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November 2014
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Fiction: 'The Quantum Quadrant Speed-of-Light Elite Fleet Christmas Party' by Rose Biggin

GSFC_20171206_Archive_e002737_origStocking Stuffer 2014Peace reigned across the cosmos thanks to the bravery and derring-do of the Quantum Quadrant Speed-of-Light Elite Fleet. Beneath the gentle glow of a nearby nebula, a swirling ball of spiralling light bits span around a supernova and sped towards a distant horizon of stars.

‘Oy!’ said Gloria (Elite Fleet Flighter). ‘We agreed: nothing to go near the supernova, yeah?’ And to emphasise her point she shot a laser into the void of space. It made a PEW-PEW noise, because everyone else in the Quantum Quadrant Speed-Of-Light Elite Fleet did the sound effect over their Communic8ion GobPipes. Then they went into a flying-V formation, just because they could.

‘But it’s my turn!’ said Zeke (another Elite Fleet Flighter), in a slightly whiny manner. He’d set off the light-bits bomb to get the Fleet’s attention.

Continue reading "Fiction: 'The Quantum Quadrant Speed-of-Light Elite Fleet Christmas Party' by Rose Biggin" »

Snoozing (and Holiday Schedule)

ZonkedWe're on a slowed-down schedule for the holidays...

For the rest of the month, we'll be posting:

  • New fiction (every Tuesday)
  • Friday Fives (every Friday)
  • A few 'Best of' posts (occasionally)

If you're looking for your daily dose of geekery, why not drop by our friends at The Book Smugglers, A Fantastical Librarian, Hodderscape or Or check out our extended and occasionally-even-updated blogroll.

Everywhere Else (& Further Shop Shop Shopping)

"A clever, vicious snake of a book" - Mahvesh on Monica Byrne's The Girl in the Road 

10 books that Gail Carriger recommends for a good cry.

The High Court has ruled that the ban on books for prisoners was unlawful! Huzzah!

"I think that word [Cyberspace] is on the brink of anachronism. In 1984, it was necessary to name the arena in which these events were taking place, because it didn't exist. Whereas, today, that arena is, in effect, the world we live in.... 'Cyberspace' is a word that's increasingly long in the teeth as the reality becomes more ubiquitous by the day." - William Gibson, interviewed by Vice

Omenana - a brand new SF/F magazine for speculative fiction writers across Africa.

A few of us (including Mahvesh and Jared) did some 'Best of 2014'-ing for

And another 'Best of' from Mahvesh - this time for The Asian Writer.

Shop Shop Shop!

10 great single malts that won't break the bank.

Signed & sketched books by Gary Northfield - great for kids!

60% off from Canongate - a nice way to fill your shelves with books by Patrick Ness, Ruth Ozeki and David Simon. Oh, or gifts.

Friday Five: Five Things You Should Do This Weekend...

Cheesesouffle_5237_16x9...instead of getting ready for the holidays.

1. Watch a box-set of something

I propose that you make it something outside your comfort zone, and would like to suggest the brilliant Friday Night Lights, which is about high school football in west Texas. I know! That's totally not your thing, is it? Except that it totally is. The show is well written, well acted, sensitive, heartbreaking, and features a lot of really, really good-looking actors. There's very little football and what football is present is usually completely heartwarming. Or, at least, heart-string tugging. DO IT. DO IT FOR ME.

2. Cook

I don't mean 'make a practice turkey.' (Though now that I think about it, cooking an entire practice turkey and then spending the weekend eating it could be loads of fun. Bonus turkey!) Branch out! Try something new! I suggest experimenting with the no-less-heartbreaking-experience-for-being-a-cliche of making your own souffle... only to see it fall. Seriously, you will be so gutted. And then you'll eat it anyway, because fallen souffle still tastes like souffle. Try making a cheese souffle. Recipe here.  I would really like a nice cheese souffle right about now. I have never typed the word 'souffle' so often.

1682998513. Take a walk

I think I recommend walking, like, all the time now. Mostly because I don't do it enough myself. Folks, it's gorgeous outside these days. And people are having fires, so the air smells lovely, and everything is clean and crisp and... well, if you're in London or, my mom reports, California, everything is kind of wet right now. Maybe don't take a walk exactly this second, but go out during a lull. Bring your camera! Enjoy Stormzilla. Document the experience.

4. Play cards

Invite someone over - or find a nice quiet pub - and break out a fresh deck of cards. Here are the rules to ginrummy, and four-handed euchre. All three are great fun and can be played with two, three or four people. (Here's two-handed and three-handed euchre, also known as bid-euchre.) Ligretto is also awesome, and of course Cards Against Humanity is a sure-fire winner. When playing euchre, however, REMEMBER TO SAVE STRAIGHT SUIT. You'll make my mom very happy. And you'll make yourself happy by using the phrase 'straight suit' like a pro.

5. Reread The Hobbit, aloud

The film is only going to disappoint you. (At right: Thorin Oakenshield in happier times. Never forget.) (JARED CHECK OUT THAT PINEAPPLE.) (Not a euphemism.) (Probably should be.)

BONUS 6. Make up extravagant lies about the Victorians.

This is our favourite way to pass an afternoon. I'm not kidding.

Fiction: 'Jingle Hells' by Archie Black

Jingle Hells

The weather outside was frightful – delightfully so. A howling wind battered at the crumbling walls of Castle Darkholm, set deep within the heart of the most fearsome mountain-range in the Western Wilds. But, within, all was not right: although the castle echoed with the burps and belches of a traditional choir of bullfrogs and bloodworms, and the great hall was cheerfully decorated with sprays of holly and poison ivy, conversation had ground to a halt.

Continue reading "Fiction: 'Jingle Hells' by Archie Black" »

Everywhere Else (& Shop Shop Shopping)

Chinese Life"So we're talking about slices from a standard large pizza then, right? Sitting in the restaurant? Five slices, I guess. After five slices, I become all too aware of my own piggishness. It doesn't help if you're eating with people who don't share your appetite. My wife could eat two slices of pizza at a restaurant and be satisfied, and I resent her for this, because I want to eat THIRTY fucking slices and not feel like shit about it." - Drew Magary on pizza shaming

Say hello to "Midnight in Karachi" - Mahvesh Murad's new podcast for The inaugural guest: Audrey Niffenegger!

London's lost female subcultures photographs at Dangerous Minds.

Smugglivus! The Book Smugglers' epic festival of cheerful guest posts is one of our favourite holiday traditions.

Zoe Quinn on ethics in games journalism! Seriously. Long post, with the back end meticulously detailing the hypocrisy of the gamergate movement. Quinn's points on 'gonzo journalism' and enthusiast press are relevant to all sorts of fandoms - SF/F and books included.

Rose Biggin writes lists.

"I would reject the notion that it has one meaning. It’s a symbol in context, sort of like memes." - an oral history of the poop emoji.

Shop shop shop

Stone Skin PressGaren Ewing - The Adventures of Julius Chancer, The Book of the Dead and Unearthed - has all sorts of treats on sale for the holiday season...

The SelfMadeHero sale is amazing. 25% off across all their titles, plus same day delivery in London. Also, a lot of their stock is signed and/or bookplated - stunning!

Every Day Original features a new, not-too-unaffordable, original work of art. Every single day.

The top 50 picks from Best Little Bookshop (also free delivery).

Mummies Around the World! The brand new and definitive guide to all things that go bump in the night (crawling-out-of-pyramids-variety) - complete with John J Johnston-written contributions on Doctor Who, The Book of the Dead and 'Egyptomania'!

Some rather foxy bundles from Stone Skin Press.

Gloriously geeky gifts selected by Hodderscape - including prints, jumpers and squishy toys.

Signed by Cary Elwes? As you wish.

NUNSIGNER. Er. Nunslinger, signed.

Friday Five: 5 Favourites of 2014 (That Aren't From 2014)

For the past few years, my annual contribution to Smugglivus has been the 'Five Favourite Books of This  Year That Weren't Actually Published This Year'. This year, however, I went in a different direction (you'll see), but I didn't want to waste a good list.

A few caveats: I've left off 2015 titles, comic books and re-reads. Without further ado (and in alphabetical order)...

CoyleKatie Coyle's Vivian Versus the Apocalypse (2013)

The Rapture cometh and Vivian Apple is very much... 'left behind'. As (what remains of) society gets uglier and uglier and the canned food runs low, Vivian grabs a grumpy friend, a cute boy and her car keys - she's off to find some answers. Vivian takes the 'world without adults' YA trope to a new place by mixing it up with, for lack of a better term, contemporary hard-core Christian mythology.

It would be easy to settle for being a dark comedy, but Coyle goes a step further - this is a genuinely powerful, tragic, bittersweet book about good and evil and Good and Evil. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction (or even a bit of dystopian conspiracy theory), Vivian hits all the right buttons - aided by a disarmingly empathetic heroine. But this is an extraordinary book that hits close to home. It leaves the reader with a lot of questions about how we - as humans - treat one another, and the sacrifices we make for both real people and abstract ideals.

(Reviewed here.)

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Favourites of 2014 (That Aren't From 2014)" »

Fiction on Pornokitsch: Survey Results and Your Feedback

Caution - this is loooong. I go through all the results, what conclusions I've drawn from them and then how we'll be responding. I've front-loaded this with the more general information, as that's of use to more people (publishers, blogs, etc) and it gets more specific to Pornokitsch as it goes down. I've been really detailed about this - including a lot of spelling out my thinking - because a) it is fun and b) there's a chance it'll help other bloggers/websites/small publishers. As always, please join in the comments with your own conclusions and recommendations!

Last month, we shared around a survey about "reading short fiction online". We wanted to learn about people's reading habits and also, more specifically, get feedback around our weekly fiction project.

People were really kind about sharing the links around online, so it only seems right to share the results as well. We had a shade under 300 total respondents, about 60% from UK (and about 20% US, with South Africa, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ireland, Finland and Australia all featuring repeatedly as well). 

Reading habits

The first question (slightly awkwardly phrased) is about how people like to consume their digital, short fiction.

1-How do you read

A few lessons:

  • Desktop ain't dead. Online fiction in the browser window is still the way to go. Possibly hidden behind the spreadsheets you're supposed to be working on.
  • That said, mobile devices are key. At 45%, mobile browsers were a popular pick. We had actually guessed this ahead of time, and held off launching our fiction until our site was moved to a responsive template. And this is also why we don't include heavy-weight imagery with the stories. As much as we'd like to have them, the mobile experience is important.
  • The dominance of Kindle over 'other e-reader' isn't a surprise.
  • What was a surprise? The relative unpopularity of email. Perhaps we're just old-fashioned, but the idea of having stories delivered feels like a touch of luxury. This may, however, be a sign of how little fiction is delivered by email (see below).

Continue reading "Fiction on Pornokitsch: Survey Results and Your Feedback" »

'On books for young folks' by James Baldwin (1884)

George_Romney_Child_Reading_(possibly_Mrs_Cumberland_and_her_son)The greatest problem presented to the consideration of parents and teachers now-a-days is how properly to regulate and direct the reading of the children. There is no scarcity of reading-matter. The poorest child may have free access to books and papers, more than he can read. The publication of periodicals and cheap books especially designed to meet the tastes of young people has developed into an enterprise of vast proportions. Every day, millions of pages of reading matter designed for children are printed and scattered broadcast over the land. But unlimited opportunities often prove to be a damage and a detriment; and over-abundance, rather than scarcity, is to be deplored.

As a general rule, the books read by young people are not such as lead to studious habits, or induce correct ideas of right living. They are intended simply to amuse; there are no elements of strength in them, leading up to a noble manhood. I doubt if in the future it can be said of any great statesman or scholar that his tastes had been formed, and his energies directed and sustained, through the influence of his early reading; but rather that he had attained success, and whatever of true nobility there is in him, in spite of such influence.

How then shall we so order the child’s reading as to avoid the formation of desultory and aimless habits?

Continue reading "'On books for young folks' by James Baldwin (1884)" »