Tagged: science fiction

Pledge Party on Gower Street!

Back in June, Unbound started running Pledge Parties – a sort of literary Dragons Den where guests hear pitches from a range of Unbound authors and pick which they want to support – and since June I’ve been putting my name in the hat every time they run one. This month I got lucky, and so I’ll be there pitching Ten Little Astronauts on Monday the 18th! It’s coming up in just a week.

If you live in London, please do consider popping over to Waterstones Gower Street for the evening. Tickets are £6 (unless you’re a student, in which case they’re just £4) and include a glass of wine and a £5 Unbound voucher. Assuming you intend to back a book, the event costs basically nothing. You can grab your tickets here (I’ve done it myself, it’s easy), get them by phone on 020 7636 1577, or turn up and hope there are some left on the day. I wouldn’t count on it, though: I made a trip in for the very first event and it was packed.

If you can’t make it to London, I’ll also be in Birmingham for EGX from the 21st to the 24th. This is the games trade fair that got me the chance to write the story for Craft Keep VR, so I’m looking forward to a busy few days. However, I expect to be free in the evenings at least so if you’re in the area and want to say hi, do drop me a line. In case you haven’t heard, I’m just about to set off for Torquay for the International Agatha Christie Festival too. If you can get there, you’ll have the opportunity to see me speak about Ten Little Astronauts, and to hear a section of the book that’s never been made available to the general public before.

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Ten Little Astronauts at the Agatha Christie Festival

I’ve been invited to talk about Ten Little Astronauts at the International Agatha Christie Festival on September 14th! If you’re in the area (or planning to make a trip to Torquay for five straight days of Christie-related goodness), you can catch me at the Platform taking place at 6pm in the Spanish Barn of Torre Abbey. I’ve written a little more about my talk on Unbound, but the main thing to mention about it would be that I’ll be giving an overview of how the book came about – from devising the mystery and researching the setting all the way towards its journey to publication – as well as reading from a couple of sections that won’t have been heard anywhere else (unless you were on my MA course!).

The Agatha Christie Birthday Celebrations last year were well worth the trip, so I’m really looking forward to getting a look around the festival itself. I was only there for the day (including about eight hours of train travel) last time, and even though I won’t be around for the full five days of this event, it should be a much more relaxed trip all round. If you’re there, do let me know and say hi! Continue reading

The Dragon and the Dying Stars

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story in the style of a fairy tale, including phrase repetition and involving stars as physical objects. It must be serious in tone but also include a Phillips screwdriver.

This challenge was set by G. Deyke.

Once upon a time, in a world far distant, the night sky grew dark. Slowly, at first, the stars grew dim. The king’s philosophers at first thought that this was nothing more than the action of passing aeons, and that more would burn anew. But ere long their numbers dwindled, and the naked eye saw plainly what no telescope could: the stars were consumed.

Troubled, the king sent out his greatest knight upon a steed of chrome. Agravane was that knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a sword born of a dying star. Never would that blade break, and never would its edge grow dull. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone that stood before his throne.

At last, Agravane found his foe, and the king at last saw who it was who plucked the stars from the aether like grapes from the vine.

It was a dragon, vast as his kingdom and black as the void. Each wing was as wide as a galaxy, and its eyes glowed like quasars. Its manner and its motions were that of a great animal; its structure and its form, that of a terrible machine.

When the dragon spoke, it spoke not to the knight before it, but to the king beyond the stone: “I have lived since before the days of time. Since before the noise of creation and beyond the notion of being. Your universe is an affront to me, but in its matter I have found a host, and that host offers a solution. From one hundred billion dying stars I built this body, and with it I shall consume all the living stars that remain. Then there shall be stillness and silence and peace until the heat death of the universe, wherein there shall be stillness and silence and peace still.”

In his throne, the king trembled at the threat of such a foe. But Agravane was fearless.

He held aloft his sword: “You might have seized your matter from the stars by force, but mine was a gift granted in a time of dire need. When I stood alone against the hordes of Far Reach and my weapon snapped in twain, bright Achernar crystallised into a blade that would never fail me so.”

But though Agravane was fearless, he was not wise, and his sword did not avail him: the dragon was forged of star-steel too, and though the blade did not dull against its scales, neither could it cut them, and the beast crushed him in its mighty hand unhindered. Agravane’s sword was lost to the aether whence it came.

Fearful, the king sent out a second knight upon a second steed. Carador was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a spear born of a dying star. Never would that shaft snap, nor would the point fail to find its mark. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone.

“What fool comes to challenge me?” demanded the dragon, in a voice that carried even through the void.

“No fool am I,” Carador responded, keeping his distance “for I carry the same spear that came to me during the siege of Omega Centauri when my own weapon was lost.”

The dragon snorted: “Never can you pierce my scales with your stick.”

Carador took aim: “I do not intend to try.”

He did not direct his spear against the dragon’s scales, but instead towards one of its vast eyes. Unerring, the spear flew, yet clattered from the boiling orb: even the eyes were forged of star-steel, and even the eyes could not be harmed.

With a single pulse of its fiery gaze, the dragon tore the knight’s very atoms asunder, and Carador’s spear too was lost to the aether whence it came.

Holding little hope, the king summoned still one more knight. Gilhault was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a hammer born of a dying star. When swung, the head was weightless, yet when it struck a foe it held the mass of a thousand moons.

But before Gilhault could mount his steed, an unseen assailant cracked his visor with a cudgel so he could not brave the void: Elayn, his squire, stole the reins and rode off in his stead.

Furious, the king sent all his knights to pursue her, but all were left behind: none tended the steeds with more skill or kindness than Elayn, and so none could catch Gilhault’s, which she had so long cared for.

Elayn faced the dragon.

The dragon laughed. “Will you fight me with a simple cudgel?”

“No.” Elayn drew her own gift of star-steel from her voidcloak. “With this.”

And the dragon laughed louder, for the item she produced was but a Phillips screwdriver.

“I too was at the battle against the hordes of the Far Reach, and there my master was dismounted. I leapt through the void to reach his steed, but found it maimed beyond motion. For weeks we drifted, helpless, until we were caught in the orbit of Leporis. From that star was born this screwdriver, and with it I saved this steed.”

“Go home, little girl,” said the dragon. “You have some years yet before I trouble myself with your sphere: do not forfeit them.”

Elayn did not answer this insult. She merely charged forwards, and the dragon, without even going to the effort of stretching out its neck, consumed her whole.

But though every piece of the dragon was formed of a dying star—every piece indestructible—they were held together with screws of star-steel. And though their threads would never strip and their shanks never break, no bond held them in their place but simple force.

In this way, with nothing but a screwdriver, Elayn beheaded the monster whose neck no blade could sever.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

I, Reefer

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 27

Challenge #1: Write a 369er set in cloudcuckooland in which the protagonist is the only sane character.

“Moo,” said Snarf Garfunkel

“Moo,” said Mews Willis.

“Moo,” said Melissa McKitty.

“Is there, like, something… up… with our cats?” asked Farmer Jones.

“I think… Um, I think… I think… Um…” Farmer Bishop squinted at the field of large, black and white cats grazing among the fronds of pink, alien foliage rippling in the breeze. “They seem fine,” she continued at last.

“THOSE ARE COWS, YOU IDIOT,” yelled Olivia.

***

“Gentlemen.” Junior Vice-Badass Chad Buckley addressed the Committee for the Neatification of Fiscal Awesomeness. “A new planet calls for a new currency. Or something.”

“How about…” Spreadsheet Glaminator Richard Smith tented his fingers. “We used to put money into machines to get coffee. How about we put coffee into money… to get machines?”

Buckley did that finger-snap-pointing thing thing. “I love it!”

“YOUR ECONOMY IS TANKING RAPIDLY,” yelled Olivia.

***

“Okay,” began Lead Science-Maker-Happener Lauren Harper. “I’ve confirmed the strange yelling noises are emanating from Gasulon VII itself, but it’s safe to ignore them.”

“MY NAME IS OLIVIA, AND IT’S REALLY NOT.”

“And the reason the atmosphere is so good is… it’s just really good. Science over!”

“IT’S ACTUALLY BECAUSE I’M 47% THC.”

“Anybody got any Doritos? I’m super hungry for some reason.”

“THAT WOULD ALSO BE THE THC.”

 

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

White Rabbit

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 20

Challenge #9: Write a story featuring every sense but sight. It must have a palindromic word count and not use any adverbs ending in “-ly.”

“Bugger. There go the lights.”

“Spare lantern?”

There were a few seconds of vigorous clicking while Harper tried the switch.

“Dead.”

“Oh well. Absolute last resort I suppose…”

I fished about in my pocket for the lighter. What I found instead was most disconcerting.

“Harper?”

“Yeah?”

“Harper, there’s a hole in my pocket.”

The silent dark of the Alterworld was polluted by a string of graphic obscenities. Continue reading

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!