Epic Iran

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(Gold model of a chariot, 500-330BC) In the book I’m writing at the moment, the main character finds themselves torn from their ordinary life in my hometown of Barry. I wanted them to find an ally and mentor to help them navigate their conflict and keep them alive.I wanted this character, who I ended up […]

‘British’.

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I’d not long started my career in videogames when a game designer told me that good game design is giving people what they want, but also giving people something they didn’t realise they wanted, but now they’ve got it, they’re delighted. Similarly, if you cannot offer something new and compelling as an opposition party in […]

Books – Stop Being Reasonable & The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

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With regard to arguing with others about who we should be and how we should act, I wrote recently about how hard I’ve found it to change my mind. So, after the edits and proofs of my forthcoming novel Brother Red, I managed to get stuck into a book I’d bought a while ago precisely […]

Books – Whiteshift

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Whiteshift, by Eric Kaufman, is an easy book to recommend you read, in part because it is a thoughtful, detailed presentation of some challenging ideas and in part because its subject matter couldn’t (coronavirus aside) be more important. There are aspects to the thesis I don’t accept or understand, but I now accept, more clearly […]

Books – Janesville. A premonition?

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I’m reflecting on the aftermath of a UK election result that I, personally, found disappointing. As with the Trump result a few years ago, there’s a fair amount of soul-searching and blame-pinning on the left. In games we call it a ‘post-mortem’ and it’s a reflection on what went wrong and what needs to change, […]

Books – Roadside Picnic & Beneath The World, A Sea

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These two books, one old, one new, continue my lucky streak of ‘boundaried alien geography on earth’ novels that started with the amazing Southern Reach trilogy and continued with Tade Thompson’s award-winning Rosewater. Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, tells the story of Redrick Schuhart, a ‘Stalker’, which is the name given to those […]

Every step you take…Part 2 – Surveillance Capitalism

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“Maybe you don’t want to ask a question. Maybe you just want to have it answered for you before you ask it. That would be better.” Larry Page, 2014 “We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers…we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is […]

I can’t change my mind.

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I’m left-wing. I think I know what that means, but I’m never sure. I come from a family who have always been left-wing. Their arguments and their actions were hugely influential on my politics. I did once think that it was entirely because of that upbringing that I became left-wing; Labour to be precise, despite […]

Books – Landmarks & Postcapitalism

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With the third book’s first draft completed and no more deadlines at this point in time, I’ve begun recharging after years of frantic scribbling. The first book I chose to read after coming up for air is a book I wish I’d read before starting writing at all. I’ve read one previous book by Robert […]

Books – The Sheltering Sky, The Damned United, The Raven Tower and Lanark

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I’ve been busy finishing my third novel. While I was wrestling with it over the last few months I managed to read a few books I’m now ready to recommend. Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, first published in 1949, is the story of Kit and Port Moresby, Americans full of fashionably existential angst deciding to […]

Books – The Blind Assassin

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“In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.”   The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood, is one of the best books I’ve read. It’s a delight to be able to say it so soon, comparatively […]

Books – All Among The Barley & The Gutter Prayer

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1930’s rural England seen through the eyes of a troubled young girl coming of age and a high-octane rollercoaster fantasy set in a bleak, violent and ancient city were my January reads. Melissa Harrison’s All Among The Barley is meticulously researched. Early in the book it felt heavy-handed, almost over the top. Edie Mather, the […]

Books – So Long, See You Tomorrow & Rosewater

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I needed to step away from sff reading at least briefly, mix it up. I got a blast of something beautiful. William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow is a marvellous novella. I was reminded of Ian McEwan’s prose, still my favourite, for its transparency and depth of perception. Maxwell’s book presents the act of […]

Me with my new book The Winter Road

I used to stand in bookshops pt 3

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In the last episode… I had just seen my book for the first time in a bookshop. March 2016. Over two and a half years on a hell of a lot has changed in my life, good and bad. Now it’s Saturday morning, two days after the above picture was taken. There’s a lot more […]

Books – The Wake and Rotherweird

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The Green Man figure from the folklore of numerous cultures and religions manifests in these two glorious novels as a righteous and very english force; a saviour of tradition, a keeper of continuity. The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth, is the tale of Buckmaster of Holland, an ‘oxganger’ in the 11th century just as the Normans […]

Tolkien painting of Bilbo

Picasso and Tolkien and obsession

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“Everything we love is about to die, and that is why everything we love must be summed up, with all the high emotion of farewell, in something so beautiful we shall never forget it.” In their own utterly distinct ways, Picasso and Tolkien were creative contemporaries.  They shared nothing, perhaps, beyond their being obsessed with […]

The Winter Road. The other road.

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My second novel is called The Winter Road and it’s out in November. It’s been a journey. I’ll shortly create a page on this site with more cool stuff relating to it, but here’s the cover reveal and blurb over on the marvellous ‘The Fantasy Hive’. The cover, a part of which is this post’s […]

Books – The Fifth Season & Nigerians In Space

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As saddened by the whole Hugo ‘puppy’ bullshit as any right-thinking person would be, it did introduce me to The Fifth Season, so thank you for that guys. Incidentally, Deji Bryce Olukotun’s Nigerians In Space bubbled up to the top of my ‘to read’ pile too. I loved both these books. The Fifth Season deserves […]

Newsletter #4 – Scythians, Gods and Rogues

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This is a big chunk of my latest newsletter. I’ll drop them in here from time to time so you can see the kind of things that my subscribers have agreed to be sent to their inbox, those lucky/weird people (delete as appropriate)… Mind-blowing. That’s my considered opinion of the two major exhibitions you can […]

Books – The Southern Reach trilogy

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I love Jeff Vandermeer’s work because I love HP Lovecraft’s work. But I enjoy Vandermeer more. Horror describes the ways in which people strive to escape the painful and grisly annihilation of the self. It can be personal or impersonal, understandable or insensate. It can also describe our confrontation with the unfathomable. This last is […]

Newsletter #1

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Misc., Writing and publishing

Here’s the contents of the first newsletter I sent out to my first couple of subscribers :) If you’d like some of this in your inbox occasionally, you can sign up via the link above! The future is quieter. I’ve set up this newsletter primarily so that I can keep in touch with anyone who […]

Every step you take…

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…aka ‘Why I’ve decided to boycott Facebook and Google.’ It began innocently enough. I fancied popping along to Bristolcon for the first time and I was invited to do a panel called ‘You are the product’. I’d put it down as an option (the organisers offer a range of panel ideas and pick those options […]

Books – Aurora and Ninefox Gambit

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I’m reading a bit of sci-fi at the moment as I’m woefully under-read in the genre. How lovely to have these two line up back to back. Ninefox Gambit is a brilliant debut by Yoon Ha Lee. Kel Cheris is a captain given a seemingly impossible mission to destroy an impregnable space fortress that is […]

Books – Dark Tales

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Dark Tales, by Shirley Jackson, is a hugely effective collection of short gothic horror stories written in the fifties and sixties. She died in ’65. I confess, like many I’ve spoken to about this book, not to have heard of her until a recent review of this collection, many of which were originally published in The […]

Books – The Familiar Volume 1 & A Stranger In Olondria

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“But preserve your mistrust of the page, for a book is a fortress, a place of weeping, the key to a desert, a river that has no bridge, a garden of spears.”  Sofia Samatar I’ve long been fascinated by virtuosi and recently I’ve read two almost without equal. Mark Danielewski and Sofia Samatar are virtuosi, […]

Books – Senlin Ascends & The Sudden Appearance of Hope

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I do almost all my reading on the bus. Thus, my go-to indicator of a great read is how surprised I am that I’ve reached my destination. With Senlin Ascends, by Josiah Bancroft, I’ve been oblivious to my journey altogether. Our protagonist, Thomas Senlin, is a newly-wed on his honeymoon to a fictional Tower of […]

Books – The Name of the Wind

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“I was brilliant. Not just your run-of-the-mill brilliance either. I was extraordinarily brilliant.” Patrick Rothfuss has written an astounding debut that I cannot unequivocally recommend. Well, that’s not strictly true. I can, but it’s clear why, despite its assured place in the modern canon, it’s divisive. It’s easy to see why the book is captivating. […]

Books – Beyond Redemption and Hunters & Collectors

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In the last few weeks I’ve read two great books; both are clever and both feature a strong central trio of characters. In Beyond Redemption by Michael Fletcher, we have three emotionally stunted, savage and amusing warriors who wander a dark and wretched world leaving a trail of death and chaos behind them until they […]

Books – The Buried Giant & The Quarantined City

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Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant bolsters the list of fantasy genre writing that pushes its boundaries and should invigorate the genre’s authors and fans.

Last week: Art, devils, witches and death

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They’ve always seemed easy to parody, the Abstract Expressionists. ‘They just flicked paint about’, ‘can’t they draw?’ etc. So I was as surprised as anyone to fall in love at the RA exhibition last weekend. The galleries were crammed with works, to the displeasure of some critics, but it gave me an opportunity to see […]