The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Ian Nichols

29 07 2014

I can’t promise that the image shown below is an entirely faithful reproduction of Ian Nichols — indeed, I’ve met the man several times, and he looks nothing like this — but it’s the face he chooses to present to the world via his email avatar, and so it seems only fitting to represent him here in like manner. ‘Mister Lucky’, Ian’s story in Use Only As Directed (the Peggy Bright Books anthology co-edited by Edwina Harvey and me) is fourth in the anthology’s table of contents, and so it’s fitting that Ian’s is the fourth in the series of interviews.

Here’s what he had to say:

Ian_Nichols

What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘Mister Lucky’?

Readers should know that I’m a poor, starving author who desperately needs an Oz Council grant to maintain my fragile existence, and petition that same council to give me one.

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

Memories of when I played D&D and other dice-controlled games, and how some people always seemed to throw the right dice at the right time.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

The last one, because, without the story, you’d want to know why.

So just how much research have you put into the fleshpots and bright lights of Vegas, and do you have any particularly useful tips for us regarding probability-based investment that you feel willing and able to share at this point?

I’ve been there a couple of times, and nosed around in a couple of areas away from the Strip, where the old methods still prevail. The Strip itself is pretty much Disneyland in the desert, these days, but there are places up north where shifty-eyed guys named Louis still hang out at the bar, keeping an eye on the big winners. As for probability-based investment, don’t play roulette or craps, because the house has a huge advantage in both and the odds are hard to calculate. Don’t play poker unless you have a doctorate in behavioral psychology and really, really know the odds for the cards. Blackjack is the only game where you have a chance, even though the odds are still stacked against you, they’re not stacked as high. You don’t need to count cards, which is pretty much impossible when you’re facing a shuffle of six decks, just know the basic odds and play conservatively, and pull out when you’re ahead; the best gamblers never push their luck. Set a limit on how much you can lose, and never, never exceed it.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

God; as is my won’t, I’m working on two novels at once, and getting ready to take another two over to Worldcon on the grounds that there are agents and publishers there. One of the novels is a straight fantasy called The River, and the other is an end-of-the-world-start-again called Displaced Persons. The two I’m taking with me are called The Bloodiest Rose (not SF) and After It Ends, which is another end of the world novel. I seem to have a fascination with killing off the world and seeing how hard it would be to start over, but DP is going to go a long way beyond that; vast inimical galactic empires and aged civilisations, huge computer-driven fortresses, artificial moons that are really space-ships, even a form of zombie, along with a decent helping of sex and a craving for coffee.

UOAD_front_cover_small

If you’re interested in learning more about Ian’s writing, I can usefully point you in the direction of both a collection of his short fiction and one of his novels, since I have reviewed both on this very website.

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘Mister Lucky’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: M Darusha Wehm, ‘Home Sick’.





The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Alex Isle

28 07 2014

In my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience, stories that explore the summoning of demons either go full-tilt into hellfire and brimstone territory, with imprecations of torment and peril at every turn and each breath, or they play it for laughs, as if by reducing hell to the level of a damnable bureaucracy they can somehow reduce the power of death’s terminal sting. Alex Isle‘s story in Use Only As Directed (the anthology that Edwina Harvey and I edited for Peggy Bright Books) is called ‘The Kind Neighbours of Hell’ and it, I think, treads a middle path between the extremes outlined above, to great effect.

Here are Alex’s words on the subject:

Alex_Isle

What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘The Kind Neighbours of Hell’?

Erm – that I haven’t actually sold my soul, so the process is purely theoretical?  I don’t think readers need to know too much about an author before they read the work; it can get in the way.  I’ve read a lot of horror and fantasy myself and also practised as a witch, but trust me, that wasn’t anything to do with summoning demons!

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

When I read the theme of the anthology; demonic possession/summoning was what came to my mind first of all, which I guess also tells your readers something about me.  I thought that demons would almost certainly have to know more about it than their summoners, so how come they have to do what the summoners ask?  Maybe the summoners are instead manipulated by demonkind to do what the demons want….. It made sense to me at the time.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

“Your world was created because of their wish.”

I’m not sure why.  I looked through the story and that stood out.  Maybe it summarises the whole manipulation by demons thing.  This is a weird question.

One of the things that intrigued me about ‘Kind Neighbours’ was the way in which it speculated about the way in which the arcane rubs up against the real — for example, whether the vial of holy water retains its effectiveness when it’s accidentally been through the washing machine. How do you know where to set the limits of this kind of thing?

It’s a fairly standard idea with magic that it can be contaminated, or that people/objects need to be purified before magic can happen.  Religious and magical ritual feature special garb, purification of self and tools etc.  So if holy water came into contact with the unclean, then it would no longer be holy or usable for a holy purpose.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

It’s a book, or it will be a book if I can ever get myself to a proper book length!  Some readers may know about my collection Nightsiders; four stories set in the middle of this century in a Perth abandoned due to climate change and featuring people who stay behind and transform the deserted city.  This story is about the evacuation of the city 15 years earlier, featuring some characters who stay behind willingly or otherwise, those who see advantage to be taken and those who will become something entirely new.  At the moment it’s called No Friends Day, but this may change.  I’ve got would-be survivalists, the purely pig-stubborn, a crazy professor (not based on anyone I know, honest!) and some cannibals, so far.  Offers to publish gratefully received.

UOAD_front_cover_small

If you’re curious to learn more about Alex’s writing — and Nightsiders, mentioned above, is well worth a look — you might also wish to check out her website at ratfan.livejournal.com.

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘The Kind Neighbours of Hell’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: Ian Nichols, ‘Mister Lucky’.





The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Leife Shallcross

27 07 2014

You know that story where someone finds a bottle, except sometimes it’s a lamp, and it contains a djinn, and the djinn grants a wish, or sometimes three? It’s an old, old story, been told a thousand times or more, and you’d swear it was getting well-nigh impossible to find something new in the tale … which brings me to today’s author interview from Use Only As Directed, the antho Edwina Harvey and I recently edited for Peggy Bright Books. Leife Shallcross‘s story, ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’, is one of those innumerable bottle-djinn-wish-granting stories, and I am still utterly gobsmacked at how fresh and fleet of foot it is in its playful recasting of a comfortably well-worn trope.

But enough from me. Here’s what Leife has to say:

Leife

What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’?

Before they read it? Ummm… I love fairy tales. Not the boring ones. The ones with clever characters who have to use their wits, whether they’re princesses or peasants; with quirky and fascinating magical creatures; with conundrums and twists and unexpected truths. I like how numbers are important in fairy tales. How, often, a plot has to loop around itself a certain number of times before it can go on. I love the tales with that rhythm to the story. And I love a satisfying ending (which doesn’t have to be happy.) I like the tales that don’t spell it out for you, that leave room for your own imagination to add colour. I also love stories that might not actually be fairy tales themselves, but borrow from them.

And now I’ve put all that out there, I can only hope that people reading this story think I’ve achieved some of that.

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

I actually started this story for a different anthology, but ended up sending another one off instead. So this got shelved for a little while. Clearly it was fated to end up in Simon’s hands, because the other anthology was another one of his (Next, CSFG Publishing). My initial idea was to have a situation where the person who found the genie (and, thus got the three wishes), was so indecisive that the poor genie would pretty much have to go to hell and back to help them decide on a wish. The end of that story was initially going to be the point where it began all over again for the wish-maker’s second wish. It sort of morphed a bit since then, though, and ended up working nicely for UOAD.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

Just one? Argh! This one: ‘It held the faintest echo of summer thunder.’

Because – I hope – this is one of those sentences where things click into place for the reader. Also, it’s descriptive (in an understated, evocative way that – I hope, again – implies a whole lot more than it says), and I’m a sucker for a nice bit of description.

This felt like a very playful story. Was it as much fun to write as it was to read?

Yep. I loved writing it. It’s one of my favourites, and I’m so pleased it finally found a home in UOAD.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

I’m currently working on a new novel project, which will be the first of a short series. I’m trialling a bit of a new approach, compared to the novels I’ve worked on before, which is to say that I’ve actually plotted quite a bit of it out. I’m an inveterate pantser, but I’m having a go a mystery, and there will be a number of other sub-plots that wind throughout the other four books. It’s far too much to keep in my head at once, so I felt the need to do some prep work before launching into it. Also, I thought it might speed things up, because if I’m going to attempt a 5 book series, I’m going to have to write a whole lot faster than I have for the last couple of projects. Now I just have to stop getting distracted by short story ideas.

UOAD_front_cover_small

As someone who’s seen the fruits of several of Leife’s short story ideas, presented at CSFG critiquing group sessions, I sincerely hope she doesn’t completely stop getting distracted by short story ideas … although I do certainly wish her success on the novel-completion front.

If you’re interested in learning more about Leife’s writing — and as hinted above, it’s the second of her pieces that I’ve co-edited, alongside ‘A Little Warning’ in last year’s Next anthology — you might wish to check out her website at leifeshallcross.wordpress.com.

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: Alex Isle, ‘The Kind Neighbours of Hell’.





The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Charlotte Nash

26 07 2014

What’s the story behind a story? There are probably as many answers to that as there are stories … but to glean a few of those meta-stories, I’ve invited the highly-talented authors that Edwina Harvey and I assembled in the recent Use Only As Directed anthology, which has been the subject of recent repeated mention in these parts, to comment on just what was going through their minds as they put pen to paper. I’ll be running their responses over the coming days (with the proviso that what follows won’t necessarily be a complete set of all the Use Only As Directed authors, because it is a voluntary exercise and I have chosen what many have been an inconvenient time for some people). It is, though, in any case, appropriate that I open the proceedings with Charlotte Nash‘s answers, seeing as Charlotte’s story ‘Dellinger’ is first up in the anthology’s Table of Contents.

Charlotte Nash - Author

Without further ado, then:

What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘Dellinger’?

I don’t know if there’s anything you *should* know … I think the story should stand for itself. But if I had to say one thing, it’s that I’m a deeply unconventional person at heart, lurking in some conventional spaces and enjoying the subversion. ;)

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

It began in the fertile ground of a long-running interest in man-machine interfaces. The seeding idea was that of an old-world ship’s doctor, but turned on its head – a doctor for the ship itself. A space ship. I’d written another short story with the character and this idea, but she had a shady past, and is the type of person who attracts trouble despite trying to keep out of it. She’s trying to make some kind of new start, but that old life won’t be escaped. This story is one episode of those issues returning to bite. Along with this, I liked the idea of a Bermuda triangle in space, and putting the two together, I had my story.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

“You want to free this murdering ship and put it in a cyborg body to wander around? Fuck that.” Hehehe … I had chosen a more poignant, poetic sentence, but it didn’t make sense on its own. And this one has a raw kind of appeal… I can imagine Hudson saying it.

I happen to know that ‘Dellinger’ is a follow-up to at least one other earlier story of yours, ‘The Ship’s Doctor’, that appeared in ASIM 47. Are there other stories in this sequence, and might there ultimately be a novel of Coryn’s adventures?

There aren’t any others written yet, but I do see Coryn and Riley’s travels as a bit like the Odyssey, journeying for a metaphorical home rather than a physical one. My husband bugged me for a long while to write a second one, and I imagine there will be others. As to a novel … if a big enough idea came along, I wouldn’t rule it out.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

I’m working on an agricultural cyberpunk novel and having heaps of fun with it. I started it a while ago, then I realised my two opposing characters (a machinery fault-finder and an industrial saboteur) had met before, and had a strange love-hate attraction to each other’s work (and each other). So I wrote a prequel about their first meeting (Blue ICE, ASIM #59), and now I’m writing the big story of what happens next. Basically, in a world driven by FarmCorps automation, Thumper is a saboteur outside the system. Until someone tries to kill him, which forces him to examine the dirty world inside the corps, uncovering a plan that will change the whole world. I’m about half done and desperate to finish it!

UOAD_front_cover_small

If you’re interested in learning more about Charlotte’s writing — and as well as ‘Dellinger’ itself, I can also heartily endorse the stories she’s written for ASIM 49 and 59 (as well as the story of hers I should be editing for the upcoming ASIM 61!) — you might wish to check out her website at charlottenash.net.

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘Dellinger’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: Leife Shallcross, ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’.





The plot thickens, or something

17 07 2014

A new Gordon Mamon space-elevator murder mystery novella. A painterly xenohominid who cannot correctly choose the pigments that best represent the humble tomato; and the larger-scale problem this may signify. The complicated combination of ethical, economic, aesthetic, engineering, and tactical considerations that come into play when choosing the raygun that most ideally suits one’s own particular purposes. And my nastiest Titan story yet. It can all only mean one thing.

Actually, that’s a rather pointless assertion: it can very obviously mean any of several quite different things, the range of which I am not going to seek to encompass here. There is one thing that it does mean, and that one thing is this one thing: I have a second short story collection in the works, a follow-up, as it were, to Rare Unsigned Copy, and this second collection will be released (assuming all goes according to plan) at the start of October.

Most of the more titivating details, such as the full Table of Contents and the cover artwork, will be revealed closer to the time. For now, I can let slip that, like its predecessor, the new collection will be published (in print and e-book editions, as usual) by Peggy Bright Books, and edited by Edwina Harvey.

The title of this new collection? Well, after Rare Unsigned Copy, what else could it be? It’s Difficult Second Album.





Someone left a pop-culture reference out in the rain

15 07 2014

In the ‘yes-it’s-been-yonks-since-I-posted’ category, there are a couple of items of self-promotion I’ve been slow to spruik. One is that the talented and hardworking Tim Jones, one half of the superhuman team of poet-editors Jones and Cottier behind The Stars Like Sand, has unleashed upon the world a photostream of, well, photos from the launches of the aforementioned poetry antho. Said photostream is chock-full of depictions of poets both vastly more talented and better-looking than myself; but I am vain, and so shall snurch here only the photo of myself, reading (at Collected Works, in Melbourne) mine own poem, ‘At the Dark Matter Zoo':

Simon_Petrie_at_the_Melbourne_StarsLikeSand_launch

(There is, I swear to you, a top to my head, and I do possess knees, and shins beneath them; but that is by-the-by.)

The other item which I would bring to your attention is the final (for now, at any rate) of my drabbles with SpeckLit, which appeared back on June 30th and is titled ‘I’ll Never Have That Recipe Again‘. Make of it, dear reader, what you will …





More ‘Use Only As Directed’ Reviewage

29 06 2014

There are nowhere near as many book blogger / astrophysicists in the world as there ought to be … but there are some, which is something we should be very grateful for. Tsana Dolichva is one such, and she recently posted, on her book blog, a detailed and positive review of Use Only As Directed. As is always the case, I’d encourage you to read the review in its entirety, but I feel compelled to excerpt just a few salient sentences from the review:

There is a wide variety of stories contained within; every story sticks to the theme, but there are a lot of very different interpretations. I appreciate the lack of homogeneity and the novelty of getting something completely different each time I picked up the anthology.

and “If you haven’t yet sampled a Petrie and Harvey anthology, this one would be a good place to start.

As well as some fairly in-depth general comments about the anthology, Dolichva’s review also offers her feedback on each of the stories. It’s always a good sign, I reckon, when different reviewers find different strengths to a book, and it’s gratifying to see that, while there is some overlap, this review picks a different group of favourites to that identified in Steve Jackson’s recent review.

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If the reviews serve to spark your curiosity, I can point you towards the Peggy Bright Books page for the anthology’s purchase, or to Amazon’s page for the same purpose. The anthology’s authors, I’m confident, would thank you for your patronage: authors delight in being read (and, though I’m clearly biased, I’ll attest that these stories are certainly worthy of it).








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