Ark of Bones now available! In audio!

https://embed.acast.com/starshipsofa/starshipsofano509jeremyszal

A very, very belated post: but my short story “Ark of Bones” is now available in audio over at StarShipSofa in episode 509. It’s narrated by the wonderful Mikael Naramore, who’s narrated audiobooks by Clive Barker, Nora Roberts, Wesley Chu, and other writers much more talented than me.

His buttery man vocals bring the story to life in ways that put a stupid grin on my face, and I usually can’t listen to audio adaptations of my work. But this one, I’m very much able to hear his rendition of my characters again and again.

This is the short-story version of the YA SF novel that almost got an agent, but didn’t. I was cut up about it, but not enough that I was done with the world. It wouldn’t leave my brain, even a year after the final rejections came through. So I decided to write a shorter, tighter version (and one with a much better endings, methinks). Humans have occupied over the planet of Arkaeyus and segregated the native aliens into a filthy refugee camp that’s getting smaller and smaller as the paramilitary slowly eat away at their rights. This story focuses on a human and his best mate, who happens to be one of these aliens and their investigation as more of these aliens start to disappear.

It’s a little strange, having a story appear at a podcast I edit. I’m very aware of how prevalent nepotism is in this industry. Tony read one of my stories a few months back in the anthology he published, and was interested in putting it on the show. But the rights were taken up, and he asked if I had anything else. I offered up another story on the condition that he decide whether or not it was good enough. He thought it was. I was a hesitant (againn, nepotism), but since this was a solicited piece, and I wasn’t the one making the decision whether it’d run or not, I decided to go through with it.

So. It’s now finally available to stream into your earholes worldwide. It’s one of my favourite stories, and it went through multiple drafts before I even started polishing it.

I first started building this world it during university classes back in 2013, so seeing it all finally come to life in audio is is something pretty special. ūüôā

 

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The Galaxy’s Cube out in Abyss and Apex!

Well, this is certainly overdue. But no matter: my short story “The Galaxy’s Cube” went live at Abyss & Apex for their 58th issue, Q2 2016. It takes place on a Thailand-inspired colony world – there’s a strong biopunk favour, lavish descriptions of haunting cities, dormant AIs, relationships and the sense of wonder and sorrow. It’s also a bit of a love letter to the choatic, beautiful sprawling mess that is Bangkok, Thailand and the wonderful people who reside there. I’ve lived in the place and visited it more than a dozen times and I’ve never had a bad experience.

I wrote this story back in late 2014 or so. It gave me hell at the time of writing, I had no idea where I was going with it, what I’d do, how it would turn out, etc. But I pressed on, finished it, and sold it to Abyss & Apex very quickly. A&A have published work by ¬†Aliette de Bodard, Marie Brennan, Rae Carson, J. N.K. Jemisin, Will McIntosh¬†C. J. Cherryh,¬† Paul Di Filippo, Jay Lake,¬† Tim Pratt, and others, so it’s an honour to appear in their pages. So far it’s gotten pretty good reviews, including one in SF Revu where they called it a “fantastic, heartfelt story.”

It’s not perfect of course, considering I wrote it a year and a half ago, but I think it’s one of my better stories, and I feel it’s one of those stories that I “leveled up” with. Considering that they only publish 20 or so stories a year, and frequently get Honourable Mentions in the Year’s Best, I’m pretty happy to be in their pages. Many thanks to¬† my editors Wendy and Tonya who pushed for it to be the leading story of the issue.

So yes. Sit back and go to a future Thai colony and do let me know what you think of the story. You can find it online for free here.

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Writers of the Future: I’m a Finalist

The title says it all, but it’s my party and I’ll talk if I want to.

As you may or may not know, Writers of the Future is a pretty big thing. It’s an award ceremony and workshop based in L.A. designed to discover new and upcoming writers. They receive tens of thousands of submissions per year, divided up into quarters. They only take the top three of that quarter.

I submitted my story a while back, not expecting much response from it. I started university again (in fact I’m knee-deep in a paper that’s due in two days right now), focused on other projects, went through illnesses, got more involved in StarShipSofa, etc. It slipped from my mind, and considering how many people submit each quarter any sort of response would be unlikely. I’ve already received two Honourable Mentions from them, but I doubted my luck would run much rather.

So last Tuesday I’m out in the morning doing stuff. I get back, flip open the computer to check my emails. I see a response from Writers of the Future. And in the subject line: You’re a WOTF Finalist.

No way. No sodding way.

My heart racing, I quickly scan the email. No, my eyes aren’t playing tricks. My story placed somewhere in the top eight, beating thousands and thousands of submissions from all over the globe. Joni tried to call me, but she couldn’t untangle the labyrinth of phone call connections she needed to make in order to call Australia from the US.

I read it again. Yes, it’s true. I’m a finalist.

Shaking, I pound in a reply, saying something like OMG THANK YOU THANK YOU before deleting it and replying with something much more professional and polite. Then I start jumping up and down like a circus freak on some sort of experimental drug, drinking as much coffee as I possibly can.

I give Joni my number and we have a chat where she fleshes out the details, her laughing and congratulating me. Basically the gist is this: Out of submission well into five figures, I landed in the top eight. The eight stories will then go onto judges, who will decide which stories come 1st, 2nd and 3rd. If you do place, you get a cash prize (between $1000-$500) and flown out to L.A. for a week long workshop. They pay for your flight, your hotel, the whole deal. The likes of Larry Niven, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer and countless other headline authors instruct you for an entire week. Your work gets published alongside theirs in an anthology (which is distributed worldwide). You get interviews, go to signings, get artwork…everything she was saying just passed in a blur of awesomeness. I’m still shaking my head that a scruffy kid like me from down under was even being given this opportunity.

And then there’s the award ceremony, attended by various Hollywood stars and the aforementioned authors. Everyone gets a WOTF statue and some time on stage. And the grand prize? $5000.

$5000.

Five grand.

But let’s pull back on the reins for a little. I’m not at that stage. There’s no chance I’ll even be at the workshop. Out of the eight finalists, five will be yanked out of the running. But three will be given the Hollywood treatment. The chances of me grabbing it are three out of eight. Nearly fifty percent. Almost heads or tails.

Am I nervous? Mate, I can hardly sit still. I feel like a ten year old jacked up on sugar, caffeine and god knows what else.

So my conversation with Joni finished with me on a high. Then I realized that class was almost on so I packed my bag and headed out the door to be educated. I don’t remember much of that class, though, my head was still spinning. It’s still spinning now.

I might not get in this time. I might never get in at all. But in this regard the odds are very much in my favour, to paraphrase Effie Trinket. And it’s one hell of an opportunity, too.

If it wasn’t for them, people like Patrick Rothfuss, Sean Williams, Aliette de Bodard and countless others might not be where they are today. Book deals have been struck, movie deals have been signed, friendships have been made, and careers have been launched, all thanks to Writers of the Future. And I could very well land there in 1st place. Or 2nd. Or 3rd. Or not at all. Joni says she’ll call and let me know in a week or two. But there’s nothing I can do. It’s all in the cards now.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I made it here. If I get knocked down, I’m gonna pick myself up again and aim for the moon again. If I get my teeth kicked out and shoved into the mud, I’ll grit my teeth and try once again. And one day I’ll do it.

I’ve come this far. I keep going. And I will.