Those who know my writing will have noticed that mostly I write Science Fiction. At times I dally with Fantasy, though I’m not then a real heroic fantasy kind of writer, with dragons and swords and wizards hurling wonderful spells around. Sometimes my Science Fiction has elements of Fantasy (as in there’s no scientific reason this is happening…). I write thrillers too, on occasion.
Sometimes I also dabble with literary fiction. I have a couple of literary novels out, and numerous stories. Over recent years I’ve had a few stories published in Landfall, New Zealand’s premier literary journal, and I’m pleased to have another in the current issue.
“Landslide Country” evolved from an exploration of pacing and setting. One of those ones where the setting is almost another character (though of course, that’s up to the reader to determine, rather than the writer). One of the editors noted that things seemed to happen in slow motion, which was cool, something I’d tried to achieve: a micro-focus on detail, while maintaining the tension and arc.
There’s quite a line up of great writers in the issue. I’m humbled to be in such great company.
Landfall is available from booksellers and through subscription. Many New Zealand libraries have subscriptions, so you can find it on the shelves there.
Not sure that anyone might be interested, but mostly when I write I’m not sure where the story is going to go. At least in that moment when I’m sitting down to type in those first few words.
Mostly it ends up as science fiction, but the process is no different for literary. It’s all just words on the page. The story in my head coming out so that hopefully the reader gets the same story in their head.
I like to think that I bring the same level of craft to all my work, whether literary or more commercial.
I have a long history with the New Zealand literary magazine Takahe. I first had a story in issue 11 too many years ago to mention. And I’ve had numerous since (seven in total, I think). This year they’re celebrating their 30th year of publishing.
Issue 81 includes my story “Scorched”, a little tale about a new marriage, a petrol station and an underground cable driving machine. Guess from the title how well that goes. It’s just 2800 words: now I need to learn how to write my sci-fi that short (I tend to go on a bit when I’ve got robots and implants and giant alien spaceships).
The issue came out a little while ago, but my copy (it’s only in print, no ebook) got lost in the mail. I’ve only just received the replacement (and cheque, thanks!). Eventually I’ll pop the story into an ebook through Triple V. My last Takahe story, “Back from Vermont” is out in a little collection with a couple of others here for $4.49.
My short story “800” is now out in the March 2014 issure of Black Denim Lit. This is free to read online. It’s a 3000 word sci-fi/literary tale about ageing and generation gaps. Nothing too serious. Here’s how it starts:
Today my daughter is turning 769. July 16th. It might not seem like a milestone–no easily divisible figure like 750 or 777–but it is.
For me, at least.
Mary was born when I was a couple of months shy of my 31st birthday. This coming September I will turn 800.
Keep reading here: 800
My short story “Arms Wide” has just come out in the latest (Spring 2013) issue of Landfall (Spring here in the southern hemisphere, though it’s summer already). I feel chuffed about this one – I’ve been submitting to Landfall for years. It’s the longest running literary journal in New Zealand and sets the bar pretty high, so getting a story in there makes me feel like I’m heading in the right direction.
There’s no online version, but I will publish the story for Kindle, Nook, etc. sometime during next year as a stand-alone.
Here’s the opening:
The first time my daughter stole a car, her mother acted with an indifference I should have expected. Julie, my daughter, was seventeen, and the car was a 1993 Subaru with every kind of trim, accessory and modification you could imagine. The thing had lights under the chassis to shine on the road.
“Listen, Trevor,” Amy – Julie’s mother – told me from her apartment in Omaha, “I’m fifteen thousand miles away. What can I do? Let her grow up.”
“She’ll go to jail,” I said.
“Blah, blah, blah.” Amy hung up.
Julie didn’t go to jail, but, you know, it was close. Real close.
“Maybe you should go live with Mom?” I said, back at home after the hearing. She’d escaped conviction, but was on some kind of a watchlist that I didn’t understand.
“Yeah,” Julie said. She smiled and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “That’s really gonna happen.”
My literary story “Back from Vermont”, originally published in Takahe, then reprinted in Midnight Train has now been published, with two bonus stories, through Triple V Publishing as both an ebook and in print.
Back from Vermont is one of my personal favourites – quirky and heartfelt and fun. It was fun to write and it’s nice to get it out there so many ways.
For those who happen to be in Palmerston North on Saturday October 13th, I’ll be reading the story (aloud) at the Palmerston North Book Fair at 11am. I will have copies of the book for sale ($11-), as well as some of my other books, and will do signings.
Larry’s building a grand scale railway on the sidewalk right out in front of the house. And all along the street. Lisa’s furious, but the neighbors all want to ride. Includes bonus stories “Norwegians” (previously published in Literary Foray and “Steam Furnace” (first publication).
Front cover image by Giladm – Dreamstime
filtering through to Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader and Apple soon
Print (94 page paperback) – $6.49
Perhaps in a little contradiction to my posts over the last couple of days, I’ve put my literary story “Canyon Rim” up through Triple V. The story is not pulp. It is literary, as much as I write literary pieces. There is a story to it (a man’s search for safety), but it is perhaps as much an exercise in voice. It’s written with a focus on language and rhythm. Have I succeeded? I hope so.
I tutor for a university course in literary fiction and some of the tenents include ideas such as “fiction’s only rule is that it must compel the reader”. As a literary course, it’s focus is as much on language as on story – the idea that we do thirst for language and that the nuances of skilled writers can tantalise and draw us forward with deft and bold touches.
I do admire literary writers and their skill with language. Too often, though, it seems that the cleverness with language becomes too much the concern and that compelling aspect is lost (on me, at least). I like a balance: strong and articulate language that remains readable, with a true story and engaging characters.
Canyon Rim is perhaps as close as I will come with literary works, though I have a few others up my sleeve that will likely show up over time. Squeezed out in between the pulp (if that makes any sense).
Here’s the opening
Ernie Freiden had been born to a Canadian father and an Australian mother. Both had been vacationing through the national parks of Utah and Colorado when they met in 1982. Shirley had quickly abandoned the German tourist she’d been traveling with, and taken up with Thomas, in Moab, near Arches National Park. The German, Shirley later told Ernie, though through into his adult life he heard different and increasingly unlikely versions of the story, had flown back to Germany, almost immediately, and years later had been crushed to death in a museum accident by a part of the Berlin wall he was helping to put on display after the reunification.
Thomas, Ernie’s father, had quickly (though not as quickly as the German’s departure from U.S. soil) had his name abbreviated to Tom, and complained little about that, after all Shirley was as decisive a woman as Tom had ever encountered and what was a slight adjustment to his name in comparison to her company?
The story is scheduled for publication in the Static Movement anthology Sleepwalkin’ and Picklockin’ sometime in 2012 and I’m grateful to editor Chris Bartholomew for releasing it to Triple V so it might garner a few readers in the meantime.
My story “Back from Vermont” has just been published in Takahe 73. Takahe is a New Zealand literary magazine, published three times a year. After a long time of focusing my attention abroad, it’s nice to be published here at home (even if I did write a story set in the U.S.).
The story opens like this…
In the time before my parents separated my father began building miniature trains and, over the course of an evening, would lay a mile or more of track through our neighborhood then rumble around until first light. It started on a Saturday and that following Sunday morning brought us a stream of folks from around the street, thumping on the door, demanding to see my father. My mother stood in the doorway, trying to deflect them, but for the most part they just wanted to know how they could join in
I try to read broadly, but probably read just way too much contemporary American fiction*. I discovered Ray Robinson‘s Forgetting Zoë by accident. Firstly the cover appealed, and then the setting – Arizona (at least for part of the book) – my passion for four corners states, and surrounds, continually fed by some excellent literature.
Forgetting Zoë is an exceptional story, told to a certain extent as if it was a straight crime novel – there’s a crime, there’s some mystery to the solving of that – but beyond that it’s really a literary novel, savouring the words themselves throughout, while still maintaining pace and intrigue. The novel certainly seems to draw on events that have been in the media over recent years – the story focuses on the abduction and imprisonment of Zoë, and the experiences of the families involved.
Robinson’s attention to setting is striking – the novel is set between the dry heat of Arizona ranchlands, and an island off Newfoundland, cold and weatherbeaten.
*What I didn’t realise during the reading of the book is that Robinson is British. I’m surprised by what a good ear he has for writing fiction that fits with other mid-west novels.