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Friday Five: 5 Terrific Techy Ladies in Sci-Fi

Brave New GirlsThis week's guest is Mary Fan, co-editor of the brand new Brave New Girls. The anthology collects science fiction stories featuring "brainy young women who use their smarts to save the day". That is to say: it not only brings readers a whole pack of awesome role models, but they're also clever stories featuring brains over brawn.

All proceeds from Brave New Girls are being donated to a scholarship fund set up by the Society of Women Engineers, so buy with confidence - you're not just reading about bright futures, you're helping make them. With no further ado, we'll hand over to Mary...

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It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of women in science and tech, both in the real world and in fiction. Which is a shame, really. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem around this issue—are techy women not depicted in sci-fi because they’re rare in real life, or are they rare in real life because girls don’t see themselves depicted in those roles and therefore don’t pursue those careers? The fact is, pop culture is a powerful influencer, especially on girls and teenagers. And the scary thing is, your career is dictated by decisions you make as an impressionable kid (think about it… the college major you pick at age 19 determines whether or not you’ll become a research scientist).

While there are plenty of ladies in sci-fi, they’re usually not put in the science and tech-based roles. The scientists, hackers, engineers, etc. are usually guys. But every so often, you’ll stumble upon a character that makes you go, “Yes! More of her, please!” Here are five brainy sci-fi ladies who use their smarts to save the day:

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Non-Fiction: "On Spies Through the Ages" by Hamil Grant

Capturing the Trojan Spy Dolon © The Trustees of the British Museum

In the course of a work entitled Strategems, Frontinus, a military writer in the time of Vespasian, records how Cornelius Lelius, having been sent by Scipio Africanus in the capacity of envoy to Syphax, King of Numidia, but in reality for the purposes of espionage, took with him several officers of high rank in the Roman army, all disguised.

A general in the camp of Syphax, recognising one of these companions, Manlius, as having studied with him at Corinth, and well knowing him to be an officer in the Roman army, began to put awkward questions. Thereupon Lelius fell upon Manlius and thrashed him, declaring the fellow to be a pushful valet and nothing better. On the same occasion, the envoy allowed a high-spirited and richly caparisoned horse to escape from his suite in order to be given the opportunity of going through the camp to recover it.

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Fiction: "The Valley of the Sorcerer" by Bram Stoker

JewelOf_SevenStarsThe book was by one Nicholas van Huyn of Hoorn. In the preface he told how, attracted by the work of John Greaves of Merton College, Pyramidographia, he himself visited Egypt, where he became so interested in its wonders that he devoted some years of his life to visiting strange places, and exploring the ruins of many temples and tombs. He had come across many variants of the story of the building of the Pyramids as told by the Arabian historian, Ibn Abd Alhokin, some of which he set down. These I did not stop to read, but went on to the marked pages.

As soon as I began to read these, however, there grew on me some sense of a disturbing influence. Once or twice I looked to see if the Nurse had moved, for there was a feeling as though some one were near me. Nurse Kennedy sat in her place, as steady and alert as ever; and I came back to my book again.

The narrative went on to tell how, after passing for several days through the mountains to the east of Aswan, the explorer came to a certain place. Here I give his own words, simply putting the translation into modern English:

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PK Interview: David J Howe and Stephen James Walker of Telos Books

Death-of-the-Day-380x0The 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, our guests are David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, from Telos Publishing.

Pornokitsch: Thanks for taking part! Could you tell us a bit about Telos, and the books that you publish?

David J Howe and Stephen James Walker: We are Telos Publishing Ltd, a small independent press run by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker.

We have two imprint areas: the main press, which specialises in non-fiction, particularly guides to film and television; and Telos Moonrise, edited by Sam Stone, which presents fiction in a number of different genres - horror/fantasy/science fiction/crime/romance/erotica - mainly for the e-book market, but also in paperback editions.

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PK Interview: Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards of Alchemy 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 Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards, from Alchemy Press.


Dead-water-cover-003cPornokitsch: Thanks for joining us - could you tell us a bit about who you are, and what bookish things you're doing?

Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards: We started Alchemy Press in the late 1990s with a National Lottery Grant, so we’re now over 15 years old. Our first book was a slim volume of Damian Paladin stories by Mike Chinn. The press won the BFS award for best collection in 2000 with Kim Newman’s Where the Bodies are Buried. And in 2014 we won the award for best small press, also from the BFS. Among our titles are the series anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Fiction and The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic.

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

PC & JE: There is no one genre or sub-genre. We’ve published fiction that ranges from science fiction to horror, heroic fantasy to the supernatural. I guess the underlining theme is “weird” – however one defines that word. And, of course, good writing, good characterisation, good stories. For example, check out our collections by Peter Atkins and Bryn Fortey and David A Sutton to get an idea of our tastes – and especially the stories in our anthologies, too.

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Fiction: "Where was Wych Street?" by Stacy Aumonier

Wych Street

In the public bar of the Wagtail, in Wapping, four men and a woman were drinking beer and discussing diseases. It was not a pretty subject, and the company was certainly not a handsome one. It was a dark November evening, and the dingy lighting of the bar seemed but to emphasize the bleak exterior. Drifts of fog and damp from without mingled with the smoke of shag. The sanded floor was kicked into a muddy morass not unlike the surface of the pavement. An old lady down the street had died from pneumonia the previous evening, and the event supplied a fruitful topic of conversation. The things that one could get! Everywhere were germs eager to destroy one. At any minute the symptoms might break out. And so - one foregathered in a cheerful spot amidst friends, and drank forgetfulness.

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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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Friday Five: 5 Sharks on the Silver Screen

SharkpunkThis week's Friday Five is from Jonathan Green, with a selection of films you can really get your teeth into... And on the subject of fanged terrors of the deep, Sharkpunk! is out now from Snowbooks. You can find this massive new anthology on sale directly from the publishers or from your favourite bookstore.

There's a signing at Forbidden Planet this weekend, and, even if you can't make it, you can reserve your scrawled-upon copy now.


I’ve always had a fascination for sharks – a morbid fascination, I suppose – ever since I watched Jaws, late one night, unknown to my parents, on a small black and white TV with really poor reception, in my bedroom. Nonetheless, the suspense and the shocks still hit home – despite the sadly lacking home cinema experience – so much so that when I was snorkelling off the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, swimming from our boat to the nearest island, I convinced myself that a Great White must be within only a few metres of me. That thought alone, that out in the ocean I was trespassing on Jaws’ turf, as it were, was enough to set my heart racing. And I loved it!

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Non-Fiction: "Of Book Illustration and Book Decoration" by Reginald Blomfield

Arts and CraftsBook illustration is supposed to have made a great advance in the last few years. No doubt it has, but this advance has not been made on any definite principle, but, as it were, in and out of a network of cross-purposes. No attempt has been made to classify illustration in relation to the purpose it has to fulfil.

Broadly speaking, this purpose is threefold. It is either utilitarian, or partly utilitarian partly artistic, or purely artistic. The first may be dismissed at once. Such drawings as technical diagrams must be clear and accurate, but by their very nature they are non-artistic, and in regard to art it is a case of "hands off" to the draughtsman.

Illustration as an art, that is, book decoration, begins with the second class. From this standpoint an illustration involves something more than mere drawing. In the first place, the drawing must illustrate the subject, but as the drawing will not be set in a plain mount, but surrounded or bordered by printed type, there is the further problem of the relation of the drawing to the printed type. The relative importance attached to the printed type or the drawing is the crucial point for the illustrator. If all his thoughts are concentrated on his own drawing, one line to him will be much as another; but if he considers his illustration as going with the type to form one homogeneous design, each line becomes a matter of deliberate intention.

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Friday Five: 5 Podcasts for Fantasy Fans

This week's guest is Christian Madera, co-creator of The Once And Future Nerd. The long-running serial features three high school kids - Billy, Jen and Nelson - who find themselves swept into the fantasy kingdom of Iorden. With all the benefits and challenges (mostly the latter) that entails...

[The episodes are about 20-25 minutes each, which is eerily perfect for my morning commute, and I'm having a blast listening to them.]

We asked Christian to recommend a few of his favourite podcasts, and he's obliged rather spectacularly... 


The Adventure Zone Flat_14The Adventure Zone

Elevator Pitch: Three very funny podcasters play a D&D campaign with their Dad.

Review: The Brothers McElroy have spent years honing their comedic banter game on their tongue-in-cheek advice show My Brother, My Brother, and Me. For whatever reason, that show, while slick, funny, and well-done, never captured my attention. But the added Fantasy bent of their Dungeons and Dragons spin-off was the hook I needed to fall in love with their unique style. In The Adventure Zone, Travis and Justin McElroy, and their Dad (himself a broadcasting veteran and geek before it was cool) play through a D&D 5E campaign, with Griffin McElroy taking the role of DM.

They begin with the default quest in the 5E player's handbook, but the campaign soon branches off into a surprisingly fascinating world of Griffin's devising. The snarky asides remain enjoyable throughout, but what really makes the show for me is Griffin's morbidly hilarious combat commentary and smartly specific character work as various ridiculous NPCs. And of course the constant delight the players take in annoying their DM. The first episode is a bit mechanics-heavy, as you might expect, but stick it out through the first battle and you'll be glad you did.

SFW-ness: Curse words and drug references, but it never feels gratuitous

Find it at: http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone or search "Adventure Zone" on iTunes

If you love this, try: My Brother My Brother and Me or Sawbones for more McElroy family banter, Party Roll or Drunks & Dragons for further comedic RPG action

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