Monday, 26 May 2014

Interviewed: NSFWG member Mechphil

In order to highlight and showcase the talents of the group members, each of us has completed the same interview.  Hopefully these will be interesting and enlightening and will also include links to websites and books.

Tenth up is Mechphil (a fine member of the group who, for various reasons, has asked to use a pseudonym for this piece)

What made you want to become a writer?

I’ve always had a kind of internal pressure to extract ideas from my busy but rather opaque mind and make them real, tangible and accessible to others. As well as writing I have been known to sketch inventions and even try to build them. That’s how my first published story came into being. It was only after I’d dabbled with building the thing that I decided writing the story was far easier. That desire to make ideas real is perhaps part of what led me to engineering, although engineering was also my childhood environment.

Writing in particular was a form of self-expression I felt compelled to use from an early age – my first conscious piece of creative writing was describing a Himalayan monsoon thunderstorm seen through the slats on the shutters in my bedroom late one hot night. I wrote stories – mainly awful thrillers modelled after the likes of Alistair McLean and Hammond Innes with a bit of Bob Judd thrown in - throughout my childhood and teens not really with any aim at publication.

Later I came to see fiction writing as a powerful way of expressing important, and often philosophical and ethical, ideas in ways a very wide public could engage with. I think fiction plays a most important role in our society’s ability to deal with the new and to direct our technological and cultural innovations.

What was your first success?

That depends how you define success! I was first encouraged to publish by teachers at school, though not the longer thriller pieces but shorter and gentler stories about family relationships. Earlier than that I think my writing changed the way my family understood me. That has been perhaps the biggest success of all.  Having my first story published was a success…but then so was having my first magazine article published, editing my first academic book and having my first academic papers published.

What do you think the group does for you?

The group is very important for giving one a sense of proportion about one’s fiction. I am especially bad at re-reading and editing my own work and I really value the group’s many different perspectives on a piece. These help one to work out what a story really is about. The NSFWG are of course excellent at giving advice about how to edit work ready for publication but there is more to it than that. Sharing writing with a trusted group of others who aim to reflect honestly but positively on creative work is an important part of developing as a creative artist and as a person. One of the greatest pleasures for me in being a member of the group since 2004 has been watching newer members developing. That function depends very precisely on the group’s culture and ways of working. Keeping things positive and open for so long is a real achievement and one I hope we can continue to succeed at for many years yet. For anyone who is interested in writing or has to write for work I would strongly recommend joining or forming a writers’ group. In many professional fields “reflexive practice” is becoming a way of life. Often that means using writing as a way of developing oneself. Whilst writing is a tool which can be used in solitude many forms of professional reflexive practice can be enhanced with shared writing.

What was your last piece of work?

A story for workshopping at the group a few months back. It’s probably one I won’t publish (immediately anyway) as it was something of a send-up of things I work on more seriously elsewhere. Although when I shared it with colleagues at work the resulting discussions were productive so a modified version might have to appear somewhere.

What's coming up from you?
I’m continuing to write and speak in academic and other areas about some of the themes which appear in my fiction. For example, morphological change and identity – how we adapt when our bodies and brains change significantly. Also about how entities with different morphologies cooperate and form working or social groups. A sideline is some work about ethics of autonomous vehicles.

Quite how some of my current experiences in industry will translate into fiction I’m not sure. I have a set of ideas around the often discussed near future “NBIC” technologies which I’d like to explore fictionally. So far I just have snatches of scenes rather than any clear plan. But I think, in my little corner of the engineering world anyway, seen through a writer’s eyes, truth is distinctly stranger than fiction, or even, more aptly, friction, which is a very strange phenomenon indeed. And so something of this might creep into some stories later this year.

Monday, 19 May 2014

NSFWG members on BFS jury

Since 1971, the British Fantasy Society has been the focal point for fans, writers, publishers, film-makers, artists and anyone who is a lover of fantasy and horror in all its forms.  The British Fantasy Awards (originally called The August Derleth Fantasy Awards) has been with the society almost from the start and are now established as an annual event, presented at FantasyCon.

Members of the society vote for the longlist and the Awards administrator collates a shortlist from this, with the relevant titles being handed to juries who will decide the winner.

This year, we are thrilled to announce that two NSFWG members - Donna Bond and Mark West - have been chosen to be jurors.  Donna has served in this capacity before for other societies, though it's Marks debut to the process.

Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award)
Cate Gardner
Jim McLeod
Mark West
Pauline Morgan
Thana Niveau

Best Magazine/Periodical
Aleksandra Kesek
Donna Bond
Jim McLeod

From the release:
The juries for the British Fantasy Awards are appointed by the Awards Administrator (Stephen Theaker) under the supervision of the British Fantasy Society committee. The BFS committee itself is the jury for the Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award).

The juries have begun the process of deciding whether to add any egregious omissions to the nominees decided by the voters of the British Fantasy Society and FantasyCon. We hope to announce the resulting shortlists at the British Fantasy Society Open Night on 6 June 2014.

For a full list of jury members, click this link

Monday, 12 May 2014

Memory Man & Other Poems, a collection by Ian Watson

Following on from his PS collection "The Uncollected Ian Watson" (see the blog post at this link), the NSFWG has also had a collection of poetry published by Leaky Boot Press.

As a taster, Ian has provided the blog with a poem that originally appeared Mythic Delirium magazine in 2006

Cobwebs in Heaven
by Ian Watson

 God’s Wife wasn’t like Eve –
although He created Eve in Her image.
She didn’t just potter about in a garden
prior to a curse of childbirth and housework
and being ruled over by a man.

While He took a siesta on the Seventh Day
She was busy with Her own creations,
Which She rather hoped He’d admire,
the life of a million other worlds
-- for She was quite a fast worker.

But He was furious and scorned those as toys
And threw her out of his house called Heaven.
Could it possibly be that He was jealous?
He’d only decorated one world; She’d equipped
Most of the rest of the universe.

Yet She wasn’t too heart-broken, God’s wife,
Satana, not when She thought about it,
falling through space towards her million Edens.

In His rage God forgot one little thing:
Who would keep His Heaven clean? 
That’s why He created angels as audience
to applaud Him while serving as feather dusters
to sweep away cobwebs with their wings.

The collected poems of award winning science fiction writer Ian watson.

Born in St Albans in 1943 and raised on Tyneside, Ian Watson escaped to Oxford as a student in 1960 for 5 years, including a dissertation on 19th Century French literature. Next he taught literature in Tanzania, then Tokyo, and finally (along with Futures Studies) at Birmingham School of History of Art, becoming a full-time author, mainly of SF, in 1976. By now he has published about 30 novels and 11 story collections, and lives in the north of Spain where he recently married the lovely Cristina. His daughter Jessica is a textile designer. Many months eyeball to eyeball with Stanley Kubrick in 1990 resulted in screen credit for A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), directed by Steven Spielberg after Kubrick's death. With Cristina he has also published a cookbook in Spanish about meals named after famous people, and with Italian surrealist Roberto Quaglia he authored a book of transgressive stories, The Beloved of My Beloved, possibly the only full-length genre book by two authors with different mother tongues. His photo-strewn website is, and as regards his most recent major novel (with Andy West), a medieval and modern medical Islamic technothriller, see His favourite beers and wines are many (excluding Shiraz and Syrah), and he fries ray wings in butter.

This book can be purchased from major on-line retailers and good bookshops worldwide. Free delivery is available to most countries from Book Depository in the United Kingdom or the USA. If you have difficulty purchasing any Leaky Boot Press title please contact us at this link.


ISBN   978-1-909849-11-2
US$ 15.99
£ 8.99
AUS $12.99

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Last Man On The Net, by Paul Melhuish

My wife and I often joke about who comes from the poorer family. She says that she came from a poorer family because her mother used to take in lodgers and she wore her sister’s hand-me-downs.  I say that I came from a poorer family because we didn’t get a video recorder until 1987.

When it comes to technology I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake. I bought my first CD player in 1999, I didn’t get a mobile phone until 2004, never cut and pasted on a computer until 2005 and this year, 2014, have begun to e-publish.

I begin this digital adventure at a time when ‘everyone is doing it’. So, have I missed the boat? Shut the stable door after the horse has bolted? Shaved my chickens before the earthquake? Pressed ‘play’ halfway through the programme? (And other sayings).

Well, here’s another saying; better late than never.

My fears about having done all this too late are reduced when I think that this might not have happened at all. Since 2000 I’ve written eleven full novels and one novella. Some of them I’ve submitted for publication and some I’ve just left because, well, they were more like practice runs. If the digital publishing revolution had never happened then these novels would just sit on my hard drive, unread. Maybe some friends would have read them but that would have been it.

Before digital self-publishing I remember trudging down to the post office, a first chapter, covering letter and return envelope in my hand, queuing behind some poor soul there to pay his gas bill, and sending off my submission to some large faceless publishing house or literary agent only to be rejected a few weeks later. My scuffed return envelope would arrive with a standard rejection letter but more often than not they would always use a paper clip to attach the letter to said rejected submission. Okay, Jeremy Farquaharson-Canker Literary Agents, so you’re rejected my work but I’m one paper clip better off so who’s the loser now?

Now, this is NOT a pop at literary agents or publishers. Having met a few at conventions I hear their side of the story. They get thousands of submissions a week and publishing is a business. They can’t take risks on unknowns who think they’re the next JK Rowling. And they did give me all those paperclips. But seriously, a few years ago it was a literary agent who kindly wrote back to tell me to get involved with the BFS which led to my first short story publication. They are not anti-writers, quite the reverse in fact.

The sad truth was that, back then, trying to get your novel published was like hitting your head against a brick wall with the words GO AWAY, YOU WILL NEVER BE PUBLISHED  writ large upon the brickwork. So, my manuscripts sat in the darkness of my hard drive.

Until now.

You may have read a thousand blogs about how the literary establishment has been rocked by ebooks but it’s true. I came to realise that all the novels I’ve written can now see the light of day. My first novel, Bad Acid, was rejected hundreds of times. There were a couple of scares when one agent wanted to see the next five chapters, another wanted to see the full manuscript but decided not to go with it. I actually changed the title to The Deities (a title that I didn’t like but thought may be more saleable) to try to get it published. When Bad Acid hits the digitals shelves in May it will retain its quirky, trashy title. So, the wall with GO AWAY, YOU WILL NEVER BE PUBLISHED has been smashed down. I am now published. My first independently published title, The Acid Lounge, a 9,000 word novelette is now out there to buy for the whacking price of $0.99. When I’ve worked out how you make it free I will. How many I sell will be up to the ebook buying public. Success will be determined by the people, not by just one person somewhere in an office drowning in submissions. How many I sell will be down to how well I publicise the product and whether the purchaser thinks it’s any good.

The most important thing, for me, if the fact that it is being published and the stories aren’t stuck on my hard drive. As a human being you want to make your mark on the world, hack a chunk into the fabric of reality. I feel I’ve done this, however small my mark may be.

for more details on - and how to order - "The Acid Lounge", go to Paul's website.