speculative fiction

Alastair Reynolds on Milford

What a great introduction and insight into the Milford SF Writers’ group. Alistair Reynolds is a real inspiration.

milfordsfwriters

revelation-spaceMilford came at a critical time for me – real make or break stuff. It was the year when I knew I’d have to decide whether I was cut out for this science fiction lark.

The year was 1998. I’d made my first sale nine years earlier. After a long apprenticeship collecting rejection slips it had felt like a significant breakthrough and I was excited when my first pair of stories appeared the year after. I sold two more in relatively quick succession and the reaction to that first clutch of stories was positive enough to provide some encouragement. I felt myself to be cautiously on the up: I had a novel in progress, and ideas for more. Some of my immediate peers were starting to get book deals and attention from international markets. I felt that if only I stuck at it, the same rewards might start coming my…

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Existence is Elsewhen

Published today – Existence is Elsewhen, Science Fiction anthology headlined by John Gribbin

Twenty stories from twenty great writers, also including Rhys Hughes, Christopher Nuttall and Douglas Thompson

 9781908168856-188x300DARTFORD, KENT – 18 March 2016 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is delighted to announce the publication today of Existence is Elsewhen, an anthology of twenty science fiction stories from twenty great writers. According to Peter Buck, Editorial Director at Elsewhen Press, “The title paraphrases the last sentence of André Breton’s 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism, perfectly summing up the intent behind this anthology of stories from a wonderful collection of authors. Different worlds… different times. It’s what Elsewhen Press has been about since we launched our first title in 2011. We were thrilled when John agreed to headline.”

Headlining the collection is John Gribbin, with a worrying vision of medical research in the near future. Future global healthcare is the theme of J.A.Christy’s story, while the ultimate in spare part surgery is where Dave Weaver takes the reader. Edwin Hayward’s search for a renewable protein source turns out to be digital; and Tanya Reimer’s story with characters we think we know, gives pause for thought about another food we all take for granted. Evolution is examined too, with Andy McKell’s chilling tale of what states could become if genetics are used to drive policy. Similarly, Robin Moran’s story explores the societal impact of an undesirable evolutionary trend, while Douglas Thompson provides a truly surreal warning of an impending disaster that will reverse evolution, with dire consequences.

On a lighter note, there is satire as Steve Harrison uncovers who really owns the Earth (and why); and Ira Nayman, who uses the surreal alternative realities of his Transdimensional Authority series as the setting for a detective story mash-up of Agatha Christie and Dashiel Hammett. Pursuing the crime-solving theme, Peter Wolfe explores life, and death, on a space station, while Stefan Jackson follows a police investigation into some bizarre cold-blooded murders in a cyberpunk future. Going into the past, albeit an 1831 set in the alternate Britain of his Royal Sorceress series, Christopher Nuttall reports on an investigation into a girl with strange powers.

Strange powers in the present-day is the theme for Tej Turner, who tells a poignant tale of how extra-sensory perception makes it easier for a husband to bear his dying wife’s last few days. Difficult decisions are the theme of Chloe Skye’s heart-rending story exploring personal sacrifice. Relationships aren’t always so close, as Susan Oke’s tale demonstrates, when sibling rivalry is taken to the limit. Relationships are the backdrop to Peter R. Ellis’s story where a spectacular mid-winter event on a newly-colonised distant planet involves a Madonna and Child. Coming right back to Earth and in what feels like an almost imminent future, Siobhan McVeigh tells a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of using technology to deflect the blame for their actions. Building on the remarkable setting of Pera from her LiGa series, and developing Pera’s legendary Book of Shadow, Sanem Ozdural spins the creation myth of the first light tree in a lyrical and poetic song. Also exploring language, the master of fantastika and absurdism, Rhys Hughes, extrapolates the way in which language changes over time, with an entertaining result.

Existence is Elsewhen, published today by Elsewhen Press on popular eBook platforms, will also be available in paperback from the 25th March with a launch at the 2016 Eastercon in Manchester.

Creativity and Constraints – Part Two

Over the last few months I’ve experimented with a couple of techniques that have resulted in three flash fiction pieces being published in the online magazine ‘Sein und Werden’ (Being and Becoming). Not a title you would associate with science fiction and fantasy writing, but the magazine does accept speculative fiction.

Experiment One – Lipograms (writing without one or more letters of the alphabet)

Try writing a short piece without one of the letters of the alphabet. It’s trickier that you would imagine. If you are feeling particularly adventurous pick a vowel. Don’t do what I did and choose the letter ‘e’ for your first attempt!

‘Writing is always constrained by something. Rather than ignoring, or attempting to free themselves from these constraints, the Oulipians embrace them.’

Check out the ‘Sein und Werden’ website for more on the Oulipians and their approach to writing. The OuLiPo edition is full of great pieces written with a variety of constraints. I have two pieces in the magazine: ‘This Is It’ written under my name, and a joint piece ‘Walk in the Rain’ (part of the London Clockhouse Writers submission).

 

Experiment Two – Writing to a randomly generated title

The title I ended up with was: ‘I was simple in the haze of a smelly thunderbolt, but heaven knows I’m prehistoric now…’,

I had to smile, wondering what on earth I could do with that. Writing under pressure—given ten minutes to produce a rough piece as part of a group writing exercise—I wasn’t expecting to meet the teenage son of Thor in a deserted Tesco car park!

You can read the piece here, in the Surrealism edition of ‘Sein und Werden’.

Remember: Constraints are your friends; they will push you through boundaries and into a world that you never imagined. Go on, try it. It’s great fun, and who knows, you may end up with a piece that’s worth publishing.

My Milford Writing Group Adventure

The Milford Writing Group is comprised of published authors of speculative fiction (includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, and all their sub-genres). The authors gather once a year, usually in September, to workshop ideas and discuss work in progress. This year I was eligible to attend (you need at least one professional sale), I booked my place in March and spent the next few months looking forward to the experience. I was not disappointed.

Over a week since I got back and I still feel crammed with ideas for my novel. I’ve made a start, of course I have, but what I really need is time to focus and work.

The Adventure

ImageThe venue: Trigonos, sited amongst the impressive beauty of Snowdonia, is perfect for a bunch of writers to work both creatively and critically, while offering outlets for those with an inclination to walk, jog, climb and generally explore.

The writers: fifteen in total, including three newbies (of which I was one)—a diverse group of friendly and talented people whose professional approach to writing was matched by their sense of fun.

The process: in a day liberally spiced with excellent meals, and breaks for home made biscuits and cake, there was space for several hours of writing (or catching up with critiques) in the morning, followed by a focussed critiquing workshop in the afternoon.

But what was it like, I hear you cry, to be part of such an adventure?

A little scary at first, but exciting too. And, oh my god, bloody hard work.

After a convivial breakfast, I spent the mornings working on a new chapter for my book, inspired by the general buzz of creativity about the place, and only occasionally distracted by the chickens foraging in the meadow just beyond my window. I didn’t always make it to the 11am drinks and biscuits gathering; it’s hard to stop when you’re caught in the flow. The more energetic amongst us went for walks around the lake, or runs to/from the desolation of ‘Mordor’. The truly adventurous scrambled their way up mountainous trails in both rain and shine.

The afternoon workshops were both challenging and incredibly useful. The critiques offered were professional, honest, no-punches-pulled assessments that also offered support and, quite often, generated ideas on how to solve problems or take stories forwards. I must admit that after working through five or six stories with the group, I escaped back to my room for a much needed nap before dinner!

Evenings were spent in the Library with a comforting log fire, drinks and, of course, chocolate. A satisfying end to the day in the company of other writers: lively conversation, laughter, games, and for some the fine art of knitting and crocheting. I was introduced to the game of Bananagram, a great twist on traditional Scrabble, which I look forward to teaching to my (grown up) children.

After five days of solid work (Sunday to Thursday) we were all ready for the Friday outing. Gwydir Castle—one of the most haunted homes in the country—offered sculpted gardens, wonderful trees (huge cedars planted in 1625) and rather haughty peacocks. The house itself was full of original artefacts and an ancient presence that will find its way into my writing, one way or another.

It was hard to say goodbye on Saturday morning, both to the place and to everyone in the group. But on the other hand, I was so full of ideas that I couldn’t wait to get back home and start work on the rewrite of my opening chapters.

I’ve already booked my place for next year, and can’t wait for Milford 2014!

Details for Milford 2014 can be found here.

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