Writing

Best of British SF 2019

Delighted to announce my story “Witch of the Weave” has been selected to appear in Best of British Science Fiction 2019, edited by Donna Scott, and published by NewCon Press, alongside this stellar line-up:

Contents

  • 2019: An Introduction – Donna Scott
  • The Anxiety Gene – Rhiannon Grist
  • The Land of Grunts and Squeaks – Chris Beckett
  • For Your Own Good – Ian Whates
  • Neom – Lavie Tidhar
  • Once You Start – Mike Morgan
  • For the Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow – G. V. Anderson
  • Fat Man in the Bardo – Ken MacLeod
  • Cyberstar – Val Nolan
  • The Little People – Una McCormack
  • The Loimaa Protocol – Robert Bagnall
  • The Adaptation Point – Kate Macdonald
  • The Final Ascent – Ian Creasey
  • A Lady of Ganymede, a Sparrow of Io – Dafydd McKimm
  • Snapshots – Leo X. Robertson
  • Witch of the Weave – Henry Szabranski
  • Parasite Art – David Tallerman
  • Galena – Liam Hogan
  • Ab Initio – Susan Boulton
  • Ghosts – Emma Levin
  • Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep – Tim Major
  • Every Little Star – Fiona Moore
  • The Minus-Four Sequence – Andrew Wallace

You can pre-order from the NewCon website here!

“Best of British SF 2019”, cover art by Les Edwards

And I can see, hear, smell, touch…

…maybe not so much taste. But, with apologies to XTC, my senses have been working overtime this month.

Not much new since the last entry on the writing front, at least not that I can announce yet, but I have got my grubby hands on physical copies of the magazines I was published in the last couple of months. As usual it boggles my mind to think my stories can appear in real material objects in the physical world, with an existence independent of my imagination. The DreamForge issue in particular — large format, every page illustrated in full glossy colour — is a delight to look at, touch, and even smell! Clarkesworld, although primarily known as an online zine, is available in a wide variety of formats, including print. And after various technical delays the podcast of “Angel Pattern”, read by the ever-awesome Kate Baker, the true voice of Skink, is now available too. So; welcome to the future of publishing — it’s definitely all multi-media and hybrid!

Oh! What a Tangled Web (Part 3)

The third Skink and Percher story is out now at Clarkesworld #163. Just to recap, all three stories are listed below, although each story can be enjoyed in isolation. (And — unless your job or circumstances absolutely require otherwise — you are in isolation at the moment, aren’t you?)

  1. Climbing the MothermanDreamForge, March 2020.
  2. Witch of the WeaveClarkesworld, December 2019 (also available as a podcast).
  3. Angel PatternClarkesworld, April 2020.

This marks my 3rd sale to Clarkesworld and my 30th story sale overall… a situation that never ceases to amaze me, considering I still think I’m only just starting to get to grips with the craft of writing.

I hope you enjoy “Angel Pattern”, and the overall arc of the stories with these characters. I’m currently considering what other perilous situations I can put them into…

“Home Planet” by Beeple (aka Mike Winkelmann)

Oh! What a Tangled Web (Part 1)

Now that their Kickstarter has funded, time to officially announce my story “Climbing the Motherman” will be published in DreamForge magazine Issue #5, around the middle of this month, available in both print and via the DreamForge web portal.

As mentioned previously, this is the prequel to my story “Witch of the Weave” that appeared in Clarkesworld #159 in December last year. In actual fact, they were written sequentially, with quite some gap between. Once I’d finished “Motherman“, though, I knew I needed to write a sequel involving the characters Percher and Skink. I find those are the best stories, don’t you? Where you wonder what happens next?

If you enjoy “Climbing the Motherman“, you can find out what happens next in “Witch of the Weave“. And if, instead, you’ve read “Witch” first, soon you’ll be able to find out how Skink and Percher first met in “Motherman“.

(A third Skink and Percher story, “Angel Pattern”, a novelette, is due to appear in a future edition of Clarkesworld.)

The original inspiration for “Motherman” is the Willow Man sculpture by Serena de la Hey that stands beside the northbound M5 near Bridgwater in Somerset. We often pass it when travelling to or returning from family holidays in the West Country. One night I dreamt that, rather than birds, humans nested within the sculpture… and the rest, as they say, is history…

Below is a photo taken by yours truly as we passed by, inexpertly processed to remove the huge Morrisson’s supermarket depot and housing estate now built around the original sculpture.

“The Motherman”, photo by Henry Szabranski

The opening paragraph of “Motherman” starts with one of the longest sentences I’ve ever had published, and many thanks to Scot Noel at DreamForge for allowing it to remain intact. It’s unusual for editors (and perhaps readers, too) to tolerate an opening scene that’s not immediately “in media res”, but I hope the relatively languid start here enables the story to breathe and develop resonance later. If there are any more Skink and Percher stories in the future, they’ll all be based upon fulfilling the promise made to the reader in that first sentence.

As a young climbling, I would sit on the edge of wind-torn openings in the Motherman’s chest and stare out at the other giants who stood motionless upon the horizon: the Hunter, huge net flung from outstretched hands, forever seeking his mysterious and elusive prey; the Maiden, slender arms held aloft as if to beseech the callous gods, withy tresses trailing like a stubborn nimbus; and the Hunchback, also known as the Beast, more distant but larger than the rest, leaning forward so that it crouched upon its knuckles and its ridged spine notched the sky. All of them, and others, an entire earthly zodiac, frozen in a landscape blanketed by the ever-swirling mist.

“Climbing the Motherman”

A Final Final Update From the Observatory

As mentioned previously my Clarkesworld story “The Veilonaut’s Dream” was translated and published in China’s premier SF magazine Science Fiction World last year. I’ve just received my physical contributor’s copies this weekend and what I didn’t know previously is that the editors had commissioned interior artwork for the story. Not only is this a first for me, the artwork is really great and accurate to the spirit of “Dream”. The artist is YAO Kai (摇开), contracted by Science Fiction World Publishing Co. Ltd, and with the kind permission of the editors here it is in all its glory: Maddy, Zhang, and Su breach the Discontinuity.

Art for “The Veilonaut’s Dream” by YAO Kai (摇开), contracted by Science Fiction World Publishing Co. Ltd.

Oh! What a Tangled Web (Part 2)

Pleased to announce my story, “Witch of the Weave” — featuring the further adventures of Percher and Skink in a world of colossal weave constructs — is out now in Clarkesworld Issue 159. This is the second time my work has featured in Clarkesworld, and I’m hugely relieved the first time doesn’t appear to have been a fluke.

But hold on. “Further adventures,” did I say? Of Skink and who? And what’s this about Part 2? Where’s Part 1? Did I miss something?

Let me explain.

I hope “Witch of the Weave” is able to stand on its own merits, but it’s very much a story built on the foundations of an earlier one. There’s an old adage that you should throw away the first scene of any story, or first chapter of any book you write, as these are most probably unnecessary scene setting and authorial “throat clearing” that will get in the way of the reader and the story. Well I don’t know if I would always agree with that, but there’s certainly an element of truth to it. However, it seems a bit extreme to throw away a whole story. Luckily, if you want to find out how Percher and Skink first met, and what those “clevers” and Motherman references are all about, the prequel story to “Witch of the Weave“, “Climbing the Motherman“, should be out Spring next year in DreamForge Magazine Issue 5. Then you can judge for yourself how much authorial throat clearing is going on.

In the meantime, I’m busy trying to finish the next Percher and Skink story. Certainly helps to know the first two found a home.

Clarkesworld 159 cover art: “Halo” by Derek Stenning

Dream Translation

Just received photos of my story “The Veilonaut’s Dream” (originally published at Clarkesworld and subsequently in Best of British Science Fiction 2018) sent by the staff at Chinese magazine Science Fiction World Translations, whilst I wait for the physical copies to arrive. I’m really chuffed, as this is the first time any story of mine has been translated — and for one of the biggest markets there is. “The Veilonaut’s Dream” really has turned out to be the little story that could. (The fantastic magazine cover is the image of “Cheela” from Robert L. Forward’s Starquake, apparently.)

Venom Tidings

News that my story “Against the Venom Tide” will be included in the forthcoming anthology Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue from Rosarium Publishing, edited by the amazing trio of Sheree Renee Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

It’ll appear alongside works by Linda Addison, Nanna Árnadóttir, Maurice Broaddus, adrienne maree brown, Heather Byrd, Christopher Caldwell, Jaquira Diaz, Rylee Edgar, Lyndsay Gilbert, Shel Graves, Andrea Hairston, Maria Eliza Hamilton-Abegunde, Jamey Hatley, Kate Heartfield, Nalo Hopkinson, Danian Darrell Jerry, Jacqueline Johnson, Naila Moreira, Susana M. Morris, Ama Patterson, Cecilia Quirk, Erica Ruppert, Shawn Scarber, Rion Amilcar Scott, Marie Vibbert, and Jasmine Wade.

This anthology looks to be fantastic. Until it’s out… feast your eyes upon the astounding cover art by Stacey Robinson.

Into The Blue

After a long hot week at work it was terrifically cool to come home and find contributor copies of Best of British Science Fiction 2018 waiting for me on the doorstep. Both the hardcover and paperback volumes are fantastically well produced, and I’ve have to say I still can’t believe I’ve actually got a story in them even though I can see and touch them “for real” now.

Many thanks, again, to Donna Scott and Ian Whates at NewCon Press. It’s a real shame I can’t be at the launch at Dublin Worldcon (on Saturday 17th August from 5:30 to 6:30), but if you can make it, please do — and say hi to all the amazing folk there.

“Best Of British Science Fiction 2018”, cover art by Les Edwards, cover layout Ian Whates, editor Donna Scott

Who’s In The House?

Georgina Bruce is in the house, that’s who!

Something a little different here. An author interview. And what an author!

I first “met” George on the Online Writers Workshop more than a few years ago, where it very quickly became clear her writing was beyond standard critique. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to read some of her work before it got published and won awards, and it’s a very great pleasure to get a chance to interview her here about her new short story collection, “This House Of Wounds”.

“This House Of Wounds”, cover art by Catrin Welz-Stein and design by Vince Haig

This House of Wounds has been generally available in print for a few of weeks now. How does it feel like to have your first collection out there in the world? 
 

Terrible! I mean, brilliant! I mean, I don’t know really. It’s been unofficially out for a while now so I mainly just think everyone is sick to death of hearing my endless pleas to buy it.

How did you decide which stories to include and what order they should appear? Did you outsource curation entirely to Undertow or did you have a particular vision of your own?
 

I sent them a selection of stories, and from that Mike [Kelly] and Carolyn [Macdonell-Kelly] picked out what they wanted for the book. I withdrew one story at a late stage because I decided it just wasn’t good enough. When it came to the order of stories, I totally abdicated all responsibility for that to Mike and Carolyn. I didn’t feel I had enough distance or perspective to see how it would come out. Mike had a kind of vision of the overall book that I just didn’t. I trusted him to create a coherent collection, and he did – in some ways I think it has become more than the sum of its parts.

On re-reading the stories in House of Wounds did you find yourself struck by any recurring images or themes in your stories that you hadn’t noticed before?
 

There is a lot in my stories that is about abuse and trauma, and processing that abuse and trauma. I don’t think I realised quite how much that was a concern until I saw the stories put together. There’s also a lot more violence than I would have laid claim to! The weirdest thing is when reviewers pick up on themes and imagery that I never even noticed. Obviously readers bring a lot to a book, but still. It’s almost like I am a whole different person than I thought.

Do you have a particular favourite story or one you particularly wish to highlight? What is it that makes it your favourite?
 

I really, really love Kuebiko, and I’m proud of it. It’s kind of a puzzle (I like puzzles) but all the answers are there, it can be pieced together. I don’t know if readers will come up with the same answers I had in mind, but the blanks are there to be filled in. It’s a kind of a game about a story, or a story about a game, or both, and I love how it sort of folds in on itself. I’m really fond of stories where the structure is part of the telling. They are super hard to write but that’s part of the fun. It’s the one story I really want people to enjoy – although quite a few readers skim over it, probably wondering what the hell I’m going on about.

What is your favourite short story by another author, and why? (Okay, that’s unfair. There can be more than just one!)
 

For the past few years, I’ve taught ‘Darling’, a very short story by Padrika Tarrant, to my students and I think it’s a really wonderful story. It’s so shocking. She drags you into the perspective of a very marginalised individual and it’s powerful. My students are always quite polarised in their responses: they either love it or hate it, but they all find it very disturbing. All I hear for weeks is, “Oh my god, Georgina, what is wrong with you?” 🙂 I also teach Priya Sharma’s ‘Egg’ which is wonderful for getting students to emotionally connect with a piece of literature. I usually give that to my nursing students and they are thrilled by the medical references, too! ‘The Heat Death of the Universe’ by Pamela Zoline is one of the great pioneering feminist short stories that made science fiction a better genre for everyone. It’s weird and experimental, a bit of a puzzle, a bit wobbly in terms of genre; the world of the story is a sort of product of the internal state of the character, a woman who is falling apart. It’s exactly the kind of thing I love! Another story I think about a lot is ‘Ad Astra’ by Carole Johnson. It’s just a whole world unto itself, and it’s very strange and sorrowful, and everything that science fiction should be. 

Many reviewers have commented on your unique “voice”. Is this something you work on, the effort hidden like swan’s swimming legs, or is it simply emergent from who you are and how you write?
 

This is difficult to answer because I don’t think I really know what ‘voice’ means, or what people mean when they talk about it with regard to my writing. What I do when I write is try to be very open and connected to myself and to the voices of the characters, and I don’t try to control what’s happening until I’ve got most of a draft. I just let the story go wherever it wants, often just following the imagery until I find the story underneath it all. My characters tend to hide stories, they are ashamed or in denial, so you have to trick the story out of them. I usually spend a lot of time rewriting and editing before I’m happy with a story, but I try not to overwrite and kill the initial spark. Sometimes that means leaving in something clumsy or raw. You have to have confidence to do that – when I was first writing, I wanted it all to be perfect and that would kill the emotion.

What responsibility, if any, do you think writers (should) have?
 

What responsibility do any of us have towards one another? We have to try to be honest, and we have to serve something other than ourselves. Beyond that, I think writers have a responsibility to defend freedom of speech. A key indicator of fascism is when academics and writers are stopped from speaking or publishing. This is happening more and more and I sometimes see writers celebrating that and think, what’s wrong with you? Read a bloody history book.

This House Of Wounds is dedicated to “the lost, and the lonely” — do you have a particular reader or audience in mind when writing, or do you write solely to satisfy your own muse?
 

I never really have anyone particular in mind, but since the collection was published I realised that 17-year-old-me would be my ideal reader. I think This House of Wounds is entirely perfect for super-angry, disenfranchised, alienated and passionate teenage girls.

What other material can your fans expect from you in the next few months and years? What grand ambitions do you harbour?

I’m working on a novel and also a memoir, though at some point one of these is going to take over the other. Neither of them are anywhere near publication. In terms of ambition, I’d love to have more readers! And I’d love to have more time to work on different kinds of writing. I started out in screenwriting and I’d like to get back to it at some point. I don’t know – when I was younger I had ambitions to win awards and be remembered as one of the world’s greatest writers, etc. Now I’ll just be happy if I don’t end up eaten by cats. I don’t have a cat so hopefully I’m safe on that score.

[Note: Georgina’s story “White Rabbit“, included in this collection, has won the British Fantasy Society award for best short story.]

“This House Of Wounds” is available directly from Undertow and also from all standard online book purchasing venues. If you’re a super-angry, disenfranchised, alienated and passionate teenage girl — or even if you’re not! — you should rush out and buy this brilliant collection now.