Mark is a part time writer and full time Servant of the Public. His mid life crisis took the form of writing speculative fiction at a very slow pace. While sceptical of the results, his wife maintains that it was probably a reasonable course of action considering (1) the relative low cost of the exercise and (b) the cliched alternatives.
Mark lives in the inner west of Sydney Australia with his long suffering wife and two children.
Where to find Mark Webb online
A Flash in the Pan?
by Mark Webb
Ever wonder why aliens don't visit Earth? Or what coffee a demon likes to drink? Or how bureaucracy could really screw up a grand space adventure? A Flash in the Pan? is a collection of speculative flash fiction and short stories that answers these questions and more.
Mark Webb's tag cloud
Smashwords book reviews by Mark Webb
- Aurealis #47
on March 09, 2012
This review was first published on my website.
Issue #47 is the latest in the new, electronic incarnation of the Aurealis magazine. This month is the first instalment since the "reboot" that has a price tag attached to it, but at $2.99 I don't think anyone will be complaining.
There were two stories in this edition. The Sacrifice by Jenny Blackford harkens back to a retelling of ancient Greek myth, focusing on the escape of Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts fame) from Kolkhis. The story is mostly told from the point of view of Medea, the virginal princess that helps Jason escape from her father. The introduction tells the main part of the story - the willingness of Medea to (somewhat brutally) sacrifice her young brother to help Jason escape. The story was well written and an enjoyable read. I would have hated to live in ancient Greece - the gods just couldn't leave people alone! Having said that, in this instance the gods merely fanned the flames of infatuation - it took a human being to think of a truly horrific course of action to escape a seemingly impossible situation, and use love to justify it all.
The second story was Breaking the Wire by Jason Nahrung. I quite enjoy Mr Nahrung's tales of outback horror - his Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn was one of my favourite tales told in the now sadly defunct Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction podcast. Breaking the Wire didn't disappoint, a tale that takes that age old practice of farmers maintaining their fence lines and adds a werewolf twist to it all. I loved the characters and the atmosphere was fantastically built. As has been my previous experience, I was left wishing there was something by Mr Nahrung set in the same kind of world but in a longer format. But speaking of Mr Nahrung and longer form work, I see that he has a book coming out soon from Twelfth Planet Press. Look forward to that as well.
As well as Carissa's Weblog providing a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, this month's edition also contained an editorial pondering the question of whether speculative fiction readers really are more tech savvy than the rest of the reading population. There was also a very interesting piece on the use of the multi-book series by speculative fiction writers by Crisetta MacLeod.
I'm enjoying the stories in Aurealis. I also receive the monthly email update, in which I won a book last month, so I certainly can't complain about that. Next edition will include The Descent of Traag by Matt Bissett-Johnson and Thirty Minutes for New Hell by Rick Kennett.
- Aurealis #48
on March 09, 2012
I first reviewed this edition on my website.
Issue #48 is the latest edition of the Aurealis magazine, a quick monthly read showcasing some excellent Australian speculative fiction. It's nice to get a monthly magazine that is short enough to not give me a sense of dread and guilt when I add it to my reading list.
There were three stories in this edition. The first, The Descent of Traag by Matt Bissett-Johnson, was a graphic story which was something a bit different, although interestingly it followed very closely my reading of the Sprawl anthology which did something similar in the middle of the book. I enjoyed the artwork, which showed up nicely on my iPad.
Thirty Minutes for New Hell by Rick Kennett was a well executed story about an Earth based mission to covertly observe the Dhooj, an alien race making their first manned space mission to another world in their solar system. It was an interesting premise to the story and well executed, with a fairly standard intervene/don't intervene scenario but a nice little twist at the end. I enjoyed this one. A minor quibble - there were points in the story where I couldn't immediately tell who was speaking and got pulled out of the story momentarily where I tried to work it out from context. It only happened a handful of times though and only slightly detracted from an otherwise very enjoyable story.
An excellent protagonist with an interesting savant ability to read people's expressions in such minute detail he can tell what they are thinking and to represent that in art is the solid core of Eyes of Fire in my Waking Dreams by Greg Mellor. James Glazebrook is a very interesting character and his ability allows Mr Mellor to describe the world around him in a very interesting way. I loved the concept of a speech interpreting device that sounded like Bruce Wayne. The ending was a little disturbing and made me concerned for Glazebrook's ongoing mental health. A good read.
As always Carissa's Weblog providing a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction. This month's edition also contained a very interesting piece by Crisetta MacLeod reviewing In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood. I'm going to have to read this book, I've heard such a wide range of disparate feedback on it. Episode 71 of the Coode St podcast discussed the book at length with none other than Ursula le Guin herself, whose work is apparently explored in detail in the book. Their conclusion was that the book was flawed in many ways, with only a fairly narrow range of the field explored. They also contend that the book is somewhat negative about the genre. Other reviews, like Ms MacLeod's, are extremely positive about the book and its take on the science fiction field. I love that the book has generated this kind of widely divergent reaction. After hearing the early negative reviews I was planning to steer clear of In Other Worlds, but this review has made me rethink that strategy - I've added the book to my ever growing to be read pile.
This month's editorial focused on the decision by the Aurealis editorial team to publish in an eBook format rather than going purely online. I thought the arguments were well made and I tend to agree - making the magazine into an e-book format does make it feel more self contained and like a thing you can own. I always enjoy insight into the editing and publishing process.
- Aurealis #49
on April 25, 2012
Review first posted on my website http://www.markwebb.name/
Issue #49 is the latest issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing excellent Australian speculative fiction. With an emphasis on Australian content and news, I’m finding Aurealis is rapidly becoming one of my key barometers for what is happening in the Australian speculative fiction landscape.
The First Boat by Sean McMullen was an interesting take on how quickly Australia might collapse if some of our basic utilities (in this case electricity) were taken from us. The choice of the main point of view character was good, a young perspective mirroring the confusion of the time. McMullen’s characters are taking action when the rest of us would just be faffing around, and the twist at the end will resonate with Australian readers.
I am a big and growing fan of Jason Fischer‘s work, and Rolling for Fetch did not disappoint. Fischer describes a dystopian world of energy shortages and reverted transportation where some gangs have their feet replaced with wheels and perform couriering services. It is an excellent dissection of a transient subculture and the impact of what is essentially a fad where radical surgery is an option (and you thought you might regret that tattoo you got at university – at least you didn’t replace your feet with wheels!). The good news – Mr Fischer has a new short story collection coming out from Ticonderoga Publications called Everything is a Graveyard. The bad news – it isn’t due out until October 2013!
As always Carissa’s Weblog providing a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction. I’d particularly recommend watching the video of Neil Gaimen’s recent event at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne (mentioned in a previous new article on this site).
This issue also contained a very interesting interview of Greig Beck by Crisetta MacLeod, titled E-publishing: An Hour with Greig Beck. I do the bulk of my reading electronically these days, and as one of the inaugural authors picked up by the new Pan Macmillan all-digital imprint Momentum Mr Beck has some interesting insight into that rapidly evolving scene.
Michael Pryor’s short editorial talks about the importance of getting young people into science fiction, although I wish it had been just a slightly longer piece that talked about how we could achieve that worthy goal!
The What do you Think? section of the magazine contains a link to my review of issue #48. They are also running another online survey to get feedback on this month’s issue.
- Aurealis #50
on June 02, 2012
Issue #50 is the latest issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news.
Abode by Patty Jansen kicks off this edition. A science fiction piece, Abode is set in a future where it seems humanity has begun to colonise asteroids and other small bodies through the solar system. It tells the story of Kee, a young woman attempting to build a habitat on an asteroid as well as convince her to-be fiancé's well off family that they should give away their son's hand in marriage to her. The world building hinted at in this short piece was very interesting, I'd love to see it explored more in a longer piece. A matriarchal society dominated by clans whose fortunes are linked to the resources they can command. Very interesting piece.
Remembering the Mimi by Jonathan Robb is the second story in this month's edition and Mr Robb's first publication. It tells the story of Michael, an emergency ward nurse who is faced with the earthly manifestation of a dying Aboriginal spirit (a mimi) in one of the hospital beds he is looking after. The writing is tight and Mr Robb was able to sketch the feeling of working in an emergency ward with remarkable brevity and an authentic feel. I enjoy stories that explore Aboriginal mythology and this was a good example of such a story handled quite appropriately. I look forward to reading more of Mr Robb's work.
As always Carissa's Weblog providing a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction. I'd particularly recommend listening to the interview with Margo Lanagan that she links to - very interesting.
This issue also contained an interview with author Steve Wheeler by Crisetta MacLeod as well as reviews of several recently released books and TV. There is also a rant about the lack of spaceships in science fiction television by Robert N Stephenson. Couldn't agree more.
Michael Pryor's short editorial continues the discussion on young readers in speculative fiction. He makes the point that when you look at sales figures for teenage readers, speculative fiction is the largest part of the fiction pie. Perhaps the war for young readers has already been won?
Another very satisfying read, and my inbox tells me I've finished this review just in time to start reading issue #51.
- Aurealis #51
on Sep. 07, 2012
Issue #51 is the June 2012 issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. I'm quite behind on my short fiction reading (issues 52 and 53 are looking sternly at me from my iPad as we speak).
The first story in this edition was At the Crossroads by Daniel Baker. This was an interesting story with some great concepts, but I must admit I found it a little confusing to follow. This probably says more about me than the quality of the story. It follows the adventures of William as he transverses worlds through a mechanism known as the Crossroads as he chases his desire to be a Cartographer (one who maps worlds). Some of the imagery in the story is quite strong and I liked some of the descriptive text, but I wasn't quite captured by it.
Next was The Pesky Dead by Richard Harland. This was a fun story! The lead character had a strong and very distinctive voice (even though he himself wasn't very likeable). I enjoy stories set in an Australian context, and this one didn't disappoint. It hinted at a system of rules for dealing with the spirits of the dead, and did it in such an entertaining way. A great piece.
As always Carissa's Weblog providing a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of interviews and video. Reviews abound, with more books than is worth mentioning.
There is an extensive interview with Garth Nix, which gives some interesting insights into his writing as well as some of his latest works (including A Confusion of Princes which I reviewed recently).
Michael Pryor's editorial puts the fiction back into science fiction by shining a light on the concept some people hold that science fiction should predict the future. Given how woeful science fiction authors tend to be at it, it probably comes as a relief that Pryor takes the line that science fiction should be about exploring the effects of possible futures, rather than trying to guess which ones will actually happen.
- Aurealis #52
on Sep. 07, 2012
Issue #52 is the July 2012 issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Scott Vandervalk and Stephen Higgins.
Stephen Higgins wrote this month's editorial, focusing on the process they use to choose stories for the magazine. It provides interesting insight, and well worth reading for any aspiring authors who might like to submit something to Aurealis in the future. Hang on a second, that's me!
I loved both stories in this month's edition, although they were radically different in tone.
Time Travel For Dummies by Michael Burrows leads out this month. This was an extremely funny story, built around a single joke but executed very well. I've been trying (and failing) to think of a way of describing the story that doesn't give the gag away - lets just say that it is an excellent take on the time travel theme, very Australian in content, and does a great job of a slow reveal. Highly recommended.
You would not really use the word "funny" to describe Do You Want to Live Forever? by Robert N Stephenson. This much less light-hearted story focusing on the life of Carlyle, a demon hunter masquerading as a hunter of serial killers, until he becomes hunted himself. The story was well written but felt a little truncated, as if we were getting a small glimpse into a larger world that Stephenson had created. I enjoyed Stephenson's Rains of la Strange in the excellent anthology Anywhere But Earth, but I haven't read anything else by him so I'm not sure if this story is part of a wider series set in this world. If so, this story is an excellent appetite whetter!
As always Carissa's Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video. There were also significant number of reviews of both books, TV series and some interesting comments on the viability on TV series produced for cable channels. Robert N Stephenson makes some forceful comments on the behavioural patterns of published authors in the regular Rob's Rants and Raves column.
Overall another good read, reminding me why I subscribe to this excellent Australian magazine.
I also reviewed this on my website www.markwebb.name
- Aurealis #53
on Sep. 07, 2012
Issue #53 is the August 2012 issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Scott Vandervalk and Stephen Higgins.
Stephen Higgins wrote this month's editorial, focusing on the demographics of speculative fiction readers, in particular electronic publications like Aurealis.
The Karma Tree by Benjamin Allmon is a slightly disturbing story about the dangers of making fun of teddy bears. The protagonist lives in a share house, and Allmon does a fantastic job making the characters come alive in a short story. The writing blended humour with disturbing images well.
Nightsider by Richard Kerslake tells the story of Shana Bron, an immigration officer on the daylight side of a world tidally locked with one hemisphere in perpetual sunlight and one always shrouded in darkness. Bron struggles with the demands of her life as she hangs onto the edge of the "haves" society, while dreaming of seeing the stars. An enjoyable story, more character driven but with enough of a plot to keep the reader interested. It was an interesting world portrayed - well worth the read.
This month's edition contained an XTREME SCIENCE article, titled To Infinity - And Beyond! by Patricia L. O'Neill, which describes some of the history behind what went onto the Voyager spacecraft. A series of human foibles and unusual circumstances dictated which pictures, sounds and information were stored on the craft in case alien civilisations ever come across them. It was a very interesting read.
As always Carissa's Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video. There were also significant number of reviews of both books, TV series, movies and Rob Parnell pens a love letter to Joss Whedon.
Robert N Stephenson draws parallels between the current debate in Australia on asylum seekers who arrive in our country by boat and some of the "alien invasion" style sci-fi from the 1950s in the regular Rob's Rants and Raves column.
Well worth the read.
- Aurealis #54
on Nov. 14, 2012
Issue #54 is the September 2012 issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Michael Pryor.
Pryor’s editorial focuses on the passing of Neil Armstrong and the interaction between space exploration and science fiction.
The first story in this month’s edition is Anvil of the Sun by Karen Maric. A tale of bloody revenge set in a fantasy setting, the world building behind this short piece was very good. It felt like an introduction to a universe that Maric intends to do more work in. The writing was very good, with a strong sensory immersion into the harsh landscape the characters inhabit.
Running Wild by Jack Nicholls tells the tale of a suburban prank that takes a turn into the surreal. I loved the point of view character’s perspective in this story, and the description of the backyard world of suburbia was excellent (while simultaneously reminding me why I prefer a more urban existence).
This month’s edition also contains a very interesting interview with Trudi Canavan, by Crisetta Macleod. The interview covers everything from the rise of eBooks, to the exploration of social issues in Canavan’s books and the combination of creative endeavours that Canavan involves herself in.
There are the normal array of reviews of books (including Canavan’s latest The Traitor Queen). Rob Parnell’s Surfing the Dark Side explores why horror fans can love a truly bad horror movie, and Robert Jenkins reviews one of my favourite TV series at the moment Grimm in his The Couch Potato Speaks segment.
As always Carissa’s Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video.
Well worth the read.
- Aurealis #56 Award Winners
on Nov. 24, 2012
Issue #56 from November 2012 of the Aurealis magazine is a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Dirk Strasser. This month is a second "Award Winners" editions, with two short stories that won Aurealis Awards this year. This is really the last edition of Aurealis for 2012 (I know, I mistakenly said that last month!), with the publication kicking off again in 2013.
Fittingly, Strasser's editorial focuses on summing up the 2012 publishing year for Aurealis, including their focus on turning around submissions quickly and highlighting their campaign to become recognised as a professional market by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. If they get to 1,000 subscribers they will increase their payments to 5c a word. Go on, you know you want to.
This month's first award winning story is The Fruit of the Pipal Tree by Thoraiya Dyer, which won the Best Fantasy Short Story award at this year's Aurealis Awards. The Fruit of the Pipal Tree originally was published in the After the Rain anthology which I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading. It is a beautifully written story, with some lovely imagery and well developed characters. My hopefully non spoiler description of the plot is "A scientist travels to a research camp on the Geruwa River in Nepal to attempt to save the suss dolphin from extinction".
The supernatural elements are kept to the last part in this story, with a very effective build up and skilfully inserted back story combining to make the ending quite powerful.
The second award winner in this month's edition was The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt by Paul Haines, which was part of his collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga (which I have reviewed here) and won the Best Horror Short Story category. Paul Haines sadly passed away from cancer earlier this year before winning the Aurealis. If you are interested in horror then I can't recommend The Last Days of Kali Yuga strongly enough - it is an extremely powerful collection with writing skill I could only dream of possessing.
Both stories were very worthy of award, and together they make a great edition of Aurealis (as I mentioned last month, purchasing this and issue #55 is a very cost effective way to get exposed to some excellent Australian short fiction).
Crisetta Macleod tantalises us with the thought that we may indeed not be real, using the vehicle of Philip K Dick's tales to illustrate her points. I have decided, on mature reflection, to proceed as if I am real in my day to day life but I must admit it was touch and go for a while.
There are the normal array of reviews of books. Robert N Stephenson is concerned that North Americans tend to replace decent genre TV shows with mindless crap in his Rants and Raves segment. Rob Parnell calls for more strong roles for women on the big screen in Surfing the Dark Side. And Robert Jenkins both swash and buckles his way through a review of the US TV series Revolution in his The Couch Potato Speaks article (I've been giving Revolution a go, but I agree with Rob's assessment - I just can't warm to the Gen Y protagonist. Which probably officially makes me old).
As always Carissa's Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video.
And I said it last time and I'll say it again - I've really enjoyed the Aurealis series of publications through 2012, and I'm looking forward to 2013.
This review can also be found on my website at www.markwebb.name.
- Aurealis #55 Award Winners
on Nov. 25, 2012
Issue #55 is the October 2012 issue of the Aurealis magazine, a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Dirk Strasser. This month is an “Award Winners” editions, with two short stories that won Aurealis Awards this year.
Fittingly, Strasser’s editorial focuses on the history of the Aurealis awards and what drove the Aurealis publication to introduce a judged award into the Australian landscape in the first place.
The first award winning story is Rains of la Strange by Robert N. Stephenson. Rains of la Strange was released as a part of the excellent Anywhere But Earth anthology, edited by Keith Stevenson. I reviewed Anywhere But Earth on my website, where Rains of la Strange was one of the stories I highlighted, particularly for the world building.
The second award winner in this month’s edition was The Short Go: a Future in Eight Seconds by Lisa L. Hannett, from her World Fantasy Award nominated collection Bluegrass Symphony. Given its accolades, Bluegrass Symphony has been on my “to read” list for a while, so it was good to get a chance to “sample” one of the stories.
A fascinating tale, one of those ones that starts off hard to read (the dialect of the narrator is hard to engage with in the first page or so) but before you know it you’re completely enveloped by the story. The pacing was excellent as was the choice in language and imagery. The twist in the story was unexpected and well executed.
Both stories were very worthy of award, and together they make a great edition of Aurealis (if you haven’t read either this is a cost effective way to get exposed to some excellent Australian short fiction).
Crisetta Macleod lets us know what she hates about fantasy, in the appropriately titled article What I Hate About Fantasy. And man, there is a lot she doesn’t like! Some interesting discussion on issues as wide ranging as getting rid of the name “fantasy”, through to the need to give fantasy novels ratings where they deal with adult themes such as torture, through to the tendency to use magic as a deus ex machina (i.e. to solve a plot problem). Interesting comments from an experienced reviewer, well worth a read.
Crisetta Macleod also gave a run down on Conflux 2012, the Canberra speculative fiction convention. Sounds like a fantastic time was had by all – my lack of attendance has made me jealous.
There are the normal array of reviews of books. Robert N Stephenson decries the loss of quality in the writing field in his Rants and Raves segment. Rob Parnell decries the loss of originality in the superhero movie genre in Surfing the Dark Side. And Robert Jenkins decries the loss of quality in TV with his review of Sinbad (the UK TV series) in his The Couch Potato Speaks article. A poor quality trifecta!
As always Carissa’s Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video.