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London's Geeky Weekend

Vast swathes of geekiness are occurring this weekend in London. Here's a quick run-down:

  • Small Press Expo: We'll be at this one, holding down the fort for our wee publishing imprint, Jurassic London. Massive list of author attendees, both as guests and punters. Plus, cookies. Unmissable, and that's not even getting into the crazy book launches – NewCon's Hauntings and our own novelette series. (Forbidden Planet, Tottenham Court Road, Saturday, 1 - 2.30 pm)
  • Love Charing Cross: Ok, I don't love the name, but this is a day-long literary festival in the heart of London, so I've at least got a hefty crush on the concept. Foyles and Blackwells have teamed up to throw a bookish block party. Of especially geeky interest are the Felt Monster workshop, the Ben Aaronovitch/Paul Cornell session and the teen fiction writing session. All of which, charmingly, conflict with the Small Press Expo. (Sigh.) (Blackwells and Foyles, Tottenham Court Road, Saturday, 11 am - late)
  • Pop-Up Festival of Stories: Two days of comics goodness, for fans and families alike. This looks... well... amazing, with artists, activities, authors, drawings, games, advice, etc. Say hi to Inky Tentacle judge Gary Northfield and mad creativity scientist Sarah McIntyre. (King's Cross, Saturday and Sunday) 
  • Lunch with Ben Aaronovitch: Ok, it is a signing, not a meal, but Ben Aaronovitch will be inscribing his latest at Waterstone's Covent Garden. (Covent Garden, Friday, 12.30 pm - 2pm)
  • London AnimeCon: Not my pet genre, but this looks like a lot of fun. Standard convention fare (panels, costumes, screenings, shopping) plus video game competitions, karaoke (!) and animation workshops. You must be 18+ to attend (this isn't kinky, there's just a bar on-site...), tickets at the door. (Rocket Complex, Holloway Road, Saturday and Sunday)
  • Brixton BookJam: Not really the weekend, is it? But this event promises more small press madness - Stone Skin, Strange Attractor and us again - plus readings and talks from Tom Pollock, Glen Mehn, James Wallis, Adam Mars-Davis, Zelda Rhiando and many more. The only other opportunity to get our novelettes, so pounce! (Hootananny, Brixton, Monday, 7 pm - close).

Kind of ironic that we're heading out of town on Saturday afternoon, isn't it? 

Second-hand and Serendipitous

Iain M Banks ExcessionLast week, Anne and I were talking about how we hadn't gone to a used bookstore in ages. For years, nearly every weekend was spent in some delightfully murky basement, rooting through boxes in search of second-hand treasure. But between jobs and life (and cons and review copies), our scrounging seemed to have tailed off.

This stuck in my head, so, last night (coincidentally, payday), I meandered by one of my favourite haunts - Any Amount of Books - before hopping on the Tube home. It turned out to be a case study in why used bookstores are awesome.

I found a book I actively wanted (the UK edition of David Eddings' High Hunt) (don't laugh). I also stumbled upon some unique books that simply couldn't exist 'new' (two Penguin editions of Graves' Greek Myths that the previous owner had lovingly rebound in leather). And, best of all, I wound up with a signed copy of Iain M. Banks' Excession (for four whole pounds!).

The Banks alone is a perfect reminder of why second-hand shops will always be significent to me. With or without the 'M', I enjoy Banks' books. I don't love him, so I don't buy his books new - but I like him, so I'll pick up one of his hardcovers if I see it second-hand. As a result, although I wouldn't qualify myself as a 'fan', I seem to have developed a substantial collection of his books. Moreover, they accumulate at the perfect rate. By the time I have two or three stockpiled, he'll be at an event, and I'll get them signed.

At some point, the Banks collection became a self-fulfilling prophecy, with its own ridiculous rules. Buying one new would be cheating, whereas finding them used is completely fair game. To add to the madness, I'll buy his latest books at signings and then give them to friends... only to buy them again later for myself (missing the cover) (with water damage).

Continue reading "Second-hand and Serendipitous" »

New Releases: Sharps by KJ Parker

KJ Parker SharpsThe SF/F blogosphere has been a nest of Parker fandom for years. Three trilogies, a half-dozen stand-alones and a handful of short stories... viewed from the inside of the bubble, it seems like the Parker 'tipping point' is long overdue. KJ Parker has been writing brilliant books for almost 15 years, so why has the broader world been so slow to recognise it?

Arguably, part of this delay is due to the content of Parker's last few books. Since the Engineer Trilogy concluded in 2008, Parker's standalone novels have been grueling (The Company), really grueling (The Hammer) and about economics (The Folding Knife). Taken superficially, there's little there to entice in readers treading water between George R.R. Martin releases.

Of course, once inside the books, they're perfect: political, ambiguous, complex, brutal, quick - everything that readers like about contemporary fantasy is here, executed flawlessly and with razor sharpness. But there's still that missing first step: "Are you watching Game of Thrones? Great! Well, here's an extended metaphor about lumber mills. You'll love it!"

Enter Sharps. Sharps is, for lack of a more poetic way to put it, the first commercial KJ Parker novel. The one where the elevator pitch - swords, sports and diplomacy - is just as appealing as the text itself. And you know what? It is marvellous. Sharps not only has all the wit and complexity of Parker's other work but also hearty doses of glory, romance and adventure.

Sharps is set in two small countries, Permia and Scheria, that live in the shadow of greater empires. They fill that shadow with violence - Permia and Scheria were at war for decades, and now glare at one another in a tense (and tenuous) cease-fire. Despite their bitter rivalry, the two countries know little about one another. Their spies and agents scuttle back and forth across the demilitarized zone, but, as far as the greater population is concerned, their rivals are totally alien. 

Continue reading "New Releases: Sharps by KJ Parker" »

'I’m not interested in super-heroes.' - Jane Rogers and The Testament of Jessie Lamb

Testament of Jessie LambJane Rogers has published eight novels - the most recent of which, The Testament of Jessie Lamb won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. It was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Kitschies, a rare feat of recognition from both genre and literary prize panels that places her amongst authors such as Kingsley Amis, Kazuo Ishiguro and Margaret Atwood.

Her other writing awards include the Somerset Maugham Award, Writers' Guild Best Fiction Book, a BAFTA nomination for Best Drama Serial, Guardian Fiction Prize runner up and an Arts Council Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Jessie Lamb takes place in a world caught in the grip of an unknown virus – one that wipes out all pregnant mothers before they can bear their child to term. Although the doomsday scenario is fascinating, Jessie Lamb’s critical success stems from its compassionately written protagonist and realistic depiction of the dynamic between parents and children. 

We spoke to Ms. Rogers to gain some insight into how she approached her novel and its compelling heroine.

Continue reading "'I’m not interested in super-heroes.' - Jane Rogers and The Testament of Jessie Lamb" »

Favourite Books of 2012.5

Want to lend the tentacles a helping hand? Tell us - what are your favourite genre books that have been published in 2012?

(That means science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk, paranormal romance, space opera, YA, mythic realism, slipstream, quasidystozombiefunkpunk, etc... we're open-minded as long as it has a 'speculative or fantastic' element!)

The more the merrier. This will help us prod publishers into submitting, so please, don't be shy!

[Psst. You can now follow @thekitschies on Twitter.]

Causing Pandemonium: Novelettes & Events

Goresthorpe Grange by Vincent SammyAs previously noted, we'll be at Forbidden Planet's Small Press Expo on Saturday, June 30th (1.00 - 2.30). Under our nom de dinosaur of Jurassic London, we'll be flogging our wares alongside NewCon Press, Snowbooks and Myrmidon. There will be a load of authors there (check out the latest list of attendees on the FP site).

Forbidden Planet have snaffled up every remaining copy of Stories of the Smoke. They've all been signed by several contributors already (James Wallis, Alexis Kennedy and Archie Black), and the attending writers will be scrawling in them as well. 

The following Monday, 2 July, we'll be jamming books at the Brixton Book Jam. This is the first of a new kind of event from organisers James Wallis and Zelda Rhiando. A dozen speakers will each chat away for a few minutes on a book-related topic. Then, PIT-FIGHTING. (Alternatively, panels.) 

The Pandemonium presence includes Glen Mehn (reading from Stories of the Smoke), Tom Pollock (from The City's Son) and James Wallis (who will be giving away the secret to writing a book in a week). Plus, we'll be floggin' our wares again - this time alongside the amazing Stone Skin Press

These two events will be the launch for our new range of collectible novelettes. Longish stories, as beautiful standalones, in signed & lettered editions. As a warning, between the pre-orders, Forbidden Planet and the BookJam, we will have none left after 2 July. 

Continue reading "Causing Pandemonium: Novelettes & Events" »

30 Book Reviews, 30 Words Each (Again)

(Yup. Behind on reviews again.)

The challenge: Review a book in thirty words. 

The fun part: Do it thirty times. (Well, 28, but I'm counting a trilogy as three.)

The caveat: I have no idea how articles, hyphenations or contractions count, but according to Word, each of these reviews is exactly 30 words. That'll have to do.

Purty Spacer

Cairo DancersAssignment: The Cairo Dancers by Edward Aarons (1965)

Sam Durrell out-Bonds Bond (Moore-era). He battles laser terrorists, shags blondes (x2) and has a magical gadget shoes. Key lesson: Swedish women are sexier than their German counterparts.

Assignment: Golden Girl by Edward Aarons (1971)

Sam Durrell in bizarre Blaxploitation adventure – leading a beautiful princess and her thuggish brother out of a war-torn African country. By way of vintage locomotive. Slightly fun, very racist.

Assignment: Helene by Edward Aarons (1959)

Durrell by numbers. Sam’s in a Vietnam analogue solving murder and quashing revolution. Spotted: an Asian character that actually gets respect, authority. Sam only has sex once, lowering his average.

“The Green” by Lauren Beukes from Armored (2012)

Disgruntled corporate wage-slaves with sinister masters. In power armor. In an alien jungle with 10,000 ways to die (disgustingly). Plus: zombies, religion, bonus grossness. I’m now scared of trees.

Continue reading "30 Book Reviews, 30 Words Each (Again)" »


MuncherKnitter extraordinaire and Inky Tentacle judge Lauren O'Farrell unveiled her BT ArtBox, Muncher - titled "Dial M for Monster" - today in Trafalgar Square. Muncher is one of 84 Gilbert Scott phoneboxes that will be scattered around London for the next few weeks and then auctioned off for charity. Twenty of the boxes are being previewed in central London today, so naturally I betook myself to visit them.

Four of the ArtBoxes on display this morning really stood out, and Muncher was definitely one of them. Indeed, Muncher was the one everyone was hugging. Also awesome: Mandii Pope's wonderful, hand-painted Big Ben; Greyworld's amazing clockwork Flower Box; and HoWoCo's spectacular, cooing Stop the Pigeon.

Muncher, Lauren told me, took about a month to knit. Be sure to get up close to really appreciate (and hug) him - he has adorable tiny feet, perching pigeons, and a super-secret button Invader! He'll be on display at the roundabout by Trafalgar Square until 16th July.

More photos after the jump! (And here's a link to even more!)

Continue reading "MonsterBox" »

An Announcement

Yzma50I'm delighted to announce that I'll be joining the team at Hodder as an assistant editor at the end of this month. This move represents the next step in my life-long affair with genre fiction, and I couldn't be more thrilled. (See right.)

You aren't getting rid of me entirely; I'll continue to blog about movies and tv shows and historical tidbits and whatever else catches my eye here on Pornokitsch. I'm incredibly proud of what Jared and I have created here, and I look forward to many more years of good books and bad movies with all of you.