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October 2014
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December 2014

Everywhere Else

Nunslinger-pb-2Mahvesh and Jared joined Justin Landon for Rocket Talk, the podcast - chatting about a few of their 'best of 2014' selections. Plus, two announcements: Mahvesh's Midnight in Karachi podcast and Mahvesh and Jared's upcoming Dragonlance reread, both coming to in 2015.

Stuck for gifts? Upcoming signings at Forbidden Planet include a couple of our favourites - INJ Culbard (4 December, London) and Stark Holborn (6 December, Bristol).

Graphic novel publisher (and The Kitschies' Black Tentacle winner) SelfMadeHero are offering a 25% discount on all their titles. Plus, free same day delivery to Londoners. Details here.

"This isn't an industry where sales actually mean anything, other than that the machine is working; they are not representative of the quality of your work. I have to believe that, and so do you" - James Smythe in an open letter to new and would-be writers

Remember that thing, like, a few years ago, when bloggers came under scrutiny for not being clear about was 'paid-for' promotion (or even a free review copy)? Now it is the vloggers' turn.

Further evidence for a 2015 China Miéville short story collection - possibly titled Three Moments of an Explosion  - that should be familiar to anyone at a particular event in 2014.

Celebrate Smugglivus with the Book Smugglers! Light the smugglecandles and prepare delicious smugglebreads, for it is the jolliest time of the year! (The Smugglers are also looking for more short fiction - this time around the theme of 'first contact' - details here.)

"It feels like a gimmick, and functions like a gimmick, and that’s because it is a gimmick. I give it perhaps two years — two years that only the most hard-core aficionados will end up able to recall, alongside their recollections of the foil covers era and that one time Doc Ock was Spider-Man." - Juliet Kahn of the Comics Alliance on the 'illusions of progress' in the Marvel Universe.

"The World's 100 Best Children's Books": A very ambitious title, but a good list (at least, the first half). With recommendations by Jacqueline Wilson, Patrick Ness and more.

Another list - "10 Essential SF Books by Colorado Authors". Includes Molly Tanzer's A Pretty Mouth, so it must be right.

"We are now close to breaking even" - in the world of Waterstones' CEO James Daunt, that's a good thing. Read more. (Also, includes further reflections on on the 'tourist trapped in a bookstore overnight' thing. I am pretty sure that was the single most effective piece of marketing for bricks & mortar bookstores of all 2014. Would love to see the reach of that one organic accident (and its responses) as compared to the entire 'Books are My Bag' campaign - which still leaves me [very] cold.)

Friday Five: 5 Awesome Android Adventures


I’m old enough to have played River Raid on an Atari 800XL, with a tape deck that slowly rolled as it loaded the game. But with the late acquisition of a smartphone and a tablet (an old phone died and needed replacing; the tablet was my present to myself when I sold The Violent Century), I’ve gone back to playing games. Though as it turned out, the particular type of game I like (no strategy, no sims, no puzzles, no cards – in fact, what do you like, Lavie!) isn’t that easy to come by.

I’m drawn still to the old school type of game: an endless scroller/runner where, ideally, you get to shoot everything that moves. What more can you ask for!

Here are five recent-ish free android games. Sadly, they don’t all involve shooting – in fact, one of them involves bananas.

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Gaga Ooh La La

GagagagagagagagaWhen I sat down to write about Lady Gaga this month, what I didn’t know was just how much the critics had panned her last major solo studio album, ArtPop.

Sure, she seems to be having a successful run with Cheek to Cheek, her 2014 collaborative album of jazz standards with Tony Bennett (more on that later because it may be crazier than most of the obviously crazy things she’s known for), but there’s been a lull in the fame and celebrity surrounding Gaga for a few months now. The woman who arrived in an egg at the Grammys, the woman who wore the meat dress (which apparently really stank), the woman who performed with a ‘vomit painter’ on stage, the monstrous feminine, the mother creature, the weird fiction narrative come to life... is now wearing jumpsuits and her original hair colour, and crooning with an 88 year old performer of show tunes. She’s doing it well, by all reports, but it’s just not as interesting, is it? 

With Tony Bennett, Gaga is a tempered-down version of herself. She's still occasionally seen with green hair or pink, but when she's with Bennett, she has gone back to her original dark brows and hair (even if styled as a 70’s Cher style ‘fro or Princess Leia braid) and her patented get-ups are reduced to swishy long dresses made of regular boring materials like silk. She’s relying totally on her voice to carry her through this, which is great since, surprise - she really can sing. I do miss the spectacle element, because that’s something so much a part of what she does, but in a way it’s sweet that she’s respecting the much older, more experienced entertainer she’s with by not distracting from what they accomplish with their voices alone. 

What no one wants to talk about is 2013’s ArtPop - the album and accompanying music videos that seem to have left everyone cold. Maybe Gaga went her own way and she just didn’t connect with as many people, maybe it all finally just got too weird, maybe the music industry is crazy to not consider an album that still sold over 2 million copies a success, but still, I have to agree: nothing that came from ArtPop felt like it had the longevity of something from The Fame Monster.

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New Releases: Wonder Woman #36

Wonder Woman36On the basis that you might not know the status quo of Wonder Woman in the New 52 DC universe, it’s worth noting that Brian Azzarello’s generally well regarded run made a few significant changes from the traditional origin. Instead of being formed from clay by the goddesses of the Greek pantheon, New 52's Diana is a demi-god; a child of Zeus whose powers come from her divine parentage. By the end of that run she had also taken on the mantle of God of War.

I’m telling you this so you understand the context the new team had to build on as they assumed creative control of Wonder Woman.

It might have been helpful if someone had done the same for them, since writer Meredith Finch and her husband artist David barely acknowledge the work done over the last 35 issues and instead opt to tell a story of Wonder Woman palling around with the Justice League. Excuse me, a fatuous story of Wonder Woman palling around with the Justice League.

I’m among those who questioned Azzarello’s decision to do away with one of the few truly unique super-hero origin stories in favour of the tired demi-god backstory; swapping the (literal) story of female empowerment for yet another woman who basically gets her powers from a man. But compared to the Diana that the Finches provide, that version was a paragon of feminist power.

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Completing Dahl: Two Fables

This year I’ve been blogging once a month here at Pornokitsch about trying to read everything Roald Dahl ever wrote. I’m closing in on the end! Just a few more odds and ends to go.

The usual full disclosure: I’m not a Dahl scholar, just a humble fan of his work. This is a lay endeavor, perhaps not even all that fascinating to others. We’ll see. By the end, I hope to be able to say “I’ve read everything written by Roald Dahl!” or at least “I’ve read everything Roald Dahl wrote, save for that one play I can’t seem to find a script for.” Something like that.


Two FablesTwo Fables (1986) 

It’s difficult for me to believe I’m almost done with this project! It’s been really rewarding overall, even if I did go through a pretty dire stretch over the summer. Gremlins. The word still makes me shudder. Regardless, this time next month I’ll be dutifully typing up a response to, ahem, Roald Dahl’s Guide to Railway Safety, the final book of his I have yet to read. And maybe reviewing the film based on Beware of the Dog. Crazy!

So... Two Fables. I managed to nab a water damaged 1st edition of this 1986 release for only three American dollars, totally worth it for the slender volume (64 pages). It contains, as you might imagine, two fables, both original to Dahl, and published together as a limited edition in honor of his 70th birthday. It also contains illustrations by Graham Dean, who is still alive and painting. Dean’s watercolors are beautiful and unsettling in full color - in black and white, as they’re reproduced in Two Fables, they reminded me strongly of Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. They suit the fables very well. I don’t mean to imply that Two Fables is scary - just bleak, and pared down, like Alvin Schwartz’s retellings. They’re also among the most misanthropic stories of his, I now feel qualified to say. One is all about rape; the other, how becoming pretty makes you awful. Fun times!

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Everywhere Else

broken-monsters-sa-Links that caught our eye...

"Dementia is real horror. I see The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as a story about a man losing his son; a father losing his son in his own lifetime, long before his own death." - INJ Culbard on adapting Lovecraft

Speaking of Lovecraft, Jesse Bullington makes his editorial debut with Stone Skin Press and Letters to Lovecraft - out 1 December. The early reviews are (deservedly) fantastic.

The legendary Joey Hi-Fi is joining Charlie Human and Lauren Beukes to talk about book covers (and presumably 'how to create brilliant ones') today at VUKA in Cape Town. Details here, and hopefully photographs to come.

Anne revisits "Beauty and the Beast" over at Hodderscape.

Final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards. (A 'best of the year' award that ends on 24 November. WTF.)

"Most readers do not know who publishes their favourite author." The problem - and one solution - from HarperCollins' Sam Missingham.

"I spend a lot of time with the story and its characters. Sometimes I imagine I’m talking to them, at other times I ask questions of myself, and there are those rare glorious hours when all you want to do in life is put it all down on paper and think about the material later." - Mirza Waheed interviewed by Mahvesh Murad (plus her review of The Book of Gold Leaves)

This year's Stocking Stuffer cometh! Details here. To get it free, sign up here.

A visual timeline of the future.

Fascinating article on Medium about why people don't believe in science, or, more broadly - why people refuse to change their minds (ever):

"The problem is arguably growing more acute, given the way we now consume information—through the Facebook links of friends, or tweets that lack nuance or context, or 'narrowcast' and often highly ideological media that have relatively small, like-minded audiences. Those basic human survival skills of ours, says Michigan’s Arthur Lupia, are 'not well-adapted to our information age.'"

On a similar point - the recent Requires Hate drama through the perspective of the Wikipedia 'Talk' page. Setting aside the content, the discussion is fascinating: in the SF/F community world, we have a lack of sources that achieve Wikipedia's standards for credibility. (Do we ascribe this to the rise of blogs and social? The inability of the traditional media to keep up with fast-paced stories of extremely niche interest? Or is this just another reminder that gossip - even typed and repeated a lot - still isn't journalism?) (Discuss. Papers due on Monday.)

What do genre readers look like? (According to YouGov)

Mirror MirrorThis is an immense amount of fun: YouGov have automated their profiling tool.

The Profiler is based on the results of the (enormous and ongoing) YouGov surveys. With 190,000 respondents, it has some serious merit to it, although the sample sizes do get small when it comes to niche interests (like, say, many types of genre fiction).

The Profiler also doesn't show the "typical" member of a given group. Instead, it tries to compare like with like and highlight any differences. The example they give is that if you research Downton Abbey, it compares the results to everyone who has rated any TV show.

So with the subsets of fiction (shown below), we can probably assume that these are highlighting the differences in comparison to folks that selected that they like any sort of book. 

This also leads to some oddities, as it is about that relative difference. Again, a YouGov example: many of the football teams are represented by a female character. This does not necessarily mean that most of the team's fans are female - it signifies that, compared to other football teams, that particular team 'overscores' for more female fans. 

It is also worth noting that the panel only includes adults age 18+. Which, especially with genre fiction, means we're missing a big chunk of the audience.

So, basically, caveat. In the actual-for-real-work-day-job, I use this tool (amongst many others), but only as inspiration or direction, and certainly not as a definitive portrait of a specific consumer audience.

All that said, it is a lot of fun, and wonderfully simple to use. You can learn more about how it works here.

Anyway, let's get to it, and see how fans of different genres compare:

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Friday Five: 5 of the Best... GRRRLS IN SPACE!

We're declaring "Friday" a day early today, so we can share this space-faring guest post from Club Des Femmes' Selina Robertson and Sophie Mayer, the co-curators of the "Ada & After: Women do Science [Fiction]" festival. The festival starts tonight and runs across the ICA, Electric Cinema Shoreditch and Hackney Picturehouse. The details are all here and on their Twitter feed at @clubdesfemmes.

Without further ado, let's get to blast-off...

While literary scifi abounds with amazing female-identified astronauts, science fiction onscreen has boasted fewer space heroines. Sure, there’s Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise) and Ellie Arroway (Contact), and their near-clones Elizabeth Shaw (Prometheus) and Ryan Stone (Gravity) – but what lies beyond these big-budget loners? Can science fiction cinema offer the equivalent of Elizabeth Moon’s Heris Serrano, Joanna Russ’ Alyx, or Octavia Butler’s Lilith Iyapo, or even just an astrofemme film that passes the Bechdel Test? Not so far: but the last few years have seen a spate of quirky, gorgeous low-budget films reflecting (and inspiring) true stories of grrrls in space. Better yet, you can see them this weekend in London!


Matha, Afronauts (2014)

In 1969, the Zambian government decided that the moon was too important to humanity to be left to the Americans to colonise – so they set up their own space programme. Frances Bodomo’s stunning monochrome tribute to this unlikely but true story was heralded at Sundance this year. Her afronaut is quiet, watchful and determined Matha, a 17 year old girl with albinism (played by supermodel Diandra Forrest), whose cat goes along for the spectacular ride…

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Once Upon a Time: S4E7 'The Snow Queen'

Snow QueenAnd finally we get what we’ve all been clamouring for: the Snow Queen’s backstory. Except it’s really annoying, and doesn’t explain her obsession with Emma beyond, like, the fact that they are both blondes with magic. The Storybrook half of the episode is great, legitimately great; the Arendelle half is pretty awful. Also, everyone pronounces it Arun-dale, which drives me up the wall.

Although not as much as the visible zipper on the back of one of Ingrid’s sisters’ dresses. Who knew Arun-dale had zippers?  But we’ll come to that.

Storybrooke! The Dairy Queen transports her 'magic mirror' to the top of the clock tower. Elsa and Emma figure out a way to contain the DQ’s powers with a magic candle. Emma tries to babysit her new baby brother. Snow freaks out because Emma doesn’t seem to have total control over her powers. Emma freaks out because she doesn’t seem to have total control over her powers. Then Emma catches the DQ and the two have their own little bottle episode, where the DQ works to freak out Emma even more. Eventually, Emma lets loose with her powers, accidentally hurting Charming. Snow yells at her. Emma totally flips out and runs away.

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