Submission Guidelines

Submission Guidelines

Submission Guidelines

 

In general, I have no objections to Submission Guidelines dictated by websites with regards to the fiction they would like to have submitted. After all, the websites have the right to choose whatever type of fiction they like, and indeed it could be argued that the sex fiction sites should actually be more selective than they are in the quality of the fiction they present. Would that the criterion of selection was more to do with excellence of style, plotting, characterisation and other measurements of quality rather than content alone.

However, it’s content that determines what’s presented. It is actually easier to find fiction that deals with or even graphically depicts sexual acts involving children, rape or bestiality in a branch of Waterstone’s, Smith’s or even a public library (if you know which classics of literature to reference) than in Literotica, Lush Stories or even (in extreme cases) Stories OnLine.

On the other hand, it is very easy to find in such websites and others stories that are barely literate, hugely derivative, plodding and pedestrian, and failing to reach any of the standards that would be imposed on a submission to a high school story competition.

So, why am I raising such concerns?

Well, several of my stories have failed to pass submission guidelines on some of these sites, but, it must be said, for rather arbitrary reasons set by the moderators and somewhat unevenly imposed. In most cases, the issue has been the suggestion of under-age sex (which I would dispute), but sometimes on issues of style which I’d go along with if the bar was set so high that my own prose didn’t quite reach such elevated standards. But as I’m quite capable of reading other stories which have been submitted and are highly regarded, I tend to think that excellence of style is not the issue. Rather, I would contend that the guidelines applied by that moderator are so rigidly applied that the very flexibility of style and presentation which fiction in the mainstream world of literature takes for granted would mean that virtually no fiction submitted, for instance, to the Man Booker Prize would be acceptable.

I wonder what the moderators would make of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Will Self’s Umbrella, or Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. And in terms of content let alone style, the last one would be banned along with the fiction of even George RR Martin and quite a  few other mainstream writers.

Nevertheless, one of the advantages of having my own website on ASSTR is that I can present my fiction exactly as I like however much I might think that for many authors this is a vice rather than a virtue.

 

 

I Remember Erewhon

Erewhon - Samuel Butler

Erewhon – Samuel Butler

I don’t know how many people have read the novel Erewhon by Samuel Butler, but it’s not really a book I’d recommend. It’s a satire set in an imaginary place that resembled the New Zealand where he’d made his fortune and the Victorian England he was less than enamoured of. I found his satire rather heavy-handed and obvious, rather like the name he gave to the place (and such memorable characters as Yram and Senoj Nosnibor) whose origin is pretty well obvious.

But thanks to Samuel Butler, I’m able to take a literary reference and use it as part of the title of my latest short story, I Remember Erewhon, which in actual fact has very little to do with the original novel beyond the use of his fictional invention.

The closest influences for this short story are actually Iain Banks‘ novel The Bridge and Irvine Welsh’s Marabou Stork Nightmares. It’s not science-fiction, but it does have something in common with fantasy and it’s the nearest to an autobiography I’ve ever written.

 

An Independent Scotland

Self-Protection: Muriel Barclay

Self-Protection: Muriel Barclay

Now that the votes have been cast and (I hope) some of the disappointment has abated, I guess I can more safely express my own opinion about Scottish Independence.

I’m not Scottish, so I’ve never had a direct say in the matter, but many of my sympathies have been with those Scots who wanted independence. Scotland has, undeniably, been better managed by the SNP than has Britain as a whole under the Tories (though that’s not especially difficult) and many of the causes around which the Scots have been rallying are ones that most clear-thinking individuals, whether north of south of the border, can only agree with. And Scotland has a richer heritage with many more years of history of being an independent sovereign nation than most of those nations throughout the world that now have independent statehood. Who can’t help but be inspired by the myths and legends of Scottish history and its struggle against the foreign oppressor which has been (as much as it has been for the Republic of Ireland) none other than perfidious Albion?

The truth, however, is that I didn’t want the Scots to vote for independence and I’m pretty pleased they didn’t. My own view is that Scotland would not benefit at all from being independent from its larger neighbour and the advantages of economic and political muscle it retains by being part of a much larger United Kingdom. Scots can continue to watch Eastenders  and send Scottish airmen to bomb Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq. England can continue to benefit from the disproportionately high quality of educated Scots, sensible examples of practical government policies and preferential access to North Sea Oil over other countries in the European Union.

Furthermore, and more radically, I’m not a supporter of the general tendency over the last century for there to be greater and greater fragmentation of political units at a time when the challenges of environmental change and cultural upheaval threaten the future of our very existence. From the disintegration of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires onwards, there has been a tendency towards smaller and smaller molecular units of statehood, only partially resolved by larger inter-state organisations such as the European Union, the United Nations and the like.

But there’s also another more selfish reason for my opposition to Scottish Independence. My near future dystopian novel No Future predicts that Scotland doesn’t leave the UK until the 2050s: a prediction that seemed fairly secure until a few weeks ago when a poll showed the Yes campaign momentarily ahead.

So, if nothing else, I’ve been spared having to either rewrite certain chapters of the novel to retain its plausibility (beware the future creeping up on you faster than you anticipated if you should ever write a story set in the near future) or having to accept that the novel (like 1984 and 2001: A Space Odyssey) is one doomed to being an untrue vision of the future long before that future taking place.

So, that’s yet another reason to celebrate Scotland having chosen to remain part of the same nation as England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Smashwords Review: The Battle for the Known Unknown

The Battle for the Known Unknown

The Battle for the Known Unknown

I must say the kind of review I like the most is the following by l c:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/244347

For those disinclined to follow the link, essentially l c couldn’t really be more complimentary if he or she tried. He or she says of the first volume of the Anomaly Trilogy, The Battle for the Known Unknown: “This was by far my most enjoyable read so far this year – all categories.” The novel combines “an interesting plot with relevant discussions on scientific discoveries, religion/philosophy, as well as keeping a nerve in the story with regards to both suspense and adult content. ”  Stylistically the novel has “High quality narrative and flow. Near pefect editing,”

l c’s review may not have the insightfulness and depth of a professional reviewer, but it is well appreciated nonetheless. And I hope that l c enjoys Volumes 2 and 3 of the Anomaly Trilogy as much as the first volume.

Mercury Prize Awards 2014

GoGo Penguin - V2.0

GoGo Penguin – V2.0

I’ve made comments about the Mercury Awards in the last two years and now that this is the first time that we’ve got a set of nominations that genuinely get me excited then I guess this year should be no different.

The list includes many of my favourites: Polar Bear, FKA Twigs, Nick Mulvey, Kate Tempest and, of course, GoGo Penguin. My money is on Kate Tempest to win, but there are at least four other worthy candidates that aren’t dreary rock bands or bland pop stars (not that I’m especially sure who they are or what their music’s like).

I’m sort of hoping that a kind of corner has been turned where we are past the situation where the only musicians that ever get any media attention fall within the categories of rock and pop. I don’t deny that there may be the odd rock or pop song that might be worth listening to, but generally this fixation on a fairly narrow and totally conventional song-based form must surely be coming towards its end given that almost all the decent music generated since the 1970s has not been pop and it most definitely hasn’t been rock.

Even Radiohead can hardly be described as a rock band any more (and much the better for it).

However, before I get too triumphalist, my celebration of dance music might be compromised by the current trends in America relating to what our trans-Atlantic cousins call EDM. The kind of dance music that dominates there is pretty obvious and rather dull (if radio-friendly). And I worry about how Las Vegas is fast becoming a rich man’s Ibiza where the likes of Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber are taken seriously. And I thought Skrillex, Pendulum and Calvin Harris were bad enough.

Although Kate Tempest’s victory would be the most poetic (in several senses of the word), I’d be pretty chuffed if the groove-friendly jazz provided by GoGo Penguin made the grade. After all, who’d have predicted James Blake would have won last year?

 

 

 

 

School Discipline

Julie Delcourt: Spanking

Julie Delcourt: Spanking

 

I’ve never practised any of the many activities that come under the banner of BDSM, such as bondage, humiliation or spanking, but I’ve read a few novels and seen a few films which deal with the subject.

As far as I can see they come in two categories. That kind of fiction which portrays BDSM as a kind of fun activity for consenting adults and that which shows it as being brutal and entirely non-consensual. In the former camp we have the fiction of E. L. James and the illustrations by Julie Delcourt. In the latter we have the fiction of the likes of the Marquis de Sade and, of course, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Inevitably I’m more inspired by fiction which deals with the non-consensual world of such behaviour: partly because the only fascination I have with the consensual kind is that it is a kind of behaviour which is interesting but virtually impossible to understand and partly because I think there is a lot more non-consensual violence in this world and that is something to be very concerned about.

And so I’m announcing a new short story that I’ve submitted in all the usual places: School Discipline.  It deals with a familiar area of BDSM: namely corporal punishment at school which is something that some people still think is a good thing. Needless to say I no more think licensed brutality in the classroom is a good idea than state-sponsored homicide, capital punishment or any resort to violence by institutions to keep order. This short story is as far as it’s possible to be from being a fantasy to satisfy those who think a good spanking is salutary and that it never did them any harm. Personally, I think it probably did do them a huge amount of harm and the fact that they still come out with such nonsense is all the proof of that you need.

Even some of the entertainment that is meant for those who enjoy watching boys and girls being beaten (by the likes of Czech film company Lupus Pictures) is actually quite open about all that is wrong about corporal punishment as a form of discipline as opposed to a consensual activity between partners who like restraint and pain. My guess is that amongst those who get a kick from it, the real pleasure comes as much from the anticipation and the ceremony as much as from the actual administration.

So, like all my stories, there’s a strong satirical element to School Discipline where those who already suffer from a surfeit of punishment will continue to suffer from it, whilst those who escape from it are those who are already quite well-off. It becomes, in other words, yet another means for those who are privileged to arbitrarily punish those who are not.

And my belief is that the real reason for the continued attraction of corporal punishment to a section of society that watches Fox News and reads the Daily Mail (and probably have no idea what ‘satire’ means) is precisely that. Only those who envisage themselves delivering the punishment are especially likely to think it’s a good idea that it should continue to be delivered.

 

The Brickworks Lane Pals

Over The Top

Over The Top

And so here we are: 2014, the centenary of the start of the Great War. This was meant to be the war to end all wars, but turned out to be just World War One, with World War Two on the horizon.

So, in commemoration of this centenary (which marks more than any other the beginning of the Modern Age: in fact, the start of what Eric Hobsbawm christened the Short Twentieth Century), I’ve written and submitted a short story, The Brickwork Lane Pals, inspired by the futility and stupidity of the conflict, but also by the undeniable courage and comradeship of the soldiers involved in the conflict. And also (seeing as this is a Bradley Stoke story) something about class difference and the very different attitudes towards sex and custom that prevailed at the time.

However, as there has to be a sex element in this story and because there weren’t any women at all at the front (all the women were in brothels far away from the front and safe from enemy shells), the only kind of sex available to either officers or men was what they provided for one another. So, in other words, this short story is one of the few stories I’ve written which can be categorised as “Gay Male” or “M/M” or “Homosexual” or whatever.

I’m not gay myself, so my account of the feeling men have for one another and the sexual behaviour that characterise their relationships is based on pretty much second-hand reports and what you can see on the internet. However, I’m also not lesbian, hermaphrodite, black or any one of the various flavours of humanity and associated sexual activities that I’ve written about. Personally, since my main intention is not to give an accurate and complete view of homosexual behaviour (any more than I want to do the same for activities associated with bondage, fetishism or body modification), but to use sexual activity as a kind of excuse on which to hang a story, I think I can be pardoned.

This short story is about homosexual love in the trenches: which we know did happen though more often between fellow officers and less often (in proportional terms) between fellow enlisted men, but very rarely between officers and men. In those days, and probably not that much differently these days, the classes rarely mixed except in wholly exploitative terms. I’m sure historians can provide plenty of arguments about the actual prevalence of homosexual behaviour, but I imagine that rather like the prevalence of such behaviour in prisons and public schools it is something that happened but about which few men were prepared to admit to.

Unlike, in this case, those members of Kitchener’s Army that this short story celebrates: the Brickwork Lane Pals.