Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Website Update #1

I've recently updated my website www.davidconyers.com, mostly tinkering to keep it need and tidy but of more interest perhaps is that I've added three teasers for three new short stories that will be published in 2009 and 2010. All are dark fiction tales and can be found on my dark fiction page.

"The Lord of the Law" and "Dream Machine" are two dark urban fantasy tales from the same setting as "Cactus" and "Hell's Ambassador". One concerns an enigmatic entity that can control gravity while the other concerns a man in hell who rises to a position of power as an assassin. "The Garden Fortress" is a little different, an alternative viewpoint on the Garden of Eden.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Spiraling Worm: A Retrospective

It’s been eighteen months since the publication of The Spiraling Worm, which is either a novel or a collection of interconnected stories linked by characters and setting depending on how you look at it, which I wrote with American horror writer John Sunseri. In summary it is a Cthulhu Mythos novel written in the style of a political thriller. When I tell people it is like The Bourne Identity meets H.P. Lovecraft I’m told this is a great way to sum it up.

As an overview The Spiraling Worm is about three spies, Harrison Peel of Australian Army Intelligence, Jack Dixon of the NSA and James Figgs from the British Secret Service. The three agents are embroiled into the world of cosmic horrors, of other dimensional monsters breaking through into our universe, our world hell-bent on destroying it. Peel and Dixon fight the good fight to stop them, and Figgs … well his motives are a little more clouded. Of course there is lots of action, gun play, exotic locations from the Congo to Russia, Antarctica and the Australian Outback, and as my friends like to point out, lots of explosions. I’m also told regularly that it is very visual, very cinematic.

The book was not something that was originally planned. It started out innocently enough with a few short stories featuring Harrison Peel which ended up in a few magazines and anthologies. One story however, got noticed quickly, and that was “False Containment” which involved government conspiracies, nuclear waste, wormholes into the past, FBI agents and a flesh devouring monster, and the saving of the world by the quick thinking of the hero, Harrison Peel. This story appeared in the Elder Signs Press anthology Horrors Beyond, which also featured a story from John Sunseri, and he was the one who noticed it.

When John read “False Containment” he liked it so much he wanted to borrow Peel for his own tale, “Resurgence” about the rise of the shoggoths (If you don’t know what a shoggoth is, I suggest you read H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness and find out, but in a nutshell they are one of the creepiest monsters ever to come out of 20th Century literature – vampires and werewolves have nothing on these guys). I liked his story so much I wrote a sequel, “Weapon Grade”. Suddenly John and I realised we were a couple of stories away from completing a collection, and so we got to work.

When we started submitting the collection to publishers Chaosium Inc. snapped it up quickly, pushing it up their publication schedule. Renowned and respected Cthulhu Mythos writer C.J. Henderson best known for his Teddy London wrote us a wonderful introduction, and before we knew it, the book was in print.

So what happened in eighteen months since its release? To our surprise the collection did remarkably well. It’s been a continuous seller on Amazon.com regularly dipping into the top ten horror anthology best selling list – word of mouth is definitely what keeps it flying out the Amazon warehouse doors. It spawned its own Wikipedia page, got rave reviews from OzHorrorScope, SFReader, GameGeek and Amazon, and three of the stories received honourable mentions in the Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. The book also received two honourable mentions in Australia’s most prestigious awards, the Aurealis and the Australian Shadows. I was interviewed by the ABC and OzHorrorScope about the book, and Chaosium decided to publish it as their first, and so far only, hardback fiction edition.

Looking back on The Spiraling Worm I’m still proud of what John and I achieved. It had its faults of course, which are much easier to see in hindsight, and if I did it again I’d approach the whole thing differently. But at the end of the day, it did well and is still doing far better than we ever could have hoped for.

Will there be any more Harrison Peel and Jack Dixon tales? We certainly hope so and there are enough fans out there who keep asking me when it will happen. Unfortunately for various reasons the sequel got delayed, and then finally ground to a halt. John and I have discussed some options on what we could do with a sequel down the track while we work on other projects. In the meantime we’re still writing more short stories in the series, and when they come out in print, I’ll post here. Peel and Dixon are just too much fun to write about to end the series now.

Monday, 15 December 2008

The 2008 Scorecard

Sometimes it’s hard to know how much I’ve achieved in a single year with my writing. A quick look-back shows that I’ve published six new stories in Australia for 2008 which doesn’t seem like much. However when I look more closely, I have accomplished far more in the background with about a dozen tales slotted for release in 2009 across the world, and several nominations for awards in the mix as well.

My short stories published this year were all in Australia and were an equal mix of science fiction and horror tales:

  • “Redemption Slot Machine” Antipodeans SF, Issue 117 edited by Ian Newcombe (Australia)
  • “Soft Viscosity”, 2012, Twelfth Planet Press (Australia) edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne
  • “Hell’s Ambassador”, Black Box: Shadow Box II, Brimstone Press (Australia) edited by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
  • “Homo Canis”, 2008 Award Winning Australian Writing, Melbourne Books (Australia) edited by David Tenebaum
  • “Terraformer”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Issue 37 (Australia) edited by Tehani Wessley
  • “Cactus”, Midnight Echo, Issue 1, Australian Horror Writers Association (Australia) edited by Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • “Cthulhu Cultus Australis: The Australian Perspective on H. P. Lovecraft” discussed by Leigh Blackmore, David Conyers and Chuck McKenzie, Studies in Australian Weird Fiction Issue 2, edited by Benjamin Szumskyj (Non-Fiction)
  • Several reviews in Albedo One issues 34 and 35 published in Ireland

Although I didn’t win any awards I certainly received a lot of nominations, again all in Australia:

  • “The Lord of the Law” Commendation in the Australian Horror Writers Associations Short Story Competition
  • The Spiraling Worm which I wrote with John Sunseri received an honourable mention in the Horror Novel Category of the Aurealis Awards and an honourable mention in the Australian Shadows Award (and incidentally is selling exceptionally well on Amazon.com and still gathering great reviews including from Ellen Datlow from The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008 team who called it "Impressive")
  • Best New Talent nomination in the Ditmar Awards
  • “Subtle Invasion” was read on the Writing Show in California and it was short-listed for the Australian Shadows Award

I also joined the Board at the SA Writers’ Centre and picked up a role as columnist with Albedo One in Ireland.

I also sold numerous short stories over the year which scheduled to appear in 2009 in:

  • Jupiter Magazine #24 (“Black Water”, UK)
  • SpecFicWorld (“The Entropy Collapse”, USA)
  • Midnight Echo #2 (“Homo Canis”, Australia)

On the anthology front I will appear in:

  • Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Vol 3 (“Subtle Invasion”, Australia) (Might even come out this year)
  • Cthulhu Dark Cults (“Sister of the Sands”, USA)
  • The Fourth Black Book of Horror (“The Lord of the Law”, UK)
  • Best New Tales of the Apocalypse (“Subtle Invasion”, USA)
  • Scenes from the Second Storey (“Dream Machine”, Sweden)
  • Monstrous (“Six-Legged Shadows” with Brian M. Sammons, USA)
  • Eldritch Steel (“The Hag of Zais”, USA)
  • Macabre (“Sweet as Decay” with David Witteveen, Australia)
  • Cthulhu Unbound 2 (“Stomach Acid” with Brian M. Sammons, USA).

2009 hopefully will also see the release of my first edited anthology Cthulhu’s Dark Cults.

So all in all, a satisfying year, with next year shaping up to look even better.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Death of Science Fiction?

I read an article in New Scientist recently called Is Science Fiction Dying by Marcus Chown. His premise is that science and technology is changing at such an accelerated rate that nobody can predict the future anymore so no one can write credible sci-fi, and that science turns up weirder ideas than science fiction ever does.
Well I'd have to agree with him on his reasonings why, but I doubt it's the end of the genre, if it ever will have an end.
I don't think science fiction's role in society is to tell us what is coming, but rather to reflect our society as it is today (and again, Chown says this). The best sci-fi, the most enduring works out there, are about society (Frank Herbert's Dune or William Gibson's Neuromancer), or they are about people (anything by Philip K. Dick), rather than just the ideas. In fact if you look at the science fiction titles still selling from dead authors, they are Asimov, Dick, Adams, Herbert, Wells, all writers who wrote about society, who still have pogient messages to share.
When I started my career as a writer I seriously considered taking up political thriller writing, about spies and so on, but in the end opted for science fiction because of the scope the genre could give me. If I wrote a political thriller about Africa, I'd be restrained by what is happening in Africa today. If I wrote a science fiction political thriller about Africa, then my scope was unlimited, I could extrapolate in any direction I want. The present is about what is happening, the future is about anything that can happen.
Science fiction (and to similar degrees fantasy) I believe is the genre that offer the most to writers, and readers, because there are so many places to explore, the tapestry is so big. Science fiction dead? I don't think so, it's just evolving, going new places as the world fills its infobanks with more and more ideas to build our stories upon.
Again, Chown agrees with me, or more to the point, I agree with him. It's a good article, and worth a read.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Columnist for Albedo One

Frank Ludlow, one of the team of editors for Ireland's leading science fiction and fantasy magazine Albedo One, recently asked me if I would like to join the team as a columnist.
At first I was reluctant because of my busy days, but as he pointed out, I would essentially being doing what I already am doing with their magazine, writing reviews. Mostly I'll be focusing on sci fi reviews, as they were already covered in the fantasy and horror genres. How could I say no? So I said yes. To be part of one of the world's leading speculative fiction magazines, I couldn't turn that offer down.
So it is official, I'm with the Albedo One team now. So far my reviews have appeared in Issues 34 and 35, more reviews are scheduled for issue 36 and now there is some talk of me doing some interviews with leading sci fi authors! All very exciting.
I used to do a similar role with William Jones' Book of Dark Wisdom in the United States before the magazine came to an end, so I'm no stranger to review writing.
Conincidentally I came to the notice of both magazines through my fiction writing, through submitting tales to each. With Book of Dark Wisdom I had two stories published, "Solvent Hunger" and "Vanishing Curves" (which became my first professional story sale), and Albedo One it was "Black Water" which was shortlisted in their second year of the Aeon Award. Both editors liked almost everything I submitted to them even if they didn't publish the majority of it, and from there great working relationships developed. Where as the same stories submitted to other magazines hardly got a look at. Goes to show that what each of us likes in a short story can vary so much.
Because I wasn't a finalist in the Aeon Award "Black Water" couldn't be published in Albedo One. However it will appear in Issue 24 for Jupiter Magazine early next year. It remains one of my personnel favorites, a cyberpunk-style tale set in Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia

I recently picked myself up a copy of The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia by Daniel Harms from Elder Signs Press, now in its third edition (the first two were published by Chaosium Inc.). It's a great reference book for all things Cthulhoid, and Dan has done a fine job yet again.
I was pleased to see that several of my stories were referenced in various entries, including "Weapon Grade" (Shoggoths), "False Containment" (Great Race of Yith), Devil's Chidlren (Book of Azathoth), "The Spiraling Worm" (Nyarlathotep), "Made of Meat" (Shub Niggurath and Tcho-Tcho), and Secrets of Kenya (Nyarlathotep). Makes me feel like I'm an official member of a club now.
Nice to see entries in there for John Sunseri, William Jones and Charles Stross, who weren't in the original edition. Also, C.J. Henderson's Teddy London character got his own entry.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Fourth Black Book of Horror

Just heard from Charles Black, UK editor of the well received Black Book of Horror series from Mortbury Press, that my story "The Lord of the Law" will be appearing in The Fourth Black Book of Horror. This tale received an honourable mention in this year's Australian Horror Writers Associations Short Story Competition, so I'm excited that it has found a home. I won't say much about the story, except that it involves the dark side of gravity.
I was previously published in Charle's first Black Book of Horror with my tale "Subtle Invasion". It went on to be nominated for the Australian Shadows Award, was read on the Writing Show in California, and will be reprinted in Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Volume 3 from Brimstone Press and Best New Tales of the Apocalypse from Permuted Press. Probably my most successful story to date.
Charles' anthologies have featured many notable horror authors such as Paul Finch and Gary McMahon, so I'm honoured to be back in the series again.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Quantum of Solace

Being a big James Bond fan I raced to the cinema to see Quantum of Solace, but ended up getting there a week after it was released, because well let's face it, I'm a dad now and arranging my time can be a challenge.
Regardless, this was an excellent film, certainly Daniel Craig's contribution to the series has to be the best the Bond franchise has ever seen. I was moved by the depth the writers, actors, director and producers have given to the characters, and how Bond grew through this film and Casino Royale before it. Nothing is over the top (for an action film I mean), no end of the world, no silly gadgets, not bland throw-away lines.
Watching Quantum of Solace was reminded of the Jason Bourne films, which I also thought to be excellent, and how both series are now continuations of their previous films, exploring the impacts Bond and Bourne have on their own lives as assassins, and the people it has made them become.
Certainly looking forward to the next Bond film, scheduled for 2010.