Writers of the Future


The late L Ron Hubbard is famous for Scientology, Dianetics and being a Science Fiction writer, in that order. His legacy of the first two items is questionable however, as an SF devotee, he left behind a free to enter, well-regarded, quarterly competition – Writers of the Future.

Competitions are a spur (out of interest this is one I enter) and the entrants are also provided with a forum. Forums, like most social media are a time sink but there are some worthwhile questions. I’ve been on the forum several times and here’s my answers to some of their questions.


New Users! Introduce Yourselves!

I live in Accrington UK. For the geographically minded, this places me slap-bang in the middle of one of the oldest football rivalries – Burnley and Blackburn…that’s soccer to the many Across-the-Pondanians :-). I started writing in 2009 and I’ve written four novels as well as 50+ short stories and several exploratory, novella length narratives. Although I think of myself as an SF writer, much of my shorter works are… well normal. I’ve been entering Writers of the Future on and off since 2015 (honourable mention plus a silver). Some of my stuff is on Lulu and Kindle; my non-SF stuff includes a book on my home town, Burnley, plus a book of poetry. I’m also a writing group junky.


What are your favourite short story collections

I’ve upwards of 150 short story collections. Over the years I do revisit them. I was always struck by how an author could produce a great collection and then come up with an absolute stinker. Some of the best include:
The Green Hills of Earth (Robert Heinlein – from his Future History)

The Green Hills of Earth
Neutron Star (Larry Niven – Thrints, Bandersnatchi, Puppeteers – Known Space)

Neutron Star

The Illustrated Roger Zelazny (enjoyed this also for the illustrations – I’ve been a fan of Gray Morrow since his work on El Diablo for DC)

The Illustrated Roger Zelazny

All the Traps of Earth (Clifford D Simak)

All the Traps of Earth and Other Stories

Lost Worlds 1 (Clark Ashton Smith – Zothique, Averoigne and Others)

Lost Worlds, Vol. 1

Metamorphosis and other stories (Franz Kafka – I just like Kafka)

Metamorphosis and Other Stories

The John W Campbell Memorial Anthology (a good guy well remembered)

The John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology

Spectrum Volume 1 edited by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest – the introduction to this volume puts the case for well written Science Fiction – given where the genre is, it’s still worth a read – I blogged this series as part of my obituary to Robert Conquest

Spectrum I: A Science Fiction Anthology


Did New Wave Science Fiction deliver?

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing – you get to be judge, jury and executioner. In the mid 1960s New Worlds Magazine was the premier British SF journal. It was circulated in WH Smith and was a valuable window into the genre. Michael Moorcock then became editor. Moorcock was an evangeliser for New Wave SF. I remember reading about how New Wave SF was going to be good for the genre, and thinking: ‘that’s impressive’. That was over 40 years back.
New Worlds failed: WH Smith dropped it, it became dependent on Arts Council subsidies and then they pulled the plug. It ceased monthly publication in 1970. The New SF, published just a few months later, laid out all the flaws of the movement to the paying public – yes I bought a copy – it had morphed into a sanctuary for literary self-indulgence.


Where do you get your inspiration?

This is different for everyone. Observation of the writing groups I’ve been to suggests that many depend on a prompt. Professional authors have themes they work to – this I guess will tie into their respective book deals. A prompt seems artificial and forced to me. Themes aren’t hard, there are thousands of them just waiting to be explored. The exploration side is different; I have a number of different ways of dealing with the actual process, depending on whether I’m progressing a scene, resolving a plot discontinuity or sharpening up a character.
Those different ways can mean going for a walk, sleeping on it, listening to a relevant musical piece in the car or just plain writing out the ideas (paper or PC). Sometimes, all it takes is a measured discontinuity to the process of writing, to get things to click.


Which Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You Enjoy?

Sci-Fi books I have enjoyed (Fantasy another time)
Hothouse by Brian W Aldiss – a delightful take on flora / fauna gone evolution/ecologically crazy

Hothouse

Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K Dick – Dick on top form Glimmung, the Kalends and the original gig guy Ceramic pot healer Joe Fernwright. What more could you ask for (apart from 40+ novels and 100+ short stories)

Galactic Pot-Healer

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – it doesn’t belong here but I’m putting it down anyway – a fan since Miracle man days.

Stardust

Deathworld 1 by Harry Harrison – before the Stainless Steel rat was Deathworld

Deathworld

Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein – could have chosen many by Heinlein – still the grand-master

Podkayne of Mars

The People: No Different Flesh by Zenna Henderson – aliens that are neither distant nor uncaring

The People: No Different Flesh

Dune by Frank Herbert – excellent working of religious motifs + holy war, the urge to improve the human race + all the accompanying shenanigans and manoeuvrings.

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin – fluid sexuality in SF (not too fluid mind)

The Left Hand of Darkness

The Marriages between Zones Three, Four and Five by Doris Lessing – Ms Lessing urges the genre to vacate its ghetto.

The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, And Five

Ringworld by Larry Niven – the exploration of artefacts and cultures in SF – yup

Ringworld

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle – a gripping account of (one of) the dangers of first contact

The Mote in God's Eye

Dark Piper by Andre Norton – the collapse of interstellar civilisation, secret animal experiments – a darker Ms Norton

Dark Piper

Gateway by Frederick Pohl – more investigation of alien artefacts (Heechee 1)

Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)

Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg – a thoughtful look into telepathy

Dying Inside

Halcyon Drift by Brian M Stableford – the adventures of a space pilot with character (Hooded Swan 1)

Halcyon Drift (Star-Pilot Grainger, #1)

The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance – ah, the Dying earth in all its glory

The Eyes of the Overworld

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells – Mars, ancient Mars brought to a Victorian England in all its tripod glory. When my daughter finished reading the copy she borrowed from me about 5 years back, I’ll scan its cover because Goodreads’ version of the image I want to use is the pits.

The War of the Worlds

The Time Machine by HG Wells – wow – needs no intro

The Time Machine

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – a cure for the world’s fule needs – there’s just one slight snag

The Day of the Triffids

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny – a reworking of Hinduism and Christianity in a Science Fantasy setting

Lord Of Light

No Asimov, Anderson, Ballard, Blish, Bradbury, Brin… and many, many others. Plenty of good works between them but I’ve gone for notable.


Go for the novel? Or stick with the short story?

Initially I wrote my first draft in 3½ months. It was 60k words. Eventually I expanded it by rewriting and restructuring. As it stands it’s a collection of peripheral stories that centre on a main character whose line of work takes him through the reason behind the collapse of civilisation. It could be deconstructed into its constituent story lines. The point is: what do you want to say? If you just want to narrate, trial until you hit the right length. If you have a vision, consider using different angles of approach so the beast you are describing gets several perspectives – this being the point of the Elephant in the Room. There are plenty of techniques at your disposal, get them played with!
Testing writing preferences – my experience. I’ve done four novels, three novellas, the first 20k words of another 4 works, 50+ short stories; and I’ve ventured out of genre (SF / Fantasy) to poke around in Noir, Americana and Historical Fiction. In addition I’ve done a book of essays on my home town (Burnley, Lancs), a poetry collection plus I’ve prepared anthologies for various writing groups. There isn’t an ideal writing length – my longest is 165k words and my most common is sub-1,000 words. I’m currently planning novelette sized takes on the future of humanity in space.
The important thing is to write. Once you’re underway, you’re a ship set sail for distant lands; pace yourself to tell the tale. Don’t skimp, get it told and if you get to first draft, then you can consider length etc.

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About Terence Park

Collections: vinyl records, comic books, paperbacks; I've plenty of them all. I also do spreadsheets.
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