Short Story

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #60 published!


ASIM 60

It’s taken a while to get there (it has been over a year since acceptance), but issue #60 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine has been published. And in it, my story “I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing, Each to Each”.

I’m particularly proud of this story; a science-fiction story following a boy growing up on a watery colony world. With mermaids. Sort of. Of a fashion. The editor, Sue Bursztynski, and all of the other people behind the scenes have been a dream to work with, and have put in a tremendous amount of time and effort.

The issue is available from the ASIM website, in a variety of formats and at very reasonable prices. Check it out, and I’d love to hear what you think.

“Robot Uprisings” ed. John Joseph Adams and Daniel H. Wilson – A Review


robot uprisings

This review was originally published (in a shorter form) in issue #253 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop. My companion interview with editor of Robot Uprisings, John Joseph Adams, can be read here.

Robots are the future. Or, more accurately, the present. As far as science-fiction goes, as co-editor of “Robot Uprisings” John Joseph Adams says, it goes back to the genre’s origins. Robots, and their potentially ill-will towards us, have been with us for years, into a modern day reality where we have machines for all of life’s daily tasks. Including, worryingly, making war.

Appropriate, then, that this collection of seventeen stories of various robopocalyses, opens with a quote from Barrack Obama.

And this sense of closeness in time gives a not-particularly-new idea fresh life. The authors do the same. If this is a well-trodden path, this is an experienced troop of sherpas to lead the way. Seventeen writers, with seventeen tales of humanity daring to dream of godhood.

Read on…

Sale to Infinite Science Fiction!


infinite acacia

Yes, it’s been a while since I posted one of these. But my story “Nothing Beside Remains” is going to be published in the anthology Infinite Science Fiction, from Brussels-based publisher Infinite Acacia.

This is a particularly short piece, of science-fiction, set on the dusty red plains of Mars. It has an interesting personal background and source of inspiration, which I will look forward to go into a little closer to the publication date. But for now it’s nice just to be able to revel in the prospect of my words being manifested in print.

It’s a nice feeling.

“Horror Without Victims” ed. D.F. Lewis – A Review


horror without victims

(Megazanthus Press, 270pp, pb £9.50)

By some miracle of chance, I seem to have found my way onto a number of review lists. I’m not entirely sure how, as I don’t think my reviews are anything more than excited blathering about whichever book or film I’ve most recently read or seen.

But it does mean that I get to see a wide variety of books built around occasionally quite innovative ideas. I am, as regular readers will know, very fond of the short story as a form, and so multi-author anthologies are like a pick-and-mix grab bag of goodies for me.

I was especially interested when I received “Horror Without Victims”. As an idea, it seems so very simple. But when you sit and think about it for a bit, it actually subverts the very genre, being close to a contradiction in terms. I looked forward to a treat of top-of-their-game horror authors pushing genre boundaries.

I should also apologise to editor DF Lewis. He sent me the review copy some time back, but sadly it got misplaced midway through reading, during my great Essex-wards exodus. Thankfully it reappeared, allowing me to finish it and write this review.

Read on…

“Robert and Sarah, Across the Multiverse” to be published in Perihelion SF


image

Yes, more good news! Perihelion SF will be publishing my short story, “Robert and Sarah, Across the Universe” in their June issue.

Perihelion is a science-fiction online magazine, specialising in the harder side of the genre, and publishing fiction, reviews and even comic strips. It’s fairly new to the scene, but is very impressive and growing fast.

It’s also free to read, so no excuses!

For my part, “Robert and Sarah…” was a piece I wrote a little while back, as something of an experiment with form and idea. In the end, after a fair amount of editing, rewriting and general writing legwork, I’m quite proud of the result — and am very pleased that it will be appearing in Perihelion.

Perihelion SF is published on the 12th of each month (with May off), so I’ll be posting next month to let you all know where to find it, and possibly give a bit more background to the story itself.

Also, for those of you paying attention, following last month’s appearance in Aphelion Webzine, I have now been published in both Aphelion and Perihelion. Just a bit of geek humour.

Story in Aphelion!


aphelion

It’s been a while since I posted one of these, I hasn’t it? But yes, a story of mine has been accepted by and published in Aphelion Webzine!

“The Interview” is a very short piece, which I wrote in the depths of a seemingly endless and futile job hunt. The number of interviews I attended, and the number of frankly bizarre questions I was asked and tasks I was set were the genesis for this story.

I’m quite very proud of its success, as I think it will be relatable to many more people than just myself. The insanity of trying to find employment is a sadly widespread experience at the moment.

Plus, one of the best things about it being published by Aphelion is that you can read it for FREE on their website. And once you have, they have an excellent forum where you can share your thoughts and read the thoughts of other readers.

Interzone #244 (Jan/Feb 2013) – A Review


interzone #244It’s that time again. Another issue of Interzone, having landed on my doormat, has been consumed alonside a variety of beverages, digested, and thoroughly enjoyed. And now it falls to me to relate my opinions on its contents to you, dear readers.

As on previous occasions, I will be keeping my reviewer’s gaze levelled at the fiction content, with an additional reason this time around — as (both) my regulars will know, I have recently joined the esteemed ranks of the Interzone review team. So, as well as it being confusingly self-referential to review reviews, it would be potentially disrespectful to review my colleague’s reviews, and downright weird to review my own.

  • “The Book Seller” by Lavie Tidhar. It hardly seems to be a real Interzone these days without a Tidhar story, so it’s fitting to open the issue with it. Tidhar is one of the best writers working in the genre today, and “The Book Seller” is excellently exemplary of that. With a flare for odd characters and quirky prose, he tells the story of a bibliophile in a VR world, bound up in the worlds of his stories as he helps a woman dangerous to everyone but him try to solve her own mystery. It’s fun, thoughtful and really rather sweet.
  • “Build Guide” by Helen Jackson takes us to a near-future orbital construction site, and deals with themes of corruption vs. honesty, safety vs the quick buck, and a host of issues with rather uncomfortable present-day parallels. In terms of SF as social commentary, it’s bang on the money. The sort of thing which, really, more people should be reading.
  • “The Genoa Passage” by George Zebrowski was something of an odd one. I could have seen it being written by Lavie Tidhar, actually. A strange little story, about an escape passage used by Nazis fleeing after the end of the Second World War — except alternate versions are repeating their flight over and over. It’s a story centred around revenge, and what it really means and gains. It’s every bit as dark and haunting as it should be, and written with an abstract precision which is hard to find, and harder to do.
  • “iRobot” by Guy Haley is one of the best stories I’ve read in a very, very long time. And if that seems like hyperbole, it deserves every word. A very short piece, it is a simple but rich description of a ruined city in a dead world, where a slowly dying robot futily acts out its protocols. It reminded me of Percy Shelley’s poem “Ozymandius”. It was creepingly beautiful, at the same time as being desperately sad, and said so much with so few words. I wish I could write as well as Guy Haley does here.
  • “Sky Leap — Earth Flame” by Jim Hawkins is the longest piece in the magazine, though it took a little while to get going. Two “siblings” are mentally paired with an artificial brain in a high-stakes scientific mission. It blends themes of coming-of-age with ideas of purpose in a meaningless universe — with excellently realised characters, both human and otherwise.
  • “A Flag Still Flies Over Sabor City” by Tracie Welser closes the short stories of issue #244, and is probably the most abstract of the lot. A manual worker in an oppressively authoritarian world drifts in and out of reality with the aid of drugs and what seems like PTSD. What the reader gets is a slightly surreal comment on humanity, and what it bravery really means.

I feel a little self-conscious when I give a good verdict to all of the stories in an issue, but these really all deserve it. There was not one here which I did not enjoy, and not one which I would not heartily recommend. Guy Haley’s story in particular blew me away. It is definitely one of the truest examples of the short story as art form that I can remember reading.

A Post-Apocalyptic Christmas


It started slowly, almost imperceptibly. A slow, fine mist descending from a cloudy sky, barely even noticeable until it reached the ground and settled. It was snowing.

Each tiny flake was invisible insight, except for when a section of the snowfall caught and reflected the light of distant fires in brilliant colours. It looked like a shoal of fish,dancing and darting their erratic journey earthwards.

And for a moment — for the barest and most bittersweet of moments — the burly man in the church clocktower, watching it all through a high-powered scope, could believe that all was right with the world.

Until he spied the lights on the horizon.

One at first, a flickering shimmer that might have been a cluster of snowflakes. But then it was joined by another,and another, swelling to an unmistakable host. Even among the reflective dance of semi-frozen rain they stood out, unmistakable as the dawn. Individually they flickered and stumbled, but their combined might illuminated the blasted landscape and picked out each crater and imperfection.

The man in the clocktower shuffled within his winter clothing, eventually extricating a gloved hand, which squeezed the button on a hand radio.

‘They’re here,’ he said into it, curtly and emotionlessly.

After a moment’s pause came the reply, ‘Roger that. Stand by, and maintain visual observation.

The man didn’t reply, but withdrew back inside his warm cocoon, and adjusted the rifle beneath the blankets. Through the scope he watched the horde approach as he tried to count the falling snowflakes.

They’re here.

The four of them in the church froze, all eying the radio on the altar. Stephens was closest, and he picked it up, but hesitated before responding. His grey sergeant-major’s eyes looked to each of them in turn before he pushed the broadcast button.

‘Roger that. Stand by and maintain visual contact.’

Markus didn’t answer. The dour Frenchman was thrifty with the few words of English that has knew, and wasn’t given to waste them.

‘We’re going with the plan then?’ Lucy asked. They had already discussed this to completion several times. She drummed her fingertips against the pew she sat on in a stacatto and disjointed rhythm.

‘Yep,’ Tim replied, launching himself into action. ‘If you’ve got any prayers left to make, do it now. Ladies and gentlemen, the service is over, it is time to leave the church!’

Stephens — the Colonel — sprung into action immediately, with a career of military discipline behind him. He started loading up their camping equipment, and spreading it evenly between the four packs.

‘Harry, go and see to the generator would you?’ Tim asked. ‘Syphon off the bulk of the petrol, but leave enough to keep everything running for an hour or so yet.’

With a stifled groan, the gangly IT Technician levered himself off the floor. In better times he had worked for the same marketing firm as Tim — albeit in a different department. Lucy had worked behind the bar of a pub on the same street. Markus and Stephens were just lucky survival nuts.

‘I still say we should take the genny with us,’ Harry complained.

‘And carry it with what?’ Lucy asked, before Tim could find the words. ‘The sled is busted, and I really don’t fancy hauling that monstrosity across two hundred miles of wasteland.’

‘Besides,’ Tim added quickly, gently, ‘these savages aren’t going to stop chasing us until we’re dead. The plan is the only way.’

With a resigned nod, Harry headed off to the back room where they’d linked up their small generator to what remained of the church’s electrical system.

‘Huh,’ Lucy exclaimed softly. The other three turned to face her with curious — and worried — expressions. ‘Merry Christmas guys!’

She held up her watch. 00:03. 25 Dec.

‘We always used to spend Christmas Day with my dad and his girlfriend. After he retired, he left my mum for his secretary, and bought a cottage in Cornwall. We’d spend Christmas there and then go to mum’s for new years.’

Lucy rambled on whilst she packed. Tim didn’t mind. She was a nervous girl and talking seemed to keep her mind off the situation.

‘Christ, what I wouldn’t give for a roast turkey with all the trimmings now.’

Tim’s stomach gave a painful — but thankfully inaudible — rumble. They hadn’t had enough food for weeks, and the scant rations which remained were being stretched so thin that it was becoming painful to even think of food.

‘A turkey, a turkey, my generator for a roast turkey, and all the trimmings!’ he muttered sardonically, but it evoked a cackle of laughter from Lucy. In the dank, shadowy surroundings of the church the seemed darkly out of place. Tim couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed or heard laughter.

He realised he was smiling, just as another strange sound broached the air.

‘What the fuck is–‘

‘Music!’ Lucy cut him off with a gleeful cry. She was right, it was definitely music, the tinkling and ethereal opening notes of a piece which tugged at the atrophied threads of his memory. Momentarily he recalled a film, the moment in Apocalypse Now when the helicopters come over the Vietnamese village.

But no, this is different. Gentler, more atmospheric, more…festive?
‘Have…yourself…a very merry Christmas…’

‘Harry, you mad bastard,’ he growled under his breath. But he was smiling. They all were. Lucy was grinning like…well, like a kid on Christmas morning. Even the surly Colonel was not immune to the tugging at the corners of mouths.

‘Well, I thought it fitted the mood,’ Harry said, coming back into the church with a shiver and a mischievous grin.

But the elevated mood didn’t last. From above came the sound of gunfire; heavy, echoing shots from Markus’ rifle. A hail of automatic fire answered, rattling against the stonework of the tower. As Markus issued a loud rebuttal, they all spurred into action.

The Colonel sprayed bullets through the rotten wooden door, showering Tim and Lucy with splinters as they hurriedly finished their packing.

‘Did you get that petrol sorted?’ Tim shouted over the sporadic busting of gun reports.

Harry nodded. ‘Six jerry cans, and enough juice left in the tank to make this madness look convincing.’

‘Good. Whether or not we can get another genny together, petrol’s always good for trade.’

He could see another objection — or a repeat of the same objection — but he never heard it. Two, or maybe three, explosions outside blew the door in, knocking them all to the ground and making their ears pop viciously.

The Colonel was first up, firing more bullets through the smoky orifice. Tim followed, shouting across to the self-appointed quartermaster. ‘Colonel! Gun! Fucking now!’

He plucked the automatic rifle out of the air as he turned to the other two. ‘Time to leave! Is the mistletoe ready for our guests?’

Harry waved a small cylinder topped with a red button, as a few more shots boomed overhead and a cluster of hostile bullets flew through the door.

Tim only noticed he was hit when he was lying on the floor, his friends shouting over him. He noticed idly that it didn’t hurt, and that the song was still playing.

‘Oh fuck Tim!’ Lucy was saying, repeating ‘Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck’ under her breath like a mantra. Her hands were red, and when he looked down he couldn’t make any sense of what he was seeing. But there was a lot of blood.

As he realised that he was dying, that to all intents and purposes he was already dead, the most surprising thing was how calm he felt. It had become so damn normal, death.

‘Time to go kiddies!’ he managed to gasp. ‘Make for the coast. Stick together. And hang onto that petrol! Harry, give me the detonator.’

‘What?’ Harry suddenly looked very young, and very frightened. It was upsetting for Tim to think that he had no idea just how old any of his companions were.

‘Harry, mate,’ he whispered. ‘I’m not walking away from this one. Give me the detonator. I can at least take some of these bastards with me.’

As Harry sheepishly handed it over, Lucy started to sob and wail. Tim saw Markus climbing down from the clocktower, rifle strapped across his back, swinging down off the ladder. he took one look at Tim’s stomach and gave him a sad nod as he carried Lucy away.

‘Go on lad,’ the Colonel said to Harry, kneeling next to Tim’s shattered and dying form. ‘Go on with them. I’ll follow.’

When Harry was gone, Tim tried to speak. He wanted to tell Stephens, to make the old soldier promise to get the other three to the coast, and across to Ireland. But there was too much blood in his throat, and it merely gurgled up with a sound like a blocked plughole.

‘Save your strength lad,’ the Colonel whispered. He pushed something into Tim’s blood-slicked hand, something it took him a moment to identify as a pistol.

‘Set the dead man switch, and leave the party. You’re a brave man Tim, and you don’t deserve to go out like this. I’ll get them to safety, don’t you worry.’

Tim was almost loathe to break the tenderness of the moment and connection with a man he hadn’t thought capable of it.

‘Go!’

Tim lapsed in and out of consciousness over period which could only have been minutes. Each time he awoke clutching the deadman switch with a trembling hand. He wasn’t sure if the smoke was in his fevered mind, or if more grenades had been set off.

The music still played in the background, some long-dead singer crooning about making the Yuletide gay. He chuckled, a spasmodic cascade of blood.

When the first of the savages walked into the church, he looked at Tim with an unmistakable expression of surprise; even through the tattoos and piercings on his face Tim could see it clearly. The dark shapes of the rest of the horde loomed behind the outrider.

The last of his strength ebbing out of him, Tim lifted the gun that the Colonel had given him.

‘Merry fucking Christmas!’

The shot blew clean through the young man’s forehead, and he fell to the ground with that look of surprise still on his face. The retribution was as swift as Tim had known it would be, but between the bullets tearing him apart and the song wishing him a very merry Christmastime he felt the deadman switch slip from his grasp.

Abominations Magazine #1 Published


The debut issue of Abomination Magazine

My writing doesn’t seem to be going all that badly of late, which besides being nice for me makes a nice break from politics-themed blogs.

Anyway, I announced last month that Abomination Magazine had accepted one of my stories for their debut issue, and today I can tell you that said issue has been published. It is currently available for Kindle at the frankly bargain price of £1.30. And for that you get a selection of other delectable stories.

My own offering is entitled “Whispers in the Skin Gardens“, and without giving too much away it’s a dark SF story, about biotech gone slightly mad.

If you buy and read it (which, of course, you should) I would love it if you’d let me know what you think. And if you want to put a review on Amazon, that’d be great too.

But above all, please enjoy. And don’t have nightmares.

Sale to Abomination Magazine!


There are some days when getting out of bed is an effort. Inside is warm, comfortable, and holds the promise of a little more sleep. Outside is cold, and work is waiting. But it always helps when there’s something nice lurking in your email inbox. Case in point, this morning, and the acceptance waiting for me from Abomination Magazine.

Yes, they liked my story “Whispers in the Skin Gardens” and want to publish it in their debut issue. To say I am pleased at this news would be an understatement. It’s my first acceptance this year, and ends a bit of a dry run. And it looks like it’s going to be a cracking magazine.

The story is a dark (very dark) sci-fi story, which I won’t give too much away about now but is one I’m rather proud of. The debut issue is supposed to be coming out in “early 2012”, so that shouldn’t give you too long to wait, and I will of course give you updates as and when developments occur.