10 Question SFF reading meme

I saw this over at S F Signal, and thought it asked some interesting questions about sci-fi/fantasy/horror reading. So I’ve snurched it for my blog here. Feel free to copy the questions and add your answers in the comments, or snag it for your own blog, Facebook, blood-scrawling on the wall of your cold, wet dungeon or wherever else you like to write things down.

The last sf/f/h book I read and liked was:

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. This is the book that Pirates of the Caribbean was based on. It’s been on my To Read list for ages and I finally got around to it. It’s a brilliant book, the story far better than the movie. (Although, I do love those movies.)

The last sf/f/h book I read and wasn’t crazy about was:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. It’s not a bad book, but it’s far from a great book. It’s just kinda okay and I suppose I expect more than that from King. The previous King book I read, Joyland, was excellent.

The sf/f/h book I am reading now is:

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. This is a short story collection. I’ve never heard of Ballingrud before or read his stuff, but I saw this book being touted a lot in my social media. I always take the advice of those good people, so I bought it. I’ve only read the first two stories so far and it’s really quite excellent.

The sf/f/h book(s) I most want to read next is/are:

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig and The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D’Lacey. The first is the third Miriam Black book and I was a huge fan of the first two, Blackbirds and Mockingbird. The second is Volume 2 of The Black Dawn. I read the first one, Black Feathers, a while back and it was very good. In fact, I reviewed these books for Thirteen O’Clock. Blackbirds here, Mockingbird here, and Black Feathers here.

An underrated sf/f/h book is:

I’m not sure about this, as I don’t really know what’s underrated among other people. If I had to pick something that certainly deserves more attention I would suggest Joanne Anderton’s Veiled Worlds trilogy. The third one of those is out soon. (Jo is a friend, yes, but her books are fucking amazing, so shut up.) Another book I read last year that blew me away and I haven’t seen much about it elsewhere is Max Barry’s amazing novel, Lexicon. And the last thing to spring to mind is a novella from Spectral Press that I read last year, called Whitstable by Stephen Volk. It’s an amazing blend of fact and fiction.

An overrated sf/f/h book is:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. And not just because Card is a hoofwanking bunglecunt of the highest order. (I saw that insult on Twitter this morning and just had to find a place to use it.) But seriously, I hated this book before I really knew anything about Card’s despicable views. I read it because it’s always on top 100 sci-fi book lists so I thought I should try it. And it was very dull, and the central conceit was really obvious from early on and it’s just stupid. On that front, another highly overrated SF book is John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. Now Scalzi isn’t a nasty piece of human sputum like Card. Scalzi is actually a stand-up guy, a really nice fella if my social media interaction is anything to go by and he does fantastic things for the SFF community. But this book did not work for me at all, I couldn’t finish it. I reviewed it briefly on Goodreads here if you’re interested in more of my opinion on it.

The last sf/f/h book that was recommended to me was:

I honestly can’t remember… I talk about books with people so much that it’s impossible to keep track. I know Lexicon was recommended to me not that long ago. Sorry, my brain isn’t up to this question.

A sf/f/h book I recommended to someone else was:

Recently I’ve been happily recommending these wherever I can:

Lexicon by Max Barry
Whitstable by Stephen Volk
The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy by Sarah Pinborough
Midnight & Moonshine by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
Cabal by Clive Barker

Seriously, if you’ve been stuck for a good read lately, go and buy all of those now and you’ll be reinvigorated. Amazing stories, brilliantly written.

A sf/f/h book I have re-read is:

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. I lovelovelove this book and recently reread it again. It is a truly outstanding achievement, but I’m a total Clive Barker fanboy, so maybe I’m biased. But seriously, if you haven’t read it, do. In fact, I’m going to add it to the list answering the previous question, because I’m always recommending this and Cabal by Barker whenever I get the chance. I’m adding Cabal too. I’d better stop there though – honestly, I could sit here and recommend books all day.

A sf/f/h book I want to re-read is:

The Earthsea series by Ursula K Le Guin. I’ve read and loved the original trilogy a few times, but never read the others. I recently bought all the various volumes and have them sitting on my side table ready for a big reread. (Well, reread of the first three, then read of the rest.) I’m really looking forward to it.

So there you go. I thought those questions might lead to an interesting discussion of good reading. Mmmmbooks, how I love them…

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365 Shorts Success!

I’m as surprised as you are, but it seems I succeeded in the task I thought I was certain to fail. Towards the end of last year, I set myself a task to see if I could read 365 short stories in 365 days. I thought I’d never get close, but I wanted to record my short fiction reading and see how I went. Here’s the original post about it. I decided to set the year to start on December 1st 2012 so the end didn’t get lost in the Xmas/New Year shenanigans. That means the 365 days ran up until today, November 30th 2013. Instead of failing, I passed my target. I read 388 stories this year.

Now this has to be tempered with a few points of order. First and foremost, this includes podcasts. I listen to loads of short fiction podcasts – I’ve got a page all about them here. So I included listening as reading. I also included books and magazines that I’m in, but didn’t include my own story in the total count. Even so, I easily read past my limit. And it’s worth bearing in mind that my son was born at the end of October, so for just over the last month of this challenge, I’ve hardly read much at all. I think it’s fair to say I would have passed 400 if it wasn’t for that slight interruption to normal programming.

The thing this makes me realise more than anything else is that I probably read around this many stories every year. I made no special effort to make sure I hit my target. I listened to podcasts and read anthologies and magazines the same way I always do, and it turns out my personal challenge wasn’t much of a challenge after all. My eyeholes absorb that much short fiction on a regular basis regardless. Go me!

If you’re interested to see all the stories I read in the past 365 days, I’ve made a page here with all of them listed. Some were total shit, some were meh and some were absolutely outstanding. I haven’t bothered including any commentary on the list – it was a pain in the arse enough just to remember to write them all down as I went.

So it’s easy to read loads of short stories every year and you totally should. The form is fantastic, it takes hardly any time and the reward always far outweighs the effort. Unless the story was shit, of course, but that’s the risk you take. I read a story this year that won a massive award and I thought it was absolute bollocks. But that’s the beauty of art – there’s something to appeal to everyone and something to make everyone say, “That was bollocks.” You can usually find the magazines and editors whose taste gels with yours without too much effort and then you’re likely to get a hit rate of tasty yarns far higher than random sampling. But I’d recommend random sampling as well, because there are gems in every shitpile from time to time. Below, I’ll make a list of my favourite short fiction places, to get you started. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, just a shove in the right direction. Enjoy!

Great short fiction:

First and foremost, let’s get the shameless self-promotion out of the way. You can find a selection of my short fiction, free to read online, by checking out this page.

For great anthologies, check out the publications by these awesome Aussie small presses:

Ticonderoga Publications

Dark Prints Press

Coeur De Lion

(There are loads more out there.)

For excellent magazines, check out:

Abyss & Apex
Albedo One
Analog Science Fiction & Fact
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
Apex Book Company
Asimov’s Science Fiction
Aurealis Magazine
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Black Static
Chizine
Clarkesworld
Crowded Magazine
Daily Science Fiction
Escape Pod – sci-fi podcasting
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Ideomancer
Innsmouth Free Press
Interzone
Kasma SF
Lightspeed Magazine
Midnight Echo – magazine of the AHWA
Nightmare Magazine
PodCastle – fantasy fiction podcasts
Pseudopod – horror fiction podcasts
The Red Penny Papers
Shimmerzine
Strange Horizons
Ticon4
Wily Writers

Go forth, read short fiction and become a better person!*

(* May not actually make you a better person.)

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“The Darkness in Clara” to be published in SQ Mag 14

I’m very happy to announce this one. SQ Mag approached me recently and asked if I’d be interested in submitting a story for their Australiana-themed issue 14, due out in May next year. I was honoured to have been asked and offered them my novelette, The Darkness in Clara. I’m very proud of the story and very proud that SQ accepted it for publication.

It’s most definitely an Australian story. It deals with country Australia, the small town mindset and the so-often-accompanying bigotry. I won’ t say too much more about it than that, other than it’s a dark fantasy story of close to 10,000 words. By SWFA standards, a short story is up 7,500 words, so that’s why this one is classed as a novelette.

The Australiana issue of SQ has also commissioned stories from the amazing Kaaron Warren and Sean Williams. I’m extra happy to be sharing some pages with those two Aussie writing legends. And there’s an open submission call still available for the rest of the magazine, so if it floats your writerly boat, get submitting.

And the last bit of great news to accompany this announcement is that the cover of the Australiana issue of SQ will be based on my story. I can’t wait to see what an artist comes up with there. I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s out. In the meantime, you could check out the SQ website and Facebook page.

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2013 British Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winners announced

The British Fantasy Society announced the winners of the 2013 British Fantasy Awards at a ceremony during the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England on November 3, 2013. The full list of nominees is shown below, with the winner being the first entry in each category:

Best Novel (the August Derleth Fantasy Award)

  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce (Gollancz)

 

  • Red Country, Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)
  • The Brides of Rollrock Island, Margo Lanagan (David Fickling)
  • Railsea, China Miéville (Macmillan)
  • Blood and Feathers, Lou Morgan (Solaris)

Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award)

  • Last Days, Adam Nevill (Macmillan)

 

  • The Kind Folk, Ramsey Campbell (PS)
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce (Gollancz)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Silent Voices, Gary McMahon (Solaris)

Best Novella

  • The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine, John Llewellyn Probert (Spectral)

 

  • The Respectable Face of Tyranny, Gary Fry (Spectral)
  • “Curaré”, Michael Moorcock (Zenith Lives!)
  • Eyepennies, Mike O’Driscoll (TTA)

Best Short Story

  • “Shark! Shark!”, Ray Cluley (Black Static #29)

 

  • “Sunshine”, Nina Allan (Black Static #29)
  • “Our Island”, Ralph Robert Moore (Where Are We Going?)
  • “Wish for a Gun”, Sam Sykes (A Town Called Pandemonium)

Best Collection

  • Remember Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman (ChiZine)

 

  • The Woman Who Married a Cloud, Jonathan Carroll (Subterannean)
  • Where Furnaces Burn, Joel Lane (PS)
  • From Hell to Eternity, Thana Niveau (Gray Friar)

Best Anthology:

  • Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, Jonathan Oliver, ed. (Solaris)

 

  • Terror Tales of the Cotswolds, Paul Finch, ed. (Gray Friar)
  • The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, Marie O’Regan, ed. (Robinson)
  • A Town Called Pandemonium, Anne C. Perry & Jared Shurin, eds. (Jurassic London)

Best Small Press (the PS Publishing Independent Press Award)

  • ChiZine Publications (Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi)

 

  • Gray Friar Press (Gary Fry)
  • Spectral Press (Simon Marshall-Jones)
  • TTA Press (Andy Cox)

Best Non-Fiction

  • Pornokitsch, Anne C. Perry & Jared Shurin, eds.

 

  • Ansible, David Langford
  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn, eds. (Cambridge University Press)
  • Coffinmaker’s Blues (column), Stephen Volk (Black Static)
  • Fantasy Faction, Marc Aplin, ed.
  • Reflections: On the Magic of Writing, Diana Wynne Jones (David Fickling)

Best Magazine/Periodical

  • Interzone, Andy Cox, ed. (TTA)

 

  • Black Static, Andy Cox, ed. (TTA)
  • SFX, David Bradley, ed. (Future)
  • Shadows and Tall Trees, Michael Kelly, ed. (Undertow)

Best Artist

  • Sean Phillips

 

  • Ben Baldwin
  • Vincent Chong
  • Les Edwards
  • David Rix

Best Comic/Graphic Novel

  • Saga, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)

 

  • The Unwritten, Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Gary Erskine, Gabriel Hernández Walta, M.K. Perker, Vince Locke, and Rufus Dayglo (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Skybound/Image)
  • Dial H, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco, David Lapham, and Riccardo Burchielli (DC)

Best Screenplay

  • The Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon &Drew Goddard

 

  • Sightseers, Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, & Amy Jump
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, & Guillermo del Toro
  • Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon

Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award)

  • Helen Marshall, for Hair Side, Flesh Side (ChiZine)

 

  • Saladin Ahmed, for Throne of the Crescent Moon (Gollancz)
  • Stephen Bacon, for Peel Back the Sky (Gray Friar)
  • Stephen Blackmoore, for City of the Lost (DAW)
  • Kim Curran, for Shift (Strange Chemistry)
  • Anne Lyle, for The Alchemist of Souls (Angry Robot)
  • Alison Moore, for The Lighthouse (Salt Publishing)
  • Lou Morgan, for Blood and Feathers (Solaris)
  • E.C. Myers, for Fair Coin (Pyr)
  • Molly Tanzer, for A Pretty Mouth (Lazy Fascist)

 

Also at the World Fantasy Convention, the World Fantasy Awards winners for works published in 2012 were announced on the same day.

Again, the full list of nominees is shown below, the World Fantasy Award winners being the first listed in each category:

Life Achievement:

  • Susan Cooper
  • Tanith Lee

Novel:

  • Alif the UnseenG. Willow Wilson (Grove; Corvus)

 

  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Crandolin, Anna Tambour (Chômu)

Novella:

  • “Let Maps to Others”, K.J. Parker (Subterranean Summer ’12)

 

  • “Hand of Glory”, Laird Barron (The Book of Cthulhu II)
  •  The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon)
  • “The Skull”, Lucius Shepard (The Dragon Griaule)
  • “Sky”, Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls)

Short Story:

  • “The Telling”, Gregory Norman Bossert (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 11/29/12)

 

  • “A Natural History of Autumn”, Jeffrey Ford (F&SF 7-8/12)
  • “The Castle That Jack Built”, Emily Gilman (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/26/12)
  • “Breaking the Frame”, Kat Howard (Lightspeed 8/12)
  • “Swift, Brutal Retaliation”, Meghan McCarron (Tor.com 1/4/12)

Anthology:

  • Postscripts #28/#29: Exotic Gothic 4, Danel Olson, ed. (PS Publishing)

 

  • Epic: Legends of Fantasy, John Joseph Adams, ed. (Tachyon)
  • Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, Eduardo Jiménez Mayo & Chris N. Brown, eds. (Small Beer)
  • Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, Jonathan Oliver, ed. (Solaris)
  • Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Random House)

Collection:

  • Where Furnaces Burn, Joel Lane (PS Publishing)

 

  • At the Mouth of the River of Bees, Kij Johnson (Small Beer)
  • The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth and Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands, Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
  • Remember Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman (ChiZine)
  • Jagannath, Karin Tidbeck (Cheeky Frawg)

Artist:

  • Vincent Chong

 

  • Didier Graffet & Dave Senior
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • J.K. Potter
  • Chris Robert

Special Award Professional:

  • Lucia Graves for the translation of The Prisoner of Heaven (Weidenfeld & Nicholson; Harper) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

 

  • Peter Crowther & Nicky Crowther for PS Publishing
  • Adam Mills, Ann VanderMeer, & Jeff VanderMeer for Weird Fiction Review
  • Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi for ChiZine Publications
  • William K. Schafer for Subterranean Press

Special Award Non-Professional:

  • S.T. Joshi for Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, Volumes 1 & 2 (PS Publishing)

 

  • Scott H. Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • L. Timmel Duchamp for Aqueduct Press
  • Charles A. Tan for Bibliophile Stalker blog
  • Jerad Walters for Centipede Press
  • Joseph Wrzos for Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration (Centipede Press)

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees in both Awards.

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Escape Artists need our help

You all know by now what a huge fan I am of short fiction podcasts. I listen to a whole bunch of them. I also love it when my own short fiction gets podcast, and that’s happened a few times now. I made a page here with all my own podcast fiction linked up and a list of all the audio fiction magazines I enjoy. Check it out, I promise you’ll find good stuff there (and not just my own stories.)

Among my absolute favourite short fiction podcasts are the three Escape Artist ones – Pseudopod for horror, Escape Pod for sci-fi and PodCastle for fantasy. They collect original and reprint fiction from a wide variety of sources and always commission excellent readers. These podcasts are regular, brilliantly produced and full of a broad range of stories. They also pay excellent rates to their authors. But they’re currently in dire financial straits and need some help – and it’s very easy to help them. All these type of online zines have options to subscribe or make once off donations to pay their server costs and authors. Until now, I’ve always gone to their sites at the end of each year and made a small donation.

But it it turns out that less than 1% of the people enjoying these otherwise free stories are regular subscribers. It’s got to the point where all three Escape Artist podcasts will have to shut down at the end of the year if they can’t increase their incomes. This would be a tragedy, because they’re awesome. So rather than remembering to make a once a year donation, I’ve just gone in and signed up as a regular monthly subscriber to all three. You can subscribe with as little as US$2 a month. That’s US$6 a month for all three. That’s not even two cups of coffee!

And no, they’re not paying me to say all this. Pseudopod published one of my stories and I hope all three podcasts are around long enough to publish more of my work. I’m just sharing their appeal because I love these podcasts, I wish more people would listen and I really wish more people would subscribe.

It’s as easy as clicking a PayPal button. If you’re a regular listener, go and sign up. If you’ve yet to discover the joys of Escape Artists, go now, subscribe for $2 a month and cancel your subscription if you decide it’s not worth. I bet you won’t.

Pseudopod is here (horror).

Escape Pod is here (sci-fi).

PodCastle is here (fantasy).

Go get some awesome short fiction in your listening holes.

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