…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!
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?)
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…
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 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.
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.
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.)
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
Grass stubble crunches beneath Ohab’s feet as he approaches the giant. The long, dry summer has baked the hayfield a deep golden brown, and late-blooming poppies sprout from between the ridges of cracked mud, nodding like amiable premonitions of blood as Ohab passes by. The last wisps of early morning mist have burned away, and crows, unfazed by the giant’s presence, flap lazily between the barrel-trunked oaks that dot the field’s perimeter.
Don’t ask me how many attempts it took to get that first paragraph just so. Many. Many attempts. No really. If you have a figure in mind for the number of revisions then I’m pretty sure it’s too low. Yes. Even that figure. Waaaaaay too low. And I’m still not sure about the extra comma or the two instances of “Ohab”. Yes, these are things that give me sleepless nights.
The story’s first-pass name was “The Origin of Giants”, a rather grandiose title from under which it could never really escape. Although “Land” deals more or less with the physical origin of giants (in this story world), it nowhere near adequately approaches the origin of true giants, those not of merely physical stature… for that you’d be better off reading something like Jose Pablo Iriarte’s The Curse of Giants. So the title had to change, and the story had to find a new heart… which I think it does, at the end. Probably it’s too optimistic of me to consider Ohab a suitable case for redemption, but in order to be a writer you really do have to put aside the pessimism now and again. Do I believe that change for the better — for people and the world — is possible? Sometimes. Yes, I really do.