Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sibyl Smokes a Cigarette in a Literary Venue

Read my flash story 'Sibyl' in Wattpad's Literary Fiction Network Anthology. 'Sibyl' first sold to the science fiction venue, Nature's Futures. It's not the first time I've sold SF to literary venues. 

Genre is only a construct. 

Authors: if you're interested in being published in this anthology you can find the guidelines by clicking on the arrowhead on the image on Wattpad's blog. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

'Glass Future' Published in Dutch Translation in Wonderwaan

Very pleased to see my Nature story 'Glass Future' published in Wonderwaan. They also asked me to do an afterword for the story, something that hasn't happened much. And as a reader I love reading these. So I'll post it here, in English:

A few elements combined when I wrote 'Glass Future.' I was reading a collection of Philip K. Dick's short stories when I became inspired to write a story about precognition. This theme occurs regularly in Dick's work ('The Minority Report' for example, but there are many others.) It's also a fascinating question for me. Are we set on the road of predestination? Sometimes I decide one way, sometimes I decide the other. 

The second element was reading about Deinococcus radiodurans which has been charmingly nicknamed Conan the Bacterium. This is one hardy microorganism. Deinococcus is an extemophilic bacterium which can survive extreme environmental conditions and has been named by The Guinness Book of Records as the world's toughest bacterium. Deinococcus has multiple copies of its genome and an extremely efficient DNA repairing mechanism. 

That got me thinking: what would happen if humans were gene-modded to have multiple copies of their genome in their cells. The final element was the situation. I wanted to combine the science and the science fiction in a very real-life situation. The ending of a relationship seemed an interesting arena to explore the notion of precognition. 

If that tempts you, you can read 'Glass Future' in Nature, the original publication here. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

'Pure and Without Savour' Wins Chinese Short Story Competitionin

获奖作者:Deborah Walker,文章常见于 Nature 杂志及其他杂志,博客:需翻墙),科幻小说有136篇,真是一位好勤奋的作者!本期微信投票中奖作者是王迪同学,看到微博请微信联系小编哟

Last month I took part in SFComet contest. Along with three Chinese and one Australian authors I wrote a story to the prompt 'Part-time Beggar' my story was then translated into Mandarin and entered into the October contest. 

My story won. 

I'm thrilled. I'd like to thank my translator, he or she must have done a wonderful job. 

I'd also like to thank the vampire squid, who's physiology provided inspiration for my main character alien. 

If you're interested in taking part in SFComet's monthly contest to Bring the Best of World SF to You, find the guidelines here.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Writing Despite the Weasels: Guest Post from Floris M. Kleijne

I'm pleased to have writer Floris M. Kleijne on my blog, discussing some of the brain weasels that plague us as authors. 

A long, rambling mission statement in which I admit I that need your help

WARNING: This post contains writerly soul-baring and navel-staring.

Never surrender

When it comes to writing, I am my own worst enemy.
I found a discussion thread on the forum page of my online writers group Codex yesterday, posing the question most writers must ask themselves at one time or another: when is it time to give up on writing? Spotting the title of the thread, I surprised myself with my furious, instinctive, all but visceral reaction:
There are no circumstances I can currently imagine that could move me to stop trying to express myself through story. Sure, I’ve had slow periods, I’ve been demotivated, I’ve at times claimed bouts of writer’s block, that widespread affliction I don’t actually believe in any longer. I’ve had years, particularly when our boys were baby boys, that yielded 5000 (5K) words in total, if that. There have been countless evenings and days off that I begrudged my writing the time I wanted to myself to wind down and not feel the countless demands modern life makes on me. I’ve doubted, wrestled, procrastinated, and flat-out refused to put my hands to the keyboard.
But the urge is never absent. Either I write regularly, or I feel the emptiness where the creative process lies comatose, the guilt of not doing what at least part of me believes I was made to do, the need that expresses itself as tense arms, worry lines, and wistfulness. Whatever else I may be doing, story is always at the near edge of consciousness. Every short, every novella, every novel that lies viable, promising, but unfinished, is an open wound.

Get a hobby

I Need A HobbyIn the past, my struggle, my frequent reluctance, my guilt over not writing, have prompted my wife to ask if I should perhaps try a different hobby, one that brings more reliable enjoyment, and doesn’t feel so much like a chore at times. The answer to that, of course, that it’s not a hobby. Writing is a major part of how I define myself; in fact, up until I became a father, writing was the only thing central to who I was, or at least to how I perceived myself. (These days, I am a father, a husband, and a writer, in approximately that order.)
Granted, I’ve learned over the years to embrace the fact that I am also a highly skilled IT nerd, after struggling with that side of my self-image for decades. But I could give up computer work in a heartbeat if I had to; I can no more conceive of not being a writer than of not being a father to my marvellous children, or a husband to my incredible wife. I write not just because that is what I want to do most, but because that is what I am; I write because I can’t not write.

To write, one must write

BottleWhy, then, you may ask, do I do so little actual writing? I average perhaps two short stories a year, and manage to churn out a couple of novel chapters here and there; last year, when among other things I went and wrote half a novel (40K words) in three months on my commuter trains, was a bizarre outlier. The fact that I sell over half the stories I finish compensates slightly for my deplorable lack of productivity, but that’s not the point. The point is that I’m very passionate about writing, but do not actually write much at all.
Why not?
Being a father of two little children, I can believably claim time and energy constraints. And those were real, from our first pregnancy in 2009 up to early Spring of 2013, when our youngest finally learned to sleep through the night. It cannot be a coincidence that the 2013 outlier, that saw me writing 50K words of new fiction (including the half-novel I mentioned before) as well as 38K words of contest critique, followed hard on the heels of that incredibly energizing new period of not getting up in the middle of the night to prepare formula.
But while all of that is true, it cannot be the only explanation. For my difficult relationship with my own fiction predates our children by decades.
So what, then?

Nothing but a sorry phony

A Sorry PhonyPart of the answer is the Imposter Syndrome. There was a great post on Facebook the other day about that, but I’ll give you a rather unrelated Tom Lehrer quote instead, which while not applicable at all, captures the spirit so well that it always makes me think of the IS–perhaps also because Tom Lehrer was so very skilled, not just at writing brilliant, hilarious songs, and mastering musical styles seemingly without effort, but also at not making a big deal out of it. I’ve never heard of an artist who was less enamoured with fame and success, less impressed with his own considerable skill.
The Imposter Syndrome is the erroneous belief that one has achieved, succeeded, progressed merely through a combination of sheer luck, beneficial misunderstandings, bluff, and being consistently overestimated by others. People suffering from this mental state are highly skilled at explaining away any and all of their achievements, pointing out the extenuating circumstances that let them pass beyond their abilities, minimizing their accomplishments, in the constant fear that someone, someday, will catch them out, expose them for the frauds they clearly are.
To paraphrase Mr Lehrer: “He met with modest success in his writing, until… they caught him at it one day.”

That proves nothing

Ganymedes 10 (1986)The first SF story I ever submitted anywhere, which I wrote in longhand after waking up with the plot at 4am when I was sixteen years old, was accepted and slated for publication in the foremost Dutch anthology of contemporary speculative fiction, Ganymedes. This acceptance should objectively have been a confidence boost, but the fact that the publisher discontinued the entire anthology a short time later held more sway in my mind. Sure, I was accepted, but for an anthology that wasn’t even commercially viable.
The first story I submitted after deciding to try my luck in the English language, sold to the first market I sent it to. Admittedly, the euphoria about this sale lasted at least two months. But it didn’t take me long to decide that the ten-dollar payment was sufficient evidence of the modesty of this achievement; reading my author copy of the magazine, I remember being unimpressed, and concluding that my own story was probably at the same level of mediocrity.
The second story I submitted, I wrote specifically for the market I sent it to, after a friend pointed the market out to me: Writers of the Future. Possessed of a deep level of naivité about the significance of that contest, my prime motivation was that it was the only contest I could find that did not charge an entry fee. I sent them my story on a whim, and found myself gasping for breath when they let me know that though I hadn’t actually won anything, they would buy my story for the next anthology anyway. My joy was sky-high, but the fact that it didn’t win stuck out a tad more in my eyes than the fact that it got published.
The third story I sent out made quarter-finalist in WotF, but collected eighteen rejections after that, until I had to decide it was time to trunk it. The rejections weighed heavier in my mind than the high ranking at WotF.

Still think you’re incompetent?

Award CeremonyThe fifth story I sent out won first place in Writers of the Future.
Now I must admit that was an achievement challenging my Imposter Syndrome skills to the utmost. One of the IS techniques, of course, is to cast doubt upon the context of the achievement, and that was the first approach I tried. This contest, after all, was established by the same man responsible for founding a semi-religious movement that is widely considered less than savoury, to say the least.
That didn’t work: not only does the Writers of the Future organization draw a strict demarcation line between the Contest and the other legacies of Mr Hubbard, the long, long list of past winners who’ve gone on to highly respected writing careers, and the long list of respected authors endorsing the Contest, speak for themselves.
So maybe the quarter in which I placed first was a weak one? That thought held up until I read Vol.XXI of the anthology, containing my story and the other winners. I was in awe of all the other stories; if the judges, all writers I respected, had placed me above two of these tales, there was no longer any way I could fool myself into maintaining that Meeting the Sculptor was a mediocre story that just managed to sneak in under the radar.
Sculptor must be a good story, and by extension, I must at least be a competent writer.
This paralyzed me for years.

The open door

OpenDoorI sometimes claim that the Writers of the Future win came too early in my careerlet, that I wasn’t ready for it, that I got my wish too soon, that having my dream fulfilled of that moment in the spotlight, that award ceremony, that bow-tied penguin suit, I was left floundering. And all of that is sorta true, even.
But I’ve grown to believe that the truth is more complicated.
Having to accept that I have the makings of a skilled writer, that I am competent enough to write an award-winning story, that I may even know what I am doing, terrified me into creative paralysis. Because there is a second factor in play that works together very well with the Imposter Syndrome, one that had joined hands for decades with my urge to tell stories: the need to be seen, to receive encouragement, to gain outside approval from authority figures.
Stemming from a huge reservoir of fundamental insecurity, this need drove my creative process, to the point where every story wasn’t just a story, but a shout-out to the people whose approval I most desired: see, here I am! This is my work! Look on my works, ye mighty, and rejoice! However, ye mighty never much rejoiced at all (a fact reflected painfully on a larger scale in the lack of interest in my international achievements in my own country). Next to story itself, the desperate need to be seen was always a deeply seated driver for my writing.
The huge, objective, outside confirmation that the Writers of the Future win represented to me, however joyful, threatened all that. It threatened to force me to abandon my need for approval, instead holding a beckoning door ajar to a new world where I might simply rejoice in my own skills, embrace my successes, loudly crow my own achievements.
Where I might simply believe in myself.
That door is still open, and the other side still beckons. But it’s a scary door to pass through, because while the light on the other side is gorgeous and tempting, it’s also blinding: it illuminates more clearly the things I know on this side than what’s waiting for me on the other side.

Through the door

You have no power over meMuch of what’s on the other side I already know.
I’ve been a member of the Villa Diodati Expat Writers Workshop for years now, and every time I attend one of our workshop weekends, I feel less like an intruder, less like an imposter, and more like I actually do have the skills and the credits to be among that wonderful group of funny, talented, (and gourmet) writers as an equal. But the doubt nags, the Imposter Syndrome lurks, the need for affirmation lingers, and the one snide remark one of the members made three years ago about a less than impressive semi-pro sale I reported, still sometimes outweighs the wonderful feedback the group has given me over the years.
And I’ve grown more active within the Dutch specfic community, and met many wonderful kindred spirits in that context, and made dear new friends, and received acknowledgements aplenty for the things I’ve done with my writing. But that is a community better versed in criticism and low-key comments than in positive feedback; the acknowledgement I still believe I need is hard to come by there.
My foot is fully through the door, and I know in my head that the other side has more room for growth, and more joy, and just generally a higher standard of living as a writer, even though the work will still be as hard, the struggle will still be there. I’m wavering on the threshold, holding on to the familiar gloom and self-limiting delusions on the side I come from.

High with a little help from my friends

I need–and I choose that word with great care–I need to drag my other foot through that door, take a final, irreversible step, embrace, not fear, that I believe in myself. I need to stop holding myself back, to stop seeking safety in the familiar. To dive courageously into the unknown. I need to face those demons, those authority figures that held such sway for so long by withholding their approval for so long, face them if only in my mind, and defeat them as Sarah did the Goblin King, through that handful of words, that simple formula, that self-confident spell, spoken in wonder as much as determination:
But to quote another of my musical heroes, Bruce Springsteen, on his Live In New York City album (imagine a broad, rough voice sweeping a huge crowd like a pentecostal preacher): “You can’t get to those things by yourself! You gotta have help!”
Which is to say: any encouragement is greatly appreciated.


Thanks for coming onto the blog, Floris. You can buy Floris' award winning novellette 'Meeting the Sculptor' from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

It's Time for a Bigger Universe: 2015 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide

I write YA and MG science fiction and fantasy. In fact, I’m supposed to be finishing up the last touches for the paperback edition of a YA space opera right now.

Instead, I’m editing an anthology. And I’m ok with that.

The project started with a simple question on facebook: Any recommendations for YA science fiction or fantasy with a female MC, without a romantic subplot?

It was harder to answer than it should have been. Friends brought out a lot of beloved stories with strong female protagonists… but then remembered. “Oh, yeah. I guess they do end up together.” “Right, I’d forgotten about that whole theme.” “Well, it’s not a huge part of the plot, but…”

Not that these aren’t great books, but it started feeling like it’s not valid for a young woman to go on a hero’s journey without also finding true love along the way.

The conversation turned to look at books for younger readers, and here we ran into a startling statistic:

According to a 2011 study of 6,000 children’s books, only 31 percent had central female characters, and even fewer featured main characters of color.

That’s of all children’s books, but from our admittedly unscientific review of middle grade science fiction, it doesn’t seem far off.

A genre that’s supposed to inspire us towards a bright future isn’t making space for half the population’s dreams. Boys go and have adventures, girls are to be defended, or prizes to be won, and the landscape is very, very white.

This can’t be healthy.

Sally Ride, first woman in space and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, famously said:

“Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Girls need to read stories where any number of possible roles are modeled for them. Just as importantly, boys need to read stories where girls are active participants in adventures. And children of all colors and backgrounds need to know the future includes them.

It’s time for a bigger universe.

We've got a great collection of 20 stories from amazing authors, ranging from Nebula and Hugo winners to relative newcomers to the field. 90% of the stories in the anthology are brand new, and 80% have central female characters. We don't have girls who are prizes to be won or waiting to be rescued. All of our heroines and heroes are on their own adventure, not a side note in someone else's. Our characters are white, black, Asian, Latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here.

Deborah has a story in the anthology too! When I asked her to elucidate on why she’s participating, she gave me this great quote:

A science fiction story is a pathway leading into a possible future. Let's help our young people along the way. Let's show them that no pathway is barred to them because of their gender. Let's make our characters as gloriously diverse as real life and show our young people that they can walk into whatever future they want.  

A Kickstarter campaign is underway to help finance the publication of this important anthology. So far, backers who believe in the importance of diversity have committed over $2800 in support of the project, and the anthology has been chosen as a Kickstarter Staff Pick. Backers have a number of options, including pre-ordering copies of the 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, donating copies to schools or being listed in the back of the print and digital version of the book as a supporter.

Corie Weaver

*The study is “Gender in Twentieth-Century Children’s Books: Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters.” ( The results are also discussed in this Guardian article. (

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Wattpad SF Short Stories

I have been placing some of my reprint stories on Wattpad. This is a site where writers share their works with a potentially huge audience. I've seen stories with millions of reads. I'm not there yet! 

It does seem that these stories are freely accesible by everyone, so placing your stories there appears to lose you first publication rights. But of course that's not a problem with reprints. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

November Poem a Day Challenge

I did this month's poetry challenge from Robert Lee Brewer last year. Now I'm not great at challenges. But I enjoyed it. And I really, really need to fill my sack of poems. 

  • Beginning on November 1 (Atlanta, Georgia time), I will share a prompt and poem each day of November on this blog.
  • Poets are then challenged to write a poem each day (no matter where you live on the planet) within 24 hours (or so) from when the prompt is posted. Don’t worry: If you fall behind or start late, you CAN play catch up.
  • Poets do NOT have to register anywhere to participate. In fact, poets don’t even need to post to this blog to be considered participants.
  • The Challenge will unofficially conclude around 24 hours after the final prompt is posted. That said…
  • This Challenge is unique, because I expect poets to take all the material they’ve written in November and create a chapbook manuscript during the month of December. (Yes, you can revise material, and yes, the chapbook should be composed mostly of poems written for the challenge–I’m using the honor system.)
  • Poets have until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on January 7, 2015, to submit a manuscript that can be 10-20 pages in length (not including table of contents, title page, etc.) with no more than one poem per page. So if you wrote 50 poems in November, you have to narrow them down to the best 20 (or even fewer). Submit manuscripts to with the subject line: 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge. (The subject line is very important, because I have a very busy inbox.)
  • The goal will be to announce a winning manuscript by Groundhog Day 2015. February 2, 2015, for those of you unfamiliar with that particular holiday.
Day 1:  game over  'The Game of Passing'