Category Archives: random cool stuff

Weekly Geekery

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Due to the dual whammo of bank holidays and illness I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with watching things while I wait for my brain to start working again, and happily I picked some good ‘uns that were worth the wait.

First and foremost, a bingewatch of both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. I’m not the most dedicated of Trek viewers – I’ve never seen Enterprise, I’ve got fond memories of random movies, the odd TOS and most of Next Gen, adore DS9 and quite like Voyager though I’ve not managed to catch all the seasons of that, so watching Discovery hadn’t been high on my priority list. Big mistake.

After seeing trusted online mates enthusing about it (and hearing that there was something to do with mycelium and spores in it… which got my attention as they’re things I’ve been fiddling about with for a mushroom based apocalypse thing I’ve been working on… but, digression…) I finally took the plunge and started watching. And continued watching. And couldn’t focus until I made it through all the episodes in one glorious blur of SF goodness. It is so good. Soooo good. From the set up and mirror universe shenanigans in S1, to the magnificence that is the twisty time-loopy red-angel plot of S2 and the potential it brings for S3, Disco is now firmly my favourite trek ever!

There are cool nods to the wider Trek universe, gorgeous character notes and relationships, Tilly! Stamets! Stamets and Engineer Jett! Georgiou snark! Culber being adorable! Moody young Spock in a beard! Nhan and Georgiou kicking ass! Burnham’s complicated relationships with all her adopted family members! Sentient space mushrooms! And the last two episodes of S2 near broke me with some of the emotional notes, and that’s a thing that doesn’t happen often. Bloody brilliant.

I also caught up with a couple of movies I’ve been meaning to see – Ant-Man and the Wasp, for one. I’m fairly certain I haven’t actually seen the first Ant-Man, save perhaps a few minutes here and there while flipping through movie channels, but that didn’t hinder my appreciation of the sequel. It’s a lot of fun and I’ll freely admit I was mainly there for the superhero lady representation – Wasp and Ghost (Killjoys fan in da house, yo!) were excellent and it’s always a joy to see women kicking ass and being super competent.

Another fun one was Solo. Again, I’m not the most dedicated of Star Wars viewers, but I have been loving the new movies – especially Rogue One and The Force Awakens (Rey and Jyn for the win! Competent leading ladies kicking all the ass and getting stuff done.) Like Disco does with Trek, Solo provides a lot of neat nods to its wider universe and manages to pull off some nice character interactions. I mean, what is not to love about the double act of Lando and L3?! And the Kessel Run! And shiny new Falcon! Admittedly it is a little uneven in places, but definitely worth sitting it out through the draggy bits as the larger whole is quite cool.

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Cool Kickstarters: Portals, This Dreaming Isle

It’s been a while since I pimped some anthology kickstarters, and as it happens, there’s a couple of very cool ones live at the moment.  Specifically, the Zombies Need Brains trio of awesome for Portals, Temporal Deactivation and Alternate Peace, and from Unsung Stories there’s This Dreaming Isle

Sooooooo… what are they about then?

Portals, Temporal Deactivation and Alternate Peace

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The Pitch:

Portals – edited by Patricia Bray & S.C. Butler

“From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when–by accident or design–characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. ”

Temporally Deactivated – edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier

“For this follow-up to 2015’s Temporally Out of Order, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, ‘temporally deactivate’ it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. ‘Temporal deactivation’ should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc.”

Alternate Peace – edited by Steven H. Silver & Joshua Palmatier

“All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence.”

Why It’s Cool: I’m a frequent backer of the Zombies Need Brains anthology kickstarters as they put out many excellent anthologies with many fabulous authors both new and well established.  (They also have open subs & pay pro rates for their anthologies, which is a bonus… should you manage to finish a story in time… *coughs*)  I love the themes they’ve come up with in the past and look forward to seeing what stories emerge out of the current kickstarter themes.

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/543968884/portals-temporal-deactivation-and-alternate-peace


This Dreaming Isle – edited by Dan Coxon

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The Pitch:

“Something strange is happening on British shores.

Britain has a long history of folk tales, ghost stories and other uncanny fictions, and these literary ley lines are still shimmering beneath the surface of this green and pleasant land. Every few generations this strangeness crawls out from the dark places of the British imagination, seeping into our art and culture. We are living through such a time.

This Dreaming Isle is an anthology of new horror stories and weird fiction with a distinctly British flavour, edited by Dan Coxon. It collects together fifteen brand new horrifying or unsettling stories that draw upon the landscape and history of the British Isles for their inspiration. Some explore the realms of myth and legend, others are firmly rooted in the present, engaging with the country’s forgotten spaces.

As we struggle to imagine what Britain will look like post-Brexit – after the power struggles and the in-fighting, the failed negotiations and the resignations – This Dreaming Isle questions who we are and who we are becoming. Rooted in folk tales and local legends, these stories also offer an unsettling, frightening glimpse of our nation today.”

Why It’s Cool: They pretty much had me at British horror… 🙂  There’s some fab authors involved, including some new-to-me folk, and a £5 pledge will net you a copy of the ebook which is an absolute bargain!

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/291030539/this-dreaming-isle-an-anthology-of-dark-fantasy-an

Fantasycon 2015: Aftermath

fantasycon2015 Ah, Fantasycon, how do I love thee.  Fantasycon was my first con, and thus the con that raised wee!Jen! in the genre.  It’s also the convention that introduced me to a wild and spendid bunch of utter nutters folks who have become my extended family and like this year’s GoH Jo Fletcher (and many others) are frequently heard to say, I wouldn’t be where I am now without Fantasycon and the BFS.  So Fantasycon has always been my home con.  There’s been ups and downs over the years, great venues, seriously crappy venues, shenanigans and hijinx aplenty, but after a rather excellent time in York last year, I was looking forward to more of the same. In that I was not disappointed as this year by far exceeded it.

So the hotel – from an accommodation standpoint, the De Vere Orchard is one of the better Fcon hotels.  Plentiful free parking, comfy chairs and actual stable free wifi y’all! (What? This is a vital part of any con!)  And yes, many hated the limited menu the hotel decided to shove in the restaurant especially for us, but hey, it was cheap and suited my (admittedly unsophisticated) palate perfectly so I had no problem with it.  Everything with cheese? So in!  (The epically slow service was a whole ‘nother thing though.)

The con itself had an excellent vibe to it – with tons of new people, a generally relaxed and friendly feel and plenty of light spacious rooms to hang about in between things.  And oh so many panels.  In an alternate universe, where hive mind clone systems have been invented, Jen #1 did alllll the panels, Jen #2 did allll the other panels, Jen #3 scooped up the random panels, launches and miscellanea missed by #1 and #2, Jen #4 lurked in the readings and hung around gossiping all day before storming the karaoke and disco, while Jen #5 got on the tram to Nottingham and hasn’t been seen since. At some point later the multi Jen collective merged brains and the full con experience was had by all.

Alas, no hive mind clone club in this universe, so while many panels were seen, many panels were not and conversations were fleeting things that happened as people passed on the way to other stuff.  But the people I did get to see, albeit briefly, were fantastic. (Cheers folks! Big hugs!)  Shout outs to Adrian, Ruth, Alasdair, Marguerite, Pete, Jan, Debs, Mike, Paul, Marie, Steve, Jo, Amanda, Simon, other Simon, other other Simon, Cate, Liz, Gary, Karen, Heidi, Adele, Mr Fox and all those peeps whose names are currently on the edge of m’wossname but who also increased the general loveliness of the con.

The editing panel I was on went well (despite the fact I was on it!).  James Barclay is a stunning moderator, and m’fellow panellists – Pete Crowther, Nicola Budd and Simon Marshall Jones – were both erudite and excellent! (I said not much, and possibly answered questions that hadn’t even been asked. Er. Whoops? Mooooving on.)  The other panels were a wonderfully varied selection including the fun and very educational writing in a franchise panel, the excellent present and future of horror panel, the equally excellent epic fantasy panel, the panel interupptus that was the marketing panel (cut short by fire alarm and ensuing congregation in the car park), and the fascinating future of publishing panel (phone fic, yo!).  The Jo Fletcher interview was also brilliant.  (Jo F. = actual goddess. No question.)

We had to leave early Sunday so missed the last day of fun, but awards can be found here – and are they not a fantastic bunch of winners?   Alchemy picked up Best Collection for Adrian Cole’s Nick Nightmare Investigates (co-published with Airgedlámh Publications), Fox Spirit picked up Best Independent Press, and with Holdfast and Women Destroy SF among the other winners, happy Jen is very happy.  🙂

Massive kudos to the redcoats who kept things running smoothly and huge thanks to Lee and the committee for organising such an amazing con. I had a blast!  (Now go get some sleep, peeps!)

And so onto next year… early news in says that next year Fantasycon will be in Scarborough (23rd – 25th September), organised by Alex Davis of Edge Lit fame, with the lovely Adam Nevill as first guest – so naturally I’ve already booked. (Well, it has to be done!)  Should be fun, so get yourselves signed up already!

Fab Fic Friday: Littlewood, Tidhar, Bear, El-Mohtar

Goood morning my lovelies.  Here are some of the short fic I’ve been loving this week –

nighmare july 15Wolves and Witches and Bears by Alison Littlewood – Nightmare #34/July 2015
In which Nick and Ella go on holiday to Croatia to try and reconnect, but when Nick’s choice of a walking route ends in trouble, Ella must dig deep into herself to come to the rescue. But digging deep brings its own dangers and Ella will be forever transformed by the results.  This is an enthralling tale with as much satisfaction to be found in Nick’s suggested fate as there is in Ella’s.

Flash by Lavie Tidhar – Daily Science Fiction/June 2015
It’s a fun and pointed flash piece, being something of a behind the scenes account of what really happened that time a certain planetary overlord was deposed.

Swell by Elizabeth Bear – Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, ed. Paula Guran (Prime Books)
Mermaids! Elizabeth Bear! Did you need more? Oh, well, ok then…this one tells of a musician’s encounter with a mysterious blind girl and the aftermath of a night spent together.  It’s a beautiful tale that weaves finding your own voice with not taking the easy option and is a bit reminiscent of some of de Lint’s Newford stories.

Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar – Lightspeed #61/June 2015
This is a wonderfully moving story and no description would truly do it justice.  It tells of grief and loneliness and altered mental realities; and there’s also something mildly disturbing about the speed with which Madeleine’s therapist can get her institutionalised when she speaks about the interactive memory flashes she’s experiencing after participation in an Alzheimers drug trial.

Back to Life

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00024]Climbing slowly out of the mire… mostly due to this current and last OU module being the most challenging I’ve done yet so occupying alllll of my brain since October.  Fortunately I’ve only got two more assignments left then the course is done, the degree is done, et voila a happy dancing Jen.

Meanwhile, fings wot have happened so far this year –

I had a review of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower up on the fabulous King for a Year project site thing.  As King is one of my go to genre comfort reads, I was dead chuffed to be involved.  They’re doing King books all through the year so go check them out here!

In January I was also a Friday Fiver over at Pornokitsch talking about my five favourite wicked women in comics.  Theme not uncoincidentally tieing in with our fabulous Wicked Women anthology.  😉  (Wicked Women and Urban Mythic #2 and the stories within are eligible for alll the awards… hint hint nudge nudge… Or just buy yourself a copy or two! Each book comes with awesome stories and bonus epic love from the editors… Who can resist a deal like that?)

And on the Fox Spirit front, at some point this year I’ve shorts coming out in Fox Pockets Volumes 6, 7 & 8….’In Darkness Dreaming’ in Fox Pockets Vol. 6: Things in the Dark, ‘The Strongest Conjuration’ in Fox Pockets Vol. 7: In an Unknown Country and ‘ Dead Women’s Tales’ in Fox Pockets Vol. 8: Piercing the Vale. (Give or take publication schedules…) All three stories are set in the same world and roughly connected both to each other, and to my stories in the earlier Piracy and Shapeshifters Fox Pockets – with the mermaid pirates from Piracy dropping by in two and the fox shifter from Shapeshifters turning up also in two.  With bonus ghost towns, underwater ruins, sea monsters and genderfluid parenting…

Oh! And! Eastercon! I’ll be mooching around there this year.  I’ll also be around the fabulous Nine Worlds Geekfest and Fantasycon (the original UK one, not that rampant pretender that’s emerged in the States ;-)….)   So say hello if you see me!  x

Oh! And! Also! If you tumblr, I’m on tumblr here if you’re so inclined.  It’s where I indulge my fannish tendencies so that’s what you’ll be getting there… 😛

Cool Kickstarters: Holdfast, Accessing the Future, Clarkesworld Chinese Translation

For those who love excellent fiction, there’s some more funky fundraiser projects you should take a look at!  May I direct your attention to the Accessing the Future anthology, the Holdfast Magazine anthology and the Chinese translation campaign for Clarkesworld

Accessing the Future – a SF anthology exploring disability & the intersectionality of race, class, gender & sexuality.

The Pitch:
“We are raising funds to publish a special anthology of disability-themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future, co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad, to be published by Futurefire.net Publishing.

“Futurefire.net Publishing is the publisher of both The Future Fire magazine of social-political speculative fiction, and of two previous anthologies, Outlaw Bodies (2012, co-edited by Lori Selke) and We See a Different Frontier (2013, co-edited by Fabio Fernandes). Djibril al-Ayad, a historian and futurist, co-edited both volumes and has edited TFF since 2005.

“Kathryn Allan is an independent scholar of feminist SF, cyberpunk, and disability studies, and is the inaugural Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow (2013-14). She is editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure (2013, Palgrave MacMillan), an Associate Editor and Reader of The Future Fire, and her writing appears in both academic and popular venues. She tweets and blogs as Bleeding Chrome.

“This anthology will call for and publish speculative fiction stories that interrogate issues of disability—along with the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. We want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future. The call for stories will open immediately after this fundraising campaign ends.”

Why It’s Cool: 
Dude, seriously, how is it not? As per Future Fire’s previous and very excellent anthologies, this is an opportunity for seriously underrepresented voices to be heard, with stories that will cover disabilities in way that doesn’t marginalize people’s experiences by making their disability a cheap plot point.

The Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/accessing-the-future

And speaking of underrepresented voices –
Clarkesworld: Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project – Clarkesworld magazine wants to translate and publish a Chinese science fiction story in each issue, funding is for the first year.

The Pitch:

“China has one of the largest science fiction reading populations in the world and has produced a significant body of work that has remained relatively unseen by English-speaking audiences. In recent years, a few stories and novels have made their way to English language publication, but we are unaware of any project to regularly feature Chinese works in a science fiction magazine.

“Clarkesworld Magazine has always aspired to publish stories from a global pool. It’s our opinion that different perspectives make the genre stronger. We’ve published authors from all over the world, but quality translations have been few and far between. In recent years, thanks to the efforts of writer/translators Ken Liu and John Chu, it’s been our privilege to publish five. These stories include:

  • The Fish of Lijiang” by Chen Qiufan (2013 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards Winner)
  • A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia (2013 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards Honorable Mention, 2012 Locus Recommended Reading List selection, and reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2013 Edition, Rich Horton ed.)
  • Pepe” by Tang Fei

“and we’d like to bring you even more.

“I’ve recently signed an agreement with Weixiang (Storycom International Culture Communication Co., Ltd.) to add a translated Chinese science fiction story to each issue of Clarkesworld. Each month, Storycom’s team of experts will send us a list of stories they think would work well for us—much like we use our slush pile to choose our current fiction offerings. I’ll select one from that pile and then work with the author and translator to get the story ready for publication. Every story will appear in all editions of Clarkesworld—our free online edition, podcast (audio fiction), ebook and digital subscriptions, print issues, and annual anthologies—and provide these authors with significant English language exposure. (They’ll be paid too.)

“We believe that providing markets that actively publish translated fiction is good for readers, authors, translators, and the genre as a whole. Our past experience tells us this is something we are qualified to and should do.”

Why It’s Cool:
Because there needs to be way more translated fiction out there. And if Clarkesworld make their stretch goals, there’ll be translated fiction from other regions of the world too which will be all the awesome.

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clarkesworld/clarkesworld-chinese-science-fiction-translation-p

And for more awesome, check out –
The Holdfast Magazine Anthology – the first print anthology of Holdfast Magazine

The Pitch:
“Holdfast is a free, online speculative fiction magazine (that means science fiction, fantasy, horror and all the stuff that falls between),that celebrates and examines these amazing genres. Check it out at www.holdfastmagazine.com

“The Holdfast anthology will be a beautiful artefact, comprised of new unpublished fiction, and some of the best articles from our online magazine, all in one, gorgeous good-quality paperback volume, including fantastic original artwork like this papercut piece from Issue 2 by Zoe Lee, as well as original cover artwork by artist Faye McNulty, who designed the Issue#2 header above.

“Read about a time-travelling law enforcer making a difficult choice, a cursed cycling tour that goes hopelessly and hilariously wrong, and what happens when the drugs don’t work on Sleeping Beauty in our fiction section. Discover what shark brains look like (spoiler: a human uterus), find out about the underrepresentation of Black women in science fiction, read a thank you letter to Margaret Atwood, and witness our attempts to convert a literary snob over to SFF in our non-fiction section.”

Why It’s Cool:
Because it’s Holdfast Magazine, and Holdfast is fab. And there’ll be some shiny new stories in it. Also there are not that many UK based online mags so supporting the ones we do have is always a good thing.

The Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/holdfast-magazine-anthology

The Cool Reads (and other shiny stuff) of 2013 Post!

And lo, there were many funky stories read in 2013….

Though I didn’t read nearly as much online fiction as in previous years, recommended shorts from the year-that-was include:
Abyssus Abyssum Invocat by Genevieve Valentine – Lightspeed (February 2013)
As Large as Alone by Alena McNamara – Crossed Genres (July 2013)
The Crimson Kestrel by Leslianne Wilder – Beneath Ceaseless Skies (February 2013)
Death Comes Sideways to the Mall by William Alexander – Apex Magazine #46
Dreams of Peace by Dana Beehr – Beneath Ceaseless Skies (May 2013)
The Drowned Man by Laura E. Price – Beneath Ceasless Skies (May 2013)
A Family for Drakes by Margaret Ronald – Beneath Ceaseless Skies (March 2013)
Forgiving Dead by Jeff Stehman – Daily Science Fiction (May 2013)
From the Book of Names My Mother Did Not Give Me by Christine V. Lao – Expanded Horizons (April 2013)
In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind (part 1) (part 2) by Sarah Pinsker – Strange Horizons (July 2013)
In Metal, In Bone by An Owomoyela – Eclipse Online (March 2013)
A Little Sleep by Melissa Mead – Daily Science Fiction (May 2013)
Mermaid’s Hook by Liz Argall – Apex Magazine #46
Of Ash and Old Dreams by Sarah Grey – Daily Science Fiction (June 2013)
The Princess and Her Tale by Mari Ness – Daily Science Fiction (May 2013)
Pythian Games by Tom Doyle – Daily Science Fiction (March 2013)
Singing Like a Hundred Dug-up Bones by Alex Dally MacFarlane – Beneath Ceaseless Skies (May 2013)
Swan Song by Melissa Mead – Daily Science Fiction (April 2013)
With Tales in Their Teeth, From the Mountain They Came by A.C. Wise- Lightspeed (January 2013)
Town’s End by Yukimi Ogawa – Strange Horizons (March 2013)

Anthologies:
There were some cracking anthologies published in 2013, if you haven’t already picked them up, go check out:
Glitter and Mayhem, John Klima & Michael Damian Thomas (eds) (Apex Book Company)
Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, Bill Campbell, Edward Austin & Edward Hall (eds) (Rosarium Publishing)
Noir Carnival, K. A Laity (ed.) (Fox Spirit Books)
Tales of Eve, Mhairi Simpson (ed.) (Fox Spirit Books)
Terra Nova: An Anthology of Contemporary Spanish Science Fiction, Mariano Villarreal (Editor), Sue Burke (Translator), Lawrence Schimel (Translator) (Sportula) (First English translation edition in 2013)
The Book of the Dead, Jared Shurin (ed.) (Jurassic London)
The Other Half of the Sky, Athena Andreadis & Kay T Holt (Candlemark & Gleam)
We See a Different Frontier: A postcolonial speculative fiction anthology, Djibril Al-Ayad and Fabio Fernandes (Futurefire.net Publishing)
What Fates Impose, Nayad Monroe (ed.) (Alliteration Ink)
Winter Well: Speculative Novellas About Older Women, Kay T. Holt (ed.) (Crossed Genres)

Collections! (Because you can never have enough short stories!)
Across the Event Horizon, Mercurio D. Rivera (Newcon Press)
Conservation of Shadows, Yoon Ha Lee (Prime Books)
How the World Became Quiet, Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Press)
Kabu Kabu, Nnedi Okorafor (Prime Books)
This Strange Way of Dying, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Exile Editions)

Artists who did beautiful beautiful art! 
Alexandra Knickel (Assorted covers, including this Lightspeed one)
Amy Mebberson (Pocket Princesses web comics)
Edvige Faini (assorted covers, including this Lightspeed one)
Halil Ural (this Lightspeed cover)
Julie Dillon (assorted covers – I am an unashamed fangirl of her work!)
Mats Minnhagen (assorted covers)
Renee Nault (assorted illustrations and web comics)
Sarah Anne Langton (assorted covers)
Sara K. Diesel (cover of This Strange Way of Dying)
Sutthiwat Dechakamphu (assorted covers, including this Lightspeed one)
Tina Marie Lane (assorted covers)
Zack Fowler (assorted covers)
Zsófia Tuska (assorted covers, including this Beneath Ceaseless Skies one)