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 >

Interview with novelist Ivy Ngeow ‘Heart of Glass’ author

Ivy Ngeow is a writer with many successes behind her, including winning international prizes and having her work read out on the BBC World Service.

Extract: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes sure. The block is not a hard block. It is a semi-hard sponge. You squeeze it very hard regularly and daily and with luck, each word will come out like a drop of blood.

Ivy’s first novel is now being (almost) published by Penguin/Random House, via their new Unbound crowdfunding pre-selling platform. It is now 61% funded, with ‘pledges’ from £10 (ebook, your name in all editions) to £125 (personal visit to your writing group, name in editions, and 5 hardback copies). This is a way of reducing the publisher’s risk, as a high target figure is required – £4000 in Ivy’s case. Money is traditionally never mentioned by writers – because they earn so little! Unless you are J K Rowling of course. If you want to investigate, have a look at her videos and the site in general, visit
Unbound writers site – Ivy Ngeow – Heart of Glass >

Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass Unbound
Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass Unbound
Interview with Ivy Ngeow 3rd February 2017 by Brian Jones of Top Writing Courses

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Doing a Masters of Arts (MA) in Writing. It cost 3200 pounds but I won the prize of 1000 pounds. Had I not done the MA I would not have taken my writing to a professional level and needless to say would not have won the Middlesex University Literary Prize.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to give readers what they want. My aim is to be a popular writer. I want to write to make myself happy and to make others happy. This does not mean I am not being original. Everything I do has originality because I have created it and did not base it on anything. I am already an architect and designer and everything I create is already original. Similarly, I see writing as in the service industry.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure. You don’t have to have cancer to write about cancer. You don’t have be old to write about being old. Writing is very much a conjuring skill, a performance art. You just have to be skillful enough to perform believable magic tricks on your audience, and not only will they believe it, they will continue to suspend disbelief and they will enjoy your show.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I try to research after beginning a book, not before. It can be distracting and time-wasting. Before beginning a book, it is still at the sketchy ideas stage and ideas for fiction do not require research until the point where it needs to be written.

Brian: I agree. Research can be a big distraction, a way of putting off writing. Even for genre writing, say a Submarine Thriller, you can add the details later – everyone knows the basics of any scenario, enough to write the story out. Get on with the writing now! You can add the engineering detail later – if the story works.

What did you read when you were a kid?
I loved adventure stories. I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five, some classics like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Catherine Lim’s Or Else the Lightning God and Other Stories.

When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 8 years old. At first it was to entertain my younger brothers who were only toddlers then and could not read. Then later, I was writing for myself because I could not help it and I enjoyed not writing for them (the toddlers).

What is the first book that made you laugh, and cry?
Nothing made me laugh. The first book that made me cry was Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers (I forget which one). It’s not a sad book so I don’t remember why I cried except because of a kind of girlish hysteria where I was delirious and could not stop crying for many hours.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am on several forums on FaceBook such as the Unbound Social Club, where authors like me are funding or have funded their books. I am finding it useful to know and make friends with other writers as they go through exactly the same struggles. I have learnt from their tips and advice and hopefully I have given them tips and advice too along the way.
I was in a great Writers’ Club at the City Lit when I first came to London. This included several successful writers such as Penny Faith of Made Up Theatre and Keith Charters of Strident Publishing. We were all beginners then and twenty years later, we are still in touch.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

Brian: Yes, writing is a pleasure and an escape. What happens when it becomes a full-time job? That is the conundrum!

Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It energizes me. I am already a creative person, when I have completed a design or drawing or illustration, I get the same thrill or buzz. I have a high standard and instinctively know when something is really, really completed to the highest possible quality.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I find keeping up a creative routine or discipline hard.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have already started on another novel during NanoWrimo 2016 and I am 24,000 words in. This is a standalone novel. However I am interested in planning a prequel and sequel to Heart of Glass.

Brian: Publishers seem to go for trilogies. If you haven’t planned that, even if everyone dies at the end, you can go ghost/zombie/time travel. Or, as in Dallas, use the power of dreams.

Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass novel on Unbound
Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass novel on Unbound
Brian: Don’t forget to check out Ivy’s videos and the Unbound publshing site now >

Novel written on social media

reddit novel
reddit novel
If you get bored thinking about – or dealing with – publishing, you could always part-publish via social media. In the olden days, hypertext fiction was briefly fashionable in academia. This was non-linear narrative via linked pages, with multiple exits and entrances, such that the reader could follow different routes.
Of course this undermines any narrative. Which is usually (but not always) the main point of a story after all.

Anyway below is a link to a long-form text being written on Reddit. It is fairly mixed up, multiple strands, interspersed with random links from other Reddit users (explore with care, these random links are more scary than the main story).

This means loads of comments from other Reddit users. There is no personal information about the author. How mysterious!

The writer is called _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
That might be a pen-name. Or the title.

and the link is:
Reddit novel-thing from _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9

SF Fantasy courses online free

Iain M Banks Hydrogen Sonata
Iain M Banks Hydrogen Sonata – part of the Culture series

We are adding more free online SF and Fantasy how to write content over the next few months. To sign up for alerts, just go to our home page. This will include:

  • SF world building – world meaning context, and usually actual worlds
  • Fantasy world building
  • How to avoid – or disguise – Infodumps
  • FTL – faster than light travel – allowed or not?
  • Portals – journey to another world/dimension – from that wardrobe to the Cat in the Hat – they are everywhere
  • Differences between SF and Fantasy


Writing a series
Making a pilot for a TV or film series
Research – technology and concepts
Research the market – don’t rewrite someone else’s idea
SF Fantasy Characters
SF Fantasy Plotting
SF Fantasy Conflict

Geoff Davis - Nnn Goes Mobile - Cyber VR novel from 1994
Geoff Davis – Nnn Goes Mobile – Cyber VR novel from 1994

And last but certainly not least:

Finding new ideas

Some are specific to SF and Fantasy, as things are somewhat different – or are they?