Games

I look up

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All my life, on a clear night, I look up. The vast, hypnotising beauty of eternity surrounds us; unmediated, glorious, silent. A tilt of my head pinions me helplessly on the spear of my curiosity, my meaning. I want to explore.

Reading

Books – Against The Day

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Chicago World Fair

Where do I begin? While this is not my favourite book, it is the best novel I’ve read. Pynchon, for me, is the most accomplished writer in English alive. Here is my impossible benchmark.

Reading

Books – Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell

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If the awards and critical acclaim have not steered you towards the fractious company of the two foremost English magicians of the nineteenth century, then it is unlikely my meagre addition to the chorus will tip the balance. Nevertheless, I exhort you to go get this enchanting novel.

Misc.

Billie and Amy

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Amy Winehouse had voice to burn, a sound burnished by a drunk god showing off, like He took a bet to make another Billie Holiday and won the bet with a sad contempt.

Misc.

Frank Sobotka

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David Simon’s The Wire is high on all lists of unmissable television.  I’ve heard many people describe season 2 as the weakest season. I completed it over the weekend and hope this is true, if only because it was riveting.

Reading

Books – The Violent Century

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This is a story about superheroes in the second world war and beyond, a counterfactual fantasy. At first you will rightly think of Watchmen and X-Men but Lavie Tidhar has created something here that is more bleak and more noir, as though the X-Men had been re-told by John le Carré.

Writing and publishing

Hiding the ventriloquist*

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“My name’s Gant and I’m sorry for my poor writing.” So begins chapter one of Snakewood. As I planned out the book I fretted a great deal over how to immerse readers in the lands, cities and lives of the world of Sarun, in which the story is set. I recalled how vividly I daydreamed […]

Writing and publishing

I used to stand in bookshops pt 2

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I was gearing up for March 17th, when I’d finally see my book sit quietly on a shelf alongside hundreds of others, as though it was the most ordinary thing; just a book, on a shelf. I was preparing myself to be, well, a bit underwhelmed? The anticipation couldn’t possibly deliver a satisfying payoff, so […]

Writing and publishing

They followed their mercenary calling…*

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leadinglightdesign.com

The poem ‘Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries’ by AE Housman** is one of my favourites, and graces Snakewood as its foreword. It was an influence on the novel not so much because it happened to be about mercenaries, but because I had challenged myself to tell a story about them such that a reader […]

Reading

Books – The Bone Clocks

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Cliffe Fort Jetty

The title of David Mitchell’s marvellous book almost fully encapsulates it, as all its characters, deathless or otherwise, serve its dominant theme: the misery of ageing.

Writing and publishing

How Sláine and a handful of mushrooms defined the magic of Snakewood*

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Slaine has a warp spasm

My debut fantasy novel Snakewood, due out in March, is the realization of a world I first dreamed up as a teenage boy. I’d like to introduce you to the way magic works in that world – no lightshows and fireworks, just thick bad-tasting gloop known as ‘fightbrew’ that makes you superhuman!

Writing and publishing

I used to stand in bookshops…

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Snakewood

…as a teenager, then a man in my twenties and thirties and I used to look at the science fiction and fantasy novels and believe I, also, was a writer, when I wasn’t.

Reading

Books – The Children Act

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The Children Act

I’ve written here about my miserable realisation I wouldn’t read more than a couple of thousand books in my lifetime, if I really went for it.  I thus struggle to read more than one or two books by any author because there are so many more authors to read.  How could I read another Philip […]

Reading

Books – H is for Hawk

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Hawk Helen MacDonald

Helen Macdonald has opened her soul, and unlike most of us, is able to articulate its pain and its healing with a beautiful and haunting power.

Reading

Books – The Goldfinch, The Liars’ Gospel

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Goldfinch

“if our secrets define us, as opposed to the face we show the world: then the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am.  And it’s there: in my notebooks, every page, even though it’s not.  Dream and magic, magic and delirium.  The […]

Reading

Books – The Girl With All The Gifts

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Girl with all the Gifts

Minor spoilers regarding early part of novel ahead… I’ve not personally overdosed on zombie movies/games/books/TV shows/tee shirts etc. but because the rest of the world has, I’ve got a second-hand kind of weariness of it, so much so I have tried to avoid it. I’ve done the odd George Romero, loved Shaun of the Dead […]

Reading

Books – The Deluge

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Tooze Deluge

I’d been putting off trying to articulate my thoughts on Adam Tooze’s masterful analysis of global history from 1916-1931, The Deluge, because, being so ignorant about that era, I wasn’t sure what I could say other than ‘read it, it’ll educate ya’, for fear of drawing incorrect or misleading conclusions from this densely detailed and […]

Misc.

Stannis Baratheon is not the Mayor of Casterbridge

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Stannis Baratheon

This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, for, well, almost all of it, along with the movie adaptation of The Mist and the opening of the Mayor of Casterbridge, oh and possibly King Lear.  Yep, I think that’s it.

Games

The Banner Saga

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Banner Saga

I was captivated by the gorgeous artwork when it first popped up in my Steam shop window.  A quick scan of some reviews was enough for me to buy it.  Then, as I’ve been rather busy, I shelved it until now. After ten minutes I was utterly immersed.  The Banner Saga, by the Texas based […]

Reading

Books – The Quantum Thief

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Quantum Thief Rajaniemi

This book has no right to be a debut.  It’s exhilarating, a tour de force. The Quantum Thief is a heist thriller the threads of which are woven into a sinuous and densely realised future.  It’s a challenging read, I’ll admit hard to follow in places, as Hannu Rajaniemi displaces the awesome intelligence and agency […]

Reading

Books – Rivers of London, The Blade Itself

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Joe Abercrombie

I recently read, back to back, Ben Aaranovitch’s Rivers of London and Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, the latter a long overdue read for me as a fantasy author. It was because of their similarities that I’m writing about (and recommending them) together.

Misc.

Burning a million pounds

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The KLF

It had been a long time since I listened to The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ album.  I was trying to drown out one of the many satirical teenage comedies on Nick Jr. my daughter loves in order to get a redraft of my novel finished. It’s a beautiful album, but hearing it after so many years made […]

Misc.

Peter Jackson’s ‘Ring Cycle’ – a love letter

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Hobbit Jackson

I’ve read a lot of complaints over Peter Jackson taking a short book and making a trilogy out of it merely to screw us all for extra cash. Bullshit.  Well, mostly. I don’t doubt it makes Time Warner a heap more money and I don’t doubt that to get all the big stars on board […]

Reading

Books – Here

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Here Richard McGuire

Here, by Richard McGuire, is no less than the zenith of the graphic novel as an art form. It is one of the most profound things I’ve read.

Misc.

Proximity and the manipulation of moral feeling

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Ethics Gaza Sudan

News coverage of Isis and Gaza recently has reminded me of Henry Fonda.  Specifically, the Henry Fonda thought experiment in Judith Jarvis Thomson’s landmark (and quite brilliant) paper ‘A Defense of Abortion’.1 For Thomson it’s a quite ghastly aside, the rejection of which (proximity to a moral issue has a bearing on one’s moral feeling) […]

Reading

Books – The City & The City

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Miéville City

Hopefully all China Miéville’s novels are as original and engaging as this one.  The City & The City is on one level a standard ‘detective investigating death of girl uncovers big conspiracy’ story, but Miéville has decided to weave the tale into a quite unique milieu.  

Misc.

Knowledge – a few helpful questions for the internet age

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Housing Philosophy World Trade Center

How do you know what to believe? The internet has fragmented the ancient institutions that have shaped and disseminated knowledge and it has democratized facts in a way never before seen in human history. When deciding what to believe, and by corollary what moral and practical courses of action derive from those beliefs, anyone with […]

Reading

Books – House of Leaves

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House Danielewski

If the horror genre is a journey, then House* of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is its destination. I say this not only because it is an attempt to get at the fundament of what is horrifying, but also because the nature of the attempt is an audacious, remarkably intelligent and emotionally satisfying weaving of […]

Reading

Books – One Hundred Years of Solitude

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Gabriel García Márquez

Hearing that I hadn’t read any of Gabriel García Márquez’s work, when his death was announced, a friend kindly bought me this, as he had Wolf Hall.  Clearly, he knows what’s good for me. This twentieth century classic in the magical realist tradition was my first foray into the realm, unless Calvino’s If On A […]