Friday, March 18, 2011

Mindgames: Fool's Mate

Prior to 1990 and maybe a few years afterwards, before my hair started to turn grey and before I becamesuch a cynic, I was a member of an ‘SF folio’ – a postal workshop. This consisted of a group of writers scattered about the country mailing each other their work for criticism. The postal folio contained a list of addresses, when I received it I inserted a chapter, or a short story or some other piece of writing, wrote criticisms of each other piece in the folio, then posted it on to the next person on the list. By the time it came back to me I had received criticisms of my piece from every other writer. I then took out my previous piece of work and inserted my next, and so the process continued.

Note: I can’t remember all the names of the authors in that folio, but do know that one of them was a guy called Conrad Williams, who you might be familiar with. Also, for those wannabe writers reading this, you can now find Internet versions of the above.

I wrote a novella during this called ‘To Die But Once’ and also began to have a smattering of successes in the small presses – for which payment was usually just a free copy of the magazine concerned – and I was always searching for new markets. I used to read ‘Writing Magazine’ and in there I found out about a new publishing company called Club 199 who were looking for novellas of about 40,000 words for which they gave a flat payment of £1000. I duly scrubbed up the aforementioned novella and sent it off. When I received the phone call telling me my piece had been accepted, I fell on the floor. Wow! I was being paid real money for my work!

Trying to be professional I then immediately went on to write another 40,000 word novella for the same market. This was The Parasite. Meanwhile Gordon McGregor’s Club 199 decided on a better title for ‘To Die But Once’ and changed the title to ‘Mindgames: Fool’s Mate’. It was published, I got my money, and then a short while afterwards Club 199 went skint. Having by then managed to make a small name for myself in the small presses I got The Parasite published with Tanjen, followed that with The Engineer and continued my climb towards Macmillan. I am, I think it’s safe to say, a ‘time served’ writer.

With this Kindle route to publication now available I’m once again going through ‘Fool’s Mate’. There’s a fair bit of work to do since the file is one that I converted from Wordstar on a 5.25 inch floppy disc – perhaps both of these are things that some of you have never even used. When I first converted it I had to employ find-and-replace to change words that had become hieroglyphs back into words again. Now I have to sort out formatting that’s all over the place, and of course plenty of crappy English. The novella is stunningly na├»ve, but fun. I’m not going to hammer it too much and when it’s ready it’ll be another one for Kindle publication.

15 comments:

Tim said...

Cool, that's one I don't have. I already own a copy of The Parasite (purchased back in 2001 for a very reasonable £5.99, evidently before the recent price escalation), but I might repurchase for the convenience of having a digital copy.

Any plans to republish "Africa Zero"? That's probably my favourite of your early works, and I suspect it would sell rather well if rereleased - I remember enjoying it immensely when I last read it a few years ago.

Neal Asher said...

Tim, Africa Zero, along with another Collector novella are available from Wildside Press. The book can also be found on Amazon etc.

Andrew said...

Looking forward to this. I remember using these discs on a BBC micro!

Have you any idea how successful the kindle version of 'the parasite' is?

I have now read it and thought it was very good.

I take it the polity has been in development for some years?

Neal Asher said...

The rankings are misleading, Andrew, but The Parasite is doing okay. It's sold a hundred copies on four days but whether sales will continue the same, increase or decrease I've no idea.

The Polity only started to come together after The Parasite - in short stories like those found in Runcible Tales.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

youre on a roll, keep the butter pads meltin'.

Neal Asher said...

Hah, I made a misleading typo there. It has sold a 100 copies IN four days.

Neal Asher said...

I have to wonder just how much editing to do on this. Should I just tidy it up a bit and give it to you in all its naive glory, should I tell the story as I wanted to tell it then, or should I tell it again as I would tell it now?

Andrew said...

I would leave it as it is.

There was a noticeable difference from your current writing style compared to that of the parasite. It highlights how writing improves with time.

I am not saying that the parasite was poor though, just that you are more polished now.

Tim said...

Sorry, I wasn't clear - I already own Africa Zero, I was just hoping for a Kindle release!

Having said that, I had no idea there was another Collector novella - any chance you could share the title? Searching on Amazon hasn't proved fruitful...

Tim said...

(Oh, and I'd also vote for republishing earlier work "as is" rather than extensively rewriting.)

Jay said...

I want to read a fresh, downy-faced Neal Asher, unspoiled by the bitter realities of life!

Neal Asher said...

Tim, if you have the Wildside Press Africa Zero it's in that: 'The Army of God and the Sauraman'.

Ugh, I say, Ugh, Jay.

Neal Asher said...

I think I'll go for option 2: telling the story as I wanted to tell it at the time i.e. just tidying up the English. Though perhaps correcting the most crass errors elsewhere.

In the end the originals are available if you want to track them down. I really don't want new readers exclaiming 'this Asher guy is a bit crap' on the basis of something I wrote decades ago.

Crusader said...

Perhaps it's best to write a forward for the novel explaining that it's an early work and perhaps contrasting your views/ideas from then with now.

BarryA said...

Stunningly naive? That's a going too far with the self-criticism IMO.

Sure, your later stuff is obviously more mature, more polished, more professional, but I was pleasantly surprised when I read it; not perfect of course - and I expect you'd change a few things if you were tackling it as a new book now. There're some interesting things in there, hints of ideas that are developed and expanded in your later books.
Or have I got that wrong? Never was much good at Lit. Crit.

You're too hard on yourself, I think. Many, many writers haven't done nearly as well with their first published work. Charlie Stross buys up every copy he can find of his chapbook 'Approaching Xanadu' because he thinks it's 'adolescent'. Whereas Neal L. Asher's first is a desirable collectable.

Anyway, good luck with the ebook version.