Previous month:
December 2014
Next month:
February 2015

Everywhere Else

A few of the interesting articles we've spotted lately:

Amelia EdwardsRobert Maguire - one of the great pulp cover artists - a short profile, and a look at some of his cover models. (Some NSFW.)

The Egypt Exploration Society are following Amelia Edwards' famous trip up the Nile over on Facebook - with lots of her notes and photographs. 

DATA. Who reads in America? What sells in America? 

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH. How teenagers use social media. (Well, one teenager, at least.)

A beautiful, 100-year old typeface - resurrected from fragments found in the Thames. Absolutely being used in a Jurassic London title. 

"The History of Mana" - how an Austronesian concept became a video game mechanic.

James Machin digs up a letter from H.P. Lovecraft to Weird Tales publisher J.C. Henneberger, which includes some deliciously lurid ranting from HPL:

We have millions who lack the intellectual independence, courage, and flexibility to get an artistic thrill out of a bizarre situation, and who enter sympathetically into a story only when it ignores the colour and vividness of actual human emotions and conventionally presents a simple plot based on artificial, ethically sugar-coated values and leading to a flat denouement which shall vindicate every current platitude and leave no mystery unexplained by the shallow comprehension of the most mediocre reader. That is the kind of public publishers confront, and only a fool or a rejection-venomed author could blame the publishers for a condition caused not by them but by the whole essence and historic tradition of our civilisation.

The article talks about Lovecraft's relationship with - and almost editorship of - Weird Tales. Definitely worth reading.

Movies suck this time of year. This is a statistically proven fact.

People have been quietly inventing - and playing - a forum-based RPG based on Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic... for 15 years. I find this sort of thing oddly heart-warming. 

We also collect links and whatnot over on a regular basis over on tumblr.

Pornokitsch Contributors Doing Their Thing

Anne and Rebecca Levene talk The Hunter's Kind over on Hodderscape.

Hodderscape also has a profile piece on our cats. Because, Anne.

Mahvesh Murad reviews Sally Gardner's Tinder for Dawn. And interviews Adam Roberts for Midnight in Karachi.

Mahvesh also reads Usman Malik's “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”

And Jon, Bex and Jared all talked Star Wars #1 for The One Comic Podcast.

Molly Tanzer is editing the Lazy Fascist Review's "Lovecraftiana" issue. And she's looking for submissions. Details here.

Don't forget - Molly and Jesse Bullington are editing Stone Skin Press's Swords v Cthulhu. Submissions details for that one too.

Jared pops up on YA Yeah Yeah, singing the praises of Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly series.

We made donuts last weekend. This is apropos of nothing, but they were really good.

Friday Five: 5 Songs with Bad Science

Ade Spink is obsessed equally by science fiction and rock and roll and believes both peaked in 1962. You can argue with him about this on twitter at @AdeSpink. (I personally would argue 1985, but to each their own.)

Since the beginning of the rock ‘n’ roll era, several artists have made predictions for the future in song. Sometimes these predictions turn out wrong, or the songwriter just misunderstands basic scientific principles.

Here are 5 songs where the science could possibly be questioned...

Glenda Collins"It’s Hard To Believe It" - Glenda Collins

Any article on scientifically inaccurate songs should start with a Joe Meek production. My choice is Glenda Collins and the protest song “It’s Hard To Believe It” from 1966. While his social predictions, that the government would spend money on missiles rather than poverty, were dead on the money, he did also predict;

“we’re all in for a shock and soon,
when we find living creatures upon the moon”

His other records have similar problems. In 1960, he recorded the experimental “I hear a new world”, a set of instrumental themes for areas of the moon. It included “Magnetic Field: This is a stretch of the moon where there is a strange lack of gravity forcing everything to float about 3 feet above the crust”.

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Songs with Bad Science" »

Pygmalia: The Bride (1985)

PygmalionSing, O Muse, of Pygmalion, the sculptor so disgusted with womankind that he chiseled himself a wife from stone! Sing of Aphrodite’s decision to reward this questionable impulse by turning the resulting statue into a real, living girl! But most of all, O Muse, sing of the enduring legacy of Pygmalion, for his misogyny and unreasonable expectations inspired generations of artists to contemplate what it would mean to create an ideal instead of finding one in the real world. (Or just, you know, settling.) 

Many Greek myths have found their way into fiction over the years (uh, millenia), obviously and otherwise. Prometheus’ fire-bringing set aflame the Shelleys’ imaginations, among others; Orpheus and Eurydice are recalled in diverse media ranging from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia to the film Moulin Rouge!. Countless texts warn against the sort of hubris that damned Icarus, and Dionysus and his maenads show up in that beloved coming of age novel, The Secret History, to name but a few examples.

The Greek's myths endure because they continue to resonate. While Donna Tartt treats The Bacchae directly, the tale of Dionysus’ razing of Thebes is at its heart about the terrifying power of religious mania, the danger in believing you possess all the answers; it points a finger at the hypocrisy of those who pretend they have no shadow side, and cautions them to beware what they repress. Similarly, who among us has not wished we could retrieve something irretrievable, as Orpheus tried in vain to do? And what isn’t appealing about the noble attempt to bring fire to a dark world? 

Continue reading "Pygmalia: The Bride (1985)" »

The Good Shabti - Unwrapping Party Tonight!

The Good ShabtiOur (rather lovely) limited edition of The Good Shabti is being unleashed upon the unsuspecting world... tonight!

Join us at the Betsey Trotwood (56 Farrington Road, EC1R 3BL) from 7pm for an evening of mummies, books and very nice people.

The Good Shabti is limited to 100 signed and numbered copies. Everyone at the launch gets first crack at them - and then Jurassic London mailing list subscribers get dibs on what's left

Learn more about "the greatest Egyptian adventure since 'Scooby Doo in Where's My Mummy'". (Tom Harper said that)

Details about tonight's shindig are available here.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The goblin emperorKatherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor (2014) is... a tricky book to wrap into a review. So you'll need to excuse my meandering path towards a conclusive (or not) opinion.

Maia is the exiled son of the Elven Emperor. He's grown up in exile - a dismal estate in the far side of nowhere, with only his abusive cousin for company. Forbidden the luxuries of court or the love of his father, Maia enters adulthood a self-composed, introverted young man, defined more by his losses (especially that of his mother) than his privileged position.

And that position changes - dramatically. An airship accident kills the Emperor and his immediate heirs. All of a sudden, Maia isn't just recalled to court - he is the court. Despite his lack of training and his uncertain background and his half-Goblin heritage, Maia's now the center of the civilised world. 

Maia quickly discovers that just becoming Emperor doesn't mean the end to his troubles. The Empire isn't an entirely happy place, the various nobles are grumpy, his Chancellor is playing politics, his grandfather - the king of the Goblins - is suddenly paying attention and, oh - his dad was assassinated. Maia's very existence, much less his political presence, is extremely inconvenient to everyone. Will he make a decent monarch? Or will he even make it to his next birthday? It is up to this suspiciously nifty young man to change the course of the world.

The politics are wily, complicated (but not overly so) and a lot of fun. There are scheming nobles and conflicting plots and factions and etiquette and arranged marriages and all sorts of entertaining problems to keep Maia occupied. He's a - very - Liberal sort, so, generally speaking, he gets through things by contemplating all the possibilities and then choosing The Right Thing, generally upsetting his advisors in the process.

Continue reading "The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison" »

Underground Reading: Assembly by John O'Hara

AssemblyJohn O'Hara's Assembly (1961) is a collection of 26 short stories (including two novellas), all written during the summer of 1960. O'Hara is a genuinely fascinating figure in American literature: one of those quasi-commercial, quasi-literary best-selling giants that now seems, rather disappointingly, to be consigned to the second-hand shelf of history. Perhaps his two most famous works are his two earliest - Appointment in Samarra (1934) and BUtterfield 8 (1935), both of which were turned into film (the latter earning Elizabeth Taylor an Oscar for Best Actress in 1960). But O'Hara also wrote a dozen other novels and at least that many collections of short stories. He picked up the National Book Award for Ten North Frederick and was a regular columnist for Newsday and Colliers

That said, O'Hara was also a bit of a grump. Perhaps most interestingly - and this is something shown in his stories over and over again - he was incredibly class-conscious. Although a promising student, the death of O'Hara's father left the young man unable to attend Yale. Whether intentionally or not, this disappointment is deeply embedded in his writing career: story after story about the noble 'haves' and their orbiting 'have-nots'. Like Fitzgerald, O'Hara had a knack - perhaps even an obsession -  for describing the social elite: how they waft about, seemingly immune to the problems of lesser men and women. "O’Hara kept an unrelenting fist on the most trivial signs of social differentiation", says the New York Review of Books, and much of the pathos and the subtle drama of his stories comes from his descriptions of the daily life and micro-dramas of the 'four hundred', as well as their interactions with the middle-class rung right beneath him. Later in his career, and again based on his own experiences, O'Hara brought to life the parallels between the golden gods of the Old Rich and the new pantheon created by Hollywood.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Assembly by John O'Hara" »

Non-Fiction: "On Writing Short Stories" by John O'Hara

During the years I was not writing short stories I was occasionally invited by magazine editors to excerpt passages from my novels which the editors thought would "stand up" as short stories. I never did. I am a great believer in the creative flow, that once you have commenced the writing of a novel, all that follows is part of that novel. In spite of digressions and interruptions, a novel is continuous and should not be capsulized or "digested" or even synopsized, unless the synopsis is clearly labelled as such. (I allowed a novel of mine to be "digested" and I promise not to let that happen again.)

By the same token it is artistically wrong to take a passage out of a book and present it as a short story, no matter how it is labelled. The short story is such a different art form that an author simply must not have the same approach to a novel that he has to the short story. The author must say to himself that this is to be a short story; he must say it over and over again so that he conditions himself and disciplines himself before setting words down on paper, until the habit of thinking in short-story terms is re-formed. Obviously he must make all the words count, obviously he must set space limits ahead of time. But at the time he is preparing himself to compress, he must also bear in mind the fact that this may be the only thing of his that some reader will ever read. In other words, the artistic conscience must be functioning.

The author may write rapidly, and I do, but let it not be inferred that I "dash them off". The way I feel about writing, which is practically a religious feeling, would not permit me to "dash off" a story. And there is another aspect to it: the work of writing is fun, and without the work the writing is not fun, pleasure or a joy.

-- John O'Hara, Foreword to Assembly (1961)

"We knew her only once, on Ceres"

The Lowest Heaven

You will have heard of our mother, the astronaut Saga Wärmedal. She is famous, and she is infamous. Her face, instantly recognizable, appears against lists of extraordinary feats, firsts and lasts and onlys. There are the pronounced cheekbones, the long jaw, that pale hair cropped close to the head. In formal portraits she looks enigmatic, but in images caught unaware - perhaps at some function, talking to the Administrator of the CSSA or the Moon Colony Premier; in situations, in fact, where we might imagine she would feel out of place - she is animated, smiling. In those pictures, it is possible to glimpse the feted adventurer who traversed the asteroid belt without navigational aid.

We knew her only once, on Ceres.

You will have heard of what happened on Ceres.

E.J. Swift's "Saga's Children" was first published in The Lowest Heaven and was a finalist for the BSFA award last year. The complete story is free online here. 

Swift's Osiris Project trilogy concludes next week with Tamaruq. You can get a jump on it with pre-orders here. Or start from the beginning with Osiris

Friday Five: 5 Wicked Women of Comics

Jenny Barber is a writer of weird things, history geek, fanatical reader of short fiction and co-editor of both the recently published Wicked Women and The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic, Volume 2. You can find her at and talk comics (and more) with her on Twitter at @jenqoe.

MystiqueHeroines are all well and good but bad girls have all the fun. The world of comics is overflowing with wicked women - from the obvious supervillains and rebels to the women perceived to be wicked through their defiance of local social and cultural norms. These are women who use their superpowers to please themselves, gleefully indulge in their criminal tendencies and let no one dictate how they live their lives. So here’s a celebration of women who aim to misbehave!


There’s not many who misbehave more than Mystique. With a long and complicated history, this highly intelligent ass-kicking gender fluid bisexual shape-shifter has been an assassin, a spy, a political leader and freedom fighter, among a great many other professions. She’s passionate about mutant rights, and will do what the more mild mannered won’t to defend them. While she’s most recently been seen in the various X-Men movies, Brian K Vaughan & Sean McKeever’s Mystique series is an excellent focus on this versatile villain. Coerced into working as a secret agent for Professor X, Mystique combats a variety of foes, while trying to trick her way to freedom and avoid the government agency currently hunting her. She keeps both allies and enemies constantly guessing, comes up with some devious and wonderfully creative shape-shifts and is never too banged up to deliver some well aimed snark.

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Wicked Women of Comics" »