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January 2015
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New Releases: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today by the Gang

The 7 SecretsI love It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; the show can do no wrong. Possibly because it is deliberately setting out to be as wrong as it could be. (I also credit the fact that I went into the show having no idea what it actually was. If you watch the first episodes expecting it to be an actual normal sitcom, it is ... kind of earth-shattering.) That said, my predilection for fine entertainment might be misconstrued as some sort of bias, and has made reviewing The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today (2015), a little difficult.

If I tell you that this book changed my life - got me a better job, made me grow an inch, improved my wardrobe, put money in my savings account, gave me several fine rat-based meals, and gave me the sexual potency of Sting on Spanish Fly - well, you'd probably believe that's just coming from my fondness for the show. As a blogger, there's nothing more important to me than my reputation as an objective critic of fine culture, that is how I make all of my very large bucks, dine on Cadillacs and sleep on a bed made of the very prestigious Hugo Awards and the tears of Roger Ebert. Therefore everything I write should be taken as the gospel truth, if the gospel were actually written in Typepad by a reputable person and not carved in rocks by dudes on mushrooms.

And that, I suppose, is fine. Your loss, Jesus. 

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New Releases: Those Above by Daniel Polansky

Those AboveDaniel Polansky's Low Town trilogy was a bit of a fantasy oddity - a first person, noir-inflected fantasy that didn't seem to give much of a shit about being a fantasy. It wasn't as much aggressively avoiding the classic tropes as much as forging its own, nonchalant path around them. Certainly the books had a touch of magic, a big ol' war, some secret societies and cunning rogues, and all that - but the focus was much tighter: about one man and his maturing sense of responsibility (for himself, his 'community' and his own actions). 

Which is why Those Above (2015) initially seems a complete departure. Rather than the intimacy of the first person narrative and the (relative) restraint of a single city, Those Above is a more traditional epic narrative: a handful of third person points of view, spread across an entire continent. The stakes are higher as well - rather than 'one man's soul' (a rather melodramatic phrasing), Those Above is a clash of civilisations, of cultures and of visions. If that seems perplexing, bear with me...

In Those Above, a ruling caste of near immortals - Tolkien Elves crossed with D&D Deva crossed with The Capitol - govern the world from the lofty heights of the Roost. Thousands of years ago, these awesome beings (in the literal sense) conquered humanity. Fast forward over centuries of enlightened dictatorship. Only one generation ago, humanity tried to rebel... and it didn't work out so well. But the humans have had the tiniest taste of freedom, and, however towering they are, humans can still dream bigger.

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Fiction: 'The Bureau d'Echange de Maux' by Lord Dunsany

Vanitas - Still Life with Bouquet and Skull

I often think of the Bureau d'Echange de Maux and the wondrously evil old man that sate therein. It stood in a little street that there is in Paris, its doorway made of three brown beams of wood, the top one overlapping the others like the Greek letter pi, all the rest painted green, a house far lower and narrower than its neighbours and infinitely stranger, a thing to take one's fancy. And over the doorway on the old brown beam in faded yellow letters this legend ran, Bureau Universel d'Echanges de Maux.

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Breakout Kings (2011-2012)

Breakout Kings

There’s a particularly irritating kind of review out there – the kind that usually includes the line ‘if this sounds like the kind of thing you’ll like, you’ll like this thing.’ It’s irritating because it’s so fundamentally lazy. In reviews of this type, the reviewer will fill a few paragraphs with examples of what makes ‘this kind of thing’ before concluding, with a weary sigh, that if this kind of thing sounds like your thing, then this thing will be your thing.

But it’s not just lazy. It’s snotty. It boils down everything that makes a property enjoyable (if not unique) for readers who legitimately like them, and then tacks on the implication that the person who likes them has, you know, questionable taste.

The reviewer, we are given to understand, doesn’t really like this kind of thing but can see why someone else might. But not just any someone else: no, the kind of someone else who likes things such as this thing that the reviewer does not. You know. You and me.

All of which is unfair, given that ‘if you like this kind of thing, you’ll like this thing’ is a totally valid recommendation when it’s expanded upon. Do you like John Grisham’s books, with their action and noble lawyers and legal puzzles and moral quandaries? Then it’s reasonably safe for me to tell you that you’ll probably also like Brad Meltzer’s books. And I mean that as a legitimate recommendation! (I really do; The 10th Justice is good fun.)

All of which is a roundabout way of winding into today’s point: Breakout Kings is the kind of thing you’ll like if you like this kind of thing. And I mean that as a good thing.

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5 x 15 Question SF, F, Horror Book Meme

memeOriginated at SF Signal and spotted on Gail Carriger's blog. She's one of our role models, so if she's meme-ing, we can too.

Featuring four of the Pornokitsch team, and a wide variety of evasive responses!

1. What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading?

Anne: [Can't answer because professional and stuff]

Jared: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck. (It was great. Also the sort of book that I think only I would classify as SF/F/H.)

Jon: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer.

Mahvesh: Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman; Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, Anita Roy

Molly: Gunnerkrigg Court Vol. 4, by Thomas Siddell

2. What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading?

Anne: [See above]

Jared: City of Halves, by Lucy Inglis.

Jon: NOS4R2, by Joe Hill. I should stress, not because I've given up on it. I just got distracted part way through. I will go back to it.

Mahvesh: City of Stairs, byRobert Jackson Bennet (I had a false start & I will get back to it, I will!)

Molly: Conan the Swordsman


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Fiction: 'The Kiss' by Kim Curran [AUDIO]

Jurassic LondonHappy Valentine's Day from the Pornokitsch team! We like-like you all and would happily ask you to the big dance. If we had friends, we would set you up with them. If we had $1,000, we'd buy you a telescope.

Alas, we don't have friends, dances or $1,000 - but we do have something better - the very romantic "The Kiss", written by Kim Curran, narrated by Mahvesh Murad.

"The Kiss" was first published on Pornokitsch last October. You can read it here.

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, Control, Delete and Glaze. If you dig her short fiction, there's more of it in Irregularity. You can wish her a happy Valentine's Day at @kimecurran.

Mahvesh Murad is a reviewer, music maven and the voice of - amongst others - Midnight in Karachi. You can bat your eyelashes at her at @mahveshm.

The Kitschies - Shortlists Announced

FallenLondon_HatThe Kitschies reward the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic. 

Now in their sixth year, they are sponsored by Fallen London, the award-winning browser game designed by Failbetter Games.

The Kitschies' 2014 finalists were selected from 198 submissions, from over 40 publishers and imprints. 

The Red Tentacle (Novel)

  • Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith (Egmont)
  • The Peripheral, by William Gibson (Viking)
  • The Way Inn, by Will Wiles (4th Estate)
  • The Race, by Nina Allan (NewCon Press)

The Golden Tentacle (Debut)

  • Viper Wine, by Hermione Eyre (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Girl in the Road, by Monica Byrne (Blackfriars)
  • Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta (HarperCollins)
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers (Self-Published)
  • The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara (Atlantic Books) 

The Inky Tentacle (Cover Art)

  • The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, design by Steve Marking (Weidenfeld and Nicolson)
  • A Man Lies Dreaming, cover by Ben Summers (Hodder and Stoughton)
  • Through the Woods, cover by Emily Carroll and Sonja Chaghatzbanian (Faber and Faber)
  • The Book of Strange New Things, cover by Rafaela Romaya and Yehring Tong (Canongate)
  • Tigerman, cover by Glenn O'Neill (William Heinamann)

The Invisible Tentacle (Natively Digital Fiction)

  • echovirus12, created/curated by Jeff Noon @jeffnoon, Ed @3dgriffiths, James Knight @badbadpoet, violet sprite @gadgetgreen, Richard Biddle @littledeaths68, Mina Polen @polen, Uel Aramchek @ThePatanoiac, Graham Walsh @t_i_s_u, Vapour Vox @Wrong_Triangle
  • Kentucky Route Zero, Act III, by Cardboard Computer
  • 80 Days, by Inkle Studios
  • Sailor's Dream, by Simogo

This year's judges did a great job. (They also included Frances Hardinge and Cat Webb, who are BSFA Best Novel finalists as well, so double-congrats.)

A huge, huge, huge congratulations to the award's director, Glen Mehn, who has wrangled a new sponsor, added a new category, recruited the judges and, frankly, done a kickass job. Buy the dude a drink. 

From the standpoint of a random punter, these lists are the perfect combination of 'stuff I've read and loved', 'stuff I've read, not loved, but really respected' and 'stuff that sounds really good, and now I want to read'.

From the standpoint of a non-random punter, this is totally weird, as it is the first year where Anne & I were totally uninvolved with the award - is it ok if I kind of secretly resent how well it has gone without us? Just a tiny bit? (sniffle)

New Releases: Touch by Claire North

TouchDoes anyone else remember Fallen? It was a terrible movie with DENZEL, smack in the middle of the post-Glory period where DENZEL only did terrible, terrible movies. Which also, incidentally, coincided with the period of my youth when I would see Any Movie At All. My friends and I single-handed funded Hollywood for at least a decade.

Appropriately, many of my high school friends are now out in LA, probably because, if you've seen Fallen, you know how low the bar for Hollywood feature films can go. It was terrible. I remember it for three reasons: 

  1. There was a fair bit of controversy over the fact that DENZEL did not smooch his female co-star (Embeth Davidtz), even though the movie clearly required smooching. I remember this because of a Newsweek article (this is also back when Newsweek was a thing, too) about how this was probably because of horrendous racism (generally) and a deep-seated white-dude inferiority complex when it come to DENZEL (specifically). Probably true.
  2. The movie is about the fallen angel Azazel who leaps from body to body by touch, which is a pretty freakin' cool premise for a police procedural/thriller. 
  3. Freakin' Azazel - in whatever body - keeps singing "Time is on my side", which, 17 years later, I still resent. Especially (SPOILER) the hammy John Goodman version. Horrendous, horrible earworm, which is a metaphor - I suppose - for Azazel him/herself or something. But mostly really, really, really annoying.

Fallen currently has a 7.0 on IMDB, which is about 6 and 4/5th of a point above where I would put it, honestly. Maybe this is part of the Great Late 90's Revival, but I think it is taking nostalgia a bit too far. Because, again, that movie? Really bad.

So, Touch. Which does not have Azazel, DENZEL or The Rolling Stones. But does, at its heart, have a very similar mechanic: there are people that, for some reason or another, bounce into your body by touching you. Skin to skin contact and, whammo, they're living your life. You? Disappeared. At least, until they're done (bored, finished, whatever), and you get your life back, with a big black hole in the middle of it. And possibly massive credit card debt.

It is seriously creepy. And, what makes this book greatTouch acknowledges the creepiness, debates it, mulls it over, bounces it around a bit... and never, ever says it is ok.

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"Redefining genre" by E.L. Tettensor

Master-of-PlaguesWe in the fantasy community love to categorise. Perhaps more than any other genre, we delight in dividing and subdividing into ever more specialised niches, until the distinctions between subgenres are so subtle as to be almost meaningless. And yet, for all our enthusiasm for labelling, a lot of it is pretty superficial. More and more, our taxonomy seems to me to be based on backdrops and widgets – urban, or flintlock, or steampunk – rather than substance. To use an analogy, it’s a bit like punk: to some people, punk is a subculture; to others, it’s just a hairdo.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot lately, in the course of promoting my latest book. When it comes to guest posts and interviews, I’m most commonly asked to focus on one of two things: antiheroes, or what it’s like to write two different – completely different – series. These two subjects have something in common: they both boil down to a discussion of worldview. And it got me thinking, is there a different way, still meaningful, that we could be categorising our books? A taxonomy that tells you more than what the characters will be wearing, and whether they’ll be driving or riding or winging about on dragonback?

I think there is, and I’d like to take a shot at it.

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Everywhere Else (& Katy Perry)

Our irregular round-up of interesting (if not particularly timely) reading from around the webbernets. Plus, what our contributors have been doing in other, less kitschy places.

Because, let's be honest, this is easily the best thing that's happened in the past two weeks. Also, the most science fictional. #hugoforkaty

Great piece from Genevieve Valentine for the AV Club on the power of 'shipping: 

The degree to which a pairing directs a show, however, depends as much on ’shipping as on canon, for watching a show and ’shipping are two different beasts. Those who watch a show and absorb the canon presented to them, either care for it or don’t, and largely consider the matter closed: They deal with the show as it comes. For ’shippers, watching the show isn’t passive, but active: The actual outcome of any given relationship is only one factor to be taken into consideration, and if actual events disappoint, they’ll happily imagine otherwise.

Sobek can river dance. Seriously, if you click one link, this should be the one. I can't stop laughing.

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