November 24, 2011

The Collaborative Project

I mentioned earlier on the blog that we had all taken on some projects during our break from publishing HBM. For me, this meant working a little on video game writing ideas and a little on nothing at all. Then, Duane, Vincent, and I decided to write a truly collaborative piece. For those who don't know, Issue 3 of Here Be Monsters (called "Where Cities Tread") was made up of three stories that were all set in the same world. We'd designed the concept together, but each story was still written by the author on his own. During the summer though, we started on a story that was actually written by all three of us.

To do this, we used Google Docs. It allowed us to write on the same page at once, comment on eachother's writing, all while chatting from our computers at our separate houses. I'd known about the tool before this, but to see it in action was pretty incredible. During our first session, we were brainstorming all kinds of ideas. Characters, themes, rules about the story, publication plans, everything was pouring out faster than we could have done around a kitchen table (our usual meeting room).

There was even some healthy debate going on about ethics, religion in fiction, all sorts of things. And, keep in mind, this is with 3 passionate writers, so the fact that we were able to keep it to "healthy debate" is a testament to how well we get along and work together.

The plot was slower to come together than some of the other parts, but we had enough to start with. So, each of us began writing from a separate point in the story. I was doing a scene between two characters, going back and forth, when I got stuck. I wrote "I'm stuck" on the screen just so that the guys knew why I'd stopped, and then the amazing thing happened. Vincent picked up right from where I'd left off and continued the scene. He stayed true to everything I'd written so far but brought the story forward in a way I wasn't expecting. And I was totally on-board with it.

For those of you who are writers, or even other artists, you can probably imagine how scary it could be to work together in this way. You see all of eachother's mistakes before they can be corrected, you're required to buy in to other people's ideas and hope they buy into yours -- But this worked. Really really well. We all ended up tagging in and out like this as we formed the first few scenes of the story. It was so exciting.

Sadly, the project did get put on hold, but that's okay. It led us back to Here Be Monsters and a new issue. Also, it proved that we could do it. I don't doubt that we'll pick it up again. Whether it will end up as an HBM publication of some kind, I don't know, but it was too fun to not follow through on.


November 17, 2011

A Microfiction Best-of

A few months before my son was born, I was looking for a way to keep writing even as new demands were about to be made on my time.  It was around that time Duane decided to open a twitter account for Here Be Monsters.   That reminded me of microfiction, these little, 140-characters stories that started on twitter.  It seemed like a cool, if challenging, idea.  So I started writing some.   To my delight, I found it to be great fun, and a good way to keep the writing alive even when I had very little time to sit down at the keyboard.  I started thinking about my small snippets of fiction at every moment of the day, driving to work, burping the baby, changing a diaper, making dinner, all the while trying to figure out a way to tell something fun without going over the character count. 

You can find some of those on the blog in the “Microfiction” section.  Some are also on Here Be Monsters’ facebook page.  And for today’s blog post, I’ve decided to post a microfiction best-of.   Here are some of my personal favourites, a top-ten of sorts, though the choice was hard, so I might post some more later.

The froth on his coffee sank as he waited. Not that he expected anyone in particular. He just liked    to wait.

Nothing but stars and nebulae broke the vast monotony of his fall. It ended somewhere in time, and when it did, he was really hungry.

They met at a restaurant none of them liked. They ate for the benefit of the surveillance team, went to the cellar and never came back up.

An accident on a country road started it. The first driver died on impact. The second did not, and nothing would ever stop him again.

He could honestly say he loved partying. Almost as much as food, or sex, or executing transplanar demons.

The elephant shattered the mirror. Professor Yi, frantic now, picked up the shards. Maybe he could still fix the machine.

They breached the vault at 1am. At 2:35, they broke into the box. At 3:04, they strolled out the front door. At 4:13, the world was changed.

Istanbul bustled. Suits, tourists, muezzins, boats on the river. In the music store, she asked for a ghost drum. They took her to the back.
She watched the sun rise over downtown after a sleepless night. The man on the couch was no longer hers. Sad and relieved, she made coffee.

He didn't stay long in Prague. Her smell was in parks, cafés, on bridges. His pain rose with the wind; he waited for the next good train.

There it is.  I should also mention that we’re accepting submissions of microfiction for issue 6, if you want to try your hand at this.  The deadline is January 16th, 2012.  These are really just for fun, so we do not offer any payment for them, but will use the ones we choose somewhere in the issue.  Maximum 140 characters.

November 10, 2011

What’s so cool about the apocalypse, horror, and genre fiction?

My friends joke about my “bleak” curiosity with the end of the world, but really it isn’t that bleak – you know, the apocalypse. For me, it’s not just about the end, but the beginning. It’s about a new slate – endless possibilities to be explored though writing. Imagine if we could restart fresh as individuals, or as a civilisation. Don’t get me wrong, if an apocalypse (or the zombocalypse) happened, it would be a terrible thing, horrific on a scale I can’t comprehend. I mean, even Shaun of The Dead had its dark moments and that was a romantic comedy… with zombies. This is the joy of fiction, this freedom to play, to let slip the dogs of imagination on whatever scenario desired.

The apocalypse in fiction is a way to explore pioneer romanticism. It is our harsh place to start over, a chance to build, create, and do things right. It is our chance to explore whether we learn from history and to settle the age old debate between nature or nurture. There are similarities between Lord of the Flies and so many zombie scenarios; a group of survivors in a desolate land up against zombies, their beast.

So are zombies just about zombies? Zombies are catalysts for conflict concerning politics, science and religion. So, paradoxically, zombie fiction is often about life. There can be much social commentary. Zombies allow us to go into dark territory, removed from reality just enough so that it isn’t so dark that we can't see.

They are unthinking fodder. They act as an unstoppable force of nature, or some supernatural force. They are terrifyingly predictable as they march forth in search of flesh. They are rarely the only threat. To know someone, to truly know them, is to know how they will act in different situations and zombies are yet another situation to see how characters will react.

Submit your genre fictions for issue 6 with or without zombies. Go to strange places. Explore.

Oh and… brains… brains… brains…

November 3, 2011

Call for Submissions - Issue Six

Here Be Monsters is putting out the call once again. Submissions are open for Issue Six!

Duane, Vincent, and I spent the majority of the year working on secret projects (Duane and I fiddled around a bit, but Vincent actually created life). I'll probably write more about my time away from publishing HBM later, but right now I want to let everyone know that we're back and better than ever.

The exact requirements are available on our submissions page. We're looking for your most exciting speculative fiction, in any genre. If you've already submitted (or even been published by us) please feel free to send us something new.

You can also send any questions to our email at

Personally, I'm really excited for this round of submissions. All of us here have big plans and renewed energy to throw into the next issue. I don't doubt that it'll be our biggest and best yet. Also, spending some time away from the anthology has shown me just how impressive it is. I know I am biased, but I don't think there are any Canadian publications that put out the kinds of stories we do at the level of quality that we have. Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, whatever. The best of this stuff just hooks the reader in like nothing else, so I want to print it, post it, and share it with as many people as I can.

Thank you, looking forward to the next few months,

Alex Newcombe