2nd story publication at Nature

My second story from Nature, System Reboot, launched recently over at their website!

It’s my most experimental piece, and my first published story in present tense. I don’t usually write in it, but in this case I felt that the story demanded it and I think it turned out pretty well. Colin must have felt so as well, because it’s doing pretty well. I’ve had quite a number of people talk about it online, and government scientists and professors of AI neuropsychology have been tweeting about it. I was blown away by that (and I think my head is still reeling).

And the artwork….

They really do not skip out on the artwork at all.

I wrote about my inspiration for the piece and a bit of background here, so check that out if you want. And if you prefer the pdf version of the story, that’s available here as well.

Enjoy reading!


Also, in other news, my other Nature story, Daega’s Test, will be appearing as a reprinted and translated into Polish over at Szortal. This will be my first story translation, so that’s marvelous. I’ve got a bunch of Polish family members and friends who don’t speak English well (if at all), so now they’ll have no excuse but to read it! I’ll post when it’s up!

’til then…

StarShipSofa: Call for Assistant and Slush Reader

The title says it all. I am looking for an intern to assist me out at the Hugo award winning podcast StarShipSofa. Far Fetched Fables has one. Tales to Terrify has one. We’ve got a spare passenger seat at StarShipSofa HQ and it’s time for someone to fill it.

I’ve edited this podcast for over a year now, (I did it through my final year of university, mind you) and I love it. I don’t ever want to leave. But it’s not an easy task, and I need some assistance, both with StarShipSofa as a whole and as a slush reader. The latter is particularly important, as I got hundreds of submissions last time we opened, and I read them all by myself and offered personal feedback on most. Not easy to do, and the weight of it all burned me out. So I’m on the hunt for someone to be both my intern over at StarShipSofa and a slush reader. As an intern, you’ll help me do the following:

  • Working with dozens of best selling authors in the vein of George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Peter Watts, Robin Hobb, etc…
  • Sending stories by these said authors to narrators.
  • Handling bios, story files, etc.
  • Finding new narrators to be part of our awesome team.
  • Reading slush (when the time comes).
  • Work on one of the biggest science-fiction podcasts in fandom today.

It might sound a lot of work, but I won’t be stepping back at all – I just need someone to help me streamline all this data and help me organize it all. There’s no “minimum” required hours, but 3-4 hours per week would definitely be a good number. This is also an unpaid, volunteer position.

It’s important to note that while this is open to everyone, I’m particularly looking for someone who’s has experience in the SF/F short story industry. Someone who knows the markets and knows short stories. I’m especially interested if you have read slush before, and even more interested if you’ve worked on a podcast previously. If not, then I’d like to hear from you anyway.

If you’re interested, shoot me an email over at jeremyszalsubmissions@gmail.com. The subject line should read: “StarShipSofa Assistant Query” followed by your last name. Tell me who you are, your experience, what genres you like, your favourite authors, publication credits (if any) etc, etc. The more detailed the better.

I’ll contact you if I’m interested and we’ll go from there. Let me know if you have any questions.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


University’s over forever

My brain’s fried and I can’t think of a good blog title now, so bear with me.

The gist of it is this: today, my 3 year stay at the University of New South Wales has come to a close. All the assignments have been submitted, all the readings done, all the presentations completed…everything.

And you what? It’s a pretty good feeling.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t enjoy love parts of it. I had a hell lot of fun, made a lot of friends, learned critical thinking and knowledge that I couldn’t get anywhere else. Other than my Film Studies and Creative Writing major, I also did two subjects of Sociology, two subjects of Physics and astronomy, and one of modern history. Not everyone gets to say they studied (and passed!) advanced astrophysics at university level. I loved my lectures and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

But all good things must come to an end.

While I did enjoy my stay there, and I do enjoy the process of studying, it’s a very draining experience. There’s always something due. Always another presentation coming up, always another book to finish, always another draft to go over, always another reading to do, always another-

It does your head in after a while. It really does.

And I’ve never let university stop me from writing and submitting work: it’s what I went there in the first place to do. Over the latter two years (I’m not counting the first) I had more than fourty-five (and counting) short stories, articles and reviews published, everywhere from Strange Horizons to Nature. And that’s just the stuff that’s been accepted and published. And that doesn’t include the 50+ episodes of StarShipSofa that I solicited, produced and organized.

Writing’s hard, man.

For the content of the courses, the majority were good, and there were some that were invaluable to me as a writer (and film producer!). When I get that book deal, my teachers are being thanked in the credits, that much I promised them. But there was one creative writing class that was the equivalent of the world’s worst sewers being funneled down to a single mammoth-sized container, and then exploding that container wide open. I think I’ve gotten PTSD from that class. The lessons being taught were so absurd, so wildly impractical and against every fundamental writing rule ever (give your character agency, write in a clear prose, keep your audience in mind, don’t use passive voice, etc, etc) that I shut myself out and resigned to going over those copy-edits that Nature wanted back. It was completely divorced from the realities of contemporary publishing and literature. There was a strong whiff of nepotism in it, too.

The thing I learned in that class was what exactly not to do if I actually ever wanted to be published outside a coffee-chain owned vanity press. And I’m not even going to go into how any type of genre fiction, regardless of it’s quality, was treated….

But anyway, that’s behind me. I’m looking past that all.

As I say, I’m gonna miss it. There’s a vibe to being on campus, a sort of exuberance that you don’t get anywhere else in the world. And it was awesome while it lasted, but it’s over now. No more essays, no more presentations, no more sodding 3500 thesis to submit in a matter of days. No more of that.

So what’s next?

Writing. A lot of it. I’m going to be scribbling down some more short stories and get around to finishing my novel. There’s also a ton of work to be done on StarShipSofa. Great things are coming to it, and I can’t wait to see the reaction. And of course, I’ll need to get that job sooner or later. I did actually go to university for a reason, after all!

But right now, I’m just enjoying my newly discovered freedom.

If you need me, I’ll be over at the bar.

Over and out.


How Not To Treat Editors (and people!): A Documentary

At some point, you are going to clash with people.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s part of the human race. People will disagree with each other over everything from the merit of a hipster coffee blend to the superiority of political stances. This is completely fine. I’ve disagreed with countless people in my time, spanning best friends to complete strangers on the interwebz. Again, this is perfectly fine, and it’s always good to be exposed to alternative ideas and opinions, if only to reaffirm your own. Not everyone has to like what everyone else likes. Ain’t nothing wrong with it.

…except when it gets ugly.

To put it in perspective, I’ll sketch an example: a month or so ago I had a submission for StarShipSofa (they didn’t follow the guidelines at all, but that’s irrelevant). I politely declined, saying the story just didn’t work for me and thanking them for the chance to see it.

Oh boy. Big, big mistake, mister Szal.

In response I got a faceful of acidic spite, this individual telling me how I “had no idea what I was talking about”, that I was stupid and shouldn’t have been on the internet, let alone editing a podcast if my tastes were so out of whack. Then came some very personal insults that showed clear evidence of prior thought. This was all accompanied by a selection of very specific four letter words in the vein of Goodfellas. I am not the first editor to receive responses like this, nor will I be the last. I can’t even imagine the amount of acid that has crawled into the inboxes of other more experienced editors, especially the sexist kind that female editors get. And this is just what we actually see.

But as for this individual, the gates are locked and the key is thrown down a bottomless well. Their name is branded into my brain. I wish them the very best with their writing endeavors, but I am completely certain that this person is not ever welcome at StarShipSofa.

People say stupid stuff. People do stupid stuff. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had a few too many drinks and taken a few too many hallucinogenic mushrooms of the alien kind and proceed to do something we regret when the sun rises. People have rough days. I understand that. But it was crystal clear that this individual had absolutely zero respect for me as a human being, and had zero respect for the podcast. With extremely rare exceptions everyone has treated me with respect on either side of the submissions fence, or in writing communities in general. But not this person.

It’s very, very difficult to offend me. I have skin that would make a komodo dragon jealous. But if anyone can’t muster up the energy to treat me like a human being, then I’m in no hurry to associate with them, on StarShipSofa or otherwise. It’s toxic, and I really don’t have the energy to combat it. People will scream at your from the sidelines. People will always make it their god-given duty to stick their nose into your business and pull you apart. People will wait for you to fail, for you to be humiliated, for you to give up. I’ve had it, and so have much better writers than me. I’ve had people laugh at me for spending time with a “retarded podcast” (yep, that’s the word). I’ve had folks twice, three times my age talk down to me and my efforts simply because they can. But you squash it down and you carry on with your head held high.

A while back I had someone (let’s call them Strawman1™) tell me that being a pleasant person was a subjective, ambiguous act. It’s a very interesting theory, but holds absolutely no water in the real world. Ask anyone with a shred of experience in customer services. Showing respect to someone as a human being takes no effort and doesn’t cost a cent. Going out of your way to belittle them? That takes concentrated time and effort. That age old rule we all used to roll our eyes at as kids? Treat people the way you want to be treated. It still applies and always will. I’ll get off my high horse now.

The moral of this story? I’m not sure. I will say that it’s enough in the writing world as it is without us trying to tear us apart. So make up for it. Subscribe to a magazine. Write a review for a book you enjoyed on Amazon. Write fanmail to an author. Listen to a podcast. Make it a little easier for our great community, yeah?


Fragmented: The Audio Podcast


It’s always great to hear how enthusiastic authors are with what we and narrators do with their work. It’s hard to know who’s listening sometimes, and feedback like this is fantastic.
Make sure you check the story out! It’s one of my favourites so far on the show.

Originally posted on Andrew Liptak:


My short story ‘Fragmented’ is now available as an audio podcast! Earlier this year, StarShipSofa opened up for submissions and I submitted it. A day later, I got an enthusiastic e-mail back from them saying that it blew them away, and that they’d love to publish it – that was a nice boost.

Here’s a bit of background on the origins of the story.

The story is narrated by Mikael Naramore, who did an incredible job bringing the story to life. Here’s his bio:

Mikael Naramore has worked in the audiobook industry since 2001 when, fresh out of college, he was hired as a recording engineer for publisher Brilliance Audio (now Brilliance Publishing, subsidiary of Amazon.com). Over time, he transitioned to Director, all the while absorbing technique and nuance from the best actors in the business. To date, Mikael has narrated well over 100 titles, under his own and…

View original 93 more words

Writers of the Future: I’m a Finalist

The title says it all, but it’s my party and I’ll talk if I want to.

As you may or may not know, Writers of the Future is a pretty big thing. It’s an award ceremony and workshop based in L.A. designed to discover new and upcoming writers. They receive tens of thousands of submissions per year, divided up into quarters. They only take the top three of that quarter.

I submitted my story a while back, not expecting much response from it. I started university again (in fact I’m knee-deep in a paper that’s due in two days right now), focused on other projects, went through illnesses, got more involved in StarShipSofa, etc. It slipped from my mind, and considering how many people submit each quarter any sort of response would be unlikely. I’ve already received two Honourable Mentions from them, but I doubted my luck would run much rather.

So last Tuesday I’m out in the morning doing stuff. I get back, flip open the computer to check my emails. I see a response from Writers of the Future. And in the subject line: You’re a WOTF Finalist.

No way. No sodding way.

My heart racing, I quickly scan the email. No, my eyes aren’t playing tricks. My story placed somewhere in the top eight, beating thousands and thousands of submissions from all over the globe. Joni tried to call me, but she couldn’t untangle the labyrinth of phone call connections she needed to make in order to call Australia from the US.

I read it again. Yes, it’s true. I’m a finalist.

Shaking, I pound in a reply, saying something like OMG THANK YOU THANK YOU before deleting it and replying with something much more professional and polite. Then I start jumping up and down like a circus freak on some sort of experimental drug, drinking as much coffee as I possibly can.

I give Joni my number and we have a chat where she fleshes out the details, her laughing and congratulating me. Basically the gist is this: Out of submission well into five figures, I landed in the top eight. The eight stories will then go onto judges, who will decide which stories come 1st, 2nd and 3rd. If you do place, you get a cash prize (between $1000-$500) and flown out to L.A. for a week long workshop. They pay for your flight, your hotel, the whole deal. The likes of Larry Niven, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer and countless other headline authors instruct you for an entire week. Your work gets published alongside theirs in an anthology (which is distributed worldwide). You get interviews, go to signings, get artwork…everything she was saying just passed in a blur of awesomeness. I’m still shaking my head that a scruffy kid like me from down under was even being given this opportunity.

And then there’s the award ceremony, attended by various Hollywood stars and the aforementioned authors. Everyone gets a WOTF statue and some time on stage. And the grand prize? $5000.


Five grand.

But let’s pull back on the reins for a little. I’m not at that stage. There’s no chance I’ll even be at the workshop. Out of the eight finalists, five will be yanked out of the running. But three will be given the Hollywood treatment. The chances of me grabbing it are three out of eight. Nearly fifty percent. Almost heads or tails.

Am I nervous? Mate, I can hardly sit still. I feel like a ten year old jacked up on sugar, caffeine and god knows what else.

So my conversation with Joni finished with me on a high. Then I realized that class was almost on so I packed my bag and headed out the door to be educated. I don’t remember much of that class, though, my head was still spinning. It’s still spinning now.

I might not get in this time. I might never get in at all. But in this regard the odds are very much in my favour, to paraphrase Effie Trinket. And it’s one hell of an opportunity, too.

If it wasn’t for them, people like Patrick Rothfuss, Sean Williams, Aliette de Bodard and countless others might not be where they are today. Book deals have been struck, movie deals have been signed, friendships have been made, and careers have been launched, all thanks to Writers of the Future. And I could very well land there in 1st place. Or 2nd. Or 3rd. Or not at all. Joni says she’ll call and let me know in a week or two. But there’s nothing I can do. It’s all in the cards now.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I made it here. If I get knocked down, I’m gonna pick myself up again and aim for the moon again. If I get my teeth kicked out and shoved into the mud, I’ll grit my teeth and try once again. And one day I’ll do it.

I’ve come this far. I keep going. And I will.

StarShipSofa: Final Slush Update

Hello everyone,

The slush is done. It’s done. It’s over. And now I know how Frodo felt after throwing the ring into Mt. Doom.

I’ve been so ridiculously busy. Over the course of the submissions I’ve suffered two illnesses, traveled around the globe and back, and a bunch of other personal issues that I’d rather not discuss publicly. On top of that I’m in my final semester of university, and I’ve barely had a second to myself. But you guys all understood and gave me your unending patience, and for that I am grateful. I’ll definitely be looking at getting both an intern for StarShipSofa permanently and a few slush readers to help me out. But right now, I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to hunt down an assistant to help me out because I’m so busy. If that’s not a paradox, I don’t know what is.

It’s been an incredible experience for me, not as just as an editor, but a writer as well. I’ve never really been on the other side on the coin, as they say, in terms of submissions and shifting through slush. But the experience was worth it.

There have been stories I absolutely hated letting go off. There were some that I wrestled with for days and days, completely unsure of what to do. Damn, do you people write fantastic stories. I hated myself for saying no, and writing that letter came with a heavy heart. But the decisions have been made and the acceptances and rejections have been sent off.

For those of you who got acceptances, I’d have given you my personal email address. If you haven’t already, please send your story file and your bio (pasted in the email) over to it. Do not try to reach me via the submissions email – that’s purely for reading slush.

StarShipSofa will absolutely be reopening to submissions. When? I don’t know. I definitely need to graduate from university first, and we’ve got a lot of stuff to sort out over at StarShipSofa. When I get a second I’ll be writing more detailed blog posts about my experience doing slush and the common pitfalls, what to avoid, etc, etc. And if I rejected you, don’t give up. Drag yourself back up and shoot me a story that kicks me in the gut (not literally) and one that I cannot say no to. But more on that later.

It’s been an absolute blast to read your excellent stories, and it’s going to be even more fun working with you all and seeing what the final production looks like. I’ve heard some of them already and they’re excellent. I’m hoping you guys will be as proud of them as I am.

Until then, thank you all so much. And never, ever, ever give up.


StarShipSofa: Slush Submission Update and Episode 400 Special

So I’ve been slowly, slowly hacking my way through the slush pile of StarShipSofa. It’s a process that simultaneously fun and wondrous, but daunting and difficult. I love being able to see what other people have written and nothing can compare to finding that diamond in the rough and knowing you have to take it, shooting off an acceptance and getting an excited email back filled with thank yous and how they can’t wait to see the finished product.


But it’s also very hard to let go off some of these stories. Very, very hard. But unfortunately that’s part of the process and it has to be done. And there’s always another story for you to send.

Okay, enough of the petty sentiments: At this point, I have read and responded to everything up until July 3. If you haven’t heard back, you are currently in the 2nd round. I will not be tackling this until I finish the rest of the slush, as there was a barrage of last-minute submissions. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

The other major thing? That would be the very special episode 400 of StarShipSofa. We’ve got a groundbreaking author lined up, one responsible for making SF/F what it is today. This author is without question of the most popular and well known writers in and outside genre. A pillar of contemporary literature. StarShipSofa has been graced with the mammoths that are George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Lisa Tuttle, Kim Stanley Robinson, and now this author.

Who is it?

You’re going to have to find out yourself. It’s taken months of planning, but it’s nearly here. And I can’t wait to see what you think.

StarShipSofa: Submissions and Slush Update

Hey guys,

Just an update for you in regards to StarShipSofa’s submissions. I’m so sorry that it’s taking so long – I got far many more submissions than I could possibly have expected, many of which were in the 8k+ and upwards length. Additionally, I became very ill at one point and couldn’t muster the strength to sit up in bed, let alone read slush. And now that I’m back at university, things are more hectic than ever. I’m starting to read submissions during my lunch breaks between classes, it’s the only way I can keep up.

But enough excuses. At this point, I’ve read and responded to everything up to June 23. If you haven’t heard back from me at this point, I’ve put your story in the 2nd round and I’ll be holding onto it before making a final decision. And good lord, you guys have made those decisions hard as hell. Seriously, there have been some pieces I’ve found so hard to let go, but ultimately had to. This is both a good and bad thing, as it means I can take the crème de la crème, but also makes it very difficult to send that rejection. But if I took everything that I wanted to, StarShipSofa would be backlogged for years. Several years. Yes, I got that many submissions. You guys are awesome.

Also, just so you know I always personalize my rejections, and I try to give some feedback as to why I had to say no. And if I asked you to submit next time we’re open, I definitely mean it.

I’ll keep reading as fast as I can. If I haven’t gotten back to you that means you’re still under serious consideration. Please be patient, and thanks again for sending me your work.

– Jeremy

My interview with the Lord Grimdark/Joe Abercrombie

A little late with posting this, but life’s been hectic. Very hectic,

Anyway, our latest episode over at StarShipSofa is very special. Why? Not only do we have a fantastic short story by Peter F. Hamilton, but we also have an interview with Mr. Joe Abercrombie, the Lord Grimdark himself.


We chatted about his books, his jagged prose style, the way he approaches fantasy as a whole, why he choose to write homages to other genres, why the Shattered Seas trilogy was so different to the First Law, and mostly importantly, why a long-time fantasy writer decided to set his latest books in a post-apocalyptic setting and use elements of science-fiction. The answers are all there. Oh yeah, it’s an hour long.

I started reading his books back in 2012 and was absolutely blown away by them. His down to earth prose, his raw and unapologetic characters, his livid battle scenes, his witty humour, all of it just captured me from the very start. I can’t even say what an honour it was to speak with him for over an hour face to face (we actually did meet in Sydney, where we arranged the interview). I doubt you’ll ever be seeing this, but thank you again, Joe. It was an absolutely pleasure, and I hope it is not the last time we have it.

Anyway, do check it out, for it is awesome. The link is here.


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