Tag Archives: Books

Books…pages with words on. Love ’em.

This Is Not a Game

This Is Not a Game by Walter Jon WilliamsNor is it a drill – my review of Walter Jon WilliamsThis Is Not a Game went up at Strange Horizons yesterday, so you can go read my attempts to taxonomise a genuine (and really pretty decent) hybrid of near-future sf and technothriller.

In some respects I’m kind of grateful it hasn’t generated the same degree of fierce controversy as the review preceding it (or, indeed, any feedback at all)… though the mean little voice at the back of my head likes to tell me that’s probably because my opinions are pedestrian and equivocal.

Shut up, mean little voice.

[In case you were wondering, I’ve used the US editon cover art here because I was distinctly underwhelmed by the UK version. YMMV.]

Friday Photo Blogging: Hotrod Moggy

It’s not quite a Little Red Corvette, but I’m a sucker for old British cars from the bottom end of the scale – and the Morris Minor is a classic example. You don’t see many of ’em any more, let alone ones that have been modded up in a hotrod style:

Hotrod Morris Minor

Photography output has suffered from technical difficulties of late; for some reason my proper camera’s memory card refuses to mount on my computer, and the camera on my phone keeps telling me that “zoom is not available in this mode” – no matter which mode it’s in. Something to fix when I get a moment… which may not be for a little while, given the current state of my schedule. Which is why this’ll be a brief FPB, too!

Album of the week

I can be unequivocal with this week’s recommendation: you need to go and listen to the music of one Willem Maker. His new album New Moon Hand is quite simply amazing; as I put it in my review for Outshine:

Non-ironic roots Americana blues from a gravel-throated angel; the most beautiful and soulful record I’ve heard so far this year. Buy it.


Writing about books

Oh, don’t make me laugh! I’ve got no pending review commissions at the moment, so I’ve been dipping into my growing pile of read-for-pleasure titles, including a fair few from my lovely clients at PS Publishing. I keep meaning to do some Reading Journal stuff about ’em, but priorities are – by necessity – currently focussed elsewhere.


This is a crunch month – two small projects to complete, and a developmental section of another to wrap up. Which – combined with all the other more regular tasks I have to do on a daily basis and my desire to take next weekend off for a trip up North – means I’m working twelve hour days at the moment. It’s tough, but it’s good. It’s also a reminder to my future self that scheduling is an integral part of this freelance gig. One that I really need to get better at… :-S


It’s been a busy week over at Futurismic, as is often the case at the start of a new month. Karen M Roberts’ “Awakening in Six Parts” went up on Monday, and I strongly suggest you read it – it’s a great story, and something quite different to what we’ve published before. It stuck with me for days after the first time I read it, and that’s got to be a sign of a strong story. Go see what you think, leave a comment.

New columnist Brenda Cooper has kicked off a good discussion with her debut column on artificial intelligence, as well. I love running Futurismic when we get some good comment traffic; it’s a joy to see people engaging with what we publish. 🙂

Books and magazines seen

Powers: Secret Histories - John Berlyne (ed.)None to speak of; been a quiet few weeks again, with the exception of a PS care package that included a copy of the trade edition of Powers: Secret Histories.

I quite deliberately hold off talking up PS books here at VCTB – not because I don’t think they’re good, but because I don’t think it’s appropriate given that it’s my job to do it elsewhere – I’m no shill. But I have to mention that Secret Histories really is a book of staggering scope (not to mention arm-straining size); I’ve never read a Tim Powers novel in my life, but I’ve still found myself utterly entranced by it.

I think it appeals to the same geeky part of me that adored technology catalogues and Haynes manuals as a kid, and the part of me that loved learning about cataloguing and bibliographical work when I was a library employee. It’s a taxonomical study, fanboy wig-out and DVD-extras in one package, beautifully laid out and full of commentary from Powers himself. Bloody fascinating.


Well, that’s more than I expected to write, which is often the way with FPB. But time waits for no scruff-bag, and I’m hoping to get enough work doen tonight to pop out to a gig later in the evening. As such, I’m going to bid you all a good weekend and get back to real work – take care!

Friday Photo Blogging: Banana-boat Blues

Gonna be a pretty brief FPB this week; it’s a friend’s birthday bash this evening, and I’m well behind on my daily duties thanks to the ongoing mangling of my body-clock. I think I need to get out of the house in the daytime much more than I have; my diurnal cycle is offset from consensus reality by about five hours at the moment, and I doubt it’s doing me much good.

I did make it out of the house on Wednesday, though; I took a brisk stroll down to the seafront in the early evening. This is probably the best time of year to be in Velcro City; the days are long and the weather is clear, but the students are still busy wrapping up their years and the tourists have yet to descend like Asda-clad locusts. The city is fresh, bright and full of space. There is time to sit and watch, and think.

Banana boat

Even so, seeing a banana boat rolling in from the Caribbean triggers thoughts of places warmer, brighter and less familiar… I need to get out on the road again some time soon, I reckon.

Album of the Week

It’s a mark of how busy I’ve been doing other stuff that I’ve not reviewed much new music this week, and that which I have isn’t worthy of due props. So I’ll do another recommendation from the most-played lists on my Last FM account: far and away, my most-played band are Idlewild, and much as most fans will tell you they got progressively less interesting as their career continued, I’m very fond of the later stuff. Warnings / Promises is probably my favourite; it’s folky post-punk (or is it punky post-folk?) style is bolstered by a simple production job that eschews fancy effects and frippery, and Roddy Woomble’s lyrics speak to me in a way that never fails to inspire. Great album; go listen.

Writing about books

The This is Not a Game review has returned with editorial comments and suggestions; gonna nail that sucker over the weekend.


Yup, hella busy on a couple of website projects still, hence my cave-mole lifestyle this week. Learning lots about MODx, though, which is good stuff.


Business as usual over at Futurismic; I got to talk about what the site means to me and what I try to achieve with it during yesterday’s recording of another Sofanauts podcast, which should be out on Sunday if you fancy listening to me blather on about teaching people the joys of thinking science fictionally about the non-fictional world we live in, and a lengthy but incoherent defence of the Mundane SF movement. Don’t worry, the other guests say plenty of interesting stuff; think of me as the comic relief. 🙂

Aeroplane Attack

Less than a week until gig number three; turns out that it’s now only a two-band line-up, which gives us a little more stage time in which to try out a work-in-progress tune and switch the set around a little. So lots of stuff to work on when we practice on Sunday…

Books and magazines seen

The drought has broken! Interzone #222 continues TTA’s run of gorgeous and genuinely sf-nal cover art:

Interzone #222

A couple of interesting titles from Tor UK, also: item the first is a paperback of John Scalzi‘s Zoe’s Tale, which is tempting primarily because I’ve never read any of his fiction despite following the guy’s internet presence for a few years, and I’m curious to know what he’s like on the page.

Winterstrike by Liz WillaimsItem the second is Winterstrike by the lovely Liz Williams. I’ve read a few books of hers before, but none of her ‘pure’ sf – a situation that needs rectifying.

And there was also a care package from my lovely clients PS Publishing, meaning that I’ve got (literally) piles of beautifully-printed books begging me to read them. There are worse problems to have, I think. 🙂


Right, that’s your lot – I’ve got stuff to do! Have yourselves a good long weekend, whatever you choose to do with it. Hasta luego!

Friday Photo Blogging: rocking out

This week’s photo comes at two removes from myself; it was taken with the camera of the one and only Rusty Sheriff (Aeroplane Attack’s drummer), taken by Spikey Mark (barman, soundman, DJ, tour manager, Transit van pilot extraordinaire and long-term good buddy), and taken of us (Aeroplane Attack) battering out the riffage at our show on Monday:
Aeroplane Attack - live at The Edge of the Wedge, 11th May 2009
Yes, I am in there; look in the dark patch at the right. They keep me there to prevent me scaring women and small children away from the front of the crowd. 🙂

Album of the week

Actually not an album; it’s more of an EP, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s on release as anything other than a demo. But nonetheless I commend unto you the self-titled EP by Wraptors, who play something like a combination of The Hellacopters, King Crimson and Fugazi. Post-prog’n’roll – you heard it here first, kids.

Writing about books

You’ll note how I include this section every week, just to make myself feel bad for not having done any reviewing[1]. That said, I have actually been getting some reading in; it’s not like I’m short of stuff to talk about. Time[2], on the other hand…


Connecting neatly to that previous statement, everything’s still hellishly busy here in the office. This is a good thing; if there hadn’t been so many gigs to watch (and play) this week I’d probably be further ahead than I am, but next week is looking pretty sparse for extracurricular stuff, and hence ripe for some long evenings of deck-clearing. If the weather stays like it is, it’s not as if I’ll have many other options!


All is well at Futurismic; a good week for traffic again, and a sudden spate of posts about computer games. One of the things I like most about blogging is being in a position to see these themes bubble up out of the Zeitgeist; reminds me that the world’s just one big emergent system. Synchronicity is meaningless, but all the more beautiful and fascinating for that.

Books and magazines seen

Nothing new for a second week running. Then again, it’s been a slow week for new music arriving, as well… the music and publishing industries have their own little biorhythms, too. All part of that Zeitgeist, y’see. 😉


As I did an Aeroplane Attack update separately, I think I’ve pretty much said my piece for the week, except to point out that playing one gig and going to watch two more in the same week is as tiring as it is fun, and it would be nice to be paid to do nothing else but make loud music or watch other people doing so. But if we were to start listing all the things that it would be nice to do for a living, we’d be here for hours! So I’ll spare us all the tedium and just wish you a good weekend – look after yourselves, OK?

[ 1 – You’ll probably also note that it doesn’t seem to have any effect, unless you’re of a more forgiving nature than myself. ]
[ 2 – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, yeah? ]

Friday Photo Blogging – double-headed Allen Ginsberg street-art mashup

There’s always been some graffiti and randomness in Velcro City, but it seems that this year everything’s kicking up a notch. Lots of people doing weird new guerrilla stuff like this, for example:

Have you seen him?

The Free Art Friday meme is picking  up pace as well, with a number of people I know suddenly getting into making stuff and giving it away anonymously; it’s like street art in style (well, it can be, sometimes), but it’s made to be portable, not static, and its reappropriation by the public is not only assumed but desired. I love this sort of stuff, people breaking down barriers of participation and consumption, and the wall between artist and viewer, gallery and public space. If I had the time, I’d do more of it myself[1].

Album of the Week

I’m gonna get all retro on your asses with AotW this time; Sub Pop have just released Enter The Vaselines, which is a deluxe repackaged version of 1992’s The Way Of The Vaselines, which in turn was a career retrospective that collected their two EPs and lone album recorded between 1986 and 1989. Kurt Cobain stimulated interest in this little-known Scottish indie-pop-proto-grunge band by covering “Molly’s Lips” and declaring them his favourite songwriters of all time; find out why, and indulge in a little bit of pop-cultural history. Quirky, faux-dumb clever and full of teenage sexual tension. A fascinating document (and a pleasant reminder of being fifteen, which is a rarity).

Writing about books

Well, I got the bulk of the This is Not a Game review done, and it’s now under the laser-eyes of Niall, who will doubtless point out some minor corrections and tweaks which will transform said review from the rambling thesis it is to something that people will actually be interested in reading.  The man has a talent, I tell yah.

Which leaves me with (I think) no standing deadlines on reviews… which theoretically means I have time to catch up on reading journal entries here[2].

Currently reading the Clarke Award-winning Song of Time from Ian R MacLeod, and I have to say I’m more impressed than I expected to be; I’m about half way through and he’s still throwing in new levels of weirdness and estrangement to the story.


Yep, still busy, still loads of balls in the air, none of which are close enough to completion to be worth mentioning separately. Hoping to get some of them nailed down into a final trajectory within the next couple of weeks.

The server is now up and running properly, locked up safe and secure from predatory Russian botnets and port-scanning scriptkids, serving DNS information and HTML and behaving like something close to usable. It’s been quite the learning curve, but well worth the time investment – I think it’ll pay off quite well over the course of a few years, in fact. Now it’s time to get a first few production/live sites up on there and see how she holds up to some traffic.


It’s been a good brisk week for Futurismic, traffic-wise and comments-wise, which is always good to see. I’ve also announced the forthcoming column by author and futurist Brenda Cooper; Today’s Tomorrows will be doing the same sort of thing that I do when I blog at Futurismic, but going into greater depth on single subjects. It’s going to be good, so come along for the ride, why don’tcha?

Aeroplane Attack

Little to report on this front; second gig is this coming Monday, we’ve got a practice session the night before, everyone’s feeling good about it. We’re trying not to think about the logistical nightmare of getting all our kit to the venue and back without being able to borrow a buddy with a van and a few spare hours…

Oh, and also: I can haz nu gitarr:

Gibson Les Paul Standard

Nope; can’t play it well, can’t afford it, don’t deserve it. Don’t care, either; it’s a proper Gibson Les Paul Standard, and I’m currently very much in lust with it. 🙂

Books and magazines seen

None, nada, nil, zilch, zippo. I’ve been very good, too; I’ve passed the 50p bookstore in Albert Rodeo many times this week, and manfully resisted the siren song of old damp-bent Ace and DAW paperbacks lurking among Michael Crichton and Dan Brown titles…


That’s about your lot for this week; after last week’s barrage of excitement and big news, that’s probably a sign of the universe balancing itself, if only momentarily. More weirdness will doubtless arrive, sooner rather than later, but for now I’m going to get the day’s tasks done and head out for a beer. And as it’s been a good while since the last one, I might just go grab me a Friday Curry beforehand…

Have a good weekend, people. Hasta luego!

[ 1 – Or, more likely, do a little of it and then blame it for not having the time to write fiction. Can’t say I don’t know my failings, right? ]

[ 2 – Please note my use of the word “theoretically”. ]