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!

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Mary Stewart, Storyteller; Possible Wizard

Thunder on the Right

To my mind there are really only two kinds of novels, badly written and well written. Beyond that, you cannot categorize… ‘Storyteller’ is an old and honorable title and I’d like to lay claim to it.

Mary Stewart (1916 - 2014) is a British novelist, known for her significant contributions to multiple genres. She was of the most prominent - and critically-acclaimed - creators of the romantic thriller. Stewart then went on to write the Merlin trilogy, a best-selling blend of history and fantasy.

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4 Kids Walk Into a Bank: Childhood is short, brutal and hilarious

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #1 (2016) - Page 11 (1)

The age where your creativity and the ability to realise said creativity meets must be somewhere in your 30s.

I know this because the rolling wave of nostalgia in TV and film has now firmly hit the 80s and doesn’t look like it’s going to be moving on for a while.

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From Christie to Bolaño: Adam Roberts' Five Favourite Puzzle Whodunits

Adam Roberts - The Real-Town Murders

I love puzzle whodunits. On account of my crime-novel-loving mother I grew up in a house full of them, which meant that—when I ran out of SF titles—I would pick a green-liveried penguin off the shelf and read that instead: Margery Allingham; Michael Innes; Ngaio Marsh; Edmund Crispin. And of course Agatha Christie. I read huge numbers of such books growing up. I still read them today.

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Hubble, bubble, toil and feminism: Witches in comics


Halloween is upon us and the usual parade of monster, ghouls and goblins are sure to be out in force. Chief among those will be the 'big three': vampires, werewolves and, of course, witches.

Unlike the first two, however, witches have a real-life history every bit as chilling as the stories in literature and film. The persecution of women (and, less often, men) for the crime of witchcraft is widespread and well known, with the most famous example being the witch trials in Salem in the 1690s. 

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Stark Reviews: A Man from the Boulevard des Capucines (1987)

A Man from the Boulevard des Capucines

Stark says: May I drop dead if that thing doesn't clear the head better than whiskey

I bet after I reviewed Lemonade Joe – the bizarre, brilliant Czech Soviet-era comedy musical western – you thought you were safe. “There cannot be another Soviet-era comedy musical western,” you may have said. “That would be absurd, and reviewing it would be willfully niche.”

But then I discovered A Man from the Boulevard des Capucines. What did you expect me to do? I pounced on it like a bobcat on a rump steak.

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Growing Up On The Ice: Tillie Walden's Spinning

SpinningTillie Walden (A City Inside, The End of Summer) says of her new autobiographical novel, Spinning - covering her teenage years as a figure skater - that "it ended up not being about ice skating at all".

Instead Spinning ends up being one of those rare books that's not particularly about anything, but potentially about almost everything. This quality means that what you get out of this book really does depend on what you bring to it.  In writing about it, therefore, you may end up revealing more about your own preoccupations than you'd really like to.  With that in mind, let’s delve into just what I thought Spinning was all about.

The graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, written and drawn by Walden, covers the years of Walden’s life between 12 and 17, the prime teenage years, and so sits firmly into the ‘coming-of-age’ genre. While it is mainly set on or around ice rinks, its first movement features the 12 year old Walden discovering her family is moving from New Jersey to Austin. This unexpected and life-altering change is, I believe, characteristic of much of a child's life. So often children face massive, inexplicable upheavals and go through their lives without control or consent. Coming-of-age stories can be seen as a move from the lack of control a child has, subject to the whims of parents, teachers and (as we see) ice-skating coaches. 

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