28 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 15

Day 15 – The cover from your current (or most recent) genre read.

Just reviewed this for the BFS - fun book, utterly brutal with some truly jaw dropping plot developments. Plus bonus vikings! Wolfmen! Bonkers gods!

27 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Days 13/14

Yep, it's a twofer, given that I forgot again yesterday... (am having a totally braindead week this week...)


Day 13 – A genre novel you’ve read more than five times.

Stephen King. My ultimate comfort reading. IT probably takes the prize as most read as I'm on my third (very ratty) copy, but The Stand is another favourite (at least, up until it gets all over religious towards the end. Apocalypse hijinx!). Also various of the early short story collections. And bonus points because once you read the Dark Tower books you keep seeing all the connections between all the rest, which makes you go back and re-read again. Which is fun.

A similar thing happens with Charles De Lint. The Newford books have an excellent criss-crossing of characters so you'll get a walk on in one book becoming the lead in another. I think, on reflection, that Someplace to be Flying (crow girls!) would be one of my most read. Also Spiritwalk (my first De Lint!), and, again, like with King, the short story collections get more rereading than the novels do.

There is also the legendary Lord of the Rings. It has to be done at least once a year (although I don't re-read the Hobbit quite as much and have only touched the Silmarillion once.) I find I skip different bits on each reading, though. Currently, I can not being doing with the interminable Frodo angsting (the movies have ruined me...) and so I tend to give more attention to the rest of the Fellowship shenanigans; while in earlier times it was the other way around.

And as I tend to re-read collections and anthologies more than novels, Esther Friesner's Chicks in Chainmail anthologies are a definite favourite. Comic fantasy full of excellent action heroines - what's not to love?

Day 14 – Favourite book trailer from a genre novel.

No idea. Have to confess to not completely getting the big deal with book trailers - I get sold on books by either reading the reviews of and/or articles/interviews by the author, or listening to the author at a convention. Actually, especially that last one. Authors at conventions tend to make me immediately pick up at least one of their books, even if I'd only vaguely heard of them before and never gotten around to searching out titles. Especially if they give good panel.

25 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 12

Day 12 – A genre novel everyone should read.

Eaaaaaaasy. Kari Sperring's Living with Ghosts. It is brilliant! Swashbuckling ghostie adventures wrapped up in beaaauutiful language. Soooo much love. :-)

30 Days of Genre - Day 11

Argh. Forgot this yesterday!

Day 11 – Favourite genre series

This is a tricky one - just one? Insanity! Lillith Saintcrow's Jill Kismet books? Jim Hines' Princess books? Jim Butcher's Dresden Files? Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye books? Jo Graham's Numinous World books?
All told, though, this week I'll go for Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift series. Excellent stories, fabulously told and it even manages to make London and surrounding boroughs sound interesting. (Look, I get that people love London, really, but I'd quite like to read UK urban fantasy that is set somewhere else please... ta!)

23 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 10

Day 10 – Best writing style, or the style that resonates most with you.

Oh good, an easy one! While Charles de Lint writes the stories I most like to read and Kate Griffin has that wicked combo of action prose done with some fantastic quirky stylistic choices and excellent turns of phrase; it is a truth universally acknowledged that the absolute lord high king and emperor of gorgeous prose has to be: Chaz Brenchley/Daniel Fox/(and possibly even Ben Macallan!)

The man delivers the most beautiful writing you'll ever read -lyrical, fabulous, and utterly enchanting, all of which subtly entangles you in the story he's telling. Read Daniel Fox's Moshui books (with their very beautiful covers), read the Selling Water by the River books, read the Outremers. Hell, read everything, you won't be disappointed.

22 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 9

Day 9 – Saddest scene in a genre novel.

Ooh, tricky one. Especially since I've got the emotional depth of a puddle in a drought. And the memory of a leaky sieve.

One that springs to mind is the gut punch that is Gage's death in Stephen King's Pet Sematary (and if I could find my copy I'd be able to go into more detail on the why. (Alas, the great house tidy has mysteriously vanished many things...) That whole damn book creeps me out, but Gage's death comes out of nowhere and is utterly tragic.

And, actually, now I think about it, there's a similar such saddest scene in Chaz Brenchley's Shelter (which I also can't find...) - as I recall, there's a particular scene near the end that is all the more wrenching by the fact that when you're reading it, you're absolutely certain there's no way he's not going to deliver the predictable happy ending. And yet... I do recall having to flip back and re-read it a couple of times to check, that, yes, actually, he really did let that happen...

21 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 8

Odd one today...

Day 8 – Best fan soundtrack.
I have no idea what this even means. (Goes to consult the multi-faceted wisdom of teh internetz... internetz suggests it's something to do with applying songs to characters or something? I dunno. I'm making up my own interpretation...)

So. Music. Books. Don't know about best fan soundtrack, but there are certain books I can't read without instantly hearing the albums I was listening to at the time. Stephen King's Pet Semetary & The Shining, f'rinstance, will always and forever have Roxette's 'Look Sharp' album playing in my head. And the first three Terry Brooks Shannara books are doomed to be intermingled with the strains of Enya's 'The Celts' album. (I was 14, what can I say!)

20 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 7

Day 7 – Favourite couple in a genre novel.

Hawk and Fisher! How is this even a question? Found in the Hawk and Fisher & Forest Kingdom series by Simon R. Green; she's the princess who was sent to be a sacrifice to a dragon, he's the younger prince who was sent to slay it. Only, turns out the dragon is the one who needs rescuing from her. And when they're done with the whole save the kingdom from terrrrrible peril thing, they throw in the royalty business in favour of wandering off, changing their names and becoming cops in a far off city. Much hijinx ensue.

And as a couple, they rock. They have an excellent relationship that, as written, shows them as absolute equal partners who trust each other implicitly while they get on and do much heroic stuff. And the witty banter is just an extra bonus.

19 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 6

Rant time! Because Day 6 is:
Most annoying character.

There is no doubt in mind who my most annoying character is - characters, plural, actually: Ruth Gallagher and Jack Churchill from the Age of Misrule/Dark Age/Kingdom of the Serpent trilogies by Mark Chadbourn.

They shouldn't be annoying. I mean, Church is an archaeologist who becomes a Destined!Champion! and Ruth starts out being pretty cool what with the solicitor becoming a witch thing. And in the first trilogy they take up Legendary!Weapons! and save the world (kinda). That their supposedly epic romance was just silly and over done was a minor annoyance, the fact that the Romance!Of!Doom! sucked in Laura (a much more kick-ass female character than Ruth, thankyekindly) and Ryan (secrets!mysteries!) was a tad more annoying. Luckily Shavi managed to dodge the Love!Triangle! and retain full-on awesomeness.

Then we got the middle trilogy which focused on a whole new set of destined heroes (who inherited the roles from the first five, who were the latest in a line of fives...)

And then... oh, then was the last trilogy where everyone gets dragged back together for the mother of all apocalyptic battles across different times and otherworldly dimensions... and yet... Ruth and Church... dear god but suddenly they were overly whiny, overbearing and sanctimonious and every moment they were on the page was a moment I wanted to skip to get to the better characters. Maybe I'm not buying Church as the big hero he was supposed to be by the end, maybe Ruth was acting far too passive for the super!witch! she was supposed to have evolved into... or possibly it was too much being told that their Romance! Was! Epic! I don't know, I just know that by the last trilogy my hatred for them as characters reached irrational proportions. (And someday I'm going to have to attempt a re-read just to see if time makes them any better...)

If you're playing along, don't forget to check out the other peeps of Day 6:
Floor to Ceiling Books
A Fantastical Librarian
The Erudite Ogre (Day 6 not up at time of blogging!)

18 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 5

Coo, day 5 already!

Day 5 – Character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).

We'll go with wish you were like, and the fact that I'm picking Lara Croft will come as no surprise to anybody (points to userpic).

Because, c'mon, who wouldn't. Genius archaeologist who gets to adventure around the world, finding lost sites and mysterious treasures (and we'll ignore that whole wanton destruction of aforementioned sites of important archaeological interest...) beating up bad guys while in possession of cool gadgets and, hey, the outfits aren't bad either!

17 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 4

Annnnd today:
Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure book.

Yep, this is me, cheating again... my guilty pleasure book would actually be movie & video game novelisations/tie-ins. In most cases I'll have read the books before seeing the film or playing the game and one of the endearing qualities of the tie-in book is that they're generally short fun reads, so excellent when you need something light and easy. They're also great for filling in the gaps of the story and fleshing out the characters.

Personal faves include Resident Evil (excellent for the movie versions but the VG tie-ins have jumbled continuity with the games which makes it...interesting), Tomb Raider (extra movie scenes! Wahey! Although, again, the VG tie-in books don't quite hold up as well), the Riddick books (arrgh, one of the names is wrong in the Pitch Black one!), Doom, the Mummy books, X-Men (novelisations of films adapted from comics! Hee!) and the Alien books. Indiana Jones novelisations and the odd Star Wars short story anthology do creep in occasionally too.

For more Day 4 fun, check out:
Floor to Ceiling Books
The Erudite Ogre

16 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 3

Aaaaaand today's 30 Days of Genre thingy...

Day 3 – A genre novel that is underrated.

Not so much a novel, more a collection of stories - The Paladin Mandates by Mike Chinn. I love these! They're supernatural pulp detective adventures, set in the thirties, starring the immortal Damian Paladin (who goes back to at least Ancient Egyptian times!). Paladin is ably abetted by long time girlfriend Leigh Oswin, herself with some pretty interesting secrets in her background.

The historical details (both of the thirties and the earlier eras that get touched upon) are amazing, the spook stuff is nicely subtle and they're generally fun, cracking reads with barnstorming plane chases, mobsters and weird creatures all over the place!

There's a couple of additional short stories floating around in magazines in places, and rumour has it that a second collection of stories is on the way, but what I'd really like to see is a lovely novel length Paladin adventure. Or even series of. (May have to do a Misery on the poor boy! ;-P )

15 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 2

Right then, today's 30 Days of Genre -

Day 2 – Your favourite character.

Oh, this is a tricky one. Think I'm going to cheat and split it into comics and books.

So, comics is easy... Jenny Sparks from Stormwatch/The Authority, Warren Ellis era.

She's an ass-kicking 100 year old super-heroine who doesn't take nonsense from anyone, has spent a century romping around the world and hanging with notable historical peeps both real and fictional, and she sacrificed her life to save the world by electrocuting God.

Random quotes -
Sparks: "We are the Authority. Behave."
Known bad-ass Midnighter:
"Is it wrong for me to find that woman utterly terrifying."

As far as books go, oooh, choices...

Charles de Lint's Crow Girls? Neil Gaiman's Marquis de Carabis? Juliet E. McKenna's Halice? Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift?

Better be the classic: Terry Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax - the best witch in, on or under the Discworld.

Feared and respected by, oh, pretty much everyone, she's survived confrontations with Death, elves, vampires and wizards, usually by her skillful application of headology.
Also, she has an interesting approach to her place in the universe.
"Granny's implicit belief that everything should get out of her way extended to other witches, very tall trees and , on occasion, mountains."

(Don't forget to check out more 30 Days of Genre at Floor to Ceiling Books!)

14 April 2011

30 Days of Genre - Day 1

Meme time! (Ganked from Floor to Ceiling Books)
30 Days of Genre
Day 1 – Very first genre novel.
Day 2 – Your favourite character.
Day 3 – A genre novel that is underrated.
Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure book.
Day 5 – Character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).
Day 6 – Most annoying character.
Day 7 – Favourite couple in a genre novel.
Day 8 – Best fan soundtrack.
Day 9 – Saddest scene in a genre novel.
Day 10 – Best writing style, or the style that resonates most with you.
Day 11 – Favourite genre series
Day 12 – A genre novel everyone should read.
Day 13 – A genre novel you’ve read more than five times.
Day 14 – Favourite book trailer from a genre novel.
Day 15 – The cover from your current (or most recent) genre read.
Day 16 – Genre novel with the most intriguing plot
Day 17 – Favourite antagonist.
Day 18 – Favourite protagonist.
Day 19 – World/setting you wish you lived in
Day 20 – Favourite genre.
Day 21 – Genre novel with the most interesting character interactions
Day 22 – A sequel which disappointed you.
Day 23 – Genre novel you haven't read, but wish you had
Day 24 – Favourite classic genre novel.
Day 25 – A genre novel you plan on reading soon.
Day 26 – Best hero.
Day 27 – Most epic scene ever.
Day 28 – Favourite publisher of genre novels.
Day 29 – A genre novel you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.
Day 30 – Your favourite genre novel of all time.

Soooooo - Day 1 - Very first genre novel.

My very first genre novel was likely to have been one of the Buccaneer Series books by Sheila K. McCullagh. Pirates! Magic paintings that let our hero fall into the world where the pirates were! Thrilling adventures! I burned through those books several times at primary school and was subsequently told off by one of the teachers for reading them too fast...

Coming close second would probably have been Narnia or The Hobbit. (The latter of which I discovered when an awesome primary school teacher began reading it out in class. And he did the voices! And it turned out mum had a copy of it at home so I could get ahead of the story!)

12 April 2011

BFS awardy bits #2

As someone on the BFS forum was asking - if you're interesting in reading some of the short stories on the awards longlist, various web ones can be found here:

‘A Serpent In The Gears’ – Margaret Ronald – Beneath Ceaseless Skies
‘After The Dragon’ – Sarah Monette – Fantasy Magazine
‘All the Kings Monsters’ – Megan Arkenberg – Clarkesworld Magazine
'Camelot' - Patrick Samphire - Interzone #230
‘Distant Deeps Or Skies’ – Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Expanded Horizons
‘First Born’ – Megan Arkenberg – The Lorelei Signal
'Fool's Gold' - Sam Stone - The Bitten Word (Newcon Press)
‘Last Of The Monsters’ – Emil Skaftun – Strange Horizons
'Nightmare of You and Death in the Room, The' - Adam Christopher - Hub Magazine
‘Otterburn’ – Jan Edwards – Estronomicon
‘Six Skills Of Madam Lumiere, The’ – Marissa Lingen – Beneath Ceaseless Skies
‘Sunlight’ – Kelly Dwyer – Abyss & Apex
‘Things, The’ – Peter Watts – Clarkesworld
‘Undead Philosophy 101’ – Stephanie Burgis – December Lights
‘Unpopular Opinion Of Reverend Tobias Thackery, The’ – Adam Christopher – Hub Magazine
'Silent Night' - Stuart Young - Estronomicon

BFS awardy bits

For those who are curious, the BFS longlist has now been published here - at quick glance, not a bad list at all. ;-)

In other news, apparently I'm on the judging panel for Best Newcomer again. (ooh-er!) I'm joined by the fabulous Lou Morgan and the equally fabulous Jenny Davies of Wondrous Reads.

This'll be fun!

11 April 2011

Monday Morning Wake Up!

Am a new convert to My Chemical Romance shininess, and this song & video is one of my faves...

And Grant Morrison is in the vid! How cool is that?!

09 April 2011

Convention Happies

So, due to being skinter than a very skint thing at the moment, I'm having to miss Eastercon, Alt-Fiction and anything else interesting that might come up this year. (Fantasycon, however, is sacred.)

Except...being a wild and crazy thing (yes I am...shut up ;-) ) I've pre-booked for some rather juicy looking events coming up in the next 3 years. (Therefore, the world is not allowed to end in 2012. Or I'll be having words...)

World Fantasy Convention in Brighton in 2013!
Which is several different kinds of awesome. I mean, a major con in the UK! Woot!
Have never been to a WFC, so can't wait for that.

And talking of major conventions in the UK...
Worldcon in London in 2014!
Technically it's not getting voted on until the 2012 Worldcon but, last I heard, there were no competing bids so... London! Worldcon! Wheeee! Another con I've never been to, so, yay!

Also, not forgetting - Eastercon 2012
Back at the Radisson in Heathrow, which also happens to be just down the road from where I grew up. Ah, the comforting sounds of low flying aircraft. Love it.

Now to start saving up for them all... ;-)

Slushing the BFS Story Comp

And while we're talking about the BFS Story Comp... how can you (yes, you!) beat the slushpool and make it to the top 5 and, thusly, to the eyes of the celebrity judges?

Well, let me tell you... ;-P
(At this point I should mention that these are the personal opinions of someone who has been slushing the comp for maaaaaany years and in no way related to official BFS policy, etc. and so on.)

1) Read the submissions guidelines. No, really. They matter. Especially the word count. (No, the title doesn't count.) A few words over won't matter, but if you go a couple of thousand over you will be marked down. Formatting matters too, if only to make it easier for us to read. You really want to make your work easy for us to read. Trust me.
Oh, also, it's a *genre* story competition, genre meaning F/SF/horror. Make sure there's at least a little genre in your story please! The clue's in the British *Fantasy* Society.

2) Make it your best writing. Seriously. Edit it and polish it, make sure it hangs together. Send it to a reliable beta reader for a crit. And spell check. And grammar check. Then leave it to rest for a few days and check all over again.

3) Resubmissions. Yes, we remember stories. And while there's no rule against resubmissions, unless you've made some major changes to the story, if it didn't go through last year, it won't go through this year. In fact, chances are it'll get scored lower this time around.

4) Avoid cliches. Battering the same tired old tropes in the same tired old ways won't rise your story up above the rest. Do something new.

5) Trick endings rarely work. (And can be seen from, oh, the first paragraph in some cases.)

6) Make sure there's an actual story in the story. 3000 words explaining a cool world concept with a couple of character bits thrown in does not a story make.

7) Avoid excessive infodump. Trust that we can actually get the gist of the background stuff and concentrate on the actual story you're telling. We've read a lot, we *get* the shorthand in genre fiction. Honest.

8 ) Diversity! We welcome you! Without going into a long rant about default POV characters and settings...(because this is a very personal bugbear, and I'm likely to mis-speak myself if I go on too much...) I'll just quote the Strange Horizons guidelines, who say what I'm trying to say so much better -

"We'd like to help make the field of speculative fiction more inclusive, more welcoming to both authors and readers from traditionally underrepresented groups, so we're interested in seeing stories from diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

"...We like settings and cultures that we don't see all the time in speculative fiction, as long as they're well-researched and not exoticized." Special emphasis on that last bit.

And also check out Shweta Narayan's excellent post on that particular subject here.

9) Female characters! (Another very personal bugbear.) Yes, there are many excellent stories told from the male perspective. I read them. I love them. However... last year, out of 148 stories:
45 were from the female perspective
96 were from the male perspective
3 from both
3 unknown gender
1 dog (male)

Can we at least even the balance up a bit please? Like, with some active female protags? Ta muchly.

Think that's it for now - get writing, and good luck! ;-P

BFS Short Story Comp

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the 2011 BFS Short Story Competition is in mid flow. If you want a crack at it, you've got until 31st May 2011 to get something sent over.

The comp is open to both BFS members (for free) and non-members (for £5 per entry) and can be any kind of f/sf/h story so long as it's under 5000 words.

Electronic submissions and payments (where applicable) are preferred.

Prizes are: 1st - £100, a year's membership of the BFS, and publication in the BFS journal; 2nd - £50, a year's membership of the BFS, and publication in the BFS journal; 3rd - £20

Winners will be announced at the British Fantasy Awards ceremony at Fantasycon in October.

Check out the full details here.