I’ve been quietly tinkering in the background on a new project with my good friend Austin (who is one part of the nothing here team). This project is a book and apparel company called Oh Nothing Press. Our plan for ONP is to create new and weird cultural artifacts, killer t-shirts, and narrative worlds you can lose yourself in.
The first of these worlds is MECHADEATH – a story of Occult Mecha Warfare on a Cosmic Scale. Think ‘black metal mecha anime’ in text and t-shirt form. You can download the zine free here. The concept sprung forth from Austin’s mind, the story bled out of my fingertips, and the stunning layout & design is done by the group Trash.Been. Honestly, check out the zine and tell me that design isn’t next-level.
We’re also selling t-shirts at the site. For a launch week special, you can use the coupon code MECHA30 at checkout to save 30% off. Coupon code expires on the 15th of October, but we plan on pushing coupons regularly for people who follow us on twitter and instagram, or just poke around the hidden recesses of the site. For a better look at the shirt designs and links to the artists, just click on the shirts. Austin hand-picked these artists to help bring the concept to life, and they all did something unique to their own style and true to the weird MechaDeath beast.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll have a short story in the upcoming anthology A Punk Rock Future, from Zsenon Publishing. There’s a kickstarter for the book, with rewards including ebooks and paperbacks (obviously), as well as music from some of the authors in the anthology, a story critique from Erica Satifka, and a bunch more.
The anthology includes stories from Erica L. Satifka, Sarah Pinsker, Spencer Ellsworth, Margaret Killjoy, Izzy Wasserstein, Stewart C Baker, Michael Harris Cohen, Maria Haskins, Kurt Pankau, Zandra Renwick, Marie Vibbert, P.A. Cornell, Jennifer Lee Rossman, M. Lopes da Silva, R. K. Duncan, Steven Assarian, Dawn Vogel, Matt Bechtel, Josh Rountree, and Vaughan Stanger.
And, if the kickstarter campaign hits its stretch goals, there’ll be another open submissions period for some additional flash stories.
NB: I have no involvement in the kickstarter, whatsoever. I’m just mentioning it because I love everything about this anthology and want the kickstarter campaign to be a success.
My story is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about how punk-rock is for everyone who wants it, everyone who finds it and feels like they’ve found some missing piece of themselves. It’s also a ‘fuck you’ to anyone who believes otherwise, anyone who tries to act as a gatekeeper.
I don’t know what kind of person I would be today if I never found punk, but it had a profound effect on me in my teenage years. The world-weary humour of NOFX, the saccharine love songs of The Ataris, Pennywise, Bad Religion, Blink 182 and The Offspring (hey, it was 1999 and everybody loved them), anarchy, DIY, compilation discs. It was Punk-O-Rama Vol. 4 that introduced me to Tom Waits. The same compilation introduced me to Refused and The Shape of Punk to Come, my first real taste of anti-capitalist sentiment, and an incredible album that still sounds as cutting-edge today as it did 20 years ago. That album set me down a path of vibrant, complex post-hardcore that still defines a big chunk of my listening today.
If I hadn’t found Refused I wouldn’t have ‘got’ These Arms Are Snakes. If I didn’t listen to These Arms Are Snakes I wouldn’t have written Killing Gravity. I can trace who I am and what I am today right back to punk-rock. That’s why I’m excited about this anthology.
Tattoos are weird, for any number of reasons. For one thing, most black inks are made from bone charcoal, meaning you’re literally trapping dead animals beneath your skin for aesthetic reasons. For another, even though you (maybe) spent a lot of time considering your tattoo, and even though you went through a lot of pain to get it done, once the tattoo is healed, it’s really easy to forget it’s there.
Which is why I was reminded of one of my own tattoos when I listened to the most recent episode of The Allusionist. If you’re not already aware, The Allusionist is a podcast about language, usually looking at strange and interesting uses of language, the history of words, as well as detailing people’s personal stories about words and their uses. Basically, if you’re a word-nerd you’ll probably enjoy it.
Episode 85 is about Shelley Jackson’s Skin Project, in which Jackson put out a call to find people who would be willing to get a word tattooed on their body. The words came from a story she had written, and the only way to read the story is to get a part of it tattooed on your body (I have a copy of it buried deep in a box of old stuff). There’s more to it than that, but all the main points are covered in the podcast. Either go listen, or see the guidelines and FAQ at Shelley Jackson’s website.
I heard about the project in an Experimental Fictions class at Griffith University. Inez Baranay was running the class, and she told us about the project because it was nothing if not an example of experimental fiction. I was intrigued. At that point I had 2 or 3 tattoos already, and absolutely loved the idea of taking part. How many people could say they were involved in something so strange? How many people would have a story like that for when people asked them about their tattoo? (Well, 2,095, as it turns out).
I reached out to Shelley Jackson, went through the various steps required, and went and got my word tattooed on my wrist. When I showed it to Inez, she was kind of freaked out, from memory. When she told us about the project, she apparently didn’t think any of her students were going to go out and actually get tattooed.
Part of the process of having a word assigned to you is that you don’t have any say over the word that you’re given. Once you receive your word, you can elect not to have it tattooed on you, but you can’t apply for a different word. While I was waiting for the word, I thought that if I didn’t like it, I could simply get it tattooed somewhere that no one would see it, but if I did like it, I always planned to have it placed on my wrist.
The word I received: paper.”
Still now I can hardly believe it. I was studying creative writing at the time, and all I wanted was to be a writer, and the word I received through sheer chance is paper.”
It seemed like an omen then, and honestly, looking back, it still feels like one. Maybe moreso, now that I’m here at this early but very exciting stage of my career as an author.
Tattoos are weird, for any number of reasons. Sometimes they seem like magic.
It’s a special pleasure to guide an author through multiple stages of their early career. Since I acquired Corey J. White’s first novella, Killing Gravity, I’ve had the joy of watching his craft develop from book to book. In November he’ll complete his Voidwitch Saga trilogy with Static Ruin, capping off the story of Mariam Xi, one of the most interesting and dangerous characters in space. And now I have the honor of announcing that Tor.com Publishing has acquired Corey J. White’s debut novel, Repo Virtual, a cyberpunk heist story that layers action across real and virtual realities in the hunt for the first true strong AI. Repo Virtual was acquired in a deal negotiated by Martha Millard of Sterling Lord Literistic.
And here’s my comment:
I’m so excited to be working again with Carl Engle-Laird and the rest of the team at Tor.com Publishing on my debut novel. They were a joy to work with on the Voidwitch books, and I’m thrilled to be taking this next journey with them. Repo Virtual will be a fully 21st Century take on cyberpunk, showing the environmental and sociopolitical repercussions of the rampant corporations that cyberpunk warned us about, and perhaps helped to normalise.
Needless to say, I’m really excited to be working on my debut novel. It’s totally different to working on a novella (or even three novellas), but I think I’ve got something special here. I can’t wait to share it with you all.
I have long been a fan of the newsletter as a form, largely thanks to Warren Ellis and his various newsletters over the years (I seriously think today’s Republic of Newsletters is largely built on a foundation that Warren built), and wanted to throw my hat into the ring. But, writing an entire newsletter alone seemed like too much work and too much stress. Do I have enough interesting opinions? Even if I did, would anyone care?
So, I decided to rope in some friends/colleagues/lovers to help build something that is (AFAIK) new in the newsletter space – the usual collection of links and recommendations, but from a group of people, with room for a conversational back and forth. I think of it like a podcast in text form.
If you’re here at this website, then you already know who I am, but let me introduce the rest of the nothinghere team:
John English – Photographer – Solvent Image. Writer of upcoming comic CEL. Based in Brisbane, Australia @Herts_Solvent
m1k3y – Apocalyptic Wallfacer-Futurist. Resident of the alien earth. @m1k3y
Once we feel like we’ve established ourselves and fallen into a groove with the newsletter, we’re also going to open it up to guest issues. It’s been an interesting and entertaining experiment so far, and I’m hoping we can keep it going for a long while to come.
Currently we’re planning on dropping a new issue every fortnight, so go over here and subscribe. Issue 0002 will drop July 14th.
I had a strange realisation today. Realisations are odd, because they generally seem obvious outside the moment/context/head of the realiser (Head of the Realiser is the name of a cult leader if I ever heard one).
I was idly thinking that in another 10 or 20 years when I have enough clout, I’d love to edit a short story anthology. And from that initial thought I had aforementioned realisation: I am exactly where I want to be. And fuck me, but that’s a blessing. Despite the stresses of writing, and just living the late-capitalism lifestyle, that is huge.
I mean, obviously I’m not “done”. There is still so much more for me to do, but I’m officially there on the ground floor of The Life I Always Wanted. The next bit is building a readership and honing my craft. There will be a million other things I have to do along the way, but as long as I’m improving as a writer and reaching an audience, the rest will work itself out. Oh, and connecting with other writers, because there are 2 things every writer loves to talk about – the process and books. And honestly, talking about books is one of my absolute favourite things to do.
And honestly, this fairly positive realisation probably only came about because of that other recent one – that I’ve been pushing myself too hard, and not enjoying the journey. So, maybe that means I’m successfully changing my mindset? I hope so, because it’s been pretty fucking rough in here lately.
I have a problem. Marlee says I’m addicted to workahol, but that’s not it. I work hard because I’m driven, but I’m driven because nothing is good enough. Therein lies the problem.
Smarter people than I have written about the many problems of social media , but the problem for me is that I find myself comparing my work/career/success to the gestalt of Writer Twitter. They are constantly being nominated for awards. They are constantly winning awards. They constantly appear on bestseller lists. They constantly get starred reviews, and film/TV deals, and a million other opportunities. In short, whatever successes ‘They’ have, my sick, broken brain sees only in terms of what I don’t have.
This is ridiculous. This is unhelpful. This is incredibly damaging to my mental health. This is also utter bullshit. On the one hand, how fucking entitled is my subconscious being? And on the other hand, I’m comparing my singular self to a group of writers, including some who have been at it for years, or even decades.
Now, beyond the entitlement and the unfair comparisons (which are two entirely different brands of bullshit), the other side effect here is that I do not enjoy the (objectively many) successes I have had. I want to blame Australia’s tall poppy syndrome (and, let’s be honest, my depression), because I find it impossible to celebrate any of my successes for fear of being seen as a conceited arsehole. But, that’s only half of it. I also can’t celebrate because nothing is good enough. I celebrated signing the contracts for Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow, but everything since then has been…I don’t know. Good, but not good enough, I guess.
So, I’m going to do something difficult, and I’m going to celebrate my successes in an effort to rewire my broken brain. Please don’t think I’m a conceited arsehole, because this is actually entirely unnatural for me. Here goes…
I have a trilogy of novellas with an incredible imprint attached to one of the biggest SF publishers in the world. Seriously, Tor.com Publishing is putting out some of myfavouritebooksrightnow, and they also chose to publish me. Multiple times.
Over five thousand people have parted with their hard-earned money for a copy of Killing Gravity. Some of them even liked it. (Honestly, this is one I struggle with because it seems so small a number compared to…I don’t even know what. But hell, it’s my very first book, in a niche format, so 5K is a number I should be proud of. If you’re one of those 5K, thank you. It means the world to me.)
I signed with Martha Millard, the literary agent who represents William fucking Gibson, Ian McDonald, Michael Swanwick, and other well-known and well-respected figures in science-fiction. (Cadwell Turnbull is another early career author that Martha signed, and I feel like he’s going to be A Big Deal down the track, so check out his work now and get on board early.)
And other exciting stuff that I can’t even talk about yet. Seriously, some big news that I should be fucking ecstatic about, but depression broke my brain.
Killing Gravity only came out thirteen months ago (give or take). That’s no time at all. My career has barely even begun, and if I let myself relax for one fucking second I’ll realise that things are already looking bright. So maybe, just maybe, I should cut myself some fucking slack. Maybe self-loathing isn’t a healthy motivator. Maybe, if I try, I’ll find a better way.
Sorry, Marlee, I don’t think I’m going to work any less, but what I will do is try and enjoy where I’m at right now, instead of beating myself up about where I “should” be.
She killed the man who trained her. She killed the fleet that came for her. She killed the planet that caged her. Now she must confront her father.
Mars Xi is on the run, a bounty on her head and a kill count on her conscience. All she has left are her mutant cat Ocho and her fellow human weapon Pale, a young boy wracked by seizures who can kill with a thought. She needs him treated, and she needs to escape, and the only thread left to pull is her frayed connection to her father, Marius Teo. That thread will take her to the outskirts of the galaxy, to grapple with witch-cults and privately-owned planets, and into the hands of the man who engineered her birth.
Static Ruin will be released November 6th, 2018 (maybe a little later in Australia) in both ebook and paperback formats. It represents the end of the journey that began with Killing Gravity, so at times it has me sort of melancholy. This is the series that got me published, and put me on the road to making a career out of writing – which is all I’ve wanted for 15+ years. In some ways I’m sad to be at the end here, in other ways I’m happy that I had this shot, and proud of the work I’ve done in these three novellas. I’ll forever be grateful to Carl Engle-Laird for picking KG up out of slush and giving me a shot, and to Warren Ellis for kindly spreading the word in his newsletter, and to every reader who loved one of my books so much that they just had to tell someone about it.
Brisbane/SEQ – Hit up Pulp Fiction in the CBD. They’ve supported both Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow, so I have no doubt that they’ll be supporting Static Ruin as well. Also, they’re one of the few genre-specialist bookshops in the country, so if you’re local support them.
Sydney – Galaxy Bookshop should be your best bet at finding my books, as they’re the sci-fi and fantasy specialists in town.
Melbourne – Readings is a brilliant chain of indie bookshops. Not sure if they’ll actively be carrying my books, but they’ll be able to order them in for you.
Australia-wide – QBD did a fantastic job supporting me and the other authors at Supanova on my tours.
Otherwise, you can simply ask for your local bookstore to order it in for you. Just quote the title, and the ISBN (Static Ruin, ISBN: 9781250195548) and the staff will do the rest. Well, they probably won’t read it to you, but apart from that, they’ll take care of you.
This weekend in Melbourne it is the Continuum Convention – Melbourne’s Speculative Fiction Convention. I’m doing three panels over the course of the weekend:
In Parallel, Friday, 6pm – Parallel universes: many-worlds, alternative timelines, the one where everyone’s evil and has a goatee. What are the best? The smartest?
Welcome! Everything is Fine, Friday 9:30pm – Discussing The Good Place, comedy afterlives, ethics, moral philosophy and puns.
This Panel is its Own Grandfather, Sunday 4pm – Let’s talk about time travel: the good, the bad, the paradoxical. The works that exist, and the works that have not yet been released in this timestream.
I’ll also just be milling about during the con, so if you see me, please say hi. I’ll be armed with pens and stamps to sign both Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow, which should also be for sale in the Dealer’s Room.
Another post of mine is up at the Tor.com blog – all about The Ship of Theseus and how it relates to both science fiction, and the science we might hope to access in the future.
I’m a late arrival to philosophy, and honestly, that’s probably for the best. I can imagine that if I’d studied it at university, I would have been completely insufferable. But, thanks to reading the work of Damien Williams (Wolven) and m1k3y, and watching The Good Place, I’ve started to think about various philosophical ideas more and more, particularly in regards to the science fiction I’m reading/watching and in the work I’m currently writing.
I daresay the article I wrote is a very basic, entry-level look at the Ship of Theseus problem, but it’s something I really enjoyed writing.
Funnily enough, a couple of days after the post went up, I finally got around to listening to the then-latest episode of the Imaginary Worlds podcast, which was looking at Westworld and the Ship of Theseus problem. My anxiety is so bad, that as soon as the host mentioned the Ship of Theseus problem I had to skip the rest of the episode in case… I don’t know. Anxiety doesn’t really make sense. (This is also why I skimmed the comments over at Tor once, and haven’t gone back again. I apologise, but my brain is constantly working against me and I’m doing the best I can.) But, in general, the Imaginary Worlds podcast is well worth a listen if you’re a fan of science-fiction, which you probably are if you’re here, reading my nonsense.