1. Tell us your biography in three sentences or fewer.
I was born in Lancashire, but I’ve lived in Yorkshire ever since I came to Leeds as a student. I work in financial services, which is about as exciting as you’d expect, but it pays the bills. I have a house where I grow lots of fruit in the garden; last year I had to buy a bigger freezer to keep the harvest in.
2. How and when did you begin writing, and what was your first published piece?
I always knew I wanted to be creative, but I was torn between music and writing, and initially I decided on music. I had a guitar and a keyboard, and I tried to form a band and write songs. Soon after I left university, I got burgled and almost everything I owned was stolen. I had nothing left except a manual typewriter, so I used that to write a story. When the insurance money came through, I replaced my instruments and went back to music. But several years later I realised that it wasn’t going to happen for me, so I abandoned music and decided to take up writing.
I remembered the old typewritten story, and dug it out. This story, “Successful Delegation”, became my first sale. It appeared in a small British magazine called Noesis (now defunct). At the time, I didn’t know that the recommended practice is to submit to bigger magazines first, and work your way down. I did later manage to sell the story as a reprint for somewhat more money than I’d originally received.
3. What’s so special about writing speculative fiction?
To me, the main point of speculative fiction is that themes and metaphors can be brought to life in a very vivid and direct way. Because you’re not bound by inconvenient reality, you can dramatise an issue in any way you like, and exaggerate it to the degree required to make your point.
Having said that, I’m certainly not an SF triumphalist or cheerleader. I don’t believe it’s inherently superior or more interesting than other genres. Nowadays I probably read more fiction outside the SF genre than within it. But I did read a lot of SF when I was younger, so I feel I have a solid background in the genre.
4. Tell us about your most recent publication or current writing project
My most recent publication is a book, “Escape Routes from Earth”. This is a collection of 14 SF stories, all originally published in magazines such as Asimov’s Science Fiction.
My favourite story in the book is “The Unparallel’d Death-Defying Feats of Astoundio, Escape Artist Extraordinaire”, which is about an escapologist performing a stunt in which he escapes from a black hole… but that’s only the warm-up before he attempts a far more difficult exploit.
5. What’s next?
My next project is to write something new, for critique at the forthcoming Northwrite meeting in October, but right now I have no idea what that story is going to be!