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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Meeting: 5th April

First of all, I’d like to welcome Paul Birchenough and Chris Behrsin who joined us for the first time last night. You both gave excellent feedback and we’re looking forward to reading your work at a future meeting. We also had a surprise visit from Ra Page of Comma Press who dropped in to give us a free copy of When It Changed to pass around. Thanks Ra!

Present at the meeting:

Summary of the evening’s critiques as follows:

  • Craig presented a short story titled Refugees. Everyone enjoyed the despair, however there was a little disagreement about whether there should be more tension or not. No one liked the info-dumping first paragraph – it will be edited!
  • Guy presented a further chapter from his novel Night Work. Everyone liked this chapter. A couple of people requested less muscle-clenching. Everyone seemed to like the Admiral, though they disliked her dialogue info-dump – somebody even wanted to see a little more effort over the de-clothing. Get a cabin! And: dialogue punctuation.
  • Rob presented a further chapter from his (still unnamed?) post-apocalyptic novel set in Manchester. Everyone enjoyed the bike ride and the twist at the end. Then we followed through with a discussion on third person omniscience, ambient night-time lighting and decomposing bodies.

As usual, we ended up in the pub afterwards. I seem to remember talking about podcasting and reminiscing about RPG games. But I’m sure we talked about writing as well at some point.

Next meeting is just one week away: 7pm Wednesday 13th April

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Meeting: 9th March

First of all I’d like to welcome Emma Audsley who joined us for the first time last night. We enjoyed your feedback we’re looking forward to seeing some of your own work in the future. Apologies from Rebecca who couldn’t make last night, we would still like to critique your work at a future meeting, perhaps in April?

With the delay to the start of the meeting we met beforehand at the Mini Marble, just around the corner from MadLab, for a drink and a chat. At 8pm we moved to MadLab. Summary of the evening’s critiques are as follows:

  • Rob presented the sixth chapter from his post-apocalyptic novel – this may have a name now, but he’s still not sure. There was a slight difference of opinion over the descriptionof the zombie malaise infecting the narrator’s fellow commuters. But everyone enjoyed the ranting! Some people liked the repetition, others didn’t. Everyone liked not liking the dislikeable narrator. We all appreciated Rob’s thong and stockings.
  • Ben presented the short story Our Lady of the Immaculate Tarmac. A few people demanded the story be rewritten as a play (the author states this isn’t going to happen). There was a discussion on sub-genre: lawnpunk versus motorwaypunk. There was a little confusion over the numerous characters and the Five Blocks. Everyone is looking forward to the final piece.
  • Dave presented the second part of his short story The WinterSouth Gates of Quetoriale Ke. Everyone felt the protagonist’s fear. There was a little tittering about metal undergarments and FleshBots. Everyone liked the setting. The poetic use of words was excellent, though it seemed to wander off on its own now and then. Several people preferred the original name for the city ‘Quetoriale Ke’ (or some derivative) as opposed to the new name ‘Phyen’.
  • Shirley presented the short story Motherly Love. Everyone was drawn in and thoroughly enjoyed the piece. The narration and dialogue were excellent, though the accent and apostrophes in the dialogue might need some editing for authenticity. There was a little concern over the young boy being chucked out of the house as readily as he was (personally, I think he had it coming to him the little brat!). The open ending was much discussed – frustration was felt by some; whilst others loved it.
  • Guy presented the fifth chapter from his novel Night Work. The coat confused everyone and there were several outbursts of geometric loathing (“Damn that triangle!”). Several people compared the Leviathan, most positively, with Lovecraft.
  • Hakim presented the short story Wolf Dreams. Everyone enjoyed the lyrical use of language. Several people found it confusing…although it was easily understood (if that makes sense). Rochester as a wolf worked very well. And the werewolf sex was great.

Due to the lack of time, critiques for Craig‘s short story Refugees will be put back to the April meetings. Whilst this was probably the plan all along, and we’re moving to twice-monthly meetings to cope for this exact eventuality, please consider planning your critiques before each meeting. Several people make notes beforehand, a few bullet points is a good idea. This is an excellent way to avoid repetition and umm’ing or ah’ing your way through your critique. You could also keep an eye on the time, however I don’t want people to feel rushed.

However, given all the last minute changes to the start time, we did very well to give six solid critiques during the evening. Great work! Afterwards, we popped back to the Mini Marble for a quick drink and a little more chat before we all headed home.

Next meetings are:

  • Tuesday 5th April
  • Wednesday 13th April

Please submit your work into the DropBox a week in advance of each meeting. If you’re submitting for the 13th April meeting instead of the 5th please make this clear in the filename of the document you submit into the DropBox.

We Need Your Artwork!

I’ve updated the banner on the website with a little creation of mine. Top marks for anyone who can guess what it is. Please have a look in the Resources folder in DropBox and suggest which banner you would like to see next month. Dave has recently added several pictures in there (they still need resizing to 770×200 but I can do this with PhotoShop if you have trouble).

We’re planning on rotating the banner every month, so why not have a go at creating some artwork yourself? The image needs to be 770×200 pixels and should have a vaguely speculative theme.

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