Posts in short story
Flash Fiction - Homecoming

We went LARPing with the Profound Decisions Empire LARP and one of the characters in our Hall, Cadarn, died. It was very dramatic; at one point, we thought three of us had snuffed it, but two of us made it back. Sadly we had to leave Cadarn behind. It really brought home to me how important our characters are at these events.

When we got home, I felt that we'd left it somewhat hanging unfinished, so I wrote this. In the time this is written, we are just in the last stages of packing up our entire village to move to a new one, in Hahnmark, a move that was put forward by Cadarn himself. With him dead, we're left to carry on his wishes alone.


Algar rested his hand gently on the oxen’s neck. “Good girl, Nina. You saw us through the storm.”

The oxen bent her head to the bale of hay at her feet, rumbling appreciatively. He tutted, looking at the mud still caked around her hooves and halfway up her coat, matting her rough hair, but such things could wait until tomorrow.

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Short story - Alan

Last week a new XPRIZE was announced at the TED conference in Vancouver, for an AI to speak at the 2020 conference for 18 minutes and give a TED talk worthy of a standing ovation. There were a few other details, such as it being a competition of sorts where competing teams will be whittled down until there are only three remaining, but I couldn't help but think...

What would the winning AI's speech sound like?


The custom-built auditorium in Vancouver was abuzz with pre-talk excitement as the audience filed in. Behind the stage, Roger Patel fiddled absently with his cufflinks, watching the comings and goings of technicians. The hydra of wires that supplied power to the projectors and sound equipment snaked over the floor, but many more ended at the large black cube. It was almost featureless, save for the slim monitor attached to its front, currently displaying the eMan logo. The little Vitruvian man flipped and rotated on the screen, and as Roger watched it he began to feel faintly sick, as though his stomach were flipping at the same frequency.

“Is it ready?”

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"In the Beginning..."

The last post I made pointed out that I needed a creation story for the world of Claws of the Chimera. Here it is!

“Come close, Aldo, and I will tell you a tale.”

The boy stood and walked over to where his mother sat. He nestled in the lap of her long embroidered dress, against the smoothness of her pregnant belly, and looked up into eyes that sparkled in the firelight. “What sort of tale?”

Her lips bent into a small smile. “The first tale, my sweet. How the world was made.”

Aldo closed his eyes, fingers wrapped around a lock of her dark hair, twining it over and over around his fingers, as she began.

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Intelligence Everywhere

I was part of a talk about 'Sympathetic Machines' and the Internet of Things, together with my wife Sue, and John Aggs, at the User-Centred Design Conference 2015. The general theme of the talk was about three models of artificial intelligence that might link all our physical and digital things together in the near future. 

The concept behind the story was one of being able to forgive machines, and to let them into our personal space - mentally and physically. This model of AI would talk to you and react like a person, learning about you over time, but wouldn't try to appear more advanced than it actually is - perhaps presenting itself in a childlike manner, and thus being easily forgivable.

I'll blog more about it in my next post, but to set the stage, and the tone, here's the story that I wrote and read out at the conference.

Son of a Bit

Mike wound down the window, gagging slightly as the chill breeze brought in the smell of car fumes. The traffic was relentless, and in the back seat he could see Oliver’s judgmental eyes peering out from under the hood of his dinosaur onesie.

“Dad, we’re gonna be late.”

“Well, I can’t magic the traffic away.” Mike sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “Look, I don’t know what’s gone on here. Some sort of accident maybe. Bit?”

The eyes on the little bobble-head air freshener that sat on the dashboard lit up, and it looked up at Mike. “No, I don’t think so, sir,” it said. “Traffic is always like this here at this time.”

Mike stared at the little robot. “What?”

“I said, traffic is-“

“I heard what you said. Why the hell would you bring us this way, then?”

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Progress - Short Story

I recorded this short story and it's up as a podcast right now! If you'd rather have it piped into your ears, click here!



I was putting the finishing touches to my invention when my guest arrived, accompanied by a wisp of cold air. He didn’t ring the doorbell, or knock on the workshop door. Nothing so practical. He was just suddenly behind me. Looming. Death has a habit of doing that, I suppose.


I lurched upright and yowled in pain as my head made contact with the brassy underside of my latest work. It echoed dully, like a bell. Gritting my teeth against the pain, I turned to face Death, wrench firmly in my grip.

“Who the bloody hell are you?”

I’M DEATH, Death said. His gaze roamed around the garage, gaslight shining off the polished skull. I’M SORRY, YOUR NAME WAS...?

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Last week's Pocket Fiction focused on the port towns to the west of Meria, the setting for Claws of the Chimera. Gathered loosely into the Lutran Confederacy, the towns are a haven for anyone looking for a freer life. Giant otters and men walk side by side, some seeking a life of piracy, others looking for lawful lines of work. Sometimes that work takes them out to sea; other times it takes them upriver, into Gyb or Laurice territory. Check out this post for some of the research I did while writing this story.

Tark is one of the more piratical residents. Together with Guthry, his human friend, they're more often than not on the wrong side of the law. Today, though, their crimes have caught up with them...


I opened my eyes with a gasp. Almost immediately the pain in my head spiked, and I raised a paw to block the harsh sunlight. The sick feeling in my stomach grew with every aching breath and I rolled onto my front, coughing up a mouthful of phlegm onto the hard-packed sand.

Staggering to my feet, I looked around. The impact of the cannon shot had thrown me into a little blind, behind some of the brown rocks that littered the beach. Fragments of memory came back to me: running with Guthry, the goods on his back, a shout before the blast, and then darkness.

Everything ached as I stumbled around the rocks, looking up and down the deserted shoreline. Where was Guthry?

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056 - Danger Ahead

I listen to podcast 'Stuff You Should Know' and it's awesome. They've got hundreds of episodes up there, spanning years of material, and it's always something interesting. They've blogged about The Singularity before (and honestly, if you don't know what the Singularity is, check out that podcast!) On a recent show someone sent in an email suggesting that maybe the Singularity (the moment when AI becomes sentient and self-aware) had already happened. Well, that sounds like a perfectly creepy story idea, and I've shamelessly borrowed it and written it up as a 100 themes.

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Deep in Thought - Part 2

The skimmer flew on. Now that he was inside the long and gently curving tube, Jerod gunned the engine. It was an artefact of the visualisation, he knew; pushing further into the neuron had shrunk his skimmer down, to the point where the journey was taking far longer than it should have, but it was the only way his mind could make sense of it all. Either that, or Ramona’s mind was resisting, taking more of an active role in the simulation.

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Deep in Thought - Part 1

Writing ‘Deep In Thought’ went the usual way my mind works, which was ‘Here is a theme. How can I twist the meaning of the sentence to make it about something oblique?’ It’s by far not the first time I’ve done it. Playing with words is a favourite pastime of mine, and I’m always looking for anagrams, codes, Spoonerisms, hidden meanings and words-written-backwards (pretty much any time I see a name, like Mr Radnor, I’ll read it backwards in case it’s important. 99% of the time it’s not.)

Deep In Thought is one of those. It’s about someone deep in thoughts... someone else’s thoughts.

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Keeping A Secret

I wrote ‘Keeping a Secret’ after doing a bit of research into coding information into human DNA for another project. I’m writing a short story that I would like to submit to the BBC’s Short Story Competition, and I stumbled across this new article.

It was the last line that really brought this story into view. I read that and thought, ‘Damn, that’d make an excellent story.’

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Flash Fiction set in Koru

Koru, one of the five countries that make up the continent of Ehrian. Although, that said, one that I'm thinking of changing the name of, mainly because that makes the spoken language 'Koruan', which is little too close to 'Korean'. Maybe 'Korun' works, or 'Kor'. 'Caw, listen to me speak my language'. Bleh. In the D&D campaign we've gone with Koruan.

Anyway! A bit of dunking in the politics of Koru.

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Whisp's Tale

This is the last of the Paragon Path tales that I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. Enjoy!

The journey back to Fjornik was a quiet one, everyone wrapped up in their own thoughts. Only the rhythmic beat of the horses’ hooves disturbed the silence, a silence which had been hard won.

Faces flashed before her eyes. Maran. Ena. Doe. Even Vile, she thought with a snort. He was a bastard, but he didn’t deserve to die like that. The last weeks weighed heavily on her, and she knew the others were feeling it too.

“We won, didn’t we? We’re heroes.” she said aloud, more to herself than anything else. 

Toofi looked round. “It doesn’t feel like it, though,” she said quietly.

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Reiker's Tale

This is one of the Paragon Path tales I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. As a bit of back story to this one, we left Ostardva's story hanging at the point when Tiamat, the evil dragon goddess, had offered him a place as her paladin. We kept the suspense up until the very end of Heroic Tier about whether his Paragon path would be as an evil paladin or as a righteous one, or turning his back on the path of a paladin altogether. Enjoy!


The word echoed around the cavernous chamber. Ostardva, stood on one of Tiamat’s long, sinuous necks, stared defiantly at the five immense dragon heads, arrayed in front of him.

The central one, the red one, started backwards a little, as if surprised.

“No? Just like that? You disappoint me, child of Arkhosia.” The five heads spoke as one, a woman’s voice but with a hint of growling bass in it. The sound was like a hammer-blow, every word a storm to be weathered.

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Futch's Tale

This is one of the Paragon Path tales I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. Enjoy!

Futch frowned as he walked away from the others. No-one seemed in a particularly celebratory mood; they had won the war, beaten the Lich, but at a high cost. Hundreds had died, thousands perhaps. Ostardva, Gieve, the others on the airship.


He gritted his teeth and clenched his fist, fighting the surge of frustration that threatened to boil over. To have been so far away, and not able to do anything, or even know about it... It wasn’t fair. He wandered through the streets, barely aware of the direction his feet were taking him, lost in thought.

Finally he stood in front of the southern gate, looking out over the plains. The gently sloping path that lead to Varikause and beyond lay in front of him and, with one backwards glance at Fjornik, he shifted.

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Kali's Tale

This is one of the Paragon Path stories I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. Enjoy!


Kali stood in the confusion of the city. In a way, ruined as it was, it felt more comfortable to her; instead of stone formed into buildings and walls, it was more like the hillsides of her childhood, rough and unformed.

She rubbed her shoulders at that thought, feeling the roughness of her own skin. It was still odd to her; she’d grown used to the small slices and nicks, the little pieces of skin that grew back harder than scars should, but the final battle against the Lich had been devastating in more ways than one. Hundreds had died, an entire city fallen into a pit, friends and travelling companions blasted into nothingness. In the darkness and heat of the cavern under Ortmund, revealed at last, they had battled the Lich and emerged victorious. She flexed her hands, remembering the freezing cold and biting pain that had stung them as she had grabbed at whatever was inside its armour, holding it in place so that Toofi could deliver the death blow. The backlash of energy had flayed her torso open, revealing a rougher layer beneath the skin that ached still.

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Toofi's Tale

This is one of the Paragon Path stories I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. Enjoy!

The bar was loud, uncomfortably so, but Toofi had found a quiet corner in which to sip her mug of ale. Fjornik was coming back to life, more so now that the threat of the undead horde was gone, and it was good to not have to watch her back all the time.

The events of the last few weeks were still large in her mind, though. Memories rose unbidden; fabulous journeys into other realms, the weird feeling of controlling a body much larger than hers, and a grinning face pressed up against crystal.

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045 - Illusion

Another Noctis Point universe 100 themes work. These are all short and deliberately display a photo, a moment in time. I should really concentrate on creating fully-encapsulated short stories, because it's something I find challenging.

045 - Illusion

Alex sat on the single hard chair, concentrating. In his mind, he could hear the lesson, his tutor’s voice quiet, hypnotic. 

“Picture a box.”

He furnished himself with a cardboard box. It wasn’t much. The bottom was sealed with brown packing tape.

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044 - Two Roads

Also, Noctis Point! I've been playing around with the world a bit and I've created a timeline. Worldbuilding is so much fun. I should do some actual writing sometime!

This is #44 of the 100 Themes, which takes place in a lecture room on Mars Base 3.

“There are two roads on Mars,” Dr. Judd said, pointing at the projected map, “and it’s likely to stay that way until the terraforming is complete.” Alex watched as his tutor highlighted the two thin supply routes, making notes on his own pad.

“Now. They’re dead straight, see that? Anyone care to tell me why?”

“Robots,” Alex said, not even looking up from the pad.

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The Psy-Ops

These are all largely working titles for now. I might come up with something far better, probably will, and when that happens I'll track back through and edit things like this.

Anyway; the state of play on Earth, and on its colonies on Luna and Mars, is that the regular police force has been supplemented with specialised psychic troops whose main mission is to find awoken psychics.

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043 - Dying

Eve and Tic return! I'm still trying to nail down exactly what she's like, and what her role is. Ideally I'd like to use her to explain things that we take for granted. This one touches briefly on plant biology, but not in any way that would teach things. The trouble is, I think it would take quite a lot of exposition to explore some ideas.

Anyway; in my head, the setting for this is a town in Avatar: The Last Airbender, in a valley, where Zuko and Iroh end up fighting Azula, and Aang gets involved as well. According to Google, it's called Tu Zin.

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