The following was an entry for the Hampshire Writers’ Society’s December 2016 competition – “introduce a new comics character” – in which it took 3rd place. You’ll find the judge’s response at the end of the post.
Mild mannered jobseeker John Johnson by day, by night Capt. Captain “Redundancy” Redundancy is a superhero whose superpower is redundancy! Wherever there is crime and somebody is already dealing with it, Captain Redundancy will be there, his sidekick Tautology Boy by his side.
A dark and brooding figurehead of justice, Captain Redundancy spends his nights staring out over the city he is sworn to stare out over. As a symbol of his calling as a hero, he wears a pair of underpants over his tights in addition to the usual pair worn underneath. The outer pair are redunderpants. They are red. Captain Redundancy wears red redunderpants.
John Johnson gained his powers after a bite from a radioactive mosquito caused him to stumble into the path of a chemical truck full of vacuum cleaner cleaner. Following this workplace accident—which granted him the incredible powers of redundancy—he was made redundant. Having accepted Tautology Boy as his sidekick, Captain Redundancy’s sidekick became Tautology Boy. Tautology Boy’s powers of tautology are a natural and direct consequence of being Tautology Boy, whose power is tautology.
Villains across the city fear Captain Redundancy, for by the time they see him it is already too late: the arrival of his dreaded carmobile guarantees that some other superhero has doubtless foiled their plans already. Captain Redundancy will never respond to a crime unless his presence is completely redundant, and thus—in doing pretty much nothing of any consequence himself—he is a beacon of hope in dark times: not the hero the city needs, but the hero it doesn’t.
Also Tautology Boy is there too.
Catherine Wild: It has not gone unnoticed that this submission seeks to parody the comic hero concept and indeed this competition itself, which I found to be quite refreshing. That said, the character is effective, as is his side kick Tautology Boy. The submission itself is very dry and errs on the side of metafiction.
The launch event for We All Saw It Coming will be at The Railway Inn, 7:30pm on the 3rd of April. The Railway is a great venue – I’m there at least once a month since they host the Poetry Platform open mic – and if you fancy catching some excellent stories, music and/or poems then you can stick around afterwards for that very event (starting at 9pm, with sign-up for slots in the half hour beforehand).
If you’d like to come along, you can RSVP and get updates through this Facebook event, or you can just show up on the night. I’ll be bringing copies of all my books, though probably not a huge number of each: I’ve written enough by this point that it’s getting difficult to cart everything to events. If you’d like me to sign something, you might be better off getting hold of it beforehand and bringing it with you to avoid disappointment. I’ve run out before! Continue reading
Since We All Saw It Coming wraps up the first hexalogy* of my flash fiction anthologies, I’m planning some kind of launch event to mark the occasion. Part of that planning involves trying to work out where would be best to actually hold the thing (provided I can get a venue in any of these locations):
Feel free to tick more than one box. If you can make it to Eastleigh, Winchester or Southampton, that’s great. If you’d only make the trip if it were just down the road, go ahead and tick only the relevant box. Also, if you’re local and would like to help out further, there are two things you could do that would really help get this book off to a great start:
- Share this poll with your friends (especially if you think they might like to come).
- Let me know of any venues that might be happy to host the event.
I’m not sure when this’ll be happening, but I hope not too long after I get the paperback finalised. It depends partly when I can secure a venue, and the place I opt for will largely depend where people can attend, so go ahead and have your say!**
*A series of six books. I know the word sounds ridiculous but honestly I think that kind of suits them.
**You can comment right here on this post without needing an account or even an email address.
We All Saw It Coming, my Flash Fiction Month anthology for 2017, is now available as an ebook through Smashwords. It’ll be available through other retailers shortly, but I haven’t yet assigned it an ISBN because I’m still confirming that everything is working as it should.
The sheer scale of this year’s interactive fiction challenge, Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny, meant that I had to set up internal hyperlinks just to make it navigable. There was some extra faff involved in making sure I didn’t end up with all 48 of those listed in the book’s table of contents, and although everything seems to have worked out fine, there were enough opportunities for things to go wrong that I don’t like to assume they haven’t. Still, whether or not this story turned out perfect first time, I’ve definitely got a better grasp of how to handle interactive fiction in this format than I had before, and so at some point I expect I’ll be going back and giving the same treatment to Robocopout‘s interactive fiction piece, Inquisition.
The next job will be to format and publish the paperback, and when that’s available I’m strongly considering having a launch party of some kind! This book completes the six-colour cycle I’ve been working towards (I’ll be sticking another orange object on the cover of whatever I write for 2018), so although I’ve never made all that much of a song and dance about the release of these books in the past, I feel as though this is a good enough occasion to start.
Since this is pretty much the first book launch I’ve ever organised, I’m keen to get an idea of how many people would be likely to turn up, as well as where they’d be able to get to. The poll above allows multiple answers: feel free to tick as many as you like. In fact, ideally don’t be too picky: if you really could make it to any of these places, that gives me more options to work with. Conversely, picking only Southampton because you live there could screw things up quite a bit: if 30 people only pick the closest Hampshire town, they could quite easily be outvoted by half that number in London.
Promoting Ten Little Astronauts has put my work in front of people from much farther afield than before, so I’m really not sure where most of my followers are based at this point. My guess is that most know me from various local open mics – and I’d probably prefer a local launch myself – but the biggest events have been in London, and those are generally the ones where my name’s been on the flyers and whatnot. Ultimately I figure the thing to do is to hold the launch wherever people can get to it, so that’s why I’ve put out this poll. Tick whichever boxes work for you, pass it on to anyone else you think might like to come along for readings and live interactive fiction, and if you’ve got any other thoughts then leave those in the comments. As always, you don’t need an account or even an email address: just type words into the box, hit “Post” and it’ll get to me.
I’ve got two fairly big events coming up next week, so if you’re anywhere near Winchester then do check this out. The first is the Hampshire Writers’ Society Gala Evening (Tuesday June 13th, 6pm in the Stripe Building of the University of Winchester), where I’ll be setting up with my books as part of the Members’ Book Fair. If you’ve been following since I posted about the event last year or the year before, you’ll probably have some idea what that’ll be like, but the speakers at the Society are different every month and this time around I think they’ve got some especially good people on board. One of the speakers is Claire Fuller, who I’ve mentioned on this blog on a few occasions already, and the other is Erwin James, a columnist for the Guardian.
If you check out this writeup of last year’s event, you’ll notice I mentioned that the other authors there really seemed to have put a lot into their displays and that it was all very professional. Well, I’ve stepped up my game this time around with some lovely swag! Continue reading
Back at Winchester Comic Con I was pleased to discover Eagle Island, a procedurally generated platformer with beautiful pixel art and really tight controls. Well, it’s since launched on Kickstarter and I’ve been backing it since the very beginning. I’ve also made an effort to share/retweet any choice bits of news: most recently that there’s now a (Windows) demo available so you can have a go.
There’s now some extra news to share, and this time I think it’s big enough to warrant an actual blog post. The project is now more than half funded but there’s only a week to go. Naturally I’d like to see this game get made so that’s worth getting out there in its own right! However, there’s more to it than that. In order to drum up interest, Nick Gregory, the guy behind Eagle Island is running a draw to design a monster appearing in the game. Ordinarily this would be one of the £250 rewards, but the draw opens up the chance to any backer who either gets a friend on board or backs the project having heard about it from a friend. Long story short, if you support Eagle Island and tell Nick I sent you, both of us have a shot at designing a monster.
Basically, I think this is both a great reward for this particular game and a neat idea in general. I’m tempted to shamelessly steal it for my Ten Little Astronauts campaign, but until then Eagle Island is your best bet for this particular variety of crowdfunding-based fun. Please do take a look! I know from experience that simply making people aware of a project is the hardest thing about crowdfunding. If it’s not your cup of tea, fair enough. If it is, back the project and tell them where you heard about it!
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.
(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.
Before Ten Little Astronauts was launched by Unbound – submarine promo video and all – it formed the bulk of my work for an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester. The way the course was weighted, that one project was just about as important as every other module combined. On top of that, in a move that I can only assume was intended to keep postgrads up all night to finish the thing, that final project would dictate the upper limit on your results. You could hand in the greatest works of literature ever devised for the smaller modules, then still end up disappointed on results day if the big one didn’t measure up.
Well, on Friday I graduated with Distinction.
It’s been a long time since I actually got my results. The ceremony was held in Winchester Cathedral – the largest medieval cathedral in the world still standing – and the University can only use it so many days each year. Given that it takes a while to mark all those novella-length projects, we didn’t get our results in time to graduate the same year as we handed them in. Still, good things are worth waiting for, and I’m pleased to have already had some success with Ten Little Astronauts in particular.
Ten Little Astronauts has hit 10% funding. Double digits!
Everyone who’s pledged so far has done their bit to get the book to the stage it’s at now, and you’ve all earned my eternal gratitude. Still I’d like to thank The Writers at Lovedean in particular for having me over to speak and to run a little flash fiction exercise at their group: their very short stories had me very impressed! While I was there, Charlotte Comley also filmed me (and I her) for her vlog, so check out this video for my top five writing tips.
10% is quite a milestone, but there’s still quite a way to go. If you haven’t pledged already, doing so now would be a real boost to the book. If you have pledged already but want to help further, please consider recommending Ten Little Astronauts to a friend. You’ll have someone to follow along with, and the book will be that much closer to publication.
The Winchester Writers’ Festival is always a big event. I always meet a whole bunch of interesting people, and I always learn a whole lot of new things. Because a lot of elements of the event are the same every year, I think it’s probably not worth trying to write out an introduction to it every time. If you want an introduction, you might like to take a look at my writeup of the Festival in 2014, which covered my first impressions about it (though I only had a one-day ticket), and/or my writeup of the Festival in 2015, when I was chosen for a scholarship and so could afford to turn up for the whole three days.
This year, in terms of a ticket, I went for something of a middle ground. Having had a bursary the first year I went and a scholarship the second (and having got a steady job after that), I felt as though I’d had as much financial help as I could justify. As great as it would have been to turn up for the whole three days, I decided to just go for a Saturday and Sunday ticket, and turn up for the free evening events on the Friday.
I’ve read at the Friday open mic three years in a row now, but this is the first time I’ve got a recording of it. I pretty much just handed my phone to a friend (thanks for that!) so the audio quality isn’t great, but thanks to the university’s microphone and speaker setup I think it’s at least comprehensible. I had prepared to read Osiris Likes This, but since the length of each open mic slot was dropped from five to four minutes, there wasn’t quite long enough and I went for The Three Idols instead. Continue reading