Tag Archives: short stories

05 Mar

Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin’s new anthology Old Venus now out and contains a story I wrote: Pale Blue Memories

I have a new short story out in an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin:

Old Venus final jkt

From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth’s next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century’s space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life.

But don’t despair! This new anthology of sixteen original stories by some of science fiction’s best writers—edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois—turns back the clock to that more innocent time, before the hard-won knowledge of science vanquished the infinite possibilities of the imagination.

Join our cast of award-winning contributors—including Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Gwyneth Jones, Mike Resnick, Eleanor Arnason, Allen M. Steele, and more—as we travel back in time to a planet that never was but should have been: a young, rain-drenched world of fabulous monsters and seductive mysteries.

And a list of the stories:

INTRODUCTION, by Gardner Dozois
FROGHEADS, by Allen M. Steele
THE DROWNED CELESTRIAL, by Lavie Tidhar
PLANET OF FEAR, by Paul McAuley
GREEVES AND THE EVENING STAR, by Matthew Hughes
A PLANET CALLED DESIRE, by Gwyneth Jones
LIVING HELL, by Joe Haldeman
BONES OF AIR, BONES OF STONE, by Stephen Leigh
RUINS, by Eleanor Arnason
THE TUMBLEDOWNS OF CLEOPATRA ABYSS, by David Brin
BY FROGSLED AND LIZARDBACK TO OUTCAST VENUSIAN LEPERS, by Garth Nix
THE SUNSET OF TIME, by Michael Cassutt
PALE BLUE MEMORIES, by Tobias S. Buckell
THE HEART’S FILTHY LESSON, by Elizabeth Bear
THE WIZARD OF THE TREES, by Joe R. Lansdale
THE GODSTONE OF VENUS, by Mike Resnick
BOTANICA VENERIS: THIRTEEN PAPERCUTS BY IDA COUNTESS RATHANGAN, by Ian McDonald

04 Mar

Operation Arcana now out and contains a story I wrote with Dave Klecha: Rules of Enchantment

A new short story by me and David Klecha is out right now. And if you’ve read other stories by the two of us, you know to expect some seriously high octane.

Check out the anthology details:

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In the realms of fantasy, the battlefield is where heroism comes alive, magic is unleashed, and legends are made and unmade. From the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s epic battle of good versus evil, to The Battle of the Blackwater, George R.R. Martin’s grim portrait of the horror and futility of war, these fantastical conflicts reflect our highest hopes and darkest fears, bringing us mesmerizing visions of silver spears shining in the sun and vast hordes of savage beasts who threaten to destroy all that we hold dear.

Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is sounding the battle cry and sixteen of today’s top authors are reporting for duty, spinning never-before-published, spellbinding tales of military fantasy, including a Black Company story from Glen Cook, a Paksenarrion story from Elizabeth Moon, and a Shadow Ops story by Myke Cole. Within these pages you’ll also find World War I trenches cloaked in poison gas and sorcery, modern day elite special forces battling hosts of the damned, and steampunk soldiers fighting for their lives in a world torn apart by powers that defy imagination.

Featuring both grizzled veterans and fresh young recruits alike, including Tanya Huff, Simon R. Green, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Seanan McGuire, Operation Arcana is a must for any military buff or fantasy fan. You’ll never look at war the same way again.

And here is the Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION—John Joseph Adams
RULES OF ENCHANTMENT—David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell
THE DAMNED ONE HUNDRED—Jonathan Maberry
BLOOD, ASH, BRAIDS—Genevieve Valentine
MERCENARY’S HONOR—Elizabeth Moon
THE GUNS OF THE WASTES—Django Wexler
THE GRAPHOLOGY OF HEMORRHAGE—Yoon Ha Lee
AMERICAN GOLEM—Weston Ochse
WEAPONS IN THE EARTH—Myke Cole
HEAVY SULFUR—Ari Marmell
STEEL SHIPS—Tanya Huff
SEALSKIN—Carrie Vaughn
PATHFINDER—T.C. McCarthy
BONE EATERS—Glen Cook
BOMBER’S MOON—Simon R. Green
IN SKELETON LEAVES—Seanan McGuire
THE WAY HOME—Linda Nagata

You can read ‘The Rules of Enchantment’ for free at Baen, the story is here.

Some opening lines?

Sure:

You’d think arrows are pretty silent compared to gunfire, but there’s no mistaking that bristly whistle as it whips through the air just past your head before it thwacks into someone’s Kevlar. Everyone eats dirt, and you’re checking your ammo with your back against a tree trunk wondering how the wood elves flanked you when you realize how stupid a question that is: this is their territory.

You’re new to the squad, so you’re still nervous. Every crack in the brush and shaken leaf has you jumpy. We’ve all been teasing you. Rookie this and rookie that.

I’m about fifteen feet away. I can see that your face is pale and shaken, but you have your rifle cradled and ready, looking for orders. The rest of the squad is spread out. Diaz is pulling an arrow out from his body armor and looking a bit chagrined. Orley is slowly crawling through dirt; he’s got a bead on the shooter. “Sergeant: got eyes on the woodie,” he reports.

“Hold,” I order.

This is the rendezvous point. But we’re dressed in robes that make us look like peasant travelers. I can feel Orley objecting already to the suspicion in my head, but even though our minds are all linked up into one single group mind via the Spell of Tactician’s Weave, only one of us is still in charge.

Me.

“Ditch the robes,” I order.

“Sergeant Cale . . .” Orley really doesn’t want to do this. He wants to engage.
Diaz forms up a memory. A story he was told about a couple of African-American special forces who stumbled in out of the night with bows and arrows. Scouts setting out to blend into the local land. They ended up getting shot by jumpy sentries on the way back in who thought they were orcs.

Diaz is half-black. The realization that some people see black skin, bows, and right away think orc and go straight to trigger-pulling leaves a bad taste in all our mouths.

Teachable moment about making assumptions aside—and believe me, Diaz has laid plenty of those thanks to the intimacy of the Tactician’s Weave—Orley gets Diaz’s point and eases up. Now everyone’s on board with my line of thought: that the elves are looking at us and seeing the Enemy, not US Marines.

We all shrug off the cloaks, displaying our standard Marine Corps digi-cammies and gear. My staff sergeant insignia is quite visible, making me the high-ranking target. I narrow my eyes at the shadows.

A bird whistle from the tree canopy pierces the air. They’d had us marked from the get go.

Shit.

If it wasn’t for body armor, Diaz would have been a bloody piñata. And you, rookie, would have gotten a nasty surprise from up above.

Yeah, look above your head, rookie. That grinning visage looking down the bark of the tree is a wood elf. Remember what they taught you about high ground? That includes firs. You need to be better about your situational awareness; clear up and down, not just the two dimensional plane.

Operation Arcana has a whole page with more free reads and interviews at John Joseph Adams’ website.

05 Feb

How All Her Children Fought came to be a film: sometimes it pays to take a chance

Sometimes it pays to just take a chance.

About two and a half years ago an odd email dropped into my inbox out of nowhere. It seemed to be a quickly written email from someone in Ireland. The writer, Liam, said he was asking if I had any stories that I thought might be worth filming. In particular, he was trying to find something under fifteen minutes long that he, and a crew of others from his village in Ireland, could enter into a film competition. And they needed it, like, yesterday.

I decided to follow up, and asked more questions, instead of just moving on. And I was glad I did. Despite the hastiness of the initial email, Liam went on to explain further that he and his crew had entered several weekend film competitions and won them. They were looking for a script they could film over a weekend for a ‘make a film in a weekend’ competition coming up, but they couldn’t use their current script.

I thought All Her Children Fought could be filmed, so I sent the story along, and Liam loved it. I spent a week turning it into a script that I sent to Liam.

And then things went quiet for a long while. Past the time I thought they were going to try to film for that weekend.

They got back into touch. They hadn’t been able to get things ready to use my script in time, they’d gone with another. But they were still super excited about my script and wanted to film it. Only, they said they wanted to level up from their regional wins and do something even better. They wanted to hire a director and audition actors and get really serious.

A friend of mine joked that this was when the request for me to invest money would come, but pretty soon Liam and the Snugboro team were sending me clips of directors they were looking at, along with actors they were thinking of using. I suddenly realized this was going to really happen.

The director had done some adverts, and been to film school. Pretty soon they got their hands on my script and we had some back and forth edits. The director had some tweaks, all of which punched things up (the cat and the end shot, which really boosted the whole thing, came from that pass and weren’t in my original, but I loved them).

Knowing that I was working with a team that didn’t have a Hollywood budget, I’d tried to take things that would require special effects and get them off screen. I suggested using fans to blow leaves across the field for the ship taking off at the end. But someone on the team knew a computer graphics guy, and soon I was getting mpegs of test imagery for the ship to see what I thought, as they were going to include that as the penultimate shot. It was going to look totally SF-nal! That blew me away.

When I got the DVD in the mail it wouldn’t work on my player, but I was able to get my Xbox 360 to show the movie. I was nervous. No doubt. But the quality of the filming and acting were far beyond anything I hoped for.

And then, seeing words I wrote played out in front of me, it really gut punched me. Here was something I’d dreamed, and they’d done such an amazing job of nailing what I was trying to do. And even taken it up a level. Of course, having been so involved in seeing the actors chosen, the drafts of the script, my own mind’s eye for what happened in it, and the fact that I was so close to the project, meant I had no idea if what I was seeing had the same effect on anyone else.

So I, very nervously, did a screening in Bluffton at the local movie theater early one Saturday. Fifty or so people in town and from the college came out to see it, and it seemed to have an effect. I also screened it for people at Blue Heaven, the writing workshop, right after it came out, to see what my peers thought.

So now, I get to share it with everyone, as Liam has allowed me to upload it to YouTube and pass it around. I loved the chance to write a script. I loved the opportunity to see something of mine transferred to a whole new medium.

And here’s the film again:

Details about the film:

Based on the short story by Tobias Buckell (http://www.TobiasBuckell.com). Script by Tobias S. Buckell, Cathal Feeney, and Patrick Ryan.

Produced by Liam Grant (Snugboro Films: http://snugborofilms.com) and directed by Patrick Ryan, who has a number of award winning short films to his credit. The film was shortlisted for showing at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2013 and the Tokyo Short Shorts Festival May/June 2013.

When every pound to orbit counts, who will fight for our future in deep space?

05 Feb

All Her Children Fought: A 15 minute short film, based on my short story, can now be viewed on youtube

About two years ago I may have posted some stills about a short, fifteen minute film made out of one of my short stories. I’m delighted that the producer of the film sent me news that I could upload it to YouTube and share it however I wished. So I’ve done just that, and am posting it on my website here as well to share with all.

Details about the film:

Based on the short story by Tobias Buckell (http://www.TobiasBuckell.com). Script by Tobias S. Buckell, Cathal Feeney, and Patrick Ryan.

Produced by Liam Grant (Snugboro Films: http://snugborofilms.com) and directed by Patrick Ryan, who has a number of award winning short films to his credit. The film was shortlisted for showing at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2013 and the Tokyo Short Shorts Festival May/June 2013.

When every pound to orbit counts, who will fight for our future in deep space?

I’ll be following up in a little bit with a post about how this all came about.

17 Nov

There’s a new, high-paying short SF market in town from Motherboard. Some thoughts on Terraform’s launch

A new weekly short story and daily SF blog launched recently. Terraform, from Motherboard, the people from Vice.

Critics may argue about science fiction’s literary origins—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein! No, Gulliver’s Travels!—but the genre metastasized in the 1950s and 60s, through the vehicle of pulp magazine publishing, as fantastic short stories and serialized adventures. Short stories are the DNA of the genre; bite-sized futures and parallel realities designed to jar their readers into radical disconnection with the present-day.

Surely we have room for short stories again in our networked world. They don’t take too much of our precious time. The medium is nimble and versatile. We could slip short stories into our pockets (and send them to our Pockets), daisy-chaining fiction to the op-eds and news pieces we read and share ad nauseam every day.

(Via Why We Terraformed a New Home for Future Fiction | Motherboard.)

As many new markets do, they started off with a manifesto. Even though the pulps of the 50s and 60s are well behind us, the science fiction short story market still exists today, and is healthier than many other short story markets. Careers are made here. I built mine there, and have almost 60 short stories published to show for it.

Terraform’s manifesto included the insinuation that short SF had died off. And they were, rightfully, called to task in their comments section for that. Because, in short, it ain’t true.

But let’s be fair, it’s an easy place to miss. While my whole early career revolved around short stories, the first time I signed an anthology in a mall I learning that hardly anyone realizes short stories exist, let alone short SF stories. The whole distribution mechanism and grocery store presence faded away, which for many meant the form had disappeared. I once spent a day quizzing SF readers in a store about short stories. It was illuminating how many of them didn’t even realize they were a thing.

We know better, but Vice is a big, fucking media machine with some big hit counts. Yes, they should have googled, but in many ways our assumption that Terraform is *all about us* somewhat misses the point.

Terraform is competing with science and SF blogs like IO9, and they’ve done a cool thing by experimenting with short form fiction. I mean, imagine if IO9 did that, right? Even my own readers sometimes don’t realize I have new book until IO9 mentions it, and they email me the link to say ‘hey!’ The most widely read short story I’ve ever had was run on IO9, and I had distant friends reaching to say it was the first thing of mine they’d read.

So I can understand their not focusing. Would it be nice. Hell yes. Am I glad they amended the manifesto to point out some great online zines (including my favorite, Clarkesworld)? Yes.

But mainly, before I saw their slip up in the manifesto, I’m excited to see a new market trying to something new and with a potential for a large audience and paying very well. This will be great for new writers, great for short stories. More markets is better. More *readers* is better, and having Vice send traffic around is potentially awesome (Motherboard has 48,000 readers on twitter, quarter of a million tied to it on Facebook, 402,000 followers on YouTube. This makes them, in one swoop, one of the larger audiences for SF).

I have no idea how this will shake out, but my reaction is ‘cool. More places for writers to sell to and more fiction that I get to read.’

They will make mistakes, but part of someone becoming part of a field is being welcomed in, not just them making all the right obeisance. I’m ready to correct a mistake or call something out. But I’m also excited to see the launch of a new venue.

So, Terraform, welcome. I like that you guys are paying 20c/w as a ‘base’ rate and I hope that a rising tide lifts all boats.

For writers, here are the guidelines for Terraform.

24 Jun

A new Xenowealth short story will be in UPGRADED, Neil Clarke’s anthology about cyborgs

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Neil Clarke has revealed the table of contents for Upgraded, “An original anthology of cyborg stories edited by a cyborg.” What fantastic company I’m keeping. This is looking like it will be quite a vibrant anthology. And for those of you who are fans of the Xenowealth, there’s a new Pepper story in here.

It comes out next month:

Contents:
Introduction by Neil Clarke
Come From Away by Madeline Ashby
No Place to Dream, but a Place to Die by Elizabeth Bear
Married by Helena Bell
A Cold Heart by Tobias S. Buckell
Honeycomb Girls by Erin Cashier
What I’ve Seen With Your Eyes by Jason K. Chapman
Wizard, Cabalist, Ascendant by Seth Dickinson
Seventh Sight by Greg Egan
Negative Space by Amanda Forrest
Mercury in Retrograde by Erin Hoffman
Tongtong’s Summer by Xia Jia
God Decay by Rich Larson
Always the Harvest by Yoon Ha Lee
The Regular by Ken Liu
Coastlines of the Stars by Alex Dally MacFarlane
Fusion by Greg Mellor
Memories and Wire by Mari Ness
Oil of Angles by Chen Qiufan
The Sarcophagus by Robert Reed
Synecdoche Oracles by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Tender by Rachel Swirsky
The Cumulative Effects of Light Over Time by E. Catherine Tobler
Small Machine by Genevieve Valentine
Collateral by Peter Watts
Taking the Ghost by A.C. Wise
Musée de l’Âme Seule by E. Lily Yu
About the Authors
About the Editor
Cover art by Julie Dillon

25 Feb

Progress report: taking deep lungfuls of air

I cut back on the blogging while I buried myself into working on the outline for PS-1 (my last update was on 2/6, wow).

The back pain is mostly gone from my spill on 1/22, though some activity still occasionally inflames it. One month, wow. I can sit, stand, work at the computer, and do my daily walk into town to run errands again. I’m still… gun-shy about any ice and take extra wide detours to avoid and get really nervous around it. It’s an oddly purely physiological response. The fall and three weeks of back pain are so seared into my body that the first walk into town I kept flinching whenever I saw ice. I’m not mentally freaked, but there’s just an autonomous, muscle memory there that my body has that’s similar to seeing a glowing red pot (don’t touch!). More walks are fixing that, but it was interesting to see that my lower, lizard brain has picked up that aversion on such a fundamental level.

So I’m about two weeks behind, but now that I’m back to normal, am enjoying catching up on work. Blogging took a hit, as it doesn’t put food directly on the table!

The outline for PS-1 is 17,000 words. For what will likely be a 55,000 word novel. The interested parties are reading the outline, and notes are being exchanged. I expect to start writing the first chapter Monday, March 3rd.

On twitter I talked a great deal about the craziness of a 17,000 word outline for a 55,000 word book. But, over time, I’ve come to outline more and more obsessively before writing. It has really helped me, and has made the writing process more and more enjoyable on a daily basis. I might have to storify that whole exchange and post it up here.

With my editor reading over PS-1, I now have the time to finish my last pre-PS-1 project. I owe one last short story to an anthology. I need to finish it by this weekend.

After that, I will be passing on any new short fiction projects until after all the work on PS-1, the books I owe Tor, and all other extant projects are turned in. I can’t handle the pressure of any new obligations when my plate is so full, sadly. It means things are good for me.

It sucks to say no. I had to turn down another project that looked really cool recently, so it’s on my mind. I spent most of my life working so hard to get to this point. And suddenly, people approach me and ask for stories. I’ve sold 55 of them, to date. And now I have to say no. And that’s an odd complication I didn’t expect about success (what bit of I have managed to carve out for myself).

Steve Jobs said success is as much about what you say ‘no’ to. And I found out that, although I’m extraordinarily proud of the 55 short story sales, I need to take care of the novels and extreme debt-paying project I’ve embarked on this last couple years. That will put me in much better stead to play with short fiction down the road.

15 Feb

THE END IS NIGH to feature a short story of mine

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I have a short story that will be appearing in the anthology THE END IS NIGH, edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. Deets:

“Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.

But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild.

THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH will tell their stories.

Edited by acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams and bestselling author Hugh Howey, THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH is a series of three anthologies of apocalyptic fiction. THE END IS NIGH focuses on life before the apocalypse. THE END IS NOW turns its attention to life during the apocalypse. And THE END HAS COME focuses on life after the apocalypse.”

(Via VOL. 1: THE END IS NIGH : The Apocalypse Triptych.)

If you click through, you can see the whole table of contents. Looks like a dynamite line up of authors that I’m lucky to share the pages with.

System Reset is short story of mine about what happens when fundamentalist geeks take their code metaphors a bit too far. If you follow the tag on the blog post for System Reset you can see I was working on this piece back in January.

THE END IS NIGH is coming out this March.

06 Jan

Progress report: day six (frozen edition)

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It’s cold out there. Dipped below 0 as I got up and settled into my office and took the above picture. Lots of frost on the window. Got freelancing done (it’s CES week, putting in some extra afternoon hours, worked on some eBook stuff) and worked on the short story Code some more in the later afternoon.

I’ve really gotten into the characters and think I have a nice little odd couple going. Had to delete some exposition, but it’s saved in a file. So it doesn’t add to my word count just yet, but it will help me get a jump on tomorrow as I turn it into argument, character reveals, and so forth. Sometimes you have to write stuff down awkwardly to see what it looks like and know where it goes.

Today’s progress was 943 words that I like (close to final polish) and a total of 2,919 on the story Code that I’m writing. Six days of writing in a row chained together.

The story was planned to be 3,000 words, but I think I have another 1,500 on deck still. And I’ll have to get them all tomorrow. So it’ll be a crunch time kinda day. But I’m averaging 566 words a day, even with the 22 word day yesterday, which if I consistently do every day will lead to a solid year (200K of words). Of course, six days does not a sample make, I’ll have a better idea come the end of the month of how I’m doing.

I did go for a walk today. Once around the block in -10 degree weather. It’s now -14 (windchill -40). I was toying with going out tonight just to see what it was like at -14, which is even lower, but opted out. Will get a taste of it when I let dogs out at midnight anyway. One day of walking chained together.

My office space heater has been running all day to keep my office comfortable.

This is roughly how I’m feeling about the weather:

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As of night, the insides of my windows are frosted with a layer of ice that is similar in thickness to what I’m used to finding on a car windshield after a night of rain and freezing temps.

Ice has also crept around my front door lock:Photo

Stay warm everyone!