Tag Archives: editing

Bad movies mess with your brain

Yet again, neuroscience validates something I’ve been telling people since I was about fourteen. Via io9, we discover “that achieving a tight control over viewers’ brains during a movie requires, in most cases, intentional construction of the film’s sequence through aesthetic means.

In other words, terrible trashy films make your mind switch off. This will be a familiar theory to fellow scholars of the world as a harmonious interlaced system; indeed, you may have observed the “Bullshit In, Bullshit Out” effect in other spheres of human creative endeavour.

To balance that outburst of smug curmudgeonliness, allow me to share an example of human creative endeavour from the other end of the scale. This piece of music is called “Never Loose That Feeling” by Swervedriver – and if you’ve had a fairly decent sunny day today, and harbour a lingering penchant for early nineties alt-rock, I recommend you turn it up extremely loud.

The passing of the baton

Well, all but one of the reviews for Interzone #217 are in. All that remains to be done now is give them a thorough editing sweep and email them off to TTA Towers …

… and then step out of the driving seat. Yup – thanks to the pressures of actually having lots of proper paid work coming at me from various angles, as well as all the other as-yet-non-lucrative stuff I’m entangled in, plus the fact that a lot of my new work puts me in the direct employment by authors and/or publishers, I’m stepping down as Interzone‘s Reviews editor as of the forthcoming issue.

Hard to believe I’ve been doing it for a year. In some ways it feels like much longer, in other ways it feels like I only just started. One thing’s for certain: if time were no object, I’d not be leaving the post, as I’ve had a lot of fun doing it and worked with some great people in the process. But time is the one resource that no amount of mining, outright theft or invading other countries can secure for you; as I’ve just said in an email to my team of reviewers, the Interzone gig is the easiest thing to disentangle myself from – not easy, by any means, but easiest.

In addition to being vaguely informative to the blogosphere at large, this post is to thank all the people I’ve worked with indirectly as a result of being IZ‘s Reviews Editor – the publishers, authors and website types who form part of the network of genre. Thanks for going easy on a neophyte, and for teaching me a lot in the process!

I’m looking forward to using that knowledge (and gathering more) in my various other posts – as PS Publishing‘s PR guy, as website-manager to various stars of the genre firmament, as Futurismic‘s editor-in-chief, and as a critic and writer in my own right (time permitting, natch, especially regarding the latter). Meanwhile, my Interzone post will be taken on by the eminently capable Jim Steel, who I’m positive will do a job far superior to my own.

All change!

Friday Photo Blogging: psychedelic percussion

The lighting at the super little Brighton venue The Freebutt isn’t very conducive to photography of bands in action.

Well, it would be more truthful to say that the combination of my low-end equipment and beginner shutterbug skills weren’t up to the task of capturing Dead Meadow performing without using the Auto Mode.

Oil-wheel kick drum

But unmoving objects are easier to deal with, and Dead Meadow’s silver-finished Ludwig drumkit (with psychedelic oilwheel projections on the kick skin) made a rather charming subject, if I do say so myself. I really must get around to buying a faster lens, though.

Writing about music

As seen above, I had the Dead Meadow show to write about, which also featured local psych-out heroes (and lovely chaps) You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons.

All in all, a great gig and night out with friends, and The Freebutt is now on my list of fantastically non-corporate venues that I wish were on the end of my street.

Writing about books

I’m still wrestling with the Wolfe; I got to a stage where it felt like I was reading fifty pages and fining myself closer to the front than I had been before, but I’m now into the last quarter.

It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s colossal – and I’ve not had many chances to just sit down and blitz the bugger. I will defeat it this weekend, one way or the other**.


Everything seems to be ticking over fairly well at Futurismic at the moment; last time I checked we’d had 2000 click-throughs on “Uxo, Bomb Dog”, and I expect there’ll be more in a long tail (arf!) to come.

Next Monday sees the return of our non-fiction columns, or at least the first of them; I’ll keep you posted.


Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, isn’t it? 😀

Editing ILLUMINATIONS in a tiny timeframe was one hell of a task, but strangely exhilarating – not to mention further proof that I tend to perform at my best (or at least at my most focused) when under pressure.

There was very little corrective editing to be done – except a few massages and tweaks of punctuation – as we decided to leave the stories essentially the same as they had been when first published on our respective sites.

However, getting everything into the same format and typographical layout was quite a mission for someone who’d never had to do such a thing before. And then there was the real challenge – deciding on the order for the stories.

We decided to go with a sort-of thematic ordering rather than the obvious chronological alternative (or the clunky grouped-by-author option), which mean yours truly had to read them all through, tag them with themes and tropes, and attempt to assemble them into a sequence that made sense.

I can now reveal to the world the incredibly high-tech manner in which I handled this process:


Yup. Whole lotta index cards.

Anyway, as this didn’t happen this week, I shouldn’t be talking about it in FPB, should I? I’ve just been itching to waffle on about it, though, and it’s hard to stop now that I actually can. Eastercon attendees, beware! 🙂

Books and magazines seen

Thanks to the charming and erudite John Joseph Adams, I’m now receiving books from Night Shade Books – these made up part of my bumper post day from earlier in the week.

There are two of Liz Williams’ “Inspector Chen” novels, which I sincerely hope to make time for; Liz Williams being one of those authors who I was utterly uninterested in until I heard her talk about her work, and in whom I become more interested with each successive encounter***.

The other Night Shade title is the lushly-jacketed Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams:

Walter Jon Williams' Implied Spaces cover

“A novel of the singularity”, according to the front cover. So many intriguing books, so little time – I demand my Modafinil, damn you!

Also in the postbox this very morning was Interzone #215, featuring my reviewing team’s round-up of 2007 (ooooh, the controversy), as well as fiction from Greg Egan and personal favourite Rudy Rucker. Not to mention the big bug-critter on the front:

Interzone 215 cover


Bloody hell, this year’s flying past. This time next week, I’ll be at Heathrow for Eastercon … in fact, only two more days of work and a career development course in London to go before my long weekend starts. Just goes to show that keeping busy seems to be the best cure for mopiness and general winter blues, at least in my case.

Easter is turning into one of those nexus points in life, actually; the con makes it a landmark point in my fandom social calendar, of course, but this year there’s been the additional crescendo of putting together ILLUMINATIONS with the same target date, and this week my boss at the day job departs for maternity leave.

I’m slightly amazed I’ve survived, to be honest; there was a point about a month back that I seriously thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew and would end up paying the price. But here I am, still sane and still working. That said, I think I now know where my limits lie.

And speaking of limits, this seems like a good place to define one for this week’s FPB. It’s high time for a cold refreshing pint of lager while I wait for The Friday Curry Of Reward … which will be all the more solemn an occasion due to having to suspend the tradition for Eastercon next week …

… unless anyone can recommend a good curry house in Heathrow and has no other plans for the Friday evening, that is? 🙂

Anyway, enough blather. Have a good weekend, folks. Hasta luego.

[ * Auto Mode gets the job done, but results in photographs which [unsurprisingly] look as if their subject has just had a very bright light go off in front of them, which isn’t ideal. It annoys the performers too, natch. ]

[ ** I’m serious this time; I’m gonna nail that sucker. ]

[ *** In other words, I suspect she may be able to write fantasy that doesn’t make me want to break things, and I really should give her the opportunity to prove me right. She was interesting at Eastercon last year, and at Picocon the other week. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: spider plant

Yes, it’s another “Paul’s been to busy to photograph anything” week, so here are some spider-plant babies that will need potting up now that autumn has arrived … the poor things never do well in the low light of a Velcro City winter.

SpiderPlant 001

So, what’s been keeping me so busy I couldn’t take the camera out of the house then, hmm?

Delegation – the first principle of editorship

Over the course of the last week, I’ve been doing something I probably should have done la long time ago – I’ve recruited a bunch of new bloggers at Futurismic.

Futurismic was the first website to take me on as a writer (besides my own VCTB, of course), something like two years ago – and I’ve been posting there as close to daily as possible ever since.

In case you weren’t aware, Futurismic is a paying market for sf short stories, though this part of the remit has been on hiatus for a while for various technical and logistical reasons.

The former was an increasingly troublesome and bug-ridden installation of Moveable Type (horrible engine, and not worth the fee, IMHO); the latter is that which afflicts pretty much every genre small press enterprise – namely a scarcity of time as a resource.

Things are moving ahead slowly. We changed over to WordPress as our engine a little while ago, which has made things ten times easier, and now we’re just waiting on getting a new visual theme and template fixed up before we start publishing fiction and non-fiction pieces again.

But the strain of being the only person able to blog daily and keep the site ‘alive’ has been considerable, not to mention chewing up a good three to four hours of every single day.

So, as self-styled (but unopposed) Non-fiction Editor, I finally put out a call for volunteer bloggers last week, and have spent this week easing my four new recruits into the process of posting once a day – which they have taken to admirably.

I can’t describe how nice it is to see a regular stream of posts on relevant subjects appearing there every day – or how relaxing it is to be faced with a personal daily routine with two or more free hours than I had previously.

Now I’ll be a lot less hurried over my other writing jobs, and will have more time to concentrate on my own poetry and fiction … and blogging here more than once a week, which is a cause for celebration if ever I heard one. Ahem.

Plus, Futurismic has gained a sense of vitality from the influx of new blood, which is great to see. If you like the stuff I collect in my daily link-dumps at VCTB, you’ll enjoy what we put out over there, so why not sign up for the Futurismic RSS feed? I promise you won’t regret it … and when we start running fiction again, we’re going to be kicking arse and taking down names, yes sir.

Editing at Interzone and TTA Press

Of course, Futurismic is only one of my two editorial posts (how this has happened in such a short career of writing, I still cannot comprehend), and the realities of my job as Interzone‘s Reviews Editor are slowly starting to settle into a shape I can grasp without panicking.

That said, there’s still a lot to learn – but it’s mostly a case of developing procedures with multiple layers of redundancy so as to avoid missing out important tasks. In other words, keeping a lot of lists as current as possible.

The extra burden comes from my plan to invigorate T3A Space – the TTA Press website – and simultaneously expand Interzone‘s review coverage; in other words, I’m now commissioning reviews that will go straight to the web, enabling me to cover twice the number of titles per issue-period.

So watch closely at T3A Space for more material (available via RSS, naturally), which I hope I will maintain at the same high quality that the magazine is known for. It’s a lot of extra work, but it’s pretty satisfying – and I’m learning a lot about discipline and personal organisation.

Other writing

The barrage of music writing shows no sign of slowing – in fact, I appear to be doing even more than before, and I’m starting to plan the launch of a dedicated music reviews site of my own – working on the theory that if I’m going to spend this many hours a week writing about music, I might as well be seeing some financial comeback from it.

Plus it’s a better idea than going cap-in-hand to the increasingly beleaguered music press in search of paid work; it’s an industry that is firing way more than it’s hiring, so I might as well strike out on my own. The added bonus will be that I’ll never be told what I can or cannot write. Watch this space – and if you’re interested in becoming a contributor, feel free to drop me a line.

A lot of work that I’ve done over the last month has gone live this week, and I’ll relink to a few items that may be of interest to readers here:

As may be plain from reading those pieces, another part of my urge to go solo with the music journalism is that it really is a whole lot of fun. I’ve been hanging around with musicians of one stripe or another (and at times attempted to be one myself) since the early nineties, and I never tire of talking shop.

[Plus, the free albums and gig tickets are always nice! :)]

Books and magazines seen

Another slow week, but that’s not something that bothers me at the moment (as the above may go some way to explaining).

The only magazine to arrive was Interzone #212 (with my brief editorial on the contents page, as well as the first print instance of my status as reviews editor … if the thrill of seeing that is even a quarter as big as the thrill a fiction writer gets from making it into print, I can totally understand how they get addicted).

My name in a masthead!

The only book this week is a copy of Gareth L. Powell‘s print-on-demand poetry collection, Los Muertos.

In the last nine months or so, Gareth and I have become pretty good buddies, both online and off, but I still maintain that I’d like his writing if I didn’t know him from Adam, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with poetry.


So, there we have it. A busy week, but a week whose busyness should ensure lower level of busy in weeks to come – which is a fine thought from where I’m sitting.

In light of the cold I seem to have acquired, when I head off to get The Friday Curry, I shall be requesting that extra chillis be added to it in the hope of burning the bad bacteria from my body (don’t laugh, it has worked before). Here’s hoping your weekend is enjoyable, and as devoid of phlegm and mucus as is possible. Hasta luego!

Editorial crutches – things that you write that you don’t need to write

Here’s an interesting post at the Word Wise blog, talking about editorial crutches:

“Everyone has them – the overuse of “despite” to single out a point of difference, relying on “however” to get you through a sentence, the ubiquitous “meanwhile” that lets you slip effortlessly into a new paragraph. And each, used sparingly, is fine. But they are, in any case, editorial crutches, the things you depend on for support.”

Looking through a few blog posts and old reviews, I can see that I’m more than a little guilty of this myself. I seem to be especially for of “of course” and “however” – and probably a few others that aren’t quite so obvious (at least not to me as their writer).

I’m going to start watching out for these in novels now. But I wonder if they’re entirely a bad thing? If a writer has a ‘voice’ of their own (which all good writers are supposed to have, as far as I can tell), how much of that voice is a function of the words and phrases they instinctively use at certain points? And how much of it gets squashed by editors before we get a chance to see it? Pointless questions, perhaps, but it’s a Saturday and I’m in a pointless questions kind of mood.