Thursday, February 28, 2019

Fan Mail and Feedback

It’s not often a writer gets comprehensive feedback in the form of a review of published work, and so far my story Tymass by Ring-Light with Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has garnered three such! The first was some fan-mail to the mag itself which the editor kindly sent on to me, and there have since been two reviews of HFQ #39, released at the beginning of February.

The longer and more comprehensive can be read here at Quick Sip Reviews:

The shorter appeared at Tangent, an online sci-fi review portal, and can be found here:

It’s certainly nice to know one’s work carries merit in the eyes of readers! Clearly it must have something going for it to make it into print in the first place, but one becomes inured to either blank rejections or the cursory “sorry, but your story didn’t impress us very much” sort of formula comment one sees from the high-flowthrough pro titles, so appreciative comment is something of a new experience!

I have a couple of new short-listings in play. Two “Middle Stars” stories are in contention at the moment, “Windwalkers” at New Myths, and “Mano รก Xeno” at Constellary Tales. The latter is a brand new pro-paying market, and I’m thrilled to be getting a second look there.

As a point of interest, the industry needs pro markets desperately, and the coming of Constellary will hopefully go some way to counterbalance, from the writer’s perspective, the demise of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, due to close in June. The fewer pro titles, the fiercer the competition, between the worldwide stable of pro writers, is likely to become. Losing even one tightens the acceptance odds on the rest!

Hoping for a few placements in the not too distant future,

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Saturday, February 2, 2019

In Print, February 2019 (and Progress)

Lovecraftiana Vol. 3 No. 4 appeared in the last week of January, and features my black comedy piece The Forgotten Supremo. If you like a little pizza with your Cthullian abominations, this is your meal-ticket! Buy here. I have now appeared in five of the dozen issues to date, a nice record!

Also, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #39 just went live, and you can read my story Tymass by Ring-Light free online here.  I have an invitation to submit some black and white art to accompany the story sometime in the next few months, which will be an interesting exercise for me, it’s been a long time since I put drawing pen to paper!

In other developments, the new Synth Anthology Series has picked up my SF short Naevus for a second edition, though I’m not sure when it’ll be coming available.

At this moment I have eighty stories out there, just one short of my record, and am waiting on a particular market to open for reading to make it 81.

UPDATE (6th February)

Alien Dimensions #17 has been released, featuring my story Sky Tears, one of my “Tales of the Middle Stars.” Find it here.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Saturday, January 26, 2019

In Print, January 2019 (and Progress)

Almost at the end of the month – things have been hectic for one reason or another, but there are actually a few things to report. Mythic #8 was published on the 23rd of January, featuring my short story Dust Mote, a near-future space piece of catastrophe and rescue. The digital and paperback editions are now available, click here.

Back around the beginning of the month,, the creative blog of Kristy Ferrin, published my fantasy short The Cursed Throne, one of my “Avestium” cycle of stores. You can read for free with a click here.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly bought my short Tymass by Ringlight, second of my “Derros of Malovar” sword-and-planet tales (the first is still short-listed at Skelos). It should be publishing soon, so links next time. This story went through two rounds of rewrites and grew by some thousands of words, so is over twice the size of the as yet unpublished first outing.

And my Victorian tale of unease “Silver Scales” picked up a short-listing at the magazine Electric Spec – fingers crossed!

Placements have certainly been slow/quiet over the last few months, here’s hoping they pick up soon!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Looking Back from the Third Anniversary

It’s January 7th on this side of the dateline – three years exactly since I launched this assault upon the fiction marketplace. It’s always interesting to review progress at this time of year.

Overall: After 1068 days, I now have a total of 1089 submissions, 66 placements (16.5:1 subs/acceptance ratio), 68 stories on submission at this time (record still 81), thus 955 rejections (14.46:1 rejections/acceptance ratio).

In calendar year 2018, I made 353 submissions, receiving 26 placements (14.57:1 submissions/placement, or an acceptance rate of 7.36%, slightly down from last year’s 8.16%).

Average time between acceptances in Year Three was 13.69 days, up from 11.4 last year (32 acceptances).

In professional terms, I now have 12 full pro placements, though two are reprints in a pro anthology, generating a different pay scale than their initial run.

Productivity is way down, just 20 stories this year (down from 62 in 2017), totalling 130, 695 words (down from 247, 782 words previously). I have over 170 stories registered at Submission Grinder.

Real life tends to get in the way, the pressures of making a crust by means other than the highly competitive and occasional nature of receiving decent wedge from writing, plus of course teaching and home responsibilities. I would have liked to continue to churn out stories at the pace of the two previous years, but this year I have perhaps written a greater number of longer pieces, and marketed the whole opus more intensively. A cynical view may be that greater effort resulted in a lesser return, and this is true on the face of it. However, with a larger pool of stories to work with I can afford to market more intensively and always have material in hand – there are over fifty stories not on submission at this moment, and many choice marketplaces are either temporarily closed or on themed volumes.

I have a third placement with Compelling Science Fiction, in addition to reprints of my two earlier stories in their first hardback anthology. During this year I placed a flash short with the prestigious Nature/Futures, as well as with the exclusive Daily SF, and scored a fifth placement with Lovecraftiana, due out in a few weeks.

The outlook for the fourth year is difficult to predict, but I will do everything in my power to come as closer to 100 placements one year from today as possible. My first story for 2019 is already done and will be on its way to an anthology shortly, and my next writing task is defined, another anthology piece.

As ever, catch development here as they occur!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Header image from royalty-free source.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

In Print, December 2018 (and Progress)

There is always a great sense of accomplishment when a contributor’s copy arrives, but sometimes it’s extra-special. The photo above shows the inaugural hard-back collection from Compelling Science Fiction, the pro marketplace which has now published three of my stories. Two (Cogito, Ergo Sum and Hostile Intent) are reprinted here, I’m one of only two writers with two pieces in this volume, and that’s another great compliment to my writing. To say I’m thrilled to hold this book in my hands is an understatement, and it will be proudly displayed on my “brag shelf” forevermore!

This volume was produced as a Kickstarter venture, which ran beyond its goals and has been a resounding success. All credit to the tireless efforts of editor Joe Stech, who has helped launch new writing talent in the marketplace in the two years-plus Compelling has been in action – I certainly consider myself among them.

A limited number of copies are for sale direct from the Compelling website, find the link on the homepage here.

Also launching this month is Future Visions #3, the third in this quarterly anthology serries, brainchild of editor Brian J. Walton. Released in electronic and physical formats, think of FV as a bumper science fiction magazine produced in book format (reminiscent of the fabulous old New Writings in SF series that ran to thirty-something paperback volumes in the ‘70s-‘80s period – I certainly hope FV encounters equal success!)  My story A Lament for Marla, a dystopian piece looking at climate reclamation efforts in a harsh future Australia, appears here for the first time.

Here’s the direct link to the paperback at Amazon (US).

As a point of interest, click my author link in the line of featured writers appearing in the Amazon page for this volume – there’s someone else by the same name whose material gets mixed in with mine, but you’ll find links to twenty publications featuring my work!

I have a fistful of short-listings in play, 65 placements, 66 stories out, and over fifty pieces neither placed nor on submission at this time – but more on the statistics when I do my third anniversary post in a few weeks.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In Print, November 2018 (and Progress)

There was no corresponding post last month – many apologies, but October seemed to be a frustrating month all round, what with tying up the anthropology course at the university and things being generally slow on the writing front.

There were two placements, The Devil’s Bride at the pro venue Abyss & Apex (to be published as Scans at the suggestion of the editor) and the slightly rewritten Last Stop Paradise at Stupefying Stories. Nothing actually came out last month – well, Walking on Titan appeared in Aurealis 116 on the 30th, but I felt it was a good leader for this month’s update. Interestingly, they gave my piece leader slot in promotional blurbs, and had an artist illustrate it with a colour header piece! You can order and download via Smashwords here.

I presently have 71 submission in play, with more than 1030 in total, 64 placements, and am still hopeful of coming close to matching last year’s overall performance.

The first big anthology from Compelling Science Fiction is due soon, there’ll be an update when it’s released.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Recently Read: The Skylark of Space by E. E. Smith

Taking a break from other reading, I thought I would take a trip down memory lane. Edward Elmer Smith, known, for his PhD in Chemistry, as “Doc” to his legion of fans in the Golden Age, was one of the popular science fiction writers in the early generations of the genre. This, his first novel, was published in 1928, serialised in Amazing Stories under the hand of Hugo Gernsbach – ninety years ago! It is worth bearing in mind the novel was written between 1915 and 1921 when Smith was in university, and the first half of the story, set on Earth and comprising a scientific, industrial and espionage thriller, was co-written with Lee Hawkins Garby, wife of a colleague. (Smith is reputed to have always had his romantic material ghost written, he was good at space ships and vast machines, not lovey-dovey stuff.)  That’s over a hundred years ago! Al Capone was at the height of his powers when this novel was serialised, and Albert Einstein was the most influential cosmologist, with decades of work ahead of him.

I remember reading many years ago a comment from one of the big voices in the field, that it was “unfortunate” so many people were introduced to science fiction through the likes of E. E. Smith. I took immediate exception to the remark, having enjoyed his work as a kid, but many years later I can perhaps see where that critic was coming from.

The work was first collected under one cover in 1946, it was already venerable even then. So, how does a novel written so far back survive, through an infinitude of editions, today?

I first read this novel when I was about eleven – the same copy, the Panther edition of 1974. The striking Chris Foss cover of course has nothing to do with the content of the book, something for which Foss was notorious, though his style was an undoubted selling point for a great many paperbacks of the period. The Foss mystique was welded to the Panther/Grenada reissue of the E. E. Smith classics in the 70s and for me, as a young science fiction enthusiast, the covers leant a fascination and compulsion to what were even then very old narratives.

The story concerns a scientist making a serendipitous discovery akin to cold fusion, the total conversion of matter into energy, released in a controlled manner. This gives him and his partner fundamental control of propulsion (a reactionless space drive), weapons, tractor beams and instrumentation overcoming the limitations of physics as they were then understood. Of course, a voyage into deep space is planned, the construction of a vessel to embody all these technologies – and there’s a bad guy of Holmesian complexity, think an evil Sherlock, equal in scientific competence to the heroes but utterly devoid of scruple. Yes, Moriarty by any other name.

The heroes, Seaton and Crane, are comic book stereotypes – brilliant in the Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark way, champion athletes with rippling physiques they never seem to have to work at, iron-jawed and of both unshakeable courage and golden-headed adherence to the side of the angels – ruthless too, in their willingness of wage war with superior weapons on behalf of their conception of right. No “Prime Directives” here, just pile on and annihilate! Kill the aliens!

It’s fascinating to consider this first outing for a big name. The style is pulpy and underdeveloped in many ways, and his penchant for having his characters speak in the American slang of the period is both charming and irritating – confusing to me when I was a kid. His real science is liberally sprinkled in, while his flights of technical fancy are wonderful to behold. His dismissal of the “Einstein theory” as “just a theory” is rather quaint, allowing his space vessels to travel at thousands of times the speed of light, while acknowledging that inertia still applies! Nevertheless, this novel is recognised as the first work of “space opera,” the first even marginally convincing attempt to explain deep space flight by scientific means, and to bring together the elements of the violent and exotic juxtaposed with hard steel and furious energies.

The influences are rather clear, though – as a child I was not yet widely enough read to know what I was looking at or make some rather obvious connections. Smith was heavily influenced by Burroughs – his alien civilization of the planet Osnome, lit by the light of a fifteen-star cluster so that night is unknown, peopled by warrior societies locked in a 6000-year war, equipped with flying vessels of every sort and welded to a social order based on monarchy and notions of Darwinian fitness, is detailed luxuriously and drips inference of Burroughs’ Barsoom. This is hardly surprising, A Princess of Mars must have been on Smith's bookshelf when he first put an ink-dipped pen nib to paper. The planet is unremittingly hot, therefore clothes are rarely worn – the classic way to spice up the narrative with the bare skin forbidden by polite society of the age. Yet the social mores of the Twenties are painfully in focus, the proprieties are observed at all times, no sex before marriage – and of course there is a great wedding scene as both heroes and their girlfriends exchange cloying vows of eternal betrothal in a glittering alien spectacle. Smith spent an entire chapter on it, the public must have lapped it up. One sees the wedding of John Carter and Dejah Thoris as the precursor, and the wedding of Ming the Merciless and Dale Arden in Flash Gordon, made just a few years after Smith’s opus, as the inevitable Hollywood cash-in. (Viewed objectively, Flash Gordon channels Skylark of Space at so many levels.)

The novel has been edited many times, with major changes between 1928 and 1946, and Smith, still alive in the mid-1970s, reworked the text for a hardcover edition in 1975, abridging it and removing most of Garby’s contribution. This may be the same text as the 1974 Panther edition, which is noted as having been revised by the author, and there is no credit for a co-author. Revisions are clear when considering the early dates of original composition: the text, while never mentioning a date at which events take place (and Washington seems entirely contemporary, though Smith is careful to describe nothing stylistically, allowing the text to remain contemporary as cars lost their running boards and so forth) mentions nuclear energy, the supersonic jet, the helicopter, computer and television. This is a case of reality surging by a work of fiction, which was retrospectively updated in its details to keep pace.

Critical reaction has been mixed down the decades, with some recognising the novel’s influence upon the field, and others the almost painfully amateurish plot development. What fares worst a century on is perhaps the self-serving social model it supports – white Americans save the funny-coloured natives and are showered with fabulous wealth and elevated to the highest honours in the process. Perhaps it was not meant that way, and it may be unfair to saddle a period piece with the outlook of modern times, but we live in a hyper-sensitive age, and as surely as any other writers of the period, Smith operated inside his own social environment. There is one Asian in the story, a servant who speak Engrish poorly, and black people are non-existent, while women are definitely the weaker sex, forever trembling, clinging to male arms or trotting off to prepare food – oh yes, this is America a hundred years ago. In the sequels Smith became more adventurous, introducing action-woman characters, retiring the shrinking-violet model, but the original is painfully conservative.

An unmodified classic edition, crediting both authors, can be found at Project Guttenberg

Here is an excellent discussion of the liberties taken both artistically and scientifically in this and subsequent volumes.

Can I recommend this book today? It’s difficult to, other than as a curiosity, yet so seminal has its influence been that one would have to say it is required reading along with Verne and Welles for the serious aficionado of the genre. I found it less enthralling than Burroughs, less compelling than the SF outings of Clarke Ashton Smith, but it is what it is – the one that started it all. The Skylark really was the first starship of Earth.

Cheers, Mike Adamson