Leave the lights on

Dungeon Master opening screen
There is nothing beyond the dungeon.

I have a new story, Lights Out With A Click, in the latest issue of online magazine CartridgeLit.

The story is told from the perspective of a character in a computer role-playing game modelled on 1987’s Dungeon Master. Existential angst meets 1980s CRPGs is a bit of a niche market, but hopefully you don’t need too great a knowledge of the genre to appreciate it.

Dungeon Master starts with the player outside of the dungeon, with the only option being either to quit or to open the door and step inside. As a young player, what I most wanted to do was to turn around at this point, to explore the area outside of the dungeon, to disappear down whatever forest path had led me there, to be free to wander the world that the dungeon was part of. That doesn’t seem much to ask in the era of sandbox games, but even Skyrim has its invisible borders. Anyway, that’s what the story is about: borders and the yearning for something beyond.

CartridgeLit itself is a fantastic lit mag dedicated to fiction, poetry and essays about video games. It’s committed to treating games as cultural objects worthy of appreciation. It was the perfect home for this story.

In October-ish I’ll have a story out in Structo magazine. It will not be about video games.

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Cast a shadow

I’m very fortunate to have had a piece of fiction, the e-Shadow, published on the website of The London Magazine recently.

The story was inspired by the old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Shadow, updated to the present day and with the addition of the now-ubiquitous social media.

The story is available here. Many thanks to TLM’s Rachel Chanter for her help and suggestions for improving the piece. I’d also recommend reading the original Andersen fairy stories, if you haven’t already, as they’re always fascinating and frequently inspiring.

In The Lighthouse

I have a new story, ‘The Veil of Stars’, out in the latest issue of Lighthouse.

The story uses space travel as an extended metaphor for dementia. It’s a change of pace from the other two stories I’ve had out this year and, in terms of the quality of the language, I feel like it may be the best thing I’ve written – certainly the most sustained and successful conceit I’ve attempted.

Lighthouse won the ‘best magazine’ category at the 2015 Saboteur Awards so it’s fantastic to have a story placed there. I am grateful to the editors for accepting my work.

Copies of issue 12 can be bought here.

Picture this

Finally got my hands on the latest issue of Broken Pencil, featuring my story, Now I Am Become Ken Burns, The Destroyer of Worlds.

It’s been a long wait, but it was worth it. Someone has produced a brilliant illustration to go with the story (see below) and the whole thing looks fantastic. The title has been shortened for the opening page, but as a subeditor I’m sympathetic to people dealing with overly long headlines.

The issue also contains the other three finalists from the Indie Writers’ Deathmatch, the winning Moulting, by Madeeha Hashmi; Louisa, by Andi Schwarz; and Ryan Power’s Jean-Claude Van Damsel in Distress. So that’s a lot of quality fiction!

Also included is a write-up of how the Deathmatch unfolded, not quite a blow-by-blow account but it captures the awful horror, violence and bloodshed of those fateful few weeks in the ring and the (inevitable) Hashmi victory.

All in all, it’s a quality issue. Go buy it at the online store. Or if you’re lucky enough to live in the liberal dreamland of Canada, maybe even an actual store?

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Make me printed

So it looks as if my story for Litro has been upgraded from online-only to the print magazine! This was a very pleasant surprise in my inbox this morning. There are some very high quality internet magazines out there, and I was more than happy to be featured in Litro’s online edition, but there’s still something special about the tangible nature of print. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

In the meantime Make Me British is also available online.

I haven’t had a chance to read any of the other stories yet, but the quality is sure to be high. There is a teaser up on the Litro website and copies are available from Foyles, Tate Britain, the South Bank Centre, the big London branches of Waterstones and a surprising number of venues on Kingsland Road.

Story Sunday

Just had a story accepted by Litro Online! I submitted it for their forthcoming ‘Britishness’ issue, and though it didn’t make it into the print edition, it’s still a fantastic result. Litro is a magazine that I’ve had my eye on for a long time in terms of trying to place stories, and it’s great to get an acceptance from them.

The story, Make Me British, was inspired by TV talent shows and the refugee crisis. It will be published – I think – sometime in March as part of the magazine’s ‘Story Sunday’ series.

Deadmatch

Now I Am Become Ken Burns, the Destroyer of Worlds was knocked out of the Indie Writers’ Deathmatch in the semi-finals. The match was close, but in the end the eight-hour time difference with my opponent really told on my support – voting ended at 5am GMT but 9pm PST (Pacific Standard Time).

There’s now something of a deathmatch-shaped hole in my life, I have to admit. Much of the past two weeks has been spent voting or corralling other people to vote, with multiple pestering Facebook updates. I don’t know what to do with myself now.

My opponent is now in the final, fighting a losing battle against the favourite, who has seemed unstoppable right from the start. Despite being knocked out, finishing as a semi-finalist guarantees publication in the next issue of Broken Pencil plus a prize pack, so that’s something to look forward to. The whole thing was a strange experience, enjoyable but also very stressful. Thanks to the team at Broken Pencil for selecting my story and to all those people who voted for me – the support was incredible.

There was also some further consolation on Monday as I was invited to attend The London Magazine’s short story awards. This took place at the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons – a very impressive venue with beautiful views over the Thames. I wasn’t a winner but my story, The Black Hole of Westminster, was ‘highly commended’. All very encouraging and just the thing to cheer me up after the Deathmatch loss.