Mazes and the Futility of a Controlled Life: "Thirteen Generations" Reviewed

I am humbled at being read at all  and just about speechless on the handful of occasions when people have publicly shared their thoughts on things I've written. I've realized (probably a bit later than most people) that being a reader is really is a type of co-conspirator to text. To describe it in the loose-analogy of film-making: If a writer is providing a script then the reader must provide the rest of the production to create the particular experience in their mind: Actors, sets, camera-angles, CGI effects and other post-production, etc. It is the most flattering thing to be read and yet, one can never take too much credit for someone else's good experience in reading as they've obviously brought something special to the transaction themselves.

Derek Newman-Stille's pensive and insightful review of "Thirteen Generations" at Speculating Canada has me in such place. His piece "Mazes and the Futility of a Controlled Life" leads me to thinking about aspects of the story in ways I hadn't fully considered. I think he may understand this story better than me.

"Thirteen Generations" is up at AE: Science Fiction Review.


AE Micro 2013 - Elements

I've loved the whole concept of the AE Micro anthologies since coming across them at the Friday night party of SF Contario 2: A collection of five very short stories (all less than 200 words) printed in a tiny point-size onto a sheet of 8.5 x 11 that could be cut and folded into a tiny booklet.

So, I was more than delighted when I found out the other week that my story "Dig for Fire" was to be included in AE Micro 2013 - Elements. The theme was open to interpretation: classic elements, periodic table, fundamental particles or the more general idea of things being reduced to more abstract essences. For my story, I chose the made-up element of phlogiston. Hardly my own creation, phlogiston theory was all the rage for explaining heat in the 17th century, prior to the discovery of kinetic-molecular theory. Phlogiston itself was allegedly a flammable substance that was otherwise undetectable essence inside things. When it was released it transformed into heat and fire. This attempted to explain why phlogiston-rich substances like wood and coal would weigh significantly less after burning, having just lost their reserve of phlogiston. It's all very quaint in light of current knowledge, but the question rose: What if this were actually true? How might the pursuit of energy (particularly on the scale of a country or empire) change as a result of this...especially if certain astronomical theories of the time also held?

It's a similar approach to an idea I first encountered in the too-obscure Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle. His conceit was to take Aristotelian physics and Ptolemaic astronomy and write a novel within those constraints.

Suddenly, I had pages upon pages of notes about alternate histories, scientific theories and Austro-Hungarian navy vessel names. There was more information that would fit into a 2000 word story that was heavy on exposition, much less fit comfortably in a 200 word piece.

So, there was "process" and after leaving behind many darlings--like descriptions of calculating the epicycles on epicycles of the different spheres' rotations and the physical conditions on the island-like sunspot--the story was hewed to be within limits and submitted with a few minutes to spare.

And so it's here and readable in less time that it takes to listen to its namesake Pixies song.


Aurora Awards

I've got a few stories that are eligible to be nominated for this year's Prix Aurora Awards.

If you're signed up with CFSSA (or want to sign up for a modest $10 that includes a nice voter's pack of nominated work) you may want to consider my story "Thirteen Generations" from AE Science Fiction earlier this year.

Adam Shaftoe from Page of Reviews writes: 
Thirteen Generations is one of the smartest, most touching and ultimately tragic pieces of fiction I've had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. There is both symmetry and artistry in the prose. People would be doing themselves an injustice by not reading this story.

Yeah...what he said.

Also, there were plenty of fantastic short fiction written last year that are probably more Aurora-worthy than my own works to date. I hope to see any and all of these stories on the ballot.

  • "Wing" by Amal El-Motar
    I really like short, flash length fiction that pushes and pokes at the borders between prose and poetry. "Wing" is this fantastic arrangement of ideas and words into something remarkably visual and tangible.
  • "The Old Boys Club" by Geoff Gander
    The epistolary form can work really well in short pieces, particularly for telling stories that take place over a protracted time. It infers a greater scheme and world beyond the words, to say nothing of the voice we never get to hear directly due to seeing only one side of the correspondence. This one really drew me in.
  • "Blessed" by Helen Marshall
    Helen has more gifts for storytelling than I can possibly enumerate, but "Blessed" puts forth her uncanny sensibilities around the experience of childhood as woven in with events that start off uncanny and get progressively bizarre and macabre.
  • "Δπ" by Matt Moore
    I like highly conceptual stories where fundamental rules of math and physics can change and be altered. Text has a great advantage for telling a story such as this, where the characters are dependent upon their own observations to determine what is happening to them in the face of an event that is both world changing but remarkably subtle.

The whole bumper crop of about 300 eligible short stories listed in the complete list of eligible works  at CanSpecFic courtesy of Michael Matheson. Many of them available online to read.

April 15 is the deadline for Prix Aurora Awards nominations.


Ad Astra

In several respects, Ad Astra has been a convention of firsts for me. It was the first convention I'd ever attended when arriving onto the scene of writers and readers a few years ago. Last year, it became the first event that I was invited to attend as a panellist.

I am delighted to be attending again and my tentative schedule is as follows:

  • Friday 10 pm Beaufort East - What is Happening With Webseries?
    James Bambury (m), Thomas Gofton, Scott Albert
  • Sunday 1 pm Beaufort East - Summer Scifi Trailer Park
    Sara Dhooma (m), James Bambury, Matt Moore, Adam Shaftoe
  • Sunday 12 pm Ellsemere West - Drowning out Distractions
    James Bambury (m), Karina Sumner-Smith, Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Ed Greenwood, Julie Czerneda
Thankfully, I am in the will be moderating the two panels where I have the least qualifications.