Author Archives: Craig Pay

About Craig Pay

Craig Pay writes speculative fiction. His short stories have been published in various magazines receiving positive reviews from the Guardian newspaper, Interzone and Strange Horizons. In 2011 he won the NAWG David Lodge Trophy. In 2013 he completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Bolton University, receiving the Vice Chancellor's Prize. Craig runs a writing group in Manchester. He enjoys Chinese martial arts and many other hobbies. Craig has recently completed a science-fiction / Chinese mythology novel set in Titan orbit. He is represented by John Jarrold.

Important Announcement: Twice-Monthly Meetings

Our previous meeting on the 8th June was a huge success with 14 attendees, the highest number of people we’ve had to a single meeting so far. That’s great!

But it’s impractical.

We ran wildly over time and several attendees mentioned afterwards that they felt their feedback was rushed. Luckily not all 14 attendees offered feedback, or we would have had to drop the last couple of pieces from the meeting altogether.

No doubt this would have been very frustrating for everyone involved and would have probably caused a knock-on over-subscription to the following month’s meeting.

We need to change something.

As you all know, we currently offer open membership (with no attendance fees). We already cap the number of pieces of work being discussed per meeting, but this doesn’t stop the number of people attending each meeting from increasing to potentially unmanageable levels.

As you may also be aware, there’s a handful of dedicated group members who have been with the group for a long time who have been instrumental in establishing the group and making it what it is today. We’ve loosely called these people the ‘regulars‘.

An easy solution to the over-attendance would be to close membership, and of course it would make sense for the ‘regulars’ to get first dibs on available places.

We’re not going to do that!

Well, not quite. You see we’re in a predicament. We love new members joining our group; they introduce a refreshing new perspective to meetings and of course several of our ‘regulars’ started out as new members in the first place.

You see, we need new members. We don’t want to close membership, although a closed membership would allow us to more effectively manage our time. So we’re going to do both at once!

We’re happy to announce that, effective immediately, we will be running twice-monthly meetings, one with an open membership and one with a closed membership. Each meeting will have its own DropBox. Only ‘regulars’ will attend the closed meetings and joining the ‘regulars’ is by (extremely rare and occasional) invite only. This will reduce the load on the open meetings, giving everyone a little more breathing space.

To summarise:

  • We will continue to offer an open meeting on the second Wednesday of every month. We will continue to use the existing DropBox to distribute work for this meeting, the word limit will stay at 3000 words, anyone can join and there will be no fees. In fact, nothing at all will change with this meeting.
  • We will also run a second closed meeting on the last Wednesday of each month. This meeting will only be attended by the’ regulars’. Joining the ‘regulars’ and attending the closed meeting will be by invite only. During this meeting we will be discussing each other’s work as normal but we will also spend some time discussing the running of the overall group.

Many of the ‘regulars’ will attend both meetings. Some of the ‘regulars’ might submit work for both meetings (at least the prolific ones might do – I don’t how they manage it, but I suspect caffeine and a lack of sleep is involved).

This system has the advantage that we split the group between two meetings, there isn’t a headache over managing who attends which one, but we will continue to mix as a whole group.

“How do I join the ‘regulars’?”

That could take a very, very long time. Perhaps never. There needs to be a free space and we haven’t decided how many people we’re going to cap closed membership at yet.

“Can you add my name to the waiting list to join the ‘regulars’?”

No. There isn’t a waiting list. It won’t work like that. If – and that’s a very big ‘IF’ – we get a free space, we will look at all the recent attendees at the open meetings and we will pick the best fit for the closed group. We will not pick whoever has attended the most.

So that’s it. All we can do now is wait and see if this works. Thanks for your continued support!



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Meeting: 8th June

I’d like to welcome all the new members who joined us for last night’s meeting. We had fourteen people attending with seven pieces of work critiqued. This is the largest number of people we’ve had to a meeting so far! Even with a few people passing on comments we didn’t finish until 10pm and whilst it was great to see so many people we might need to think about how we deal with this many attendees in future.

What do you think? Should we limit the number of people who attend in future or was last night just too much fun?

As some of you know, we started trialling twice-monthly meetings a couple of months ago. We had two meetings in April but we only needed one in May. June looks like it’s going to be another busy month and we already have two pieces of work in the DropBox ready for a potential second meeting. I’ve chased MadLab for a date, I’ll send around an email as soon as I hear whether this second meeting is going to happen or not.

Twice last night I received the suggestion that perhaps we should have a second meeting per month dedicated to novel chapters. This was further discussed down the pub.

What do you think? We have two novel authors already submitting work (Rob and Guy), two of the new attendees last night submitted first chapters (Dan and Zarah) and I have a novel which I keep threatening to submit to the DropBox. Should we have two meetings per month, one for short stories and another for novels?

Here are the pieces of work we critiqued last night:

  • Zarah presented the prologue and first chapter from her novel The Weeping Empress. Everyone enjoyed the use of language and they especially liked the first chapter after the prologue. Several people commented that they weren’t sure whether the prologue was needed or could be chopped up and moved around or just dropped altogether. A few people thought the action scene in the first chapter could be speeded up by dropping some of the physical descriptions of the combatants involved.
  • John presented a short story  called And So I Awoke And Found Myself Here On The Cold Lake Side. Everyone enjoyed the quality of writing and the creature; several people liked the dialogue and the interaction between the characters. A couple of people thought the story was a little over-long and that the name/surname introductions could be cut down to first names only. There was a quick discussion about suitable markets.
  • Shirley presented a short story called The Wolf (case no A6554C). Everyone liked the CCTV and I think most people liked the scientists, although questions were asked about how scientific they were or whether they were more like certain TV presenters. Several people weren’t sure about the DVD ending and this prompted a debate about increasing the significance  of the DVD elsewhere in the story.
  • Dave presented a short story called The Pixellated Man. Everyone really liked the car crash. A few people thought the first half of the story was a little slow to get going and there was a little confusion about the initial resolution of the man himself. Glad to say I wasn’t the only old timer 8-bit fan out there! Several people enjoyed the allegorical racism and this prompted a debate about whether there should be more or less or whether it was too tidy.
  • Craig presented a short story called The Other Meat. Most people enjoyed the first line and the food/sex juxtaposition. A few people weren’t sure about the woman and her dialogue, or whether everyone will know what a Defender is. The jury still seems divided as to whether this is spec fic or not – good! Turns out there are plenty of roadkill-eating experts in the group as well as one practitioner. Lots of comments about the ending including one very well received suggested alternative.
  • Dan presented the first chapter from his novel Cold Calling. Everyone seemed to enjoy the hum-drum call centre environment and the sarcastic humour. There was a discussion about ladder heights and/or availability of lower rungs. There was also a quick debate about reveals in short stories versus novel chapters rounded off with a lovely graph from Ben (see below).
  • Chris presented a short story called Snowglobe. Everyone really liked the imagery in this story. A few people thought the story was a little over long, that the directed question to the reader didn’t quite work. Several people liked the dialogue, though a couple of people wanted more differentiation between the two speakers. Several people asked about the title and the author looked a little shifty when he gave his answer. There was another discussion about suitable markets.

As usual we popped down the pub afterwards for a very quick drink and a chat (it was after 10pm by the time we got there).

At the moment I’m not sure what’s happening with the next meetings. I’ve asked MadLab for a second meeting in June, hopefully on the 21st. I still haven’t heard back but as soon as I do I’ll edit this page with more details and send around an email. Watch this space!

Update 13th June: Hi everyone, we’re still fine-tuning the details on how we manage meeting numbers in the future but the good news is that we have a plan! We still need confirmation from MadLab on some dates before we go public with what we have in mind, but I’ll post again once we’re ready. For now, we’re running a small closed meeting on the 28th June (regulars only) and the next standard meeting after that will be Wednesday 13th July.

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Meeting: 11th May

First of all I’d like to welcome John Moran and Eric Steele who joined us for the first time last. Oh and that Greg chap who dropped in halfway through! We appreciated the excellent feedback you gave on our work and we’re looking forward to seeing some of your own work at a future meeting. And that was a mighty fine t-shirt Eric!

Secondly… Happy Birthday to us! Yes, the group is now a year old. We ate Guy’s cake and chatted about the good old times.

Then we got around to critiquing some writing:

  • Shirley presented the start of a short story called Love Thy Will Be Done. Most people liked the protagonist Constance, a few didn’t. Several people enjoyed the subtle use of language and the modest speculative element. There were a few questions asked about the first paragraph. Positive parallels were drawn with Children of Men (this film keeps popping up!) and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. We also discussed the use of bullets (typographical not lead) and flashbacks. We all want to see the final piece.
  • Rob presented the latest installation of his post-apocalyptic novel. Everyone seemed to enjoy the suicidal scene and there was a flurry of questions about how to punch yourself in the mouth and the positioning (and meaning) of the tattoo. Several people welcomed the new character Henry. There was the usual discussion about mixing third and first person (which continued at the pub afterwards).
  • Dave presented the start of a short story called Father And And And And And Sons. Everyone loved the Small Men! Several people commented on the flat world setting – that they liked it, and that it was subtle. The repetition didn’t do so well. Ah well. Positive parallels were drawn with Terry Gilliam’s work. Everyone wanted to see the finished work.
  • Craig presented a short story called Five-A-Day Friends. Everyone seemed to enjoy the sentient veggies, especially the tomato being eaten. There was demand for a little more variety in the swearing and the ‘Veggie paedo!’ outburst stirred up a quick debate. Pretty much everyone disliked the last line, but the author sneakily blamed that on someone else.
  • Guy presented a further chapter from his novel Night Work. Everyone loved the city shrugging off its day clothes. The journalism was picked apart, as was the spelling, as was the Mr Cockfosters joke. There was desperate plea for: “What’s going on!?” Several people liked the boats. And the politics. We all want to know what happens in that car crash…

As usual we popped down the pub afterwards. I remember chatting about mixing third and first person, and writing markets I think.

There’s a strange juxtaposition next month with the first Tuesday and second Wednesday, so for now let’s assume the next meeting is:

  • Wednesday 8th June, 7pm-9.30pm
I’ll have a word with MadLab about ‘pencilling in’ a possible meeting after this one in June. I do wonder whether that would be a better way of doing things in future? Have the Wednesday meeting first each month and a second ‘overflow’ meeting after that. What does everyone think?

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Website Banner Vote Results: May

The votes have been counted and we had a tie for first place with these two banners from Dave and Guy:



So I chucked a coin to decide who’s banner goes first and it’ll be Dave’s in May with Guy’s to follow in June. Thanks to everyone who voted!

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Meeting Postponed: Tuesday 3rd May

Just a quick post to inform everyone that the meeting next Tuesday 3rd May will be postponed. We only have two submissions in the DropBox so far and several people have mentioned that they won’t be able to make the meeting or they won’t have time to write anything. The next meeting is therefore Wednesday 11th May. See you there!

And only a couple more days to vote for the new website banner. Get clicking!

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Website Banner Vote: May

Which glorious banner would you like to see on the Manchester Speculative Fiction website for the month of May? Click on the images for a closer look and then cast your vote accordingly. Do you have anything to say about the new poll? Just add your comments below. Happy voting!
















Are you a member of Manchester Speculative Fiction? Would you like to see your own work up here? Just add an appropriately sized image (770 × 200 pixels or thereabouts) into the Resources folder in the DropBox. I decided not to list my own images for this vote as one of my banners has been in use for the last month. Any questions, just drop me an email to my personal address or via the contact form on this website.

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Meeting: 13th April

Another great meeting last night. We had six stories to workshop, we started at 7pm and we were still going at nearly 10pm. Then we headed around to the pub afterwards where we continued to chat – mostly about dialogue if I remember rightly.

All six attendees submitted work to be discussed. The submissions were as follows:

  • Chris presented the first half of a comic-fantasy short story called Ralph. The story was funny and comparisons were drawn with the Discworld stories. Everyone liked the use of the old protagonist, although questions were raised about his suitability in a piece intended for a YA audience. The casual gayness was enjoyed by everyone, although questions were raised about the quantity of leather.
  • Guy presented a further chapter from his novel Night Work. Everyone enjoyed the piece. Several people commented on improvements over previous chapters. Questions were asked about Sam, his black collar, who he is – lots of questions! There was a general lack of popular support for the bubble-wrap-popping. Everyone likes Sacred Cowboys. Some people liked the BHS juxtaposition, others didn’t. Some people liked pool-table-as-weapon, others didn’t.
  • Craig presented another short story from his Caliphate world, called Incarnate. Everyone seemed to enjoy the story: the neat length and the imagery. There was a good old GEV debate and lots of feedback on the nitty-gritty phrasing of narrative. Questions were raised about body disposal.
  • Dave presented a short story called St. Dragon and the George. Several people found the use of language quite poetic. Some people liked the formatting, others didn’t. Some people liked the lightning, others didn’t. Everyone enjoyed it, though one person wanted more of a “ball-shot” (I’m going to pretend I don’t know what that means). There was a great observation that the omniscient voice in the story could actually imply that England herself was the protagonist.
  • Ben presented the first two chapters from a new novel called Mammals. Everyone enjoyed the Wotsits (in the story, not a snack). Everyone liked the Rhino. Everyone liked the Dolphin-Lemur sex scene – don’t deny it, you did! – and they found it very funny. The implied Rhino-Bat sex seemed to work less well. And I’m writing this blog post, so I’m going to mention King Julian: “Frow ‘im in the volcano!”
  • Rob presented a further chapter from his novel. Everyone enjoyed the characterisation and the additional background this gives us on Seth. Most people seemed to think the chapter would be better placed later on in the novel, as opposed to right at the beginning, and we discussed in medias res (see how pro we are!). Several people liked the ‘crack in the bubble’ – although a couple of people saw the mayor enjoying  the crack a-la-pipe. There was a hearty debate about including first and third person views in the same novel – conclusion: we’re probably not allowed (yet).

Next meeting should be 7pm Tuesday 3rd May. I’ll send out an email when I have this date confirmed.

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