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October 2013

Girls Aloud, Submissions and Selling Out

89-Chapters_logoOn Saturday, I achieved some sort of impossible life dream when I got to be a guest on Mahvesh Murad's "89 Chapters" program on CityFM89. We chatted about books, blogging, awards, mummies and all sorts of fun things (per usual, her questions were better than my answers). In an attempt to alienate her loyal listeners, Mahvesh let me choose the show's playlist. My taste being what it is, I may have just done irreversible damage to US/Pakistan relations. (Sorry.)

The program is up here. (Also, check out her amazing interviews with Joey Hi-Fi, Jenni Fagan, Naheed Hassan, Growly Benjamin Percy and many, many others!)

Submissions - we're still looking for contributions to three different books:

Pandemonium: The Rite of Spring (Deadline: 15 December) - short-short fiction set in 1913, part of the shared world of Pandemonium (but that shouldn't throw up too many problems - see the brief), etc. Please feel free to spread the word to your writerly friends.

Irregularity (Deadline: 7 November) - "Age of Reason"-punk, I suppose. 1660 - 1860, in partnership with the National Maritime Museum. The curator of next year's exhibition on Longitude has put up a helpful blog post about this, plus there's a hefty brief. It is a tricky topic but there's lots of wonderful inspiration out there - good luck!

Speculative Fiction 2013 (Deadline: January) - It is worth flagging up that submissions are open for the year's best online reviews and essays. I spoke to Ana, one of this year's editors, recently, and she said they've been getting tons of stuff, but they need more, especially with new people, new voices, new facets of genre fiction. Don't be shy about nominating your own best work, plus those of others!

Selling out (in a good way):

The Book of the Dead limited edition is down to the last few copies - if you want one, you'll need to grab yours through Spacewitch in a hurry.

Four answers to questions that have come up:

  • If you're coming to the launch, you can reserve your copy through Spacewitch and pick it up on the night (and save on shipping - there's a "Reserve" option at checkout).
  • Also we'll have "external" signing sheets, one for each book, so you can collect signatures (if you're so inclined) without breaking open the mummified book. (If you're not interested in signatures, think of it as a bonus limited edition print.)
  • And there will be books for sale on the evening - the paperbacks of both The Book of the Dead and Unearthed, plus whatever copies of the limited edition remain.
  • Costumes not necessary, but we certainly won't discourage them. My suggestion is "Egyptological flair", which you can interpret however you like (within the bounds of good taste, of course). It promises to be a great evening.

Get your copy here. Details of the launch party are here.

And, finally, the Secret Histories event with Tim Powers, Lavie Tidhar and Kate Griffin is down to a handful of tickets. This is going to be a full house - and I, for one, look forward to watching Anne wrangle three of SF/F's most phenomenally brilliant (and outspoken) authors.

Book here. (The £3 ticket includes a coupon that's good on the evening!)

David Gemmell Legend Awards: Summary

Since August 12th, I've reviewed all nine books on this year's David Gemmell Legend Awards shortlists. A huge thanks to everyone that joined in the discussion - over 75 comments (as of writing this), plus all the chat on Twitter and Facebook. It has been a lot of fun, and I hope you've enjoyed it as well.

Given that voting is closing in a few short days, I suppose I should probably make up my mind. As you'll see below, I've found it easy in two categories and difficult in the third. Regardless of where I come out, I urge everyone to vote - the DGLA is one of the largest popular awards in genre fiction and your vote is a measure of support. It has some flaws (although, needless to say, I don't think any literary award is perfect), but I'm glad it is there. 

So, let's get to the discussion, shall we?

First up - the Ravenheart Award for "Best Fantasy Book Jacket". This category has six shortlistees. Three of which are spill-over in the other categories (Weeks, Abercrombie, Kristoff) - fans that voted the party line. The other three are, um, also books. Let's take a peek at them:

DGLA Ravenheart 2013

Continue reading "David Gemmell Legend Awards: Summary" »

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.

There is an 8-bit game based on the cult bad film Manos: The Hands Of Fate!

13 books that have been either banned or 'contested' in America. Includes The Lorax, Where's Wally and... a dictionary!? [The Week]

The Curiosity rover has found water in a surface sample from Mars! [NASA]

Conan O'Brien plays vintage Atari video games - including the infamous "E.T.". So awesome. [YouTube]

Just discovered this bizarre piece of Nintendo Folklore. Secret 'message' in Super Mario Galaxy artwork: 'UR MR GAY' [Destructoid]

Richard de Nooy shares excerpts from Queer Africa, a short story collection. [Books LIVE]

A BBC reporter mistook a ream of paper for his iPad while giving a report on police drunk tanks. [Geekologie]

The monster movie documentary "Men In Suits" looks fascinating! What a cast of amazing characters & actors! [Live for Film]

A montage of Ellie swearing from "The Last Of Us" video game. Kinda sums up my everyday routine... Especially the line: 'Holy Shit... I'm actually outside'. A rare treat in my profession.[YouTube]

In 1977 a British TV channel was hacked by someone claiming to be a space alien called ‘Vrillon’. [Kernel]

'"The Polish Knight Fight League" - A sort of Medieval Fight Club. [cut to a Clegane brothers training montage] [Geekologie]

"Tasha's Reignbow Pony Plugs". How can I put this delicately. They're My Little Pony-inspired butt plugs. Er. NSFW. [Topless Robot]

The classic James Bond theme started as the song "Bad Sign Good Sign" - part of a failed musical. [Huffington Post]

Dad makes beautiful geek culture themed laser-cut alphabet blocks. From A for Ada Lovelace to Z for Zardoz. [Geekosystem]

"Seusstastic Park" - Custom made Jurassic Park / Dr. Seuss Mash-up Toys. Grinchasaurus Rex! So amazing. [Sillof's Workshop]

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston reads his favourite erotic fan mail aloud. [YouTube]

Indiana Jones' Temple Of Doom monkey brain cake. [Geekologie]

Humans have invisible stripes called "Lines of Blaschko". [io9]

Hellblazer's John Constantine is getting a TV show. The series will be helmed Daniel Cerone & David S. Goyer. Hopefully this won't be a World War Z type scenario, where they disregard the source material. [Comics Alliance]

Ron Swanson's ghost! Portraits from the National Beard & Mustache Championships. [This is Colossal]

Stumbled upon this awesome custom made toy & packaging: GI Joe-style "Battle Babies: Coptorilla" [Justin Gammon]

Prog Rock album + William Shatner = "Ponder The Mystery". The album cover would give Photoshop nightmares. [Topless Robot]

Listening to the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon soundtrack. Riffs on Terminator & other 80s/90s sci-fi films. [YouTube]

Underground Reading: Irenicon by Aidan Harte

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.


IreniconLike a bridge over troubled water

Irenicon (2012) is Aidan Harte's debut - a combination of epic fantasy and alternate history, set in an early Renaissance Europe not too dissimilar from our own. Except for the water-monsters and ninja nuns, I suppose. 

The city-state of Concord rules most of Italy-analogue ("Etruria") and perhaps further (it isn't quite clear). Concord's history is recited through a series of sycophantic historical interjections, a "true history" of both the city and its engineering messiah, Bernoulli. It seems that Bernoulli (who seems to have been a much more pleasant person in our history) developed all sorts of metaphysical magical whatnot in addition to his more commonly known principles. Also, imperial ambitions.

The combination of Bernoulli's disciplined engineers and Concord's legions make the city triumphant over all its rivals.The one exception? Rasenna. This city, with its army of glamorous banner-wielding maniacs, proves too much. Concord is defeated on the battlefield and responds in a different way: Bernoulli unleashes the Wave, and annihilates the city, driving a river all the way through it.

Now, two generations later, Rasenna is a shadow of its former self - petty nobles glare at one another over the river, and engage in an endless series of pointless, bloody schemes. Concord ignores the city that is, except when they take their annual tribute. 

The bulk of the (quite lengthy) Irenicon takes place in Rasenna. Giovanni is a Concordian engineer, who, under some sort of mysterious cloud, is sent to Rasenna to build a bridge over the city's river. Concord need to march some troops through. Sofia is Rasenna's Countess - the last of the line of the city's rulers. Sixteen-turning-seventeen, she's not inherited yet, but she's having a good time taking part in the city's culture of street fights and political backstabbing. Irenicon is the story of how they meet, how they influence one another, and how they (eventually) get around to changing the world. 

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Irenicon by Aidan Harte" »

Underground Reading: The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe

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.


Heir of NightE for Epic?

The Gathering of the Lost (2012) is the second book in Helen Lowe's Wall of Night series. The first, Heir of Night, won last year's DGLA Morningstar award for the year's best debut.

Gathering picks up five years after Heir leaves off. Malian (the aforementioned Heir of Night) and Kalan (her manly sidekick) have gone their separate ways after leaving the Derai lands. They've been secretly seeded into society, both to train them for the horrors to come and to keep them safe from pursuers. The world (mostly) thinks them dead, but there's no reason to take chances... yet. Now, the lands are going to hell in a hand-basket and Malian needs to get to work as the Chosen One. There's terror a-comin', and the world lacks a champion.

Gathering is structured in three parts. The first follows Jehane Mor and Tarathan, two Heralds (sort of travelling warrior/wizard/things) that also appeared in the first book. They're in one of the bustling River cities for festival season, and stumble on a plot by the forces of darkness.

The second part follows Malian and Kalan (kinda) as they have adventures in their new lives and stumble on a plot by the forces of darkness. The final part reunites everyone as they head to a major tournament to avert a war, ensure that ancient rituals are fulfilled, search for the titular "lost" (a legion of missing Derai warriors) and... stumble on a plot by the forces of darkness.

There are lots of pan-dimensional dream sequences, magical artifacts, world-shattering rituals and desperate last stands. The Gathering of the Lost is definitely an Epic with a capital E.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe" »

Underground Reading: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

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.


The Blinding KnifeHey now, all you sinners

The Blinding Knife (2012) is the second in a (currently) four book series, The Lightbringer Trilogy. The first book, The Black Prism, introduced the key players, primarily Gavin the Prism, the most powerful magic-user in the land and Kip, his bastard son. The land has been in an uneasy peace for a while, but now it is falling into war and a few chosen people will need to do spectacular things to re-unite it. (I'm pretty sure I could have that last sentence in autotext for these reviews.)

(I have reviewed both books before, so I'm going to mail this one in a bit.)

Leave your lights on

The Blinding Knife is less a book than a work of Nike-level marketing genius. Who are the target audience? Twelve year old boys? Great. Here's a book about a Kip, a gangly fifteen year old who has a crap life until his Real Parents(tm) come to take him away to wizard school, where he learns to kick ass (and maybe catch a peek at some boobies). That'll cover the empathetic everyman style of protagonist. For bonus points, here's an aspirational figure: Gavin. He's totally hot (but not in a gay way, obviously), he's tormented (in that way that makes him hotter), he's got sweet one-liners, a carefree lifestyle, a total disdain for authority and boobies-on-tap. Gavin's the Tony Stark of epic fantasy.

I'm not saying I'm above this (ok, I'm kind of saying I'm above this) - like most quality advertising, it ain't subtle, but it works. The Blinding Knife is selling a dream.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks" »

Barbarella, Banshee, Banks and Brand

We returned from a weekend in Nottingham and the Peak District with a stack of goodies (and a bag of squash). Including, but not limited to:

Barbarella- Barbarella. Massive 1966 hardcover, printed by Transworld. It is so Sixties. The cover, the type, everything. Absolutely fantastic comic though.

- The Political Sturwwelpeter. A less massive hardcover, but from 1899. Some wits of the day used the popular book of (gory) children's stories for political satire. To quote a contemporary review: "The pictures are, however, better than the verses, which are a little commonplace." Still - the cover, the paper stock, everything. So 1890s. (You can admire it online at

- Over My Dead Body by Lee Server. An insubstantial but extremely pretty book on the 'sensational age of the American paperback'. I have a few books like this, and they are essentially coffee table books of the border-line lurid art of the paperback era. They're fun, and, if nothing else, it is always nice to see the art blown up to full page size.

- Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks. Probably one of my least favourites of Banks' work, if only because his cleverpants rejiggery of the English language gave me a headache to read. That said, a first edition in very nice shape. Back when the Orbit logo was a wilting palm tree.

- The Collected Stories of Max Brand. This looks great - a 1984 hardcover in lovely shape, with a selection of Brand's stories from all sorts of genres. Westerns I knew, and I think, at gunpoint, I probably would've remembered his Doctor Kildare and the espionage works. But apparently he wrote a fantasy? I'll report back.

Continue reading "Barbarella, Banshee, Banks and Brand" »

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.

Meet "Traddino" - a 51-foot, 11-ton, walking, fire-breathing dragon robot.

11 obscure TV spinoffs. Includes X-files spin-off The Lone Gunmen written partly by Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan. [Mental Floss]

Worf once appeared on Webster! Webster dreams himself aboard the Enterprise, where he explains 'feelings' to Worf. [Topless Robot]

New book of Star Trek art by Juan Ortiz [Titan Books]

1970s pamphlet aimed at keeping tourists out of NYC [Gothamist]

"SharkNATO" is a thing now. [io9]

Bionic chef! Chef who lost his left hand in an accident, chops, Stirs, & Cooks with a high-tech bionic hand. Amazing! [The Braiser]

SA animation company Khumba scores overseas! [Channel 24]

Cape Town's Steampunk Coffee Shop [This is Colossal]

The Insanity of Aaron Horkey. [Juxtapoz]

The Star Trek: TNG crew in Original Series uniforms. In case.. you know. You were wondering. [io9]

Glee star Grant Gustin will be playing The Flash in the upcoming TV series. [AV Club]

Honest trailer for 'World War Z'. Cue the 'BWAAS BWAAS'. [YouTube]

Amazing and c-r-e-e-p-y Chucky cosplay. Photo of Chucky and his bride on a bus. [9gag]

Vid about "Rancho Obi-Wan" - The largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the world. 300,000 items! [Huffington Post]

Bio Robot Refrigerator by Yuriy Dmitriev [Yanko Design]

Editor's note: Joey appeared on CityFM89's 89 Chapters, interviewed by Mahvesh Murad - plus he selects the show's playlist! You can listen here

Also! Joey's cover for Tony Ballantyne's Dream London was revealed this week - check it out!

Review Round-up: Roadkill, Wifey and the Second Lady

Three more reviews - one good new release and two vintage reads that are, well... kind of awful.

WifeyWell, Judy Blume's Wifey (1978) was a disappointment. I saw it on the "40 Trashy Novels to Read Before You Die" list, got it, read it and... I suppose I'm 2.5% more prepared for my eventual demise, but that's cold comfort. 

Sandy Pressman is a nice, suburban Jewish housewife with an ostensibly ideal husband, a good country club membership, two fairly decent kids and...why isn't she satisfied? The answer, posits Wifey, is in her fairly crappy sex life. Sandy experiments with experimenting, if that makes sense - this isn't Midwood Press-style adultery porn as much as a frustrated woman's attempts to break free. Mostly it is bawdy comedy as Sandy half-heartedly flirts with being naughty, but her upbringing, social circles and cultural 'training' prevent her from truly cutting loose.

I'm a fan of all suburban literature (I mention this a lot), and I do admire the way that Wifey tackles a lot of the issues of the 'lifestyle': the racism, the classism, the stress of fitting in and the pressure to fit an impossible (unfulfilling) ideal. The incidentals of Wifey - Sandy's experiments with social consciousness, her golf lessons and the struggles with the generation above her - are the most interesting part. Ultimately though, there's no real conclusion, and I was left dissatisfied - Sandy manages to provoke a response from her husband (not a nice one), and, apparently, that - the sense of being noticed - was all she really wanted. I get that as a premise, but it feels like nothing has been resolved, and Wifey could easy be re-read from the beginning: Sandy's life is stuck on a loop of inane misery. Perhaps that was the point?

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Roadkill, Wifey and the Second Lady" »