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Tuesday Meeting 23rd August 2016

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Last night several of us once again endured high temperatures to attend the Tuesday meeting. No doubt the sunshine contributed to the slight reduction in our usual numbers! Also, a warm welcome to Melissa, who attended her first meeting last night. We look forward to reading her fiction soon!

On with the critiques:

 

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“Matt…Damon!”

 

Kate presented the first chapter of an untitled YA sci-fi novel set on Mars.

Everybody liked the great detailed descriptions and the Martian setting (seriously, who doesn’t like Mars?) There was praise for the funny moments in the story and the character of “Magic”, the cut-price Martian tour operator. However, some felt that the secondary characters of Minty and Sapphire were introduced too early. Also, the protagonist’s brother is yet to come across as a character in his own right. But people liked the murder mystery plot and the double (!) cliffhanger ending of this first chapter.

 

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Peter submitted a short story titled “Mid-Space”.

People praised the nice writing of this piece. The protagonist’s conversation with his incompetent ship’s A.I. was generally thought to be very funny. Some logic questions: exactly how fast is light speed? Would Apple computers exist in the far future? Would a futuristic A.I. really be that incompetent? Some calls to raise the stakes and to turn the “down ending” into an “up ending”. But there was universal praise for the theme and that by the end of the story Duncan just wants to be friends with his A.I. Awww.

 

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Rob submitted the first chapter of his fantasy novel, “Necropolis”.

Everybody liked this piece. There was universal praise for the idea of mixing zombies with fantasy. Defoe and Romanitas were alluded to. Some minor anachronisms were pointed out. People also had mixed emotions toward the protagonist. Some felt she was too mean and unsympathetic. Others felt that she was interesting enough and that she will (hopefully) grow as the story continues. Some also liked the reversal of gender expectations. There was a little less enthusiasm for Heimel, who was felt to be a much weaker character. Everyone praised the horrible, bleak setting. Although maybe being based in Manchester had something to do with that!

 

Finally, Eric submitted three short flash fiction pieces.

People thought the “Eyes of Hera” was funny, but the punchline was a bit too convoluted and difficult to grasp. Some difference of opinion over felt the one-sided conversation of the narrator. Some suggested the writer go full-on Tweedpunk.  More people liked “Little Green Men” and the really mean last line ! Finally, “How the Ghost of You Clings” got the most praise, although some wanted more backstory for the protagonist, and there were calls to drop the line “Inconceivable” with its callbacks to The Princess Bride. Fair enough.

 

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Afterwards we all went to Common, which was unusually quiet (until we got there) and talked about Literary Festivals, Finland, fistfights and, of course, our upcoming anthology!

Next meeting: Wednesday 14th September. So, thanks to the quirkiness of our calendar, there’s plenty of time to get your subs in!

 

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Wednesday Meeting: 10th August

A Bit of a quiet one this Wednesday with only seven people in attendance. What we lacked in quantity we made up for in quality.

Tammy

Tammy presented a story called Procession.

Lots of nice comments about the dreamlike strangeness in this piece and I think everyone enjoyed the 1st person voice. There were some calls for an ending that is less told and more subtle, perhaps by playing up to the dreamlike strangeness more. Some members wanted to see the plot expanded while some felt that the story could maintain the same length if the author went with a ‘make your own mind up’ ending. As always members found the descriptions fantastic and the prose slick.

Eric:

Eric presented the 13th chapter from his horror novel ‘Hellbound’.

Lots of positive comments about this chapter. Most enjoyed the metamorphosis scene. Some felt that Kim might come across as a bit of a stereotypical Hollywood starlet, but that this was tempered when her past is revealed. Many felt that contrary to her outward behaviour, there was a lot of depth to Kim as a character. Some members are still finding there to be too many characters in the plot and would like to see a more direct approach to advancing the story. Perhaps a case of kill your darlings?

Chris:

Chris presented a comedy short story called Call of C’schoolu.

Everyone enjoyed the humour in this piece and there were lots of nice comments about the blending of Lovecraft with high school drama. The voice of the protagonist was a particular highlight for some, although there some comments that it could at times be a little more sophisticated than the tone of the piece or the protagonists age suited. Some of the more Lovecraft literate members pointed out a conflation of certain mythos elements. Lots of praise for the feel-good ending. Who knew Cthulhu could be so paternal?

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We nipped across to Common afterwards for a few jars of grog. The main topics of conversation ranged from how violent cartoons used to be and the submissions for our Second Anthology: Revolutions 2.

Next meeting is Tuesday the 23rd of August. See you all there!

Luke

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REVOLUTIONS 2!

Following the success of REVOLUTIONS, the speculative fiction anthology produced by the Manchester Speculative Fiction Group, we have decided to produce a sequel, titled (you guessed it) REVOLUTIONS 2!

We want your sci-fi, horror and fantasy stories! Payment rates have also gone up, so see the guidelines below and get submitting!

 

REVOLUTIONS!

 

REVOLUTIONS 2

Call for Submissions:

The theme will be the same as for the first anthology, which is that all stories must be speculative fiction and be linked to Manchester, England in some way.

REVOLUTIONS 2 will be available in e-book and print formats later this year.

Submissions are open to anyone who is aged over 18 from anywhere in the world.

Deadline now extended to November 15th.

Please read ALL of the guidelines BEFORE you submit.

 

GUIDELINES

What We Want

Stories must contain speculative fiction elements. This includes: science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, urban/contemporary fantasy, and dark fantasy.

Stories must be between 1,500 and 6,000 words in length.

All stories must be associated with Manchester or the Greater Manchester area in some meaningful way. For example, a story set aboard an orbiting space station that just happens to be called Manchester in the Alpha Proxima star system will probably be rejected. Having said that, we are flexible on this. The editors all have different tastes in fiction. If in doubt, submit!

Be creative. We want stories that are fresh, smart, entertaining, and emotionally satisfying. We want stories that surprise us, horrify us or offer us a glimpse of something we never imagined. You can be ultra-realistic or far removed from reality. The only thing is that your story must be set in Manchester or its suburbs.

You can find out about Manchester right here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester

Stories should be attached to an email and sent to: msfantho[at]gmail.com

In the subject line of your email write: “Submission [STORY TITLE] – [YOUR NAME]”

Please also give us a few lines of biographical information about yourself.

Stories should be in Times New Roman or Courier font, 12 point, double spaced. The following file formats are acceptable: rtf, .doc, .docx

Submissions must be in English.

What We Don’t Want

We do NOT want novels, pictures books, illustrations, non-fiction articles or photographs. We only publish short fiction.

We will NOT publish anything that depicts child abuse or bestiality.

NO multiple submissions. This means you can submit only one story until you receive a decision from us. You may then submit another story and so on.

For a taste of the kind of things we like, it would certainly be an advantage to read the first REVOLUTIONS anthology, available here: http://amzn.to/2aPakpq

Feel free to ask any questions to our self-aware Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/revolutionsanthology

Did we mention it has to have some connection to Manchester?

What We Give You:

REVOLUTIONS 2 is a paying market.

We pay each author that we publish a single payment of £15 Sterling.

What We Ask For:

First Print and Electronic Publishing Rights, exclusive for 12 months. After that, you are free to publish your material elsewhere.

Bear in mind that most publications will not publish pieces that have been published in print, eBooks, or on the web, so for all intents and purposes after your work is published by us it can only be marketed as a reprint, which severely limits the number of markets that will accept it, and drastically reduces the pay rate it can receive. It is up to you to decide if publishing your work in print and eBook formats and on the web, giving up your First Publishing Right for the above token payment, is really what you want to do.

We also reserve the right to place short (1 page or less) excerpts of stories online indefinitely for advertising purposes.

 That’s it!

Tentative publication date early 2018.

We look forward to reading your work!

The Editors.

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Meeting: Tuesday 26th July

Another top meeting last week with 9 members in attendance. To the crits:

Arthur presented the first chapter of Wendigo Water, a novelization of his radio play of the same name. A lot of members were well up for some wendigo madness. Praise here for good character interaction, an interesting opening and the last line cliff-hanger. There were some questions raised about the accuracy of the portrayal of the US legal system, and whether some of the characters/infodumps could be cut. Also, is the tone right for horror? Some members felt there was a comedic lilt to the righting. Calls for more showing, less telling… and more wendigo!

Eliza presented the second part to her short story, ‘More than one zodiac in school’. A lot of praise here for the elegant writing, with some members enjoying this more than the first part. Universal praise for the fantastic mother character and the conflict of bringing a friend round for tea for the first time. Members also enjoyed the twist with Tegan, though wondered about what her motives might be for her actions. Also, where the hell are Tegan’s parents? Finally, is the solution to Tegan’s problems a bit too easy? Lots of questions from members about what the message is with feeding your spirit/zodiac animal. Calls, also, for a bit more insight into Tegan’s scar (is this a product of her ‘separation’), and for some more on the powers the other spirit animals possess.

James presented the first part of a piece, working title: ‘the Grand Buffet’. Praise here for the great interaction between the mother and Alex, the dramatic conflict throughout and the general characterization of Alex. Some members found the piece reminiscent of Dexter (the serial killer, not the guy with the lab!) and Donnie Darko. Questions over what is going on with the personification of the tumour. Also, is there actually such a thing as 100-year-old malt? Calls to cut the names in dialogue, give a bit more characterisation for Alex’s sister, and perhaps hint more towards the overall narrative of the piece.

Last, but by no means least, Kate presented the second part of her hard-boiled noir ‘The Sad Bird’. A few members found this reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, with a lot of praise for the great writing, horror imagery (phantom beaks are, frankly, terrifying!), and Dave’s eventual comeuppance. There were quite a few questions raised over the final scenes: does the protagonist get away with things a little too easily?  There were calls to develop Dave’s character more and for harpy’s sake let us see the action scene!

That’s all for now. I should close by saying that this will be Arthur’s last session for a little while. I’m sure we’d all like to thank him for some great pieces and critiques and wish him the best of luck in Preston.

Till next time!

Next meeting Wednesday 10th.

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Wednesday Meeting: 13th July

Meeting 13th July 2016

Just three stories for us to get through this week. But we had a fab turnout and some great critiques. Thanks to all those who attended.

Eric:

Eric presented the second part of a military horror called ‘No Man’s Land’.

Everyone enjoyed this playful horror romp. Quite a few members felt the plot lent itself better to a film rather than a short story given the emphasis on visual descriptions. Some felt the glasshouse recruits were an odd choice given the sensitive nature of the mission. Would it not make sense to have such a sensitive operation staffed by specialist forces rather than unskilled grunts? A couple of the more militarily minded members questioned whether a dog (even one covered in armour) could withstand heavy machine gun fire. There were times that the POV slipped from limited into omniscient and there were calls for a tightening up. Do we need a character cull? Lots of positive comments on the fantastic imagery, and the Romeroesque ending.

Sir Pooch

Tammie:

Tammie presented a short piece entitled ‘Getting it Together’.

I think everyone enjoyed the zaniness of this piece. The idea of a blind date with a Lego person was hugely original and there was consensus across the group that the story hit the right humorous notes. There were big questions for some readers whether the ending works. We go quickly from a very light-hearted piece into something that seems to take a serious literary edge. The two sections either side of the two characters leaving the bar seemed too incongruous for some.

Lego Bar

Angela:

Angela presented a short piece called ‘New Gladys’.

I think everyone was intrigued by this YA piece. There were some questions over the size of the characters. It seems a bit odd that they are big enough to ride bats and squirrels, yet small enough to ride bumblebees. Given that the protagonist’s primary motivation for achieving her new rank is helping her terminally ill mother, it might make more sense for her to have a bigger role in the story. Some members commented that actually getting to know the mother might give the melancholic ending more oomph.  Is letting an elderly woman with dementia leave the community a good idea? Some comparisons with Avatar and Fern Gully. But lots of nice comments about the quality of the imagery, world building, and readable prose.

A might steed

I know there was no Chewbacca in the story. But a picture of him riding a squirrel was too much to resist!

As usual, we nipped across to common for a few swift ones. A few interesting developments for all you fiction scribblers. Algorithms have been crunched and equations computed, the Computer God has awoken from its power down and hungers for fresh spec fic. Keep an eye on his/her electronic shrine for more news.

See you all next time!

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Tuesday 28th June

Another great meeting last week with 11 members and five pieces critted (that must be some sort of record!

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Arthur presented a witty short story called ‘RTS’ that many members felt was reminiscent of a Douglas Adams like jaunt into space. There was much praise for the ideas in this piece: hoovering up zombies to put them on the moon was a clear hit, though members were split on the final pun. Some felt the piece was telling, not showing too much at the moment. There were also some questions about the general logic of the piece and motives of the characters; however, given the humourous nature and length, most were agreed that these points didn’t hamper the piece.

 

zombies-don-t-hoover

 

Eliza presented the first half of a short story called ‘More than one zodiac in highschool

There was a great deal of praise for the writing and characterisation here, especially the writing of Amy’s mum. Members also enjoyed the foreshadowing with Tegan’s drawings, Amy’s relationship with Long, and the dark tone of the piece. Some members were worried that the piece was a little too reminiscent of Phillip Pullman. The general consensus, though, was that the story could be made different enough not for this to be a problem, provided the spirit animal concept was made clearer.

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Kate presented the first part of a short story called ‘The Sad Bird’, which turned out to be a Russian folk-law meets noir detective story, with some definite cosmic horror vibes.

There was much to praise here amongst both the writing style and the very original ideas. Members had some questions over just how much under the protagonist was  under the creature’s spell and that they would be more shocked to discover such a creature exists. Some members also felt that the reveal that the client is a magical creature could be held back longer for effect. Also, a different profession for the protagonist than a Private Eye might be better. Some further calls to convert the narrative summary into dialogue. But so far everyone is enjoying this.

Graeme presented a short piece called ‘She’s Behind You’. Some members found this reminiscent of Donnie Darko, and all were in agreement that this was a very disturbing and creepy read, and in that respect entirely successful. Much praise for the ambiguity, clipped style, and use of the second person in this piece, and especially for the cold and distant voice of the POV. Some questions raised over why not every character has a ‘shadow’, and what goes on in the woods. Is our POV disturbed, or does he go through with the act? Again, though, the ambiguity was generally enjoyed by most members.

 

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Finally James presented a short piece called ‘Surfing Zombies’, which turned out to be a punchy read about a mysterious trashy video from the early 90s. All members agreed that the thought of zombies in speedos is utterly horrifying Praise for the hook and intriguing plot and the nods to 80s and 90s culture. Some members found the piece reminiscent of ‘the Ring’. Others raised questions about the rather sudden ending: Is he going to watch it again? Is it a curse? Will it affect our POV? Could the watching of the tape come parallel to other events in our POV’s life perhaps (we watched this crazy movie at a house party and…)? Calls for a bit more of a twist and a bit more showing rather than telling. Cowabunga!

 

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That’s all from us for now. Our next meeting is on Wednesday the 13t, 7pm at MadLab. See you there dudes/dudettes!

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Tuesday Meeting: 24th May

We had another great meeting last Tuesday, although with a slight change of location. After a mix-up with our usual room in MadLab, we headed over to Tea4/2 on High street (who were kind enough to give us a table for 2 hours). Nice chairs!

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We had 10 members in attendance this Tuesday including one new member. I’m sure everyone will join me in welcoming Claire, we look forward to seeing some work from you very soon.

On to our crits:

Peter presented two pieces: one short story and the first part of a larger work. A lot of praise for both of these, both the writing and the ideas. A few questions raised regarding whether these were standalone or part of something larger (something to make clear in the submission folder methinks). There was a feeling with both pieces that they gave a snapshot of an interesting world and perhaps wanted to be turned into something longer.

  • ‘The Centaurs’ Dream’ put some members in mind of a ‘Little Mermaid’ but with centaurs, which all agreed sounded like a job lot of fun! Some questions about ‘amphora’ in the first line and the difficult to character names possibly presenting a tripping point for flash readers. Calls to make more of the discovery of Chalcedon’s transformation and expand upon the reasons and repercussions for and of this change: is there some irony to this transformation?
  • ‘Enclosure’ received a lot of praise for the writing and descriptions. Some great world building here. Some members worried that the characters were a little bit generic and there were calls for this to be expanded to give the motivations and backstory for both our protagonist and antagonist. Questions over why our protagonist doesn’t put up much of a fight, and how her brother came to be the King’s right hand. Is he really in control? Where is the King anyway? We look forward to learning sometime soon!

Arthur presented the first two chapters from his novel ‘Repospace’, a Douglas Adams-esque foray into the life and adventures of an intergalactic repo man. There was all round praise for the setting and humour throughout this piece. Also praise for the characterization of Larrr. There were some concerns about the number of characters introduced in the second chapter and some calls for more active intros of the main characters. Some members felt that the sub-plot with Larrr needed to be drawn out over several chapters (or perhaps the whole novel!). Calls also for more active showing of the events in the opening. All agreed that there was a lot of great material here with Larrr’s backstory and the initial repo job-gone-wrong, but as this was all told by other characters rather than shown to the reader, we ended up missing out on a great ride! Lets get the narrator front and centre for the repoo job. Some questions over Larrr’s motivations given her situation and the  inclusion of the nagging wife.

Finally, Angela presented the first part of her story ‘Sorell Sharclaw’. Lots of praise here for the descriptions and vocabulary, aggressive main character, use of senses other than just sight, and the sinister foreshadowing of what we might have in store for us. Some members felt the piece was reminiscent of Chronicles of Riddick and Enemy Mine with our protagonist trapped on an apparently barren planet with an unsavoury character. Lots of interest in our POV’s implants and how they work. Some questions over why she has to shave her head to get them working (because they’re solar powered!) and why someone who powers up from sunlight has been imprisoned on a planet with three suns. Calls for more characterization of Dickrot (and some clarification: is his name really Dickrot?!), including bringing out his malevolent side (he’s a big teddy right now). Calls, also, for some more alien flora and fauna, and explanation as to why she has been exiled to this planet: what is the rehabilitation system that she is being put through? We look forward to seeing more soon, and hopefully getting some richer descriptions of this out of body experience.

That’s all for the crits; however, we’ve been getting quite a lot of comments about manuscript formatting recently. As a general reminder be sure to check out the Shunn Formatting guidelines. Basically:

  • Double line spacing in a plain font (Times or Courier)
  • Put ‘Name // Short-Title // Page#’ in your header (starting second page)
  • Keep your paragraphing consistent (if you use a hanging indent for new para, then stick with it!)
  • Use a # to designate a section break to avoid confusion.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad.

Our next meeting is an early one in the month: Wednesday the 8th. We’ll see you there!

Pip pip!

 

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Wednesday Meeting: 11 May

Hi all,

A quick announcement first

Our glorious leader Craig Pay is stepping down from running the group for the foreseeable future. I’m sure everyone will join me in thanking him for his hard work, fantastic crits, and general dedication to the group over the past several years, and in wishing him well with all his future exploits. We look forward to some fleeting visits (and please bring lightsabers for us to play with).

For the time being, the People’s Republic of ManSpecFic will be governed by Graeme Shimmin, Eric Ian Steele, Luke Shelbourn, and Chris Ovenden (hey, that’s me!)

OK, on with the report!


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We had another short meeting this Wednesday with just two pieces to crit, though we made up for this with some slightly longer critiques.

We would also like to extend a very warm welcome to two new group members, Lindy and Arthur, who were attending for the first time. You both gave some great critiques and we look forward to seeing some fiction from you in the very near future!

  • Hans presented the first half of a short story called ‘In the Wash’. This was a piece that I think everyone agreed was full of some very interesting ideas just looking for a bit more direction. There was some debate over whether it was leaning more towards horror or comedy, with some thinking it should perhaps be chopped up into different pieces. A lot of praise for the writing and dialogue, as well as for the transformation from mundane events to horror/absurd. A lot of questions about the hand in the washing machine: How big is it? Is it disembodied? Is it alien? Also, some members felt the two horror events in the story needed a stronger narrative connection (and perhaps that they needed homes in different stories). Calls for more foreshadowing and background to connect up the spooky events. Is this her husband coming back to haunt her, or is there a problem with the water supply?
  • Next, Angela presented a short piece called ‘That Creature Called Sprout’. Lots of praise for the premise of this piece and for the themes of death and rebirth. There were some questions about whether this could be capitalized on further, and whether the tree POV was being over-personified, but general agreement that this was a strong POV to work on. Some members felt the twist ending came too abruptly and needed more foreshadowing, and there were a few mixed feelings about the opening paragraph: some felt it had a nice hook, others that it could be cut. Calls for more world-building and a clearer explanation of Sprout’s actions towards the end: What are her motivations? Could she hear the POV all along? Is she a witch? A spirit? Is our tree POV really a tree? Lots of questions from an engaging story, we hope to get some answers when it makes it into print!

That’s all for this week. Next meeting Tuesday 24th (and we’ll try to get the blog post up a bit more sharpish!)

Keep writing!

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