Sunday, August 7, 2022

Another Story On Its Way.

Way back in March, I submitted a story to a magazine - my first in a year or more.

And on the weekend it sold. The Leviathan Awakens will be publish in early 2023.

I'm pretty excited about this one. It's a story I really, really like, and it's going to a good home. The Martian Wave (Hiraeth Publications) is a new market for me, and I'm thrilled to have this story under their banner.

The Leviathan Awakens has its roots in a painting a friend did way back in the 80s. When he showed me the painting I had a tiny idea. I wasn't a writer then so nothing came of it. But that idea never went away, and kept niggling
and niggling. And then, a few years ago, I was at a writing workshop and I had to write an opening paragraph in a particular style. That opening paragraph became the opening to this story which started to develop in my mind.

The paragraph I wrote at that workshop was well received, but is now gone. In the context of the story, it confused things too much and so was completely rewritten. It's a shame, as that was a paragraph I really liked, and I thought worked really well. The readers, not so much.

And so, of course, I need to dive back in and get another story happening. Which is good, as I just had this little idea on the weekend.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Journey Through The Past

On holiday recently, and in a fairly isolated location with no TV, I read a lot. I brought four books with me, but they only lasted a couple of days. And so I went in search of more.

Fortunately, in a nearby town, I found a brilliant little second-hand bookshop. The owner was extremely knowledgeable on her stock. I asked her about a couple of titles/authors, and she was able to tell me yes or no, and exactly where. I told her, as I left, what a fantastic shop it was and she seemed genuinely pleased.

There were a few shelves of SF books, and I found a few old paperbacks I hadn't read and looked promising. In the middle of all these, however, was an old favourite I haven't read for many, many years. Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg. I picked it up, then put it back as I have a copy at home. But that cover! It wasn't the cover I had, and the artwork was beautiful, and so I grabbed it.

I posted way back in 2009 that Silverberg was one of the people I would love to meet one day. This has come true - not once, but twice. The first time I met him, in 2010, I thanked him for his work and told him what it meant to me. I told him that the first two SF novels I read as a teen were by PKD and Silverberg. He asked me what they were, and while I remembered PKD's novel, my mind went blank with his. And so I stood there looking like a fool and feeling embarrassed.

In 2014 I met him again, and we managed to have a longer and more coherent conversation. And Cat Sparks was on hand to capture the moment - a photograph which still brings me joy.

But back to the present. 

I absolutely tore through Downward to the Earth, and it was wonderful. The writing, the plot, the characters, the worldbuilding - all as brilliant as I remembered it. Since I last read it, (in the 90s, I think) I have been to University and studied Heart of Darkness, and so as I read Downward this time, I couldn't help but see the references to Conrad's work (and, in some ways, Apocalypse Now) Heck, there is even a character named Kurtz, a kind of dark reflection of the protagonist.

While firmly a product of its time (1970), there is a post-colonialist reading to this text which is, perhaps, more relevant than ever. 

Once again, I am reminded why Robert Silverberg is amongst our greatest writers.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

When Would You Go?

Time travel has always fascinated me. What would it be like to visit times and places long gone and events long passed, to see what your surrounds were like in earlier times, to try to understand how people lived then?

I've been reading some time travel fiction recently. A few short stories, a novel or two, some website posts which claim to be true, as well as some theoretical works. Most of it was pretty good, some was less than impressive. But they all gave me ideas and got me thinking about what I would do if I had the chance to use a time machine.

Where would I go? Or, more accurately, to when would I go? Would I go back and see a Beatles concert? And if so, which one. Would I go back and try to warn the boys about events that would lead to breaking up the band. And how could I prove my credentials? 

"Hey Paul, I'm from the future, and I can prove it. What is the name of a song that you've just written that no one else has ever heard, and I'll sing it to you." That would surely get their attention. "Oh, and here's a new song I wrote you might like - called Blackbird."

But if I had the chance to travel in time, would I choose something so self indulgent.

There are so many historical events, so many big questions.

Last week, while wandering through the Castle and Cathedral, and then looking at some Roman ruins, my thoughts again turned to like in those times. And yes, once more I wondered.

I used to teach a time travel film to my students. It wasn't a bad film and provided a lot of fodder for teacing beyond English. We used to talk about science, survival, history and technology. I also spoke with them about the psychology of visiting another time, and how the biggest danger might simply be not fitting in with the people around you. Stranger danger has a new meaning.

This was something that Year 9 boys in particular thought could be overcome simply by taking a motorcycle, a mobile phone and modern weapons.

The more I think about it, the more I have no idea when I would go. But dinosaurs might be cool.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Just Because You Can....

I've been listening and watching some podcasts and video-podcasts recently. And there have been one or two which I visit regularly, keeping up with new episodes and remaining topical. But for the most part, I don't revisit them. Mostly because they are just not very good.

The ones I revisit don't have particularly high production values. In fact, there is very little in the way of production or post-production. They don't appear to have expensive equipment or anyone assisting them. Simply put, it's the quality of the content and the skills of the presenters/interviewers that draw me in.

Interviewing is a skill, and good interviewing techniques take practice. I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I do have some radio experience, I majored in Drama at University, was a teacher for more than twenty years, spent several years as an investigator conducting interviews, and undertook Research Methods for my Postgraduate studies.

So let's be clear. There is an art to conducting interviews and presenting. You need to prepare, to have areas to cover (especially if the interviewee isn't forthcoming) as well as being prepared to shoot off on tangents if the interview leads into other interesting yet relevant areas. And yet I have seen and heard so many who cannot interview or present to save their lives.

I saw one particular interview where the subject was fascinating, with a great tale to tell, and yet the interviewer, who had no charisma, presence or technique, tried to revert everything back to their own experience and made it about them. (And believe me, it was dull)

I saw another where the presenters had all the equipment, expensive and high quality, but spent the first five minutes talking about connection issues as though no-one was listening.

Another where the two co-hosts thought they were hilarious, and laughed at all their in-jokes which the audience wouldn't have understood.

And the one where the interviewer obviously hadn't prepared and made vague generalised statements about the subject (and the interviewee was a specialist) which showed a general ignorance and lack of understanding. They did have a marketable gimmick, though.

Oh dear, the list goes on.

It's all too easy these days, isn't it? Anyone can throw a podcast onto a streaming service, or a video up on a channel in YouTube. Anyone can claim to be an expert, and it appears many can build a following without actually being any good.

Which reminds me. There is also an art in being an audience member and using your discernment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

God Save the Queen!

The Queen's jubilee weekend has just finished with a number of events across the UK. Much of it was televised, and I didn't see any of it. Well, except for that one YouTube clip where a UFO seemed to fly across the path of an Air Force flyover just as they passed. But surely that doesn't really count.

There were some local events, including a tea party in the village hall. I was supposed to go, but decided not to at the last minute. We were told the hall was limited to 150 people due to regulations, and another 100 would be seated outside. The weather, however, was pretty awful and so the organisers (who did a fine job, I've been told) decided to squeeze all 250 people into the hall. I thought about it and was a little reluctant, partly because I'm not keen on crowds in this post-lockdown world and partly because there are vulnerable people around me. And so I declined.

I was invited to a neighbour's house for drinks and nibbles where I got to meet some other neighbours I hadn't yet met, had some great conversations, and generally had a really relaxed and enjoyable evening. I think a few of them have decided that I am a republican, (which I am for Australia, but not necessarily for the UK) as a couple of people made it clear they were going to toast the Queen but I didn't have to partake if I didn't want to. Maybe it's my Scottish/Australian background that screams that.

But I was happy to toast the Queen. Seventy years in a role you didn't plan on or want is no mean feat in anyone's book. And I think for the most part she has done a fine job under some very trying circumstances.

In other news, I have managed to secure a copy of the extremely limited Jubilee reissue of God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols) on coloured vinyl.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

And So We Wait

So I rewrote, proofread and sent that story off. And I haven't heard anything yet.

Back when I was a new writer, I sent off my first "real" submission, and after about three days watched my inbox anxiously. Oh, how naive I was.  That beast took seven months to come back to me. And even then it was a rejection. A personal one, but a rejection all the same. And seven months?  That was insane.

Still, the editor said fine things about my story, and I did rewrite it and sold it to an anthology. A couple of years later I saw this editor at a convention buying that anthology, and I laughed and told him that I always knew he would buy my story. We always got one well, and he chuckled at that one.

My current story is still out in the wild and still no word. I have subbed to this editor before. He usually only takes about two months but we're closing on three months as I write this and waiting is difficult. I have some confidence it will sell, although I never count on that happening. It would, however, be nice to have this story published.

Oh well, the waiting continues and continues. Tomorrow and the next day and the one after that - I'll be here checking my inbox.  

And as always, any publication details will be announced here

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Now Why Did They Do That?

Oh no! Someone unfriended me on Facebook!

Now I have no doubt that others have too. With a friend-list well into the hundreds, some of whom I don't know personally, it's likely I may not have noticed them. I don't know how long ago this person unfriended, although I think I interacted with them earlier this year.

We're not close, have only met a couple of times in person, but we share several interests. I always enjoy reading their posts, usually hit the like button, sometimes add a positive comment, and have very occasionally tagged them into a post I thought they would like - as they have with me.

Recently I realised I hadn't seen them in my newsfeed for a while, and I just figured it was the FB algorithms at work again. No matter, I searched for them and they weren't in my friend list. I searched for their homepage, and noticed we were no longer friends. Which kind of surprised me. And then I noticed all our mutual friends hadn't been unfriended. And that kind of bugged me a bit. 

And now I'm wondering if I did or said something wrong on my FB feed.

Or maybe they had a purge and I didn't make the cut.

Or maybe....

It has me wondering. What if one of us accidentally unfriended the other, or there was a FB glitch which did it? I have heard of this happening. What if they're sitting there wondering why I unfriended them?

Is there etiquette for this? Worry about it? Ignore it? Ask a mutual friend? Do you send a polite message asking?

Of course, there is then the concern that they're too polite to tell you the truth, claim it was an accident and reluctantly re-add you. Or worse, they tell you why they unfriended you.

I have been unfriended in the past - twice in purges of friend lists. And I know this as they both announced they would be running a purge prior to doing so. It was a little disappointing as I liked following their posts.

Interestingly, both these people later re-added me as friend. That pleased me greatly, but I did wonder why they did so. I'm not convinced it was my sparkling and charming personality that brought them back.

But it is what it is. And if you're reading this, I'll miss your posts.