There’s too much looking back!

I was surprised by the WordPress statistics earlier today – I’ve had far more views of my website from the USA than I have had from the UK for this month. It very much goes against the grain of what has happened previously. No doubt there is a reason for this, but I have no idea what it could be. Such are the vagaries of human nature…

One of the things I’ll be doing today is voting in BSFA awards – yes I know I have an interest in the shorter fiction award – but let’s talk about the novels.The shortlist is:

Nina Allan – The Rift (Titan Books)

Anne Charnock – Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North)

Mohsin Hamid – Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)

Ann Leckie – Provenance (Orbit)

First thing to notice, nothing from Gollancz. Yes, I could put that down to the vagaries of human nature, but I do wonder if they’re not being cutting edge enough in science fiction these days. I’m currently reading Alastair Reynolds’ Elysium Fire. Yes it is a second in a purported trilogy, following on The Prefect / Aurora Rising (same novel, but the title changed ahead of Elysium Fire being published… why, for goodness sake?). As expected there is a lot that is familiar about it from The Prefect. Yes, there’s exciting new stuff as well and I’m not going to spoil thinsg for you. But it adds to Th. point I’m making that Gollancz may no longer be at the cutting edge of science fiction.

So who is?

The Anne Beckie novel in the shortlist goes back to the world of her award winning novels starting with Ancillary Justice. So it too suffers from type of world-building familiarity as Elysium Fire. Still a greta standalone story.

Nina Allen is another award-winning novelist, so was surprised to see The Rift start in a kind of flashback, a no-no as far as writers are told to do. Story line is a little too incredible for me to buy into in, which is a shame, because the writing and people interactions are descriptively wonderful.

The starting a novel with a kind of flashback also happens in the much praised Exit West. At this point, I wonder what I’m missing as a writer. Have the rules changed that drastically, that we science fiction readers really like looking to past in one form or another?

Thank goodness for Anne Charnock’s Dreams before the Start of Time. At least it only starts with the idea that dystopia might not be far off. But it doesn’t have that feel of clinging onto the past in one form or another.







Sciency Science Fiction New Novel Pick for April

Thank goodness winter seems to well and truly over. The snowdrops and daffodils are very late flowering this year, so it has been a long winter too! However, science fiction-wise, April promises not only Spring, but a good selection of new novels.

My choice for April is:

One Way

by S. J. Morden


UK Amazon Link Here.

US Amazon Link Here.

The Blurb:

Eight astronauts
One killer
No way home

Frank Kittridge is serving life for murdering his son’s drug dealer. So when he’s offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations – the company that runs the prison – he takes it, even though it means swapping one life sentence for another.
He’s been selected to help build the first permanent base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty of their crimes as he is – and he’ll have to learn to trust them if they’re to succeed.
As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply. Until Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all . . .
There’s a murderer amongst them, and everyone’s a suspect.

The reason for my choice is that Mars is very topical at the moment, understandably so as the planet is starting at long last to feel it is in within human reach. So it ticks the box of relevance to our future. It is also themed on the historical sending of convicts to Australia, though the technology requirements alone make it a vastly different scenario, so has some basis of being a very human story. It is also a thriller, a kind of locked room mystery, but that locked room is the whole of Mars! Enjoy!

SF-like 3-D Printing

Remember that SFerics 2017 anthology? How could you forget it after all the blogs I’ve put up? Well, there’s even more news!!!

Andy Bigwood who produced the gorgeous cover using 3-D graphics to outline an elephant… oh all right… here’s the cover again….

sferics 2017 front only

Well, Andy’s been busy making 3-D printed models. (For those that don’t know, 3-D printing occurs in two of the six short stories in the anthology.) It seems that people have been asking to buy some of his novels and he has now set up a website from where you can buy them. The website is here. Just to whet your appetite here’s a picture of one of them:


Those of you who have been BristolCon will recognise it as the speedbird – yes the front end is modelled on Concorde, which was partly designed and manufactured in Bristol.

Other models are Scout Class Personal Transport, Scout Class S2, Ornithopter Swallow Class (Landed),  Ornithopter Swallow Class (Gliding) and Launch Gantry for Speedbird. (There is also a stand for the Scout Class S2).

I also picked up from the guest list that Andy will be at Follycon / Eastercon this year. Maybe, just maybe, if you speak nicely to him, you can reserve a model to pick up at Eastercon.

This is very much science and science fiction working side by side!

Looking back to look forward SF-wise

March this year in the UK has certainly been in like a lion. Let’s hope the rest of the saying (out like a lamb) also holds true. I don’t think I can take the moaning of my cat, Jaspar, much longer. He was actually mad enough (mad march hare-like) to go out into the garden and return with a coat made of snow! Despite the ravages of the current weather, it is still good to hear about nice things.

Mike Hardwick who wrote A Glitch in Humanity for SFerics 2017 shared a review from a friend that was very complimentary about his short story. Although there were more comments, his friend’s summary was: ‘Well done on rising to the challenge and I like the way you seemed to reference within your story, its human origins from your convention.’ The convention talked about here is of course BristolCon 2015, when I ran the workshop.

Also from the same SFerics 2017 anthology… I gather that Geoff Nelder’s story Angular Size will be included in the BSFA booklet coming out shortly, which presents all the shortlisted shorter fiction for the BSFA award.

I feel that the stories were of such a high standard in the anthology, it is sad that the other stories are to some extent overshadowed by the successes mentioned in the press. Any one of the stories could easily have been the lead in a minor science fiction magazine. And your favourite would literally depend on which topic would interest you most.

If you wanted sometime in Africa and about African wildlife, Amanda Kear’s Ivory Tower is the one to go for. Or if wanted a thriller science fiction story, Gareth Lewis’ Positive Falsehoods should snare your interest.  An off-planet love story, you can’t go far wrong with J S Rogers’ Heart’s Trust. But if you are really desperate for something cyberish (is there such a word?), then go for Cyber Control. (This is a much longer version than was kindly published by Kraxon Magazine way back in 2016).

So if you want variety (which is the spice of life!), you could find in more condensed than in SFerics 2017.

Thank you to all who contributed – including Roz Clarke who did some editing and Any Bigwood for the cover. It really is a little gem of a science fiction anthology – I can say that now, having put some distance between me and processing the anthology to get it published. Basically, I’ m well and truly proud of it.

So what next?

Well, work has started on a totally different anthology with a very different aim in mind and a completely different group of people. We’re hoping to published some time in 2019. I can’t say more about it, because it’s one of those… sh… we’re quietly working away at it anthologies… already got 13 possible authors lined up…

SFerics 2017 full cover



Science Fiction Escape?

My two author’s copies of The Last City anthology arrived yesterday, and they’re absolutely gorgeous. James Glover, who did the cover, certainly has an eye for getting a cover that suits both print and e-publishing. Just look at the clarity of the theme combined with the amount of detail e.g.  at the light patterns across the helmet’s front reflecting the lights from the city above.


UK Amazon link here.

The contents are amazing too and the first Amazon review reflects this. Yay!

The anthology is all about society in the distant future on a small asteroid called the Island and a few minor settlements around the star system.

But what about the near future?

We know society is changing. The repetitive jobs are being taken over by the machines. Examples include after tractors taking over from farm workers after World War 2, computers taking over from bank clerks in 1990s and machines replacing factory floor workers, which has been gradually going on for the last three decades. Soon we’ll have automated vehicles taking over taxi drivers and delivery vehicles (first it’ll be inter-depot vans, but later the house to house deliveries will also be taken over).

So what kinds of jobs will be available in tomorrow’s society? My guesstimate?

  • the creative design industries as machines cannot instigate new designs
  • caring industries because people need human contact (this includes caring for the very young and the sick)
  • teaching because learners are more likely to try harder if they have someone they want to impress
  • governmental decision makers whether at the local or the governmental level
  • ‘the small job’ maintenance and service industries where each job is unique (this includes hairdressers, beauty parlours, boiler maintenance and repairs – yes these jobs will change, but they will still need that personal touch)
  • competitive sports to entertain people (and prevent the tendency to go to war)
  • research and development of new gadgets, materials, welfare enhancements etc.
  • the big project societal morale boosters which need human oversight because of their uniqueness

In the much longer term, even these jobs in theory can be taken over by the machines. And the only jobs left would be:

  • societal rebel / philosopher / researcher – doing things not expected by society such as designing and making ‘art’ objects that are unexpected by the predictive algorithms
  • human interaction facilitator – or party organiser or games masters/mistresses if you must use a more old-fashioned terms

Yet, a lot of science fiction relies on the story lines of today set in a futuristic context. It makes the reader feel more at home with what they are reading. They can relate to it more easily. Also the writer can be lazier, because this is one part of their writing they can minimise their need for homework on. It makes for an efficient public satisfying industry.

From a personal point of view, I have found this following the pattern stories easier to write, quicker to type and more likely to get published. But that’s not really me. Even my C.A.T. novel, which is doing the agent rounds as you read this, started out as ‘a story line of today set in a futuristic context’. Only that is not really me. As I wrote more of C.A.T., the rebel in me took over, edged the novel to the unexpected contexts, so much so that at times I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. It’s as if I have started in the science fiction worlds of today and moved gradually step by step towards new worlds hoping the reader would come with me.

I would call my C.A.T. novel, my bridging novel from the science fictional world of today to as yet unexplored science fiction themes of what tomorrow could be like. The writing of it has opened new vistas of our universe that a couple of years ago I would never have written about, let alone dreamt about. Now I find myself wanting to write on ideas and themes that are very rarely seen or even totally non-existent in science fiction.

Now what are the chances that publishers would want to publish such stories? Realistically speaking, almost zero.

Despite the success of SFerics 2017 (Geoff Nelder’s Angular Size is on the BSFA’s shortlist for shorter fiction), I’m not really a self-publisher. So that is not a route I want to take.

But here’s the really weird thing. When I was on my MA Creative Writing course at Bath Spa University, I intuitively wrote a scene from the point of view of someone learning about their world i.e. their understanding could be considered naive. In the scenery, a glimpse of this something new crept onto the page. To my astonishment my fellow classmates and tutor liked it. I had kind of blundered into something that at the time I had not realised what it was. In one sense this gives me hope that if I get something of the ‘new science fiction’ published, it might be well received.

Whichever way I look at this, I have crossed the ‘Bridge of No Return’. Having had these worlds open up for me, I have difficulty writing the more acceptable science fiction. The rebel always wants to come out and play!

Which brings me back to The Last City. As you can guess by the title of my story in there, ‘The Colditz Run’, it’s about an escape. An as escape from what, I’ll leave for you to find out. For me, it was pointing the way for my writing, an escape from ‘the science fiction story lines of today set in a futuristic context’. However, one of the reasons I find the contents awesome is that they could be a launch pad for some of this new science fiction world stuff. I suspect that if enough copies of the anthology are sold, the publishers are likely to produce a follow-on anthology. And maybe, just maybe, I can slip a touch of this new science fiction stuff in there.


Angular Size by Geoff Nelder in SFerics 2017 on BSFA shortlist

The British Science Fiction Association’s shortlists are up! See here, but full lists below.

Angular Size by Geoff Nelder in my SFerics 2017 anthology is on the short story shortlist. Yes, I did say ON THE SHORTLIST. Congratulations Geoff. You’re the man!

My personal thank you to all who helped make SFerics 2017 possible, Mike Hardwick, Amanda Kear, Gareth Lewis, Geoff Nelder, J S Rogers, Roz Clarke and Andy Bigwood. My thanks also go to those who nominated and voted for Geoff’s story to be on the shortlist.

Not bad for a first anthology! [Now to go and lie down in a darkened room!]

Click on image below to get UK Amazon.


Full Lists:

Best Novel

Nina Allan – The Rift (Titan Books)

Anne Charnock – Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North)

Mohsin Hamid – Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)

Ann Leckie – Provenance (Orbit)

Best Shorter Fiction

Anne Charnock – The Enclave (NewCon Press)

Elaine Cuyegkeng – These Constellations Will Be Yours (Strange Horizons)

Greg Egan – Uncanny Valley (

Geoff Nelder – Angular Size (in ‘SFerics 2017’ edited by Roz Clarke and Rosie Oliver, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform)

Tade Thompson – The Murders of Molly Southbourne (

Best Non-Fiction

Paul Kincaid – Iain M. Banks (University of Illinois Press)

Juliet E McKenna – The Myth of Meritocracy and the Reality of the Leaky Pipe and Other Obstacles in Science Fiction & Fantasy (in ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction’ edited by Francesca T Barbini, Luna Press)

Adam Roberts – Wells at the World’s End 2017 blog posts (Wells at the World’s End blog)

Shadow Clarke Award jurors – The 2017 Shadow Clarke Award blog (The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy). The 2017 Shadow Clarke jurors are: Nina Allan, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Victoria Hoyle, Vajra Chandrasekera, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Jonathan McCalmont, Megan AM.

Vandana Singh – The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

Geneva Benton – Sundown Towns (cover for Fiyah Magazine #3)

Jim Burns – Cover for ‘The Ion Raider’ by Ian Whates (NewCon Press)

Galen Dara – Illustration for ‘These Constellations Will Be Yours’ by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)

Chris Moore – Cover for ‘The Memoirist’ by Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)

Victo Ngai – Illustration for ‘Waiting on a Bright Moon’ by JY Yang (

Marcin Wolski – Cover for ‘2084’ edited by George Sandison (Unsung Stories)


Published: The Last City!

Today’s the day! Oh, yes it is! The Last City anthology is published and available on Amazon in both kindle and paperback versions!


It has 14 wonderful short stories by:

  • Robert M Campbell
  • Jo Zebedee
  • Juliane Spink Mills
  • Nathan Hystad
  • Jane Jago
  • Samanda R Primeau
  • Thaddeus White
  • Chris Guillory
  • E. M. Swift-Hook
  • Scott Moon
  • Nick Bailey
  • Darren Bullock
  • Stewart Hotston
And me! Yes, I’ve got a story in there: The Colditz Run. 
It is published by Dust Publishing, an imprint run by two people – Nick Bailey and Darren Bullock. I would like to thank them for giving me this opportunity to have this story published.
So how did this story come about?
We were given a brief that started with: ‘This anthology will be a collection of short stories (5-10k words) from The City, a densely populated station/city, built on a large asteroid they call The Island, positioned in the asteroid belt of a far-away star system.
Amongst the additional details (of which there were many) was an excess of planets in that star system. Well my geekiness set in – the planetary system had been badly disturbed! That meant an interstellar collision or war of some sort. But this city and a few small settlements were all that was left of the human race. So it had to be the war theme. And this war was well and truly over. Or was it? Well, you’ll have to read my story to see.
The Last City has already found itself in UK Amazon’d Best 100 sellers! Yay!