From Eric Brown’s introduction…
THIS VOLUME CAME ABOUT ONE summer a few years ago when Tony came up to Scotland with his family. We were wandering around the pretty seaside town of North Berwick and talking about recent short stories we’d written. Tony happened to mention that he was working on some short- shorts, which he hoped to place with Nature, and I mentioned a short-short market that I’d recently sold to, Daily SF. I then suggested that, when we had enough tales to form a volume, we should gather them all together and attempt to find a publisher. Years passed; we wrote short-shorts between bigger projects, and Keith Brooke who runs Infinity Plus Books expressed an interest in publishing Microcosms.
Microcosms: 42 pieces of flash fiction by Eric Brown and Tony Ballantyne
Published by Infinity Plus
Buy the Paperback Edition on Amazon UK | Amazon US
But the Kindle Edition on Amazon UK | Amazon US
Marcus 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!
As 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.
Fresh from Blood and Iron, one of Sebastian Winnett’s new illustrations. Follow the link to my blog…
A Podcast of my short story, pharmacy The Waters of Meribah, medical read by David Rees-Thomas, can be heard on Transmissions from Beyond. The story originally appeared in Interzone 189, May-June 2003.