Notes from sf author Stephen Palmer

Category: Science Fiction

Tommy Catkins cover reveal

This is the cover design for Tommy Catkins, due out from Infinity Plus on 26th July.

Tommy cover only 19 June


Tommy Catkins cover reveal 15th July

I’ll be revealing the cover artwork for my upcoming novel Tommy Catkins, published on July 26th by Infinity Plus Books, next Sunday.


Tommy Catkins, 26 July

I’m delighted to say that my new novel Tommy Catkins is published by Infinity Plus Books on 26th July. Big thanks to Keith Brooke for his excellence as an editor and his constancy as a friend.

The novel’s cover is finished, and will be premiered next month.


1915. Following a horrific experience at Verdun, Tommy Catkins – shell shocked and suffering head injuries – is sent to a mysterious island hospital in Wiltshire, where he is subjected to the primitive treatments of the era. But the island appears to be a portal to the enigmatic world of Onderwater, where lives a race of blue-skinned people with tails. Will Tommy be tempted by Onderwater, or will the love of Nurse Vann pull him back to reality, and recovery?


An update

It’s been a while since I gave any updates about what I’m writing, so here, as we cross that invisible boundary between spring and summer, is why I’ve been working almost non-stop since September.

Fans of Beautiful Intelligence may be interested to learn that I’ve written a new artificial intelligence novel – not in the BI world, but somewhere different – which deals with Big Data and AI. The novel is called The Autist and focuses on three pairs of characters in the world of 2100, with one character inspired by Leslie Lemke, who I wrote about in my piece on Darrold Treffert’s book Extraordinary People. The novel is set in England, Scotland, in various European and African nations, and in Thailand. My hope is that Infinity Plus will publish this when it’s had its final edit-and-hone. If so, Keith Brooke and I expect that a spectacular new android image by the talented computer graphics artist Steve Jones (whose androids danced across the front of BI) will grace its cover.

I wrote two further novels earlier this year, which would best be described as alternate history with a dash of fantasy. Monique Orphan and Monica Orvan take place in late Victorian times in an English town called Blackbury, set in the region of Nossex. (It always bothered me that there’s a Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Middlesex, but no Nossex.) This YA novel in two volumes is currently being read by a publisher. The theme is selfishness in its various forms, with a feminist slant to the plot. Fans of the Factory Girl trilogy would enjoy it I think.

I also wrote a short story for Ian Whates’ No More Heroes anthology – to be published by PS Publishing later in the year – which I was really thrilled to place. This anthology is themed around the many marvellous pop and rock musicians we’ve lost in recent years. I chose Edgar Froese, the visionary leader of Tangerine Dream, whose music and surrealist attitude (Froese was a scion of Salvador Dali) continue to inspire me. My story The Birth Of Liquid Plejades has “an unusual structure” as Ian delicately put it, but I’m delighted it is to be published in what will no doubt be excellent company.

I’m also going to submit a short story for the Eibonvale Press anthology Humanagerie, but it may or may not be accepted.

Work continues on Woodland Revolution. Though I submitted this in its original prose form I’ve now reset it in what might be called blank verse, as this accentuates the style, and brings the work away from standard fiction plot-and-character notions. The theme of this work is how we approach death – a vital conversation to have in times when people are forced to travel to Switzerland to follow the so-called assisted suicide option. My work lays out a reason why this phrase needs to be replaced by something else. It’s a kind of meditation on a way of approaching death, but there are other themes and strands to it.

This autumn, all being well, I’m going to write a book – my first non-fiction work – that I’ve been trying to write since 1990. There have been three failed attempts so far, but I think now I’ve got everything in place for a successful fourth attempt. Queen Louise: A Brief History Of Sapience will be a scientific description of the human condition over the past 100,000 years. In this book I’ll describe such things as: why consciousness evolved; why we experience emotions and what they are; why we feel love and what it is; how narcissism can be used as a general description of human development and maturity; why we experience an arrow of time; what creativity is; why such delusions as the idea of a soul or spirit, an afterlife, and spirituality/religion in general were inevitable in early human cultures; what humour is; and more… Queen Louise by the way is an orang utan who wants to become human, and she has various conversations with the Time Traveller on these subjects. Some of the ideas in this book come from others – Nicholas Humphrey, Erich Fromm and Karen Armstrong to name but three – but the majority is my own work, developed over almost thirty years. As I’m highly unlikely to get this published by any publishing house my plan is to self-publish.

But now, summer is almost here and nine months of very hard work is almost over…

Destination: wine, women and song.

Time: now!


Factory Girl reviews & ebook offer

On the back of a really nice new review of the Factory Girl trilogy from Steampunk enthusiast Nimue Brown, Infinity Plus Books have reduced the price of volume 1 of the trilogy for a week or so:

Overall the plot is unpredictable, engaging, challenging and will make you think… Although the main characters are in their teens, I don’t think this is a YA novel particularly. I like that about it. The assumption that we only want to read about characters who are of an age with us needs challenging. Younger folk could read it, but it has clearly been written with adults readers in mind. It’s a fascinating book(s) and I very much enjoyed it.

And a new review on

I found the entire trilogy to be riveting and found myself absorbed in the seesawing development of Kora and Roka’s fate. Palmer’s themes are provocative and intense, yet it all occurs within an almost non-stop action and suspense context, full of colorful characters, both good, evil and somewhere in between. The end result is both a good fun yarn, and a food-for-thought indictment of religion, capitalism, and, by extension, the environment that Palmer has written so extensively about.

The ebook has been set to 99p on



The Girl With Two Souls

New short story

Very pleased to say that my Edgar Froese-inspired short story The Birth Of Liquid Plejades (google “Salvador Dali” for an explanation…) has been accepted for publication in the ‘No More Heroes’ anthology.


The Palmer Luck Timeline

I seem to have acquired a reputation as “Mr Random” by insisting that much of an author’s career is completely out of their hands: luck and luck alone, whether good or bad. After an interesting discussion on the highly esteemed SFF Chronicles forum, I thought it might be worth noting down all those times my worries were for nothing because so much is chance, out of the hands of the author. Hence this blog post.

Authors worry too much because it is a profession in which much of their self-esteem, confidence and identity are placed. A story rejection or a bad review can feel awful, especially for new authors, but that is because such events seem to attack the author themselves. The bad review is taken to heart. The book rejection is personal. Over many years most authors can learn to deal with this aspect of the business, though not all, as various online spats between authors and readers have testified. I personally do not rest easy until somebody has left me a 1* review or something similar. Then I know all is well out there in the real world.

Here then for all to see is my catalogue of phenomenal luck. Writers or new authors reading this might like to try the exercise for themselves.

And remember – it’s mostly random out there. You shouldn’t worry about that.


Date: 1991-ish

Inside a rejected manuscript partial I find a yellow post-it, which turns out to be a note from an editor’s reader to the editor – a note I shouldn’t have seen. It slams my writing as bad and “lacking zing.” This note is the kick up the backside I need. I up my game, going back to my 1988 book Kray to create a completely revised version – with added zing. This book five years later is published as my debut Memory Seed.

Date: mid-December 1993

A few days before moving house – from a home where massive and appalling neighbour abuse from two mentally ill people means me and my wife never leave a forwarding address – I receive a letter of interest from Tim Holman at Orbit. Had he written a few days later I would likely never have received it. This I think was my most extraordinary stroke of luck. Not only had somebody important noticed my work, he had written to me in the nick of time. Luck quotient: 100%.

Date: 1995

After a long wait due to me writing a third version of Memory Seed and Orbit Books (part of Little, Brown) moving offices, I get to meet Tim Holman in London. During this first meeting he informs me that they receive about 2,000 manuscripts per year, and have waited about five years before approaching me, and others. In other words – odds of about 10,000:1 against.

Date: late ‘90s

SF goes through one of its periodic declines and I and other authors are dropped by the big companies. Totally out of authors’ control.

Date: very early ‘00s

My good friend Keith Brooke is in touch with Sean Wallace at Wildside Press, who happens at the time to be looking to work with British authors, including Keith, Dave Langford and others. I get onto the bandwagon. Fifteen or so years later I find out certain facts about Sean Wallace which mean publication by Wildside was a mixed blessing.

Date: November 2006

With all main options gone or used up, I decide to start again from scratch, sending my work to British publishers as I had in the early 1990s. I decide to start at the top: PS Publishing. Two days after emailing Urbis Morpheos out to them – an eyeblink in publishing terms – I get an acceptance. The cheque arrives shortly afterwards. Luck quotient: 100%.

Date: 2015

Keith Brooke and I need a really good cover for my novel Beautiful Intelligence. I don’t have anything much cop myself. I ask a few friends online, which leads to a chap called Steve Jones, who I have never heard of. He has a fantastic double-android image which would be absolutely perfect. Except… it turns out I do know him, under his internet alias, and he is already a fan. Subsequent arrangements are a doddle! Luck quotient: 100%.


So you see, worrying about random things is a mug’s game. You have to take a few steps back, don’t invest so much of your personal worth into your work, chill, and accept that there’s no such thing as fate, no such thing as destiny, and no such thing as “if you work hard enough at your dream it’s bound to come true.” Disney et al were wrong. You are at the mercy of the real world and random chance doesn’t care about you. Get used to it. You’ll feel better then.


Wilfred Owen

This is part of a photo I took of a statue in Shrewsbury – Wilfred Owen, the Shropshire poet best known for his WW1 poetry. This image is currently used on my Facebook page.


Improbable Botany out at last

The Improbable Botany anthology is out at last! Congrats to Wayward Plants, and all the contributors for what is a terrific-looking book.


Tommy Catkins to be published

Delighted to announce that my World War I / shell-shock novel Tommy Catkins is to be published later in the year by Infinity Plus Books.