Spawn of Mars
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Cirsova Summer Special 2020 Is Out!
Read My Story in It!
Thursday, May 14, 2020 3:53 pm
The annual Summer Special of Cirsova Magazine is here!

Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story The Fourth Gift and be amazed by my wonderfullestness. Go, now!

P.S. From Twitter, here's a gratifying review of my story.
Rarely does one come across a story both intellectually brilliant and artistically beautiful. The Fourth Gift by DAVID SKINNER is absolutely one of that. A meditation on immortality, humanity, science, and struggle, it’s both a dense read and one utterly worthwhile.
Derivative of Nictzin Dyalhis
Writing Another Chronicle of the Venhezian Heroes
Monday, May 4, 2020 10:11 pm
Somehow I became aware of The Sapphire Goddess: The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis, a collection published by DMR Books in 2018. It collects all the fantasy stories of the unprolific Nictzin Dyalhis, who wrote primarily for Weird Tales between 1925 and 1940.

Two of Dyalhis's contributions to Weird Tales are science fiction: When the Green Star Waned (April 1925) and its sequel The Oath of Hul Jok (September 1928).
I really liked both of these stories — so much so, that I have written a derivative work. Since Dyalhis's stories are in the public domain, I am free to have my story published, and I hope that Cirsova Magazine will accept it when submissions re-open later this year. 

There's an earnestness to Dyalhis's two stories. They are all superlatives, exclamation points, and outsized drama. The seven friends are the very best of their kind: the greatest scientist, the greatest diplomat, the greatest warrior, the greatest cultural scholar, the greatest biologist, the greatest reader of minds, and the greatest... well, the narrator is not presented as the "greatest" chronicler and poet, but he is part of the amazing circle.

The stories are clearly science fiction written before World War II. There isn't a lot of hard science. Nor is there magic; but there is an easy and intriguing occultism. Evil is as much a force as electricity. The technology has that alluring mechanical flavor, free of the atomic and the cybernetic.

The setting is the Planetary Chain, an alternative Solar System. Maybe it's the far future of our own but it seems much more a different place. The names of the planets are just a little off — Venhez for Venus, Jopitar for Jupiter, and so on. There are invocations of Our Lady of Venhez, a being who is not really Aphrodite. Venhez is a planet of love and its sign is the Looped Cross (i.e., ), but everything is sideways of our reality and mythology.

And that was my first handhold in creating my derivative work. Dyalhis doesn't develop things deeply. The world-building, though neat, is mostly suggestive.

My second handhold was the sketchiness of the characters. Hul Jok the warrior is vivid, Vir Dax the biologist has some color, Lan Apo the mind-reader is not a blank, and Hak Iri the poet, if only because he is our melodramatic narrator, is not one-dimensional, but by and large the characters are just carriers of superpowers. As you revel in Hul Jok you lament the general blandness of the others.

So there is a lot of foundation in the two stories but not a lot of definition. There's also an enjoyable spirit (and the touch of an outlook rather removed from 2020). The past century has not exactly produced a communal literary expansion of Hak Iri's Friends & the Planetary Chain. I may even be a pioneer. In any event, I had cause to continue Dyahlis's work; and therefore I did.

No, I did not write a gritty reboot. I'm not out to subvert expectations. Vir Dax does not have a gruesome past with a missing call-girl and Lan Apo is not struggling as a transgendered pansexual. My story is not a parody or even an affectionately comedic re-imagining. I simply wrote the third in a series.

Obviously I am not Dyalhis. Yet there is a manner to his writing that accords with my own and I don't need to mimic him wholly to evoke him. My goal was not, in any event, to don a Dyalhis mask. My work is truly derivative, neither identical nor separate. It follows well, I think.

Now I just need Cirsova to accept it — so that you can read it! Sadly, even in the best case, it won't be published for a year or more. But keep an eye out for The Impossible Footprint.

P.S. "Nictzin Dyalhis," though nom-de-plumey, was the man's actual name, near as can be determined. And I do recommend the collection from DMR.

StoryHack #6 Is Out
Read My Story in It!
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 1:53 pm
The latest issue of StoryHack is here! And it contains the second Hamlin Becker tale!

Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story Due a Hanging and be amazed by my excellentivity. Go, now!

P.S. Canada speaks! A reader from Canada, in reviewing this issue of StoryHack, has this to say about my offering:
David Skinner wrote a punchy and brilliant story in Due a Hanging. Giving the reader just enough information to tug them along and explain his world, you get a strong feeling for the web of revenge closing in, and the tension of the events. A terrific example of show don't tell.
Thanks, Canada!
The Clash of Virtues
Orienting Fiction Away From Darkness
Saturday, February 1, 2020 1:41 pm
Recently I blogged about my recipe for writing pulp action. Soon after, I came across some excellent writing advice from an author. It applies to any fiction, not only pulp; but it supports the broader agenda of avoiding nihilism.

The author says to introduce a character in a way that showcases a virtue rather than a fault. As he points out, there is a (bad) idea regnant that we are defined by our faults, and that being good is unrealistic or unrelatable. (I made a similar point years ago, though not in the context of writing.)

He further says, "Internal conflicts between good and bad qualities are boring." I'd not say boring; perhaps too commonplace. But then he says:
Show me a conflict between duty and compassion, or courage and wisdom, or love and justice.
That imperative is illuminating. Fiction requires conflict; but conflict does not require evil. Depicting a clash of virtues denies vices an equal standing, and it's a nice way to show that virtue is vigorous and not — as the modern world would tell you — merely the absence of vice.

Most importantly, the reader is given characters that elicit admiration, not pity or condescension.

Anyhow — something to keep in mind.
My Pulp-Action Recipe
Writing Action & Adventure
Saturday, January 18, 2020 3:11 pm
This past week I finished writing An Uncommon Day at the Lake, a Hamlin Becker tale that I hope to sell to StoryHack.

StoryHack is, as it calls itself, a magazine of "Action & Adventure." This means no tales of navel-gazing and nihilism and ponderous puffery. It also means tales generally free of current-year correctness, a thing that hates fun and other natural human ways of being and is hardly interested in action and adventure. 

Obviously, if I want to get into StoryHack, I need to write stories a certain way — the way of the pulps, as it turns out. The editor of StoryHack has himself invoked the Lester Dent Formula, which anyone seeking the Way of the Pulps will eventually discover.

Dent's formula has indeed guided me through my three Becker tales. However, it is truly a formula and, to be frank, it is hard for me to obey. I am not a hack; and I don't say that snobbishly. I sometimes wish I were. I'd love to be able to crank out formulaic tales that make readers happy.

What has happened instead is that I obey a less-rigid recipe. Dent's ideas are at the center, but I have added a few other ideas about successful pulp.

David Skinner's Pulp-Action Recipe

Begin with a mystery (or a menace). Proceed through several twists (ideally three, no less than two). Reach a revelation. End with an epilogue that winds down to a warm, though not necessarily happy, feeling.

The twists should deepen the primary mystery (or menace) or introduce relevant sub-mysteries (or sub-menaces). A mix of mysteries and menaces is usually best.

The action should be continuous (events are not separated by too much time) and physical (actual fights and danger punctuate the twists). Things must worsen as the tale progresses. Obstacles should arise.

Focus throughout on a hero. Whatever his misfortunes, he is not a billiard ball but an agent. Most importantly, though luck and nature can play a role, the hero prevails through his own efforts, leadership, or both.

Remember that men are men and women are women. Don't neglect the romance!

Finally, the tale need not be white hats versus black, but remember that good and evil are real and not merely different points of view. Good may not be spotless but evil cannot win in the end.

And that's it. As I said, very Dentish but not a formula. It has shaped my tales of Hamlin Becker. It's gotten me into StoryHack twice — and soon, I'm hoping, thrice.

P.S. By the way, StoryHack #5 is out. I don't have anything in that issue. Becker #2 will be coming in StoryHack #6, probably in March. Becker #1 is in StoryHack #1.

A Happy Year, Indeed
News of Story Submissions
Sunday, December 1, 2019 5:10 pm
Cirsova Magazine has accepted my outstanding story The Fourth Gift, which will appear in the 2020 Summer Special. I really wanted to get into Cirsova, just as I wanted to get into StoryHack and Stupefying Stories. Hurrah!

With this, I have sold every story I have written since I retired from my day job three years ago. Yes, that is only seven stories; but none of them will die in my drawer, unread. And considering that I sold zero stories in all the years before 2017, those seven will do nicely. (To be sure I had some success with juvenile books in the 1990s; but only now are my grown-up stories succeeding.)

Now to finish An Uncommon Day at the Lake (the 3rd Hamlin Becker tale). And after that? I have some ideas...
Planetary Pluto Is Out
Read My Story in It!
Friday, November 29, 2019 4:33 pm
After an unfortunate delay (which even included a change in publisher), the Pluto anthology is finally out.

Buy it on Amazon (to give me and the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story Ambit of Charon and be amazed by my geniusness. Go, now!

P.S. Sadly there's a "typesetting" problem, in that all my italics are shown as underlines. This was caught in proof but not corrected. A proper version should come out someday, but over that I have no control. For now please infer italics.
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Spawn of Mars
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StoryHack #6
Stupefying Stories #22
Cirsova: Summer 2020
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