The Clay Farima

“The Clay Farima” Reviewed

What’s the very worst that can happen after a story is published?

Terrible reviews? Death threats from readers? Death threats from the publisher? Being disowned by your spouse and children?


Roaring silence. That’s the worst thing. Was the story any good? Was it really bad? Did anybody like it? Did anybody hate it? Did anybody read it at all? 

So I’m really pleased to see these reviews that came in for “The Clay Farima” after it was published in BCS #128 last month.

Terry Weyna for Fantasy Literature: Magazine Monday reviews BCS #127 & #128:

“It’s a fascinating tale” … “and my favorite in these two issues.”

Michelle Ristuccia for Tangent Online:

“From Farima’s direct and vivid introduction to the dramatic choice she faces at the end, Szabranski provides an engaging tale full of enjoyable complexities ranging from the magical to the familial.”

Lois Tilton for Locus Online:

“Surprisingly, this ends up being a story of love.” … “As the author is a theoretical physicist , the Source seems to be casting the working of magic in those terms, which more SFnally oriented readers may appreciate.”

…which all sounds great, don’t it? But hold up. Lest my head explode, giddy from praise, note also that Lois says:

“Farima as a narrator is too overwrought particularly in the beginning”

and Terry notes the story is:

“a trifle clumsy at times”

…but, hey. That’s cool, too. I still consider myself very much a beginner in the business of story writing.

It’s great to get any coverage and input from reviewers. It really helps.

Beyond The Magic Event Horizon

This week sees the publication of my novelette “The Clay Farima” in the fab magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I had great fun writing it and I’m really pleased it found such a great home.

It is both a blessing and a curse that I generally don’t plan my stories. Starting out as a simple sword and sorcery whodunnit, this one quickly morphed into a journey of internal and external discovery. I honestly didn’t know how it would turn out or what wonders (or horrors) Farima and Mevlish would encounter beyond the Wall. Luckily the scenes mostly wrote themselves. No, I don’t know how that happens. No, it doesn’t happen that often.

Oddly enough, during the process of writing it, I found myself thinking of “The Clay Farima” as a pure science fiction story rather than an adventure fantasy tale. Substitute “gravity” for “magic” and suddenly the Wall marks the event horizon of the singularity known as the Source — although that analogy quickly breaks down if you know any real physics. Similarly, the artificially created narrator can be likened to an android or a clone, another familiar SF trope. So it’s really about a sentient robot’s journey to the centre of a supermassive black hole. But without the robot. Or the black hole. Or any of the science. What I really wanted to capture was the elusive “sensawunda” those type of stories can evoke. I hope I succeeded, at least in some measure.

If “Farima” seems dense in backstory, part of some larger tale, that’s because it follows an earlier story that detailed the rise and fall of the tempestuous relationship between Mevlish and Kaffryn. Some of the momentum from that original story carried through to “Farima”, and it may well continue into other projects set in the Near and Far Kingdoms. Hopefully “Farima” stands well enough on its own.

Another prompt for this story, once it began to brew in my mind, was this image used as part of a writing group challenge. The painting is by the remarkable artist Zdzisław Beksiński, and for those of you who have read “Farima”, the scene inspired by it should be immediately obvious.

Art that inspired "The Clay Farima" by Zdzislaw Brezinski

Art by Zdzislaw Beksiński that inspired “The Clay Farima”

“The Clay Farima” accepted by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I’m very pleased to announce that my novelette “The Clay Farima” has been accepted by Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Pleased for many reasons. First, BCS is a kick-ass magazine, one of the best looking and highly regarded venues in the genre. Second, it’s an opportunity for readers to see my longer works of fiction; I love being able to explore the worlds, characters and situations made possible by using the long form. Third, and by no means least, it’s been a real pleasure working with a pro-active editor like Scott H. Andrews. Check the stats at Duotrope or Submission Grinder. BCS consistently rates as one of the most approachable markets for writers, with the vast majority of rejections being personal. I can speak from experience! The nuggets of editorial wisdom these rejections contain are gold dust to the beginning — and even experienced — writer; ignore them at your peril. Used wisely, they can shape up your work…and one day, it may not be a rejection you receive.

I’ll post more about “The Clay Farima” closer to its publication date. Suffice to say that this month’s cover art by Jorge Jacinto (“The Frozen Valley”), although not at all related to my story, manages quite coincidentally to convey some of the atmosphere of its setting.

The Frozen Valley