LONDON CALLING pt. 4 – Sunday at Nine Worlds

I only actually made one panel on the Sunday at Nine Worlds – “The Limitations Of A Strong Female Character” at 10am, where a panel of six (well, five and a moderator) discussed the difference between a “Strong Female Character” (i.e. a female who is physically strong, good at fighting etc) and a strong female character (i.e. a well-rounded and complex female character who may or may not be good at fighting but has her own agency and motivations and is basically a fully-realised person). There was much talk about how, too often, SFCs are basically reduced to being a stereotypical male character – physical tough, emotionally remote and so on – in a female body. The new Ghostbusters was obviously mentioned, but also the more recent development of Sansa Stark in the GoT TV series, as well as a whole bunch of others (the most intriguing one to my mind that I haven’t read is Baru Cormorant, who apparently fights her nation’s conquerers from within its own system – I’ll have to check that out).

Side-and-almost-completely-unrelated note: Tom Holt has written a hell of a lot of books, hasn’t he? (I didn’t know he was also K.J. Parker)

I really wanted to get to the “Tricking The Reader” panel at 11.45 but unfortunately actually checking out of my hotel room got in the way. Luckily I could dump everything in my car, but the Novotel could have also stored my luggage until I was actually ready to leave, which could have been really useful.

The next couple of hours after I’d checked out I spent mainly chilling out, writing a few more words of my current WIP, and checking out the vendors’ expo in the basement. It wasn’t huge but there were some good stalls there, including one selling cut acrylic necklaces (I got my wife one with a stegosaurus and a speech bubble reading “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”). Then at 2pm it was time for my final action of the convention: book signing at the Forbidden Planet stall!

Wearing glasses because contacts until 3am will knacker your eyes. Still had someone telling me I looked very different with glasses on. MY HAIR IS AS TALL AS THE REST OF MY FACE HOW CAN GLASSES MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

That guy sitting next to me is Gav Thorpe, current Black Library author for Games Workshop as well as a freelancer. I met him back in October 2015 at Nottingham Writers’ Club Scifi Evening, and I can confirm that he is an all-around Good Bloke. He was also involved in developing and writing about the various GW games I played as a teenager, which is kind of cool.

With the signings done, it was time to bid farewell to everyone I could find whom I knew, and begin to make my way back to Nottingham. It was also time to reflect on the convention as a whole, which was actually pretty easy.

I loved it, again.

I think that last year’s event may have had slightly more sessions that I was REALLY interested in, and there was more choice because of the different scheduling. However, this year’s scheduling meant that although you still of course couldn’t attend everything you had less of a problem of “I have to leave this one early to make the next one” or “I can either eat or make the next session I want to go to”. The venue worked better as well: better rooms in general, everywhere had microphones, the corridors were wider and so less crowded when moving from place to place. And on a purely personal note, I had a massive blast DJing: probably the most fun I’ve ever had doing it, which was a big boost to my opinion of the event in general.

I will be returning next year, and I urge you to as well. One thing that has come out of this year’s is the news that they made a massive shortfall in money (to the tune of nearly £20,000, or so I heard). Obviously that’s not the sort of thing that can be absorbed two years in a row, so I’m really hoping that the support for it grows even further next year because this is genuinely a wonderful experience run by wonderful people.

Also, if they get me back for the Bifrost Disco I might just be able to get you to dance to something atrocious like this…

 

MIKE BROOKS – Drowning Pool vs Psy: Let The Gangnam Hit The Floor

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LONDON CALLING, pt.3 – Saturday at Nine Worlds

So. Saturday at Nine Worlds.

After another huge breakfast which included waffles with Nutella, I headed for a 10am panel of “Game of Thrones: Wild Speculation” which was basically a couple of massive GoT fans leading a discussion on what people thought would happen in Series 7 (spoiler: we think people will die). I attended this with Blaise, apparently unharmed after friday night in The Party Hostel, and also met up with Anna Smith-Spark, author of the forthcoming ‘The Court Of Broken Knives’ whom I met at a similar discussion group at Nine Worlds last year (we then went down the road to grab a snack and a drink at a Costa with someone cosplaying as Danerys, which made for an interesting group). Following that I made it to ‘How To Idea’ at 11.45am, where a group of authors discussed where they get their ideas from (yes, really) and also, and probably more importantly, how they utilise, pursue and develop them.

At the last moment I’d noticed that my former editor from Del Rey UK Michael Rowley had joined the ‘Exploring Chinese Science Fiction’ panel at 1.3opm. I managed to catch him for a quick catch-up chat in the lobby, but unfortunately I’d been watching some of Watford vs Leicester in my hotel room in the break and practising a couple of songs on my acoustic guitar (more on this later) and so I turned up too late to get into his session, or indeed into any of the other sessions running at the same time. This maybe wasn’t such a bad thing: I chilled out and went to get a sandwich for later, then headed to the biggest room of all, the Cremant Suite, for the Bifröst cabaret soundcheck (more on this later). After that was done, it was time to go and get ready for the one panel I was on this year:

“EWOKS! Shameless Commercial Creations, Or The Creatures That Crushed An Empire?”

Someone had been meant to moderate the event but they’d had to pull out of the event for personal reasons leaving three participants: me, Sara, and Ash, who was also a Nine Worlds staff member. I’d come up with five questions earlier in the week that we decided to use, and we talked around the topic as best we could. It was a small panel in a small room with a small audience, but I think we all had fun: highlights for me included realising exactly how passionate I was that ewoks are essential to The Return Of The Jedi’s plot (contact me if you want me to explain, but you may regret it), Sara’s point that the ewoks are the only actual complete culture we see in any of the original trilogy, the impromptu “Bob The Builder on the Death Star” singalong, and the final conspiracy theory that Supreme Leader Snoke is actually an ewok (I’d go into more detail, but the theory got refined further on Sunday so I’ll cover it then).

Anyway, after that I had to run to my hotel room and get ready for the cabaret.

The Bifrost cabaret is a yearly event, a variety show featuring all sorts. This year they had performance poets, a pole dancer dressed as Deadpool (Deadpole), various musicians, a musical comedian (Jay Simpson, very funny indeed, although his song where he names all 270 or so tube stations in two-and-a-half minutes left the sign language interpreter just throwing her hands up and giving up), at least one regular comedian, a couple of magicians and a steampunk burlesque performer (warning: link is to video of performance).

Oh, and me.

You see, I’d volunteered to go down with my acoustic guitar and play two songs. The second song was one I’d written specially for the occasion about entitled fans, called “Everything’s Ruined Forever”.

Me Bifrost

The first one was “Fuck You, Joffrey Baratheon” (which I played in the wrong key), which made Hap the BSL signer do this a lot:

Bifrost signer

Sorry, Hap.

I’m pleased to say that both of my songs got a lot of laughter, and according to Blaise (who was in the audience) people sang along with the chorus of “Everything’s Ruined Forever”, which is fantastic. After I’d been on I ran to my hotel room to dump my guitar and then went to my car to get my CD decks and my CDs, finally making it back in time to catch the last act and the cabaret’s triumphant conclusion (Jade the compere had been dressed as a sort of punk Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream all evening, and closed it with Puck’s final speech).

CD decks, you say? Yes, because after the Bifrost Cabaret comes the Bifrost Disco, and I’d volunteered to do this, too. There was a minor hitch in that one of the other two DJs also had to pull out at the last minute, but Elaine (who did it last year) was still around, so between us we got set up and launched into the final part of the night.

I can honestly say that the Bifrost Disco is the best crowd I have ever played for. They danced to everything, from… well, perhaps it’s best if I write out the set, for those who are interested (with (r) denoting a request):

ELAINE

MANISHA – Somewhere Over The Rainbow
QUEEN – Hammer To Fall
WEIRD AL YANKOVIC – Hardware Store
TEGAN & SARA – Everything Is Awesome
THE RUNAWAYS – Cherry Bomb
TALAHASHI YOUKO – Cruel Angels
RAMIN DJAWADI FEAT. TOM MORELLO – Pacific Rim Main Theme
THE AUTOMATIC – Monster
THE CRYPTKICKERS – Monster Mash
MICHAEL JACKSON – Thriller
JOSS WHEDON/JAMES MARSTERS – Rest In Peace
CHVRCHES – Bury It
RAY PARKER JR. – Ghostbusters Theme
DOLLY PARTON – 9 to 5

MIKE

STAN BUSH – The Touch
THE ATARIS – Boys of Summer
REPUBLICA – Drop Dead Gorgeous
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE – I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
FEEDER – Just A Day
FOO FIGHTERS – Everlong
DJ BLAZE – Metallica vs Lady Gaga: Enter Telephone
EVANESCENCE – Bring Me To Life
SAVE FERRIS – Come On Eileen
REEL BIG FISH – Walking On Sunshine

ELAINE

VERKA SEDUCHKE – Dancing Lasha Tumbai
POLI GENOVA – If Love Was A Crime (r)
ALESTORM – Wolves Of The Sea
IAN HU & MARK LAMBERT – Red Dwarf Theme
NICKI MINAJ – Starships
Star Trek Theme
MELO – Star Wars Disco Theme
QUEEN – Flash
JIMI HENDRIX – All Along The Watchtower
Captain Scarlet End Titles
BABYLON ZOO – Spaceman
Steven Universe Theme
BLONDIE – Atomic

MIKE

THE TIMELORDS / KLF – Doctorin’ The Tardis (r)
ERWIN VAN BEEKVELD – Taking The Hobbits To Isengard
ANDREW SPENCER & VAMPROCKERS – Zombie 2K10
CHEMICAL BROTHERS – Galvanise
KORN FEAT. SKRILLEX & KILL THE NOISE – Narcissistic Cannibal
MIKE BROOKS – Drowning Pool vs Psy: Let The Gangnam Hit The Floor
MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE – Shut Me Up
NINE INCH NAILS – Closer (r)
THE OFFSPRING – Self Esteem (r)
GREEN DAY – Basket Case (r)
BOWLING FOR SOUP – Girl All The Bad Guys Want (r)
BON JOVI – Livin’ On A Prayer
IRON MAIDEN – The Trooper (r)

ELAINE

DR HORRIBLE – Bad Horse Chorus/Brand New Day
M.I.A. – Paper Planes
JANELLE MONISE – Q.U.E.E.N. (r)
POMDETER – Call Me A Hole
PLACEBO – Nancy Boy
PIG WITH THE FACE OF A BOY – The Complete History Of The Soviet Union
THE CARDIGANS – My Favourite Game
THE PRODIGY – Out Of Space
JEFF WAYNE – Eve Of The War (r)
POKEMON – Trainer Battle (Red Blue Yellow)
JAISON PAIGE – Pokemon Theme
ROCKY HORROR – The Timewarp
IDA MENZEL – Let It Go

Me DJing nineworlds

Someone asked me if I had a recorded version of “Fuck You, Joffrey Baratheon” to play. I don’t. There isn’t one.

 

So there you have it, the setlist for Bifrost Disco 2016. After that I went and got a much-needed shower and got to sleep just past 3am, with one more day to go…

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LONDON CALLING, pt.2 – Friday at Nine Worlds

Last year Nine Worlds was held at the Radisson Blu next to Heathrow, which is a spectacular hotel with impressive marble stairways, water features and so on. Unfortunately the staff seemed at best nonplussed and at worst downright grumpy about having a hotel full of geeks descend on them: I didn’t experience any problems myself but then again I’m a cisgender white male who wasn’t cosplaying as anything particularly bizarre. There were also some issues in terms of accessibility, the available room sizes, and also the amount of time between sessions (a mere fifteen minutes or so, as I recall: you had to race around the hotel to make the next session, and usually had to miss at least one in order to eat).

This year it was held at the Novotel London West in Hammersmith, and the difference was immediately obvious both in terms of location, venue and organisation. The Novotel was nowhere near as picturesque as the Radisson Blu (I mean, it’s a perfectly nice hotel, but not spectacular in any way) but the available spaces were more plentiful and (in general) larger. Also, its location in Hammersmith meant it was still easily accessible (the A4 literally goes past the front of it and it’s about 100 yards from the tube station) but there were far more amenities nearby: instead of being tied to expensive hotel food provision, a McDonalds next door or venturing into suburbia to find a pub, there were sandwich shops and supermarkets aplenty right on the doorstep. The staff were cheerful and helpful and seemed perfectly happy to have us there (the one exception being a barman whom I overheard being asked to go to ‘Table 4′ by a colleague and didn’t want to because the guy there was dressed as Slave Leia). Most importantly, perhaps, there was 45 minutes between sessions: that meant that they could run less of them, but you didn’t have to kill yourself charging around and still find that you were too late to get a seat, and you could go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat if necessary.

I started my 2016 Nine Worlds experience at 10am with a panel entitled “World-building: No One Sells Happy Life Day Cards”, which featured a group of fantasy and scifi authors talking about how they create their respective worlds and working out the nuts and bolts of what makes it all work, and why, and why it’s important to make your fantastical world seem plausible in the details. Then I moved onto “Getting Fighting Wrong”, which saw a group of authors talking about what makes a good fight scene and what makes a bad one. At 1.30pm I went to “Science Fiction and Science Fact”, where a group of scifi authors discussed how much of their work has a background in actual science, where they think you can get by with ignoring actual science and where there should probably be some background plausibility.

Now, as you can tell, I went to a lot of writing panels. This is because I want to get better at it, and a very good way of doing that is listening to people talk to have been doing it for longer, have more books out, and have been nominated (or won) awards.

After that panel I got very good news in the shape that my friend Blaise would be joining us at the last moment, a spur-of-the-moment decision on her part. Blaise and I engaged in a creative writing competition between ourselves a few years ago, a “first to get to five short stories published” one that did wonders for my output (we were ruling by acceptance rather than publishing date so I technically won, but the place that was going to publish my fifth story actually went under before it did so, so I guess maybe she won in the end…)

At 5pm I went to a panel called ‘Without Fear’ about the Young Adult subgenre, and whether it actually counts as a genre at all (the panel had differing opinions), then went down to the Friday afternoon pop-up market where Eleanor had been selling her various comics and merchandise (and doing very well with it, apparently).

After that it was time to get some food, having been coasting on a huge breakfast all day: then I met Blaise when she arrived in Hammersmith (it turned out she’d booked herself into the same “party hostel” as Eleanor, albeit a different dorm). Blaise and I then went to “Building Better Dreams & Nightmares” at 8.30pm, where a group of authors discussed how to avoid just retreading the same old monsters/aliens and where to get inspiration for new, original creations.

After that we all went to our respective beds, as we’d all had long, busy and tiring days in different ways. However, in my case at least, Saturday was going to be much, much more so…

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LONDON CALLING pt.1 – Thursday (Fantasy In The Court)

So the majority of the end of last week and the weekend was spent in London. Pull up a dalek, dear reader, while I recount the events. Bear with the length, for the events were many and the specifics (particularly towards the end of this entry) may be of interest.

Two years ago, in August 2014, my UK publisher Del Rey UK (now subsumed back into the parental embrace of Penguin Random House) took me to Fantasy In The Court, held at Goldsboro Books just off Leicester Square (one of my companions on that day was Django Wexler, whose fourth Shadow Campaigns novel The Guns of Empire I have just read in about seven hours and can heartily recommend, as with the rest of the series). One year ago, in August 2016, I went to Nine Worlds, my first ever convention.

This year, in August 2016, I went to both.

I travelled down to London on the Thursday, a daring descent from Nottingham to the very base of the M1 and then a trip around the North Circular Road before cutting up the A40 to places like Whitechapel, which you assume exist because they have a tube station but you never really think there’s actually anything there. I’m not fully convinced that anything within the M25 actually exists when someone isn’t looking at it, and I reckon that Watford might in fact be some sort of bastion against all that potential unreality sneaking out across eight lanes of traffic and infecting the rest of the country. I mean, I’m pretty sure somewhere like Mam Tor exists all the time, but Holborn? Not so much.

But anyway.

Nine Worlds was being held this year at Novotel London West in Hammersmith, and I’d managed to grab one of the “convention rate” rooms which meant that my stay would be considerably less expensive than if I’d try to stay in it at any other time. I’d even checked in online ahead of time so theoretically I could set my own arrival time rather than being bound to the tyranny of a 2pm check-in. I say “theoretically” because what actually happened was I arrived at 1.30pm and was told my room wasn’t ready yet because the hotel was completely full that weekend (of geeks) and that instead of ten or so online check-ins that day they had over sixty (geeks again – we’re wonders for doing things efficiently over the internet to minimise personal interactions). So I got into my room at about 2pm after all, then grabbed some food.

I then met up with Eleanor, who was my companion at Nine Worlds last year and this year was going to be exhibiting her Dragon Mouse (and friends) goods at the pop-up market on the Friday afternoon. A quick sidetrack: I LOVE Dragon Mouse. I have a knitted one, I have both of Eleanor’s comics, and I commissioned her to do a piece of custom artwork featuring him that I laminated and stuck on the door of my “study” (spare bedroom where I write, bite me). Dragon Mouse is one of the coolest things ever. Eleanor was also buzzing because after missing out on tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when they went on sale she had been offered a ticket by a friend only a few days before, for a performance taking place on the Saturday afternoon when she’d already planned to be in London anyway for Nine Worlds (please don’t send her envious/abusive messages). Eleanor was staying in a hostel just down the road where she said she was greeted with the information “If you come back after midnight you may want to use the side door” (so far, so expected) “because after 12 the ground floor is a nightclub” (not so expected). Eleanor agreed to come with me to Fantasy In The Court, and so off we went.

Fantasy In The Court was a weird experience last time I was there. For one thing, although I was there as An Author at the invitation of Del Rey UK, I hadn’t actually had a book published (and wouldn’t for nearly a year) so I was wandering around with a name tag on feeling a bit out of place. Also, the sheer amount of people packed into a small space made it very noisy and somewhat overwhelming for someone who’s hard of hearing anyway. That second part didn’t change this year, but at least I felt like I had some reason to be there since my books were actually on sale in the shop. I also met a bunch of other authors I’d either met previously or had interacted with over the internet: AJ Smith, author of the Long War series, whom I’d met two years before; Rob Boffard, author of the Outer Earth series, whom I once challenged to a fight over Twitter because our debut books came out at the same time and both had the words “In Space” on the cover (followed by different other words, but that’s not the point); Jen Williams, author of the Copper Cat Trilogy; Edward Cox, author of the Relic Guild series, whom I was introduced to on the night by Helena, whom I met at FitC two years ago when we ended up pressed next to each other as everyone sheltered inside from a torrential downpour; Jamie Sawyer, author of The Lazarus War, also represented by my agent Rob Dinsdale; Tom Pollock, who gracefully agreed to sign my copy of Our Lady Of The Streets; and Claire North/Kate Griffin/Katherine Webb, whose writing in the Urban Magic series is probably some of my favourite prose of all time, whom I’d met at a “kaffeeklatsch” at Nine Worlds last year, and who greeted me with a hug and a demand to know what my favourite swear word was (I think this was part of an ongoing conversation; I replied that it seemed unfair to the others to pick just one). I also remembered to tell her about Juliet d’Aubigny, although I’d forgotten the name (click the link: it’s worth your time).

The strangest thing of all was seeing how the wheels of publishing work, just a little bit. I met an editor and a publicist from a publisher (I won’t say which one), both of them female. When showing Eleanor and I the leaflet of authors whose books were going into the Nine Worlds goody-bags the editor observed “Hmm, we don’t seem to be publishing any women at the moment. We should probably change that.” Then she turned to Eleanor and said “Do you write at all?”

Now, I’m not thinking that had Eleanor said “Yes, I write epic fantasy” instead of “Well, I’m an independently-published comics artist” (and me finding pictures of her artwork on my phone) that it would have turned into a contract offer there and then, but it really opened my eyes to how this works. You have to think that had Eleanor been an aspiring author of some sort and she’d said “yes” that it would have turned into a conversation about her work, and if it had sounded at all interesting to the editor then something might have been said along the lines of “well, get in touch”. And that in itself means nothing if the work in question turns out to be rubbish (or even just okay), but never underestimate the importance of a personal connection. My agent noticed my work because I came recommended by Luke Scull, who had read some of it and whom I had given feedback to on his first novel before he’d even been signed by Rob, let alone by his publisher Head of Zeus. Sometimes just one thing – a personal meeting, a recommendation by a mutual friend – is all it takes to make you stand out in someone’s mind and get your work noticed as opposed to dropped on the submissions pile with all the others. And if you don’t believe me, listen to Jim Butcher: I’ve read an account from him before about how his first agent had previously rejected his work but then took him on after meeting him in person. When he asked her about what had changed, her response was something along the lines of “Well, that was before I’d met you”.

This, then, is the lesson to anyone wanting to break into being a mainstream published author: meeting an agent or a publisher in person won’t get you a deal by itself (especially if you’re an arsehole), but that interpersonal contact might just make you stick out the crowd a crucial amount. So it’s worth going to things like Fantasy In The Court, if something’s happening like that near you. Don’t stalk or harass people, obviously, out of general decency as well as the fact that it won’t help you, but publishing is not a meritocracy: not purely, at any rate.

The trouble is, of course, that so many of the sort of people (warning: incoming generalisation) who like fantasy and science fiction enough to write it may struggle with social interactions (see above about online check-ins).

Anyway, after Fantasy In The Court had wound down Eleanor and I made our way back to Hammersmith and went our separate ways, ready for the first round of Nine Worlds on Friday.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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TO LONDON!

It’s time to go to London for a long weekend of geekery!

To begin with I will be at Fantasy In The Court at Goldsboro Books just off Leicester Square on Thursday 11th. It runs from 6-9pm and will be your chance to come and mingle and chat with a whole bunch of scifi and fantasy authors (including me, but also more well-known names like Claire North/Kate Griffin, Mike Carey, Den Patrick etc). We’ll also sign anything you buy from the store. Tickets are £5 and I believe get refunded if you buy a book…

Then I will be at Nine Worlds from Friday! I’ll be going to various different panels and talks etc throughout the weekend, but if you want to see me Actually Doing Stuff then the schedule is as follows:

SATURDAY

6.45-7.45pm Beaujolais Suite

“EWOKS! A shameless commercial creation or the creatures that crushed an empire?”

8.43 (according to our very exact running schedule) Cremant Suite

BIFRÖST – The Cabaret: see me playing my acoustic guitar and singing two exceptionally geeky songs.

10.15pm-2am Cremant Suite

BIFRÖST – The Disco. I join forces with two other brave volunteers to play tunes until the early hours for your listening and dancing pleasure. Beware of the almost inevitable punk covers.

SUNDAY

2-2.45pm Chablis Suite (the Geekfayre Hall), Forbidden Planet stall

Signing session (alongside Gav Thorpe of Games Workshop/Black Library fame. Come for the Space Marines, stay for the space smugglers!)

 

SEE YOU THERE!

 

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Functional Nerds and a music video!

I was on Functional Nerds! Go listen to me being English and pausing a lot.

On the show we talk about my band Interplanetary Trash Talk’s music video!

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Sad news, and then a little good news

On Thursday we bid goodbye to the smaller of our two cats, Silly (short for Drusilla). She was diagnosed with a tumour on her lung on Monday having been coughing for a week or so, and by Thursday she had gone downhill to the point where we felt that we had no option but to take matters into our own hands with a final trip to the vet. While immensely sad, I am glad in a way that her decline was so rapid it was obvious when we needed to make the call. If a pet is gradually going downhill I imagine it can be very hard to look back and say ‘well, this is definitely worse than x amount of time ago, therefore we need to take this decision’. When the change just from one day to the next is profound, and there is a known terminal illness present, it’s about as easy a decision to make as it can be in the circumstances.

Goodbye, Silly. She loved all humans (or at least all humans that would stay still long enough for her to sit on them, which was about 0.8 seconds), and would then claw you mercilessly if you dared to move. Easily the most affectionate cat I’ve ever known.

The belly might look inviting, but tickle it at your peril.

 

The good news? I’ll be appearing at Fantasy In The Court again this year. I missed out last year, and my previous “appearance” in 2014 (I signed that bag that’s been used as the image for this year’s site) was before Dark Run was released so I was basically an Author In Waiting. This year, however, I actually have not one but two books out! So if you see a guy with a black mohawk wandering around then feel free to come and say hi. Just bear with me if I seem a little distracted: with that many people that close together it’s a bit hard for me to hear conversation, and I’ve yet to work out if my hearing aids help more than they hinder (they’re supposed to cut out background noise, but last time I was there I think everyone else was so loud that the people I were talking to were the background noise!).

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That Was The Week, That Was

Well.

It’s hard to know where to begin, really. I suppose I will start by profusely thanking all of the people in North America who’ve already bought Dark Run. It’s been selling really well (or so I’m told – it’s not like I have figures for what anybody else’s books sell to use as comparison) and has been getting positive buzz from websites and reviews in the process. Thank you, all of you, who’ve bought it, or stocked it and sold it, or reviewed it, or Tweeted about it. It means a tremendous amount to me, and I hope you enjoy it. I also hope to be able to give you more news about the Keiko series soon, but more on that as we get it.

Second, the European Championships. I’m something of a football fan… and by “football fan” I don’t mean that I support a particular team, or even a particular country: I just enjoy watching football. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the Euros so far, and was highly entertained by England getting dumped out by a very worthy, very determined Iceland team with a truly terrifying supporter clap/chant combo. A shame to see them get decimated by France, but I guess that really shows England fans where we are on the world map of football. i.e. we’re not really on it. I’m pulling for Wales now.

Lastly… well, the referendum happened and now it seems that my country is heading out of the European Union, where we’ve been for far longer than I’ve been alive. I won’t lie: I find the prospect positively terrifying. Not for me personally, so much: as a white male who’s reasonably financially secure it’s likely to amount to little more than inconvenience really, unless all of the absolute worst predictions come true. What I’m more concerned about is the impact on others. We’ve already seen a huge rise in racism and hate crime since the vote, with the bigots in this country apparently taking the narrow Leave margin as licence to start acting hatefully towards anyone with skin darker than a particularly milky tea or who might seem to have been born elsewhere. A white European friend of mine who’s lived here for nearly a decade has already been told to “go home”, and I’ve heard many, many stories where the offenders were nowhere near as polite. It’s absolutely disgusting.

Even worse, we now have the Conservative leadership election to look forward to. I have no time for David Cameron, especially since he orchestrated this whole affair by unleashing a monster he didn’t manage to contain solely in the interest of keeping his little political party together (which he probably didn’t manage anyway). However he is, as Jonathan Pie put it, ‘Diet Tory’ compared to those hankering to pick up the reins from him. We’ve got Theresa May, the Home Secretary who wanted us to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights; Stephen Crabb, who supports a “charity” that says homosexuality can be “cured”; Michael Gove who was rabidly Leave, stabbed both Cameron and Boris Johnson in the back at different times, did his best to wreck the education system and has voted against what I would support on pretty much every issue I’ve been able to check… the list just gets worse and worse. I dread to think what state the country will end up in if any of them become Prime Minister.

The only crumb of comfort I’m currently clinging to is that it seems our withdrawal from the EU via the activation of Article 50 will actually have to go through Parliament for it to be legal. That means that the MPs (the majority of whom were for Remain) will get to vote on it. I have a nasty feeling that many of them will go “well, the referendum clearly shows the voters’ will, so be it” and vote through this thing that so many of them have argued vociferously against… but I hope not. The referendum wasn’t legally binding: it was simply a giant opinion poll. I hope enough of them stick to their guns that it doesn’t get through and we don’t follow through on this ridiculous, hideously self-damaging move.

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DARK RUN hits North America (and your headphones)

Well, that was a bit of a busy week.

I was on holiday in Scotland, walking up mountains and around lochs and celebrating my nine-year wedding anniversary while I was there. It was a lovely week, and I’ll put some pictures up in a subsequent blog. However, on the 24th May DARK RUN was released in North America, and a whole lot of stuff’s happened around that.

So first of all, Barnes & Noble did this post about 15 books for fans of Firefly who miss the show after its untimely cancellation. Happily, DARK RUN was featured.

Tor.com decided to get in on the act as well, publishing this guest blog post from me about my love for punk music, and how that fits in with my love of science fiction and fantasy.

Next, Barnes & Noble decided that DARK RUN “deserves to be this year’s breakout space opera“, which is higher praise than I ever thought I’d receive! Given the sort of competition I’m up against in the genre, that’s absolutely fantastic.

Kirkus reviews have also decided to give me a mention in this selection of SFF books, for which I thank them.

And finally (for now), io9.com (who, lest we forget, put me on their list of ’40 SFF Books That Will Rock Your World In 2016′) have been kind enough to do an author interview with me about the book and my creative process.

The positive press the novel’s received has been wonderful, and I’m so glad that people seem to be enjoying it! I’d like to thank everyone at Saga Press for all their hard work in bringing this to fruition, and I look forward to DARK SKY coming out in N.A. in March 2017 (or at least, that’s the current plan).

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Yes! On the same day as DARK RUN landed in North America, both DARK RUN and DARK SKY came out as audiobooks on Audible. They’re both narrated by Damien Lynch and you can pick them up right now.

So, yeah. It’s been a busy week.

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DARK RUN is gathering speed

It’s all been a bit hectic! DARK RUN is coming out in North America on the 24th May and there’s actually been a bit of a buzz around it! I mean, we’ve had:

– Tor.com releasing the first chapter

– Tor.com running a giveaway of a copy

– Barnes & Noble’s Scifi & Fantasy department running an article about summer space opera books to read for fans of Firefly.

Also, the cover is in this poll on The Qwillery to see which debut author has the best SFF cover of May. And I mean, I may be biased, but I think it deserves some love, don’t you? It’s by John Harris, who has done covers for some of the best-known names in science-fiction. It’s a tremendous buzz to have such a well-reknowned artist doing the cover for my debut US release, and commissioning a piece of his artwork was apparently something of a realised dream for Joe, my editor at Saga (he told me that he also always wanted to do a cover featuring a cube spaceship, so he got a two-in-one with mine). That said, I do still love the UK cover, and not just because it was my first.

Anyway, tomorrow I’ve driving up to Scotland for a week’s holiday, so I won’t actually be at home when DARK RUN comes out! However, I should still be online so I’ll likely be surfacing and burbling unintelligibly or SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I’M EXCITED YOU GUYS.

Have a good’un.

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