Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Interview with David Barker, author of Blue Gold



Today the Speculative Fiction Showcase are delighted to interview David Barker, author of forthcoming post-apocalyptic novel Blue Gold.

Is this your first attempt at writing a book or do you have any drawer novels or shorts hidden away – or published?
It’s my first try. This story seemed to stick with me until I got it right.

Why have you chosen to write about a war over water?
It combines two of the most important issues of our age: climate change and geopolitical tension. The United Nations and the US National Intelligence Council have already warned of the growing risk of a conflict over water resources in the next 2-3 decades.

You describe yourself as a part-time economist. What does a part-time economist do, and does it have any impact on your writing?
I try to predict the future: figuring out how the global economy will evolve is a key aspect of my job. Those ideas helped shape the world that became the setting for Blue Gold. The company I work for has been kind enough to let me work part-time while I prepare for the book launch and crack on with the first draft of its sequel.

What, if any, science fiction authors have influenced you?
Lots, but three in particular: Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams and Arthur C Clarke. Herbert’s Dune, set on a planet without rain, was a huge inspiration for me, and I suspect a lot of other writers over the years. It’s 50 years old and still fresh!

Tell us about the Faber Academy course – how did you learn about it and did you find it useful?
My wife knew SJ Watson when he was an audiologist and when his first novel became an international bestseller, we knew the course must be good! It was exactly what I needed, teaching me about the pitfalls to avoid when writing fiction and some of the subtler ways to make a story appeal to the reader. The support of my tutor and fellow students was fantastic and still continues three years after the course finished.

Environmentalism is clearly important to you. It often seems to underlie much post-apocalyptic science-fiction. Is this significant?
I think we all get a little bit scared contemplating the consequences of climate change, but it’s easier to imagine that future if it’s the setting for a gripping thriller. Maybe if enough authors write stories about a dark future, we’ll learn to appreciate and look after the planet better.

You are clearly a supporter of local bookstores and libraries. Why are these important, to you – and to everyone else?
Libraries are a fantastic way for people to immerse themselves in all sorts of books at very little cost. Given my daughter’s ability to finish a 400-page book in a couple of days, that seems quite important to me! I love browsing bookstores in a way that doesn’t work online, and my local store runs a great sci-fi and fantasy book club that I attend every month.

Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or pen and paper?
Word, but I always carry a note pad and pen with me to scribble down ideas on my current novel or future projects before I forget them.

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
Embarrassing to admit as an author writing about the future, but I am a bit of Luddite. I had fun stripping away some technology in the setting for Blue Gold.

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
Definitely. I owned a ZX Spectrum in the early 1980s, fell in love with Lara Croft during the 1990s and discovered MMORPGs in the noughties. Unfortunately writing takes up most of my spare time these days, so I had to find a way to break my addiction.

Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?
I’m lucky enough to have my own study at home. But I did write quite a lot of Blue Gold’s first draft on a train – commuting home from work in the evenings.

If you were marooned on a desert island and could take just seven books, what would you choose?
Dune, Lord of the Rings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and two graphic novels: Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Watchmen by Alan Moore.

What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Douglas Adams. He was a genius and a polymath.

If you could have any director to shoot the film of your book, who would you choose?
There are so many talented young directors that I don’t know well enough to answer. But James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, delivered a great combination of action and humour; something that I tried to do in Blue Gold.

How would you define Speculative Fiction?
Blimey, you’ve saved the toughest question until last. I think of speculative fiction as the stories that are created when a writer asks him or herself a ‘what if’ question and lets the answer stretch reality in new and exciting ways. (Sorry if that sounds a bit derivative of the quote in your website’s header – I must have sub-consciously memorised it!)

Blue Gold will be released on May 11, 2017: it is available for pre-order from Amazon here.


About David Barker:


 

David lives with his wife, daughter and three pet rats in Royal Berkshire, England. When not working, David likes to play tennis, surf, read books and watch films.

web-site | Twitter @BlueGold201

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Cost of Business (A Dragonfire Station short story) by Zen DiPietro

Release date: December 27, 2016
Subgenre: Space opera, short story

About The Cost of Business:

 

Cabot Layne has unintentionally become the owner of someone else's problem. In order to get free of it, he'll need to use every bit of his trader cunning. If he does it just right, he might stay out of prison. With a little luck, he'll even manage to turn a profit.

Excerpt:


“Are you going to turn me in?” Arlen stood next to the trunk, which Cabot had opened just long enough to show her their very large problem. She was nice-looking, though part of that handsomeness might have been due to her youth. Like Cabot, she had naturally tan skin and light-brown hair. Her eyes were an amber brown, compared to his own blue-gray ones. She had a winsome rugged frame that spoke of Rescan sturdiness.
Cabot admired her composure. Being the connoisseur of people he was, he recognized the anxiety beneath her placid features. “That would save my skin at the direct expense of yours. Since you’re guiltless, I don’t wish to see that happen.”
Instead of reassuring her, this caused her face to harden in suspicion. “And what do I owe you for that?”
“You have nothing I want. What could I need from someone just getting set up in the business?” He laced his words with disdain, which took the edge off her suspicion. Yes, she’d understand derision and self-interest much better than she would altruism. His own distrust of philanthropy ran deep.
“Then why not sell me out?” she demanded.
“Even an innocent transaction involving Brivinium would tarnish my reputation. I don’t need the PAC breathing down my neck on every deal I make for the rest of my life. We can get the stuff back into the right hands, and keep our names out of it besides. We stay clean, the Brivinium gets returned, and nobody has to deal with countless hours of debriefings and administrative work. Everyone wins.”
“If we get caught
He cut her off. “We won’t.” He fixed her with a hard look, daring her to argue.
She backed down. The young ones always did. Taking a breath, she asked, “What’s your plan?”
***
A certain acumen, combined with a few decades’ worth of experience, gave Cabot the skills to retrieve information from the voicecom that, technically speaking, he wasn’t supposed to have. He prided himself on maneuvering within the gray areas that couldn’t result in any charges being brought against him. Even so, it was always prudent to avoid being caught.
In two days, a Briveen ship would dock for scheduled maintenance in accordance with the PAC’s strict protocols for engine safety. The security notes had indicated that the Briveen would inhabit standard guest quarters during the repairs. That would give Cabot time to arrange a business venture.
He opened a channel, placing a call to a pair of human traders who had been darkening Dragonfire’s boardwalk for a little too long now.
Cabot had no issues with competition. In fact, he found that the more trade activity that happened on Dragonfire, the more business eventually came his way. His objection to these two humans was personal. No, professional. Actually, it was personal, because of his dislike of how they sullied his profession. Yes, that was it.
Dirtbags like those two didn’t fulfill their contracts. They lied about volume, freshness, or item origin. They didn’t deliver as promised, and Cabot had no tolerance for that kind of sleazy, amateur behavior. He wouldn’t have that rubbish on his station.
Intending to leave a message, Cabot was surprised when one of the traders answered. It was Morris, the younger of them. He wasn’t bad-looking, overall, but he had the hardness around his eyes and mouth that Cabot recognized as an indicator of nasty temperament.
“What?” Morris snapped.
Cabot wore his most benign, pleasant expression. “How lucky to have caught you in person. I was hoping to schedule a meeting with you.” He paused, smiled knowingly, and added, “A business meeting.”

Available for free at:

Amazon | Apple iTunes | Smashwords

 

About Zen DiPietro: 

Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, dreamer, writer, and a mom of two. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. A recovering gamer, but we won’t talk about that. Particular loves include badass heroines, British accents, and the smell of Band-Aids. Writing reviews, author interviews, and fun stuff at www.womenofbadassery.com. 

 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Alien Tales and Lore by G.J. Gundersen Jr.

Release date: December 24, 2016
Subgenre: Short story collection, folklore

About Alien Tales and Lore

 

Gundersen's entertaining tales are unashamedly set in a modern age where one is more likely to believe in alien encounters than in the supernatural creatures of old folklore. Odd occurrences are not magical, but are brought about by alien technology. The tales included in this volume are by turns enchanting, surreal, and troubling. But as with all fairy tales and folktales, they offer an insight into human nature. Gundersen updates the tradition for an age of alien contact!

Excerpt:


The Luck of Bear Anderson


It is not always easy for us to understand alien technology. Alien spacecraft have been spotted countless times in the daylight. But it seems that the spacecraft that features in this story from Southerland could only fly by night.

Perhaps the spacecraft had somehow lost the use of its solar shield, and that is why the first rays of the rising sun caused it to shatter and fall from the sky. Perhaps the object stolen from the spacecraft was a key component, and not a simple drinking vessel as many have supposed. At this stage, we can only guess at the reasons behind what happened. But the facts of the story cannot be disputed.
Bear Anderson had grown up in the small village of Penderreth in Southerland. His parents had worked on a farm there, but Bear had shown a great interest in learning. He had done very well at school, and had won a university scholarship to study mathematics. It was unheard of for anyone from the country around Penderreth to go to university, so Bear became quite a local celebrity, and everyone in Penderreth and beyond called him The Student as a mark of respect.

It was at the end of Bear Anderson’s first year at university, around midsummer time, and he had returned home to Penderreth. While he had been growing up in the village, he had not paid too much attention to the houses there, but when he had gone away to the university, at once he was faced with magnificent-looking buildings of great size and great purpose. At first, he was in awe of the old stone-built ornamented gothic styles. But he quickly developed a passion for focussed minimalist architecture pared down to the essentials of function and form. Bear Anderson had gone as far as taking out a subscription to a modern architecture magazine. And when he was out in new places and saw particularly striking buildings in the minimalist style, he would often comment that they might win the Bäcklund prize. Although Bear was reading mathematics, he hoped to work with the design and construction of such buildings when he had finished his studies.

After his time away, the village seemed small and unimportant, and the buildings plain and squat, and very much alike. And Bear would wander round the village, using long words and foreign phrases, and explaining that he was quite delighted to be at the university, and he was doing admirably, and that it was quite tolerable to be back in Penderreth for the summer, and that at least the weather was pleasant.

It happened that one time, Bear had been at a midsummer party. There had been songs and drinking and dancing, and it had got late, and eventually it had got dark, and soon it was time to go home. The village of Penderreth was quite spread out, and Bear had a couple of miles to walk back along the dark roads to his house. He took out his torch, and set off, but it wasn’t long before he noticed lights in a field alongside the road. And when he looked closer, he saw that an alien spacecraft had landed there.

"How curious," thought Bear Anderson. "It would certainly be interesting to have a look around that alien spacecraft if I can get inside."

He walked over to the spacecraft, he saw that the door was wide open, and he walked right in.

Amazon

 

About G.J. Gundersen Jr.: 

 

GJ Gundersen Jr has spent most of his life in Britain, and he now lives in a small village in the borders. He enjoys collecting old artworks, especially any featuring aliens. He is a folklorist and storyteller, and Alien Tales and Lore is his first published collection of stories.

 Twitter

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton

release date: December 5, 2016
sub-genre: Literary Science Fiction, Satire


About Rarity from the Hollow:

Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage -- an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But he wants something in exchange. It's up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn't mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is an adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire.


Excerpt:



Three minutes later, Lacy Dawn stood on the back porch. She was keen to hear a whisper. The yells could be heard half-way Roundabend. She peeked through the kitchen window.  Her mother was on the floor with her back propped against the gasoline can that hid her GED study guide.  Jenny’s nose bled. 
            “WHAT THE HELL…GIVES YOU THE RIGHT…TO THINK...that you can THROW AWAY…something that is MINE?” her father screamed.
            Jenny adjusted her position. So did Lacy Dawn to get a better view through the window.
            “Where’s my SWITCH?”  Dwayne left the kitchen. 
            Lacy Dawn felt for her knife. 
            I hope Mommy runs for it.
            Jenny moved the gasoline can to cover a corner of her study guide that stuck up. Dwayne had put the can in the kitchen two winters ago after he cut firewood.  At the time, snow on the path to the shed had been deep. Jenny didn't complain about the can in the kitchen because it turned into her best place to hide her GED book. It was convenient and the mice stayed away because of the smell. When her GED book was hid behind the refrigerator, it lost a corner to the nibbles. She repositioned her bra so that everything was contained.
            If it's okay with him, I'll take it right here with my arms over my face. God, I wish I’d worn long pants today. If he finds that book he might kill me. Maybe that'd be better.  I can’t handle anymore anyway. Welfare would take Lacy Dawn and put her in a group home. She’d have friends and stuff to do and decent clothes. That’s more than she’s got now. Who am I kidding? I’ll never get my GED or learn to drive. I’d be better off dead. She'd be better off. I ain’t no kind of decent mom anyway. 
            Jenny pulled out her GED study guide. Lacy Dawn burst into the kitchen and, at the same time, Dwayne appeared in the opposite doorway from the living room. Lacy Dawn and Dwayne stood face to face.
            “She didn’t throw away those magazines, Dwayne. I burnt them all!” Lacy Dawn looked him in the eyes. 
            I’ve never called him Dwayne before.    
            “Well, here’s my switch, little girl, and you can kiss your white ass goodbye because it’s gonna be red in a minute.”
            “I told Grandma that you had pictures of naked little girls my age kissing old men like you.”
            “Well, your grandma’s dead and gone now and it don’t make no difference.”
            Dwayne grinned at Jenny and resumed eye contact with Lacy Dawn. Jenny did not move. The GED study guide was in the open. Lacy Dawn straightened her posture. 
            “Not that grandma -- the other one -- your mom. I tore out a page and showed her. She said the Devil must’ve made you have those pictures with naked girls way too young for you to look at. She told me to burn them to help save your soul before it was too late and you ended up in Hell.”
            Dwayne raised the switch to waist level. Lacy Dawn took a step forward. 
            “I was sick of them being in the trunk under my bed anyway. I did what Grandma told me to and now they're gone.”
            “That was my Playboy collection from high school. I bought them when I used to work at the Amoco station before I joined the Army.”
            Dwayne lowered the switch and leaned against the door frame. Jenny sat up straighter and slid her GED study guide back behind the gas can. Lacy Dawn maintained eye contact. 
            He's starting to lose it. Where’s my new butcher knife?
            Dwayne looked to the side and muttered something that she did not understand. He raised the switch and then lowered it.   
            “But, Mom knew I had them when I was in high school and never said nothing. Hell, those girls were older than me back then. I bet they’re all wrinkled now -- with tits pointing straight to the ground, false teeth, and fat asses.” 
            Dwayne muttered again. Lacy Dawn maintained eye contact. 
            I must have hit a nerve. He always mutters when he's thinking too hard.  
            “Anyway, you’re both still getting switched even if Mom told you to do it. But, I won’t make it too bad. She wouldn’t like it.”
            He paused.  The point of the switch lowered to the floor.
            Damn.  I can't think of a new name. 
            "Tammy, bammy, bo mammy…" Dwayne sang. (Dwayne named all of the switches that he used on Lacy Dawn and Jenny to discipline them.)
            “If you even touch me or Mommy with that thing, I’ll tell everybody about Tom’s garden. I’ll tell Grandma, the mailman, my teacher after school starts, and the food stamp woman when she comes next week for our home visit. I’ll tell Tom that I’m gonna tell the men working on the road at the top of the hill. I’ll tell all your friends when they come by after the harvest. And, I’ll call that judge who put you in jail for a day for drunk driving if Grandpa will let me use the phone. I swear I’ll tell everybody.”
            “Oh shit," Dwayne said.
            I knew this day would come -- ever since she brought me those DARE to Keep Kids off Drugs stickers to cover up the rust holes on my truck…
            “Lacy Dawn, drugs are bad. I don’t take drugs and hope you never will either.”
            “Cut the crap, Dwayne. This ain't about drugs. The only thing this is about is if you even think about switching me or Mommy, that garden has had it -- period.”
            “But smoking pot is not the same as taking drugs,” he let go of the switch. Thirty seconds later, Lacy Dawn picked it up and hung it in its proper place on her parents’ bedroom wall.
            “I love you, Daddy,” she said on the way back to the kitchen.
            Dwayne went out the back door and walked to his pick-up. The truck door slammed. It started, gravel crushed, and the muffler rumbled. He floored it up the hollow road.
            Things will be forever different. 
            Lacy Dawn sat down on a kitchen chair, did her deep breathing exercise, smelled an underarm and said, "Yuck."
            Things will be forever the same unless DotCom can help me change them.
            Jenny got off the floor, sat on the other chair, scooted it closer beside her daughter, put an arm around her, and kissed the side of Lacy Dawn's head.
            The muffler rumbled to nonexistence.
            “Asshole,” they screamed out the open kitchen window at the exact same time without cue.
            “He used to be a good man,” Jenny giggled and hugged…



About Robert Eggleton:




I recently retired after 52 years of contributions into the U.S. Social Security fund so that I could write and promote my fiction. I’m a former mental health psychotherapist in West Virginia. But, after coming home drained from working with child abuse victims, I didn't have the energy left to begin its self-promotion. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program in my home stateA listing of services that are supported can be found here. 

The Press: Dog HornPublishing is a traditional small press located in Leeds. Adam Lowe is the owner.  The press also showcases other semi avant garde titles and publishes a popular magazine for the GLBTQ community, Vada.