David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. He’s the founder and editor of the fanzine Diabolical Plots, run with Anthony Sullivan. Diabolical Plots provides the free writer’s tool The Submission Grinder which helps writers track their submissions and find markets for their work. You can find his bibliography on the DP site. Besides writing and editing, David is writing a text adventure, gaming, and cross-stitching, among other things. When David grows up, he plans to do ALL THE THINGS.

Intro to Fiction Podcasts

by David Steffen

This is the first of a series of articles about fiction podcasts. In this one I’m just going to talk about why audio is such a great medium for fiction, and how you can find fiction podcasts to listen to. In the next article, I’ll list out the current podcasts I listen to and some that have stopped producing but still provide their backlog of episodes.

I started listening to fiction podcasts in 2009, when I made my very first fiction sale to Pseudopod and decided that I should listen to some of the back episodes and see what this venue was actually like. I grabbed the most recent episode at the time which happened to be Pseudopod 153: “The Hay Devils” by Colin P. Davies. From Alasdair Stuart’s intro, to the story itself, to Alasdair’s always-insightful comments after the show that time on, I was hooked.
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Stephen Palmer‘s eighth novel, the wonderfully strange steampunkish fantasy Hairy London (Infinity Plus | Amazon US | Amazon UK), was published in March 2014, telling the story of a group of gentleman-adventurers on a quest to find the true meaning of love in a London transformed by an inexplicable manifestation of, well, hair. His earlier novels include science fiction (Memory Seed, Glass, Flowercrash, Muezzinland and Hallucinating) and the dark literary fantasies Urbis Morpheos and The Rat & The Serpent (originally under the name Bryn Llewellyn). Much of Palmer’s writing focuses on environmental change, and his prose tends to be vivid and strange: writing about his novel Urbis Morpheos, Publishers Weekly says that “Palmer’s writing can only be called psychedelic. The world is richly imagined, unusual, and creative…” Palmer is also an accomplished musician, playing and recording with the band Mooch and his solo project, Blue Lily Commission. He lives and works in Shropshire, UK.

Keth Brooke had the opportunity to chat with Stephen about his new book, Hairy London, described thusly:

What is love?

One evening at the Suicide Club three gentlemen discuss this age-old problem, and thus a wager is made. Dissolute fop Sheremy Pantomile, veteran philosopher Kornukope Wetherbee and down-on-his-luck Velvene Orchardtide all bet their fortunes on finding the answer amidst the dark alleys of a phantasmagorical Edwardian London.

But then, overnight, London Town is covered in hair. How the trio of adventurers cope with this unusual plague, and what conclusions they come to regarding love is the subject of this surreal and fast-paced novel.

And always the East End threatens revolution…


Keith Brooke: HAIRY LONDON is one of the strangest things I’ve read in years. I should really start with a question, but we need to get that out there from the beginning: HAIRY LONDON reads like Lewis Carroll and Monty Python’s love-child doing drugs and reinventing steampunk. With jokes, and philosophy. I know it’s a standard question for writers of the fantastic, but how on Earth did you come up with a story about revolution and love in an alternative Edwardian London that is…covered in hair?
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Daryl Gregory! – Sarah Chorn

Daryl Gregory is an award-winning writer of genre-mixing novels, stories, and comics. His first novel, Pandemonium, won the Crawford Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. His other novels include The Devil’s Alphabet (a Philip K. Dick award finalist), Raising Stony Mayhall (a Library Journal best SF book of the year), and the upcoming Afterparty. Many of his short stories are collected in Unpossible and Other Stories, which was named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. He lives in State College, PA. You can learn more about him and his books by visiting his website.

Minds, Bodies, and the Three D’s

by Daryl Gregory

Let’s start on a down note, shall we?

My junior year of college, early in the spring semester, I walked into what I would later call the Black Tunnel. Suddenly I was exhausted all the time. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, and sometimes stayed in the dorm room all day. When I did go to class, I couldn’t concentrate.

My memories of those days have the quality of tunnel vision. The edges of the world seemed to have closed in. When people spoke to me, they seemed to be talking from the far end of a rifle barrel.

What was happening to me felt physical, and externally imposed. I knew that my problems were only going to get worse the longer I slept, but I could no more “snap out of it” than I could decide to stop having the flu.

Then the tunnel opened. I don’t know why. One day I woke up with a little more energy, and started repairing the damage I’d done to my grade point average. I felt like I’d survived an attack from my own body.

Maybe that’s where my fascination with the mind/body problem began. I kept wondering why, even though I knew the depression wasn’t rational, that I couldn’t just pull my self out of it.
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Ben Blattberg is a freelance writer currently living in Texas. He blogs about movies and story structure at incremental-catastrophe.blogspot.com and makes jokes on Twitter @inCatastrophe.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a Western frontier torn between agents of the Gun and of the Line, three people are drawn into a conflict over a secret weapon that may finally end the war.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Engrossing setting; engaging writing; interesting ideas; exciting action.
CONS: Long and occasionally feels it.
BOTTOM LINE: Fascinating “fantastic western” with strong writing; a book that can spark a debate or provide entertainment.
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Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a question and answer session with author Alex Scarrow about his long-running traditionally published series, TimeRiders, and his newer, self-published series featuring a young female protagonist, Ellie Quinn. The newest of this series, Ellie Quin in Wonderland, was released in early February.

In the process of planning the interview we discussed having Alex Scarrow write a guest post on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, of particular interest because he is currently active in both arenas.

With thanks for taking the time to share his thoughts, I give you Alex Scarrow!

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Keith Brooke‘s most recent novel for adult audiences, alt.human (published in the US as Harmony), was shortlisted for the 2013 Philip K Dick Award. Writing as Nick Gifford, his teen fiction is widely published, with one novel optioned for the movies by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s Caveman Films. He writes reviews for the Guardian, teaches creative writing at the University of Essex, and lives with his wife Debbie in Wivenhoe, Essex. Find out more about his work as Gifford at www.nickgifford.co.uk.

The Most Political Story is a Good One

by Keith Brooke (a.k.a Nick Gifford)

Sometimes things you’ve written down don’t become relevant for years.

That’s both the premise for, and the history of, my recent YA thriller, Tomorrow (published under the name Nick Gifford).
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A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in print and online in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed, and the Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, an online magazine publishing three issues of fiction per year with various unlikely themes. Follow her on twitter as @ac_wise.

Women to Read: Where to Start – When it Ends – April 2014 (Apocalypse Edition)

by A.C. Wise

It just so happens the first two stories I wanted to talk about this month dealt with apocalypses, so I figured why not make it a theme?
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[GUEST POST] S.G. Browne on The Writing Life


S.G. Browne is the author of the novels Big Egos, Lucky Bastard, Fated, Breathers, and the forthcoming Super Duper, as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus and the ebook collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. He’s a Guinness aficionado, ice cream snob, and a sucker for It’s a Wonderful Life. He lives in San Francisco.

The Writing Life: We Are Not Alone

by S.G. Browne

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

The above quote was taken from Robert De Niro’s presentation for the screenwriting category at the 2014 Academy Awards. I don’t know who wrote the words that De Niro spoke but whoever it was nailed writers to the post.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Michael j. Sullivan! – Sarah Chorn

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of The Riyria Revelations, The Riyria Chronicles, and his recently released science fiction thriller, Hollow World. He’s been published in just about every way there is including, small presses, self, and the big-five. He spends part of his time trying to help aspiring authors learn the intricacies of publishing through a regular column on Amazing Stories, and soon he’ll be featuring author interviews on Adventures in Science Fiction Publishing. Michael has written twenty-three novels, published nine, and has been translated into fifteen foreign languages. His works have appeared on more than eighty-five “best of” or “most anticipated” lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Audible.com.

Being Atypical in HOLLOW WORLD

by Michael J. Sullivan

I’ve been a big fan of Sarah Chorn for a really long time. Not just because of her amazing reviews, although that is reason enough, but because of her resiliency in weathering storms in her own life. Luckily for me, she’s a fan of my writing as well, and I’m grateful for her years of support. With the approaching release of Hollow World (April 15th from Tachyon Publications and Recorded Books), she invited me to do a guest post. So here I am.

I guess I should start out by setting the stage. Hollow World tells the story of Ellis Rogers, who travels far into the future (much further than he intended) in search of a cure for a recently diagnosed terminal illness. What he finds a world where disease, war, and even death has been eliminated. It sounds like utopia, and for some people it very well may be, but there’s a cost…isn’t there always a cost? In the case of Hollow World, genetic engineering has advanced to the point where everyone is identical, and trying to establish individuality in such an environment breeds its own set of problems.
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Seth Skorkowsky was born beneath the pine trees of East Texas and grew up with a love of camping and outdoors. His teen years were spent ingesting heavy doses of Dungeons & Dragons and Clive Barker novels, but attributes Fritz Leiber as the single greatest influence on the atmosphere of his fantasy writing. Later this year will see the publication of two short story collections, Mountain Of Daggers and Sea Of Quills. His first novel, DÄMOREN, was just published by Ragnarok Publications.

The Story Behind DÄMOREN

by Seth Skorkowsky

Every story has a different process in which it was created. When I decided to write Dämoren, I only had a few things to go on. I knew the rules in which demons could possess people and die. I had a holy revolver that could kill them. However, I still had no hero, no plot, and no conflict. The only other thing I had was a series of scene flashes that I wanted to show, but no real link between them.
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Lorie Ann Grover is a young adult novelist and board book author. She has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was a 2003 Washington State Book Award Finalist. Her works have been further honored by VOYA, Bank Street College, the New York Public Library, Parents Magazine, and Girls Life magazine. Lorie Ann is a co-founder of readergirlz, an advocate for teen literacy awarded the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. She also co-founded readertotz, a board book blog to celebrate the best works for the youngest readers. For more information, please visit LorieAnnGrover.com

Why I Wrote About Gendercide

by Lorie Ann Grover

I just didn’t think it was possible. Today? How could gendercide still be occurring? This is what I wondered back in 2004 when I ran across a snippet of an article talking about the killing of female infants. I was dumbfounded and then outraged as I considered the reality: for male preference, females were being killed in the womb or shortly after birth. My anger against the atrocity found release in writing my fantasy novel, Firstborn. Sadly, as my book launches ten years later, gendercide continues in 45 countries around the world. “There is an entire system, a social machinery, that says we don’t want females,” says gender activist, Rita Banerji.
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Jon Sprunk is the author of the fantasy epic Blood and Iron as well as the Shadow Saga trilogy (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master). He’s also a mentor at the Seton Hill University fiction writing program. For more on his life and writing, check out www.jonsprunk.com.

Inspirations for BLOOD AND IRON

by Jon Sprunk

The first book in my new epic fantasy series, Blood and Iron, came out in early March. Briefly, it’s about a war for freedom in an ancient land ruled by sorcery and powerful cults.

Today I’d like to tell you about what inspired me to tackle this series. Sources of inspiration are a tricky thing to track down. There are lots of reason why I why like to write, but why did I write this story specifically?
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from the incredible Elizabeth Bear! – Sarah Chorn

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction. She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website. On April 8, 2014 Elizabeth Bear released the third and final book in the Eternal Sky trilogy, Steles of the Sky.

On Writing Disabilities

by Elizabeth Bear

It’s kind of funny to realize as I write this that I originally wasn’t going to submit a piece to Sarah’s blog series, because I didn’t feel like I had much to say about writing disabled people in science fiction. But after the second colleague suggested that I would be a good fit for the series, I had to stop and consider why they would think so.

And I realized that it’s probably because I write a lot of disabled protagonists. From Jenny Casey and Genevieve Castaign in Hammered and the sequel books–an amputee with neurological damage and a girl with cystic fibrosis–to the aneurotypical Michelangelo in Carnival from Matthew Szczgielniak with his maimed hand and congenital adrenal hyperplasia sufferer Lily Wakeman in Whiskey and Water to Tristen and Perceval Conn in the Jacob’s Ladder books, one of whom has albinism and the other of whom has lost the power of flight–now that I actually stop and think about it, it seems like most of my protagonists are “imperfect” in some way.

I have written characters with forms of epilepsy and characters with bipolar disorder. I have written anxiety sufferers and paraplegics and I have helped invent entirely new, science fictional syndromes. I have written more than my share of characters with post-traumatic stress disorder. That last, frankly, is because I don’t know how to write people who don’t have PTSD.

I’ve been trying to learn, though. You all are so unpredictable.
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Sharon Lynn Fisher writes books for the geeky at heart – sci-fi flavored stories full of adventure and romance. She has a passion for world-building and twisty plots, and themes that recur in her writing include what it means to be human and symbiosis in human relationships.

Her latest release is The Ophelia Prophecy, a biopunk flavored, post-apocalyptic tale out now from Tor. A mix of light science, heavy moral conflicts, and sizzling sexual tension, The Ophelia Prophecy is sure to please the romance reader looking for something different, or the SF fan looking for something hot.

After Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express and Sharon binge-watched all 110 episodes of Space Ghost Coast to Coast-because, you know, Zorak-they chatted about The Ophelia Prophecy, freaky orange cats, and praying mantis sex.


Heather Massey: Describe a typical week for Sharon Lynn Fisher.

Sharon Lynn Fisher: I’m not sure there’s any such thing – a result of being a freelancer and a half-time single parent! My working hours (which can occur at any hour, any day of the week, in any state of dress) are divided between my contracted fiction, new writing projects, and my work as senior editor for SilkWords, a new “pick your own path” romance short story site. Whatever is left goes to my daughter, my boyfriend and HIS daughter, and one freaky orange cat.
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Katherine Addison‘s short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her new novel, The Goblin Emperor, was just published by Tor. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

Tolkien, Orcs, Elves and Goblins

by Katherine Addison

I write a lot of different things, but one of my first and deepest loves is the genre that sometimes gets called “epic fantasy” or “secondary-world fantasy”: stories that take place entirely in imaginary worlds. Unsurprisingly, I came to Tolkien early, I loved–and love–him deeply, and he is undeniably one of a handful of very profound influences on my writing. (Tolkien, Wolfe, and Kushner are the three fantasy writers I most want to be able to write like, which probably explains a great many things about my books.) I love the world he invented, and I strive in my own writing to give the same sense of depth that he does, the same intense sense of history. And if I could write travel narrative as well as he does…well…that would be shiny.
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Catherine Lundoff is a former archaeologist, former grad student and former bookstore owner turned professional computer geek and award-winning author and editor. She is a transplanted Brooklynite who now lives in Minneapolis with her wife and the two cats which own them. Silver Moon (Lethe Press, 2012) is her latest book and “Medium Méchanique” in Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam (2013) and “The Light Fantastic” in Luna Station Quarterly (2013) are her latest stories. Visit her online at her website www.catherinelundoff.com, facebook and Twitter as @CLundoff.

LGBT Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in the 1980s

by Catherine Lundoff

The 1970s, famed as an era of free love, political protests and hallucinogen-fueled utopias, gave way to the era of punk and New Wave, AIDS, and the politics of Reagan and Thatcher in the more conservative 1980s. And science fiction, fantasy and horror followed suit, with hard-edged military science fiction, dystopian visions, anti-hero sword and sorcery, vampires and of course, cyberpunk. None of these, on the face of it, seemed any more LGBT-friendly than the sfnal works of the previous decade, yet the number of portrayals of LGBT characters more than quadrupled.
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Sabrina Benulis lives in northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and a spoiled cockatiel. When she isn’t writing like a madwoman, you can find Sabrina enjoying old school video games, Japanese anime, and of course a good book. Archon, her debut novel, is the first installment in The Books of Raziel series. Her new book, the sequel, is called Covenant.

A Book Series is A Journey

by Sabrina Benulis

There really is an art to writing novels in a fantasy series, and by now I firmly believe that no matter how many books you read, this is a skill that someone can only firmly acquire through experience. Many times when I’m asked how many novels I’ve been contracted for in The Books of Raziel series and I say ‘three,’ people first congratulate my good fortune, and then they look at me flabbergasted. The next question inevitably is, “So how exactly can you write three books that are all connected?” or better still, “How in the world do you keep track of everything?”

The short answer is: it’s complicated.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Rhiannon Held! – Sarah Chorn

Rhiannon Held is the author of Silver and its sequel, Tarnished. In her day job, she works as a professional archaeologist. Held lives near Seattle, Washington. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting her website. The third book in her series, Reflected, was published on February 18, 2014.

Unable to Shift

by Rhiannon Held

When I conceived of my character Silver, from the urban fantasy series of the same name, in a lot of ways she was a reaction to the sometimes troublesome idea of the “kickass UF heroine.” I didn’t even think explicitly about making her disabled, I just wanted to reach out to speak to readers in a different way—not the aspiration of somehow magically being so cool and powerful, but the identification with a character who was struggling and succeeding despite obstacles the reader might recognize. I hope that I’ve succeeded and she does speak to people, even if I’m not dealing with a particular obstacle that an individual reader might.

Silver is a werewolf who was injected with silver nitrate. It removed her ability to shift into wolf form, deadened the muscles where she was injected so she can no longer use that arm, and gave her brain damage so she either sees the werewolf spirit realm or hallucinates—depending on who you ask.
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[Editor's Note: In 2011, Tom O'Donnell's epic fantasy novel, Gormstander Kron: Requiem for a Barbarian Emperor of Tulgarth was published by Minim Press. The book received an unfavorable review from SF Signal. After several repeated requests, we have finally agreed to post Mr. O'Donnell's response to that review.]

Response to SF Signal’s Review of Gormstander Kron: Requiem for a Barbarian Emperor of Tulgarth

by Tom O’Donnell

On March 3rd, 2011, SF Signal gave my novel what some have called “the most negative review of any book, ever”. Below, I will address and refute, point by point, the specific criticisms this review so unfairly aimed at Gormstander Kron: Requiem for a Barbarian Emperor of Tulgarth.
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Aidan Harte is a writer and sculptor. His fantasy novels Irenicon and The Warring States are published by Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus. Spira Mirabilis, the conclusion of the trilogy, will be out in 2014. He studied in the Florence Academy of Art. His sculpture can be seen in Sol Art Gallery in Dublin and The sculpture Company in London. He works in the classical tradition informed by the early 20th century expressionists. He directed the IFTA winning, BAFTA nominated kids’ TV show, Skunk Fu, seen on BBC and Cartoon Network.

Soldiers of Misfortune

by Aidan Harte

For all the ignominy lately heaped on bankers, the blighters get things done. Without their innovations, their risk-taking, their credit, 14th century Italy could not have been at once politically fragmented, plague-ridden, war-racked and stinking rich.
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