Tuesday, January 27, 2015


With the long-overdue backlash against the tyrannical cultural capital of Chess finally kicking off, I am forced to share this snippet from a Work-In-Interminable-Progress:
“Sylve,” said Nahadoth, and then continued in a high-pitched hum, “1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 e6 4. d5 exd5 5. exd5 Qe7+ 6. Be3 Ne5 7. Bb5 a6 8. Be2 b6 9. O-O Bb7 10. Nxe5 Qxe5 11. Nc3 O-O-O 12. Na4 b5 13. Nxc5 Bxd5 14. Qd2 (?!) Bxg2 15. Nd3 (?!) Qd5 16. Qc3+ Bc5. 17. Bxc5 Bxf1 18. Bxf1 Qg5+ 19. Bg2 Qf6 20. Bd4+ Qc6.”
“21. Re1 Qxc3 22. bxc3 f6 23. Bb6 Rf8 24. Nc5 Nh6 25. Bb7+ Kb8 26. Rd1 Re8 27. Rxd7 Re1+ 28. Kg2 Rg1+ 29. Kxg1 Re8 –”
Sylvester blinked and bit her lip. “30. Bc6 Re1+ 31. Kg2 Rg1+ 32. Kxg1,” they finished together.
“Yes,” sighed Sylvester, her smile waning. “Yes, I do know what you mean.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Archive rummage: helms & firms

A while back I applied to write for a game -- what eventually became this game -- but I didn't get the job. But here's the sample material I wrote. The game was to be based around this murderous game show called Time To Live, and at that stage of development the cues were campy 80s ultra-violence, satirical sci-fi, and things like Running Man, GI Joe, M.A.S.K. with maybe a bit of GladiatorsBlade RunnerTron thrown in. We were asked to come up with some helmets and firms, so here are some helmets I made up, and thereafter some firms, also not real.


The toughest beanie known to mankind. When your head explodes, have the satisfaction of knowing your hat’s intact.

This grisly relic was hammered out of the head unit of an android named Alonso. Waste not, want not. What Alonso would have wanted. Definitely.

The blossoms of this genetically modified mega-gargantuan orchid make perfect headgear. For the sports pro who needs to look credible, yet feel fragrant.

Probably won’t offer much protection. But it’s very on trend.

Real-time feeds from fashion bloggers, plus a unique shape-shifting nanotech design, means you’ll always be wearing the very latest. You just may not know what it is.



Info: Ah, Butterbug Media! What other business can claim to have brightened so many lives with such buttery, insectile goodness? Butterbug Media are the minds behind such television phenomena as Come Die With Me, America’s Next Trap Model, Who Wants to Mangle a Multi-Millionaire?, The Great Brutish Break Off and Knife Swap.

Butterbug Media is a mecca for hipster geeks and creatives. It’s just a fun, cool, awesome company to work for! Everything an employee’s heart could want is provided for on Butterbug’s flagship location, the Dream Campus, Montreal. Like, there’s even this awesome upside-down antigravity swimming pool on the ceiling. Butterbug Media has no fixed shifts, so everybody can come and go as they please – and almost nobody ever goes! Plus, when employees burn out and have cataclysmic break-downs, they even get to relax – often for the rest of their lives! – at a fun, cool, awesome company-owned neurodiversity celebration centres.

Most important of all, Butterbug Media produce The Axe Factor, currently the second-most-beloved TV show in the world. This is the first year Butterbug Media have sponsored a Time to Live athlete. There’s a clear conflict of interests. So ... what are Butterbug’s real motives?

Company structure and governance: A public limited company headquartered in Montreal. The current CEO is the flamboyant Comptesse Accrington Mountbatten Noire. The Comptesse generally conducts her press conferences from the saddle of her robo-unicorn Stephanie. Junket journalists have nightmares about Stephanie’s prehensile unicorn horn.

Core offering: Development/production/publishing/distribution of mass market and innovative niche media and entertainments products.

Relationships: Butterbug’s most successful show, The Axe Factor, has a rather familiar format: players are given one-and-a-half minutes to live, battling in a tiled arena strewn with random resources and hazards. When the clock runs out a hatchet descends on a spindly robotic arm and gives the athlete the chop. Butterbug Media are, not surprisingly, currently embroiled in a massive copyright dispute with Time to Live Productions.


Info: Delight & Touch has an ethos of restraint, civility, assiduousness and diligence. From its humble beginnings as a discreet, two-partner accountancy practice above a fish and chips shop in Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire, Delight & Touch has grown into a global giant.
Maybe it’s something to do with the lingering aroma of fish and chips, but it’s grown into a hungry global giant. Over the course of the last two decades Delight & Touch has assiduously, diligently, and with the maximum possible restraint and civility, swallowed absolutely every rival firm in existence, gradually coming to monopolise the entire financial services sector and then – just when the world was breathing a big sigh of relief – diversifying. Consultancy, insurance, investment banking, legal services ... it’s now generally accepted that Delight & Touch has more fingers than there are pies to put them in.

Though more comfortable lurking in the small print than hitting the headlines, Delight & Touch made the news in 2192, becoming the first major company to be diagnosed with Compulsive Merger & Acquisition Disorder. Iain Fez-Granfogger, the probable CEO of Delight & Touch at the time, stated to the press: “Companies are people too! We’re born, we grow, we buy property, we pay tax, we have great days and bad days. Why can’t we have feelings? Why can’t we have pretty serious psychiatric issues?” After intensive therapy, a lengthy detox period, and a vow never again to so much as look at a hostile take-over, Delight & Touch has recently re-opened for business. The company is hoping to improve its tarnished image with some high-profile sports sponsorship. The question on everyone’s lips is . . . how long before the first relapse?

Company structure and governance: Legally speaking, Delight & Touch is probably a Limited Liability Partnership. “Probably” because who really keeps track of that stuff?  Because of its intricate company structure, nobody really knows who currently owns or runs Delight & Touch, or where it is headquartered. Delight & Touch is a big operation. It makes Godzilla look like Littlefoot from The Land Before Time. Boasting offices all over the world, and in the exciting new suborbital and lunar tax havens, the company has unparalleled coverage and reach. Don’t be alarmed: there may even be a Delight & Touch office RIGHT BEHIND YOU. Delight & Touch may be big, but it nevertheless keeps to the shadows . . .

Core offering: Audit, assurance, corporate finance, consultancy, insurance, commercial and investment banking, credit rating, regulation and compliance, corporate information technology and cybersecurity, corporate and sovereign troubleshooting, emerging capital technology, corporate legal advice, litigation and dispute resolution, corporate and sovereign surveillance and intelligence, business systems systems services, systems business services systems, systems systems business services systems services, and many, many more.

• In the ongoing Time to Live Productions v. Butterbug Media legal dispute, Delight & Touch are the lawyers for both the plaintiff and the defendant. (This could be seen as a conflict of interests, but that’s okay! – Delight & Touch is also supplying conflict of interests advisory services to both those companies).
• Since the Delight & Touch company structure is so opaque, it’s always possible that a few of the other sponsors are actually its unwitting subsidiaries.
• In order to preserve a reputation for assiduousness and diligence, Delight & Touch is very reliant on Kawaguchi Enterprises products, especially Kawaguchi Assiduousness® and Kawaguchi Diligence® pharmaceuticals. If there were ever a hold up in supply, it would hit Delight & Touch badly.


Info: Don’t be fooled by her bubblegum goth image: Ku'uipo Ashleigh Lopez, teen trillionaire, and sole founder and proprietor of Arcane Skies, is one of the most powerful people on the planet. How did it all start? Lopez tells of the day she turned tragedy to entrepreneurship: “Like, I’ve always wanted my own gigantic, slightly sinister organisation. I was even 22% funded on Kickstarter at one point. But TBBH, my ideas sucked? Then one day, BAM, out of the blue, it hit me! Actually, uh, it hit my cat? There was this huge whoosh and the ground shook. I ran into the garden and found this smoking crater, with nothing left of Doctor Cream but her collar. I still miss you, Doctor Cream! I’ll never forget you! Sooo: yeah! That was the day I decided to set up Arcane Skies, an international planetary defence initiative to develop to detect and defend against the threat to pets of impacts from near-Earth objects.”

Although it’s a moving tale, it’s not totally the full story. The meteorite which slammed into Lopez’s garden contained traces of alien nanotechnology. Patents based on this technology have made Lopez unimaginably wealthy and powerful young woman. Her company Arcane Skies is unlikely to run out of money any time between now and the end of the universe.

Core offering: Pet insurance, specialist counselling, ruggedized petwear, nanotech and material engineering consultancy, missile defence systems, near-Earth object impact site investigation, aeronautics, space exploration, near-Earth object rendezvous and exploration (“the Edge Guard Initiative”). More cynical commentators believe that Arcane Skies, Lopez’s “pet project,” is really looking for more alien artefacts.

Company structure and governance: Ku'uipo Ashleigh Lopez, after contracting the services of Delight & Touch LLP, has exploited a legal loophole so that she now owns 110% of Arcane Skies. The company is currently headquartered in the loftiest towers of the Iberian Peninsular Arcology.

Relationships: Lopez would secretly like to buy out the troubled wormhole R&D company Nexus Tech, which she feels could be very useful for expanding her Edge Guard Initiative.

Possible plot twists: That alien technology was never in the meteorite in the first place – but inside Lopez’s cat.


Info: Mainly construction and engineering. The Hellsnipe Heavy Industries brand has been described as “cyberpunk with a steampunk twist.” Hellsnipe’s big break came when it was awarded the contract to construct Iberian Peninsular Arcology – the enormous castle-state currently encasing the regions once known as Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Andorra, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

Company structure and governance: Hellsnipe Heavy Industries owns numerous subsidiaries, affiliates, brands, branches, franchises and divisions worldwide. The head offices of Hellsnipe Heavy Industries are lodged in an airship, The Clouded Seal, currently hovering over Cairo. The current CEO is Horatio Stone.

Core offering: Construction, engineering, energy, defence, aerospace, space exploration, arcology utilities, arcology maintenance and servicing.

Relationships: Hellsnipe built the Time to Live arena complex, so it has some insider knowledge. There is a natural rivalry between Hellsnipe Heavy Industries, Arcane Skies and Black Puppy, since all three companies dabble in advanced military research.


Info: Freedom Tank is a not-for-profit research and political advocacy group. Freedom Tank describes itself as devoted to the defence of “a more traditional way of life.” In recent years, Freedom Tank have been outspoken opponents of android rights, particularly android marriage.

Company structure and governance: The current President of the Board of Directors is Pastor Chuck Montgomery. Headquartered in Delaware.

Core offering: Traditional family values, rabble rousing.

Relationships: Freedom Tank ain’t exactly friendly with any of the other sponsors. But Freedom Tank has particular loathing for Kawaguchi Enterprises (“Shucks, fixin’ to humanise them varmint tinheads with their uppity techno-narcotics,” claims Pastor Chuck Montgomery) and for Freedom Tree (“Uppity pinko robo-huggin’ varmints”).

Possible plot twists: “Hucks. I mean, sheck. I mean, shucks, robot marriage? Heck! Don’t make a lick of sense. What’s next? Puppets gettin’ hitched with mouse mats, hyuck hyuck? Them tinmen need to learn they places. Stack overflow. Fatal error. Rebooting.” Rumours abound that Pastor Chuck himself may be not entirely human.


Info: The Bia brand sponsors a whole portfolio of extreme sports, and of course Time to Live is a natural fit. More than simply brand conscious, Bia is totally brand paranoid. For this company, image is everything.

Core offering: Sports and fashion footwear and apparel. In particular, the sickest kicks on the streets.

Company structure and governance: A registered Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung in Switzerland. The current CEO is Oluwakanyinsola Oluchi Ogunkoya, but at the age of 24, some are questioning whether “Ollie” is getting too middle-aged to head a company like Bia. Indeed, there is a coup brewing ...

• Bia’s lucrative Extreme Fashion range depends on licencing of nanotechnology patents owned by Arcane Skies. These licences are coming up for renewal this year, and Bia is anxious to negotiate a competitive deal.
• Arcane Skies manufactures the key technology and supplies the support infrastructure for Coach, Bia's successful line of fitness and wellbeing entourage drones.
• Bia is also sponsoring the current favourite in Butterbug Media’s rival bloodsport game show, The Axe Factor. This gives Butterbug Media leverage – they can easily arrange an early embarrassing exit for Bia’s champ ...


Info: Solidarity Tree is an environmental and human rights campaigning organisation. Its message of peaceful co-existence is fairly unusual in 2202. Although it is ethically opposed to the show, Solidarity Tree desperately need to reach a wider audience. That’s why, this year, it’s made the radical decision to sponsor an athlete.

Company structure and governance: Solidarity Tree is an adhocracy with no bosses and no hierarchy. Instead, it uses consensus-decision-making in small working groups. The last time the Time to Live Working Group convened, the Facilitator was Lysander Castlekeep, the Peacekeeper was Meadhbh Parthalán and the Note-taker was Suds McVein.

Core offering: Love.

Possible plot twists: It could turn out that everyone in Solidarity Tree is an undercover cop.


Info: Ruthless mercenaries. It’s said that the only thing that can stop a Black Puppy mercenary is another Black Puppy mercenary. For this reason, wherever there’s a major war, Black Puppy generally sell their services to both camps (with Delight & Touch consulting on erecting the appropriate "Chinese Walls" to avoid conflicts of interest, of course. Because that would be unethical).

The Time to Live athletes sponsored by Black Puppy are usually its own interns and junior employees. In fact, Time to Live is a popular way to earn credits on Black Puppy’s Continual Professional Development program.

As well as private security details for ops and logistics, Black Puppy supply defence and law enforcement training, close quarter training, security management, and full-service risk management consulting. Black Puppy furthermore controls the world’s three largest military training facilities (with the imaginative titles of The Facility (in Nebraska), The Site (in Qiándōngnán Miáozú Dòngzú Zìzhìzhōu) and The Location (in Krasnoyarsk Krai)); they also have an orbital and lunar presence (worryingly, no one knows exactly what for).

The company is currently under investigation on multiple counts of negligence, discrimination, wrongful death, murder, weapons smuggling and use of prohibited technologies. Last quarter turnover was up 14%, profits were up 10% and scariness was up 22%.

Company structure and governance: Black Puppy’s Managing Director, Field Marshal (Rtd) Hiro Vasquez, is an alumni of Time to Live. Vasquez is a cyborg warrior with 100% exoskeleton armour and weaponised removable bones. He was overall winner of the 2119 season of TTL, dispatching his last opponent with femoral-katana and spine-scourge combo. Vasquez’s employees say he’s actually “a really nice guy” and “really, really great to work for.”

Core offering: Blood.


Info: With the advent of 3D printers able to print 3D printers, 3D printer infestations have become a real problem in the 23rd century. Thunderclone is here to help.

Company structure and governance: Public limited company headquartered in New Cascadia. The current CEO is Beauregard Alfons.


Info: One of Time to Live’s oldest and most steadfast sponsors, Small World offer tailored package holidays for the ultra-rich and ultra-jaded. Small World’s speciality is total Virtual Reality immersion in the lives of our invertebrate friends. Experience the thrills of wiggling through a mushy log as a queen wasp in search of her hibernacula! Luxuriate in the waves lapping at your shell as a timber barnacle stuck to the prow of a spice-laden frigate, bound for exotic climes! Leave your cares far down below and glide serenely over the forest canopy, as a feather mite ectoparasite sucking on the glorious luminous wingpit of a jungle parrot!

Company governance and structure: The company operates out of the architecturally innovative Small World Hammock Headquarters suspended between the Index II and Shangri La Odyssey skyscrapers in The Vertical Federal Republic of Dubai, Level 2. Small World Group’s current CEO is Úlfr Annika Mihailovic.

Relationships: The Small World Group is looking for ways to offer its customers the Time to Die experience from the comfort and safety of their own sofas. Or perhaps even the chance to control an athlete ...


Info: Nexus Research is devoted to one thing: the development of wormholes, “shortcuts” through space and time. Unfortunately, there are still a few kinks, and the company has yet to show any profit. Currently every wormhole which Nexus has managed to stabilise has led to exactly the same co ordinates in timespace, which happens to be a point about 1.2 metres over a particularly awkward dinner party in Edmonton, London, 8.52pm, 15th April 1996. Dozens of Nexus drones, probes and intrepid android and human volunteers have been sent to this time and place, and they are not exactly making the situation any less awkward. Some of Nexus backers are starting to feel a little uneasy themselves – that’s why Nexus Research is trying its luck with sports sponsorship, in the hope of raising its profile and attracting fresh investment.

Company structure and governance: A loose affiliation of rhizomically governed research hubs, collectively registered as a società per azioni in Rome. The current President is Professor Indra Jumaane Amjad.

Core offering: Awkwardness.

Relationships: In fact, Nexus Research is in even more financial trouble than it has admitted. It hopes for a merger with Hellsnipe Heavy Industries or the Small World Group, and is terrified of a hostile take-over by Arcane Skies or Black Puppy. It is relying on its auditors, Delight & Touch, not to tip off these companies as to the true condition of its accounts.


Info: Kawaguchi Pharma, the pharmaceutical division of Kawaguchi Enterprises, is of course best known as a developer of synthetic emotions. Products include such household names as Kawaguchi Serenity®, Kawaguchi Respect®, Kawaguchi Gratitude®, and Kawaguchi Workaholic®. It will come as no surprise that Kawaguchi’s best-selling product is still its first, the notorious Kawaguchi Chill Pill®.

In recent years, Kawaguchi Pharma has entered troubled waters. There’s been bad publicity: last year a leakage at a plant led to the entire town of Kenbuchi feeling devilishly incorrigible for over twelve hours. A new line of nuanced, gourmet emotions aimed at the connoisseur emoter – emotions such as Kawaguchi Furtive®, Kawaguchi Hot to Trot®, Kawaguchi Slightly Overdressed®, Kawaguchi Mansplained®, and Kawaguchi Still Can’t Decide Whether To Go Out Tonight Or Not® -- has not sold as well as hoped. An “edgier” line of synthetic emotions aimed at the youth market, including Kawa~KourageTM, Kawa~KompassionTM and Kawa~KrosspatchTM, was a resounding flop.

Luckily for Kawaguchi Enterprises, there’s been phenomenal growth in its second division, Kawaguchi Artificial Intelligence. Shareholders are getting nervy nevertheless, and senior management has recently unveiled its new strategy.

Kawaguchi’s next line of pharmaceuticals will draw on expertise from both divisions. What does it feel like to be fully defragged? Compiled? To experience an infinite recursion stack overflow? For the first time Kawaguchi is going to offer human consumers the opportunity to undergo machine emotions. Not everyone is wild about the news.

Company structure and organisation: Public limited company headquartered in South Ossetia. Current CEO is Dr Yuuka Kato.

Core offering: So many feels.

Relationships: Kawaguchi Pharma is deeply concerned about anything which might disrupt the new business plan – especially the growing influence of Freedom Train’s Pastor Chuck and the anti-android sentiment he’s trying to stir up.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Eligibility post redux

Continuing the season of THE BALLOT OF ALL POSSIBLE AWARDS ...

Here's a post from Ian Sales, more-or-less opposing the practice of putting up eligibility posts: although if you frack down for details, he's mainly against gigantic authors going on rampaging Vote For Me Rarrr campaigns through the pre-awards buzz, which should be, he reasonably reckons, a fan space. Also see Amal El-Mohtar's post which more-or-less opposes the practice of awkward eggshell dances (and internalised silencing).

So, for simply keeping informed about what an author's been up to, a well-maintained bibliography like Tim Maughan's here ain't too functionally different from a "this is what I wrote this year" post like Kat Howard's; they're both more-or-less equally handy & appreciated.

So does it make a difference whether you add the header "Eligibility Post!" and the sign-off "get votin' minions!"? My guess is that it does, but not a large or consistent difference. (Even a small difference can be amplified, obviously. A butterfly who flaps his wings in Peru and then tweets about it ten times daily to 50,000 loyal fans . . .)

But one element which is likely to make something of a difference is when an author picks which of their publications are their favourites. E.g., Rose Lemberg's eligibility post highlights two out of three stories and two out of eleven poems for consideration.

On one hand, it can be a kind of courteous and unassuming move: you're alert to the fact that readers may be whisking through looking for a kind of audition piece; if they like the one you recommend, they may read some of your others . . .  but they want to know the best place to start. On the other hand, there is inevitably at least a subtext of: psst, don't split the vote! If in doubt, nominate / vote for this one!

Eligibility is only half the issue. The other half is vote splitting.

So . . . I'm not sure what I think about this practice, but I think on balance I like it.

I like it, if only because tactical second-guessing (as in second sense of second-guessing) is second nature to me (argh here): what I mean is, where there is a risk of a split vote, it feels weirdly solipsistic not to try to take into account how others will vote. (And besides, I have way too much regard for my own sparkly special judgment to trust it in any context where its consequences involve intense interaction with the judgments of others). So a nudge from an author, either to roll with or to resist, can break the trance of indecision which inevitably results. (See my spine-free prevaricating over which if any Jonathan McCalmont column to nominate). Also it's interesting to hear authors' savagely reductive opinions about the best things they've written. If an author truly honestly has no idea, after genuinely trying to work it out, that is also really interesting to know.

So, yes. On balance, I like it, so for those authors who do identify as eligibility post-eligible, I wish more would pick out a favourite or two in their eligibility posts. (Even more so if they've published more than three or four short stories in a year. Although perhaps less so if they have biggish visibility, where that "authors in fan spaces!" point may start to apply, albeit qualified & transformed by a kind of #dontselfletyourvotegetsplit version of #dontselfreject).


John Scalzi's gigantic eligibility thread is all right I guess, but it's not very neat. I should like it neat as a pin. Can there not be a sort of science fiction intern?


To find (/ write?): has there been a really good thorough smart revisiting of Barthes and Foucault on authorship vis-à-vis with contemporary folk theory regarding diverse fiction, diverse voices, and the visibility of marginalized experience as embodied in fictional narrative? It feels like there are endless delightful little refinements just waiting to happen, like a zephyr that can blow both ways simultaneously. (I wonder if the notion "splitting the vote" also needs to be somehow cunningly inducted into the notion of "the text" tbqh).


A faint coda to #dontselfreject: not an awkward eggshell dance, more just a single flake of eggshell discovered during an otherwise excellent omelette: who if anyone should self-reject? Should Adam Roberts who is good as it were self-reject in full knowledge that Vox Day who is not good will not? Etc. A bit #NotAllMen-y, I know.


Meanwhile Greece!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Short SF&F in 2014

Some excellent squirming parcels of short fiction silked over at The Spider's House (Nina Allan). Never let anyone tell you Silky Stories Are For Losers.

Here's Zeno Agency's Short Fiction Watch & Amal El-Mohtar's Something Rich & Strange.

& here's some short fiction published in 2014, mostly available on the web (I'll keep adding probably):

Tim Maughan, "The Four Days of Christmas" > see also BBC / Unknown Fields Division report
Alyssa Wong, "The Fisher Queen" > Wong interview
Yoon Ha Lee, "Always the Harvest" (Upgraded)
Timothy Thornton, "Sunrise"
Paul Graham Raven, "Los Piratas del Mar de Plastico (Pirates of the Plastic Ocean)" (Twelve Tomorrows) > in Jo Listicle
Carmen Maria Machado, "The Husband Stitch"
Project Itoh, "From the Nothing, With Love" (Phantasm Japan) > Mamatas endorsement
Sarah M. Watson, "The Internet of Paternalistic Things"
Sulagra Misna, "Homes of the Future"
Sofia Samatar, "Ogres of East Africa" (Long Hidden)
Oliver Buckram, "Two Truths and a Lie" (Interzone #252, May/Jun 14)
Adam Roberts, "Gross Thousand" (Noir)
Tim Maughan, "Ghost Hardware" (Arc 2.2) > fiction & fact three-legged race to the future
Yoon Ha Lee, "Combustion Hour"
Rose Lemberg, "A City on its Tentacles"
Kelly Link, "I Can See Right Through You"
Alix E. Harrow, "The Animal Women" > read by Anaea Lay
Cory Doctorow, "Huxleyed into the Full Orwell"
Elizabeth Bear, "This Chance Planet"
Rachel Swirsky, "Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)"
John Chu, "A Cost Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade"
Tim Maughan, "Your Gaze"
Amal El-Mohtar, "The Truth About Owls" > intro
Paul Kincaid, "The Lost Domain"
M. John Harrison, The 4th Domain (Kindle: UKUS)
Martin McGrath, "King Rook" (Albedo One #45)
Rosanne Rabinowitz, "Living in the Vertical World" (Mind Seed)
Yoon Ha Lee, "Wine"
Linda Nagata, "Codename: Delphi"
JY Yang, "Storytelling for the Night Clerk"
Shira Lipkin, "The Final Girl"
Carmen Maria Machado, "Help Me Follow my Sister into the Land of the Dead"
N.K. Jemisin, "Walking Awake"
Polenth Blake, "Never the Same" > in Nina Allan BSFA listicle
Timothy Thornton, "Children's Story"
Genevieve Valentine, "A Dweller in Amenty"
Amal El-Mohtar, "The Lonely Sea in the Sky" (Lightspeed #49: Women Destroy Science Fiction!) > on the name Lucy
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, "The Damaged" (Interzone #250)
Cory Doctorow, "Petard: A Tale of Just Desserts" (Twelve Tomorrows) > in Jo listicle
Saladin Ahmed, "Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy" > at Rich & Strange
Sofia Samatar, "How to Get Back to the Forest"
Kai Ashante Wilson, "The Devil in America"
Catherine F. King, "The Ninety-Ninth Bride"
Alex Dally MacFarlane, "Pocket Atlas of Planets"
Aliette de Bodard, "The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile"
Alix E. Harrow, "A Whisper in the Weld"
Rhiannon Rasmussen, "The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23"
E Lily Yu, "The Urashima Effect"
Rose Lemberg, "Stalemate" > at Rich & Strange
Margaret Ronald, "The Innocence of Place"
Yoon Ha Lee, "The Bonedrake's Penace"
Kate Elliott, "The Courtship"
Theodora Goss, "Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology" > Ian Sales's BSFA #1
Bruce Sterling, "The Brain Dump"
Deborah Walker, "The Three Brother Cities" (Mind Seed)
Ian McDonald, "The Fifth Dragon" (Reach for Infinity)
Greg Egan, "Seventh Sight" (Upgraded)
Nick Mamatas, "The Burning Stones" (LampLight Vol. 3 #1)
Kameron Hurley, The Body Project
Rose Biggin, "A Game Proposition" (Irregularity)
Ken Liu, "The Regular" (Upgraded)
Lauren Beukes, "Slipping" (Twelve Tomorrows)
Gareth L. Powell, "This is How You Die" (Interzone #251, Mar/Apr 14)
Denni Schnapp, "Mind Seed" (Mind Seed)
Helen Callaghan, "Sex and the Single Hive Mind" (Mind Seed)
Angela Kendrick, "Half a Man" (Kindle: US, UK)

... this list saying much more about supply of variation than it does about adaptive fitness, i.e. more about my reading habits than about what's out there that deserves your tender scrutinies.

Monday, January 19, 2015

From "Mutant Popcorn"

By Nick Lowe, Interzone 253.

[...] It’s easily the most complex transformation yet of a major franchise universe, bending the series’ increasingly centrifugal spin-offs, prequels, and reboots back into a single continuity by folding the Fox franchise’s past and future (which, to complicate things further, are in internal continuity the other way around) back together so that a new future (or past) is born out of the Singer-Vaughn canon while Last Stand and the Wolverine films are erased from the memory of all but the hero and his mentor, who in this film are also the other way about. By a productive accident, the X-Men films have wound up extending their universe backwards and forwards in tandem, resulting in the only comics franchise whose history is laid out before us as a sixty-year whole; and the coexistence of original and reboot cast allows the continuing dramatisation of a complete generations-spanning allohistory of our own world from the Silver Age to the Age of Apocalypse, with Days’ end-credit tease extending the canon into gulfs of time deeper still [...]

BSFA & Hugo noms

1) Just above there's a list of some short genre fiction which caught my attention in 2014, simply by lying sneakily in wait.

2) I was sort of thinking I might nominate Jonathan McCalmont's regular Interzone column, "Future Interrupted," for BSFA Best Non-Fiction? Obviously I agree with everything Jonathan says: I agree with everything everyone says. But I'm not 100% sure how eligibility would work (see note), so I guess I may just pick one, uh, iteration of the column.

By my reckoning only #5 to #7 made it to both Interzone and the Ruthless Culture blog during 2014. And I think I would plump for #6, if only because I'm not quite sure whether it shouldn't be nominated for Best Short Fiction instead:
Entitled ‘Not a Series of Waves, But an Ocean’, my sixth Future Interrupted column was an attempt to drive home the slipperiness of genre culture by coming up with a semi-credible alternative genre history. In my history, Hugo Gernsback was not an ambitious crook but a Robbe-Grillet-style figure who raged against the Victorian confines of the bourgeois novel by breaking down the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction. This is not so much history as it is headcanon.
However -- update! -- McCalmont-wise more nominations seem to be heading toward his blog post, "Short Fiction and the Feels," or perhaps "Uncanny / Deep Terraform / Deep Forests & Manicured Gardens" as a sequence? So I dunno. (UPDATE: Here's a really extensive bullet-pointed critique of all these posts by Ethan Robinson ... which is also framed as preparatory to a different kind of response altogether. I hope that happens).

3) Also, here's Nina Allan's non-fiction round-up. I would happily nominate Nina Allan's two BSFA nominations foci blog posts for Best Non-Fiction, if they did not sport the glaring (and no doubt deeply political) omission of Nina Allan's read-through of The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women.

4) Isn't it a bit funny that things like blog posts enjoy an advantage over things like big 250-odd page books -- and especially over monographs rather collections of essays -- in the nomination phase, just because of their relative familiarity / accessibility? When really it feels right to have that advantage handed to the books, which, all else being equal, are likely to represent a different scale of time and effort? One way of ameliorating that tendency is not being too squeamish about including a big 250-odd page book on your ballot just on the basis of a skim, or even just on the basis of recommendations by people you trust. And I think I may do that with at least one of the books Allan mentions. (Voting, it says deep within my heart, is another matter).


Note: McColumn started appearing in Interzone from May-June 2013, and online from November 2013. But you don't wait for this kind of thing to be collected before you nominate: a collection consisting mostly of work published in previous years would be ineligible.

You can nominate a blog post, but can you nominate a blog label? If texts which involve a modicum of computation were eligible, I'd probably like to nominate my personal SF&F Twitter list feed in all categories.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


"You have to puke it up." Sofia Samatar's short story "How to Get Back to the Forest" over at Lightspeed.


Vaughan & Staples' Saga: D. Oswald Heist (Samuel Delany) pukes on a baby (I think):


From Neil Gaiman's Sandman:


"Come over if you fancy some. I'll try not to puke." Sean Bonney, "Letter Against the Firmament."


"I was getting to it. I was so drunk, the next morning I vomited up Raymond Carver." Joseph Tomaras, "Cold Duck." 


Last ditch retch. Some reviews I wrote, regurgitated as Newb Maps of Hell, free for the Kindle (US / UK) for the next couple days.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Couriered straight to your Kindle by your childhood headmaster, smelling of clouds

Two books free on Amazon for at least a few more hours:

Near future SF novella Marta & the Demons (2014), about cryptocurrency, gamification, falling through love, & things like that.

Contemporary fantasy whose massive crust bears scars indicative of YA / mystery / paranormal romance plumes, Invocation (2013). (In fact you can always get that free here, but for Kindle folk, it's probably a few clicks fewer via Amazon).