Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan. Maybe even more than most North Americans, because I have a wonderful Japanese daughter-in-law, I’ve visited the country, and I have a great affection and admiration for the people. The earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear threat have tested Japan and its people in many ways.

Of course, this isn’t the only major disaster in recent years: a serious earthquake in New Zealand just last month, unimaginable flooding in Australia, the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year, even the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia are all vivid in our memories. And that’s a very short list, not including any manmade disasters.

It occurred to me that disaster stories have always been a mainstay of speculative fiction. My own story “Tartarus Rising” was recently published in the anthology Doomology: The Dawning Of Disasters, a collection of twenty-three examples of the form, all very different. I’ve also written a story called “The Cleansing” about a future consequence of genetic modification of crops. But why the fascination with disasters?

Apart from the fact that they’re naturally compelling, they also offer lots of narrative and dramatic potential. The moment a disaster strikes, any number of conflicts arise: man against nature, man against man, man against self, and nearly endless subcategories. There are always elements of a trial, ordeal, or quest—classic themes of fiction. Manmade, and even many natural disasters, provide the opportunity for the perennial SF strengths: allegory and cautionary prescience. But, perhaps most of all, disasters are the perfect means to reveal character.

I’ve heard it said that fiction isn’t about stories, it’s about the people the stories happen to. And a disaster scenario is guaranteed to reveal the best and the worst in a person, whether real or fictional.

In the media, much has been made of what the recent disasters have revealed about the character of the Japanese people. But these events, and even more so disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, reveal just as much about the character of the rest of the world community. Good and bad.

Maybe that’s why they’re so compelling—they teach us about ourselves as well as those with whom we share the planet. I think that’s reason to conclude that disaster stories in SF won’t be going out of fashion anytime soon.

On a completely different note, I was glad to see the newest issue of On Spec hit the stands. It includes my story "The Wind Man" about a born storyteller with a very unusual curse. I hope you'll get your hands on a copy. The whole issue is very good.



The winners of the “Canadian Tales of the Fantastic” Competition have now been posted on the website for Red Tuque Books. I mentioned in an earlier post that my story “Shakedown” picked up an Honourable Mention. Congratulations to all of the winners, especially the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners: David Routledge, Marianne Paul, and Lindsey Carmichael. Publisher David Korinetz says that all of the 13 winning stories will be published in an anthology in September of this year. I look forward to it, and I hope the contest continues for years to come. If your writing tastes tend more to mysteries, Red Tuque Books also has their Canadian Tales of the Mysterious Short Story Competition underway now.

“Shakedown” is a story about a prototype nano-sized submersible intended for operations within the human bloodstream (like Fantastic Voyage but without the inexplicable shrink ray), and the peril involved when the virtual-reality control system becomes far too real. It’s a prequel story to a full-length novel I’ve written, currently being vetted by beta readers, for which I’ll soon be seeking an agent and a publisher.

I was also glad to see this week that the anthology Doomology: The Dawning of Disasters from the Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy, including my story “Tartarus Rising” is now available at Amazon.ca  as well as Amazon.com, so Canadian readers can take advantage of free shipping (always good!) “Tartarus Rising” is a tale about a disastrous invasion of our world, but from a very different source than the usual (hint: the name references Greek mythology). I got a kick out of writing it, and I hope that comes across in the reading.


I’m sure every writer knows the feeling: it seems to take forever from the time a story is sold until it finally appears in print. So today’s a good day.

My story “Tartarus Rising” is part of an anthology of disaster stories called “Doomology: The Dawning of Disasters” from the Library Of Science Fiction Press, and the anthology was just made available through Amazon.com yesterday. I haven’t held a copy in my hands, so I’m really looking forward to getting my copy and reading it. I love disaster stories, and this anthology features 23 of them, so I hope it finds a great audience. You can find the cover art on an earlier posting from November (below).

My story “The Wind Man” will be included in the Winter edition of On Spec: the Canadian magazine of the fantastic which, according to their website, is due out “Soon, very soon.”

In the meantime, another story of mine called “Shakedown” has picked up an honourable mention in a Canadian SF contest, which includes an anthology publication. But I’ll refrain from giving details until the publisher posts all of the information officially.

All in all, a good month so far. Although waiting for the next story to hit print will still feel like forever.


Being a writer involves a lot of learning: much of it to learn the craft, some of it to learn research details to give a story authenticity. I don’t mind that—I’ve always loved learning. But one of the most necessary skills for a writer to learn, and possibly the hardest, is patience.

The waiting is a killer: waiting to hear back about a submission (a lot of that!), then waiting to get a contract, go through the copy-editing process, and above all waiting to see those sweat-infused lines of prose or poetry actually appear in squiggles of print. That’s why writers go grey. Or even bald…in patches.

All of this is a lead-up to say that I still don’t know when my story “The Wind Man” will appear in On Spec (http://onspec.ca/news ). I’ve been listed in the “Upcoming Issues” section for several issues now, so hopefully it will be soon. My story “Tartarus Rising” will be included in the anthology “Doomology: The Dawning Of Disasters” from The Library Of Science Fiction and Fantasy Press, (http://libraryofthelivingdead.lefora.com/2010/05/19/doomology-the-dawning-of-disasters-toc/) but no publication date has been announced yet. It should be soon, too. At least we’ve been able to get a look at the cover art for the anthology. I like it a lot—surreal, with just the right amount of B-movie pyrotechnics. Have a look.


My most recent acceptance to date is from an upcoming anthology called “Doomology: The Dawning Of Disasters” to be published by the Library of Science Fiction & Fantasy Press. They’ve published quite a number of anthologies and other books, with most of their experience being in the horror genre. They accepted my story “Tartarus Rising”, though I’m still waiting for the contract. It’s a different take on the disaster story, that warns us an alien invasion won’t necessarily come from above.