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August 2013
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October 2013

Jurassic: New audio, new bundles and a mummy or two

Cover - town called pandemoniumStories in every format!

Dark Fiction Magazine have recorded three stories for audio for their special issue on the "outsider", called "ONE OF US":

They all sound magnificent and, better yet, they're completely free. (In fact, they're beyond free - they come with a cheeky discount code from Spacewitch.)

Amazon have started their Matchbook program of bundling ebooks and paperbacks. For shoppers on, you'll find the following books have been matched:

The offer hasn't been extended outside of the US... at least not on Amazon. Our chums at Spacewitch have picked up the slack, and you can get those same deals through their site.

We've also uploaded 'second printing' paperbacks of A Town Called Pandemonium and The Lowest Heaven to Amazon - the primary advantage of using POD is that we (the world's tiniest press) can sell all over the world. The secondary advantage is that we can (given some breathing room) make a few tiny typo corrections when we spot them. (For those that prefer their books locally printed, we suggest getting our copies through Spacewitch or Forbidden Planet).

October is looking very busy, with three new releases. Unearthed and The Book of the Dead are looking fantastic, and we're about to start taking pre-orders for the latter (hinthint-mailinglist-hinthint). The hardcover is strictly limited to 100 copies, and they're... something special. 

The third release is Ash, which, against all odds, is ahead of schedule. So we're moving it up a month. The stories are great, the cover is bonkers and, as always, it'll be free on all major platforms.

And, please don't forget - we're looking for submissions for The Rite of Spring and Irregularity. Click here for the details.

Joey Hi-Fi's Weirdness Rodeo

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


First clip from Terry Gilliam's "The Zero Theorem" is fantastic! Features ad for "The Church of Batman The Redeemer" (Topless Robot)

Teaser for a documentary about Tim Burton’s never-made ‘Superman Lives’. Superman vs “Giant spider” anyone? (Comics Alliance)

Introducing: Clonefiles USA (Angry Robot)

It takes a brave band to willingly choose to be the face of a zit cream. This ad beggars belief. (Twitter)

"The powerful private prison industry wants more prisoners, to maintain profits." This is terrifying. (Salon)

'Rio is beta than you'. Spotted this graffiti on a train ride to Simons Town Yesterday. #Rio #KingOfTheBetaMales (Twitter)

On my voyage to Simons Town yesterday - I discovered there is such a thing as 'Angel Therapy®'. Notice the ®. (Twitter)

First trailer for the Robocop reboot. (YouTube)

"Lost Dog: If found call... Ghostbusters". Tricks: Rolls over, Opens gateways to other dimensions. (Imgur)

Bill Murray as The Human Torch in "The Fantastic Four" radio series, 1975 (Dangerous Minds)

On the joys of extremist reviewing

I haven't wibbled on about Robert W. Chambers for some time, but while reading an essay on him, I found this lovely point:

"A complete account of so versatile and prolific a writer would discuss [his novels] as his significant achievement. If his admirers belong to a class of readers who seek sensation or revel in romance pushed to the utmost bounds of credibility, it is also true that his disclaimers belong to a class that objects, on principle and on hearsay, to reading him at all. The truth about his work lies not in extremes, but it is conceded that the extremist speaks with greater apparent force and picturesqueness." - Blanche Williams, Our Short Story Writers (1920)

This seems particularly relevant to the recent discussion surrounding my DGLA shortlist reviews - and, to get all lofty for a second, this also encapsulates my (ideal) approach to genre fiction as a whole. On one hand, we have a 'class of readers who seek [only] sensation'; if they enjoy it, they love it, and can see or read no evil. On the other hand, there are critics that object 'on principle and hearsay' to the very existence of such work.

What's in the middle? Hopefully, a willingness to try something with an open mind, and think about it as something with the potential to be both loved and liked - something that can be both enjoyed and criticially surveyed. I'm far from perfect, because, as Ms. Williams notes, taking an extreme view does allow for great 'picturesqueness', and I find that hard to resist, but, hell, at least I try.

(Ms. Williams goes on to say some very sensible things about Chambers' short stories, by the way. She concludes, much the same as S.T. Joshi does in Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004), that his supernatural stories are his best work. However, unlike Mr. Joshi, she does not dismiss the rest of his work 'on principle'. Perhaps it is because Ms. Williams is one of Chambers' contemporaries and living the wake of his fame, but she has more empathy for (appreciation of?) his more commercial fiction about struggling artists, financial ruin, etc. Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't have this when I was doing research for my introductions to Lost Souls - we seem to see eye to eye. Or 'eye to pdf', as the case may be.)

Friday Five: 6 Stunning Reviews from Strange Horizons

Strange-HorizonsA slightly meta Friday Five this week, as I'm reviewing the reviews... but all in aid of a good cause. Every year, the hard-working folks at Strange Horizons host a fund drive in order to a) keep the lights on and b) pay their contributors.* 

There's a nice little reward mechanic as well - when you donate, you're entered into a drawing for nifty prizes.

Like every site I read, I don't agree with all of Strange Horizon's reviews.** In fact, I'd say we're batting somewhere around .500. That said, Strange Horizons' reviews are all well-thought, well-phrased, well-considered and quite often a lot of fun. We may only see eye-to-eye half the time, but I can always appreciate what they have to say.

Without further ado, here are a few of my favourites from the past year, and a bit of wibble about why I like them so much:

T.S. Miller on Will McIntosh's Love Minus Eighty

Hey! I sponsored "a random review" in last year's fund drive, and I'm delighted to see that a) it is a book that really deserved a thoughtful review and b) the reviewer and I both liked it. T.S. Miller talks about how the book is clever, does nifty stuff with the technology, is quite sweet (my word, not his) and misses a trick by not going even deeper: "a very smart novel, but also one full of missed opportunities to reflect". 

Jesse Bullington and Dan Hartland on Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls

Two for the price of one, and, given the attention paid to The Shining Girls now as a commercial success, Richard & Judy pick, Dagger finalist, etc. etc., it is fun to look back and see what clever people had to say about it when it was first released. Mr. Bullington is filled with praise, and looks at the The Shining Girls against SF's long tradition of time-travel stories. Mr. Hartland finds it a little too polished in places, but agrees that this is a book filled with "verve and skill".

Combining these two reviews was a great idea - although both reviews are mostly-to-largely positive, the reviewers approach the book in two completely different ways, as both science fiction and thriller. The result is strangely prophetic: in our wonderfully post-genre (or at least pre-post-genre) world, The Shining Girls has been bounced around between categories, an example of the confusion that ensues when a book crosses lines or - god forbid - becomes a mainstream success. Just last night I spotted it in three different sections in Foyles.

Continue reading "Friday Five: 6 Stunning Reviews from Strange Horizons" »

My Year of Disney: Quarterly Progress Report #2

Mary-poppinsAt the the start of this year, I decided to embark on a (possibly insane) quest to watch every single feature-length official animated Disney film this year and to blog about it at my site, You can find all the posts here. I decided to include only the main films done by Walt Disney Animation Studios (therefore, alas, I won’t be covering acknowledged enduring classics such as A Goofy Movie and Bambi 2), and the live-action animated hybrids (mostly because I couldn’t bear skipping Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which I finally got to in this batch!).

After I finished the first ¼, (well, actually a bit over that, but who’s counting?), my lovely friends at Pornokitsch asked me if I’d like to write up a progress report of sorts, listing what I’ve learned so far along my journey, including some “bests” and “worsts” and that sort of thing, which you can find here, and now without further ado, here’s the second set!

And these are the films that it covers:

19. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
20. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
21. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
22. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
23. Mary Poppins (1964)
24. The Jungle Book (1967)
25. The Aristocats (1970)
26. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
27. Robin Hood (1973)
28. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
29. The Rescuers (1977)
30. Pete’s Dragon (1977)
31. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Best Film: Mary Poppins - The famous description of its eponymous character, “practically perfect in every way” describes the film, as well. The winner of multiple Academy Awards, including one for Julie Andrews for Best Actress, this legendary, partially-animated musical extravaganza is one of the crown jewels in Disney’s entire canon, as well as one of the best family films ever made, period, featuring boundless imagination, superb music and endlessly witty lyrics, a central performance by Andrews so definitive that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, and one of the wisest lessons in all of so-called children’s cinema, without a hint of condescension. Mary Poppins’ biggest secret is that it isn’t actually meant for kids at all but instead speaks to directly to parents about the importance of cherishing the precious and all-too-fleeting time they have with their children before they’re all grown with kids of their own. It’s like Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”...but not depressing!


Continue reading "My Year of Disney: Quarterly Progress Report #2" »

Underground Reading: The Red Knight by Miles Cameron

This is part of a slightly 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. I'll be approaching these books in a slightly templated fashion: plot summary, good stuff, not so good stuff, conclusion. 


Red KnightHark, a taille!

The Red Knight (2012) is Miles Cameron's debut novel. The titular Red Knight is a young (20ish) mercenary commander. He's mysterious, and known even to his friends as "captain". Still, he's good at his job and his men ('lances, men-at-arms and archers') are all glad to follow him into battle. The captain's latest gig is garrison duty: taking very good money to defend a remote Abbey against possible incursions from monsters of the Wild. The Wild doesn't scare the captain, nor his men - they've faced beasties before. In fact, if there's a problem with the job, it is the tempting presence of so many lovely novices...

Or, er, not. 

It turns out that the Red Knight isn't facing a few monsters, he's facing a lot of them. The critters are all united under the rule of a fell sorcerer. Boglins, irks, wyverns, daemons, bears, trolls and more have all stopped their long-standing tradition of in-fighting and turned into an army. It has been over a generation since the last major incursion of the Wild, and humanity may have forgotten exactly how nasty this sort of war can be.

Tis a storie noble and uh, prithee tis ripe for plucking!

SIEGEPORN. I'm a sucker for it. And, lest the 'murder mystery' setup of the first few chapters of The Red Knight  fool you, this book is a blow-by-blow account of a big ol' siege. Lots of knights come to a castle. Lots of monsters come to a castle. SMACKDOWN. The monsters try things, the humans try things. There are big war machines and little war machines and daring midnight raids and trench combat and tunnelling and sneaky patrols and magical whoopsmacking and pretty much all possible forms of combat that could take place between Point A (in the castle) and Point B (not in the castle). This is a book that doesn't shy from action, and Mr. Cameron tells a fight scene extremely well.

As well as being a personal weakness, siegeporn also provides an extremely convenient narrative platform. First, you've got everyone in a tight space: your characters are under pressure, they're thrown together; this gives permission to unnaturally accelerate the character development - romance, revenge, etc. Second, there's a natural clock: everything has to resolve before a) reinforcements arrive or b) you run out of food. Third, everyone has a clear objective. And it isn't just "win", although that provides the basic structure of "two competing sides". Some people want to win more than they want to live, others the reverse. Some folks have empathy for the opponent; some are downright treasonous. Having an obvious us-and-them situation is something the reader can immediately recognise, which allows the author to layer in additional moral complexity as they see fit...

Continue reading "Underground Reading: The Red Knight by Miles Cameron" »

Review Round-up: Brothers, Wives and Children

Three rapid reviews of new releases - David Towsey's Your Brother's Blood, Elissa Wald's The Secret Lives of Married Women and Kass Morgan's The 100. All of which are either out now or about to be. 

The Secret Lives Of Married Women by Elissa WaldHard Case Crime continue their recent run of brilliance with Elissa Wald's The Secret Lives of Married Women (2013). Ms. Wald is, rather shockingly, only the second female writer for the imprint (following in the footsteps of Christa Faust). The Secret Lives is essentially two interlinked novellas that follow a pair of twin sisters. 

The first, Leda, is essentially a suburban housewife. After a brief career in film and a short stint in sales, Leda is now married, pregnant and a bit bored. As she sets up her new home with her husband, Stas, she meets a friendly builder. He soon crosses the line and becomes a bit of a pest - more so when it turns out that he knows something about Leda's past that even her husband doesn't. The story takes a startling twist, but, as is the book's theme, it isn't really about the 'mystery' (or the 'plot') as much as the character's response to what happens. The events around her trigger a curious response: leading her to question what she really wants out of life... 

The second story has a bit more narrative trickery. Leda's sister Lillian is on the path for a different sort of success: she's a high-powered lawyer with a handsome husband, good money and tough reputation. One of her clients is accused of corruption, and, as she interviews a key witness (who turns out to be a former sex worker and professional submissive), Lillian is forced to confront her own hidden (or suppressed) desires. 

Understandably, this sounds a porny. And The Secret Lives doesn't shy away from its sexually-charged atmosphere. But it uses sex - specifically, submission - as a way of challenging assumptions and societal dictates regarding of 'success' and 'happiness'. Like the best noir, this is about the subtle difference between the two. Just because you get what you want doesn't mean it makes you happy...

The Secret Lives of Married Women is more a collection of  character studies than a novel, but, individually, the stories are all fascinating. It took me a while to realise that there wasn't a big picture - nor was there going to be. This is an intense and intimate book; a compelling, unsettling read that doesn't hesitate to subvert the reader's assumptions, over and over again.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Brothers, Wives and Children" »

Suvudu Universe Still Wants Your Work

Suvudu UniverseTwo weeks ago, a few bloggers - myself included - picked apart the terms and conditions of Suvudu Universe, the new platform site from Del Rey (Random House).

It boils down to two issues with the way they are aggregating blog content:

  1. Rights: Suvudu Universe retains the content that bloggers submit indefinitely. They can repurpose or resell that content as they see fit. 
  2. Payment: None - not money, books or any other token or in-kind reward.

Since then, there's been an addendum to the terms and conditions:

A note to our contributors, current and considering: recently launched Universe using Tidal, a platform that utilizes RSS blog aggregator software. Here at the Universe, we want to emphasize that you, the writers, retain all rights to your written work as Universe contributors. Tidal’s terms and conditions are extensive because they run communities for many different clients who have their own regulations in place. Please rest assured that Suvudu Universe does not plan to sell your content or strip you of recognition for your content. The terms and conditions are meant to protect all parties – you, Suvudu, and Tidal. For the full terms and conditions, see here.

(Emphasis mine)

As far as rights are concerned, this explains why the Suvudu contract is structured the way it is. But it doesn't change the situation. Suvudu 'does not plan to sell your content or strip you of recognition for your content' is, no doubt, true, and written with the best of intentions. But it is also legally meaningless. This wording does not modify the terms and conditions, it does not bind Suvudu to a course of action and it does not prevent them from changing their plans at any point in the future. I appreciate that Suvudu have listened to our concerns, but the contract does not protect all parties: it only serves Suvudu and Tidal. 

Continue reading "Suvudu Universe Still Wants Your Work" »

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.

Homemade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 trailer. Thrift store Shredder is fantastic.

Reminder: The Shining Girls Charity Art Event!

Anythingarian, catso, frizilation... and Bransle' - The 'Twerk' of 1662. 16 OED Words That Became Obscure. [Mental Floss]

Your lounge needs this. [Incredible Things]

Punisher meets Transformers reboot anyone? [Twitter]

"Peter Jackson is being paid in Daleks to direct a Doctor Who Episode" []

Conspiracy theories about children's Cartoons. Totoro is the Angel of Death & Smurfs are white supremacists?  [FlavorWire]

T-Rex + Cat = ? [Daily Pics & Flicks]

Restaurant discovers mysterious 3 foot tall concrete monument to Azathoth on their front lawn. [io9]

Probably the only way you'd get me to watch baseball. [Kotaku]

"Terrible Things" card game. It's like the heinous stepchild of Cards Against Humanity. [Kotaku]

The first cloned pet was a cat. Scientists named her - 'Copycat'. Those witty scientists. [Wikipedia]

Curmudgeon park bench plaque. [Daily Pics & Flicks]

The rejected character designs for the Klingons in Star Trek 2: The Darkness. [io9

... And here is a clip from 'Drunk History: Johnny Cool'. Featuring the superb Nick Offerman. [Drunk History]

"Star Drunk", a Battlestar Galactica type sci-fi short - where all the actors are drunk. [Huffington Post]