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To buy Eclectric Dreams – the Milford anthology supporting our writers of colour bursary, go here.

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Our Milford Bursary Writers 2023

The Milford committee is delighted to announce the bursary winners for 2023 are Akotowaa Ofori from Accra, Ghana. and Neon Yang, from Norwich, UK. Both writers will be participaring in the Milford Writers’ Conference in September.

Ivana Akotowaa Ofori is a Ghanaian storyteller. Known also by the alias of “The Spider Kid,” she is a weaver of words in many forms, including fiction, non-fiction and spoken-word poetry. An alumna of the inaugural JIAS Creative Writers’ Workshop, Akotowaa has been nominated for various awards, including the 2021 Miles Morland Writing Fellowship and the 2020 Nommo Awards. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as Writivism’s And Morning Will Come (2021),’s Africa Risen (2022), and Clinamen Editions’ Daring Shifts (2023). Her work also appears in online magazines such as Jalada Africa and AFREADA. Her debut novella, The Year of Return, will be published in 2024 by Android Press. She lives in Accra, Ghana.

Neon Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing  and The Genesis of Misery from Tor Books. Their work has been shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda Literary and World Fantasy Awards, among others. Neon is queer, non-binary, and lives in the UK. Find them on Instagram as @itsneonyang, and otherwise at

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Milford Anthology – Cover Reveal

Eclectic Dreams

Includes a previously unpublished Neil Gaiman story.

Buy the ebook

Buy the paperback

Swashbucklers in space and superhero grandmothers. Mountain magic and generation ships. War poets and the music of the abandoned. Inscrutable aliens and deals with the Devil. Isolated islands and the bureaucracy of futures. The mechanical possessed and the secrets of stately homes.

These are a few of the stories that have passed through the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference over the years, scrutinized and pulled apart and put back together again before finding a place they call home.

We have gathered them together, along with reflections of their journeys, into this collection to support the Milford Bursary Scheme which provides funding for writers of colour to attend.

Each bursary fully funds a place (with full board accommodation) for the Milford Conference in September.

The bursary scheme is intended as an encouragement, not a quota. We operate an equal opportunities policy so all SF/F writers who are ‘Milford qualified’ are welcome to apply for paid Conference places.

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ChatGPT and the Short Fiction Markets by David Gullen

I’ve been following the news about ChatGPT generated short story submissions with some dismay. If you’re not aware, some markets, for example the excellent Clarkesworld, have been so swamped they have been forced to temporarily close to submissions.

The problems with dealing with this kind of spamming seem to be those of scale, granularity, and cost. Small magazines don’t have the staff resources to effectively filter out all the bogus submissions, automated checks cost money they don’t have, and are not 100% effective – they generate both false positives and negatives.

It’s a problem.

I decided to ask my two sons, Ashley and Tom, if they had any ideas. As co-founders of Scirra, and authors of the Construct3 game creation software, they have a lifetime of experience dealing with cutting edge internet technology, coding, and transaction validation.

Ashley had several interesting ideas.

Ask for additional information that is harder to fake, or easier to tell if faked – a cover letter, a questionnaire, a video where you talk about your writing process…

Just make the process longer. Someone who clicked a button to generate a story might not be willing to spend a while on submission, but someone who really invested weeks/months/years on it probably would. The reviewers don’t even need to look at all the provided information – again it’s just there as a filtering system.

I think this is a good one, and I’ll come back to the idea later. There’s going to be a bit more work for the slush readers, but you are also pushing effort back onto the submitter. And not too much to deter the genuine writers who you want to let through.  As one of those myself, I can easily understand why this is necessary.

Start a short story magazine solely dedicated to AI-generated stories. Perhaps all the submissions will then go there instead. If the aim is merely to take submissions from other publications, then quality control doesn’t really matter and readers can avoid it, but the AI goons get their stuff printed.

I like this, it’s a witty, clever idea and I’m sure someone with good coding skills could put this together. It might even become a thing in itself.

I see the problem being that the ChatGPT ‘authors’ are submitting to professional markets. Their overweening arrogance and entitlement means they believe the rubbish they generate is good enough for a paying market. They won’t submit to for-the love markets.

Fight fire with fire and try to find an AI that can identify other AI-written stories. Sounds like that already hasn’t worked though and there will definitely be an arms race as people try to invent AI that passes AI checks.

These do exist, and Tom suggested one called Zerogpt, but as he also mentioned, there is that problem with false positives and negatives. No doubt this will improve.

Close submissions to all except trusted authors, e.g. previously published. However it’s still difficult to establish a new trusted author and I guess that defeats the point of magazines for new/aspiring writers.

This can only ever be a short-term solution. It might happen, but ultimately you are harming your own market – the spammers have won.

Tom came up with a similar idea to Ashley’s first suggestion:

My immediate thought is to try to make it all work by design.  For example, if inclusion in the magazines means the author gets paid a small amount of money, you can insist that all stories include payment details in the event of a successful submission or they will be ignored.  Then it’d be easy to filter out stories submitted by the same people that are low quality.

I really like the principal of these two suggestions. Maybe asking for payment details up front isn’t the best solution, but the idea of asking for a unique piece of information that can effectively identify a repeat submitter feels like the way to go. New submissions could be run past a database of previous entries and most bogus submissions would fall at the first fence.

Ashley also suggested that perhaps, this too shall pass. No doubt it will. Just as scientific journals are learning to deal with paper mills and plagiarism, so will these markets – those that survive. The thing is, these magazines, from the professional markets to those who can only afford token payment, are the life-blood of the short story world. To see them being pressured like this is shameful.

Of course, I’ve had a play with ChatGPT. It wrote me a story, and it was rubbish – simply an idea without a single word of dialogue, and a deeply unoriginal idea at that. When I criticised the story ChatGPT apologised. What a complete sham. This software neither knows nor understands concepts such as criticism, offence, or apology. And yet it has been designed to masquerade these and other behaviours with apparent sincerity. It’s a CreepFake.

As has been said elsewhere, the real threat from AI is our own gullibility.

We need to think very carefully about this before it is too late. And too late it may be quite soon.

David Gullen is a two-times winner of the British Fantasy Society Short Story competition and his work has appeared in The Best of British SF 2020, and 2021. Other work short-listed for the James White Award and placed in the Aeon Award.

Born in Africa and baptised by King Neptune, David has lived in England most of his life. He currently lives behind several tree ferns in South London with his wife, fantasy writer Gaie Sebold, and the nicest cat you ever did see. Find out more at

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Queer Hearts, Strange Stars: Writing LGBTQ+ Romance in SFF by Trip Galey

Happy Valentine’s (or PALentine’s or GALentine’s) Day! On a day (nominally) celebrating love (or at least chocolate) I’d like to share some thoughts on incorporating queer characters and queer romance in your writing. Some of this will apply to all fiction, and some will be specific to SFF, but hopefully you find something of use in the ramblings below! 

1 – Check your assumptions! 

Queer relationships, almost by definition, deviate from “the norm”. It’s not as simple as slotting the bottom in a gay relationship into the role of the bride, for example. Don’t assume lesbians all fall into a pattern of butch/femme roles. Also, many queer relationships engage with aspects of pansexuality and polyamory to varying degrees. Monogamy isn’t always the default assumption in queer relationships the way it traditionally is in straight ones. Because society often offers no safe places or roles for queer people within it, we have created our own traditions and ways of navigating relationships.

So what does this all mean? Think carefully about who your characters love, why they love them, and how that impacts the story. Do your research. Ask your queer friends about their lived experiences and those of their friend group (respectfully, and with compensation where appropriate). Question your assumptions. This is as true for queer writers as it is for straight ones as well. We all have a duty of care when exploring experiences other than our own on the page.  

This is especially true because queer people are also intersections of multiple identities. Class, ethnic background, generation, financial privilege, and many other factors combine to produce different experiences.  

2 – Truly embrace possibility!

One of the wondrous things about SFF is that we can imagine new kinds of people and new ways of living together as a society. This can be as simple as asking yourself why the society you have built is accepting of queer people and other minorities (if it is) or as complicated as developing new terminology and cultural approaches to gender and sex to reflect the existence of non-binary sexual reproduction or created life (such as artificial intelligences, who may very well reject the idea of being referred to as he, she, or it by their creators).

In my forthcoming novel A Market of Dreams and Destiny (which I workshopped at Milford!) I explored both of these ideas. I made deliberate worldbuilding choices to create a version of Victorian London with both gender equality and acceptance of a wide range of non-heterosexual relationships. I also examined the use of neopronouns by fey creatures that have bodies and forms with no gender or sexual characteristics whatsoever, aside from the ones they assume for convenience or mysterious purpose.

We’re writing the fantastic! There is a place for stories that explore all manner of life and ways of living. Leave the heteropatriarchy behind (or outright burn it down!). 

3 – Be aware of tropes!

Queer characters in SFF are not new, though historically (and even today) they are firmly in the minority. If you’re going to bring queerness and specifically queer romance into your fantastical writing, be aware of the (often harmful) ways previous writers have depicted queer lives and queer loves. Here are some things to watch out for.

-“Bury your gays”. Don’t introduce a queer character or characters only for them to die a tragic death. If at the end of your story only the straights are left standing, you have a problem.  

-“The queer-coded antagonist”. If your villain has a lot of stereotypical mannerisms that mark them as different or evil because they don’t fit into cishet society, and your cishet protagonist defeats them, you’ve got a problem. Queer people can absolutely be villains (and we love a well-done queer villain), but we’re not only villains, and if your status quo is that threatened by us simply existing? Maybe we’re not the bad guys in this situation. 

-See also: “gay for you”; “butch/femme” and other tropes that try to force queer people into a version of the sexual binary; “the gay best friend”; “the promiscuous queer”; “murderous bisexuals”; “the token queer in the friend group”; and many more. 

4 – Do your research!

This is general advice, and I’ve already mentioned it at least once, but I’m repeating it here because if you are including queer romance in your SFF you really, really need to get the sex right. I’m not talking just about the mechanics of it, though that is incredibly important, but also the emotional approach and reality of queer sex. Obviously, adjust as appropriate for your setting, but queer people can have a very different relationship to sex than straight people do. Especially if, as still happens today, society attempts to control or erase your sexuality. 

A lot of queer people experience a strange temporal disjunction compared to their straight counterparts. If you have to hide your sexuality, you don’t often get your first kiss at the same time, you often don’t lose your virginity at the same time or in the same way. But in accepting societies, this detail of queer experience might disappear or be otherwise altered. 

Don’t assume it’s as simple as slotting two men into what once was a man and woman romantic storyline. Queer sexualities are different because society views them as different and they’ve evolved differently. So look into the various ways that is true for cultures across the globe! And, honestly, find a queer person you trust and are comfortable with to check your sex scenes. It’s so embarrassing when as a queer person you’re reading along and you have to stop and go “yeah, that’s not how that works at all!”

So there are some thoughts on bringing queer romance into your SFF. And that’s just the beginning! Because of this fraught relationship between queer sex and sexualities and society, it’s not just sex. Queer sex results in subculture. Polari, the hanky code, flagging, cruising, cant, slang, drag, balls, vogueing, we’re a conglomeration of things that spring from sexual difference. 

We’re complex people. We deserve the same level of attention to detail as your cishet characters when we appear in your fiction. So, really, you betta werk! 

Trip Galey is a writer, a doctor of the academic persuasion, and a researcher of all things pursuant to bargains, exchanges, and compacts of a faery nature. It is inadvisable to attempt to make a deal with him. He has been, in the past, a reluctant cowboy, an Ivy League collegian, and an itinerant marketing professional. Frequently writes as a ghost. Mostly harmless.

Trip’s debut novel, A Market of Dreams and Destiny, featuring madcap faery fate, gay boys in love fighting for their freedom, and strange bargains with stranger merchants, is forthcoming from Titan Books on 12 September 2023.

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The Relentless March by Jim Anderson

Last week, I wrote about ChatGPT and the impact that it (and its siblings and cousins and distant descendants) will have on education. I would like to sketch out an optimistic potential future, because I’ve been marking today and so I’m leaning much more towards the optimistic than the pessimistic at the moment

This is a utopian vision, fueled by Federation and Culture and all of the optimistic futures that science fiction authors have projected for us over time.

At some point after we’re born, we are each assigned or gifted an artificial intelligence companion who teaches us, shepherds us, guides us on our path through the world.

Our Companion will suggest reading or watching to fuel our interests but also to stretch the outer bounds of our imagination. Our Companion will test us, working assessment into every one of our days, all of our activities. Our Companion will have as its primary objective to make us, each of us as an individual the best of us we can possibly be.

It’s a seductive future, and a future that I would love to live long enough to see, but there are issues that I can see, that we all can see, and I’m not sure how to get over those hurdles. One is, how do we bridge the gap between rich and poor. It’s easy to imagine such an optimistic and enabling future, but how do we make such a future available to everyone.

And now, a left turn. I have an idea kicking around in my head. Perhaps some day it will become a story (and before you ask, the line of ideas waiting to become stories is long and winding, and so if you have a story from this idea, have at it. I’ll do what I can to catch up). The aliens arrive and in order to join the Federation, the civilized races of our galaxy, we have only to answer a single question.

Tell us the story of humanity. Tell us the story of humanity through its individuals. So tell us the story of everyone who lived today, everyone who died today. Tell us the story of each of you, and you can join us.

I don’t know what to do with this idea, but there is a part of me that wants the aliens to land tomorrow and ask us this question. And there is a part of me that’s afraid that they might. Because we can’t answer this basic question, how do we take care of everyone. All of everyone.

I suspect this idea will lead me down some interesting alleys of consideration. But back to the original question, I would like to see a future in which each of us and all of us are granted this opportunity, to be enabled in such a bespoke way.

I don’t know though how to get from here to there. It’s easy to imagine an optimistic and utopian future, and why not dream a utopian dream. Why not. But plotting the course, ah therein lies the rub.

First published on Multijimbo 5th February 2023

Professor James W Anderson is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Southampton. Beyond mathematics, he practices the traditional Japanese martial art of aikido and writes science fiction and fantasy. He insists his role on the Milford committee is as Most Egregious Token Male.

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Milford Bursaries: Funded places for SF Writers of Colour

Go here to find out all about Milford SF conference for writers of science fiction and fantasy. Briefly, it’s a workshopping week with no tutors, just critique by fellow published writers. It’s been running in the UK since 1972, brought here from the USA by James Blish. Many well known writers have passed through Milford including Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin.

Go here for details of the Milford Bursary scheme.

“Just do it. Stop hemming and hawing, stop chewing your lip/pen/fingers and apply. If you’re Milford qualified (which means you’ve sold at least one speculative short story or novel), then book your place. If you’re Milford qualified and a writer of colour, apply for the bursary. Do it, do it, do it. It’s a fairly easy process and you have no reason not to. It’s so worth it.” – Ramya Jegatheesan

“Sept 2019 I attended the Milford Conference for science fiction writers. It was a real eye-opener and pushed me to explore exciting ways of approaching my speculative fiction. I credit a big part of this short-listing to those 5 intense but exhilarating days. Thank you Milford, and to the African Speculative Fiction Society for nominating ‘Shelter’ for the 2022 NOMMO Awards.” – Mbozi T Haimbe

Our Previous Bursary Writers

2022 Somto Iheuze, Nigeria,
2022 Ramya Jegatheesan, UK
2021 Georgina Kamsika, UK
2021 Charlotte Forfieh, UK
2019 Russell Smith, UK
2019 Mbozi T Haimbe UK
2018 Nisi Shawl, USA
2018 Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Netherlands
2017 Dolly Garland, UK
2017 Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Nigeria

Bursary applications for 2023 are now open. Closing date 28th February 2023

Bursary writers

Charlotte, Georgina and Dolly, 2021

Milford SF Writers’ Conference is offering two bursaries for self-identifying science fiction/fantasy writers of colour (BAME) to attend the September 2023 Milford SF Writers’ Conference in the UK. The location is Trigonos, Nantlle, North Wales (9 miles south of Caernarfon).

Self-identifying BAME writers from all over the world (far and near) are invited to apply as long as they write in English. Applicants must be ‘Milford qualified’ (i.e at least one SF story sale).


Each bursary will cover the cost of the conference fee and full board accommodation (i.e. room and all meals). The bursary value is approximately £900. The bursary does not cover the cost of transport to or from the conference from either inside or outside the UK. Should a successful applicant be unable to take up the offer of a bursary, there is no cash value, and no guarantee that we will be able to offer a bursary in a future year.

Thank you to all previous applicants. If you have applied unsuccessfully in the past, you are welcome to apply again. Please download the application form here with full details of how to apply. In the meantime if you have any questions, please contact the Milford secretary.

Our bursary scheme is intended to be an encouragement and not a quota. We have a limited number of bursaries available, however we operate an equal opportunities policy so all SF/F writers who are ‘Milford qualified’ are welcome to apply for the full-price Milford SF Writers’ Conference places, subject to availability.

We are delighted to say that thanks to our donors we can carry on the bursary scheme into 2023. If you are interested in helping to fund our bursary programnme for future years, please contact the secretary:

Our Milford anthology, due to be launched at Eastercon in 2023, is to raise funds to continue the bursary into 2024 and beyond.

Please feel free to duplicate this post.

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Wishing you all well this holiday season

Don’t ask me why Christmas is traditionally a time for ghost stories in England. Perhaps Charles Dickens started it all with A Christmas Carol, but I suspect it goes deeper than that, way back, in the oral tradition, to icy winter nights and the need to draw closer to the fire and, safe and warm, remind ourselves of our own mortality as the year turns. It’s a time of transition. Long winter nights evoke tales of the supernatural as we look, with hope, towards spring.

The Victorians commercialised Christmas. Literacy rates were growing, printed books and ‘penny dreadfuls’ were accessible and affordable. Whole families could read these stories together.

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, which opened the floodgates for more spooky stories. Dickens himself wrote plenty, with themes of redemption, forgiveness and reunion. Other authors such as Elizabeth Gaskell, and Arthur Conan Doyle contributed weird and wonderful stories, too..

It’s not just England, of course. Other cultures around the world tell supernatural stories at the darkest times of the year. In America , though Dickens was hugely popular and A Christmas Carol a best seller, the season for ghost stories was largely Halloween.

So as the winter power cuts darken your evenings and you and your family sit around your hot water bottles cursing the government, Putin and Brexit, cheer yourselves up by dragging out an old ghost story and remind yourselves that things could be worse.

Very best wishes for the season, however you celebrate, and whomever you celebrate it with, from all here at Milford Towers. May your light return and your dark shadows flee.

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I am reaching out to you on behalf of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust. Odyssey is a non-profit dedicated to helping fiction writers improve their craft. Since its inception in 1996, Odyssey has become one of the most highly respected organizations in the world offering educational programs for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

I wanted to share some information about Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop, our breakthrough new online educational program, begun in 2022. YPO provides an intensive, one-on-one workshop experience, customized for each individual student. The program combines the renowned Odyssey lectures by top authors and editors, deep practice, expert feedback, and extensive mentorship with Odyssey director Jeanne Cavelos.

YPO was designed with the flexibility to make it possible for a wider range of writers to attend. The customized nature of the program also allows it to be much more effective in helping writers improve. Students are able to choose their own pace, taking the workshop over 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or 18 weeks; choose which writing topics they study and in what order; repeat a topic to delve deeper into content; and design individual assignments to address their writing weaknesses and build on their strengths.

For the twelve students admitted in 2023, six scholarships are available, including the Fresh Voices scholarship for an outstanding writer of color, and the Walter and Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship for a fantasy novelist who shows great skill and promise.
The deadline to apply for Your Personal Odyssey is March 13, 2023.

We would very much appreciate your assistance in spreading the word so that we can help as many writers as possible. You can do this by sharing this announcement to your blog, social media accounts, and/or newsletter, along with our link:

You can find all the details at the link above, where you can also peruse the many free writing resources on our site. Please reply with any questions you might have.

All the best!
Starr O’Hara
Odyssey Publicist

Odyssey Writing Workshops

PO Box 75

Mont Vernon, NH 03057

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Time and Space – by Jacey Bedford

No, this is not a blog about spacetime, or about anything to do with astronomy, science or even science fiction. It’s about time and space to write. In beautiful surroundings. With all meals provided. And a bunch of other writers to be sociable with at mealtimes and after dinner. Or not. Your choice.

Yes I’m talking about the Milford Writers’ Retreat held annually in May each year. There are currently two places available on our 2023 retreat, from 13th – 20th May. (Maximum attendees, 12.)

Unlike our Milford Writers’ Conference, there’s no minimum qualification. You don’t have to have had anything published, you just need to be serious about your writing.

The venue is Trigonos in the little Welsh village of Nantlle, within sight of Mount Snowdon, and with its own lake frontage. It’s a centre for conferences and courses, where participants have a comfortable ensuite room, equipped with a table and chair in addition to the usual bedroomy things. All rooms have tea and coffee-making facilities, and most have a view over the garden or down to the lake.

Trigonos is a very special place for groups such as ours. The staff members are not intrusive and we’re largely left to our own devices between meals. We can write in our rooms, find a quiet space on the main house, or take a laptop outside and park our backside on a seat overlooking the water or on the edge of the woodland.

If you need a break, you can take yourself off for a walk, a drive, a visit to Caernarfon (9 miles) with its impressive castle and boat-rides into the Menai Straits, or any one of a number of tourist hot-spots. If you’re a fan of The Prisoner, Portmeirion. is only a short drive away.

As for meals… did I say the week was fully catered.? You’ll never go hungry at Trigonos. Breakfast is from 8.00 – 9.00 a.m., elevenses at eleven (no surprise there). Lunch is at 1.00 p.m. It’s cake o’clock at 4.00 p.m. and dinner at 7.00 p.m. They have a vegetarian ethos, but they will cook meat for us if we want it. They’ll also cater for allergies and intolerances. We’re all at a single long table in the dining room which makes for some interesting conversations.

So if you might fancy a week of time and space to write your magnum opus about spacetime, the Milford retreat is for you. A couple of years ago, Catie Murphy wrote 33,000 words in a week. We thought that was pretty good going and from that point on we decided to count words in murphys. Then last year, Mike Lewis managed to write 57,000 words – almost a double-murphy. Most of us would have been very happy with a half-murphy.

Go on. You know you want to.

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