Mary Stewart, Storyteller; Possible Wizard

Thunder on the Right

To my mind there are really only two kinds of novels, badly written and well written. Beyond that, you cannot categorize… ‘Storyteller’ is an old and honorable title and I’d like to lay claim to it.

Mary Stewart (1916 - 2014) is a British novelist, known for her significant contributions to multiple genres. She was of the most prominent - and critically-acclaimed - creators of the romantic thriller. Stewart then went on to write the Merlin trilogy, a best-selling blend of history and fantasy.

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A Matter of Oaths: An interview with Helen S. Wright

Power by Paul Calle (1963)A Matter of Oaths highres When A Matter of Oaths was first published in 1987, featuring an older woman as a space captain and centring on two men of colour in an intense, romantic relationship, it was a hard sell: 'I have a rejection letter from a well-known editor saying that they wouldn’t buy the book because the gay relationship was so integral to the plot, even though they weren’t a homophobe, nor were many in the SF audience (!). Apparently, I wasn’t "breaking new ground" and risked "alienating some readers."'

The book follows Rafe, a young webber with a mysterious past, who joins the crew of Bhattya, a patrol ship under the command of Rallya, an aging, grumpy, and talented woman in denial about the end of her career. As an oath breaker, Rafe is shunned by many, but aboard Bhattya, not only is he given a second chance, he also finds support in his quest for his own identity.

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A Field Guide to Mary Stewart's Romantic Suspenses

My Brother Michael

Stewart introduced a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her 'anti-namby-pamby' reaction, as she called it, to the "silly heroine" of the conventional contemporary thriller who "is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along". Instead, Stewart's stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. (Guardian)

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If/Then: The 2017 Pornokitsch Gifting Guide

ODY-C
ODY-C (Matt Fraction and Christian Ward)

[Updated! Now with recommendations from Becky Chambers, Stark Holborn, Adam Kranz, Jesse Bullington, Anne and Jared]

[Updated again! More recs from Jesse!]

[And again! New recs from Kirsty Logan!]

Tis the holiday season! But giving stuff can be hard. Not because you're a bad person (you're great!), but because people are really difficult, and, odds are, they've got all the obvious stuff already.

To help you spend your hard-earned money on the people you love, we've asked our contributors, guests and online-passers-by for some gifting suggestions.

We've all followed a simple 'If/Then' formula - helping you find the right gift for that very specific oddball in your life. (Or, yourself. We don't judge.) We'll keep updating with more recommendations over the next few weeks, so check back for even more assistance with your last-minute panic-buying!

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From Christie to Bolaño: Adam Roberts' Five Favourite Puzzle Whodunits

Adam Roberts - The Real-Town Murders

I love puzzle whodunits. On account of my crime-novel-loving mother I grew up in a house full of them, which meant that—when I ran out of SF titles—I would pick a green-liveried penguin off the shelf and read that instead: Margery Allingham; Michael Innes; Ngaio Marsh; Edmund Crispin. And of course Agatha Christie. I read huge numbers of such books growing up. I still read them today.

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Pennywise and Paper-Thin: Why IT’s clown is too two-dimensional to be terrifying

Pennywise by Caspian WhistlerSo, you know the drill: spoilers ahead.

A few months ago, when we rolled out The Official Pornokitsch Taxonomy of Villains ™, I promised two things: An Obsessed, and a Monster. Half of that promise was fulfilled last month with our look at Khan(s). This month, I deliver on the second half by focusing on the most notorious monster of 2017: Pennywise the Dancing Clown, from Stephen King’s It. I’ll mostly be focusing on the 2017 film version, but will reference other versions as appropriate, since the most famous portrayals – i.e. the novel, the 1990s miniseries, and the latest film – all differ in some respects.

So, let me start with the obvious bit, something we’ve all known in the deepest recesses of our beings since childhood:

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Draft Posts and Middling Along

A week on the road and with a really, really tetchy computer, but - I'm back. And straight into the middle of things.

Middle Relievers Don't Win the Cy Young

We tendency to lionise the start and the end of creative projects, and forget about the middle bits. 

We all become 'authors' as soon as we open a Word file, 'artists' as soon as we buy paint, 'bloggers' as soon as we register our domain name. By contemplating creation - simply by having an idea - we re-identify ourselves.

But then, we also leap to the other extreme. A creator isn't 'allowed' to claim that identification until they have successfully created. You're not really an author until you finish a book. (Or perhaps even publish one!) You're not really an artist until you finish a painting. A blogger without posts is a poor example of the breed. This isn't unfair. Inspiration might be the easiest - labour-wise - part of the project. Socially, we should celebrate the do-ers, which means focusing more on recognising the evidence of what they've done.

But what about everything in-between?

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Fiction: 'Jade City' (Extract) by Fonda Lee

Dragon-jade-from-BM

Even in the shade, sweat trickled down the backs and faces of the year-eight students. Ten of them stood nervously, each behind a short tower of hot bricks. “One more,” said the master, and the assistant year-threes hurried to the fire pit with tongs, carefully but quickly removing bricks from the flames and placing another on top of each of the ten smoldering stacks. One of the waiting year-eights, named Ton, muttered quietly, “Ah, what to choose, pain or failure?”

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Sweet Savage Love, Romance and Realism

Sweet Savage Love

I've been reading a lot of vintage romance novels.

Incidentally, you get a lot of very special looks on the Underground when you're reading a well-worn copy of Sweet Savage Love. Especially, I suspect, as a thirty-something dude.  

My romance reading is pretty new, it only started around three years now. What began as curiosity blossomed into, slightly unexpectedly, a genuine passion for the books. That's a metaphor for you. They're a lot of fun, they're culturally interesting, and - I don't want to gloss over the key point here: I really enjoy them.

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