Author Interview – Stephen Oram

 

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Stephen Oram is one of my favourite contemporary authors. His debut novel, Quantum Confessions, had a significant influence on me; in fact, it was the book that inspired me to start writing my own. His work primarily examines the way our society works, and how it could be affected by technological developments in the near-future. Stephen works closely with future thinkers and scientists, most notably as part of the European Human Brain Project, and extrapolates their research into accessible, thought-provoking narratives. There is often a dystopian feel there, a warning perhaps, which is all the more poignant once you realise how close to reality some of the ideas really are. Recently, I was lucky enough to be selected to share some of my flash fiction at an event he curates for Virtual Futures, and he kindly agreed to let me interview him for the Orchid’s Lantern blog. I hope you enjoy reading his well-considered answers as much as I did. Continue reading “Author Interview – Stephen Oram”

Smoke Rings

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My office is lit by a small lantern and smells faintly of tobacco even though I haven’t smoked for years. Strange, I think, how it’s still a source of temptation. I look up from piles of paperwork to see my animus slouched in the chair opposite. Just as I expect: legs apart, elbow resting on the desk, cigarette burning continuously. He wears the white linen suit I gave him with effortless style considering his lack of respect for convention. I imagine him firing me a disapproving look for working so late, but I can’t quite bring his face into focus.

“I sent you a load of new material,” he says.

“Yes, thank you; it’s great.”

“You haven’t written it down yet.”

“I’ve been working! You know, on the day job that keeps us sheltered and fed?”

My animus does not understand the concept of ‘day job’. Nor does he understand timing, completion, suppression, or putting things in boxes. Continue reading “Smoke Rings”

Neuro-Apocalypse – Reverend Danny Nemu

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Reverend Danny Nemu’s Neuro-Apocalypse is the second book in the Nemu’s End series. I haven’t read the first, Science Revealed, yet, but it would seem that the order isn’t too important.

In short, this book is a delight. It reminds me of the feeling I got when I read Robert Anton Wilson for the first time: dazzled, amused, and awakened. Although there is a focus on the Bible, Neuro-Apocalypse is no lesson in organised religion. This is a book about language, perception, cognition and revelation; the Bible passages are merely an illustration of what we take for granted as truth.

In the beginning, did God create or was God created in the head? Who defined good and evil? Does the snake really represent temptation, or a reality check? Oh, and did you know there were psychedelic drugs in the Bible?

“Like people in their multi-faceted complexity, like sub-atomic particles spinning spookily, the letters of the Hebrew Bible behave differently in different contexts, depending on the perspective of the person generating meaning from them.” Continue reading “Neuro-Apocalypse – Reverend Danny Nemu”

Near Future Fictions Salon: Virtual Persons

A great write-up of the second Near-Future Fictions event of the year, which featured my brand new story The Test.

Extruded Bodies & Phantom Flesh by Andrew Wallace

Virtual Futures’ March 2018 Near Future FictionsSalon explored the theme of Virtual Persons

Virtual Futures grew out of a series of conferences in the mid-90s that sought to develop a new discipline that would confront the technologisation of culture. Its latest incarnation is a regular ‘Salon’, where philosophical, scientific and creative thinkers combine discussion, performance and fiction to explore current and potential technological extensions of the human condition.

The Near Future Fictions Salons place science fiction centre stage, with previous guest participants including Alan Moore, Pat Cadigan, Gwyneth Jones, Hari Kunzru and Geoff Ryman.

Monday’s event explored the theme of ‘Virtual Persons’:

The digital world is a personality playground that offers us an unprecedented ability to curate and create a public persona – but what does this ability mean for the future of personhood? [from http://www.virtualfutures.co.uk]

Opening keynote by performance artist…

View original post 1,526 more words

Psychopomp

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Johnny found Psychopomp while browsing drug categories on the dark web. It had 6,000 logged purchases worldwide but no user ratings, which the seller said was a true mark of its success: this was a trip from which there was no coming back.

It was three months since Romeo had passed. Accidental overdose. Johnny knew what they were all thinking, but they were wrong. Romeo wouldn’t do that, not even after the money and creativity had dried up. “You should be back out on the scene by now,” his friends said. They meant well, he knew, and cooping himself up in the flat staring at a dead man’s poetry on the walls was surely not a healthy way to spend his days.

He tore himself away from the bedsheets and reached for the fridge, taking out a three-day-old milk carton. A tentative sniff, a moment’s hesitation, then he drank from it anyway, not caring how much spilled. He wiped his mouth on a bare arm and turned back to look in the mirror beside the bed. Could use a shave. A wash, a hair comb; a pair of eyes that weren’t so grey with goddam heartache. His thoughts were interrupted by a clatter at the letterbox: fast, anonymous courier delivery. Psychopomp had arrived.

Continue reading “Psychopomp”

Recent Reading: 5 Reviews in Brief

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The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks by William F. Aicher

Just because you remember it doesn’t mean it happened.”

In this fast-paced sci-fi novel, David Sparks wakes up in a terrifying future. Surveillance, augmented humans and a damaged environment are the norm, though David has no idea how he came to be amongst it. His stream of consciousness is interlaced with memories of an ordinary family life some 100 years earlier, and the drive to keep turning the pages comes from the question: who is David S. Sparks and what is his reality?

This book is full of imaginative technology that gives a varied and colourful illustration of a possible future. It is exciting, action-packed, and potentially divisive. But, like all good sci-fi, it also comes with a warning as to where our obsession with cutting-edge tech and playing God may land us. Continue reading “Recent Reading: 5 Reviews in Brief”

An Interlude

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I thought since I have come out of hibernation, it might be a good time to tell you about a few things I’ve got going on. As I don’t do this too often, you could consider it a bumper newsletter! Here goes:
Writing

While giving the draft of my novel, The Enlightenment Machine, some space to breathe, I ended up plotting and starting to write another in the same world. Technically it tells the story of events preceding The Enlightenment Machine, so working on that has given me a good idea of what needs changing on the first for consistency and a stronger story arc. I also have a vague idea for how a third might go, so it’s looking like this might be a trilogy. I know how to set my targets high, that’s for sure!

Despite aiming to complete some longer works, I still love writing short fiction. I have so many ideas for new stories; if I stopped giving them a platform, they’d sneak their way into the novels and that would get messy fast. So, as well as the standalone pieces I post on the blog, I am working on a new collection. It’s going well so far, and I have plans to release it at the end of summer. This time it will be completely new material. These stories are a little longer than my usual flash – in the region of 2,000 words each – and have a running theme and a thread connecting them all. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to tell you more.
Editing

I’ve done more beta reads over the last couple of months, as well as some full critiques and editing jobs. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the latter. They have been a great exercise in improving my craft as well as hopefully helping others. I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing. Thank you also to those who are helping me to see my own blindspots.
Fragments of Perception

Fragments of Perception has been out for 4 months now and I am thrilled with how well it is doing. Thank you so much to everyone who has bought a copy and recommended it to your friends. I have 7 reviews on Amazon and 8 on Goodreads, all claiming the book was thought-provoking and unusual, most giving 5 stars.

If you have read the book, please do consider leaving a review as they make a huge difference to indie authors. If you haven’t read the book yet, you can find the full blurb and buying options here.
Book Reviews

My ‘to read’ pile (OK, bookcase) is still ever-growing, but I do love to have unread books around me; I find it inspiring. I’ve just finished Otherworlds by David Luke, and have started on Narrative Machines by James Curcio. The new Borne story by Jeff Vandermeer also just arrived on my desk, along with Brett Anderson’s memoir Coal Black Mornings.

I have decided to lose the ‘marks out of ten’ method for rating books here on the blog in favour of letting readers make their own decision from the words I use. I want Orchid’s Lantern reviews to be respected for their in-depth and well-rounded approach, and I think the score being so prominent was going against that a little. I may still use the traditional 1-5 stars in the footer if people prefer that?

I am open to review requests, but they must be within my genre interests for fiction (metaphysical, sci-fi, fantasy, weird) or for non-fiction (philosophy, psychology, mysticism). As always, I will give a full review to anything that gives me enough to say without spoilers, and a ‘group spot’ for brief reviews of everything else.
Orchid’s Lantern

I have been thinking about where I want to go next with Orchid’s Lantern, and it seems that the natural progression would be to invite guests to share stories and reviews on the blog. I am still working out the details of this, but watch this space if that sounds like it could be of interest to you.
Virtual Futures

On 20th February the first Virtual Futures Near-Future Fiction event of the year took place at Library London. Geoff Ryman was guest speaker, and several other authors were in attendance (including me) to share their fictional interpretations of the future of disease. I’m not a public speaker, so thankfully the organisers paired me up with a talented actress who read my story Toxic Duck Inc to the live audience. It was a great venue, a great bunch of people, and a very high standard of writing. I was honoured to be involved. Recordings of all of the stories will be soon available to view on the Virtual Futures YouTube channel, which is well worth checking out anyway.

If you are local and missed this event, the next one is happening on 20th March. The theme will be Virtual Persons, and I have another brand new story called The Test which will be featured. Tickets are available now from Eventbrite.

And that’s it for now. It sounds like there’s a lot going on, and there is, but I’m loving every minute of it. The light is coming back and I’ve found my most productive rhythm – dream and draft in the morning, edit and proof in the afternoon.

I love to hear your comments, so please do keep interacting on the page and anywhere else you can find me. I am on Facebook, but I’m a bit more active on Twitter.