Four reasons why I probably won't win the Shirley Jackson Award

Ceremony_of_fliesI'm delighted and honoured to have been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, for my novella The Good Shabti, published by Jurassic London (the sister imprint to this very website). However, there are four good reasons why I probably won't win.

The first reason is the Ceremony of Flies by Kate Jonez (DarkFuse). Our protagonist, who calls herself Emily, is an unreliable cocktail waitress, an unreliable road-trip buddy and definitely an unreliable narrator. We meet her serving drinks in a Las Vegas casino, but before long she is on the run in a 1971 Pontiac Convertible, driven by an equally dubious gambler named Rex. Their journey takes them from the bright lights of Sin City, via suburban Barstow, to ever more remote and decaying locales, until she arrives at what might just be the end of the world.

Jonez's parched descriptions of this doomed trajectory are fantastic. There are Joshua Trees and Stucco churches, and flies everywhere.  The soaring temperature is evoked so well I thought my Kindle might overheat.  And there is no let up—Every apparent relief, every opportunity for a cool breeze or a quenching of thirst, is just a further heightening of the characters desperate plight. Is this Emily's personal hell for the many crimes she has committed? Or some wider vengeance?

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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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If there's only One Comic you read this week...

Providence really ought to be "the most important work of 2015" (as described by Comixology), wouldn't you say? Well, maybe. Without giving anything away, based on past experience, you might expect that the One Comic crew wasn't quite as convinced by the overwhelming significance of Providence #1. Have a listen and make your own mind up.

You'll also get Jared's view on the best Lovecraft-inspired comics out there. Some of the things he fits to that description might surprise you.

You can add the show to your podcast app via the feed, or listen to the show below. 

Everything Else

The King in Yellow

References to The King in Yellow have increased over time. Actually a pretty great case study for the impact of a big media burst (True Detective) in shifting what was a fairly static base of 'awareness'. Even after the peak 'ends', KiY searches stabilised at, what, twice-ish the previous levels?

Also interesting to see how other media have followed the trend, or, at the very least, extended it. A television show from early 2014, and now a (small) flood of The King in Yellow-inspired releases are now hitting the shelves in 2015, from INJ Culbard's comic book adaptation to Alan Moore's Providence to Amanda Downum's Shreds and Tatters.

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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 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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Mad Max is unexceptional, and that's for the best


Mad Max: Fury Road is one of this spring's cinematic surprises. Although the opening weekend was trumped by Pitch Perfect 2, the combination of glowing reviews and word of mouth momentum seem to be adding up to, if not a hit movie, at least a future cult classic.*

Anticipation was always high for this long-awaited sequel, following a trailer that made the film seem like a gleeful throwback to the nonsensical, ultraviolent fun of the cult hit Road Warrior. (We don't talk about Thunderdome). An action film for fans of the action film. If you like noisy explosions, what's not to love?

And then, upon release, all hell broke loose. From an unexpected quarter too - Men's Rights Activists began a noisy (and bizarrely self-defeating) series of protests because the film was deemed 'feminist propaganda'. Which, of course, only drove more people to see the movie - not only out of curiosity, but also to spite the MRAs. And, as a result, the film's received high ratings and support from unexpected quarters and galvanised a very enthusiastic fan base - Fury Road is currently the most talked-about film on Tumblr.

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Dune at 50: Recommendations for the Dune-loving Non-SF Reader

DuneDune is a rarity. Frank Herbert's masterpiece is a science fiction book that everyone has read, including our non-science-fiction-reading friends and family. Yet unlike other SF classics that have made it into the mainstream, Dune still retains its inherent and undeniable science-fictionness. 1984 and Brave New World get upgrades to literary fiction. Frankenstein, Dracula and The Lord of the Rings sit as classics. Narnia would rather hide in the children's section.

But Dune? Dune is inescapably, ineffably science fictional, the very quintessence of those things that make SF look SFfy: faster-than-light rocketships, space-messiahs, intergalactic imperial princesses, laser death rays, city-sized alien monsters, inexplicable mental powers and planet-trembling battles. 

This year, with Dune's 50th anniversary (and check out the Folio Society anniversary edition to the right), now's the time to remind readers that their experience with science fiction needn't start and end with Dune. That, if they enjoyed the mind-blowing, worm-riding, storm-bringing, planet-hopping experience of Frank Herbert's vision, there are other books out there for them as well. 

So with no further ado, here are some books to recommend to those who dabbled in Dune at some point in the last half-century and might be receptive to something a bit like it.

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PK Interview: Ian Whates of NewCon 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 Ian Whates, from NewCon Press.

The RacePornokitsch: Thanks for taking part, Ian. Mind introducing yourself to our lovely readers?

Ian Whates: I’m an author and editor and operate my own independent publishing house, NewCon Press, founded in 2006. Via NewCon I publish across the genre spectrum, specialising in anthologies and collections but also releasing novels and novellas. NewCon currently has 50-odd titles to its credit, with a raft of releases scheduled throughout the rest of this year and next.

PK: Generally speaking, what sort of work do you look for - what are the stories or the novels that you like to publish?

IW: Very difficult to define. NewCon started as a home for short fiction, at a time when there were increasingly fewer venues for that form, but as time progressed the repertoire has expanded; the Press has also released a number of novels, many of which have come into consideration for awards. I like to publish established ‘big’ names because a) it’s thrilling to do so and b) it attracts customers, but equally I enjoy featuring the work of new and emerging writers alongside the better known. When it comes to deciding what makes it into a book and what doesn’t, I use a very simple criterion: if I’d be happy to pay my own hard-earned dosh to read a given story, it’s a strong contender.

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Reviewing the DGLA: Introduction and Criteria

Bardiches_and_Axes_SolnWe're back! They're back!

For those tuning in for the first time, this is my fourth year of reviewing all ten shortlisted books for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. (You can find the previous years here: 2014, 2013 and 2012.)

For those unaware of the DGLA, these are the prizes for epic fantasy, decided (mostly) by public vote. (The 'mostly' is because the books are submitted by publishers and 'cleared' by the DGLA admins, which leads to a bit of unavoidable weirdness. But we're past that now.) And the People Have Spoken!

We've just come out of two months-ish of voting, and, across the DGLA's three categories, over 17,000 votes were cast. 

[Updated 1 June with the finalists]

Legend (Novel)

Morningstar (Debut)

Ravenheart (Cover)

  • Laura Brett for The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Gollancz)
  • Mike Bryan for Half a King (HarperCollins)
  • Jason Chan for Prince of Fools (HarperCollins)
  • Sam Green for Words of Radiance (Gollancz)
  • Jackie Morris for The Fool’s Assassin (HarperCollins)

I'll be reviewing the ten books on the Legend and Morningstar lists between now and (hopefully) the voting deadline. It is a ton of fun, and I hope you join in.

Details on how I'll be approaching this most epic and fantastic of epic fantasy reading challenges below.

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