CI-A, Me and the Battle of the Worlds

I was looking through some old stuff my mum had saved and discovered a bunch of old exercise books. Most of it is pretty rubbish, appalling “religious education” that was nothing but Christian indoctrination and so on. In truth, I always hated school, never got on well with a classroom environment, with one exception: I loved English. The chance to write stories and read books? That was my kind of schooling. It’s the only thing I was ever good at, academically, so it’s no surprise that these days I’m a writer and a martial artist.

I remember my first ever experience of storytelling. I was about seven years old and we were told to write a story about what we did on the school holidays. Most kids came back with paragraph or two about nanna’s house or whatever. I came back with seven or eight pages about a dude who went back in time and got chased around by dinosaurs. The teacher didn’t believe I’d written it and rang my parents. They said they had no idea about it, I must have done it all in my room. So my teacher, duly impressed, got me to read it to the class. As I stood up there with my knees trembling, reading this thing, I realised all the faces were enraptured. After class, kids were coming up to me saying how great it was and how they wished it wouldn’t end. I was amazed. I had discovered the power of storytelling. I never looked back.

Sadly I can’t find that time travel story I remember so well. Maybe I will one day. But I have found other stuff. One was a story I wrote when I was nine years old, and it shows my influences so clearly already. There’s science-fiction, horror and fantasy, shameless pillages from Star Wars and Doctor Who. It’s classic early Baxter. So I decided to transcribe it for posterity here. Below you’ll find the story, accurately transcribed with all my spelling errors and so on included. But I have added paragraphs. Seems I had a thing about not using them – lots of other stories in big blocks of text with my teacher getting more exasperated about it every time.

After the transcription are scans of the original pages with my teacher’s notes. Perhaps my favourite thing about this story is the teacher’s comment at the end:

very good

“Very good, Alan. I think you enjoyed yourself too. 1 house point.”

You’re right, teacher. I really did enjoy myself. And I still do – nothing is more fun than writing stories. And I scored a house point! That was a big deal back then. Anyway, don’t expect anything brilliant, but here I present to you:

 

CI-A, Me and the Battle of the Worlds

(A story from California)

by Alan Baxter (age 9 ½)

 

“Com’n CI its time to get up.”

“Bleep Bleep Bleep Bloop.”

“No I won’t let you lie in I’ve gotta catch my breakfast.”

“Bleeeeep.”

“bleep bleep or not I want my breakfast. Look CI if you get up you can have some of your favorite drink.”

Bleep bleep bleep.

“Yes oil. Now you get up while I catch my breakfast.”

Bleep bleep bleep sis bloop?

“Yes you can pour your own.”

I caught my breakfast and ate it. Then we got in our spaceship and flew to ALPHA-Z-6 (which was CI-A’s home planet) and landed on the spacestations landing pad and went inside the station. When we got inside the station we found out that it was completely demolished.

“My god CI is this the right planet?”

“bleep bleep athermative.”

“Com’n CI I’m gonna get to the bottom of this.”

“DINCAS APPROCHING.”

“Whats approching”

“DINCAS master”

“What the heck are dincas”

“Those are dincas master”

“Stop calling me master will you. Suffering sausages are they the dincas.”?

“ATHERMATIVE.”

“HECK, their just the daleks CI.”

“Athermative they are the second type of daleks.”

“Second type would they attack us”?

“Athermative. But I could fight back with my lazers beams.”

“What.”

“Lazer beams”

“All right I heard you the first time. But you couldn’t fight all of them theres dozens of them you’ve only got 7 lazers.”

CI gave a loud whistle and hundreds of CI-A’s came zooming in.

“We are going to attack the DINCAS they have completely destroyed our planet so we are going to destroy them! CHARGE.”

All the CI-A’s went zooming off fireing their lazers at the DINCAS. After a long and very noisey fight the DINCAS were all destroyed and not one of the CI-A’s.

“Well thanks CI you and your brothers sure did destroy them.”

We all helped build a new space station and after 2 ½ years the new space station was built. CI interduced me to his best friend. I made friends with him and he was called 8-9-Z CI-A 8-9-Z and I lived on the planet for a couple of years and then we had a spacestorm on the part of the planet where we were. A space storm is very colurful, but very dangeous aswell. It is a storm of colured lazer beams. One of the beams hit our ship so the robots and I could not get home.

When the storm finished we all went out to look at the ship to see weather it was re-buildable or not. We were all dissapointed. “O well you two we’ll have to start building one from scratch. After 6 months we had finished building it and 8-9-Z, CI-A and I flew home only to find that the dreaded wherewolf had attacked the village. There were dead people lying everywhere. O well here we go again another adventure to sort out. Just then CI-A sent up a rocket jet flare and all his brothers came down in their space-ship to help us out again. All CI’s brothers and sisters said that they had brought some equitment for catching wherewolfs. That made me pleased because it would make it easier to catch it. Just then there was a low growl.

“Ut, oh here he comes.”

Cis brothers went forward to attak but they retreated when they saw how huge the monster was.

“Look at the size of it CI is that the one that attaked your planet last month”?

“Athermative it is the one that attaked our planet.”

“Holy mackeral its eating the houses”

“Hang on a minute whats 8-9-Z doing with that spray”?

“He is using the water of life to bring the dead people to life.”

Just then the wherewolf came into full view of us CI-a swung round and fired all 7 lazers at it. It fell down dead and 8-9-Z CI-a and I put it in a little rowing boat and sunk it so all Cis brothers went home and CI 8-9-Z and I could settle down to a happy life again.

THE END

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Ticonderoga to publish my first short fiction collection, Crow Shine

crowshine-cover1cSo this is news that makes me happier than a drunk in a brewery. Ticonderoga Publications, one of Australia’s premier presses, is going to publish my first collection of short fiction in September. It’s going to be called Crow Shine, and just look at that amazing cover!

It’s no news to regular readers here what a fan I am of short stories. Ever since I was about 11 years old and picked up a Roald Dahl book called Switch Bitch, expecting something like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Danny the Champion of the World and got… well, I got my mind blown. I think the short story and novella are a unique art form, one that is incredibly hard to do well, entirely different from novels, but one that is utterly captivating. They’re something I’ve loved reading, and subsequently writing, ever since I was that wide-eyed eleven-year-old holding Switch Bitch like it was both beautiful and dangerous. Which is was. Which all good short fiction is, hopefully. Like a brightly polished and finely honed knife.

So to be in a position now where a publisher as respected as Ticonderoga are publishing a book collecting the best of my own short stories? My mind is blown again. It’s amazing. Crow Shine will contain nineteen short stories and novellas, and is named after one of the three stories original to this collection. The other sixteen are drawn across many years of my yarns exploring the dark weird fantastic that I love so much. Crow Shine will be released in ebook and papaerback, of course, but also in hardcover and (get this!) Limited Edition signed and numbered hardcover. The Limited Edition will be restricted to 100 copies. Honestly, it just gets better and better, right?

Here’s what editor, Russell B Farr, had to say in the official Ticonderoga Publications press release about the deal:

“Alan Baxter is rapidly becoming one of Australia’s premier dark fantasists, and Crow Shine showcases some incredible work. While his stories can be dark, they also show an incredible respect for the human condition, and each one enriches the reader.”

That’s some sweet praise right there. And thanks to my wonderful agent, Alex Adsett, for brokering this deal. Crow Shine will be launched in early October, so watch this space and keep an eye on my social media to know when things are happening, especially if you want one of those 100 Limited Edition hardcovers.

Now, please excuse me while I Snoopy dance.

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I won the 2015 Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction

snafunotwonojosephI’m still in mild shock, but absolutely chuffed. The Australian Shadows Awards winners were announced last night and I won the Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction for my novella, “In Vaulted Halls Entombed”, which was published in the SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest anthology, published by Cohesion Press.

Holy shit! To be nominated for these awards was awesome. To be nominated in the one named after my buddy, Paul Haines, was especially cool. To win it is more special than I can really convey. I wish Paul was still around to celebrate with me, but in the circumstances this is about as sweet as it gets. And huge thanks to Geoff Brown at Cohesion Press for publishing this story.

Here’s the official announcement from the awards ceremony:

Our next award is the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction (novella). The award is named in memory of one of the association’s most generous, talented and respected author’s Paul Haines. If you’ve never read his work, go do so now (well, after the awards) and if you’ve got a glass nearby raise one with us now.

This year’s winning entry really embodies the soul, energy and nightmare inducing imagery that would have come straight from the mind of Mr Haines. We believe he would have approved.

And the winner is…

In Vaulted Halls Entombed – Alan Baxter

“In Vaulted Halls Entombed seamlessly blends modern military action tropes with classic Lovecraftian cosmic horror to create a fresh, compelling and genuinely frightening story. Baxter uses the subterranean setting to devastating effect, creating a powerful sense of claustrophobia and exquisitely mounting tension.”

That’s so cool I can hardly believe.

Here’s the full list of winners and nominees:

Novels:
WINNER: The Catacombs – Jeremy Bates
The Haunting of Blackwood House – Darcy Coates
The Transgressions Cycle: The Mothers – Mike Jones
The Transgressions Cycle: The Reparation – Mike Jones and Leonie Jones
The Big Smoke – Jason Nahrung

Comics/Graphic Novels:
WINNER: The Road to Golgotha – G.N. Braun & Amanda J Spedding
Troll – Michael Michalandos
The Monster – Ben Rosenthal
Undad – Shane W. Smith

The Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction:
WINNER: In Vaulted Halls Entombed – Alan Baxter
The Haunting of Gillespie House – Darcy Coates
Night Shift – Dirk Flinthart
The Whimper – Robert Hood

Edited Works:
Bloodlines – Amanda Pillar
Lighthouses – Cameron Trost
Midnight Echo 11 – Kaaron Warren
WINNER: Blurring the Line – Marty Young

Collected Works:
The Abandonment of Grace and Everything After – Shane Jiraiya Cummings
WINNER: Peripheral Visions: The Collected Ghost Stories – Rob Hood
Cherry Crow Children – Deborah Kalin

Short Fiction:
The Bone Maiden – Greg Chapman
Eight Seconds – Pandora Hope
El Caballo Muerte – Martin Livings
Perfect Little Stitches – Deborah Sheldon
WINNER: Mine Intercom – Kaaron Warren

Rocky Wood Award for non-fiction and criticism:

The Literary Gothic by Marija Elektra Rodriguez

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees, and huge thanks to the AHWA and for hard work of all the judges.

And if you haven’t read any of the winning publications, I suggest you rectify that ASAP! Apart from my own story, everything listed above is well worth your time and money.

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Beechworth Asylum Writers’ Retreat

IMG_0207I just spent three days, and two nights, in a haunted abandoned asylum. It was fantastic fun!

Geoff and Dawn run Asylum Ghost Tours from the amazing Bijou Theatre at Beechworth Asylum in country Victoria. They also organise writing retreats there where a bunch of writers sleep in the big theatre hall and a professional author guest gets their own room at the end of the theatre, and everyone does loads of writing. Over the course of the weekend, the guest author runs workshops for the others. Geoff kindly invited me along as the guest and I happily accepted. 0I did a couple of workshops which the writers seemed to really enjoy, and I got a chunk of my own writing done too.

Not only do Geoff and Dawn throw a fantastic, fully catered retreat, but they combine it with their main business of ghost tours. So all the retreatists (totally a word, shut up) also get to go on tours and paranormal investigations in the middle of the night through the broken down old Asylum.

The tours were brilliant – the guides are superb (we had Laura for the ghost tour one night and Craig for the paranormal investigation the next night). Walking through these old buildings in the dark, torchlight dancing nervously off the walls, being told stories of the horrible atrocities that befell so many poor psychiatric patients is both heartbreaking and proper creepy. A really unique experience that I highly recommend. Did you just hear that..? *stares into the darkness*

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Strange stuff goes on at night in Beechworth Asylum. If you get a chance to go along, do it. Take advantage of the tours and see (and feel) something very different. Believer or skeptic, it’s great fun. And when the writing retreat comes around, jump on that too. I can’t think of many places that got my creative juices flowing and my story brain in gear quite like this place! Here’s the link to all the info you need about Beechworth on their Facebook page.

And here’s a link to a set of photos I took over the long weekend (on my Facebook page). This link will work whether you have Facebook or not and there’s a bunch of descriptions with the photos to give you a better insight into the place.

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Primordial sells to Cohesion Press

A little bit of awesome news to share with you all today. Primordial, a giant monster thriller co-authored with my podcast buddy, David Wood, will be published in early 2017 by Cohesion Press as part of their new Natural Selection line. It’s exciting stuff. After Dave and I wrote the horror novella, Dark Rite, together, we knew that we could work well as a team, so we decided to take on a full novel project. Primordial is the result and I’m so happy it’s sold to Cohesion Press.

If that name is familiar, it should be! They’re a small press making great waves lately and they’ve published me a couple of times before, with stories in their anthologies Blurring The Line and SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest. I’ve also got another story with them soon, coming out in their next SNAFU anthology, Future Warfare.

Here’s a little blurb for Primordial about it to whet your appetite:

Sometimes, the legends are true.

When eccentric billionaire, Ellis Holloway, hires marine biologist Sam Aston to investigate the legend of a monster in a remote Finnish lake, Aston envisions an easy paycheck and a chance to clear his gambling debts. But he gets much more. Something terrible lives beneath the dark waters of Lake Kaarme… and it’s hungry. As the death toll mounts, Aston faces superstitious locals, a power-hungry police chief, and a benefactor’s descent into madness as he races to find the legendary beast of the lake in PRIMORDIAL.

So we have nefarious Australian marine biologists, lunatic American billionaires, a mysterious lake in Finland, myths of a giant monster, missing people, blood, suspense, even frickin’ Nazis, dude! It’s a great book with loads of action, so I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it comes out. I’ll be sure to keep you informed of progress as things move along. Now please excuse me while I happy dance.

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