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Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off! [Updated]

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[Updated with the list of 30, plus links!]

Head's up! Pornokitsch is one of the ten blogs participating in this year's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Mark Lawrence started this quasi-award last year, and I'm very glad to be one of the bloggers for its second iteration. 

You can read more about SPFBO here, and even snag a Storybundle of last year's finalists.

Continue reading "Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off! [Updated]" »


British Library Labs, Niche Marketing & The Walking Dead

Eduardo Souzacampus

The British Library Labs are amazing.

Last year's projects are viewable online (in various states of existence), and they're absolutely fascinating. These include everything from a Victorian joke generator, a tool that helps connect handwritten manuscripts to their transcriptions, a gamefied way of creating metadata and one of the most clever (and perhaps significant?) open source maps I've ever seen.

Do yourself a favour and have a play.

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Review Round-up: Dead Dolls, Discoveries, Tides and Thieves

Some recent reads, old and new, fantasy and crime. Including Lin Carter's Discoveries in Fantasy, Day Keene's Dead Dolls Don't Talk, Brooke Magnanti's The Turning Tide, David Benioff's City of Thieves and the first two volumes of Thieves' World.

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Lin Carter's Discoveries in Fantasy (1974)

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series - edited by Carter - is a pretty amazing body of work. Easily the closest thing I've seen to a 'Penguin Classics for fantasy'. The complete list is here, including the 'pre-cursors' and 'leftovers', and it includes an impressive combination of books now recognised as classic-classics as well as some curious unknowns. Carter clearly had delightfully far-reaching taste, and it is delightful to see authors like Cabell rubbing shoulders with the Deryni books and even Lovecraftian pastiche. 

That said, Discoveries is a pretty weak entry into the 'canon' (although one with an AMAZING cover, I mean, wow). It reads more like a sampler or a sales brochure than a holistic collection in its own right.

Carter's gathered short stories by Ernest Bramah, Donald Corley, Richard Garnett and Eden Phillpotts, and loosely united them with the twin themes of 'these guys should be more popular' and 'I'm going to be publishing them before long!'. Carter's introductions are similarly cursory, possibly because he was expecting to write more when he published the authors properly. Sadly, only Bramah made it into print before the series was canned.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Dead Dolls, Discoveries, Tides and Thieves" »


Susan Jane Bigelow on "Laying Down the Cape"

BrokenCan a superhero ever really stop being a superhero? Can they quit, or retire, or even escape the heavy burden of expectation and difference for a while? That question is maybe the most important one in the entire Extrahuman Union series.

The question of whether a superhero can quit is a complicated one. The reason is that there’s a piece of being a superhero that’s all about what you do, and another piece that’s about what you are.

Those two pieces seem very different at first, but maybe they’re more similar than we think.

When we first meet the character of Broken in the book that bears her name, she’s alone on the street. She’s no longer in the Extrahuman Union, which is less a voluntary organization of superheroes like the Avengers or the Justice League, and more a convenient prison to stash superpowered humans in so they won’t cause any trouble. And she didn’t just leave: she escaped.

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The 4 Best American Short Stories

ParkerFrom A Month of Saturdays, a collection of essays from Dorothy Parker's New Yorker column (signed off as "Constant Reader", a ruse that fooled no one):

[Ernest Hemingway's] "The Killers," which seems to me one of the four great American short stories. (All you have to do is drop the nearest hat, and I'll tell you what I think the others are. They are Wilbur Daniel Steele's "Blue Murder," Sherwood Anderson's "I'm a Fool," and Ring Lardner's "Some Like Them Cold").

Other works that Parker praises include Sherwood Anderson's "Another Wife", Anne Parrish's All Kneeling and A Pocketful of Poses*, Max Beerbohm's Seven Men, Isadora Duncan's My Life, Andre Gide's The Counterfeiters, Ring Lardner's Round Up, Hemingway's Men Without Women, Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon  (also The Glass Key, in a somewhat backhanded way) and H.S. Ede's Savage Messiah.

This may seem like an exhaustive list, but it is far outnumbered by a (very diverse) list of books she doesn't like - including those by Upton Sinclair, A.A. Milne, Theodore Dreiser, Ford Madox Ford (reluctantly), Eleanor Glyn (hilariously), and a host of autobiographies, anthologies and even non-fictional works.

And, in the spirit of reciprocity, A Month of Saturdays is introduced by Lillian Hellman, who recommends "Big Blonde" as one of Parker's best.

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*Anne Parrish has two best-sellers, three Newbery finalists and praise from Parker. Also... she's completely out of print and impossible to find. But a self-published author with the same name is all over Amazon. 2016 is weird.


Barbershops, Bookshops, Histories and Bad Math

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This is a lovely idea - a service that puts books directly into kids' hands - at barbershops. You can back them here:

"One day, I was getting a haircut at the barbershop across the street from my school," Irby said. "One of my first-graders came inside, and he plopped down on the couch. He was staring out the window, looking bored. As I watched this all unfold, I was thinking to myself, 'he should really be practicing his reading right now.'"

Imagine though: Barbershops, doctors and dentists offices, DMV waiting rooms, post offices - everywhere that people (especially kids and parents) might be stuck... what if there was a sort of 'big box' of children's books that could be ordered for any one of those at cost (or less)? Including, I dunno, comics, The Phoenix, a couple classics, etc. Do these exist? If so, please share.

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Friday Five: 5 Majorly Helpful Marketing Manuals

How to lie with statistics

Slightly outside our normal remit, but, hey, we encourage people to share the things they're interested in, and I really like this stuff. 

The thing is, 98% of the time, when anyone asks "what should I learn about advertising?", the answer will be "Ogilvy". And - you know what? That's right. I can't even set this up as a controversial "Nogilvy" (see what I did there?) hot take, because the eminently quotable David Ogilvy managed to churn out advice that's, frankly, both practical and timeless. Darnit.

So start there.

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Atwood, Thompson, Chambers, Ness and More!

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Last night saw two literary awards recognise speculative fiction.

The Kitschies, now finishing their seventh year, handed out the following prizes:

  • Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last (Red Tentacle - Novel)
  • Tade Thompson's Making Wolf (Golden Tentacle - Debut)
  • Jet Purdie's cover for Sally Gardner's The Door that Led to Where (Inky Tentacle - Cover)
  • Square Enix's Life is Strange (Invisible Tentacle - Digitally Native Fiction)
  • Patrick Ness for his fundraising efforts for Save the Children (Black Tentacle - Judges' Discretion)

Plus, Margaret Atwood wore an octopus on her head all evening

Meanwhile, over at the Baileys Prize, the judges released this year's longlist, and we're delighted to see Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet hobnobbing alongside Kate Atkinson and Hanya Yanagihara. 

The Long Way is a gorgeous, beautiful book, and it is wonderful to see it tearing up (and tearing up, homonyms!) the literary establishment. Becky's also a regular contributor here - way to class up the joint, Chambers! The shortlist for this terrific prize will be announced on 11 April.


Weirdness Rodeo: Goodreads Does Polls!

It occurs to me that the Goodreads polls are probably a really good source of data. I will occasionally, lazily screenshot one, but I've really paid close attention to the numbers. But, holy cow.

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Goodreads readers still aren't "average" readers - by definition, we're talking about those folks that are passionate enough about reading that they feel the need to track and share their progress on a specialised social network. But they're still further down the pyramid from, say, I dunno... blogs like this one. And, especially with the volume of results, we're a lot closer to getting insight into a "typical" reader than I dunno, a poll at a convention, or 95% of the crappy surveys commissioned by trade bodies. 

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Daniel Polansky and Howard Hardiman's The Builders

Barley by Howard Hardiman

[via Jurassic London]

 The special edition of The Builders, written by Daniel Polansky and illustrated by Howard Hardiman, is now available for pre-order. 

This hardcover edition is limited to 75 copies, signed by both author and artist. It comes complete with coloured endpapers, ribbon bookmark and 14 original black and white illustrations. 

 You can order your copy here.

More details here.