Monday, 27 December 2010

2010 Aeon Award Final Round Shortlist

From the Albedo One website:

The judges are ready to announce the additions to the shortlist of the International Aeon Award 2001 Short Fiction Contest after the end of the final round of consideration, which ran from October 1 to November 30, 2010. Thank you to all who entered and supported this writing competition. Congratulations to the shortlisted authors (the additions are highlighted in italics in the list below) and sincere commiserations to those whose stories were not shortlisted this time. The judges will now embark on the process of re-reading all the shortlisted stores and deciding on the top six stories. These will then be sent to our esteemed Grand Judges, Ian Watson, Anne McCaffrey, Mike Resnick and Sam Millar for the final decision on the top three winning stories that will earn their authors €1000, €200 or €100, alongside publication in Albedo One, Ireland's science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine.

  • Blue
  • Passage of Time
  • Mandurang Jacket
  • The Monster of Venice
  • Room of Empty Frames
  • From Such Tiny Acorns Do Mighty Squirrels Grow
    Cinnamon Planet
  • I Hate You Perso
  • Aethra
  • The Martian Sky
  • Poacher
  • Starchaser
  • Waiting for the Rain
  • The Machine
  • A Digital Agony
  • Mirror Image
  • The More Things Change
  • Carnival
  • Pinocchio
  • Sensitive
  • Autopsy
  • Milford Sound
  • Damn Nation

Don't forget, the International Aeon Award 2011 Short Fiction Contest will open to entries from January 1 2011.

James Phelan's Lachlan Fox Series and other 2010 Highlights

I'd have to say my biggest surprise and best read for 2010 was James Phelan's Blood Oil, which I listened to on audio tape from my relocation drive from Adelaide to Sydney earlier this year. I've long been a fan of political thrillers but not many come up to the mark. However, Blood Oil was fantastic, with an indepth commentry on the current issues in Africa and the petrochemical industry, yet written in a simple and elegant style with lots of action and suspense, that literally kept me wanting to read more.

For Christmas my wife bought me another book in the series, Patriot Act, which is just as fun to read. All Phelan's thrillers are connected through the adventures of the main protagonist, Lachlan Fox, an ex-Australian Navy officer turned syndicate journalist. I plan to read more, and feel that they would make a great movie series.
This year I also read Clive Cussler for the first time on a recommendation of a friend, Inca Gold, and really enjoyed that too. I should read more thrillers, if for no other reason than that the writing style is always fluid, suspenseful and draws the reader in. Science fiction writers in comparison often have a boring style. I guess that's one reason why I really like Alastair Reynolds, because his style is very much like that of a thriller writer. It's a style I keep hoping to achieve, and if recent reviews on SF Crowsnest, perhaps I'm achieving that goal.

The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger was also brilliant, and she too shows what can be achieved in a simple but elegant style of writing.

Favorite movies that I saw this year are Inception followed closely by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Favorite magazine remains Cosmos and favorite television series is Spooks, with the very excellent Series 8 recently airing in Australia.

"The Masked Messenger" A New Harrison Peel tale

I caught up with fellow speculative fiction writer and editor David Kernot on a recent trip to Adelaide for the Christmas holidays. We talked many things including issue 6 of Midnight Echo, the science fiction special we are editing for the Australian Horror Writers Association, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine where David is a co-op member and editor, and writing in general. David and I have been friends for some time and he is a very talented author, whom I'm certain we'll see more of his work out there in the future. David and I are working on two collaborations.

David's wife, Olivia Kernot, is a very talented photographer and offered to take some author photographs of myself, which I was very excited to see, especially compared to my ameuter self-portraits I've been using of late. More news (and images) when they are complete.

The great news David Kernot had for me was that my collaboration with John Goodrich, "The Masked Messenger" has been accepted for issue 52 of the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine due out in Aug 2011. A very nice way to end the year, with a sale. "The Masked Messenger" is a new Harrison Peel tale set in Morocco and Algeria, part of an ongoing series. That's four Harrison Peel tales potential out next year.

Other exciting Harrison Peel news, publisher and editor of Perilous Press informs me that my Harrison Peel novella, The Eye Of Infinity, has been upgraded from a chapbook and will be out in trade paperback next month.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Elements of the Apocalypse

Just noticed the release of Elements of the Apocalypse from Permuted Press, with four novellas for some very respectable authors, three of whom I have had the pleasure to work with on previous publications. John Sunseri is my co-author on The Spiraling Worm, Ryan C. Thomas accepted a story from me for Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror, and D.L. Snell and I are working together (amongst some other authors) on a new book I'm preparing. Needless to say all these guys are at the top of their game and produce some great stories, so I'd recommend checking this one out:

Elements of the Apocalypse

Four tales drawn from the classic Greek elements show the end of the world in ways you’ve never imagined!

EARTH: Chaos erupts when Mother Earth begins to purge the sickness that is mankind.

AIR: In a hopeless future, humanity has moved underground to escape the poisonous air that fills the atmosphere.

WATER: Humanity is plunged into desperation when all the water in the world suddenly evaporates.

FIRE: Ashes fill the sky as cases of spontaneous human combustion erupt on a world-wide scale.
  • Remains - D.L. Snell
  • Silence in Heave - John Sunseri
  • Phrenetic - R. Thomas Riley
  • With a Face of Golden Pleasure - Ryan C. Thomas

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Okay, exciting news today, the first pictures of the new Tintin movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn are out. I couldn't believe how good they are, and how true they are to the original comics.

It's been directed and produced by two of my favorite directors, Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones movies). This has to be the must see movie for me in 2011. It also features Daniel Craig as Red Rackham and Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock. And Stephen Moffat (Coupling, Doctor Who) is one of the writers.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Two Reviews of "The Uncertainty Bridge"

Two reviews of "The Uncertainty Bridge", which appeared in Jupiter #30, have just appeared on the Intranet. The first by Sam Tomaino appeared in SFRevu:

The fiction concludes with "The Uncertainty Bridge" by David Conyers. Humanity has almost entirely wiped it self out with plagues and environmental disaster. Geoff lives on a farm with his parents and sister, Jo. His parents have fallen asleep and cannot be wakened. His sister is exhibiting the same symptoms but before sleeping babbles odd bits of information. He rides into town and finds everyone there dead. When he encounters soldiers, he finds out the true horror of his situation. This one left a real chill.

The second appeared on SFCrowsnest, by Rod MacDonald:

The final story and the longest of the quartet was ‘The Uncertainty Bridge’ by David Conyers. This well-known author from Sydney, Australia, is no stranger to the pages of ‘Jupiter’ and many other magazines out there. I've always been impressed by the readability and delivery of his fiction and, with this story, he maintains his standards impeccably...

A really great story and one you should definitely read. The other stories were very good but I've got to say that this one was the best. While I should not get into the habit of selecting the best, agreeing that all fiction has its merits in different areas, I think this story by David Conyers would be the best in any magazine at the moment.

I like the bit about 'readability, I've always strived to do that with my fiction, so it's nice to see that I'm succeeding. The last line is very nice too!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The 2010 Scorecard

The end of the year approaches and it is time again to reflect on my writing achievements for the last year. I've been doing the same for three years, mostly as a self assessment of how I'm tracking publishing-wise. This year (2010) I can't say I've done much better than the last two years, with on average five short stories being published each year since I started down this track (with serious fiction publications commencing around 2005).

This year my new short stories are:
  • "Emergency Rebuild" in Andromeda Spaceways #43 (Australia)
  • "Sister of the Sands" in Cthulhu's Dark Cults (Chaosium Inc, USA) (an anthology which I incidentally edited)
  • "Dream Machine" in Scenes from the Second Storey (Morrigan Books, Sweden)
  • "Sweet as Decay" with David Witteveen in Macabre: A Journey Through Australia's Fear (Brimstone Press, Australia)
  • "The Uncertainty Bridge" in Jupiter #24 (UK).

I'd say "Dream Machine" is my best piece this year, but I am also particularly proud of Cthulhu's Dark Cults, which has received some very nice reviews, and an accomplishment considering the whole thing was on hold from early 2008. I had some reprints this year including:

  • "Black Water" appearing on the Albedo One Fiction Highlights website, which was also nominated for a Ditmar Award this year, and remains one of my favourites of my own work
  • "The Swelling" appearing in Innsmouth Free Press #3.

I did six reviews for Albedo One issues #38 and #39, more online reviews for the same magazine, was interviewed by Innsmouth Free Press and by Jeff W. Edwards for Shroud Magazine.

For 2011 (or later, depending on how long these things take) I have the following coming out:

  • The Eye of Infinity chapbook published by Perilous Press and edited by Cody Goodfellow, which incidentally is a new Harrison Peel adventure
  • "The Hag of Zais" Lovecraftian fable appearing in Ancient Shadows (Elder Signs Press)
  • "The R'lyeh Singularity" co-written with Brian M. Sammons appearing in Cthulhu Unbound 3 which is also another Harrison Peel tale
  • Another Harrison Peel tale with a publisher I cannot yet disclose
  • "Subtle Invasion" appearing in Best New Tales of the Apocalypse (Permuted Press) (incidentally this is one of my most successful short stories, appearing now in two best of anthologies, being shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award, and being read on The Writing Show)
  • Midnight Echo 6, edited with Jason Fischer and David Kernot, featuring science fiction horror stories
  • Cthulhu Unbound 3, edited with Brian M. Sammons featuring four Cthulhu Mythos novellas
  • Cthulhu Afrikus, a chapbook from Rainfall Books featuring reprints of "The Faceless Watchers", "As Above, So Below" and "Screaming Crawler"
  • On going reviews for Albedo One.

I had intended to start my space opera novel this year, but frankly that didn't happen, primarly because I just didn't get the head space with changing jobs and states (South Australia to New South Wales), and because I still believe my short fiction needs to kick up a notch before I am ready to tackel a 150,000 word manuscript. So 2011 will be focused on editing Cthulhu Unbound 3, Midnight Echo 6 and getting some science fiction short stories and novellas together, and finishing off the Harrison Peel series with at least one more novella, because I have a very keen publisher interested in the series that began with The Spiraling Worm (Chaoiusm, 2007).

Of course, there are always other projects going on in the background, but I don't like to talk about them in an open forum until something is definite. However, any news I always post here first.

I'd particularly like to thank the following people in the industry for their help this year, including Frank Ludlow, John Kenny and the rest of the team at Albedo One, David Kernot, Cody Goodfellow, Brian M. Sammons, Jacob Kerr, D.L. Snell, Tim Curran, Glyn White, Brian Courtmanche, Shane Jiraya Cummings, Amanda Pillar, Angela Challis, Pete Kempshall, Jason Fischer and everyone at the Australian Horror Writers Association, although this is in no way a complete list of those individuals whose support I have been grateful for this year.

One can only hope, and strive, for the next year to be even better than the last.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Expanded Possibilities for Life as we know it

Read an interesting article about the possibilities of life here and here, a new branch of microscopic life that uses arsenic instead of phosphorus as an essential element of its molecular structure, expanding the possiblies of where and how life may evolve. "We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new - building parts of itself out of arsenic."

It's not 'shadow life' in the sense that it is still life that uses DNA and RNA, and not something completely different, but certainly encouraging nonetheless about what life will be found out there in the cosmos. I still wonder if we'll discover microbal life elsewhere in the Solar System in my life time. I hope so, I'd like to be around to see what happens when we do.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tintin and the Mountains of Madness

My good friend Pete Tracy pointed this out to me today, two covers by Murray Groat that I have to post becuase they are so cool. Books I'd love to read, if they existed. Tintin was a long time favorite comic of mine as a kid.



New Review of Two Magazines

Albedo One has just posted a review I did of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #46 and On Spec #77, which can be read here.

"Overall, I believe both On Spec and Andromeda Spaceways do a great service to speculative fiction communities, because each has produced some exceptional tales over their long lives, fostering some respectable authors, and providing many a reader with many hours of entertaining reading. If you want to get a handle on what some of the other English language speaking countries other than the United Kingdom and the United States are producing, these are the best from each nation."

Friday, 19 November 2010

Another Review for Scenes from the Second Storey

Amanda Pillar found another review of Scenes from the Second Storey, the anthology she edited with Pete Kempshall for Morrigan Books. A mini-review from Scoop Magazine, said the following:

"Featuring only work by Australian writers...every short story in this anthology takes its name and inspiration from a song title. A sampler for our best new talent, standouts are Andrew J McKiernan’s post-apocalyptic outback western, a nuanced tale of lost love by Stephanie Campisi and a glimpse into Hell from David Conyers..."

Friday, 12 November 2010

Influences: James Bond and Bond 23

One of my favorite movie series (and novel series for that matter) is the Jame Bond films. The first introduction to the character was on television late one night when I first reached an age I was allowed to stay up late, and it was Live and Let Die, memorable for the villian exploding after he swallowed a compressed gas bullet. Then I saw Octopussy in the cinemas with the exciting jet plane race at the openning. I would have been in my early teens at the time. I was hoooked.

In awe of the amazing stunts, exotic locations, the adventurous life of a spy and the larger than life supervillians with super bases really captured my imagination. I turned to the novels and read most of them, starting with Live and Let Die and then moving onto On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, Dr. No and others, with the listed titles being my favorites. Some had supernatural elements (You Only Live Twice and Live and Let Die), others had fanciful monsters (Doctor No), all were larger than life. James Bond, Agent 007, was spy fiction series inflated into something much more, and spawned a genre of its own long before I was even born.

The movie that really made me interested in the series was The Living Daylights, Timothy Dalton's first movie in the role of James Bond. I liked it much more than what I had seen before because I found Dalton to be the most like Bond in the novels, and I also liked the movie actually taking place around real world events, such as Russia's invasion of Afghanistan back in the 1980s (dare I say Bond teamed up with the Taliban to fight the Russian's at the films conclusion). It also had a much more interesting story than anything that was released before it.

After the next film, Licence to Kill the series went in hitatus and Dalton stepped out of the role. When Brosan relaunched the series in 1995 with my second favorite Bond movie of all time, Goldeneye, I came to realise that the films were just getting better and better, although by the end of Brosan's reign it had returned to some silly ideas that were prevalent in Roger Moore's mid-career point as the 007.
Brosan was perfect for the role, I so I thought until I saw Casino Royale, with Daniel Craig rebooting the series as Bond, and in my opinion the best actor ever to portrait the character (yes, better than Sean Connery in my opinion). It was the character and film closest to the book, the story was intelligent, the acting brilliant and the women (who had been evolving slowly from Dalton's era) were multi-dimensional and fascinating characters as well as being stunningly attractive. This film is one of my favorite movies of all time. It also had style, in look, locale and feel.

Quantum of Solace which followed directly from the events of Casino Royale was also very good. In both films the gadgets are gone, also the quips and one liners that are tired now, and in their place is a more brutal world and a more brutal Bond, more realistic I guess, yet with some fantastic stunts still in there, like the construction site chase in Madagascar openning Casino Royale, which will not be forgotten for some time.

The series unfortunately has been placed on hold was MGM (the film company that owns the rights to distribution) sort out their financial problems, but it now seems that a turning point has been reached, and Bond will return in 2012. I'm excited that the series is not dead, and that Rachel Weisz might be a villian in the next film. I can't think of a better actress (or actor) to join the series.

The James Bond series influenced me most in my writing of my Harrison Peel series, a former Australia Army spy turned NSA consultant who travels the world fighting Lovecraftian horrors in exotic locales such as the Congo, Venezeula, Cambodia, Chile, Pakistan, Antarctica and others, and up against spies and terrorists who would use these Lovecraftian horrors for their own ends. I also mix a lot of theoretical physics in there, such as quantum mechanics, wormholes, time travel, string theory and so forth. My next Peel adventure, The Eye of Infinity, is all the above, and yes, unashamably action pulp adventure in the styel of one of my favorite literary and cinematic creations, James Bond.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

"Dream Machine" reviewed by Jennifer Brozek

The Morrigan Books anthology, Scenes from the Second Storey, has been reviewed by Jennifer Brozek on the Apex Book Company website, and my story gets a special mention:

There are a couple of standout stories—both in the story itself and the connection to the song inspired by it. First is “Dream Machine” by David Conyers – The story is horrific, creating a man into a demonic assassin who finds a peace of sorts with his new place in life and death. Over all, there is a velvety dreamlike quality to the story with its use of picture frames as portals and the protagonist roaming dark stone corridors. This story is enhanced by the song, “Dream Machine,” with its velvety sound and lyrics.
The rest of the review is very positive, and features an interview with the editors, Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Jupiter 30 featuring "The Uncertainty Bridge"

Jupiter Magazine 30: Hermippe edited by Ian Redman is out now, and features my science fiction novella "The Uncertainty Bridge". The issue also features fiction from Jude Coulter-Pultz, Colin P. Davies and Louis Shalako, and poetry by Ian Sales. Cover art is by Paul Drummond. An extract of my story follows:

THE UNCERTAINTY BRIDGE

Geoff’s parents wouldn’t wake, even when he shook them. His sister, Jo, stood behind him clutching her hands to her chest. She was holding back her tears. They both wanted their parents to wake so they could laugh about it, and later say that nothing had ever been wrong today.

“Mum,” Geoff shook the frail, limp body of his parent. There was no response.

Sickness was no stranger to Harwood. Colds, flus and the occasional bout of pneumonia or glandular fever afflicted several villagers each winter, but what their parents’ illness might be was a mystery. They had slept through the all of yesterday and the next morning without stirring once.

Geoff carefully peeled his mother’s eyelid open revealing a dilated pupil ringed by aggravated blood vessels. He waved his hand past her face and she made no attempt to follow it. Blood trickled from her nose and ears. He looked on their father and he too was bleeding. Slow trickles from both.

Jo inhaled. “What’s wrong with them?”

“I don’t know.” Geoff felt for pulses. They raced as if their parents were running a marathon.

Jo took a step backwards, covered herself in the shadow of the hallway. “It looks serious, whatever they’ve got.”

“It is serious, okay!” Geoff snapped, more unkindly than he intended. “Look, I’m sorry Sis,” he said in a softer tone, “it’s just that I’ve got a shocking headache.”

“Worried about yourself? Aren’t you worried about them?”

“I’m course I am. It’s just... It’s just that I’m finding it hard to think straight.” He scratched the stubble on his chin. His sister and he sounded like bickering teenagers rather than the adults in their early twenties they were supposed to be.

Jo shrugged, bit a fingernail. “I can’t think straight either, but do you see me complaining?”
Frustrated Geoff sighed. He was trying to help by understanding the situation, but he had nothing.

“Geoff, we really need to do something.”

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Albedo One issue 39 now out

Issue 39 of Albedo One is out and now available in pdf format. Electronic subscribers will receive their copies shortly. Hard copy version of the magazine will be back from the printers shortly.

The issue features an in-depth interview with multiple Hugo Award winning author Mike Resnick, as well his story "Hothouse Flowers". The fiction line-up also includes "Frogs On My Doorstep" by Annette Reader, winner of the Aeon Award 2009 short fiction contest, with further distinctive contributions by Uncle River, Martin McGrath and J. L. Abbott.

As part of Albedo One's ongoing translations project, this issue features for the first time in translation to English from the original Finnish, the winning story of the Atorox Award 2009, "The Horse Shoe Nail" by Mari Saario (translated by Liisa Rantalaiho).

The issue concludes with the latest reviews from collumnists Juliet E. McKenna and myself.

Buy the issue now in .pdf format!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

HorrorScope Reviews Cthulhu's Dark Cults

Andrew McKiernan has prepared a wonderful and detailed review of Cthulhu's Dark Cults. Here is a extract where he talks about my story:

"Sister of the Sands" definitely holds its own when it comes to depth of story and an historical background that comes across as sufficiently ancient and disturbingly realistic. When a woman walks out of Egypt's White Desert and into the life of an Australian serviceman, he finds his world turned upside down by an ancient cult known as The Brotherhood of the Black Pharoah who want the mysterious woman all for themselves. Conyers' story is a strong end to the anthology and acts as a great climax."

And a summation of the anthology here:

"The anthology only builds in excitement as it progresses and the final stories are real mind-blowing doozies worthy of the pulp tradition that has made Call of Cthulhu such a popular and long lasting role-playing game."

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Eye of Infinity

At a remote radio telescope facility in New Mexico, an astrophysicist commits suicide after contracting a hideous mutative plague caused by something he saw… and he won’t be the last.

Major Harrison Peel has witnessed his share of cosmic mutations before, but now, he faces a threat worse than death, and a powerful enemy that hides behind a human face.

When a top secret NASA program refuses to heed his warnings, Peel is catapulted into a nightmarish government conspiracy that takes him from Ft. Meade’s Puzzle Palace to the launchpads of Cape Canaveral; from the desolate Atacama Desert of Chile, to the very heart of the universe itself, all in a desperate bid to shut…

The Eye Of Infinity.

Perilous Press announces the release of The Eye of Infinity, the first Harrison Peel tale in three years, released as a chapbook this Halloween. The Eye Of Infinity will feature a Mike Dubisch cover and a dozen illustrations by Nick Gucker, and it’ll be available from the Perilous Press store the week of Halloween.

The Eye Of Infinity continues the saga of Harrison Peel, a veteran of covert wars against alien invaders, and fuses Mythos horror, quantum physics and interstellar cloak and dagger action into an instant pulp classic.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Six Aussie Horror Anthologies

Shane Jiraiya Cummings has posted his picks for six great Aussie horror anthologies to come out this year, with commentry. It's nice to see that I'm in three of them, including Cthulhu's Dark Cults. They've all got really nice covers too.

"Sweet as Decay"

With the release of Macabre I thought I'd post an extract from David Witteveen and my contribution to this anthology, "Sweet as Decay".

It was great to be part of Macabre, edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young, and I believe its going to be one of those anthologies that decades from now readers of the horror genre are going to wish they had on their shelves if they don't, or be proud that they do, because it is so comprehensive in its coverage of the genre, and there are some great stories in there.

I think David and I only just snuck in, because I remember writing the story more than five years ago when I lived in Melbourne, and our carreers as speculative fiction writers was really only just begining. I've just appeared in the first Elder Signs Press anthology Horrors Beyond and Book fo Dark Wisdom, while David was turning up in a few Brimstone Press publications and winning Australian Horror Writer Association awards, and we would have been lucky to have a dozen short story credits to our name.

David and I had been friends since 1989, we'd shared a flat with another friend during our post-university days, and also went backpacking through Africa and the United Kingdom, so we got to know each other pretty well. We'd also spent a lot of that time talking about our love of the speculative genre (David more dark fantasy, me more science fiction) and bouncing ideas of each other for books we wanted to write.

In 1993 we had a successful collaboration with Devil's Children, a supplment for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game which to this day is still considered a classic in the gaming genre, but we'd never written fiction together. When the opportunity to write for Macabre came up, we went for it.

We based "Sweet as Decay" partially on our experiences in Africa, partially on a mutual friend whose ideals, moral compass and determination we both admired, and on the idea that at what point does one turn against ideals and right and wrong in order to destroy a greater evil.

In the end I'm still very happy with this story, and it was great to work with David, who's imagination and simple but so very effective style makes me envious (read "Perfect Skin" in Cthulhu's Dark Cults and you will see what I mean). David's always said that he's admired my ability to conjure up plotlines. Together, I think our talents really complemented each other, and we came up with something that I think is different for both of us, but as always, I'll leave it to readers to judge.

SWEET AS DECAY
David Witteveen & David Conyers

The guards come at midnight.
They drag the prisoner from his cell. He screams, tries to resist, but they beat him with clubs until he falls bleeding to the floor. Then they tie a sack over his head, drag him outside, and throw him into a truck.
Squelching mud, the truck drives out into the tropical night.
Bloodied, concussed and blindfolded, the prisoner loses all sense of time and direction. He drifts through the darkness and fear.
The truck stops. Guards pull him out. He tries to kick. A club smacks into his shin and he feels the bone snap. He screams like the goats his father used to butcher as a child. The pain doesn’t lessen, it escalates. The uncaring guards drag him into a building, through corridors, down staircases. It stinks of human waste, and something else, something sickly sweet. Then the guards heave him into a room, and lock the door with a clang.
The prisoner tears the sack off his head. He holds his leg but that only hurts it more. He moans. The room is pitch-black. It feels big, humid. The concrete floor is covered in some sticky liquid. He curls foetal, hugging his broken leg.
There are people in here with him.
He hears them shuffle, their feet scraping over the stones. They come closer. He can smell them now. And they smell like faeces and dead meat.
He yells at them to stay back. But they keep coming.
Hands all over him, clammy and strong and relentless. He tries to push them back. But there are too many. They grab him, drag him, pick him up and carry him. And they hold him high, face up, forcing him into the stream of some viscous fluid.
“Drink,” they tell him. “Satisfy Chorazungu.”
He struggles. The fluid smells like rotting fruit. It covers his face. He tries to hold his mouth shut, tries not to breathe. But the hands pull his jaw open, and the liquid gushes in.
The taste is sweet as corruption.

#
Rebecca Parker drives her rusty four-wheel drive into the parking lot of Bashango Prison, kills the engine, and waits to find her courage. The air shimmers like evaporating oil. The midday’s heat is toxic with the fumes of burnt tires.
The prison looms dark against the green-wet West African landscape, a crumbling remnant of European colonialism. Tatters of cloth are caught in the barbed wire that lines its walls. Concrete walls are stained with rusty water. Guards smoke cigarettes and fiddle with their assault rifles.
She takes a deep breath, reminds herself that fear comes only from the mind.
On the passenger seat is a brown manila folder. Stamped on the cover is the logo for Global Rights Watch. Inside it is the case history of Jacob Ningu -- journalist, critic of the Mombato regime, arrested and held without trial. I’m here to help free him, she tells herself.
People are tortured and murdered behind those walls. She wants to make a difference, stop all this. But she is only one person, and wonders if one person is enough.

Monday, 4 October 2010

"The Uncertainty Bridge" released and "Dream Machine" Reviewed

Two exciting pieces of news for me, my post-apocalyptic science fiction novella "The Entropy Collapse" comes out soon in Jupiter 30 : Hermippe, which becomes my fourth consecutive sale for the magazine edited by Ian Redman.

Second piece of news, "Dream Machine" in Scenes from the Second Storey has just been positively reviewed at The Specusphere. Here is what Katherine Petersen and Damien Smith, the reviewers said about my story:

“Dream Machine” by David Conyers opens the literary concert and sets the mood wonderfully with a tale of the creation of Hell’s Assassin. Being the opening story of a compilation such as this was a hefty ask, but Conyers succeeds in not only conjuring up a dark and sinister atmosphere for the next stories to follow, but also gives a nod to several other stories through his hall of painting stalked by the assassin himself.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Harrison Peel Returns in "The Eye of Infinity"

The first Harrison Peel tale since the release of The Spiraling Worm in 2007 will be published by Perilous Press later this month, The Eye of Infinity.

This novella chapbook will feature a Mike Dubisch cover and ten interior illustrations by Nick Gucker. Edited by Cody Goodfellow, this is a fusion of cosmic horror, quantum physics and espionage action. Following on directly from the last story in The Spiraling Worm, this new adventure sees Peel join the NSA on a new cosmic investigation, taking him to New Mexico, Maryland, Florida, the Atacama Desert and the very heart of the universe itself.

The chapbook will not be expensive, however their numbers will be limited to under 500, and they’ll only be available through Perilous Press' store, and at conventions and signing appearances.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Best New Tales of the Apocalypse Nearly Here

It's almost here, Best New Tales of the Apocalypse, from Permuted Press and edited by D.L. Snell and Bobbie Metevier. It features my story "Subtle Invasion" and makes this the third 'best of' that I've appeared in, so exciting stuff.
Meanwhile, on a related note, Cthulhu Unbound 3 is getting close to completion and it too will be published by Permuted Press. The stories on their last edits. I should, hopefully soon, be able to post who the three remaining of the five unannounced authors are, as one story is a collaboration I've penned with Brian M. Sammons.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Paul Drummond Sci Fi Artwork

I just noticed the new cover art for Jupiter Magazine 30, which wil feature my novella "The Uncertainty Bridge". The cover illustraiton is impressive, by Paul Drummond, a thumbnail of which I've reproduced here. However you can see a much better reproduction on Paul's website here.
Deciding to check out more of Paul's work I went to his online galleries and discovered some very cool pictures, and realised I'd seen his work before, in Interzone.

When looking at science fiction artist's work, I sometimes find myself coming up with ideas for stories behind the illustrations, even though many of those illustrations are the result of someone's literatary imagination. Jim Burns, Tim White and Chris Moore have all drawn more than one sci fi scene that has sent my mind racing. I found myself doing the same examining Paul's work.

If you like science fiction art, Paul's site is well worth checking out. I particularly liked this one.

Review of Grants Pass

My reveiw of Grants Pass: A Post Apocalyptic Anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar is now available on the Albedo One website, as part of the magazine's new online only content for their updated website.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Robinson Crusoe: The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope

It's out, the new Cthulhu Mythos novel by Daniel Defoe, H.P. Lovecraft and Peter Clines, Robinson Crusoe: The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope. How did this happen you ask? Well here is the blurb:

Robinson Crusoe is one of the most enduring adventures of the past four centuries and one of the most well-known works in the English language. Or is it?

Recently discovered amidst the papers of the 20th century writer and historian H. P. Lovecraft is what claims to be the true story of Robinson Crusoe. Taken from the castaway's own journals and memoirs, and fact-checked by Lovecraft himself, it is free from many of Defoe's edits and alterations. From Lovecraft's work a much smoother, simpler tale emerges but also a far more disturbing one.

Here Crusoe is revealed as a man bearing the terrible curse of the werewolf and the guilt that comes with it - a man with no real incentive to leave his island prison. The cannibals who terrorized Crusoe are revealed to be less human than ever before hinted - worshippers of a malevolent octopus-headed god. And the island itself is a place of ancient, evil mysteries that threaten Crusoe's sanity and his very soul.

This version of the classic tale, assembled by two legends of English literature and abridged by Peter Clines, is the terrifying supernatural true story of Robinson Crusoe as it has never been seen before.

I got to read this book before it was released, and had a lot of fun doing so. Published by Permuted Press, further information on the book and the author can be found on their website. Well done Peter!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Ditmar Awards 2010

Congratulations to everyone who won a Ditmar this year. My novella "Black Water" was up for a nomination which was very nice. It didn't win but it is now a story that has two award nominations behind it, so I'm happy with that.

I'd like to thank everyone who voted for me this year. I'd especially like to thank Ian Redman at Jupiter Magazine for publishing the story and the team at Albedo One for their support, and for voting for me too.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Game Geeks reviews of The Spiraling Worm

I thought I might post a link to an old review from Game Geeks by Kurt Wiegel, who normally reviews Call of Cthulhu gaming material, He gave The Spiraling Worm a great review online on YouTube.com.

"I cannot recommend this enough... I flew through this, it is great!"

Monday, 23 August 2010

Robert Neilson's "Don't Judge Me Because I write Science Fiction"

Albedo One editor Robert Neilson has written a very interesting article "Don't judge me because I write science fiction" online at Essentialwriters.com. Well worth a look if you are a writer intending to submit a story to Albedo One and want to get an idea of what the editors are looking for. Also great for bypassing some common mistakes starting out authors make when writing science fiction. See the article here.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Inception

I saw Inception the other night. Absolutely brilliant movie, like the Matrix mixed with the Jason Bourne movies. I'll review it soon for Albedo One for their new online movie reviews content.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Cthulhu's Dark Cults Reviews Keep Coming: Scary Minds

Scary Minds, a website run by Jeff Ritchie and devoted to reviewing all things Aussie/New Zealand and horrorific (films, books, comics, etc) has just posted a very nice review of Cthulhu's Dark Cults. My favorite bit of the review follows, particularly the last sentence. Thanks Jeff.

The writers in the collection have really captured the true nature of the Cthulhu Mythos and have managed to twist that nature in a new direction. It's quite the achievement and the collection really does become a must have for lovers of the horror genre. I'm calling this the best Mythos collection since Brian Lumley's seminal Titus Crow works.

Jeff's favorite stories were from John Sunseri, David Witteveen, Shane Jiraiya Cummings and my own.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

"Black Water" online at Albedo One's New Website

Albedo One has a new website, with new features and more online content. More content will go up in the coming weeks, and there were be regular features including reviews, interviews and short fiction from both the print version of Albedo One, the Aeon Award, and elsewhere.


I'm very pleased to announce one of my favorite of my own stories, "Black Water" which was shortlisted for the both the 2006-2007 Aeon Award and the 2010 Ditmar Award, is now available online on Albedo One's website. It is the first story in Albedo One's Fiction Highlights series.

"Black Water" was originally published in Jupiter '#24, edited by Ian Redman in 2009. Now it can be read here.

"Black Water" is up for a Ditmar Award. Voting for the Ditmar Award is conducted in accordance with these rules, and is open to membersof Dudcon III (including supporting members) and to members of Conjecture who were eligible to vote in the 2009 Award. Voting in allaward categories is by the optional preferential system, and each eligible individual may vote only once. All ballots (including emailed ballots) should include the name and address of the voter. If you havequestions regarding the ballot or voting procedure, please email ditmars@sf.org.au.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Matt Carpenter Amazon.com Review of Cthulhu's Dark Cults

Matthew T. Carpenter has given Cthulhu's Dark Cults a five star review over at Amazon.com. Matt's well known in Cthulhu Mythos circles as the man who reads and reviews everything in the genre. Here is what he said about the book:

On the whole I really enjoyed Cthulhu's Dark Cults and thought it was well worth the money; most of the stories were very good and I did not dislike anything ... While Goodrich, Witteveen, Conyers and Worthy particularly shine, pride of place has to go to The Whisper of Ancient Secrets by Penelope Love. I hope she writes more Cthulhu stories for us soon.

Here is what he said about my story, "Sister of the Sands":

I really like David Conyers; writing. Impossible Object, published in several places, is a brilliant little piece. Sister of the Sands is just great. An Australian intelligence officer based in Cairo assists a woman lost in the desert and becomes mixed up with the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh. This was a bang up way to close a successful anthology.

The same review appears at alt.horror.cthulhu. Thanks to Jeff Edwards for the heads up.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Two New Reviews of Cthulhu's Dark Cults

Two new reviews of Cthulhu's Dark Cults have been posted on HorrorWorld.org and Amazon.co.uk. The first by Brian M. Sammons at HorrorWorld.org who said this about the book:

"Credit for this anthology must first and foremost go to David Conyers who pulls double duty as not only this collection’s editor, but also as an author of one of the best stories in this book. I have come to expect great things from Mr. Conyers as I’ve become increasingly familiar with his work, and with, “Sisters of the Sands” he has once again impressed me greatly."

He also made special mention of Steve Gilbert's cover art and the stories by Oscar Rios, Penelope Love and David Witteveen. David also received special mention on this review on Amazon.co.uk by J.P. Hunt, who had to say about the book:

"This get's a very good 9/10 marks from me. This is definitely one for a HPL fan or someone that just likes dark sci-fi / horror fiction."

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

"Black Water" shortlisted for a Ditmar

For three of the last four years I've had a Ditmar nomination in the Novella category. 2007 it was for "Aftermath", 2009 for "Soft Viscosity" and now 2010 with "Black Water", which incidentallly was short-listed for an Aeon Award. That's five Ditmar nominations now, the other two for Best New Talent two years running. Exciting stuff! "Black Water" originally appeared in Jupiter #24.

Glad to see the mix of talented authors nominated this year, including Jason Fischer, Peter M. Ball, Marty Young, and many others.

I was hoping to see Grant's Pass in the Best Collected Works category edited by Amanda Pillar and Jennifer Brozek, because that was a fantastic anthology.

Anyone who eligible to vote in this year's Ditmars who wants to read "Black Water", please email me at david (at) davidconyers (dot) com and I'll email you the story.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Macabre: Available for Pre-Order

Macabre: A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears (edited by Angela Challis and Dr Marty Young and featuring my collaboration with David Witteveen, "Sweet as Decay") can now be ordered through Brimstone Press. The anthology retails for $44.95 and will be available in stores in October/November, but Brimstone Press are offering Macabre for sale at $30 + postage. The anthology will be shipped from Brimstone in September.

Macabre is a snapshot of the fears that have gripped Australians for over 200 years: the isolation of the bush, monstrous fauna, supernatural terrors, violence, war, terrorism, alienation, cannibalism, and murder. From the very earliest colonial ghost stories through to grim tales of modern life, Macabre will take you on a journey through the terrifying heart of Australian horror.

Macabre includes a detailed essay on the history of Australian horror, an Australian horror fiction timeline, and 38 stories from three eras (classics, modern masters, and new era originals) – at a massive 672 pages.

Contributors in the Classics and Modern Masters sections include Henry Lawson, Marcus Clarke, Mary Fortune, Barbara Baynton, A. Bertram Chandler, Kaaron Warren, Terry Dowling, Robert Hood, Stephen Dedman, Rick Kennett, and Sean Williams.

The largest section, the New Era, includes original stories from Will Elliott, Stephen M. Irwin, Kirstyn McDermott, Richard Harland, Martin Livings, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Kyla Ward, Paul Haines, David Conyers, and Bob Franklin (and many more!).

Macabre will be launched at Aussiecon 4, the World Science Fiction Convention, in Melbourne on the weekend of September 4-5 (exact details of the launch will be publicised when they become available). The editors and many of the contributors will be in attendance to sign copies at the launch (David Witteveen will be there, alas I cannot make it).

Midnight Echo #6: The Science Fiction Horror Special

It's official, the guidelines for Midnight Echo #6 are now out, the science fiction horror special, and submissions are being accepted from September 1. I'll be editing this issue with Jason Fischer and David Kernot.

Here is a recap of what we are looking for:

"We are looking for stories that blend the science fiction and horror genres. We are especially looking for stories set on worlds other than Earth, or in deep space, and especially, stories in the future. Themes might include contact with alien species that defie explanation, plagues or viruses destined to wipe out humanity, enslavement by an alien race, nanoplagues gone wrong, alien artifacts that are death traps, future totalitarian governments, gothic alien worlds, or enslaving technology are just some ideas. Films like Alien and 28 Days Later are obvious influences. Alternatively imagine what Iain M. Banks, Charles Stross, or Alastair Reynolds might write if they got really dark - that’s what we are looking for.

"We are not looking for fantasy stories. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, and zombies are unlikely to impress us unless you can deliver something outstanding within these guidelines. We will consider Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos tales provided they meet the theme, and then, we are likely only to select one such tale in this style at most. Remember, the key ingredient to getting your story picked up is to write a science fiction tale with horror elements, not a horror tale dressed up with science fiction references."

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Books that I have read this year

Catching the train to and from work every weekday has dramatically improved my ability to read books. This is what I've read so far:
  • The Prefect, Alastair Reynolds
  • House of Suns, Alastair Reynolds
  • Marrow, Robert Reed
  • Phoenix and the Darkness of Wolves, Shane Jiraiya Cummings
  • Monster Blood Tattoo 1: Foundling, D.M. Cornish
  • Grants Pass, edited by Jennifer Brozek & Amanda Pillar
  • Time, Stephen Baxter
  • The Time Traveller's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
  • Blood Oil, James Phelan

I am currently reading several books:

  • Inca Gold, Clive Cussler
  • After You'd Gone, Maggie O'Farrell
  • The Best of Best New SF, edited by Gardner Dozois

I've also read a manuscript for Permuted Press which is yet to be released.

Now that I've put a list down in writing it doesn't seem like a lot, about a book and a half a month. I'll see how I go in the latter half of the year, and if I can improve upon this.

GenCon Australia 2010 Cancelled

It's a shame GenCon Australia 2010 is not going ahead. I was planning on attending and speaking at various forums. I was even going to run an unpublished Call of Cthulhu scenario I have based upon Lovecraft's "Arthur Jermyn".

Read the official press release here. Hopefully we'll se GenCon return in 2011.

Two Short Story Appearances at WorldCon

Unfortunately I won't be appearing at WorldCon (AussieCon 4), but I will be appearing in two anthologies that will be launched there, and I'm excited about both of them.

"Sweet as Decay" which I co-authored with David Witteveen, a Lovecraftian style tale blended with spook skullduggery in West Africa, which David and I wrote more than five years ago. It's appearing in Macabre, A Journey Through Australia's Dark Fear, edited by Marty Young and Angela Challis (Brimstone Press).

The book will explore Australia's dark literature past, present, and future all in one anthology. From the very earliest colonial ghost stories through to grim tales of modern life. There are classic stories from Australia's masters of horror alongside the best of the new era. It looks to be a very comprehensive anthology, with nothing like it every published before.

I really like the cover too. There have been three planned covers to date, but this is the best so far, and I'm glad it is the one Brimstone Press finally settled with.

The second story is "Dream Machine" which I wrote for the Australian version of Scenes from the Second Storey, edited by Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall. For the first time in my career I have the openning story in an anthology. A nasty tale about hell.

Each story in this collection has been inspired by a track from the album, Scenes from the Second Storey by God Machine, and reflects the emotions and images our authors experienced when they heard ‘their’ song from The God Machine's record. Authors include Kirstyn McDermot, Felicity Dowker, Martin Livings and others.

I won't be at WorldCon, but at least my words will.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

First Review of Cthulhu's Dark Cults

The first review of Cthulhu's Dark Cults has just been published at Innsmouth Free Press by Bryan Thao Worra. Bryan's favorite stories are "Perfect Skin" by David Witteveen, "The Whisper of Ancient Secrets" by Penelope Love, and he said some nice things about my story too, "Sister of the Sands":

"As might be expected, Conyers’ own story, “Sister of the Sands”, neatly encapsulates the cosmic, international grandeur of the subject and provides a fine glimpse of what he was reaching for as he tried to assemble this work. It anchors the anthology solidly."

Read the full review here.

Meanwhile, the anthology has remained in the Top 12 best selling horror anthologies on Amazon.com since it was released.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Ditmars and Aurealis Awards

It's awards time here in Australia, with everyone in the industry busy nominating works for eligibility in both the Ditmar and Aurealis Awards.

Since the Ditmar's is a popularity vote, many members of the industry are posting their select choices on various website and online journals everywhere. Many of those sites are very informative and helpful on the best of 2009 in Australian speculative fiction publishing.

I unfortunately can't be helpful because I just haven't read enough this year to form an objective opinion on what has been published by Australians in 2009, although what I have read I have enjoyed. What I can do is point you towards my publications if you want to vote for me. Since you're looking at my online journal anyway and have read this far, I figure you have some interest in my writing. So here they are:

Best Novella/Novellete Category
  • David Conyers "Black Water", Jupiter 24
  • David Conyers "The Octagon", Jupiter 26

Best Short Story Category

  • David Conyers "The Lord of the Law", The Fourth Black Book of Horror, Mortbury Press
  • David Conyers "The Garden Fortress", Thrilling Tales #4, Rainfall Books
  • David Conyers & Brian M Sammons "Six-Legged Shadows" Monstrous, Permuted Press

Voting is simple, just go to this website and vote as many times as you want for whoever you want. You have to be an active member in the industry, such as a writer, editor, publisher, artist, reviewer, and so forth. Voting closes 23 July 2010 Australian time.

If you do vote for any of my stories, thank you!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Introduction to Cthulhu's Dark Cults Online

Chaosium have posted the Introduction to Cthulhu's Dark Cults online on their website, if you wish to know more about this book than you might already. They have also included Author Biographies.

Meanwhile, if you are on the Chaoium site, you should check out Brian M. Sammons' latest and very cool Call of Cthulhu Role-playing Game book, Strange Aeons II.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Interview with Greg Egan Posted Online

My interview with Greg Egan is now available online on Greg's webpage. This interview originally appeared in Albedo One Issue 37. Here is an extract:

Virtual Worlds and Imagined Futures (2009)

First published in Albedo One, Number 37, 2009. Copyright © Greg Egan and David Conyers, 2009. All rights reserved.

Greg Egan is one of Australia’s leading science fiction authors with over sixty short stories, seven novels and three collections to his name. His novel Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and his novella “Oceanic” won the Hugo Award, the Locus Award and the Asimov's Readers Award. He regularly appears in leading science fiction magazines such as Asimov’s and Interzone, and in Gardner Dozois’ The Years Best Science Fiction series. His most recent books are the novel Incandescence (Gollancz, 2008), and the short story collection Oceanic (Gollancz, July 2009).

What was it that compelled you to pursue a career writing science fiction?

I was interested in both science and science fiction from a very young age, and by the time I was seven or eight it was obvious to me that the best thing in the world would be to spend my life doing three things: writing books, making movies, and working as some kind of scientist. And I did make some attempts at all three, but I didn't really have the temperament to persist with the last two.

How did you get started?

I wrote a lot of crap for twenty years, starting from the age of six. I had a novel published by a small press when I was twenty-one, but it wasn't very good and it was more or less irrelevant in terms of my development as a writer. Then in the late 1980s I started writing short stories about biotech and artificial intelligence that just clicked. David Pringle, the editor of Interzone, bought several of them and encouraged me to work to my strengths.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Cthulhu Afrikus: It's Official

I have another chapbook in its way, Cthulhu Afrikus, featuring three of my Cthulhu Mythos short stories set in or about Africa. The book will be published by Rainfall Books, and feature my tales "The Faceless Watchers", "As Above, So Below" and "Screaming Crawler". .

If you've enjoyed my Call of Cthulhu role-playing game sourcebook, Secrets of Kenya, then three of the stories I referenced appear in Cthulhu Afrikus. It makes a good companion.
Cthulhu Afrikus features my artwork and is edited by Steve Lines. It follows on from Cthulhu Australis 1 and 2 which were also published by Rainfall Books. Expect it out in October 2010 in the United Kingdom.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Another Review of Andromeda Spaceways #43

David Kernot's edited issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Isssue 43 gets another review, this time on ASIF, "An eminently readable collection, well-balanced with long and short stories, fantasy and science fiction and horror, so something for everyone."

This is what was said about my story, "Emergency Rebuild":

"The victim of an accident on Mars suffers massive injuries and is progressively ‘fixed’ as parts of him fail. An old school style science fiction story that shows compassion and humanity don’t require a biological body."

I wonder what 'old school' means. I guess I have been reading science fiction since I was ten, and started with some of the originals, like Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, Herbert, Aldiss and Dick, so their influence would be in there somewhere.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

"Emergency Rebuild" reviewed on SF Crowsnest.com

SF Crowsnest likes me, or at least Rod MacDonald does who reviews for the site, with his very generous review here of "Emergency Rebuild". This short science fiction story appeared in David Kernot's edited issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Issue 43. This is what Rod said:

"'Emergency Rebuild' is an exploration into what it is to be human. An excellent story, very well told and I hope I will be reading more of his work in the future."

Rod jokes that I haven't given him a brown paper envelope stuffed with money, but (jokingly) perhaps I should. He's also given me great reviews for "Black Water" and "The Octagon" which appeared in Jupiter Magazine. Thanks Rod!

For further information on Andromeda Spaceways #43, David Kernot posted this interesting article on his website on how it came to publication.

Friday, 4 June 2010

“The Uncertainty Bridge” to appear in Jupiter 30

I just learnt that Ian Redman, editor of Jupiter Magazine has accepted my science fiction novella “The Uncertainty Bridge” for Issue 30, out later in the year. That’s three publications in this magazine now, my first short story sale for 2010, and it puts me on six new short stories out for this year.

“The Uncertainty Bridge” is set several hundred years from now, set in an isolated community suffering a severe winter in the aftermath of a distant apocalyptic catastrophe. A pandemic sends almost all the citizens into comas, but not before they start remembering technical details about Earth’s previous accomplishments.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Just How Big is the Universe Anyway

David Witteveen recently posted this image on his website, which puts the universe into perspective, on just how big it really is. This kind of mind-blowing perspective is what got me into writing science fiction in the first place.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on how big the universe is here. The observable universe is 13.7 billion years old and 93 billion light years across, because space expands faster than light. The observable universe has an estimated 7 x 10 to the power of 21 stars (70 sextillion) , i.e. what we can see due to the speed of light limit from the Big Bang. How big the universe actually is is anyone's guess.

Aurealis Awards to move to Sydney

I know this news has been out for a while now, but the Aurealis Awards are going to move to Sydney. This is good news to me, for obvious reasons, which means I might be able to attend the event. Nothing like a networking opportunity within the Australian speculative fiction community, and just a chance to meet some of the players in the industry I've only known for so long via email. It's sorely needed on my behalf.

Ian Redman, Editor of Jupiter, Interviewed on SF Crowsnest.com

For anyone who reads Jupiter Magazine, there is an interesting interview with the editor, Ian Redman, on SF Crowsnest.com by Rod MacDonald. It struck me reading the interview that Interzone started out much the same way, so I wonder where Jupiter could be in years from now?

A review of Jupiter 28 can also be found here, which I unfortunately didn't appear in.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Cosmos Magazine 32 and Alien Life

Often I get my inspiration to write science fiction stories from articles I read in popular science publications. Last week I devoured the latest issue of Cosmos Magazine, Issue 32, which is a SETI special with all kinds of cool articles on alien life. Now my head is full of ideas on what to write next.

One article in particular, "Alien Safari" by Lewis Dartnell discussees what extra-terrestial life could be like on other planets. Two examples that he comes up with inspire the imagination: (1) plants that produce hydrogen filled bladders so they can float in the atmosphere to capture sunlight while vines tether them to their roots, and (2) worlds with really heavy gravity, the atmosphere becomes dense enough so that aliens the size of elephants could actually fly. Then Dartnell goes on to suggest that if they have six limbs, they might adopt biplane configured wings.

Of course reading all this, and what I'm learning about extrasolar planets astronomers are finding every day, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Earth-like worlds are pretty rare, especially Earth-like worlds that can remain stable enough for complex life to evolve. Did you know that if Jupiter and Saturn were just a little bit bigger, their gravity would have consumed all the other planets in the solar system by now. But if Jupiter wasn't as big as it is to suck in passing space rocks, Earth would be bombarded by comets and meteorites at such a rate no life could evolve much past the primordial soup phase. Jupiter is just right. Still, I'm thinking life is everywhere in the universe, and probably not to dissimilar to what we have on Earth. On our world it seems to survive everywhere there is liquid water.

As for intelligent life I'm convinced it's out there, but it's likely to be such a rare event that any intelligence life is too far away to contact, in both space and time. I'm suggesting other galaxies, which are millions of light-years away.

Getting back to what I started discussing, Cosmos Magazine, it is also great for its fiction. I can't say I've read all the stories they've published in the magazine or online, but generally I like most that I do read.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Cthulhu’s Dark Cults: Cover Art by Steve Gilberts

In my ongoing series of journal entries on how Cthulhu’s Dark Cults came to be, today I am focusing on the cover illustration, which was undertaken by the very talented Steven Gilberts.

Steven has been producing artwork for the small-press industry since 2003 starting with Space & Time Magazine. Since then he has been concocting odd cover and interior illustrations for a diversity of companies including Elder Signs Press, Apex Book Company, Cemetery Dance Publications, Chaosium Inc., and Shroud Publishing. Steve is going from strength-to-strength, and I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s illustrating covers for the bigger publishing houses.

I’m grateful that Steven did the cover illustration, as he captured perfectly the theme and the style of the book.

I’m also privileged in that Steven has illustrated one of my stories, “Solvent Hunger”. I’ve included the illustration here which appeared with my story in the Book of Dark Wisdom #5. The same illustration appeared on my chapbook Cthulhu Australis Part 1, where “Solvent Hunger” was reprinted.

Steven says the following about his illustration for the cover of Cthulhu’s Dark Cults:

“The basic concept for the cover was outlined to me by Dustin Wright [editor at Chaosium]. A group of figures dancing around a statue of Cthulhu in a swamp or woodland setting.

“I opted for the figures to be (tastefully) unclad and possibly attractive. After all, just because you worship a snoozing undead cephalopod creature dreaming deep beneath the Pacific Ocean doesn't necessarily mean you are homely.

“The statue of Cthulhu needed to be lit from underneath to indicate the fire that the cultists are dancing in front of. To be on the safe side I opted for a photo reference to be sure that I would get the shadows and highlights positioned correctly. It was Play-Doh to the rescue as the sculpting medium for the model to be photographed. Following in this vein I suppose I'll need to render an illustration in crayon one of these days.

"On a related note to shooting reference shots of the stature, the dancing figures were based on images from a reference source of models for artists to use. So no, I did not have a group of nudists cavorting around my studio, at least not for this particular assignment.

"I went with bright colours and a starlit night for the background to create a scene of (hopefully) ethereal beauty. As with the figures I reasoned that, though the subject matter is dark, the overall setting could be lovely. Perhaps with good looks and scenic settings the cultists would be apt to collect more members and victims alike.”

Photo of Steven Gilberts © 2009 Michael Morris.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Cthulhu’s Dark Cults: “Sister of the Sands” by David Conyers

My story rounds off the Cthulhu’s Dark Cults collection, with a tale set in Egypt, a land which for me is at the heart of all things Lovecraftian and Outer Godish. I’d always felt that The Masks of Nyarlathotep supplement for the Call of Cthulhu game was the best supplement ever produced, even if one considers that it came out more than 25 years ago. It’s a global adventure with an excellent back story, and like the Cthulhu Mythos, its central location is Egypt. The cult that features in my story and in Masks of Nyarlathotep is the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh, what I considered to be the perfect example of the cults I wanted to portray in this collection.

An extract from my story follows:

SISTER OF THE SANDS
David Conyers

In the many eyes of the Outer Gods, a failure to understand one’s self-capacity for evil is the greatest of all sins. - Sharinza, The Masked Messenger

White Desert, Egypt, 1933

Unfazed the strange woman strolled from the deep desert, the hot winds whipping at her tatters, presenting her as an ominous crow. With a scalp shaved bald, she was covered only in blood and a dirty white wrap loose about her thin figure. Beneath the red ichors reflected a skin that was dry and pale. If her face were not so cold to gaze upon, I would have thought her beautiful.

“Are you hurt?” I asked, as she stood before me, her back arched and head held high. Under normal circumstances, I would have expected a woman in her state to collapse from exhaustion, or to beg for water, but this enigma requested neither. She just stared though and beyond me, into nothingness, as if eternity was all she could fathom. “Do you require assistance?”

Only then did her eyes find mine. Grey and deep, as if the soul they hid stretched to the beginning of time. She opened her mouth to speak, and did so gutturally in a language that I not only failed to understand, but one that I failed to even recognize. Our spooked and tethered camels responded differently, obtusely, by grunting and baulking with terrified agitation.

“You are in shock,” I blurted concerned that she might be babbling from sunstroke. I offered a hand of support. I saw that her shroud was drenched in so much blood I knew it could not all be hers. So I examined her as best I could without compromising modesty, until I was certain she was not wounded. “Here, let me take you to my tent,” I offered. I presumed she must have escaped some terrible ordeal, and probably required a space of her own to feel safe again.

At my words she offered her hand daintily, as if she were the Queen of the Nile and I her undeserving servant. Her bone-cold fingers in my grip, we rushed to my tent, more my urgency than hers. I had a supply of medicines locked away, and a cot for her to lie upon.

“Lieutenant, who is this?” called Karim Ibn-Shadar. The chisel-face man frowned despondently through a tight-lipped grin, for my long-suffering assistant from the War Office often thought me brash and unconventional. Appearing with this strange woman in tow would only add to his concern. “Where did she come from?” His eyes grew wide as he took in the bloodstains. “Praise Allah, what happened to her?”

“I don’t know, but she walked out of the desert, over there.” I pointed, across the salt-colored gypsum outcrops and gravel plains of the White Desert, deceptively likened to a snowfield frozen in time, except these sands were blisteringly hot. Karim and I both understood that there was nothing in that direction for thousands of miles, only the arid heart of the merciless Sahara.

“Is that possible?”

“Well, obviously not impossible.”

“And so much blood.”

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Albedo One 38 Released

Just received notice that Issue 38 of Albedo One is back front the printers and available for purchase in print and low-cost pdf formats.

This issue's fiction is by Bruce McAlister, Aaron Polson, Priya Sharma, Matthew F. Perry, Martin Belderson and a story from Allison Francisco, which was placed third in the Aeon Award 2008 contest.

Issue 38 also features an in-depth interview with Jim Gunn, as well as book reviews from regular columnists Juliet E. McKenna and, yes, that's right, me. Further review contributions come from Peter Loftus, John Kenny and Peter McClean. My reviews are for Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds, Saturn's Children by Charles Stross, The Opposite of Life by Narrelle Harris and Horn by Peter M. Ball.

The cover is truly excellent, one of the best speculative fiction pieces that I've seen in a long time, by U.S. artist Jacob Probelski. Check out his folios here, here and here.

I'm proud to be member of the Albedo One team. I don't do much but write reviews and the occasional interview, well one inteview. I think it is a top notch magazine regardless.

Cthulhu’s Dark Cults: “The Nature of Faith” by Oscar Rios

In my forth profile on the various stories appearing in Cthulhu’s Dark Cults, I’m going to focus on Oscar Rios and his tale “The Nature of Faith”.

Oscar is probably today’s most prolific writer for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. He has appeared in several Chaosium monographs including his own Ripples from Carcosa and The Ravenar Saga. He then appeared twice in Miskatonic River Press’ first publication, Tales of the Miskatonic Valley. He was then asked by Miskatonic River Press to join the team as a staff writer and associate editor, and ever since he has been churning out material at a phenomenal speed.

Oscar lives in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area. By day he is the assistant manager for a crematory in Astoria, Queens. He is also a happily married husband and father of two.

“The Nature of Faith” is Oscar’s first foray into fiction writing. In his novella he takes us into the haunts of Lovecraft Country and the town of Dunwich. His inspiration was the Keith Herber classic gaming supplement, H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich. Oscar has this to say about his contribution:

“I was thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of this collection, but I wanted to explore a different aspect of the traditional mythos story. I wanted to write a love story because who does that? I also wanted to explore one of the most harmless cults in the Cthulhu Mythos, the Believers of Dunwich. Lastly, I wanted to delve into the struggle between modern and ancient, between urban and rural, between scientific discovery and metaphysical balance. The main characters in this story are people firmly grounded in one of these two camps; one a professor of ancient history and the other member of the Believers cult.

“The inspiration for this story came when I was in Catholic grade school. In science class we were learning about evolution and two periods later we learned about creation in our religion class. Our young minds struggled to decide which was right. The title of the story, “The Nature of Faith” is something said by my science teacher at the time while discussing this difficult topic.”
An extract from the story follows:

THE NATURE OF FAITH
Oscar Rios


Dunwich, Massachusetts, United States, 1927

The spring storm swept up the coast, covering all of New England in thick clouds and pouring rain. In the hills of Dunwich this was a good thing. Farmers had smiled as they looked out over their newly planted fields of pumpkin, corn and wheat, reassured that their crops would get a right proper soaking. As the storm raged through the night, some of that smile faded as they moved to lock their doors. Strange things sometimes moved out of the Dunwich Hills on nights like this.

Visible only in the infrequent lightning flashes, a filthy, ragged creature stood motionless in the pouring rain. After a moment, it shook itself off, eyes darting about in confusion. It muttered to itself, then crept out of the wilderness and entered Dunwich Village.

With long white hair matted to its body, claws caked with earth, the creature moved with purpose, stealthy on its bare feet towards the home of Andy and Mildred Tanner. Rattling the back door but finding it locked, it nimbly scaled a nearby tree, climbed across an overhanging branch to a window on the second floor. Effortlessly, it reached out, opened the window and shimmied into the darkened room, closing the window behind it.

Once inside, the creature let out a long sigh, shaking out its soaking wet hair with its hands, and began fumbling for the light switch. Crash! Down came a ceramic shaving cup and the straight razor beside it, shattering loudly as it struck the floor.

Down the hall the sleeping couple sat bolt upright. They listened, hearing the sounds of movement from their bathroom. Andy Tanner crept out of bed, moved to his closet and loaded his shotgun with salt shot. He waved for his wife to remain in the room. She shook her head mouthing the word “No”. Together, hearts racing, they crept down the hall.

They halted, hearing water filling the sink. Holding the weapon steady Andy cried out. “Al’rite now, ye come outta there this instant. This here’s private property. No funny business now, I’ve got a gun.”

Slowly the door opened. In the lit doorway was a girl, soaking wet in a filthy sundress. Her white hair matted, her pale skin splattered with mud like some crazed feral thing. Then she smiled, her ice blue eyes shone with mirth. “Yer not gunna shoot me, are ye Andy? Beside, it’s just rock salt. It won’t really hurt me, just sting like the dickens.”

The shotgun instantly lowered, the pair relaxed for a moment, but only for a moment.

“Damn it Gerdy, I couldda shot ya! What the hell are you doin?” Andy asked.