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The Kitschies present... Secret Histories

The KitschiesOur next event for The Kitschies is announced. Or shall we say, declared

Secret Histories is about the intersection of history and fiction, and the hidden worlds all around us. Our guests on the evening:

  • Tim Powers (Declare, Last Call, Hide Me Among the Graves)
  • Kate Griffin (The Midnight Mayor, A Madness of Angels, The Glass God)
  • Lavie Tidhar (Osama, The Violent Century)

Moderated by your very own Anne C. Perry.

The event takes place on Monday, 28 October at Blackwell's Charing Cross, starting at 6.30. This is a ticketed event, but your £3 ticket gets you a coupon for the evening and a secretive/tentacular goodie bag. All the details - and the link to buy your tickets - are here.

In the run-up to the event, we'll be hosting lots of guest posts, lists, reviews, rambles and exclusives, exploring the "secret histories" theme in even more detail. 

Thinking about book collecting

The gentlemanly @onechaptermore, generously mistaking my enthusiasm for expertise, asked me for some thoughts on book collecting. This seemed a little big for Twitter, but a great idea for a blog post. 

So, my advice, such as it is, for book collectors:

444px-Books_of_the_PastFirst, figure out why you're doing this.

 And, speaking as a die-hard bibliophile, "because I can't imagine not" is a perfectly acceptable answer. But maybe you see them as long-term investments, like wine or stamps or something. Or you're after a quick profit - eBay, dealing, etc. Or you love an author, his or her books express your inner philosophy and you need them all for you. All of these reasons are great, but they will impact what sort of books you're looking for and what condition they're in - new, used, signed, inscribed, etc. 

Second, pick a theme.

I chose "theme" not "topic" deliberately, because it can be something more intangible - a category that may only be specific or identifiable to you. It'll matter whether you pick a tight theme, say, the works of Joe Abercrombie or a broad one, e.g. "grimdark". The benefits? Well, with Abercrombie, you can achieve it. Despite his best efforts, there's still a finite amount of Abercrombiana. The idea of completing a collection is kind of cool, if slightly harrowing the instant a new book comes out.

With a broad collection, you'll never finish. That can be frustrating, or fantastic. The broader the theme, the more likely you are to find something for your collection: every flea market, Forbidden Planet trip or lazy eBay browse will reveal more stuff for your ever-growing shelves. (I'd also warn against going too broad. Collecting, say, "fantasy" is dangerously woolly. You'll not only never achieve it, but you'll go broke trying. Boundaries keep you sane.) 

From personal experience: I stumbled on two of Maxim Jukobowski's Black Box Thrillers - just as reading copies. Then I found a third. Then I did some research, and learned there were only nine. So, the quest began, and, within about a year, ended. Awesome. Satisfying. Now what? Fortunately, I'm also after Fawcett Gold Medals, and, at last count, there were an infinite number of them. Whew. 

Continue reading "Thinking about book collecting" »

Underground Reading: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

This is part of a series of reviews, my attempt to cover all nine finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Award before the winner is announced at the end of October. I'll be approaching these books in a slightly templated fashion: plot summary, good stuff, not so good stuff, conclusion.


Stormdancer UKJay Kristoff's Stormdancer (2012) took the DGLA lists by, er... storm... achieving the shortlist in all three categories: novel, debut and cover art. Although certainly popular, there's a certain sense that this book has punched above its weight. Is Stormdancer the best book? Novel? Cover? All three?

Let's find out, shall we?

What's up?

Well, for the third book in a row, Stormdancer is based around a non-European fantasy presence.

Yukiko is a sixteen year old woman, a member of the Fox Clan and the daughter of the Shogun's last "monster hunter". When rumors of a thunder tiger, a magical creature long thought extinct, surface, Yukiko and her father are dispatched to bring it back. Their quest may be impossible, but disappointing the Shogun would be fatal. 

Meanwhile, the land is in the throes of change. Clockwork (steampunk) industrialisation is sweeping the land, the sinister Lotus Guild have their claws in everything and the Shogun's decisions are no longer to be trusted. To add further tension, Yukiko is in possession of a strange psychic power - and were it to be discovered, her life would be in danger. (Not that it isn't already, what with the monsters and revolutions and all.)

Hey, that sounds pretty imaginative!

And, you know - it is. Psychic steampunk ninjas, yo - plus a chosen one with a unique magical power and an impossible quest. Epic fantasy buzzword bingo!

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff" »


As if to make up for last week's absence of new books, Anne and I did some thorough looting of London's used (and new) bookshops over the weekend. Here are our latest treasures...


Tales of the UndeadTales of the Undead, edited and illustrated by Elinore Blaisdell. Such a pretty book - classic vampire stories, with a beautiful black and white (etched?) illustration for each one. First edition, from 1947. It is absolutely gorgeous, and I'd love to bring it back to print, exactly as is. (Adds to schemelist) I'm calling this one the find of the week.

Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades. One of the Heyer's I've read (this one was kind of awful), but Anne found one with the foxy 60s Pan cover, so we've replaced our 90s reprint with this copy. That's how we roll. (Skoob)

Der Struwwelpeter. I made the joke in May that every house needs a copy. Well, now we have two. This one is a seriously battered vintage (not quite antique) copy. In German. Completely falling apart, but the artwork is still in great shape, and on thick bulky stock. (Cecil Court)

Ross Thomas' Cast a Yellow Shadow. The first UK edition of Thomas' second book, from 1968. Love Thomas, never read the book, gorgeous cover and, to cap it off, an old Hodder & Stoughton book. We, for various reasons, seem to be collecting a lot of vintage Hodder stuff lately. (Charing Cross)

Continue reading "ALL YOUR BOOKS ARE BELONG TO US" »

Joey Hi-Fi's Weirdness Rodeo

Welcome to the Weirdness Rodeo - wonder and strangeness, courtesy of Joey Hi-Fi. 
You can follow Joey on Twitter at @JoeyHiFi and admire his work here.

Night of the Lepus (1972)

In 1963 Hitchcock gave us The Birds. 50 years later Timur Bekmambetov gives us Squirrels. *hangs head* Squirrels looks to be the 2013/14s answer to 1972's Night of the Lepus. Mutant killer rabbits! Beggars belief. [Topless Robot]

'15 Fantastic Geek-Themed Sand Sculptures'. Includes Alien vs Bender, E.T, Monty Python and.. Darwin! [Mental Floss]

Arnold Schwarzenegger Driving. 'Come on! Are you a truck or van? Make up your mind!'. [YouTube]

Watch Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston peddle 'Preparation H' (with 'Oxygen action') in this commercial from the 80s. [YouTube]

Umm. Tron: Legacy & Oblivion director, Joseph Kosinski, may direct the new Twilight Zone film. [Den of Geek]

Australian scientists have created a hangover-preventing beer. Amazing. [The Braiser]

'If Clark Kent tried to get a newspaper job today'. Rejection letter from The Daily Planet. [io9]

An extremely rare bi-coloured lobster caught in Canada. It's the Two-Face of the Lobster world.[Geekologie]

Total book desecration for a very good cause - Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls art auction [Lauren Beukes]

Follow the Leaders: Interesting installation about a corporate city in ruins. Features 2,000 cement figures! [This is Colossal]

Flamin' hell. Trailer for fan film 'Star Wars Downunder'. Beer, LIghtsaber boomerangs & Aussies. [Vimeo]

20 of the creepiest covers for H.P. Lovecraft novels. [Flavorwire]

Strap yourself in for Paul W.S. Anderson's Pompeii. Akin to Bay's Pearl Harbor. [FlavorWire]

A gay porn company will donate all of their profits to LGBT charities. [Huffington Post]

Human security engineer vs R2B2 (a button-mashing robot) - in a 'competitive pin typing' competition. [io9

To celebrate the Affleck Batman announcement. [YouTube] [Editor's note: Matt Daaaaaamon]

Breaking Bad's science consultant explains how the shows creators escaped the ire of the DEA. It's great that Breaking Bad use a science consultant. A certain Mr Damon Lindelof should take note. [Salon]

A WWII Air Force Gunner fell 20,000 feet - and survived. '5 Tales of Survival from Extreme Falls'. [Popular Mechanics]

'Nerd Vandalism Is Serious Business'. [Kotaku]

Collecting the Cold War

Chatting with fellow bibliophile Ian Sales, we decided it was high time to get more (book) porn out on the internet. We bandied around a few topics and settled on on a theme broad enough to allow for multiple interpretations: the Cold War. 

You can check out Ian's post here - he's got an astounding collection. It is also worth taking a moment to check out his alternate-history-hard-SF-Cold-War novella: Adrift on the Sea of Rains.

The Cold War is such a huge theme that I've divided it up into "sub-themes", any one of which could easily spawn into its own collection. This is definitely not meant to be an exhaustive list of either my own books or what I think of as the "definitive" books in the category, I've just given five examples that fit within each group. A final caveat, I don't think any of these are particularly valuable, but they're all fun, and that's the best part...

Cold War Pulp:

Commie Sex TrapRoger Blake's Commie Sex Trap (Boudoir, 1963): "A Berlin GI's desperate search behind the Iron Curtain for the nympho queen who held the plans to America's most important secret weapon!"

Woody Haut's Pulp Culture: Hard-Boiled Fiction and the Cold War (Serpent's Tail, 1995): all about the paperback books during late 1940s - mid-1960s. An immensely useful guide to this area.

Frank Hazlitt Brennan's One of Our H Bombs is Missing (Gold Medal, 1955): soldiers at a remote polar posting go mad, and someone nicks a Hydrogen bomb. A nice example of how genre fiction adapted to include/reflect the tensions of the time. A first edition, with a really lovely painted cover by Stanley Meltzoff.

Jack Laflin's The Spy Who Loved America (Belmont): "...and why shouldn't he? His was a grim, important mission that involved a honeymoon at the Waldorf with another man's wife and gallons of champagne - all paid for by the wrong government." A first edition (and paperback original) with suitably sultry Barye Phillips cover art.

Stephen Marlowe's Death is My Comrade (Gold Medal, 1961): Honestly, the entirety of Stephen Marlowe's Chester Drum series is proper Cold War noir - and I've pretty much got the entire set in their original Gold Medal formats. But this one goes above and beyond the others when it comes to period camp. Again, a nice example of a genre - what happens to the trenchcoat and fedora noir detective when the big bad is half the world?

Continue reading "Collecting the Cold War" »

Underground Reading: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

This is part of a Quixotic attempt to read and review all nine finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Award before the winner is announced at the end of October. To keep things on track, I'll be approaching these books in a more or less templated fashion: plot summary, good stuff, not so good stuff, conclusion. 


Howdy, stranger.

Red CountryJoe Abercrombie's Red Country (2012) is the sixth book in his  First Law world. Rather remarkably, the latter three books have all been stand-alone stories, although each references characters, organisations and settings from the previous volumes.

Red Country moves the scene to a new frontier - in more ways than one. Whereas the previous volumes haven't been shy about exploring the nooks and crannies of the known world, Red Country is set in wholly unexplored territory.

The two protagonists are Shy and Temple. Shy is a (forgive me) feisty young woman with a bit of a dodgy (if not outright criminal) past. She lives with her little brother and her placid stepfather, Lamb. When her brother is kidnapped, Shy gears up and heads out to find him. What she doesn't expect is for Lamb to come along.

Temple is a lawyer, in the service of the infamous mercenary Nicomo Cosca. Cosca's a larger-than-life figure, a garrulous, unscrupulous man who would be pure comedy if he weren't so utterly black-hearted. Temple is essentially his straight man: an intelligent coward, caught up in the wake of Cosca's charisma. There's nothing he'd like more than to get free of his Mephistophelian boss. And nothing he's less capable of doing.

Temple (through no fault of his own) falls out of Cosca's clutches and lands squarely in Shy's path. The two buddy up (in the loosest sense of the term) as part of a wagon train, heading from parts slightly-known to parts completely unknown: Shy on the trail of her brother, and Temple in the hopes of finding a lasting sort of freedom. Their adventures begin on the wagon train - but by the time the book's over, they'll have ventured through a remote (and feud-ridden town), past the remnants of a bloody rebellion and into a sinister plot (or two). Shy and Temple learn that this land - out in the middle of nowhere - has become incredibly valuable to many of the world's powers and factions, and their actions could help decide its fate.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie" »

Suvudu Universe Wants You(r Work)

BAD RATJustin Landon blogged about Suvudu Universe yesterday over at Staffer's Book Review. Take a moment to read it, especially if you're a blogger. 

The Del Rey / Random House powers have come up with brand new scheme. They're calling it "Suvudu Universe": it is a community-generated platform site, and also a problem. The site is powered by a service called, a sleek-looking aggregator tool that's already used by a few other big brands. 

If you sign up as a Suvudu Universe blogger, you send them content through your RSS feed. The process is simple: you tag 2 to 15 posts a month "suvudu" and they'll scoop it up automatically. Their editors then pick out the stories they like and then republish them on the Universe site. The result is a big ol' pile of geeky blog content, curated by Suvudu editors.

Superficially, this is kind of neat. I mean, Random House is now the biggest publisher in the world, right? Why wouldn't you want to be a part of it?

The main problems are "rights" and "money". Suvudu's taking all of the former and offering none of the latter.

Here's how it breaks down in the details:

Continue reading "Suvudu Universe Wants You(r Work)" »

Jurassic, Jurassic, Jurassic...

Somehow I went an entire week without a single new book turning up. Fortunately, a few things to flag up in other places, 'cause, well, if you're nice enough to host my gibbering, you deserve a thank you.

I interviewed the enigmatic Den Patrick in his subterranean lair for Fantasy Faction. Den's ORC WAR MANUAL came out this week from Gollancz and is a blast to read. Disclaimer: We're really good friends. Double-disclaimer: despite that, we manage to act like adults for a thousand-or-so words. Well, most of them. Thanks to Jenni and Marc at FF for hosting!

Meanwhile, over at the Ranting Dragon, the ambitious Dragoners (Ranters?) are off on a quest to find The Great Fantasy Novel. There have been some really good selections (also some quirky ones) (and a few that are a bit suspect), but, you know, we Pornokitschim play to win, so I busted out the big guns. This was a lot of fun, and I'm really glad they let me take part. Thanks, Dragoners!

[Edited to add: Fantasy Faction again! The book club chose The Folding Knife for their September read, so I asked FF if I could add a personal plea to potential readers. Everyone should read the book, and here's why.]

Meanwhile, Jurassic London stuff... lots of news and reviews:

First and foremost - in case you missed it, we're open to submissions for two new books - Irregularity and The Rite of SpringAll the details are here.

Continue reading "Jurassic, Jurassic, Jurassic..." »

Joey Hi-Fi's Weirdness Rodeo

Welcome to the Weirdness Rodeo - wonder and strangeness, courtesy of Joey Hi-Fi.
You can follow Joey on Twitter at @JoeyHiFi and admire his work here.

"Star Wars Speed Dating". Worth watching just for the first few seconds.

Zambezia won Best Children's Feature at Anima Mundi, Rio. [Anima Mundi]...'s the trailer [YouTube]

The "Star Wars Speed Dating" vid made my day. Worth watching just for the first few seconds.

What a porcupine sounds like. I thought it was a baby at first. This may be the cutest thing you see all day. [YouTube]

Holy hell. "The Most Terrifying Fast Food Employee in Japan". Sadako from The Ring serves milkshakes. [Kotaku]

Size comparison of SF's "greatest machines & monsters". Some glaring omissions, but still interesting. [Popsci]

An infographic of Alfred Hitchcock's obsessions [Guardian]

7 fiction authors whose careers were extended by ghostwriters. Includes Asimov and Lovecraft. [AV Club]

Elon Musk's Hyperloop: How will it work? [Mail & Guardian]

"Experts conclude tree drawing believers outside cathedral drips with bug excrement, not God's tears." [WPTV]

Vid featuring 60 fascinating scientific facts "that show why the world is awesome". Brilliant. [io9]

Lady Battle Cop. I wonder If the Robocop remake will be better - or worse - than this? [YouTube]

Holy FX2: the deadly art of illusion! A trio of robbers used special effects masks to disguise themselves as white. [io9]

The Judge Dredd fan film Judge Minty is fantastic. A old Judge takes 'law to the lawless' in the Cursed Earth! [YouTube]

Google Maps has an Incredible Doctor Who easter egg featuring the TARDIS. Amazing. [Jalopnik]

Slipcased edition of Doctor Sleep [Hodder]

New This American Life episode is engrossing. Involves a mysterious phone no. & refugees held hostage in the Sinai desert. [This American Life]

The Necronomikini: A Necronomicon inspired bikini [Bad Ass Digest] [Er... SFW, but not tasteful.]

Dolphins have their own names. Distinctive whistles that they use to identify themselves. Fascinating. [Time]

Googled the word "literally" lately? We now live in a world where "literally" now means "figuratively". [Neatorama]