Hard Yet Squishy

Classic pulp fantasy serials were of the major inspirations for Seven Stones, so I’ve followed Misha Burnett’s exploration of the pulp revival with some interest. I’m not sure if Seven Stones fits all the criteria (and as it’s only inspired by pulp there’s no reason it should), but the discussion is interesting; so I thought it might be interesting to people who liked my take on pulp serial.

Some Notes Towards A Meta-epistemological Manifesto

Genre collapses if viewed too closely: urban fantasy has computers, smart-phones, and such, so contains both the science-fiction of a past generation and the seeds of the hard science-fiction of the present; action films have a handsome hero overcoming obstacles before getting the girl at the end, so are romance. Genre boundaries don’t exist.

And this article from Misha Burnett shows we should perhaps be grateful they don’t.

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I had an epiphany today.

I have always mistrusted the concept of genre.  It has seemed to me to be both a hobble and a crutch.  By which I mean that by accepting a specific genre designation an author restricted her or his writing to an abbreviated range, while at the same time adjuring readers to carry the story past certain difficulties by imposing on an unearned suspension of disbelief.

This did not seem to be a good bargain to me–from either side.

Today it occurred to me that this unnatural division of stories into either this thing or that thing but never both at once mirrors the description that G K Chesterton gives of post-Christian philosophies in his book Orthodoxy.

Chesterton says it much more eloquently that I am about to (which is why I supplied you with the link) but in essence his thesis is that Christianity…

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The Bullet Catcher’s Author: An Interview with Rod Duncan

Black and White Headshot of Rod DuncanLadies, Gentlemen, and Non-Gendered Polite Mechanicals, Davetopia is proud to present for your edification the question-answering talents of Mr Rod Duncan.

Marvel as he forms a coherent sentence!

Gasp in awe at his ability to sustain an argument!

Observe, if you dare, the innermost workings of his mind!

1. Your official bio is below. But what dark secrets did you leave out?

All autobiography is fiction. But in fiction there are the seeds of autobiography. By which I mean that I’m unlikely to admit, here, to involvement in the Hatton Garden heist. But I hope that by reading my novels, people will get to know me, at least a little bit.

2. The Custodian of Marvels, the third book in your Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series comes out soon. Can you shamelessly – yet briefly – plug that?

My publisher describes it as: “The climactic volume of The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, the breathtaking alternate history series that began with the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.”

I describe it as a heist, an adventure and the best book I’ve ever written.

3. The Gas-Lit Empire world has been described as “steampunk”, “alternate history”, and “fantasy”. Do you regard it as one more than another? Or do you find genres an inaccurate measure?

It is certainly alternate history. There is a specific point at which the timeline branches from the history we’re familiar with. I work through the consequences of that change, right up to the present day.

The world of the books does have anachronistic elements and a Victorian aesthetic. That’s why some people have described it as steampunk. Personally, I don’t think that steampunk is so easy to define. I’d prefer to say that the Gas-Lit Empire has steampunk influences. The stories have also been described as crime fiction and adventure – which is true. If the genre is somewhat ambiguous, that probably matches the story.

4. Some authors write the worlds they want to live in, while others want to explore dystopias. Which would you say it truer of you?

The Gas-Lit Empire is a non-ideal world. I wouldn’t like to live in it. Inequalities are stark and there has been a lack of social progress. But I don’t see it as a dystopia. They haven’t had a major war for almost 200 years and medicine has made significant advances.

Reality isn’t divided into utopias and dystopias. It is more complex; which brings us back to that word: ambiguity. Ambiguity may be unsettling, but it makes us think about the world with an intensity that certainty never does.

5. What started you writing?

The word processor started me writing. But perhaps you meant to ask what started me telling stories? That’s a harder one to answer, since I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. It’s just that, as a child, I found the process of writing and reading agonisingly difficult. The stories stayed in my head. Sometimes I spoke them out loud – usually to myself.

It was the development of technology that started to dissolve the barriers and enable me to write. (Though I am at this moment speaking this out loud and allowing the speech-to-text system ‘Dragon NaturallySpeaking’ to transcribe it for me.)

6. Is there anything you know now, you wish you’d known when you started writing? Or generally?

If I went back and explained things about the craft of writing and the publishing market to past me, I probably wouldn’t have listened. I’m the kind of person who needs to do it and learn from my mistakes – of which there are many. I wrote five novels before I got one published. And I’m still on the same road – hoping the next thing I write will be a bit better than the last.

7. You are also a screenwriter. Do you use the same technique to start screenplays and books? If not, what changes.

The big difference between the two processes is that my novel writing is solitary but my screenwriting is collaborative. I love the dynamic that comes when two people, both passionate about story, put their creativity together. I learn a huge amount from that situation.

But I also enjoy having complete control. Writing a novel, no one else is there to tell you not to do something. And there are no budget constraints. If you want a scene with a triceratops being fired on by a regiment of Napoleonic musketeers on the slope of an erupting volcano – it only costs paper and ink.

8. Do you have any odd writing habits?

All of my writing habits are entirely normal. It’s everyone else who is peculiar. For example, I’ve heard of writers so odd that they don’t go for long walks to think through plot lines. And others who’ve never set a kitchen timer to regulate their writing sessions. Crazy, huh?

9. Do you cast your characters in your head before you start writing?

My characters start out fairly simple and ill-defined. When I put them into situations and have them interact, they reveal themselves as individuals. Readers sometimes tell me which actors they think would be perfect in a movie of the books. But I don’t do that myself. (Though I have occasionally imagined specific actors voicing the lines when I’m writing dialogue. That is a trick to help create distinct speech patterns for each character.)

10. Do you ever set out to write one thing and end up writing something entirely different?

I usually set out writing with a sense of the main beats of the story but no detail. The adventure is built from the discoveries I make along the way. I get realisations about the characters as I’m writing. And I dream up plot devices while out walking. Walking and daydreaming is an important part of the process for me.

So yes, two or three times a discovery has been so significant that it has changed the entire nature of a novel.

11. What’s next for you? A return to crime, more Gas-Lit Empire, or something completely different?

Although the trilogy reaches its climax with The Custodian of Marvels, the story is not complete. I’m working on the first book in a new series, which will continue the adventure. I can’t say too much about that yet. Announcements will follow, as they say.

12. If readers want to express fulsome praise or ask insightful questions, what are the best ways to gain your attention?

I do love to hear from readers. Twitter is an easy way to say hello. You can find me there as @RodDuncan. For more in-depth news and articles, there is a Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/gaslitempire. And if you enjoy a bit of transmedia fun, there’s a website to explore at: www.gaslitempire.co.uk/


The Custodian of Marvels by Rod DuncanRod Duncan wrote crime fiction before turning to science fiction/fantasy. His first crime novel Backlash was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, and his first science fiction novel The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award. He also writes screenplays. His background is in scientific research and computing. He now lives in Leicester where he works as a lecturer in Creative Writing at DeMontfort University.

The Custodian of Marvels, the climactic volume in his Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series, is released on 2nd February 2016.

10 Reasons you stop writing your book and why to ignore them

All of these are true of writing as more than a hobby, but they also apply to making any hobby more than a pastime.

Even ‘You’ve written yourself into a hole’: our experience changes constantly which changes both what we can do and what we see as worthy, so it might be surprising how infrequently our plans to progress need revision.

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There isn’t a writer alive that hasn’t stopped writing, whether as a planned break or simply because they got out of the habit. It’s happened to me in the past and I’m sure it will happen again in the future. When it does, we often come up with excuses as to justify why we’ve stopped writing, but the majority of the time that’s all they are, excuses. The trick is recognising them for the lies they are and dealing with them. Here are the ten most common reasons people stop writing and why you should ignore them.

1 Your writing isn’t very good

You’ve just read back what you’ve been slaving over for the past few weeks/months and are horrified at how poor it is, so much so you’re questioning whether you’re a writer at all. I’ll let you into a little secret, every writer does this. OK, there may be a couple…

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More Than One Kind of Woman Can be a Hero: Guest Post by Samantha Bryant

In a variation from both the usual author, today’s post is written by Samantha Bryant whose novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, I reviewed a few months ago.


Portrayals of women in speculative fiction have come a long way. When my parents were children, (the fifties), female characters were there to be rescued or objectified (or both if possible). Think Flash Gordon or George Reeve’s Superman. Very few female characters, and all of them in peril. Lots of skimpy lamé costuming, and hysterical responses to danger. It got a little better into the sixties, with Star Trek and Lost in Space, where women at least were part of the crew and not just a liability to male heroes.

And Last But By No Means Least – Dacia Wilkinson

An interview with the final Fauxpocalypse Contributor.

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The last story in Fauxpocalypse, Full Moon, the talented and prolific Dacia Wilkinson. Today on Paws4Thought we welcome Dacia. Tell us a little bit about yourself, 

I’m an Oklahoma girl living in St. Louis. Of course, I’ve been in Missouri now longer than I lived in Oklahoma, but you just can’t take the Oklahoma out of the girl. Most of my work has some Oklahoma in it. By trade I’m an English teacher, who also teaches Psychology, at a local trade school. I’m in love with that part of my life, just like I’m loving the other part of me who is a wife and mother to 6. My husband is a self-employed landscaper who spends his free time on a Harley. Our 6 kiddos range in age from 17 to 6. Ours is a busy existence – and life is good, even when it’s hectic. I struggle…

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Say Hello to Kim Plummer

Debbie Manber Kupfer’s penultimate interview with the contributors to Fauxpocalypse.

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Today on Paws4Thought I’m pleased to introduce Fauxpocalypse author Kim Plummer. Tell us a little bit about yourself Kim.

Second of three daughters, born of an electrician and a dancer, my role in school and at home was “The Clumsy Clown”. Too tall to be average, I grew up in a hunch, trying as best I could not to stand out. A few years back, I suddenly found myself single for the first time since I was twenty! Then I discovered a whole new version of me. A version that doesn’t mind standing tall. I have a nice life in Sydney, Australia, with my twin daughters, Penny and Lucy. And my Clark Kent cover? During the day, mild-mannered Preschool Teacher!

When did you first start writing?

My blog was born just over a year ago. At the same time I penned a novel, which to date sits waiting, almost patiently, on…

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Debbie Manber Kupfer Meets Jane Thomson

Another Fauxpocalypse contributor shares their thoughts.

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Today Paws4Thought welcomes Fauxpocalypse author Jane Thomson. Tell us a little bit about yourself Jane.

I live in the capital of Australia, which is basically a small town no one goes to unless they have to.  My great dream is to live in the mountains with only ten dogs, three horses and a couple of echidnas for company.  My great nightmare is to be so successful as a writer that people demand that I finish my next book (pressure!).

How did you come up with the idea for your Fauxpocalypse story The Children’s Crusade?

The Children’s Crusade was a tragic crusade to Palestine organized in the middle ages: most of the kids died on the way and many ended up being sold as slaves.  I was trying to imagine a child’s eye view of this momentous event – the apocalypse – and came up with the idea of…

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Debbie Manber Kupfer In Conversation with Adrian George Nicolae

An insight into the author of one of Fauxpocalypse’s darkest stories.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 24-year old from Bucharest, Romania. Besided writing, I do voice over.

In my non-writing time I like to learn through MOOC’s (massive online open courses) on sites like Coursera and Iversity (among others) or see inspiring videos about design and success.

And I like to eat a lot, although I’m somewhat skinny 🙂

(DMK: I’m sure a lot of folks are jealous of that!)

Do you normally write in English or your native Romanian? Which language do you dream in?

In English. In Romanian I wrote about 3-4 things and I switched to English soon after. It’s the language I enjoy writing and speaking in, even though I don’t have anyone with whom to speak.

When I dream (because it happens rarely) it’s a mix between both languages.  Some freakier, but more to the psyche are in Romanian, or from…

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Debbie Manber Kupfer Meets Dave Higgins

An interview with me, mostly about Fauxpocalypse

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Today on Paws4Thought I talk to Dave Higgins who not only wrote two of the stories in Fauxpocalyse, but is also one of the editors and the overall publisher of the anthology (for which we are eternally grateful).

Tell us a little bit about yourself Dave.

 I live in a flat full of books with my wife and two cats.

I spent many years working in law, interspersed with business analysis; whether I got the jobs because I have an unusual perspective or have an unusual perspective because of the jobs I am unsure.

While I was at university I used to write poetry and the occasional short story, but gave it up due to pressure of work. When the firm I was with closed a few years ago I found myself writing fiction again, so the decades of rhetoric and fine drafting are still getting use.

  You…

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