Author Archives: J.E. Bates

About J.E. Bates

J. E. Bates is a lifelong communicant of science fiction, fantasy, horror and other mind sugar and screen candy. He's lived in California, Finland and many worlds in between.

Ride the Star Wind Out Now

Ride the Star Wind, an anthology of Lovecraft-themed space opera, is now available from Broken Eye Books in paperback and hardback format. I received my hardback copy recently and it’s gorgeous, from the lush cover to the rich array of professional illustrations inside. It was particularly exciting to see the illustration for my story.

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Ride the Star Wind by Broken Eye Books

My story in the anthology is called “The Eater of Stars” and it’s about 6,000 words of space opera set in the same Astral Diadem setting as my other stories. The attempt here was to create a contrast between an imaginable humanoid high-tech/magitek civilization and the further unknown: a species of alien beings significantly more advanced than the humanoid civilization. Along those lines, it uses a device from The Shadow Out of Time, among others.

The viewpoint character Chydi is a diplomatic attache for a mid-level interplanetary state called Brakandy. She’s posted at the Circlet, which is the hub of an interstellar federation called the Association, ruled somewhat loosely by a benevolent AI known as Governing Intelligence.

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Chydi flees a Gi Pawn. No pushing on the travelators.

Her backstory, while not obviously relevant to the main storyline, allowed for some fun point of view shifts during the course of the story related to gender articles.

The accompanying illustration by Mike Dubisch (to the right) is gorgeous and captures what I hope is a frenetic and exciting opening to the tale. We see Chydi in her pajamas running and pushing up a travelator (a moving sidewalk) within the interior of the Circlet, desperate to reach Governing Intelligence to warn it about an impending disaster.

The Circlet is a well-ordered society however, and pushing is not allowed. The robot in the background is a Gi Pawn, an encapsulation of the Circlet’s overriding AI which enforces local laws.

The collection is also available as an ebook on Amazon.com here. It’s a fantastic anthology overall with great stories and high production values.

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Carriola a Semi-Finalist for James White Award

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my short story “Carriola” has been shortlisted for the James White Award. Well, maybe longlisted would be more accurate as it’s there along with about 15 other stories, but it’s made the first cut, so that’s great.

From the official blog:

The James White Award is pleased to be able to announce the longlisted stories for this year’s award. These are:

  • The Astronaut Tier
  • Carriola
  • Corinna, Fractured
  • Dagher’s Children
  • Don
  • Exposure
  • Leviathanology
  • May the Pain Guide You Home
  • Morrigan
  • Shepherd Boy Balances the Hundred Souls
  • Sim World Scripting Derby
  • Skin and Bone
  • The Cut
  • The Devil’s Breath
  • The Dying Glass
  • The Origin of Serendipity
  • Tumbler

Authors of other submissions can consider their stories released.

We hope to announce the shortlist within two weeks and the winner shortly afterwards.

Carriola is a story not mentioned on this blog before, I don’t believe. It’s actually set on Taral, the same planet seen in The Eater of Stars, sold earlier this year.
The James White Award Short Story Competition was established in 2000. It is open only to non-professional writers and offers them the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading and longest established science fiction magazine.

 

Beetle-Cleaned Skulls Live on Escape Pod

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“Beetle-Cleaned Skulls” on Escape Pod, as read by Trendane Sparks

Exciting day today as Escape Pod has published my science fiction short story, “Beetle-Cleaned Skulls” on their site, both as a text version and a 30-minute audio version read by professional voice talent Trendane Sparks.

This is an exciting milestone,  my first SFWA-qualifying sale and the first one to go live. It’s also the second time I’ve heard my own work in audio form read by others. It’s exciting to hear a skilled narrator reading your own work, while at the same time your own clumsy phrasing and poor word choices is cringe-inducing.

The story itself is set in the Astral Diadem, the same broad setting used by most of the other work on this page. The Rapport that feature prominently in this one are mentioned tangentially in “Faster Than Death”, (previously published in the Shattered Space anthology). The same setting also appears in “The Eater of Stars” forthcoming in Ride the Star Wind, as well as 7-8 other shorts currently making the rounds.

Beyond that, I won’t say too much about “Beetle-Cleaned Skulls” itself. You’ll have to go and read or listen to the story yourself.

Ride the Star Wind on Kickstarter

Last week, my story “The Eater of Stars” was accepted by the anthology Ride the Star Wind. This is exciting as it should qualify as my second SFWA sale, along with the story coming soon to Escape Pod.

Ride the Star Wind: Where Space Opera Meets Cosmic Horror is a Cthulhu-themed space opera anthology from Broken Eye Books. Here’s a description from the anthology call:

Send us into space, away from earth, and bring the weird! Give us adventure and wonder, spaceships and monsters, tentacles and insanity, determined struggle and starborne terror…

We want diverse stories with modern sensibilities from many different voices that show the immense and diverging possibilities ahead for weird horror…

For mixing elements of space opera and cosmic weird horror, the short story “Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette is a great touchstone…

You can read the full call here.

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Ride the Star Wind from Broken Eye Press

The anthology also has a (successful) Kickstarter project to fund interior artwork to go with the vivid, full color cover. The project just minutes ago made its first stretch goal where it will physical 3×5 illustrations to all backers.

A second stretch goal will be a free audiobook of the entire anthology,  so by no means is it too late to become a backer and get your hardcover edition. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter.

My story uses the same setting as most of my other stories. Cosmic entities have been part of the backstory of that universe since the start, although Lovecraftean themes aren’t the primary driver behind the world-building.

Let’s not give the plot away, but the story has a couple abrupt, ninety-degree turns and perspective shifts that fit its themes of self and other, the unknown and the unknowable. As a tease, here’s the invented epigraph from the beginning of the story:

“Who’s afraid of science? The word means only knowledge. Science is the light of the mind. It is magic you should dread, that boundless infinite beyond all understanding and the instruments of our reason. Fear not the unknown but the unknowable.”

The Book That Never Sleeps

Faster Than Death in Shattered Space

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Shattered Space by Tacitus Publishing

Sounds like a long, cool title but it’s actually two names in one: “Faster Than Death” is a short story I wrote that’s out now in the Shattered Space anthology. Available from Tacitus Publishing, this anthology collects short stories featuring science fiction and horror and is available through Amazon. It’s also included in the Kindle Unlimited program, meaning you can read it for free if you’re a KU subscriber.

The following blurb accompanies the collection:

The concept of traveling through space and visiting outlandish planets has always fascinated humankind. But what if these journeys to the outer reaches are not so pleasant? What horrors, whether alien or imagined, would we find? Once there, what new challenges will we face as technology progresses beyond socially acceptable behaviors and what we perceive as ‘human nature’? Shattered Space showcases a collection of short stories written by gifted authors that touch on some of the possible answers.

My story is set in the Astral Diadem setting used for most of my stories and oddly enough, it ties into the story “Beetle-Cleaned Skulls” that will be broadcast on Escape Pod in a couple of months, albeit in a loose and tangential way. One doesn’t need to read one story to follow the other, or vice versa.

The illustration accompanying this post is part of the anthology, which includes a black and white line drawing with each story created by the multi-talented editor, James S. Austin. In this case, we’re seeing Raku’s eyes covered with a black glass, one of the key visual elements in the story.

Other stories in the collection are written by C.R. Galarza, David F. Gray, Colin Hinckley, Gregory L. Norris, Daniel Rosen, Josh Shiben, T.S. Kummelman, Brett Parker, and the editor, James S. Austin. A great bunch of stories they are too, and a huge thanks to Tacitus Publishing for including my piece and giving it a home.

Beetle-Cleaned Skulls Placed

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“Perform each instruction in its proper order.”    The Codex of the Rapport

Escape Pod today accepted my sci-fi short story “Beetle-Cleaned Skulls.” That might sound like a horror story but it’s not, it’s more or less science fiction featuring robots and humanoids doing their thing on a faraway world. I don’t know when the story will be posted yet but will update again when it’s live.

 

It’s exciting because it’s my first SFWA-qualifying sale. I’m doubly excited because it will be published as a podcast as well as text, recorded by a professional story reader. I don’t know who yet and probably won’t until it’s published. Books on tape, podcasts, and other forms of audio are fantastic ways to take in fiction and something I enjoy listening to all the time.

Some great contemporary speculative fiction podcasts include Escape Pod, Podcastle, Cast of Wonders, 600 Second Saga (which ran a flash piece of mine last year), and many others. There’s also a great deal of public domain science fiction available on YouTube and elsewhere, much of it read by volunteers for the blind but enjoyable by all. Among these, Librivox stands out.

Often, I create audio versions of my own work during the drafting process with text-to-speech software. This helps highlight errors, repetitions, and other gaffes you might otherwise miss in revision. I use Balabolka for that which is free and even if the audio quality isn’t the best it also allows pronunciation edits. Those are great for invented words, which turn up a lot in fantasy and science fiction.

Balabolka uses Microsoft Speech API’s phonetic alphabet to express speech in phonemes. For example, Isarra, the name of the star system in the story, is represented in MS API as:

<pron sym=”iy – s – ao – r – ah”/>

In IPA, you’d probably write that: /i.sɔɹˈ.rə/. The simple explanation is it sounds like the Spanish surname Ibarra without trilling.

Image montage credits: ESO, Wikimedia, and Wikimedia.

‘Popcorn Bargain’ Now Live

I’m excited to announce that my flash fiction ‘Popcorn Bargain’ mentioned in the last post is now live as an audio story on 600 Second Saga and can be enjoyed in iTunes and other fine podcasting venues, as well. A complete list of links is here:

The story is ably ready by Mariah Avix of  600 Second Saga. It’s a short listen so please enjoy, share, and subscribe on iTunes.