Sci Phi Journal on Sale!

To celebrate the editor’s 40th birthday, he has decided to reduce the price of the first four issues of Sci Phi Journal to only $1.99 at amazon and Castalia House for the next month.

So if you haven’t grabbed copies of this fine periodical yet (and got yourself thoroughly hooked on Beyond the Mist), now’s your chance to begin a series of literary and philosophical journeys you won’t regret

A special Beyond the Mist event will be announced soon…


What does this small door open to?
Where does this entrance lead?
To a secret staircase,
Or a mighty noble steed?

Perhaps an endless field of stars,
Or alien terrain;
Great waves of mighty vehicles
To charge across the plain;

An honour guard of shining knights
Or swarms of countless foes;
A dark trench-coated private eye
To tell you what he knows;

The tomb of a great warrior,
His body lain in state;
A dark priest’s inner chamber
With its altar of pure hate;

A fleet of anchored warships,
All ready to depart;
The final set of traps that guard
The holy mountain’s heart;

A glistening laboratory
Of wonders to behold;
Mighty curving walls of ice
That gleam with burning cold;

A superhero costume
To unleash your inner strength;
Your wise and wizened mentor,
Who desires to talk at length;

A legendary training room
Where you can hone your skill;
A cold white room where your beloved
Lies so deathly ill;

A briefing room where you find out
How you can save the day;
An awesome craft to take you to
A place so far away;

Millions of universes
Linked to this one point;
A crowd of surly faces,
A disreputable joint;

A cupboard full of power tools
We’ll use for our escape;
Our most valued captive
Who can change his very shape;

Shifting clouds and atmosphere
Above a barren land;
The fabled artifact that we
Defend with our last stand;

A world that’s full of magic,
Where souls are forged and grown;
The frightening power so many
Have been trying to disown;

A thousand atmospheres of pressure
Waiting to rush in;
A poor neglected victim
Who’s now so weak and thin;

The king’s forbidden siren
And her enticing web;
The fragile source of life that’s reached
It’s very lowest ebb;

A host of those that stalk the night,
Who we must now destroy;
A team of special forces
Preparing to deploy;

The secret project our elites
Have hidden all these years;
The documents that will confirm
Our deepest gnawing fears;

The unsuspecting target
Of a dark assassin’s blade;
A refuge from the desert heat,
Providing welcome shade;

A passage to another time
When life was simpler, yet
Dirtier, more difficult,
And often under threat;

Rolling hills and meadows
On which to play and roam;
A vault of glistening treasure,
Or better yet, a home?

When Seventy Has Called Upon

I am currently in England at my parents’ house, where on Friday we flew in to surprise my mum for her 70th birthday, with further surprises including a massive party in a beautiful walled garden with more than 60 guests. I gave my mum a copy of my poetry collection, together with some Czech crystal imitation flowers that my boys bought for her. My dad privately joked to me that he should have hired me to write a poem for the main event. These sorts of jokes are dangerous, because it got me thinking and I didn’t sleep well, with lines occurring to me in between the bouts of sleep. For the first time in my life, I gave in to the muse completely and got up in the middle of the night, sneaking into the lounge to scribble down those lines and add to them, then filled out the rest and polished it in the morning.

This is the result, which I recited as the finale of the event, after at least twenty people had stood up to talk about the wonderful ways in which my mum had helped them and been there for them in their hour of need. It went down very well, lots of people asked for a copy of the poem and a number told me they were going to buy a copy of Selected Verse: Friends and Family later. I hope you all like it just as much.

When Seventy Has Called Upon

When seventy has called upon us to commemorate,
Lie in wait with piled-high plate, surprise and celebrate
A life that’s given so much more than it can ever know;
So many wounds she’s helped to heal, so many lives to grow.

When seventy has called upon our minds to be revised,
We see so many of life’s treasures to be grasped and prized;
So many moments of pure fun, so many lessons learned,
And many talks and punishments that we so sorely earned.

When seventy has called upon our bones to be denied,
Will we still have such energy when we get in our stride?
So many projects worked on, gardens dug and sown,
And so much bounty harvested when all those plants have grown.

When seventy has called upon our eyes to be admired,
We see so much to emulate, so much to be desired;
So many lonely stomachs filled and broken hearts made whole
Through simple acts of kindness from this ever-loving soul.

When seventy has called upon our souls to be inspired,
How will our eyes be opened, our imaginations fired?
We’ll see the needs around us that we ourselves can meet,
Sadness we can turn to joy when broken souls we treat.

When heaven’s glee has called upon our souls to be revived,
Will we have won so many over to the angel’s side?
Will our wakes abound with those so full of gratitude
For a life so generous with such great attitude?
Will the Good Shepherd welcome us and shout aloud, “Well done!”
As heartily as he will do for my amazing mum?

Character Profiles

A question was asked on facebook a little while ago about using character profiles to flesh out characters in the stories that people write.

In the superversiveSF livestream, the point was made that each character should have two conflicting desires, an undercurrent of some kind that goes against their role in the story to give their character depth, to be more human, for their part in the story to be more real and dramatic.

When we want to go into more detail with a character, in particular one that will be used a lot, there are many things to consider and keep consistent. I’ll outline what I do below:(which may or may not be the best approach, you decide):

I’ll start with their role in the story, and some dialogue they take part in, then from there I use an approximation of this sort of mental checklist (when I’m being really organized, I’ll actually write it out):


Including nicknames or aliases, think about what the name means, is it something that describes them well, a reputation they have rightly or wrongly earned, or something they are resentful of and rebelling against?


How they currently support themselves. Is it something they enjoy, or something they have been forced to do by someone else’s edict, or by the circumstances (e.g. the best of a bad set of options)?


What comes more naturally as well as what they have invested time and effort into learning (can be major overlaps with ‘strengths’ below).


How they were brought up, in what culture (and subculture), what character-forming events they have been through/people they have known that reinforced/undermined/added to their upbringing, helped them mature (or not), expanded their horizons or made them cynical or secretive.

Beliefs/ values/ morals:

What are they comfortable with doing, what are they prepared to do when the situation demands, and what is overstepping the line for them? What guiding principles are important to them, and how do these differ from those around them? Are these changing, or something they cling to through the turbulence of life?

Strengths/ Weaknesses:

Both in terms of physical and technical abilities and psychologically, what they can and can’t cope with well.


What their ultimate goal is beyond the immediate situation, what keeps them motivated to carry on, or tempts them to take the easy way out.


What is personally at stake for them if they fail, how invested they are in the situation (or mission), what ghosts of their past still haunt them, what aspects of normal life are incomprehensible or intimidating to them. (Can be major overlaps here with ‘weaknesses’ above)

That’s my checklist, what would you add?

Selected Verse: Faith and Family Paperback Price Reductions!

Selected Verse: Faith and Family gets the red carpet treatment

Selected Verse: Faith and Family gets the red carpet treatment

I recently received a shipment of paperback versions of Selected Verse: Faith and Family, so can make those available to people in the Czech Republic for 125 crowns plus postage (where applicable), which is much less than the 6 dollars plus postage for ordering from the createspace estore or US amazon.

For those of you in the UK, I have managed to reduce the price of the paperback on UK amazon to only £2.99, and eligible for super saver delivery (free shipping when forming part of an order over £10)

The price in the other european amazon territories is €3.99, and also eligible for free delivery when part of an order that exceeds the required threshold.

I was unable to reduce the US amazon price, however I was able to introduce a discount code for the createspace estore, so that by placing the book in your cart and then quoting the discount code:


You get a dollar discount, lowering the unit price to only $4.99.

Second Superversive SF Roundtable Discussion Tomorrow

The second Superversive SF roundtable discussion will be held tomorrow at 3 pm eastern time (7 pm GMT), on the topic of “what makes a good story”, featuring the same group of people as last time, plus some new additions.

If you have any questions you’d like to be discussed, leave a comment at this page:


Due to some family troubles (both youngest children being sick and not sleeping well at night) I managed to forget about the anniversary of first contacting my wife, so here is this year’s belated poem:


What chances will a young man take when love seems on the line?
Write to a complete stranger, take on a risky climb,
Share all his deepest secrets with a girl he’s got to know,
And hope she won’t run screaming from his inner horror show.

Swear utter lifelong faithfulness, til death they both do part;
Before God, friends and family, declare with all his heart,
That nothing can now come between their souls now bound as one,
‘Til all life’s tasks have been achieved and heaven’s wreath is won.’

Share all his faults and failings, all he has and hopes to be,
And all the fruit that grows on their new-planted family tree
Work to be a better man, nurture her growth too,
And always work towards all that is healthy, pure, and true.

More Praise for Beyond the Mist!

More people have positive things to say about Beyond the Mist,

Patrick S. Baker’s 5-star review of Sci Phi Journal Issue 5 at amazon:

Could not be better! The stories are very good, of course. The excellent Beyond the Mist by Ben Zwycky continues. HMS Mangled Treasure by L. Jagi Lamplighter is also an excellent combo of tough broad straight from a film noir, whimsy and Peter Pan: “a whole can of whup on your sorry ass” might be my new signature block.

And Kevin Stuart Lee over at John C. Wright’s blog had this to say:

“Beyond the Mist” was one of the few stories out of Issue 2 I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’ve been enjoying it more as it goes along. At first blush I thought it was a cut-and-dry hell/purgatory/heaven allegory, but as the narrative goes deeper and the adventure keeps unfolding, I find myself having no actual clue what’s going on, and I love it! It’s guaranteed fun and mystery, and I look forward to each new installment.

It’s also the first serial I’ve ever had the pleasure to read in serial form, so thank you for making my first experience a most pleasant one.

Go to the Beyond the Mist page, follow the links and grab yourself a copy (or 4) of Sci Phi Journal to see for yourself.