns of matching current reality. That is wonderfully freeing for a writer.
Also, as a writer, I appreciate the power of speculative fiction as a literature is, to paraphrase the great SF anthologist Damon Knight, to hold up a distorted mirror to our current reality, to focus on some aspect of our world which needs to change (in the writer's opinion). It's that "if this goes on…" type of story that allow speculative fiction to provide a social commentary in a way that mimetic fiction cannot.
Spec fic can use other worlds--future or alternate--to focus on aspects of our real world, our shared beliefs, our conflicting beliefs, our humanity, our inhumanity, our potential, our failings, to let us view ourselves through a different lens, at a slightly different angle. Speculative fiction, by the very nature of its unreality, can make us see our reality in ways that mimetic fiction cannot. How we relate to those views, which messages resonate with us as individual readers, can then tell us something about ourselves.
GJ: Which publication are you particularly proud of, or excited about?
DS: After many years of writing only short fiction, I was excited and proud of my first novel, the urban fantasy, The Wolf at the End of the World. It was a sequel to my award-winning novelette, "Spirit Dance" (which, btw, has been published thirty-two times in twenty-one countries). The novel picks up five years after the events of the short story and features the same cast of characters plus a set of new ones.
Here's the back cover blurb:
A shapeshifter hero battles ancient spirits, a covert government agency, and his own dark past in a race to solve a murder that could mean the end of the world.
Cree and Ojibwe legends mix with current day environmental conflict in this fast-paced urban fantasy that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to its explosive conclusion.
And if you're talking about pride, I'd point to this quote from one of my writing heroes, Charles de Lint, who wrote the introduction for the book:
"I can’t remember the last time I read a book that spoke to me, so eloquently, and so deeply, on so many levels. ... I’ll be rereading it in the future because it’s that sort of book. Richly layered and deeply resonant. An old friend, from the first time you read it." —Charles de Lint, World Fantasy Award winner
I'd also mention, since we're talking about short stories, my guide for short fiction writers, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction, which came out in October.
GJ: You’re first novel was The Wolf at the End of the World. Are you concentrating on novel-length fiction now?
DS: Yes, I am. I still plan to keep writing short fiction, but my focus is and will be on novel length works.
GJ: What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
DS: I am currently 96,000 words into the first draft of a new YA urban fantasy novel, which I'm guessing will end up at about 120,000 words when all done and edited. It's the first in a planned trilogy and I can't remember when I've had this much fun writing anything. It's set in Toronto and features two teenaged protagonists, a love story, astral projection, body swapping, rune magic, very creepy villains, and a most unusual superhero.
GJ: Thanks!
DS: Thanks for inviting me!


Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Probable Tradesman

My flash fiction story The Probable Tradesman is now on-line in the new issue of Abyss and Apex.

This is my fifth story published this year, and my eighth pro sale altogether.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett

Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden was an excellent novel and my opinion was confirmed by its winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The planet Eden and the society that had developed on it were so well thought out and captivating that I have been intrigued to see what would happen next.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Books On A Plane

For only the second time ever, somebody commented on the book I was reading, and again I was on a plane. This time, while flying back from Dublin, the man 2 seats away nodded at the copy of Dan Simmon's Hyperion on my lap and asked if it was any good. Like me he has had it waiting on his book shelf for some time, intending to read it at some point as it's one of the 'classic' SF books. I told him it's really good so far.

I have the next 2 books in the Hyperion Cantos still lined up on my bookshelf...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Review: Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

From the start I should probably make it clear that Jack McDevitt’s ‘Alex Benedict’ books are one of my favourite series, so I could tell you how great ‘Coming Home’ is without even reading it. Having said that, I shall attempt to write something sensible about the book rather than just enthusing about it.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: Sibilant Fricative by Adam Roberts

I feel slightly inadequate at the prospect of writing a review of ‘Sibilant Fricative’, a collection of reviews and essays from Adam Roberts. He is well-known and respected as a reviewer who is both perceptive and entertaining, while at the same time scholarly. He is the kind of author whose reviews are collected together and published in a book. Obviously.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I was at Collectormania in Milton Keynes on Saturday, where there were loads of Stormtroopers, R2D2 type robots, Dr Whos, Batman and Batgirl and plenty of other people dressed up. There were also some well-known and some slightly obscure actors from various shows. These are the ones I noted as I wandered around:

 I think he worked for UNIT.

 Yes, actual David Prowse, as well as someone in a costume.

 Christine Adams. Did she work for UNIT too?

 Amanda Noar, the lady with the hair, not the guy with the tentacle.

 He bumped into my niece.

 Mike Edmunds. I didn't see any actual Ewoks.

 The King was there too, but I didn't see him.

 John Leeson, the voice of K9. Apparently he was also the original Bungle from Rainbow. We also saw K9.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Gondolier in Slovenian

The Slovenian translation of The Gondolier is now out in issue  #35 of Jashubeg en Jered.

That's the 16th published language for this story.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review: Resonance by John Meaney

‘Resonance’ brings John Meaney’s ‘Ragnarok’ trilogy to a conclusion – a multi-stranded historical, contemporary, space opera and far-future epic tying together several viewpoint characters in disparate times and locations.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

In my 2008 review of Chris Beckett’s Edge Hill prize-winning collection ‘The Turing Test’ I described the short story ‘Dark Eden’ thus:
 ‘…one of the best short stories I have ever read...'

‘Dark Eden’ the novel was released in 2012 and, with the imminent release of the sequel ‘Mother of Eden’, now seems an opportune time to reminisce about the book of one of my favourite short stories.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Return to Reviewing

It's almost 4 years since I stopped regularly reviewing books at SF Crowsnest. Since then I've posted the occasional review when I've been sent something independently. And each time I do there's a polite invitation to return to the fold...

So finally I've decided it's time. My first selection of books to review for SF Crowsnest has arrived and reviews will be appearing in the coming weeks...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rose Coloured Tentacles

My flash fiction octopus story Rose Coloured Tentacles is on-line today at Perihilion. This is one of those stories where I thought of the title first, then spent several months mulling ideas over to find a story to go with it.

This is my second story at Perihilion, following last year's multi-author collaboration Crowd Control.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Book Review: The Best Japanese Science Fiction

This anthology of Japanese science fiction was first published in 1988 and is comprised of stories dating back to the 60’s, so in terms of my interest in comparing SF from other cultures, it doesn’t really give me an idea of what contemporary Japanese SF is like. What I did find interesting is that, similar to Anglophone SF of the same period, the protagonists are all male, and female characters play little, if any, active roles in the stories. I can only assume that this has changed with time as it has done to some degree in English SF.


Many of the stories are set in contemporary or near-future Japan, and even where aspects of society are obviously futuristic, the settings themselves are not startlingly different from today. I found several of the stories to be rather, I don’t know, na├»ve? They told stories of things that were intended to be amazing, but were not at all surprising.  Again, I’m assuming this is due to the age of the stories, and to the fact that I’m very well read in SF.
One thing that stood out is that the stories are often narrated in the style of a parable rather than from an individual point of view. Another thing that particularly struck me is that none of the protagonists have names. They are always referred to as ‘the young man’, ‘the father’, ‘the boy’ etc. In fact the only characters who are named are the non-humans. Again, I wonder if this is typical of Japanese fiction, or just of that time period?

Two stories: ‘The Road to the Sea’ and ‘Fnifmum’ stood out among the collection, the kind of tales that leave you feeling satisfied at have read them. Then I came to the final entry, ‘The Legend of the Paper Spaceship’, a novelette by Tetsu Yano, described as ‘the dean of Japanese SF writers’. For this story, ignore everything else I have written. This is a classic in any time and place.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Book Review: The World and the Stars, Edited by Chris Butler

I’m sure I won’t be the first person to tell you that anthologies and short story collections are very rarely produced by the big publishers any more. This is partly because the average reader is more interested in novels, so short story collections sell much fewer copies, making them less viable for big publishers. Of course, people like you and me enjoy our short stories, so we’re always happy when another anthology comes along.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


This month I wrote my first piece of freelance commissioned writing. I can't say anything about it due to extreme secretiveness and the chance for me to cackle like a megalomaniac evil overlord. It was an interesting experience, writing something specified by someone else, with an extremely tight deadline to get it done. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do some more.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Author Interview: Josh Vogt

Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humour, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

I caught up with Josh midway across the Atlantic where we tethered out hot air balloons together and Josh hopped over for a cup of tea.

GJ:       First off, any relation to A.E.Van Vogt, and how do you pronounce surname?

JV: No relation, though I certainly won’t mind being on the bookshelves next to him. And the name is pronounced the same as “Vote.” Yes, I’ve been told to go into politics, since I’d have the perfect campaign slogan. No, I never will.

GJ:       You write several different kinds and lengths of fiction, including RPG texts and tie-ins. What appeals to you about writing in these settings?

JV: I bore easily, which is one of the reason I quit the 9-5 career track and set out to be a freelance writer. Having a wide variety of genres and forms to write within keeps me from getting into any sort of rut and also provides an excellent creative challenge. For RPGs and tie-ins, I love the chance to bring my personal style, characters, and fresh ideas to an established setting.

GJ:       You’ve also written short stories, novellas and novels. Do you have a preference, or does each have its own reward?

JV: Actually, I feel I do well with novels (usually ranging from 85-100k words) and flash fiction (1k words or less). So I jump  to either end of the spectrum. Short stories have been a struggle for me in the past, but I’m slowly working to refine my technique there. I’ve definitely learned that particular ideas lend themselves to certain story lengths, so if I’m struggling to flesh out a concept into a full novel or novella, then I take a run at it as a flash fiction piece and often find it condenses quite nicely. Or I may start a short story and find myself inspired to worldbuild until it’s novel-worthy.

GJ:       Does gaming inspire you to write, or vice versa? Or both?

JV: Both, for sure. The games I’ve loved best are ones that have the most storytelling or character development potential. If it lacks a storytelling core, then I quickly lose interest in a game and move on. When I encounter a game that gives me an incredible adventure, that makes me want to turn around and write one of my own!

GJ:       Tell us a bit about your new novel, Forge of Ashes.

JV: Forge of Ashes is a sword and sorcery adventure following Akina, a dwarven barbarian, who returns to her mountain home after fighting abroad for a decade. She’s wanting to reconnect with her family and culture, perhaps even rest from the violence for a bit, but no such luck! Not only has her family been disgraced, but her mother has vanished into the foreboding tunnels leading from the city down into the Darklands. Akina determines to do everything in her power to rectify the situation, which means facing down plenty of monstrous foes along the way.

GJ:     What writing plans do you have for the rest of the year?

JV: I’m constantly working on new projects, both short and long form. I’ve got a couple novels I’m polishing to shop around, and then have several others that are in various stages of worldbuilding and drafting. At least one or two of those should be finished by the end of the year, and we’ll see what else is in the works by then.

You'll be glad to know, Josh made it safely back to his own balloon, and as far as I know heade in the right direction to get home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Language Number 27

I've had a story accepted by Slovenian magazine Jashubeg en Jered. Not sure when it will be published yet - I'll keep you posted. This will be my 27th language!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Story Sale: Rose Coloured Tentacles

My flash fiction story Rose Coloured Tentacles has been bought by Perihilion, the second story they've taken from me. They published my multi-author collaboration Crowd Control last year.

This is my 6th acceptance of the year, which I'm very pleased with, following second-time sales to Domain SF and Daily SF, as well as translations into German and Afrikaans. I still have quite a few stories out there looking for homes though.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Writing, With Children

Today my guest post about writing with children (after all, I have 5) is up on the blog of fellow author Spencer Ellsworth .

Take a look and see what you think.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Science Fiction in Translation

It’s generally recognised that far more English SF is translated and published in other countries than SF written in other languages is translated and published in English. I’ve now been published in 26 languages, and at the same time I’ve been on the lookout for translated science fiction.

There are occasional translated stories in some magazines, and there are equally rare anthology. Two years ago I reviewed The Anthology of European SF for SF Crowsnest, in which I discovered that, although written by authors from several countries, there was nothing startlingly different from what I usually read. To be fair, one story from each country doesn’t really give me a basis to judge an entire culture.

There are a few anthologies available from particular countries and I’m currently reading The Best  Japanese SF. There are also some novels in translation, notably the recent translation of the hugely popular Three Body Problem trilogy from China, which I’ve added to my ‘to read’ list. I’m planning to get hold of as much translated work as I can, and I’ll be interested to see how SF from around the world compares and whether geographical culture outweighs SF culture enough to be recognisable.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ten Years Ago In Fiction

Ten years ago, I'd just had my 2nd, 3rd and 4th stories published - all accepted by the first markets I subbed to, a trend that lulled me into a false sense of security, but inspired me with confidence to carry on writing. Both were non-paying exposure markets, and both are still going strong today: Aphelion and Bewildering Stories.

Fluctuations, in BWS #139 in March 2005 remains one of my favourite stories. It was reprinted in one of their 'Best of' summary issues in July 2005, my first reprint. A revised version was published in the anthology Quantum Genre on the Planet of Arts in November 2010, and earned me a footnote in Wikipedia in the article on quantum genre.

Devotion was my second story in BWS in April 2005.

The Grey Hole, in Aphelion #91 in April 2005, was the first of 8 appearances I made in that webzine, and one of a very few attempted 'hard SF' stories. It was a wonderfully friendly place, the first on-line forum I joined, and I remain in touch with some of the regulars still. The Grey Void was the first sequel I wrote and appeared in Aphelion #102 the following year.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Final Continent

I've been published in Europe, Australia, Asia, North and South America, and finally one of my stories has been published in Africa: the Afrikaans translation of The Gondolier, on the wezine Afrifiksie.

Only Antarctica remans unconquered...

Monday, April 06, 2015

EasterCon Report 2015

It's 8 years since my first EasterCon in Chester, and I noticed this time that there's been a big change in demographics during that time. I met up with another first-timer at Chester and we seemed to be the only men who weren't middle-aged, bushy-bearded, pony tailed and sporting a waistcoat. Nowadays there are much more younger people of all different backgrounds and it seems much less insular than when I first attended.

I met up with several people I know from real-life or on-line, most of whom I only ever see at cons, and some of whom I met for the first time:

Gareth L Powell, who I first met on-line almost 10 years ago, Aliette de Bodard, Mike and Sarah Wood, Neil and Gemma Beynon, Ian Whates, Ian Watson, whom I overtook in a corridor, Chris Priest, Nina Allen, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and his wife whose name I didn't catch but I stood next to at the bar buying a sandwich, Daniel Benson and Guido Eekhart whose name badges I saw in passing and by the time their names had registered I'd lost sight of them, Kim Lakin-Smith, and plenty of others I saw in the distance.

Best presentation I attended was entitled 'Unfortunate Incidents Involving Balloons and Parachutes', which was a highly entertaining history of heroic accidents and tragedies. I'm hoping the same talk will be on again next year.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Daily Science Fiction Sale

I'm rather pleased to have sold a second story to Daily Science Fiction - my 9th pro sale altogether. I'm not sure when it will be scheduled to appear yet, but should be within a few months. It's a 1500 word story entitled Englebert that I wrote in January.

Friday, March 27, 2015

EasterCon Approaches

One week to go. I've had a look at the programme and found a few interesting items to attend, partially arranged to meet some fellow authors, and vaguely planned my route...

Friday, March 20, 2015

One Thousand Posts

Shockingly, this is my 1000th post on the blog. Over 9 years worth of waffle.  My rate of posting has diminished significantly over the past few years as the focus of my writing has changed, but I still find time to add the odd item here occasionally.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Naked Mole Rats Are Cool

I was standing at the sink washing some dishes one day, thinking of obscure titles for stories, and I came up with one that sounded awesome: The Righteous Indignation of the Naked Mole Rat.

It took a few days, but I came up with a story to go with the title and wrote it in 3000 words. You can now read it on line at Domain SF.

Monday, March 02, 2015

One Month to EasterCon

EasterCon is back at Heathrow this year, which is rather convenient for me. I will just about emptied my bookshelf of the numerous books I bought at WorldCon, so the timing is perfect. Looking forward to meeting authors and editors, talking about writing, listening to some panel discussions and browsing the dealer hall again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Five New Stories

This week I finished my fifth story in a month, which is a surprising amount for me, and started a sixth. Four of them are now under submission, the other I'm still not quite happy with the final editing. The new story has started well, and joins two other partially-written stories from last year. They're mostly pretty short stories, but the advantage of that is getting a feeling of accomplishment from getting something finished. It's almost as good as getting something accepted for publication!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Space Station Inspiration

Deborah Walker, one of my collaborators on two different Astropolis stories, has just had a story published in Nature magazine, and in this blog post explains how Good For Something started life on Astropolis.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Austrian Story Sale

I'm very pleased that my Victorian SF adventure novelette The JourneyWithin has been accepted by Austrian magazine Visionarium, to be translated into German. It won't appear until next year, but it gives me something to look forward to. This will be my longest translated story to date, and my second in German. It was first published in the anthology Ancient New in 2013.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Story Sale: The Probable Tradesman

I'm very pleased to have sold my flash story The Probable Tradesman to pro mag Abyss & Apex, which should see publication later this year. It's my 8th pro sale, and starts the year off nicely.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Part 2

...and part 2 of Venus or Bust is now up at Beam Me Up podcast episode #425. It starts about 10 minutes into the podcast.