Where I’ll Be In 2017

Well, Nottingham mainly.

HOWEVER, I will also be around and about at a few places doing The Author Thing, and here they are:

SCI-FI SCARBOROUGH, 8-9TH APRIL

SFS_2017_Poster_A_WEB

I’ve never been to this before, but I’ve been told by J.S. Collyer that it’s excellent so I’m giving it a shot. I’ll be in the Artist’s Alley with a table full of books to sell and/or sign, so come and say hi if you see a bloke with a mohawk.

 

EDGE-LIT 6, DERBY, 17TH JULY

PrecompiledPage.axd

A one-day event, this. I’m not selling anything, just wandering around and seeing what’s about. I’m also intending to hunt down RJ Barker who apparently has a big fluffy coat and therefore presumably qualifies as big game. I haven’t been to this before either, but I’ve heard good things.

 

NINE WORLDS, LONDON, 4-6TH AUGUST

nine worlds

 

Now, Nine Worlds I have been to before, twice, and you can see my blog posts about the experience elsewhere on this site. It’s an incredibly fun event and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone with an interest in ‘geek culture’. I’m hoping to be involved in some panels and the like, but nothing’s organised yet. Hell, the venue isn’t even finalised yet, although it sounds like it’s very likely to be at the Novotel West in Hammersmith, like last year.

So that’s where I’ll be this year – if I end up being anywhere else, I’ll add them!

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Who Killed Barack Obama?

Today, the USA saw Donald Trump sworn in as their 45th President. It’s no secret to say that I despise the man and what he stands for, and think that this development is somewhat terrifying.

Eight years ago I was in a punk band called XPD. We wrote a song inspired by what were at the time recent events. I present the lyrics (and the MP3) below.

WHO KILLED BARACK OBAMA?

Everyone’s got hope so I’m sorry to disappoint
It might seem a brave new dawn, but I think you’ve missed the point
That nothing has really changed, all the attitude’s the same
And someone’s gonna want to keep the status quo

Who killed Barack Obama? Yes a culprit must be found
Can we blame the CIA or a subversive underground?
A terrorism plot to destabilise the West?
The responsibility lies with us

If you make a man an idol he is judged beyond his means
Bound by law and due process, more limited than he seems
Expectation weighs down hard, feel the pressure of the past
And all too soon resentment creeps back in

Luther King was shot down in his prime before the dream got stuck
Kennedy is best remembered for not knowing when to duck
Guevara’s face is selling shirts for market stalls and band adverts
A symbol now detached from all meaning

Who killed Barack Obama? Yes a culprit must be found
Can we blame the CIA or a subversive underground?
A terrorism plot to destabilise the West?
The responsibility lies with us

Who can save us now?
Who can save us now?

We killed Barack Obama, yes it’s time to take the blame
Unrealistic expectations helped him to his grave
Not a saint and not your saviour, just as human as the next
The responsibility lies with us

The responsibility lies with us

 

The song wasn’t just a literal-but-premature obituary to the 44th President, although we were there at band practice going “there’s no way the racists over there will allow this, will they? Surely someone’s going to kill him?”. It was also a musing on the fact that you cannot heap all your hopes and expectations onto the shoulders of one person and forget to do the work yourself, because you will be disappointed. That stands true: Obama lived through two terms, and did many good things, but there were also disappointments of the things he didn’t do (especially when the Democrats also had control of the Senate). He wasn’t perfect. He was never going to be.

While this is a far more depressing turn of events now, the important thing is to remember that the same is true in reverse (and also, for that matter, true in my country as we’re now mired in the ghastly clusterfuck of a Brexit negotiated by people who seem to have no grasp on reality): do not heap all of your fears onto one person. Do not give up. Do not forget to act.

Most things can pass in time. But some things can pass more quickly if you work to speed the process along, and can have less of a bite if you work against them.

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Some unsavoury company

I’ve been meaning to do a blog post for a while, covering stuff like Rogue One (it’s very good, by the way) and other general things, but I was a bit busy (or lazy) and didn’t, and now something rather more pressing has emerged.

Yesterday it was announced that a rather unpleasant individual who actually managed to get himself banned from Twitter (which is practically impossible) has received a $250,000 offer for an autobiography from Simon & Schuster. S&S are one of the ‘Big Five’ publishing houses and are the parent company of my US publisher, Saga Press. There was an immediate backlash against this announcement, as this individual (whom I won’t name, since he’s had enough publicity) has made himself decidedly unpopular with some people going so far as to label him a white supremacist. I don’t know if that’s quite accurate – he seems more like a Katie Hopkins-esque shit-stirrer who feeds off controversy whether or not he believes what he spouts – but whether it is or not, there’s no doubt that his words and actions, and the words and actions of those who follow him and whom he’s encouraged, have caused a great deal of hurt and misery to those who have been targeted.

Now, the Chicago Book Review took to Twitter to announce that they will not be reviewing a single book from S&S for all of 2017 in protest at their decision to give a broader platform to someone whose public persona and actions are largely based around victimising others (it seems reasonable to assume that an autobiography would continue such a theme). I have two books coming out in 2017 – the US release of Dark Sky in July, and then Dark Deeds later in the year – and I am, technically at least, a Simon & Schuster author. I responded to the Chicago Book Review’s tweet, explaining that such a blanket ban will affect many authors and imprints who would want nothing to do with the sort of agenda that the book they’re concerned about would be promoting.

And then my Twitter blew up.

I’ve had a whole gamut of responses but they can basically be broken down into three types:

a) “You should find a new publisher”. This varies from “your current publisher doesn’t deserve you” to “if you are in business with them you’re giving money to Nazis” (one guy actually told me he couldn’t imagine working for the people who published Mein Kampf. Although we don’t know what the future will hold for the writer of this autobiography, that seems like it might be a slightly extreme analogy). What all of these people don’t seem to realise is that I have a contract with Saga, and the contract for Dark Sky was dealt with as far back as February 2015. Many other authors will be in the same boat: even if we wanted to pack up shop and move, it’s not like we can, legally. And also, getting a publisher’s not like hailing a taxi! But more importantly, I don’t want to pack up shop. Saga Press is a brilliant place staffed by people who love diverse fiction and would have no truck with the promotion of racism, misogyny and the rest of it. A few weeks before Christmas I was having a conversation with my editor Joe Monti about the themes for my next project which features rival cultures learning (somewhat imperfectly, and with some conflict) to adapt to and accept each other. He was completely on board with it. They’re cool people there, publishing some wonderful, forward-thinking fiction from excellent people (I don’t really include myself in that, at the moment I mainly just have explosions and spaceships). They also don’t have any control over what the parent company does.

b) “You’re a whiny Millennial/snowflake/liberal” and/or “You’re a victim of the Left’s drive for censorship”. I think the the first part is down to the fact that I’m not happy about S&S’s decision either, and I made that clear. Well, bite me. The guy can say and write what he likes (within existing legal frameworks concerning hate speech and so on) on his own website or wherever, that doesn’t mean I want him to get a global publishing deal. I also think that people fail to understand that “censorship” doesn’t really mean “I don’t think you should publish that”. Censorship is, in its main use, about someone who has the power to ensure that something doesn’t get published. There’s a difference between power and pressure. The only thing the Chicago Book Review would actually be censoring is their own output. They are seeking to use this to put pressure on S&S not to go through with the deal, but they don’t have any power (likewise, the staff at Saga might be able to speak up and use their voices to say “Hey, this might damage us”, but they don’t have any power to change things themselves).

c) “Your response to this has been very reasonable, I’m going to follow you on Twitter/wish you good luck/buy your book when it comes out” (unsurprisingly, I like these people the most).

 

It’s still going on – my Twitter notifications have never been so busy, with people telling me I’m actually racist, liking all of my tweets in one go, liking tweets where other people have said I should get a new publisher if I’m so bothered about it, and so on. I’m sure actually famous people get this sort of thing all. The. Time. But it’s a bit bizarre for me to have sparked so much controversy just by saying “Hey, I kind of agree with your stance in general, but would you consider the wider ramifications of your proposed course of action?”.

So in conclusion, here is a picture of me trying to play FIFA 17 online with Nimbus sitting on my shoulder:

Nimbus

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Good News in a Bad World

Donald Trump. Egad. I mean, really? And the UK still seems to be pushing ahead with Brexit, without much sense of having a plan or even a clue. I’d much rather we didn’t leave the EU, but if we’re going to I’d far prefer for us to have something outlined that might give us a fighting chance in the world economy. Not much sign of that, sadly, unless “have our cake and eat it” is a plan.

But I can do nothing about that. All I can do is be happy and grateful for the smaller things in my life that are good.

First of all, we have a confirmed release date for the US edition of DARK SKY, which will be coming out on July 11th from Saga Press. I’m really excited for this: I think it’s a better book than DARK RUN (I know I’m hardly likely to say that it’s worse, but honestly, I think it’s better) and I hope everyone on that side of The Pond will agree! I’m also looking forward to seeing the final cover for it too, I saw the rather fantastic initial artwork a while back (by John Harris, just as DARK RUN was) but I haven’t seen the finished product yet.

Secondly, as I have mentioned online previously, I’ve started doing freelance work for Black Library, the publishing wing of Games Workshop. What I thought I’d do at this point is to give a brief overview of how this came about, and what it entails.

First of all, I live in Nottingham and have done since 2000 (full time since I graduated in 2003). Games Workshop’s HQ is in Nottingham. As a result, it is no surprise that I have encountered many people over the years who work for them given the cross-over with interests in fantasy and science-fiction, and indeed with the rock/punk/metal etc “alternative music” subculture.

Every year (I think) Black Library does an open recruitment month, where anyone who’s interested is encouraged to apply to write for them as a freelancer. I tried this a couple of years ago and had to do a couple of short fiction pieces, no more than 500 words long.

They didn’t want me.

Then, earlier this year, a writing vacancy came up in the newly-created Specialist Games department. This would involve some areas of games design but also writing background text and the sort of flash fiction that fills gaps in the company’s rulebooks, and so on. So I applied to that, as it sounded like a really fun, interesting job.

They didn’t want me for that, either (although I did get good feedback on the short story I’d written as part of the application).

Then, a couple of months ago, I was chatting to a friend who works for Games Workshop and has also had some novels published with Black Library and, at least half-jokingly, said “Oh, I don’t suppose Black Library would be interested in a novel about [not particularly serious Games Workshop-related idea] from a randomer, would they?” To which my friend replied “Well, you’re not a randomer, you’re a published author. I’ll drop one of the commissioning editors a line.”

And he did. And then I found myself talking to an editor at Black Library who asked me a bit about my knowledge of the company and its products, and then gave me a brief to write the first thousand words of a short story on. I did this and sent it to him, and he and his fellow editors were happy enough with it that they commissioned the full-length piece from me, and sent through a Contract To Provide Goods Or Services to Games Workshop (which involved me having to confirm that I don’t break EU laws on child labour and similar stuff, which I certainly don’t think I do…).

So I wrote the full-length short story and sent it in, and then had to do an invoice. I’ve never done an invoice before! Luckily I was able to tap up another freelance author I know, who gladly gave me some advice on what should be on an invoice and when I should send it in, and so forth. And now I wait for the rest of the editing process, to see what changes I’ll need to make so it fits in with my editor’s vision of what he wants.

And so there you are. Suddenly, I’m not just a published novelist releasing novels through Saga Press and Del Rey UK, I’m also a freelance author.

(I’d like to give thanks to Gav Thorpe and Andy Hoare for their assistance with my burgeoning Black Library career, as well as Stuart for the feedback on my initial draft)

One of the main lessons here is a lesson I’ve espoused before (bottom of that entry): sometimes it’s not just what you can do and how hard you work, sometimes it really comes down to luck. It might be a case of being in the right place at the right time, or it might be a case of who you know (or both: I wouldn’t have met the friend who put in a good word for me had I not been living in Nottingham). Neither of those things in and of themselves are likely to give you a new opportunity if your writing sucks and you have no work ethic, but sometimes it can be enough to open a door that would otherwise have remained shut (the other thing is persistence: if I’d just given up on writing for Black Library after my first rejection and hadn’t even mentioned the possibility afterwards then it wouldn’t have come about either, or at least not in this way).

Pretty much every part of my writing career has, in one way or another, come down to luck. Knowing the right person, being in the right place at the right time, seeing the right link to click, or whatever. So if you happen to be reading this blog as a writer who’s struggling to get recognition: keep trying. At some point you might get the break that means that, if your work’s good enough or simply what someone’s looking for at that moment in time, you’ll be up and running. And once you’re up and running, other doors can start to open.

And that, for me, is a good thing in a world that, while maybe not truly bad, certainly isn’t always good.

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Thoughts on Luke Cage

We’ve recently watched Luke Cage, and I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on it. The first thing to say is that although we’ve watched Daredevil we haven’t seen Jessica Jones. Reason? If you’ve worked for a homelessness charity for the last thirteen years or so then a series that’s primarily focused on emotional abuse of a female character just seems a bit too much like work. I applaud that it’s been made, and that it’s brought up conversation about domestic abuse and gaslighting, but I don’t want to watch it. Luckily, not having seen the preceding series doesn’t matter that much. You get something of a cold open with Luke Cage, but it quickly establishes who he is and what he can do, even if it takes a little why to get to the “why” of it.

One thing I loved about the series was the feel of the setting. As should be fairly obvious to anyone who’s seen a picture of me or read my bio, I am not a black American, and especially not one from Harlem. As a result I can’t comment on whether the portrayal of Harlem and the culture within it in this series is accurate, but what I can comment on is the fact that it felt real and natural. It’s also a big departure from the tone of Daredevil: Matt Murdock is a Hell’s Kitchen boy “made good”, if you like, now working as an attorney (albeit one in near-constant money trouble). By day, he helps people in his community by doing things that they don’t have the legal knowledge to do, and by night he helps his community by skulking through shadows and knocking seven bells out of people who possibly deserve it.

Luke Cage isn’t a Harlem native: he’s from Georgia. However, he’s definitely part of his community. Everyone knows his name, and it’s not long before at least some people find out what he can do. What’s more, unlike in Daredevil, the antagonists we meet at the start of Luke Cage are from the same community. It’s no spoiler to say that Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes is presented as the main antagonist at the start of the series: it’s only about twenty minutes in that you realise he’s definitely up to no good. Also, Luke Cage works at his nightclub washing dishes. Another main character, Detective Misty Knight, recognises a young dead man at the site of a shootout because she knows his mother. This level of closeness is something far removed from Daredevil, where the heroes spent most of the first series trying to piece together who it was they were actually working against.

Some people have criticised Luke Cage as starting slowly, but I would disagree. I think the pacing works very well throughout, and it certainly held my interest. If I had a criticism at all, it would be that about halfway through the series there is a major TWIST~! that sets it on a new course, and it was a course I enjoyed less. I can’t really comment much on that without spoiling it for those that haven’t seen it, but a new character gets a lot of focus and while they are an interesting character, it damages the balance of the series for me. I think I enjoy things less when heroes are set against some sort of personal vendetta, unless that vendetta has been accrued by the actions of the hero that we’ve already seen. In Daredevil, for example, Wilson Fisk absolutely hates Matt Murdock, and that’s entirely valid and compelling because we’ve seen exactly why he should. The reasoning for the personal vendetta in Luke Cage feels somewhat shallow in comparison.

Overall, I can highly recommend Luke Cage. It has a strong performance from the lead and compelling secondary and background characters: no-one really feels like a stereotype, pretty much everyone has nuance and detail. I especially enjoyed Shades, who in some ways was the most intriguing character going. One thing I can say, though, is don’t expect a clean-cut ending: there are certainly some threads left dangling…

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Scifi Panel At Waterstones – The Aftermath

Well, that was rather fun!

“That”, in this context, was this:

Waterstone poster

On Monday evening I joined forces with Rod Duncan, Andrew Bannister and Deborah Install at the gracious invitation of Dan at Nottingham Waterstones to be part of a panel about scifi. Nottingham is now a City of Literature, or something, so although none of us seemed quite sure what that means Dan is very eager to promote the authors of Nottingham outside of the genres it’s known for (playwrights and crime writers I think, mainly).

I don’t think I can really recount everything that we talked about, but we all agreed on various things such as how we write because we feel the need to tell stories, even if it’s just to ourselves (obviously for us, we’re lucky that it’s not just to ourselves – I guess your milage may vary as to whether anyone else thinks that makes *them* lucky…), that we write in a linear fashion, and that research can end up being somewhat all-consuming unless we rein ourselves in.

I’d like to thank Dan for organising it, my three fellow writers for their excellent contributions, and everyone who came along to make it such a fun evening and ask interesting questions.

Andrew, me, Deborah, Rod

Andrew, me, Deborah, Rod

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Sci-Fi Panel at Nottingham Waterstones

I like Nottingham Waterstones: they put my books out onto display tables and other nice stuff like that.

They also ask me to come and speak on a panel of science fiction authors.

Enter here for scifi goodness.

Enter here for scifi goodness.

This panel will be taking place on Monday October 10th from 7pm: it’s not certain yet whether entry will be free or whether there will be a £3 entry fee that will be redeemable against a purchase of a book by one of the featured authors, but I’ll update about that as soon as I know.

“And who are these featured authors?” I hear you cry:

Deborah Install

Andrew Bannister

Rod Duncan

While we don’t yet know exactly what we’re going to be asked about, it seems that there will be general discussions on the subjects of world-building and research, our own individual preferences, and about science fiction’s place in the world of literature today. I’m looking forward to it a lot, and I’d love for you to come and join me.

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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

Credit: Andrew Merritt

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

Credit: Andrew Merritt

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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