Micah Thomas is author of the Eudaimonia series – a unique blend of paranormal with literary fiction. In the final interview of our Writers on Lockdown series, he joined me to chat about isolation, spiritual teachers, and layers of meaning.
Hi Micah, welcome to Writers on Lockdown! How are things over there in the US, are you feeling as ‘locked down’ as us?
I have been a shut in for a few years. The isolation certainly has intensified as online friends focus on keeping themselves… I don’t know. Keeping themselves together.
Do you find isolation a help or a hindrance to your creative process?
My creative stages have an isolation mode, where I’m heads down working. The creation place is very private and I don’t like eyes on me. However, my sharing motion needs witnesses and that is tough right now. I’m releasing so much art and writing and it’s really not a good time for it.
So you’ve released two novels so far in the Eudaimonia series, when can we expect the third?
The final novel and the final volume of short stories will both be available in April. I’m formatting Evidence of Changes vol 3 as we speak. The novel will be formatted next month. Then I’m practically done with this Eudaimonia world. Kinda.
For those who aren’t familiar with your work, could you talk a bit about what the Eudaimonia world is?
Jonathan D Clark is author of philosophical novel Arcadia, and his short story The Video was published in our recent anthology, Vast. As part of our Writers on Lockdown series, he joined me to discuss isolation, paranoia, and the dark side of our relationship with technology.
Hi Jonathan, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!
Thanks for having me as part of this series. It’s a pleasure.
How are you surviving in these crazy times, do you find isolation is a help or a hindrance to your writing process?
I’ve always been a rather reclusive individual (going to and from my day jobs throughout the years without speaking to anyone), so besides the limitations on what there is to do around town—and having to snipe for groceries—not a whole lot has changed for me due to the lockdown. Although, it did give me the chance to tell my more extroverted friends “welcome to my domain.” And as for productivity, it did witness a spike in the first week, but it has since slowed back down to its original pace.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
For the past year I’ve been working on my next novel, along with the occasional short story here and there when I feel I need a break from the grand narrative.
Canyou tell us anything about the new novel at this stage, or is it top secret?
Unlike Arcadia, my current WIP (titled False Cathedrals) will have a more contemporary setting; taking place in 2012 in the fictional town of Midtown, Vermont—as well as a few chapters taking place in the mid-to-late 90s. At the heart of the novel is Daniel Bloom, a middle-aged psychotherapist who can’t seem to escape the haunting memory of his first wife, Karen; even after fourteen years have passed since her untimely demise at the hands of a crazed shooter, now dormant. Hoping to distract himself, Daniel puts all his focus into helping a patient find lucidity after well over a decade of uncertainty. But it doesn’t help when he hears that the shooter has started a new, violent rampage.
Chris Beckett is an Arthur C Clarke award winning science fiction author. He’s published six (soon to be seven) novels and dozens of short stories, often focusing on ‘inner’ as opposed to ‘outer’ space. I caught up with him to chat about isolation, metaphysics, and tribalism in modern society.
Hi Chris, welcome to Writers on Lockdown! So, how are you faring in these strange times? Is isolation a help or a hindrance to your writing process?
I’ve been having difficulty moving my writing forward this last couple of months, but this often happens – I simply dry up and can’t seem to write anything – and it may have nothing to do with the lockdown. However I do think my ability to concentrate (never brilliant to be honest) is worse than usual.
When the real world is stranger and more engrossing than usual – and I am finding it engrossing – it is perhaps harder to focus on imagined worlds?
In my life generally, I’d say I am finding the lockdown more interesting than distressing. I’m used to spending a lot of time by myself at home, and in some ways the lockdown is providing a stimulus for me to find ways of keeping more in touch with some people than I usually would, which is nice.
I have a little granddaughter – she is 13 months old – and I’m very sad not to be able to spend time with her, as the plan had been (until this happened) that I would be looking after her for one day a week.
I’ve heard from several writers that their creativity is at a low point. I wonder if being engrossed in new situations is all part of ‘refilling the well’ of inspiration. Do you think we’ll see a different kind of fiction emerge on the other side of this?
I think that’s exactly right about ‘refilling the well’. We have to stock up on life in order to have anything to write about. And none of us have had many experiences which are completely comparable to this one. (In fact a lot of writers have had pretty quiet lives generally, I suspect). I’m sure new kinds of fiction will come out of this, but I really don’t know what. This virus has changed life for everyone, but in so many different ways.
I wanted to talk in particular about your recent novel, Beneath the World, a Sea, which is full of strong, surreal imagery, questions of the unconscious and philosophy of mind. When so many science fiction writers are focused on future technology, what made you turn inwards and address the nature of consciousness?
Today sees the release of our very first anthology. It’s been a lot of work, but we are so proud of the final result. Vast: Stories of Mind, Soul and Consciousness in a Technological Age features exciting and thought-provoking contributions from ten fantastic authors.
Chimy and Chrisby Stephen Oram
Chris is a scientist. Chimy is a brain, artificially grown in a vat and developing quietly in the dark… ‘I feel the pipe against my surface and see her push it inside me. “Chimy, speak,” she says. I do not know how to speak. What does she mean? How do I speak?’
Little Thief by J.R. Staples-Ager
Thief has undergone surgery at the hands of Genesyx Corporation in order to become ‘ported’ and donate unused brain capacity to the country’s data processing power. What side effects could this possibly have?
Limited Infinity by Thomas Cline
Hess has lived in a reality simulation for many years by law, along with everyone else. But one day, suddenly, there is no one else. They just – vanish. Can he, and the voice in his head, find out what happened?
Dreamtime by Vaughan Stanger
Jerome is in pain. He can’t sleep and is in desperate need of palliative cancer treatment, but now that AI has supplanted every government, he must make a trade to get it. And there’s something he has that the Partners want more than anything else…
The Weight of your Mind by Sergio Palumbo
Brett is a scientist, working on a theory that thoughts produce gravity in minuscule amounts. The problem is, he only knows this at night when he sleeps. During the day he must live a different kind of nightmare…
The Video by Jonathan D. Clark
Everyone watches the video. You watch it. I watch it. We watch it from a distance with disgust, with tension, with the dark thrill of drama. What does the video say about us? What have we become?
The DreamCube Thread by Ellinor Kall
Everyone wants a DreamCube. Feed the ethically cultivated neural tissue, keep it by your bed, and watch it dream! But people are curious. People have questions. Why are the Makers so elusive? Join the discussion!
Luz Beyond the Glass by Ava Kelly
Huge glass spheres sit in gardens. Everyone knows they absorb pollution from the ground, water, and air, to cleanse the filth our ancestors left behind. What most don’t know is what resides in them…
Every Aspect of Every Recollection by Peter Burton
A wonderfully philosophical piece, taking a wander in a mind that has only itself left. Do our memories give us life? Our fantasies? Is it possible we are each more than a single timeline?
Ancestors by Juliane Graef
There is no way back from what humans have done to Earth. But there might just be a way forward… A touching story depicting the persistence of consciousness and three aeons of what happens after.
You can buy your copy now from any of the following:
Just a quick note to let you know that Mind in the Gap by C.R. Dudley is available at a special price of just £1.99/$1.99 on Kindle for the next 3 days only! We don’t do discounts very often, so grab your copy while you can via this Universal Amazon Link and explore this unique, multi-dimensional story collection.
“After reading the last piece, I started back at the beginning and experienced the closest thing to a psychedelic epiphany I can imagine without the help of a mind altering substance.” – Pablo Cuzco
“While this is an incredibly smart book worthy of deep dives and focused attention, it does not change the fact that this book is also pure FUN.” – Logan Ryan Smith
“Clear, elegant and gripping prose turns deep philosophical concepts about the nature of reality into a real page-turner.” – Pete
“Mind-bending, truly original science fiction.” – Kip Koelsch
“An engrossing exploration into consciousness, identity, and reality itself. A layered multiverse populated by surreal and sometimes outrageous characters, in a sweeping narrative that is skillfully woven throughout seemingly disconnected stories.” – Matthew Davis
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?
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
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.
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 email@example.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!
Still have questions? Ask us in the comments below.
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!
“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”→