Category Archives: random cool stuff

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)

The Post WFC 2013 Post!

View from my window - the only bit of Brighton I saw!

View from my window – the only bit of Brighton I saw!

Well, except for this bit of Brighton, also seen from my window! If you squint you can see the pier in the distance!

Well, except for this bit of Brighton, also seen from my window! If you squint you can see the pier in the distance!

Phew. World Fantasy Con then. That was a thing. An exhausting thing, for the most part, given the whole working rather than con-ing, but the work was extremely enjoyable.  I’d probably have to say that’s the most fun I’ve had yet working a con.  Most of which is down to the awesome Team Red Coat and the con-com who remained relentlessly cheerful and friendly and efficient throughout.  Lou Morgan especially deserves a whole swimming pool of gin. 😉

And the mass of people we saw through the doors added heaps to the buzz of the thing.  (Is it weird I actually liked being swamped on the Reg Desk.  Over 1400 people we checked in! 1400!!! Egads! And most of them on Weds & Thurs! I seriously could not even stand up, let alone walk both those nights.)  We’ll pass quickly over that thing where I checked in one of the GoHs and completely missed the fact that they were one of the GoHs.  Or the famous SF author of very long standing who I totally didn’t recognise at all and who was very amused when I asked him his name and couldn’t quite believe I was seriously needing to be told. Or the well known ghost story anthologist who I got chatting to about anthologies without realising who he actually was.  Um, yes. Brain went splat many times.

And one of the perks of Reg Desk duty is getting to say hi to the many-many folks I follow on twitter and facebook and various blogs, though in the rush of the check in, mostly all I could manage by way of conversation was something like ‘oh, you’re X, brilliant/awesome/excellent!’ which possibly saved multiple bouts of fangirling and ‘OMG! I loved your story/book/blog post!’ followed by the inevitable utter panic that goes with total brain-freeze as I then forget everything I ever knew about why they’re awesome.

And I did, amazingly, manage to get out to a couple of actual con-events too.  The Urban Mythic Launch, of course, was the essential go-to event.  And we sold books, many books, and many more than we sold of Ancient Wonders last year, which is very cool. (There may be an Urban Mythic #2 next year, we’re in talks…)

I also did the Fearie Tales launch party and brought an actual hardback book (shock! horror! Didn’t-wait-for-the-ebook-scandal!) and got it signed by all the peeps that were there.  Which is not a thing I usually do.  (It’s a fab anthology, btw, only a couple of stories I wasn’t keen on but all the rest rocked!)

And doing the FT party introduced me to the merits of chairs! Which there weren’t any of. Which there really needed to be as there was no way I was going to be getting up again if I sat on the floor like many other people did.  Luckily there was this little stage thing that was perfect for perching on… But yes, con organisers of the future –  more chairs please! Many more chairs. Whole rooms of them. Chair-con! That’s what we need!

Um. Yes. Right. Anyway. Else?  There were a million free books on offer, which I somehow managed to not get around to getting any of. Got hugs off all my favourite people as well as some shiny new ones! Had to rush off Sunday morning so I missed the awards and wind down parties and sudden appearance of a wibbly-wobbly portal that let loose strange beasties from another dimension that no-one is talking about (conspiracy!) but totally happened, honest…

And if you want to take a gander at what else went on, the inexhaustable Stephen Theaker has compiled a list of pre and post WFC reports on the BFS forum here.

Am now looking forward to not working any cons next year so I can doss around and gossip with allllll the people at Fcon and Nine Worlds, and possible Edge Lit and Bristol Con too…  😉

Catching Up – October Edition

O!M!G!  It’s not a post about Urban Mythic!  I know, it’s been a while, right?

So, what’ s been going on? Well now, I’m glad you asked.

Big main thing is the university year has started right back up and with only two modules left to do for my degree it’s all very serious and researchy.  On the plus side, this year’s module is Myth in the Greek and Roman world which is all kinds of awesome. seriously, why did no one tell me classics was so much fun. (Actually I did kind of suspect it, but it’s been a bugger to find an actual course that wasn’t medieval to modern history.) So, yes, I do classics now. Classics are cool. 😉

So too is accountancy. Though that one is more of a business necessity since some crazy person or persons to go unnamed decided to make the family business a limited company with employee on payroll and proper grown up serious stuff. Oy gevalt. This has made the book keeping a bit more complicated. Well, I say a bit, in the way that the Pacific is a bit wet… Still, I like a challenge, and anything that involves juggling numbers on spreadsheets and I’m definitely your girl. So I’m also working my way towards a professional bookkeeping/accountancy certification thingy. Cos why do things by halves, right? Right!  (Egads, there will be exams. Exams! Gah!)

Ooh, and the fabulous Shapeshifters anthology from Fox Spirit should be out soon, in which discerning readers will find a story by yours truly. Also many other funky peeps.

WFC is of course the hot topic of the season. I will, of course, be on registration duty again so expect plenty of completely forgetting the names of people I’ve known for years while trying to give sensible answers to random questions.

Ooh and I’ve booked up for next year’s Nine Worlds Geekfest, cos how cool did this year’s one sound.  Yes, going to an actual convention that I’m not working at! Stop fainting at the back there.  Might even attempt to do Edge-Lit next year as well.

But that’s enough excitement for one day! 😉