David Stevens

My Gregory gush

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm

If you are already planning on reading ‘Pandemonium’ by Daryl Gregory, don’t read any further. There are no more spoilers here than on the back cover blurb, but …

I went on a Daryl Gregory binge last weekend. I’d had ‘Raising Stony Mayhall’ on my wishlist at The Book Depository for some time, and received a price drop alert, so I pushed it up the queue and purchased it. While I was doing that, I looked at his other novels and immediately bought ‘Pandemonium’.

‘Pandemonium’ – what’s not to love? The blurb had me by the end of the second sentence: ‘It is a world like our own [except that in] the 1950s, random acts of possession began to occur’. OK, done, sold. If only I hadn’t read the description further, what a great ‘What the … ?’ moment I would have had (and I live for those moments, folks). His ‘quest for help leads him to Valis, an entity possessing the science fiction writer formerly known as Philip K Dick’. BAM! Hit ‘Purchase now’. Two of my favourite books are ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Valis’, all my buttons were hit and lit up.

I have to confess, I would have preferred a different resolution, that the clues that had been laid led to a different place, but hey, I enjoyed the weird ride, and the ultimate ending was satisfying. The stranger the setting, the odder the world, it is essential, but harder, to create believable characters. The protagonist was believable with his existential struggle and nightmare life, and I cared about him and the crises he faced.

I went straight from that to ‘Raising Stony Mayhall’, also set in a world like our own, except that George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ was a documentary of a zombie outbreak that was quickly contained, and now the world lives in fear of a repeat performance.

I know there are people who hate zombies. The official position of Clarkesworld is that there are no good zombie stories. ‘Stony’ is a good story, that happens to be about zombies. Purists might not like them, hell, for those for whom the big debate is fast v slow zombies, the deviations and twists to the standard zombie line here may be too much. Too bad, I enjoyed it, I liked the protagonist and the choices he was faced with, I was intrigued by the world of disappearances and secret prisons, of zombie politics and terrorism.

I was then in a bookstore and saw Gregory’s latest, ‘Afterparty’, and stopped myself. Patience, David, patience, leave yourself something for later.

I’ve said it before, I’m no reviewer (at least I didn’t use the word ‘nice’, bugger, there it is, it slipped in), but I can say I really enjoyed ‘Pandemonium’ and ‘Raising Stony Mayhall’, both rose above so much predictable genre work, satisfying my need for good story and weird shit.

Bio? The letter ‘C’

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2014 at 8:01 am

Submissions require an author bio. I struggle with this. I look to others for inspiration. Some people include a half page of whimsy, at which I cringe, and have no publication credits, because they have not published anything. Others have a stream of credits, and of course, I can’t emulate that. Some list all the information demonstrating how they comply with a magazine’s wish for greater diversity, but everything about me is mainstream (or if its not, would only make sense to a few people within a small region in Sydney – perhaps). Still, I look for inspiration from others. Let’s begin with the letter ‘C':

  • Career: There is of course the traditional writer’s gambit of listing the 372 jobs they have had, from lumberjack to polar bear trainer, or alternatively, describing the highly technical work they do to show they are the ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’. Until early this year, I worked in the same place for over two decades, and I’m in a profession that would want no connection with horror stories, so I keep that to myself.
  • Cats: I don’t get the cats. Everyone but me has cats. Cats kill at least around 4 million native animals in Australia each year. I like native animals. So no cats. Plus my dog died, and that was sad, and no one wants to hear about that in an author bio. Especially the details of peeing blood all over me.
  • Children: I have four children. I love them dearly. They are humans, not cats though, and I wonder if that upsets anyone. If you can see their pictures, it means you are the person who stole my wallet.
  • Clarion: haven’t been there. Not to east, west or even south (which I think doesn’t exist any more). So no Clarion workshop to put on the list. No doubt, that shows from my writing. When I publish something and I see another contributor has been to Clarion, for some reason that makes me feel good.
  • Cohabitation: I have a wife. She has a husband (me). I asked her to remind me how long we have been married. She paused before muttering ‘forever’. She encourages me to write. She encourages me not to talk about her here. So, enough.
  • Cool: I’m not. I’m old. That I was going to include here the phrase ‘hep cat’ says a great deal. Not hip, not a hipster. Neither am I a geek (though no doubt like most people, I would appear somewhere on the ‘nerd’ spectrum). I have no street cred. In Australia, I would be a ‘dag’. This is a reference to the dung encrusted wool at a sheep’s bum, so you can tell it is not a good thing.
  • Cultural activities: I watch too much television. I put that in my bio. Once. I read a lot. I have lots of things I used to do. I like bird watching. I dunno. (This is just getting worse…).

So I typically include some variation of: David Stevens (usually) lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and children. His stories have appeared in Crossed Genres, Aurealis and Three-Lobed Burning Eye magazines, Pseudopod podcast, and some small Australian literary magazines. One day he will finish his novel.

*Yawn*

Good Boy

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm

My story ‘Good Boy’ has been published by Pseudopod. Here is a link, it is about 19 minutes in.

I wrote many things over many years. I have boxes of notes and drafts. Occasionally I’d submit stories and collect rejection slips. Life, laziness, children, career, fear, all got in the way of taking things further.

Early last year, I decided to make a proper go of things. My daughter is ill. For a few months I was her full time carer, and then I returned to work part time. I did not have the concentration to work on a novel, and I had a need to finish something, so I decided to concentrate on short stories for a while. And of course, nobody was interested, but at that time, rejection did not hurt very much, so I kept doing it. It occupied my mind, gave me pleasure, helped to fill my days with something other than my daughter’s illness, or my worries about my career, or any of a hundred other things.

Then somebody liked something. Regime Books, a small literary venture in Western Australia, accepted my story ‘Good Boy’ for the third volume of their journal. I was surprised at a genre piece being accepted, but of course I was very happy. It was all the impetus I needed to keep going.

I have no idea if anyone ever read that story, there were of course no reviews, no comments, no feedback, but that was not unexpected, I am not stupid and I don’t think that I am greedy. I have placed a few other stories since then, and many, many rejection e mails, all par for the course.

The title may not fit. It is a story about grief and responses to loss, and to my mind the horror of the story is not the ‘thing’ that happens during the course of the story, but the main character’s ultimate response. Its genesis was a humorous story called ‘Bad Boy’. Once upon a time, everything I tried had to be comedy. However, it would not work for me. I decided to write bookends, both stories with a supernatural element, one funny, the other not. ‘Good Boy’ and ‘Bad Boy’ I don’t think the humorous version will ever be written now. Too much has happened to me to approach that any more.

The story is not true, of course, but the emotions spring from issues in my life, especially over the last seven years. I submitted it again to Pseudopod. The editor, Shawn Garrett, commented to me that “I very much liked the emotional honesty and weight of the piece,” and I really appreciate those remarks. They have included it in their most recent podcast, and I am glad that there is an opportunity for it to have a wider audience. If you would like to listen to it being read, please just click here.

 

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