25 November 2013

Telly Squee!

Have recently been catching up with the mountains of programmes lurking on the Sky planner thingy, so here’s the most squeeful of the bunch:
(Warning! There will be spoilers!)

Orphan Black



Seriously though, what is not to love about Orphan Black? It’s smart, fast paced and has some fantastic characters.  Most of whom are played by Tatiana Maslany, because, clones!  Look, there is no way you can’t mention the clones, as they’re a thing from the first episode when Sarah Manning sees someone who looks just like her jump in front of a train. And then she discovers there’s more women who look just like her.  Shenanigans inevitably ensue.

And each clone has very distinct personalities (science-girl clone is definitely my favourite!) with the added fun of the odd clone having to pretend to be another of the clones as and when plot-reasons rear their heads.  And, of course, there’s conspiracies, and shocking plot twists all over the place and with exception of a couple of draggy bits involving Paul the boring boyfriend, the storytelling is fantastic with never a dull moment.  Also any scene with foster brother Felix in is a delight.

But even better than all of that, it’s a female led sci-fi thing! A bloody brilliant female led sci-fi thing.

Elementary



In my ever so humble one, Elementary has blown Sherlock away and left it lounging bitter and twisted in the dust.  Joan Watson, people! Joan Watson is so many kinds of awesome. And this version of Holmes is definitely a fun one. And their working partnership is fabulous. Oh, and the Moriarty reveal!  While it would have been nice to have Irene Adler as a seperate entity, maybe even being team villain with a Mrs Moriarty, Moriarty being Irene Adler was a rather neat twist.  And I’m loving the brotherly rivalry between Sherlock and Mycroft.  And the relationships Holmes has with the local cops is pretty good too. 

But mainly: Joan Watson, people!

Dracula



I freely admit to being sceptical about this one.  I’d seen a trailer with Meyers doing the terrible southern accent and immediately thought the worst.  Except, it turns out there’s a plot related reason for the dodgy accent and he switches it off given the company.  Oh, and Mina is now studying to be a doctor. And Renfield! Best version of Renfield ever! (Jonathan Harker remains a boring sod, which is a thing that is constant in every adaption I’ve ever seen.)

Am currently only 4 episodes into the series but so far it’s both deliciously bizarre (epic battle for coolant and the overthrowing of the evil fossil fuel magnates, who also hunt vampires!) and gorgeously presented. 

Then, or course, there must be squeeing about Doctor Who, but what with the Night of the Doctor, Day of the Doctor and Five Doctors(ish) Rebooted, that’s going to have to be another post!

Pics:
Cosima/Orphan Black from http://www.bbcamerica.com
Elementary from www.digitalspy.com
Dracula from www.radiotimes.com

12 November 2013

The Post WFC 2013 Post!

View from my window - the only bit of Brighton I saw!

 

Well, except for this bit of Brighton, also seen from my window! If you squint you can see the pier in the distance!

 Phew. World Fantasy Con then. That was a thing. An exhausting thing, for the most part, given the whole working rather than con-ing, but the work was extremely enjoyable.  I'd probably have to say that's the most fun I've had yet working a con.  Most of which is down to the awesome Team Red Coat and the con-com who remained relentlessly cheerful and friendly and efficient throughout.  Lou Morgan especially deserves a whole swimming pool of gin. ;-) 


And the mass of people we saw through the doors added heaps to the buzz of the thing.  (Is it weird I actually liked being swamped on the Reg Desk.  Over 1400 people we checked in! 1400!!! Egads! And most of them on Weds & Thurs! I seriously could not even stand up, let alone walk both those nights.)  We'll pass quickly over that thing where I checked in one of the GoHs and completely missed the fact that they were one of the GoHs.  Or the famous SF author of very long standing who I totally didn't recognise at all and who was very amused when I asked him his name and couldn't quite believe I was seriously needing to be told. Or the well known ghost story anthologist who I got chatting to about anthologies without realising who he actually was.  Um, yes. Brain went splat many times.

And one of the perks of Reg Desk duty is getting to say hi to the many-many folks I follow on twitter and facebook and various blogs, though in the rush of the check in, mostly all I could manage by way of conversation was something like 'oh, you're X, brilliant/awesome/excellent!' which possibly saved multiple bouts of fangirling and 'OMG! I loved your story/book/blog post!' followed by the inevitable utter panic that goes with total brain-freeze as I then forget everything I ever knew about why they're awesome.

And I did, amazingly, manage to get out to a couple of actual con-events too.  The Urban Mythic Launch, of course, was the essential go-to event.  And we sold books, many books, and many more than we sold of Ancient Wonders last year, which is very cool. (There may be an Urban Mythic #2 next year, we're in talks...)

I also did the Fearie Tales launch party and brought an actual hardback book (shock! horror! Didn't-wait-for-the-ebook-scandal!) and got it signed by all the peeps that were there.  Which is not a thing I usually do.  (It's a fab anthology, btw, only a couple of stories I wasn't keen on but all the rest rocked!)

And doing the FT party introduced me to the merits of chairs! Which there weren't any of. Which there really needed to be as there was no way I was going to be getting up again if I sat on the floor like many other people did.  Luckily there was this little stage thing that was perfect for perching on... But yes, con organisers of the future -  more chairs please! Many more chairs. Whole rooms of them. Chair-con! That's what we need!

Um. Yes. Right. Anyway. Else?  There were a million free books on offer, which I somehow managed to not get around to getting any of. Got hugs off all my favourite people as well as some shiny new ones! Had to rush off Sunday morning so I missed the awards and wind down parties and sudden appearance of a wibbly-wobbly portal that let loose strange beasties from another dimension that no-one is talking about (conspiracy!) but totally happened, honest... 

And if you want to take a gander at what else went on, the inexhaustable Stephen Theaker has compiled a list of pre and post WFC reports on the BFS forum here.

Am now looking forward to not working any cons next year so I can doss around and gossip with allllll the people at Fcon and Nine Worlds, and possible Edge Lit and Bristol Con too...  ;-)


07 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Kate Griffin

And today!  Here's Urban Mythic author Kate Griffin to entertain you!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm Kate Griffin - well, no, I'm actually Catherine Webb, but I write urban fantasy as Kate Griffin.  I usually write a series set in London, in which I do my very best to update the stuff of 'traditional' magic to a more modern vibe.  Thus, vampires are registered with the NHS blood banks, curses are sent by text and the most powerful spells around are written on the back of travelcards.  I love London and always had this nagging suspicion that 'magic' should harken to its older sense of 'wonder' rather than 'speaking old words in a dead language', and I guess the city has always given me that sense of delight.

What was the idea behind "An Inspector Calls"?

Have you ever had to deal with your local council?  The hours I've wasted dealing with bureaucracy - the hours listening to the same hold music on the same loop, of banging your head against an officious wall as you try to explain, to implore someone to understand that what you're asking won't bring down the government, and may actually improve the quality of life for yourself if not others, but no!  Because there's just... one... more... form!

And I guess that I've always felt that it'd be interesting to extend this idea into the realms of wizardry.  I'd love to see how Merlin reacted to negotiations with the department of work and pensions.  It'd be genuinely fascinated to see how long it takes an angry necromancer to summon an undead hoard after spending an hour queuing at the post office.  I guess I thought it'd be fun to combine magic with the least magical experience of modern life.

Also, the weekend the brief came through, I had a friend round, who sat still and not only listened, but also got excited by the whole idea, and let's face it, both those make a world of difference.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

Um.  I'm not sure I know the answer to the first part of that.  I know that I think 'urban' fantasy shouldn't necessarily involve reciting spells in Latin or summoning a unicorn (unless it's petrol-powered) as that to me just seems like traditional fantasy in a city, rather than urban fantasy using modern things.  But other than that... I'm not sure I can really give a truly sagely reply...

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman kinda go without saying.  I love everything Roger Zelazny ever wrote ever.  It's not fantasy, but Raymond Chandler's also always on my must-read list.  I wish I'd got my shelves built at the time of answering this question, as then I'd be able to actually browse my books and give a better reply, instead of crawl through the piles on my floor....

Has your involvement with background stage-craft influenced how you write scenes?

Um.  Consciously: no.  When I work as a lighting designer, it's an entirely different discipline, full of numbers, angles, three dimensional shapes and colours.  The rhythms of stories are still the same on page and on stage, and as an LD it's useful to be able to get a handle of the shape of a play and the direction it takes, but that's more of writing influencing lighting rather than visa versa.

Unconsciously: probably.  Tom Lehrer said that a good mathematician plagiarised everything but called it 'research'.  In the world of scribbling I think it's probably fair to say that very few indeed set out to consciously plagiarise anything, but that no one can go through life without being influenced by what they see, hear, feel and do.  I'm not consciously aware that, as a technician, I'm changing how I'm write.  I'm fairly sure I am, in much the same way that if I were a lawyer or shark tamer I'd probably be influenced by my work.

What are you up to next?

Let's think... well, I have a Top Secret Book being published early 2014 about which I am barred from saying anything at all for reasons which I'll explain in two years time when I'm permitted to say something.  I'm writing another book at the moment which is also a Top Secret Something, and have a final book on submission about which... you guessed it... I'm still forbad from saying a word.  I've got a play on at Riverside Studios in spring 2014 which I was asked to write for after a director ran some devising workshops, but that's under yet another name - Kate McCormick, although isn't top secret.  In the other job I've got a few more shows to light before the year is out, as well as a couple of gigs.  I'm also working towards yet another exam in a martial art called escrima which is one of the most relaxing outlets I've ever encountered.  So.  In a cryptic, very unhelpful way... lots happening.

[Kate Griffin is the name under which Catherine Webb writes fantasy books for adults.
First published when a teenager, she’s been writing for just long enough to have started to forget her early plots and characters.  She likes big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting.  To keep herself occupied between chapters, she works as a theatre lighting designer, in the happy expectation that two artsy careers create a perfectly balanced life. Find her at www.kategriffin.net]

06 November 2013

Urban Mythic: James Brogden

Last seen in our very own Ancient Wonders, give it up for Urban Mythic author James Brogden!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm afraid that I am a disappointingly normal human being; middle-aged, middle-incomed, living in middle-England in a happy marriage with two kids, a cat, and a decent lego collection. To pay the bills I teach English, and in the meantime I'm trying to cut it as an author - so, living the cliche there. My theme tune, if I had one, would be Huey Lewis' "Hip to be Square". As a result, I write stories about When Ordinary Things Go Weird, which means it tends towards the horrific - monsters in garden ponds, MOT inspections which lead to satanic sacrifices, teddy bears that breathe with the souls of dead children. The kind of things which would terrify me in my safe suburban bubble. I'm trying as hard as I possibly can to avoid standard horror tropes, which also means that what I write veers into the darkly fantastical as often as not. I did fall off the wagon and write a story with a zombie in it recently, but she was reanimated out of hatred for her husband's obsession with DIY, so I can live with that.

What was it that inspired "The Smith of Hockley"?

The image of the Midas Scorpion has been kicking around in my head for years, looking for a story to appear in, and Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter was the perfect setting, but I couldn't square that with any mythology which wasn't uniquely English so I did a bit of hunting around and re-discovered the legend of Wayland Smith, which, in turn, tied in nicely with the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard. I find that there's hardly ever a single inspiration for a story - images and ideas constellate together and reinforce each other organically, for the most part.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

Urban fantasy is what I like to write because it stems from my own anxieties and hang-ups, and I find it easier to find emotional hooks for my characters in the world that I know. It also allows me to be a bit lighter and more whimsical in what I write, as I basically can't take anything very seriously for long and I don't think I could sustain the seriousness of an out-and-out horror novel. In terms of what I read I'm a lot more wide-ranging. I like a bit of high fantasy, and I'm also quite loving Stephen Baxter's Northland trilogy at the moment because it incorporates a lot of my interests in archaeology and alternate history - plus it's a cracking story, which helps.

I've also been reading Edgelands by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley, which isn't fiction at all, but more travelogue-cum-poetry about the marginal areas of Britain's urban areas. I understand why London looms large in the urban fantasy genre, and I have no problem with that, but for myself I want to explore the fantastical potential of where I live, which is the Midlands. Writers I keep coming back to for inspiration are Robert Holdstock, Neil Gaiman, Graham Joyce, Christopher Fowler, and Clive Barker. My new discoveries are Sarah Pinborough and Robert Shearman, both of whose work I'm currently devouring.

What is Den of Eek!2 and how are you involved?

Den of Eek 2 is the sequel to - wait for it - Den of Eek, which was a story-telling event last year hosted by the pop-culture website Den of Geek in order to raise money for cancer research. I became involved when they had a competition for new writers, and I was one of three winners. I went down to London just like it says in the fairy tale and had the most awesome evening in a pub reading my story to an audience alongside established novelists and screenwriters, and feeling massively out of my league. Still, it must have gone down okay because they invited me to write another story for this year's event. I demand that everybody reading this go and buy a copy of the Den of Eek anthology from Amazon immediately - every penny goes to charity. After they've bought Urban Mythic, of course.

What will you be up to next?

By the time Urban Mythic is launched I will have released my second novel, Tourmaline. It's urban fantasy again, with elements of steampunk in an alternative world intersecting with our own. I'll also have a short story about a road-kill restaurant in an anthology called The Last Diner by Knightwatch Press. Con-wise I have two big dates coming up: London Film and Comic Con in October, where I'll be signing copies of Tourmaline, and I'll be appearing on a panel at Andromeda One in Birmingham on September 21st, which is very exciting as it's my first. Other than that, the new school year begins soon, so I'm going to have to start thinking about the real world soon. Which brings us nicely full circle. I like the symmetry of that.

[James Brogden is a part-time Australian who lives with his wife and two daughters in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, where he teaches English. His stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies such as the Big Issue, the British Fantasy Society’s Dark Horizons, Urban Occult, and the Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders, and he was a winner of Den Of Geek’s new talent showcase with his story The Phantom Limb. His new urban fantasy novel Tourmaline is published by Snowbooks in September of 2013. Blogging occurs at jamesbrogden.blogspot.co.uk, and tweeting at @skippybe.]

05 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Zen Cho

Today my darlings, we at Urban Mythic towers bring you the fabulous Zen Cho!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm a lawyer and writer living in London. The two main things I write are Malaysian fantasy (i.e. speculative fiction featuring Malaysian characters or settings or both), and a made-up subgenre I like to call "fluff for postcolonial booknerds".

What was the idea behind "Fish Bowl"?

I had a maths tuition teacher once who had a fish pool inside her house in which she reared koi -- quite an extraordinary thing to find in your standard suburban house. The idea for the story grew out of that. It also ended up being about the pressure on kids, especially girls, in a certain kind of middle-class, high-achieving household to be perfect. (That's obviously a stereotype associated with Asian families, but I think it has as much, if not more, to do with socio-economic background as culture.) When I wrote the story I was thinking about how it is possible to be very, very sheltered as a teenager, but very, very unhappy.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

I’m more into suburban fantasy than urban fantasy -- I’m quite interested in what happens inside people’s houses, and like speculative fiction with a fairly intimate, domestic scope. Edith Nesbit and Diana Wynne Jones spring to mind.

You’ve curated a list of Malaysian SFF writers on your website – do you have any particular favourite stories or authors?

I’m a bit hesitant to play favourites – there’s a lot of interesting stuff on my list and everybody should go check it out for themselves! So I’m going to cheat and name someone I haven’t even mentioned in the list yet, Zedeck Siew. As far as I know Zedeck hasn’t had any speculative fiction published, but he’s active in the Malaysian arts scene and has put out a lot of work of various kinds over the years. Currently he’s working on a compilation of short speculative stories which I’m really looking forward to. In the meantime you can check out his Tumblr (http://zedecksiew.tumblr.com/) for examples of his "small fictions".

What are you up to next?

Besides "Fish Bowl", I’ve got short stories in three other publications coming out this year: LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction from Singaporean publisher Math Paper Press, The End of the Road from UK press Solaris Books, and Love in Penang from Malaysian indie press Fixi Novo.

I'm also working on revisions to what might be my first novel (if my agent can persuade someone to publish it!). It's a Regency-set fantasy of manners about England’s first black Sorcerer Royal. It's basically a mishmash of everything I like from Georgette Heyer and P. G. Wodehouse, plus magic, written with a postcolonial sensibility.

[Zen Cho is a Malaysian writer living in London and a 2013 finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction has appeared most recently in Esquire Malaysia, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and Prime Books anthology Bloody Fabulous. Find out more about her work at http://zencho.org ]

03 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Mike Resnick

Urban Mythic author Mike Resnick is not at WFC, alas, but he is right here instead!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm been a full-time freelancer since 1969, with 74 novels, 25 collections, 275 stories and 3 screenplays to my credit. I've also edited 41 anthologies, and am currently the editor of Galaxy's Edge magazine and the Stellar Guild line of books. I am the winner of 5 Hugos from a record 36 nominations, and according to Locus I'm the all-time leading award winner for short science fiction. I love writing science fiction, and I've recently sold some well-received mystery novels as well.

What was the idea behind “The Wizard of West 34th Street”?

I like urban fantasy, and I've always liked the notion that being at the top of one's field isn't quite the cakewalk that it may appear from the outside.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

"Good" is far more important to me than "urban" or "fantasy".

As both a writer of short and long fiction, and editor of many publications, do you find yourself drawn to one of those things more than the others, and are there any fiction forms you want to try your hand at but haven't yet?

I prefer writing short fiction. My creditors, who have expensive tastes, prefer that I write novels. So I split my time between them. At one time or another, I've done just about every fiction form. If I had to chose one I've never tried, it's be as a lyricist for a musical play.

What are you up to next?

The Trojan Colt (a mystery novel) just came out;. The Worlds Of Edgar Rice Burroughs, an original anthology I co-edited with Bob Garcia, and The Doctor And The Dinosaurs, a science fiction novel, are due out in October and December of 2013. Next year will see the publication of Cat On A Cold Tin Roof, a mystery novel; The Fortress In Orion, a science fiction novel; and about a dozen stories that I have in press. Eric Flint and I have signed to write The Gods Of Saggitarius, a collaborative novel, and I'll be doing two Stellar Guild team-up books, one with Tina Gower, one with Lezli Robyn. And of course I'll keep editing the magazine and the book line.

[Mike Resnick is, according to Locus, the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short fiction. He is the winner of 5 Hugos, a Nebula, plus other major awards in the USA, France, Spain, Poland, Croatia, Catalonia and Japan.  Mike is the author of 71 novels, over 250 short stories, and 3 screenplays, and is the editor of 41 anthologies.  He is currently editing the Stellar Guild line of books and Galaxy's Edge magazine, and was the Guest of Honor at the 2012 Worldcon. Find him at mikeresnick.com]

02 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Alison Littlewood

For those of you at WFC, you can find Urban Mythic author Alison Littlewood in multiple places such as:  Noon-1:00 pm - Panel - When the Fairies Come Out to Play (Cambridge); 3:00-4:00 pm - Launch - Constable & Robinson (Hall 8/Signing Alley) and 11:00 pm-12:30 am - (mysterious unknown funky thing) (Chartwell)  We don't know exactly what the midnight mysterious funky thing is but we're sure it'll be a bit spooky and well worth popping into!  For those of you not at WFC, here's a wee interview with Alison instead!


Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I’ve been around in the indie presses for some time writing horror and dark fantasy, with publications in magazines like Black Static, Dark Horizons and Shadows and Tall Trees. I had my first novel, A Cold Season, published with Jo Fletcher Books back in January 2012, and that got picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club, which was a terrific experience. Path of Needles, a twisted fairy tale meets crime novel, came out in June.

What was the idea behind "The Song of the City"?

I researched various mythical figures when I was thinking about the theme for the anthology. Once I’d come across banshees I had an immediate image in my mind of an eerie cry drifting across a Brutalist city-scape, and I knew that was what I wanted to write about. Once that connected with another image, of a woman alone walking through a deserted multi-storey car park, I had the makings of the story.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

I like fantasy and horror with a strong sense of place, whether it be in a rural or urban environment. Having said that, one of my favourite books is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which is set in a fantastical world under London. Another excellent read is Un Lun Dun by China MiƩville, which again takes the capital and turns it upside down. I really enjoy books by Dan Simmons, and he uses settings as diverse as Calcutta and the Arctic. My must-read authors would also include Stephen King and Joe Hill.

You've written stories in the crime and horror genres so far, are there any other genres you want to explore?

I think exploring the ones I’m fascinated with already will probably keep my hands full! I do have ideas for the next novels and they tend to be in my usual territory of dark fantasy and horror. I think I’ll always return to those areas – I like stories that have a little bit of magic hidden away in them somewhere, whether light or dark.   

What are you up to next? 

A Cold Season has its launch in the US this month, so that’s really exciting. I’m also busy working on book three, which is a ghost story looking at the fates of different generations of a family living in a rather dour house in the Yorkshire countryside. I’ll be taking a break for the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton around Halloween, so really looking forward to that. No doubt there’ll be the odd walk on the beach and trip to the Haunted Hotel on the pier in between the panels and readings!

[Alison Littlewood’s latest novel, Path of Needles, is published by Jo Fletcher Books. Her first novel, A Cold Season, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, where it was described as “perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.” Alison’s short stories have been picked for the Best Horror of the Year and Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy 2013 and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10. Her work has also featured in genre magazines Black Static, Crimewave and Dark Horizons. Visit her at www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk ]

01 November 2013

Urban Mythic Launch Day!

Woohoo! Brighton, we have launch!



If you're at WFC, drop by to the Signing Alley (between the reading rooms and the art show) because we will be there today at Noon! Noon, people!   With Jaine Fenn, Christopher Golden, Alison Littlewood, Anne Nicholls, Gaie Sebold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jonathan Oliver, Ben Baldwin & Ian Whates (in spirit, as he's off on a panel at the same time, but drop by the Dealer Room later and he'll sign anything for you. Annnnnything!)

There will also be authors from Alchemy Press' Pulp Heroes 2 & Astrologica: Tales of the Zodiac.  And Publisher Pete.  And yer 'umble editors of course!

Come see us, do!

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