Thursday, February 02, 2017

Short Story Reading - January 2017 

I have had the intent of keeping track of what short fiction I read for a while, the last time I tried I failed quickly. Ideally I'd add commentary and links, particularly as some of these pieces were very good and should absolutely be read. That'll maybe follow.  For the moment I'm sharing to at least get a ball rolling.

[ ] An Eligible Boy - a Iain McDonald *
[ ] Goddess, Worm - Cassandra Khaw
[ ] Ipoh Girls - Cassandra Khaw
[ ] Interred with their bones - Morris Tanafon
[ ] The voice-activated lift - Pippa Goldscmidt
[ ] Bodies Stacked Like Firewood - Sam J Miller
[ ] A Tower For The Coming World - Maggie Clark
[ ] The Forgotten Taste of Honey - Alexander Jablokov
[ ] Checkerboard Planet - Eleanor Arnason
[ ] Choose Poison, Choose Life - Michael Blumlein
[ ] The Death of Paul Bunyan - Charles Payseur
[ ] The Inheritance - Amelia Gray
[ ] A Trump Christmas Carol
[ ] Follow the White Line - Bo Balder
[ ] Of sight, of mind, of heart - Samantha Murray
[ ] Cat, I Must Work - Jo Lindsay Walton
[ ] Eating Science With Ghosts - Octavia Cade
[ ] Topaz marquee - Fran Wild
[ ] Shadow Weave - Yoon Ha Lee
[ ] Cabin Creek - Madeline Ffitch
[ ] Wooden Boxes Lined With The Tongues of Doves - Claire Humphrey
[ ] Abduction of Europe - E Catherine Tobler
[ ] The Leaning Lincoln - Will Ludwigsen (x)
[ ] Twenty lights to "The Land of Snow" - Michael Bishop
[ ] Project Entropy - Dominica Phetteplace
[ ] Words of Creation - M. K. Hutchins
[ ] Where I'm from, we eat our parents - John Wiswell
[ ] Better Than Bones & Dust - P. M. Dooling
[ ] The People in the Building - Sandra McDonald
[ ] Water Scorpions - Rich Larson
[ ] Astrophilia - Carrie Vaughan
[ ] Perils in Pets - Jez Patterson
[ ] I've come to marry the princess - Helena Bell
[ ] Shooting Gallery - J B Park
[ ] Plea - Mary Anne Mohanraj
[ ] The Compromise - Karin Terebessy
[ ] Sympathies - Kat Otis
[ ] Soulmonger - Paulo da Silva
[ ] Liane - Jay Lake & Ruth Nestvold
[ ] Man of the House - Pamela Ferguson
[ ] Justice System in Quantum Parallel Probabilities - Lettie Prell
[ ] The Ghost Ship Anastasia - Rich Larson
[ ] A Series of Steaks - Vina Jie-Min Prasad
[ ] The Most Famous Little Girl in The World - Nancy Kress*
[ ] Re: Upcoming Restroom Changes - Nicky Dryden
[ ] Souls - Mari Ness
[ ] In The Pines - K M Carmien

* - indicates previously read.
(x) - indicates unfinished because it didn't engage.

Some of these were read in text form, some listened to as podcasts, but I'm not differentiating for purposes of list.

Monday, October 10, 2016

My next work in progress? 

I love weird twitter, the unpredictable, the absurd, the way that so many single tweets can feel like stories I want to read/write.

ourmagickfuture (Magick at Scale)

Witch Scientist Publishes Manifesto for Expressive Occult Music
5:14 AM Oct 10th via Smidgeo Posteo https://twitter.com/ourmagickfuture/status/785332539632283648

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Witch At The End Of The World: Spook Riders 

My story The Witch At The End Of The World (currently available in Thirty Years Of Rain), like so much of what I write is influenced by music. In this case the characters sing as they travel. Suicide's "Ghost Rider" is one of the tracks they sing, it felt right, the idea of these riders traveling through the land of the dead. The living haunt the dead lands, the end of the world. During the writing and editing process of this story Alan Vega of Suicide died, so this started to feel like some small tribute. I also link here to The Young Gods cover of the same song, another version that was going through my head, electronic stripped to acoustic, in turn in my story stripped to a cappella.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Launch #30YoR 

Well, tonight is the big night. The Glasgow launch of Thirty Years Of Rain, the 30th anniversary collection of work by members of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writer's Circle. A cross genre collection of stories and poems, old and new.

The book is already available from Lulu and Amazon. But in the Sauchiehall St branch of Waterstones tonight, from 7pm, there will be a chance to hear readings and get books signed by a number of the authors. With a number of authors in Glasgow, I fully expect the presence of Elsie WK Donald, Ruth EJ Booth, Heather Valentine, Brian M Milton, Ian Hunter, Cameron Johnston, Stewart Horn, Fergua Bannon, Hal Duncan, Elaine Gallagher, Kenneth Kelly, Jim Steel, Neil Williamson and myself. (Actual quantity of authors present may go up or down)

Inevitably, as with all GSFWC events, we will end up in the pub. Hopefully see people there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

On Writing "The Witch At The End Of The World" 

[I came across the above image after completing the final version of The Witch At The End Of The World, for me this captures some sense of what I was thinking of, this looks like it could easily be one of my apocalyptic witches. The image is by costume designer Agnieszka Osipa]

Writing can be difficult. Many writers will tell you so. And there are so many ways to self-defeat, block and distract. For me I got so bogged down in a loop of submissions and rejections, token editing to try and add polish upon polish to things I had already written, that to write something new started to feel impossible.

With “The Witch At The End Of The World”, or “Papa Okid In And The Witch At The End Of The World” as it was originally called I was trying to break that cycle. I decided to write something different, something that would be easy, that would brush away cobwebs and give me a revived compulsion to write. And it did… eventually.

I was going for a fantasy story. Something epic. Compared to my usual near future pseudo-science fiction mixing dalliances with horror. Though more Moorcock or Harrison, was how I saw it. It was an end of the world story – something evil, a group gathered to defeat evil. You know the deal, how it works. The Magnificent Seven, with witches, and a great big alien spider queen witch. Ride into the occupied city, Paris I decided, and fight monsters, defeat the big bad. Yay.

Except my characters decided they absolutely had to ride to this magic tree before they went riding into a snow bound alien tainted Paris. Then they decided that the city thing and the alien witch thing bored them, they’d rather sing and sit around and drink strange tea. So that is what happened. Kind of.

The original themes are still there. A group gathering to ride against evil; ideas of the end of the world, of fallen civilisations, the Anthropocene and how fucked we all are. This is dark stuff, except, hopefully, it doesn’t entirely feel that way.

One of the hard things, one of the reasons the story took so long to write, was finding the voice. Initially I had envisaged this guide bloke, someone desperate enough to go to a difficult place and ask for help – Papa Okid In, or Papa Oki Din as he became. But his voice didn’t work for me. I rewrote the opening scene an infinite number of times, I know, I counted them. Each a variation, on a turn of phrase, on a first step, on finding that damn voice that made the damn story talk. Then I found it, and I won’t say from there that it wrote itself, but oh Iggy, it became so much easier.

I am a member of the GSFWC (The Glasgow Science Fiction Writer’s Circle), a support group of writers. Offering critiques and advice and support to each other. The GSFWC has now been going for 30 years, to celebrate that they have put together an anthology – Thirty Years Of Rain. I decided this story would be my submission, I decided this anthology would be my impetus for finishing the thing that I had been fighting with on and off for a year.

Thanks to the patience and support of the anthology editors, the final version of The Witch At The End Of The World has been included in Thirty Years of Rain – which will have a launch night in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street Waterstones, on the 30th of September, from 7pm. I'll be there, along with a number of the other authors included, hope to see some of you there too.

Monday, August 29, 2016



September  will see the publication of Thirty Years Of Rain a collection of short stories and poems by writers who have at some point over the last 30 years been members of the GSFWC. 

The collection includes my own story The Witch At The End Of The World. A cheerful, uplifting story about the end of world. A bit of a departure from what I normally write, this is the closest I have done to being an Epic Fantasy. Except, because it is me, it isn't really that at all. Instead it is something.... odder?

There will be a couple of launches for the anthology, the 1st at the annual British Fantasy Con, the 2nd at Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street branch of Waterstones on the 30th of September from 7pm. I will be one of the authors at the Waterstones launch, where there will be readings and signings.

The full contents of Thirty Years Of Rain are as follows:

The Freedom of Above ― TJ Berg
Skyrider ― William King
The Ranch ― Gary Gibson
Her Choice ― Elsie WK Donald
Picture, of a Winter Afternoon ― Ruth EJ Booth
My Last Love ― Heather Valentine
Watching the Watchers ― Anya Penfold
The Lodger ― Brian M Milton
10 Things to Know About Staple Removers ― Ian Hunter
HEADKILLER ― Michael Cobley
Crowd Control ― Cameron Johnston
Amanda ― Jim Campbell
The Butterflies of Dysfunction ― TW Moses
Go Cúramach ― Stewart Horn
The Unusual Genitals Party ― Fergus Bannon
Ascending ― Hal Duncan
5AM Saint ― Elaine Gallagher
The Witch at the End of the World ― Peter Morrison
What Bliss It Was ― Louise Welsh
Run ― Kenneth Kelly
I Believe That This Nation Should Commit Itself ― Duncan Lunan
The Crock of Shet ― Jim Steel
Hot Breath ― Matthew Horsely
Danny Dyer Is Professor Stiles Langstrom! ― Ian Hunter
The Marquis of Alcatraz ― Richard Mosses
Kikinasai ― Eliza Chan
Foreign Bodies ― Neil Williamson
The New Ways ― Amal El-Mohtar
The Glaswegian Chalk Dust Circle ― Michael Mooney
The Circle ― Phil Raines

Saturday, April 16, 2016

In Search of Cultural Vistas 

Written earlier in the week, but only just posting now:
I was struck last night by an increasing occurrence. Where you see an amusing little nugget on twitter and you smile in an appropriate manner. Then a day, or two, later, you see the same thing again. And again. Then you see that same little nugget being picked up by both Boing Boing and Jezebel, and being passed off as a cutting edge moment.

I’m not ahead of the curve. My finger is not in the pulse. So what does this say about “news” sites passing on information that is days old? On one hand, it has always been the case. But on the other, it probably speaks to an idea of saturation, particularly on twitter. Where the medium becomes so utterly saturated and repetitive that it becomes harder to see something for the first time, instead of seeing that thing again.

Another tweet I saw last night, from the magazine Huck, about a film being shown in Manchester about the erosion of culture in New York, and the people fighting back against it. Like many things, I didn’t look beyond that one tweet, so I don’t have any details on that particular node. But it is one dot in a persistent pattern – culture in New York is dead, or replace that with London, or replace that with. And wave a hand towards gentrification. Which flags another dot in my head, from reading an article the other night in an actual physical copy of Huck magazine which I have lying around. Which was a guide to Wellington in New Zealand, how it was a cultural hot spot, the starting point for many a visitor setting out on adventure. How that has transformed over the years due gentrification. Which in turns reminds me of a video I watched on YouTube, a group of artists talking about how much more difficult culture was becoming in Reykjavik for the same reason.

I've been reading the new edition of England’s Hidden Reverse that was released recently. An updated version of the book that came out 10 or so years ago? My memory should be better on that, given I was at the launch of the version when the author spoke about it in Glasgow’s Monorail records. Anyway, book and reading, in particular the section I was reading last night was wallowing in the London scene of the 80’s – post-punk/industrial music, pretentious art wankers and confrontational bastards. All living, as the saying goes, cheek by jowl, in squats. All playing dingy little venues, where violence would erupt, partly in protest and partly because folk were arseholes. Which ties into that idea of that film mentioned above – a lost New York to a lost London to a lost cultural past.

Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be some essay, just a note, observing a couple of things that catch the eye. By contrast, I was listening to a podcast on the drive to work this morning. I tend to vary depending on mood – a selection of music played at random or a podcast. Today I picked a conversation with Clive James, and I was struck (perhaps again, perhaps more lucidly) by why I enjoy certain podcasts. Listening to two men talk about books that I will never read and likely would not enjoy if I tried to read. Or on other occasions two people talk about music I’d never listen to. It is the listening to the enthusiasm and pleasure expressed by other people. Where you can appreciate where people are coming from, you can enjoy the intelligence and engagement. Occasionally there is that nugget in there, where you think actually that is something I should read, listen to, watch, appreciate and you make a discovery. I am undoubtedly a fan of discovery, of expanding my horizons.

Though, lets not get carried away, last week I stumbled upon the worst podcast ever. An episode of a show that I listen to periodically had hit on the perfect formula – five people sitting around and talking in the most academic terms about the nature of something only really of interest to the five people talking about it. I lasted 10 minutes, I was driving, before I started swearing and was forced to change to something resembling interesting. 

Though, of course, I’ll do my best to adhere to the idea of mentioning things I like while politely not naming things I am criticising. Though, I can have mixed feelings about that, particularly when everyone else is wrong. But I am only human.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ancillary's Children  

I am reading Alastair Reynolds "Steel Breeze" with my lunch. The lead character is Chiku. But Chiku is not just Chiku. She cloned herself and replicated her memory. In the scene I just read the narrative has slipped, without warning from one Chiku to another Chiku. Even the character takes a moment to get her head round that. The preceding chapters being the memories of a counterpart taken into her head as her own.

With this comes an interesting way of telling a story with one character in multiple places. But also the question of identity. These two people aren't just similar, they are the same person.

This is something which particularly struck me with Ancillary Justice. For all the other aspects of that novel that were applauded, I don't think I saw too much reference to this aspect of identity. In this novel the ships are intelligent, a common enough idea, but they have use of physical bodies as tools. (The mechanism and ethics of that are another conversation) So like Chiku, we have multiple view points, but even greater sense of only one mind.

On some level playing with that kind of identity and characterization is fascinating and appealing. Especially thinking in terms of could I pull that off?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dans Le Silence 

Brume & Telepherique ‎– Dans Le Silence / Schrei Nach Stille - This double LP was released in 1999, each artist building their tracks from source material provided by the other. It was released on the unprolific German label Duebel (who were related to some extent to the Ant-Zen label), they have a small run of releases, mostly limited editions, no doubt difficult to find. I have probably about 3/4 of the labels releases.

Driving home tonight, a couple of the tracks from this release came up on my MP3 player, where I have a copy of the music. Both lengthy, abstract pieces, the first from the Brume selection, the second from Telepherique. Reminding me, again, just how much I continue to enjoy this album. In doing so being conscious of the act of listening, particularly related to a work like this. The layers, the noises, the textures. Brume, the French musician Christian Renou, is described as musique concrete, though here is at the more accessible end of that spectrum. Voice samples work throughout, I assume from a science fiction film - a space ship, emergency messages. These give the piece a human element, grounding the sound work, the sculptural nature of the layers.

Here to Telepherique are at their more concrete, though verging more into noise, with a harshness to the sound. Telepherique a group of German siblings working with various artists on numerous releases like this one over the years. While I have never seen Brume perform live, I did manage to catch Telepherique twice. The first time Klaus and Rene, the second joined by Danijela.

The music of both bands is something I have a particular fondness for, they way they both achieve an immersive  experience. One which I can lose myself as a listener. So a pleasing drive home through the play of soundscapes that complimented the journey.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015 Reading Summary 

Summary of what I read in 2015, "*" denotes a re-read.
Graphic novels have been noted sporadically, read many more of those, but didn't always remember to include in list.

the collector - sergi toppi
the mighty avengers vol 2 - family bonding - al ewing + valerio schiti
saga vol 4 - brian k vaughan + fiona staples
manhattan projects vol 4- hickmann + pitarra
manhattan projects vol 5- hickmann + pitarra
hot head - simon ings *
daniel fights a hurricane - shane jones
let's put the future behind us - jack womack
solaris rising 3
afterparty - darryl gregory
vN - madeline ashby
descent - ken macleod

planesrunner - ian mcdonald*
colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage - haruki murakami
coffin hill 2 - dark endeavours
hellblazer 10 in the line of fire
glow - ned beauman

the magic pen - dylan horrocks
something coming through - paul mcauley
avengers adapt or die
alif the unseen - g willow wilson

get in trouble - kelly link
blue remembered earth - alastair reynolds
the rabbit back literature society -Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
justice calling (20 sided sorcereress) - annie bellet
tigerman - nick harkaway

glaze - kim curran
rivers of london - ben aaranovitch*
glorious angels - justina robson
dead witch walking - kim harrison
spirits abroad - zen cho
stand on zanzibar - john brunner

the peripheral - william gibson*
city of stairs - robert jackson bennett

three parts dead - max gladstone*
strange and norrell - suzanne clarke
wicked+divine book 2
avengers infinity
wytches volume 1
this is life - dan rhodes

leviathan wakes - james s a corey
jagganith - karin tidbeck
wolves of london: obsidian hearts
the field of the cloth of gold - magnus mills
the other wind - ursula le guin

alien separation - gini koch
ack-ack macaque - gareth powell
the sorceror of the wildeeps - kai ashante wilson
the sorceror to the crown - zen cho

twelve tomorrows (harkaway, stross, sterling, bauman, etc)
holy fire - bruce sterling*
be my enemy - ian mcdonald
daker shade of magic - ve schwab
follow me - victoria gemmel

2312 - kim stanley robinson
welcome to night vale - fink/cranor

the bone clocks - david mitchell
divine misfortune - a lee martinez
bookburners 1 - max gladstone
bookburners 2
bookburners 3
bookburners 4
bookburners 5
hexomancy - michael r underwood
the seed collectors - scarlett thomas
ack ack macaque - gareth powell*

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