Stephen is wondering why you haven’t subscribed to his newsletter.
I’ve launched a newsletter post on my novel and my novella. The good news is that it is good news, so read the post here. And subscribe as the best way to keep getting updates.
Photo S Dodgson. Me at York Art Gallery. The Lamp by Amy B Atkinson is poetic and evocative – she was a female artist who did quite well (exhibited RA at 17), unmarried, and toured Europe with her female ‘room-mates’ for many years.
The late Victorian, mystical, possibly sapphic vibe means I really like this although it doesn’t represent anyone in this book. Maybe the next
My recent newsletter talks about progress on the book and has a long series of short pieces about Artifical Intelligence, including asking how far the Luddites were right.
I suppose progress happens, but how why and to what benefit is a legitimate question. In the last forty years I have become much more awate that when something is invented, how and why it is used and who makes the decisions is the real issue.
An example I don’t give is genetically modified crops – there was a lot of hysteria about human safety which was not justified, leading to blanket bans in many countries – obscuring some much broader issues which had some real weight to them.
I share across various platforms but I really do need regular subscribers to the newsletter as with the changing, deteriorating, state of social media, being able to keep in touch matters to any author (except the super successful ones).
It is free, you can unsibscribe at any time, rarely more than once a month, and gives access to giveaways, tip-offs, competitions, free fiction and who knows what else.
Photo: Me being interviewed by the very smart Bryony Pearce at SciFi Weekender.
Palmers Green Author Stephen Cox has his second book out in paperback on 13 October. It’s also the tenth anniversary of committing to being a writer.
Our Child of the Stars and now Our Child of Two Worlds combine family drama in 1960s USA with new takes on a few classic SF ideas. A childless couple adopt an orphaned alien and try to keep him safe – against peril on Earth and in space.
Saturday 15 October, 7pm All Good Bookshop. 35 Turnpike Lane, Wood Green, London, N8 0EP. There’s some wine and snacks but do BYOB. Stephen will reading, doing Q+A and talking on Tigger or Eeyore? – ten years getting publishing. RSVP appreciated. BTW you can order from the bookshop and Stephen will sign and dedicate where asked
There is an online launch Monday 17th Oct at 7pm on Zoom – similar to above. All welcome but email firstname.lastname@example.org for Zoom link. Stephen does talks to groups.
ENFIELD TOWN SIGNING
If you just want to grab Stephen to sign a copy, Enfield Waterstones Church Street are planning a just-turn-up signing 12-2pm Sat 15th.
Our Child of the Stars was praised by the Guardian, Grazia, FT, the Mail and LA Times. (“…a wonderfully emotional, heart-warming journey of what it really means to be a parent” – LA Times).
The sequel, Our Child of Two Worlds has won similar praise. “Riveting, compelling, and emotionally charged: a page turner I loved” “watch and be dazzled”
“Mystery/detective/police or legal procedurals are antithetical to horror/fantasy; if you like one, you will not usually like the other. because traditional mysteries MUST be realistic, otherwise detection makes no sense.”
Joyce Carol Oates”
This is objectively wrong.
Firstly, because many people read widely in genre. I read thrillers, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and some YA (and YA can be any of those genres as well – it is more a mode than a genre). To give a specific example, I have read traditional murder mysteries set in ALL these genres – traditional in the sense of solved by logic, insight into character, lab work, etc.
I have written ‘traditional’ mysteries which are also science fiction or fantasy. What are the actual issues?
Does the logical process of unpicking a ‘traditional mystery’ require absolute realism? Clearly, if you have read good SFF, you know it doesn’t.
Oates assumes that once you leave the shores of absolute realism, anything can happen. Therefore a mystery cannot be constructed because things happen without a reason. This is a rookie error, each story in science fiction and fantasy follows their own logic, which is sufficiently revealed to the reader that the story makes some sense.
Mysteries fall into two types – fair, where the reader can puzzle out what is going on from what is in the text – and unfair – where the ‘investigator’ has information the reader does not, or they can make the uniquely correct deduction from the facts whereas a normal person couldn’t find the signal in the noise, or there are multiple solutions. (Famously Arthur Conan Doyle accepted some of his Holmes stories had other solutions.)
A great many mysteries are written to be ‘unfair’ and are perfectly enjoyable. You are along for the ride. The SFF mysteries I have written are fair – the detective knows nothing relevant to the case which has not been shared with the reader. Try “Murder in the hospital” in my Free Fiction pages
It is rare to set out to write a mystery which is immediately solved – although it would be a splendid story if the solution could be known immediately but be exceptionally difficult to prove.
Those solving the crime can share what they learn with the reader. ‘Using this spell, I can say who has been in this room since the last full moon.’ This is then no different from any other source of information for the detective. Spells or hitech are just lab work.
Or whatever is special in the world may mislead the detective or be inconclusive. We used to think DNA was infallible. Then we discovered human error creeps in.
If your story rests on orcs having night-vision but being colour-blind, a fair author will slip that fact in, directly or otherwise. It’s no different from writing a deeply conventional murder.
Mysteries are usually out to entertain with a thrilling or intriguing plot, to shed some light on character and the human condition, and in the classic murder mystery, to assert moral order over immoral chaos. The murderer is caught or otherwise punished.
SFF stories can be heist movies, buddy cop stories, classic noir thrillers, creepy psychological chillers, or political dramas. They can be set in any era and any genre. Ultimately they are more often about people than ideas.
But Joyce Carol Oates does us one favour – it reminds us to read in a genre before pontificating about it.
Les Murray wrote a great poem about shorts, as in trousers, but I am talking about short stories.
Short stories provide a superb form for fiction, and I’ve written a good many. An intriguing story can be done in a few words – flash fiction is often more like poetry – or they can sprawl to 10000.
I believe an idea, or a set-up, has a natural best length. Your story seed might grow to be a rabbit hutch, a shed, a house, or a cathedral.
It is one reason why all the speculative genres are keen on the short form. You might feel 2-5000 words is enough to float the imaginative challenge.
One of my stories (Winged) postulated a society where a small number of people – apparently at random – grow wings in adolescence. The winged can fly, are stronger in various physical ways, and much more charismatic. This fast-tracks them into the elite of politics, the civil service, and media. The story combined the prompt ‘what if coming out immediately moved you into the elite’ with the human idea of ‘what happens to a school friendship when one friend receives a massive leg-up in life through chance’.
Some great ideas don’t need much development. Winged will never be a novel. I am perfectly capable of developing a credible working society around this, and of writing a novel about male friendship. I just didn’t feel I had to do this particular work, this particular way.
Conversely, when I wrote the short story that launched Cory into the world, it was obvious I was tilling fertile ground. Family. An outside eye on humanity. Loving difference. A kid in terrible danger. The issue was not – can this grow into a novel? It was, is it two novels or three?
With short stories you can try out ideas, and forms, and settings – try them as a writer and try them as a reader. You can finish the piece with the end of the world, the transcendence of humanity, or the Second Coming. You get in when you need to and leave before you outstay your welcome.
Short stories allow you to taste someone’s work. I’m unlikely to finish a novel with a truly terrible chapter but if a short story doesn’t work for you, you haven’t wasted a day.
I am intrigued by novellas. 20-40k allows substantial room for character, world, and plot development.
Coming soon a new story in the Coryverse (the world of Our Child of the Stars and Our Child of Two Worlds) and in due course a new taster story to the world of my Work in Progress.
I may share with you the real solution to the Princes in the Tower; a charming enigmatic elegy; a sweet superhero love story; a provocative post-apocalyptic tale; and the only story I have ever written inspired by a scientific research paper.