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Born on the prairies, Stephen Graham King has since traded the big sky for the big city and now lives in Toronto. His first book, Just Breathe, tells the blunt, funny, and uncompromising story of his three-year battle with metastatic synovial sarcoma. Since then, his short fiction has appeared in the anthologies North of Infinity II (“Pas de Deux”), Desolate Places(“Nor Winter’s Cold”) and Ruins Metropolis (“Burning Stone”). His first novel, Chasing Cold, was released in 2012, and the first Maverick Heart novel, Soul’s Blood came out in 2016. The second book in the series, Gatecrasher was released in 2017. He is currently working on the next book in the series, A Congress of Ships.

 

Overture (Part Three of Three)

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Galactum Year 143

*Where did you find this guy? He’s a complete nil.* She was using the node far more easily now, and though it, ey could tell that the thought of having a bioware link to Know-It-All embedded in her brain no longer made her skin crawl. Still, it made it easier for them to communicate until ey decided the time was right to reveal es true nature.

*Now, now, Meat. You weren’t much better yourself the first time you walked through that hatch. Give him a chance.*

The subject of their scrutiny, completely unaware of their opinions of his skills and personality, lay on the deck, his torso and head buried deep in the access panel.

*I can’t believe you’re letting some stranger root around in your insides like that.* A shudder run through her and Vrick felt it through the node and an eerie echo of the rebounding reaction travelled back to her.

*Speaking from experience there?* The scar looked much better now, fading from the livid pinkness to a neat white line that divided the socket of her left eye. Ey had encouraged her to have it removed, insisting that there were funds enough to pay for the procedure, but she had been adamant that it stay. And ey had known her long enough to see her latent stubborn streak surge to the fore. When ey questioned her on the choice of prosthetic, black as a starless night, her only comment had been, “The specs are better.”

Ey recalled the agony of being able to do nothing but watch, drowning in impotent rage, unable to do anything to help her other than summon emergency medics from the nearest settlement. Ey knew ey had saved her life, but it was a cold and pale comfort.

“Who does your diagnostics?” muttered a voice deep within the maintenance port, heavy with contempt. “You are so far off spec, I’m amazed this ship even flies.”

*Are you going to let him talk about you like that?* (more…)

Overture (Part Two of Three)

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Galactum Year 139

She didn’t reach the landing pad until almost dusk, having had to wait at the placement office all day or risk losing her spot in the rota for a new temp assignment. As much as she hoped this new ship would be the one, she couldn’t risk missing out on further short term placements if it didn’t work out. Thankfully, the captain had understood and accommodated her schedule.

Despite the late hour, the day’s heat still lay heavy over her as she stepped down from the tram onto the landing pad’s apron. In the distance, the sun dipped low toward the horizon, lighting the sky with the colours of flame. She felt a tickle of sweat down her back under the starched, formal shirt, but she knew it had nothing to do with the heat. The back of her neck itched where her hair had been freshly shorn down to the skin. She fought the urge to touch the place where the braid she had grown since childhood no longer lay.

As the shuttle tram moved off behind her, she saw the ship in the centre of the landing pad. She felt a whiff of disappointment and made an effort to push it away.

It seemed small to her, not much noteworthy about it. But even as the thought came to her, she knew that, compared to the ship where she had been born and raised, anything would have seemed so. The clanship would have dwarfed most of the port, far too massive to ever have made planetfall. She knew she would likely never see a ship like that again, let alone serve on one. She didn’t want to settle into any of the barges she had been temp-crewing on, but this one might very well be her future. (more…)

Overture (Part One of Three)

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Galactum Year 138

Jaim Somro’s life ended in the burnt, angry glare of a dying star, the ship his only companion.

The Maverick Heart hung in the fading light of the aged sun, as close to the raging shockwaves and radiation as ey could without risk, held there by constant adjustments to es drive field. Waiting for the end to finally come.

Meanwhile, the human lay small and frail on one of the couches, wrapped in a well-worn blanket, waxen skin bathed in ruddy light. Each breath the man took ever more laboured.

The ship remembered that blanket and the world it had come from in perfect detail. Ey remembered the moment the human had picked it up in the shop, remembered knowing the moment he had decided to buy it.

In the end, nothing more than time had killed the vibrant, vital man who had joined the ship a few months past his fiftieth birthday. They would spend another six decades together, until the latest advances in anti-senescence treatments could do no more. And the man had wanted to die where he had lived, in the black, lit by the light of a million stars. (more…)

All Touch and No Contact

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We weren’t huggers when I was a child. I have a very specific memory that my mind has labelled as the first time I was hugged, though I don’t know if my recollections can be trusted on this issue. It was in high school, by a friend, and I can’t have gone that long. Can I?

My parents were born in England in the early part of the 20th century. They were lovely people and I miss them deeply. However, my dad was not an overly sentimental man. He had little time or patience for overly emotional gestures, and was deeply interested in social justice and fairness. He was also fair and expected us to do the best we could, pushing when we needed it, but not blaming us for our failures. My mother, I think, was the more emotional one of the two, though I think she pushed it down and maintained a reserve she didn’t necessarily feel to stay in line with my father’s natural reticence.

I remember being fed, clothed and cared for. I remember we laughed a lot and our home was always open to friends and even strangers who needed a refuge or a meal or just a place to spend a holiday. My parents knew what it meant to come to a new country and start over, and they never forgot the kindnesses that others had given them. We often had other newcomers in our home for Christmas.
But I don’t remember hugs. (more…)

Home

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“When I think of home
I think of a place
where there’s love overflowing”

Sorry to have gone MIA for the last few weeks, but there has been a lot going on since I blogged last, and much of it has to do with home. The idea of home. The reality of home.

Like so many other people, I am not a native Torontonian. In fact, I used to joke that it always shocked me when I met someone who actually WAS from here. I’m from Saskatchewan originally, and lived there for thirty five years before I moved to Toronto. Because I lived there for so long, most of my remaining family is there, as well as many of my dearest friends. I like to go home every year to see everyone and spend time seeing people who have been in my life, if not for the whole span, then for decades, going back as far as high school.

And that’s where the duality comes in. We need words for “the home where I live” and “the home I come from.” I wonder if other languages make this linguistic distinction.

So, for two weeks every summer, I get to spend time immersed in love, having dinner and long talks and endless cocktails and coffee. And on some levels, it makes my heart ache for a depth of emotion and experience that is much harder to find or attain here. It makes me yearn for a simpler, quieter life, surrounded by love. I often spend at least part of my time in Moose Jaw (yes, it’s a real place) and Saskatoon wondering if I could build a new life there.

But, here’s the thing: that time I spend there is, in many ways, artificial. Not the emotions or the love I feel for so many people there, but the circumstances that drive the emotional intensity are specific and situational. I get to see these people once a year. People make time because I’m there, and we do something special and get to catch up on all of the things we’ve missed since we saw each other. There’s a…purity to the experiences we share and it’s because of the rarity. I’m self-aware enough to know that, if I lived there, then there’s a good chance that we wouldn’t socialize as often or as intensely as we do when I only visit once a year. (more…)

Coming Out Aro

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I’m attracted to men. I have been as long as I can remember, even back before my body was even capable of attraction. When I was a child, I identified with the female characters much more than the men, mostly because they got to be close to all the men I admired most, whose attention I craved. It wasn’t that I felt that I was anything other than male myself, it was that, somehow, I believed that identifying with those women was the way to get closer to those beautiful men.

As soon as there were words to describe my desires, I knew their truth, even if it took years to accept them and truly claim them as my own. It was the Seventies and those words were only just being spoken openly, and only in larger, more cosmopolitan places than my home town. Well, the words were spoken, but only as weapons, with no other intention than to draw blood. But, I knew who I was. And when the opportunity came to act on it, I did. And eventually, I even came to accept it and speak it proudly. (more…)

Worldbuilding and Story (Part Three of Three)

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So, you’ve built a world. You might not know all the details yet, but you have the basics down, and have begun to answer the questions of why the story is taking place when and where it does. Now, you have to get down to telling the story, putting together the elements that make up your narrative structure.

People often ask about the how of writing, the nuts and bolts of the process of coming up with an idea and following it through to a final form, be it short story, novel, essay, or memoir. But the thing is, ask a dozen writers and you’ll get a dozen answers, all different and all specific to writer and the genre and the stage of that writer’s career. So, I figured I’d throw my two cents, or my three ideas, into the ring along with all the others

I’ve talked in previous posts about how I’ve arrived at specific ideas or decisions in my own writing, even talked about the process of world-building. Where world-building is more about creating the back drop for the story, and the conditions where it can occur, this is more about the story telling process, the business of creating a plot and crafting a narrative that makes use of the world you’ve built. (more…)

Worldbuilding Basics (Part Two of Three)

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I tend to think of the world building process as Decision>Question>Implication. You come up with your premise and begin asking questions about what the premise requires your world to contain, then you explore the ramifications of the choices you’ve made and the questions you’ve asked.

It’s important to remember that world building choices extend in all directions. And what I mean by this is that they come from somewhere, they affect the world and characters in the present and they drive the story forward in specific ways. Once you’ve made a decision as to where your story idea springs from, be it a character, situation, or some other detail that inspires you to write the story down, then the process of building the world begins.

Let’s take a basic, fairly simple idea and start from there: a child has wings.

The process of building in the details starts in the past. Was the child born with wings? Did they grow over time or suddenly? Do we know what the cause of the colour is? Is it genetic? Were the wings grafted on? Are they biological or some kind of technology? Was there some kind of genetic manipulation? Was it a spell or a curse of some kind? How long has the child been living with them? Is it something new that they are dealing with, or are we meeting them when they’ve been dealing with it for a long time. Making these decisions define the the parameters of the universe your characters inhabit and how your story unfolds from there. Is it a universe of science or one of magic? If the wings were created artificially, is the process well known or something clandestine that should have remained secret? These questions about the causes that led to your narrative decision provides the foundation for choices you’ve made and where they’re going to lead. (more…)

Guest Blog over at Spoonie Authors Network – Morituri te Salutant

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Once again, I am lucky enough to have a venue over at Spoonie Authors Network to share my complicated thoughts on a complicated topic.

Worldbuilding Basics (Part One of Three)

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I write science fiction (no, DUH), space opera specifically. And it’s either a case of choosing a genre to match my skill set, or developing skills over the years that served my genre choice, but I’ve been told I am skilled at world building, which is a fundamental skill when writing spec fic of any kind.

I’ve never really written stories set in the real world. Writing in the real world means research. If I’m writing a story based in London, I’d better have lived there, spent a lot of time there, or spent a lot of time in a library. If I decided to write in Toronto, it would be easier, but, honestly, I don’t want to be constrained by the fact that the CN Tower is beside the Rogers Centre. Maybe I’m just a control freak.

I’m honestly a little hesitant to talk about this, because when I’m making decisions about the settings I put my characters in, I make a lot of decisions based on what feels right, without actually quantifying they why of the decision. This piece is me trying to get at those reasons.

When I’m writing, I start with addressing the basic needs of the story. If the story requires your characters to travel from planet to planet, then you have to have some kind of system for that. Is it FTL? Wormhole? Some kind of long distance teleportation? Each will give your story a specific feeling and tell you something about your society. Some kind of interplanetary teleportation means that your society is extremely advanced, and that means you have to deal with a lot more. How have humans changed? How does the economy work? What other comparable advancements have been made? When I was working on Soul’s Blood, I wanted travel to take time, because I wanted to write scenes with the characters filling time. I wanted it there to be an element of challenge for them. Humans could travel between the stars, but it took them some time. So I settled on a form of hyperspace FTL tech that shortened the massive interplanetary distances. (more…)

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