Jeremy Szal has a . . . book club?

I’ve finally gotten off my arse and launched my newsletter/book club/email list. It’s so everyone who likes my stuff (surprisingly, such people exist) can remain in touch, hear about upcoming book releases, early cover reveals, etc. I’ll also be doing free giveaways, posting free short stories, and posting news in advance. In addition, all subscribers will get a free novelette that’s set in the world of The Common, and acts as a sort of prequel to STORMBLOOD.

It’ll be the best way to hear what I’m up to, as I despise WordPress and don’t see myself sticking around here for long.

I’ll be sending these updates very infrequently – perhaps three to four times a year, but I’m still ironing out the kinks.

You can subscribe to my Book Club by clicking this link here!

Alternatively, you should be able to do right below…

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STORMBLOOD US launch!

After nearly 2 years (thanks COVID), STORMBLOOD will *finally* be releasing locally in the US and Canada in print format! In actual bookstores!

Even better, Mysterious Galaxy in CA will have signed copies available in a few weeks time. So, if a gnarly military SF/space opera adventure about two estranged brothers on opposing sides of a drug war looks up your alley, and if having my chicken scrawl signature defacing your book happens to be your thing, you can pre-order a copy here.

Other stores that have signed copies include:

Borderlands Books

White Dwarf Books

Barnes and Nobles, Lafayette IN

Considering this is basically a soft relaunch for the book, pre-orders are hugely hugely helpful. I can’t understate how essential they are for newer authors, especially with indie SFF bookstores.

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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Words and words and words, starting a new project

For those of you who’ve been following my tweets recently, I’m neck deep in a new project. Not a new short story, a new novel. I finished my YA epic Slavic fantasy about a month back. I took a short break before thinking about what I was going to do next. I didn’t want to jump into edits straight away – me and my YA fantasy didn’t have a very good relationship in the last third of the book. We needed, need, time away from each other. In a couple of months I’ll come back and start hacking away at it with an axe.

But until then I needed something else. I’ve had this idea boiling in the basement of my skull for quite some time, but didn’t have the backstory to support it. I took a few days to flesh it out, do some outlining, then threw myself into writing. No side projects, no short stories, no editing. Nothing. Just words words words.

I stated that book two and a half weeks ago, about 18 days. Right now it’s sitting at 19,000 words. That’s my part time job at the moment. Butt in chair, pouring my mind on the keyboard and screen. No inspiration quotes, no #amwriting hashtags on twitter, no in-the-zone yoga mind experiments.

Just black words on white paper.

My minimum target is 1,000 words per day, not including plot outlining, world-building, and running off to jot down some cool idea. And so far I’m not doing too badly. I know where my characters are going, where they’ve come from, and (most) of the world around them. I can’t say much about the project, but it’s a space opera crossed with a murder mystery. It’s not YA either, my first adult book since my first rubbish attempt at writing a SF/F when I was in highschool.

I’m not thinking about how to sell it, how to pitch it, if the current market is good for it, nothing. I’m just having fun and getting that work down. It’s hard sometimes, and I hate every sodding word on the sodding page, but I’m doing it. It’s going to be one ugly half-breed when it’s done (coming from a half-breed), but it’ll be done.

One of the worst things I ever did was let my YA fantasy sit and rot for whole months at a time over a stretch of one year and three months while I was finishing university. It grew old and stale, and even now it’s in desperate need of a scrub up and tweaking. So I’m not making that mistake here. I’m living and breathing this world and this world alone, and it’s pouring out of me fast.

By this time next week I hope to be at 26,000 words, perhaps a little more. By the time this is over my fingers are going to be worn down to the bone and my brain having gone through a deep fat fryer, but no one said this job was meant to be easy.

‘Until then….

So. Star Wars: Midnight screening

(Yes, this post is completely spoiler free.)

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As the title might suggest, I went to the midnight release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It released early down here in Australia, 17 hours ahead of the US.

And my verdict?

It was okay.

Actually no. It was world-shattering amazing.

They took everything that makes the Star Wars so unique – the grandness, the mystery, the action, the heroism, the cheeky dialogue – and wrapped in up in a bundle of nostalgia and classic space opera and tied it up with a bow made up of a 21st century cinematic slickness.

They actually pulled it off. They did the impossible.

It was one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. Complete with an atmosphere that loved Star Wars, loved science-fiction.  The audience broke into applause multiple times through the film. The vibe alone was worth it. People cheered, waved their lightsabers, and donned crazy cosplay for a one-time experience. 10 years ago now (has it been that long?) my dad took me to this exact cinema to see Revenge of the Sith when it came out. The experience stuck with me then and this one will stick with me now for a long, long time.

The film itself scrapes perfection. Every scene is so choked full of witty banter, strong character development, rich worldbuilding and slick action that it’s almost like being on a rollercoaster.The visuals themselves are nothing less than stunning. You could take almost every shot from the film and frame it as a painting. It’s concept-art come to life, bursting with liquid colours that oozed out of the screen like crystals.

The experience was almost ruined by the two guys in front of me. The screen was literally sandwiched between their heads (we were sitting upstairs and far back) and it was grating at me. My dad had to get up and stand (his knee was giving him trouble) so I swapped for his seat and all was resolved. But obviously that’s just whining about the rough edges on a very delicious pastry.

One of the film’s greatest strengths, I think, was it’s casting. They took one of the biggest films ever created and put non-American, small time actors in leading roles. People like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and Adam Driver are barely known in mainstream Hollywood, and putting them in major roles alongside Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher does no end of good. They put guys like Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian from the Raid films (Indonesia action films that likely almost no one in the mainstream has seen, even if they are somewhat popular) on screen in front of what’s probably billions of people. They were focused on bringing in fresh faces and it worked. They could have gone the easy route and made the film stuffed full of an all-star cast, but they did not. They took a risk and put non-American, foreign actors on the front cover of what’s probably the biggest film this side of the decade. There’s going to be some new household names very soon, and it’s marvelous that Star Wars gave these actors the opportunity.

And as someone who works in media and arts, I know how hard it is to try and get noticed. It’s not easy for Americans, and it’s five times as hard for anyone who doesn’t live in the States, or an English speaking country. I can only imagine how people like Iko Uwais felt when they learned they were going to be in a Star Wars movie.

Two hours passed in minutes. There’s no flak, no stupid politics, no dry dialogue, no inane bumbling characters. There’s just a world as rich and diverse and delicious as you like, full of characters we want to travel to the edges of the universe with. And I have no doubt that’s exactly what the future films will continue to do. It’s an achievement in writing, in visuals, in pacing, and plain ol’ cinematic goodness.

But now? It’s edging towards 4am and it’s time for me to go to sleep.

But suffice to say: get off your arse and go see it. No, you don’t have an excuse. Just do it.

Special Announcement…

It would seem that something quite major has just happened. Actually, major is an understatement. It’s pretty big.

I’m now an Assistant Editor at StarShipSofa.

I’ve been an avid listener of them in the past, so it’s an honour and a privilege to be working with them. They’ve won the Hugo Award, (which is essentially Best Picture at the Oscars but for literature. Except the Hugo is for the cool kids.)

Suffice to say that it’s going to be a fantastic experience, working with authors, writers, editors and fellow nerds alike. You know you’re onto a good thing when the people running the joint rival your enthusiasm for fantastic science fiction. And believe me, that’s not something that’s easy to do. Not at all. And I’m not sorry in the slightest.

I’ll be getting an interview sometime in the near future, which will likely consist of me stuttering awkwardly and droning on endlessly.

But either way, check the website out. It’s a fantastic place for writers, authors, readers and fans alike, and not just because I’m going to be lurking in the shadows. Just look at this gorgeous artwork:

 

Come on, just how awesome is that?

If you have a favourite story that you’d like to hear podcasted, give me a buzz. I’m looking for fresh new talent, brilliant classics, and the big players out there. If it’s good, I’m interested. Send me the loudest, pulpiest, most daring, and viciously excellent stuff you know of. You know, the stuff that your mother, Harold Bloom and your teachers told you not to read. Send me Space Opera, cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, hard SF, post-apocalyptic, military SF, time-travel, alternate history, science-fantasy, silpstream, dystopian SF, biopunk, golden age SF, adventure SF…the possibilities are endless. I couldn’t list all the possible combinations and genre styles if I typed for the rest of my life.

But no fantasy and no horror. And definitely nothing “realistic”, literary or serious. The sort of stuff that literary critics would find “profound” and call existential . We don’t want that stuff. At all. Keep far away, shredded into a million pieces, locked in a box of onyx and launched into a black hole on the far outer edges of space.

But it’s a little harder to distinguish between speculative fiction genres, especially as most short stories tend to be hybrids. If you’re uncertain, tell me about it anyway. But if it’s along the lines of medieval Europe, urban fantasy, etc, then I’m sorry to say we don’t want it. Again, genres do cross over (Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter novels, and even to a degree Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire are examples), but strictly fantasy or horror ain’t what we’re looking for. They’re fantastic writers, but we’re after science fiction. Tell us about the dystopian futures, alien invasions, galaxy-spanning space operas, hiveminds, cyborgs and everything in between.

You can tweet me at @JeremySzal or just use the Contact Me form.

It’s going to be wild ride. Welcome aboard, good citizens, and enjoy the flight.

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