City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer My rating: 5 of 5 stars This type of narrative is usually a difficult sell for me. CSM contains a number of shorter stories (novellas and novelettes) which are loosely connected, and weaves a single narrative thread through them. The reason I find this sort of thing... Continue Reading →
I've never really done much with Instagram, except be vaguely baffled by it. Hopefully, that will change. A couple years ago, my partner's uncle passed away (cancer is a bitch.) In addition to being a really awesome person, Gethyn had spent years and years cultivating a wonderful SFF book collection of around 4000 physical volumes... Continue Reading →
Five-Twelfths of Heaven by Melissa Scott My rating: 3 of 5 stars I have so many mixed feelings on this novel. So... context first. I picked it at random off the shelves, and decided to read it because I liked the title. If you look at the cover, note that it shows a blond woman... Continue Reading →
The Keys to the Kingdom by Elliott Downing My rating: 5 of 5 stars Surprising and fantastic story Pretty much everything I look for in weird fiction. First person present tense always gets a thumbs up from me. If you are one of those readers who are dubious about FPPT, give this a try; it... Continue Reading →
You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts by M. John Harrison My rating: 4 of 5 stars Swinging back to leave a review for this book, although I finished it a few months back. I think this is a must-have for fans of genre-bending literary short fiction. The writing is stunning, in a... Continue Reading →
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier My rating: 5 of 5 stars I seem to be having an AMAZING reading month. I can't remember the last time I read so many 4+ star stories in a short time frame (we'll give 'Consider Phlebas' a pass, and roll it into the Culture books... Continue Reading →
How NOT to open a novel.
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks My rating: 5 of 5 stars Late to the party, but this was excellent. I stayed up far later than I should have done to finish it; the kind of story that reminds me why I love scifi so much. This is what I mean about Banks... Continue Reading →
The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation / Authority / Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer My rating: 4 of 5 stars Fascinating NB: Review is for the trilogy overall. On an individual basis, I'd probably give Annihilation 5 stars, Authority 4 stars, and Acceptance 4.5 stars. ### Short review: As fascinating as it was frustrating; as triumphant as... Continue Reading →
When Strange Horizons asked me to contribute to their 2016 Best of the Year wrap-up, I immediately knew my entry would have to discuss Too Like the Lightning, my favorite novel not only of 2016 but of the last decade. The natural question to ask me, then, one I certainly asked myself, is if it’s so great, why haven’t I actually written a review of it? Well, for a variety of reasons I haven’t reviewed much of anything in a while, so with the sequel arriving today it seemed like a great time to both reread Too Like the Lightning and actually write about it this time.
The novel takes place in a future where humanity has flying cars, a moon base, and robots that make full time jobs strictly optional. Humanity is also enjoying lasting world peace, having given up geographic nation states, organized religion, and even gendered…
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Here is an abbreviated list of hoops that a trade published book often jumps through (apologies to those for whom this familiar); finishing agent querying pitch to publishers request & first reads second reads acquisitions (itself a multi-stage process) offer & contract negotiations At every stage the book can die. For writing, it might never... Continue Reading →
I wrote this as part of a general info post for a Facebook group I'm in. The level I’ve aimed at is introductory, so my apologies to those who are already well into the querying trenches; you can probably skip this. ### Basic Query Structure Info The query should be about a page in length,... Continue Reading →
I participated in my local Leeds Writer Circle “Anything Goes” competition this summer. Results are below!
Monday, Sept 10th saw the adjudcation for our own “Anything Goes” competition. Judge Andy Humphrey gave excellent feedback on all the entered pieces of writing, which was much valued by everyone attending. The winner was Sunyi Dean for her story “Ice Cream and English Summers”. Since entering the piece for this competition she has succeeded in getting a version of it published by Flash Fiction Online. Read it here. Double congratulations are therefore in order. In second was Jason Heppell, also winner of the Annavation Prize. Third was Peter Richardson. Full details on the Competitions Page.
Sunyi will be a familiar face to those in the Novelist’s Group. Members will be delighted to know that she’s on something of a roll at the moment, having just secured an agent for her adult speculative fiction novel “Anchor (To Your Other Self)”. There is an online interview here that gives…
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A new publication of mine in FFO: Ice Cream and English Summers I wrote a little bit about this on Twitter but basically, this story has a Dramatic History. The short version: I wrote this, got some feedback that burned because I was oversensitive about the content of the story itself, and I nearly trashed... Continue Reading →
My form interview with Querytracker
A random tea-related rant from a couple years ago that I wanted to salvage before closing down my previous FB profile. It also happens to rhyme. You’re welcome 😛 FYI, the original version was written on paper, and pinned meaningfully to the cupboard. *** My dear Gareth Dean I cannot help but observe The vast tons of... Continue Reading →
New publication of JOHN KILLS JENNY via Sub-Q, a magazine of Interactive Fiction. Every choice matters, so pick your options carefully. A convicted murderer must play through a "rehabilitation game" to earn his own release.
I remember greedily hunting down as many of these kinds of stories as possible when querying for the first time, so perhaps someone else will find my data points useful. Warning: this is a little bit long and has some of my usual swearing.
About this time last year, I started trying to figure out how to write short stories (inspired in no small part by reading Darby Harn's short fiction via Absolute Write.) I wanted to know they worked, how the fit together, how writers managed to put complete arcs in such low word counts. Since last July,... Continue Reading →
Metronome by Oliver Langmead My rating: 4 of 5 stars Relative to the wider population of fantasy books available, literary fantasy is in short supply. Partly this is down to readership; most readers prefer a touch of literary at most, but many more don't seek that sort of discussion within their novels (which is, of... Continue Reading →
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro My rating: 3 of 5 stars I originally started this novel awhile back, and gave up about a third of the way in because I wasn't enjoying it. However, I restarted it once more on the recommendation of a friend. My overall experience of the novel was one... Continue Reading →
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer My rating: 5 of 5 stars If I could define Too Like the Lightning in a word, it would probably be "overwhelming". That perhaps seems at odds given my rating, but it is fully immersive, carefully thought out and planned, densely written, complex, layered, intelligent, powerful. There aren't... Continue Reading →
The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton My rating: 4 of 5 stars Clever and detailed, not to mention elegantly written, but ultimately the narrative is constrained by the very strictures it sets out to explore and (I felt) a little lacking in emotional depth, despite being in first person. I have a pretty high tolerance... Continue Reading →
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky My rating: 4 of 5 stars I found this surprisingly good. Surprising because I tend towards the soft and literary end of SFF, and also because I bloody hate spiders. So much hate. I looked up the author and was not at all surprised to see his roleplay interests.... Continue Reading →
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins My rating: 5 of 5 stars Ambitious and dramatic--a riveting story of how a group of people are changed by their traumatic childhood, told through the filter of a speculative fiction novel about a woman who is trying to become God. To understand my review, let me... Continue Reading →
Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb My rating: 2 of 5 stars Some good dialogue between the characters, but seriously poor overall. The narrative was feebly constructed, and events seemed to occur mostly as a vehicle for fitting in as many series cameos as possible even though it made little sense for those people to be... Continue Reading →
The Etched City by K.J. Bishop My rating: 5 of 5 stars Simply brilliant. It does require a lot of patience, this novel, since around 60% of it is setup for a series of events which, at the beginning, seem to bear no relation to anything else that is going on. My advice is to... Continue Reading →
On Blue's Waters by Gene Wolfe My rating: 5 of 5 stars Retro Thursday, you cry? Well, I've studiously avoided anything to do with Blue/Green/Whorl for years, out of a deep-seated but legitimate terror that I'd discover Patera Silk had actually died, either at the end of Long Sun or in the intervening time. He... Continue Reading →