Tag Archives: Interviews

Friday Photo Blogging: a year in music CDs

As should be apparent already to regular readers, I get sent a lot of CDs these days. Here are just some of them:

A year in music reviewing

That’s about a third of the albums I’ve been sent to review in the last year – the third that I’m actually interested in keeping, naturally. The others will be migrating their way to second hand shops some time in the new year.

I’m quite astonished at myself, really – if you count pieces pending publication, I’ve written well over 200 pieces of music journalism in the last year. Crikey.

As the above isn’t really a very creative photograph, you can have a bonus shot from the gig I went to last Sunday (I know, I’m too good to you):

Not Advised - live at The Alma Arms, Portsmouth

That’s Ash from Southampton pop-punk band Not Advised, who is probably most unimpressed by me not only capturing a great gurning moment, but plastering it on my review of the show at The Dreaded Press.

There’s an interview with the band, too. Not my normal cup of tea, music-wise, but a damn fine live act and a lovely bunch of lads to boot.

I remember being that full of enthusiasm once – perhaps if I hang around young musicians more I’ll rediscover the secret!*

Writing about music

I’ve pre-empted some of my music hack news above, but it’s been a busy week nonetheless.

Work continues to gather for The Dreaded Press, which is great news – I’m immensely chuffed that tomorrow (at very short notice) I’m interviewing the infamous Ginger, frontman of The Wildhearts and pathological side-project creator. Which is going to be awesome.

Hey, my interview with David Yow went live, in case you didn’t notice. I’m rather pleased with it (though Morrissey’s lawyers may be less so) – here’s a teaser quote:

“That’s the thing — I can handle eating nothing but baked potatoes and baked beans for a week, if that means that every night I get to get totally f*cked up and sleep with some slut who I never met before and will never speak to again, y’know?”

There’s no slacking for me next week either – Monday sees me reviewing Minus The Bear, and later in the week I’m interviewing Benedict Hayes of Enochian Theory for The Dreaded Press.

That last one is a bit of a cheat, in that I know Ben of old (local chap, lovely fellow, very tall, Cornish, mad), but his band are doing the brave new “start your own label and go it alone” thing, and I think it’ll be interesting to talk about the hows, whys and wherefores.

Still waiting on the replies from Henry Rollins, and just entered into negotiations (read as “pleading begging emails”) to arrange an interview with Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar) some time early next year.

Writing about books

Haven’t actually done any reviewing of books this week, having been instead concentrating on actually reading books instead, which has been very pleasant – I’d forgotten what it’s like to read a book by choice.

However, it appears the note-taking habit is now thoroughly ingrained … so my ARC of Stross’s Halting State is now festooned with post-it markers, as has become my tradition. I think I’ll probably review it anyway – it’s a strong novel with some good talking points, and it’s not like there’s any shortage of places to publish it.

Writing about other stuff

Also minimal. My excuse here is that I’m still doing the self-tuition thing with XHTML and CSS, which is a slower and more frustrating process than I’d like. But hey, when was learning something worth knowing ever easy, right?

Books and magazines seen

Only one confirmed literary arrival this week, namely my latest assignment for Vector in the form of Swiftly by Adam Roberts**, which I’m pleased about – Roberts is a challenging read, but that’s half the appeal for me. Although this is one of his works that bolts on to a literary classic – in this case, Gulliver’s Travels – which leaves me in a bit of a bind.

Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never actually read Gulliver’s Travels (though I know a fair bit about its content by inference). Methinks a trip to Project Gutenburg is in order if I want to do this one justice.

There may be more titles that should have arrived this week – if the “you were out” red card from the Post Office is anything to go by – but as it’s the (allegedly) festive season, I can’t go and check until tomorrow because they’re busier than usual. Selah.


Another high-velocity week has hurtled by. As much as I loathe [the holiday that shall remain nameless], I’m looking forward to having some downtime just so I can recover from what has felt like twelve months of relentless acceleration. Having discovered that my mother now has wi-fi at her house (w00t!), I should be able to finish up a lot of back-burner stuff in time for the new year.

Of course, we all know the saying about best-laid plans, so I’m not going to make any bets just yet. If I can just get some fiction writing done and develop a pre-emptive stock of Friday Flash I’ll be a happy man. Anything else will just be gravy. Mmmm. Gravy.

And talking of gravy, my tongue pines for the taste of cumin and other Eastern spices, which means I should be making tracks toward the Temple Of Culinary Delights and make my obeisance at the altar of The Friday Curry.

So have a good weekend yourselves, ladies and gents, and stay warm. Hasta luego!

[* Or get arrested on suspicion of more dubious motives, maybe.]

[** For which the rather fetching jacket art is seemingly unavailable online as yet. Sorry.]

[tags]photo, albums, CDs, music, reviews, interviews, writing, bookstores, blather[/tags]

Friday Photo Blogging: Portsmouth as it once was

Here’s one for the history buffs! This is chart from the manuscript collections at the Royal Naval Museum where I work, that shows the layout of Portsmouth as it was in 1726:

Map Of Portsmouth 1726

As you can see, there was a lot less then than there is now. If my estimates are correct, the Hall Of Mirrors (my humble abode) would be somewhere in the midst of what is labelled as ‘The Great Morass’ (bottom left, almost out of shot – it’s a big chart). That could be taken as still being true in a metaphorical sense …

Full-time flashback

And speaking of morasses (is that a real plural?), my schedule has been a bit of a swamp this week; as I think I mention last week, I’m currently covering for the colleague with whom I job-share, which means I’m working full-time hours.

Having only been part-time for just under six months, I’m astonished at home quickly I’ve become accustomed to having more time on my hands … and how effectively I’ve managed to fill it all up with other work! Suffice to say that getting all my blogging, reviewing and interviews done this week has been a bit of a marathon effort, and I’m very thankful for the forthcoming bank holiday.

Scribblings delivered and pending

Over the last weekend, I wrote three articles – an introduction to Second Life (for D+PAD), a report on the SFF Masterclass I attended back in June (for Vector), and a piece on why anyone taking a potential career as a writer (or other sort of artist) needs to have their own website (for Focus). The Focus piece I consider to be an especially good result for me – as the “writers’ magazine” of the BSFA, that’s a fairly prestigious publication to be appearing in.

This week I’ve already knocked out three CD reviews (which I did last night, because the albums themselves took a while longer than they should have done to work their way through the postal service), and spent some time chatting on the phone to Tony Wright, who you may know as the frontman of semi-defunct Britrock heroes Terrorvision. He now has another band, Laika Dog, who have a new album in the pipeline … so I got to speak to him about the decay of the corporate music industry, and rock and roll as a vocation rather than a career. Lovely chap, great interviewee.

Interviews in the pipeline include the legendary David Yow (formerly of The Jesus Lizard, now frontman for Qui); Mark Meyers from Pox, a band who share history (and former members) with Belgian alternative heroes dEUS; history-obsessed UK post-rock outfit iLiKETRAiNS; and (way off in October) the mighty Oceansize. I may not get paid for any of this yet, but I certainly get to talk to some interesting people!

Apparel received

I don’t buy T-shirts anywhere near as often as I used to, but the urge still takes me from time to time. When I heard a friend was going to see the inimitable Tool at Brixton Academy this week, I asked him to pick me up a shirt while he was there; by sheer coincidence, my official WordPress T-shirt (that I had totally forgotten I ordered) arrived by mail the same day.

RockTee vs. GeekTee

So, choices: do I dress rock, or do I dress geek?

I know, I seriously need to get a life.

Books and magazines seen

Well, this is the third week in a row that an issue of F&SF (October/November 2007 this time) has arrived in my letterbox – which I take to mean I won’t be seeing any more until around December or thereabouts.

I’m definitely going to switch to digital when my current sub expires – I know it’s not the magazine’s fault, but the delivery is incredibly irregular. Plus that way I’ll get to pick and choose which issues to take.

A busy week for books:

  • Ascendancies – The Best of Bruce Sterling – the long-awaited (and, as always, beautifully made) Subterranean hardback that collects the highlights of Sterling’s career. I shall be saving this one for when I take some time off work, so I can just devour it in a day or so.
  • Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder – next review job for Interzone, and sequel to the excellent Sun of Suns.

And from SF Site (after a journey from Canada of over a month’s duration, according to the postmark):

  • Land of the Headless by Adam Roberts – well, it’s a Roberts, so I’m expecting high literary values. I nearly said “I expect it’ll be clever”, but I know that annoys him
  • Human Is? – a Philip K. Dick Reader – PKD is one of the huge self-assessed gaps in my sf-nal knowledge. I know loads of his work second-hand (through reading frequent reviews and references to them), but I’ve not read a number of what are considered to be his most seminal works – so this should be an enjoyable (and long overdue) education.

All this serves as a reminder that I’m hideously backlogged on books to be read and reviewed. Once this full-time intermission is over at the day-job, I think I’ll need to take a week off from music reviews (and possibly my increasingly rare and truncated visits to Second Life) and just attack the book pile to whittle it down to manageable proportions.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more appealing an idea that becomes …

[Side note: one of the books above came with a press release that described its author as “… one of the best writer’s (sic) in the field.” Come on, guys, you’re marketing literature here – surely you should be proofreading for the correct use of apostrophes? If any publicists require a new copywriter, my email is in the sidebar to the right …]


Well, that’s about it for this week. I can hear the silent yet clarion call of Meat Balti (Madras Hot) from a few streets away, so I shall venture forth to purchase (and subsequently consume) The Friday Curry.

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend (and extra day, if you’re a Brit) – I’m not even going to bother mentioning the weather, because doing so hasn’t helped at any point in the last few months. So, regardless of location or climate, have a good time doing whatever you’re doing. Hasta luego!

Author interviews and other good stuff to read

Futurismic is currently in redevelopment, having a new engine fitted … two evenings without posting to it, and I feel a peculiar absence. Blogging definitely has addictive properties.

So, in the interim, I’ll round up a batch of good stuff for sf heads to read on the web and post them here instead.

Kim Stanley Robinson on climate change

The man behind the much lauded Mars Trilogy (which I’ve still never read), Kim Robinson talks about climate change issues at Wired, in the context of his latest novel, Sixty Days and Counting.

Watts, MacLeod, McAuley and Slonczewski on science fiction and the biosciences

Thanks to Peter Watts, we can read [warning – PDF] a group discussion interview from Nature magazine where he, Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley and Joan Slonczewski talk about their writing, the biological sciences, and the connections between the two.

There is apparently a longer and unexpurgated online version to come, reached by the URL at the end of the piece, but it doesn’t appear to be live yet.

(Special bonus material! Ken MacLeod is not too worried about doctors who think they can be terrorists. It’s the engineers we should be looking out for.)

Lewis Shiner gives it away

A little late to the pixel-stained revolution, but very welcome nonetheless, is Lewis Shiner’s decision to release all of his short fiction online under a Creative Commons licence. Yes, all of it, along with a manifesto about the importance of short fiction for developing one’s writing – and for cultivating readers, too.

I must confess to not having read any Shiner before, but his is a name I’ve had recommended to me countless times. Now I have no excuse, except the old ‘lack of time’ saw. Thanks to the omniprescient BoingBoing for the tip-off.

Happy reading!

Angry career reviewers, penitent genre bloggers, the Salami Award, and more

Well, well. You think us genre reviewers and critics are a stroppy lot, you should see at the literary reviewers from US newsprint media getting all hissy about their platform being eroded away from underneath them. The Print is Dead blog has this to say:

“And when Winslow himself writes that the loss of book review sections will “[choke] off such discussion of books,” he couldn’t be more wrong. There is now, because of the Web, probably more discussion of books than ever before. But what really infuriates Winslow, and many of the other critics, is that all of this discussion is happening without them. So it’s not that books are being burned; instead, what’s happening is the self-importance of book reviewers is going up in smoke.”

That really underscores why I’m glad to see the genre scene thriving online – I think we may get over that particular hump before the ‘straights’ do. I can’t think of any reviewers in sf/f who I think of as being self-important – but then (with the obvious exception) I can’t think of anyone who has made it their sole career and source of income, either. There’s a corellation there, I think.

Meanwhile, Gabe Chouinard has come back in response  to Jonathan McCalmont’s post that I mentioned yesterday. Señor Chouinard argues that a new critical venue should strive to build a new audience from scratch with innovatory approaches, rather than trying to entice away established readers from other venues:

“… street-level criticism is going to open up the genre dialogue to once and for all include people from outside of genre, rather than excluding them from the discussion. Our approach is meant for a NEW kind of audience, an audience that we have to manufacture from the ground up. There’s plenty of room for all kinds of readers in street-level criticism, and it’s my assertion that, by treating reviewing as a subset of the greater literary critical dialogue, we’re in effect opening the ghetto walls to allow outsiders to come in and have a good look around, without fear of stigma and without fear of rejection.”

Someone else responding to Jonathan (or rather, apologising for a response he neither finished or posted) is Andrew ‘SFBC’ Wheeler. After having had a while to ruminate on the matter, Mr. Wheeler has decided that his reaction to Jonathan’s post on the aesthetics of fantasy had roots in other things:

“Eventually the Clue Stick descended heavily on my head and I realized McCalmont was exactly the same sort of blogger as I was, and that was what annoyed me. (A similar realization hit me about William Lexner, previously — though I think Lexner really is trying to be incredibly obnoxious, while people like me and McCalmont just come off that way sometimes.)

So I’ve moved McCalmont into the mental category of “curmudgeons who occasionally annoy me but who I want to take seriously,” joining such excellent company as Barry Malzberg and Norman Spinrad (mostly for his book reviews, which I don’t read as often as I should these days). That doesn’t mean that I won’t post a “look at this stupid thing someone said” essay about any of them — that seems, for better or worse, to be a lot of what I do here — but I hope it means that I’ll take the idea seriously first…and only then reject it out of hand.”

As back-handed compliments go, they don’t come much bigger than that. I think.

A few other things of note, while I’m at it:

Matrix Magazine (another fine product of the BSFA stable) has an article featuring soundbite interviews with the shortlist nominee authors for the 200 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Ironic understatement award goes to Brian Stableford, talking of the importance of genre awards:

“It’s obviously better to have such reference-points than not to have them … [e]specially if they can occasionally whip up a little controversy.”

Controversy, Mr. Stableford? Surely not …

(Which reminds me, I wrote an essay ages back about the value of genre fiction awards, and it’s probably high time I looked at it again in the light of the huge amount I’ve learned since I first published it.)

As far as good reviews of the Clarke shortlist are concerned, you could do an awful lot worse than let the ladies from Eve’s Alexandra take you through them. Their take on M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing went up yesterday.

Last but not least, I propose the creation of a new award, to be given for ‘most laugh-out-loud metaphor deployed in a serious review of a serious genre novel’. The first winner for this award (which can be given out whenever I or anyone else decide it’s time for one to be announced) is Adam Roberts, for this genius line from his review of Ian McDonald’s Brasyl:

“Brasyl’s 2006, 2032, and 1732 are not, it turns out, part of the same timeline, but salami slices from different places on the sausage of the multiverse.”

As this is the inaugural award, the recipient sentence will provide the name for it; feel free to confer a Salami Award on any piece of critical writing you encounter and feel worthy.

Eastercon: My agenda, liveblogging and interviews hitlist

For the enjoyment of those who stalk sf-scene nobodies with an overinflated opinion of themselves (and because I’ve seen other people do it, and I like to share), here is my subject-to-change agenda for this weekend’s Eastercon: Continue reading Eastercon: My agenda, liveblogging and interviews hitlist