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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.

Nosferatu

Yesterday afternoon, the ever-lovely @littlemoog dropped me a line to see if I fancied catching a screening of the classic silent movie Nosferatu at the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square. We’d discovered the Charlie a few weeks back, thanks to Sophie Meyer – tutor of the just-about-finished Short Form module of my Masters – suggesting that we all go and see Silent Running as an end-of-semester class outing*.

Psychosis Premiere: Crowds start gathering @ The Prince Charles Cinema for the Psychosis Premiere

The Charlie is primarily a “second-run” theatre, specialising in screenings of cult movies with an assortment of twists on the usual sit-down-and-shut-up format; their sing-along-a-screenings seem to be consistently popular, for instance. The main screen has comfy seats with a lot of leg-room, and the prices are generally pretty decent too.

Nailclipperz plz kthxbaiSing-along-a-Nosferatu wouldn’t work, of course, given that it’s a classic of the silent era. But what we got was even better: the film was accompanied by a soundtrack performed live by post-rock outfit Minima. Apparently this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon – the guys from Minima told me they’ve been doing similar stuff since the mid-Noughties – but it was a new experience for me, and one I’ll definitely be looking to repeat. For a start, the traditional tones of post-rock – effected and echo-drenched guitar for melody and texture-drones; effected cello and electric bass; untreated drumkit – are eminently suited to soundtrack work (witness the only-now-fading ubiquity of Sigur Rós tunes in nature documentaries, for instance). But rather than kludging existing tunes to fit the film, Minima have developed their soundtrack from the ground up, fitting everything neatly to the happenings on screen, bringing the scenes to life. Much of the magic comes from their willingness to have fun at the right moments… I won’t spoil it for you, but the scene in which the disguised Count gives Hutter a ride to the castle on his funereal carriage was LOLtastic.

I’d never seen Nosferatu before, though I was vaguely familiar with it thanks to countless riffs and references to it in other media. Given it was made in 1922, I was impressed by its cinematic maturity… or perhaps surprised at how many film-making techniques and strategies have persisted over that ninety year period (I often describe myself as “cinematically challenged”; I’ve always been more of a books person.). The visual atmosphere is what will stay with me the longest, I suspect: the bleak and lonely locations, especially. The shot near the end with the coffins being carried down the main street of the town during the plague was very affecting… though that may be partly due to the contrast with the rambunctious chase-scene that follows it.

All in all, a great evening out, and I’m very glad @littlemoog dragged me out of my garret for it. If you’re London based and love classic movies, you could do far worse than keep a close eye on the Charlie’s listings page. And if you get the opportunity to see Minima do one of their live soundtrack performances, you’d be mad to pass it up. All the best bits of a movie screening and a live gig in one package; A-double-plus recommend.

[ * Silent Running is an oddly charming little film, given the fundamental bleakness of its premise. Much like Nosferatu, it has moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, though I expect they were intended as such, whereas many of the comedic moments in Nosferatu are more a function of audience unfamiliarity with the ‘language’ of the silent film (e.g. exaggerated emotional face-pulling, slapsticky body-comedy). Here’s Al Reynolds on why Silent Running is one of his favourites. ]