Twenty-Twenty Hindsight, mostly

It’s only as I crawl feebly towards the final hours of this stinker of a year that I realise I distanced myself from this blog every bit as effectively as I did so many other parts of my life.

In fact, I got up to a few things in 2020, in spite of (first) Spain’s fairly strict lockdown measures in the middle of March and (second and ever since) my own voluntary, near-total continuing efforts to self-isolate. With only the company of my better half for direct contact in the last ten months, we’ve still been fortunate that neither of our families have been critically impacted by Covid-19, and if the price to pay for that is only seeing friends and loved ones via screens, we’ll accept small blessings.

But my purpose here isn’t to lament 2020, really. Instead, I’d like to share the handful of positives that (in my creative persona) I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing over the last twelve months.

Don’t worry, I won’t keep you long… ūüėČ

Short Fiction – appearances and sales

Quick reminder first: as my last post described, twelve sorry months ago, I started 2020 in fine spirits due to the publication of the first issue of¬†Cossmass Infinities, a scifi/fantasy magazine published out of Scotland, which featured my first “pro-paying” fiction sale,¬†Second Chances, Seconds, Chance. They’re now three issues to the good, and long may they persist! It’s no easy thing keeping a zine going, as I can attest – but I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll get back to that.

Since then, I’m delighted and astonished in equal measure to be able to say that in 2020 I went on to make two additional “pro” sales, one of which was published back at the end of October:¬†Choose Your Battleground appeared in the Canadian eco-fic zine¬†Little Blue Marble and was, unusually for me, not a speculative piece at all, just a plane old common-or-garden militant ecological call to arms (not really).You can buy issues and merchandise from the Dark Matter shop

In addition to these, I also sold another pro story to the soon-to-appear¬†Dark Matter Magazine, which releases its first issue early in the new year. My story,¬†Recycle of Violence, will feature in the third issue which comes out early in the summer – I’m particularly proud of this piece, so safe to say I’ll try to remember to mention when it’s available!

And now to my other bit of news:

Mythaxis Magazine

After a considerable period of awkward internet-based wrangling, I was finally able to take the reins as editor of Mythaxis, the understated scifi and fantasy zine originally created by my sadly departed friend Gil Williamson. With behind the scenes help from a small technical and reading team, we gave the site a stylistic overhaul and put out three issues in 2020, and are moving to a quarterly schedule in 2021.

My last ever story for the zine appears in our tribute issue to Gil, from now on I’m just going to be editing, but since then we’ve featured some great stories by authors from the UK, US, Canada, Senegal, Germany and India, and our plans for 2021 include parallel fiction projects to accompany the issues to come. I’ll share more details about that in the imminent future.

Happy New Year!

Told you I wouldn’t keep you long – hope you have a better year than the last one!

An Election, in Limericks

There’ll soon be a President Trump,
Who implied the US was a dump
When he said, “make it greater”.
This peerless hater
Thinks chicks only good for a hump.

He’ll make life go hard for the blacks.
Gays and Muslims aren’t going to relax.
And, damn, if you’re trans
Don’t go raising you hands.
Do¬†you think you’re poor now?¬†Brace for tax.

A new legend: American Schism,
Takes the place of “Exceptionalism”.
What pours in from the Right?
Just the whitest of light . . .
But that’s not what shines out of a prism.

If America’s broken, reset her,
And embrace the spirit, not the letter.
Be it four years, or eight,
There’s a use-by for hate,
And incentive to do things much better:

Help the ones left behind to keep pace,
Irregardless of status or race.
It’s not “if”, it’s a “when”,
You can be great again!

. . . once you’re done with your President, Third Base.

Where Sci-Fi Meets Fantasy

That was a busy summer, wasn’t it? I feel like I never stopped. When I finally went on holiday I still had work on the back of my mind. I was planning on releasing another little ebook right about now, but I couldn’t even find the time for that — and self-publishing little ebooks is basically my only job (if by “job” you mean “the thing that you do the most but which pays the least”, anyway).

There’s a reason for that failure, though, and I think it’s going to be a giant win.

I’ve been a member of the forums of SFFWorld.com for several years, mostly hanging around the writers sub-forum, and since 2012 we’ve been putting out a yearly anthology of members’ work. Editor N. E. White started the ball rolling with The End, a timely collection of apocalyptic tales (given that the world ended that year, maybe you remember), followed it up with the self-explanatory¬†Lucky or Unlucky? in 2013¬†(geddit?), and for¬†the centenary of the start of World War One drew together a collection of alternate history pieces called¬†Wars to End All Wars.

Thanks to Nila, and to a small, generous group of established authors, we enthusiastic wannabes have had a chance to share our work commercially, with all the potential exposure that can offer — and it’s working. One of last year’s writers was nominated for an award at the World Science Fiction Convention for his piece (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, by Igor Ljubuncic), and a story from the first anthology has given rise to a novel — Drake, by Peter McLean, soon to be published by Angry Robot Books.

This year, however, real life intervened in Nila’s plans, so she asked me to take over the editing role. I snatched it from her hand and ran away hooting in a most uncivilised manner.¬†As a result, all summer I’ve been wrangling authors, reading and feeding(back) on submissions, discovering just how much I need to learn about being an editor (often at the expense of those same poor authors’ peace of mind, for which I apologise), and generally pulling my beard out because I don’t have enough hair left to pull out instead.

But the end result is… magic.

Our fourth anthology has an environmental theme, though being a collection of science fiction and fantasy we received some inventive and flexible interpretations on the prompt. That, specifically, was “ecotones”, a term referring to the point of contact between different ecosystems. The final line up of stories includes comedy, romance, action, horror, with plenty of variety within each of those areas and some genuinely moving writing too. In effect, we’ve created a complex ecotone of our own, which is convenient, since that’s the anthology’s title:

Ecotones - an SFFWorld Anthology

As with previous years, the anthology also includes a number of established writers of real quality, who are lending their words and names to give a boost to those of us who have plenty of the one but not yet much of the other. We’re delighted to have best-sellers and award winners in Tobias S. Buckell, Lauren Beukes and Ken Liu gracing our cover, but we are lucky enough to have the authors¬†Matthew Hughes and Stephen Palmer amongst SFFWorld‘s membership, both of whom offered work as well.

Yet the real purpose here is to raise the profile of those less celebrated, so allow me to name and acclaim the rest of our participants: Daniel Ausema, Victor Espinosa, Kurt Hunt, Christina Klarenbeek, Jonathan Laidlow, Igor Ljubuncic, P. J. Richards and Rebecca Schwarz (and, ahem, also myself… this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I’m glad the rest of the reading team gave my submission the green light!).

The cover art is yet to be finalised (although the graphic above hints at the style), but you can¬†check out the anthology blogsite¬†for teasers of the stories, bios of the authors, and to receive news about what’s coming soon.

And something is. Go find out what.

I’ll say no more here, other than to express my thanks to all the authors and to encourage you to keep tabs on this — there’s a good book coming out for Xmas…