Thursday, 21 November 2013

the pillow book Sei Shonogon


Pleasing things: finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.

This is best viewed as a scrapbook of observations recorded as they occurred to the writer. There are a lot of lists, like the above one “Pleasing things” and thoughts on court life and the people of the court. I felt reading this that it is a book to occasionally flip open and read what comes up rather than reading it from cover to cover like a traditional book. Some of the writing is beautiful and it gives an interesting overview of the time and place.

Overall – an easy read, one to dip into

Carrie Stephen King

Pretty well known story with a couple of movie adaptations, including a new one due out soon. A girl is brought up by her very religious mother and has a telekinetic ability, she is bullied in high school and takes her revenge in a shocking manner (possibly less shocking now than it was in the 70’s). I am surprised at how much it is a Stephen King novel. That may sound strange but King's distinctive voice is in here, fully formed, some novelists take a few books to get into their stride, King hits the ground running. It also perfectly captures, what has become quite commonplace through film & TV, the horror of going to American high school and not fitting in. This is also one of the most heavily foreshadowed books, using interviews, news items and excerpts from a book of the tragedy, that I can remember reading. It works though, it keeps you turning the pages. King says in On writing that the family were broke when he got the call about Carrie and a massive advance, he expands a bit in the introduction to the Harper copy I have. I can't help but be jarred by the image of Carrie you get from the book and contrasting it against who they've chosen (both Sissy Spacek and Chloe Moretz in the remake)

Overall – still an entertaining read and a quick one

The Kraken Rises! Various


After almost a year in the planning the good people of Bristol entered the world of The Kraken Rises! These are the stories that resulted. It is worth pointing out that this was writing under extreme pressure and in a very short amount of time. Many of the participants hadn’t written before or hadn’t written for a long time and it is amazing that we got any stories at all. Due to our self-imposed deadlines there hasn’t been time to ask for redrafts or to do much more than correct typos. The brief was written mostly by Jonathan L Howard and basically posited that Bristol is occasionally visited by weird events every time there is a great comet in the sky. These are called Kraken events & our writers were challenged to come up with a story about a Kraken event. Around 30 people took part, not all of them made the deadline for the anthology, these are the stories that made the grade. Although they’re not polished, as time didn’t allow, the standard is surprisingly good.

Overall – It was great fun making this anthology, and great fun reading it

the lives of Tao Wesley Chu


The world’s history has been shaped by two opposing alien factions who cannot exist in our atmospheric conditions for long but can use animals and humans as hosts. The aliens use humans as secret agents in their war and Tao’s host Edward is one of the very best. However when the host dies in Chicago Tao has a very short time to find a new host and possesses Roen. Roen is not your obvious secret agent material, he is a low level programmer, he is overweight, has few social skills and poor hand eye co-ordination. The aliens are split into two factions both with a wish to go home, the Genjix believe that this is best achieved by pushing forward human evolution & technology via conflict, the Prophus believe that it is best achieved with peace. Tao is a high ranking Prophus and needs to keep Roen alive long enough to learn enough skills to be useful to the cause. The aliens cannot voluntarily leave their hosts, leaving only when the host dies. This is an entertaining read once you get past the set up. My main issue with this, and the modern vampire trope (and Von Daniken) is that they start with the premise that dumb old humans couldn’t possibly be responsible for all the wonderful things we are actually responsible for and aliens/vampires etc did it/are actually all the important people in history. Apart from that one niggling fact I did enjoy this book which follows the loser to hero trope and has a bunch of great action sequences and a lot of sly humour. Chu has written a follow up book called the deaths of Tao and I enjoyed this first enough to immediately seek out a copy and will be reading soon.

Overall – Entertaining alternative history SF

Vurt Jeff Noon


Alice in Wonderland & psychedelic music references abound in this high action breakneck paced SF classic about a drug called Vurt which comes in the form of coloured feathers that you ingest that take you to a variety of virtual worlds. It is written in a heavy stylised way that takes a little getting used to but once you do it is a very fast read as it keeps you turning the pages. It is very much a book of its time and reminiscent (although very different) to Lawnmower man, snow crash and other cyberpunks. We follow the Stash Raiders and our hero Scribble (who is the narrator & writer) who has lost his sister in a Vurt. There are short interlude chapters by the “Game Cat” which are fairly heavy in exposition. There are dog/human hybrids. There are Shadow people (Empaths basically) & I think the book must have heavily influenced Shadowrun. It is not a book without problems, there is the stylistic writing, it occasionally slips to the wrong side of surreal, there are plenty of dream sequences and it does seem a little dated. However it is an imaginative tour de force and a quick an enjoyable read. There is a 20th anniversary edition and it is rightly held up to be a classic example of the genre.

Overall - An imaginative tour de force and a quick an enjoyable read

surfacing Margaret Atwood


A woman is informed that her father, who lives on a remote island in Canada, has gone missing. She takes some friends with her as she goes to check on the property. The setup is good but let down by a rushed and slightly incoherent ending. I don’t have much to say about this book, it was just OK. It is very dated (published in 1972).

Overall – Meh - Forgettable

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

On Monday I attended the BristolCon Fringe event in the Shakespeare pub in Bristol. There were two readers: Ian Millstead, who read his story from the forthcoming Airship shape and Bristol fashion anthology, and Jonathan L Howard who read a brand new story and the prologue from the forthcoming 4th Johannes Cabal book. Jonathan advised us that we were trial subjects as his first story was an experimental piece and I’m glad to say it was an enjoyable piece. Ian’s piece was very much Bristol based, full of Victorian science and featured William Friese-Green, but won’t be putting spoilers here! Apart from a few sound issues (and a loud member of the public who was admirably handled by the BristolCon guys) this was a really nice evening. The next BristolCon Fringe will be on Monday 16th December with Joanne Hall and Kevlin Henney and I’m looking forward to it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The crystal mirror By Tim Malnick (author) & Katie Green (Illustrator)

OK so I may be a little biased here, but it’s OK to review a book that your mentioned in the acknowledgements & had a small hand in helping to publish right? Right? Oh well I’m going to do it anyway. The Crystal Mirror came to life after Sarah Bird from Vala co-op read a set of stories written by Tim Malnick and learned that Katie Green wanted to illustrate them. Vala is a small independent publisher and couldn’t afford to pay Katie an advance for the book, but without an advance Katie wouldn’t have been able to dedicate the amount of time needed to create the amazing illustrations. So they decided to crowdfund and I got involved as both a supporter and as a “godparent” in order to support the process, help publicise the book etc. They raised a bundle of cash and the book got made. I am happy to say that it is gorgeous and a real treat for both adults and children. This book is going to be a favourite of some children I feel, lovely pictures and stories with enough mystery and excitement to spark the imagination. Katie’s illustrations are wonderful and really help to bring the book alive. The stories though are deceptively simple yet thematically complex and leave you with a sense of wonder. My favourite is the triumph of imagination in The master painter Where a painter paints a king and the king doesn’t like what he sees and locks up the painter, but you can’t lock up imagination. But it is very hard to choose a stand out story as they all have something good to offer. Whether it is hope and redemption in The cuddliest monster, or Identity in Polly the girl who was always changing and the story of Oswald Bat there is a hope inherent in each of the 5 stories. It would make a perfect Xmas gift too!

There's a page from each story here: and excertpts here: and if you're anywhere near Bristol on the 30th November there is an unusual book launch details here:

Overall - This is a seriously beautiful book

Thursday, 14 November 2013

I have been talking to Joanne Hall about her book The Art of Forgetting: Rider

Tell me about the world The Art of Forgetting is set in
JH - The Kingdom is a medieval influenced land still recovering from a particularly bloody civil war. It’s a small country, hemmed in by larger neighbours, in constant danger of invasion and assimilation. The Art of Forgetting is the first time I’ve written beyond the confines of the Kingdom – most of the second book takes place on the steppe lands to the east, beyond the mountains that border the Kingdom.
What was the path to getting this book published?
JH - I had written the book and it turned out to be enormously long – almost 200,000 words. It kept getting rejected because of the length, but I’d already cut 25k from it and I couldn’t work out how to make it shorter without cutting away big important chunks of the story. When I saw the open subs call for Kristell Ink – I think I found them via Gareth Powell’s Twitter list of SF and F publishers, one of the things that attracted me to them was the fact that they said they didn’t have a problem with long books. They got back to me fairly quickly with an acceptance (I think it was inside a month), but virtually the first thing they said was, “We love it, but it’s a bit long....”
Was it always going to be a series of books?
JH - I’m writing... not series fiction, but stand-alone stories set in the same world and featuring some shared characters. My first three books were a trilogy, but the books I’ve written since then have been more-or-less stand alone. You can read them in any order, but if you read them all you can recognise cross-over characters and locations and in-jokes. Some of those crop up in my short stories as well. So the world is connected, and it has a wider history, but I’m not showing you all of it yet!
The two “Art of Forgetting” volumes; “Rider” (out now) and “Nomad” (out spring 2014) were originally supposed to be one book, but it fell naturally into two halves, so Kristell Ink decided to split it and solve the ridiculously long book problem. But it’s one story spread over two books.
If you could be a character from any of your books who would it be and why?
JH - I think I would like to be Nasira. She has a big role in “Nomad” (without being too spoilery) and she gets to do fun things involving weapons, on horseback. She also has a unique ability which is pretty darn cool, and I want it!
What are you working on right now (apart from this interview of course!)
JH - I have just finished the first draft of a new novel, “The Summer Goddess”, which is about slavery and family loyalty and spy-cats and drug-addicted assassins and a tortured god – can you tell I’ve been having fun with it? That’s out with my beta readers right now, so I’m between drafts. Editing on “Nomad” is due to start in January, and I’ve set myself the challenge of trying to write one complete short story a fortnight until the end of the year, to try and get back into the rhythm of writing short stories and to write something a bit different. That’s the plan, anyway.
Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?
JH - I get up, I have a shower, I have a cup of tea, and then I write. If I’m working on a novel, I write until I’ve done 1000 words (always with a break for lunch). Sometimes this takes two hours, sometimes it takes six, sometimes I suck it up and realise that I’m not going to make it, sometimes I go wildly over. But the aim is 1000 words, every day, including Sundays and Bank Holidays. I’m much more disciplined than I ever thought I would be!
Who would you say are your major influences in your writing?
JH - I grew up reading fantasy; T H White, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, David Eddings. I’m a bit of a sponge, but I would say there’s a nod to David Gemmell and Raymond Feist in there. Possibly Anne McCaffrey too, I don’t think I write like her, but she’s undoubtedly a big influence.
This is very much an epic fantasy, is there anything that draws you to this genre over any other?
JH - I just love it, it’s what I grew up reading and what I enjoy reading, great fat books about people running around with swords being terribly brave and having a really hard time! I love SF, I love modern fantasy and fairy stories, but epic fantasy is my first love.
In one sentence what is your advice for new writers?
JH - Write every day, and never give up doing what you love!
My review:
The Art of Forgetting by Joanne Hall
Rhodri is a foundling and has a perfect memory. He clearly remembers his father but knows very little about his early childhood. This is an important plot point, which does raise a few questions, no spoilers but he had a pretty famous father who I just thought may have been mentioned once or twice in Rhodri’s hearing before the plot dictated the reveal. However this minor point didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book which is a - young lad joins the army, becomes a man -format but told in an engaging style which never gets dull. All the usual stuff happens, first battle, first love (with both sexes), first loss, friendships and enemies. Rhodri becomes a rider in the king’s third (As it’s fantasy and is about a cavalry officer there is a lot of horseyness in parts!) who patrol a city called Northpoint which was instrumental in a civil war that happened in the past but very much informs the events of the book. We see that healers and magic users exist but they don’t have much impact on the lives of the men of the King’s third and in one memorable incident there is a river demon. However it is mostly a low fantasy book concentrating on the lives and loves of Rhodri and his friends as he goes through training and on to a posting at the edge of the country which the second book will explore. This is very much the start of the story and the next instalment is coming soon in which the epic part of the fantasy will probably come more to the fore. The author explores some big themes in this part of the story around identity, gender and sexuality. She does make the characters come alive and I am keen to read the second book.
Overall – an engaging and fun read

Friday, 8 November 2013

This week I have also been talking to Gareth L Powell about his book Hive Monkey, the new sequel to Ack-Ack Macaque.

My review of Ack-Ack Macaque as a reminder is here:

Alternative history SF

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of Gareth L. Powell’s latest book. The novel hits the beaches in January 2013 from Solaris. Imagine what the world would be like if the UK, France and Norway amalgamated in the 50’s and spin that forwards 50 years into the future. This is what Gareth Powell has done with this story that is an “xpunk” (taking the best from Cyber AND steam) novel. There are aircraft carrier sized nuclear powered Zeppelin cities that are neutral territory. There are soul catchers that allow people to record a backup of their personalities. There are immersive alt reality games. There is “gelware” that can replace brain tissue if you accidently bash your head in a helicopter accident. There is the prince of Wales who gets involved with a girl with purple hair who is an AI rights activist. And there is a foul mouthed, one eyed, cigar chomping monkey with a pair of revolvers, a flying jacket and a bad attitude.

"Do you know what you have to do?" Ack-Ack Macaque grinned, exposing his teeth "Same as I always do, right?" He snapped the reloaded Colt back together and spun the barrel. "Blow shit up, and hurt people"

Throw in Nazi ninjas, a dastardly plot, a woman journo with a dead husband in her head, a looming nuclear conflict and a rocket to Mars and you have a full on entertaining adventure yarn. Ack-Ack Macaque started life as a short story (albeit one very different from the novel) included at the end of the novel that was published in Interzone.

Overall – It has Monkeys. Monkeys flying planes. Monkeys shooting Nazis. Nazis who are also ninjas. Need I say more?

I picked up a copy of Hive Monkey at wfc2013, Gareth was a little surprised it was on sale as the official launch is January 2014.


Tell me about the world of Hive Monkey – how is it different to our own?


GLP: Hive Monkey, like its predecessor Ack-Ack Macaque, takes place in a world that diverged from ours during the Suez Crisis. In our world, when the French prime minister proposed a political merger between Britain and France, Anthony Eden turned him down; but in my fictional universe, he said yes, because France and the UK had just secured a military victory in Suez (which they failed to do in our world). This means that in the world of Hive Monkey, European power rests in a commonwealth based around London and Paris, rather than a federation based around Paris and Berlin.

Also, there are huge nuclear-powered Zeppelins.
What are the challenges in writing a sequel as opposed to writing a standalone and how did you tackle them?

GLP: On the whole, writing a sequel was fun. It was fun to keep writing about characters for whom I’d developed a fondness. The main challenge I found was in deciding how much explanation to put into the book, for readers who may not have read the first one. Hopefully, I got the balance right...

Was the monkey always going to appear in a series?

GLP: The monkey started off as a character in a short story in Interzone. Then he got his own novel. Now it’s a trilogy. Who knows where he might go next...

If you could be a character from the book who would it be and why?

GLP: In some ways, I guess all the characters contain aspects of my personality, in so far as they came from my imagination. Given the choice, though, I guess I’d have to choose the monkey. I mean, who wouldn’t? He’s pretty much free to do and say whatever he wants. He doesn’t give a shit, and he gets to blow things up. He is absolutely the Mr Hyde to my Dr Jekyll.

What are you working on right now? (apart from this interview of course!)

GLP: I’m currently working on the third book in the Macaque Trilogy. It’s called Macaque Attack, and it’s out in January 2015.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

GLP: I write while the kids are at school, and sometimes in the evening, after they’ve gone to bed. I don’t have a specific number of words I aim to get done each day; I just try to ensure that the words I write are good ones. I’d rather write 500 good words than 2000 mediocre ones.

What are you most proud of about the book?

GLP: This is the first novel-length sequel I’ve written, and I think it holds up very well against the first book. In fact, I think it’s even better. It takes the characters and themes from Ack-Ack Macaque and cranks the whole thing up a couple of gears.

This is very much an SF book, is there anything that draws you to this genre over any other?

GLP: I’ve always been a fan of SF, since before I could even read. So it makes sense that I write in the genre now. After all, if you write what you love, and you have fun doing it, that affection and enjoyment come across to the reader.

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

GLP: Write first, edit later. 

My review:

Hive Monkey Gareth L Powell


In Ack-Ack Macaque Gareth L Powell introduced us to the cigar chomping, Spitfire flying, foul talking uplifted Monkey who escaped from an artificial reality game to help save the world. In this sequel he is back, bigger, badder and with more explosions. Like a movie franchise the first book sets up the world and the tone and the second raises the stakes and cranks up the action. In this, the middle of a trilogy, we are introduced to a new enemy , the Gestalt, a hive mind hell bent on assimilating Ack-Ack’s world. With his friends from the first book – Victoria Valois and her dead husband Paul (who in this one has been upgraded to hologram status), the hacker K8, a cameo from Merovich who is now King, and introducing a new character William Cole, a SF writer, Ack-Ack sets out to save the world again. From about the halfway point this is all action and Powell does well to keep the wheels spinning, and like most action films you don’t want to stop and ask questions as the pages fly by. If you like the first book you’ll love this second one.

Overall - As with the first book there is a cinematic feel and I could totally see this as an anime film. It feel it’s too long to wait for the third book!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

This week I have been talking to David Gullen the author of Shopocalypse. My review below the interview.

Tell me about the world of Shopocalypse

Shopocalypse is a distorted reflection of the real world, where some things like consumerism have been twisted to extremes and others such as the global climate have speculatively jumped forward a few decades. The whole planet is teetering on a knife edge between apocalypse and survival, and of course it’s up to my two heroes, Josie and Novik, to try and make the crucial difference. It’s not all bad because they meet some good people, including a few who aren’t actually human - and of course there is a very cool intelligent automobile.

What was the path to getting this book published? Was it the first you wrote?

This is my third novel, and the path to publication was difficult. I don’t have an agent, though that was not through want of trying. Shopocalypse gathered 136 rejections over two years from agents and publishers in genre fiction in the USA and the UK. Sometimes I really wondered what I was doing. In the end publication happened because of the help and belief of a small number of people: my partner, Gaie Sebold, science fiction author Jaine Fenn, and Colin Tate at Clarion Publishing. There were also a larger number of other people who helped in smaller ways, for which I am of course very grateful. Without those three people in particular I don’t think it would ever have happened.

 Now, of course, it’s immensely satisfying to see it in print and being well-received.

If you could be a character from the book who would it be and why?

I’m not sure I’d want to be any of them, I give them all such a hard time. Possibly Ellen, because not many people get to become a kind of superhero, but maybe I’d go for Jericho Wilson. It won’t spoil anything to say he starts as a burned-out middle-aged ex-cop, and I think he has a satisfying arc – an ordinary man trying to cope with extraordinary times, his own past and his own limitations, finally rising above them. I do seem to identify with my middle-aged male secondary characters, they do keep cropping up. Maybe it’s because I am one. (Though I don’t think I’m a secondary character, at least not in my own life. That would be strange.)

What are you working on right now (apart from this interview of course!)

I’m just coming to the end of the first draft of a big fantasy novel currently called ‘Beyond The Streets We Know’. This is a retelling of the legend of the Wild Hunt: how the Hunt came about, who leads it, and what they are doing. It’s also about a contemporary London street kid called Carl White and his dog Bronz. They  get tangled up in human trafficking between this and other worlds. One thing I wanted to write about was the ‘gangsterism’ of feudal societies. It’s a gritty, grimy book, but I wouldn’t call it GrimDark as there are streaks of romance too.

‘Open Water’, my first collection of short stories, is also in preparation. This is being edited by Terry Grimwood at the Exaggerated Press and should be out soon. There’s a mix of previously published and unpublished stories so even in the unlikely event you’ve been obsessively reading my work there are some new things too.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

I like to write early rather than late, so I tend to be up and ready to work around 8am. My bottom line is to write 1,000 words a day. It’s usually more but if it’s good enough for JG Ballard it’s good enough for me. One thing I like to do is to keep interrupting the writing with other short tasks of 10-30 minutes. These can be quite mundane – housework, some exercises, a bit of gardening. Interruptions make me far more productive compared to just sitting at the desk all day. To help with this I use  a timer set at one hour intervals. It’s a flexible routine, if things are going well I push on.

I’m a part-time writer. Three days a week I’m doing the day job, IT Tech Support, the other days I write. I’m very lucky to able to do this.

Who would you say are the major influences in your writing?

I’ve already mentioned Ballard, one of the great writers of the English language of the modern era. Jack Vance is another wonderful stylist and imaginative storyteller. You need to develop your own way, or ways, of telling stories. Shopocalypse has a specific style, its own ‘voice’. I think the real influence is the great melting pot of all the books I’ve read, fiction and non-fiction, music, film, life, experience, the world. It all goes in and somehow it makes stories when it comes out. Music has had a surprisingly strong influence, and particularly with Shopocalypse, which is a kind of road movie with a rock and electro-pop soundtrack. I’ve no idea how this all hangs together but your subconscious is your friend and you need to learn to trust it. After all, it is actually who you are.

What are you most proud of about the book?

Structurally I’m pleased with the way the chapter interludes work to build a vibe, a culture around the story. Some characters only exist in those short extracts, and one in particular starts as a major character, goes into them and comes out again. I liked that.

I also liked that I worked out a way to write a story that included themes about things that bugged me without thumping people over the head with metaphorical political pamphlets. The humour helped there I think, some gags just want to be told. No doubt some people will disagree with me on this but I thought it went OK.

This is very much an SF book, is there anything that draws you to this genre over any other?

SF and Fantasy are the genres I just naturally gravitate to. Without thinking, I just write stories in those places. Obviously, you can write about impossible things, other worlds, magic, or things that haven’t happened yet. Being able to do this is a powerful tool, a mirror you can hold up to the world so you can see it better. Taking your own culture, prejudices, preconceptions out of a story is one way to intensify what you want to write about. To my mind stories should always be about something – the themes. In Shopocalypse this is overt but it doesn’t have to be. Stories are for sharing - experiences, opinions, dreams and nightmares. I think that’s why we write.

Shopocalypse by David Gullen


This is a big book with big ideas and lots of plot. It will take you some dedication to finish it. It’s not that it is badly written, quite the opposite in fact, it is that the breadth of plot is staggering and takes some getting used to. There are a lot of ideas in here and a lot of characters, most of whom have their arcs fully explored. It could be seen as rambling and incoherent but if you stick with it there is a point that you’ll suddenly go “aha” and get it. Once you’ve had that moment though you’ll really want to get to the end and find out what happens to all of the many characters: from the president of the USA and her coterie of weirdos and warmongers to Novik our main protagonist and his friends who are trying to change the world, from “Mr Car” the talking super car, who gets all the best lines, to the richest man who has ever lived. There is a not so subtle allegory about consumerism but if you concentrate on this you miss out on all the other fun stuff that is much more subtle. There is an occasional Vonnegutian feel, there are certainly references to Douglas Adams but it is very much its own thing and introduces an interesting new voice to SF. There are issues with it, I’m not denying it, but not to the extent that it is not hugely enjoyable, even if it does take a bit of an effort to get there. There maybe a couple of character arcs too many, the story about the wife of the richest man seems a little indulgent and could have been cut without losing much and is also possibly the least satisfactory of the multiple storylines. However this is a minor quibble. Try it and stick with it, it’s worth it.

Overall – Very accomplished debut from an interesting new voice, looking forward to what he does next.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Wfc2013 or wtf2013?

Last weekend I joined the world’s (for world read UK, US, Australia mostly) fantasy authors, publishers and agents in Brighton for wfc2013. Expectations had been set low by a series of unfortunate announcements by the organisers that made you think that women and disabled people were not welcome. Once I arrived though most of those thoughts were proved unfounded.

Why “most”? well you see the panels were problematical. They seemed to be stuck in the 90’s, as an example “Is print dead?” You know we had a debate on that on my publishing course in Uni in 1997 as the publishing world was going to be challenged by Multimedia (remember that?). Is print dead? Nope, books are no more challenged by e-books than by audio books, e-readers are just another format on which you can access the stories that will continue to be churned out. I have an e-reader, I have a large library of physical books, I use both, I don’t foresee a time I will ever abandon print.

There are other examples, one of which I’ll go into in detail. The panels seemed to mostly be built around negatives. Or asking questions that you just think can be answered with a simple yes or no.

We arrived Thursday morning and spent a pleasant time in the bar chatting with Paul Cornell and Lee Harris after registering and collecting the mountain of freebies. This was the calm before the storm really. We did get the chance to book in and dump our two bags worth of freebies each before going for a fantastic lunch in Terre a Terre then heading back to the hotel for when the dealer room opened at 2pm. Oh boy that dealer room was dangerous for the wallet. What a great set of stalls. We ended up trying to avoid it as it seemed that every time we went in there we bought something new.



I didn’t actually manage to get to any panels on the Thursday but did go to 2 book clubs. One for Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith (one of the organisers of the con) and one for Anno Dracula for Kim Newman. I don’t feel this format worked, they were not very well attended and relied upon the attendees to have done a lot of prep really. Pretty stilted both times, I did of course try to throw questions at the authors and we did learn some interesting stuff but I wouldn’t do a book club at a con again.

By being at the book club I did miss out on helping to organise the “Pop up pirate” guerrilla programming that a bunch of friends did. I did get to support them and go along to their alternative, fringe program though which was good. A number of readings were done including Francis Knight and Tom Pollock.

And there was grog and doubloons. Yaaarr. I’m hoping to help out more next time.

Friday we went to lunch with Hannah Berry and Maura McHugh ostensibly to plot for BFL 2014 but really just an excuse to catch up and shoot the breeze. Hannah, as a local, took us to a fantastic Mexican restaurant called La Choza where they had a day of the dead theme since it was the day after Halloween)


Facepainting was provided by Ziggy Angus The food was pretty good too.

Arriving back late afternoon and actually missing some stuff I’d thought about going to. I was in time to go to the Broads with swords panel (again insultingly titled and basically a ghetto panel) to support Gaie Sebold who was appearing. It was an odd conversation that, in the end, turned into a list making exercise on “who are the best female fantasy writers”.

Later I also attended the We’re all bloggers now panel which was excruciatingly described – I quote, in full:

Being a columnist or a critic used to be a skill, combining knowledge and the ability to write with insightful observations. These days it seems that everybody has an opinion and evolving technology has given us numerous platforms through which to make our views known. Have we degraded the true art of criticism to a point where it has lost all value, or are some of the best insights found online these days?

In essence then the organisers are saying that bloggers are unskilled, uneducated and have nothing worth saying? As a blogger I find this rather patronising to say the least. I was not alone. Cheryl Morgan, pointed out that the panel description was idiotic. This didn’t seem to go down well with the panel or the moderator and having had enough after 15 minutes I walked out. Maybe it got better, I’m not sure. The moderator was pretty awful on that one (a fairly common problem in the panels I attended).

The only other panel I attended was What else have you got? Which bucked the trend of the panels and was actually entertaining and informative, what a difference good moderation makes. The people on the panel were all well-known editors and it was an interesting chat.

We went to a couple of launches and readings but not sure, now that I’ve slept, in what order so will just list them here:

Titan books launch – mmm popcorn

Jo Fletcher book launch – long signing queue for Fearie Tales

PS Publishing – picked up a signed copy of Sunburnt Faces by Shimon Adaf

Mass signing – bewildering experience but managed to get pretty much all the books we’d brought with us signed

Del Rey party – that one went on till late

All of the launches were fun and good mixers/networking events.

Readings I went to were:

Gareth L Powell – who was surprised to find that Hive monkey was on sale on the Solaris stand, as was I, had to nab a copy too.

Gareth is always entertaining to listen to and garnered himself a few new fans with the monkey’s exploits. I’ll be reviewing Hive Monkey and hopefully interviewing Gareth soon.

Wesley Chu & Scott Lynch – very entertaining, can’t wait to read Lives of Tao (will be the next but one book I read I think) and Scott Lynch was like a big puppy but he had the most mesmerising voice.

Genevieve Valentine – who read a stunning story & was the best reading I went to all weekend

And last but certainly not least Rochita Loenin-Ruiz who sadly got a bit rushed and had to skip to the end.


I also attended a Kaffeeklatch with the very talented and fun Joe Hill who entertained a room full of people for a whole hour, made everyone feel included in the conversation and had a number of brilliant anecdotes and tips for writers. We also discussed the best books we’d each read this year and it was very nice that Joe recommended the Johannes Cabal books from local (to Bristol) writer Jonathan L Howard (who’s doing a reading for BristolCon fringe this month.

In between times there was always the art room where Tessa Farmer’s work always seemed to be causing a buzz


A lot of time was spent in the bar or in other refreshment areas chatting with friends old and new. And of course there was Brighton in the rain

And Brighton in the sun

Rare as that was. As well as restaurants and other sundry fun stuff. Talking about restaurants, one close to the convention hotel tweeted a bunch of people using the hash tag #wfc2013. Very enterprising. A bunch of us went there (and were a little ripped off actually – we ordered the special menu at £10.99 + drinks as there were more than 12 of us and they charged us full price – very naughty) It was called the Little Bay and was set up as a theatre inside. We were in one of the balconies so it came as a complete surprise when the opera singer popped up behind us.

So in summary fun was had, but problems remained. Once I’d decided that it wasn’t aimed at fans and that the panels were a bust I had a much better time. I would go to another, just for the networking possibilities, which is a little sad to be honest. Those guys could really learn from BristolCon which was many times more fun both as a standard punter and someone with a tiny role to play in the publishing industry. There are far too many people to mention that I met, chatted to and saw at the con but needless to say it was a massive vortex that mostly prevented you from talking too long to any one person. I met a bunch of fine folk and in the end that’s what made the con.

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