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.

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.

Highly commendable

My short story, The Black Hole of Westminster, was one of five ‘highly commended’ stories in the 2015 London Magazine short story contest.

Had I sneaked into the top three,  I would have been attending a prize-giving at the House of Commons next week. Still, to be picked out by the judges for highly commended status is deeply gratifying. It should also make it easier to get this story into print somewhere.

You can read the announcement here

Fight to the Deathmatch!

My story, Now I am become Ken Burns, the Destroyer of Worlds, is currently locked in an intense battle in the quarter-finals of Broken Pencil’s Indie Writers’ Deathmatch, having slipped through the Lightning Round about a week ago.

For the uninitiated, the Deathmatch is an annual writing competition held by Canadian magazine Broken Pencil, in which sixteen (though in previous years, eight) stories are pitted against each other in a ‘no-holds barred contest’ in which the story with the most votes win. Voting is open to anyone, though in practice the competing authors must mobilise the support of their friends and family, and critical comments are encouraged on the associated message boards.

There’s already been one fatality. Or pretty much.

The eight stories with the most votes from the Lightning Round made it into the quarter-finals, where my story now sits in a match against Kris Bone’s mighty Incisor. If I can squeeze through into the semis, the story is guaranteed publication, so I’m hoping my vote holds up. I’m fully overdrawn on my goodwill account, but I keep writing the cheques anyway. So far so good. Some great stories have already exited, and I’d encourage you to read all the sixteen original entries – especially this one, which was my favourite.

If I win this round my next opponent will be a story about a female ninja Jean-Claude Van Damme. Picture that, if you will.

To get there, I need people to vote for me. So please, if you have a spare five minutes, create an account at Broken Pencil and vote for Ken Burns here.