Go Me

Although I’ve not had a productive year for new fiction, I have enjoyed two notable achievements over the last 12 months: the publication of my collection Strange Attractors and getting a story in the Best of British SF 2023.

I was delighted when Strange Attractors was shortlisted for a BSFA award (the award actually went to last year’s Best of British SF, and rightly so). The short story in this year’s ‘Best’ is called  ‘Muse Automatique, or the Many Deaths of Gala Dali’.

You may think that’s a long and somewhat pretentious title. You may have a point.

But authors have favourite stories, and this is a favourite of mine. I have described it as a virtual mortality story (again, skirting pretension) though I can’t give too many specifics without spoilering it (sorry).

Reading someone else’s words often prompts me to write some of my own. The seed of this story was in a book called The Lives of the Muses, a collection of biographies of women who have inspired male artists, many of whom were artists in their own right. Gala (or Galina) Dali was one such, and the biographical details in my story are all true.

At the same time, it’s a hard SF story.

Also, because I’m middle-aged and hence obliged to consider such things, an exploration of mortality.

It took a while to find a publisher for this story, because it’s quite… quirky. However, as it could also be described as ‘high-concept’ I decided to enter it into the BBC National Short Story Competition. This prestigious contest is only open to pro authors and will never be won by an SFF story. ‘Muse’ didn’t win, obviously, nor make the shortlist, but it did make the longlist, which considering the level of competition and the low regard genre stories are held in, was an achievement in itself.

The story finally found a home in Parsec magazine, which is a great place to be, as though it’s relatively new on the scene, this ‘zine publishes some very fine stories, and I was glad to be amongst them. Having it selected for the Year’s Best was a the icing on the cake.

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