Sunday, 19 March 2017

In Print, March 2017 (and Progress)

The commissioned story Lux Aeterna has been published in Helios Quarterly Vol. 2, No. 1, and the sales links are now active:

I think this one has gone live a little behind schedule, but that’s okay! Catch the interview with me in this volume also.

In progress, I have another short-listing, this time with Andromeda Spaceways, and should know in a couple of months if I make the cut. At least they’re up-front about it, if you pass two rounds of reading to reach the shortlist, you still have only a five percent chance of being selected.

The contracts came in for the two anthologies The Chronos Chronicles and First Contact, featuring my stories The Winds of Time and Dreamlogger, respectively. They should be appearing in a few months, and I’ll post links when they are available.

My tally of stories on submission recently hit a new record of 62, and I have been very busy so far during 2017, with seventeen new stories completed so far, most doing the rounds at this time, and many new markets having been identified.

UPDATE: As of March 22nd (this side of the dateline), my vampire short story Stalking Nemesis was picked up by the magazine Bloodbond (from Alban Lake) for their November 2017 issue. This is the third of my "Lucinda Crane,Vampire/Hunter" stories to be published, a fourth is on submission with Flame Tree in the UK for one of the new batch of anthologies, and I have one other, longer story on paper as well.

Also, today I received a solicitation to write an action/adventure story for the pilot issue of the new magazine Storyhack, and will be beginning work on the piece tomorrow. This will be my eighteenth story for 2017 -- averaging six a month this year!

More news as it breaks,

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Thursday, 9 March 2017


Whence cometh the flame of inspiration? Who can say? We are inspired by what interests us, what excites us, or by what strikes a chord, whether anticipated or otherwise. Every writer has experienced block and burnout, going stale on a project and having to set it aside, and there are techniques for overcoming this – pacing, occupying the mind with other things when not working, writing something else – but nothing matches the pure light of inspiration.

“Success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration,” is a hackneyed truism. Yes, we know this, and, having sweat gallons, every working writer knows all about the balance between wanting to do it and having to do it; but when inspiration strikes, the results can be amazing. My short story By the Moons of Grolph (picked up last month for the Sword and Planet anthology from Horrified Press) was written in one day. It was a reworking of an idea I first put on paper as a teenager and have long forgotten the inspirational sources, though I remember it being in the “New Age” era of weirdness-as-social-challenge. The story took on its own life, rooted in a distant memory (the original is longhand in an ancient notebook, long since packed away) and developed in a 4500-word rush to a wholly new conclusion. That was inspirational writing.

I have a novelette out on submission at the moment, “Annie Lustrum’s Psychedelic Shag Wagon,” a tongue-in-cheek adventure which makes no bones about being SF on the Western formula. This is a 26, 000-worder, I launched into it based on four lines of notes – and wrote over 8, 000 words on the first day. That’s the most inspired/driven I have been in a very log time, my previous record was 10, 000 (longhand) back in the mid-eighties.

So, what’s the tactic when inspiration dries up? I’ve found reading helps – read till your cup runneth over, and when it does so, catch the drops on paper. Lately I read a nonfiction work making a case for the Pharaoh Tutankhamen having been murdered –  a theory which has been substantially challenged in the twenty years since it appeared, but the book was a great read all the same. This was part of the research for my short story “With Scientific Detachment,” an archaeological piece about Ancient Egypt, currently on submission in the UK. Before that I read an illustrated volume about Victorian and Edwardian London, both as a personal interest and as research for possible steampunk tales and other outings featuring Victoriana and later. This was another very entertaining read and contributed to my fantasy piece “Silver Scales” which is doing the rounds. Before that? A massive illustrated volume, The Discovery of the Nile, tracing the history of exploration for the headwaters of Africa’s greatest river, from ancient times down to the dawn of the 20th century. You can bet the sweep of history depicted in that one will be providing background to stories – I have one in notes already, something very much in the Lovecraft vein.

Currently I’m enjoying some stories by Clarke Ashton Smith I’ve not read before, having obtained one of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy anthologies edited by Lin Carter (vintage 1971); and continuing with The Complete Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Some would say I’m pouring in all the wrong things, of course, two writers from eighty years ago can’t possibly prepare one for today’s market. Well, yes and no. Their imagery and concepts are inspirational, execution is what styles a work for a market.

I look through my files of notes and, typically, an idea from long ago will jump out at me and gel almost of its own accord – sometimes two ideas flow naturally together and become a more solid, effective whole. It’s important, I think, when this happens, to listen to your instinct, go with it, let it happen – and trust those instincts to know if it isn’t working at any point.

Imagery is inspirational, powerfully so. Three photographs turned into my vampire short “Dance of the Trees,” currently on submission; one was of an autumn wood, another was a gnarled, split but living tree, the third was a pool in a titanic cavern… They went together seamlessly and in two days another property was in the folder. If I feel myself needing to write but unable to focus I will look through photographs or artbooks and the chances are, some image will speak to me strongly enough my mind begins to construct the circumstances surrounding the image, and this leads to a new project.

I have three unfinished pieces from last year, a pure fantasy, a historical fantasy and an SF. I must get back to them, and I’m waiting for some particular spark of enthusiasm to rekindle. I’ve tried forcing it – it doesn’t work.

I should write again today – I wonder what it’ll be?

Oh – the image above has been doing the rounds on social media lately, no source or credit attached… I found it, yes, inspirational!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Monday, 27 February 2017

Certified Again!

The certificate for my second Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest came in -- I pressed it for a while in a heavy book as the post had curled it a tad, but all's well now, it's suitably flat for photography.

I have two more pieces on submission to this contest, for the current and next quarters, and have high hopes of being a finalist one day -- it pays very nicely and is a respected industry credit.

This story, "Wake," one of my "Tales of the Middle Stars" opus, is currently on submission elsewhere, and four of the collection have now been placed. This awakens thoughts of an anthology at some point in the future, collecting them under one cover, or a decent selection of them, there are more coming along quite frequently!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Sunday, 26 February 2017

That First Time…

You never forget your first time in print!

For those thinking it’s a bit early for me to reminisce about that story accepted last April and published in September, I’m thinking farther back, and no, not that online acceptance in the late ‘90s. I’m thinking 1985.

The editor who gave me my first break is the late Neville Coleman, founder of Underwater Geographic, Australia’s premier diving and conservation quarterly. I read from the first issue, cover to cover, and learned to dive in late 1986, but the previous year I offered the mag a short story and Mr Coleman was impressed enough to take it, and serialise it over two parts.

I can’t photograph the spreads to publish here, those magazines are boxed and in storage along with so much of our older paperwork, but I can tell you I illustrated the story myself with two paintings. I considered myself a keen painter at the time and was more than happy to put brush to board.

The Island of the Sun God was an early adventure in my “Ocean” series, begun around 1982 and featuring a near future in which the code of the Cetacean languages had been broken, allowing direct interspecies communication to take place at a sophisticated, linguistic level. The title stems from a best guess at what cetaceans would call their world – we call it “Earth” after the stuff beneath our feet, what would be more natural than for dolphins to call it “Ocean?” This interpretation stems from the Italian underwater filmmaker Bruno Valarti (Not sure if this is accurate, I can find no reference to him online by this or other permutations of spelling, but the name has always stuck in my memory) who made documentaries on the theme in those days. I came up with the idea that humans and cetaceans would become partners in the exploration and protection of the ocean realm and this opened up a world-spanning possibility for adventure. I paired human scientist-explorers with orcas as “Ranger Patrol Teams,” and conceived of pairings as deeply bonded and inseparable friends.

In this story, one of the patrol teams was on downtime, and an orca told his human partner a story from the oral heritage of his people, of an eclipse which had challenged his ancestors’ sun-worship, and a great hero who had swum into the west to seek the place the sun rests in order to learn if the sun would ever leave its children again. Na├»ve, yes, and rooted in ancient stories and fears of humans, but it made for a good tale.

I had hoped very much more would come of this placing. It almost did. The story was fresh in the minds of folk attending the Oceans ’86 Congress, I remember the noted Scottish underwater photographer, the late Walt Deas was most interested in its potential, and there was some talk at the time of the late, great Carrie Fisher expressing interest in the concept. It went no further, sadly, and I was unable to place another story with Underwater Geographic, though I did become their Marine Mammal Correspondent for some years, publishing several articles in the late 1980s, during which period I worked for an all-too brief time with dolphins at an ill-fated oceanarium.

I wrote a great deal of “Ocean” material, dozens of stories, I had three anthologies prepared but an agent I had around 1990 was a non-starter (that was her description of the material after agreeing to work with it – my experience with agents has not been a sanguine one to date. This was about the time David Brinn’s Sundiver and Startide Rising were winning some of science fiction’s most coveted awards, so I can be forgiven for being bitter about it.) I planned a sprawling series of novels and short story collections spanning history from the immediate to far future, and the first four full length novels were completed, with inroads on others set many centuries hence. All in all it was an enormous body of work and I would still love to do something with it, rework it, bring it into line with the future we have lived into, and explore ideas afresh.

Some years ago a private project (Wild Dolphin Project, Jupiter, Florida) announced it was intending to use computers to try to generate linguistic pulses to allow some level of communication across the species barrier, and the project was covered in National Geographic as recently as April, 2015. I was most interested, as this was the sort of move that heralded the future world I conceived of (based originally, of course, on John Lilly’s pioneering Project Janus, now an artefact of history in its own right, while conceptually remaining the progenitor of what the WDP team are doing.) I recall I was majorly over-optimistic, expecting such research breakthroughs quite quickly, and in so doing placed the roots of the future close enough for that future to be swiftly overtaken by contrary events. Also, in those days, climate change and the bitter controversy over it had not yet taken hold of the public consciousness, another factor which would be a major shaping influence on such an opus. If I do go back and rework this concept, it will take on a very different character.

I hope I get the chance. If I can get a foothold in the wider market, I certainly have a great deal to offer at both short story and novel levels, and “Ocean” is a massive concept which remains quite unique. It’s sobering to discover how many of the industry professionals mentioned in this essay are gone now, Walt Deas in 2008, Neville Coleman – to whom I owe eternal gratitude for that first placement – in 2012, Carrie Fisher just a few months back. Time’s merciless passage waits for none, and I sincerely hope I have the chance to reawaken these concepts in some new and dynamic package in the years ahead.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

PS: The photo at top was found on a search for royalty free images.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

In Print: February 2017 (and Progress)

Coming available, a little behind schedule, from Bards & Sages/ Society of Misfit Stories, my vampire short Red Sun Rising is now available to buy through Amazon for Kindle (at 99c, how can you resist?!) Here’s the direct link:

This is the second of my “Lucinda Crane, Vampire/Hunter” tales. The first, Crimson Blade, appeared in the anthology Spectral Visions, The Collection in 2014, and the fourth, “Stalking Nemesis” is still on the submission round. I’m hoping to find a berth for the third, a much heftier novella titled “Ouroboros,” in due course.

If you fancy at look at that first anthology, here’s the direct link ($2.87):

Also in the news, the second Honourable Mention certificate from Writers of the Future has arrived and I’ll post it after it’s had a chance to press for a while. And, more importantly, the edits came in on my fifteenth placement, “Lux Aeterna,” the commissioned story for Helios Quarterly. The issue is due to go live on March 5th and I’ll provide buy links in the “In Print: March 2017” post.

Better get back to writing!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Little-Known “Classics” of Science Fiction

When we think of classics we think of the famous, but there is in any era a huge body of stories and novels which had their day and are now remembered by few. Some, perhaps most, have something to recommend them, and it can be an interesting experience to look back with modern eyes on the storytelling of previous generations.

This should be a “Recently Read” feature, but the antiquity of the material deserves special consideration.

Back in “the day” Ace had a marvellous format for mass produced SF, their ”doubles” series. They published, in a variety of formats, 261 volumes between 1952 and 1973, the device for 221 of them being that the novels had a separate cover back and front and the text read from the outside to the middle for each, the books being opposite ways up. We have just eight volumes in our home library and I read them as a youngster, so it comes as a walk down memory lane to reread one. I can’t remember what prompted me to pull a volume off the shelf but I at once found myself reading a 1964 outing for one of the talents of the era.

The late Arthur Bertram Chandler (1912-1984) was one of my favourite SF writers as a child. He was a British-Australian sea captain who wrote some forty novels and numerous short stories, and I must admit on coming to research his career, I have read only a smattering of his work, contained almost entirely in the old Ace editions. His style was a frank one, full of the daring-do of the day, men were real men, women real women and – you know the rest of the line from the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide. He had interesting ideas carried off with a kind of real-world appeal, which, like so many writers of half a century ago, strove to express the future through invention and technological progress rather than any evolution of the human condition. His spacemen of centuries hence read much like the rugged merchant marine officers of, well, the 1950s.

I read The Coils of Time, one of his stand-alone novels, published in the Ace M-series in 1964. A quick read, I’d guess around 40, 000 words, the sort of paperback one would pick up at the station bookshop to while away the commute morning and evening for a week, and next Monday flip the book over and read the other. It was a great idea, really, and it certainly moved a lot of novels by a lot of names which are graven in the history of SF – Murray Leinster, Leigh Bracket, Damon Knight, Jack Vance, John Brunner, Edmund Hamilton, Kenneth Bulmer, Fred Saberhagen, Samuel R Delany, and that’s just a sampling… It’s a who’s who of SF in the early Sixties, and as such the collection deserves respect.

So, from the perspective of 52 years on, how does it fare? Well, beyond a certain naivety in the telling, it fares quite well on a number of points. The novel is set on Venus, which alone should cause eyes to roll nowadays, but Chandler was clearly taking serious notice of the most up to date scientific information available as he had retired the fabulous visions of Venus as a sister world to Earth and got it right in a number of ways. He speaks of Venus being bereft of life but for viruses, the surface being dust-dry, stormy and utterly inhospitable, requiring armoured spacesuits for humans to venture outside their habitats, under a dim, yellowish overcast. With the exception of the 90-Earth atmospheres surface pressure, sulphuric acid clouds and temperature that would melt lead, he got it pretty much right. This is significant as it was four years before Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison released their famous anthology Farewell Fantastic Venus, a collection of stories and essays from 1932 onward speculating about the planet. The early view of it as hospitable had been done to death both by radio astronomy and data sent back from the Russian Venera series space probes: forever after, Venus would be as we have come to know it – a lifeless hell.

Check out the above collection here.

Chandler, however, manages to have his cake and eat it too. A time machine has been invented but instead of moving the subject forward or backward in linear time, it causes the subject to move “sideways” between parallel universes, and in that universe Venus is habitable, a traditional alien jungle filled with exotic and dangerous life, with the added benefit of being so unremittingly hot that nudity has become enshrined as customary behaviour. This was a mechanism for spicing up narratives in a still quite hidebound age, and provides for a Burroughsian bacchanale in the same narrative as machine guns and rocket ships.

Another interesting point concerns those rockets – in “our” universe rockets are long obsolete, having been replaced by a reactionless space drive, perhaps something along the line of control of gravity (though the EM drive being assessed over the last few years obviously comes to mind) while in the “other” universe rockets remain state of the art, in a very Fifties-ish way from the description.

The time machine itself is not terribly convincing, though working with gyroscopes and rotating moebius-bands evokes thoughts of the shearing EM fields postulated to pull open wormholes, and so impressively built for Carl Sagan’s Contact. Think of this one as the pocket-size version of the same idea, and in that much it has an actual grain of plausibility.

The meat of the novel is the adventure on the alternate Venus, in which our protagonist finds himself hiding out with a resistance group, hunted by a totalitarian state, desperately trying to convince others he has come from a parallel universe, and escape the fate of institutionalised torture at the hands of the interrogators. This all smacks of Nazi times even more so than the Cold War of the age, and this is fair – the war was only twenty years before and shaped the very world view of society. The hero who crosses the gulf of time and/or space to find and be reunited with a lost love is an established trope providing a motive for stepping into the machine, but the sexism of the age flows freely off the page to our 21st century sensibilities and one is conscious of compensating, translating situations into modern-speak, as it were.

Some other fantastical Venus-related stuff...

Chandler’s writing style is competent, but he employs the now-forbidden passive voice at times, while at others is repetitive in search of literary impact. Let’s say there is nothing challenging about it, and the narrative style would be very much what the commuter would seek for a half-hour’s distraction.

Pulpy? Yes, certainly – but it’s not necessarily a derogatary term. Honest storytelling? For sure. There were some great stories told in their day and many pleasurable hours of reading from the pulps, and I would place Chandler’s work in this vicinity, while acknowledging I have probably not read his best stuff yet. It’s exciting to think, over thirty years after he left us, I have his most important titles yet to sample.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Progress 02

It seems there’s a fair bit to report as February gets underway! Last week the edits for my Japanese fantasy-historical Ieyasu and the Shadow came in from GuardbridgeBooks for Tales of the Sunrise Lands, and the experience was a very positive one, a productive dialog in which the story improved in several subtle ways. This was placement number eleven for me.

Then Bards & Sages got in touch to offer me a secondary contract for my story Red Sun Rising (going active with their “Society on Misfit Stories” on February 3rd, US side of the dateline, for which I’ll post links on the day) covering inclusion in their anthology Society of Misfit Stories Vol. 2, due for release in about 18 months. This is my first reprint and my first “best-of” style anthology.

A couple of days ago, my fantasy-SF short By the Moons of Grolph was picked up by the UK anthology Sword and Planet, a product of the very busy Horrified Press. This is a most approachable company with a busy publishing schedule and I offered them another piece right away. My fantasy short Fall of the Dark God had just spent four months shortlisted at Ares, but unfortunately didn’t make the final cut, so I redirected it to the quarterly Lovecraftiana, also from Horrified, and was delighted to find it accepted literally by return mail!

Things certainly seem to be moving, and my fingers are crossed that with developing exposure and an expanding list of credits I can get my foot in the door further up the market. It’s a most exciting process and each day is an adventure! I wrote five stories in January, totalling almost 25, 000 words, and am keen to maintain the momentum.

Cheers, Mike Adamson