It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


11 Comments

Memory jog

The latest issue of Perihelion Online Science Fiction Magazine has appeared, and among its many fine stories is one of mine – ‘Waters of Lethe’. It’s about a bathyscaphe journey to the bottom of Europa’s world-ocean. Sort of. You can read it here.

shinkai-6500

I’ve now written stories which feature Wilfred Owen, Spitfires, the Bell, Apollo astronauts, flying boats, rocket sleds, bathyscaphes… What to do next?


11 Comments

Apollo Quartet review copies

It’s been two years since Adrift on the Sea of Rains was published, and reviews of it continue to appear online. Which is very gratifying. But for some reason books two and three of the Apollo Quartet, The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself and Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, published sixteen and six months ago respectively, haven’t been reviewed to the same extent. So this is just a note to say ebook review copies of The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself and Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above are still available. If you fancy one, either leave a comment or tweet me at @ian_sales. I can do epub, mobi or pdf. At a pinch, I can even do paperback.

Meanwhile, of course, work continues on All That Outer Space Allows. I’m at that stage where I’m reading research materials to get a feel for the period and place and cast, and getting some early words down on paper. The story opens in 1965 at Edwards Air Force Base and ends in Florida on the evening of 16 April 1972. It will be about astronauts and it will be about science fiction.

E-USAF-X-15-2

Here’s the opening paragraph. As you can see, it’s going to be a bit different to the preceding three novellas…

Ginny is at the table on the patio, in slacks and her favourite plaid shirt, hammering away on her Hermes Baby typewriter, a glass of iced tea to one side, a stack of typescript to the other. Something, a sixth sense, she’s developed it during her ten years as an Air Force wife, a presentiment, of what she can’t say, causes her to glance over at the gate to the yard. And there’s Bob, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lincoln Hollenbeck, cap in hand, his movie-star profile noble with concern. Ginny immediately looks over to her right, across to the Air Force Base and the dry lake. Her hand goes to her mouth. Oh my God my God my God. There’s a line of dark smoke chalked up the endless sky. My God my God my God. She pushes back her chair and lurches to her feet.

The above may change as I get further into the story and things start to come together. But for the time-being at least it gives a good idea of what I have planned.


1 Comment

Title story

PS Publishing have released details of the next Postscripts anthology, Far Voyager Postscripts #32/33. The TOC looks like this:

  • ‘Far Voyager’ — Ian Sales
  • ’3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar’ — Michael Swanwick
  • ‘Dear Miss Monroe’ — Andrew Jury
  • ‘The Case of the Barking Man’ — Mel Waldman
  • ‘One Hundred Thousand Demons and the Cherub of Desire’ — Andrew Drummond
  • ‘An American Story’ — Darrell Schweitzer
  • ‘Irezumi’ — John Langan
  • ‘Sister Free’ — Rio Youers
  • ‘A Little Off the Top’ — Tom Alexander
  • ‘Sweetheart, I Love You’ — Mel Waldman
  • ‘Winter Children’ — Angela Slatter
  • ‘A Girl of Feather and Music’ — Lisa L. Hannett
  • ‘Thirty Three Tears to a Teaspoon’ — Alan Baxter
  • ‘The Rusalka Salon for Girls Who Like to Get Their Hair Wet’ — Angie Rega
  • ‘The Psychometrist’ — Suzanne J. Willis
  • ‘Sea Angels’ — Quentin S. Crisp
  • ‘Plink’ — Kurt Dinan
  • ‘Xaro’ — Darren Speegle
  • ‘We Are Not Alone’ — Richard Calder
  • ‘The Curtain’ — Thana Niveau
  • ‘Playground’ — Gio Clairval
  • ‘What Once Was Bone’ — Gary A. Braunbeck
  • ‘Darkscapes: Three Journeys to the Night Side’ — Mel Waldman
  • ‘Services Rendered’ — Bruce Golden
  • ‘GW in the Afterlife’ — Robert Reed
  • ‘Eskimo’ — Andrew Hook
  • ‘With Friends Like These’ — Gary Fry
  • ‘An Inspector Calls’ — Ian Watson
  • ‘Confessions’ — Mel Waldman
  • ‘A Legion of Echoes’ — Alison Littlewood
  • ‘Talk in Riddles’ — Mark Reece
  • ‘The Mermaid and the Fisherman’ — Paul Park

Yup. My story is the title story. Cool, or what? There’s some good stuff in that TOC too, including a few favourite authors. No publication date as yet, but it’ll be sometime this year, I imagine.


2 Comments

The Apollo Quartet that never was

The Apollo Quartet is hard sf, but it’s also alternate history. And the books of the quartet themselves have their own alternate history too. They say a plan never survives contact with the enemy and, in pretty much the same way, a synopsis never survives unscathed once you actually get into writing a novel, novella or story.

I can’t remember at what point in the writing of Adrift on the Sea of Rains I decided it would be the first of the quartet… but once I’d made the decision I obviously needed to come up with three more stories. I had one sitting in my “ideas book” (actually, it’s just a Google doc) that I thought would be suitable. It was only when I started writing the second book of the quartet that I realised it didn’t quite fit. So I kept one narrative thread, left the other as implied, added a new narrative about the mission to Mars, set the story decades earlier… and changed the title to The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself.

The original Apollo Quartet 3 and 4 bear no resemblance to the ones that have been/will be published. The original synopsis for Apollo Quartet 3 just simply didn’t fit in with how the quartet was shaping up. And I’d decided I really wanted to write about the Mercury 13 and the bathyscaphe Trieste. So I did.

With the Mercury 13 as the subject of Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, another theme was rising to the forefront of the four novellas… and so I needed a new story for the final book. I’d already “borrowed” the title of my favourite film, but the link to Sirk’s masterpiece was too thin. That wasn’t going to work. But with a little sleight of hand, I had myself a new plot which provided a suitable end to the quartet, and then the title – with a little tweaking – would suit it perfectly. Instead of an Avro engineer, my protagonist would be an astronaut’s wife. And rather than just a fan of science fiction, she’d be a writer…

So here, for your delight and delectation, are the original synopses for Apollo Quartets 2 to 4, which I recently discovered in a Google doc created back in September 2011.

2. Wave Fronts The Earth has a single interstellar colony – administered by NASA, ESA and JASA – on SuperEarth2 at Gleise 581, twenty light years from Earth, and which has been in existence for twenty years. By now radio waves from the colony should have reached Earth, but there has been nothing. So Shepard has been sent to find out what’s happened. He travels to Gleise 581 by bubble-ship, and when he arrives at SuperEarth2, he discovers that the colony has completely vanished. Using one of the bubble-ship’s re-entry capsules, he lands on the surface and treks across the land to the settlement’s location. But it is as if it had never existed. And now he stuck there as there is no way for him to get into orbit. A second narrative depicts the dismantling of a colony and its preparations to leave its world before the light front reaches Earth. The colonists move onto another planetary system… where they meet an alien race, engaged in the same method of colonisation as themselves.

3. The Shores of Earth Earth is now home only to the empress of the Healing Empire, her family and staff, who all live in a vast palace. The rest of humanity lives off-Earth, scattered throughout the Solar System. The protagonist travels to Earth and lands in capsule which can reconfigure itself into lifting-body/glider. He is immediately arrested by the empress’s personal guard, and subsequently interrogated by a captain of the guard. The protagonist has come to report the arrival of a vessel from an interstellar colony populated centuries before by a generation ship, but its arrival is too soon – there’s not been enough time to get to the exoplanet, and then build the necessary infrastructure to send the ship back. Perhaps the visiting ship is alien? Except no evidence of aliens has ever been found…

4. All That The Stars Allow It is the late 1950s, and a British electronics engineer is offered a job in Houston with NASA, which entails moving from his current job in Canada where he works for Avro. (A lot of Mission Control was designed and built by British engineers, many of which had previously worked for Avro in Canada.) He packs up and drives south, anticipating the future of manned spaceflight given what he knows of NASA’s plans. The engineer is an avid reader of science fiction, and the second narrative is the text of a story of the period of an engineer in a future in which humanity has colonised the Solar System.

Perhaps one day these stories may appear, no doubt in somewhat changed form. But when all’s said and done, I think the Apollo Quartet as it now exists is a much better piece of work than it would have been had I used the above plots.


1 Comment

Popping up here and there in 2013

I meant to post this last weekend, but never managed to. Anyway, I didn’t spend all of 2013 reading, or reading for and then writing a book of the Apollo Quartet. I also managed to contribute some non-fiction here and there – and I don’t just mean reviews on SF Mistressworks, in Interzone, or here on my blog. Or the occasional article-ette/rant I posted here – on topics as diverse as  An epistemological model of (speculative) fiction, gateway sf books, and deep sea exploration and deep sea exploration in science fiction.  In fact, I did the following…

January
I contributed to The Books We Didn’t Love mind meld on SF Signal.

February
I gave a talk at the National Space Centre, with Chris Becket and Philip Palmer. See here.

April
I spoke about “the science in science fiction” to the University of Sheffield Natural History Society. See here (includes the text of my talk).

July
I contributed to The Successors of Orwell’s 1984 mind meld on SF Signal.

I also contributed to the Great SF/F Stories By Women mind meld on SF Signal, which was prompted by my 100 Great Science Fiction Short Stories by Women list on my blog.

And I wrote an introduction to Set it in Space and Shovel Coal into it, an anthology of steampunk(-ish) fiction by the Sheffield SFF Writers’ Group.

setitinspace

September
I contributed to the What’s On Your Mount To Be Read Book Pile mind meld at SF Signal.

November
I wrote a guest post on Why I Turned My Back On The Masters for the Nerds of a Feather blog.

I also wrote a guest post on Women in Science Fiction for the Little Red Reviewer blog.

December
I wrote a guest post on Iain Banks for Fantástica – Ficción – they were kind enough to translate it into Spanish. The post includes a never-seen-before photograph of Banks I took at the 1990 Eastercon in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool.

And I guest-edited issue 61 of Focus, “the British Science Fiction Association’s magazine for writers”, on the topics of self-publishing and social media. Contributions were provided by Geoff Nelder, Gary Gibson, William King, Tony Ballantyne, Colin Tate, Keith Brooke, Vaughan Stanger, Darren Nash, Joyce Chng, RB Harkness, Berit Ellingsen, Jonathan McCalmont, Del Lakin-Smith, Donna Scott, Danie Ware and Helen Arney.


2 Comments

2013 and me

I don’t normally bother with these sorts of posts, as usually it’s hardly worth it. However, while I can’t hope to match the prolificity of some authors I know, and I’m still a small fry in the genre ocean, I decided it might be worth mentioning that I did have one or two pieces published this year… Well, all right, four. Two short stories: ‘The Incurable Irony of the Man Who Rode The Rocket Sled’, which appeared in The Orphan here; and ‘The Last Men in the Moon’, which appeared in the literary anthology Because of What Happened from the Fiction Desk. And, of course, two books of the Apollo Quartet – The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself, which was published in January this year and not in 2012, even though it feels like it; and Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, which was published only a week ago…

From the above, it looks like I’ve not done much during the past 11 months. True, 2013 doesn’t feel like my most productive year ever, but I’m sure I did a few other things… I reviewed three books for Interzone, two for Vector and nineteen for SF Mistressworks. I contributed some guest blog posts here and there, wrote the introduction to Set it in Space and Shovel Coal into it, an anthology by the Sheffield SF and Fantasy Writers Group, and gave talks at both the National Space Centre and the University of Sheffield Natural History Society. I spent a weekend in Berlin with family, and another weekend in Stockholm at this year’s Swecon, two cities I’d never visited before – and I had an excellent time in both. I saw 41 bands perform live, most of those at Bloodstock. I attended four conventions, including the one in Sweden. I also read a metric ton of books as research for my two novellas above…

Oh, and I won an award and was a finalist for another.

Shit, I thought I’d done more than that. It certainly feels like I should have done. I must make more of an effort next year. As it is, I suspect I may be the one buying the curry in 2014…


4 Comments

Apollo Quartet 3 published

Apollo Quartet 3: Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above is now available from Amazon. It’s been available as an ebook for several days – on Kindle (UK | US), Kobo, and as both epub and mobi from the Whippleshield Books website.

Since MPG Biddles went into administration back in June, I’ve had to find a different printer for Whippleshield’s books, and I decided to try Amazon’s CreateSpace for the paperback edition of Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above. Which means a book of the Apollo Quartet is now available in paperback in the US for the first time. You can buy it here (UK | US).

The limited hardback edition will be delayed a week or two as I’m using a different printer, but it’s available for pre-order here.

I’ve also decided to move forward the fourth book of the Apollo Quartet, All That Outer Space Allows, and will try to get it out for the first half of 2014. Perhaps even in time for the Eastercon in Glasgow. I’ve always had a clear vision of the story – unlike books 2 and 3 when I started them – so it shouldn’t be that difficult. But we shall see what the new year brings…

In the meantime, there’s always Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above to read, in either ebook or paperback…

ETA: Those of you have already pre-ordered the limited hardback edition, or are thinking of doing so, I’m happy to provide an ebook version – in pdf, epub or mobi – free of charge immediately to ease the wait…


8 Comments

Apollo Quartet 3 is here… nearly

There’s only a fortnight to go until Apollo Quartet 3 Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above is officially published, so I’m now making e-ARCs available for review. I have them in PDF, EPUB or MOBI format. Leave a comment if you’d like one.

I will, of course, be publishing the book in paperback and in a signed hardback edition limited to 75 copies, just as I did for Adrift on the Sea of Rains and The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself. If you’re a collector-y type person, I’m afraid the hardback edition of Adrift on the Sea of Rains is sold out but there are still copies available of The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself. Get one while you can. You never know, one day it might be worth something…


4 Comments

Goings on and off

Last weekend saw numerous awards handed out in science fiction and fantasy. Sadly, Adrift on the Sea of Rains didn’t win the 2012 Sidewise Award for Short-Form Alternate History. That went to Rick Wilber’s ‘Something Real’, first published in Asimov’s and apparently about a baseball player who turns spy during an alternate WWII. Still, I was surprised, and very pleased, to be shortlisted – and while The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself may be predominantly hard sf, Then Will The Great Wash Deep Above is pretty much pure alternate history… So maybe next year.

Of course, the best-known award handed out over the weekend was the Hugo Award. In sixteen separate categories. The Hugo is a popular vote award, and its results reflect that. The winner was John Scalzi’s Redshirts, a book I will admit appeals to me not one bit, nor from the reviews I’ve read would it seem to qualify as the best science fiction novel published in 2012. But that’s the way the award works. Good to see Pat Cadigan win a long-deserved Hugo for best novelette, though I think it’s long past time the category was hurled into the outer darkness. The short story ballot contained only three stories and I was disappointed Aliette’s ‘Immersion’ didn’t win, but Ken Liu’s brand of sentimentality seems to be serving him well – this is his second Hugo win in two years. I’m not much interested in the other categories, especially those which cling to old modes of fandom for dear life and are being badly distorted by recent years’ results.

Other big sf news includes the death of Frederik Pohl at the age of 93. He wrote a huge number of books, and I think I’ve read around a dozen of them. Some of them I remember as pretty good, possibly even genre classics – like Gateway and Man Plus – but others seemed very forgettable, such as Narabedla Ltd, Mining the Oort or Homegoing. But that’s an occupational hazard of being so prolific, or having so long a career. However, Pohl was also an influential editor and like a lot of sf authors and editors of his generation helped shape the genre of science fiction as we now know it – for good or ill. Pohl is the second author of his generation to die this year. The other was Jack Vance, who was also very prolific. I think I’ve read about two-thirds of Vance’s sf output. He died back in May. Vance’s fiction had a very distinctive voice, and while his novels were of variable quality they were also very recognisable. He wrote pulp, but it was better-than-average pulp, and occasionally it transcended its pulpish origins. While it’s always sad when writers whose fiction has brought you pleasure die, the books of the late Iain Banks meant far more to me than those of Vance or Pohl.

On a personal note, I recently dropped the price of the paperback edition of The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself for UK buyers by £1 on the Whippleshield Books online shop, so order your copy now. I’ve dropped the ebook price as well – across all platforms and sites. Also, you can now listen to the audio version of Adrift on the Sea of Rains on Starship Sofa (part one is currently up, I assume part 2 will appear this week). Rather than have narrator Logan Waterman read out the glossary, we agreed I would post it online – you can find it here.

I also decided a couple of weeks ago that Whippleshield Books is going to publish a series of mini-anthologies in paperback and ebook, each one containing no more than four or five stories. The submission period doesn’t open until 1 November, and I’ll post more about it then, but here’s the original announcement. I’m also playing around with an idea for a non-genre-specific ebook-only mini-anthology series, but we’ll see how Aphrodite Terra goes. Meanwhile, Apollo Quartet 3 Then Will The Great Wash Deep Above is taking shape nicely. I hope to be able to post the cover art and the back-cover blurb soon.

SF Mistressworks has had to go to a fortnightly schedule. I’ve been providing every other review for the last twelve months, and writing a book review once a fortnight was affecting all the other things I have – or would like – to do. Every other review will still be by me – at least until I build up a bigger backlog of reviews – but now I only have to write one a month. I’d been hoping to get more short fiction done this year but had been finding it difficult. This should help. Incidentally, I have no plans to let SF Mistressworks lapse or close. It’s been going now for over two years, and I plan to keep it running until there are no more eligible books to review – although given its policy of allowing multiple reviews of books, that might never happen…

My list of 100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women continues to get hits every day – in fact, it’s the most popular post on this blog by quite a margin. I never managed to figure out how many times it was reblogged on Tumblr, but I think it was in triple figures; and it was also linked to by a number of blogs and other sites. Perhaps it’s time to start working on a 100 Great Science Fiction Novels by Women list… though I’d expect that to prove a lot more contentious (“where’s x?! How dare you miss out y?!). We shall see.

Meanwhile on this blog, I shall continue to write about the books I’ve read, post photographs of the books I’ve bought, try and define science fiction, post pictures of cool aircraft, ships, submersibles, cars, Brutalist buildings and futurist fashions… and write posts on any other topic which takes my fancy at the time. Blogging is allegedly on its way out – why generate original content when you can just reblog someone else’s content? why comment on something when you can just click “like”? – but I think I’ll carry on doing it for a while yet…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,840 other followers