Our Second Anthology is Out Now!

Revolutions 2: More Speculative Short Stories set in Manchester is the second anthology published by Manchester Speculative Fiction Group, following on from 2015’s Revolutions: Speculative Short Stories set in Manchester

Like Revolutions, Revolutions 2 is a collection of science-fiction, fantasy and horror stories with one thing in common – they’re all set in Manchester, England.Revolutions 2: Speculative Short Stories Set in Manchester

Who’s in it?

About half the stories are by members of Manchester Speculative Fiction and half by authors from around the world. There’s a good mix of emerging writers getting a break and established authors, because we chose the stories on merit as the best of hundreds of submissions. The authors are (in alphabetical order):

What are the stories about?

Revolutions 2 features a variety of alternate worlds, extreme graffiti, a date with a Lego figure, overly-literal squids, a plague-carrying kitten, legendary Russian birds, a praying mantis that needs a job, giant bees, a ghost bus, virtual reality, zombies and time travel.

And, of course, there’s Stockport viaduct.

Want to read Revolutions 2?

You can read the first story in Revolutions 2, Wendy V. Mann’s On The Street Where You Live for free here:

Revolutions 2 is available on Amazon US here and Amazon UK here.

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Meeting 12/04/17

Another top meeting with some great short fiction in the box.

Chris presented a short story called ‘Anti-freeze’. There was praise here for the good imagery and dark overtones throughout the piece very dark. Members thought this was a great idea, though perhaps not executed correctly. (Chris heartily agreed!) Calls for some more clarity on the POV’s motives and a slight expansion to flesh that ending out.

Bryn presented a short story called ‘Better Lost than Loved’. Universal praise here for the great concept in this piece and that fantastic imagery throughout. There were some questions over why the POV would go along so easily with the other AI’s plan, and calls to keep the sabotage a little more hidden from view.

Finally, Rachel presented a short story called ‘Logistically not a problem’. Praise here for the brisk pace and action packed story telling. Some members questioned whether our POV is a bit quick to forgive ANON and help him out. (He got her into this mess!) Calls for our POV to take charge, more dialogue and a bit more character development.

That’s all for this time.

Pip pip!

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Wednesday meeting: 8th February

Nine members braved the chilly Manchester weather to attend the group tonight. With only three pieces to critique, we breezed through the submissions. As a quick reminder to all you scribes, we have extended the deadline for the group anthology until the end of May. This anthology is a great opportunity to get a writing credit to your name, and we don’t have too many submissions from group members yet. If you’ve got an idea for a kick ass speculative fiction yarn set in Manchester, get scribbling! You can even submit it to the group first if you’re looking for a bit of encouragement.

Anyhoo. On with the crits!



Mike presented a piece called love and brooding. Lots of positive comments for the uniqueness of this piece. More details listed below:

  • Some comments that the older brother character could have been added sooner. Should we know about him sooner?
  • Lots of genuine interest in the uniqueness of this piece.
  • Is there a conflict between tasting information and father giving information? Are they two separate things or are they the same?
  • Some questions over whether they are fish or not. Are the fingers that are referenced actually fins?
  • Nice comments about the God-like facade of the father.
  • The relationship between Pax and Neera really shines through.
  • Comments on the mixology of emotions and the sense. Happiness with a salty taste… great stuff!
  • Very readable style. A potentially very cloudy piece is made super perspicuous and clear.



James presented a piece call ‘A day at the dog factory’.  Again, there was a warm reception for this bizarro piece. Some of the points raised include:

  • Some comments that this is a return to form.
  • Although it was dark, it was not over the top.
  • Nice comparisons with other supposedly ‘cultural institutions’ or traditions.
  • Praise, too, for the poignant treatment of the immigrants!
  • The dialogue seem natural? Some comments that the ‘speech’ the protag gives seems quite unnatural.
  • Do the protagonist’s motivations seem natural? Does it make sense for the protag to be a long time enthusiast of dog factories and for her to also hate the system? We seem to yo-yo between different views here.



Tom presented another chapter from his novel The Wayward Star. The group are all enjoying this rip-roaring space opera. Some comments on this particular chapter include:

  • Some comments that the refocus on Chen as a character is welcome.
  • Some great descriptions peppered throughout.
  • There is a good sense of imprisonment in this piece.
  • Some comments that the amount detail bogged the chapter down.
  • Is there a bit of repetition? She has so far befriended both of her alien captors?
  • Is the constant lack of effective communication slowing down the story?


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Meeting – 24 January 2016

A great meeting to round off January with 11 members in attendance, and 2 new attendees: a big welcome to Kay and Mike, and a big thanks for your insightful critiques.

First, a plea for submissions: our Anthology, Revolutions 2, is still under way and we’ve extended the submission deadline until we get enough subs (huzzah!). Please send your Manchester-based fiction to msfantho[at]yahoo.com (you can check out the guidelines on our homepage).

On to the crits!

Peter presented a short story called ‘Hand in Hand’, a curious post-apocalyptic type tale set on a distant world. Members really enjoyed the strange rock like aliens, the clarity, pacing, and the strong voice (though keep it consistent). Praise for the great worldbuilding and tense moments in the story’s middle to end. Some questions raised about the world itself: was there a bit too much going on for such a short piece? What has happened to society? And does our POV character have a name? Calls for a narrowing of scope, some more emotion from the POV, and a stronger arc for him/her to follow.

Next, Tom presented the fifth chapter of his Sci-fi epic, Children of Akorest, with a return to Chen: still stranded in a universe far far away (or perhaps co-located with us, I don’t know multi-verse theory). Members again enjoyed the great worldbuilding and fantastical setting. Praise especially for the characterisation of Nystoro, with some members feeling he was reminiscent of Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon, of course, not that live-action abomination). Some questions over the nature of the world we are in: sometimes gravity seemed to be stronger, sometimes weaker. Also, would our intrepid scientist so recklessly stick her hands into a pool of what could very well be skin dissolving acid? Calls for a bit more emotion and character from Chen, some members felt she was a bit of a tabula rasa at the moment, and of course for the return of App… I mean Nystoro!

That’s all for this week, folks. See you on the 8th of February!


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The Last Writing Workshop of 2016

As usual, these notes are being posted dreadfully late. My dog atwriting-by-committeee my homework, ok?

In any case, for those of you that didn’t know the December meeting w
as not your usual MancSpecFic Fayre. Space operas? There was none. Tales of sword
and sorcery? Absolutely not. Good old fashioned chillers? Not a jot. Instead, we sat down with pen in hand to take part in the last MancSpecFic writer’s workshop of the year.

Eight of us tackled an exercise named Writing by Committee. We each started off with a prompt – either a scenario or the opening line to a story – and got scribbling for ten-twenty minutes. When that time period was over we would turf what we had written over to the person on our right, and they would carry on the yarn. By the end of the night, we ended up with eight stories that had been written in some part by each of the eight attendees.

The aim of the exercise was not just to get creative with your own story, but to be consistent with the arc, voice, and characterization of the stories that were passed on to you. Surprisingly, we ended up with eight rather enjoyable, albeit ver
y strange stories. I’ve typed one of them for you below. Hope you enjoy!

Prompt One: A cultist is torn between his/her dark lord and his/her family

The air con stutters and a fly buzzes somewhere in the room. The incremental ticks of the clock suddenly seem important, like they hint at something I can’t quite glean the meaning of. Carrie snores happily beside me, the soft friction of air parting her nasal cavity in stuttered garbles. I check my phone to look at the time and I have to squint. The light feels invasive. The light always feels invasive.

It’s five am, kids will be up soon.

I flip over the pillow and try to sleep again. I find I’m afraid to close m
y eyes out of worry for what I’ll find staring back at me in the dark. I’m gripped by the absurdity of the notion. I’ve come to understand the moist hungering fabric of our universe, stared into yawning gape of an ambivalent cosmos, experienced truths that would break the minds of lesser men… and yet I’m afraid of what I’ll find on the back of my eyelids. I try to force myself to close my eyes. Then I hear the voice, whispered at first, then louder, and then as if it isn’t speaking at all, as if it’s an army of maggots that’s burrowed into my brain, communicating only by pheromones.

“Kill her,” It says. As it always does, just as I know that I must.

I don’t want to kill her, or them, but if I wasn’t meant to why
would he tell me to? Why would he tell me I must? That I will? That I already have? Saying
that it’s not happened yet, saying it’s a choice, it’s all an illusion. He’s shown me so.

“Kill her,” he says. Because he knows I will. Because I must. Because I have, just not yet.

The alarm clock sounds, cutting through my thoughts. She moves, turns, looks up at me with a smile.

“Morning, my love,” she says. She gets up, turns off the alarm and slips into her bathrobe. I watch her walk away into the bathroom. A moment later I hear the shower kick in.

I’ve made it through another night.

So has she.

I want to get up but my legs feel like lead. The voice has gone, but its echo remains. I hear the shower stop. She comes out towelling her hair.

“Do you want coffee?” she says.

“Yes please,” I manage.

“Well, you know where the pot is. Get the kids out of bed while you’re at it.”

I slouch downstairs to the kitchen, place a fresh filter in the coffee machine and fill the kettle from the tap. The water pressure is low from her shower, the drain a rotten mouth.

“Kill her,” it says.

I drop the kettle and leap back from the sink. He’s never
spoken to me in daylight before.

The shower stops upstairs. The kitchen falls silent. Footsteps pad across the ceiling. Small feet thunder down the stairs.

“Kill them all,” an inhuman voice gurgles from the sink. The kitchen door bangs open and my two children run in.

“Daddy!” they call in unison.

I plaster a smile on
my face and hope they don’t see through it. “What do we want for breakfast this morning,” I say.

“Sausages!” Charlie shouts.

“Anythings fine,” Sarah calls over her shoulder. “Dad, have you seen my jumper?”

As much as I love them, and he knows I do, the monotony is as torturous as the whispers. This morning, the conversation, it could have been any morning, it could have been every morning. I set breakfast down in front of them, cereal, not sausages, and look at them. They’re good looking kids, they get that from their mother, but that serious intensity in their eyes, the careful meticulous way they treat the smallest of tasks, they get that from me.

“Do it now!”

The voice is loud and as clear as a church bell. I can’t take much more.

“Now. Do it now. IT HAS TO BE NOW.”

Carrie comes downstairs. Her hair is still wet and she’s still wearing her pink dressing gown.

I know I have to do it now, I have to finish each of them. It’s a kindness really.

Carries looks at me. Cups my head in her hand.

“Don’t worry love,” she says, “It might never happen.”

“It already has,” I answer with sadness. But summoning my strength I get up from the table and walk out the door.

“NO!” he screams at me. My head is filled with a blinding, painful light…

…The air con stutters and a fly buzzes somewhere in the room. The incremental ticks of the clock suddenly seem somehow important, like they hint at something I can’t quite glean the meaning of.

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Meeting – Tuesday 22nd November

Another top meeting on a somewhat drizzly Tuesday night. We had twelve members in attendance and five pieces in the box.

Eric presented the final section of a two-part story called ‘Mr Nobody’. Lots of praise here for the great premise, ambiguity, and the POV’s quirky habits (I’m pretty sure we’ve all wanted to squeeze a few heads on the bus!). Some questions over whether there is enough at stake for our protagonist and just what his motivation is in the last third of the story. Calls for a bit more sympathy for the protagonist and some Patrick Batemen type carnage in the final act.

Mark presented the first part of ‘Adapt or Die 22’, a rags-to-riches story of a retired slasher coming back for one final kill. Members enjoyed the crisp prose, dark humour, and celebrity slasher POV. Some pressing questions: Who is paying him for all of this, and why is it legal!? Some members also wondered whether the back and forth between the memoir and the chase scene slowed the pace a little too much. Calls to keep the POV steady and to turn Marisa’s harrowing chase into a twitter feed!

Kate presented the first part of a quest fantasy novella called ‘Shaman’. Some Comparisons drawn to the South American book, Something of the deer. Members were fully on board with the non-western fantasy setting and gender swapping shamans. Praise for the great world-building, and brilliant twists on the old folk-tale betrothal story. Some questions over whether there is a bit too much information crammed into this first part: should this be the first 3-4 chapters rather than the first 3-4 thousand words? Also, where about is this set, and what is going on in that spirit journey? Calls for a bit more emotion from our POV and her betrothed, more visual descriptions of the world, and to make the details of the spirit journey a little more clear cut.

Javier presented the first part of his horror piece called ‘The Haunting Handbook’. Members enjoyed the Gothic horror styling of this piece (even those who aren’t usually fans of the style!). Praise for the olde English vibe and the slow build horror elements in this piece. Some questions raise around the monster encounter: what does the Barghest actually look like, and why does it just stand there? Also, do we need a preface, a poem and a foreword? Calls for more description of the place (what are the sights, sounds and smells of this gloomy 19th Century York), a little more detail on the Barghest, and, of course: more more more.

Chris presented ‘Itchy throat’, a hairy little body-horror piece you should definitely avoid showing to your mum. We unfortunately had no time for crits in the session, so we went across to Common where all were agreed that it was thoroughly disgusting.

That’s all for this time. Next meeting December 14th.

Pip pip!

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Wednesday Meeting: 9th November

We had a big turnout this week and only got through four of the five pieces.

Also, consider this your bi-monthly reminder that we are accepting submissions for our next Anthology. We have yet to receive any submissions from group members so get scribbling!


Chris presented a flash piece called luck of the draw.

  • There were lots of positive comments about the strong philosophical edge in the piece.
  • The group seemed to be split on length. Does it need to be longer or does it work as flash?
  • Some confusion over what the setting was. Some members mistakenly believed it was a casino rather than a luck mine.
  • A few questions over the info-dumpy bit at the end.
  • Had all the usual positives of a strong voice, very readable and slick dialogue.



Ezeiyoke presented the start of a piece called ‘Guardian’.

  • Lots of nice comments about the folkloric some comments over the nice imagery.
  • Some confusion over the language. Large sentences and long paragraphs seemed a bit long and clunky for some.
  • Some comments that the king’s sexual arousal scene came out of nowhere. Others found this to be a nice twist.
  • Some comments that there were too many descriptions of the protag looking towards his wife.



Luke presented the first part of a novelette called ‘All The Things That End’.

  • Lots of comments about the prologue with the verdict edging towards it not being necessary. Can we just start in the stable?
  • Lots of positive comments about the world and believable setting.
  • Some questions over the Western elements. Does it sometimes veer towards Cliché? Differing opinions on this.
  • Some nice comments about the quality of the dialogue.



Tom presented another chapter from his novel An End To Forever

  • Lots of praise for the quality of writing in this piece. Some top notch world building as usual.
  • The array of different creatures is great fun.
  • Some questions over the amount of characters and the flitting between different worlds. Some comments that only reading a couple of chapters a month means it is hard to keep track of everything.
  • Some call’s for the buildings and the land to be made more vivid. Some found the large wonderful structures difficult to picture.


We all nipped off to the pub afterwards for a few slugs of grog and a chat. Topics of conversation centred around the election across the pond (you know? The one that wasn’t at all in the news?).

Next meeting is Tuesday the 22nd November. See you there!

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Meeting – Tuesday 25th Oct 16



Ahoy there!

Another top meeting this Tuesday with five pieces in the box and a whopping seventeen members in attendance (I think the most we’ve ever had!). A very warm welcome to our newest member, Marc, who presented some great first-time crits. We look forward to reading some of your fiction very soon!

Before we get to the meeting, can I drop in a gentle reminder to everyone about donations: MadLab give us the space for free and we try to make sure that we ca give something back to help keep them afloat. We suggest £1 per meeting, though I know some people like to put in a lump sum for a number of meetings. You can find the donate link in the bar to the right.

OK, to the crits!

James presented the first part of a piece called Arthur Leyland. Members enjoyed the shock factor, striking opening, and the very very dark humour. There was lots of praise for the character moments: members felt this nicely captured the conflicted nature of loss and grief. Some questions over Arthur’s reaction at finding his father (check for a pulse, man!). Also, some members wondered whether the flashback/memories should come where they do (given the rather dark hole we are looking into!), and whether we need quite so many of them. Some members were wanting some more sensory writing: there are loads of bodily fluids, but where are the smells? (God help us!) Calls for a closer narrative voice, some more shocks, some more showing, and a little less telling.

– – – I am not putting a picture in for this one! – – –

Claire presented the first part of her children’s story, Gendry the Christmas Elf. Members enjoyed the fairy-tale style in this piece as well as the charming imagery and the mischief of our main character. Praise for the clear prose and fun style. Some questions raised over just how big Gendry is and whether raspberries really would dye a fairy purple. Also, why is the juice so horrid and smelly? Some members felt it would be useful to see how this would look in print with illustrations, this might give a better indication of the pacing. Calls to keep the writing a little more consistently fairy tale esque, to keep the rhythm bouncy, and to add in some more fantasy elements to the world (we want fairy-berries!).


Eric presented the first part of Mr. Death, a short story about an office worker with a not-so-tender touch. Lots of praise for the unconventional protagonist and his neurotic inner monologues (some members felt this could have been taken further). Some questions over Andre’s motives: why does he go out with the office gang if he doesn’t want to be around people? Perhaps we could play up the social anxiety/pressure angle? Calls for a quickening of the pace, more misanthropy, and more detail on our protagonist (is he deaf? Is he autistic?).


Tom presented the third chapter from his sci-fi epic Children of Akorest. Lots of praise here for the action scenes and descriptions of the characters and port. Lots of intrigue about the jarsens’ ‘pact’, I think all were agreed that this was a great backdrop to the species and a mystery we can’t wait to have solved. Some questions raised over whether we need to meet so many characters in this chapter. Perhaps we could meet some of them later when they’re doing what they do best. Calls for a bit more description of the setting and a slight slowing of the pace. Calls, also, for a slightly closer perspective (we want a look inside that jarsen’s head!).


To everyone’s utter dismay, we ran out of time before getting to Chris’s piece. Through the wailing and sobbing and the salty salty tears we agreed to bump the piece to the next meeting.

That’s all for now. Next meeting Wednesday the 9th November. See you there!

Pip Pip!

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Wednesday Meeting: October 12th

We had a big old turnout this week with four pieces to get through. It was a pleasure to welcome Ezeiyoke and Marc to their first meeting. It’s great to see our little (or now not so little) group continue to grow.

Chris Ovenden:

Chris presented the second part of his novel the knight of never rest:

Like the previous chapter, I think everyone really enjoyed this piece. There were lots of positive comments about the setting, and the dialogue was a real pleasure to read. There was a bit of confusion around whether the protagonist already knew the witch or not. Perhaps the author could make this a bit clearer? As with previous chapters, there were some calls for the language to be more uniform. At times the language feels very old world, where at others it felt quite modern.

Everyone is looking forward to the next chapter!



Hans presented the first part of a novel called Boys.

I think everyone enjoyed the narrative here, and there was praise for the interesting ideas on show. Most group members liked the idea of a government death department (although if it was really a department it was perhaps giving away a little too much). Some found the prose a little too cinematic, especially the chase/chess scene. This kind of approach would be great for a film, but it didn’t quite hit the mark here. There were some calls for more visualisation of the surroundings and calls for more characterization.



Tom presented the second chapter of a piece called The Fabled Winds.

I think everyone enjoyed the descriptions in this piece. The world building came across as fantastical and sophisticated, while the flora and fauna of the planet showed great creativity on the author’s part. There were some questions over how clear the protagonist’s thought processes were when she was in a life or death situation, and some felt that the injury was a little too serious for her to be moving around as freely as she was. A few members wanted to see a more authentic narrative voice, and there were some comments that piece was a little ‘told’ at times.

Everyone is looking forward to seeing what other wonders await in the next chapter.



Bryn presented the second part of a short story called An End To Forever

Lots of positive comments for the quality of the prose in this piece. There were some fantastic turns of phrase that really showcased the author’s talents. Some members felt that the story felt like two ideas crunched together. Does the first half fit with the second half? There were a few comments that the fight scene went on a bit long, and there were a few too many nameless meatshields.


Afterwards, we scooted off to the pub for a spot of libation and a chinwag.

Remember, we are currently accepting submissions for our next anthology REVOLUTIONS 2, so get writing and get submitting people!

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Tuesday 27th September 2016

Another top meeting to round off September. We had 7 members in attendance with 3 pieces to crit in the drobox (two from new members, good job guys!)

Eric presented part 12 of his novel Hellbound. Everyone was agreed that this was a very easy read with some top writing. There was a great deal of praise for Diane’s character with members enjoying her characterization (and that she is finally breaking free!). Her troubles were very believable. Some questions raised over whether some of this chapter and the previous one with Kim could be condensed into one. Calls to not draw too much attention to Oscar’s powers and to stretch out Diane’s character transition a little more over the preceding chapters

Tom presented the first chapter of his novel The Pilgrim’s Storm. It was clear that there was a very large and interesting world behind this and members really enjoyed the interesting nautical/spacefare crossover, the tension between the alien races, and the bad-ass bat monster that is Heryst! Some questions over whether we perhaps need a more relatable human-like character to get us into the story. Also, how big is a Jarsen? And is this is a prologue (boo! hiss!) do we really need so much of Alius’ backstory? Calls for a little more clarity over the species we encounter and for us to see these characters again soon! (Gief moar Heryst!)

Finally, Bryn presented the first part to a two part short story called An End to Forever. A lot of members felt this was reminiscent of Ian Banks and all enjoyed the poetic themes and the imagery (Superman approves your ice palace!). Some questions over whether we need the initial ‘prologue’ section and whether it wouldn’t be better to drip feed this throughout the story. Also, questions raised about whether the strong poetic element of this piece could be turned into a standalone piece of flash (no prizes for guessing who said this!). Calls for a little less info-dumping and a bit more characterization of our POV character: what does an eternal ice overlord look like?

That’s all for now. Our next meeting is Wednesday the 12th. See you then!

Pip pip.

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