Tag Archives: work

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: Straylight botanical gardens

Since I’ve been huddled indoors all week with a cold which refuses to budge (despite generous applications of vitamins, caffeine and healthy food), we have another “no proper photography” week on our hands. So, a snap-shot from Second Life instead:

Straylight Botanical Gardens 6

That’s yours truly (as my alter ego, Isambard Portsmouth) taking a constitutional in the Botanical Gardens at Straylight, whose enterprising owner has realised that the best way to promote and market his skill with sculpties is to make a place that people will visit just because it looks nice.

It’s about as close to nature as you’ll get in SL at the moment … and when you have an inkling as to the degree of work and expertise involved in creating objects like those trees, it’s even more impressive.

Writing about music

The barrage of music reviewing continues apace; I’ve upped the number of albums I cover in recent weeks because my newly rationalised working procedures have permitted me to do so, but I think I’m now at a peak quota. If I take on any more, and I’ll have no flex left to incorporate other forms of work into my schedule, and I’m hoping that some other forms of work may well be in the pipeline as we speak.

I’ve also been looking into the logistics and planning of my proposed solo music reviews site, as well as poking around with WordPress themes and costing up my hosting options. Watch this space!

So, here’s a few highlights from my music reviews that went live this week:

The next month or so will see me interviewing some of my favourite bands, including the aforementioned Oceansize and Hundred Reasons. As yet unconfirmed (but still a distinct possibility) is a chat with none other than Sir Henry of Rollins. Note to self – bullsh*t questions are not going to wash with this particular interviewee!

Writing about books

Completed my review of Karl Schroeder’s Queen Of Candesce, and sent it off to TTA Towers along with all the other reviews to be included in Interzone #213. So most of the writing about books I’ve been concerned with this week has been stuff written by other people, but that’s fine – I’m learning a lot about different ways of writing from having to edit other people’s work.

I’ve also been taking notes in preparation for writing a review of Lucius Shepard’s Dagger Key collection (for Vector) over the weekend to come. I wasn’t sure what I’d make of the book when I was sent it, as I’m not an aficionado of ‘dark fantasy’, but suffice to say that I now understand why so many people told me I was lucky to be given the book to review – he’s quite a writer. I’m not sure if I’d go out of my way to buy his stuff in future, but I’d certainly recommend him to fantasy and horror fans of my acquaintance.

Next on the slate is McDonald’s Brasyl, which has been in the queue for a long time, but needs to be reviewed for Foundation

Writing about other stuff

My ‘beginner’s guide to Second Life’ is currently being incorporated into the coming edition of D+PAD Magazine, and if it looks as good as the current issue, I’m going to be proud to see my name next to it. And I’ve been asked to follow on with a regular SL column, too … so, time to start cribbing from Warren Ellis! 😉

Writing at VCTB

Yeah, I know, I’ve been slack as hell. If you’re interested in excuses, I’ll mention that a certain amount of ‘bedding-in’ of the new bloggers at Futurismic has been ongoing, and that this damnable cold has slowed me down considerably – thinking clearly is still a matter of conscious effort, and hard to sustain for more than half an hour at a time. But I’ll be back on form soon, don’t you worry …

Books and magazines seen

None. Nada. Nowt. Naff all. Not a terrible occurrence, because the TBR pile is quite big enough already … but unusual enough to be notable. I feel strangely incomplete.

Coda

The weekend arrives, and with it grey clouds and rain … I table a motion to declare this The Most. Rubbish. Summer. EVAR.

Still, the weekend is the weekend, and it brings with it plenty of things to do. Tonight is the grand final of The Wedgewood Rooms battle-of-the-bands, where yours truly will be dispensing his judicial decisions for the last time this year. However, due to this enduring illness, I’m not going to be drinking … meaning I get the fun of watching everyone else steadily descend into gibbering inebriation, which should more than compensate.

Sunday is the last of the month, which sees me down at Tongues And Grooves, the poetry and music open-mic night I attend. We’ve no special guest this month, instead concentrating on local artists, and I have a fifteen minute slot to fill with readings of my own work and that of other people, which should be fun (if a trifle nerve-wracking – I never have gotten over the stage-fright thing, even in a small venue with no stage).

But first things first – it’s time for The Friday Curry Of Justice, as is traditional. Have a good weekend, folks. Hasta luego!

Friday Photo Blogging: still life with bug

Here’s a shot from back in May, which I’m becoming convinced was about as much summer we’re going to get this year:

Still life with bug

I have no idea what sort of plant that is, nor the identity of the little critter either. I just liked the textures and colours. Taken at the Rock Gardens on Southsea Seafront, for them who’s interested.

Speaking of plants … I mentioned last week that the builders came and took away the old condemned gas fire from my flat. This permitted a rearrangement of bedroom furniture, with the end result that a greater number of my houseplants can now indulge in the south-facing window:

Room With A View

The view would be nicer if there wasn’t a house in the way, and if the garden flat hadn’t had its scruffy but verdant garden paved over when it was renovated a few years back. Selah. It’s better than bugger all.

A first step in freelancing

Well, I’ve been battering on about it for ages, and I’ve even written a few pieces that have paid me token amounts in the last six months, but this week represented a first for me – I sent out an invoice for some copywriting work.

A real invoice, for real work, for real money! I’m pretty stoked about it (though obviously I’ll be more so once the money arrives); while I’m nowhere close to making a steady income yet, this is a first step on what I hope will be a long road … a road that gets progressively less steep, with any luck. So, yay me! Wh00t, etc.

Catching up with ex-colleagues

Went out to an friend’s leaving party for an hour or two last night; he’s just left the same library that I departed three busy months ago. It was really nice to see the old gang, and made me realise that as much as I like my new job, I really miss the sense of community I had in the old one.

They’re great people doing a tough job for worse money, and good friends too. So hello, Portsmouth library staff, if any of you are reading. You guys totally rule.

Phonecalls with the (somewhat) rich and famous

As mentioned last week, I did a telephone interview with Alan Wilder on Tuesday – and I’m pleased to report that I got the sound recorded perfectly, transcribed the conversation and sent it in to my editor at Subba-Cultcha, who seems pretty pleased with it and will be running it (I assume) next week.

Alan Wilder was once described as being ‘the only musician in Depeche Mode’ before his departure from the band in 1996; nowadays he makes music under the moniker of Recoil, a studio-collaboration project that (sadly) never plays live. Mr Wilder was a charming and interesting interviewee, and I can heartily recommend the new album, subHuman – I was a fan before doing the interview.

Books seen this week

Another slow week on the reading materials front, with only one new title. I got an email midweek from a gentleman called Peter D. Smith, wondering if I’d be interested in seeing a copy of his new book that discusses the role of science fiction in inspiring the development of the Cold War ‘Cobalt bomb’ – the device central to the movie Dr Strangelove. It sounded pretty intriguing, so I invited him to send me a copy of it:

Smith, P. D. – The Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon. [pub. Allen Lane, May 2007; ISBN 978-0713998153]

Doomsday Men

It’s a real doorstop of a hardback, too – 576 pages! But it looks like a well-researched piece of work, and the sort of thing I can probably read in amongst other titles (which I still can’t do with fiction, for some reason). I’ll share my thoughts about it here when I’m done.

The ephemera of life

After a ten month wait, British Gas have finally managed to commit the fifteen keystrokes that mean I actually receive paper bills for my electricity! I’m tempted to wait for ten months before paying them any more money as a matter of principle, but bitter experience tells me that its not worth toying with utility companies, no matter how inept and cludgy their customer service systems are.

Futurismic is back up, though not fully operational – hard-working head honcho Jeremy managed to export the hefty back catalogue of posts from the evil-tempered Movable Type installation into a nice fresh WordPress database. Now all we need to do is get the backline machinery tuned up, and a nice new theme design, and we’re back in business.

Any web-dev types fancy taking on a low-budget WordPress theme hack? Get in touch and we can talk money – we don’t need anything too hardcore, and it’ll need to be cheap, because it’ll be coming out of my own pocket.

***

I think that’s about it – if that little lot hasn’t bored you to tears or killed a dull ten minutes at work, I don’t know what will. But my stomach tells me it’s time to go fetch The Friday Curry, so I’ll wish you all a good weekend – hopefully one blessed with better weather than we have had for the last week or so.

Hasta luego!

Friday Photo Blogging: ‘El D.F.’, aka Mexico City

Digging in the vaults for Mexico photos again, because I’ve not been out with the camera. This is the view eastwards over Mexico City*, as taken from the observation deck of El Torre Latinoamericana, right in the heart of the city. When it was first built it was the tallest building in the Latin Americas, but it lost that title some time ago. It’s still pretty damned tall though.

Mexico City

And Mexico City (more correctly referred to as ‘El Distrito Federale’, or ‘El D.F.’) is vast**. You get up in that tower, and whichever direction you look in, it’s just city … all the way to the horizon. Mindbending stuff – especially to someone who’s still reeling from altitude adjustment and culture shock, as I was on the first day of my travels when this was taken. Possibly the most intense place I’ve ever been in my entire life.

[* If you recognised it as being the image from which VCTB’s header is cropped, well done. Have a tequila on me.]

[** Population according to official census in 2005 was near nine million, but it is claimed by various charities and other organisations that the black economy of unregistered economic migrants may add anything up to half that number again.]

***

Well. Today I am damp, and in less than the best of moods – had you caught me at 12:30 when I got to work, however, you’d have seen me at high-peak rage. Suffice to say that Portsmouth received a week’s worth of rainfall within the space of about twenty minutes today … with the twenty minutes in question falling within the timeframe of me leaving my home and me arriving at work. I’m still trying to figure out a way to make my shoes dry effectively without making them stink.

But hey, things could be worse. It’s not been a bad week, all told, although very little has occurred that’s worth reporting. In other words: no one has decided to offer me money for writing for them yet. Hmph. Gotta keep hustlin’.

However, I have received a cheque for my Strange Horizons review of Extended Play, and while it may not be for very much money, it’s symbolically heartening nonetheless. Only thing is I don’t think I can pay it into my account directly, because it’s in US dollars … which is ironic, because it arrived about a week after I got a PayPal account set up for business purposes. It’s all fun and games, this freelance lark!

Oh yeah – I went to see Electric Six at short notice on Wednesday night for reviewing purposes. Put it this way: if you’ve heard the well-known singles, you’ve already heard the best they have to offer. Selah.

***

Incoming materials for the week are as follows:

  • Postsingular by Rudy Rucker (Tor US ARC) – the privileges of being part of the reviews editorial team at Interzone include being able to cherrypick anything I especially want to cover myself, and I love Rucker’s writing to bits. This new novel has been described as ‘especially weird’; when you consider how odd Rucker’s material is usually, this should be quite something.
  • Electric Velocipede #12 – the extra-nice thing about the small press quarterlies is that you tend to forget about them until the new one arrives in the letterbox. I have fond memories of the last EV, so I’m looking forward to reading this one … when I can find the time.

***

Of course, next week sees me up in Liverpool for the SF Foundation Criticism Masterclass … and seeing that (as far as I can tell) I’m not going to have internet access on tap, I should get a lot of reading done. The twelve hours of train travel alone should see to that! I’ll need to spend most of it going through the reading list for the course, though – most of which has been very kindly emailed to me in PDF form by one of the course administrators, who also took the however-many hours necessary to scan them. Thanks, Fatima, if you’re reading!

A week off work – wow. Doesn’t happen often. Doesn’t happen often enough, for that matter! I’m looking forward to it – it’ll be nice to get out of town for a while, meet some new people and learn some new things. I’m just trying not to think of the state of my bank balance, which has already suffered unexpected damage through having had to replace my broken cooker … oh well. You can’t take it with you, as the saying goes. And worrying about it won’t do any good either, so I’m determined to ignore it as much as possible and have a good time.

As mentioned above, I have no idea how easy it will be for me to get online while I’m away, so blogging here may be thin to non-existant. I may try to set up the reposting of some gems from the archives just to tide you over, and there’s probably a few reviews that I could shove up as well … we’ll see what happens.

***

Well, that’s your lot for FPB this week. Time for me to engage in The Culinary Ritual Of Friday Curry Justice before hacking out the daily bloggage for Futurismic, and then I can settle down to the weekend. I hope you all have a good weekend, too, whatever it is you end up doing. Adios, amigos!

Friday Photo Blogging: pine and pole

What better warm-up for a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK than some random photo from a guy who knows nothing about photography, eh? Here’s some kind of pine tree down on Southsea Common:

Pines and poles against the sky

I can’t help but feel it would have been a more interesting shot had I been able to zoom in closer, but I’m still a bit cagey about taking more than one lens with me at a time – swapping them over in the great outdoors seems like an open invitation to getting dust and crap on the sensor, and getting that sorted isn’t cheap. Still, if I want to improve my photographic chops, I’ll have to bite the bullet. Selah.

***

Another week flies past in a blur of day-job, review-writing and a judicious amount of RP malarkey in Second Life – well, a guy’s gotta have some sort of leisure outlet, after all, even if it usually involves staying up far later than is probably healthy. Speaking of Second Life, the most excellent Fallon Winfield (better known as science fiction writer Jason Stoddard) delivered me my virtual pied a terre over the past weekend, which is just awesome in a “concrete Mexican compound designed for a post-apocalyptic shoot-out show-down” sort of way. I’ll have to remember to get some snapshots over the next few days to share with you. (I also need to blog about his thoughts on personal branding, because they tie in to my genre independence flag-waving. Watch this space.)

I’ve been tweaking away at the Naval Museum website while at my day-job, applying the SEO wisdom I’ve accrued since starting VCTB to help improve the page ranks and so on. It’s a long slow process; I’m basically just going through and changing all the page titles as a first pass, but there’s a lot more to be done. Still, progress is steady, and it’s good to be doing something I know I’m good at.

As far as freelance work is concerned, a whole lot of stuff peaks over this weekend – including doing the copy for a whole website, and three or four press releases for local bands and musicians. Plus a book review to do, six or seven CDs, and the Biffy Clyro show from last Sunday to write up. So it’s not going to be much of a holiday for me this weekend … although, as I work on Her Majesty’s Dockyard property, I get Tuesday off work as well, due to some old and arcane law or another. Bonus!

(Anyone interested in having a chuckle at my music journalism skills may wish to consult the ‘paulgraven’ tag on my del.icio.us account, which I’m now starting to use as a way of keeping track of where stuff I’ve written has ended up on the intarwebs. Because there’s, y’know, so much of it. Yeah.)

***

Incoming material has yet again been (mercifully) sparse. A few things of note arrived spread across a brace of care packages from Orbit, however:

  • Spindrift by Allen Steele (which I see is getting sterling reviews all over the place, so it’ll have to move into the upper layers of the increasingly baroque book-queueing system)
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (which looks to be aiming for that Tom Holt / Robert Rankin cod comedy supernatural soap-opera angle; I’ll give it a try, but if it doesn’t bite early I’m not going to expend precious reading hours on it)

The rest was fantasy or vampire boffing. Meh. Not my bag, guv’nor – and I don’t have enough hours in my life for the books which I know I want to read.

***

One final note: I just want to say how sad it is to hear that Andy Wheeler of the SFBC may be out of a job. I’ve never met Andy, but his was one of the first SF blogs I started following, and he’s someone I’ve looked up to ever since – as a good blogger, a man of solid and well reasoned (if crotchety) opinions on the genre and publishing in general, and an all-round good bloke. As much as I may sometimes proclaim the necessity of radical restructuring in the publishing industry, it’s sad to see the human cost of business rationalisation, here as anywhere. I wish Andy the best of luck, and I’m confident that a man of his obvious dedication and intelligence will find gainful and satisfying work in short order, should he require it. Nil carborundum, sir.

***

Well, there we go – another week of my thrill-a-second life typed up and encapsulated for your vicarious enjoyment. I have a few things to sort out before heading to The Goa for The Friday Curry Of Exceptional Justice and Righteousness (which isn’t a problem, as they’re not even open yet), so I’ll say my goodbyes and wish all my fellow Brits a happy (and hopefully warm and sunny) long weekend – try not to drink too much, and remember what Baz Luhrmann said about the sunscreen.

Peace.