David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

First Man

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2018 at 3:30 am

My review of the Apollo / Neil Armstrong biopic is that it is bloody brilliant and you should run out and see it. There you go.

I am about as young as you can be and remember the first lunar landing. I recall where I was – climbing on the back paling fence at home. Miss Rosemary had not been on TV that morning, and I lived in hope that the delayed morning cartoons would be shown after the landing thing was over. They were not. My ambivalence was understandable given the importance of morning cartoons, but was not reflected in the rest of my life – I had a preference for books about space exploration, and astronaut related clothing (I mean t-shirts, though I am pretty sure I would not have minded my own space suit).

I decided early on I was going to be a scientist (that never worked out), and that space travel would be part of my future (hmm). However, they were not the important bits. The real stuff was an inner life built around an unarticulated poetry of disparate parts; of images and stray unattached emotions. I suppose any childhood is built around such things, as everything slowly comes together and we make sense of the world around us. A lot of those parts returned to me from the depths as I watched First Man. The opening sequence of Armstrong’s face quivering from gravitational force as his jet shuddered about him on an early voyage to the edge of space was, for me, almost as powerful as the (real) start of Saving Private Ryan (not the goofy sentimental prologue with the old fellow staggering about the cemetery – the Normandy landing). I had not expected the strength of my reaction, sitting bolt upright, fear climbing my spine. I (almost) felt the vertigo, the terror of the void, the desperation as the altimeter started to climb again, even though I knew it would be alright, even though I have known for over 49 years that Neil Armstrong is the first man on the moon. My wife’s reaction at the various shuddery parts was fair enough: ok, I get the point, it was very dangerous many times. Me, I did not wish one minute of it away. And I was left with a feeling of gratitude – not for that stoic generation nor for the sacrifices, that is tucked away in a more complicated part of myself. No, watching the film I was grateful to have just a little feeling of what it must have been like, a tiny idea of what it is to stand on the surface of another world. I have lived with the moon landing and the idea of space travel all my life. I don’t read much about Apollo, like I do about other historical events, but somehow it is part of me. I will never get to travel into outer space, and I am fine with that. But the film makers gave me the tiniest sense of what it might be like, and the sounds and images gelled with some of the flotsam / jetsam of my sub/un/conscious, so that I was lifted out of myself, and reminded of the awe and wonder that attached to so many things in my childhood. And I don’t think I can really ask for more than that, for the price of a cinema ticket.

My story, This Neil Armstrong is not dead, reflects part of my childhood preoccupation. The conversations with my father and grandfather are based on my memories. It is as close as I can come to poetry about this, or probably about anything.

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Its a miracle …

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2018 at 2:21 am

You can check out my latest published story, “Miracle cure”, at Liquid Imagination – just click on the link.

(Sitting at home just now with my new friend, Gastroenteritis, but I’ll put up with the illness in preference to a miracle cure like this one … stomach, I have cared for you so well all these years, and this is how you betray me?)

The theme is set, and odd it is

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2018 at 5:46 am

Sorry, but this one is a little too odd for us

Two days in a row? Are you guys talking to each other about me behind my back? ūüôā

Life is short. I am never going to have a career or find celebrity as a writer. Don’t want to. In the little bits of time that I have, my magpie eye picks up on crooked shiny things, and I play with them for a while. I ignore the ordinary, because I spend enough time with it the rest of the day. The strange bits and pieces from my own tiny corner of the universe, these are the things that I want to share. The characters I have met and had fun with. The man whose mind spent too much time in the brain of a lizard, and is having trouble unpacking into that of a human. A cosmonaut heading to the land of the dead. Neil Armstrong, trapped in a child’s bedroom. A spider woman and an insect man dancing the dance of death – and love! A man who never dreams, except of blackness and things shifting around a little bit, and what he finds near his back fence. The secret true history of Lawrence of Arabia, with djinn and ghouls.

If my little oddity catches the eye of an editor, as it sometimes does, and gives some pleasure to a reader, what a bonus. A little affirmation, and a joy shared, before heading back to the mundane world. And that, dear reader, is what it is all about, for me at least.

(“Why I write”: sheesh, now he thinks he’s George Orwell.)

Having said all of that – after something of a pause, there is a new edition of Three-lobed Burning Eye magazine appearing this month, and it is extremely important that you keep an eye out for it, burning or otherwise.

Read “Mr Cranky”

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2018 at 7:40 pm

Sci.Phi Journal were kind and published my story, Mr Cranky, in November 2016. It has now escaped from behind its paywall, and is available for your free reading pleasure, by clicking right here.

A (the only) review of this story concluded with “there are some effective images and a quirky nuance or two and this might appeal to someone but just didn’t strike me as professional-grade work”, so why the hell would you not want to read it? *sigh*

Mr Cranky exists in the same universe (hell, the same street) as (the extremely well reviewed!) My Life as a Lizard, and The Boulevardier, and a few other stories I hope will one day see the light of day.

Accident

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2018 at 4:50 pm

I am conscious of (one of) Adam Roberts‘* projects, seeking “to write a short story for every sub-genre and premise that SF has made famous; to assemble a collection in which I can try my hand at all the hackneyed old conventions …”.

My reading habits of course change over time, but in my life I have read a lot of science fiction. I don’t really write much of it, I suppose – in the limited time I have to write, I gain more pleasure writing things – with speculative elements – that depend more on mood than science. I can remember looking at Prof Roberts’ list# and thinking, yes, well, I’ll never write a robot story. And then I did. Yesterday, by accident. I only realised half way through. A robot with wires and springs and a CPU and cogs and gears. So I guess, never say never. (Now, of course I’ll be much happier if I get to write that I published a robot story. We’ll see.)

…..

*standard caveat, I am not worthy, etc. And do I have to mention Adam Roberts around this time every year? (Please click that link – it took me a bit of time to write it, and a long time to remove the irony and smart arsery that tempts me every time I try to write honestly about emotion.)

#here it is. But why not click here and read it at the source? The asterisks are not mine.

1. Time-travel story.*
2. First encounter with alien life.*
3. Novum story (new piece of technology).*
4. Interplanetary/interstellar travel story.*
5. Robot story.*
6. Virtual Reality story.
7. ‘Philosophical’ story.*
8. Post nuclear war mutation story.*
9. Scientist story.*
10. Alternative History.*
11. Magic Realism.*
12. Utopia/Dystopia.
13. Sword and Sorcery.*
14. Thundering good old-fashioned space opera story.*
15. The End of the World.*

Fly like a Vogel …

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Great news – At the Edge, a wonderful anthology of speculative fiction by New Zealand (New Zealandian?) and Australian writers, won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. And you will immediately see my self interest at work when I congratulate editors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts for their win, and thank them for including my story, Crop Rotation, in the collection. More details over at David Versace’s blog.

… thinks: ¬†… must buy … At The Edge … NOW…! …

Stuff I am doing or more accurately, stuff I did

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Watched: The Dressmaker – how had I not seen it before? It was compulsory viewing for all Australians, but I must have been on shrimp-tossing duties that day. It made me want Kate Winslet to love me, the way she automatically and effortlessly fell in love with Liam Hemsworth. A bonus was that I have now collected all three Hemsworth’s, and one was by accident, I did not know that Stubbs in Westworld was Luke Hemsworth. But I have to be honest, the only Hemsworth performance I am concerned about is Thor: Ragnarok, because, fair dinkum,¬†Taika Waititi meets Marvel is something to look forward to, and why didn’t I do better in life, why didn’t I do that – sorry. It is odd, I bet the people who watched and loved The Dressmaker back home were not the sort of people who normally watch cartoons, an by jingo, weren’t there a lot of cartoon characters in that film. Barry Otto was probably not born a cartoon character, but he has certainly evolved into one, and well done to him. Plus the film gave the extra survivalist knowledge of the relative virtues of diving into a silo of wheat, versus diving into a silo of sorghum. I did not know that fact, but I will not spoil it for you. But even the guy from House Husbands apparently knew. I still have no idea what a 41 year old and a 27 year old were doing going to school together, and Liam Hemsworth’s character must have been¬†two when the defining incident of the film occurred, yet he was able to remember the activity in the playground¬†vividly. Oh well, suspension of disbelief, and Judy Davis was bloody fantastic, yes she was.

Read: The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross, (well, that’s as good a link as any) and I have been tricked, but I knew it. Far out, I am an easy target. Years of watching the Paranormal Romance shelves spread and spread and spread in Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney, and complaining loudly about it (oh, look at that, there’s paranormal romance everywhere, its reproducing paranormally, oh, I’m hilarious), and here I am reading the stuff. BECAUSE IT IS. I mean, its not just that, but Alex and the Elf Princess, it sucked me in just like certain women of my vintage get sucked in by Mills and Boon, because, he is a nerd with no saving graces and no social skills, but because of inherent strength that only the exotic Elf Princess can see, he gets the girl anyway. And Tor says “Stross is clever in representing Alex‚Äôs helpless, under-socialized terror of women without giving the audience the sense that Alex is in the right about his weirdness”, and I say, fuck off Tor, that’s me, and just about every nerdy bloke I knew, knowing someone special had to be out there who would see the good inside underneath the hopelessly unsocialised exterior (hello Mrs Stevens – not you, Mum, the other one). And so why does it still warm my heart, why do I still need the nerdy guy to get the impossible girl – you know why, the same reason you have nightmares that you have to go back and sit that final maths exam again, because every single achievement since high school is a dream, you IMPOSTOR … sorry. I also like the shooting bits and the dragon bits and other bits. And this is why I do not do book reviews. (I like that there is a character who is a vicar, very generous and indeed diverse of the author, but I do not believe the bit at all where he does not pray because he does not want God to know what he is doing.)

Drunk: Hoegaarden Grand Cru: a lov – er – ly drop. Plus, what they say, at the link there.¬† Lov-er-ly. Available exclusively in Belgium, but the occasional bottle finds its way into the Netherlands … and into my heart.

Writing: Yes I am. And bad things are about to happen to Grandma. Meanwhile, while I am working on that, have a look here.

Well played, straight bat and a fine century

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2017 at 5:22 am

Aurealis, a much loved and very entertaining science fiction and fantasy magazine that also happens to be Australian*, has released its 100th edition. In the world of genre periodicals, this is an excellent achievement. Congratulations to all involved, well played!

 

*And just happened once upon a time, way back in edition #68, to include my sf-horror story ‘Avoiding Gagarin’.¬†

Attack of the Spider Woman

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2017 at 12:59 pm

I awoke the other morning from uneasy dreams to find that, lying in my bed, I had been transformed into a giant insect. In the unearthly morning light, the remnants of a purple mist could be seen, passing through walls and windows.  Not again.

There was nothing for it.  Lying on my hard, as it were armour plated, back, I knew I had to wait it out.  What about sleeping a little longer and forgetting all this nonsense, I thought, the klaxon lighted sky making me feel melancholy.

But then I thought some more.  Realising no one else was about (for I share my fortified compound with no-one), I dangled first one leg, then the next, then another, from the bed, until my centre of gravity shifted and I tumbled to the floor.  I shook my segments, set my bearings with my multi-faceted eyes, and set off to explore the room.  Before I knew it, I was walking up the wall, and on the ceiling.  I felt my wings begin to quiver, and was almost overcome by a desire to set sail across the air.

I explored my home as though a stranger, which I suppose I was.  I knew I should not be doing this.  The accepted etiquette is to simply wait until one is one’s self again.  We are in possession of our faculties.  We know better.  As I set off, I felt naughty, then more than that.  I felt great.

 

I opened the door (yes, I was a giant insect and did not have opposable thumbs, however I retained a human brain and it was my door after all), and nearly fainted with the overload of my senses, with all the signals of death and decay.  A whole universe of half broken down organisms to be clambered through and consumed.

Shaking a little, I danced with joy.  Liberation.  A secret indulgence.  How often does one get to experience the pleasures of another creature, to live in the body of another?  Even if it was the body of a giant cockroach.

Then I noticed the stillness.  Something was wrong.  From a corner of the garden, it ran at me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I realised that I too was running as fast as my six legs could take me. ¬†Purely from instinct, I jinked and changed direction. ¬†One of my compound lenses revealed what was in pursuit. ¬†A giant spider was coming at me at terrifying speed. ¬†This was outrageous. ¬†It was nothing natural. ¬†A creature of that size could only be another person, transformed for the moment¬†by this morning’s toxic¬†discharge. ¬†I tried to gather who it must be. ¬†It could only be the woman from across the road. ¬†She always seemed a little wrong headed. ¬†She knew she was supposed to stay in her own place. ¬†I cursed myself for my stupidity, ¬†no matter how high my walls, they were no match for a giant arachnid.

I turned again, having the advantage of knowledge of the layout of my fortified compound.  Fool.  I was running where she was driving me.  Just when I thought I was about to reach the safety of the house, I stopped.  The more I struggled, the more I was stopped.  Web!

I turned and looked at her.  There was something disturbingly Freudian about the way she was manically manipulating her pincers.  I tried to reason with her, but only a whole lot of roach gibberish came out.  Though afraid, my anger dropped away: she was only doing the same as me, experiencing the alien.

Then it stopped.  The rigidity of the armour passed away, and there I was, flesh bodied and human again.  The same for the woman, although she continued to run oddly for a few steps after her body had returned.  At least she had the courtesy to help unwrap the web from me.  It was only afterwards that I reflected how odd it was to be standing there naked in that situation.

Lost in Venus

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2017 at 11:57 am

Sniff of chlorophyl

whiff of ether

Look down

fronds part and unfurl

cupping

leafy embrace

cool breeze

tugs you in

sinking the green

moss is velvet

plant yourself

lean in and

skin unfurls to mask you

the perfect kiss

inside out

you are draped

try to make sense

of distant calls

lose yourself in

the wind blowing

through her branches

are you dead

or are you

loving the alien?

***

 

lost on venus

lost on mars

press up against

foreign atmosphere

do you lose yourself

if you love the alien?