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You don’t have to be Luddite to work here… by Alastair Reynolds

Thoughts from the master…

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There’s an understandable assumption that someone who thinks about coming technologies must also be something of a gadget-head. I’ve certainly done my share of near-future speculation, trying to imagine plausible extensions of current advances in AI, robotics, virtual reality, telepresence and so on. While I’m fascinated by these topics in an abstract sense, I couldn’t be less interested in terms of my own working environment.

I write in a wooden shed in Wales. I have a kettle in there, and a record player, and not much else. There’s certainly no wifi, and I struggle to get a good telephone signal. Most of my writing (including this blog post) is done on a Dell desktop computer that will soon be old enough to begin driving lessons. Technically it’s on borrowed time – I was assured that the hard-drive is already many years over “MTBF” – “mean time between failures” – yet…

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Northwrite SF Writers Group by Jacey Bedford

This is a really friendly and supportive group where you will receive professional critiques of your work.

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Inspired by our enjoyment and appreciation of Milford’s annual conference and unable to sign up to a specialised SF critique group in our own area, a few writers based in the north of England decided to form a small critique group. Since our founder members were stretched from coast to coast from Lancashire to Yorkshire it made sense to meet in the middle. Since I’m more or less in the middle (on the edge of the Pennines) and have a rambling old house with spare bedrooms and a decent-sized living room to meet in, Northwrite’s inaugural meeting happened here in June 2012, and it has happened quarterly ever since.

The views here aren’t so bad…

IMG_20180505_102052977

We meet on a Sunday for a full day, and since I don’t have to travel I cook lunch for anything up to ten of us, eleven if I count my longsuffering husband who very…

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BSFA London Meeting 25th of April: Interview with Tade Thompson

The Silicon Critic by David Langford

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Milford participants often have distinctive personal crotchets when commenting on stories, and John Brunner’s (as I remember from the 1980s) was a particular sensitivity to repetition. Sometimes it seemed that the unintended re-use of a significant word too soon after its last appearance pained him more than a gaping plot hole. The “deliberate repetition for effect” card could be played only so often, especially if you hadn’t noticed the repetition of “repetition” and the fact that it’s now appeared four times in one paragraph.

Terry Pratchett was another author who worried about such things. In 1998 he invited me to write a little Windows application to monitor his own use of favourite words. This, he stipulated, was to be named Bicarb because the idea was to stop you repeating.

The computer screen here ripples and blurs to indicate a flashback. With (as we later decided) more enthusiasm than common sense…

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Response to a Flashy Challenge by Jim Anderson

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So this past weekend (7 and 8 April), I’ve been taking part in Sci-Fi-London 48 Hour Flash Fiction 2018.  On the Saturday morning, I was given the title for the story I would write (Fully Immersed), along with a line of dialogue that must be included (“Think of the good times, when we thought it was never going to end.”) and an optional scientific idea (Earth starts receiving transmissions from the multiverse) to use if I so desire.  I then needed to write and submit my story, between 1000 and 2000 words, by Monday morning.

It was interesting ride.  As I write this, back during that weekend, the story is done, barring one last pass for proofreading, and what I find most entertaining is that the finished story bears little resemblance to my first musings of Saturday morning.

Typewriter 3There are a lot of things I don’t know about the…

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Men in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Jacey Bedford

A comedy panel at Eastercon 2018 with Jaine Fenn (moderator), Juliet McKenna, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jacey Bedford.

Comedy panel on Youtube

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Imprecise Words and Their Allies by David Gullen

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Typewriter 3I have fulminated about this at least once before. I’ve been doing a fair amount of critical reading recently and while my opinions on many things have changed over the years the ways some words are used still bug me for the same reasons. Here are a few of them and why they rattle my cage.

Almost, Seemed, Appeared
Pwimula Nesbytt pulled the saddle from Bismarck, her faithful battle-mole. She seemed to be upset about something.

Only seemed to be? And only about something. Do we care, do I need to worry? Either Pwimula is upset, or she isn’t. If she isn’t, don’t mention it. If she is, then you should say so, say why, and describe how she is upset – angry, tearful, irritated. Not doing so creates a false tension that implies the author, rather than the characters, is uncertain about what is happening.

Pwimula brushed away a…

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Are You a Plotter, a Pantser — or a Puzzler? By Ruth Nestvold

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Most writers have heard the question before: “Are you a plotter, or are you a pantser?” In other words, do you do a lot of outlining and planning before you start writing (plotters), or do you dive into a project with little or no pre-writing and write “by the seat of your pants” (pantsers)?

longshot nestvoldI was never completely comfortable with either term. On the one hand, I always knew I was more of a plotter than a pantser. Some of my writer friends can take a couple of prompts and immediately start writing. Pantsers barrel into the story and go for it, letting plot and character unfold as they write. For many of them, part of the magic of writing is discovering the story as they go. My late friend Jay Lake was a master pantser, and it baffled me how he could whip up a story out of little…

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Milford Writers’ Retreat 2018 – by Jacey Bedford

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Laptop window sunshineThe Milford committee has kicked around the idea of a writers’ retreat before, but this year we finally got around to organising one when we received an email from Trigonos advertising their spare winter dates. There was an enticing six day period from Sunday 25th Feb to Saturday 3rd March, and we snapped it up.

Sunshine portrait

Trigonos is pretty well perfect for a retreat. It’s not just the setting, which is gorgeous, but also the ambiance. Ensuite rooms with writing tables, a lovely library (with an open fire) for communal chat, excellent food, and a ‘we’re here to help, but we’ll leave you alone if that’s what you want’ kind of attitude. After the evening meal the staff all go home and we’re left to our own devices, so it’s very homely.

Breakfast at eight, coffee and biscuits at eleven, lunch at one (with delicious home made soup). Four p.m. is…

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Ideas and where to find them – by Jaine Fenn

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Earlier this week I was asked a question which may evoke a wry smile amongst fellow writers: ‘Where do you get your ideas?’I will be honest: my usual response to this old chestnut of a question tends towards glibness.

Sometimes I quote a response attributed to Asimov: ‘I just leave out milk and cookies overnight, and in the morning the milk and cookies are gone and there’s an idea there.’ Or, to put it another way, buggered if I know.

Sometimes I quote the late great Sir Terry Pratchett: ‘I don’t know where ideas come from but I know there they go: they go to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.’ Or, to put it another way: what appears to have happened by magic to you, dear reader, is actually the product of a lot of hard work.

But this question was asked with…

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