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Pygmalia: Photo Essay

Pleasure merchantThe following photo essay is a stand-in for this month's Pygmalia blog. Yes, I know you were looking forward to another rambling musing in re: Galateas and such, but instead, you can thrill at the sight of various locations from The Pleasure Merchant, out in paperback and ebook (Kindle and Nook) this month! 

The Pleasure Merchant; or, The Modern Pygmalion is a novel near and dear to my heart, and going around London looking first-hand for the first time at many of the set pieces was curious and intriguing. I actually teared up a bit at the sight of 12 Bloomsbury Square. I know! 

I love London. It's my favorite city in the world, and tramping around all over the place seeking various addresses in real life, rather than on Google Maps, was really just such a thrill. Many thanks to my hosts Jared and Anne for hosting me as I cavorted around, being overly excited about things like... well, like putting money on an Oyster card, fumbling through change, eating curry, saying "Sorry!" to everyone, and so on and so forth. Many thanks as well to Mark and Rachel Newton for allowing me to come to the country to impose on their hospitality, as well.

So, here we go on a trip into the heart of 18th century London - as much as we can by looking at pictures of modern London! Just imagine everyone is way sicker and instead of cars and Arc'teryx jackets everyone is in carriages and wearing frock coats. 

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Friday Five: 5 Distinct Dystopias

The-king-in-yellow-coverAleriel is out now - a resurrected Victorian space travel novel, complete with a new sequel from Molly Tanzer. (Molly's had a busy week!) Molly's sequel puts a new spin on the original novel. Lach-Szyrma's titular Venusian traveller was particularly impressed by the theocratic society he finds on Mars. Molly? Less so, and "Civilisation and Its Discontents" shows this presumed utopia from a different perspective. 

So, naturally, we asked Molly for a short list of some of her other favourite dystopias, so, without further ado...


I mean, even considering that BioShock was too scary for me to play, and 1984 and Brave New World seemed too easy, these were some tough choices. In the end, I settled on this list, which I felt were (1) a nice mix of various media, and (2) also contain utopias disguised as dystopias, and vice versa. Enjoy!

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Review Round-up: Scruples, Sidekick, Outlaw Marshal

Sidekick latestAdeline Radloff's Sidekick (2010) is about, well, a sidekick. Katie Holmes (no, not that one - a joke that's just barely on acceptable side of annoying) is a teen adoptee, living with her foster mom and and Finn. Finn is Bruce Wayne. Mom is Alfred. Katie is Robin.

There's a little more complexity to it (there's a more Alfred-y Alfred, but he died somewhere in the past, for example), but that's the book in a nutshell. Finn, unlike Batman, has actual superpowers as well - he can fuss around with time, although there are various limitations and side effects that are introduced as the book goes on. Katie is remarkable because, besides Finn, she's the only person that isn't frozen solid when Finn does his time-travel mojo. Which means she can help Finn move stuff around, save lives, fight evil, remember to eat a sandwich, and, you know, be a sidekick.

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Friday Fifteen: 15 Great and Bookish Gifts for the Holidays

Crime WritersTis the season! What follows are fifteen bookish things that make lovely gifts. Books that are more than their (very good) text, but are also pleasing to the eye, charming on the shelf, and even have a wee bit of distinction about them. A signature, a slipcase - maybe even a bookplate or two: all help make excellent books into extraordinary presents.

(And, also, as always - we're not paid, we're not prompted and we don't take affiliate links, etc. etc. These recommendations are from the heart, not the wallet.)


For lovers of crime and the classics, Sarah Weinman has carefully edited the spectacular Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 1950s. This is an absolutely gorgeous boxed set from the Library of America, containing recognisable writers such as Patricia Highsmith and also lost (brilliant) authors such as Margaret Millar. 

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Announcing... Aleriel, A Voyage to Other Worlds by W.S. Lach-Szryma and Molly Tanzer

AlerielOur erratic and extremely particular publishing wing, Jurassic London, has a new (or very old) title on the horizon: Aleriel, A Voyage to Other Worlds.

First published in 1883, Aleriel is one of the early classics of science fiction. The titular hero explores the Solar System - from his homeworld of Venus to the 'inchoate horrors of Saturn', with lengthy stops to visit a Utopian society on Mars and, of course, Earth. Notable for the way the novel incorporated the latest scientific, political and religious thinking, Aleriel is also the first work of fiction to use the words 'Martian' or 'Venusian' to describe the residents of these planets.

This new edition of Aleriel contains the author's original prefaces and end-notes to the first and second editions, and comes with a lengthy introduction from the Richard Dunn (Head of Science and Technology, Royal Museums Greenwich) and Marek Kukula (Public Astronomer, Royal Observatory Greenwich), discussing the role our celestial neighbours - especially Mars - have played in inspiring contemporary fiction. 

As a further bonus, Vermilion and The Pleasure Merchant's (and Pornokitsch's) Molly Tanzer has written a brand new sequel to Aleriel, "Civilisation and Its Discontented", which investigates the repercussions of Aleriel's visit to Mars.

The cover is by Jonathan Edwards, whose distinctive style can be found in the Guardian, Q and NME, as well as adorning album covers by, amongst others, The Black Eyed Peas.

Aleriel is out 24 November. Ebooks can be ordered now via Amazon and And the paperback is available here.


Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade HouseThrough a small, easy-to-miss door in the equally easy-to-miss Slade Alley, those who are invited, knowingly or unknowingly, can find the garden entrance to Slade House.

The house itself is large and imposing, perhaps past its prime, but always a surprise to find in the context of its surroundings. In fact, how does a house this big, with grounds this extensive, even fit in the apparently available space? Why is it impossible to find its front entrance? And why, on the last Saturday of October every nine years, is someone brought by circumstance to Slade House and never seen again?

I’ll confess that I’ve always found David Mitchell a difficult writer to get on with. Most of my past efforts to get through his books have foundered in the early stages, though for a variety of reasons, so it’s hard to make a definitive “I don’t like the way he writes X” statement. Slade House proved the exception, which it achieved largely by being pacy, intriguing, engaging and creepy in a way that draws in the reader - for the most part - pretty effectively.

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Review Round-up: Flamesong, Sledgehammer and The Gameshouse

Gameshouse - PK

Three recent reads - a vintage fantasy, a terrific new trilogy and a particularly heavy-handed crime thriller.

Claire North's Gameshouse trilogy (2015), with apologies, as I did my frothing fanboy thing on Twitter, but, these are simply brilliant. The trilogy is comprised of three novelettes (novellas? long shorts? maxistories? minibooks?), each with a different narrator, setting and - wonderfully - tense. All three feature players in the enigmatic Gameshouse - a location/organisation for those that gamble, and gamble to win. The outer room is for the games we all know and love. The inner room is for the real players, the ones that manipulate lives and nations. 

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Weirdness Rodeo: Reboots, Adaptations and Neko Atsume

Gilmore Girls

"Why are there so many cult TV reboots?!", via the Washington Post:

But in TV, a land where every meager success is formulized, the reboots are seen as cheap bets, with often low-risk premises, washed-up stars and built-in cores of superfans.

For networks struggling to hold onto cord-cutters, and streaming upstarts pushing to prove themselves, the ‘90s reboots offer another prize: The viewers who grew up on these shows are now, a few decades later, making the decisions on cable budgets of their own.

The article notes that there are 400 original scripted series set to air this year. Any reboot - even a cult one - starts with an audience of greater than zero. Which is already a slim lead in the race for survival. (Although for many, that still isn't enough.)

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Class (Cum Laude) by Cecily von Ziegasar

ClassClass (originally published as Cum Laude*, 2010) is an 'adult' book by Gossip Girl creator Cecily von Ziegesar. It is no secret that the Gossip Girl series of books is one of my all time favourites, so I was delighted to find this slightly odd and out-of-print one off from the author.

Generally speaking: eh.

There's a lot of interesting things about Class, but mostly they come from contrasting it to other books, and I'll get to them in a paragraph or so. Class qua Class is a fairly substandard entry into the canon of university literature. It features five freshmen at 'Dexter', a private liberal arts college that's your generic New England not-quite-Ivy (a joke they make early on) establishment: complete with gender-ambiguous professors, terrible university theatre, campus druggies and irksome townies. The five weeble and wobble their way through a tumultuous first year, complete with sex, drugs, art, fire and some half-hearted attempts at reinvention.

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Pygmalia: Necrophallus

Night voicesThis year I’m selecting a series of Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on Twitter @molly_the_tanz

A brief note before we begin: The Pleasure Merchant is up for Kindle pre-order! If you’ve enjoyed these blogs, or hey, even if you hated them but love Pygmalion stories, or know someone who does, boy howdy I’d appreciate it if you pre-ordered, or schlepped on over to Amazon on November 17th to pick up a paper copy.

Anyway, with that out of the way… it’s my birthday, and it’s also close to Halloween, so it’s time for some horror content. Read on with caution, as this month’s entry is pretty brutal. I mean, it’s literally titled…

“Corpse Dagger (Necrophallus)”, by Makino Osamu, translated from the Japanese by Chun Jin, 2005, in Night Voices, Night Journeys, ed. Asamatsu Ken and Robert M. Price.

With a title like that, how could Osamu’s Lovecraftian tale of pain and desire not be an instant classic?

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