For anyone interested, here’s something about where I come from.
I was born in Colchester in 1970. I’ve never lived in Canada (although my eldest brother does), nor have I dug up things at an archaeological site (although my home town is full of them). You can recognize impostor Tim Taylors because they are Canadian, archaeologists, or both. Or possibly a brewery. Just to be safe, I’ve always added my middle initial in my writing career.
I don’t remember a time when I was not obsessed with fantasy, especially the science fiction corner of fantasy (because that had space ships which trounced orcs fighting maidens in chainmail bikinis — at least until I reached puberty). 1977-80 were very formative years for me. 2000AD was launched (I read from Prog#1); so too were Star Wars, and Blakes’ 7. Doctor Who and Star Trek were on the telly, and the worlds of Tunnels & Trolls, Dungeons & Dragons, and Traveller were familiar places before I reached eleven. And let’s not forget the whole family sitting quietly in the car, during our 1980 holiday to the Rhineland, so we could just about hear that week’s radio broadcast of the BBC’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings.
The public library was a great boon in the 1980s where I devoured the contents of the F&SF section: Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and Tolkien were obvious favourites, as were Piers Anthony, Brian Aldiss, Poul Anderson, Douglas Adams, and, of course, 2000AD. My favourite book of all was the Forever War.
The idea of writing fiction myself never occurred to me, though at school you had to write stories occasionally, something I enjoyed. The last story I wrote was for my English Language O’Level exam in 1985. You were presented with a sheet of pictures and you had to write a story based on one of the pictures. I picked the picture of a parachute and wrote an alternate-history of a surprise Fallschirmjäger attack on London in 1939, and did so from the perspective of the German commander. I was pleased with the result but that was the last story I penned until 2002.
Looking back, I see that some aspects of good F&SF that compel me to read and write in the genre, were surfacing in other parts of my life in the 1980s. I loved the world-building that underpinned role-playing game campaigns: Car Wars, Traveller, Dungeons & Dragons. I’d buy source books just to devour the story of, for example, Car Wars era America after the secession of the Free Oil States. Then I would design my own worlds. I also created software and made music. I was writing, just in a different way.
I also realised many years later that the 2000AD Future Shocks strip had been gleefully crammed with many classic story ideas and tropes (or clichés depending on your perspective) from the Golden Age of short science fiction.
And so to the late 1990s when I began to read SF shorts and new authors at novel length: David Brin, Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, and Ken McLeod, and in 1999 I began reading the Eighth Doctor Adventures (original Doctor Who novels based on the Paul McGann regeneration). Okay, so maybe some were better than others, but the sheer exuberance and long-laid story arcs kept me reading all 36 of the first sequence and then subscribe to BBC Books so I would not delay my reading pleasure for new arrivals. (These books were coming out every month and I was subscribing. Not a bad business model.) The importance of those books, other than the sheer pleasure of them, is that it made me want to have a go at writing some fiction myself. Not a full novel; not to sign books with my name on the cover, just to write some Whovian prose to enhance my enjoyment of the series.
So I did.
But I felt somewhat in awe of the real Doctor Who authors, so I had the bonkers idea of writing my own novel. Then a series of novels. So I wrote 100,000 words of planning notes and then got cracking at the novel. Finding Federation, I called it. After 30k words I realised the prose was not of professional quality and I had better learn how to write. As for the story itself, that is something I’m proud of. The ideas in that abandoned novel led to several published short stories and several (not so published) novels, including My Future in the Past, which I am working on as I write this in March 2011.
Taking the view that I could finish short stories more quickly, and so get feedback more rapidly, I switched to shorts and began publishing them. You can see a list of some of the small press publications here on my old home page. I am beginning to rewrite the stories for which the rights have reverted to me for publication as e-books.
In 2002 I joined the Other Worlds Writers’ Workshop (OWWW), where I learned a lot in critiquing and being critiqued, especially from the excellent writers Holly Ingraham and Sue Bolich. In 2008, I joined Northampton Science Fiction Writers Group (t0 meet other authors face-to-face) and the BSFA Orbiter (because I liked the novel-critiquing approach). At the time, the pressures of the day job were hitting critical level and I barely managed to scrape together a little writing or critiquing time each month. I left OWWW as the most time-consuming of my groups.
But I never stopped, and I continued to learn a lot from my workshopping friends. I even had a story nominated for the BSFA 2010 Short Story Award.
So to the present. I’m writing full-time. Hoorray! My most significant project is to thoroughly rewrite my novel My Future in the Past for pitching later this year. I am reworking a number of short stories in my spare time, and those that have already been published (and I deem good enough) will be published as e-books. Then I will get back to finishing the second Stain Blossoms novel. In the interstices I want to enjoy blogging, something I’ve always steered away from before as something that would reduce my hitherto desperately horded hours I had to spend on writing.
I don’t only read or write fiction. I have a life in a village with my wife and young family whom I love dearly, but I won’t mention them much on this, my site about writing. Out in the real world we’re in March, the official end to the brewing season. When it restarts in October, there will be the annual clamour for a few barrels of my ever so slightly famous Uplift Ale (with a picture of a dolphin on the barrel — David Brin fans would understand). This year I shall not disappoint.
Tim C Taylor — March 2011