2018 already has a bunch of events in the works, and the first is in Edinburgh on Thursday 8th February.
Event Horizon will feature a showcase of writers from the GSFWC, including magnificent speculative and slipstream author Hal Duncan, the masterful “Laureate of Loss” Neil Williamson and, well, me. It’ll be another splendid night from the folks at Shoreline of Infinity, and you can find the full line-up in the image below – or by clicking here. The night kicks off at 7:30pm on Thursday 8th February at Frankenstein Edinburgh.
In the meantime, my Horror flash piece ‘The Anniversary’ has had some very kind comments as part of reviews of Black Static 61. So, if you need a little incentive to come out to Edinburgh next month, here are a few of them so far:
There’s only hours left until the end of the year, so since it’s the season here’s a look back on my year in genre.
This year’s been rather quiet in terms of new stories. THE ANNIVERSARY was my first sale to Black Static, and appeared swiftly afterwards in Issue 61, which was a delightful surprise for the end of the year. Also, turns out flash fiction is eligible for all the awards, as far as I can work out, so if you read it and think it’s worth a nomination, please do so.
I’m still writing the Noise and Sparks column for SF journal Shoreline of Infinity, which is also eligible for Non-fiction awards, if you reckon it’s worth a nomination. ‘The Legend of the Kick-Arse Wise Women’ (Issue 8), about the relationship between age, experience, and imposter syndrome, seemed to resonate with a lot of folks, so thank you for your kind responses. My favourite is still ‘The Company of Bears’, from the current issue (10), but party because this year I fell in love with the fact that there are real cosplay Faerie Markets over in the US, a discovery I made with the paper given by Georgia Natishan at this year’s GIFCon – and, in a way, isn’t that what all cons kind of are?
Most of my New Things this year have been in non-fiction. I helped organize my first symposium, in 2017’s inaugural GIFCon event, with keynote speakers Julie Bertagna, Phil Harris, Stefan Ekman, Robert Maslen, and Maureen Farrell. I also presented my first paper there, on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and superhero modes of adaptation and revision, and I gave my first academic poster at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, on Taoist Landscape and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence.
Worldcon was my only con of 2017, but it was grand to get another chance to attend one of these in Europe. Once again, I appeared on panels, this time on Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’, and ‘From Literature to Movies and Television – Adaptation of Scifi and Fantasy’ – a pair of great discussions that not only gave us the chance for a bit of role-play, but a chance to catch up with old friends and new (and nerd out in front of Margaret Dunlap, who is currently working on the new Dark Crystal TV series – eeee!).
Around that time, I was also sitting on the jury for the British Fantasy Society’s Non-fiction Award, my second year out – and a tricky job this time, as anyone else in on the final decision will attest, but thrilling to find these conversations around genre criticism to be so difficult, indicating as they did the high standard of the shortlisted works. I also squeezed in a couple of interviews with authors at various things – Oliver Langmead‘s Glasgow launch for Metronome at Waterstones Argyle Street, and a chat with Laura Lam about Shattered Minds at October’s Event Horizon.
The last quarter of the year also bought some firsts: I was the lead for the Creative Writing Station at Night at the Museum: Fantasy Scotland event at the Hunterian Museum in Scotland, in partnership with the MLitt in Fantasy at the University of Glasgow. As the rest of the team will agree, this was an amazing night, and we were thrilled to see people at the event and online responding to our challenges so imaginatively. Huge thanks to my fellow station folks Oliver Langmead, Sarah Tytler, Angie Spoto, Mary-Kate Wagamon and Luc Bateman for their brilliant work!
I also became an editor for From Glasgow to Saturn, the arts and creative writing journal at the University of Glasgow. We recently sent out the acceptances for our 40th issue of the journal and, come the new year, we start working on readying these submissions for publication in early Spring. I can’t wait to share these wonderful tales with you!
There were also a few personal writing highlights: getting to see Nalo Hopkinson, Malika Booker, Alasdair Gray, and Christopher Priest read in person – and sharing a TOC with Nalo as part of Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2. I also got to meet Samuel R. Delany, which was not only a delight because of how utterly charming and insightful he is, but because his biographical documentary ‘The Polymath’ helped me work through some personal issues earlier in the year. I also gave cosplay a try for the first time this year, going to Worldcon as The Corinthian from Neil Gaiman‘s The Sandman comics, and Night at the Musem as Lottie from Neil Williamson‘s The Moon King. And I had the joy of watching my coursemates graduate from the University of Glasgow, and another friend win her first Hugo Award. So that’s a good year, isn’t it?
2018 will not only see my first issue of From Glasgow to Saturn as Editor, but also the second outing of GIFCon, for which I’m handling the social media presence (give me a wave sometime on twitter, facebook or instagram). I’ll be giving at least one workshop in the first half of the year in Edinburgh, as well as a brand new reading in Glasgow. Right now, I should be working on my column for the next issue of Shoreline of Infinity, a special issue for International Women’s Day. I’ll be entering the final stretch of my Masters degree in Fantasy next year.
As for what I’ll be doing after that, well I can’t officially say right now, but I hope you’ll stick around to find out.
It’s been a while since I committed bloggery, so let’s get down to some housekeeping.
Firstly, huge congratulations to Shoreline of Infinity, who celebrated their milestone 10th issue recently. It’s testament to the hard work and persistence of Noel Chidwick, Russell Jones, Mark Toner and the rest of the team, who not only put out Scotland’s only SF magazine, but run the celebrated Event Horizon night in Edinburgh. Long may it continue!
A new issue also means a brand new column from me. ‘The Company of Bears’ is about… well, it’s there in the title really, but it gathers some thoughts on genre community that I’ve been considering for a while. You can pick up Issue 10 of Shoreline here.
Secondly, in case you’ve missed my tweets, GIFCon, aka Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations, is back again on 26th – 27th April 2018. Our call for papers is out now, and we’ve got a really thought-provoking topic for you – Escaping Escapism in Fantasy and the Fantastic.
If you’re a researcher in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and related genres, you can check out our call at www.gifcon.org – or follow the links from facebook, twitter, and instagram, where I’ll be doing social media. We’re looking forward to receiving your abstracts!
Finally, last week, the editorial team at From Glasgow to Saturn spent a massive 4.5hrs going through 70+ submissions to our upcoming issue 40. At this point, it’s usual to make noises about the quality of what was received and the difficulty of making choices. Speaking from the inside of the process this time, I have to say, it really was pretty damned tough to choose between submissions at points. We only wish we had room for more. If you submitted to this issue, you should have heard back from us by now. If you haven’t, please get in touch asap via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m sure the only reason this looks like so many things is because it’s in a title list… right?
First things first, then.
My horrific new flash fiction story, ‘The Anniversary’, appears in the latest issue of Black Static. It’s my first acceptance from any TTA Press publication, and is set in some quite wonderful black and white artwork (sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know who the artist is).
I was stunned when this piece was accepted – not least because I hadn’t realised Black Static took flash fiction – but also because I thought something quite this dark would be an incredibly difficult sell. ‘The Anniversary’ was one of those stories where you’re not entirely sure where it’s come from, neither are you sure you want to know… Combine that with approaching a magazine at the level of Black Static and, well, talk about self-rejection! I guess it just goes to show it’s worth taking chances with the places you submit to, if there’s any chance your story might be their thing.
Black Static‘s November/December issue will also feature new stories from recent BFA Award winner Georgina Bruce, Ralph Robert Moore, Carly Holmes, Mel Kassel, and the first new short story in ten years from Andrew Humphrey, as well as columns from Gary Couzens and Lynda E. Rucker.
Secondly, I’m chuffed to announce I’m now an Editor for From Glasgow to Saturn, the creative writing magazine from the University of Glasgow. Despite the name, From Glasgow to Saturn publishes a range of genres, as well as poetry, writing, and artwork. If you’re a writer/poet/artist, and an alumnus, student, or staff member of the University of Glasgow, I’d really like to hear from you. So, please either follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or keep an eye on the official website (https://glasgowtosaturn.com/), as we’ll be sending out a call for submissions really soon.
Finally, A Night at the Museum: Fantasy Scotland takes place on 24th November at the Hunterian Museum, run in collaboration with the wonderful MLitt in Fantasy programme at the University of Glasgow. There’ll be stations on Harry Potter, Gothic and Science Fantasy, the Loch Ness Monster, Scottish Comics, and more. There’ll also be live performances, including a specially comissioned piece from Markee de Saw and Bert Finkle.
Here’s a heads up for those of you who can get to Edinburgh next month.
I’ll be chatting with Laura Lam about her brilliant new novel Shattered Minds at the next Event Horizon (11th October) in Edinburgh. The latest in her Pacifica SF series, it’s one of those novels where the words ‘rollercoaster ride’ don’t quite cover how thrilling it really is. And if that’s not enough, Laura will also be reading from the novel. So, if you’ve not picked up a copy yet, why not pop along and hear what you’re missing?
Joining us will be wonderful Orcadian SF poet Harry Giles; artist Stephen Pickering, who’ll be giving us an insight into cover creation; and intriguing dream popsters L-Space. So, it’s sure to be another fine night from the Shoreline of Infinity folk.
Event Horizon kicks off at Banshee Labyrinth (Nidry Street) on Wednesday 11th October at 7:30pm. For more information, head to www.ShorelineOfInfinity.com.
Now that Worldcon is over, on to the next thing: the Edinburgh International Book Festival is on now, and Shoreline of Infinity have produced a special issue in partnership with the event.
The line-up includes *deep breath* Iain M Banks, Shelly Bryant, Monica Burns, Thomas Clark, Benjamin Dodds, Gary Gibson, Pippa Goldschmidt, Lewis Grassic Gibbon (James Leslie Mitchell), Caroline Grebbell, Nalo Hopkinson, Russell Jones, Katie Gray, Ken MacLeod, Iain Maloney, Ada Palmer, Dee Raspin, Adam Roberts, Marge Simon, Charles Stross, Jo Walton, Andrew J Wilson, Jane Yolen, and Grahaeme Barrasford Young. You’ll also find my BSFA Award-winning story, ‘The Honey Trap’, in there, and I’m thrilled to be in such wonderful company.
Shoreline of Infinity are also hosting a special event this Wednesday (16th August) as part of Unbound at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The line-up includes Ken MacLeod, Jane Yolen, Nalo Hopkinson, Jo Walton, Bram E. Gieben, Pippa Goldschmitt, and Markee de Saw & Bert Finkle, so it’s going to be a wonderful night. It’s free, so if you’re about why not join them at The Spiegeltent from 9pm?
The Worldcon programme is now available through the official website, at www.worldcon.fi. Here’s a run down of where you can find me over the weekend.
Thursday 12pm-1pm ‘The Sandman’ [Messukeskus 206]
Meg MacDonald [M], Ruth EJ Booth, Tony Keen, Tomasz Kozłowski
“Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic started more than 25 years ago, but it is still being widely read. The panel discusses the reasons for Sandman’s enduring popularity.”
Friday 10am-11am ‘From Literature to Movies and Television – Adaptation of Scifi and Fantasy’ [Messukeskus 102]
Greg Bossert [M], Margaret Dunlap, Ruth EJ Booth, Anna-Leena Harinen, Mike Kiss
“Many scifi and fantasy movies and television shows are adapted from literature. There are both good examples and bad ones. What makes an adaptation good or bad? How’s the adaption market like these days? How do you write a good adaptation?”
Aside from panels, I’ll also be taking part in the academic poster events on Saturday 12th August.
UPDATE: Please note that some posters will be displayed earlier in the convention, so if you can’t make these events, there are still opportunities to take a look at all the STEM and Humanities projects on display.
Saturday 1pm-3pm Academic Poster Talks
A series of 5 minute presentations from the teams displaying academic posters at this year’s Worldcon. I’ll be presenting on my poster, ‘Mapping the Way: Taoism and Landscape in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet’.
Saturday 4pm-5pm Academic Poster Displays
While the academic posters will be displayed all day Saturday, the teams behind each poster will all be available during this period to discuss the topics behind them.
Saturday 6pm-7pm Academic Poster Presentation Awards Ceremony The winner will be decided from this year’s STEM displays.
This is my first audio story, a reprint of one that originally appeared in Far Horizons in 2015. And I have to admit, it’s been a curious experience: the sheer delight at Pseudopod taking this on mingled with nerves about how a story so rooted in my native North East England might be handled by someone else.
That’s why I’m grateful to Andrew Reid for narrating this one, as I think he brought out some really interesting nuances to the story, particularly in the pacing and cadence of his reading. Incidentally, Andrew released his debut novel Kingdom’s Fall just last year, which is well worth picking up from here.
Additionally, I’d like to thank Alasdair Stuart, who not only encouraged me to submit this to Pseudopod, alongside his partner Marguerite Kenner, but also handled the difficult outro to this story with such deft care.
You can hear Andrew’s reading of Good Boy as part of episode 549 of Pseudopod, which also contains a splendid pair of tales from Samuel Marzioli and Richard Farren Barber. Please be warned, it’s a very dark episode. Here’s the link to listen.
Here’s a quick update on things academic and fictional.
Firstly, my latest Shoreline of Infinity column is out now! In ‘The Legend of the Kick-arse Wise Women’, I unpack some of the ideas I had about age and writing when I was younger, and what made me change my mind about them. You’ll find it under Noise and Sparks in Issue 8 of Shoreline of Infinity, which you can pick up in all formats at their website.
Secondly, a couple of bits of Worldcon news. I’ve had a poster proposal accepted to this year’s event in Finland, where I’ll be presenting on the relationship between landscape and themes from Taoist philosophy in the first four Earthsea novels by Ursula Le Guin. I’ve also been offered places on a couple of panels on the provisional programme, so more on that when things are finalized.
Finally, I’ve accepted a spot on this year’s British Fantasy Awards‘ Best Non-Fiction jury. This’ll be my second year on the jury for this award, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the shortlist. You can find out the results of our discussions first at this year’s Fantasycon, which takes place in Peterborough over 29th September to 1st October.
I think that’s it for now. More news when I can share it.
Before I moved, I made a mental checklist of the places and events I wanted to see and go to when I got to Glasgow. Near the top of that list was Stag & Dagger, the all-day music festival that takes place over the May bank holiday weekend. Friends up here are big fans — their festival, a feat of meticulous planning: listening to and rating bands weeks in advance, all in preparation for the final line-up announcement just a few days beforehand, and the creation of The Spreadsheet: a document with the full listings and the planned route between their top picks of the line up.
If it sounds nerdy as hell, that’s because it is — but frankly, I don’t blame them. Stag & Dagger’s hosted early gigs from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kathryn Joseph, and a bit of early effort means you can narrow down fifty bands to the eight or nine favourites you can squeeze in before close of play.
This year, that effort definitely paid off. Though some last minute shoogling in the stage times meant we missed the sublime Kathryn Joseph this year, I got to see some ace bands: five of whom made my festival, three of whom who rocked my tiny little world. Here’s who you might want to watch out for in the next few months.
Thank god the Priory held off unleashing the house puma to allow ARTIFICIAL PLEASURE a few minutes in their dungeon*. This was one of those sets a festival goer dreams of: secreted away in a tiny venue, a band near shuddering with electricity and playing out of their skins, the only witnesses the handfuls of folk they managed to stuff inside. A clash of funky synth pop, that day fronted by the candlelit ghost of early eighties Bowie, Artifical Pleasure was the one band all three of us had agreed was a must-see this year. Felt good to be right.
*The Priory’s aesthetic is part venue, part Furry sex lair, complete with scratch post decor on the pillars.
One man and a box, a spotlight from above, on stage that was built for a choir: this MATT MALTESE cuts an unassuming shape, right before he sets your world on fire. A voice that you could float on, singing sweeping ballads about love, the end of the world, and wanking in the bath: Matt Maltese elevates the mundane (and slightly sticky) to the glorious epic, in a way seldom seen outside of Scott Walker or John Grant. He’s a treasure — and, for all these schedule changes, one witnessed tonight only by a precious handful. I can’t help but feel sorry for all those who missed him.
I’ll admit it. My reason for seeing this band, before any other consideration, was the name**. My second was a little less laudable, but then, no band of 14-year-olds I know have generated this much buzz since S-Club Juniors. LET’S EAT GRANDMA are gleefully indefinable, blending dance pop, trip hop and indie rock into their own multi-instrumental alternative sound. The hair hiding, hand-claps, the sudden collapses and climbing about under the keyboards, are as much part of the musical performance as the mandolin, recorder, and keys.
It’s a quintessence of artistic playfulness: it’s not that they’re not self-aware — they are — just they’re also unwilling to surrender to either side of the cusp between childhood and adulthood. In short, they’re refreshingly themselves, making them not only the coolest act in their teens you’ll have heard since early Kate Bush, but an utter fucking joy to watch.
**I still regret never seeing Darlington band Neil, Your Bedroom’s On Fire.
I hadn’t intended to see these guys, but I was left at a loose end for a bit, and decided to join my mates there. Live, their indie rock aesthetic has much more of a shoegaze vibe, at times reminding me of a harder-edged, poppier My Vitriol. But it’s their frontman, David Le’aupepe, who deserves the credit for this mention — an energetic soul, brimming with a passion like wildfire. One day people’ll talk about their gigs like a religious experience.
A victim of last minute schedule changes, sadly, we missed KATHRYN JOSEPH this year — but let me persuade you why you shouldn’t. I first saw Kathryn Joseph at the West End Festival All-dayer, skipping up to the auditorium at the Òran Mór, and stopping in my tracks at the top, as this bare music of unbearable strength trembled out, dappling like the afternoon sunlight across the Alasdair Gray mural. A voice like a bird trapped in the ice, able to make a piano sing between your bones, Kathryn Joseph is a genie — her gigs are a transformative experience. Be careful of who you want to become.
It made sense on paper. Bouncy, arrythmical pop sound, sweet melody, and some fantastic David-Byrne-Discovers-His-Hands dancing. This should have ticked every box on my list, but… Ever have one of those gigs where your friends have raved about a band for years, and when you got there, you weren’t quite feeling it that night? Honestly, I think this was more me than them, so I’d gladly give them a second go.