Runner-up in Quantum Shorts Contest

My story “From the Ruins of Beijing” has won the runner-up prize (2nd place) in the open category of this year’s Quantum Shorts competition. The contest, run by the Institute for Quantum Technologies at the University of Singapore, and supported by Scientific American and Nature Magazine, features quantum-inspired flash fiction.

The winners are here.

The Inspiration for the Ghost Line

Photo credit: Maurizio

Our Novella The Ghost Line, published this week, is the story of an abandoned luxury liner travelling between Mars and Earth, and what happens when a small group of explorers break into her (hint: it’s not as abandoned as it looks) sprang into our heads from a couple of places.  J.S. Herbison provided the initial spark when she read this article on the BBC about Ghost Trains.

Ghost Trains still operate – they run empty, between stations that themselves may also be empty. They’re legal placeholders. As long as there’s a train on the route, even infrequently, and even with no passengers, the company running it keeps the right to the route. Of course there are enthusiasts who try to sleuth out the trains, take photos of the stations and even manage to get tickets to ride on them.

The next spark came from urban explorers. These intrepid souls live to find abandoned places and explore them. They post haunting videos online of decaying hospitals, schools and industrial buildings. Detroit is a favourite of ours, as is Chernobyl. J.S. is an avid follower of Bionerd23 a (possibly German) woman who is obsessed with exploring Chernobyl and finding traces of disaster in the plants and animals near the nuclear plant.

So, we have empty trains. We have obsessive explorers, captivated by decay, abandonment, the traces of humanity we leave behind us. And then we started thinking about a spaceship that was similarly abandoned. Though in space, you don’t get animals and plants reclaiming human creations. Things stay the same.

Or do they?

So we created the Martian Queen, a former luxury liner that had travelled to Mars with a string quartet on her maiden voyage. We thought about Bionerd23 and about explorers, and what motivates them. We soon had Saga, formerly an urban explorer from Iceland, now doing salvage and creating interactive art in abandoned asteroid mines and spaceships.

The rest of the story fell into place, inspired by our love of films like Alien and The Shining, as well as the rich possibilities of an industrialized solar system that writers such as Kim Stanley Robinson have explored.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Happy Book Birthday!

The Ghost Line launches today. Months of work, then editing, then waiting are done, and we’re delighted to welcome our novella into the world. The ebook’s a steal for the price of a fancy coffee, and it also comes in a lovely paperback for those of you who still appreciate something you can hold in your hand.  Buy at your favourite online retailer, linked at the publisher’s website. Or check out the book page here for Canadian and international links.

We’re proud of our little creation, and are delighted to see that reviewers agree:

“Shiver-inducing, thought-provoking, and decidedly eerie.” —Publishers Weekly

“Gray and Herbison accomplish much in this novella, crafting a menacing yet alluring atmosphere within an apparently abandoned spacecraft and weaving in an intriguing message about life, loss and the persistence of memory.” —RT Book Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly Review

The publication date for The Ghost Line is still over a month away, but today I was delighted to find a glowing early review in Publisher’s Weekly. They compare it to Alien and The Shining (a fantastic movie and a fantastic movie and book), which is delightful. I think possibly the most creeped out I’ve ever been by a book was when I read The Shining as a teenager.

They finish by calling it “shiver-inducing, thought-provoking, and decidedly eerie.”

You can pre-order / order The Ghost Line from your favourite e-book or print book retailer, or see the Publisher’s page for a quick list of buying locations:

Try Catch Throw in Nature Magazine

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-10-25-08-amNature Magazine is known for its science articles, but it also has an innovative and fun Science Fiction page in each issue called Nature Futures. They were kind enough to purchase my story “Try Catch Throw” and it appeared in early September, featured in their Science Fiction issue. They did a great job with it, and not only does it appear as a story, but they commissioned a graphic treatment and a video version.

Read and view:

Watch the Motion Comic:

Novella Aquired by

I’m delighted to announce that Carl Engle-Laird at has aquired the novella, The Ghost Line, co-written by myself and J.S. Herbison.

The Ghost Line is the story of Saga and her husband Michel, adventurers and artists who craft haunting interactives in the ruins of abandoned spacecraft and habitats littered around the solar system. When they take on a job to break into a mothballed luxury liner that’s been orbiting between Earth and Mars for years, they imagine it will just be another gig. A chance to earn a little money before journeying to Earth to start a family. But their employer has a hidden agenda, and the liner is not as abandoned as it seems. Something long-hidden is about to wake up.

Image from Pripyat (Chernobyl), CC licensed by Flickr user Fi Dot

Story in IGMS

Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show (Issue 51) has just published “Mathematical Certainty” – a story of mine about being lost, and found, in the Asteroid belt. About the loneliness of prospecting and the potential for human connection in the most unusual of circumstances. Requires a subscription to view, though the link above takes you to the first page or so to whet your appetite.