23 Nov 2015

Distant Machines

Three short stories that speculate about the distant machines that may or may not influence mankind's future.

Perks Of The Job - two detectives investigate a death caused by excessive genetic enhancement. Where do we draw the line when our bodies can be changed at will?

Still - in a post-apocalyptic world a man and his son meet a wandering stranger who puts their whole life in jeopardy, and who makes them ask: what is the most precious commodity in a world without oil?

The Death Machine - luxury euthanasia...live the death of your choice! Your statutory rights are not affected.

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Feedback from readers

"[Still] conjures the bleak majesty of THE ROAD by Cormac Macarthy, and in the moral dilemma presented within the story, it reminded me very strongly of one of my favorite-ever-novels, THE EARTH ABIDES by George R Stewart. Simon pulls no punches with his prose, and has a clean, hard style that reads well."

13 Nov 2015

A Quantum Leap

The technology behind the TV show Quantum Leap is real, a black project run by the Pentagon in the 1980s to embed its spies directly into the minds of America's enemies.

Shut down due to test subjects going out of control when inhabiting other bodies, the technology has been stolen by North Korea and the programme has been resurrected by Kim, Jong-il.

But someone has gone missing inside the machine, and Dr Hwang, Ji-hoon's whole existence rests on bringing that person back.

Buy A Quantum Leap as an ebook online now from the following retailers:
Feedback from readers

"By the time I was four pages in, I'd already lost sense of my reality and was living in Simon's world. Normally I am easily distracted when I read, but something about Simon's work seems to lock me in, securing my undivided attention. If you knew me, you'd know just how highly that speaks to the quality of his work."

9 Nov 2015

The Slender Man

When Adam Bradford's sister goes missing he drops everything to assist the police, travelling up to the isolated village where she lived.

When he arrives at her cottage, however, he discovers a life in disarray and a bedroom filled with cryptic notes and mysterious blurred photographs.

At first he puts this obsession down to some kind of psychological disorder, but after he experiences a series of disturbing events he begins to question whether there is any truth to the myth of the Slender Man...

The Slender Man is a horror novella that creepypasta fans will love - buy the ebook online now from the following retailers:

Feedback from readers

"Throughout the book there's a sense of creeping dread which few authors can pull off successfully. Cox is one of them and The Slender Man is one of the few books of this genre which I've found genuinely scary. It's a lot like watching a horror film and feeling that tense fear of knowing that something terrible is going to happen. He uses a backdrop of rural silence upon which to impose the sounds of the unseen creature -- 'the clack-clack-clack like ancient bones being beaten against one another' -- all the more menacing because they're so out of place. And like the shadow seen from the corner of your eye, the Slender Man generates fear from his indistinctness."

"It's sharp and short, working especially well when read in one hit, it seemed to me to be just one continuous page of ominous text. I don't know quite how he did it but there was an incredible sense of pervasive dread that gave a seriously creepy feel to the book."

"Not normally the kind of book I'd read but I was gripped from the beginning and read it in a day. Would definitely recommend it."

2 Oct 2015

Something something something aliens

Writing my sci-fi story Fool's Gambit got me wondering: what exactly is science fiction? What is the definition? Where do the boundaries lie? What are the rules?  

I'm sure there are a lot of well-researched and philosophical articles out there that Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein* their way towards a perfectly serviceable definition, but frankly I can't be bothered to read them so I'm just going to boldly go where I'm guessing many men have gone before.

Something something something aliens

I wrote recently that writing science fiction was about writing any old story, replacing "car" with "spaceship" and then finishing with "an alien did it THE END".

I was only half joking, because Fool's Gambit started life as a story set on a trawler in the Atlantic. I couldn't work out how to make the plot work, though, and changing the setting seemed to unlock new ways by which to complete the narrative that the initial setting somehow did not. So I made two of the three characters aliens, and changed the trawler to a Confederation starship.

It's true, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Does the inclusion of spaceships and aliens therefore automatically make something science fiction? Can you have a piece of fiction that includes spaceships and aliens but which doesn't qualify as sci-fi? I think the answer to the first question is "probably", and the answer to the second question is "probably not".

Plot and characters

I'd like to propose a fourth law to add to Arthur C. Clarke's three:
"In science fiction there is no idea, however imaginative, plausible or persuasive, that can redeem a terrible plot or shallow, unsympathetic characters."

The important thing in sci-fi - as with any piece of fiction - is that the reader has a reason to turn the page, and that he or she cares about and can engage with the characters. Ultimately, though, in the vast majority of cases it will be a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, and it will have a protagonist to whom the reader can relate.

Science fiction can provide a interesting or useful setting, or to provide a character with abilities or traits beyond that of current humans, or to provide a solution to a challenge that would be insurmountable using today's technology.

In science fiction the science is there to enable, project or magnify the fiction.

My definition of a boombastic jazz style science fiction

I would define science fiction as "Narrative fiction that includes at least one element that does not exist according to our current understanding of the universe but which could exist without breaking any known universal laws as they are currently understood".

This allows for aliens, space travel, weird futuristic technologies and hypothetical scientific phenomena, but I think it also helps to set boundaries and define what is not science fiction; this definition precludes magic, the fantastical and the supernatural, which I suspect most sci-fi fans would accept do not work within "traditional" science fiction (although I have no problem with genre-mashing, and would quite happily read about magic being used to fight aliens or fairies piloting interstellar craft).

I think bending is allowed, and equally straying into laws that may exist in the future. But saying that gravity is the result of unicorn farts is going too far.

*I'd include Dick, but using that as a verb here seems inappropriate 

29 Sep 2015

Michael Ironside plays the chief of police

I've written the theme music to two 1980s films that don't exist but which should.

Blood Hack:
Los Angeles, 1997. The near future. When a gang of cyberterrorists implants a computer virus into the president's cerebral cortex, a former hacker is forced to return to a past he thought he'd left behind--uploading himself into the digital mainframe to do battle with the terrorists and reprogram the president's brain before it's too late. Michael Ironside plays the chief of police.
Listen to it: 1980s Film Theme on SoundCloud

Miami, 1997. The near future. A police detective who plays by his own rules is forced to partner with an experimental prototype female cyborg and do whatever it takes to solve a series of gruesome electromurders seemingly committed by a rogue artificial intelligence. Michael Ironside plays the chief of police.
Listen to it: 1980s Film Theme II on SoundCloud

Double Justice:
Washington DC, 1997. The near future. When Soviet forces steal the White House, America's only hope is to transplant the brain of a Vietnam vet serving a life sentence for a crime he didn't commit into the body of a top-secret martial arts supersoldier. Together they're America's most deadly weapon--but are they out for justice--or revenge? Michael Ironside plays the chief of police.

Listen to it: 1980s Film Theme III on SoundCloud

20 May 2015

100WC - Zoom Out

Image © Santoshwriter
A perfect globe, precious and fragile. The only one of its kind.

Zoom out: crooked trees with leaves like wax, grasses little more than wires clinging to the ground.

Zoom out: a rash of tin roofs overtaken by sand, only dust moving now in empty veins.

Zoom out: an iron-hard land, baked and cracked by a pitiless sun. A network of brutal sepia shadows.

Zoom out: forgotten satellites spinning where clouds once hung, gazing silent and eternal upon the legacy of promises broken.

Zoom out: a perfect globe, precious and fragile. The only one of its kind.

# # #

This is a 100-word flash fiction story, prompted by the picture you can see up there, as part of Friday Fictioneers.

Click here if you'd like to take part, and click here to read other pieces.

18 May 2015

Derelict - SmallTales

His body is cracked and bowed, his clothes stiff with dirt. His day is a doorway and an upturned cap, cans of cider, corrugated cardboard. His nights are darkness blotting like ink and the bitter howls of the ghosts of his past.

It hadn’t always been like this. Once, there had been a uniform, a duty, a purpose. Once.

Then, one day, they'd let him go. Goodbye, good luck, chin up!

But what he’d seen and done lingered like a curse. What he’d seen and done could never be erased.

Join the army, they'd said. Be the best, they'd said.

# # #

This is a 100(ish)-word flash fiction story written as part of #SmallTales, with the prompt "Body". Look up the rules and take part here