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.