‘There are worlds built on rainbows and worlds built on rain. There are worlds of pure mathematics, where every number chimes like crystal as it rolls into reality. There are worlds of light and worlds of darkness, worlds of rhyme and worlds of reason, and worlds where the only thing that matters is the goodness in a hero’s heart.’

— Seanan McGuire, Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Words create worlds.

Short stories, stories of just a thousand words, can take us to worlds at the very furthest reaches of our imagination, or beyond.

Those are the stories Interzone has always sought to publish; stories which, as Colin Greenland and David Pringle put it in 1984, ‘will move you, delight you, horrify you, in expansive ways.’

The ‘expansive’ there is important: short stories can be a special kind of magic that describes change, and also instigates it, remaking the world, remaking us.

‘I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.’

— J.G. Ballard, ‘What I Believe’, Interzone #8

IZ Story Socials are a series of online meetings where readers and writers can come together to explore short stories, their words and their worlds.

They are a place where we can discuss what we like (and what we don’t) about two short stories each week. Together we will move through these stories and share our ideas about the choices, craft, and magic which create their worlds, and which recreate ours in their image.

‘The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.’

— Neil Gaiman

In IZ Story Socials, stories will come to life, possibly catch fire, almost certainly create joy. They will hopefully also spark into life more stories: your stories.

And the insights we gain from reading will be opportunities to think critically about the decisions we make as writers when telling our stories.

We will look at two stories a week for 12 weeks. Some story pairings may lead to discussion of language, and the different ways writers approach dialogue and exposition; some may be of more interest structurally, addressing the pace of a story, where to place beats, and how to gauge when something is too long or too short. Some stories may confound us in ways we didn’t expect, or illuminate aspects of craft we never before considered. Together we will think about worldbuiling and character, beginnings and endings, and everything inbetween.

And week by week, our eye for what works and what doesn’t will sharpen and we will become more confident about experimenting and innovating in our writing.

Each Story Social will be two hours long and have no more than 20 attendees. Each 12-week series of IZ Story Socials will be conducted by me, Gareth Jelley, the editor of Interzone, and one Interzone writer. In July 2023, Alexander Glass on Mondays and Teika Marija Smits on Thursdays; and in the future (dates to be announced) Alex Penland and Chana Porter.

Each writer will look at a different selection of 24 stories and reading lists will be provided in advance.

You can sign up for either one IZ Story Social a week on a particular day with a particular writer, or for multiple days with more than one writer; but you can’t switch between days once you’ve signed up (we want each group to grow together from start to finish).

The attendance fee for each series (12 socials, one per week) is 220 EUR. Special early-bird prices are available to Interzone subscribers.

If you would like to attend two or three Story Socials in parallel there is a 5% discount off the total attendance fee.

Questions? I love questions: please email socials [at] interzone [dot] press and I will do my best to help.

‘The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary. Having that real though limited power to put established institutions into question, imaginative literature has also the responsibility of power. The storyteller is the truthteller.’

—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination

A small number of places are available for readers and writers on a low income. Email socials [at] interzone [dot] press to book; no proof of income required, or any other info – just let me know and mention your preferred day. These places are first come, first served, so get in touch early…

If you would like to sponsor a place on an IZ Story Social for a reader or writer who would not otherwise be able to attend, please get in touch.

Accessibility: wherever possible, I will provide links to audio versions of each of the stories selected; live captioning will be available in the online meetings. If you would like help finding translations of stories, please get in touch. Interzone has subscribers in over thirty countries and I am passionate about making the Story Socials available to every reader and writer, whoever and wherever they are; language is a conduit, not a barrier.

If you have any questions related to accessibility, or any questions at all about the practicalities of attending, please get in touch.

Diversity Statement: I am strongly committed to making Story Socials events where everyone feels welcome, equally valued, and free from discrimination of any kind. This includes all transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming readers and writers.

Please check back here for updates about story selection and start dates.

Email socials [at] interzone [dot] press if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you online soon.

— Gareth Jelley, Editor & Publisher of Interzone & IZ Digital

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‘[…] there’s no single answer that will solve all of our future problems. There’s no magic bullet. Instead there are thousands of answers – at least. You can be one of them if you choose to be.’

— Octavia Butler