Category Archives: Writing

March to Time

Date: October 2013

Muster: The Egg Market

Dress: Full Uniform

Crunch crunch crunch. Mmmmm, mmmmm. Crunch crunch crunch.

Plot and Character

8SquarePanelMarcus Gipps asked an interesting question on a panel at EightSquaredCon: do writers think of the plot first and then try to think of characters to go with it?

Since genres such as SF tend to be plot driven, I think there is a tendency for people to believe this to be the case, but it’s not the case.  Plot and character drive each other.

Even the simplest of plots have characters, clichéd though they might be. If the hero is attacking the dark lord, you have two characters there right away, a good guy and a bad guy.  You couldn’t have the plot without the characters: if the bad guy wasn’t bad, the good guy wouldn’t have a reason to attack.  If someone just attacks someone else, the reader will just think why? If you take away the characters from a story, all you’re left with is machinery. You are, in effect, describing how a steam engine or a canal lock works.  Both of these things are interesting,  but they’re not a story.

Of course, just having a good guy and a bad guy doesn’t mean that you can tick the box marked character and then get on describing the world or the spaceships or the fighting.  You may be writing a story but it won’t be a very interesting one, and this was what Marcus was really asking when he posed his question do writers think of the plot first and then try to think of characters to go with it? My answer?  The plot suggests the characters, the characters suggest the plot.  Listen to the characters, and they will tell you where the plot is going.  Follow the plot, and the characters will react accordingly.  If you don’t know what your characters will do, then you haven’t understood them properly, and neither will the reader.

EightSquaredCon was a great event, by the way.  Superbly organised, there was a great atmosphere throughout the hotel.   Well done to all involved!

Cosmopolitan Predators!

… and now for something completely different.

Not a novel, not a series of short stories, but a little bit of both.

I had the germ of the idea for this years ago when I read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  I love many things about Maupin’s writing, but one of the things that really caught my attention about the Tales was that they originally appeared as regular instalments in the San Francisco Chronicle.

That struck me as a really different way of writing.  When I write a novel, I plan it out, write it, redraft it, change the beginning, change the end, redraft again… I’ve often wondered what it would be like writing a story as a serial, not having the luxury of going back and changing what I’d done.  What would that mean?  Would the characters evolve in a different way?  The idea has fascinated me for years, however there’s always been one drawback.  Nobody really publishes serial fiction any more.

I discussed this with Chris Beckett at Eastercon last year, and it turned out he was fascinated by the idea of serial fiction, too.  So, it turns out were Keith Brooke, Eric Brown, Juliet E McKenna, Philip Palmer, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Ian Whates.  We all wanted to write serial fiction, but there was no outlet for it…

So I decided to do something about that.  My wife is an experienced editor, I have the IT skills and so…

Athernet Magazine will be launching on March 30th.  Aethernet Magazine is the magazine of serial fiction.  In it you’ll find serial fiction by the above authors, and by me.  Cosmopolitan Predators! is just a little but like Tales of the City in that it follows the lives of a series of characters, however it scores over Maupin in that it has more robots in it.

The concept behind Aethernet Magazine isn’t a new one, but perhaps its a concept whose time has come again.  See what you think…

Stories from the Northern Road (Penrose 2.5)

StryNthRdMidThe first ever collection from one of the UK’s finest SF authors: Tony Ballantyne, who has been a finalist for the Philip K Dick award and whose short fiction has featured regularly in Years Best SF anthologies.

A quartet of brand new stories set on the world of Penrose (introduced in the novels Twisted Metal and Blood and Iron) join five stories set in the Recursion universe to produce Stories from the Northern Road. This is Tony Ballantyne at his best.

 

Released September 2012, and as a Signed Hardback Edition, limited to 125 copies: £19.99

  Contents:

  1. Introduction

Stories from the Northern Road

  1. A Note from the Author
  2. Four Blind Horses
  3. Janet Verdigris
  4. Isabel and the Outlandish Robots
  5. The Robot Behind Me

Recursive Tales

  1. LDA ADD STA JMP JIZ END
  2. Restoring the Balance 1
  3. Restoring the Balance 2
  4. Seeds
  5. The Sixth VNM

 

Colinthology

Colinthology is a collection of light-hearted, uplifting fantasy and SF short stories, put together in memory of Colin Harvey, who passed away suddenly in August 2011. All of the stories have been donated for free by friends of Colin, and all of the proceeds are being donated to Above & Beyond, the Bristol-based charity for which Colin volunteered in his spare time.

I was proud to be asked to contribute to the Colinthology. For some reason I’ve never quite understood, people thought that Colin and I were brothers. It became a standing joke at conventions, with Colin getting his friends to come up to me and pretend they thought I was him. Obviously, we were both blessed at birth with outstanding good looks, prodigious talent and incredible modesty, but Colin had something else that set him apart from me and most other writers. Colin genuinely enjoyed every aspect of the writer’s life. Everyone likes to talk about their own work, even if they pretend not to, but I’ve never known anyone with as much enthusiasm as Colin for other people’s work, other people’s workshops and other people’s talks.

Conventions will seem a little less inviting now that my brother will not be there waiting for me.

http://wizardstowerpress.com/books-2/colinthology/

Strange Divisions and Alien Territories

StrangeDivMidAs it says on Amazon:

This volume explores the sub-genres of science fiction from the perspectives of authors active in the field, offering both a critical viewpoint and insights from practising writers

I contributed the final chapter:  Just Passing Through: Journeys to the Post Human. The book is expensive and probably aimed at an academic audience, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.  Just as useful if you’re interested in writing SF as well as reading it, Keith Brooke has produced an excellent reference for all those in the field.