This isn’t going to be a long post, or at least I’m not intending it to be.

Last year I went to World Fantasy Convention 2013 in Brighton. I spent most of the time feeling awkward and out of place. WFC felt like a ‘working’ convention. It did have some amazing highlights and I met old friends and made some new ones but it wasn’t a relaxed affair. If you ever meet me, especially at a book event, I try to be as friendly and approachable as possible despite the innate need to run away and hide in a corner.  So when I was choosing between Nine Worlds or Loncon3 as my main con of this year the smaller and less formal feeling one won.


I mention this  because I was just reading Jennifer ‘The Copper Promise’ William’s (fellow introvert) con report and mentions how Nine Worlds went out of it’s way to make everyone as comfortable as possible. You could wear badges show your preferred pronoun (my name badge had both ‘he’ and ‘they’ attached), you could clip on different colours to show who you were comfortable speaking to (every con should have this!) and they had ‘awesome tokens’, which meant you could go up to someone in cosplay (costume) and tell they how great they looked without causing you or them to feel awkward. So on a personal note it felt so much more relaxed.

The weekend started on Thursday with with a train ride into Heathrow where I read and really enjoyed”Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls”, by Rachel Pollack from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine July/Aug 2012 edition.

A  brief diversion into London to go to the launch of Our Lady of the Streets (the final book of his Skyscrapper Trilogy) as he’d made brownies. I think a lot people were tempted by the brownies as I ended up, due to delayed trains and closed platforms, arriving late and at the back of a very long queue (which was lovely to see). It also meant I got to meet my fellow podcasters, the genuinely lovely, Rob and Kate from Adventures with Words for the first time in real life.


Everyone has a different reason for visiting a convention, but I think mostly everyone likes catching up with friends, hopefully making new ones and listening to panels. But OMG Nine Worlds had so many ‘tracks’ of things to follow and to be honest I stayed with ‘All the Books’  (obvious really) but what was brilliant to see what all these intermingling versions of ‘geek’ fandom all interacting and intermixing with everyone enjoying their own fandom their own way.  More of this everywhere else please.

Panels I attended included:

The Writers’ Process: an adapting, evolving, creating and editing masterclass with Abigail Nathan. The biggest take-away for any writer it seemed was work on your stuff before asking an editor to look at it. You want to them to no get bogged down in stuff you should be able to fix yourself after some  distance (e.g. three months away from it if you can) and different passes to focus on things like narrative  structure or grammar but not both at the same time.  If you do that their time (which you may be paying for) and be spent on a more meaningful polish.

Time Travel: where, why, how and when? I must admit that after the panel I fell a little more in love with both Kate Griffin (aka Claire North) and Lauren Beukes. Points raised included:

  • Why don’t people on the TARDIS suffer jet lag?
  • Time Travel allows us to go back in history with a modern perspective
  • TT is the only genre where you need a chart before you start to keep track of objects and story lines to avoid creating a paradox
  • We see the past every time we look into the stars
  • ‘The Doctor has his colonialist cake and worries about eating it’

Mythology and Fairytales: pernicious supernaturalism or meaningful exploration of existence? This was probably the most insightful as I’m a big fan of myth and fairytales. All the panelists had some great insight but  Rochita Loenen-Ruiz reminded us that myth has a lot of power in controlling the outlook of a society . She told us about a Philippine creation myth where  man and women come from bamboo and they emerged completely equal, which is completely different to the Western women are formed from a man’s rib.  And that retelling their own myth again is a way of recolonisation.

Some other quick notes:

  • Ultimate versions kill myth, they get reinvented when they are retold and they are kept alive by reinvention.
  • Superheroes are modern myths – we keep retelling them.
  • Fairytales can be Scarytales with messages – stay out late and get eaten by shapeshifting monsters.
  • If we didn’t have mouth we’d invent them.
  • Fairytales are only universal to a point as they may have different end results depending on the culture they are set in.

 School Stories: prefects, headmasters and tuckshops, oh my! This was at 10.15pm but still well attended. Again cultural differences came up and the one that struck me most was the expectation that UK School Stories all seem to be in a boarding schools and US they are fantasy versions of High schools. Oh, and Japanese Manga are more social stories that spread out from the main protagonists much more.

Westerns: they’re your Huckleberry I’ve been slowly trying to get in this as a genre, mostly through Weird Wild, and I loved this panel especially for this this insight:

And Jared said that so was footloose. Also Japanese Samurai can be seen as part of the Western genre. A great discussion all round.

Other notes included:

  • sense of emotional landscapes and not fitting in or being able to settle
  • no guns, no horses in the UK so an alien landscape
  • movement towards inevitable conflict
  • some people can afford morality easier than others
  • lawlessness – the gun enforces the law – property is what you can protect and keep.
  • edge of civilisation – no help coming – you’re on your own.
  • creeping inevitability,  you can’t stop ‘it’ (e.g. high noon showdown) and you have to just go with it.

I did other panels but didn’t really keep notes but I thought you might get a flavour how insightful it was, if not the humour and the fun.

Other stuff:

Adele (above), of  Fox Spirt Books, ran the All of the Books independent publisher table that stocked various small and indue presses attending the vent. It was very much emptier by the end of the event than in this picture, which makes me very happy.

When I wasn’t paneling I chatted to so many wonderful people. I was really blown away by how many fun random chats I had especially with people I’d met for the first time (I’m not saying only as I’d love to chat to them more).

This is turning out to be longer post than intended so I’ll wrap up.

Despite my fears that I would end up again like Brighton feeling a little lost and lonely eating chips by myself I had the most amazing time.

Thanks to the whole of  Nine Worlds (crew, panelists, and attendees) who made it into stellar event. . I’m so booking next year and so should you.

Inspired by Books That I’ve Bought of Late on Savidge Reads

Simon’s post is a rundown of books he’s bought recently with a commentary of why he bought them. It gives a different side of him as a reader.

He rightly points out that ‘book blogging’ and ‘free books’ are seen by some as synonymous, which is unfair and slightly insulting to lots of book bloggers who have never had a ‘free book’ from a publisher.

‘Free books’ aka ‘advance reading copies’, as I understand it, come out of an author’s marketing budget so they won’t receive royalties on the copies that are sent out to create awareness of that book.

The point really of review copies is they aren’t ‘free’ but they are given in exchange for raising awareness of a book’s existence. This is why some bloggers get more books than others and as I said in my last post, I’m very privileged.

The books publishers send out are part of a pre-publication marketing cycle. People get selected to receive certain books at a certain time, which often make book blogs look very generic.

Now, I have no problem with that. I like a lot of the books I get sent and would happily recommend reading them. I’m a third into The Rhesus Chart and on prior performance I’m hoping I’ll be shouting about how good it is. But I also have my own tastes and whims, which is satisfied by buying books in one form or another.

And there are good reasons for me doing it – I like browsing and finding books, paying means that both the author and shop get revenue so they can write and sell more books in future (I’m a lover of short fiction and try to buy a lot of it because I want to add to sales numbers and have more to buy in future). And most importantly, paying dispels any obligation (publishers large or small are professionals I try and treat them as such) implied or otherwise – like I said the advance reading copies aren’t ‘free’.

And with that out of the way look at this pile of joy (I’ll be listing some ebooks in a Part Two):


Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark, Lilly Bard Mysteries Omnibus & Harper Connelly Omnibus. I’ve read some of Harris’s Teagarden Mysteries and recently enjoyed Midnight Crossroad. There is something about her writing style which is soothing and enjoyable, so I thought I’d stock up (that’s a theme in my book buying) and as Midnight Crossroad has a lot of intertextually it seemed like a good reason to explore her other works. When I’m thinking of buying books a level of OCD kicks in. Here it looked like the Lilly Bard Omnibus was on the verge of being OOP (it was published a while ago and is now out as single volumes). I got the last copy from Waterstones online. The Book People have been selling the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries as a bundle of ten for £9.99 (I think) for ages. That leaves Harper so why not complete the set?

Votan and other novels: this one is easy as it’s the next in the new Fantasy Masterworks series (see precious post on historical speculative fiction) and I’ve got the aim of collecting and reading them all.

Unquenchable Fire, Ammonite and Sarah Canary: The obvious reason is they are all SF Masterworks (again see previous post) but also they are from the under-represented group: women. I’m trying to balance my SFM collection as best I can to have a high percentage of women’s SF, which is hard as they don’t make up a high percentage of what’s published. As for why I chose each author, Rachel Pollack (who is also a trans-women and even less represented in SF) has a new book out, The Child Eater, and it’s about time I read UF. Nicola Griffin also has a new book out, Hild, but I bought Ammonite when I  was about 1/3 into Slow River because I found her writing remarkable. Karen Joy Fowler, again, has a new book out (until I wrote this I didn’t actually make that connection between all three), We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which I picked up as an ebook. I’ve been put off by the blurb of Sarah Canary for ages. Somehow I came across another blurb which completely changed my mind.

Bear Grylls A Surval Guide to Life: I should have photographed Your Life – Train For It as they go hand in hand. Put this down in the ‘life challenging’ category as on a personal note I’ve been trying to improve different aspects of my personal life and his fitness book is helping with that so why not try his thoughts on life?

About Writing by Samuel Delany: This blog started as an offshoot of my writing blog when I was studying for my Creative and Professional Writing degree a few years ago and my passion with reading feeds my writing side and my passion for writing feeds the blog – though I don’t want to be seen as an ‘aspiring’ writer who blogs. No hidden agenda here just sharing good books. But the opening essay has completely changed by focus on my own writing and the struggles I’ve been having with it. It also, quite funnily, contradicts a huge aspect of Slow River’s construction, proving every rule has an exemption.

Don’t Point That Thing At Me: Completely new to me but reminded me of The Act of Roger Murgatroyd by Gilbert Adair, which was a fun take on existing crimey tropes.

Mystery Mile: I’m slow reading around the contemporaries of  Gladys Mitchell and Campion seems like a good direction to go in.

Gladys Mitchell: Vintage as releasing the Mrs Bradley Mysteries as a mix of normal print and  POD, as well as ebook, and I’m going to slowly collect all the series so why not keep going as and when?

Reach for Infinity/The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Anthology editor Jonathan Strahan has the most room on my book shelves, including the other two books in the Infinity series and the other seven Best of books. He has me covered in trying to keep up. The other reason is that I’ve bought the majority of Solaris’ anthology output as I want them to keep doing it.

Blythe Spirit by Nöel Coward: This is a keepsake from seeing Angela Lansbury’s performance being the text – and an ending I wasn’t expecting from my memory of the film.

Big Mamma Stories: I’ve probably had this too long to be here but it’s worth pointing it out as it’s from a small press and it’s collection of shorts. It came to my attention being part of this year’s James Tiptree Award honours .

Dead Man’s Hand: Joe R Lansdale’s ‘Dead in the West’ is the only Weird Wild West story I remember reading and this contains a new tale featuring its protagonist Reverend Jebediah Mercer. Plus, I’m exploring the Weird and this linked in a roundabout way to the Western-related ebooks that I’ll be mentioning in Part Two.

The City’s Son by Tom Pollack: I confess to having an early reading copy of this book but when it’s placed next to the next two in the series (The Lady of the Streets is out best month) it didn’t look right – and now it does it.

Fearful Symmetries: Ellen Datlow has the second amount of anthology space on my shelves at home so I try and keep that topped up when I can – plus it’s a small press book that came originally from Kickstarter.

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: it’s one of my favourite childhood films and this is a re-release of the novelisation with extras.

You’ll be glad to know that’s it until Part Two next weekend. I’m a little scared by how many books I’ve bought over the last few months but it was fun trying to figure out why I bought them.

So, what was the last book you bought and why did you buy it.


This post was inspired by reading Benchmarks by Algis Budrys and being impressed by how many of the mentioned works were so readily available on SF Gateway

As I mentioned a couple of days ago I’m exploring more and more of SF’s (Speculative Fiction’s) history, which is something I’ve been doing it off and on for ages (see Grass, The Stars My Destination,  Blood Music and The Body Snatchers along with shorts, ‘The Eyes Have It’ from Lord Darcy by Randall Garrett andThe Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaulefrom The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard )I’ve also got a review of Slow River I need to finish writing.

I’ve been reading The Weird off and on since it came out (Published on 8 May 2012, it contains 110 short stories, novellas and short novels. At 1,152 pages in the hardcover edition [though the UK is 1111], it is probably the largest single volume of fantastic fiction ever published, according to Locus.[1]). It contains over 100 years of weird fiction and I’m currently reading Bruno Schulz’s ‘Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass‘, 1937 (translation, Poland), which is very strange, as you’d expect.

I’ve been trying to make some headway with Michael Moorcock – seeing as I read the last one in  September after mentioning it in May  headway might be an optimistic way of saying it. Though, I’m almost done with Elric: The Fortress of the Pearl, so that is some kind of progress. I think I was put off by the bitty nature of Elric of Melniboné but The Fortress of the Pearl is ripping along at wondrous page. Proper old school adventure though I think that one that only Moorecock can tell.

I’m note sure why I want to try and cover more areas with my reading as I’m already trying to read more classic crime (cracking on with Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley. Crispin’s Gervase Fen, Allingham’s Campion, Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey and Bonfiglioli’s Charlie Mortdecai to name a few).

All this and keeping up with the SF present and trying to read more short fiction and that SF criticism. I’m  a little crazy.

Anyway SF Gateway’s Big Number, as of 29th May 2014, they’ve published 2599 classic SF titles. let me say that again: TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE titles.

I knew it was going to be lot as I’ve ben following their grow but they release a spreadsheet every now and again giving an update. That’s a scary number. It’s more than the average reader would ever read but it contains a back catalogue that you can dive into with a huge range of award-winning fantasy. SF Gateway have even provided lists of  BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo and John W. Campbell awards-winners for easy access (which I’ve included at the end of this post).

It’s honestly impressive but also an illustration of how much of a multi-dimnesional-iceberg SF is. Whichever way your approach it it’s yours as Jared kindly pointed out the other day:

No denying it, I do. It’s a struggle to keep diving backwards with the all the new books coming out keeping you current. Or at least I think it is but YMMV. And being as unlimited as it is there really is something for everyone.

What older SF have you read recently?

And if you’re looking for a place to start with some SF here list a long list of   award winners:

 SF Gateway: The BSFA Award-Winners

A staggering 33 of the 43 winners to date are published by Gollancz or SF Gateway. Some have always been Gollancz titles, while others were first published by other imprints but are Gollancz or SF Gateway now. Take a look . . .

SF Gateway:

1970 Stand on ZanzibarJohn Brunner
1971 The Jagged OrbitJohn Brunner
1974 Rendezvous with RamaArthur C. Clarke
1975 Inverted WorldChristopher Priest
1976 OrbitsvilleBob Shaw
1977 Brontomek!, Michael G. Coney
1978 The Jonah KitIan Watson
1979 A Scanner DarklyPhilip K. Dick
1981 TimescapeGregory Benford
1982 The Shadow of the TorturerGene Wolfe
1983 Helliconia SpringBrian W. Aldiss
1984 Tik-TokJohn Sladek
1985 Mythago WoodRobert Holdstock
1986 Helliconia WinterBrian W. Aldiss
1987 The Ragged AstronautsBob Shaw
1988 GráinneKeith Roberts
1989 LavondyssRobert Holdstock
1991 Take Back PlentyColin Greenland
1992 The Fall of HyperionDan Simmons
1994 Aztec CenturyChristopher Evans
1999 The ExtremesChristopher Priest
2001 Ash: A Secret HistoryMary Gentle
2003 The SeparationChristopher Priest


1990 PyramidsTerry Pratchett
2002 Chasm CityAlastair Reynolds
2004 Felaheen: The Third ArabeskJon Courtenay Grimwood
2005 River of GodsIan McDonald
2006 AirGeoff Ryman
2007 End of the World BluesJon Courtenay Grimwood
2008 BrasylIan McDonald
2011 The Dervish HouseIan McDonald
2012 The IslandersChristopher Priest
2013 Jack GlassAdam Roberts

 SF Gateway: The Arthur C. Clarke Award-Winners

1988 The Sea and SummerGeorge Turner (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1989 Unquenchable FireRachel Pollock (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1990 The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman (SF Masterworks paperback)
1991 Take Back PlentyColin Greenland (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1992 SynnersPat Cadigan (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1992 FoolsPat Cadigan (SF Gateway eBook)
1996 FairylandPaul McAuley (SF Gateway eBook |Gollancz paperback)
1999 Dreaming in SmokeTricia Sullivan (SF Gateway eBook)
2003 The SeparationChristopher Priest (Gollancz eBook |Gollancz paperback)
2007 Nova Swing, M. John Harrison (Gollancz eBook |Gollancz paperback)
2008 Black ManRichard Morgan (Gollancz eBook |Gollancz paperback)

 SF Gateway: The Hugo Winners

Following our posts celebrating Gollancz and SF Gateway’s BSFAArthur C. Clarke and Nebula Award-winning novels . . . it’s the Hugo Awards!  And we’re delighted to say we have a very creditable 30 out of 62 winners, including the first and (for another couple of months, at least) most recent winners. Look:

1953 The Demolished ManAlfred Bester (SF Masterworks paperback)
1956 Double StarRobert A. Heinlein (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1958 The Big TimeFritz Leiber (SF Gateway eBook)
1959 A Case of ConscienceJames Blish (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1961 A Canticle for LeibowitzWalter M. Miller, Jr. (SF Masterworks hardback)
1963 The Man in the High CastlePhilip K. Dick (SF Masterworks hardback)
1964 Way StationClifford D. Simak (contained in SF Gateway Omnibus | SF Gateway eBook)
1965 The WandererFritz Leiber (SF Gateway eBook)
1966 DuneFrank Herbert (SF Masterworks hardback | SF Gateway eBook)
1967 The Moon Is a Harsh MistressRobert A. Heinlein (SF Masterworks hardback)
1968 Lord of LightRoger Zelazny (SF Masterworks paperback)
1969 Stand on ZanzibarJohn Brunner (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1971 Ringworld, Larry Niven (SF Masterworks paperback)
1972 To Your Scattered Bodies GoPhilip José Farmer (SF Gateway eBook)
1973 The Gods ThemselvesIsaac Asimov (SF Masterworks paperback)
1974 Rendezvous with RamaArthur C. Clarke (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1975 The DispossessedUrsula K. Le Guin (SF Masterworks paperback)
1976 The Forever WarJoe Haldeman (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1977 Where Late the Sweet Birds SangKate Wilhelm (SF Masterworks paperback)
1978 GatewayFrederik Pohl (SF Masterworks paperback)
1980 The Fountains of ParadiseArthur C. Clarke (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1990 Hyperion, Dan Simmons (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1993 (tie) Doomsday BookConnie Willis (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1993 (tie) A Fire Upon the DeepVernor Vinge (In Zones of Thought omnibus | SF Gateway eBook)
1998 Forever PeaceJoe Haldeman (Gollancz omnibus paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1999 To Say Nothing of the DogConnie Willis (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
2000 A Deepness in the SkyVernor Vinge (In Zones of Thought omnibus | SF Gateway eBook)
2006 SpinRobert Charles Wilson (SF Gateway eBook)
2011 Blackout/All ClearConnie Willis (Gollancz paperbacks | SF Gateway eBooks)
2013 RedshirtsJohn Scalzi (Gollancz paperback | Gollancz eBook)

SF Gateway & Gollancz: The John W. Campbell Award-Winners

1974 (tie) Rendezvous with RamaArthur C. Clarke
1975 Flow My Tears, the Policeman SaidPhilip K. Dick
1978 GatewayFrederik Pohl
1979 GlorianaMichael Moorcock
1981 TimescapeGregory Benford
1982 Riddley WalkerRussell Hoban
1983 Helliconia SpringBrian W. Aldiss
1984 The Citadel of the AutarchGene Wolfe
1988 Lincoln’s DreamsConnie Willis
1990 The Child GardenGeoff Ryman
1993 Brother to DragonsCharles Sheffield
1995 Permutation CityGreg Egan
1997 FairylandPaul J. McAuley
1998 Forever PeaceJoe Haldeman
1999 Brute OrbitsGeorge Zebrowski
2000 A Deepness in the SkyVernor Vinge
2001 GenesisPoul Anderson
2002 (tie) Terraforming EarthJack Williamson
2002 (tie) The ChronolithsRobert Charles Wilson
2005 Market ForcesRichard Morgan
2011 The Dervish HouseIan McDonald
2012 (tie) The IslandersChristopher Priest
2013 Jack GlassAdam Roberts

There are many story forms on this planet that lie beneath the Western cultural radar. Wouldn’t it be cool to discover them? Wouldn’t it be cool to invent new ones.

Blue sky mining

As a reader I fall into this trap a lot.  I tend to read similar things over and over.  Comfort is part of it and processing something new is the other. I’m sure there are some amazing ‘alternative’ reads out there though I dip my toes that often in the other waters. I’m afraid I’ll drown rather than swim. Anyone else feel like that? Don’t get me wrote I enjoy myself and it’s not a negative but sometimes you have to try for change.

Any recommendations for writers who don’t feel like you’re reading something on repeat?


Just to get this out of the way, Brian is a client of mine and I’ve been typesetting/ebooking the  novellas and short stories he’s written in the same Powder Mage universe so this review has some bias. Saying that though, this is still an honest review otherwise there would be little point in writing it. Luckily I really liked it.

Speaking of being honest, military fantasy is not my go-to genre, and traditional medieval-eurocentric fantasy is something I can take or leave (shock horror), which makes me a hard sell. The first book in this series, Promise of Blood, was one of the most enjoyable books I read last year but it also left me the most conflicted because of its ‘conventional’ use of female characters.

At the end of the first book I wasn’t sure the direction this series was headed but now it’s obvious that this is a full-on war story, if Promise of Blood laid down the battle lines, The Crimson Campaign digs the trenches and sets the stage for the bigger battle to come in The Autumn Republic.

McClellan has carved his niche in this saturated market by focusing in gunpowder. He has Powder Mages, military men and women, who use gunpowder to give themselves superhuman strength and speed. They can also control bullets and explode gunpowder at will.

There are other magics like those with a  ‘knack’  like never needing sleep or a photographic memory, though these are minor compared with Privileged who can destroy a building with a wave of a hand. Power Mages fall somewhere in middle of that scale. And then there is also Ka-poel, with her ‘savage’ magics.

By the opening of the first book Field Marshal Tamas killed almost the entire of the Royal Cabal of Privileged. This is important because there is an incident early on here which isolates Tamas and his Powder Mages from the rest of his army, and in doing so losing Adro the tactical advantage with their war with the Kez.

And here is where my stamina for military fiction shows. There was a point about a third in were we keep going from Tamas marching through enemy lands to his son, Taniel Two-Shots, who is trying to keep the battle lines form falling back  as the Kez press forward. I honestly thought of putting it down. There is only so much marching and fighting I can take.

And to be honest as I saw this was turning into big battle war story I imagined it was going to continue with an unending descriptions of fighting and marching but as we (Tamas, Taniel and I) push past that section it turns again and from then on I was again hooked.

There are three threads here. In addition to the two already mentioned Inspector Adamat is focused on saving his wife but to do so he has to investigate the mysterious Lord Vetus. These threads are picked up from the first book but unlike the first one, where all three really had the same goal, here we see them separate into their own stories.

McCellan keeps his chapters short and tightly focused so it’s not long before you’re catching up with what each of the three is doing and apart from that one section the pace keeps moving at good speed. Our author likes to keep the reader on their toes with twists and turns and revelations. He likes surprises as well and the build-up towards the end has an enjoyable reveal, which also sets a different the scene for the last book. And I like the main characters hadn’t seen it coming.

There are a couple odd moments where my enjoyment of the main characters overrode a nagging disbelief in the scenario but I was having too much fun to let that spoil anything. And without spoiling things for you the part I felt it the most is an escape scene where the lack of people being around is too odd not feel strange. But that’s a minor niggle.

As I said at the beginning I enjoyed The Crimson Campaign. Brian seems to have tried to address the issues with the female characters within the boundaries of his world and, as the middle book of a tilogy, it’s made me eager to find out what he has planned for his characters.

Bring on The Autumn Republic!

The last time I did a crowdsource of book suggestion it was for good Western set stories and I created a goodreads shelf. I ended up buying Blood Meridian,  All the Pretty Horses, and  Leonard’s  The Complete Western Stories as I’ve not read that many ‘straight’ Western novels though I’ve been dipping into the Weird Wild West, which is fun, I thought I’d find a good place to start.

Last night, I asked twitter this:

This was partly a result about thinking of the post detailing the  reaction to a sex-bot in a SF novel representing the good writing of women and a post by someone else asking for SF to ‘level-up’. I mention this in passing as the source and the discussion was the seed to this idea but not directly related to it.

I was really pleased to see all the tweets flowing in. I ended up creating a goodreads’ shelf with 39 suggestions. I didn’t want a random list I wanted books that were worth reading. And I’m really pleased that’s what I got.

My personal favourite LGBT-friendly novels are Stalking Tender Prey by Storm Constantine, Blood by Poppy Z Brite and The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan.

Honestly, twitter and the power of crowdsourcing never ceases to amaze me. So thanks everyone.

If you’d like to add to the goodreads’ shelf please leave a comment and I’ll update it.

If you solely know me from this blog you might not think I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment. I am but I’ve also been away on my travels.

One was a trip to London on the train and I did a bit of reading.


I love my Kindle. It is my traveling companion of choice when it comes to reading but I’ll come back to that.

When I was in London I got to see the new Star Trek movie (the first one) at the Royal Albert Hall with its soundtrack played by a live orchestra with choir.

It took the music to a completely  different level. Definitely something I want to do again.

That was the afternoon and rather than booking into the hotel there was a mad dash to see Angela Lansbury play Madame Arcati in Noël Coward’s Blythe Spirit. I was fan of the film growing up but had forgotten the ending, which made it a nicer surprise. Lansbury was the person that everyone had come to see but the entire cast did a memorable turn especially Charles Edwards playing Charles, who gets trapped between his current and former wives.

I bought the text of the play on my way out, the only book I had chance to buy in London.

On Sunday the day included a visit to Royal Observatory Greenwich and their Longitude Punk’d exhibition.


One of the highlights for me is art from Robert Rankin. If you get chance I really recommend you visit.

I’ve also been to Paris for the first time, the weather was mostly kind though the queues were huge. So not everything on the list was ticked off. But I’m looking forward to going back some day.


Back to the Kindle. For Paris I took a paperback, Speedy Death by Gladys Mitchell, but it remained unopened. I wanted to take The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan but it’s out in trade (also in hardback) and I couldn’t really justify the weight to carry it.

I ended up reading short stories from The Weird Anthology, which is such an impressive achievement, though according to my Kindle I’m only 20% into it with another 45 hours or so reading left (I’m on page 233 of 1111). And as I was reading them one after the other rather than leaving gaps the stories had a strange addictive quality.

Before I went I read Lovecraft’s ‘The Dunwich Horror’, finally, I’ve been putting it off as I’ve failed on more than one occasion to read ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ but instead of being slow and boring I can see why it’s such an influential tale.  And well worth reading if you haven’t.

I read four – The Book by Margaret Irwin, ‘The Mainz Psalter’ & ‘The Shadow Street’ both by Jean Ray and ‘Genius Loci’ by Clark Ashton Smith – they do start playing on the back of your mind after a while. I like ‘weird’ stories a lot.

I also had time to digest chunks  Speculative Fiction 2013 (which brings together some of the best of last year’s genre blogging)  – highlights for me this time were Rethinking Prometheus and I hate Strong Female Characters. Both give lots of food for thought.

Every month I join Savidge Reads and Adventures with Words on Hear…ReadThis! a podcast book club. This month it was my choice of new book and Kate’s choice for an older work. I chose Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill and Kate chose A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski (which was a bit of mammoth task to find) but unfortunately for an adult me rather disappointing.  Dreams and Shadows on the other hand I loved. It’s dark fairytale fairytale. Rob wasn’t keen on the format, which has extracts and mini-tales that build towards the ending.

You can listen to the show in full here.

Oh, and I made a special guest appearance on The Readers Podcast for their 100th episode. It was fun being back.

And finally, a new arrival, I’ve been posting them on Instagram but this one had me making a special trip into Cardiff to pick it up thanks to @Waterstones_Edi:


It’s a reissue from 1971 so I’m greatly looking forward it.

And speaking of reissues, I treated myself to another new  Fantasy Masterwork:


And I think that’s enough for now – I’ll try to not leave it so long next time.

What bookish stuff have you been up to?



Skin Game

If you thought The Dresden Files was starting to lose its way then reading Skin Game will prove you wrong.  Harry Dresden’s  latest case is a tough one: he has to break into the highest security vault in town under orders from his new boss, The Winter Queen, and to do so he has to work with a previous villain who’s previously tried to kill.

It’s the fifteenth book in this series so if you’re never heard of Harry Dresden or read one of his cases this is not a good place to start and if you’ve not read Changes, Ghost Story or Cold Days go catch up first as those are fundamental to seeing how Jim Butcher has altered the game which is being played out as part of the bigger picture.

It has been a bit of a rough transition as Dresden and Butcher work best when solving a case, which is exactly what Skin Game is all about, but the last few books have been dealing with a climax of a story arc and its aftermath and in doing so lost that familiar feeling. Luckily, here the bigger picture takes a back seat.

Since Changes there has been a void in Chicago, a Dresden-shaped one, and rather than protecting those close to him his absence has confused and hurt them. And Butcher addresses some of those relationship issues as a fundamental part of the plot, which shows that Butcher has grabbed hold of Harry and given him a good shake.

It was definitely needed as Harry isn’t good on his own. And so much is put to right’s here. It feels like ‘classic’ Harry is back. The heist formula adds focus and allows Butcher to play games with the reader leading to a clever and satisfying climax.

Everything that makes Dresden is here. The tricks of fairies, the Christian themes, the problems, the damsels, the manipulation and the ‘big bang’ ending.  If you love Harry you’ll love this. Though if you don’t like the ‘Dresden’ view of the world this won’t change anything.

Let’s go back to the damsels. A criticism of this series is the view that Harry Dresden has of women, especially his male gaze. That is still here and in some way it’s enhanced by the new power has from Winter. He is what he is. That isn’t to say that all the female characters are sexualised but there is a strong testosterone smell in the air.

Is that damaging? As I said at the start over fourteen books have established the characters, their personalities and their dynamics. It would be impossible to drastically alter this without making those changes feel false. And, this isn’t excusing anything but Harry has always been portrayed as a night with a weakness for wanting to save damsels in distress.

There is a glimmer of hope of fatherhood and  family with  its  inherent responsibilities, which I hope will give another aspect of Harry for Butcher to explore.

I guess the representation is ‘traditional’. It’s not progressive. I’m not sure it’s derogatory (your milage may vary). But I’d like to see less objectification certainly.

As I was reading I couldn’t put it down. The heist has a tight window and that adds tension to the whole thing. It’s a constraint that works perfectly. Butcher, as I’ve said, still manages character development by having Harry’s ego humbled with conversions with old friends, especially welcome is seeing Michael make a much needed return.

Harry Dresden’s place as the leading Urban Fantasy Detective remains. Butcher has a plan. Harry is back on form. And for a Dresden book this is practically perfect. I can’t wait to read what happens next year.