Friday, September 30, 2005

SF-Horror short story competition

This from Apex Digest - Ben Bova has been confirmed as a Celebrety Judge:

Apex Digest Halloween Short Story Contest

In what we hope will become an annual tradition, the editors of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest would like to announce the initiation of the Annual Apex Digest Halloween Short Story Contest.

Subscribers: First Entry is Free
Each additional entry is $2.00
Non-Subscribers: First Entry is $5.00
Each additional entry is $3.00

The purchase of any issue of Apex Digest from the Apex website, ProjectPulp, or Genremall gives you one free entry. If you purchase Apex through Shocklines or Clarkesworld Books, please provide proof of the purchase. The purchase must be made between September 16th and November 18th.

The purchase of an Apex Digest subscription from the website,, BooksAMillion, or entitles you to one free entry and additional entry rate of $2.00. This subscription must be purchased between September 16th and November 18th.

You can enter as many times as desired.

We're looking for Sci-Fi Ghost Stories. Entries must be 2,000 words or less.
Contest starts Thursday, September 22nd. Contest ends Friday 11:59 p.m., November 18th EST.

The top four submissions will be chosen by an expert panel.

Panel members:
M.M. Buckner
Jason Marchi
Ben Bova

First Prize:
- $100
- Publication of story in issue four of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest.
- Subscription to Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest -
"Alien Head" Apex t-shirt
- Interviewed in the January 2006 edition of
Apex Online.
- Signed copy of
Orson Scott Card's "Characters and Viewpoints"
- Signed copy of
Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" and "Children of God"
- Signed Special Limited Edition Hardcover of
Brian Keene's novel "Terminal". This is #199 of 400.
- Printer proof signed copy of
Barry Maher's cult novel "Legend"
- Signed paperback copy of Bryan Smith's novel "House of Blood"
- DVD Box set of X-Files "Black Oil" donated by
- DVD Box set third season of "Roswell" donated by
- DVD of movie
"Written in Blood" signed by director Simon Cox and cast
"Sin-Jin Smyth" movie poster signed by director Ethan Dettenmaier and cast
- Signed copy of
Steve Savile's rare "Houdini's Last Illusion"
- Signed UK hardcover copy of
Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Sins of the Night"
- Signed galley copy of
M.M. Buckner's latest novel, "War Surf"
- Signed paperback copy of JA Konrath's "Whiskey Sour"

Second, Third, and Fourth Prize:
- $25
- Subscription to Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest

- Publication of story in Apex Online

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wicked Karnival

I have submitted my experiment-in-second-person short story Modranecht to the Wicked Karnival competition (the Christmas theme was just too good to pass up).

I was alerted to the competition by the following post on the Apex Digest forum:

Killer Kritque writing contest news: Usually we pay the best story in the contest with some cash. Since it's going to be Christmas time I decided to add some more prizes on top of this for the winner of the Dec. contest. You'll find the guidelines, here all the way at the bottom:

1st place wins:

1. $30

2. Black Christmas on Dvd, authographed by Bob Clark

3.Jack Ketchum is donating A signed hardcover copy of NIGHT VISIONS 10, in which his novella THE PASSENGER first appeared, along with a novella by John Shirley and stories by David B. Silva, edited by Richard Chizmar.

4. Elite is going to donate a horror dvd, TBA

5. Rick Hautala is donating 'Follow' signed.

6. Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun on DVD

7. Simon Clark is donating HOTEL MIDNIGHT, a collection of short stories.

8. Asylum donated 'Frankenstein Reborn' and 'Beast of Bray Road' both signed by the director.

9. Asylum also donated Hide and Creep on dvd.

10. Jason Sizemore will donate a year subscription to the Apex Digest.

11. Graham Masterson is donating a signed copy of UNSPEAKABLE.

Apex Digest editor Jason Sizemore plans to enter as well. I have officially said: 'Ho ho ho,' to him.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

what THE...?

Kentucky novelist Mari Adkins posted on her blog about how cool it is to be flipping through hand-held print (as opposed to on-line print, I guess) and seeing your name. Flip back, point to it and get some warm tinglies.

Funny thing is, it was my name she pointed to in her uploaded image!

Ripped without her permission:
original from Apex Digest #3

I've been flipped and pointed at by a novelist.

I must be moving up in the world.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Apex Digest Issue #2

Note - this issue contains my short story Not for Children so everything I am about to say is deleriously biased.

Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest has come of age with the summer issue (#2).

Editor Jason Sizemore has pulled some name authors into the second edition to raise the bar, and the lesser-known writers have managed to also meet that mark. Sizemore’s vision of dark speculative fiction, hinted at in the premiere issue, has now exploded into realisation. The stories in the magazine have a tight dystopic theme running through, with a focus on individuals. Two sub-themes also emerge, providing a balance between black technology and bleak society.

The Falcon by James P Hogan opens the issue with an extremely skilful story of a woman who escapes her harsh reality into a dream of normality -- or perhaps it is a story of a woman recovering from a delusional psychosis of dystopia. Or perhaps it is a story of a political dissident being contained in a virtual prison by a society that is more complex and surprisingly humane, than first appears. The important point is, the story draws the reader through many levels of interpretation, limited only by the degree to which the reader chooses to be engaged. In the hands of an amateur, the story would struggle. In the hands of a writer as skillful as Hogan, this story by itself justifies the cover price of the magazine.

Thick and Thin by Russian sailor Peter Hagelslag is a Venusian morality tale about a nano/biotek symbiant named Halo of Flies and Murphy respectively. Hagelslag is a confident writer, and the reader is immediately won over by the tight characterisation of the constituent personalities of the symbiotic protagonist(s). The extremity of the physical environment is used to focus attention on the relationship – if Hagelslag were a boxer, he would certainly be punching above his weight.

A Flash of Light by novelist James R Cain is well written version of the oft used plot device: end-of-the-world/new-Eden-ism. But it is well written, and the reader is rewarded by the journey, if not the sting-in-the-tail.

An Odd Day in I-Forgot by Apex editorial staff newcomer Athena Workman is worth mentioning for the clearly envisioned setting, and (once again) memorable characters. Wert the Giant, Rusty the Fagger, Gregorina the Burnie, Teensy the Dwarf – all of them are used to great effect to indirectly describe a society of Housewife Hubbies, Mall giga-complexes and a curiously mixed Orwellan suburbia. It’s not what you see straight ahead, it’s what you see out of the corner of your eye that makes Odd Day work so well.

All of the other stories are well written and engaging. Not a turkey to be found, which is always a relief when reading small press genre publications. More to the point, Sizemore’s arrangement allows a reader to start at the beginning and finish at the end in a single sitting, without the reader feeling the need to check the length of the current story in the contents page, or flicking to the excellent reviews and interviews to take a break from amateur offerings. The cover art builds on the premiere issue visual brand, and although the quality of the interior art is inconsistent, some of the illustrations are excellent.

More to the point, the story arrangement is coherent, they are all high quality, and the magazine certainly kicks some serious genre arse.

Apex Digest Issue #1

John Clute's popular Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia opens a discussion on genre magazines with:
When we say PULP we may be describing a category of magazine, smaller than most of today's glossy magazines, [...] and generally devoted to fiction. [...] The format is now history, but pulp stories are still written.
-John Clute
Jason Sizemore's first issue of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest is a magazine smaller than most of today's glossy magazines, and is entirely devoted to fiction. The physical presentation of Apex Digest determined by Sizemore might or might not have been chosen to evoke a morphic resonance with the magazine's spiritual ancestors, but the effect is achieved nonetheless.

Within the gloss covers (preceeding comments regarding format notwithstanding) Sizemore presents ten short stories in the first 87 pages; and in the remaining 14 pages he delivers four book reviews, an essay, an interview, and a flashfic endpiece. The black and white graphics achieve a sense of consistency throughout, and the advertising is unobtrusive.

The overall style speaks to Sizemore's vision of a professional quality small press genre offering that has both physical and market substance. His interview with Project Pulp's Jon Hodges is insightful and thought-provoking and worth the cover price for genre hopefuls wanting to benefit from Hodges's considerable market experience.

But what about the stories? One contributon certainly hits the mark of Sizemore's stated aim to deliver 'dark' SF, and two more are close. Allergies by short fiction newcomer Christine W. Murphy tells the story of an itinerant security worker desperately trying to keep one space-station ahead of the secret of her weakness in a synthetic society. The run-of-the-mill situation is written well and easy to read. And that easiness is used to good effect as the story slides effortlessly to a disturbing conclusion. The secret, when revealed, is anti-climactic: the disturbing situation in which the protagonist finds herself is made all the more disturbing by her obliviously focusing on the 'official' denoument. The casual reader could be forgiven for making the same mistake.

Liam Rands's story His Cross to Bear is a thoughtful examination of society's response to crime (including crimes of ommission) told from the point of view of a man being kept alive while crucified on the outskirts of an interplanetary colony. Halfway through, Rands subtly turns his focus, and explores personal altruism. Although well-written and certainly a dark situation on the face of it, the story's conclusion (while satisfying) somewhat robs the piece of the degree of darkness Sizemore appears to be working towards.

Similarly, Lawrence M. Schoen's contribution The conservation of Thelos ended on too wholesome a note to fully realise the full potential of his engaging elemental protagonist. Instead of becoming the Gully Foyle (of Bester's Tiger! Tiger! (Stars my Destination in USA release)) suggested at the outset, Schoen's anti-hero becomes whole and healed, but only through exposure to a more terrible anger than his own. There is a lesson contained therein, but the story's contribution to Apex Digest's overall mood of darkness is made a little less than it might otherwise have been with a different ending.

The other stories are all written well enough, but none stand out quite like the three already mentioned, particularly in the context of a dark SF publication.

Overall, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest is a product greater than the sum of its parts. Good stories, good reviews (and essay), a great interview all add up to a top notch debut. But most of all, Sizemore's vision promises future editions will build on this good start.

Addendum: Apex Digest has a lively and useful support website with an online edition (different than the print publication) and discussion forum and more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It had slipped my mind, but Peter Hagelslag (Apex Digest #2 contributor) gave a very flattering review of the first two parts of Grimm when they were first published by Apex Online. His short story, Thick and Thin, was one of the stand-outs of the same print issue of Apex within which my own Not for Children was published.

Here's the review as posted in the Apex Digest forum:

If both The Orpheus Project in Apex Online Issue #4 and The Janus Legacy in Apex Online Issue #5 are but a precursor of things to come, then the readers of both the Summer Issue of Apex Digest and Apex Online #6 are in for a treat.

Sparks demonstrates an uncanny ability in the building of narrative tension. Part 1 of Grimm sets the tone for a story arc of Cthulhuan proportions, starting off in an unnamed University of an non-descripit town where a lone professor delves into the great unknown in search for his lost love. In a haunting sequence continuously teetering on the brink of dream and reality the uncertain outcome, where Grimm must decide if the horrible confrontation he's been through was real or not, leaves the reader with the nightmarish feel of impending doom.

Also, when required, Sparks does not hesitate to rupture his almost dreamlike visions with a sharp shock of pure gore, as also part 2 of Grimm aptly exhibits. This Matrioshka-like telling has profound horror hiding in a tale within a tale. As the reader slowly peels away layer after layer of this horrific onion of a tale the stench of something truly rotten within becomes almost palpable.

The narrative distance of a historical documentary and the journal of a ship surgeon seems like a recipe for inducing sleep, but in Sparks' hands it becomes a device for for slowly, yet inexorably building up the tension, an edge-of-the-seat ride where the sudden moments of carnage are not a gimmick but an indispensable peak of terror.

For Sparks there is not only the great challenge of following up (and concluding) the high-strung suspense of Grimm parts 1 and 2 in the inevitable part 3, but also in meeting mounting reader expectations in the Summer Issue of Apex Digest... Not only that, but rumour has it that he is also converting his Grimm sequence into a graphic novel, and that he finds inspiration in the smallest of chambers.

-Peter Hagelslag, Apex Digest forum: Discuss the Authors

Since then I have published of all five parts, and completed the graphic adaptation of Part 1 and Part 2 in a single issue.

(1) The Orpheus Project
(2) The Janus Legacy
(3) The Artemis Ascendancy
(4) The Tantalus Effect
(5) The Prosperina Affair

Graphic Novel: The Orpheus Project -- with NEW Page-flip(tm) page-turning and essential-to-the-story nudity!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Seven Wives

I'm not sure why, but a couple of new reviews for Cat (no relation) Sparks' 2004 anthology Agog!: Smashing Stories have appeared. The anthology includes Aurealis Award nominated Seven Wives, the story I consider my personal best to date.

I thought it timely to collect the various reviews (or at least the parts that mention Seven Wives) in one place: unusual take on cloning. I loved its execution. It's one of the standout stories for me because the emotions in this are so evocative.

- Alinta Thornton (Clarion South 2004 alumnus), Blog review August 2004

Before we decide anything final on the cloning issue, we might all want to read Bryn Sparks thought-provoking "Seven Wives." There may be some aspects we haven't taken into account.

- Lisa Dumond, SF site featured review, August 2004

Bryn Sparks (Seven Wives) and Trent Jamieson (Endure) provide moody sketches of societies quite removed from our own...

- Ben Payne, Orb Magazine 6

There’s so many other good stories in here, including [...] Bryn Sparks’ exploration of identity and … uh … clones’ rights in “Seven Wives”...

- Devin Jeyathurai, ...AS IF..., June 2005

Haines's piece is the story of a man whose life is plagued by his childhood rival. The women in this piece are little more than sexual pawns and the story pairs interestingly with Bryn Sparks's "Seven Wives", a brief but unexpected analysis of cloning's relationship to female equality.

- Miranda Siemienowicz, HorrorScope, Sept 2005

Good collection of mainly darkish stories. Interesting to note that this collection of Aussie fiction contains a story by a Kiwi. [...] I suppose it reads like a fantasy when you first start in before the cloning ethics stuff kicks in. It gave me a genuine "oh!" moment of realisation that it wasn't a fantasy (well I was more leaning surreal actually). It also gave me a "Hmmmm" moment when I started to think about the issues. An "oh" and a "hmmm" together in one little story is really good going...

- Ross Temple (Phoenix SF Society), Blog post

I understand the anthology is no longer available. I also note it was LEFT OUT of the Australian Years Best Fantasy/SF for 2004, even though half the rest of the collection were included.

I think it must be because my great-great-great grandparents were both transportees.

Fuggin elitist decendents of guards and free colonials.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Accountant: Life on the Streets

Apex Horror and Science Fiction Digest #3 containing my story Accountant: Life on the Streets is on sale! Editor Jason Sizemore has repeatedly described Issue 3 as:

Best. Issue. Ever

Jason Sizemore - Apex Digest

Who am I to disagree? Stories to look out for in the issue (by all acounts) include Meat Eaters by Sue Lange and Big Sister/Little Sister by Jennifer Pelland.

(Illustration by Billy Tackett for Apex Digest #3)

I've been looking forward to seeing Accountant in print for a looooong time. But I'm extremely nervous about how it will be received. Jason Sizemore is both bold and brave.

Apparently Jason has a broad chest and firm pecs as well. Or so he claims.

Seize the Day

Apex Horror and Science Fiction Digest have picked up Seize the Day (formerly "Elfboy") as the Parting Shot for Issue #4. In a completely fugged form, this story was the first I wrote as an adult. Which means I am the only contributor to have appeared in three issues of Apex. I think.

It (the story) still makes me laugh.

There's something tragic about laughing at your own stories, I'm quite sure.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bourbon and Blood

Speaking of Tangent Online reviews, I noticed ASIM 19 has popped up.

Review for Bourbon and Blood:

For the second time this issue, a beautiful woman walks into a private detective’s office in Bryn Spark’s “Bourbon and Blood.” Rather than a new case, this skirt happens to be the heat, and things are going to be uncomfortably hot for our P.I. As with “The Big Cheat,” this story gets points from me just for being future-noir. The mood and the voice of the piece are excellent. The story itself, well, to be honest, didn’t click with me. It’s close to clicking, but it feels like there is just one plot detail somewhere that I’m missing. As always, the problem could be just with me being thick-headed rather than with the story, and the story has more than enough style to make it worth checking out either way.

Paul Iutzi - Tangent Online

Likes the style but didn't quite get the denouement. I've lived with that story for quite a while, so it is hard to look at it with completely fresh eyes. I think it is there, but I guess Bourbon and Blood might be one of those stories that takes two readings.

Not for Children.

Never say that asking gets you nowhere. Following my post yesterday, Shane Cummings has officially expanded the consideration criteria for his Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror: Years Best anthology to include New Zealand and Pacific Island writers.

I have will have a copy of Apex #2 in the post to him this afternoon for his consideration of Not for Children.

Reviews for Not for Children include:

"Not For Children" is listed as being written by Bryn Sparks, but I tend to believe it was actually written by the Brothers Grimm’s older and even grimmer sibling. It is a fairy tale, told by a witch in a fairy tale, and however you put it together, it is dark. For fans of this rather narrow subgenre, this is a winner. If you consider Hans Christian Anderson and his ilk only suitable for children, even when everyone is dying, you’ll want to move along.

Mathew Foster - Tangent Online

[...]"Not For Children" by Bryn Sparks provides a well-crafted ending to the main fiction section. It’s a kind of allegorical tale within an allegorical tale, along the lines of be careful what you wish for, and be wary where you tread. A young man seeks the ‘favours’ of the beautiful ‘Woman of the Caves’. But all is not as it seems with this woman, and the young man’s lust is also his undoing. And while the witch’s spell takes effect, we are treated to a story within a story, where the desert near the caves is shown to be no place for children. I must admit to being a little confused as to how the two portions of the tale are really supposed to mesh together. It’s one of those tales that has you scratching your head a little, as if the real meaning is slightly fogged. It does, however, make for entertaining reading.

Steven Pirie - Whispers of Wickedness

"Not For Children" plays out more like a fantasy, but the engaging take on a Brother's Grimm classic is deliciously dark.

Customer review - Project Pulp

Slog update (September)

Slog (Submission log) update

Wing and a Prayer - sub - WotF June quarter - under consideration

Queen of Stars - sub - Aurealis - under consideration

Garden Planet - sub - Apex Digest - rejected (but I WILL get it in somewhere)

Seize the Day - sub - Apex Digest - under consideration

Accountant: Life on the Streets - pub - Apex Digest - due any day

The Destruction of Sennacherib - pub - Robots and Time (Altair) - due?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hah! I found the 'post' button again!

I just posted a comment at Shane Jiraiya Cummings' blog regarding his forthcoming Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror: The Best of 2005 to the effect that it would be cool to see an "Australasian" year's best.

In the spirit of ANZACs vs The World and all that.

Also it sucks to preface all my subs to Australian publications with: "I'm not really an Australian, but..."