Wednesday 29 January 2014

Monday 27 January 2014

This week I shall mostly be in Finland with the day job. To keep you entertained in my absence I have a guest blog from Cheryl Morgan - who runs the rather fabulous Cheryl's Mewsings -

Cheryl is a science fiction critic and publisher. She is the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press and the Wizard’s Tower Books ebook store. (And she has plenty more feathers in her cap - just go look at her site). I reviewed both Wonderbook & Jagannath last year and for ease I post my reviews below Cheryl's post. (I really recommend Cheeky Frawg so if you're going to get books from them please do use Cheryl's site to do so)

Cheryl tells us:

Why I Publish and Sell eBooks

Most media discussions of ebooks tend to follow the pattern of false opposition that journalists love so much. Either you are all for ebooks, or you hate them; either ebooks are destroying the publishing industry, or saving it. You, the public, should take sides. Are you Team eBook, or Team Paper?
Well, I don’t have time  for such nonsense. I love books, no matter how they come. And I am adult enough to understand that both paper and electronic delivery have their advantages and drawbacks. Let me explain, using some friends of mine from America as an example.
Last year Jeff VanderMeer published Wonderbook, a handbook for writers working at the more imaginative end of fiction. It is a big book: over 300 pages printed in full colour on thick stock. It is heavy, and it is absolutely beautiful. The book also contains sage advice from some of the giants of the field, including George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman and Lauren Beukes. If you are interested in following in their footsteps, it is an absolute must read. But frankly it is worth having just as an objet d’art. The work that Jeff and his co-designers, Jeremy Zerfoss and John Coulthart, have done is amazing, and Zerfoss’s illustrations are a key part of the lessons that VanderMeer presents in the book.
Something like Wonderbook could have been done digitally, but it would probably have had to be done as a stand-alone app, with production costs running into millions of dollars. And even then you could not reproduce the sheer physical presence of the book.
And yet, Jeff and his wife, Ann, also run Cheeky Frawg Books, a small press that publishes interesting and innovative titles, mainly of weird fiction. The paper editions are not widely distributed, but I sell the ebook editions in my online store Last year a Cheeky Frawg book was the best-selling title in that store.
The book in question is Jagannath, a self-translated collection of short fiction by Swedish writer, Karin Tidbeck. A story from the book won the short form category in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards last year, and the book itself went on to be nominated in Best Collection at the World Fantasy Awards. It is a fabulous book, and as it relies solely on the words there is far less downside in digital publication.
Jagannath is by no means the only translated work that Ann and Jeff publish. Last year they came out with Datura, a delightfully creepy novel from Leena Krohn, and It Came From the North, an anthology, both translated from Finnish.
Translations are a difficult sell. People tend to assume that the language quality will be poor, or that they won’t be reading what the author “really” wrote (whatever that means). Also the costs are higher, because you have to pay the translator as well as the author. Ebooks, with their negligible variable costs, and no requirement for investment in a large print run, are ideal for this sort of project. They allow the publisher to take a risk on something that may only break even, but may, like Jagannath, become a huge hit.
There are other reasons for publishing ebooks too. Many mid-list writers are finding that their back catalogues have gone out of print, and while their publishers might take the time to produce ebook editions of best-sellers, they have no interest is books that only sold moderately well. Companies like Open Road Media specialize in making back lists available again. I’m pleased to say that my own publishing company, Wizard’s Tower Press, is providing a similar service for writers such as Juliet E. McKenna, Lyda Morehouse and Ben Jeapes.
Finally the low risk in publishing ebooks makes them ideal for projects that, like translations, are somewhat off the beaten track. I publish books that showcase local writers from the Bristol area. I sell a lot of books with feminist and LGBT themes. I’m sure that there are plenty of other examples that you can think of. In many cases these books would simply not exist, and would certainly be very difficult to find, were it not for the particular economics of ebook production. And of course as ebooks they can be sold worldwide with ease.
So please, next time you see an article asking you to decide for or against ebooks, take it for the artificially created controversy that it is. Books are a good thing, and I love them whether they come on clay tablets, papyrus, vellum, paper, microfilm or pixels.
Many thanks to Cheryl for providing such an interesting post. Here are my reviews of Wonderbook & Jagannath for ease of finding:
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer & Jeremy Zerfoss
Jeff Vandermeer knows a few things about writing fiction, especially fantasy fiction and has decided to share it via this stunning book with artwork by Jeremy Zerfoss. First of all this is a gorgeous book, lovingly illustrated and great for those who learn in a visual way (some pics from the book can be seen here in addition it's stuffed full of great writing advice. On top of all that it is has some really cool writing exercises and as if that wasn’t enough it has a whole gaggle of essays by other authors who each drop in bombs of inspiration and wisdom. There’s a website to go with the book too. I read this from cover to cover without meaning to, it really should be used throughout a writing project constantly referred to, re-read and revised. I will be doing that for sure. I think I’ll be referencing this book a lot. The deconstruction of the first page of Finch was worth buying this book for by itself! I loved it.
Overall – stunning & useful, what a great book!
Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck

Tidbeck has written a collection of weird fiction that feels both fresh and peculiarly Nordic. There are, fittingly for the 2013 challenge, 13 stories in this collection. In Beatrice we meet a man who falls in (sexual)love with an airship, and this is one of the less weird stories. My favourites here were Pyret, written like a scientific treatise, and Brita’s holiday village where a writer spends some time in a holiday village which is populated overnight by many people claiming to be her relatives and the great story, Augusta Prima, that flips the usual “human meets supernatural and is changed by it” on its head set in a Faerie court. From subtly odd to wildly fantastical this collection is never dull and Tidbeck manages to catch your imagination and take it on a very satisfying journey. There is an interesting afterword by the author also dealing with the challenge of translating her own works and why she needed to.

Overall – highly readable collection of shorts
Tomorrow I'll catch up with the Silverwood books event in Bristol Foyles I attended on Saturday and coming soon I'll be interviewing David Edison about his new book The Waking Engine and Dave Hutchinson about his new book Europe in Autumn.
I also have a few more authors & guest blogs lined up, so watch this space...

Tuesday 21 January 2014

This week I've been chatting with Adam Christopher, who is about to bring out not one, but two books, with two publishers shortly. He is running a fantastic competition here:

Here is my review of one them (Hang wire) and my interview with him:

Hang wire by Adam Christopher

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of this book from Angry Robot which is due to be published end of Jan/beginning of Feb 2014 (US/UK have different publication dates).
Ted Hall works for a blog in San Francisco and on an evening out in a Chinese restaurant his fortune cookie explodes in his face. After that he starts to lose time, seems to be sleepwalking and is writing on his laptop in the middle of the night in Chinese. He’s worried as his night walking seems to coincide with a grisly set of murders committed by a new serial killer in town, nicknamed the “Hang Wire killer” by the media. Is it coincidence that a new circus is in town, one that has a new acrobatic star called Highwire? One where the vintage carousel has a monkey with ruby eyes at its centre? One where the manager wears an old fashioned stovepipe hat and has one completely grey eye. And who is the beach bum who teaches ballroom dancing really? And what’s the link to the big quake of 1906?


Christopher parcels his plot detail out in small increments as the story unfolds keeping you guessing at what is really going on for a goodly proportion of the book. For me this is an effective technique and one that can draw you slowly onwards. In a lesser writer’s hands this could be annoying or just confusing, but in Christopher’s capable hands it builds well and reaches a satisfactory conclusion in time for the action to really kick in in the last section of the book.

There were a few minor niggles for me, not enough to really throw me out of the story or hamper my enjoyment too much though. There is a bit of repetition of information , and the characters could have felt a little more real.
The worldbuilding is light but effective and the plot runs along at a fair pace with some great imagery.
Black hands reached up toward him. He bent over, reached down, and then a black hand was in his. It burned like fire, although it was cold, so very, very cold. The hand pulled him forward with surprising force; then another burst through the black dirt and grabbed his forearm, then another his elbow. Robert toppled head-first into the trench as the black figures – two, three, four – emerged from the ground.


Overall - Being an Angry Robot book you expect it’ to be pacy and intelligent with good plotting and Christopher really delivers. Recommended.

Many thanks to Adam for agreeing to answer a few questions:
BBB - You have two books out next year, Hang Wire and The Burning Dark and you’ve mentioned that you were editing both books at the same time. How big a challenge was that?
AC - I’m not going to pretend – it was tough going! Both Hang Wire and The Burning Dark needed a lot of work. Hang Wire was a re-write of a manuscript I wrote a while ago, which not only needed straightening out but required a whole new chunk of text. Normally that’s no problem – work is work – but at the same time, the end of The Burning Dark needed to be redone after my editor, Paul Stevens, made a single tiny comment on one line, something along the lines of “This is really cool. Shame we don’t see it again.” At that moment, I realised how the book really should have ended, so I lopped off the last third of the text and wrote it again. It was a lot of work, but it was exactly what I had to do. But writing IS rewriting, and there is no book that can’t be edited again, and again, and again. That’s actually the part I enjoy the most – taking the raw draft of a novel and carving the real story out of it. It’s immensely satisfying.
The only problem was that I was doing the same kind of extensive work on two books at once. From October 2012 to August 2013, I was editing. Editing is weird because at the end of it, you just have the same book, and it’s hard to measure progress – unlike writing, where you can count words and feel like you’re getting somewhere. But although I didn’t have a new book written – like I had planned – I probably wrote more than 100,000 words as part of the edit anyway.
I’d rather not do that again, though!
BBB - Following on from that how has it been working with two different publishers at the same time?
AC - It’s been really cool and very interesting, because they’re really so different. Angry Robot are small and cool, and can turn things around quickly. With a small stable of authors and a small staff, you get to know everybody and figure out how the best ways to do things.
Tor are gigantic – I don’t even quite know how many editors they have! So it’s a totally different way of doing things – timelines are much longer, production schedules (and by extension work deadlines) are completely different. Everything is scaled up exponentially, as you would expect. Titan, who are publishing The Burning Dark outside of North America, fall somewhere in the middle in terms of size.
So it’s a matter of adapting to different ways of doing things. But essentially it comes down to the same thing – find the right editor, one who really gets what you’re doing and works hard with you on the book, and everything else is secondary. Almost, anyway!
BBB - If you could be a character from the book who would it be and why?
AC - From Hang Wire, it would have to be Bob, although I’m not sure we have that much in common, what with him being an exiled god who teaches ballroom dancing on a beach. But he’s chilled out most of the time. He’d be nice to hang out with.
From The Burning Dark… I’m not sure! Quite possibly the shuttle pilot at the beginning who drops the protagonist, Ida, off at the space station Coast City, then gets the hell out of there! The Shadow system is not a place you want to stop at for long.
BBB - You’ve mentioned on your website that your writing process evolved with this book – can you elaborate?
AC - Hang Wire was interesting because the original version of the manuscript was about three years old, at least. So when I dug it out to work on the edit/rewrite, it felt completely alien. I’ve changed a lot as a writer since I finished that draft, and while I recognized most of it, I couldn’t remember specifics. One thing that struck me, coming back to a first draft after so long, was how different my writing style was. I’ve written a lot in the last three years, and when you write a lot, you get better – or at least that’s the idea. It’s not even conscious most of the time. Your brain just figures stuff out and you learn from just writing and writing and writing.
There’s a lot of that original draft still in the book, of course – I didn’t throw it all out and start again. Incorporating new material with the old, and rewriting the original text, was a great experience, because I could see how I have developed over the last few years.
BBB - What are you most proud of about the book?
AC - Tough question! I think the book is pretty fun. I enjoyed going a little crazy with mythologies. My favourite bits are probably the interludes that follow Joel Duvall, a 19th century wanderer who finds something nasty in an Oklahoma wasteland – so I guess he’s what I’m most proud of. His scenes practically wrote themselves. I’m kinda wondering whether he might turn up again in something else.
BBB - You’ve got a pretty special book launch planned for the two books, can you tell me a bit about the plans for the night?
AC - It’s still at the planning stages, but it’ll be fun – Angry Robot and Titan are joining forces to host the launch at the Forbidden Planet megastore in London on March 6th. Because I have two books from two publishers out so close to each other, it made sense to do a combined launch.
There’s going to be a strawberry liqueur, which is the favourite tipple of one of the characters in The Burning Dark. There’s also going to be fortune cookies, which play a big role in Hang Wire. And there will be some giveaways too. And more! But I’m sworn to secrecy!
The launch kicks off at 6pm!
BBB - Talking about your short stories for a bit, what do you most enjoy about short stories?
AC - Actually, not much! I have to be honest – I don’t like short stories. I don’t like writing them. I don’t like reading them. I need something way more substantial to hold my interest.
Of course, I have written them, but it’s about the hardest kind of writing there is for me. The ones I have done came about because a specific idea arrived in my head, unexpectedly. I have never consciously decided to sit down and write a short story. So those I have done have been few and far between.
I’m quite partial to novella and novelette-length fiction, though. I discovered this by accident when I wrote Cold War, a short tie-in piece to The Burning Dark for I had the idea, started writing it, and before I knew it I was at 11,000 words! The same thing happened with another short which will be published later this year; my editor and I briefly chatted about it, I started writing it – and it came to 12,000 words! So in terms of “short” fiction, that seems to be about my natural length.
While I may not be interested in short fiction, specifically – and I don’t really seek it out to read – I have to say I am rather awestruck by those writers who can do it well, and I’ve read shorts that make me weep with envy. Maybe it’s a skill I wished I had!
BBB - Which one of the worlds in your books would you like to explore more via short stories?
AC - If I did, it would probably be Empire State. I’m quite attached to that world. There’s also plenty of scope in Seven Wonders. I do have ideas for more stories in those two universes – but it’s all novel-length fiction.
There’s also a lot to explore in the universe of The Burning Dark. This is far-future space opera, with all of humanity united against a relentless, gestalt machine intelligence. The possibilities for stories are endless.
BBB - Do short story ideas occur to you whilst working on a novel? If so do you then find yourself using them to take a break from the novel?
AC - No, for two reasons. Like I said, I don’t like short fiction so I don’t really think about it much. But secondly, if I’m writing a book, I’m on a deadline, and I’m usually running late! The books take precedence, always.
There is an exception to that, and that’s when I’ve been specifically asked to write something else. Cold War, for example, was written while I was working on the draft of The Jovian Conspiracy, the second book in the Spider Wars series. Likewise, the next novelette. But in both cases, I had discussed the stories with my editor first. It’s not quite the same as being commissioned, but on the other hand I didn’t just stop working on the book and write something new just for the hell of it.
BBB - You have described Hang Wire as “god punk weird/dark urban fantasy” Do you find genre labels useful or restrictive?
AC - They’re useful for readers, for marketing, and for booksellers who need to figure out where to shelve a book. I never think of the genre before I start writing – a lot of writers write epic fantasy, or space opera, and stick to their genre because that’s what they love. My interests float around a little, so I just write the story that needs to be written and worry about the genre later. Possibly the only exception to that is a crime novel I’m writing this year – that needed to be a conscious choice, otherwise I end up sticking a robot in it somewhere.
BBB - Since it is close to New Years are you the sort of person that sets resolutions? If so any you’d care to share?
IAC - didn’t make any resolutions, but I did make a set of promises to myself: work harder, work smarter, use time effectively. This year is going to be my busiest yet, so I need to keep on track.
BBB - And looking back at 2013 what were your personal highlights and which one book did you read in 2013 that you think deserves a wider audience?
AC - 2013 was a good year for me – Hang Wire and The Burning Dark got finished. I sold two more in the Spider Wars series to Tor, and then Titan bought the UK rights to all three books. A few other projects got the go-ahead, including a cool collaboration that I’m really looking forward to.
It was also a great year for books – I really enjoyed American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty, and Vicious by V.E. Schwab. It was also the year I discovered mystery writer Grand Master Lawrence Block via his new novel Hit Me. I’d recommend any of those.
BBB - You seem to have plenty of projects on the go. Is 2014 going to be an especially busy year for you? What can we expect apart from the two books coming out at the beginning of the year?
AC - Yes, 2014 is definitely busy. So there’s Hang Wire and The Burning Dark, and two novelettes which I’ve already mentioned – Cold War and the other one which hasn’t been announced yet. The other stuff I’m working on probably won’t appear until 2015 at the earliest, but there might be a couple of announcements here and there. I’ve got “literary” urban fantasy to finish, a crime novel to write, and another SF novel, in addition to The Jovian Conspiracy, which I’m working on now. I’ve got some comics work in the pipeline too – nothing I can talk about yet, except that they’re joint ventures with myself and author Chuck Wendig. We’re super excited about them too and can’t wait for all to be revealed.
BBB - And finally in one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?
AC - Keep writing. Don’t stop writing. Oh, that’s two sentences, right? But that’s the key. Keep writing. Even when it sucks and you hate it and it’s too hard and you’re convinced you’re the worst writer in the world. Keep writing. Don’t stop writing. Finish it, then start the next one. Rinse and repeat.

Monday 20 January 2014

The sea inside by Philip Hoare




It’s as though Philip Hoare read W.G.Sebold’s inimitable Rings of Saturn and thought – “I can do that”. Sadly, he couldn’t. This is ostensibly Philip Hoare sets out to rediscover the sea, its islands, birds and beasts – and the way we see them…..More than anything it is the story of the sea inside us all. So an interesting premise and it starts out well with Hoare discussing swimming in seas with frozen spume and how the sea has shaped his home, Southampton, but with some digressions along the way.
By the time I was in chapter 2 it became obvious that the sea was but a jumping off point for Hoare to ramble about any subject that fell into his head at any time, all mushed together. OK if they were all tangential to the sea perhaps, but to this reader the sea became ever more irrelevant to his, well if it’s the majority of the text it can’t really be called digression can it? 
Chapter 2 has quite a lot of information about Ravens (and digressions on other Corvids) which, whilst diverting, didn’t have anything to do with the topic at hand as far as I could see, until many pages later he introduces the fact, which he means to tie everything together, that they mostly now live in a few islands off the coast of Britain. But this is offered in a throwaway line leaving me wondering what his point was.. He then goes off on a discussion about saints and the desert fathers for some pages so he can introduce a biography of Saint Cuthbert just so he can discuss the birds most associated with him and the fact he lived on an island.
In chapter 3 I hoped he’d get back to the point but he was in London and started talking about John Hunter, the zoologist who started the Hunterian museum. After dropping in a horrific account of the killing of an elephant he eventually comes to the point to say that in Hunter’s time London was a whaling port and Hunter spent some time dissecting whales, it takes him about 20 pages to get to that point though and it is merely a stepping stone for him to spend a further 15 pages describing in morbid detail the dissection of a porpoise he watches at a zoo. Then that chapter ended and the next opened with him in the Azores whale watching, so OK he’s finally back to the sea, but by now my patience has pretty much run out. I start to flick ahead but eventually I just can’t take any more of his analogy heavy text. Once I realise I am avoiding picking it up and reading it I decide that life is too short and abandon it in preference of the next book on the TBR.

Overall – Incoherent, some interesting stuff but far too jumbled together


Johannes Cabal: The detective by Jonathan L Howard



Although this is the second in the series I think you could probably read it out of order without too much being spoiled, still it is worth reading the first one. We start the book in the company of Cabal as he is in prison awaiting execution for stealing a necromantic book in the small state of Mirkavia. When the rulers of Mirkavia decide to use his necromantic skills this starts a series of events that sees Cabal on a kind of murder on the Orient express with airships. There is a bit of a tonal change between the first and second books but Howard’s trademark wit and clever prose is here still, in spades. There’s a whole host of new characters and Cabal, although feeling occasional twinges of a feeling he struggles to identify (his conscience), is his usual sarcastic master of understatement. I enjoyed the first book very much, this one cemented my love for the series and I’ll be getting to the third book very soon. As a bonus there is an afterword that includes a 30 odd page short story set after the events of the book, this was also very enjoyable. Howard is a local author and I was lucky enough to be at a reading he gave in November in which he introduced the forthcoming 4th Johannes Cabal book which can be found here: along with other local writers doing readings.


Overall – Johannes Cabal is a marvellous protagonist and it is a pleasure to spend time in his company.

Friday 17 January 2014

Dark Satanic Mills by Marcus & Julian Sedgwick




In a near future Britain science has become distrusted because of environmental disasters and there is a resurgence of a powerful church, one that does not suffer heresy lightly, one that is fascist in outlook. Motorbike courier Christy fails to make a delivery as she stops to help a man who is being attacked for being an atheist. They find that what she fails to deliver is a set of documents with uncomfortable truths about the True Church that the church would do anything to get back. Using the work of William Blake as inspiration and structure with an afterword by the Sedgwicks as to why Blake’s work was so important to them. The art is reminiscent of early 80’s comics and the tone is very similar to V for vendetta and Bill Savage in 200AD so felt somewhat nostalgic even though it’s bang up to date. Sadly the story doesn’t quite live up to its promise and being a standalone feels a little rushed. It would have been better as a series I think as it feels as though it needs a little more room.


Overall - Enjoyable enough and I really like the artistic style and Blake references.

Thursday 16 January 2014

London Falling by Paul Cornell


Rob Toshack is a crime lord that has somehow come to run pretty much all the crime in London. DI Quill heads the operation to bring Toshack to justice & there are two undercover cops in the organisation helping to do so. When Toshack is caught however things take a strange turn and Quill, the two undercover cops and an analyst are drawn into a supernatural world. Originally a TV script (and now optioned for TV) there are a few issues with the book that may put off other readers. The characters are a bit stock at the beginning for example and would be better differentiated on screen I guess, with visual clues. There is also some exposition provided in flashback that could be seen as being a bit clumsy. The writing, the story and the second half of the book are more than good enough for me to forgive this. The hints and glimpses of the world underneath (or above?) London are great and the plot, once it kicks in, cracks along at a good pace with our four protagonists growing as we understand more as we flit from one to another POV. There were points where the book gave me a visceral emotional reaction including a shiver up the spine and a solid “woah” from one reveal. To me that’s a sign of a good book. There is some clever stuff in here and it gets the balance right between revealing enough to get a handle on what’s going on whilst concealing enough to keep you intrigued and wanting to follow on. Good job really as there is a sequel due in May this year. I for one am eagerly awaiting it.

Overall – Police procedural with supernatural elements, the start of what promises to be a great series. Recommended.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

3 very short reviews
why are you doing this? by Jason




Jason’s understated art is excellently paired with a story about love lost, friendship and murder. A man witnesses a murder and takes the blame for it. On the run from the police he must try to solve the murder himself.


Overall – nice art and story, recommended.


incidents in the night book one by David B




At night I slept under a blanket of books


I confess to only buying this as Brian Evenson did the translation but I’m glad I did. I think this would appeal to most book lovers. Characters hide in books, there is a book that is only made up of the letter N repeated infinitely, there is a bookshop that has so many books that you must perform an archaeological dig to try and find the obscure book you’re looking for. There is no real summary that can do justice to this rather mad tale.


Overall – Great art, great plot, great story



The encyclopaedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg




Our tale opens with a man and a woman meeting and falling in love and yet being magnetically unable to touch each other or even come within a few feet of each other. Who are they? And what is causing this mysterious condition. The tale is set in “Early Earth” in a time when there are 3 moons and before the history of the earth as we know it, a time before dinosaurs but when there were other men and women. There are also gods, or a god and his children, who do squabble and interfere in the lives of the humans. Being a neat blend of mythology and almost biblical the story manages to keep your attention and the art is also very good.


Overall – very few books get quirky right, this one does

Women’s fiction genre – is it insulting?


On one of the writer’s forums I’m a member of on Facebook one of the other members posted a link to this competition - and said she felt a bit patronised and wondered if she was over-reacting. There was some discussion over what exactly “women’s fiction genre” was and I referred to this Wikipedia page's_fiction and suggested that it was a bit insulting due to this line “There exists no comparable label in English for works of fiction that are marketed to males” . A quick straw poll of my friends also confirmed that some other people found it insulting.


What happened next was that people attacked me for expressing the thought that “women’s fiction genre” is a bit of a contentious term and could add to existing gender disparity in the publishing world. One person said I should get things in perspective and not get “angry” about “little things” and another seemed to say that there was no need to have a “men’s fiction genre” because (and I quote) – “You're not going to find 'mens (sic) fiction' any more than you'll find a 'full sugar coke'. It's just called coke, and diet coke as a branch of that, because coke was around first, and diet coke filled a niche that was required, just like women's fiction filled the need of 'I want to read books about women with a certain type of story (usually self-improvement and overcoming something in the case of women's fiction)'. Since the niche was in the market for women, why not call it women's fiction?


I have patiently tried to explain the faulty logic here, and the fact that the idea that all fiction is men’s fiction & came first is problematic, and provide evidence of disparity in publishing which the arguer asserts that I have “just made up” with links such as this one -


I have made the point that genre is mainly a marketing tool and having something like “romance” or the derogatively named “chick-lit” already cater for stories that appeal to women more than men and there is no good definition of “women’s fiction” so why is the term being used.

So my question is – is the term insulting?

Monday 13 January 2014

Some short reviews (catching up) - as you can see I've been mostly reading Graphic Novels at the beginning of the year...
The haunted book by Jeremy Dyson




Excellent framing device of the author fictionalising “true” ghost stories and introducing them as he starts to become involved in them. The book is haunted. There are some deliciously creepy moments in this set of short stories all held together by a very clever and very effective device. All the tales work well standalone but also combine together superbly with the author’s introductions to make it something more than just a collection of ghost stories, even though they are very good ghost stories, traditional but with a modern spin.


Overall – Are you sure there is no-one behind you right now?


All over coffe by Paul Madonna




In 2004 the San Francisco chronicle started publishing Madonna’s enigmatic and beautiful pictures with mistmatched prose in a series called All over coffee. The series is collected here and in [Everything is its own reward]. My review of Everything is its own reward has this description <i>This is a series of almost photorealistic pencil & ink drawings of mostly urban landscapes. Some pictures have text, some a lot of text, some a pithy comment only, some you have to search for the text, some the text is alongside. Flash fiction, short poems and thoughts from the author.</i> The first book is just as good as the second. Highly recommended


Overall – Poetic and artful


The Great War: July 1, 1916: The first day of the Battle of the Somme by Joe Sacco




Sacco has drawn a modern day Bayeaux tapestry of the first day of the battle of the Somme. It comes with a commentary by Sacco in a separate booklet with an essay on the first day by Adam Hothschild.


Publisher’s blurb, which I cannot improve upon <i>Launched on July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme has come to epitomize the madness of the First World War. Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted. In The Great War, acclaimed cartoon journalist Joe Sacco depicts the events of that day in an extraordinary, 24-foot- long panorama: from General Douglas Haig and the massive artillery positions behind the trench lines to the legions of soldiers going “over the top” and getting cut down in no-man’s-land, to the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers retreating and the dead being buried en masse. Printed on fine accordion-fold paper and packaged in a deluxe slipcase with a 16-page booklet.</i>


This is an amazing piece and one that you can study panel by panel or laid out end to end (if you had a room big enough) for many hours.


Overall – Just beautiful, I wish I had a wall big enough to display it


The complete Maus: a Survivor’s tale by Art Speigelman




Art Spiegelman’s father survived Auschwitz and this is his story told in graphic format. Much has been made of Spiegelman’s use of anthropomorphic animals to depict the different peoples – mice for Jews, cats for Nazis, dogs for Americans all fit perfectly but pigs for Poles? Frogs for French – really? Anyway the frame is Spiegelman junior talking to his father, who comes across as a very caricatured version of a penny pinching Jew (although the reasons are fully explained later in the book) who is a racist (all black men are thieves) and isn’t at all likable in the way he’s depicted. Spiegelman puts himself in his work thoroughly and all biography is fiction so you do wonder about the way he has chosen to depict his own father. The parts about the past redeem the issues I had with the book and yet I don’t really feel they say anything new about the holocaust, but maybe that is because I have read several other works on it. It is a laudable effort and has brought the holocaust on a human level, via the memories of Vladek Spiegelman, very much to life. I think in the 1980’s this must have been a groundbreaking work. I guess that due to many people telling me this was amazing I possibly had unrealistic expectations.


Overall – I just didn’t like the modern bit, well worth reading though


Goliath by Tom Gauld




The Biblical story of david & Goliath told in Gauld’s own inimitable style. The art is typically Gauld and fits the story fine. Goliath, as a character, is a surprise and the lead up to the inevitable end is so good it still makes the end shocking as you hope it will be different.


Overall – Art & story in perfect harmony


Write by Guardian books




Split into 3 sections – authors talking about the how of plot, character etc. Authors writing tips & “other advice” with a whole plethora of authors (too many to list but including [[Andrew Miller]], [[Neil Gaiman]], [[Michael Moorcock]], [[Iain Banks]], [[Helen Dunmore]], [[Charlie Brooker]] and many more). Lots of short but invaluable advice.


Overall – Lots of writers talking about writing, what’s not to like


Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott





Emmott spends this thin book, outlining the problem – catastrophic climate change with especial emphasis on how much we’re screwed knowing everything we now know. He then posits two possible ways we can save ourselves. Technologizing our way out of it or massively changing our behaviour. Both of which he points out are unlikely to happen. Yeah cheery little book. Oh and why 10 billion? Well the problems are all caused by there being too much of us and the fact that we’ll reach Ten Billion (if trends continue) before the end of the century just mean that being totally and utterly screwed is speeding up.


Overall – We’re all doomed, DOOMED!

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