Tagged: sci-fi

I’ll Be Back

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 16

“Okay, so here’s how we’ll do it: there’s this robot apocalypse and the robots go back in time to kill the leader of the human resistance before he’s born.”

“Wouldn’t work,” said Zara. “If they go back in time and kill him, he never starts leading the resistance in the first place.”

“Yeah. I know. That’s the point.”

“But then how do the robots know to go back in time and pre-kill him? I mean, they’ve got no reason to kill him if he’s already been dead for years.”

“Okay.” Callum took a deep breath. “Same situation, but the good guys send a good robot to go back in time and stop the bad one from killing the guy. Only it turns out that the remains of the bad robot are what let humankind build evil robots in the first place.”

“Still wouldn’t work. If the evil robots have to go back in time for evil robots to be invented, who invents evil robots the first time around?” Continue reading

Ten Little Astronauts Reaches Massive Milestones

There was some good news on Thursday as Ten Little Astronauts reached 33%: a full third of the funding necessary to get it onto bookshelves everywhere!

That was pretty amazing in itself, but within a couple of hours of announcing it the book also reached a grand total of 150 unique supporters!

If you follow the links above, you can read a little about what this means for the book and what my plans are from this point on, but the main thing to take away would be that basically that Ten Little Astronauts is doing really well. Obviously reaching one third funding means that there’s still twice as much left to go, but the fact that a hundred and fifty people are already on board suggests that it’ll get there in the end.

This won’t happen on its own, though. If you’ve been seeing these updates and thinking “Oh, hey, yeah – I keep meaning to put in a pledge for that!” then please do. And if you’re one of the 150 amazing people who’ve already done that, please consider sharing this news and seeing if you can find just one friend or family member to join you in supporting the book. If everybody who’s put in a pledge so far got one friend on board, we’d be way more than halfway. If everybody got two friends to join them, we’d actually be there!

Lord Harlington’s Heir

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 13

Challenge #6: Write a creature horror story featuring a psycho party member in which a torch is used as a weapon.

“I was terribly sorry to learn about your uncle, Mr. Heathcote.” Mr. Smith extended his hand to shake.

Taking it, the man gave a dismissive tut. “Oh, he was only second uncle. And, ah, it’s Lord Heathcote now.”

“Ah, yes. Yes, of course.” This fellow might have been rather callous, but if he was quick to pick up the title, he would be quick to pick up the pen. “Shall we go inside?”

“In a moment, perhaps.”

The hesitation caught Smith by surprise, though the slightly imperious tone did not.

“I overheard some rather curious gossip in the bar of my hotel last night.”

Smith remained at the door, his hand on the key in the lock. The longer he kept it there, the more that unturned key started to feel like his commission slipping through his grasp.

He let go and turned. “I daresay you must have.” He smiled faintly. “A man dies inside a locked room but his body is nowhere to be found: your uncle’s misfortune might have been lifted straight out of the latest Christie. But I assure you, the investigation was quite thorough, and its conclusions entirely unremarkable. Come.” He turned the key at last. “I will show you.” Continue reading

Unearthly Sleuths

There’s a new anthology from JayHenge Publishing, and this one’s all about speculative detective fiction! It’s called Unearthly Sleuths, and it features two of my stories: The Card and Noise on the Wire. The former appears in OCR is Not the Only Font, my flash fiction anthology from 2012, but the latter is a brand new Alterworld story I’ve never shared before!

If that sounds like your sort of thing you can grab a copy in ebook or paperback right now! However, the editor has extremely kindly allowed me to offer the ebook as a reward for supporters of Ten Little Astronauts, so if you’ve pledged for that at the Audio Collection level or above (or the bargain Digital Bundle), you’re already due to get a copy when the book is funded!

You might also be interested in Phantasmical Contraptions and Other Errors, also by JayHenge, which has a steampunk theme and features no fewer than three of my flash fiction pieces.

Ten Little Astronauts at 30%!

Yes! Ten Little Astronauts has reached 30% funding through Unbound. The last little bit of that came very quickly indeed: pretty much just over this past weekend. You can find the update on their site here.

If you haven’t pledged already, this would be a spectacularly good time to do so. The book has had so much support these past few days that it’s currently trending on Unbound, and if that continues – particularly if it earns a place on the front page of books – even more people are going to discover it. If you’re one of the next 15 people to put in a pledge, you’ll also get your name in an interactive sci-fi story I’m working on as well as the regular rewards.

Harvest Moon, the folk horror story I was offering as the 30% milestone reward, will be going out to supporters soon. For the 35% milestone reward I’m planning to release a never-before-seen Face of Glass myth telling the origin of the elements and the creation of Man. If that takes your fancy, you might also be interested in Silent as Still Water.

And please, even if you don’t intend to put in a pledge yourself, consider sharing Ten Little Astronauts with anyone you think might enjoy it. That 100% mark is creeping closer and closer, but I can’t reach it on my own!

Free Shipping at Unbound Until April 30th

If you’d like to support Ten Little Astronauts but haven’t already, or went for the ebook and fancy upgrading to a sweet, sweet paperback for super cheap, now’s your chance! You can get free UK shipping (or £4 off international) with the code FREESHIPPING until April 30th.

Apologies for the shoddy video quality. I seem to have burned a hole in my only micro SD card and had to use an older camera.

I’ve left a slightly more comprehensive post about this on Unbound itself, but the main things to take away would be that if you want a physical copy of the book then this would be a really good time to get it, and if you’ve already put in a pledge for an ebook then you’ve now got the opportunity of upgrading to a first edition paperback for very little indeed. Not only that, but if you do upgrade then you’ll be doubling the value of your pledge (but not the cost) in the process which would really help me out.

This promotion is only running until the 30th, so it would mean the world to me if you could help spread the word about it. Most promo codes knock the value off the pledges themselves, but this one offers readers a chance to save money while still ensuring that everything they pay in goes directly towards getting my work into bookshops. If you’re reading this, please don’t just click away: share it on Facebook or Twitter or, even better, tell someone you think would particularly enjoy my sci-fi murder mystery. A personal recommendation means more than all the shares or retweets in the world (though naturally those help too)!

Craft Keep VR Now Available

Back at EGX 2016 I got involved with virtual reality game Craft Keep VR. A certain portion of the game was already available in Early Access before I even heard about it but over the past few months I’ve been writing story and dialogue and gradually seeing the whole thing take form. At this point my work is done and, not only that, the finished game has just been released! You’ll need either an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive virtual reality headset to play it, but even if you don’t have one of those knocking about I highly recommend checking out the trailer.

I got a chance to play a very nearly complete version at EGX Rezzed this year, and the experience was…strange. Amazing, but strange. I don’t have the VR equipment necessary to play this sort of thing at home, so beyond a few YouTube videos I hadn’t really seen the work in progress while I was writing. It’s quite a shock to go from “Ha ha! This’ll make for a fun bit of dialogue,” to “Oh wow! There’s the guy saying it!” with absolutely nothing in between. It would be weird if the jump were simply from page to screen, but when it’s from page to 3D people walking around in the room with you, it’s especially striking. Continue reading

Announcing Project Pythias

It’s been quite a while since I had a new story to share online. It’s hard to be too upset about that given that it’s primarily down to some recent successes – crowdfunding Ten Little Astronauts takes up a great deal of my time, and I’m currently sorting out a contract for Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure with a different publisher – but still it seems like a shame.

Another factor in this (and it’s somewhat related to the whole Exponential Adventure thing) is that my work recently has taken a step away from self-contained, linear stories and towards more nebulous interactive pieces, whether I’m putting together Twine games all by myself or whether I’m approaching bigger videogame developers about the possibility of working with them. Amazing as it is to have a hand in something like Craft Keep VR, all the time I spend lining up opportunities like that is time I can’t spend knocking together a short story or chipping away at a novel. And that got me thinking: maybe I can use one of these things to tackle the other?

That’s where Project Pythias comes in.

Project Pythias isn’t so much a game or an interactive story as it is a piece of software. You might have noticed that my interactive work has been getting more and more tech-heavy over time, but actually this sort of thing goes way back for me. Although my BA was in English Literature, and much of that was focused on very old texts, I was studying at the University of Reading which is really big on scientific research. A lot of my friends were involved with neural networks at some point or another, and though I can’t put together anything of the same complexity they were, I’ve got enough of an understanding to bolt together something that, when trained on my own stories, can generate outlines of similar follow-up works. Twine lets you bring in pretty much any JavaScript you like, and if you’re willing to get your hands dirty you might be surprised what sort of functionality you can get out of that.

Essentially, though Project Pythias can’t “think” as such – it doesn’t actually aim to produce anything funny or surprising – it can grasp that Captain Redundancy appears only in stories in which his presence is redundant, and that Girth Loinhammer is supposed to be intimidating but ends up being sexy, and when stories follow some sort of formula like that, it’s reasonably good at identifying and reproducing it.

It’s also still pretty buggy, by the way: you might see an occasional error message, but I’m actually really struggling to work out what’s going wrong. For the most part, you can just ignore those. However, DON’T tick the box to “prevent this page from generating additional dialogs” if it appears. Those dialogs are necessary for Twine to run.

I’m putting this out there partly as a way of offering some new stories to you guys, but as well as that I’m hoping to further refine Project Pythias‘ output. At the moment they’re essentially just outlines, but with some feedback and a few weeks’ work I think I could have this thing generating stories approaching 1,000 words. I’m not exactly going to count on it to tackle Flash Fiction Month for me, but if time is short this July I might set it loose on the ordinary days and just focus on the challenges myself. I’m already relying on automation more and more. If you don’t believe me, consider this: I’m at EGX right now! Today! This very minute, even! WordPress posted this all by itself (under my instruction, of course).

Anyway, here’s that link again. Give it a try, and tell me what you think. If everything works out, there’s a good chance Project Pythias will be producing all my short fiction by 2018.

Places to Meet Me this Month

I realise we’re halfway through March at this point, but wow is that second half packed full of things to do! If you fancy meeting me in person, you’ll have plenty of chances over the coming couple of weeks (though it helps if you’re currently in the southern half of the UK). Here’s what’s coming up, in order:

Truth is Like a Lazarus Launch

(University of Reading [Van Emden Theatre, HumSS Building], 6pm Monday 20th March)

I got my BA it the University of Reading, and after getting in touch to let them know about my recent success with Ten Little Astronauts, I was invited to submit something to this year’s Reading Creative Arts Anthology, Truth is Like a Lazarus; or, A Roof Bursting with Stars. That something is in there now, and if you turn up in the Van Emden Theatre at 6pm you’ll hopefully have the chance to hear me read it!

As an added bonus, the HumSS building is worth a visit in its own right: think “Hogwarts as imagined by M.C. Escher.” In my second year I almost missed a class because it took place on a floor I didn’t know existed. Fortunately,  however, the Van Emden Theatre is up just one flight of stairs visible from the main entrance. Reading’s Whiteknights Campus is full of quirky things like this: it was very nearly declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has its own (obsolete) nuclear bunker. Well worth taking the time explore beforehand if you do decide to come to this event!

Winchester Comic Con

(Winchester Discovery Centre, 9am – 6pm, Saturday 25th March)

The first ever Winchester Comic Con is coming up, and I’ll be on the first ever author panel! I’m also one of the judges for the flash fiction competition, so if you fancy making a day of it then come prepared with a ≤100 word speculative fiction story. The competition is open to anybody with a ticket (which presumably you’ll need to get in there anyway, though it may be possible to pay on the door) and this is very much my kind of thing.

As you might expect from a nine-hour event, there’ll be lots going on. There’ll be guests from Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who, as well as the world’s leading Tintinologist (an expert on Tintin) Michael Farr. Also, it’s not certain at this point but I’m hoping fellow Unbound author Niall Slater will be there too.

EGX Rezzed

(Tobacco Dock, London, 30th March – 1st April)

After having a really great time at EGX in September last year, I’ll be returning for EGX Rezzed at the end of the month! I say “returning” but actually this’ll be a fairly different event. For one thing it’s in London rather than Birmingham, and for another the focus is more on PC and indie titles such as Craft Keep VR, which will be on display there!

For anyone who hasn’t been following for a while, I first came across Craft Keep at EGX and, soon afterwards, ended up writing for it. That was a bit of a dream come true, really. EGX was the first games event I ever went to, and standing in the massive crowd heading in at the start of the first day, I never imagined I’d have my own work on show in the next one I went to. It was only an outside possibility even at the point I was on the train back home! I met a lot of great people at the last event (and bumped into a couple of people I’d already met at the Brighton Global Game Jam), and I’m hoping there’ll be a chance to catch up with at least some of them at this one.

As the “VR” in “Craft Keep VR” might imply, this is a virtual reality title and you’ll need a VR headset and motion controllers to play it. For most people (including me) then, an event like EGX is your main chance to give it a go. Tickets are available here, and they’re actually not too pricy considering the range of games you get to see! I gather that Rezzed will be more low-key than regular EGX – I’m not expecting to grab quite as many free T-shirts (if any) this time around – but even so you’re looking at three full days of gaming for less than the price of one current-gen console release. It’s certainly cheaper than buying an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive if you just want a go at Craft Keep VR!

And that’s it.

I’ve got a few more things planned over the last little while, quite a few of them related to Ten Little Astronauts, but none of those involve turning up places in person. Or at least, none of the ones that do really offer an opportunity to meet up with people. If you are planning to head to any of these, though – whether you’re near Reading or Winchester or fancy a trip into London for EGX – then let me know! It would be great to say hi.

Ten Little Astronauts has 125 Supporters!

As promised, here I am picking a name from a hat to determine which of these lucky people get a free, signed copy of Kicking and Screaming:

There’s been a lot of interest in Ten Little Astronauts recently and thanks partly to a couple of really good events this month, a whole bunch of those draw places went pretty much overnight. And by “a whole bunch,” I honestly mean about half. They went fast.

If you didn’t put in your pledge in time (or if you did but weren’t that one lucky person who got the book), then no worries. There’ll be other giveaways, but on top of that I’m planning a slightly different reward to mark the 150 supporter milestone, and this one will go out to the first 150 supporters. All of them. Every single one.

As I say in the video above, the plan at the moment is to put together an interactive story (written in Twine, the same software I’ve used for just about all of my interactive works so far) set on board a gigantic spacecraft and featuring the first 150 supporters as its crew. A lot of Unbound authors offer a “name a character” reward but since that’s not an option for Ten Little Astronauts itself (which has exactly ten characters, all of them named after Agatha Christie’s ten from And Then There Were None), I feel as though this is a good way of giving everyone a mention in something else.

If you’ve already put in a pledge for Ten Little Astronauts, then there’s nothing more you need to do: I’ll be working on this new reward as the supporter count ticks up to 150. However, if you’d like to help more – and especially if there’s anyone whose name you’d like to see in this new work – then please encourage your friends to jump on board! They’ll also get their name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself once it’s published, but only the first 150 will get a place in this interactive story.