Tag Archives: publishing

By the seat of my pants…

So, Aethernet, the self-billed magazine of serial fiction. Great idea, great execution, great line-up (for starters they’re running the sequel to Chris Beckett’s Clarke Award-winning Dark Eden, long before its book publication).

So, me: taking a self-proclaimed from science fiction, sick of being messed around by the business side of things in particular, dealing with lots of other shit in the meantime.

Those two… well, they just don’t fit, do they?

Particularly when the lovely people at Aethernet kept reminding me about my invitation to contribute. And when the spec fic part of my imagination has been all fired up again by my Philip K Dick Award shortlisting earlier this year.

So, Memento: a set of four stories about one cataclysmic event on an alien planet. An idea that came pretty much fully-formed in a dream, although now it’s finding its own path in the writing.

Serial fiction: adventure, cliffhangers, real seat of the pants stuff. Which is exactly how I’m writing it: I know where I’m heading, but Hell there’s a lot to fill in! I’m digging myself deep, setting myself – and my characters – challenges and cliffhangers, and working it out with them as I go along.

I rarely write like this; I usually need to know more. But this is fun, it’s exhilarating.

And I hope it will be for readers, too.


Coming soon: 3 for June from Eric Brown, Garry Kilworth and James Everington

June will be a big month for us at infinity plus, with three big titles to be published in paperback and a variety of electronic formats.

 

Salvage by Eric Brown

Salvage by Eric Brown

When Salvageman Ed saves Ella Rodriguez from spider-drones on the pleasure planet of Sinclair’s Landfall, he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for. Ella is not at all what she seems, as he’s soon about to find out.

Salvage by Eric BrownWhat follows, as the spider-drones and the Hayakawa Organisation chase Ed, Ella and engineer Karrie light-years across space, is a fast-paced adventure with Ed learning more about Ella – and about himself – than he ever expected.

The Salvageman Ed series of linked stories – four of which appear here for the first time – combine action, humour and pathos, from the master of character-based adventure science fiction.

“Eric Brown’s modest, slightly retro, extremely charming and very human voice has been a distinctive, indeed unique, presence in British SF for many years. Here he offers another interlinked selection of stories which, as is typical of Eric Brown, manage to be small scale, close-up, and completely free of heroic posturing, in spite of the galactic scale of their setting. There is something restful about them, something comforting. Yet while they gently entertain, they also, very quietly, deal with big questions about identity, love, and the relationship between body and soul.” Chris Beckett

 

The Fabulous Beast by Garry Kilworth

The Fabulous Beast by Garry Kilworth

The Fabulous Beast by Garry KilworthA set of beautifully crafted tales of the imagination by a writer who was smitten by the magic of the speculative short story at the age of twelve and has remained under its spell ever since.

These few stories cover three closely related sub-genres: science fiction, fantasy and horror. In the White Garden murders are taking place nightly, but who is leaving the deep foot-prints in the flower beds? Twelve men are locked in the jury room, but thirteen emerge after their deliberations are over. In a call centre serving several worlds, the staff are less than helpful when things go wrong with a body-change holiday.

Three of the stories form a set piece under the sub-sub-genre title of ‘Anglo-Saxon Tales’. This trilogy takes the reader back to a time when strange gods ruled the lives of men and elves were invisible creatures who caused mayhem among mortals.

Garry Kilworth has created a set of stories that lift readers out of their ordinary lives and place them in situations of nightmare and wonder, or out among far distant suns. Come inside and meet vampires, dragons, ghosts, aliens, weremen, people who walk on water, clones, ghouls and marvellous wolves with the secret of life written beneath their eyelids.

‘Kilworth’s stories are delightfully nuanced and carefully wrought.’ Publishers Weekly

‘A bony-handed clutch of short stories, addictive and hallucinatory.’ The Times

‘Here is a writer determined and well equipped to contribute to the shudder-count.’ The Guardian

 

Falling Over by James Everington

Falling Over by James Everington

Falling Over by James EveringtonSometimes when you fall over you don’t get up again. And sometimes, you get up to find everything has changed:

An ordinary man who sees his face in a tabloid newspaper. A soldier haunted by the images of those he has killed from afar. Two petty criminals on the run from a punishment more implacable than either of them can imagine. Doppelgängers both real and imaginary. A tranquil English village where those who don’t fit in really aren’t welcome, and a strange hotel where second chances are allowed… at a price.

Ten stories of unease, fear and the weird from James Everington.
“Good writing gives off fumes, the sort that induce dark visions, and Everington’s elegant, sophisticated prose is a potent brew. Imbibe at your own risk.” – Robert Dunbar, author of The Pines and Martyrs & Monsters

“The horror angle in the stories is almost always a metaphor for other things – loneliness, fear, isolation, regret. The word “haunting” really does double duty here… Beautifully written, evocative, masterful…what shines through these stories is the author’s love of language.” Red Adept Reviews, 2011 Indie Awards Short Story category

“Everington is excellent at evoking a mounting sense of unease, turning to dread, that close, oppressive feeling when everything is still and ordinary, but the whole world is filled with the sense that something huge and terrible is just about to happen.” Iain Rowan, author of One Of Us and Nowhere To Go


The return of the serial story

Serial fiction is not exactly a new form. Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Henry James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… they were all at it a long, long time ago. In the last few decades the serial story has been very much out of favour. Indeed, in most genres short fiction itself has dwindled to almost non-existence.

The Ragged People: a story of the post-plague years - post-apocalypse fiction from Nick GiffordShort science fiction has persisted, and while short stories often return to previously-used characters and settings, true serial fiction has been a rarity.

Is the rise of the ebook changing this?

Perhaps.

Serial fiction, and short fiction, have generally been viewed by commercial publishers as dead areas, but one significant change with the advent of e-publishing has been the rise of the long tail: previously unviable niches are now sustainable, with production costs minimised and global reach maximised.

For the writer, serial fiction is an intriguing proposition.

For starters, the form is different. Serial fiction isn’t just a novel cut into shorter blocks and published at intervals. With a novel, the reader has generally invested up front and is more likely to give a book a chance. With serial fiction, readers have only invested one episode at a time: if that chunk doesn’t deliver, and if it doesn’t hook the reader, then why should the reader bother with subsequent episodes? Think of serial TV drama: most aim for that Eastenders ending, the set-up for a big revelation or dramatic conflict that the viewer can’t afford to miss and then, duh, duh, d-d-duh the theme music kicks in.

Some writers will wing it with their serial fiction: write an episode, wait until it has been published and then write the next one – real seat-of-the-pants writing. Others take a more planned approach. But however you do it, the considerations are different, and for me that makes it fun.

It also lets you try new things. You’ll often find that writers really push the limits with their short fiction, while their novel-length work plays it a bit safer. This is partly a result of commercial pressures, of course, but is also because a one-off short story gives you the opportunity to push boundaries; failure with a short story does not usually end careers.

Serial fiction lies somewhere in between: in my Ragged People serial (written for teenagers with my Nick Gifford pen-name), I’ve started with a fairly self-contained story. I have some ideas for what will happen next, I have characters I want to write about, and I’d love to carry on, but then there are lots of writing projects I’d like to work on. By publishing the first story I can gauge response before committing to writing more. (Or, of course, I can ignore response and just plough on regardless…) My hope is that I’ll keep getting nudged for more episodes until I find that I’ve written a novel, almost by accident.

The new Aethernet Magazine showcases serial fiction from some fabulous writers (Eric Brown, Chris Becket and Tony Ballantyne for starters) taking a variety of approaches, from the carefully plotted to the winging it approach, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops. What’s more the Aethernet blog is publishing interviews with the authors about their approaches to serial fiction, which promises to be particularly interesting for writers interested in the form – most recently Chris Beckett, talking about his serialised sequel to Dark Eden (shortlisted for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award).

As a writer, it’s great to see serial fiction getting a new opportunity. Let’s just hope that readers find it just as exciting!


Grumpy Old Writers, or The Grampa/Grandma List: promising speculative fiction authors over the age of 40

It started with a tweet in response to the publication of Granta’s Best Young Novelists list for 2013

It is the most shattering experience of a writer’s life when he wakes one day and says quite reasonably, I will never make the Granta list.
@davidmbarnett

For, alas, if a writer is past the age of 40 he or she is deemed too old to be promising.

Some of us would set that benchmark differently. Far too many years ago, for example, I had to ask the editors of Interzone to stop referring to me as a ‘promising young writer’ as I had turned the grand old age of 30.

But then seven years later I was suddenly young and promising again: back in 2003, in my YA guise as Nick Gifford, I was on Waterstones’ list of bright young things, aka Faces of the Future (sneakily published a few weeks ahead of Granta‘s list for that year).

So, to narrow down the criteria… For an alternative list we’re looking for promising writers over the age of 40. Or 30. Or something in between. Let’s say 40 – that’s Granta‘s glass ceiling, so let’s re-use it.

Genre? Well much as I’d like to set no such limitations, let’s face it: I know far more about genre authors than I do about the lit’ry mainstream, speculative fiction authors in particular. Even then, there are lots I’d be likely to miss out, purely through my own oversight.

Nationality? I’d rather not, but it’s convenient, so as I’m UK-based let’s keep it local by sticking to authors who are based here, published here or have some other strong claim to being promising in the UK.

But then, as the Twitter exchange developed, we started referring to Grumpy Old Writers.

Woah, there!

Stamping down on the danger that we would branch into two rival lists almost as soon as we’d got started, let’s merge the two, and here are our criteria:

Promising speculative fiction authors with a UK presence, 40 or older, who I’m aware of and haven’t momentarily forgotten to include, and able to be grumpy about all these young upstarts invading our turf.

So who gets onto this list of significant oldcomers?

The Grampa List (first draft)
[also, please be reassured that I could be completely wrong here, both about the levels of grumpiness and the age…]

  • David Barnett (has published some interesting stuff already, but destined to make a big splash with his forthcoming steampunkery from Tor)
  • Chris Beckett (shortlisted for this year’s Arthur C Clarke and BSFA awards, perhaps he’s getting too much attention already)
  • Eric Brown (the perennial professional, like bindweed he keeps on putting out superb stories, occasionally getting lots of attention and then just keeping on plugging away)
  • Jaine Fenn (first novel only appeared five years ago, so definitely in the youngish upstart category)
  • Jon Courtenay Grimwood (ooh… controversial: surely Jon’s profile lifts him above the promising category? Well yes, I’d hope that would be most people’s response, but has he really achieved the acclaim he deserves?)
  • Dave Hutchinson (SF stalwart, capable of brilliance, and I wish he’d write more; and he’s promised to keep the grumpiness quotient up if others fall short)
  • Liz Jensen (dark, creepy, slipstream, always interesting)
  • Juliet McKenna (the kind of author this list could have been made for: a top-notch fantasy author who deserves a lot more success than a bunch of other fantasy authors I’m not going to name until you buy me another drink)
  • Jeff Noon (bright young star who went quiet, but now is bursting back onto the scene with an anniversary edition of his classic Vurt, lots of reissues, online experimentation and pushing of limits, and new books, too)
  • Ian Sales (such a fixture on the UK SF scene that most people probably think he’s published more than he has; winning this year’s BSFA short fiction award is surely the start of greater things)
  • Anna Tambour (okay, the link is tenuous: she’s based in Australia but has had much of her work published in the UK; I’ve no idea how old she is; and anyway, I love her writing so she’s on my list – in fact, I like her work so much that I talked my way into writing a foreword for her first book and have subsequently produced ebook editions of two of her books)
  • Jo Walton (too successful already? Perhaps, but much of her success has come in the US – over here she’s one of those who deserves more…)
  • Liz Williams (…as is Liz Williams, a fabulous author who shrugs off genre limitations, and has also published the non-fiction Diary of a Witchcraft Shop)
  • Neil Williamson (like David Barnett, Neil is a genuine old upstart, with some impressive short fiction publications behind him and a much-anticipated first novel due out in 2014)

Because of the rather unscientific approach taken here, I know this list is not comprehensive, hence my labelling it ‘draft’. Who else should be on it? Who shouldn’t? And what would an equivalent list be without the UK-ish restriction, or with some other arbitrary geographical limits?


Snapshots: Linda Nagata interviewed

What’s recently or soon out?
The Red: First Light by Linda NagataIn any other month, the big news would be the publication of my short story, “Through Your Eyes,” in the March/April double issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It’s a near-future story with a theme focused on technology and civil rights, and it’s the first story I’ve ever had in Asimov’s, so I’m pretty pleased about that. But the news that supersedes this is that I have a new novel also out this month, called The Red: First Light—and in a nice bit of synchronicity, “Through Your Eyes” was the direct inspiration for the novel.

Sometimes characters just walk on stage and demand attention. That was the case with James Shelley, the protagonist of “Through Your Eyes.” Though I was done with the short story, I was not done with the character, and within a week of sending the story off to Sheila Williams at Asimov’s, I was writing the novel. Like the story that precedes it, The Red: First Light is concerned with the impact of evolving technologies, but the novel takes a different approach. It’s a boots-on-the-ground military thriller that engages with warfare, politics, and other, stranger things.

Near-future fiction has its own special challenges. Given the ongoing, rapid rate of technological change in the world it’s easy to imagine a near-future novel becoming obsolete almost overnight—or perhaps reclassified as an alternate history. Despite the risk, I like the immediacy of the subgenre. I’ve written in the near-future before, in particular with my novel Tech-Heaven, but also with the more recent Limit of Vision. I’ve also written about armed conflict on occasion, but The Red: First Light is my first true foray into military science fiction. That was pretty intimidating for me, but I really wanted to write this book—for the adventure, for the tech, for the politics.

What are you working on now?
Mostly I’ve been working on promotion for the new book. The Red: First Light is an indie book, published under my own imprint, so the responsibility for getting the word out is all mine—and of course I’m finding that publicity is even more challenging than writing a novel. But I’m also well begun on the follow up to First Light. No publication date yet for The Red: Trials, but the goal is to have it out within a year, and sooner if possible.

I also have several short story ideas brewing. In my early career I was never very interested in short stories, but over the past year and a half all that has changed and I’ve really come to enjoy reading and writing them.

Tell us about your experiences with publishing – both traditional and the new e-publishing environment that’s emerging.
Looking back, my experience with traditional publishing seems like a psychological experiment designed to test my sanity, with each incident of sublime luck countered by disaster. On the plus side, my first four books sold to Bantam Spectra, where I had terrific editors. The books had great covers by Bruce Jensen, most were picked up by the Science Fiction Book Club, one won an award. On the downside, I had three different editors for the first two books. All were published as mass-market originals, and despite good reviews, they were out of print in short order. At Tor I was better paid and I had hardcover editions, but a failure of communication made it a tough ride.

As far back as the nineties, though, I was interested in being a publisher. At some point I decided to learn the page layout program InDesign, thinking I would do a new print version of my novel, Vast. At the time, I couldn’t figure out how to make that work economically, but circa 2010, the technology arrived. I’d spent nine years working in web development, and ebooks are just HTML (web) pages wrapped up in zip files. So it wasn’t a big leap for me to start putting out my backlist in electronic format. I remember being shocked when some of my books sold in the first week they were available. I put out everything in ebook editions as quickly as I could, and by early 2011 I released my first print book, using the print-on-demand services at Lightning Source. Bruce Jensen, the original cover artist for the Nanotech Succession books, very generously let me re-use the cover paintings, even putting together new front covers for me. Now almost all my books have print editions.

Sales are modest, but I’m happy with this new approach. With traditional publishing, my work was in someone else’s hands. I had no real input on the production of the books, and simply had to accept the result, whether it turned out good or ill. Now I’m in control and I like it a lot. If I mess something up I’m in a position to fix it, which is also grand. Book covers that don’t work out can be changed, book descriptions can be revised. It’s wonderful. I would like to find a solution to the distribution issue—right now you will not, to my knowledge, find any of my print books in bookstores—but new options may be emerging. We’ll see. For now, I intend to stick with indie publishing.

Describe your typical writing day.
Up very early, regardless of when I went to sleep. Consume coffee and squander time on the Internet. Note in shock that a large portion of the morning has slipped away with nothing accomplished. Force myself away from the big, beautiful Mac desktop and plant myself in front of the aging Toshiba laptop that I use for writing. Try to get into the zone. On good days this happens very quickly. I become completely involved in what I’m doing and it’s hard to pry myself away to fulfill other obligations. On bad days every word is a struggle. When I’m working regularly on a draft I do try to produce some minimal word count. A thousand words is the goal, but sometimes I have to be happy with five hundred. Much of the time I don’t know what will happen in the next scene. It takes time to work that out.

At any rate, if it’s a good day I’ll generally keep writing well past my goal, taking advantage of the zone while I can. If it’s a bad day, I’ll struggle along until I get my thousand words. If it’s a really bad day, I’ll quit early and go mow the lawn.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
For those new to my work, the first back-list book I point to is The Bohr Maker, which won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and is the first book of The Nanotech Succession story world. As an alternative, and especially for those new to science fiction, I recommend Memory, a far-future, coming-of-age tale. Or for something completely different, the Puzzle Lands books, starting with The Dread Hammer—my experiment with fast-paced, scoundrel-lit fantasy.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Chaz Brenchley recently re-released his novel Dispossession through the writer’s cooperative Book View Café, of which I’m a member. Mildly curious, I started reading it, was immediately hooked, and enjoyed it immensely.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Flee! Run away while you still can! …but if it’s too late for that and writing is already in your blood, then don’t stop. I more-or-less stopped writing for roughly ten years. It’s true I was intermittently working on a fantasy novel during this time (The Wild, now being serialized on my blog), but I wasn’t publishing anything, I wasn’t diversifying, I wasn’t learning anything new about writing, I wasn’t even following the genre, and I fell way behind. What readers I had must have assumed I’d given up and gone away. So don’t stop. Keep pushing yourself to try new things.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
Ha! Well, in my best scenario, droves of readers will be preordering the next Linda Nagata novel (FYI, preordering isn’t currently possible for indie print-on-demand books or ebooks). But I suspect the future of publishing will be a diversity of options, with more and more writers working both sides of the fence—indie and traditional—along with the ongoing development of some cool new trends like enhanced ebooks that include more art and maybe even music. As always the big question will be how to earn a living from our creative endeavors. That’s a question I’ve never managed to answer, but during my occasional bouts of optimism, I keep imagining it will work out.

More…
The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

Linda Nagata is a Nebula-award-winning author of both science fiction and fantasy, with multiple novels and short stories. She grew up in Hawaii, in a rented beach house on the north shore of Oahu, and has been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and lately a publisher and book designer. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.

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After the Dick, what next?

I wrote here last year about how I felt tired with writing hard and not getting much response, and the need to recharge after twenty-five years in the business:

All this work, all those fantastic reviews, and yet still I seem to be the kind of writer very much admired by a smallish number but unknown to most; I’ve published regularly, but have rarely had a regular publisher for more than a few years; I’ve had at least one pretty big bestseller, but that was nearly ten years ago now; I think I have a reputation as someone who works away and achieves a lot; and I think my last four novels are among the best things I’ve written.

Is that enough?

I don’t know. It’s not that I’m craving awards and media attention (although it’d be nice not to feel that each book is published into a vacuum), but I really do wonder if all the personal sacrifice is worth it.

… I’m just bone-tired of slogging away writing on spec when my editing and pseudonymous writing bring more regular and guaranteed response and reward, even when what I regard as ‘my own’ writing is what I really love to do.

So I said I was taking a break from writing new me material and concentrating on other work, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. This decision did also coincide with a long period of depression and all kinds of other crises, which did nothing to put me in a writing place.

And I concluded by saying that while I felt that way at the time of writing the blog post, it was entirely possible that I’d change my mind at some point.

So: have I changed my mind?

Not entirely, but I’m wavering.

Getting shortlisted for this year’s Philip K Dick Award was a big ego boost: people out there really got what I was doing with that novel (Harmony, aka alt.human). And beyond feeling flattered and understood, it did something else, too.

You know those little nagging thoughts writers get? Those what if…? moments. They started happening again. And I had that writers’ equivalent of restless feet.

The bug was biting again.

I’m still torn about committing to an on-spec novel (although if someone was to drop me an email commissioning one I’d certainly consider it), but I think at least some short fiction will be committed this year.

In particular, I’ve agreed to write a four-parter for the new serial fiction magazine Aethernet. My take on serial fiction will be a set of three stories giving different perspectives on a momentous event, and a concluding story pulling them all together. So not serial fiction in a linear sense, but certainly in spirit.

And now that part of my brain is starting to nag me again, I think more might happen. It’s like starting all over again.

It’s a good feeling, and it’s good to be enjoying life the way I am right now.

Now I think I’ll just sit back and wait for that flood of emails asking me to write something new. I can dream. I’m a writer, after all; a science-fiction writer.


New: Aethernet – the magazine of serial fiction

Aethernet Magazine

Serialised fiction from Tony Ballantyne, Chris Beckett, Eric Brown, Juliet E McKenna, Philip Palmer, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates and more. Aethernet, the magazine of serial fiction, launches over the Easter weekend. And yes, I’ll be contributing a four-parter later this year.

Here’s what it says on the Aethernet website:

Aethernet MagazineNowadays, fiction is instantly available. There are many short fiction magazines available for download, you can download a story collection in ebook form and be reading it in under a minute.

Aethernet Magazine aims to satisfy a different need. Aethernet Magazine is aiming to reintroduce the pleasures of delayed gratification. Aethernet Magazine stands for the slow burn, the building excitement of waiting to see how a story plays out. We want to reintroduce the pleasure of the cliffhanger ending; the gradual reveal on lives building up to a bigger picture; the leisurely float down the river leading to some mysterious destination.

Our stories are presented over time. Aethernet Magazine is here to help you rediscover the pleasure of anticipation…

Aethernet Magazine will run for 12 issues. The first issue will go on sale on 30th March 2013, subsequent issues will be on sale on the first of the month from May 2013 onwards. Aethernet Magazine will be published as an ebook in mobi, epub and pdf formats.

Find out more:


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