Daily Science Fiction

My Brain For Sale!

Your story keeps getting rejected? You think it could be improved, but you’re not quite sure what needs to be tweaked? You want to break into the pro market, but you’re not quite sure what it takes?

Daily Science Fiction is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund their authors, September 2013 to March 2014. A story critique by yours truly is available as one of their Kickstarter rewards (Update: now gone! But please do check out the other authors still available.). For a story up to 5000 words I’ll do a line-edit and give developmental suggestions and comments. Critiques are available from other DSF authors, too.

As well as featuring established authors, DSF has given many new writers their first professional break (including me). All their online content and their weekday e-mail stories are absolutely free of charge to readers, yet they manage to pay their contributors well above minimum pro rates. It’s a Kickstarter cause well worth considering if you’re at all interested in the genre.


The Bargain

If you’re hopping over from the Daily Science Fiction e-mail blast of “The Bargain”, welcome! If you’re not…welcome anyway! As promised, here are the two images that prompted this very short story.

The first features a man standing with a bicycle at the end of a pier, monochrome in the mist, the lake’s water a sheer mirror. Why is he there? Has the rest of the world really disappeared? What lies beyond the mist? Where is he going? Where has he been? These questions and this haunting image were the primary inspiration.

Pier To Nowhere. Photo: Mohd Nadly Mohd/National Geographic

Pier To Nowhere. Photo: Mohd Nadly Mohd/National Geographic

It’s a standard creativity exercise to link two or more disparate ideas together, so into the mix was added this devilish character, who turns out not to be a demon at all but a man dressed in traditional Austrian Perchten costume and mask. Add a final tip of the hat to E. L. James…and “The Bargain” was the result.

Thanks to Ilan Lerman for excavating the prompt images and to Georgina Bruce for her inspired suggestion to bisect the story — it was originally twice as long and more purple than grey.

A man dressed in traditional Perchten costume and mask. Photo: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters

A man dressed in traditional Perchten costume and mask. Photo: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters

When “The Bargain” goes online at Daily Science Fiction a week after this Monday’s e-mail shot, it will be accompanied by the art for the month of May 2013. By sheer coincidence, it’s a perfect fit.

Daily Science Fiction art for May 2013 by Eleanor Bennett

Daily Science Fiction art for May 2013 by Eleanor Bennett

“The Bargain” accepted by DSF

Learned today that my short flash story “The Bargain” has been accepted by Daily Science Fiction. This is my fourth acceptance at DSF, and will be my sixth story to appear there in total (if you count Three Kisses as three separate stories). It also means that I already know I will (very probably) have at least six stories published in 2013 — and February’s not even ended! Not quite believing it all yet…I keep looking up, waiting for a piano to drop on my head and restore the karmic balance…

More details about “The Bargain” closer to its publication.

The Origin of Three Kisses

If you’re hopping over from the Daily Science Fiction e-mail blast of “Three Kisses”, welcome! If you’re not…welcome anyway!

I mentioned in an earlier post I would describe the writing prompt that led to the creation of my linked “Three Kisses” stories, so here it is. The prompt was set by the fiendishly clever and talented Ilan Lerman, as part of a series of writing challenges.

From a matrix of twenty four random words we had to choose just two, each from a different line, and these had to be used in the closing sentence of our story. The point was to try and work backwards from a known ending to create a story that fitted. It turned out to be a surprisingly effective approach.

This is the word matrix we were confronted with:







As with most writing prompts, I initially stared at it in despair. Nothing. Nothing coming from it at all. Then I started to play with a few word combinations and the ideas slowly began to creep out. After a few false starts I eventually settled on the words “cold” and “lips”. These immediately brought to mind the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Snow Queen”. At first I tried to avoid a straight up retelling of the work, instead attempting to make more oblique references…something like, say, Google’s Project Glass meets the troll mirror, an SFnal spin… but although these showed initial promise, I kept being drawn back to the raw, icy power of the original story. In the end I ditched the contorted layers of allusion and wrote Gerda’s imagined encounter with the Queen of Snowflakes straight up. “The Mirror of Reason” was the result.


By now I was on a roll. My brain went into overdrive identifying other significant kisses in Fairy Tale Land. For some reason it began to obsess about dwarves and their role in “Snow White” (by the Brothers Grimm). How, if we were to actually encounter them, they may not be as “Disney” (or even “Tolkien”) as we might assume. And if the dwarves received an unnecessarily good press, why wouldn’t also the Prince on his stallion? The collision of these two reversals gave rise to “Defenders of the Crystal Casket“.


“The Snow Queen” mentions a third fatal kiss — so I knew I had to write a third installment, and settled on the obvious choice: “Sleeping Beauty”. Again, the antecedents of Charles Perrault‘s fairy tale are much darker than the rosy modern incarnation. (It wasn’t a chaste kiss that woke the cursed Princess in earlier versions, for instance, but the twins she gave birth to whilst still in her cursed sleep.) I couldn’t let the loathsomely arrogant Prince from “Defenders” get off so lightly this time, and “A Royal Breakfast” sees him get his just desserts.


Although “The Mirror of Reason” was the first of the three to be completed, it seemed to make structural sense to me for it to be sandwiched between the two “Prince” stories to create a linked trilogy, and that was how it was submitted, as a single story. DSF are sending the sections out in a slightly different order, but that’s OK since they should each stand individually.

I hope you enjoy each of the “Three Kisses”. I had great fun writing them. And as to Ilan’s prompt…what two words would you choose?

“Three Kisses” accepted by DSF

First the bad news: “Nine”, the online journal that recently published my story “Starfish and Apples”, has permanently closed. I’ll be sad to see it go. I loved its clean, clutter free layout and its mix of long and short fiction from both new and established names. The editorial staff always seemed very friendly and professional, and I wish them well in their future endeavours.

On the good news front, I learned today that my short story “Three Kisses” has been accepted by Daily Science Fiction. This is my third acceptance there, but the first story which is longer than flash length (although it is composed of three flash length components). Really pleased by this, as I hope it signals my ability to write longer length, marketable stories is improving. In an industry where word count is directly proportional to the cost and risk of publishing a story, this is particularly gratifying.

I’ll write more about “Three Kisses” closer to its publication date (hopefully early 2013), but for now, here’s a teaser image:



On Tuesday September 11, Daily Science Fiction will be sending my flash story “Mortless” out via e-mail to their 5,000+ subscribers. A week later it goes live on their website for the whole world to see. (The whole world with Internet access, that is.)

Not a subscriber to DSF? Why not? It’s free, and you get a new story in your inbox every weekday — stories from authors such as Hugo and Nebula Award winner Ken Liu to complete newbies like myself.

A few notes and an acknowledgement regarding “Mortless”. This story was the result of one of the regular prompts set by the writing group I’m a member of, the Self-Forging Fragments. (It’s sekrit, so don’t ask about it!) On this occasion it was a musical prompt, set by the insanely talented Georgina Bruce. Without that prompt, this story would not exist — so a big public thanks to Georgina!

The music was by an artist I had never heard of, but the track was soon on constant replay. Here it is, “Singing Under The Rainbow,” by World’s End Girlfriend.

For me, it evoked images of an awakening, a gradual disintegration, of eventual loss. (And the word “bird”.) On repeated listens, the impressions from and of the music changed, but I stuck with those original thoughts. I was reminded of the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Nightingale”, about the mechanical nightingale that eventually runs down, and about love and death. And, incongruously, how I had recently overhead someone being called “River” and what an unusual name that was.

The original working title was “The Wrong Nightingale”, one which still works well, but in the end I decided on “Mortless”. I think it better reflects the emergent themes, a play on the words “deathless”, “remorseless”, “merciless”, etc. I’m really looking forward to it being out in the big wide world and finding out what readers make of it.

PS. And just a note on the publish date. Next Tuesday will be eleven years since I stood in a conference room in Philadelphia and watched on a hastily commandeered and barely functional TV set the first grainy pictures of the World Trade Centre towers collapsing. The world has turned, and turned again, since then, but it will still be with very mixed emotions that I will greet next Tuesday.