I promise that the title of this post isn’t pure gibberish: Ten Little Astronauts is being serialised by a company called The Pigeonhole. The story will be sent out as ten “staves” at a rate of one a day, meaning that if you subscribe before Thursday October 11th you should be able to read the whole thing along with everyone else who’s signed up: it’s a bit like a book club. And it’s free!
There is one catch, though: there are only a limited number of slots available and they’ve been going quickly. I’ll be following the serial myself to respond to readers, and I’m working on a Q&A sent by The Pigeonhole right now. That won’t be available anywhere else, so by all means grab a slot even if you’re due to get a copy of the book!
Setting up an account involves only an email and password, and once you’ve done that it’s not just my book that’s on there. You can also read titles by lesser-known authors such as Jodi Picoult and Jeffrey Archer (whoever they are). So that’s something.
If you’d like to support Ten Little Astronauts but haven’t already, this is your absolute last chance. The supporter list will close at midnight on September 17th, UK time. If you’ve never even heard of this book before, here’s a video – filmed on board a submarine – to tell you what it’s all about:
Everybody who supports a book at Unbound gets their name listed in the back to record their contribution. But with Ten Little Astronauts set to launch next month, the thing has to be typeset and printed which means – inevitably – they have to call time on adding new supporters.
If you’re reading this before the deadline, please do consider spreading the news however you can. Post it on Facebook. Send out a tweet. Print out this blog post, fold it into a dainty origami swan and foist it on somebody while shouting “HONK! HONK!” I promise I won’t judge you (though can’t speak for anyone else).
Remember: if your name’s not on the list by midnight on the 17th, it won’t be in the book!
I’ve been pretty heavily focused on getting Ten Little Astronauts ready for publication recently, which might be why I never noticed that two of my interactive fiction games were on the People’s Choice shortlist for Wonderbox’s Opening Up Digital Fiction Competition.
You can play either one by clicking its icon above.
I sent in a whole bunch of games back when the competition was open for submissions, but wasn’t particularly confident in any of them making the cut. To see two in there is a real surprise, especially since these two in particular are very different in tone.
Because I discovered this pretty late on, not only has voting now closed but the winners have already been announced! Sadly neither of my games are amongst them, but there was some pretty serious competition: the winners look absolutely top notch, and I encourage you to check them out.
This is hardly the first time something I’ve worked on has been up for a prize, but it is the first time it’s happened specifically for an interactive piece that wasn’t a team project. It just goes to show that it’s usually worth taking a chance on these things even if you’re not sure what will come of it. Also, do keep an eye on Wonderbox specifically: the competition is annual so if you’d like to take a shot at it yourself then you’ll have a chance next year!
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 28
Challenge #13*: Write a story that involves an original fictional religion, a moral quandary, a language the protagonist can’t understand and a crisis of faith. The story must be either 555, 666, or 777 words in length.
“Thank you for coming, Father 73.”
The priest gave a dismissive wave of his nylon-gloved manipulator. “What sort of example would I set if I didn’t? ‘Render help to thy neighbour, except where such help would violate the first or second of my commandments.’ But also, I am curious to see what you have found.”
Surveyor 6359 lifted the tarpaulin from the object in the trench. Until it was understood and documented, the excavation could not continue and no more magtrack could be laid.
“A precursor relic,” she explained. “I think a container of some sort. We thought it best to send for someone to decipher the ancient script upon its surface before any attempt to move it.”
“This is wise.” Father 73 nodded. “The precursors set forth many trials and tests of faith: some of their devices will detonate rather than yield up their mysteries.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 24
Challenge #11: Write a story that takes place within either a utopian or dystopian setting. It must make use of dramatic irony and a key scene must revolve around a musical instrument.
At 2:47am Michael Johnson died of a heroin overdose on the third floor of a multi-storey car park just outside Hull.
At 9:18am his body was discovered by an Ikea employee, who subsequently called an ambulance.
At 9:44am the death was reported and a unique identification number sent to a server at the Ministry of Justice.
At 9:45am the code was broadcast, detonating one specific half-gram charge of plastic explosive.
Julia Walker’s phone was broken. She got out of bed, pulled on her clothes and turned on the TV.
“…collapsed in Parliament shortly before 10am and was pronounced dead on the scene. When approached for comment—”
The time in the breaking news banner read ten fifteen. Julia switched over to some ancient sitcom and stuck two slices of bread in the toaster. Then she boiled the kettle. The noise drowned out the voices on TV, but it was one she’d seen before: Ross had left a sandwich in the fridge and somebody else ate it. The camera cut to progressively more distant scenes as he shouted about it, prompting a flock of birds to take flight on a street somewhere. The effect was only slightly hampered by the weird square aspect ratio and grainy image. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 21
Challenge #10*: David Bowie Day. Write a story that begins as hard fantasy and ends as space opera. It must include five different images taken from Bowie’s song lyrics and the names of two bands in which he appeared. At least one of the characters must be iconic and the word count must correspond to the length of a track from the album Blackstar.
“Ew,” said Girth Loinhammer, putting down his stein. “That is…”
“Yeah,” agreed Sekhmet, hurriedly rubbing at her tongue. “It’s…it’s got an aftertaste.”
“I don’t understand the hype. It’s big and it’s bland.”
“Yo, bartender!” Sekhmet snapped her fingers. “What sort of mead is this?”
“That, my good…” the bartender seemed a little thrown off by the fact that Sekhmet had the head of a lioness “…lady?”
“Was it the miniskirt that gave it away?”
“Yes, well. That is the finest mead that Urmaland has seen since the winter of 409, when levies imposed by the neighbouring Fiefdom of Kirik disrupted trade agreements that had facilitated the import of the king bees necessary to—” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 5
Challenge #3: Write story including a conveniently interrupted document and an anti-villain. One of these tropes must be lampshaded.
“Mr. President!” Special Planetary UFO Defence agent Brock Stone burst through the doors, waving a slightly singed journal. “Hold the nuclear strike! We’ve recovered Professor Nerdlinger’s research notes on the anti-alien ray!”
“Oh, thank God.” The President took the journal and began to read:
I’ve done it! At long last I’ve done it! In all my years studying the approaching alien fleet, I never imagined that such a force, such a terrible foe, could have such an enormous weakness. And such an obvious weakness! I simply can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. I have run the numbers over and over in my head, and I am convinced the the machine I have devised will cause the aliens’ brains to explode instantly. It promises to be as simple as it is effective. All that remains is to outline the means of constructing this wonderous device, which I shall do post haste within the pages of this very— Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 4
“Haven’t we already done time travel before?” asked Captain Redundancy, inquisitively.
“Only once,” answered Tautology Boy. “Three years go, in 2015.”
“Good, good.” Captain Redundancy nodded. “Nice and redundant. So what year is it now?”
“67,000,000 BC,” said Private Paradox, swinging his machete through the thick Cretaceous foliage. “We appear to have…what’s the word?”
“Overshot?” suggested Tautology Boy. “Jumped? Skipped? Missed?” The vengeful masked avenger’s sidekick was rather good with synonyms.
“Overshot?” suggested Captain Redundancy himself, since it seemed the most likely option.
“No,” said Private Paradox. “What I was going to say was ‘…deliberately travelled millions of years into the past because my promise of a redundant expedition through time was in fact a ruse devised to ensure you would furnish me with the enriched phlebotinum necessary to make this journey through time and step on a butterfly.’” Continue reading
It’s here at last! The paperback version of We All Saw It Coming, my flash fiction anthology for 2017.
If you’ve come across previous anthologies in the series, you’ll know the deal: 31 stories, each written on a single day during July as part of Flash Fiction Month. The stories are generally funny, sometimes serious, and don’t really match up to any kind of theme. Except on this occasion, maybe, when you might be forgiven for thinking that the theme is bananas. Continue reading
The Dragon and The Dying Stars, my final piece for Flash Fiction Month 2017, was selected as a Daily Deviation over on deviantart.com today! If you’re not familiar with the site, that means it’s been prominently featured as something that’s worth checking out: it’s not an award as such, but still it’s nice to know that my story has been selected and it’s already getting a whole lot of new readers as a result. This has happened a few times before, and it’s always a real boost.
Also worth mentioning is that saturdaystorytellers recently released a recording of another dragon-related story of mine, The Chalice and the Swords. This one was written in 20 minutes as part of a “write-off” challenge in which that’s all the time you get. Those aren’t running any more, which is a shame because I feel as though I got a lot of great stories out of them despite the tight time limit. This incarnation of the story was narrated by Don Socrates, and the image you see above is Awaking by AhhhFire.