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. 🙂

 

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The Deal with the Devil: Talking with Harlan Ellison

It was a few months ago when I realised that episode 500 of StarShipSofa was bearing down the tracks. Five Oh Oh glorious episodes of our show. We needed to mark the occasion with a ground-breaking author and a ground-breaking story. But who? Not William Gibson, he was episode 400. Not George R. R. Martin, we had that privilege back in episode 389. Not Chiang, Sterling, Moorcock, Gaiman, Brin or any other of the masters of the genre we’ve already had on the show already. No. We needed someone special; someone so outlandishly awesome and popular and lauded to capstone our show.

The only answer: Harlan Ellison.

So we did.

Now, Ellison isn’t famous. He’s infamous. For many, many reasons, including but not limited to: getting fired from Disney on Day 1, suing half of Hollywood, sending 213 bricks (exact number) to a publisher and dead gopher postage due, multiple accusations of assault, broke a TV executive’s pelvis, pissing everyone he possibly can off and writing the darkest short story of all time. Punch his name into google and you’ll find a laundry list of him spewing vitriol about fans and fandom and Hollywood, roasting morons and delivering smackdowns and rants so insult-laden you’ll gag trying to repeat them. He’s his own lifelong parody.

But he’s also my bleeding hero. It’s my lifetime goal to become a slightly-less assholish, 50% less white, 100% less American version of Uncle Harlan Ellison.

So, naturally, I called him on the phone on a Friday night, his time, and asked to buy his story.

Again, everything that can possibly be said about Harlan Ellison has at one point likely been said. He’s been called (and called others) insults that don’t exist yet. His temper would make Satan piss himself.

But that wasn’t my experience with him. We’d had prior correspondence, (as a datapoint: I got in touch with his publisher, who gave me his address. I posted a letter asking to reprint his story. Two months later, I get an email with his phone number and an invitation to call). So he knew I was calling and what I was calling for. I’d expected to speak with an intern, assistant, his wife, anyone.

I was not expecting the man himself to answer the phone.

I gave my name, said I was looking to reprint “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” for StarShipSofa in audio. Ellison didn’t even pause, he launched straight into the thick of it. He told me he was totally cool with us doing it. He asked how we were planning to reprint the story in audio, (“cause it has two different endings, y’know?”). Admittedly, I had a brain breakdown as I’d forgotten that fact, but told Ellison that we’d record both and let the viewers decide (“we’ve never done split endings before, so it’d be cool to do it for our capstone show”) I vaguely remember saying.

“Huh.” Was all he grunted in response. I didn’t get called a moron or retard, so I assumed he was satisfied. “But there’s an issue with the contract,” he told me, and I could hear the (I assume) creak of his chair as he sat up. “The…uhh, obscenity clause. I dunno if some asshole is going to take offense at the word “I” and I don’t wanna be dragged out in court again. It’s happened before and I don’t want them digging up my body for the next two hundred years to put my bones on trial.”

Oh. That’s the Harlan Ellison everyone talks about, I thought. Up until then, he sounded like a docile older bloke, only one that uses the word “asshole” every second sentence. But no, now I knew I was speaking with a cult figure who trademarks his own name and gets a kick out of murdering dreams and telling Hollywood writers to get nuked until they glow.

So naturally, I responded with “assuming we get to two hundred years.”

And he chuckled. Not a big one, mind, nothing that’ll match GRRM’s mighty guffaw. But a laugh nonetheless. I don’t consider myself particularly masterful in the world of comedy, but if I can make the dude who got fired from Disney on day one for making Rule 34 jokes about cartoon porn laugh, then that’s all the validation I need.

The rest of the conversation went smoothly, mainly regarding more confident matters and technical details about the show. But near the end, Uncle Harlan gave his consent and the go-ahead for us to talk more about reprinting and playing his Nebula winning story, how we’d produce it, etc. Again, the man doesn’t miss a beat. Old age hasn’t made those gears rust one bit. And seeing how he was in a good mood, I opted to tell him that I’ve been reading him since I was eleven years old, I’m a fan and super stoked to be talking with him now.

“Heh, alright kiddo, thanks for letting me know,” was the friendly grunt of a response. By this point I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be chewed out or not, just so I could say it happened, but so far I’d probably lasted longer than a lot of others folks have. “You have a good evening,” he ended up saying.

“I’m calling from Australia, actually,” I said, thinking that I’d just contradicted Harlan Ellison.

“Ahh. Australia,” he drawled out. “I know that place. Too goddamn hot, but I love your koalas.”

Hand on heart, the author of I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream, said those exact words to me. I guess I should have said something witty, but I’m not that smart and we said our goodbyes and the convo ended there. And with me in one piece.

Getting a signature across the dotted line is one thing. But talking with a SF master, the god of short fiction, and one as notorious as Uncle Harlan? I’m still unsure if anything I do as an editor will top that. Now the story is up, the reviews and downloads are coming in, George Hrab’s phenomenal narration aced it; and it’s been a success. Cheers all ’round.

Of course, if Master Ellison doesn’t approve of what we did with his story, he has my phone number, name, email and home address. So the jury’s still out whether I’m going to going to get his opinion on our adaptation one way or another. But even if I do wake up to my lawn being on fire and my dog nailed to a tree, I’m sure it’d have been worth it.

Progess Report: 2017

So 2017 has been busy in a lot of ways. We’re already one month down and halfway into the next. Could thing is I’ve kept pretty busy.

I’ve seen a number of films this Oscar season, including La La Land, Lion, Split, Hackshaw Ridge, Arrrival, (loved them all) Passengers, Live By Night, Nocturnal Animals (didn’t think too much of ’em) and finished Resident Evil 7 (I loved it!) and read a few books here and there, including Stephanie Garber’s fabulous Caraval. But I’ve been pretty busy with my own work, including the space opera/murder mystery that’s been eating up my creative time since April 2016. I got further feedback from narrators that required some major structural edits in the first crucial third of the novel, which cut a pile of pages and unnecessary words and made the novel much sharper. It’s in the absolute final polish now with the query and synopsis being written and polished in tandem. I’m incredibly happy with it and hope that it finds a home.

But then it’s back to my other novel, which I halted at 50k to edit this previous one. I haven’t written many shorts in this time, which is going to change once I get some novel work done. Although I do have a (great) part time job, earning some dough from fiction never gets old, and so sketching up a cool cool 4,000 words at pro rates is something I’d like to do. Plus it gives me a great chance to experiment with areas I’m weak with or themes and characters I’d like to explore but not willing to donate an entire novel to. So I’m doing that soon.

But something pretty cool is coming: just a week ago I interviewed Colin Gibson for StarShipSofa. Name sound unfamiliar? But you know his work: he was the head production designer for Mad Max: Fury Road. The man designed and built the weapons, the sets, the look, the aesthetic, and all 150 cars for the film. He also got to work on the background, the storyline and the world-building for one of the most striking and critically acclaimed documentaries films ever put to screen. This guy won an Oscar for his work, beating out Bridge of Spies, The Revenant, and the Martian. Yeah. That big.

I’ve met him a number of times in person outside of my work for StarShipSofa and spoken to him at length about Fury Road and the industry (and got shown a few things related to the film that I can’t actually reveal or talk about). I told him about the podcast and he agreed to be interviewed. So I interviewed him about this fantastic, insane monstrous of a motion picture and how he helped bring it to life in all it’s Australia gory glory. It’s going to be out soon and I do hope you’ll check it out then!