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November 2013
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Friday Five: Help Wanted!

We loooooove our Friday Fives. They're fun, they're educational, they inspire a lot of debate and when someone else writes them, we get the day off.

Recent Friday Fives have covered everything from smut to military SFbooks that read like games and the best characters of Baldurs Gate.

We'd like you (yes, YOU) to write us a Friday Five in 2014. If you're reading this blog already, think of it as a favour for yourself - else you'll wind up with Anne & me doing something about superhero films for a sixth time.

Our mission, as always, is to take geek culture seriously - and Friday Fives are great opportunity to highlight something new and different. The more your list illuminates or introduces some specific aspect of geekdom, the more useful it is - we don't want 'the five best shows' or 'the five best fantasy books'; instead, think more along the lines of 'the five best post-Buffy shows with supernatural high schools', or 'the five best contemporary fantasy novels from France'.

Open our minds, broaden our horizons and, best of all, entertain us for an afternoon! 


- We're looking for short lists of five items, generally 700-900 words. We run them once a week, generally around lunchtime (UK time).

- Lists that are linked to your projects / books / blog / magazine / home videos are fine, but we're not really a platform for advertising. The list needs to stand on its own. (See: 'classics', 'games', 'military SF' - above.)

- You don't need to be a writer or an editor or other celebrity (cough) or expert. We'd actually rather hear from fans and other bloggers. Get us turned on to something geeky and new, please!

- Seriously: very keen on the 'introduces some specific aspect of geekdom' thing - especially if it is something that we don't normally cover on the site (e.g. games, tabletop games, comics, television...)

- Management reserves the right to refuse entry. (That is to say, we won't and can't take everything and we have to reserve the right to goodify ungood writery.)

- Scheduling will depend on how many people actually take us up on this.

- Please don't send us a finished list: leave a comment or drop me an email at [email protected] with your idea, and we'll take it from there.

Bring it on!

Jurassic London: That was 2013...

Jurassic London 2013

2013 by the numbers: 9 books, over 60 authors (more than 100 with SpecFic!), 5 artists, 4 editors, 3 award shortlists, a dozen 'Best of Year' selections and nominations and at least one sneaky surprise.

Jurassic London is a not-for-profit publisher and, thanks to our generous readers, this year we we were able to send donations to Room to Read, Epilepsy Research UK, Music and the Deaf, Samaritans UK and The Trevor Project (all charities selected and supported by our authors), as well as our partners at the Egypt Exploration Society and National Maritime Museum (both registered charities). 

A slightly more detailed look at what we published in 2013 lurks below the jump.

Continue reading "Jurassic London: That was 2013..." »

(YA) Review Round-up: A.S. King, A.S. King, A.S. King and Amy Kinzer

The OddaA few more contemporary Young Adult titles I've read recently. A slightly rapid-fire list of reviews this time, as I'd dearly love to enter 2014 with a clean slate.

Amy L. Kinzer's The Odds (2011) - Ethan and his little brother Gavin have an over-protective mother. She's an actuary and, ever since her husband (the kids' dad) ran out on her, she's become, well, paranoid. Ethan wears hemp clothes, eats carcinogen-free vegan food and is perpetually mortified by his mother's interference in his life. He watches his little brother grow up even odder - forced into baby clothing at age 4, still using a sippy cup, given clunky wooden toys to play with. Ethan also watches his neighbour - popular Trey Scott - live his all American life, complete with boozy parties and girls. Ethan's rebellion? He starts testing the odds that his mom keeps throwing at him. What if he does fall out of a tree? Or jump into a river? Or, god forbid, drive a car

This gives the book a great central shtick as Ethan works his way up from the little rebellions to the big one. And Ms. Kinzer captures Ethan's perpetual, horrifying embarrassment well - imagine the kid from About a Boy (you know, the one that grew up to be in Skins, and then the Beast?) - and you're pretty close to The Odds. I have two mild criticisms - one literary, one frumpy. The first is a subplot about a neighborhood crazy person/missing child that doesn't wholly link in to the rest of the book. I think it was there to talk about 'real' danger as opposed to Ethan's mother's 'statistical/fictional' danger, but even that theme was undermined by a rushed resolution that took a... safe... way out. The second - and imagine a bit of this - I'm not entirely satisfied by how Ethan resolves his relationship with his mother. I'll hold off on the spoilers, but it feels a bit implausibly extreme (more on this thought below), and the final conversation (and resolution) was too one-sided. BUT, ignore all that: as noted above, Ethan's unpleasant social life is captured perfectly (without over-egging it) and the probabilities theme is a clever one.

And now, three from A.S King...

Continue reading "(YA) Review Round-up: A.S. King, A.S. King, A.S. King and Amy Kinzer" »

Friday Five: 10 Awesome Anthologies of 2013

[Unless things change, this is probably the closest I'm getting to a "best of" list this year (well, except this one).] 

I should probably explain that, amongst other things, I am a terrible anthology reader. Seriously. Awful. I read a ton as a kid - mostly stuff that had titles like BEST NEBULA 29 and GRAND MASTER SCIENCE SPACE LASERS. Things I could get for a dime at a library sale and, 9 times out of 10, contained "Harrison Bergeron". 

When I grew up and started buying books that cost more than a stick of gum, I fell into the horrible habit of "cherry-picking": I would buy anthologies because of a specific author, read that author's story, ignore the rest. 

Now, I'm more willing to work at it. I'll get an anthology and try really hard to read the whole thing, but once I tune out of one story, I find it incredibly difficult to re-engage. It is a bit like music: I put iTunes on random and, generally speaking, am very content with the results. But once a dud track gets over the emotional barrier of hitting the skip button, I'll ruthlessly keep pressing it until I find the perfect one. When you start fussy mindset, it is tough to snap out of.

So - and aware that I'm standing in the middle of a shiny glass house - what makes a great anthology for me? Simply this: I want a compelling reason to read every story. That could come from a fantastic theme - something so utterly captivating that I'll read any take on it. Or it could be incredible quality - stories that are all so brilliant that I never even consider hitting fast forward. Or, best of all, a combination of the two: a theme that's explored as a journey from start to finish, with incredible stories that also feel like they're part of a holistic experience.

With no further ado or parsing of terms, here are some great anthologies from 2013:

Continue reading "Friday Five: 10 Awesome Anthologies of 2013" »

Spider-Man (2002) x Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-ManI’m going to begin by going on record with this statement: I don’t like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. One-half of Spider-Man 2 is almost a good film, and that film is primarily about Peter Parker and Doc Ock; the rest of the trilogy is somewhere between mediocre and outright terrible.

***spoilers for all Spider-Man films to follow***

I saw Spider-Man in the cinemas on its opening weekend way back in early 2002, and it didn’t think much of it. Within days it was clear that Spider-Man was a phenomenon; it made $100,000 in its opening weekend alone, and in the pre-3D days, that was nothing to sniff at.

But its success baffled me. Spider-Man is a flimsy, cheesy film beset by mediocre special effects and some truly ham-fisted writing (and acting). It felt to me then – and feels to me now – like a kids’ film gone wrong, what with the heavy-handed moralizing, fluffy plot, and utterly gruesome, left-field death of the Green Goblin. Perhaps, at 22, I’d already started my turn around the middle-aged bend: I just didn’t get the appeal.

Continue reading "Spider-Man (2002) x Spider-Man (2012)" »

Best of the Year & Other Guest Posts

That's a little misleading - but Anne and I have made a few appearances elsewhere recently, and wanted to round them up:

I picked my ten favourite 2013 novels that weren't published in 2013. Confused? Swing over to the Book Smugglers and see what the hell I'm talking about. (Plus, one bonus pick for 2014. Because.)

Last week was also my turn at the "Under the Radar" wheel at, and I highlighted one of my favourite recent books - one that deserves a bit more attention: Jesse Bullington's The Folly of the World.

Meanwhile, Anne's now regularly muses about movies and television and such over at Hodderscape. Her most recent posts include thoughts on her favourite WesternOnce Upon a Time and Thor 2

Joey Hi-Fi's Weirdness Rodeo

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

Live action Mario Kart!

Some odd differences between the Star Wars movie and its own novelization. (

Buy' ngop! ('That's great news!' in Klingon). I'm happy to hear that Star Trek 3 will be Damon Lindelof free! (Den of Geek)

Twerking Miley Einstein figurine. Writer says 'file this one under Things That Should Not Exist'. Most definitely. (Incredible Things)

I've been listening to the satirical comedy podcast The Bugle this week. Bloody Fantastic. (The Bugle)

Trailer for the upcoming Godzilla film. Hell yes. (YouTube)

Santa Cthulhu in his Octi-Sleigh pulled by a shoggoth! (Neatorama)

‘Facehugger’ Scarf. (Uproxx)

Trailer for the Wachowskis' new film Jupiter Ascending. (io9) ...and here's the synopsis. Fun Fact: There is a 'Queen of the Universe'.

'American & British Governments May Have Spied on WoW and Xbox Live'. (Kotaku)

These are beautiful. Insanely detailed model “bonsai buildings” by Japanese designer, Takanori Aiba. (Urban Ghosts)

Fascinating animated short 'The Power of Empathy' - explains the difference between sympathy & empathy. (Neatorama)

The value of a book (2013 edition)

This follows on from a post two weeks ago, thinking about purchasing and reading behaviour by format. This is also the 'conclusion' to a year of wibbling about book collecting. Apologies as this post - in fact, the whole year - is pretty self-indulgent. But I've enjoyed it a lot, and I hope you have too.


Thanks to the miracle that is Goodreads, I know exactly how many books I read in 2013 (well, the first 11.5 months thereof). And, thanks to my Kindle and a Collectorz catalogue, I also know how many books I've bought in 2013. 

Quick! Define some terms:

  • A Goodreads 'book' isn't necessarily a 'book'. It could also include a graphic novel, a standalone short story, an omnibus edition, etc. I've tried to weed out the crap, but the notches on my Goodreads belt are of varying length.
  • 'Bought' isn't accurate either. Nor is 'received'. 'Kept' is probably the most precise term, as this is a combination of books bought, books received for review and books used for research. Our space-strapped existence means we're pretty ruthless: so even if a book isn't purchased it has to 'be actively wanted' before it earns space on the shelves (or floor). I think this mostly impacts the data when it comes to review copies. We get lots and only keep a few (sorry!).

There are also three biggish holes in the data:

  • Fast-turnaround books. Books that came and left within the calendar year won't appear in the database, since those files have been deleted. There are a few, but not a significant number - they're almost all paperback reading copies as well.
  • Non-Amazon digital files. Anything I didn't read on the Kindle won't register. Again, this won't be a significant number, as I generally bother with the Kindle transfer if the book is for anything besides short-term reference.
  • Library books. Fortunately, most of them are comics, which I've removed from the 'read' data. 

Fascinating. So, how'd this all work out, and more importantly, what does it actually mean? Read on for a (very) long post in which I take my personal, flawed data and draw sweeping conclusions about the future of publishing!

Continue reading "The value of a book (2013 edition)" »