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Friday Five: 5 Things That Will Change Your Mind About Things You Thought You Knew

A Killing in the SunThis week's guest is Dilman Dila, writer and filmmaker from Uganda. He manages the literary magazine, Lawino, and recently published a collection of speculative stories, A Killing in the Sun. And his films include What Happened in Room 13 (which has attracted over two million views on YouTube) and The Felistas Fable, which was nominated for Best First Feature at Africa Movie Academy Awards (2014), and which won four major awards at the Uganda Film Festival (2014).

His story "How My Father Became a God" was on the Short Story Day Africa longlist and has been collected in the (rather exceptional) Apex Book of World SF 4.

Dilman's taken our Friday Five challenge in a unique way, choosing five different topics - from books to food to monsters - and how they can challenge our assumptions...


1. African Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is a growing genre, riding on a recent wave of specfic from the continent, but that is not to say that it is a recent import into the continent. European conquerors have whitewashed African histories but reading works in the genre - including those that were told orally for centuries before labels were applied to stories - will change your mind about what you think of Africa. For example, the Acholi folktales about Hare using weapons and devices he manufactured to defeat his enemies indicate the Acholi believed, and told stories about, science and invention.

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Friday Five: 5 Best Deaths in Fantasy


Two things you need to know about this week's Friday Five:

1) It is written by Saad Hossein, author of Escape from Baghdad!which is easily one of the best books of 2015 - a brilliantly farcical romp that's like a contemporary fantasy version of Catch 22. Spectacular stuff. Saad also has a story in the brand-new The Apex Book of World SF 4, so, you know, there you go.

2) As you might guess from the title, ZOMG TEH SPOILERZ. Harry Potter, Sandman, the Mahabhrata, Malazan and the Broken Empire are all very much spoiled in this post. So, you know, click on, but don't say I didn't warn you. (If you're fussed about spoilers, just go mosey off yonder and get a head start on Escape! instead.)

And with no further ado, over to Saad...

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Friday Five: 5 Nifty Noir Films from Before 1955

Do you want to watch some film noir?

I hope so, because I have five films to suggest. Films about dames gone wrong, poor doomed saps, murders, sex and modern knights errant. I suppose, to me, noir films are shadowy films about darkness seeping in and seeping out. If you like these films, you might want to look a little more into the filmographies of Jacques Tourneur, Ida Lupino, Edgar Ulmer, Nicholas Ray, and John Sturges.

Meanwhile, beware of spoilers. I tried to keep some secrets, but in the end, I'm a femme fatale. I've always got my own game going. 


Out Of The Past / Build My Gallows High (1947) (Jacques Tourneur)


Some people, most people even, think of Double Indemnity (1944) as the quintessential film noir, but my Double Indemnity is Out Of The Past. It stars Robert Mitchum as private detective Jeff Bailey. (90% of Mitchum's characters are named, “Jeff” no matter what IMDb says).

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Friday Five: 5 Weirdest Movies I've Seen Recently

World SF 4This week's guest is Kuzhali Manickavel. Kuzhali is the author of the excellent, brilliant and totally disconcerting collections Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some of Them Have Wings and Things We Found During the Autopsy.  Her short story, "Six Things We Found During The Autopsy", is also collected in the brand-new The Apex Book of World SF 4.

Without further ado...  


And by ‘weird’ I mean I didn’t understand why I was watching them or I was watching them by accident. Also I didn’t always pay attention or watch the whole thing.

Welcome to New York


Not gonna lie, for some reason I thought this was a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie about bees. But as this movie progressed and there was no Philip Seymour Hoffman and no bees and lots of Gérard Depardieu having the sexuals with lots of ladies (LOTS. Like, LOTS), I began to suspect that neither the bees nor Philip Seymour Hoffman were going to make an appearance except possibly to have sex with Gérard Depardieu which might have been interesting but maybe not also. As far as I could tell, the only instances that Sexual Time with Gérard Depardieu was not happening was when they all took a breather so Gerard D could be rapey and when Jacqueline Bisset and him were yelling at each other. In the end, I have to say that the Philip Seymour Hoffman movie about bees might not actually exist.

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Friday Five: 5 From The Future Fire

The Future Fire X

This week we're handing the reins over to Djibril al-Ayad, editor of The Future Fire. The magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. If you're interested in supporting both The Future Fire and its long tradition of critically-lauded anthologies, you can back it (and receive lovely goodies) here.


The Future Fire’s tagline, as it has evolved over ten years of publishing, promises “Feminist SF, Queer SF, Eco SF, Postcolonial SF and Cyberpunk,” all this in the service of social-political speculative fiction and showcasing underrepresented voices.

I’ll try here to recommend five awesome stories that demonstrate what we mean by these five categories (and what we’d like to see more of in the zine). I’d love more recommendations from you along these lines in the comments!

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Friday Five: 5 Fantastic Fictional Girls & Women

Anne-of-green-gablesThis week's Friday Five guest is Zen Cho, author of the Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad and editor of Cyberpunk: Malaysia. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is out soon from Ace (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK), and has already been receiving (well-deserved) rave reviews.

Zen's short story "The Four Generations of Chang E" is collected in The Apex Book of World SF 4, released at the end of August. 

Zen's chosen the topic of "Five fictional girls and women that I will love forever" - please join in with your own favourites in the comments!


Anne from Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery)

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Prince Edward Island put in an order for an orphan boy to help them out on the farm, but they get a girl instead. Thus begins one of the most enduringly popular works of children's literature, featuring one of literature's best girls, the eponymous Anne.

It's hard to write a character who is meant to be universally charming and make her universally charming, but Montgomery somehow managed it. This comes not just from Anne's whimsy, but the fact that Anne is actually pretty good at life. She's orphaned at birth and exploited throughout her childhood, but she manages to hang onto optimism. She saves babies with ipecac and turns down scholarships so she can look after the people who took her in. I'd read another fourteen books about her. There's no one quite like Anne. 

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Erin Lindsey on "Sex and Explosions Part Deux: Now with More Sex!"


About six months ago, I did a guest post over at SF Signal called “Sex and Explosions”, in which I observed that according to the Hollywood model, the essential ingredients of a blockbuster/bestseller are – spoiler! – sex and explosions. A great action romance, I argued, links a suspenseful plot and an engaging love story in a positive feedback loop: each influences the other, so that the romance shapes the action and vice versa. Ideally, these knock-on effects raise the stakes and increase the momentum of the story.

Catchy title notwithstanding, that post was really about romance and action, rather than sex and explosions per se. Needless to say, not all sex is romance, and explosions are but one way (albeit a particularly awesome way) of demonstrating action. Sex rears its… er, head… in many different guises, serving various masters. Explosions, meanwhile, are merely one subset of violence, and this too can be used to achieve a variety of aims. (Or at least, they should serve a purpose; all too often, sex and violence are simply tossed in as a matter of obligation.)

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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...


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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