Month: March 2011

Double Identities


Somewhere near Ludlow.

The roads are awash, partly due to all that melted snow, and partly due to a genuine god-almighty downpour. They’re awash with mud.

More to the point, there’s so much water knocking (or more accurately, sloshing) around that it’s pretty much knocked the bridge into one side of Ludlow down.

And we’re on the wrong side of the river.

To get to the right side requires a twenty-minute detour through woods, fields and quaint little villages; up steep hills, down twisty roads and–eventually–past a windmill.

I’m beginning to feel like I’m in Sleepy Hollow.

Other Half operates on much the same sort of frequency, so at one point he looks up from the steering wheel and says: “Don’t you feel like we’re in the middle of an episode of Supernatural?”

I shriek at him to watchtheroadwatchtheroaddeargodpleasewatchtheroad (which is my default response in a car with him) and then it occurs to me–just as Kansas shuffle their way onto my ipod–that he’s sort of got a point.

And this raises the immediate question: “So who’s Sam & who’s Dean?” (side note: these links are wiki bios & may be slightly spoilery).

All family relationships aside, this becomes a more heated debate than you’d imagine. I’m adamant that really, I have to be Dean because not only do I have much better taste in music, as evidenced by the ipod, but… well, there’s no easy way to put this: I’m just cooler. Plus he’s got that Sam-scowl thing down pat. His response is that he’s Dean, because Dean drives.

This continues for quite some time round the backroads of Worcestershire… and all the while, Castiel snores in his child-seat in the back, clutching his toy bunny.


This sort of thing happens to me a lot. I get into these conversations. They’re brilliant, aren’t they? You find yourself arguing in an utterly irrational manner about utterly, utterly trivial details–the same utterly, utterly trivial details which are absolutely fundamental to your case and establishing your General Rightness (plus your superior level of both pop culture and self-knowledge. And stuff).

Most recently, it’s been Hawaii Five-O based, and with the ever-lovely Judo ninja, Alasdair Stuart: he’s fairly confident he’s a Danno. Other Half is quite clearly a Mcgarrett (which seems to please him). I suspect I’m basically Chin Ho Kelly, but I freely admit that much of this is based on the fact that he rides around on a motorbike with a shotgun and just looks amazingly cool doing it. Which is me all over, right?

But in a wonderfully meta piece of writing, while we’re all obsessing over which TV characters we’d be, they’re doing it too…

Geektastic. And it makes me love the show that little bit more.

But the Dean thing? I’m totally right.

So, tell me: who would you be?



Here Endeth the Lesson

I’ve learned several things this week.

1. That a new playground, in a new town, is just like being the new kid at school. Seriously. You don’t believe me? Fresh from the shiny hell of the first “settling-in” session at Small Boy’s new nursery (which, I’ve come to realise, is just code for: “an hour where you will sit and watch just how appalling small children really are to each other. And also how far that kid over there can stick a piece of chalk up his nose before one of the staff hauls him off to the nurse…”) we hit the park and playground over the road. It is, to be fair, a spectacular playground–and as you can imagine, on the first of the warm, spring-y Friday afternoons this year, it was packed.

We stepped through the gate. It creaked behind us, and slammed shut with an ominous clang. Every pair of eyes suddenly turned our way. All of them. Even the seagulls’.

It was terrifying: for a minute, I found myself thinking of poor old Edward Woodward pitching up on Summerisle. And then, after what felt like an hour, everyone just went straight back to what they were doing in the first place. But I’ll be keeping a very close eye on things–first hint of a maypole and I’m off.

2. Moving house is the work of the devil. The less said about this the better. Onwards.

3. I have been incredibly foolish in not reading Joe Hill‘s “Heart-Shaped Box” sooner. I’ve meant to read it, in a flimsy sort of way, for a while, but I’ve finally got round to it and I’m hooked. There’s something about the flow of Hill’s sentences, his language, that really appeals to me–and it manages to pull off the trick of being genuinely creepy without being trite.

4. Re: the above? Do not read books like “Heart-Shaped Box” in a flat with dodgy wiring, where the lights are prone to random flickering. It doesn’t do much for your sanity.

5. That the simplest ideas are often the most spectacular. I mentioned back on Monday that Amanda Rutter had asked on Twitter why the specfic community didn’t have a response to the Japan crisis, and as a result, a group of us formed Genre for Japan. We closed to donations of auction lots on Friday, and as far as I’m aware, we’ve now received close to 140. There’s some incredibly special things in there–and I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the people running it.

We’ve been genuinely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity. It goes far and beyond anything we imagined, and in the meantime, we’ve been featured in the Guardian books blog, Publisher’s Weekly and on Bleeding Cool, to name just a few. It’s been incredibly hard work getting it up and running, but it’s worth it: it feels like everyone has really thrown their weight behind it to make it a real community event, and one I’m so proud to be a part of.

If you’ve not looked at the site yet, do go and browse: we’ve listed most (but not quite all) of our lots, although the auctions don’t open until Monday. They run all week, closing Sunday night. Take a good look around–I’m sure you’ll find at least one thing you can’t live without!–and bid. Every single penny we raise goes directly to the BRC’s Japan Tsunami appeal.

6. This is possibly the most important lesson of them all. This is really one to live by.

You ready?

When shaking a bottle of juice, for god’s sake, make sure the lid’s on properly, would you?

My hoodie is never going to be the same again…..

Pinch of Salt

I went all quiet again, didn’t I? Don’t panic: I haven’t been clobbered by yet more woe (although I have taken to walking along with one eye on the sky, one looking behind me and one looking at where I put my feet… just in case. You work that one out, because I can’t!) but instead I’ve been involved in a wonderful new project: Genre For Japan.

Driven by Amanda Rutter of Floor to Ceiling Books, the idea is to bring the genre community together to raise money for the British Red Cross’ Japan Tsunami appeal in the best way possible: by giving you a chance to buy Stuff.

And not just any old Stuff, either: thanks to the generosity of publishers, authors, agents and fans of SFF, this is Amazing Stuff. Stuff Which You Cannot Live Without, all with the genre fan in mind.

It’s humbling, seeing how many items have been donated, and also the phenomenal level of interest. If you spend any time on genre-focused websites, or you’re part of the same corner of Twitter as I am, chances are you know all about this already.

And if you don’t, the details are here.

Keep checking the site, too, as more information will be going up over the course of this week ahead of the auction launch next Monday. It’s an awesome cause, and there are incredible people getting involved. Please, please support us, and help us to raise truckloads of money for the Red Cross.

In other news, I watched Salt over the weekend. I was quite looking forward to it – when it was released, much was made of the fact it was a spy-action-chasey-shooty-thriller… but with a woman as the lead. And, let’s face it, there aren’t really as many of those as there should be: particularly given the main thread of the plot (without giving anything away) is a woman trying to outrun spies to protect her husband.

This is a neat reversal of the usual “spy races against the clock to save his impossibly beautiful, elegant, intelligent wife” – but boy, did it frustrate me. It wasted an opportunity to do something really interesting and ended up sort of making a hashed-up, mashed-up version of The Recruit meets Mission Impossible (perhaps not surprising, given that it was written by Kurt Wimmer and – if memory serves – was originally a Tom Cruise vehicle, rewritten for Angelina Jolie).

It could have said so many things about husband-wife relationships, gender-power balance, the role of women in dangerous places and jobs… but it felt like the rewrite went as deep as doing a search & replace, exchanging “he” for “she”.

And the ending just made me cross.

(Interestingly, my Other Half – sitting next to me and watching me seethe in the grip of femrage – laughed as discreetly as he dared, shook his head and said, “You’re getting worse.”)

And he’s probably right.

The Lost Thing

How pleased were we when Shaun Tan won this year’s Oscar for Best Short Animated Film?

Very. We were very pleased. So pleased, we had to make ourselves plural.

Anyway, courtesy of Ellen Datlow‘s link, you can watch it here.

It makes me smile, and the big set piece reminds me of my favourite artists–people like Miro and Kandinsky. It’s beautiful and warm and sweet and poignant. And the ending… oh, it’s wonderful.

If you’ve not seen it, I hope you love it as much as I do. We do.

Just watch it, OK?

(Also, how did it manage to pass me by that Tim Minchin is the narrator? How? How???)

You Know What This Needs?

And no, it’s not more cowbell.

It needs a bunch of kids standing around in a wood, staring at a weather balloon, while a woman tromps around wearing either period costume or a sparkly minidress with half a bird on her head.

Odd sort of concept for a music video.

That’s not to say I don’t like it – I do, very much. I’ve got a weakness for Breton music (the product of too many summers spent over in Finisterre growing up) but I’ve only just discovered Nolwenn Leroy, thanks to Kari Sperring. Apparently she’s the sign of a summer of Big Breton Things to come.

Menhirs, maybe?

That song has buried itself neatly in my head–and only now, after half a dozen viewings, am I wondering why it makes me think of Brotherhood of the Wolf.

It’s the woods, isn’t it?

Speaking of which, go on. Really explore the studio space

Witch Bottle

Who knows what a witch bottle is?

Without Googling, thankyouverymuch (and you… yes, you at the back, don’t think I can’t see you firing up that Wikipedia app under the table).

A witch bottle, traditionally speaking, is a small glass bottle or jar (usually, but not necessarily, blue or green) filled with odds and ends: needles, pins, hair clippings and threads–all designed to draw evil away from a witch’s target. As this is a meandering sort of post, all bits and bobs and very little coherent thought, it seemed like an apt sort of title.

Mind you, strictly speaking, witch bottles were usually topped-off with urine. So, umm, moving on.

Firstly, I’m thrilled to report that “Murderess Lane” has appeared on Ellen Datlow’s “Honorable Mentions” list for 2010.

It’s a very long list, I know, but it includes many writers far better–and in most cases, wiser–than me; people I look up to and respect immensely (as well as the author who has probably been the single greatest influence on me over the years, and who still renders me unable to string together a sensible sentence–but y’all know about my latent fangirl already. Most of the time, I just hit her with a shovel and tell her to get back in the basement.) so I’m bowled over to make an appearance.

So yeah. Big list. On it. Very pleased indeed.


Oh, yes. I just finished reading Charles Yu‘s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe“, which is brilliant in the truest sense of the word, and which everyone should read. It’s clever and funny and geeky, and surprisingly touching, and I’ll try and talk about it in a little more detail later in the week.

Moving from SF to horror: the Zompocalypse is coming. What foodstuffs would you stockpile? That’s what The Zombie Feed were asking last week. Granted, claiming that flamethrowers were a food group was probably a long shot (I knew I should have gone for rocketlaunchers: they’re higher in fibre), but I think I came up with the next best thing; a true multi-tasker. Vodka. You know it makes sense. Although looking at the other answers, Jared from Pornokitsch has a very good point.

Cats v zombies. There’s a thought. My money’s on the kittehs and I, for one, would welcome our new feline overlords.

One last thing: over on his blog, Michael Marshall Smith has turned his considerable attention to the Culture of Free. And cheese.

I do love it when he gets cross.

Becoming Alice

It was supposed to be a little more straightforward than this.

Back in August, I had an Idea.

Actually, that’s simplifying it somewhat. Back in August, three ideas that had been swirling around in my head for quite some time suddenly found each other and, obviously drawing comfort from the fact they weren’t alone in the grey mist, clung together.

I poked them with a stick for a bit, like you do, and they grunted at me and told me to get out of their room. Great. Not only can I not keep control of my own ideas, but they go teenage on me. Anyway. The three ideas stuck together and became one Idea–which is where Alice came from.

It seemed an obvious choice for a name: one part Lewis Carroll to one part Resident Evil*, I couldn’t call her anything else… and besides, she didn’t seem to want to answer to anything else. I watched as–apparently without any help from me–she found her own voice, her own way of doing things, and an attitude. Sweet lord, did she pick up an attitude. I rather liked her. We rubbed along quite nicely through 80,000-odd words: I knew what she was about and where she had to go, and she knew what she wanted to do about getting there. All good. And then my mother died.

You see, here’s the thing about Alice. So much of her hinges on her relationship with her mother, who died when she was six. Quite unexpectedly, I had to finish writing her story–a story about a character still dealing with the death of her mother–while I was still grieving for my own.

That was… umm, what shall we say? Tricky? Keeping Alice in her box; keeping my own issues on the right side of the paper… screen… whatever. That was something I hadn’t counted on.

But that’s life, isn’t it? I saw something on Twitter the other day, which I now shamelessly appropriate for my own ends:

If life hands you lemons, put them in your inventory screen.

Remember that iron door, three rooms back, with the lemon-shaped keyhole.

I finished.

It gave me something to focus on, besides all the Stuff That Gets Focused On When Someone Dies. And besides, it was less than a month ago that my mother stood in her kitchen and asked me: “What are you writing that thing for, anyway?”

I wrote it because I had to. And I finished it because I had to.

I finished it because suddenly, Alice and I had a lot more in common than I thought.

(Except, if I’m honest, she’s got a much better haircut than me.)

* for which, as I discovered after my recent post, I am not alone in harbouring a secret love…

The Toy-Chest of Dr Carbonara

I love me a bootleg. I do. The more conspicuously rubbish, the more tenuous the link, the better.

Take any of The Asylum‘s output–or better still, take all of it (Transmorphers, anyone? Snakes on a Train?). Have I seen any of it? Christ, no. Whatever do you take me for? But do I love the idea? The sheer out-there-ness of it? Absolutely.

This has been doing the rounds for a day or two now, but how–how, I ask–could I not?

Welcome to the alternative childhood: a strange world where the bootleg toys are almost better than the real deal.

Step through the wormhole, wonder as the universes collapse and bring you the joys of…

Darth Vader: Star Knight!

or – Archer-Spiderman (and his sidekick, Angler Spiderman)!

Brilliant, brilliant things. And when I say “brilliant”, I mean “crap”.

But if this is your bag (and let’s face it, it is. Go on, admit it: it’s everyone’s bag) there’s an entire site dedicated to them.

I, for one, will be holding out for a Silverbat from Santa.

(Bonus points and virtual cookies, by the way, if you correctly spotted the poorly-bootlegged title…)


Suffragette poster

It’s International Women’s Day.

What does that mean, exactly – the whole “woman” thing?

What is it, to be a woman in the modern world? What’s our role, our purpose? What are our goals?

Well, presumably, to some people, that’s an easy question. And here’s the answer.

Yep. Sorry about that.

Believe it or not, I actually saw that on the flight back from New York last December. The cabin crew had to forcibly drag me back to my seat as I screamed “Make it stop!” And to anyone who points out that I could have just turned it off, I would answer: I already had… but like one of Lovecraft’s unfortunate protagonists, the horror had burned itself indelibly into my memory, where it lurks and gibbers unspeakable things.

And to others…




Keep the Choos. That’s what I’m talking about, right there.

And that’s even without mentioning Elizabeth I or Aung San Suu Kyi; without bringing up some of my own idols Jane Espenson or Sera Gamble or Tina Fey; without getting close to talking about Emmeline Pankhurst or Emily Davison

From the sublime to the ridiculous, from the banal to the brave, there are many, many inspirational women out there (the Guardian is running a fantastic feature on their website to celebrate. It’s worth a good long look).

And because it’s still as awesome as it was all the other times I’ve posted it, you get the Team Unicorn ladies again.

Just because I can.

Ladies! Be all that you can be – because you can be anything.


(apologies if the sound’s stripped from a couple of the videos, by the way. The joy of youtube, eh? Put something stirring on in the background, I would. This would do perfectly.)