I have never really found much of a desire to write short fiction, most probably because I am attracted to big canvases and like to stretch out as fully as I am able in a literary space.
Neverthless when I was reading a lot of Jack Dann's short fiction for the Work of Jack Dann book (see Non Fictions section), I did start to experiment with the form for the first time, partly to be able to understand more about its nature and be better able to write about Dann's work in the form. I wrote a few drafts of stories and filled up a file with short fiction ideas across period of about six months before leaving them to simmer on the back burner for some future time. Some examples, finished and unfinished are below:
Atlantis Falls (complete, click link to view)
Original rough draft and notes for premable of Living on the Edge novel which formed the kernel of this short fiction.
In the Influences and Inspirations section of this website I use this story as an example to analysis how a piece of fiction can be inspired and influenced by numerous other fictions I have encountered.
Fantasy and Memesis (complete, click link to view)
I adapted this short fiction from a chapter of my earlier novel This World We Live In. I was interested to try a literary fantasy story and this part of the novel seemed like a good starting point. I am still drafting this but it is pretty much stalled at the moment while I figure out how to complete it. It plays to some degree on the thesis of the novel - ie is the fantastic notions of the inner landscape more legitimate than the apparent mundane reality the eye sees? If a man who is really from a fantastic world shows someone his paintings of his expereinces in that world but the viewer see only cliched fantasy images - what does that say about the viewer and about the legitimacy of realism vs fantasy?
Update: I have finished a draft of this story now and the link above is live.
The extract from the original chapter from This World We Live In this is based on (written in 1995) is here.
Gorp, the Shining Hero (complete, click link to view)
A short tongue in cheek fantasy piece about a mutant in a cursed city who becames an unlikely unsung hero. Here I was playing with fantasy tropes and a following a favourite practice of taking familiar or cliched notions and turning them on their head.
This comic fantasy novel with a bittersweet aftertaste and political and spiritual undertones was written between 1995 and 2003. It was my fourth finished novel and second fantasy novel.
The piece focuses on Fighter Freeman, a roguish adventurer who hates magic and mysticism but is haunted by an ever-complaining, oversensitive fairy that no one else can see. After leading a successful rebellion against the occupation of his imperial city home by repulsive lizard men, he has been living a life of luxury in the Imperial Palace as Lord High Protector. But when an attempt is made on his emperor's life, Freeman is implicated and must go on the run, gathering his former rebellion comrades to help him clear his name.
His quest takes him on a rollercoaster journey into the stranger side of his imperial city home - a trading house where ancient technology gone awry creates a death-trap infested with corporate zombies, another dimension where anything that has ever existed can be purchased but no one can tell him what he needs to buy, battling lurid – and annoying – horrors in the arena and finally a showdown deep in the catacombs below the city with an ancient menace that threatens all life in the galaxy. A battle whose outcome will lead him to question everything he has ever believed in, and change him forever.
Fighter Freeman: The first three chapters of the 2003 final draft is available for download in PDF format.
Concepts and Development
I began playing with the ideas for this piece in 1995, while I was still working on a literary urban fantasy novel, This World We Live In. This was also a period where fantasy and science fiction books were starting to be published in Australia which gave me some inspiration to try and write something with a more mass market appeal I might submit to one of the the new publishing imprints.
This World We Live In was a dark, complex and demanding piece with a serious literary approach. Somewhat worn out by this, I wanted to have some fun with my next project, drawing in some respects from the larger than life black humour I had enjoyed in the 2000AD comics as a kid.
Like This World We Live In, Fighter Freeman dealt with themes of masculinity, but was written at a time when I was becoming a much more boistrous and mischievious character. Caer, the hero of This World We Live In was a brooding, serious and lawful character tortured by feelings of duty which was probably much closer to the rather over serious character I had been in my early twenties. Freeman is a more roguish Peter Pan character (with his own fairy) who has great potential but cannot ever grow up.
Having just finished my bachelor of arts degree, which had exposed me to a lot of political thinking, it was perhaps inevitable that a political dimension would seep into the novel despite its basic fun premise. The novel included a tongue in cheek representation of aspects of the modern corporate world, with trading houses very similiar to modern corporations and perhaps a sense that Freeman is a working class hero fighting against their plotting and schemes.
Ostensibly this is a comedy fantasy much like Terry Pratchett. I think it is fair to say it has a more adult humour. As the novel progressed, what had been envisaged as an adventurous romp started to develop an undercurrent of a spiritual journey leading to dramatic revalation and change. A lot of comic fantasy tends to have a children's fiction feel; this piece is quite the opposite. It includes a chain smoking, hard swearing American, fairly balant scenes of drug use, a graphic sex scene and a lot of bawdy adult humour.
As it stands, this novel is not structured in a commercial fashion. It is built around outrageous fun and humourous encounters while hints of the plot start to build up. While this fits in quite well with the choatic and crazy nature of Freeman but it doesn't fit in with the sort of fiction you will find on bookshelves.
In 2003 Liz Draper, a writing friend pointed out to me that the final was really two books. There was a lot of backstory in the novel about the rebellion that preceeds the opening events. Typically in the writing business this is known as info dump and you are supposed.
I began work on planning out the rebellion prequel a couple of years ago and have developed it since in fits and starts while working on other projects. Once this is done I will probably revise the Fighter Freeman novel and streamline it. It was writing quite a while ago, so revisions are certainly in order.
I outlined the sequel shortly after finishing the final draft of the novel.