Tag Archives: Books

Books…pages with words on. Love ’em.

In print

I’m still not sufficiently jaded a writer that I don’t feel a thrill at seeing my name in a byline, and that goes doubly so for fiction work, and for work that appears in actual physical dead-tree media. (I know, it’s just so archaic of me.) So fiction work that appears in dead-tree media is the best byline of all:

Noir anthology: author copies

Those are my author copies of the Noir anthology from Newcon Press, which contains my story “A Boardinghouse Heart”; you can buy it for your Amazonian e-reading device for just £2.01, as a paperback for £9.99, or a signed hardcover for £15.99. (Still no sign of any direct-from-publisher options, so you may need to drop Newcon a line if that’s your preference. Or catch ’em in the dealer’s room at pretty much any UK convention…)

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So last week I went down to That London for the Clarke Award, which was not only my first experience with 1st-Class trains both ways between Sheffield and London (1st-Class Advance tickets for midday trains are usually only a few quid more than the Standard option, so why not?), but also with AirBnB; both of which were agreeably affordable solutions to the Evening Shin-dig In London Conundrum.

The Clarke was a good bash as always; nothing quite beats catching up with literary chums (daaaahling!) while swanning around the reception rooms at the Royal Society, and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice took the gong. No arguments from me with that result… nor, unusually for the Clarke, anyone else (perhaps because it seemed something of a foregone conclusion as soon as the book started turning up with reviewers and critics). One assumes everyone’s storing up their annual stock of outrage for the LonCon Hugos… *sigh*

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My late train out of London meant I had time to allow Charing Cross Road to relieve me of my money. Apparently the first step is admitting that you have a problem…

Books from Charing Cross Road

One of the downsides of starting a PhD is that it has acted as a hideous enabler of my book jones (see previous). Ah, well; better books than fast cars, hookers and blow, right? Nice bit of McLuhan (who seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance, viz. this Will Self piece at Teh Graun on the senescence of the novel, which prompted just as many canonical displays of denial from the writerly twittersphere as one would expect); an intro to Adorno, who I keep bumping into in citations and notes of late; some Bookchin, who is that rarest of birds, the truly citable left-anarchist; some hermeneutics, because, well, why not; and a book that has provided me with a new pat answer to the question “so what is it you actually do?”: mappin’ the futures, man. Stand well back and hold on to your fedora!

Was wryly amused to find the GC hardback of Chairman Bruce’s The Hacker Crackdown; for that book to still exist as a prestige-format physical object is a glorious double anachronism. And Foyles had the Kathy Acker just sat there all on its lonesome in the regular fiction run… which is all the more impressive, given I thought Acker was out of print in the UK. Maybe someone ordered it in and never collected it? I dunno. I still need to get a copy of her Empire of the Senseless

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What else has been happening? All the things, it feels like. I’ve been to assorted seminars, including a fascinating talk by Luke “Bunkerology” Bennett, academic psychogeographer and penetrator of pillboxes (bring your own Jungian metaphors), and my PhD confirmation report is starting to take shape, but that’s all probs a bit too inside-baseball for blogging.

Coming up soon: this time next week I’ll be somewhere in the Lake District beyond the reach of the cellphone networks, as a bunch of folk from the Institute for Atemporal Studies conduct experiments on the successful use of Kendal mint cake as hallucinogenic ritual sacrament, and into just how long it takes internet habitués to go mad without the internet…

Friday Photo Blogging: right side of the tracks

How long’s it been since I did an FPB? Long enough that I know looking up the precise date isn’t worth doing, really, and I doubt it’ll ever go weekly again… but hey, never say never, right? Anyways, here’s Hilsea station at midnight or so, which is what I see while waiting for my train home after a late shift at my place of summer employment.

Right side of the tracks

What else have I been up to? I’ve been up to ALL THE STUFF, most notably the 2011 SFF Masterclass, which – as always – was a weekend of pure high-grade literary brain-crack. I also got accepted onto the Masters degree in creative writing that I mentioned back in February, which I’m really looking forward to doing come October, around which time – all going well – I should have an interesting and stable new employment opportunity which will leave me enough time to study and write as well as leaving me enough money to pay the rent, buy food, all that jazz.

So, yeah, we’re in a far better place than we were last year, aren’t we? Mmm-hmm. Onwards, upwards, etcetera.

As far as residence is concerned, I’m still in the bay-windowed front room of a shared house in Southsea, which is suitably cheap for the summer’s scant income levels, but a bit tiny by comparison to my former domicile, a spacious if poorly-located Stockport garret. Half of my library (mostly the non-fic and special editions) is still at my mother’s place in deepest darkest East Yorkshire, but the other half is now out of the garage and back on the shelves in the middle room, which is a great relief; having all your books in boxes is a pretty similar sensation to being without a decent broadband connection, or at least it is for me.

But hey, the damn things just keep coming, thanks at least in part to Albert Road’s gaggle of second-hand book shops, but also to assorted publicists and publishers, and – most pleasurable of all – the arrival of my first ever contributor copies – Fables from the Fountain, remember? Course you do; they’re near the top right of this lot, which have gathered over the last couple of months:

Incoming reading, part 1

That Masters course means I have reading lists to work on, of course, and this week has seen the first acquisitions of such, along with a few other goodies:

Incoming reading, part 2

I’m too lazy to list and link ’em all, I’m afraid, though even if I don’t revive FPB I intend to document new acquisitions on a more regular basis, if only so I can keep track of the damned things!

And I need to start posting reading notes here instead of letting them moulder in notebooks, too. Thinking up and writing down my “review” of The Universe Of Things, the latest Gwyneth Jones collection from Aqueduct (which I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest is more of a critique or analysis, especially given its 3,200 word length) took up an unprecedented amount of cognitive focus, and it’ll be nice to start attacking these piles with vigour… though I should really prioritise on reading Embassytown, as I’m writing a review of that as well. Worse problems to have, eh? 🙂

Right, anyway, enough of this – there’s stuff to be doing before the day is done. And then there’ll be the “go out, or stay in and try out that EVE trial account?” dilemma… oh Friday, how you embarrass us with your riches!

Have a good weekend yourselves, OK? Later.

Superbooks last all summer long

Those nice folk at SF Signal occasionally ask me to pitch in on their “Mind Meld” collective-interview thingies, and I’m always happy to take part, usually because they ask me questions that I haven’t thought to ask myself. The latest example: What books/stories do you feel are just as good now as they were when you first read them?

Unusually for me, I didn’t take the opportunity to deconstruct the question (though I could have done – are the stories in question just as good in the same way, or is it that they always seem to have something newly satisfying to offer on each return visit? There’s a deep-seated nostalgia in genre fiction – and in culture in general – that I flich from instinctively, and I can’t think of any book that I return to as “comfort food”, but that’s a personal preference rather than an edict). I also decided to skip briefly over one of my biggest lasting favourites because I’ve mentioned it so many times before in previous Mind Melds… so go find out what I (and a number of other smarter and more erudite folk) picked out.

Emergent pattern of interest: Ursula LeGuin makes a very good showing, though with a selection of different titles. Maybe quality does matter after all, eh? 🙂

Closing the door on the Noughties

Epitaph for a wrecked and rapid decade

Well, there you have it: 2009 is running on the vapours, and the first year of the second decade of the third millenium is waiting in the wings. Of course, these are all arbitrary numbers, artefacts of happenstance… but one can’t help but get sucked in by the false sense of significance. It’s part of how we’re wired, I think – culturally, biologically. The world turns, and we turn with it, seemingly spinning on the spot but actually moving through space at unimaginable speeds. If we didn’t measure things, we’d go mad. Or maybe madder.

That said, I’m nowhere near as revved up on manufactured significance as I was ten years ago at the turn of the millennium. Despite what I earnestly believed to be a steely cynicism on my own part, the dawn of 2000 was the dampest squib of all… and also for many others, I suspect. This has been the decade when I started to feel like an adult (with all the sense of personal responsibility and existential confusion that implies), and this has been the year when, perhaps, I finally started to act like one. Fake it ’til you make it, as the saying goes. 😉

But why dredge up the past? Forward is a better direction to watch, if only so you avoid bumping into the more visible unexpected obstacles. The changes I’ve made in the last year or two have laid out a route through the future for me… and while no plan ever survives contact with the enemy, it’s good to have a sense of direction, a slice of the compass arc to aim into. I’m looking forward to the coming year, the coming decade – it’s full of dreams to fulfil and promises to keep, and strange new things to learn about.

But looking forward is getting harder, at least in the predictive/speculative sense. It’s almost a cliché to talk about science fiction’s inability to see much further than the end of its own temporal nose, but I think that’s symptom of a more general problem that we have as a species. We’re so much more aware of The Now (and of the failed futures that were imagined in our childhoods, and our parents’ childhoods) than we ever have been. Blinded by the near-infinite array of possibilities before us, we can scarcely guess what’s around the next turn. Obvious guesses will turn out to be naive assumptions; improbable pipedreams and worst case scenarios will become obvious in retrospect. Ken MacLeod hits the nail on the head, saying:

Here in the last day of 2009, I have absolutely no idea what the world will be like in 2019, or what we can expect in the ten years ahead. All I know is that 2019 seems a lot farther in the future than 2009 seemed in 1999.

Yeah, that’s about right. Who knows what the future will hold? But no matter – it’s the sketching/building of the future (one’s own, and that of the whole species) that’s such a curious mix of fun and frustration. But as the late Doctor Thompson used to say, “buy the ticket, take the ride”. I hope you’ll all be along for the journey. 🙂

Books received

And to finish off the year, I’d be remiss not to mention an influx of books to the intray. Two of them were Xmas gifts,and they’re the two non-sf-related titles – namely Richard Wilson’s Can’t Be Arsed: 101 Things Not To Do Before You Die and the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Morocco – but a bunch of other gubbins has tumbled through the letterbox in the last couple of weeks. Let’s see what we have…

Unplugged: The Web's Best Sci-fi and Fantasy 2008

Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-fi and Fantasy 2008 by Rich Horton (ed.) [Wyrm Publishing] – the first in what will hopefully be a long-running series, Rich Horton scours the genre webzines and beyond for great stories that were printed in pixels before ink. A very special book for me, as it reprints a story we published at Futurismic (Jason Stoddard’s “Willpower”), but there’s an interesting and well-rounded TOC that I’m looking forward to rattling through some time soon.

Realms 2: the Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine

Realms 2: the Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine by Nick Mamatas and Sean Wallace (eds.) [Wyrm Publishing] – does what it says on the tin, a collection of Clarkesworld‘s output from late 2007 to late 2008. Clarkesworld sets a benchmark for quality in web publishing that I dream of matching some day with Futurismic, and it’s great to see a TOC with lots of new names, including plenty of female and/or non-WASP writers included.

The Lights in the Tunnel

The Lights In The Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future by Martin Ford [Acculant Publishing] – a random email query from the publisher offered to send me a copy of this one, rightly assuming that Futurismic‘s editor would be interested to read it. Politics, technology, globalisation, communications, economics, outsoucing, automation… its topics are like a checklist of my geek triggers, and if it’s anywhere near as interesting as it promises to be, it’ll be time well spent.

Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep? Critical Perspectives on Sexuality and Pornography in Science and Social Fiction [RE/search Publications] – offered in the latest titles-for-review list from SF Site, I couldn’t pass up a title like that! A wild collection of essays seemingly rooted in fringe academia, geek and fetish subcultures and the territories of synthetic thinkers, I’m looking forward to seeing what new (or at least new-to-me) ideas this book has to share. To judge by some of the, er, illustrations, it isn’t going to leave many cavities unprobed, so to speak.

The Mindscape of Alan Moore

The Mindscape of Alan Moore [Shadowsnake Films] – yeah, OK, so it’s not a book. I very rarely buy or watch DVDs, but when I passed this documentary looking forlorn on the shelf of HMV during the Xmas shopping period, wearing a knock-down price-tag, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve heard it praised highly by fans of Moore, and it features Moore himself explaining his worldview… and given that I had a pretty serious jones for the occult as a teenager (not to mention for conspiracy theory, mind control and other leftfield stuff as a twenty-something), this looks like a chance to drink direct from the fire-hydrant of weird. Maybe I’ll sit down and watch it tomorrow… after I’ve finished bagging up the rotting cardboard in the cellar, naturally.*

Coda

So, that’s VCTB done for the decade, and all my other duties discharged (at least until the sun rises on 2010). So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the fridge in search of a beer… here’s hoping your new year is whatever you want it to be. Take care, girls and boys, and I’ll see you on the other side. 🙂

[ * – There is probably no more damning indictment of my transition from twenty-something hedonist/nihilist to thirty-something cohabiting self-employed writer-nerd than the fact that I’m viewing New Year’s Day as a date whose lack of regular work commitments makes it ideal for bingeing on unpleasant and lengthy household chores. How the mighty have fallen, eh? Happy new year, folks. 🙂 ]

Friday Photo Blogging: second on the bill

This time next week, I’ll no doubt be sound-checking in preparation for this:

Second on the bill

Yup, Aeroplane Attack‘s first appearance at The Wedgewood Rooms, a former place of employment for three members of the band and the premier live music venue in Velcro City. And it’s a free gig on a Friday night – so if you’ve got no plans, head on down! Promises to be a night of goud loud tuneage, and I’m really looking forward to it… especially as I’ve borrowed a new echo box and am itching to deploy it over a large PA.

So, likely no FPB next week, much like last week (although my excuse last week was a train journey up to Manchester). It’s all go in my universe, as I do keep mentioning… so I’d best get on with it, eh?

Album of the week

Actually from last week, but easily good enough to carry over… it is, of course, The Eternal by Sonic Youth. If you’re a Sonic Youth fan already, you’ll be wanting to pick this up. If you’re not yet a fan, it’s accessible enough to be a good contemporary introduction to an utterly original band who’ve been gigging and recording almost as long as I’ve been alive. Go listen to ’em.

Stuff

Yeah, look at me compressing a number of sections into one. Such is the manner of my life at the moment, and – during the scant seconds I get to sit and consider it – I’m quite enjoying it that way, thank you very much!

No review writing has been committed for a while, but I’ve been getting a decent amount of reading packed into the schedule; currently about a third of the way through China Mieville’s The City & The City, which is a good story whose premise is handled with subtlety, though I’m finding the narrative voice a bit odd at times – often enough, in fact, that I may shift to reading the published version rather than the ARC in case what I’m seeing is a pre-copyedit state.

Still plenty on my freelance plate, though the light is visible at the end of a few tunnels (even as another seems to stretch itself out further). Futurismic is rolling along nicely; we got linked to at MetaFilter the other day, and while it didn’t bring an avalanche of traffic I’m really chuffed to see us there, because I’ve been following the MeFi feed for almost as long as I’ve had an internet presence – and hence appearing there is a little like getting to have a drink in the Cheers bar would be for television fans of a certain age.

Wireless by Charles StrossWhat else has been happening? Well, adventures Northward, band practices and meetings (and plain old hang-outs), live shows (like the mighty Clutch), hunting down cardboard boxes so as to ship seventy-odd kilos (SRSLY) of unwanted books to a buyer… from the sublime to the mundane, it’s all go, basically.

So there’s just time to trumpet happily about the arrival of Charlie Stross‘s new short fiction collection, Wireless, which arrived in the mail this week (and will be shouldering its way up the TBR array in the days to come).

Lovely!

Now, I’ve got stuff to be doing, so I’ll bid you all a good weekend. Take care!