Tag Archives: Clarke Award

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…)


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*


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


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…

Becalmed in the storm’s eye

It’s been a busy couple of months. I hope regular readers will forgive this recap of the past two months or so, which is as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s; I transcribe it here in what I suspect is the hope that I’ll be able to convince myself it all actually happened.

The corollary of getting my contract extended mid-March was that a lot of theretofore speculative deadlines became concrete things, which made for a whole lot of heads-down keyboard-mashing; this was complicated somewhat by my first encounter with true physical burn-out, which, it turns out, feels a lot like being in the lingering run-down phase of a nasty cold for something close to six weeks. Still, it’s good to know your limits, and to have a precedent for the signs that you’re about to hit them.

Chronology is a suitable framework, so: My last post here followed directly after Weird Shi(f)t Con UK, a gathering of some of the more peripatetic irregulars of the Institute for Atemporal Studies and allied forces which took place in in the endearingly cobwebbed decay of Limehouse Town Hall (whose chilliness may well have contributed toward the aforementioned burn-out); many profound matters were discussed, and the post-it notes were plentiful.

London: Weird Shit Con

Afterwards we went to Wilton’s Music Hall, which was full of people attending a stage version of The Great Gatsby; not perhaps an ideal aftervenue given the circumstances, but apropos in an atemporal kind of way. (Wilton’s is ace, though; recommended to all and sundry as one of LDN’s most characterful places to hang out, especially on nights when there’s no show on.)

That Sunday I went to see the legendary Damo Suzuki perform with a Sheffield noise/drone/kraut band in the cellar bar beneath a former picture-house. (Stuffed-animal venues are a definite theme of my life these days.)

Monday following was the final internal meeting for one of the projects I’ve been working on with the PWG; the website for the project is currently offline (nothing to do with me, I might add), but should hold various documents and presentations for public edification. One of the larger papers to come out of the All-in-One project with my name in the author list is now in press at the journal Futures, by the way; drop me a line if you’d like a copy but don’t have institutional access to Elsevi*r’s rentier knowledge-silo.

After the dissemination bash, it was back to Sheffield to see Gojira and Ghost at the Academy. Gojira were good enough, if a little lost on a too-large stage; Ghost were laughably bad, all (obvious and done-to-death) gimmick and no substance. Utterly at a loss to understand why they’re so popular right now. Kids these days.

March 21st saw me pop over the Pennines for the first day of the FutureEverthing conference in Manchester; a chance to catch up on interesting ideas in digital urbanism, reassert my believe that marketing is the only profession with a higher shysters-per-capita than futurism, and hang out with Justin Pickard and Scott Smith, co-conspirators in contraPanglossian gonzo foresight. (Usman Haque dropped Borgesian bombs, which made me want to marry him.) Regrettably, the physical symptoms of burn-out were digging in hard by this point, and I skipped the next day of the conference due to exhaustion and the promise of snow. (Productivity took a serious nosedive around about his point of the proceedings.)

Week after that I fielded a call from a journalist for the Boston Globe; apparently she couldn’t find anyone else willing to argue against the transhumanist narrative that animal uplift is obligatory. So I did.

That weekend, thinking I was over the worst of the exhaustion, I went over to Bradford for the Saturday of EightSquaredCon, the 2013 Eastercon. It was a decent day — what I can remember of it, anyway. I was drafted onto a panel within twenty minutes of arriving; spent some time chatting to various people, but probably making little sense, including an addled attempt to explain to Cory Doctorow what I’d been up to recently (sorry, Cory; I really shouldn’t have been out of bed at that point). My booked train home was cancelled, which shunted me onto a slower and longer route, with the last leg an all-stations stopping service on an old diesel train with no heating or window seals.

I expect that frigid transit contributed to rebooting the exhaustion, which hit me like Chicxulub in the days to follow, and sent me into a serious emotional slump on the side; the black dog bites hardest when my immune system is low, but that’s a knowledge I’m slowly internalising — or so I hope, at any rate. The week following was an agony blended from anxiety over a massive workload and the utter inability to give more than three hours of coherent attention a day to anything at all. Somehow I still managed to go to Lincoln on the Friday and give a paper at the New Genre Army conference in celebration of Edam Rarebits…

… or rather, I gave a methodological manifesto for an as-yet incomplete prototype of the genre of Cut-up Critique; the moral of this story is that if one decides to try trolling the academy, one should be prepared to have one’s bluff called. Luckily for me, the general tone of the day — unsurprisingly, given its object — was one of irreverence blended with seriousness, and I got away with it. (It’s my native medium, after all.) Whether I got away with another cold train-ride home is an open question, however. Maybe my mum’s right, and I just need to buy a new coat.

I believe there was video taken of the papers at New Genre Army, but I haven’t seen them yet, and there’s no sign of them on YouBoob. I’ve been meaning to post the script and slides of my paper here, but… yeah. *adds another thing to the to-do list*

Then followed a week of frantic paper-writing, as deadlines were looming like limits to growth. The week after that, at the final dissemination event for All-in-One, I got to try explaining design fiction to infrastructure engineers and risk analysts for the first time, which involved first explaining it a bit more thoroughly to myself; the former was slightly more successful than the former. (Attempts toward codifying a theory of design fiction in the infrastructural context are ongoing; watch this space.)

I then went to Darlington to talk to a roomful of young water industry professionals about the postmodern crisis of infrastructure management; Borges, Latour, scientific hyperreality, the model is not the system, path dependency and progressive incrementalism, integral futures, that sort of thing. Got a much more positive reception than I’d hoped for, actually, but the other presentations were pretty dry, so I may have benefitted from delivering a shake-up at the end of the day; selah.

Day after Darlington was the annual PWG conference, which was more of a social cohesion operation than a proper conference; got to find out what else goes on in the further, more soc-sci orientated corners of the group, which is valuable knowledge to a generalist/synthesist like yours truly. We went for a nice meal afterwards. Lovely.

The last few weeks have been a little easier, although there were still a fair amount of deskjockey targets to be met, including editing a collaborative paper which has been accepted by (but is not yet in press at) Energy, and writing another paper on choice architecture, social media and gamification as applied to water use behaviour (which has just entered the reviewing process). Also wrote one of my increasingly editorial-esque book reviews for ARC (Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future?, as yet not posted), and a deeply tangential rant about some halfway-passable psyche-rock album that the Demon Pigeon lads threw at me.

This Wednesday just gone, I got to talk as part of a panel at the WriteTheFuture conference, which was an excellent bolt-on gig connected to the Clarke Award. Not many folk at this stage of their careers can say they’ve spoken on stage at the Royal Society. What was I speaking about? These tweets capture the gist of it:


There’s a Storify of the whole day, courtesy the tireless (and triumphant) Tom Hunter. As for the Clarke itself, it went to Chris Beckett for Dark Eden; I don’t care much for awards as a reader and a critic, but it’s always nice to see them go to an author whose work you admire, especially when you consider them a friend as well. For the same reasons, I’d have been happy to see it go to Ken MacLeod, as well. Having read none of the shortlisted titles, however, that’s as far as my opinionating goes.

Friday just gone I went to see Owen Hatherley talk about Pulp, Sheffield and failed urbanism. It was interesting stuff, and naturally I bought the book (Uncommon) on which it was based (as it promises to provide another thematic spoke for the vague “secret history of the 1990s” novel idea I’m kicking around in spare moments), but — like many excellent writers of non-fiction — Hatherley’s not at his best behind a podium. To be fair, he may have been more than a little intimidated by the audience, which had to be close to 300 strong. Glad I went, though.

And now, here am eye, becalmed in the I of the storm, collecting my thoughts and task-lists before the madness starts up again in a new form, mutatis mutandis (and with, dare I say it, my earthly husk finally recovered from the burn-out). This Thursday coming I’m off to Brighton to talk conferences, drone art, infrastructure fiction and gonzo futurism with assorted colleagues, old and new, and around this time next week I’ll be heading off toward Heathrow, so as to catch an early Monday plane to Colombia via Madrid. In fair Medellin, I’m honoured to be an invited guest of Hernán and Vivi for Fractal’13, a design fiction conference with a difference (in that the audience does the fictioning, and the guests merely facilitate said fictioning). In effect, I think this is the closest thing I’m going to get to a holiday this year, and so I’m intending to enjoy it to the fullest.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Medellin. I’m very much not looking forward to two long transits through the geopolitical unspaces of airport security theatre, but you gotta take the rough with the smooth, I suppose. If nothing else, I should take it as an opportunity to reread Ursula LeGuin’s Changing Planes

Having unlocked my phone and demothballed my Flickr account, I’m planning to share my adventures in Medellin here at VCTB, and indeed to start sharing interesting in general from time to time. Chairman Bruce may claim (with justification) that blogging is dead, but even he’s got a Tumblr these days; having always had my own domain, I can’t see the point of tumblring on a service that claims the results as their own when my own site can do just the same job with me keeping control*. So it lacks the social features of Tumblr, sure; I’m increasingly unconvinced that’s a drawback and not a bonus. Besides, everything that happens here gets tweeted. Selah.

So, yeah; that’s what I’ve been up to. Who knows what’ll happen next, eh?

[ * – I still maintain that a social network with Twitter-, Tumblr- and Facebork-like characteristics could be built as a plug-in based interstitial peer-to-peer protocol for individual CMS-based websites; all the sharing and social, none of the centralised data collection and huckster leverage advertising attempts. Problem being that, by definition, such a service would be impossible to monetise externally, meaning it’d only get done by a team of FOSS nerds with a lot of time on their hands and no eye toward a lucrative IPO. So not something to hold your breath for at present, I’d guess. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: Darth Vader and friend

So, the Clarke Award ceremony was the opening event of the Sci-Fi London film festival, which is why we had Darth Vader and an assortment of other Star Wars cosplay types hanging around as we made busy with chicken-on-a-stick and alarmingly strong (free) Russian lager:

Imperial cinema-goers

Jokes were, naturally, plentiful.

‘Twas a fine night out, as I have mentioned already; when the podcast featuring myself and the good Professor Roberts being interviewed by Graham Sleight emerges, I’ll give it a listen and link to it provided I don’t sound too gormless.*

Writing about music

The Dreaded Press rattles on; CDs continue to arrive, reviews continue to be written. Every time I think I’ve managed to get well ahead of schedule something happens to knock me back again. It’s kinda Sisyphean … just with albums, and not a big stone.**

Album of the week

Another week with two strong contenders. HORSE the Band come very close with the Nintendo/metalcore mash-up of A Natural Death, but the prize goes to the fuzzy lo-fi LA pop of Nouns by No Age.

Writing about books

Hahhhahhahhahhha! Hah ha ha. Er.

So – none, then. 🙁

I know it’s a familiar refrain, but I’m scheduled to finish some reviews this weekend; the extra length of said weekend should hopefully make it more probable that I do so.


Things are gearing up to cruise velocity for me with PS Publishing, which is good. There’s a lot to take in, and it’ll be a while before the routines settle for me, but I’m pretty confident I can get things running smoothly and then work on enhancements before too long. So, yay me!

Y’all are subscribed to the PS Newsroom feed, right? Of course you are!

Next on the agenda will be contacting my individual clients and working out the minutia of our working relationships … in other words, doing our best to minimise paperwork and other tedium on both sides. It’s all fun and games, this freelance stuff, y’know. 😉

Books and magazines seen

The latest Obsessed With Pipework magazine arrived this week, as regular as the turn of the seasons. For high-quality home-grown contemporary poetry without the excess of middle-class angst and handwringing that can plague the form, this should be your first stop.

One fiction title, but it’s not genre – the Little Brown people*** have purloined my address from the Orbit gang and sent me James Miller’s Lost Boys. It looks intriguing, but I doubt I’ll find time for it any time soon.

And one non-fiction title from Prometheus Books: The Coming Convergence by Stanley Schmidt, which looks like it could be pretty interesting.

The Coming Convergence by Stanley Schmidt

Again, the time caveat applies here, but I’m considering farming out Futurismic reviews to other people … if you’re interested, please drop me a line.

Out and about

Another literary engagement appears on the calendar next week in the form of a symposium at Gresham College featuring none other than Neal Stephenson as keynote speaker – “Science fiction as a literary genre”.

They’ve sent out proper paper invitations and everything! This promises to be a super day out in the Big Smoke, and a nice preliminary to the getting-ever-closer Masterclass2.0. Genre lit-crit FTW!

Mobile computing corner

Asus Eee-PC running Ubuntu

So, I just have to take this opportunity to say how awesome my new Asus Eee PC is.

It’s totally freaking awesome.

It does everything I’ve ever needed a laptop to do, and is no bigger or heavier than a hardback book; it has no moving internal parts, and can thus survive being toted in a normal bag.

It’s small, it’s black, it’s pimped out with extra RAM and it’s running Ubuntu. I’m likely to go on about it for weeks to come, frankly. This is what mobile computing is all about … and seeing as how I can read PDF files on there quite easily, I think I’ve found my ebook solution.

So you can shove your iPhone in your pipe and smoke it, frankly … I sure hope that proprietary operating system tastes nice!

Oh, and if you’re thinking of getting one yourself, EfficientPC is the place to go for one all tricked out to your personal specifications. Good personal service and prices from a small ethical company. Recommended! I’ll be getting my next desktop from them too, I reckon.


Seven days done, yet again. This relentless acceleration shows little sign of abating, but that’s all good. To use an athletic metaphor, I think I’m getting past that pain barrier that running enthusiasts talk about – settling into my stride, as it were.

On the subject of athletics, though, some advice would be appreciated. By way of explanation, a snippet of dialogue between myself and Amiable Drunkard From Downstairs:

Me: Hey, man.

ADFD: Awroit, me old … gor, int you put on weight since you stopped smokin’, mush!

Me: Ha ha. Yes. THANKS, then.

Now, this coming from a man who is hard pressed to notice when he’s left the building without remembering to put a shirt on in the middle of winter suggests that my fears are quite correct – quitting smoking has lowed my metabolism, and I’m gathering some extra around the middle at a frightening rate.

I don’t eat badly; I cook for myself a lot, don’t eat a lot of meat, rarely get a takeaway more than once a week. My diet is not a problem (though I might want to look at aiming for smaller portions). No – what I have to face is that it’s time for me to get a proper exercise regime.

This is, quite frankly, a horrifying thought.

For an assortment of reasons (mostly psycho-social) I am pathologically allergic to all team and/or competition sports, and the thought of going to a gym is utterly repulsive. This narrows my options considerably.

So, what can I do? Your suggestions would be appreciated. Running doesn’t appeal, because it’s a dull thing to do in a city and takes too much time. Comments from Gareth P have made me consider swimming – something I was lucky enough to do a lot of as a child, thanks to living overseas in a hot country – but there must be more options. Please share!

Of course, the cessation of a certain weekly tradition would probably help curb my weight-gain, but as I said earlier in the year I’m not becoming a puritan. If I can’t balance eating food I enjoy with staying fairly healthy, then I’m afraid I’m going to opt for just becoming a fat bastard. I remain convinced, however, that compromise is more than possible.

And it is in that spirit of gastronomic endeavour that I shall venture forth to fetch the afore-mentioned Friday Curry Of Justice. Though I might ask them if they can make it a little drier than usual … every little helps, I guess. 🙂

So, have a good long weekend, folks – hasta luego!

[ * So, don’t hold your breath. ]

[ ** I’m not immortal, either. But other than that, the similarities are uncanny. ]

[ *** How imperialist does that sound? lol ]

Good winnings, bad endings, bad reviews and bad business

Good winnings:

Paul Raven and Claire weaver at the Arthur C Clarke Award ceremony 2008As the entire intarwubz have already reported, Richard Morgan’s Black Man scooped the Clarke Award last night. I hadn’t read the whole shortlist, so I can’t pass comment on its comparative worthiness, but I have read Black Man (reviewed it for Vector, too) and thought it was an excellent book, so no complaints from me.

The fact that Morgan is not just a very decent and interesting fellow but one of my new clients is also rather pleasing. Congratulations, Richard!

The ceremony was a lot of fun, and the Apollo Cinema was done up all sf-nal complete with gratuitous Star Wars extras; it was great to see lots of people I usually only interact with online, and an unusual experience to be plied with free booze and nibbles.

Although, judging by Niall’s picture of me stood next to the gorgeous Claire Weaver, I should probably be avoiding nibbles for a few months, or possibly even forever.

Bad endings:

The SF Signal gang roped me into another of their Mind Meld posts to talk about the best and worst endings in genre novels.

Unsurprisingly, I was far from being the only person to declare Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy to have the worst ending ever … there’s lots of other interesting opinions from names and faces old and new, so go take a read. You’ll get some good recommendations from it, I reckon.

Bad reviews:

Andrew Wheeler calls it how he sees it, which is why he’s one of the genre bloggers I most respect. His justification for writing negative reviews is chuntering out of my printer as we speak, so as to be pinned to my wall:

“On the one side, a reviewer always wants to be honest. If I liked a book, I want to say that — more, I want to explain what I liked about it, and, as best I can, how, I liked it. And I want to avoid soft pedaling a book I didn’t like.

But I’ve also gotten to a point in my life when I like to think of myself as an adult. And adults don’t cause offense inadvertently (as someone once said about gentlemen).

I’ll still probably say some critical things about the book in question […] but, if I can manage it, none of it will be gratuitous (unlike SF Eye), and all of it will be for a purpose.

So that’s the point: I complain because I love. Really.”

Selah, brother.

Bad business:

Right, it’s off to the day-job for me … *sigh*

Clarke Award, baby!

As mentioned in FPB last week, tonight is the Arthur C Clarke Award ceremony up in the Big Smoke, and your loyal correspondent from the Styx is getting on the train in a few hours to hob-nob with the worthies of the science fiction literature scene.

M John Harrison with the 2007 Clarke AwardTo the right is a picture of M John Harrison receiving last year’s award for the inimitable and excellent Nova Swing [image by abrinsky]. Who’ll take the trophy this year? There’s only one certainty with the Clarke Award, which is that whoever wins there will be some degree of controversy about it … the good Mr Harrison being the exception that proves the rule, of course.

So, yours truly will be on the scene, a-Twitterin‘ anything of note. As there’s only the one award, that probably won’t be a great deal; I think I’ll be too busy chatting with people (and showing off my awesome new Asus Eee) at the drinks afterwards to do any heavy reportage. That said, I’ll try to get some decent photos of various people … bodyguards permitting, naturally. 🙂

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, the Orbit books gang are celebrating the Award and lamenting the passing of its founder by giving away a hardback edition of Arthur C Clarke’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. You gotta be in it to win it, as the saying goes.


Today is also notable for a much bigger reason (or at least one that more people beyond the boundaries of the sf echo-chamber will care about) – the World Wide Web is fifteen years old today.

It’s ess than half my age, and yet I already spend more than half my time using it – there’s a scary thought for ya. 😉