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June 2015

May 2015

Everything Else

The King in Yellow

References to The King in Yellow have increased over time. Actually a pretty great case study for the impact of a big media burst (True Detective) in shifting what was a fairly static base of 'awareness'. Even after the peak 'ends', KiY searches stabilised at, what, twice-ish the previous levels?

Also interesting to see how other media have followed the trend, or, at the very least, extended it. A television show from early 2014, and now a (small) flood of The King in Yellow-inspired releases are now hitting the shelves in 2015, from INJ Culbard's comic book adaptation to Alan Moore's Providence to Amanda Downum's Shreds and Tatters.

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Friday Five: 5 Great Steampunk Writings that Aren't Actually Steampunk

This week's Friday Five host is Andrew Kane, co-creator, producer, writer, and voice actor for Rude Alchemy: serial radio theatre-style podcasts melding history, mystery, horror, and comedy available for free on iTunes, Stitcher, and www.rudealchemy.com. He has written plays for children and adults including The Resurrectionists (developed by 1812 Productions) and Little Red (developed by Montgomery Theater). He plays guitar and sings in the roots-punk band Old Town Wake.

He is also, judging by the list that follows, a man of impeccable taste...


In the land of speculative fiction, steampunk has blossomed from spunky upstart to sub-genre titan. Steampunk and its lesser-appreciated nieces and nephews cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, nanopunk, etc. have stirred the imagination of millions worldwide, spawning blogs packed with colorful stories, tumblr accounts dripping with gorgeous fan art, and conventions teeming with velocipede-riding, mustache-twirling, hoople-skirt wearing true believers. People, steampunk has its own World’s Fair.

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Mad Max is unexceptional, and that's for the best

Handshake

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of this spring's cinematic surprises. Although the opening weekend was trumped by Pitch Perfect 2, the combination of glowing reviews and word of mouth momentum seem to be adding up to, if not a hit movie, at least a future cult classic.*

Anticipation was always high for this long-awaited sequel, following a trailer that made the film seem like a gleeful throwback to the nonsensical, ultraviolent fun of the cult hit Road Warrior. (We don't talk about Thunderdome). An action film for fans of the action film. If you like noisy explosions, what's not to love?

And then, upon release, all hell broke loose. From an unexpected quarter too - Men's Rights Activists began a noisy (and bizarrely self-defeating) series of protests because the film was deemed 'feminist propaganda'. Which, of course, only drove more people to see the movie - not only out of curiosity, but also to spite the MRAs. And, as a result, the film's received high ratings and support from unexpected quarters and galvanised a very enthusiastic fan base - Fury Road is currently the most talked-about film on Tumblr.

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Dune at 50: Recommendations for the Dune-loving Non-SF Reader

DuneDune is a rarity. Frank Herbert's masterpiece is a science fiction book that everyone has read, including our non-science-fiction-reading friends and family. Yet unlike other SF classics that have made it into the mainstream, Dune still retains its inherent and undeniable science-fictionness. 1984 and Brave New World get upgrades to literary fiction. Frankenstein, Dracula and The Lord of the Rings sit as classics. Narnia would rather hide in the children's section.

But Dune? Dune is inescapably, ineffably science fictional, the very quintessence of those things that make SF look SFfy: faster-than-light rocketships, space-messiahs, intergalactic imperial princesses, laser death rays, city-sized alien monsters, inexplicable mental powers and planet-trembling battles. 

This year, with Dune's 50th anniversary (and check out the Folio Society anniversary edition to the right), now's the time to remind readers that their experience with science fiction needn't start and end with Dune. That, if they enjoyed the mind-blowing, worm-riding, storm-bringing, planet-hopping experience of Frank Herbert's vision, there are other books out there for them as well. 

So with no further ado, here are some books to recommend to those who dabbled in Dune at some point in the last half-century and might be receptive to something a bit like it.

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Small Press Shakedown: Ian Whates of NewCon Press

The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. This week, we're hosting Ian Whates, from NewCon Press.


The RacePornokitsch: Thanks for taking part, Ian. Mind introducing yourself to our lovely readers?

Ian Whates: I’m an author and editor and operate my own independent publishing house, NewCon Press, founded in 2006. Via NewCon I publish across the genre spectrum, specialising in anthologies and collections but also releasing novels and novellas. NewCon currently has 50-odd titles to its credit, with a raft of releases scheduled throughout the rest of this year and next.

PK: Generally speaking, what sort of work do you look for - what are the stories or the novels that you like to publish?

IW: Very difficult to define. NewCon started as a home for short fiction, at a time when there were increasingly fewer venues for that form, but as time progressed the repertoire has expanded; the Press has also released a number of novels, many of which have come into consideration for awards. I like to publish established ‘big’ names because a) it’s thrilling to do so and b) it attracts customers, but equally I enjoy featuring the work of new and emerging writers alongside the better known. When it comes to deciding what makes it into a book and what doesn’t, I use a very simple criterion: if I’d be happy to pay my own hard-earned dosh to read a given story, it’s a strong contender.

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Reviewing the DGLA: Introduction and Criteria

Bardiches_and_Axes_SolnWe're back! They're back!

For those tuning in for the first time, this is my fourth year of reviewing all ten shortlisted books for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. (You can find the previous years here: 2014, 2013 and 2012.)

For those unaware of the DGLA, these are the prizes for epic fantasy, decided (mostly) by public vote. (The 'mostly' is because the books are submitted by publishers and 'cleared' by the DGLA admins, which leads to a bit of unavoidable weirdness. But we're past that now.) And the People Have Spoken!

We've just come out of two months-ish of voting, and, across the DGLA's three categories, over 17,000 votes were cast. 

[Updated 1 June with the finalists]

Legend (Novel)

Morningstar (Debut)

Ravenheart (Cover)

  • Laura Brett for The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Gollancz)
  • Mike Bryan for Half a King (HarperCollins)
  • Jason Chan for Prince of Fools (HarperCollins)
  • Sam Green for Words of Radiance (Gollancz)
  • Jackie Morris for The Fool’s Assassin (HarperCollins)

I'll be reviewing the ten books on the Legend and Morningstar lists between now and (hopefully) the voting deadline. It is a ton of fun, and I hope you join in.

Details on how I'll be approaching this most epic and fantastic of epic fantasy reading challenges below.

Continue reading "Reviewing the DGLA: Introduction and Criteria" »


Small Press Shakedown: Alex Davis of Boo Books

The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. This week, we're welcoming Alex Davis of Boo Books.


ElectricPornokitsch: Thanks for joining us - could you tell us a bit about who you are, and what bookish things you're doing?

Alex Davis: My name is Alex Davis, I've been working in the world of writing and publishing, and just over a year ago I decided to take the plunge and start my own small press, Boo Books. We aim to publish local writing talent alongside national and international names in a range of anthologies and novels.

PK: What are the stories or the novels that you want to publish?

AD: It's hard to tell until it lands in your inbox really. As a press we have a regional remit - we love to publish East and West Midlands writers - but ultimately we're very open as per genre and style. Great characterisation, a strong plot and - for me - something quirky and unique to set it apart from the other subs you're dealing with.

PK: Any advice to authors on the physical part of submissions - type, spacing, etc?

AD: I always use the term 'neat and tidy'. Single or double spacing doesn't bother me at all, a nice simple font like Arial or Times New Roman, headers with page numbers and author name... it's not rocket science, just try and make it easy for us to read, be it on screen or on paper!

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Friday Five: 5 Weird and Wonderful Short Stories by Women

Helen MarshallThis week's Friday Five guest is Johann Thorsson. He blogs at jthorsson.com and bookriot.com and spends far too much time on Twitter, clever disguised as @johannthors. And, with no further ado, let's hand over...


I recently made a vow to myself to read more books by women, in part to overcome my own bias towards books by white guys (which is, I fear, the default setting for many of us). And, in the process, I read a whole heap of great books - including some terrific recent collections.

So, to help encourage everyone to try out some new authors, I wanted to share some of the stories I found.

"Secondhand Magic"
From
Gifts for The One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall

Sayer Sandifer is a twelve year old magician who, unfortunately, has none of the attributes one would think were necessary to be a good at magic. Instead, he has stubby fingers, a stutter, bad timing and no assistant. But he nonetheless manages to gather a crowd and, one afternoon, at the end of a rather bad show, some unfortunate true magic happens and Sayer disappears into his hat. But Helen Marshall is clever, and this is just the beginning of the story, which ends with something bad happening. But I’m not allowed to tell you what that bad thing is... It’s a story that makes you laugh at first, and then shakes you to the core. 

Read it if you like: subtle, funny stories with a dark twist of fantasy.

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Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

AmericusM.K. Reed and Jonathan Hill's Americus (2011) is one of those lovely books about books - about fantasy books, in particular, and what they really mean. Often the conversation about the 'value' of fantasy gets side-tracked into one about escapism - which, yes, is an easily-grasped benefit of fantasy, but far from the only one. Moreover, to debate whether escapism has value is to ignore fantasy's worth as a mechanic for dealing with reality.

Fortunately, Americus goes for the hard stuff.

Fantasy - in this case, The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde - is definitely escapist. Americus' protagonist, the teenage bookworm Neil Barton, values the series - a sort of Harry Potter clone - as a means of 'hiding' from the real world. But as the events of Americus unfold, he and the reader both learn that a good book is more than a shield.

But, boy, you can understand why he wanting it so much. Americus itself is an Everywhere, USA, the archetypical small town (the rest of the book is a lot more subtle than the title). Neil and his best friend Danny are just your 'normal' geeks - trying to get through life and hormones and the awkwardness of everyday existence. Which, as eighth-graders, can be pretty awkward indeed.

Continue reading "Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill" »