Friday Five: 5 Frosty Favourites for Snowy Weather

As #snowmageddon ravages Britain, we're looking forward to the weekend. We have firm plans to camp out - pressed against the radiator, under a dozen blankets (and two cats), with whisky in hand. Also, books. * 

Here are a few of our cold weather favourites.

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Frosty Favourites for Snowy Weather" »


Non-Fiction: 'Money in Literature' by Page Fox (1900)

Money in Literature

Literature requires the least capital of any enterprise with the possibilities of rich reward and wide renown. A pen, a bottle of ink, a ream of paper, and — brains. These are all. There is no occupation so discouraging to the one who lacks the last-named quality and few so alluring to those who possess it.

Continue reading "Non-Fiction: 'Money in Literature' by Page Fox (1900)" »


1Q84: A Very Bad Book

103575751Q84, a no longer new novel by beloved Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, is the story of Aomame, a feminist vigilante assassin who uses her seductive wiles to kill deserving if unsuspecting men in service of an aging widow with an ex Japanese special forces soldier as her bodyguard. Along with her childhood love, Tengo, Aomame is pulled into a parallel universe in which she must oppose a secretive cult in service of a strange race of alien fae. Aomame becomes embroiled in an attempt to stop these shadowy, possibly demonic figures by assassinating the leader of said cult, who is also molesting his daughter. Meanwhile, Tengo wanders through a surreal, shadowy Japan, trying to find Aomame and return safely to their original reality.

It is impossible to express from the above (accurate) summary how absolutely mind-numblingly boring this books is. You would not believe it. I don’t really believe it, and I read it. It is so insanely boring that one might almost see some spark of genius in Murakami’s ability to entirely denude potentially exciting scenes, like murdering a cultist or having sex with a changeling ingenue, into an experience akin to reading a stereo manual.  Let me be clear; I like boring books. I prefer boring books, mostly, to interesting books--but I cannot stand to be lied to. “This is not a bacon cheeseburger!” I want to yell. “This is salmon, and it’s raw in the middle!” At one point, presumably as a meta-reference to the reader’s own misery, Aomame sits in a room for a very long time and reads À la recherche du temps perdu. I would urge you to follow her example, rather than mine. Come to that, I would recommend you let someone drop Proust’s unannotated work on your big toe, rather than tackle 1Q84.

Continue reading "1Q84: A Very Bad Book" »


'Things flowing and melding together': An interview with EJ Swift and Joey Hi-Fi

Paris AdriftWe've gone large on Paris Adrift, but, well - it deserves it. The smart, twisty, beautiful and inspiring science fiction novel that kicks off 2018 with a bang.

The words are pretty great, and they're accompanied by a cover by one of our all time-favourites (and former resident contributor!): Joey Hi-Fi. Taking advantage of the situation (as one does), we asked both the author and the artist a few questions...

We've kept this spoiler free, but you may want to check out the first chapter. And if you have any questions, join in the hashtag at #ParisAdrift, or fire away to @catamaroon and @joeyhifi.

---

EJ, what was the process in approaching Paris Adrift? How'd you go about the messy task of plotting/composing a novel that skips around in time?

EJ: I’d wanted to write about Paris since I spent 18 months living there after university, but it was the experience of working the night shift and having your body clock completely reversed that really sparked the idea of Paris Adrift. Time travel was a way to explore a lifestyle that felt at times surreal, and also some of the city’s fascinating history.

As for plotting - let’s just say it involved hair-tearing and the shape of the book changed a lot along the way. 

Continue reading "'Things flowing and melding together': An interview with EJ Swift and Joey Hi-Fi" »


Fiction: 'Paris Adrift' (Extract) by E.J. Swift

Paris AdriftParis AdriftPrague, 2318

The explosions have stopped, and in their absence  a  raw  quiet unfolds. The bunker feels empty and cold, as if the people it harbours are already dead and have been for some time. Outside, what looks like snow is falling. It is not snow. Figures lurch past the cameras, sudden ghosts, there then gone. Inga breathes out. Breathes mist. In the confinement of the underground space, she listens to her thoughts detonating one by one.

This is the calm before the storm.

This time—this storm—will be the end.

There is a chance to fix this, but it means breaking everything they believe in. All that they’ve worked and sacrificed to preserve.

“The heating’s gone.”

That’s Toshi, the eldest of them.

Inga looks about the bunker, observing her depleted crew.  Only   a handful of history’s incumbents remain. Some have died during their travels through time, or have taken their own lives. Most have been buried never knowing the truth about their nature—perhaps they are the lucky ones. Others are yet to be born. Might never be born, now. Those too, she envies. What is left of the House of Janus is a world-weary collective, traumatised by experience and the implausibility of what has happened to them.

Continue reading "Fiction: 'Paris Adrift' (Extract) by E.J. Swift" »


Paris Adrift, One of Us Is Lying, All the Crooked Saints and More

Six recent reads across time, space, and genres: Maggie Stiefvater's All The Crooked Saints, E.J. Swift's Paris Adrift, Georgette Heyer's The Talisman Ring, Jason Rekulak's The Impossible Fortress, Eva Ibbotson's The Dragonfly Pool, and Karen McManus' One of Us is Lying.

I'd say I loved them all unequivocally, but, well, then I'd be lying too.

Continue reading "Paris Adrift, One of Us Is Lying, All the Crooked Saints and More" »


Non-Fiction: 'What Men Read in Hospitals' by Miriam E. Carey (1918)

Poppy

What a man reads in a hospital depends on two things: the man himself and the supply of books

To put a man to bed does not change him fundamentally. His education, tastes and habits remain unaltered when he lays aside his uniform and dons pajamas and a bathrobe. His reading will be influenced by all his personal endowments and qualities.

Continue reading "Non-Fiction: 'What Men Read in Hospitals' by Miriam E. Carey (1918) " »


SPFBO2017: The Finalists Reviewed (All of 'em!)

11304423085_ee8df18686_oWe're participating in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. You can learn more about what this means (and how the finalists are doing) here. And follow the various stages of our process here.

I think I'm going to follow up in a week or two with a wibbly 'WHAT I LEARNED' post, and talk about my SPFBO experience(s) a bit more as a whole [UPDATE: Nyah.]. It has been a lot of fun, very enlightening - I've read a lots that covered the whole spectrum of quality - and learned a fair amount about what I think constitutes 'good'. Which is no bad thing. And, unlike previous judging or slush-reading experiences, I can wang about this all I want. So, in the next couple weeks, I might take advantage of that.

But, for now, here are this year's ten finalists, in no particular order, with my - somewhat arbitrary - scores. Thanks again for all the writers, readers, judges and administrator (singular!) for participating, and please check out the other judges for other perspectives!

Continue reading "SPFBO2017: The Finalists Reviewed (All of 'em!)" »