James White Award judging panel announced

Paul Raven @ 28-07-2011

Heads up, science fiction short story writery types: the James White Award has announced its judging panel for the 2011 contest! What’s the James White Award? I’m glad you asked…

The James White Award is an annual short story competition open to non-professional writers with the winner chosen by a panel of judges made up of professional authors and editors. This year’s award will be judged by the novelists Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Juliet E McKenna and by the publisher of Interzone, Andy Cox. Stories entered into the competition must be original and previously unpublished. Entry is free.

The James White Award was instituted to honour the memory of one of Ireland’s most successful science fiction authors, James White. To learn more about James White and his writing, visit www.sectorgeneral.com.

The prize for winning this year’s James White Award 2011 is £200 plus publication in Interzone, the leading UK science fiction magazine.

The closing date for this year’s competition is midnight (GMT) 31 January 2012.

Open to any writer from any country on the planet, though your story does need to be written in English. The other competition rules (and some helpful advice for folk thinking of entering) can be found on the JWA website. So go read, and then get writing. Good luck!


Dark Fiction Magazine: monthly moody audio fiction

Paul Raven @ 29-10-2010

What’s better than plugging the launches of exciting new genre fiction websites? Plugging the launches of exciting new genre fiction websites put together by people who are a) awesome and b) your friends, that’s what. So, press release time:

Beginning Oct 31st (Halloween), Dark Fiction Magazine will be launching a monthly magazine of audio short stories. This is a free service designed to promote genre short fiction to an audience of podcast and radio listeners. A cross between an audio book, an anthology and a podcast, Dark Fiction Magazine is designed to take the enjoyment of short genre fiction in a new and exciting direction.

Dark Fiction Magazine publishes at least four short stories a month: a mix of award-winning shorts and brand new stories from both established genre authors and emerging writers. Each episode will have a monthly theme and feature complementary tales from the three main genres – science fiction, fantasy and horror.

The theme of Dark Fiction Magazine’s first episode is The Darkness Descends and will feature four fantastical stories:

  • ‘Maybe Then I’ll Fade Away’ by Joseph D’Lacey (exclusive to Dark Fiction Magazine)
  • ‘Pumpkin Night’ by Gary McMahon
  • ‘Do You See?’ by Sarah Pinborough (awarded the 2009 British Fantasy Society Short Story Award)
  • ‘Perhaps The Last’ by Conrad Williams

Which is a pretty good way to start, I’d say. And there’s more good stuff heading down the pike:

Lined up for future episodes are Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Ramsey Campbell, Rob Shearman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Ian Whates, Lauren Beukes, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Gareth L Powell, Jeremy C Shipp, Adam Christopher, and Jennifer Williams, among others.

Sweeeeeet… bravo to Del and Sharon, who’ve been grafting away at this project between their day-jobs for ages now. Go get yourself an ear-full of genre fiction on Sunday night, why don’t you?

[ Disclosure: I have been invited to do some narration for DFM. Don’t let that put you off, though. 🙂 ]


New Scientist announces flash fiction contest

Paul Raven @ 23-10-2010

… picks Neil Gaiman for the judge’s chair, and – as far as I can tell – puts no geographical restrictions on who can enter. In the interests of promoting one of their projects, I’m going to presume that NS won’t mind me repeating most of the announcement here verbatim:

Send us your very short stories about futures that never were. Tell us where we’d be today if the ether had turned out to exist after all, or if light really was made up of corpuscles emitted by the eyes. You don’t have to be scientifically accurate, but the more convincing your story, the more likely it is to win!

[…]

Your story should be no more than 350 words long, including the title – do watch your word count, we hate having to disqualify good competition entries because they’re just a bit too long – and should not have previously been published anywhere else. Only one entry per person, please.

Here’s the small print: the upshot is that by submitting your story you give us non-exclusive rights to publish it now or at any future date, in whatever medium we choose. The closing date is 19 November 2010.

So no prize beyond the glory itself, but even so, I think I might just have a crack at this myself. 🙂


Amazon’s “Kindle Singles”: saviour of the genre short fiction scene?

Paul Raven @ 13-10-2010

Hard to say for sure, really, given that it hasn’t even launched yet, but Amazon’s plans for the “Kindle Singles” service – which in essence appears to be ebooks of the long short-story to novella length – certainly has the potential to put money in the pockets of genre fiction’s clade of short story writers. The shrinking circulations of the Dead-Tree Big Three aren’t looking like a long-term prospect for the short form’s survival, and hell knows that recent experiences right here have demonstrated that making the free-to-read webzine model sustainable is no picnic, either (though I hold hope for better-funded projects such as Lightspeed and Tor.com going the distance, alongside established non-profit outfits like Strange Horizons).

The real (and as yet unanswered) question is whether people would read (and pay for) short stories if they knew where to find them; the search-term browsability of a platform like Amazon certainly offers the potential to put short stories by known names in front of potential readers who might otherwise be ignorant of the form, and there’s plenty of good (albeit as yet entirely theoretical) arguments that short stories are better suited to the when-you-get-a-moment reading habits of the modern reader. I suspect the most important factor will be pricing, with a splash of gatekeepering and/or curating to filter for quality; if a writer hits the right price point and has a bit of luck with word-of-mouth, the potential is there to cut out the magazine middle-men and reach an untapped audience.

My concern (as a fussy reader and a critic) is that the market’s definition of quality will probably differ wildly from my own; the success of Dan Brown is a clear indication that this is inevitable. But if big digital sales of awful literature support an ecosystem that lets the little guys make a living, well, I think I’ll be able to live with it. Plus ça change, non?


SciFi Strange: online short sf ‘dream anthology’ curated by Jason Sanford

Paul Raven @ 20-08-2010

Subgenres proliferate in fecundity, their fuzzy edges perpetually osmosing* into one another. Or something like that, anyway… however you want to look at, Jason Sanford’s trying to describe and categorise an identifiable strand of modern science fiction short stories:

SciFi Strange isn’t a label. It isn’t a definition.  Instead, it’s an attempt to describe the science fiction being created by some of today’s most exciting writers. These stories combine the literary standards and cultural understandings of the New Wave movement with the basic strangeness and sensawunda from the golden age of science fiction–all seen through the lens of today’s multicultural world, where diversity and difference are the norm even as basic human values and needs still bind us together.

SciFi Strange also flirts with the boundaries of what is scientifically–and therefore realistically–possible, without being bounded by the rigid frames of the world as we know it today.

(Which may be why no Futurismic stories made the cut. Sad face… 🙁 )

But don’t call SciFi Strange fantasy. This is pure science fiction. It’s merely an updated version of the literature of ideas. A science fiction for a world where the frontiers of scientific possibility are almost philosophical in nature.

However you define it, Sanford’s got a great list of stories by some interesting authors rounded up on that page: fourteen tales, all free to read on the web or download as a PDF, from some of the most reputable publications (dead-tree and digital) in the business. Should keep you busy for the rest of the weekend, eh? 🙂

[ * Not sure is this is the correct way to conjugate osmosis as a verb, but by hell, it should be. ]


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