Monthly Archives: March 2017

New competitions for writers, the Newcomer Prize from the Fiction Desk

Winner - S R Mastrantone
Winner – S R Mastrantone
What’s in a name?
This prize is organised by The Fiction Desk website. They have had some successes with winners getting book deals, such as The Killer You Know by S R Mastrantone which is due from Sphere in 2018. Very exciting.

This year’s competition deadline is midnight (UK GMT) on 31 May 2017. The first prize is £500, second prize £250.

More details on the Newcomer Prize are here >

The Fiction Desk’s 2017 Ghost Story Competition (which we mentioned in a previous blog) shortlist and winners will be announced on their website Thursday 30th March 2017.

SF, Fiction and Fantasy, Western US UK, and Chinese – Cixin Lui

Cixin Liu Remembrance of Earth’s Past SPOILER ALERT!

This is not much of a spoiler given the name of the series. But the slow build in The Three Body Problem, and the other two books, is very well done, mounting tension and fear towards the end of part one. If you might read it, DO NOT READ FURTHER!


Remembrance of Earths Past Cixin Liu
Remembrance of Earths Past Cixin Liu
Cixin Liu’s recent blockbuster best-selling trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past (1/ The Three Body Problem, 2/ The Dark Forest, 3/ Death’s End) is amazing, and startlingly original, which is very hard in a meme-saturated SF world.

But one comment. Cixin’s view of the rest of the Universe and the future is utterly negative, with aliens removing competition by annihilating (in spectacular and mind-bending ways) any new civilisation or solar system that happens to be noticed. Not even actually space-faring, just noticed by their monitoring systems. Even the more local aliens who get latterly get quite friendly are actually despicable fiends when it suits them.

Now China is called locally Zhonggou, the Middle Kingdom, the area under the control of whichever current Emperor (previous to unification the Middle Kingdom was a smaller area). They have always had invasions throughout a long history. Hence the Great Wall of China. So this mindset of fear about barbarians, destroyers, outside of home are deeply entrenched.

I say Chinese not Asian as there is only one Middle Kingdom!


Star Trek
Star Trek on the way out
In Star Trek, or any other colonising empire-style SF, basically, there might be challenges but by using reason, progress will be made. It is always the fiendish aliens and their alien ways that upset the human ‘progress’ or more accurately expansion. Or sometimes they invade (briefly) to get our raw materials, which even includes our minds.

This is obviously a Western mindset. Achieved by ignoring what happens to indigenous peoples (such as native Americans, Australian Aboriginals etc).

Dr Who
Dr Who
Of course this is a massive simplification, but there you go! SF is always of its time and culture. Only a retro-obsessed culture like Britain could think up Doctor Who! And their British Robots (Daleks).
Daleks at Christmas

A long synopsis and review of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Mingwei Song of MCLC Resource Center is here >

Read wiki about the Great Wall of China >

By Samantha Smith March 2017

Review of Writing SF Science Fiction and Fantasy, how to write book

Adam Roberts Writing SF and Fantasy bookWe are about to do a Notes Story Board app with SF and Android files. But since that is taking a while, I read some other how to write books. The best by a long way is by one of my favourite SF authors Adam Roberts:

Get Started in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy: How to write compelling and imaginative sci-fi and fantasy fiction (Teach Yourself: Writing)

That’s quite a long title. The text is in the usual Roberts style, witty, erudite, slightly challenging. He provides breakdowns of what makes SF and Fantasy different. And even includes a plotting system at the end, to help you think up new ideas and stories. So it is very good on analysis and practical matters pertaining to writing about warp drives, time travel, magic, matrices, and all that. And why you might want to do that in the first place!

You can get the book on Amazon or Ebay for quite a reasonable price.

Here is a link to Adam Roberts sf writer wiki, since his website which is out of date for some reason.

And here is our offer for How To Write Fiction and Film Scripts ebooks >

Robots and Androids in sf science fiction

Robopocalypse SF book cover
Robopocalypse SF book cover
This seems to in the news almost as much as Trump and Brexit. AI, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, robot wars, all that, everywhere. I suppose the invasion of smart phones has raised the profile of an old field. Robots are hardly new. I just finished the book Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson, which was a very good read (it is a epistolary thriller) with a number of vast plot holes. And an unpronounceable title. It was due to be a film, rights bought by Steven Spielberg, but has been dropped recently. I wonder if that is related to industry insiders not wanted to rock the boat, start panics, etc. Or the rather contradictory thesis – super intelligent killer AI mind takes over all domestic and military robots, but fails in war with a few scattered human gangs.

There is a good resource for robots and androids (human style robots) here
Robot and Android fiction information >

I am still writing new pages on SF and Robots. They will appear on here and also as files for our top 5 star story board writers app at

Notes Story Board app >