Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Coming Soon: Undead & Unbound

A new anthology edited by Brian M. Sammons and myself, hopefully out later this year. Here is the (unofficial) blurb and author list:

Undead & Unbound
Undead: from ancient mummies to shrunken heads and floating vampire heads, from medieval warrior wights to conquistador skeletons and resurrected faeries, the undead haunt in many and unexpected guises.

Unbound: from the jungles of South America to the gold fields of the Wild West, in occupied Europe and along the banks of the Nile, to the ice fields of the North Pole and the wastelands of Mars, nowhere is safe from undead infestation.

Undead & Unbound: A collection of nineteen new horror stories by twenty leading horror authors from across the globe.
  • “Blind Item” by Cody Goodfellow
  • “Dead Baby Keychain Blues” by Gary McMahon
  • “A Personal Apocalypse” by Mercedes M. Yardley
  • “The Unexpected” by Mark Allan Gunnells
  • “Incarnate” by David Dunwoody
  • “Marionettes” by Robert Neilson
  • “Undead Night of the Undeadest Undead” by C.J. Henderson
  • “I Am Legion” by Robert M. Price
  • “When Dark Things Sleep” by Damien Walters Grintalis
  • “Descanse En Paz” by William Meikle
  • “Thunder in Old Kilpatrick” by Gustavo Bondoni
  • “Phallus Incarnate” by Glynn Owen Barrass
  • “Wreckers” by Tom Lynch
  • “Scavenger” by Oscar Rios
  • “In the House of Millions of Years” by John Goodrich
  • “Romero 2.0” by Brian M. Sammons and David Conyers
  • “Mother Blood” by Scott David Aniolowski
  • “The Unforgiving Court” by David Schembri
  • “North of the Arctic Circle” by Peter Rawlik
Published by Chaosium.

Midnight Echo 6 interviews: Mark Farrugia

Midnight Echo 6, the Science Fiction Horror special is well and truly out, in electronic and print versions. For the last interview it seems appropriate we speak with the last author in the collection, Mark Farrugia and his end of the world story “Seeds”.


1. What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?

Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson is my favourite SF-horror novel. I’ve always been fascinated by the concepts of fractured realities and merging planes of existence. Combine those with a computer simulation designed to preserve intergalactic consciousness, which has been infected by a virus, and I am hooked.

As for SF-horror short stories there are lots of classics that spring to mind. We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick and To Serve Man by Damon Knight were SF-horror I enjoyed years ago. More recently I have enjoyed Jason Fischer’s Jesusman series, Stroboscopic by Alastair Reynolds, A Hundredth Name by Christopher Green and The Laughing Girl of Bora Fanong by John Dixon and Adam Browne.

2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?

“Seeds” is set in a dystopian version of Melbourne, which has reverted to a regressive theocracy. It’s a brutal world and I am sure it won’t appeal to everyone.  

Influences? The idea for “Seeds”  was inspired by the work of New Zealand born, Melbourne writer Paul Haines. For a long time I couldn’t get Paul’s story “Wives” out of my mind, especially the voice of the main character Jimbo. As an aside, I was also working in State politics at the time I wrote “Seeds”, perhaps that influenced my perspective too.

On a subconscious level at least, “Seeds” was also influenced by other dystopian fiction I’ve read over the years. V for Vendetta and Watchmen (Alan Moore), On The Far Side Of The Cadillac Desert With The Dead Folks (Joe R Lansdale), 1984 (George Orwell), Undead Camels Ate My Flesh (Jason Fischer), Y – The Last Man (Brain Vaughan), Frank Miller (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns) and Philip K Dick (too many stories to list) have all influenced me somewhat with the unique worlds they’ve created.

3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

I’ve written a sequel to “Seeds”. It’s called “The March of the Amputee”.

Mark Farrugia

I think his name is Martin but the *doof-doof* beat from the bar outside is too loud for me to be certain exactly what he said. Shirt open and leaning against the basin, his body is doused in sweat. Like rotting wood in an overgrown paddock, a crucifix lies partially hidden amongst the grey hairs on his chest. It trembles with each beat of his heart, but I know this man doesn’t believe in God. Not really; if he did he wouldn’t be here with me. Inside the churches and cathedrals we are forced to pay homage on our knees, but out here in the real world there are other ways to pay tribute, other sacrifices to make.

It’s over. I rub my throat. I should get up but my legs are still numb from kneeling against the cold tiled floor.

Skin like ash, the sombre lines that scar Martin’s face are visible through short stubble. He lights a cigarette and exhales rings of smoke. I used to be able to do that. Now it just makes my eyes water, distorting my vision. For a moment, in the full-length mirror behind Martin, the image of me merges with him and he looks down at me like a perverted reflection.

Shit. My head knocks against the washbasin. Yellow-brown stains and a swab of squashed gum cling to the porcelain. On top of the basin a fold of $100 bills, weighed down by a lump of dirty soap, waits for me. The money is mine. I’ve fucking earned it.

As Martin zips up, I stand. The taste of latex is strong but I know it’s better than the mouthful trapped inside the flaccid rubber. Using the sheath and receiving five hundred instead of four were the only concessions I could gain. My minor victories, I suspect, are the little sacrifices Martin makes to keep his conscious clear. Perhaps the crucifix weighs heavier than I thought. Religion; it’s all about sacrifice, isn’t it?

Did a man called Jesus really die for me? Is that even possible? I suspect he just died and the rest is bullshit. Martin drapes his shirt over the crucifix, concealing it as he does up the buttons. The God symbol is gone. He puffs more smoke and the end of the cigarette edges towards his fingers.
The Righteous say humanity is going to Hell. It’s been almost 75 years since the last female was born. The few alive are all too old to give birth—cunts as dry as the Simpson Desert—but they were harvested for their eggs when they were younger. The Harvest was a blessing, but the supply of eggs will soon be exhausted. The Righteous say the X-Zone Virus is God’s way of forcing man to repent. Repent for what? Guys like Martin and I, we said fuck it and took a different path.

Biography – Mark Farrugia

Mark Farrugia’s writing credits include the blood n’guts dragon fantasy A Bag Full of Arrows, which received an honorable mention from Ellen Datlow for 2010, and the vampire comic series Allure of the Ancients (illustrated by Greg Chapman). His fiction has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) 48, Midnight Echo 3, 5 and now 6, Borderlands 11, Eclecticism 12 and AntiopdeanSF. BestScienceFictionStories.com declared Mark’s flash fiction amongst its favorites of 2009 and 2010.  Mark edited ASIM46 and co-edited ASIM Best of Horror Volume 2. Mark is the AHWA’s Critique Group Manager.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Always Good to Get a Nice Review

A story I wrote over five years ago, "Soft Viscosity", got a rather nice review from sf writer, Guy Salvidge on his website. In fact, it was his favorite story in the anthology: 
"Soft Viscosity” by David Conyers is the longest story in 2012 and it’s probably my personal favourite. Set in South America, it features Ecuadorian terrorists, an oil war, the machinations of the CIA, and more. Told from multiple points of view, the story weaves together disparate narratives that are all nevertheless infused with dark and gritty violence. "Soft Viscosity” demonstrates a level of realism greater than in some of the other stories in this volume, and indeed in speculative fiction in general. There’s enough material for a novel in here, and yet Conyers packs it into twenty or so incendiary pages. - Guy Salvidge
Always nice to get a good review.
When I was asked by the editors to write a story for the 2012 anthology, I thought it was going to be a collection of science fiction, but most of the stories selected were fantasy or weird speculative fiction, so my tale feels a little out of place. That said, there were excellent stories in the book from Sean McMullen and Dirk Flinthart who wrote strong sci-fi pieces. Still, I must have done something right because my story got a 2009 Ditmar Award nomination.
I'm not sure if the anthology is still in print or not. Perhaps I should post "Soft Viscosity" on my website.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

New Extreme Planets Website and D.L. Snell Market Scoops Interview

David Kernot, co-editor of Extreme Planets anthology has set up a website specifically for the book. We'll be posting updates, news on the book, links to interesting sites about exoplanets and sources for ideas for submissions, and anything else that interests us.
The first news item is my interview with D.L. Snell for Snell's Market Scoops, on what we are looking for in submissions.
More news on the website.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Albedo One Issue 41 Released with Iain M Banks Interview

Issue 41 of Albedo One has just been released, and this issue features an interview I conducted with Iain M. Banks.  

Issue 41

Having set ourselves the considerable challenge of following our last issue of Albedo One (number 40) with its bumper 100 pages featuring no less than 12 fine stories, we now proudly present our latest issue. Issue 41 features an interview by David Conyers with Iain M. Banks and boasts the same redesigned look from issue 40 with interior artwork accompanying the fiction.
The issue features stories by Bruce McAllister ("Demon") and Eric Brown ("Differences"). We also proudly present the three winning stories of the International Aeon Award 2010 Short Fiction Contest, "Aethra" by Michalis Manolios, "Pinocchio" by Jacob Garbe and "A Room of Empty Frames" by Robin Maginn. Further excellent fiction is provided by Peter C. Loftus ("Reflected Glory"), Judy Klass ("Lost Highway Travellers") and Francisco Mejia ("Nathan Swindle and the Citadel"). The issue continues our programme of translations with an English translation of Jan J.B. Kuiper's surreal fantasy "Blavatsky's Knee", translated from Dutch by Roelof Goudriaan.
We are also proud to feature the three winning stories from the 2010 John West Brainfood.ie Fantasy Writing Competition. Students aged 11 to 20 from all over Ireland were asked to ‘feed their imaginations’ and compose a short story based in the fantasy/science fiction genre. Almost 5,000 entries were received from students nationwide. The competition judges were Frank P. Ryan and A. J. Healy. The winners were 13 year old Lauren Mulvihill (the overall winner) from Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, with "Ways of Making Maths More Interesting", 12 year old Kathy Cronin from Tralee, Co. Kerry, who won the ‘Senior Primary Category’ and 17 year old Aaron Elbel from Killarney, Co. Kerry, who won the ‘Senior Secondary Category’. Albedo One is delighted to see the writing of speculative fiction receive such an impetus in Irish schools.
Issue 41 of Albedo One features cover art by Richard Wagner and the interior artwork comes courtesy of Anastasia Alexandrin. It is available for purchase now in low-cost pdf format and will be available for purchase in print in the coming days.

Extract from the Interview:

David: You’ve been using the Culture in numerous novels since 1987 with the release of Consider Phlebas, and at lot has changed since then in our understanding of science and in technological advan cements. Do you find it difficult keeping the Culture setting relevant with respect to these developments?

Iain: Not too difficult; partly this is luck and partly cunning plan. I set the Culture in what for us would be a medium range future, but where a lot of the gizmology has either shrunk to the point you can’t see it or been put to the task of making things look like a much earlier, even lo-tech version of paradise, largely for aesthetic reasons. The ships are effectively the Culture’s mega-cities, while the places where the vast majority of people live – the Orbitals – are generally quite rural or even apparently wild, with all the infrastructure and fast transport stuff hidden on the underside, in vacuum. Any engineering and storage space is inside the mountains, which are mostly hollow. I just decided really early on – partly from looking at how and where people with vast amounts of money/power have chosen to live their lives throughout history – that what people really like is lots of space both outside and in, with a view over unspoiled countryside, though with the connectivity of a city. So that’s what Orbitals have. (The ones featured in the stories so far, anyway; probably about time to mix that up a little.)
The same idea of using hi-tech to go back to something earlier also applies to Culture humans themselves; I did think of Borg-like amendments and uploading into all sorts of techy and bio weirdness – and all that does happen and is mentioned in the stories – but I decided that in the end the machines (builtfrom-scratch machines) would always do that stuff better, so humans – after going through a civilisational phase of trying everything – would mostly revert to being recognisably human, though with significant changes. All the Culture bodily bio-upgradings are just the things I thought it would be cool to have, like drug glands, slower ageing, a wider visible radiation spectrum, the ability to change sex, pain control etc. There’s also the assumption that all the humans are just born smart; my working premise has always been that if I was a Culture citizen, I’d be of slightly below average intelligence (and, trust me, I have a – probably unjustifiably – high opinion of my own cleverness).
Making the ships fully sentient and masters/mistresses of their own destiny seemed obvious too, back in the Seventies when I was putting all this stuff together. It appeared clear that strong and constantly improving AI would be here by the time we had true interstellar travel and that having a human captain issuing orders to a ship AI would be as comical as a human being bossed about by a flea.
The idea is that machines can do everything better than humans except be human (and, arguably, have fun), so let the humans not even bother trying to compete in other areas, and concentrate on being human. Putting all this far enough in the future, and after that phase of trying out the sort of stuff that Transhumanists here on Earth are talking about now seemed like a good way of future-proofing the stories right from the start. Oh, and terminals; I kind of got that right; terminals are the smart phones of the future, though it’s almost all done by voice. Again, for a while they’d have been implanted, but that would just have been a fashion.
Happily, the cosmology behind the scenes in the Culture stories (the whole nested universes thing) is so insane that even the discovery of dark matter, dark energy and so on made nary a dent in its essential ludicrousness; it’s as absurd now as it was then.

SF Crowsnest Reviews Midnight Echo 6

Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Issue is reviewed on SF Crowsnest:    

The overall quality of the fiction was of a high standard, professional in its delivery and command of the English language. A pleasing range of styles and subject matter, sufficient to keep you interested all the way through the magazine.
Read the rest of the review here.

Midnight Echo 6 interviews: Stephen Dedman

Midnight Echo 6, the Science Fiction Horror Issue is well and truly out, but the interviews are still going. Today we focus on one of Australia’s most successful short speculative fiction authors, Stephen Dedman, who contributed a science fiction tale focused on the dangers of new technology and child pornography.    
1. What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why? 
Probably “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, because it's so convincing, and because it tricks you into expecting a happy ending until you remember that it's a Lovecraft story. Runners-up would be The Andromeda Strain, which scared the bejesus out of me when I was twelve, and for the TV work of Nigel Kneale, particularly Quatermass and the Pit and The Stone Tape.
2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?  
A few years ago, I wrote a story called “Desiree”, about a teenager who falls in love with what might be a girl, or might only be software capable of passing a Turing test; he never finds out which, because he can't afford the license fee after the free trial runs out. “More Matter, Less Art” is a sort of sequel to that, where the sex robot had a body. I made the robot a child partly because it would be easier to program, but mostly in response to news stories about things that might or might not legally count as child pornography – Bill Henson's photographs; fan cartoons of Lisa Simpson having sex (and the logo for the 2012 Olympics); children's faces photoshopped over the faces of porn performers; and, of course, real child-sized sex dolls. The Britart content came about because Damien Hirst had also been in the news, and remembering some of the work and statements by Young British Artists such as the Chapmans made me wonder what could and could not be defended by calling it modern art and where the dividing line might be between that and child porn.
3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?    
I once wrote a non-fiction book for children, Bone Hunters, that made more money for me than any of my novels (mainly thanks to Educational Lending Right, rather than the publisher).
More Matter, Less Art
Stephen Dedman
Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea.—John Ciardi
Bianca sat on the bed, watching. “Hello,” she said, smiling. Her voice was as childlike as her body and face, and she rarely said anything else without being spoken to first. Her facial recognition software was good enough that she remembered Boyce’s face, and would smile when she saw him or change her own expression to mirror his. Her eyes could also track him if he moved, and if he turned away, she would say goodbye.
He didn’t turn away, but stood there staring at her as the room grew darker. Neither of them spoke, and a casual observer might have wondered which of them was actually alive.
Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-sublimated libidinal model, a sculpture by Turner nominees Jake and Dinos Chapman, was made up of fiberglass mannequins of children, their torsos fused into one great blob, their heads sticking out at different angles. They were naked but for sneakers, and while the central mass was as sexless as an amoeba, some of the children’s noses were replaced with erect penises and their mouths with round orifices that might have been gaping vaginas or anuses crafted by someone who’d never seen either, except maybe in a porn movie.
The sexually ambiguous childlike figures who populated the brothers’ Tragic Anatomies were also fused together, though in separate couplings or threesomes, and also wearing sneakers as they ambled through a garden of artificial plants. Boyce’s expression didn’t change as he moved from this installation to Death. This appeared to be two sex dolls 69-ing: Boyce knew that the bodies were actually cast from bronze, but the Chapmans had done a remarkable job of making this look like plastic.
A placard nearby lamented the destruction of their piece titled *Hell* in a Momart warehouse fire, and showed a ‘Momart’ Zippo lighter the brothers had designed in response. It also quoted Jake Chapman describing the murder of a Liverpool toddler as ‘a good social service’. Boyce shook his head slightly as he walked out of the gallery.
Biography – Stephen Dedman 

Stephen Dedman is the author of the novels The Art of Arrow Cutting and Shadows Bite and more than 120 published short stories (for a full bibliography, go to www.stephendedman.com). He has won the Aurealis and Ditmar awards, and been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Sidewise Award, the Seiun Award, the Spectrum Award, and a sainthood. He lives in Western Australia, and enjoys reading, travel, movies, complicated relationships, talking to cats, and startling people.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The 2011 Scorecard

At the end of year I like to do a writing retrospective of the year that was and a look forward to future publications. Previous year scorecards can be found here.

I’m still managing to achieve around five short story / novella publications a year. This year they comprised of four horror, one science fiction and one sf/horror blend. I’m writing far more science fiction these days but I’m obviously selling more horror, hopefully that balance will change. The first two stories are part of my Harrison Peel series, the first original Peel stories since The Spiraling Worm came out in 2007:
  • The Eye of Infinity (Perilous Press, USA)
  • “The Masked Messenger” with John Goodrich in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #53 (Australia)
  • “The Advertising Imperative” in Ticon4
  • “Winds of Nzambi” with David Kernot in Midnight Echo #6 (Australia) which incidentally won the Australian Horror Writers Association’s Short Story Competition
  • “The Nightmare Dimension” in Rage Against the Darkness (Brimstone Press, Australia)
  • “An Angel of Frequency” in Melbourne by Dusk (Australia).
My favourite of my own work of this year would easily be The Eye of Infinity.

On the award front of was nominated for the Australian Shadows Award with my horror short story “Dream Machine”, published in Scenes from the Second Storey from Morrigan Books in 2010.
I also co-edited with David Kernot and Jason Fischer Midnight Echo 6, the Science Fiction Horror Issue, which is now my second edited publication. I interviewed Charles Stross and Chris Moore for this issue.
For Albedo One #40 I reviewed Wireless by Charles Stross, Year’s Best SF 15 by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, Cosmos #36 by Wilson da Silva, plus some online reviews. I also participated in Shane Jiraiya Cummings’ online discussions of the future of e-publishing, and provided cover art for two issues of Jupiter Magazine.
I didn’t write that much this year, and still didn’t get started on my novel. I put that down to turmoil in the global markets which forced me to move jobs and cities against (Sydney back to Adelaide), and settling into a new job. My situation is much more stable than it has been in about six years.
Publications coming out in 2012 that I can talk about include:
  • “Expectant Green” with John Kenny in Jupiter #35 (United Kingdom)
  • “The Road to Afghanistan” in What Scares the Bogeyman? (Fantom Enterprises, USA)
  • “Romero 2.0” with Brian M. Sammons in Undead & Unbound (Chaosium Inc., USA)
  • “The R’lyeh Singularity” with Brian M. Sammons  in Cthulhu Unbound 3 (Permuted Press, USA)
  • “Nomad Flora” in Darwin’s Evolutions (USA).
I’ve also got two anthologies coming out in 2012, the first is Cthulhu Unbound 3 which I co-edited with Brian M. Sammons and features novellas from Cody Goodfellow, D.L. Snell, Tim Curran and a Harrison Peel collaboration with Brian M. Sammons. The other is Undead & Unbound also co-edited with Brian M. Sammons which will feature horror stories from authors such as Cody Goodfellow, Gary McMahon, C.J. Henderson, Damien Walters Grintalis and others. I’m also co-editing with David Kernot and Jeff Harris Extreme Planets, a science fiction/space opera anthology for which we are currently seeking submissions.
Thanks this year to David Kernot, Cody Goodfellow, Olivia Kernot, Brian M. Sammons, Paul Drummond, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, John Kenny, Frank Ludlow, Bob Neilson, Peter Loftus, Angela Challis, Marty Young, Jason Fischer, Jacob Kier, Jeff Harris, Glynn Owen Barrass, C.J. Henderson, Ian Redman, and many others too numerous to name here.