Tag Archives: Berlin

Friday Photo Blogging: Der Neue Synagoge

I’m running pretty short of Berlin photos that I’ve not shared already (cue sighs of relief all round), but having done little or no photography in the last few weeks I am obliged to rummage in the crates once again. So, how’s about some Moorish retro architecture in the form of Berlin’s Neue Synagoge?

Der Neue Synagoge, Oranienburgerstrasse, Berlin

It will probably come as no surprise that it’s not the original, but a close reproduction of the 19th Century building which was battered during the war and subsequently razed to the ground. If you walk along Oranienburgerstrasse after dark[1], you’ll notice a quiet policeman on the street in front, in a little roped-off region.

If only my native country were so careful to dissuade people from remaking the mistakes of the past.

Writing about music

The Dreaded Press chunters along quite smoothly now thanks to my volunteer reviewers. As mentioned before, things are winding down for the season – only one album came in the post this week, where I would normally receive four or five – so I’ve got a chance to consolidate some headway over the holidays and think about new strategies for the site.

And maybe finally do that redesign which I’ve been meaning to do since I installed the current hackabout of a theme over a year ago…

Album of the week

I’m going to cheat by picking two albums, but as they’re from the same band and have just been reissued simultaneously, I figure that’s fair enough. The albums in question are Heaven’s End and Fade Out by proto-shoegaze noiseniks Loop; if you like raucous fuzz and saturated soundscapes, grab yourself a missing link from the history of the style.

Writing about books

Despite last week’s triumphant completion of the epic Steampunk review, I managed to crank out a review of Lou AndersFast Forward 2 anthology for Futurismic. It was quite an easy review to write in some respects, because there was something positive to say about almost every story. Apparently I’m the only person who ‘read’ Picacio’s cover art correctly… though I suspect a number of other people did, but simply decided not to mention it in their review.

There’s still a hefty backlog of books that I read months ago but still haven’t reviewed, and new titles in the queue, some with deadlines. Plus I’ve almost finished Nick HarkawaysThe Gone-Away World, which I think will have to be written about simply by dint of being such a unique and interesting book (not to mention one I wish I’d gotten round to sooner). Thank goodness for upcoming holidays, eh?


The basic engine and visual framework of The Pretty Big Project have been installed, and the client likes it very much. But they want me to do something with one of the subsections that I’m not entirely sure how to go about achieving… I think I have a solution, but it’s not going to be particularly elegant from the back-end. That’s Saturday’s job – some “suck it and see” code testing[2].

Other freelance stuff is business as usual; lovely.


A new month means a new story at Futurismic – in this case the return of Jason Stoddard, putting his fiction where his mouth is and following his own Positive SF manifesto in “Willpower“. I really enjoyed it, and the comments so far (both on the page itself and at io9) seem to concur. I’d be interested in hearing any further opinions from VCTB regulars. Because you have all read it, right? 😉

Books and magazines seen

A quiet week again – seems like the publishing industry is slowing down for the season, too. Then again, there could be a lot more reasons; my sympathies go out to anyone working in publishing at the moment, because I’ve experienced what it’s like to work in an industry where the axe is hovering over everyone. Here’s hoping things perk up sooner rather than later – for everyone, not just the publishers[3].

So, this week’s only input is a long-awaited BSFA care package. Lots of good stuff in Vector this time, and a bumper reviews section (including my review of David Levy‘s Love and Sex with Robots). Some of the articles (not to mention the Elastic Press sampler) have already provoked some vigorous debate over at the BSFA forums; if you’re a member, be sure to drop in and share your thoughts.


I suppose it’s high time I gave some thought to what I’ll be doing over the Allegedly Festive Period, but I doubt it’ll be anything special. My mother’s visiting the south coast this year, so I’ll not be trekking to Yorkshire in the mobile purgatory of the National Express network again… *shudder*

Still, there’s time remaining for planning[4]. In the meantime, the weekend has arrived, so I’d better make myself some food and get cracking with the free fiction round-up at Futurismic, hadn’t I? Have a great weekend yourselves, as best you’re able. Auf weidersehn!

[ 1 – There are many good reasons to do this; great bars and restaurants, for example, in addition to many architectural marvels like the above. You might initially be as confused as I was by the preponderance of young ladies whose fashion sense seems to be grounded in the props department of a studio that made eighties hair-metal videos. It wasn’t until one of them engaged me in conversation that I realised she wasn’t waiting for a friend at all. Not a *specific* friend, anyway. ]

[ 2 – Based on prior experience, that’s about six hours of the day accounted for… ]

[ 3 – That said, I’m pretty alarmed by this slew of interest rate drops and tax breaks that are being announced over here in the UK. Are the Government postponing the inevitable, or simply spreading it out thinner over a longer period? Or are they making like Jack Bauer with a pair of wirecutters inside a device they don’t fully understand? Guess we’ll find out eventually, but I would feel a lot more secure had we buried our facile national nostalgia for the days of empire and joined the bloody Euro when we had the chance. ]

[ 4 – He said, with a confidence that might prove not to be borne out by events. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: the Brandenburg Gate

Once a sorry marker of the division of East and West, the restored Brandenburg Gate is once again a focal centre for Berlin… especially tourists.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

You may be able to notice the huge swarm of bikers between the gate and the point-of-view; I have no idea what the occasion was, but it obviously had something to do with blatting off through Tiergarten in a big cheerful gang with a police escort. ‘Twas a nice day for it, too.[1]

Writing about music

The music industry is slowing down for the Allegedly Festive Season (or at least the bits of it that release music I’m actually interested in), so things are winding down a bit at TDP – which is fine by me, and I doubt will cause any great complaints from my writers, either. That said, still plenty of interesting titles to get through before the year is done.

Album of the week

Not strictly an album but more an EP (and I’m slightly biased because they’re a local outfit) but I wholeheartedly recommend You Are Goldmouth by Munroe Effect. Because that’s how progressive post-hardcore is supposed to sound: sharp and pacey and powerful, full of light and shade, never overstaying its welcome. Go check ’em out, and go see ’em if they play near you. Tell them I sent you. Buy them a beer. Nice lads, good band.

Writing about books

THE STEAMPUNK REVIEW IS FINISHED. Well, it needs a final polish and error-check, but the thing is actually fully compiled.

It is also nearly three thousand words long, which may explain why I didn’t just rattle it off in an afternoon… though it also demonstrates one of the phenomena of procrastination when applied to large tasks done piecemeal, namely: “the longer you leave it, the larger it will seem to look[2]“.

Now, which of my leviathan queue of reviews should I write next?


Nothing special to report here, really. Nearing the end of The Pretty Big Project (indeed, hoping to have it nailed by Monday, or at least the bulk of it), and the long-awaited artwork for The Other Project has been chopped into a header bar (with some decorative bits) and raided for a colour scheme. It’s going to be a very interesting pallet to work with, too – quite different from the others, with the potential to be very striking[3].


The good ship Futurismic sails on much as ever. Monday sees a new piece of fiction go live, of course; it’s from a writer who has published at Futurismic more than once before, and it’s definitely an example of the Positive SF manifesto in action. But it’s also a neat little story, and I’m sure it will get a reaction.

Advanced warning for those of you who read here – we’ll be shutting submissions over December, because poor Chris needs a holiday away from other people’s writing and a bit more time with his own. Plus he might want to, I dunno, see his loved ones or something. I know, I know, a bit selfish… but as I don’t pay the guy anything I guess I have to cut him a bit of slack, right[4]?

Books and magazines seen

I’m not going to mention any names, but it appears Orbit aren’t the only publisher who send me wildly inappropriate books; this week saw the arrival of – among other things – a ‘romance thriller’ involving werewolves with a very tacky cover indeed. Seriously, I think if I never see another undead/lycanthropy novel during the next decade, I’ll be a happier man for it.

However, my delightful clients at PS Publishing have sent me over a bunch of our latest titles, and the latest issue of Talebones has arrived – a pleasant surprise, as I’d completely forgotten it existed, let alone that I had a subscription to it. Huzzah!

Talebones Magazine #37

Not only that, but it has a story by James Van Pelt, who is one of my very favourite internet-based avuncular dispensers of writerly wisdom. Go check him out, if you don’t already.

London calling

Wednesday was nice – a day of culture-vulturing up in the Big Smoke. Myself and Justin Pickard met up at the Tate Modern and hoovered up some surrealism, impressionism and Viennese actionism (the latter of which is, erm, a trifle severe). We then (well, it was actually me) decided we could probably walk from there to Gower Street for the Battlespaces lecture. I was quite correct, but it took us the best part of two hours… still, we had a good natter and soaked up the hustle and bustle.

The Battlespaces lecture itself was excellent; I’ve commended Geoff Manaugh‘s BLDGBLOG to you many times before (so if you’re not subscribed to it already, I want a good reason why), and I shall now be looking out for the arrival of Antoine J Bousquet‘s forthcoming book, The Scientific Way of Warfare[5]. This was the sort of brain-food event that makes you remember why you wanted to write science fiction in the first place… and that makes you despair of ever doing anything as weird and complicated as reality.

Then it was off to the BSFA shindig; it had peaked before we arrived, I think, but there were still a fair few people around and it was nice to catch up with some of the figures of fandom who I don’t get to see often enough. Then I had to make my way from Holborn to Seven Sisters to find my crash-spot for the night… thankfully I had help from a local, otherwise I might not be typing this now. All in all, a great day out – thanks to everyone who helped make it so.


And that’s about it, really – a busy week, but not an astonishingly interesting one from an outsider’s perspective, I’d imagine. But then I imagine they must all be like that, but the statistics show that you weirdos still read my blather every week, so I feel obliged to continue the ritual. That’s the kind of giving, caring guy I am, you see. 🙂

But I am also a hungry guy, so I shall now go fetch myself a Friday Curry. Yeah, I know, I had one last week. But I’m cold – that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. Enjoy your weekend, happy Thanksgiving for you American types, and take care of yourselves – auf weidersehn!

[ 1 – No prizes for guessing that yours truly spent most of today wishing he were somewhere (and somewhen) else. ]

[ 2 – And the more you will come to dread the thought of returning to it. You know, like when you suspect you may have left the gas on before going to the shops? ]

[ 3 – Provided the guy doing the design makes a good job of it, of course. Ahem. ]

[ 4 – Just in case it isn’t abundantly clear, I’m frankly in awe of Chris’s inhuman mental stamina in dealing with the Futurismic slush pile, and (if I could) I’d pay him a living wage to do nothing else. ]

[ 5 – If Mr Bousquet’s publishers are reading, a review copy would be very gratefully received. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: Holocaust Memorial

As it’s been a week for remembering the dead, I guess this image of the controversial Berlin Holocaust Memorial is sort of appropriate:

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

Also, this shot visually encapsulates how I was feeling for the bulk of the period since last week’s FPB…

In short, I acquired some sort of nasty plague or another. Felt pretty tired Friday night, so stayed in and read a book. Woke up very late on Saturday with a woolly head and a sense of impending doom, so I sent Shaun my apologies and said I’d not be going to see the gig with him after all, shambled out to do some chores and went back to bed quite early.

From Sunday to Wednesday I managed to average about eight hours awake out of each twenty-four; my sinuses felt like they were packed with freshly poured warm concrete, I had no appetite whatsoever and thinking coherently was a genuine effort[1].

Thankfully things started to clear down in the later half of Wednesday, and yesterday I was up and about and back to work again, and today I’m feeling comparatively chipper (though still pretty tired). All of which is rather uninteresting, granted, but it’s been included here to explain why I’m not going to have a lot to say about the past week. So…

Writing about music

Boy, am I glad I have other people reviewing for The Dreaded Press. I only yesterday wrote up last Wednesday’s gig…

Album of the week

One of my own reviews went live this week, because it was written last week (my schedule fu is strong). And so I commend unto you Live at Roadburn by Earthless:

… if you find the idea of twenty-minute tunes that consist chiefly of a solid rock rhythm decorated with oodles of super-fast pedal-drenched blues-scale fretboard meanderings a turn off, Earthless are not the droids you are looking for, and you can go about your business.

Right up my street.

Writing about books

I’ve hardly been able to read[2], so writing has been out of the question.


See above; web development requires a degree of coherency that has been sorely lacking.


Managed to scatter out some Futurismic blogging in my awake hours, but they were all a bit waffled and unfocused. Luckily Jonathan’s essay was in early and already set up to post. And hey – we’ve just accepted two new stories, which means we’re a month and a half ahead on fiction (theoretically)!

Books and magazines seen

Some non-fiction goodness: Quantum by Manjit Kumar, which is just the sort of pop-sci / history / biography mash-up I like. It’s also a big thick tome, so hell knows when I’ll have time to attack it…

Quantum - Manjit Kumar

Also the paperback of Charlie StrossThe Clan Corporate, which looks absolutely miniscule – are we seeing a return to the skinny novels of days gone by, or is that too much to hope for?

The Clan Corporate - Charles Stross


So, what else has happened? Not much, all told – although a guy called me up yesterday and took advantage of my tiredness to offer me a replacement for my now-ailing Nokia phone. I remember asking a lot of direct and simply-worded questions, and I’m pretty convinced that the terms and price of my contract aren’t changing as a consequence, so I think I’ll be OK. Also means I have another handset to flog off… a bit of spare cash is always good this time of year, after all.

Missed last week’s gig, but about ten minutes after I post this I’ll be roaring off to Brighton in a friend’s car to catch Russian Circles and These Arms Are Snakes… and by luck, Shaun C Green is celebrating his birthday at the same show. Given the week I’ve had, I doubt I’ll be drinking… but even so it’ll be nice to get out of town and have the cobwebs shaken loose from my brain by some loud music.

But that means I must be away and doing stuff, so I’ll wish you all a good weekend. Take care of yourselves!

[ 1 – Yeah, yeah, “no change there, then”. ]

[ 2 – I did try, and the actual reading bit was possible; remembering exactly what I’d read two minutes afterwards wasn’t happening, though. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: big pink graffiti bear

Berlin graffiti again, this time from the stairwell at Tacheles. Bears are the totem animal of Berlin, though they don’t always and up looking quite so cheerily cheesy as this one does:

Graffiti in stairwell, Tacheles

He appears to be some sort of mer-bear, also; or maybe he’s just wearing some sort of skirt? Artists, eh – who knows what goes on in their minds?

Writing about music

Another blissfully relaxed week on the music reviewing front; having two volunteers doing a couple a week is really lightening the load, and making my overall schedule a mite more human.

Album of the week

Technically reviewed last week (but published after FPB went out, so it still counts): Nottingham bass-less three-piece Lords delivered Everyone Is People, which I described as “simultaneously ramshackle and flawless, the most rock’n’roll anti-rock album ever, all the bombast and fakery stripped away leaving just the bare essentials – the grooves.”

I rather liked it, in other words.

Writing about books

Slow and minimal progress on the Steampunk anthology review has been made, but I finished off the latest typescript report this week, so I don’t feel too guilty about it. That said, I really do need to catch up on some of my book reviews – which is why the new schedule-with-breathing-space is such a pleasant thing to have.


Still waiting on an artists’ agent to contact me regarding some licensing for a pending project… I thought it was the artists that were supposed to be feckless about easy money, and that the agents were sharp and on the case about it? Go figure; I’ll hassle ’em again on Monday.

The other current project (which is quite a biggie) proceeds apace; it’s good to be able to just do an hour a day and see gradual progress being made[1].


Things are trotting along nicely over at Futurismic; the newest piece of fiction is ready to roll out on Monday (first weekday of the month, y’see), and we’ve got a few potential purchases on the consideration pile, which is a good place to be[2]. Ad earnings are low this month, but after last month’s bonanza that’s only to be expected, I guess.

It was very flattering to be contacted about featuring excerpt material from a major new science fiction title on the site, but sadly my ethics got in the way – the title in question was the new Orson Scott Card (who’s milking the Ender series once again), and I’ll not grandstand for homophobes and bigots, no matter how much traffic it might bring. Yeah, I know, I’m a fool… but Seth Godin says it’s more important to follow your heart sometimes. I just hope it pays off one day!

Books and magazines seen

Just the one this week, but it’s a striking item – not just for its title, God Killers, but for the cover artwork:

God Killers - Liam Sharp

Liam Sharp is known for his comics artwork[3], but he’s always wanted to write fiction as well, and this is his forthcoming first collection from Mam Tor Publishing (which appears to be the only place you can pre-order God Killers). In a rare situation for genre publishing, Liam not only chose the cover artist himself, but chose himself as the cover artist… so we can presume that the burly chap on the cover is actually a character.

Is it any good? I have no idea yet, but China Mieville’s a fan, apparently; gotta count for something.


Well, I’ve just caved in and activated the central heating, because when I came in from work it was the same temperature inside as it was outside, with the exception of the exhaust from my computer. I’m not looking forward to the bills, but it’s that or dressing like Captain Oates for the next four months and being incapable of doing anything even remotely productive or useful.

Now, while everyone else in the country is dressing up as the undead[4], I’m going to shuffle around my steadily-warming flat, make myself some food (no Friday Curry this week, diet fans!), and get ready to head down to the seafront and review the two bands blessed with the double-edged ignominy of supporting Funeral For A Friend.

I shan’t be reviewing the headliners for two reasons: first of all, they wanted me to sign one of those intimidating release forms for the privilege (and surrender the freedom of the press to their image management team in the process); secondly, because I f*cking loathe the tawdry shite they peddle as music, and I can’t be bothered reviewing them honestly just to be bombarded by testosterone-raddled subliterate MySpace users who can’t see that their favourite band doesn’t necessarily have to be everyone‘s favourite band[6]

Anyway… so far, so rock’n’roll, eh? Have a great weekend, and enjoy Halloween (or Samhain, if you’re keeping it old-school). Auf weidersehn!

[ 1 – As opposed to sitting down at midday on Saturday with two cans of Red Bull and binging on PHP and CSS for eight hours, which has been tried before. Not good for the brain, and tends to produce a lot of errors and false leads. Hello, learning curve! ]

[ 2 – Good for us, but we like to think it’s good for the writers also. ]

[ 3 – He did the art for the Doug Rushkoff comic series Testament, which I bought as monthly singles and which I’ve plugged here more than a few times. ]

[ 4 – I mean seriously, can’t we move on? Zombies are soooo post-Millennial, and vampires should have gone out of fashion when they stopped making new episodes of Buffy[5]. ]

[ 5 – No such f*cking luck. ]

[ 6 – Seriously, book review flak is much easier to deal with, if only because you can actually decipher the words that they’ve typed at you. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: desperate attempt to get famous

This particular bit of graffiti from Berlin’s Köpenicker Straβe needs no explanation or justification whatsoever:

Desperate attempt to get famous

In the interest of tourism advice, though, I’ll point out that it’s about fifty yards from Köpi, a justifiably legendary art squat/music venue which is well worth checking out if you’re in town (and have an ear for hideously loud guitars, naturally, not to mention a yen for hanging out with people who make scruffy old me look like I’m dressed for dinner at Buckingham Palace).

Writing about music

Well, this is the first week that I’ve had a full crop of reviews and not had to write one of them every day off my own back. Woo-hoo! My second volunteer (the delightful Dave Saunders – former DJ, promoter and band manager, among other sins and crimes), and has just the right acerbic wit for the job, too; go check his stuff out, why don’t ya?

Album of the week

Well, after three years working in a venue during the post-Millennial ska/punk boom, I never thought I’d find myself voting a ska album as my favourite of the week ever again… but the smart and witty noise of The Art of Saying Nothing by London collective Imperial Leisure won me right over. Colour me shocked.

Writing about books

Halfway through my piece on the VanderMeersSteampunk anthology, but most of my critical energies have been expended on the latest manuscript report. Thankfully the manuscript in question is smaller and less FAIL-ridden than the last one… but it’s still pretty awful.


I’ve started work on the latest web development project, and I’m just waiting for some artwork to come through so I can make a parallel start on another author site, so plenty happening in this neck of the woods. Plus there’s some big stuff in the pipeline at PS Publishing, so the few evenings I’ve had this week where I had a little time to myself have been greatly appreciated… I feel there may not be many more until we reach the Season That Shall Not Be Named[1]!


It’s a weird old web: Futurismic‘s traffic is up, but ad revenue and comments are down. Go figure. It’s been an emotionally difficult week in the editorial seat, too, for reasons that professionalism will not permit me to discuss…. other than that, though, business pretty much as usual.

Books and magazines seen

Two titles this week. First up is a new first-of-three sf novel called Seeds Of Earth by Michael Cobley[2] from the Orbit stable. Cobley must be a new kid on the block, as I’ve not heard his name before; the book’s not out till March next year, and there’s no cover art on the intertubes yet, either. But it looks to be galactic-scale post-catastrophe human-diaspora space opera, which could (of course) go either way – I’m still smarting from the Palmer experience.

More familiar is Chris Roberson, whose End of the Century is coming out from Pyr in the new year.

End of the Century - Chris Roberson

A triple-time-strand narrative, apparently, and a reworking of the Grail-quest theme… literally. May have to give it a go at some point; I’ve never really gotten on brilliantly with Roberson at novel length, but I’ve always wanted to like his writing more than I did, if that makes any sense.


Well, it’s been a weird week. Unusually productive, not to mention burgeoning with unprecedented amounts of unallocated time[3], but a psychological minefield nonetheless. The seasonal changes may be partly to blame, but I’ve been miserable as sin, utterly devoid of any enthusiasm for anything; momentum and deadlines have been pretty much all that’s kept me moving. Well, that and the swimming, which I’m already starting to look forward to as a part of my schedule, regardless of this whole “aching limbs” business[4].

But hey, you don’t come here to hear me complain about things[5] – and besides, dwelling on it won’t do any good for me or anyone else. So I’m gonna wrap this up here, sort out some final Friday tasks, and then treat myself to a Friday Curry. Who knows, maybe it’s the absence of ghee and cardamom from my diet that’s bringing me down.

Anyway, have a great weekend, people – look after yourselves!

[ 1 – Which is drawing close with alarming rapidity. It hasn’t helped that the bloody shops have been stocking paraphernalia for the last month already. Meh. ]

[ 2 – This gentleman must be thoroughly tired of jokes about his Uncle Tom. ]

[ 3 – Unprecedented, yes, but certainly not unwelcome. Or, indeed, unnecessary. ]

[ 4 – Twenty-eight lengths, motherhubbards. Boom! ]

[ 5 – What you do come for remains a mystery, however. ]