Looking for Life is a collection of thought-provoking and fun science fiction stories. What was the inspiration behind this collection of stories?
Imagining universal situations and populating them with fascinating characters, usually with a dilemma to solve—now that’s an infinite depository of inspiration. After all, the stories may all be true, or become true in the future [or is it the past?
The size of this universe, the possibility of other universes and dimensions; they are all a source of wonder to me. They are also a cradle of countless possible happenings—just by the act of being there. It’s a challenge, yes, but it’s also a load of fun. And if you can make ends meet, so to speak, there’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction in completing a short story; any story really.
My favorite story from the collection is ‘Looking for Life’. Do you have a favorite or stand out story from the collection?
That’s a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. ‘Looking for Life’ covers many facets of science and speculative fiction, but if you twisted my arm it would be a battle between ‘Desperate Times’ and ‘Looking for Life’ and ‘Mother’. And it would be a prolonged battle with no outright winner.
Did you write these stories for this collection or did you write them separately over time?
I certainly didn’t compile the stories one after the other with a view to hurriedly compiling a collection. I write a short story when an idea surfaces, and it may lie fallow for a quite a while before it clamours to join the nest of possible publications. I would say the majority of these stories were written over the past two or three years. But they are well-loved creations and never leave my mind.
Do you have plans to publish more works of short stories? Or possibly expand on a short story?
‘Looking for Life’ follows on from my first collection of short tales ‘Silently in the Night’, which was published in 2018. I guess that means I enjoy writing them. In between, I have also written three novels, so they are a love also. Currently my prime focus is writing the third book in the ‘Milijun’ series.
I often get reviewers or team members asking about expanding a short story into a novel, one particularly in ‘Looking for Life’ was ‘Mother’, which may very well suit that scenario. I think that ‘Worthy of Consideration’ would also fall into the basket.
However, I have never done it yet, but I guess it would be a new challenge. It’s nice to know something is there that readers appreciate and could serve as an inspiration for future tales.
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Looking for Life by Clayton Graham is an enthralling collection of science fiction short stories. They’re fast-paced adventurous intergalactic romps that are by turn, nail-biting and hilarious. Without giving too much away, my favorites definitely included the title tale and somewhat doom-filled (in the best way!) “Looking for Life” and the oddly philosophical “The Comedian” Nearly all of the seventeen stories have a twist at the end that was either thought-provoking or made me laugh.
Clayton Graham has a wonderful way of storytelling: he’s not a wax-lyrical author. He writes in a manner that is concise and gripping without giving too much away. And even though there is very little slow-burn element to the stories, he manages to structure the dialogue and action in such a way that it’s hard to put down any of the stories. The characters are limited by their own flaws and very realistic- making them oddly endearing. Surprisingly enough, even the plots are realistic- which is a commendable feat for any science fiction story. I suppose this is a combination of the author’s prowess and the way the stories depict alien life rooted in the same everyday realities as human life.
There’s definitely an element of dark humor throughout, lending to a somewhat philosophical theme to all the stories. I felt pleasantly detached and chin-scratchy after finishing the stories. There’s basically every conceivable sci-fi plot from deep space conspiracies to Artificial Intelligence to alien invasions- all of them unique and immersive.
It’s often the case with short stories that some of them are duds. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t find myself feeling like any of the seventeen didn’t belong or were disappointing. Some of them I definitely enjoyed more than others, but they’re all individual gems.
I’d recommend this to not only science-fiction fans, but also anyone who enjoys a solid action-adventure romp. It’s a fun ride that kept me entertained without asking too much of my time and keeping all of my attention.
Pages: 202 | ASIN: B08DLK6PMS
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Milijun follows Laura and her son Jason as they witness aliens arriving on Earth which begins a strange trial involving the impregnation of human females with hybrid embryos and exploration of spiritual compatibility with the aliens. This is definitely one of the more original plots I’ve read all year. Where did this idea originate and how did it grow into a novel?
Milijun actually started as a short story. The birth of the alien RNasia occurred in the short story, and when they decided to wing their way to Earth I knew it could not end there. They seemed to want their universal journey to be worth something; they wanted their mission fulfilled. So I decided to oblige them. I trust the book is about more than an alien incursion into the Australian outback. The story challenges the reader to contemplate our place in the universe, or multiverses (as we are now led to believe may be a possibility). I wanted Milijun to explore how humanity would react when faced with an intelligence it cannot understand? It’s a good question, for it may happen someday. We are not currently prepared, of course, we are light years away from understanding how we should behave in such a circumstance. Milijun challenges our mindsets through the eyes of a mother and son, and as such is perhaps more powerful and meaningful than if that challenge was through the eyes of the United Nations or the President of the United States. The spirituality aspect is critical to the story. I have always been interested in the links between science, religion and the spirit and believe one day they will come together. Currently on our planet there appears to be a tremendous amount of high level investigative energy devoted to studies into the afterlife; how it relates to our known universe, what it is and where it can possibly be. In the end, Milijun probably asks more questions than it answers. But it does raise the questions. We cannot relax on Earth forever, ignorant of our cosmic surroundings, idling our time away, creating a mirage of prosperity, which appears to create an equally ferocious misery.
I felt that the relationship between Laura and Jason was deep. What was your inspiration for their mother-son relationship?
The novel certainly explores the relationship between a mother and son. How far can it be stretched before the links break? How far would a mother go to save her son? Would she be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, or undertake actions she would never have deemed possible prior to the alien incursion? I lost my own mother shortly after the Second World War. Thus, I grew into the teenage years under the guidance of my grandmother. Thinking back, they were more inspirational than they appeared to be at the time. Laura and Jason, I feel, have the connection which most mothers and sons would want – full of love, strong and unbreakable. If only all relationships, human and international, were like that!
Have you always been fascinated with alien invasion stories? When did your interest in it begin?
It’s our connection with the rest of the universe which fascinates me. Science Fiction has been with me since I was a teenager, escaping to new worlds in the back streets of Stockport, England, where I grew up as a child. Halcyon days, when education and school milk were free, and summers were real summers. We didn’t have much, but we had enough. I have always had an interest in Science Fiction and where it places humankind within the universe we know and love. I treasured the ‘old school’ science fiction written by authors such as HG Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and John Wyndham – well before many were made into films.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I am working on ‘Saving Paludis’ at the moment, which is set in the year 3898 AD, some one hundred and forty light years from Earth. It explores the links between an alien culture and mankind, interplanetary economics, military force and power. It also asks the question: what happens when a culture concentrates on a single purpose-driven technology over a period of hundreds of years? Paludis is a far-flung world on the edge of Earth’s universal exploration. When the bottom drops out of the bauxite market, desperation is seeded as the planet begins to suffer. However, the discovery of a new technology that can dramatically change the way humans explore the universe looks like it will save the day. The mother planet, however, does not see it that way, especially when several savage attacks on Earth appear to emanate from Paludis. Inevitable conflict results, and it is only the combined efforts of a group of renegade humans and their alien allies which can ensure the survival of Paludis. They have to battle Paludis cultists, who wish to use the new technology for their own bizarre ends, the Paludis establishment and the earth military using their own unique brand of wits, strengths and intellect. Only perseverance, faith and bravado will win the day amongst the verdant marshes and snowy mountains of Paludis. But can they overcome the military might of the mother planet? Availability should be in the first half of 2017.
It is Australia in 2179. On a moonlit Nullarbor night, Laura Sinclair and son, Jason, witness aliens descend to Earth. The extraterrestrials endeavour to form a symbiotic relationship with humankind, and Jason is chosen as a genetic link in a bizarre trial involving the impregnation of human females with hybrid embryos and exploration of spiritual compatibility. Laura crosses swords with Major General Sebastian Ord from the Australian Defence Force, Eucla and Uriel, the enigmatic head of Milijun, a reclusive research facility in the outback. Following a disastrous armed attempt to capture aliens at Cocklebiddy Cave and a fierce confrontation at Eucla, Jason is abducted by an alien swarm. What follows tests the resolve of Laura to the core. Caught in a relentless web of frightening new technologies and alien mystery, spurred by the undying love of her son, she gains a strength of character she never thought possible. All she has to do is save herself, Jason and several women and unborn children from the scheming plans of man and alien alike …
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On a distant moon, a miner stumbles upon an apparent catacomb of an alien species, but when one is brought to the surface for study, it sparks a strange and violent invasion as the species wakes and makes their way to Earth. While on vacation in southern Australia, Laura and Jason Sinclair are the first to view the aliens’ arrival, but while trying to put the strange sighting behind them, their vacation turns into a nightmare as Jason’s sudden abduction and physical interaction with the aliens sparks a journey across the desert in search of answers. As the mother and son are pursued by law enforcement, military personnel, and the otherworldly beings, they’ll have to discover who is friend and who is foe in a world where any human may harbor an alien within.
Graham’s book Milijun is, at its core, the story of a mother trying to keep safe a son who is increasingly thrown in danger, first by others, but later at his own behest and for noble intentions. Her panicked determination and fierce protection of her teenage son are entirely relatable and hold the emotional center of the book. Around that, the sci-fi plot swirls, much like the pressurized vortex the aliens create, occasionally landing in moments of sincere character development, but otherwise surrounding the reader in the universe Graham has created. Modern technologies are newly interpreted in this year of 2179 AD, with fantastical ideas like phasing, instantaneous teleporting, and corporeal possession given plausible, scientific grounding. As with many sci-fi works, the focus is the world, the background against which the plot occurs. The expanse of space and the futuristic Australia are both described in wonderful detail, revealing great personal knowledge with both environments. The humanity and motives of every character is questioned, both for their personal interests in the new alien species and the possibility they are being possessed by that invading species. There are themes throughout of motherhood, the moral stakes in scientific exploration, the nature of the afterlife, and the existence of souls – all used to great effect.
Beyond Laura’s motivation to keep her son safe, however, the other interactions between the human characters seems plot-driven, as opposed to true connection. However, because of this, the reveals and surprises in the final third are true surprises, but I wish I could have been let in on the secret with half-hidden hints about our character’s motivations throughout the first two-thirds. As it stands, people seem to realize they’re being deceived or supported because of sudden gut intuition, not conveyed from the character but from the plot’s necessity.
One of the character devices that stuck out the most was the supposed romances – I say supposed because they either come out of nowhere, or aren’t supported by the involved character’s actions. They don’t interfere with the basic story, but they don’t add much either, many because they are unbelievable, or they aren’t necessary to the story’s development. These romantic pairings are supposed to make us feel more for the characters, but if they had been executed as well as the mother-son relationship, I would have cared more about the outcome, instead of seen them as odd personality traits thrown out to garner affection for one particular character.
In the end, these character flaws didn’t keep me from enjoying the story presented, and the eventual abolishment of the classic “good vs. evil” dichotomy was greatly welcomed, as well as that character’s choices, whether right or wrong in the end, did have consequences. The ending, which was oddly ambiguous in its instantaneous, unexpected nature, nevertheless intrigues me, especially with many plot threads still left open-ended, and I’m excited to see where the surviving characters go in subsequent works.
Pages: 322 | ISBN: 0994495609
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