Biohacked & Begging – Stephen Oram

Biohacked & Begging is the second volume of Stephen Oram’s Nudge the Future series, which collects the best of his short near-future fiction pieces.

Containing 25 stories across 170 pages, some of these are obviously very short, but there are so many ideas packed in that it’s a real achievement. It’s a brevity that suits the fast-moving culture we’ve found ourselves in, where apps compete for our attention and information is trucked into our minds at every second. You can easily read a story on a coffee break or commute, though I have to say I found myself racing through this in only a couple of sittings in the end. They’re moreish, see. Like those weird flavours of crisps that you think you’ll try once for novelty and move on, then find yourself licking the packet an hour later… But maybe that’s just me.

Oram forgets no one in his vignettes of future life. Young and old, rich and poor; we’re all hurtling forwards with a real possibility of bio-hacked bodies, behaviour-based payment systems and AI-integrated societies. It will affect all of us differently, especially with an approaching climate crisis and political turmoil layered on top. This makes Biohacked & Begging a necessary kind of book for our time, as well as a necessary form. How better to open eyes, start conversations and play around with ideas than in speculative narrative? This is the kind of science fiction that has always been fuel for imagination and drive: far enough from reality that we thank our lucky stars but near enough that we’re left contemplating. What if that was me?

Continue reading “Biohacked & Begging – Stephen Oram”

Open for Submissions

Vast: Stories of mind, soul and consciousness in a technological age.

Exciting news! Orchid’s Lantern is about to open its doors for the first time. Vast is to be the very first anthology published by our independent press. We’re seeking stories that explore the relationship between technological development and human ontology.

To give an idea of scope, here are a few things to think about:

  • Could machines ever fill the god-shaped hole in man, and what might religions of the future look like?
  • How might developments in electronics, computing or medical procedure aid (or hinder) the transcendence of our mental faculties?
  • What new forms of non-physical communication could emerge, and what effect would this have on the way we live?
  • What can artificial intelligence teach us about the nature of mind, soul and consciousness? Are these qualities only present in living things?
  • How have smart phones, the Internet, crypto currencies and automation already changed the way we think?
  • How might mental illness be helped or hindered by technology?
  • Will mind and matter always be considered distinct?
  • How might the exploration of altered states of consciousness, natural and otherwise, be changed in light of fast-developing scientific approaches?
  • What paths could quantum physics take us down when coupled with future technology, and how might it solve the hard problem of consciousness?
  • How might unconscious desires or biases impact our future?
  • Will the kind of dreams we have, or the way we perceive them, evolve?
  • What direction might the disciplines of philosophy and psychology take in the future?

These are intended to give you an idea of the feel we are going for, and should act as inspiration only. They are not necessarily jumping off points, and they are not the only angles on the theme we will accept.

We want high impact experimental pieces, streams of consciousness, unusual perspectives and fictional accounts of altered states. We want extrapolations and interpretations of our present reality, or visions of drastic changes. The playful and colourful will be juxtaposed with dystopia. We do not want highly fantastical settings unless they explicitly link back to the theme. We want complete stories, not chapters of something bigger.

Please do not send us:

  • Stories of a racist, sexist or bigoted nature (though careful exploration of such themes may be considered)
  • Stories promoting particular religions or political stances
  • Vampires, werewolves, superheroes or magic
  • Erotica

We like: Maniac, Russian Doll, OA, Black Mirror, The Matrix, Philip K Dick, William Gibson, Jeff Vandermeer, Kurt Vonnegut, Cixin Liu, Robert Anton Wilson, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts and Terence McKenna.

 

Particulars

All submissions should be less than 7,500 words. There is no lower limit because we are fans of flash fiction, so long as it is strong and impactful. However we aim to have a variety of lengths in the finished publication.

The initial deadline is 10th September 2019, but we reserve the right to extend this should we not receive enough quality submissions by this date.

We will acknowledge receipt of all submissions, and later respond with an accept, decline, or request for discussion. If you have not received the second email within a month of submission, your piece is being considered and we will be in touch by 10th October. Please do not send follow-up emails unless you wish to withdraw your submission.

Simultaneous submissions to other publishers are allowed, but please let us know straight away if you receive an acceptance so we can remove you from our list.

Each author may submit only one piece for consideration.

Submissions may have been previously published online, but must be removed prior to the publication of this anthology.

We expect to publish the anthology mid 2020.

Contributors will be compensated with a small one-off sterling payment of 0.5p per word (£5 per 1000 words) and two paperback copies of the anthology.

All stories will be checked for grammatical consistency (using British English as we are a UK publisher) and proofread prior to publishing, but we ask that all submissions are in a polished, complete state when you send them to us. Excessive errors or poor form will result in your submission being declined.

A 50 word bio will be required for inclusion in the final anthology. It is not a requirement to send this with your initial submission, but you may do so if you wish.

We are committed to diversity in literature, and as long as they follow our guidelines, we will give all submissions equal consideration. Whether you’re a new or established writer, we welcome your submissions.

Vast will be edited by C.R. Dudley, author of metaphysical collections Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap.

Submissions should be emailed to submissions@orchidslantern.com with ‘Vast’ as the subject line. Documents should be clearly marked with the author or pen name and story title on each page. By submitting, you accept our guidelines detailed above and assert yourself as the copyright holder.

 

We look forward to reading your stories!

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Still have questions? Ask us in the comments below.

Book Giveaway!

A quick note to let you know that my first book, Fragments of Perception and Other Stories, is currently on a Kindle Countdown deal. That means that in the UK you can grab a copy for just 99p, but only for the next 5 days! In the US, it’s even cheaper at 99c for the next 2 days and then $1.99 until Wednesday next week. I’d love for you to give it a try!

Click here for UK listing.

Click here for US listing.

And as ever I have signed paperbacks available here.

Reflections: Reading and Writing Short Fiction

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Writing Short Fiction: The Word Count Limbo

JG Ballard once said in an interview:

“I am very grateful that I started my career as a writer writing short stories because you really learn your craft. You can also explore yourself; if you write a huge number of short stories it doesn’t take you long to realize you have certain strengths and weaknesses and that your imagination leans towards one corner of the compass. I think young writers today are tempted into writing novels far too early.”

That pretty well matches up with my experience as a writer so far. And I would add that short stories are a great way to get your name out there, either by sharing them on a blog or submitting to anthologies and journals.

I started out writing fragments of stories: just ideas, really, but written as prose rather than notes, and usually in first person. I progressed to writing ‘proper’ flash fiction with more curated content between 300 and 1,000 words. I wrote them in great numbers and shared them in multiple formats, so I got lots of feedback on what worked and what didn’t. In particular I learned where the uniqueness of my style shone and where it felt forced or mechanical. Continue reading “Reflections: Reading and Writing Short Fiction”

New Reviews

I’m thrilled to tell you that Mind in the Gap has been getting some very positive early reviews! Here are a couple of excerpts from three fantastic book bloggers here on WordPress.

Alexandra Peel says:

“On a superficial level, one could read these as sci-fi stories. The author’s understanding of science terminology is clear, and so we experience Artificial Intelligence (A.I), quantum physics, immersive technology, black holes, futuristic drugs, and insect sized cameras. There’s a whole world of technology on this level.

On another level, it is about human connectedness, the unconscious mind and our place,, not only within the world of technology, but the world, nay, universe as a whole.”

You can read the whole review here, along with Alexandra’s thoughts on other books, writing, and life in general.

Gavin Jefferson says:

“The science fiction is strong throughout, and some of the ideas blew me away. Some are heart-warming, some are terrifying: one felt as if I were reading a long-lost Hayao Miyazaki story. C.R. Is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors.”

You can read the whole review here, along with Gavin’s other reviews, thoughts, and writing journal. I had the privilege of reading his forthcoming novel Almost Surely early too and I highly recommend checking that out. 

David from The Gallifreyan Buccaneer blog says:

“The stories are surreal, short, sharp shocks that transport you to possible futures and are full of bold visions.”

“Sure, it’s metaphysical and tackles some huge issues but it feels to me like a real labour of love. An outpouring of a very clever and very creative mind. It’s literally bursting with ideas and has left me questioning the nature of reality.”

You can read the full review here, along with many other great book recommendations.

Release Day – 23.09.18

It’s release day! 23rd September is not only Autumn Equinox but also a significant date for my characters, so I’m thrilled I could make it today. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered, and to all my advance readers.

Mind in the Gap is now available as an ebook on Kindle and as a paperback from anywhere that sells books. You can also order a signed copy directly from me here.

These 14 connected stories have theories of consciousness melded together with visions of future technology, alternate realities, and as many rabbit holes as you choose to go down… Please check it out and help spread the word!

Mind in the Gap – The Stories

Mind in the Gap has the approval of my advance readers and is now up for pre-order! So, I thought now was a good time to share some more details on the stories in the book with you.

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1. The Predominator

For as long as he can remember, ZXXX84 has lived in an android city protected by a grand ethereal dome. He spends his days chasing targets set by the Triangle Council without ever understanding why, until one day he makes a discovery on the outside that points him in the direction of a greater truth.

2. Baily’s Beads

The biannual reality eclipse has come around again, and on his morning commute, Alex struggles to rationalise its existence.

3. Seek Assistance

A frustrated stock trader finds himself stuck in the London Underground system with only an irrational steering committee and his own compromised mind with which to plot an escape.

4. The Omega Paradigm

In a bizarre twist of medical advance and network design, the psyches of ordinary people are being split into components based on the theories of CG Jung. We follow Jason’s Anima as she tries to understand the purpose of it all, and attempts to make him whole again.

5. Mapmakers

Nav would do anything to escape the targeted advertising and constant live monitoring that is the norm of his time. So when he meets an ally on the bus to work who claims to have the means of taking him off-grid, he jumps at the chance. But can a trail of mind-altering ideas and coincidences lead him to a better life?

6. Spectres

During Meredith’s shift at the museum, shadows start to appear in the augmented reality app designed by her best friend. When she decides to track and collect them, she finds herself on a unique journey.

7. Winter Triangle

For the people of Origin, days can last entire lifetimes. They consider their lifestyle to be utopian, and traverse the many worlds encased in sound waves, to experience all that is on offer. But in accepting a special gift on zir 18th birthday, Shay takes on far more than ze bargained for and is forced to consider the question – who takes responsibility for crimes committed across realities?

8. One

Markus has worked for far too long. He really should have been home to meditate long ago. His brainwaves are in hi-beta and at their most visible to the angels, so he must do his best to mask his error and take cover from their ruthless, alien rules.

9. Chapel Perilous

An inventor is appalled that hippies should be allowed in the first class carriage. But in their own way, they manage to show him a whole new world that may well redirect the course of the future.

10. The Fold

Aaron makes the trip back down to Earth once every 12 weeks, but never before has he been so shaken by what he sees en route. The experience will not let him go, and follows him unsuspecting into his dreams, his private life and finally Blasar, a massive virtual reality entertainment warehouse.

11. Humanity 1.1.

A tiny imp of a man confronts Robyn on her drive home and attempts to explain what the biblical fall was really all about.

12. Frankie

In a world where every thought and emotion is externalised by a piece of worn tech, a meme artist is busy spotting consistencies and constructing little fixtures to hold on to. When things with his lover turn stale, the question arises whether the real community, the real love and the real beauty, is in stability and focus, or in sharing.

13. The Last Man

The City of Greater York is a ghost of the high-tech wonderland it once dreamed of becoming. Lab Technician Zane struggles through his daily routines in the hope that what small difference he can still make will be enough to raise what has been lost.

14. WTF?!

The story in the gaps. WTF?! is a fast and whimsical ride through the back streets of nowhere. M, who professes to be the outcast of a black hole, tries her best to answer every question her companion has about the nature of her reality, and presses him to make a difficult decision about his own.

I’ll leave you with a snippet from the lovely feedback I got from Paul Loughman, because he describes exactly what I was going for with this book. “It feels a times as though it’s a collection of short stories. But it isn’t. Every vignette is essential to the main point, which is so entertainingly and mind-bogglingly complex that the consistencies and connections between the stories (and the running dialogue between) make it an indivisible whole.”

***

Mind in the Gap is available to pre-order on Kindle, or as a signed paperback from Orchid’s Lantern direct. Check it out, add it to your wish list, tell all your friends! And if you are a book blogger, please email orchidslantern@gmail.com to register your interest in a review copy.

Edit: I should point out that although the Amazon page states the paperback equivalent is 159 pages, it’s actually 250. This will be updated shortly.

Toxic Duck Inc.

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My life was pretty peachy before I caught the virus. At least, that’s what they tell me.

My partner, Jaz, and I had managed to save up enough money to travel the world and stay comfortable. We lived in full colour then; climbing mountains, skiing down them, eating in fancy restaurants… And at night, just like everyone else, we would put those little squashy pads against our temples and plug into our phones to upload the memories of the day to the cloud. They say it not only preserves your special moments for ‘fully immersive enjoyment’ another day, but it also improves the efficiency of sleep, security, and peace of mind. Except I have no peace, not anymore.

One evening, after a few drinks in the famous old Tokyo Mixology Lab, Jaz and I got back to our hotel and plugged in. No way were we going to risk losing the memories of that day! Then an alert box appeared on my screen:

Free updates are available. Apply now for extra security?

And I hit ‘yes’. Continue reading “Toxic Duck Inc.”

Mind in the Gap

I’ve been busy working on my second book, Mind in the Gap, and it is finally at the stage I can share some details with you!

My first book, Fragments of Perception, has been a great success as far as I’m concerned. What I’m getting from the feedback, however, is that my readers would like to see my next ideas expanded into longer pieces. So, that is what I have done with Mind in the Gap.

Never content with something straight-forward, I decided I wanted to create stories that are individually entertaining and thought-provoking, but collectively reminiscent of a many-faceted reality; the truth cannot be found in any one story we tell ourselves, only in the whole collection. I doubt whether the un-enhanced human brain has the capacity to perceive the complete picture of our world, so we have to make do with Fragments; one-off polaroid shots at single moments in space and time. But that will never stop us from making a puzzle of it all, and therein lies the nature of being human. Mind in the Gap, therefore, is layered and full of Easter eggs.

Here’s the blurb (subject to change) and the cover, designed by the talented Natasha Snow:

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“The body likes continuity. It’s part of the deal. But the truth is, there are gaps everywhere. Gaps only the mind can slip through…”

Follow M – a strange and chaotic being who professes to be the outcast of a black hole – on a journey like no other. Flowing freely through the back streets of hidden realms, she drives her companion to meet the commuters who cross dimensions, embody future technology, and peek behind the scenes at consciousness; all with one purpose in mind.

Inventive, zany, and often surreal, C.R. Dudley’s style melds the metaphysical with the technological to create dazzling architectures of thought. Mind in the Gap is an extraordinary book of diversions, circular routes, and infinite possibilities. A collection of 14 unique stories and 14 alternate realities with more to connect them than meets the eye.

The edited manuscript is currently with my trusty advance readers, and if there are no major hiccups, it will be released on 23rd September: a significant date for my characters. I can’t wait!

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