23 September 2013

Iris Wildthyme of Mars Open Subs: Supplemental

Further to this post, and this webpage which it links to, discussions with potential entrants to the Iris Wildthyme of Mars open submissions competition have thrown up a few points of clarification.

1. I'd like the competition (and I really should have been clear about this) to be for unpublished authors. If you're a published author of fiction, you're very welcome to pitch a story for the anthology, but it'll go through a rather different route, to keep the field clear for the newcomers. Contact me at irisonmars@infinitarian.com for further instructions.

2. Multiple entries per person are allowed, though not especially encouraged. They'll make my life a bit of a pain, but I didn't explicitly rule them out when I had the chance, and it would be unfair to now. Don't say I never do anything for you.

3. While using anyone else's copyrighted characters or settings is a definite no-no, fiction which is in the public domain in the UK (where Obverse operates) is fair game for inclusion in the anthology. The UK's copyright laws are specific, though, that all works remain in copyright for 70 years after the author's death, so some material which is in the public domain in the USA is off limits -- most notably HG Wells's (1866-1946) The War of the Worlds. (The two most significant early Mars texts which are out of copyright in the UK are probably Gulliver of Mars and Edison's Conquest of Mars.)

Hope that all makes sense. Happy typing...

16 September 2013

Iris Wildthyme of Mars

This actually isn't one of the three exciting things I was mentioning yesterday, but it ought to have been. (And yes, I'm editing the book.)

* * *

Open Submissions Competition for Obverse Books

The short version: We’re looking for stories of 6,000 to 8,000 words, featuring the ‘Barbarella’ incarnation of Iris Wildthyme, and set on Mars – any version of the Red Planet you feel like (provided it doesn’t infringe copyright).  Please send a 600-word synopsis and a similar-length sample of your story to opensubs@infinitarian.com.

Click for the long version.

15 September 2013

Review and Prognosis

I'm very much hoping that in the next week or so, I'll have something very exciting to announce here. In fact, there are three things I need to get around to announcing: one entirely predictable if you've been paying attention to my recent career, but with some cool aspects; one rather more exciting and also cool; and one very exciting and cool indeed. I might even announce them all at the same time.

For the moment, though, you'll have to accept me being mysterious. Sorry about that.

I realise now that I never updated this blog to mention that More Tales of the City is available to buy (as paperback or ebook) from Obverse Books: it also has an Amazon page (UK and US) which should shortly be enhanced by the addition of the cover, although I wouldn't recommend trying to buy it through that route.

More Tales has had a couple of rather decent reviews since release: this one from Andrew Hickey (also on his blog) and this from JD Burton (registration needed) are particularly pleasing. I'd also commend this flattering review of Horizon to your attention.

Conventional Weapons

Last week, cuddly thug and part-time London mayor Boris Johnson committed one of the trademark blunders for which idiotic people seem to delight in forgiving him, by claiming that President Assad's Syrian regime is worse than that of Nazi Germany, on the grounds that "Not even Hitler used chemical weapons, as far as I can remember."

A lot of people have condemned this as thoughtless, and rightly so: for any politician to pontificate about Hitler without keeping the Holocaust foremost in his mind is crass and horrifically insensitive. All the same (and without condoning his fundamental point), I can see from a purely semantic point of view what might have caused Johnson to phrase his statement the way he did.

It seems to me that generally speaking, the conventions of English don't tend to include tools of execution under the category of "weapons". Obviously some execution methods (beheading, firing squad) involve items whose presence in other contexts makes them unambigously weapons, but despite the dictionary definition (which will usually be something along the lines of "Device designed or used to cause harm to a human [or possibly "a living"] being"), I've yet to hear a guillotine or an electric chair described as a "weapon". As far as I can remember, I've never seen crosses included in lists of Roman weapons, either.

So what exactly makes a killing implement a weapon? It isn't use in combat (as Johnson's hasty clarification seems to assume), because a sentence like "Poison was a favourite weapon of assassination" sounds perfectly reasonable. It isn't use by an individual rather than the state, because (to take an extreme example) almost nobody would call the deployment of a nuclear weapon at Hiroshima the responsibilty of the bombardier on the Enola Gay.

Thinking about it, I suspect that what makes the difference is that there's an element of chance in a weapon's operation, arising from the uncontrolled conditions in which it's used. A poisoner's victim may decide they don't fancy the figs today; a sniper may hit a member of the President's security detail by mistake; even an atom bomb may miss its target or fail to go off.

Executions, though -- and all the more so the industrialised mass murder of the Final Solution -- happen under highly controlled conditions, failure is rectified, and death is (barring the occasional miracle) certain. Such killings become a process rather than an act, and English speakers, probably entirely subconsciously, feel that the term "weapon" no longer really applies.

Which is interesting, I reckon.

Linguistics aside, the only real point I have arising from this is that, if we accept methods of execution as weapons, the United States has been using chemical weapons against its own citizens for decades. Are we going to do anything about that?