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Stories of the Smoke: Going, going...

Walrus-finishedStories of the Smoke will only be available for the next 24 hours, then it will disappear from the Amazon and Kobo stores for good.

Part of our shtick is that all our anthologies - including the ebooks - are "limited edition". In the case of the digital formats, it means that they're only on sale for one year. And, as of tomorrow, Smoke's year is up. If you own Smoke, it won't be magically removed from your Kindle - you'll own it forever. But, there will no longer be opportunities to purchase it. 

What's Smoke about? The anthology's core theme - stories about London and inspired by Charles Dickens - is broad enough to contain a bit of everything, and we're pleased that reviewers from the Guardian to A Fantastical Librarian have said nice things about it. In hindsight, we should've slapped "steampunk" in the title somewhere (however inaccurate) and watched it become a best-seller. And certainly there are steampunk stories in here. But there's also cyberpunk. And horror. And hard SF. And literary fiction. And dark comedy. And a walrus.  

Smoke contains stories from Sarah Lotz, Archie Black, Aliette de Bodard, Alexis Kennedy, Esther Saxey, David Thomas Moore (twice!), Jonathan Green, Rebecca Levene, Jenni van der Merwe, Glen Mehn, Kaaron Warren, Michelle Goldsmith, James Wallis, Charles Dickens, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Anne Langton and Adam Roberts. The introduction is by Christopher Fowler and the illustrations are done by the amazing Gary Northfield.

Proceeds from Stories of the Smoke benefit English PEN. Dickens would approve. ($4.99) (£3.99)

Kobo (£3.99)

Review Round-up: Vintage Classics (and Not-So-Classics)

We've just returned from a long weekend in Lyme Regis, our favourite escape. Dinosaurs and literary landmarks! Bakeries on every corner! We spent most of our stay buying delicious foodstuffs and eating them on the terrace (which had a sea view if you stood on the table). Occasionally inclement weather forced us to nap. It was exhausting. To make things worse, the trip was bracketed by train rides to and from London, during which we could only... read. 

Lyme Regis has an amazing bookshop, and after 4? 5? vaguely-annual visits, I think the owner kind of recognises me. At the very least, he sees me walking out with most of his "Pulps" section every year. This year was the perfect sort of bookish travel: go down with a Kindle and an empty bag, come back with a few dozen new treasures. (A future Post-Scripts, I think.)

Anyway, my travel slides aside ("click-click" Here's us at the pub! "click-click"), a long list of short reviews follows:

This Side of ParadiseThis Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920). Before this year, the only Fitzgerald I'd read was The Great Gatsby, and that was high school and I've already forgotten it. Recently, prompted by some book research, I've been plowing through all the Fitzgerald I can find and loving it. Sarcastic, funny, touching, witty, straight-forward language and wonderfully complex eddies under the surface - pretty much made to order for My Taste. Who knew? This Side of Paradise is Fitzgerald's debut which a) bloody hell and b) like the vast proportion of debut novels is b1) a little too much about the author, b2) clearly based on post-event philosophical rendering of the author's own experiences and b3) slightly wanky. That said, back to a) - bloody hell. Astounding book and a fascinating look at an era and class that I don't know anything at all about. An amazing combination with all the Westerns I've been reading lately - hard to think of all this happening in the same country at the same time. 

The Fox by Conrad Williams (2013). A really nice little chapbook from the folks at This is Horror, who, understandably, know their horror. A family go camping and things start to get creepy. There's a long slow build and then the reveal and payoff all hit at the same time - as a mystery, it is a bit clunky. As an atmospheric bit of horror, it is smothering (in a good way). You just know horrible things are happening, pitter-patting around in the background, and the bits of mundane detail only make it worse when it finally kicks off. I'm glad it ends when it does, a bit of a new Scary Story to Read in the Dark, rather than any sort of greater parable. A nice book, and well worth a fiver.

[Seventeen more after the jump!]

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Vintage Classics (and Not-So-Classics)" »

Everywhere but here...

Really very much not here, as we're off to hunt dinosaurs while our friends move in and spoil the cats for us.

Lots of fun stuff lately, with Adventure Rocketship and Speculative Fiction 2012. 

Stories of the Smoke is entering its last week before dissipating, so strike now if you ever want to read amazing stories of talking cities, walking cities, trolls, walruses, angry spirits and the secret history of London's best pubs. 

Upcoming books: just approved the proof for Reading Between the Lines. Next steps, printing and signing, but it looks like they'll be shipped in the first half of May. The Lowest Heaven is looking amazing - we've got the (gorgeous) cover from Joey Hi-Fi and have spent the past few weeks mucking about in the image archives of the Royal Observatory Greenwich with the help of Dr Marek Kukula, the Public Astronomer. It is been just about the coolest thing ever

We're just waiting on contract stuff, but should be announcing the 2014 titles in then next few weeks. Eep.

As for bloggery, I've got my weekly spot on, espousing the virtues of The Folding Knife and Anne contributes to a guest post for author Liz de Jager, waxing poetic about notebooks.

And next week? Next week is crazy. Clarke Award, Kitschies event, Lauren Beukes is in town, Apocalypse panels, Teeny Tinysaurs... (psst... read The Shining Girls yet?)

Speculative Fiction 2012: Out now!

Cover - speculative-fiction-2012We interrupt a week of imaginary musings for something very real - Speculative Fiction 2012 is now available on Amazon. 

This collection contains over fifty of the year's best online essays and reviews, from Tansy Rayner Roberts on Supergirl to Lavie Tidhar on China Miéville to Aishwarya Subramanian on My Little Pony to Joe Abercrombie on, er, himself. It is a diverse collection of some of last year's best and most interesting writing. We fully expect - and hope - it will cause discussion, debate and a bit of a ruckus.

The book also contains a foreword from Mur Lafferty, an introduction from this year's editors (Justin Landon and myself) and an afterword from the 2012 editors, Ana Grilo and Thea James of The Booksmugglers.

All proceeds from sales of this book are donated to Room to Read, supporting literacy and gender equality in education around the world.

Paperbacks are available now:


And Kindle versions will be coming shortly.

(Please note that the physical versions do come with exclusive, print-only content: the back cover.)

This has been a learning experience, a labour of love, and, most importantly, a lot of fun. Everyone involved was an absolute pleasure to work with, proving once and for all that blogging does make you a better person.

The 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist: An Imaginary Judgement

Arthur C Clarke AwardThere are lots of great pieces already about the Clarke Award. Strange Horizons has done a round-up or two that highlights some of this year's discussion. I think Chris Gerwel's piece comparing the Clarke discussion to the Hugo discussion is particularly interesting. To brutally summarise what I took out of it: for the Hugo awards, people blame the award. For the Clarke, people blame everything else.

I've already written about the Hugo awards, my imaginary ballot and why I, as a non-voter, need to shoulder a share of the 'blame' - although I do generally sympathise with the conclusion that there are some greater issues with the award as well.

For the Clarke, although I do agree that the world (that is, the universe of UK publishing) is badly flawed - and, for this discussion that means, "not publishing enough books by female authors" - I simply don't see how that excuses the judges from somehow generating an all-male shortlist. 

Before I get further in, please understand that I think the Arthur C. Clarke Award is the most prestigious prize in science fiction and, without a doubt, it does an amazing job of promoting science fiction to genre and non-genre readers. I like the fact that, not only does it provoke conversations like this, but it also encourages them. If I come across as more critical of the Clarke than I am of other awards, it is because I hold it to a higher standard.

I have read - and appreciated - many of the arguments that have been presented. That is: publishers, agents, readers, reviewers, authors, editors and retailers are all to blame for the lack of a single female author on the shortlist.

Yet... I still hold the judges responsible. 

Continue reading "The 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist: An Imaginary Judgement" »

The 2013 Hugo Shortlists: An Imaginary Ballot

HugologoThe point of this isn't to beat a dead horse. I think Jonathan McCalmont and Chris Gerwel have both written very good posts summarising aspects of the discussion surrounding this year's Hugo Awards, and I recommend reading those. Although Jonathan's post was slightly derailed by the comments, I think the ultimate conclusion of his post was a surprisingly inspiring call to action: register, read, vote and discuss.

Last year I found the Hugo so demoralising that I didn't bother to vote this year - despite having every intention of going to the upcoming London-based Worldcon. Which means, by absenting myself, I am as much a part of this year's result as everyone that did vote. The system is troublesome in a lot of ways, but in this one aspect - having a say in the 2012/2013 results - I could have had a (tiny) impact... and I didn't. I feel surprisingly bad about that, and it has influenced my contribution (or, more importantly, lack thereof) to the ongoing debate.

Next year, I'll be registering, reading, voting and discussing. To quote the Emperor Kuzco: "Bring. It. On."

But, the shortlists are done, whether or not I had a say in them. I'm going to pretend I did do the right thing and vote, which means I've got my imaginary ballot to fill out. So, because I am a very serious imaginary voter, I'm going to try and follow best practice: I can cast votes for what I've actually read, I can only consider 2012 (especially important for the zine categories), I won't vote tactically or simply for my friends and I'll try to be thoughtful about what 'best' means in each category.

Let's see how that goes, shall we?

Continue reading "The 2013 Hugo Shortlists: An Imaginary Ballot" »

Cover Reveal and Interview: Charlie Human's Apocalypse Now Now & Joey Hi-Fi

Baxter Zevcenko is your average 16-year-old-boy. If by average you mean kingpin of a smut-peddling schoolyard syndicate, and a possible serial killer who suffers from weird historical dreams. He’s the first to admit that he’s not a nice guy, but then, in high school, where’s the percentage in being nice?

That is until his girlfriend, Esme, is kidnapped and all the clues point toward strange forces at work. Faced with navigating the increasingly bizarre landscape of Cape Town’s supernatural underworld to get her back, Baxter turns to the only person drunk enough to help: bearded, booze-soaked, supernatural bounty hunter, Jackson “Jackie” Ronin.

I've been a fan of Charlie Human's bizarro-poignant (new word!) sense of humour since we first laid eyes on his work. His debut novel, Apocalypse Now Now, was picked up by Random House last May and I've been impatiently awaiting this novel for aaaaages. August can't come a day too soon...

Continue reading "Cover Reveal and Interview: Charlie Human's Apocalypse Now Now & Joey Hi-Fi" »

Gosh! Bristol!

Smalljetpack2A week on the road, but, if anything, that seemed to encourage the book shopping.

I had ten minutes spare while in Bristol and, with unerring accuracy, managed to find a second-hand bookshop in the middle of a massive food-market-thingy. That resulted in five paperback Westerns (woo!) and A History of the Ancient Egyptians. The latter, from 1908, is already proving useful - nicely organised, compact and pretty, pretty maps. 

Continue reading "Gosh! Bristol!" »

Late April and Early May(hem)

Holy cow.

April 22nd: Jesse Bullington, Paolo Bacigalupi and Lauren Beukes are doing a Google Plus Hangout Conversation 2.0 Webchatthing. I have no idea what it is or what will happen, but the idea of Lauren Beukes and Jesse Bullington in the same place (even virtually)? Good lord. I expect, nay, demand madness. If this takes off, next time they'll do the "C" authors. 

April 24th: Lavie Tidhar interviewed by Edward James for the BSFA. Free entry, but there's a chance that Lavie will rewrite your brain with his Lovecraftian madspeeching. Starts 7pm, the Argyle Public House off Leather Lane. 

April 24th: If you prefer your mindmelting pictorial, Tom Gauld is signing You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack (I am) at Gosh.

April 27th: Children's Illustration Day at Foyles, with Nobrow Books and their new imprint, Flying Eye. One of many events run by this amazing publishing (and their foxy new children's line).

April 29th: Lauren Beukes' UK launch for The Shining Girls at Forbidden Planet. 

April 30th: Lauren Beukes, Warren Ellis and Benjamin Percy at the Brixton Ritzy for The Kitschies, talking Storytelling without limits. Not sure what that means, I'll ask the modera...oh. Should be a great night. (Sold out, sorry.)


May 1st: Write the Future. A one day mini-con run by the Arthur C. Clarke Award. One hell of a line-up, with Lauren (again!), Ben North (HarperCollins), Matt Webb (Berg) and many other bright folks talking about bright stuff. (Day tickets for £15 off if you use the code 'futurekitsch'!)

May 2nd: Dark Societies at Waterstones Piccadilly. Another all-star line-up, with Adam Roberts, Frances Hardinge, Tom Hunter, Robert Grant and Anne (woo!) talking about awards and dystopias (the two aren't necessarily related, but who knows). 

May 2nd (uh oh): Teenytinysaurs launch event. Gary Northfield and the rest of the Fleece Station crew will be celebrating the dinotastic launch of this amazing new book at Bookseller Crow. There may be another event at the end of May, which is the only reason that I'm not frantically investing in black market cloning. But if you like dinosaurs or fun or art or tiny things or, uh, joy... 

May 2nd (laaaaate): Speculative Fiction 2012 AMA on Reddit. Justin Landon and I - plus (hopefully) many of the book's contributors - field questions about blogging and speculative fiction and, er, anything. No idea what should/will happen at this, so please, UK readers, stay up late and give us whatfor. 

May 3rd: Stay in. Watch Gilmore Girls.

Peeking even further ahead...

May 12th: Peter Cushing: A Centenary Celebration at the Cinema Museum with Jonathan Rigby and Bernard Broughton, to launch Cushing's complete memoirs and generally revel in the wonderfulness.

May 14th : Rachel Caine and Sarah Rees Brennan. There will be blood. Also, sultry love. Also, angst. Also, two extremely popular YA authors... Promises to be a very fun night.

May 15th: Lindsey Davis at Waterstones Leadenhall Market (12.30 pm). Signing (with one month margin of error) The Ides of April.

May 16th: Launch of Tripwire with one hell of crowd, including Michael Moorcock, Christopher Fowler and Mike Carey. Also at Foyles. 

May 20th: Jon Klassen THE DUDE WHO WROTE THE BOOK ABOUT THE BEAR AND HIS HAT is signing in Edinburgh. I wish I were Scottish. I would make him sign everything and then draw me a bear. And then sign that. WHILE WEARING A HAT.

May 28th: Joe Hill's exclusive London event (Foyles) to launch NOS4R2. (Pricy, but a good chunk of the ticket price counts towards the purchase of the book. Which, if you're going, you'll be buying anyway...)

Week o' Filler: Goodreads

I accidentally joined Goodreads last month. Stop smirking, it really was an accident. I logged in to... something... trying to fix a typo in a Pandemonium title, and next thing I knew, it had sent invitations to everyone on Facebook. Evil.

Still, I've been screwing around, and here's what I like...

- Being able to tinker with the Pandemonium titles, and make sure the information is right. Cross i's and dot t's and all athat.

- Tracking my reading. For the past two years, I've kept a silly spreadsheet of everything I read. I don't know why. I figured 'data first, questions later'. (What did I learn? That reading 200 books for The Kitschies skews the numbers.) Goodreads is actually a pretty good platform for this particular kind of fun. So far, I've got 2013 up to date. If, say, in a few months, I'm still enjoying it, I'll import my reading from 2011 and 2012.

- Adding books. Apparently my reading taste is weird. I've had to add four books, which is pretty fun. 

Here's what I don't like...

- Star ratings. One of the reasons I rarely review on Amazon any more. My rule of the moment is that a book is either: '5 stars' or not, mostly because if it is a great book, I want to give it the equivalent of a thumbs up. I've lost my capacity to judge whether or not something is 3 or 4 or 2 or 3 or whatever.

What do you do? How do you rate books?

And how do you use Goodreads? What other fun stuff am I missing?