How Not to Lose Friends

July 16, 2014

Or how to not lose all the friends on your email contacts list.friends

Once the final full stop in the ARIA Trilogy was hammered home, I knew there was work to do. Yes, the critique group, the publisher’s editor, who removed many commas, and their proofreader who put most of them and more back in again, but I’m referring to promo. Many writers refuse to become involved in the marketing of their art. Others become over-anxious and ill doing so. Mine is more the laid-back variety where I spend maybe an hour a day on forums, blogs, network media while attending conventions a little, and book readings and signing a bit.

Apart from the odd appeal for votes for the P&E Readers’ poll, and in encouraging writers to submit shorts to the now-departed Escape Velocity magazine, I’ve not tried a mass email plea to all my pals and acquaintances in my email contacts. For one thing over the last 12 years or so and with the way yahoo adds to contact lists, I now have over 1300 individual email addresses. To help sort them out I was able to export them as a csv file to Excel spreadsheet. I probably should have put them directly into a word processor but hey ho. Then I found I could delete hundreds – for example all those publishers starting with the word submission, editor, competition, and no-reply! I found many emails were from companies I’ve either bought from or argued with and again I could delete all those starting with support and all those from national and local government departments. I was down to 900 – yeay. I found many of my genuine friends were listed several times mainly because they keep changing their email addresses. Why would Karen need a yahoo, hotmail, gmail, googlemail, btinternet and msn.com email addresses? It must be a nightmare for her! Then how do I know which she doesn’t use anymore? Down to 850 addresses so that’s the list of unfortunate pals who are to receive news from me about ARIA. Yes, some already knew about the first book Left Luggage but I’ve left it until the trilogy is complete before bothering everyone.

ARIA Trilogy Box Set

ARIA Trilogy Box Set

I took inspiration from Sam Smith’s approach. He’s a marvellous poet, author and BeWrite editor who has on occasion to inform his contacts of his poetry and other publications. His posts are a delight to read. Instead of hammering a ‘you must buy’ in the first line, he apologises for taking up your time and computer electrons and invites you to delete even before reading the rest. I like his style and told him I was doing something similar. My first foray into writing was making up jokes and skits for stage comedians – not real ones, just other pupils at school. One of my jokes was told to a Christmas play audience including a Bishop of Gloucester. He must have used it to his colleagues because I heard it on Thought for the Day on Radio 4 a few years ago. I nearly fell of the toilet! So I use the gist of that joke in my mass email to my friends in the hope they don’t immediately put my post in their spam folder. Here it is:

Dear friends,
You might know my joke about a priest who on his first jittery sermon said that last night he took solace in the arms of a beautiful woman but that … he couldn’t remember who she was!
This note is rather like that. Many have told me to keep them informed when the final full stop of my infectious amnesia trilogy, ARIA has been punched. Ingratiating apologies if you are not interested. Just delete this post now, hopefully not with the spam button although worse has happened to me in the cardio suite in a Liverpool hospital last month so I’ll live, again.
If you are interested then all three books of the ARIA trilogy are now published as ebooks and paperbooks. Directly from the publisher or from Amazon and other online bookshops. Links are below.
Publisher’s site with purchase options http://www.ll-publications.com/aria3.html
Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY
And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

BOX SET ebook of The ARIA Trilogy for UK readers http://www.amazon.co.uk/ARIA-Trilogy-Box-set-ebook/dp/B00LQACNZS/ £7.20
for US readers http://www.amazon.com/ARIA-Trilogy-Box-set-ebook/dp/B00LQACNZS/ $12.35
If you occasionally stumble into facebook please consider viewing and liking http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy
Coffee & doughnuts,
Geoff
* the beautiful woman was, of course, his mother.

Well, what do you think? No matter because they’ve gone now. I remembered that when I sent masses of emails inviting people to submit stories to Escape Velocity mag yahoo mail often hiccupped with blocks because they don’t like us sending lots of posts at once. They might be spam! Really. No one knows how many you can send at once. Yahoo won’t say. Some forum users reckon as little as 15 at a time and no more frequently than every 30 minutes. I found no trouble in sending to 22 addresses every 20 minutes or so. It took a whole day. Not doing it again! I’ve only received two complaints – one was asking if we’d met. Well, in fact we’d met at FantasyCon and swapped business cards so she was all right but in future not to send her unsolicited posts again please. Fair enough. Another was from a publisher who didn’t like people trying to sell him books he didn’t publish – haha.
Luckily, I’ve received a bunch of warming emails from people on the list who say they’ve often wondered how I’ve been getting on – what’s all that about your cardio, and then tell me all their new. Wonderful.
If you know of a better way of not losing your friends please let me know but all in all it worked pretty well.

Note: Sam Smith’s web page, well worth a visit is here.

Rising #sciencefiction star – Mark Iles

July 10, 2014
The Cull of Lions by Mark Iles

The Cull of Lions by Mark Iles

It is my pleasure to make space on my blog for a rising star in the firmament of science fiction writers. I’ve known Mark Iles for years as a fellow critiquer in the Orbiters section of the British Science Fiction Association. His books such as THE CULL OF LIONS are a must read for any fan of military SF with elements of mystery, thriller and strong characterisation. In his own words:

My good friend Geoff’s advice and critiques over the years I’ve known him have always proved invaluable. It’s this guidance that’s helped to form The Darkening Stars series, so I’d like to say a very big thank you to him here, and wish Geoff all the best for the continuing success of his superb Aria series

Mark Iles

Mark Iles

Author Bio
Mark works for Southampton University, and also as a freelance writer in many fields including copywriting. His short stories have been published in Back Brain Recluse, Dream, New Moon, Auguries, Haunts, Kalkion, Screaming Dreams, and the anthologies Right To Fight, Escape Velocity, Auguries and Monk Punk. With an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo he’s also written non-fiction for Combat, Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts, Fighters, Junk, Martial Arts Illustrated, profwritingacademy.com and calmzone.net.
His first full length work was Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo, and he also has a short story collection available entitled Distant Shores. His debut novel A Pride of Lions was published by Solstice in September 2013, followed shortly afterwards by 4 novellas: A Connoisseur of the Bizarre, Sally Jane, Nightshade and Santa Claws is Coming. The Cull of Lions is Book II in The Darkening Stars series.

Blurb:
Selena Dillon and her team return to Loreen after their attack on Mantis, only to find the myriad worlds of Mankind once again plunged into war. As the Penal Regiments are betrayed by the Federation of Man, and fighting spills throughout the galaxy, the dreaded Manta raise their heads once again.
Selena soon finds herself trying to track down her friends’ daughter, Hope, from the rabbit holes of Loreen and then fights to free her home planet from alien invaders.
While a general amnesty means previous sins are forgiven, the Queen has not forgotten Selena’s attempt on her life. Selena soon finds herself torn between obeying orders to protect the monarch, and her ravening thirst for revenge. But strange forces are stirring amidst the stars and Mankind finds itself with surprising new allies, while a terrifying enemy that’s manipulated events from behind the scenes finally reveals itself for the very first time.

In this excerpt Selena and her team have returned to Loreen, and are being debriefed by Admiral Van Pluy.

Excerpt
“We’ve kept our word. These colonists need us and we need them. We bring in supplies, employ them, buy their goods and so far everyone’s a winner. You did damn well here, Commander, when you got them to work with us, all of you did. I believe you’re aware that the aliens survived the destruction of Mantis and their system; a colony ship of some kind got away. They’ve set up a base somewhere, although God knows where, and they’ve begun rebuilding their own forces too. But the worst news, as you know, is they’ve landed on Capulet.”
“Yeah, we heard. I expect you know that’s my home world. What’s the situation there?”
Van Pluy picked up his cigar, stared at it for a moment before mashing it into the ashtray and selected another one from a wooden box on his desk. Then he returned to his chair, leant back and sucked on the cigar. It self-lit and as he puffed away and the aromatic smoke rose around him in purple clouds, which were instantly whipped away by the tiny air conditioner on his desk. He watched Selena carefully from behind hooded eyes. “Capulet’s not lost…yet. Ironically both ourselves and the Federation have sent in reinforcements. Rather than us fighting each other we have a temporary truce while we try to save the planet. Luckily the Manta are nowhere near as powerful as they once were, thanks to you guys.
“So far we’ve managed to keep their ships away from the planet. We’re bombing the hell out of their bases, not that we’re getting through their shields, and are landing more troops all the time but there’s been a high attrition rate. Thankfully we’ve abandoned the ‘poisoned earth policy’. Personally I believe that saving the planet is do-able. I know where we stand with the Manta. It’s the Federation I don’t trust.”
“I’d like to return to Capulet, Sir,” Selena said, “to fight for it. Trouble is that’s where I committed my crime and the rules state that I can’t return there.”
“Yes, I’m sure that you do want to go back, Commander. For your information those old rules don’t apply anymore. The limited pardon means you can return to any allied world, even where you committed your crimes. But before you return home we need to find Hope, that’s your priority at this moment in time. As the Colonist leaders here on Loreen, Franks and Amanda’s support are vitally important to us and we need to keep them on board. Now, they’ve personally asked for your assistance and I’m not going to let them down. Once all this is resolved, then you can go to Capulet.”

Buy Links:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cull-Lions-Darkening-Stars-Book-ebook/dp/B00LG74IGS

http://solsticepublishing.com/the-cull-of-lions/

Social Media Links:
Amazon author’s page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Iles/e/B004YZBP3I
Website: http://www.markiles.co.uk
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/welcometoearth
Facebook author’s page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Iles/279162705557698
Linkedin: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/mark-iles/33/67a/822
Blog: http://markiles.co.uk/the-blog

End of infectious amnesia

July 3, 2014
Aria3-cover

Cover art by Andy Bigwood

Hey peeps, I’m utterly proud to announce the release of the final and third book in my ARIA TRILOGY
ARIA is the thrilling, award-winning, scifi medical mystery and apocalyptic drama that everybody should be talking about and would be if they hadn’t forgotten it through the infectious amnesia at its heart.

ARIA stands for Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia.

This is the publisher’s information and sales page. All formats. I’ll post Amazon links too in a while. So many of you have asked when the final book is out and here it is. Enjoy.

http://www.ll-publications.com/aria3.html

In case you are inspired to read the first book in the trilogy, the price of the ebook has been slashed to less than the price of a coffee as you’ll see on these pages: #kindle now http://amzn.to/1daTUUn UK – http://amzn.to/1gn3iHI

Highlights:
1. ARIA is the first and so far only book to use the concept of infectious amnesia.
2. Although character-led, the novel has breakthrough plot threads, making us think of what is the most important and crucial aspects of our lives. Research help and support was emailed from space! Astronaut Leroy Chiao answered my questions about the nature of the struts on the International Space Station, and wished me luck with the book.
3. All the places on Earth used in the book are real geographical locations, including the ‘hidden’ valley – Anafon – in North Wales.
4. The cover art is designed by award-winning artist, Andy Bigwood.
5. The idea of infectious amnesia came while I was riding a bicycle up a steep Welsh hill.
You tube video trailer http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU
Facebook page for you to ‘like’ if you will http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy

A typical review of book one:

http://www.brewingpassion.com/2014/06/across-beer-bar-withumi-forgot.html

A wikia page about me and the ARIA Trilogy is http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

News on buying a box set of the ARIA Trilogy is coming soon.
Anyone wanting signed copies of any of the books please send me a message here in a comment or email geoffnelderATyahooDOTcom or message me on facebook.

Two stents heavier

June 26, 2014

patientSo, on Saturday my wife needed to pop into part of Chester hospital so while I waited I thought I’d pop into A&E just to see if there was a queue. All of them sports injuries. The ‘streaming’ nurse asked so I mentioned the chest pains and … whoa. I was fast-tracked past the bleeding queue and into the Acute Medical Unit. My stable angina had upgraded itself to unstable and I was in an ambulance joking with the paramedics to Liverpool’s Heart & Chest Hospital. So now I am home, heavier with two stents in my coronary artery and more meds than a Lloyds Pharmacy.
During my enforced rest I was able to edit my new book I wrote in one day at a writers’ retreat in Lanzarote last week. String Theory – for infants. Inspired by the fact that my grandkids have learnt I’m an orfer and want to read one of my books (gulp – those naughty bits!). Trying to do the illustrations myself and learnt that I’m ace at drawing string.
By coincidence I learn that my aunt Jo – sister to my dad – experienced angioplasty this week too. Come on Nelders, Live long and prosper – prosper in the health and literary sense.

Kim, at UKAuthors asked if I’d written a hospital story. Yes, back in 2005 this one won best short of the month on the BeWrite Community Forum flashes.

Impatient
By Geoff Nelder

They never get it right. Damn fracture clinic. Look at that queue – I’m early for my ten-twenty but they’ve got new bookings mixed with return patients. The fifteen minutes in this sweaty line will make me late – their fault.
They won’t admit it. They’ll pull a face as if I couldn’t be bothered to fall out of bed.
“Card?”
“How d’you expect me to find a pokey bit of card after three weeks? I have a bust arm you know. Get real.”
“Name?”
“Carter, John, nineteen-fifty.”
“What’s nineteen-fifty?”
“When I was born, what d’you think? The time? Though it might be – the rate you’re going.”
“I don’t need…there you are,” she says, fishing out a large card envelope, plastered with old labels – probably all deceased. My name is the current owner. She slings the file into a wire tray.
“Take a seat over there.”
My turn to be glared at by the dozen already sitting. They look away when they see they don’t know me, or want to with my exaggerated turned-down mouth. The trickiest bit is choosing a seat. You’re in it for a long time so you don’t want to pick up bugs from some festering neighbour. Not that fractures are infectious. On the other hand, they might be communicable judging by the barging about I’ve done with my cast and I saw a nurse go for a nose-dive when she tripped over the crutch wielded by sourpuss over there.
Best get a seat next to a table, even if it’s loaded with last year’s magazines – all women’s twaddle. You can stretch your elbow without starting a fight and get another read minus a stare repeat. Damn, the only vacant seat is between two tramps. I hate hospitals.
The two elderly women fidget to let me in. Everybody is ancient – might as well be an old folk’s home. I tell a lie; a kid’s come in with his left arm in a cast – like mine. I wouldn’t let anyone use their filthy pens all over mine like his – prat. I have one bit of red writing my Liz wrote when I was asleep. Silly old git. A graduate and all. I’ve tried to clean it off but the plaster started disintegrating – anyway the sling hides it.
“1,950 appointments not kept last year,” says a poster. I’m not surprised; most were probably dead or self-healed in the reception queue and went home.
“Are you carrying a donor card?” As if anyone would want my breaking-up bits.
Ah, the one just called was queued two in front of me in reception. I wonder if they’re seeing us in appointment order? What a name – Gervaise Happentrot – that’s what it sounded like. No secrets here. At least you’re not unusual wearing plaster: no kids point and laugh because they’re in the same fix.
The biddy next to me spots another victim.
“Hello, you’re Maureen from Cilcain, aren’t you? Couple of weeks back?”
“Yes, and you live in Chester. I turn round to my Harry and said lifelong friendships are made in these queues.”
“I remember, we swapped magazines.”
“Yours coming off today then?”
“Yes, and you?”
“Might be. My Harry said he hoped so. I turned round and said –“
I can’t help laughing. They glare.
Maureen shoots words at me: “You men expect us to slave all the time. This cast has been a Godsend.” They both nod at each other then at me.
“No love. It’s the image of you spinning every time you speak…”
They turn their backs in puzzlement and carry on. I can’t listen anymore even though there is nothing else to do except contemplate and employ unfocussed staring.
Could focus on the TV suspended from the ceiling. Not working – probably don’t want to excite us with hospital dramas where things happen.
Hey, that kid’s being seen before me. My word-oozing daughter would be going on about non-pre-emptive priority.
Damn. I can’t risk leaving my seat for the hospital shop. They might call me or some rat will take my seat.
Double damn, I can’t risk going for a slash either. I hate hospitals.
“John Carter!”
“That’s right. Where else does a little girl like you have the right to shout out our private first names to the public?”
“I’m sorry?”
“So you should be. In here?” I follow her pointing fingers as a mixture of sniggers and agreeing nods react to my rant.
“Bugger me. Another waiting room?”
“The consultant will only be a few minutes. Sit on the bed and slip off your jacket,” she says, for the zillionth time today and left me alone in the one-bed room.
More posters; one depicts the permutations of skeletal problems but more interesting is the directions over the sink for washing hands. Do I use soap or the non-soap detergent? If my hands are cold, do I use the latex gloves with or without talc? It’s all here. Decisions.
“John Carter?”
“Still the same,” I reply to the fourteen-year old consultant who comes in reading my file with one eye, the other scanning my X-ray. He taps my cast.
“Want to scratch your arm?” says pimply.
“What do you bloody think?”
“Nurse, take this man to the plaster room, he’s having it off today.”
“Yes, doctor. Now come on, John, it’s time we saw a smile.”
I can’t help but crack my face a little after weeks of inconvenience, and follow her out into the packed waiting room, down the corridor lined with more peopled chairs and into another alcove.
“Wait here, John.”
“Not another bloody waiting room?”
“You can watch your language and be patient.”
I grab a dog-eared Private Eye off a table just as a leg-plastered woman stares.
“Oh, hello,” she says.
“Sorry, I don’t know you: I live in the next county.”
The damn woman persists: “In Oswestry. You were my GP – Doctor John Carter!”

Nelder News:

Abandoned Luggage in the ARIA Trilogy is out on July 1st. Watch this space.

ARIA (winner of the P&E Readers’ Poll for best SF novel) on wikia http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

Another web database here http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/nelder_geoff

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

You tube video trailer for ARIA http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU

Like if you will, the ARIA facebook page at http://on.fb.me/12vz7IW

http://geoffnelder.com

Weapons Sold Separately – free story

June 7, 2014

torchFor the June 28th meeting of the Chester Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Readers Group (everyone invited – 2pm meeting room upstairs), Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers is to be discussed. In 2005 Issue #5 a humorous story of mine was published in Jupiter magazine. Entitled Weapons Sold Separately, it was inspired by my reading of Roadside Picnic. Here is a tweaked version of my tale.

The title was inspired by a random words computer program used by a speculative fiction website called The Rumour Mill, which has sadly closed after its owners were sued by Publish America. Some Rumour Mill contributors concocted a spoof novel, Atlanta Nights, to demonstrate that Publish America was nothing more than a vanity press with no editing or checking in operation. Ironically, the plot-flawed, ridiculous-charactered Atlanta Nights became a best seller!

Weapons Sold Separately
By Geoff Nelder

Forcing himself to bear the Nevada desert heat, Jethro Zedwe’s spine shivered as behind him a roar thundered closer. His meditation in control, he suppressed his anger.
The purple red hues of the baking sandstone cliffs and ravines had only one human to take it all in. Standing on a red sandstone rock overlooking Signal Gulch, he opened his arms to take in the spirits of his Shoshone ancestors and chanted, “Gwananaa, gwananaa.” He had no idea what it meant except that it was an important Shoshone spiritual word and it would endear him to the ancients. For centuries they’d enjoyed hard but ancient lives in the ravines below. Duped out of their homelands, their spirits remained in the dust, the rocks, and the very air he breathed. He’d promised the eagle’s feather he kept in his New York apartment that this summer he’d come to absorb the spiritual atmosphere, the ennui. Although both of his parents looked as Caucasian as a chalk cliff, he resembled a Hollywood Pocahontas. Even to the beaked nose and black hair. Pity his gravestone teeth were yellow and crooked; but he’d never needed treatment and wasn’t letting any cosmetic orthodontist loose in his mouth. So, what the hell was a damn airplane doing flying too low over the sacred ground?
Over his right shoulder, a blunt-nosed grey airplane headed for the ravine floor.
“Damn USAF disturbing my ancestors,” he said, kicking up a mini-dust storm, while he evil-eyed the craft. “Well, there ain’t no airstrip out there, buddy. Whoa, that’s a crash-land.” A rising cloud of disturbed sand and grit met his eyes a full three seconds before the awful grinding noise hurt Jethro’s ears. He knew he wasted time but he unfolded the most detailed map he had of Phantom Gulch. A track wound its way north to Tonopah USAF rocket test range. Jethro nodded at the supposed link to the crash-landed plane. He’d have to drive his motor home off road but the desert surface should be Okay.
It took him twenty minutes to tease the vehicle off the ridge, down a rough track and another mile down a dried riverbed to the crash site. If the rocket was painted grey yesterday, it had a sandy coat now. At a hundred yards, and the width of two buses, it outsized the typical USAF test rocket Jethro had expected to find. Amazingly, it seemed undamaged though any undercarriage would be wire wool. No markings – typical of secret government projects.
The nose of the rocket had bulldozed a dune of its own, so that if there was a forward window, it was covered now. Scrambling round to the left, he saw that he’d made an error when he thought the rocket had escaped damage. Jagged bedrock had scraped all the left side and had sprung a cargo door.
He come out here as a temporary escape from the hustle of his commodities dealership job in the New York Stock Exchange, but a gleam sparkled in his eyes. There, in this rocket, plane, spaceship or whatever, lay a treasure trove of merchandise ready for the taking. Resting on the edge of the doorway, his hand sank a quarter-inch into the metal. Jethro, stunned, jumped back and fell. Cautiously, he crept back on his fours, brushed loose sand off the outer skin of the spaceship and poked. Again, it behaved like a silver sponge with increasing resistance so, at most, only his fingertip went in.
He went back to his motor home, heaved himself up the ladder to the roof and looked around. The dust had settled but he anticipated imminent search and rescue. Fine, no sign of anyone. He slid back down and ignoring nagging cautionary thoughts clambered into the gaping cargo door. A light came on. Then he stopped. If a sensor flipped a light switch, it might signal his intrusion to an alarm. Too late and the booty before him was too alluring to ignore. Silvery soft packaging protected most of the merchandise. Jethro whistled with impressed delight at the boxes of electronic gadgets, most of which were easily portable.
Half an hour later his whistling transformed to gut-hurting laughter. The weird markings on the gadgets added to his alien-origin hypothesis. All the better. If he could figure out how they worked, he’d make his fortune, but he’d have to hurry. Helicopters were bound to arrive any moment.
Each time he scrambled to his vehicle, he looked for incoming vehicles, air or land. Each time he thought he had enough already but the next load could contain a futuristic Eldorado he’d be foolish to leave for some soldier. Eventually, his quivering stomach made him climb into the driver’s seat and create his own cloud of dust. Maybe no one knew about the crashed spaceship but him. He could sneak back after a few days, coincidental-like.
The nearest town was Tonopah, but he knew it would be stuffed full of the armed services so he motored on south to Vegas.

The back street motel lacked the mega-wattage lights of The Strip, but it had wifi in his room, and a parking place for the motor home.
Jethro had the jitters. Over excitement and fear nagged at his stomach. Eager to set up a sales pitch yet bothered that he might have committed a crime, and not only on Earth. He had to calm down. The motel shop could have sold him all the provisions he needed but he felt an hour of a snack and contemplation in the café would do him more good.
The aromatic Colombian coffee lifted his spirits. He ate maple syrup pancakes as he thought through his best strategy. After selecting and ascertaining what some of the gadgets did, he could take a few to a regular re-sales shop but he’d rather deal anonymously with his clients and he reckoned he’d get more money selling on the web. He lifted his coffee cup to sniff the aroma. Looking through the wisps of steam he saw a little girl staring at him. He put his cup down and smiled at her. As usually happens, she turned and ran back to mommy, who on listening to her, turned to frown at him and his yellow teeth. Just as he wondered whether to go over and apologise for smiling, a wardrobe-sized heavy sat in front of him, replacing his view of a scowling woman with one of a black beard and a baseball cap, sporting the motif – Kill.
The feeling he wasn’t as relaxed as he should became emphasised when he read the tattooed words on Kill’s knuckles. LOVE and HAT. He was missing the little finger on his left hand. Hardly able to control his mirth, Jethro decided it was time to go back to his vehicle and take one of the packages back to his room. Luckily, the silvery coffee-table size box didn’t look too much out of the ordinary if anyone saw him.
Kneeling on the thick pile carpet, he peeled back the top of the box, revealing hand-sized packages inside. His heart rocking with both fear and excitement, he took one and unwrapped it. A torch. All that trouble for a poxy little kid’s torch. Throwing it on the carpet, a blinding light told him that maybe they weren’t all toy torches.
“Whoa,” he called out and immediately shushed himself. The light dimmed but the torch still emitted the brightest light he’d seen away from a house-sized searchlight. He picked it up ensuring he pointed it down and away from his eyes. Prodding at the bumpy sides the light extinguished itself. Encouraged, he opened more packages. His delight at finding a pair of binoculars turned to dismay when he realised they saw straight through buildings; what use was that? His smile returned when he tried an earpiece. He couldn’t figure its function until a TV commentator spoke Spanish – after a few moments the earpiece fed him the translation. There were other items that appeared to do nothing although he dared not press them too much in case they operated in wavelengths he couldn’t detect, but were frying his brains.
This was even more so for the larger pointy things that were likely to be weapons. His solution was to operate a scam. No, sorry, more of a web-based lucky dip. Let the punters find out what the gadgets really did.
He set up a virtual market stall on the well-known internet shop, Obay.

Fantastic wacky gadgets
Super advanced technology
You just gotta have one

He found some science fiction images, added a link to his global pay account he used for dodgy share dealings and hovered his finger over Enter. Just in time he added the clinching pitch:

Surprise out-of-this-world gift with each purchase

Then he pressed Enter.

Oops, he forgot about the military hardware. Internet shopping regulations meant he had to make different checking arrangements for them. No sweat. Just a pretence of exercising additional security checks on clients. He accessed his website edit program and added another button with a missile icon:
Weapons Sold Separately
Of course he elaborated on linked pages: just enough to make gadget lovers drool. Half an hour and three coffees later, he split the laptop screen into two windows. The left filled with client data, the right with his accumulating account. He rubbed his hands, dived for the yellow pages and used his phone to arrange a courier service to bring postal service bags and take away his sold items.

Strangely, he felt bigger. It must be all the laughing he felt obliged to do. Back in the café, he even laughed when he barged into Kill, who, clearly worried at the bursting overconfidence of the Native American in safari clothes, backed off. Jethro settled to an all-day breakfast at 9pm, looking around for more children to smile at and scare away.

His delirium at making a mint out of his chance discovery turned to worry after the courier took away the last but one package on the third day. He didn’t think he ought to stay any longer. It wasn’t as if he had done anything really wrong. No one on the planet could claim they owned the merchandise. No one knew he’d taken them and the descriptions he gave were vague enough to prevent any buyers’ rights lawyers from taking up action against him. Even so, it was better to avoid trouble than be in the right to fight it. His motel room looked a riot of packaging material, both alien and terrestrial. His smile returned at the chaotic sight. He reached for his travel bag to throw in his toiletries and laptop before leaving when a loud thump accompanied the opening of the door.
“Jethro Zedwe?” said the man in a dark suit, backed up by armed police.
“Who wants to know?”
Another suit stepped in from hiding behind the doorway. “The government.”
Jethro sat heavily on the pile of packaging covering his bed. So much for his really good idea of stealing from aliens. He might have known the government would want it all.
“Actually, Mr Zedwe just left. I’m clearing up. If you hurry you might catch him.”
“Maybe we could drive that Winnebago outside. The one hired out to you,” said the first suit.
“All right. I am Mr Zedwe. I want a lawyer.”
“Really? You done something wrong?”
“Why else are you here?”
“We are IRS. You have a hundred thousand dollars in unpaid taxes over the last three years.”
Jethro laughed. The men snarled.
“Will you take Goldcard?”

Jethro’s mouth ached from his permanent grin all the way back to New York. He called in at his apartment to unload one last box of gadgets, kept as a keepsake, before returning the motor home to the hire company. He ruefully shook his head at the memory of his journey’s purpose. He’ll have to catch up with the spirits of his ancestors another time.
As he laced up his high-tech trainers for his regular evening jog, Jethro thought of who he might have sold the weapons to. As when he made surreptitious share dealings, he tried not to contemplate his contribution to unpleasantness somewhere on the planet. He laughed off the notion playing in his head that one of the gadgets might have been a planet buster.
He took his alien torch with him; not because he was going to run in dark places but he reckoned the bright light would be a more effective mugger-scarer than the personal alarm he carried. The sidewalk reflected the amber street lamps and made slurpy soughing noises with his jogging. Three blocks later, he approached the newsstand from which he usually bought a paper and a large bag of chips, made acceptable by the run.
“Got a light?” said a heavy male voice behind him.
“I sure have, try this,” said Jethro, turning. He pressed the side of the torch with anticipatory delight. The searchlight beam whitened the potential assailant, the sidewalk, the wall behind and probably the room behind the wall.
“Hey, I am so sorry, Reverend,” said Jethro, when he saw the man’s dog collar. He squeezed the torch but it wouldn’t turn off. As he tried harder the beam cut through the air in all directions, followed by wails, screams and car-screeches.
“Turn off, damn you,” Jethro shouted. The light stopped. Actually, it stopped about five metres away from the end of the torch, and slowly inched back into it.
The newsvendor, safe in his box, said, “Now that’s an impressive trick, mister.”

Even the reverend must have been impressed because after he’d stood from being on his back, he returned to the ground, on his knees.
More observers gathered, watching in fascination as the apparently solid white light cone retreated slowly into the torch. A minute later the end of the light-beam reached the torch, and the crowd started to dissipate, muttering. Jethro turned to apologise to the reverend, who had stood once again. But the man stared at the nearby street lamp. Jethro looked up and saw the lamp dim and fizzle out. Shards of amber light flashed from the extinguished lamp to the torch.
Jethro had a weird idea and pointed the torch at part of the nearby brick wall, which was illuminated by another light. A circle on the wall darkened until it became black. The torch sucked in light.
“That’s impossible,” said the newsvendor. The reverend fell again to his knees in supplication to his God. Some of the dissipating crowd started to return.
“Stay back,” shouted Jethro. “Suppose it isn’t just light it’s sucking up.”
“You mean it might be vacuuming electrical energy?” said one.
“Our life-force?” said another, stepping backwards. “Or maybe it is a portable black hole. Turn the fucker off.”

“I am trying to, but it won’t.” Thoughts of the other twenty he sold flashed through Jethro’s mind. Another man lifted the lid of a nearby trashcan and indicated it to Jethro, who threw the torch in.
The crowd closed in once more. Jethro glanced up at unaware passer-byes, who looked curiously at what appeared to be street-theatre until they saw the star was a trashcan. Sure enough the area immediately around the can dimmed, darkened and went black. A slowly widening circle of black spread from the trashcan.
The newsvendor said, “It can’t go on sucking light up forever, can it? It is too small. When does it run out of batteries?”
Jethro had entertained the thought of power supplies to the gadgets but assumed that somehow the aliens had worked around them.
“Don’t be stupid,” said the man who suggested the trashcan. “All that light going into the torch is its energy supply.”
They all looked at the increasing circle of dark and muttered oaths to people who weren’t backing up fast enough.
“Suppose it goes in cycles,” said the newsvendor. “Once it’s had its fill of light it goes into reverse and blasts it out again.”
Everyone nodded at the eminently sensible conservation of energy equation, and it suggested to Jethro that he might not have started a NYC or even global disaster after all. Nevertheless, the light continued to be sapped, now stretching across the road.
A police patrol car alerted them with a short siren wail.
“Excellent,” said the man who suggested the trashcan as he lifted the lid, grabbed the torch and rushed over to the open window of the police car. “Here, we want to hand in this lost property.”
“We do?” asked Jethro, who joined the rest making themselves scarce leaving the cop puzzling over the silver tube that didn’t seem to do anything.
Jethro peeped around a corner to see the cop throw it in his glove compartment as he drove off. A few moments later, the car lost all its lights and stalled. Jethro ran in the opposite direction.

Sitting at his kitchen table, cradling a glass of Bourbon, Jethro perspired partly from the run but mostly in wondering about the other gadgets he’d sold and the remainder in the box behind him. He rummaged and fished out the translating earpiece. Tuning the TV to a foreign language convinced him the translator worked fine.
He tentatively removed an object the size and look of a clothes iron. After the torch debacle, he kinda hoped it was just that. But the flat section was concave. He turned it over and a metallic voice came through his earpiece.
“Incoming missile return to sender deflector.”
Jethro smiled. A cool piece of defensive technology.
“Activated.”
“Oh, shit.” Jethro put it on the table and sat back from it. Nothing happened but he realised nothing would until a missile headed towards it. Laughing, he crumpled up a phone bill and tossed it at the concave dish. The ball of paper stopped and shot back to Jethro’s hand.
“Wow, though it would’ve been even better to have sent my bill directly back to the Bell company. It looks like I’ll have at least a dozen satisfied customers with that one.”
He had another rummage in the box and came up with a matt-black matchbox. He put it on the table and stared at it. For all he knew it could be a tiny weapon of mass destruction or – just a matchbox. He tapped it gently with a pencil. Nothing. He lifted it and was about to open it a little when his earpiece said, “Danger. Nano-midges.”
They must be microscopic artificial flying biting insects. The sort that would get into your ears, nose, mouth and… Ugh. He threw the box at his open window. It didn’t get there. It hovered where the glass should have been and flew straight back to Jethro’s hand, which was fisted by then. So the box fell to the table. Fearing it might open and let out the nano-midges, he snatched at it, but was it too late? He sat there for a minute, staring at the box looking for any sign of ant-like creatures although he knew they might be too small for him to see. His nose tickled…
The shower was to short-circuit the little nasties, wash them out of his crevices and generally put them off, if they were on him. Logic told him that the return-to-sender-missile-deflector should have returned them to their box and maybe it had. Every itch worried him and worry produced more itching.
Checking his laptop, he found that he’d sent a matchbox as a freebie to all fifty-six customers. He developed a headache when he wondered if the damn things reproduced, what they fed on and if they can be stopped outside of their boxes. He might have been responsible for the eating away of planet Earth. He wondered how long it would take for Earth to be reduced to a cloud of crumbs.
His door intercom buzzed.
“Who is it?”

“Mr Jethro Zedwe?”
He peered at the scratchy camera image. Two men in suits.
“You are those IRS men again, aren’t you?”
“Are you going to let us in?”
Jethro released the door.
The two men were followed by two grimmer-looking men.
“Did you want more of my money?”
“We are agents from the International Trade branch of the FBI. I am Mr Grant. Trying to bribe government officials, Mr Zedwe. That’s very serious. Make a note, Mr Green.”
“I meant it to cover any tax deficit.”
“We are not interested in your sordid little tax situation, Mr Zedwe. We want to know where you acquired shed-loads of foreign electronic goods. Where’s your import licence? We believe some have come from embargoed countries. Are those some of them, there?”
“What? I found them and so I don’t need any licence and I assure you they haven’t come from any embargoed country. Oi, don’t touch them. They’re dangerous.”
“Really, Mr Zedwe?” said Mr Green, grabbing what appeared to be a plastic orange out of the box of gadgets. Suddenly the orange expanded and enveloped him.
Mr Green could be seen through the translucent skin, panicking as if he couldn’t breathe.
“Interesting,” said Mr Grant, as his hand couldn’t penetrate the envelope. “Calm down, Mr Green, you’ll be fine. Breathe slowly. And you, Mr Zedwe, say this force field, or whatever it is, isn’t from a foreign country?”
Jethro stood, mouth open, which is what Mr Green was doing but without taking in air. The earpiece, still in his ear, was repeating a phrase. “Malfunction, air exchange inoperable. Returning to standby mode.”
“No,” shouted Jethro, thinking that the orange envelope will shrink-wrap Mr Green.
“No, what?” said Mr Grant, drawing a firearm from inside his jacket. In response the other men did the same. It seemed to give an oxygenation idea to Mr Green who drew his gun, pointed it at the ceiling and fired.
“No,” shouted Jethro, but no one could hear as in the noise and confusion the bullet from Mr Green’s gun went through the envelope, turned and went into the left shoulder of the agent behind Mr Grant. Assuming they were under attack, the other agent behind Mr Grant fired his gun at Jethro. The bullet stopped and headed out of the window.
“Missile deflector malfunction, source co-ordinates unascertainable,” said the earpiece. Jethro groaned, thinking of all the bullets, rockets, and projected items being deflected in random directions by these faulty gadgets he’d sold.
Mr Green fired again within his envelope. This time the bullet ricocheted around inside the orange, which had started shrinking. It was like watching a large animated model of electrons randomly orbiting a nucleus. He would have screamed but he was asphyxiating by both lack of air and being shrink-wrapped.
Jethro could see that the awful sight, and the wounding of the agent shocked the others into silence. They didn’t know who or what to fire at.
The door intercom buzzed again but no one felt obliged to respond to it. A few more buzzes and it stopped. The door slowly opened revealing two women in Armani suits.
“Attention people,” said the earpiece, although only Jethro could hear it. “One of you have our merchandise. We have come to reclaim.”
“Hey,” said Jethro. “I found those gadgets in the desert. Anyone could have found them and hurt themselves or other people.”
One of the “women” smiled in a robotic jerky fashion. “We thank you for safe keeping of the merchandise, but they are faulty goods on their way to be repaired. The malfunction on the return-to-sender missile deflector activated itself and caused the unmanned cargo ship to deviate from its journey and…”
“Just a minute,” said Jethro. “Where is the planet you are from, and where is the repair depot the cargo ship was headed for?”
“We are not obliged to answer you,” said the “woman”.
“Fine, then I shan’t tell you where all the gadgets are,” said Jethro, hoping his involuntary glance at his laptop hadn’t given himself away.
“The ship has been travelling for many years.”
“And the repair depot?” said Jethro, hoping a local base might offer a trading opportunity.
“Back on our planet. The malfunction occurred while in sub-orbit flight from one continent to the other.”
“What? You mean the cargo ship went off course for zillions of miles, for decades? Why did it come here?”
“Your planet accidentally intercepted the ship. The navigation system malfunctioned. The ship has been in orbit around your planet for centuries before coming down a few days ago.”
“Doesn’t anything work properly? Your faulty goods are probably killing people and destroying our planet as we chat away here. I – we – need compensation.”
“We wish you to hurry, we have to go back to our home. Our home…”
At that moment the earpiece fell out of Jethro’s ear.
“Say that again please?” he said.
“Gwananaa,” the alien said, in perfect Shoshone. “Gwananaa.”

The End

Geoff Nelder © 2014
Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY
And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY
Geoff facebooks at http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy and tweets at @geoffnelder

Science Fiction Sampler

June 4, 2014

samplerWriting groups are so useful. I belong to one in Chester, which specialises in fantasy and they critiqued for me a story entitled something like When Where Many are One a few months ago. The story was tweaked and changed to Een’s Revolt on Zadig and published this evening in a mostly American anthology Science Fiction Writers Sampler 2014 on Kindle at

Science Fiction Writers Sampler 2014

Science Fiction Writers Sampler 2014

Buy from Amazon

or for the US http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KREH10G
it’s 77p and besides me there’s a host of science fiction writers for you to sample including Mark Iles, David Conyers, David Kernot, Guy Immega, Brad Torgeson, Gustavo Bondini, Patty Jansen and brilliant others.

Abandoned Luggage is on its way

June 3, 2014

At last, the final and third book in the much-talked-about ARIA Trilogy is to be released on July 1st. The original, unique idea of infectious amnesia spurred the first book Left Luggage and its great cover art by award-winning artist, Andy Bigwood. If you want to catch up then glance at the video trailer and excerpt at

http://www.ll-publications.com/leftluggage.html

What If…? 10 Creative Writing Prompts for June

June 3, 2014

geoffnelder:

I always enjoy Dave Haslett’s What if…? posts. They often trigger an unusual story idea.

Originally posted on The official ideas4writers blog:

Here’s this month’s selection of “What If…?” creative writing prompts to inspire you – let’s see what you can do with these!

Starting from this month we are beginning a brand new collection, which will eventually form part of Volume 2 of The Fastest Way to Get Ideas – 4,400 Essential What Ifs for Writers.

What if…

1. you had many regrets and set out to fix them all?

2. every town/city had its own god?

3. everyone had their own god?

4. cars were sentient beings with unique personalities?

5. computers were sentient beings with unique personalities?

6. smartphones were sentient beings with unique personalities?

7. someone had made a sex tape in which you featured – without your knowledge (bonus: and then it happened again!)?

8. one of your private family photos was used in an advertisement without your permission (bonus: and then it happened again!)?

9…

View original 117 more words

Abandoned Luggage is coming!

May 30, 2014

july12014Publisher Jim Brown of LL-Publications tells me that the final and third book of the ARIA Trilogy entitled Abandoned Luggage is to be released on July 1st 2014.

If you want to place an advance order just let me know but I’ll be telling EVERYONE at the time too.

A reminder of what happened in the first two books follows.

ENCAPSULATION OF THE FIRST TWO VOLUMES OF THE ARIA TRILOGY.

In 2015, a case found in the struts of the International Space Station is brought to Earth. It releases a virus, giving people amnesia. They lose their memory at the rate of a year’s worth every week. No one is immune. Infectious amnesia is unheard of. Industry breaks down as people forget where they work and how to perform their duties. People die as they forget their medication and production ceases along with food, water supply and energy. A few small groups realise what is happening in time and find isolated refuges. Ryder takes a group to a secluded Welsh valley. Biologists call the virus ARIA: Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia. He communicates with orbiting astronauts, who find a second case and bring it with them to Wales. The second case has a counter-virus that stops the amnesia. Unfortunately, it turns the astronaut doctor, Antonio, into a sociopath. Ryder’s group fly possibly the world’s last operating airplane to a larger, uninfected group on a South Pacific island. As if hypnotised, a few humans with ARIA assemble large domes in France and Canada. Antonio is used by telepathic aliens to coordinate the Canadian construction—he becomes more egotistical. Alien prisoners are brought from a distant star system, Zadok, and are put to work cultivating a strange plant. A third case is robotically brought from orbit to a French group, who plant it with explosives on an alien ship returning to Zadok. Antonio believes he’s thwarted the French and hides on a different ship returning to Zadok.

Cover art is by the talented award-winning Andy Bigwood

Cover art for ARIA: Abandoned Luggage

Cover art for ARIA: Abandoned Luggage

And an advance peep at the acknowledgments and dedication pages too:

Acknowledgements for ARIA: Abandoned Luggage

Once again, I have enjoyed the combined literary wisdom of the Orbiter 7 novel critique group of the British Science Fiction Association. In particular, Mark Iles, James Odell, Chris Riley and the overall Orbiter coordinator, Terry Jackman, have nit-picked, brow-beaten, lacerated and improved my manuscript no end. Even so, any faults are all down to my wackiness and not theirs’.

I am the first person I know who has received an email from space when Leroy Chiao gave me technical help and a 17,000 miles-per-hour wish of good luck – while he orbited Earth on the International Space Station!

My friend, Robert Blevins of Adventure Books of Seattle, gave me moral support as did Gladys Hobson, a fine British writer from Cumbria. The world expert on pleonasms and tight narrative, crime writer and agent, Allan Guthrie, gaveme valuable advice and encouragement.

During this time other novels and over fifty short stories had fled my fingers onto the world, so my style evolved, and is still developing. Perhaps it is in the bronze age now.

Bec Zugor for ensuring the mad Doctor Antonio Menzies curses and woos in appropriate Italian.

Thanks to those many wise readers who voted the first book, ARIA: Left Luggage as the best science fiction novel of 2012 in the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

My wife for putting up with looking at my back while I write, and the Chester Science Fiction Book Groups – yes there are two including The Esoteric Bibliophilia Society (TEBS). John Rennie of both groups offers me sound advice on aspects of the science in my stories (as does my physicist wife) and he, along with Professor Courtney Seligman, suggested ways in which a moon such as Zadik could be cooler than it should be.

The Chester Fantasy Writing Group meets monthly in the library and are brave writers who critique my experiments including a short piece of fan fiction of my own from ARIA where the flying creatures, Toks, have a story of their own.

International online game players like Paul Goodspeed, Steven Whitener, Professor Drucilla Ronchen, Marianne Boehlert, Mary Frances, Kerry Kaufman, and international entertainer, Martin Lamberti, have all bought my works and boosted my ego.

Now for something completely different. I have twitter friends not met elsewhere who actively support the ARIA Trilogy. It would take over 50 pages to mention them all but special thanks to Olga in Moscow @OllyGuseva and Chani @chani_isaacs in South Africa. Cynthia Denny @cgrendy3, Lisa Gillis @LiGillis, Paul J Rega @paulregabooks and Les Floyd @Lesism. Les Floyd is always an inspiration with his wit, philosophy and in boosting my twitter followship. Partly as a homage to him, a cat appears in books two and three of ARIA. He’ll understand.

Find them on my twitter @geoffnelder

My writer friend in Malta, John Bonello, is an inspiration with his own marvellous award-winning fantasy trilogy written in Maltese:Il-Logħba tal-Allat. (A Game Gods Play) Also my Irish pal, Aidan Lucid of the Zargothian Tales.

Award-winning artist, Andy Bigwood, conjures ARIA’s artistic covers. We traded ideas at FantasyCon and BristolCon and exchanged emails to come up with the stunning images you see.

I also acknowledge Jim and Zetta Brown of LL-Publications including editor, Billye Johnson, proofreaders and publicists for their support and encouragement.

Really, ARIA wasn’t written by me. I was merely a large cog in its creation machine.

Dedication

Gaynor, my wife, will not read ARIA, she says, in case she finds herself as a character. She isn’t and yet in some ways she is ARIA, for without her support and bemused tolerance this trilogy would not have been written. Dedicated also to son, Rob and daughter, Eleanor and to both their marvellous families.

Foreword

Not everyone has read ARIA: Left Luggage, the first in the trilogy. Logically, fewer have read its sequel, ARIA: Returning Left Luggage and yet it is mainly those readers who have urged me to finish writing the final volume – this one, Abandoned Luggage. Is it finished now? The sequence of events and lives of the survivors have, by the end of book 3, reached a conclusion beyond which the original and unique premise of infectious amnesia has been left behind. The perpetrators of the ARIA virus were not met until book 2, and in the final book we see their home – or at least what they called home until… you’ll see. It’s no spoiler to say that the universe has not been snuffed out by the end of this series but the infectious amnesia of the first changed Earth forever.

 

Quotes

Annette Gisby: With a thrilling plot and characters you really care about this book is an excellent read. Another surefire winner from Mr. Nelder.

Paul Goodspeed: Nelder’s dialogue is witty, snarky and fun.

Martin Lamberti (International circus entertainer): The plot thickens, of course. This is expected from an excellent author like Geoff Nelder. “Humor delightful, and drama suspenseful.” 5* review

Magdalena Ball (Owner of Compulsive Reader): ARIA mingles the most optimistic calculations from the Drake Equation with a distopian outcome, creating a read that is as intriguing as it is fun.

Kenyon Charboneaux: “If you like your scifi offbeat, original, and backed by science, you’re going to love ARIA.”

Ira Nayman at #Goodreads ARIA: a smart, entertaining gem.

“Without our memories, who are we?”: Kim McDougall of Blazing Trailers.

 

Now all you need to do is hold your breath until July 1st for your Kindle, Nook, paperback or whatever medium device you like!

Time is human

May 15, 2014

dandelionclock

Is Time’s Arrow Science Fiction?

By Geoff Nelder

I knew this question would be raised at TEBS* last night. Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis was my choice of book for the May book group meeting. The novel is about a former Nazi doctor, who’d heinously assisted Josef Mengele in experimenting and killing in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp during the second world war. Jews, political prisoners, trade union leaders, the mentally-deficient and gypsies were mass murdered there. You’d expect such a novel to be full of the horrors of that holocaust and of the efforts and guilt trips (maybe) of the doctor as he made a new life for himself after fleeing Poland to the Americas. What makes this novel different, however, is that the narrator is the consciousness, the soul of the doctor and is told BACKWARDS. The story begins on the death bed of the doctor, but the reader only knows what his consiouscness hears and sees. The time travels backwards including speech and people walking, etc but the brain adapts, and it is all that the narrator knows so it is ‘normal’ although he has a feeling it isn’t right.

Amis employs reverse dialogue, reverse narrative, and reverse explanation in many places. As a writer I find this more amusing than Amis intended. His use of these techniques is likely to be aimed at creating abnormality and disruption for the reader. A recurrent themes in the novel is the narrator’s frequent misinterpretation of events. He accepts that people wait for an hour in a physician’s waiting room after being examined, although at some points he has doubts about this tradition. Relationships are portrayed with stormy beginnings that slowly fade into pleasant romances.

As another reviewer (Wikipedia) pointed out, “In the reversed version of reality, not only is simple chronology reversed (people become younger, and eventually become children, then babies, and then re-enter their mothers’ wombs, where they finally cease to exist) but so is morality. Blows heal injuries, doctors cause them. Theft becomes donation, and vice versa. In a passage about prostitutes, doctors harm them while pimps give them money and heal them. When the protagonist reaches Auschwitz, however, the world starts to make sense. A whole new race is created.”

 

Consider this example of reversed dialogue: “You could run them any way you liked – and still get no further forward”.

“‘You’re very special to me.’

‘Like hell.’

‘But I love you.’

‘I can’t look you in the eye.’

‘Please. You can sleep over.’

‘This is goodbye, Tod.’”

 

Is this forwards, or backwards? It’s both and I love this kind of wordplay. However, not everyone in the book group appreciates it. Obviously it takes the reader out of the fictive dream, where the author is supposed to be invisible. Yes, for those handful of examples you need to read the page then flick your eyes back up to re-read in order to get the most out of it. Many readers either won’t do that or resent it but it is often the case with literary novels to gain optimum appreciation. I am reminded of Pincher Martin by William Golding not just because it requires several readings to absorb all the nuances but, like Time’s Arrow, the whole narrative takes place in the dying moments of the main character.

 

One of the best aspects of science fiction is its defiance of rigid definitions. Early works were hard science fiction where robots, rockets and flying saucers invaded Earth or used to explore space. Time travel, faster-than-light and aliens were all around in H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and considered as science fiction. Where we have giant and miniature humans as in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1725) then we are in fantasy. Not that he thought much about genre. If anything Swift considered his masterpiece to be a parody of the growing middle-class fashion of reading travellers’ tales as well as a satire on people’s foibles. Vampire tales kicked off by Bram Stoker in Dracula (1897) are fantasy because no amount of reasonable projection of current knowledge would create a vampire. It’s easy to classify pixies, dungeons & dragons, and goblins as fantasy – beyond scientific knowledge. Many tales are borderline. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818 / 1831) is well within current knowledge, give or take a transplant and a defibrillator; hence it is science fiction.

As a rough guide, science fiction could be said to be fiction, which stretches current knowledge. Fantasy is pure imagination.

I confess to kick against prescriptive definitions. There is Sturgeon’s Law: “Ninety percent of science fiction is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud.” No arguments there.

Robert Blevins publisher of Adventure Books of Seattle favours Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, who once said: ‘Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible…’ Science Fiction derived its name from the early days of the genre when the stories involved rockets, fantastic machinery, robots, astronomy, new phenomenon and lots more science. Now it can still have those and be very enjoyable too, but more so we relish the improbable coming to credibility in stories, and still label it as science fiction.

I also like Tom Shippey’s definition of science fiction: “Science fiction is hard to define because it is the literature of change and it changes while you are trying to define it.” That bit about change is significant. The huge element of ‘what if’ makes exciting fiction. What if gravity was random in strength and direction? What if time travelled backwards in the consciousness of a dying man? I rest my case that Time’s Arrow is science fiction.

*TEBS = The Esoteric Bibliophilia Society: or booze and science fiction / fantasy book group in Chester.

Geoff Nelder is the British co-editor at Adventure Books of Seattle – a small press publisher of science fiction, true life, and adventurous fiction.

Even so I have to return to a valid test of good stories posed by Nick in our book group: What is the story here? Reduce it to one line and have we something of intrigue or have I just been mesmerised by the style? Take away the plot device of running the story backwards and is it just another holocaust story? Maybe but to me the reversing of time is far more than just a device to make readers engage with a difference perspective. For one thing the consciousness has no awareness of the historical significance (unlike the reader) of what he is about to witness at Auschwitz. The tone is light, humorous although there’s awareness that when the weather and fire creates people who become better and return to their homes on cattle wagon, something is not right. The reader, already traumatized by their own knowledge of the gas chambers and ovens, is double hit by the horror that the consciousness thinks the opposite of bad is happening. One of our members, John, is more shocked by the doctor’s bestial, brutal behaviour to his wife. Beating her and making her do housework while naked. But the consciousness doesn’t see beating in the same way. A person starts black and blue and becomes healthy when a hand hits them. Doubly shocking to us, not to him. Then there’s entropy. The reversal or deconstruction of order is suggested in this reversal of time. I don’t know if that was the intention and I’ve seen it mentioned before though I’m not entirely buying it. A reversal of time doesn’t necessarily create random, chaos out of order, or does it?

Just over half the group enjoyed reading Time’s Arrow but I’m glad I chose it. Anything to make thinking outside the box is good, or to make thinking inverted within the box is good too.

Nelder News

ARIA (winner of the P&E Readers’ Poll for best SF novel) on wikia http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

Another web database here http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/nelder_geoff

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

You tube video trailer for ARIA http://youtu.be/oh0AAXIe8VU

Like if you will, the ARIA facebook page at http://on.fb.me/12vz7IW

http://geoffnelder.com


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