Category Archives: Authors past

Once upon a time: Alexander Francois

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Photo © Alexander Francois

Every now and again we interview an erstwhile Structo author for the blog. This time it’s the turn of author Alexander Francois, whose story ‘Barcode’ was featured in issue seven, the final edition of Structo to be printed on tabloid newspaper. ‘Barcode’ can be read, in full, over here.

We recently found out that Alex is also a game designer, and recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his studio’s first game: The Slaughter.

How did you come across Structo? Why did you choose to send ‘Barcode’ here?

A friend of mine, the ‘zine artist Jimi Gherkin, directed me towards Structo when I expressed interest in contributing to a magazine. ‘Barcode’ was a very experimental piece of writing for me, and I was unsure how it would fit into a genre-focussed publication before finding Structo. Structo‘s characterisation as a magazine which ‘tends towards the slipstream end of things’ sounded like a perfect home for ‘Barcode’, and a publication I’d be proud to contribute to.

Can you tell us a little about Brainchild Studios?

Brainchild is a design studio which acts almost as a pseudonym for my name. I wasn’t quite ready to divorce myself from all of the norms of the gaming industry and create a game purely under Alexander Francois as a literary author would, so Brainchild was born from a desire to have an intriguing name which doesn’t necessarily scream game design. This means the studio, and its creative output is never bound by the typical expectations of the gaming medium. Brainchild’s first project The Slaughter was successfully funded through Kickstarter in December, and I’ve been hard at work creating all aspects of the game since then, from writing to animation.

Are you doing any other writing at the moment, or is The Slaughter taking up all your time?

I’d love to say I’ve been writing on the side, but The Slaughter requires a huge amount of work. I write each scene much in the format of a play, but with the addition of multiple choice dialogue options, and the resulting dialogue trees. On top of this, I have to write several meaningful responses to interactions with almost every object or piece of scenery in the game. The game’s plot allows me a lot of creative freedom as it incorporates everything from nursery rhymes and poetry, to songs, dialogue and inner monologues. It’s almost like writing a play, album and poetry anthology at the same time – something which is often as intense as it sounds!

Which other games do you rate for their writing?

There are countless games I adore for their plot, but when it comes to the quality of spoken and written dialogue, it becomes trickier to decide. A few that spring to mind are Psychonauts, Portal, Tactics Ogre, and Broken Sword. Despite its often convoluted plot, I love the Metal Gear series for its playfulness and realism, with dialogue often following obscure tangents such as discussions about the original Godzilla movies. I also love the writing in Dark Souls for its minimalist quality; you are forced to gather some semblance of a plot through sparse encounters with other characters in a world where even item descriptions are intriguing and help to build the lore. I feel this is where games set themselves apart from movies; creation of a formidable and personal atmosphere in which the audience is deeply invested.

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Awards season

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Photo (BY-NC-ND): Ana Kelston

Two exciting awards-related things to report today.

Back in April we posted a brief interview with Siobhan Harvey, who had just had her issue eight poem ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’ selected for the Best New Zealand Poems anthology.

Today we’re delighted to announce that Siobhan has gone one further, as she has been awarded this year’s Kathleen Grattan Award, New Zealand’s largest prize for poetry. The prize is for her collection Nephology for Beginners, about a boy with autistic spectrum, which includes ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’. You can listen to the excellent announcement interview here and read her contribution to issue eight here. Many congratulations Siobhan!

While on the subject of awards, we made our first ever Pushcart Prize nomination this time last year. After lots of re-reading, this year we’ve decided to nominate three poems, one essay and two short stories. They are:

‘Bales’ by Daniel Galbraith
‘Woodvale’ by Phil Callaghan
‘Lunch in Ars en Ré’ by Lucy Furlong
‘The Loft of Hidden Dreams’ by Keir John Pratt
‘In a Foreign Town’ by Christine Stroik Stocke
‘A View of the Moon from the Moon’ by Matthew Kabik

These nominations are currently winging their way to New York, and we wish them all the best of luck.

Once upon a time: Jessica Young

JessicaYoung

Photo © Jessica Young

Every so often we talk to past Structo authors about what they’ve been up to since appearing in the magazine. The latest in this irregular series sees poetry editor Matthew Landrum talk to issue eight poet Jessica Young.

Your poetry appeared in issue eight last summer. A book release, publications, relocation – a lot has happened since then. Could you tell us about some of your recent opportunities and happenings?

My biggest happening has been finalizing everything with Alice’s Sister (WordTech, September 2013), my book that re-envisions Alice in Wonderland.  Working with my editor, we uncovered some anachronisms (e.g., technologies and musical composers from the wrong generation) and place-issues (e.g., cicadas and trilliums popping up where they don’t naturally occur) So it’s been a process of carefully combing and re-combing through the whole book to ensure that each detail belongs.  Suffice it to say that I’ve learned a lot about mid-19th century England!

Continue reading

Once upon a time: Tim Hehir

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Images: Text Publishing

As part of our on-going feature in which we talk to previously published authors, here’s a brief interview with author Tim Hehir. Tim’s short story ‘God Bless Us One and All’ appeared in the magazine back in issue seven and you can read it online here. His début novel, Julius and the Watchmaker, is out now from Text Publishing in Australia.

How did you come across Structo? Why did you choose to send your story here?

I do not recall how I actually found Structo. I somehow came to the magazine via a circuitous route on the internet while I was searching for somewhere to send one of my short stories. I chose to send my first story to Structo because of a line in the submissions criteria. You stated that you liked things that “made us smile”. I enjoyed the succinctness and honesty of the statement and thought I would give it a try. The first story I sent to the magazine was rejected but the rejection note I received was very encouraging so I gave it another try some time later. I was with a bunch of writer friends, renting a house for the weekend in a seaside town outside Melbourne and we had a conversation about trying to come up with the craziest horror film idea we could. I came up with the ‘Zombified Dickens Characters’ idea and ‘God Bless us One and All’ was born. Continue reading

Once upon a time: Siobhan Harvey

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Photo © Siobhan Harvey

We recently kicked off a series here on the blog in which we talk to erstwhile Structo authors, finding out what they’ve been up to since appearing in the pages of the magazine. We would usually wait more than one issue before catching up, but Siobhan Harvey just had her issue eight poem ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’ selected for the Best New Zealand Poems anthology, so it seemed like a fitting moment.

How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry since I was 16 years old. When I was at school, creative writing began to be considered as an accepted part of the curriculum. In the journey towards O-Level/GSCE exams, my English teacher asked us to write stories. From somewhere unknown, somewhere I am (for various reasons) unable to name but can ‘touch’, narratives, long and complex poured out of me. Neat short stories. Epic, cliff-hanger mysteries. I wrote them all. In the journey towards my A-Levels, we were encouraged to make the inventive leap into poetry, and I fell helter-skelter into the form. Within a few years and a move to London, I was spending much of my time at the South Bank Centre, at the Poetry Library, reading, writing and gathering poetry competition entry forms. To my surprise, to my wonder, poem publications in magazines and competitions followed.

Can you share the back-story to ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’?
This is an extremely long and complex back-story, and one which, as yet, I know hasn’t achieved its resolution – because that’s the nature, the essence of living with a child who has Autism/Aspergers/ADHD/Autism Spectrum Disorder. The expedition of child and parent through this (I dislike the word) “disorder” is incremental and on-going. But for the sake of concision, I can say that at the age of seven years old, after five years in which I knew instinctively something was different (not wrong, or defective, just different) about my son, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum. If that seems straightforward, the path to reaching that diagnosis, and indeed the path we have trodden thereafter has been very complex and nuanced. For instance, my partner and I were told by educators (kindergarten teachers) that our four year old son was not playing “normally” with other children. It wasn’t long before we were told that our son was “gifted”. But the essence of the definition over that which is “normal” and that which is “other” stayed with me and became so deeply apparent to me when my son started school. By then, at the end of each school day he was dragging me to a local park to look up at the heavens and lose himself in decoding the pictures presented to him by the clouds. And this indeed seemed deeply “different” from his peers who dragged their parents down to the local park to play swings, slides, see-saw and, indeed, play with one another. At this point, I made the additional realisation that though my son’s nephology was his creative venture, it was also a vehicle by which he became an outsider, divorced from the everyday world of his peers. The motif of the cloud-watcher who (a truism it seems to me relevant to all hobbyists) in his fixation becomes something akin to the object he is fascinated by was the spring board into ‘Considering the Autistic Child as a Cloud’. Continue reading

Once upon a time: Duncan Jones

A Newark Cemetery Squirrel Speaks by Duncan Jones

Photo: Structo (CC BY 2.0)

This is the start of an irregular feature on the blog. We’re always nosy about interested in what authors get up to after having been published in Structo, and it suddenly occurred to us that the most straightforward way of finding out would be to ask! It also gives us a chance to give our erstwhile writers a little publicity, because they certainly didn’t get involved with the magazine for the money…

First up is Duncan Jones. We have published a couple of Duncan’s witty little stories, the first in issue four and the second the following issue. You can read ‘A Newark Cemetery Squirrel Speaks’ and ‘Lucifer’ in full and for free over at issuu, and continue reading below for a short interview with the man himself.

Lucifer by Duncan Jones

Photo: Structo (CC BY 2.0)

Do you primarily write short stories? 
Yes I do primarily write short stories, many of which are available on the Ether app.

Are smartphones and tablets helping the short story form?

I suspect that they are and many people a lot more worthy than I seem to agree. If the short story was seen as unprofitable by traditional publishers, digital publishing gets round this. The length of a short story fits people’s busy lives. I am a bit puzzled how people know where to go to get quality. Ether has an editorial process, but I am not convinced all platforms do. I guess people will soon find a platform that gives them what they want. How you get your stories noticed in such a massive market intrigues me, and as trumpet blowing has never been my forte, I guess it also troubles me.

Why did you send your stories to Structo in particular? 

The submissions criteria and description of the magazine caught my attention, especially the ‘make us smile’ bit.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently writing a ghost story for children set in a shopping centre.

Do you have a plan for your writing career, or are you playing it by ear?
I am very much playing it by ear, trying to build on small successes without being blinkered about new avenues. I had a short horror piece I had written as part of an Open University creative writing course accepted for a charity Halloween anthology published by Crooked Cat. I do wonder if I write over too many genres. I write poetry for adults and children and my short stories are quite varied, but it all helps to improve my writing and I enjoy the variety.