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25 Urban Fantasy Favourites

Urban Fantasy

Listing time! Following in the footsteps of the Science Fiction and Epic Fantasy lists, a group of us - Liz Bourke, Justin Landon, Tansy Rayner Roberts and I -  have banded together to take a stab at Urban Fantasy.

The rules:

  • No more than one book or series from each author. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien could go in for The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings series, but not both.
  • No anthologies.
  • You can only list books that you have read. 
  • Definitions of "essential", "favourite", "urban" and "fantasy" are left to personal interpretation.

Continue reading "25 Urban Fantasy Favourites" »

Launch Day: The Book of the Dead & Unearthed

Go figure. You wait three thousand years for some good mummy fiction, then whammo, two books publish on the same day. Join us tonight for the launch!

the book of the deadThe Book of the Dead - 19 all new stories of mummies, revenge, romance, horror, comedy, cats and curses - out now!


  • "Some Words from an Egyptologist" by John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society)
  • "Ramesses on the Frontier" by Paul Cornell
  • "Escape from the Mummy's Tomb" by Jesse Bullington
  • "Old Souls" by David Thomas Moore
  • "Her Heartbeat, An Echo" by Lou Morgan
  • "Mysterium Tremendum" by Molly Tanzer
  • "Tollund" by Adam Roberts
  • "The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn't, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar" by Gail Carriger
  • "The Cats of Beni Hasan" by Jenni Hill
  • "Cerulean Memories" by Maurice Broaddus
  • "Inner Goddess" by Michael West
  • "The Roof of the World" by Sarah Newton
  • "Henry" by Glen Mehn
  • "The Dedication of Sweetheart Abbey" by David Bryher
  • "All is Dust" by Den Patrick
  • "Bit-U-Men" by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • "Egyptian death and the afterlife: mummies (Rooms 62-3)" by Jonathan Green
  • "Akhenaten Goes to Paris" by Louis Greenberg
  • "The Thing of Wrath" by Roger Luckhurst
  • "Three Memories of Death" by Will Hill

With illustrations by Garen Ewing!

Limited edition: £29.99 / $49.99 (Sold out!)
Paperback: £9.99 / $14.95
Kindle: £4.99 / $7.49
or Kobo
or Spacewitch

unearthedIf you prefer your mummy stories with a bit of added dust on them: Unearthed.

John J. Johnston and I have selected eleven of our favourite classics - John's also added a comprehensive introduction on the pop cultural history of the mummy, a must read for fans of the undead!


  • "Going Forth by Night" by John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society)
  • "The Mummy's Foot" by Theophile Gautier
  • "Some Words with a Mummy" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • "Lost in a Pyramid" by Louisa May Alcott
  • "The Ring of Thoth" by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • "Lot No. 249" by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • "The Unseen Man's Story" by Julian Hawthorne
  • "A Professor of Egyptology" by Guy Boothby
  • "The Block of Bronze" by Herbert Crotzer
  • "The Story of Baelbrow" by E. and H. Heron
  • "The Vanished Mummy" by Charles Bump
  • "The Death-Bridal of Nitocris" by George Griffith

Paperback: £7.99 / $12.95
Kindle: £3.99 / $4.99
or Kobo

A portion of the proceeds from both titles is donated to the Egypt Exploration Society. Learn about the EES and what they do at

Book Collecting: Signatures, Inscriptions and Hierarchies of Value

Contemplating the book hierarchyCertainly one of the stickiest issues in book collecting. I was pleased to see that someone wrote in with this same question to the March 2013 issue of Firsts, so Robin H. Smiley was able to tackle it at length.

I won't repeat all of Mr. Smiley's work here (the letters page my favourite part of Firsts, so I'd feel guilty), but he refers back to 2002 article by Ken Lopez which states that "in general, the more writing by the author in a book, the better". 

Mr. Smiley concedes that not all collectors would agree, and many prefer signatures alone over inscriptions to total strangers. However, he says that, over time, "inscribed copies to tend to bring higher prices" (reassuring, as I recite this little fun-fact quite often). Mr. Smiley gives two reasons for this: inscriptions are harder to forge and inscriptions bring additional 'charm'. 

I would add my own note of caution to this - I think contemporary authors are now more available to readers than they have been at any point in the past. For earlier generations of commercial fiction, inscribed copies seem to be the only available signed copies - the alternative often being 'flat-signed' short runs or limited editions. More recently, with authors more accessible and signings more frequent, it would seem that copies signed - in some form or another - are less rare. So why settle for a signature for someone else when it could be simply signed? More on this below...

Continue reading "Book Collecting: Signatures, Inscriptions and Hierarchies of Value" »

Joey Hi-Fi's Weirdness Rodeo

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

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley performed in Klingon. (Geekosystem)

This is epic. Pete Holmes' Batman refuses to team up with Superman. "I was a BOY.. now I'm a BAAAT!". (YouTube)

Stephen Fry takes Vitaly Milonov to task over anti-"gay propaganda" law in Russia. (Gawker)

@Nnedi Okorafor joins Mahvesh Murad to talk about Who Fears Death, Lagoon & music! (89Chapters)

Istanbul's creepy mannequins #1: The Hanging Child. (via @jpsmythe)

South Africa leads the world in... *drum roll* Ostriches. (Doghouse Diaries)

Betamax's ghost! "The Most Deranged Horror VHS Cover Art." Watched Chopping Mall & Frankenhooker recently. (Flavorwire)

A restaurant entirely staffed by identical twins? The world's weirdest restaurants. (Guardian)

A replica of the magazine in John Carpenter's 1988 film, They Live, is now available (via @koobshout)

"Fist of Awesome": 8 bit style computer game. Looks like insane fun. "Time travel. Punch Bears. Save humanity." (Fist of Awesome)

"10 Internet Lies That Won't Die". (Mentalfloss)

Ooookay. Bane will be playing Elton John. (AV Club)

A cooking lesson with David Lynch. *Spoiler* He really likes quinoa. (Dangerous Minds)

Arcade Fire's new album, Reflektor, is now streaming in its entirety online. Friday listening sorted. (AV Club)

First Trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Features The Falcon! (YouTube)

One of my favourite comedians, @kumailn, takes us on tour of a Vegan Strip Club in Portland. (Casa Diablo)

"I could melt you with my mind." - Professor X (Comedian Pete Holmes fires Gambit. (Topless Robot)

Secrets and mummies and package slips

Cover - book of the deadWhat a week! Even the postman looks exhausted - actually, especially the postman, as we had a stack of package slips so large it probably qualified as a package in its own right.

First, if you missed it, we've had five days of guest posts on the theme of "Secret Histories" - including reviews, lists and essays from Alexis Kennedy, James Wallis, Arin KominsRob Berg (twice!), Lavie Tidhar and John Berlyne. Plus the traditional introductory ramble from yours truly. An index to all their work - plus other online resources on the topic - can be found on The Kitschies' page. All leading up to Monday night's (packed) (sold-out) (super-exciting!) event at Blackwell's!

Second, MUMMIES. The first two reviews are in for The Book of the Dead and they're both great! In the immortal words of publishers, authors and editors everywhere: "whew". 

"An eclectic assortment of shorts that cumulatively recast the classic narratives we have come to expect from stories out of the mummy mold.... Shrouded in history and mystery, complete with curses, canopic jars and a surprising quantity of cat-fancying, The Book of the Dead is as ambitious an anthology as The Lowest Heaven, and every bit as successful." -

"The Book of the Dead starts strong and finishes stronger.... with a few unquestionable gems dotted about." - This is how she fight start


The Book of the Dead is out on Tuesday from Amazon, Spacewitch and Kobo. Unearthed, the companion volume of classic mummy stories, is also out on the same day. If you're lurching about on Tuesday night, why not join us (and a ton of authors and Egyptologists!) at the launch?

Third, books! A few new titles for our over-burdened shelves:

Continue reading "Secrets and mummies and package slips" »

John Berlyne on "The Secret History of Secret Histories"

In 2009, PS Publishing released John Berlyne's Secret Histories - the definitive bibliography (and more) of the works of Tim Powers. It was not only a comprehensive exploration of Powers' writing, but also a look behind the scenes - a celebration of the creative process. 

For the 2011 WorldCon (at which Powers was the Guest of Honour), John Berlyne revisited the project - explaining how he went the decade-long process of compiling and producing Secret Histories. The following is reprinted with his permission.


Sketch by Tim PowersA good idea at the time

The origins of my quixotic adventures with Secret Histories are detailed in the introduction I wrote for the book, but, in short, it seemed like a good idea at the time. To me, at least. In the very early 1990s, I was putting together a web site dedicated to the works of my favourite author, Tim Powers. Though hitherto I’d had no idea what it meant to be a bibliophile, I discovered in the catalogues of booksellers and libraries a fascinating and strange world of dusty facts, of limited editions, of juvenilia, unpublished ephemera, foreign language editions, variant printings and variant states, first printings, second printings, erroneous printings, proofs, arcs, review copies, galleys… an entire lexicon of exotic terms that describe the tiny differences between one kind of book or another, even ones that look identical.

I should’ve been put off the idea right there — I mean does any of that stuff matter? A book, is a book, is a book, right?

Just a book

Well, yes and no — to most of us a book is merely a delivery system, a way of conveying the story from the writer’s brain directly into the readers — something British author Jasper Fforde refers to as an ‘imagino transference device’. But for the bibliophile the book is so much more — an artefact, a receptacle, and object d’art, a tactile and olfactory experience, something to gaze at, something to admire, something to covet and something to own.

Continue reading "John Berlyne on "The Secret History of Secret Histories"" »

Alexis Kennedy's "The Death of the Archangel Michael by Gustav Vogel by Tim Powers"

Drawing of the DarkI grew up reading Tim Powers. What I mostly do nowadays is this thing - Fallen London - which is a colossally elaborate narrative game of subterranean Gothic Victoriana - and, yes, was The Anubis Gates ever an influence. You could grind Fallen London to powder, boil it, chromatograph it and you'd find the unmistakable tint of Powers read at an impressionable age. But I'm here to talk about a painting in The Drawing of the Dark, his historical fantasy about beer, monsters and the sixteenth-century siege of Vienna.

I'd always thought of Drawing as a lesser Powers. His stories draw much of their tremendous energy from the tension between the exotic and the every day - and Dark's setting is already plenty exotic for most of us. And the central antagonism between the occult poles of Western and Eastern civilisation reads uneasily nowadays - the world's moved on since the 70s. It's certainly no Anubis Gates or Last Call.

But even a lesser Powers is a fine book by normal standards, and when I reread it, I found a lot to like. The protagonist is wearily good-humoured, authentically middle-aged, sceptical of the main plot without being sulky about it. He has a past, he makes bad decisions, and he's - like many Powers leads - a route into the larger concerns of the world outside. The setting's persuasive, the story tramps along with the untidy enthusiasm of a mercenary company, and it's sometimes very funny, despite a haunting tag-line:"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." And there's one image that's stayed with me since I first read it.

Continue reading "Alexis Kennedy's "The Death of the Archangel Michael by Gustav Vogel by Tim Powers"" »

Rob Berg on The Glass God by Kate Griffin

The glass godKate Griffin is my favourite writer of urban fantasy. I hate to use the phrase “transcends the genre,” as that carries with it an implied denigration of a genre the best of which I am very fond of (and the worst of which often gives it a bad name among those whose think it can only be about supernatural or half-supernatural private eyes who take countless lickings and keep on ticking), so perhaps the best way I can put it is that she redefines the genre. And most intriguingly, she “redefines” it through the seemingly simple but ingenious process of taking the phrase literally.

So much urban fantasy is about elves, fairies, vampires, werewolves, dragons, and other assorted supernatural figures of lore lurking in plain sight within the confines of a modern city. Although they have been relocated to an urban setting, however, they usually haven’t fundamentally changed as species, nor has magic itself altered much since the old days. Instead, the old magic has basically gone underground. The brilliant hypothesis that drives Griffin’s Matthew Swift novels, as well as its newer companion series, Magicals Anonymous, is, “What if, as civilization evolved, moving from the countryside to the city, so did magic, as well? What if the power sources for today’s strongest magic don’t come from ancient ley lines and stone circles but from the city itself?”

In Griffin’s novels, London is literally magic, run on the toils and hopes and dreams (those that are achieved, as well as those that are broken) and worries and memories and focuses and neglects of its millions of citizens--both those still alive and those who passed on but still left a psychic imprint on the very environment surrounding them. In Matthew Swift’s world, an Oyster card can be a powerful talisman, a bored and angry teenager can create a raging eldritch monster out of trash, broken glass, other discarded detritus, and pain, fairies have become creatures composed of electric light and neon, dryads live in metal lampposts, and a sorcerer such as Swift is someone who can tap into the mystical energy created by a city itself in order to perform magical feats, whereas in the country, he is virtually powerless.

Other than his talent, in his world, Matthew Swift might not have been a particularly unique sorcerer except for the fact that he died once, and when he did, his spirit merged with the blue electric angels, an ineffable personification of the energy of the telephone wires (both from landlines and mobile), created from the countless conversations of countless people, and when he came back, he emerged a new entity, both merged and fragmented at the same time: half-human, half-god-like creature, which Griffin conveyed through blisteringly brilliant prose – madly poetic, dazzlingly experimental, dizzyingly stream-of-consciousness, and often also very funny.

Continue reading "Rob Berg on The Glass God by Kate Griffin" »

Arin Komins' "Confessions of a Collector: Tim Powers Edition"

I’ve had a long history reading Tim Powers.

Turn on the wayback machine: view a picture of a teenage girl just at the cusp of a golden age (12) for reading science fiction.

I was just drifting away from reading horror (having devoured Lovecraft, Poe, Straub, and King), and was rediscovering my love of mythology. I was weaned on the d'Aulaires, and to my delight, I found that there had been a minor renaissance of mythology-based science fiction and fantasy. Springer, Walton, Petaja, and Zelazny became my boon companions, when I stumbled across an Egyptian-themed work that seemed fairly interesting: The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers.

Anubis Gates
I spent the afternoon completely glued to the book, unable to put it down until I had finished it. Powers has a way with words, and he can spin a tale so all-encompassing, that you can lose yourself with reading his prose. With that book, he had a convert in me, and I’ve been reading his books on first publication ever since, even when those first publications proved to be difficult to track down.

Continue reading "Arin Komins' "Confessions of a Collector: Tim Powers Edition"" »