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One last night in the West End

Well, the vast majority of my stuff is packed and stacked around this tiny room. Tomorrow two men will come and put it all in a van, I’ll put KJ in her kittybox, and then we’ll go to Sheffield — just to the east of Sheffield proper, in truth, where I have found a little terraced house to rent.

That makes it almost exactly one calendar year living in the Stepford Wives/Potemkin [pri]Village mash-up that is South Kensington, and I can’t say I’ll miss this part of town very much — nor it me, I fully suspect.

London I will miss, though, for a lot of reasons. The history, the sights, the human churn (when observed from a distance, at least); the gigs and launches and readings and conferences and things to do and see and people to hang out with. And I’ll surely miss the bookshops (though my bank balance will be the better for their distance, I fear).

But it feels good to be moving again; good and, though I’m wary of the the word as I flinch from the feeling, right. I’m wary because, well, the last time I moved north, it felt right, and that didn’t end too well, to say the least. But the circumstances are very different, and I lack the nagging doubts I should have heeded that first time. As I described it to someone the other day, it’s like I’ve found a door propped open in a wall where I never expected there to be any doors. I’m slipping in to see what I find on the other side.

I know one thing I’m going to find, and that’s a whole raft-load of work. Indeed, I have a large academic paper (my first proper one) due just after the turn of the month, and much as I’m stoked about it, I’d really have liked a little more of a breather between finishing my dissertation and starting another tight-deadlined project of comparable size.

But hey — life doesn’t work like that, and opportunities are best not wasted. Time and tide, time and tide. The wind is blowing. The sails are full.

Anchors aweigh.

Colinthology

Colinthology cover art (by Andy Bigwood)Here is an ebook you might consider purchasing. The Colinthology is an anthology of stories collated by Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall in celebration and memorial of Colin Harvey, a novelist late of the Bristolian SFF parish, and one of my clients from my webdev days.

Reasons to buy:

  • 21 genre fiction stories for just £2.99
  • DRM-free multi-format ebooks, bought direct from an independent publisher (i.e. “screw you, Amazon”)
  • All proceeds go to charity
  • An appropriate send-off for someone who went way too soon

If the reasons above aren’t sufficient, then I doubt this one will make much difference, but nonetheless:

  • The first story in the book is “Biz be Biz”, a collaborative story by myself and Gareth L Powell

“Biz be Biz” takes place in the (currently mothballed) New Southsea universe I was still playing around with at the time, and grew out of one of my Friday Flash Fictions. It was a lot of fun to write; I talked about the process (which ended up as a sort of brinksmanship tennis match, in the best possible way) on a panel about collaborative creation at Bristolcon this weekend just gone, and hopefully the audio will crop up online somewhere at some point, should you be curious to know more. (It was, by all accounts, a fairly interesting panel; I certainly learned a thing or two.)

I was asked to write a few words about Colin for the book, which I think would be suitable for sharing here:

I only met Colin two or three times in meatspace. He was a client in my webdev days, so we chatted via email — but email is no intimate medium, and we mostly spoke of business.

Colin at conventions was different thing; there, the easy-going character familiar from his emails was overlaid with a garrulous, generous bonhomie. The sort of chap who, on seeing you passing, would not merely nod but actively drag you right in to whatever conversation he was involved in; an extrovert, for sure (or so he seemed to me), perhaps with a well-leashed hint of Jack the Lad lurking behind the grown-up façade, but the sort of extrovert whose happiness seemed to derive in significant part from the happiness of those around him. A fun guy to be around, in other words — though tiring, unless you could match his herculean tolerance for alcohol in the early hours of the morning.

There’s a third Colin, too — the one I wish I’d got to know better, the Colin who blogged about rescuing injured baby blackbirds. I only caught the last fifteen minutes of his movie, so to speak; I never got to see the full range of his character, the depths and subtleties.

But you can tell a lot about a character from their final scene, can’t you? And that the writers and readers that knew him have come together to honour his memory with an anthology says, I think, a lot about a guy whose honesty and drive had a knack of making things happen — for himself, yes, but also for others.

He’s still doing it now, as you can see.

A good sort, in other words. The Bristol scene feels Colin’s loss very keenly, and the anthology is a testament to that. I’m very pleased to have my work in there.

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Other miscellaneous updatery: I move house this Friday! I haven’t properly started packing yet! I have deadlines dropping on me like bat guano on a spelunker’s hard-hat! Everything’s going a bit mental! Nothing seems quite real! But yet I’m still oddly excited!

More on this before the move. Or, if I manage to manage my displacement activities appropriately, after the move. One or the other. Ahem. Yes.

 

 

An interlude for gratitude

I went to see an old friend for lunch today.

Jeremy Lyon is the guy who founded Futurismic, back in the day. He was also the first person (other than me) who was willing to publish my writing back in 2006, when he took me on as the site’s daily blogoid.

Six and a half years… it seems a lifetime ago, but at the same time, like just yesterday.

It felt like the perfect moment to finally meet Jeremy in person. We’ve not been in touch much since he handed over Futurismic to me; at the time, he’d just landed a gig in UI at Palm and had his second child, so he’s been all colours of busy. Long story short, he’s now involved with UI development for Android, posted over here in London for a year, so he invited me to lunch at Google’s L4 building near Victoria Station[1], and I got to thank him for setting me on what was, with hindsight, the long and winding path that got me to where I am right now.

So: thanks again, Jeremy, for taking a shot on a guy whose ambitions and ideas far outstripped his native talent at the time[2].

Like Jeremy, you may be wondering what’s happening with Futurismic. Right now? Nothing much. But I have plans. Plans, I tell you. The ‘zine shall rise again, phoenix-like, transformed and transcendent, like itself but much much moreso…

… just as soon as I can suss a way to fund it, or find a hidden three hours in the day that I was heretofore unaware of. 🙂

(But seriously, stuff’s gonna happen. Watch this space.)


1 – Thanks to the plague I picked up from being coughed all over on a train last week, I was unable to avail myself of the plentiful catering options, though I can inform you that I had a Granny Smith apple, and it was very nice.

2 – Before you accuse me of false modesty, have a trawl through the earliest posts on this very site. I learned in public, and am proud to have done so.

Alibi

Back at the beginning of the summer, I went to Hoxton to meet a couple of friends for afternoon beers and a chinwag. On the way, I saw the Google Streetview car passing up and down the street; much as I suspected at the time, it has temporarily immortalised me, trapped me in a freeze-frame of congealed sunshine and the magical digital time-amber of the intermatubez.

I’m actually quite chuffed, though I couldn’t tell you why. Let’s put it down to shallowness and move on, eh?



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Moveable feast

So, Easter rolls around once more.

In recent years, Easter has become the pivot point of my annual circuit around the sun; Eastercon has a little to do with that, as does the standard 12-month rented housing contract. It’s probably amplified by the fact that I don’t celebrate Xmas or my birthday, too. Which isn’t to say I celebrate Easter, as such; I just tend to find myself looking around – in varying states of wonder and confusion – at the state of my life at this time of year.

Last Easter, for instance, I was making the move back to Velcro City from Stockport. The Easter before… well, we won’t rake over that again, though I made it to Eastercon that year, which probably went a fair way to helping me avoid some sort of full-scale nervous breakdown. (Not something Eastercon is regularly accused of, I’m willing to bet.)

So, what do I see from this year’s fulcrum? Looking backwards, I can make out the first half of my Masters: six hectic months of hard but thrilling work, running in parallel with me learning the ropes of my Research Assistant post. Before that, a long and lazy spring’n’summer in Velcro City, which took me back to its fractious bosom without so much as a “where you been, brah?” It was good, and just what I needed – a proper reboot, a return to familiarity and comfort after my long sabbatical on the banks of the Styx.

But I also feel like it cured me of something. By going back, I was able to leave again on my own terms, and for the right reasons. Stockport was grim because it felt like penance for my naivete and failure, and P-Town came to represent a normalisation point, a load-from-saved-game-and-start-again. I like to think I’m blitzing the level this time through, if only by comparison to last time.

Looking ahead (and ignoring, for the sake of convenience, the hand-in date for my spring semester assignments the week after next), it’s five months of dissertation, plus more infrastructure research for my patient employers at the Pennine Water Group. Come September or so, once I’ve handed my dissertation in, it’ll be time to move out of London. Where will I go? I’m not sure yet, to be honest, but I’ll need to start thinking about it sooner rather than later.

I also need to think about what comes next. If I do well enough in my Masters (and I have some hope that I might), then I might well apply to do a PhD. But in what, and with whom, and where? I have some ideas, but it’s all very nebulous at this point. I need to learn more about the upper echelons of academia before trying to make those decisions, I suspect. And I need to finish these assignments.

But first, it’s Eastercon – a long weekend of hanging out with friends, talking about books and writing, and boozy fun-times.

After that? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.