Great Inspiration… or not – with Peter Watts

Since I wrote this post about a moment of great inspiration I wasn’t even aware of at the time (when I met Neil Gaiman in 1989), I’ve been hosting some guest posts from other writer friends where they share their moments of equally great inspiration. You can read all the posts so far under the Great Inspiration category here. It’s really cool to have these people share inspiring moments with us. Or not, in the case of Peter Watts. And Peter’s response made me realise that some readers might be a bit concerned if they couldn’t put their finger on a moment of equal importance in their own lives. As you can see from his comments below, you really needed worry about that. After Peter responded to my email, making me realise this potential angle, I asked if I could post his comments anyway, as an example to others that a moment of great clarity (even realised much later) is not actually necessary. I mean, this is Hugo Award-winning Peter Watts. Author of the Rifters and Blindsight (the seminal first contact novel.) So take heart:

Your email got me thinking– and oddly, I can’t think of anything in my life that proved especially pivotal or inspirational. I wanted to be a writer ever since I plagiarized 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at the age of seven; I wanted to be a marine biologist ever since I stumbled across a friend’s 10-gal aquarium the year before. Ever since then, y trajectory’s been relatively unwavering.

I discovered the three brands of author most relevant to my own development (1 – How can this bozo be selling so well when he can’t write his way out of a goddamn fortune cookie?; 2 – Oh, I see how you did that, that’s brilliant. Now I know how to do it too. Too bad I can’t because you already did it first; and 3 – You told me exactly what you were going to do before you did it, and I thought you were crazy, and then you went ahead and did it and I still have no idea how you pulled it off.)

I think I may have petted William Gibson’s cat once (at least, I’m pretty sure it was Gibson’s doorstep the cat was sitting on). But there was no one-on-one meeting, no life-changing experience that set my course. I’d like to say that some Monty Python cutout God appeared in the heavens and told me I’d have to get a day job as a marine biologist before I could break out and become a midlist SF writer, but really, it was just kinda steady-as-she-goes.

Sorry.

No apology needed, Peter. That’s actually quite inspiring in itself.

Peter Watts is an outstanding author and fascinating guy. I highly recommend you read his full bio here, on his site, rifters.com

.

A potted history of my short fiction career to date

I posted this on my Facebook page, then thought maybe I should copy it here for posterity. After all, you just can’t trust that Zuckerberg bloke.

So the double publication in Midnight Echo 10 caused me to check back on my overall short fiction publications to date. I’ve had a total of 52 short stories, novelettes and novellas published so far, and one self-published novella. Here’s how it breaks down:2005 – 1 story published. My first, but it was unpaid.

2006 – 2 stories published. Both unpaid, still learning the ropes.
2007 – 1 story published, but it was my first paid publication, albeit only a token payment.
2008 – 2 published stories. This year is also when I first self-published the “Ghost of the Black” novella on my website.
2009 – 9 stories published. This is the year I really started taking short fiction writing seriously.
2010 – 7 published stories.
2011 – 11 published stories – my biggest year to date in terms of numbers.
2012 – 10 published stories.
2013 – 10 published stories (so far). (EDIT 7/10/13 – I just learned that All the Wealth in the World will be published in Lakeside Circus in November, so this has gone up by one since the original posting.)
It wasn’t until 2012 that I sold my first story at pro rates, but lots of the previous years included several semi-pro sales and hardly any stories were given away after 2007 (although a few were token payments and one given to a charity anthology.) I’ve had a few pro sales since that first one, and I hope to continue to make more.

This list doesn’t include reprints in Year’s Best collections or podcasts or anything like that (of which there have been quite a few) – it’s purely the first publication of each story. And it doesn’t include novels, obviously. It is proof, though, that hard work and bloody minded determination, coupled with a solid effort to continue to learn and improve your craft, will pay dividends in the end. And given my love of short fiction, I don’t plan to give up any time soon. I have two Personal Bests now to try to beat – more than 11 stories published in one calendar year and more than 2 stories in the same publication. Neither of those things, of course, are more important than quality stories, in well-paying, quality publications. That will always be my primary goal: Writer better, sell better.

Given that I decided to take writing seriously back in 1997, this is a good indicator of how much dedication is required. Although, I concentrated on novels for the first several years following that decision and only really got into short fiction after 2005, so it’s not quite as long a road as it looks.
You can see all the publications and where to find them (as well as the reprints and everything else) on my Bibliography page here if you’re interested.
.

Midnight Echo 10, featuring me. Twice.

Well, this is a first for me and one that requires double Snoopy dancing. You all know by now how much a fan I am of Midnight Echo magazine. It’s the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association and one of the classiest glossy mags on the market. And available in digital format too, of course. I was very proud to have a story in issue 6, the sci-fi/horror special, and in issue 9, the myths and legends special. Now, I couldn’t be happier to say that I’m going to be in issue 10 as well, with two stories. I’m calling that a personal best and giving myself a special Achievement badge.

It’s a funny old path to publication. I entered the AHWA Short Story competition way back when it was opened and thought nothing more of it. These things take ages to be judged usually. While the judging was going on, guest editor Craig Bezant opened for submissions for issue 10 of Midnight Echo, which has a ghost story theme. So I submitted a story for that.

A little while later, the results of the AHWA Short Story comp were announced and my story had won (in a tie with Zena Shapter). We learned that, as part of the prize, our winning stories would see paid publications in Midnight Echo 10. Then, a month or two later, I got word from Craig Bezant that he liked my story and was going to buy it for Midnight Echo 10. So all of a sudden, I have two stories due out in the same mag. And now the full Table of Contents for issue 10 has been announced and there’s my name, listed twice. Seriously, what a singular honour that is. Here, check out the full ToC – it’s pretty amazing:

Midnight Echo 10 Table of Contents:

Cover art by Vincent Chong
Interior art by Mel Gannon and Greg Chapman

Literature
Lunch by Joseph A. Pinto
Crybaby Bridge #25 by Gary A. Braunbeck
Stillegeist by Martin Livings
I Want to Go Home by A.J. Brown
Tourist Trap by Richard Farren Barber
Blood and Bone by Robert Mammone
Exposure Compensation by Alan Baxter
Stinson Way: A Southern Gothic by Jacob Lambert
A Little Peace by Rebecca Fung
Mother’s House by Greg Chapman

Comic
Allure of the Ancients; The Key to His Kingdom – story by Mark Farrugia, illustrations by Greg Chapman

Special Features
An interview with Victor Miller
AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition winners –
It’s Always the Children Who Suffer by Alan Baxter
Darker by Zena Shapter
Moonlight Sonata by Tim Hawken

Regular Features
A Word from the AHWA President – Geoff Brown
Tartarus – Danny Lovecraft (poetry column)
Pix and Panels – Mark Farrugia (comic column)
Black Roads, Dark Highways #5 – Andrew McKiernan (column)
Celluloid Nightmares – Mark Smith-Briggs
Sinister Reads (all the latest releases from AHWA members)

And on top of all that, the cover art will be done by Vincent Chong. That makes me very happy, as Vincent’s artwork is amazing. He did the cover of the anthology A Killer Among Demons, also edited by Craig Bezant, published by Craig’s outfit, Dark Prints Press. You’ll have heard me talk about that book, as it has my story, The Beat of a Pale Wing, in it. And I’ve mentioned before that I think that anthology is one of the best produced in recent years (even if it does feature me!)

So really, this is just tremendous news all around. You can pre-order the limited print edition of Midnight Echo 10 here now. The mag is due for release on November 30th and we’ll have a cover reveal before then.

*Snoopy dance*

.

Great Inspiration – guest post from Jason Nahrung

Last week I posted about the time, back in 1989, when I met Neil Gaiman and got a signed copy of Sandman #1, with no idea at the time of the significance of the event. You can see that post here. At the end of the post I said I would put the call out to my writerly friends and see if any of them had similar inspirations in their lives they might like to share. The wonderful Thoraiya Dyer got back to me with this excellent post and Martin Livings wrote me this great post. Now I have a little something from Jason Nahrung:

When art and circumstance collide.

It was back in 2011 when I’d been to an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria about the Secessionist movement — Gustav Klimt is probably the most famous of them. But it was a painting by Oskar Kokoschka, of a Count Verona, and the enigmatic personality of seamstress and muse Emilie Floge that really got under my skin.

Lo, the very next day, an email arrived announcing a new anthology, Tales from the Bell Club (KnightWatch Press, 2012), looking for stories set in a time period that included the Secessionists. A little more research about Verona and the group, and ‘The Kiss’ was born, incorporating Emilie and Gustav and Oskar, a tuberculosis clinic and a cult led by another enigmatic figure, the Comte de St Germain (under one of his nom de plumes).

One of those wonderful moments when arts and circumstances collided, and I got to be an Austrian suffragette of the early 1900s.

Thanks to Amazon’s Look Inside feature, you can read (and buy) the end product here.

This is the Verona painting:

verona-web

And here’s Emilie:

emilie-web

Jason Nahrung is a Ballarat-based writer and editor. His latest novel is Blood and Dust, an outback vampire adventure melding Mad Max and Anne Rice. www.jasonnahrung.com

.

Great Inspiration – guest post from Martin Livings

Last week I posted about the time, back in 1989, when I met Neil Gaiman and got a signed copy of Sandman #1, with no idea at the time of the significance of the event. You can see that post here. At the end of the post I said I would put the call out to my writerly friends and see if any of them had similar inspirations in their lives they might like to share. The wonderful Thoraiya Dyer got back to me with this excellent post, and today I have a post from Martin Livings:

The Year 1990

1990 was the year that made me. Or ruined me, depending on your point of view. I’d already been writing and submitting stories to the only local SF magazine I knew of, a trashy little beast called “Far Out”. They were amazing tales I sent them, like the one about the advanced civilisation being wiped out by a natural disaster, only to be revealed that it was actually an ants’ nest being stepped on by a small child. Or the one about the two armies fighting to the death that turned out to be a game of chess. Wow, incredible stuff. I wonder why they never accepted them?

Then in 1990 I attended Curtin University for less than a semester, my second unsuccessful foray into academic life. But during that semester, I joined the Curtin Imagination Association (CIA), as a high school friend of mine was already a member, and through them found out about the existence of Swancon, the annual Perth science fiction convention. So I thought, what the hell, sounds like it could be fun, and went along.

And that, as they say, was that.

The guest of honour was the brilliant Terry Dowling. I’d never heard of Terry before that, but hearing him talk, hearing him read, I was gone. Here was an Australian spec fic writer, doing things I’d never seen done in spec fic before. Rynosseros blew my tiny mind; I still have the copy I bought at the con, signed by Terry. I also met Nick Stathopolous for the first time there, artist extraordinaire. And it wasn’t just meeting them, either, but all of the people there, people like me, yet all different too. I wasn’t alone any more. It was energising and liberating to discover this.

These were huge inspirations, but the biggest inspiration that came out of Swancon 1990 was meeting the incredible team that were putting together what was at the time (and in my humble opinion still is) the finest Australian spec fic journal ever, Eidolon. Meeting the editors, Jeremy G. Byrne, Richard Scriven and Jonathan Strahan, plus of course the others involved in getting the magazine up and running, Keira McKenzie, Robin Pen and Chris Stronach, was like a lightbulb going off in my brain. Or maybe a nuclear explosion. These guys were locals, they were here in Perth, and they were doing incredible things with the genre.

I wanted in. I wanted in bad.

(Martin in home-made Freddy Krueger makeup, Swancon 1990)
(Martin in home-made Freddy Krueger makeup, Swancon 1990)

It took me two years to get a story accepted by them. That sounds like a long time, but considering the legendary slowness of the Eidolon reading process, it was actually pretty quick. At around the same time, I also had a story accepted by Aurealis, the other local powerhouse on the scene, which I’m so glad is still alive and well today. I ended up working for Eidolon in the end, first writing book reviews, then editing the book review column, and finally as an associate editor. I made so many great friends through this; Sean Williams and Kirstyn McDermott were two of my favourite go-to book reviewers, and of course the amazing (and Oscar-winning!) Shaun Tan was the art editor, to name only three of many. But more than that, I learned. I learned about the craft and the art. I learned what was good, what was bad, and, worse, what was ordinary and dull. I learned more than I ever could have in any university.

1990, Swancon and Eidolon teamed up and created the beginning of my writing career. And even though Eidolon may no longer be with us, it sits on my bookshelf and continues to inspire me, to make me want to do better, write better, be better. Hopefully it always will.

Perth-based writer Martin Livings has had nearly eighty short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. His first novel, Carnies, was published by Hachette Livre in 2006, and his first short story collection, Living With the Dead, was published in 2012 by Dark Prints Press. http://www.martinlivings.com

.