Wednesday, 28 September 2016

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back by the Sea

Reviewing Fantasycons often feels like dancing about architecture: silly, pointless and probably against the entire spirit of the thing.  More and more I suspect that no one even really cares whether any given Fantasycon is good as such; heck, I'm not even sure that I do.  Every year I find myself drifting a little bit nearer to what I take to be the consensus among hardened F'con punters, that the nation's most cheap and cheerful genre conference is best considered as an excuse for a get-together with old friends, because if you go in expecting much more than that then you're likely to be disappointed.

Still.  I was a little disappointed.

That comes down largely, I think, to the fact that the last two years have been uncharacteristically great, and there was a small part of me hoping that somehow that might stick.  So for 2016's Fantasycon to be such a retrenching stung that bit more than it really needed to.  With the seedy seaside hotel location, the vague but constant sense of disorganization and the lackluster panel topics, there were literally points where I forgot that I wasn't somehow back in Brighton in the not-so-good old days.

And I'm conscious, already, that I'm grumbling about something that was a great deal of fun, having had a great weekend, and that makes this feel all the more futile.  But I can't really point to any of that fun as a result of Fantasycon itself, except in the very loosest sense of, I wouldn't have seen any of the people whose company I so enjoyed if we hadn't all been gathered for the same occasion.  By the same measure, so many others were saying similar things that it seems unreasonable to pretend it couldn't have been quite a lot better.  A decent program pamphlet maybe, with a map to make up for the lack of signage?  A number of microphones that equated in any way to the number of panelists?  More than a couple of panel topics that weren't done to death years or decades ago?  A slightly less smelly venue, with drinks closer to the right side of drinkable and food a bit nearer the correct end of edible?
Shove penny!!!!!!

Ah well.  Goodness knows, it wasn't a disaster, and it really was a lot of fun, and I guess that if this were the baseline for Fantasycons of the future then I could live with that.  Certainly I liked Scarborough more than any other F'con location I can think of, and that fact alone made up for the aspects that didn't work quite so well; going paddling and playing on the shove penny machines and visiting Scarborough castle and drinking free mead were all highlights.  And as always at F'con, the nights were great - though even then, at least one bar space devoted to the convention would have been nice.  On both nights, it really only began to feel like an event after about eleven o'clock, when the other guests had gone to bed and you could tell the convention goers from the normal folks.

Anyway, next year sounds hopeful, so long as the already contentious travel arrangements get sorted out, as I'm sure they will.  And having griped so much, I should add that I'm genuinely grateful for all the hard work and thought that went into this year's event, which was always apparent, even when things weren't quite coming together.  Fantasycon is never not enjoyable, it attracts one of the most varied and interesting crowds of any UK convention, and I'm grateful that it exists.  I just find myself wishing, sometimes, that it could keep a little closer to the bar that other conventions have set without losing its distinctive charm.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Where I'll be at Fantasycon by the Sea

Hey, that rhymes!  I'm a poet and I never knew it to be the case.

Well, I'm not doing a great deal at Fantasycon this year, which perhaps is for the best since I had a piece cut out of me by trained medical professionals on Monday and I'm still feeling rather sore and sorry for myself.  Never fear though, I'm sure I'll be my usual random and garrulous self by the time it comes to my panel, which is:

All About You

Saturday, September 24 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Palm Court Ballroom – The Grand

First Steps as a Writer – How Do You Go About Launching Your Career? Rob Power, Sue Moorcroft (Chair), Helen Armfield, Iain Grant, David Tallerman

(You may be shocked to discover that I just copied that straight off the official program.)

Also, I will be reading, though what I have as yet no idea; probably something from The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories, I'd imagine:

Reading – Mark De Jager and David Tallerman

Saturday, September 24 @ 10:30 am - 11:00 am
Reading Café (Royal Hotel)
Mark, by the way, is the author of debut novel Infernal, which came out from Del Rey just last month.

And, wow, I have literally two things scheduled and I still couldn't manage to get them in chronological order, that's quite the achievement.  Hey, let's blame it on the fact that for medical reasons I'm ever so slightly lighter than I was this time last week.  I suspect I'll be blaming a lot of things on that over the weekend, so if I happen to see you there and I seem at all inebriated then just assume that it's down to diminished body mass, okay?  

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Great Jones Street is Live

So I've made the odd mention of a thing called Great Jones Street, and that they've published a couple of my stories, while being kind of vague on the precise details.  If I'm honest, that was partly because I'm habitually vague and partly because I didn't quite understand them myself.  But now I've watched a video explaining things and I'm much clearer!

Great Jones Street is a short story magazine that's also an app.  Currently it's only available for Apple devices, but that will be changing pretty soon - and this is largely why it's taken me a while to figure out the ins and outs, because I have no apple devices, or even any apples for that matter, except tinned ones that probably don't count.

In essence, and assuming I understand correctly, Great Jones Street is an e-reader optimized for use on mobile devices, one that comes pre-loaded with its own huge, cross genre library of short fiction.  Those stories are being cherry picked from the top tier of markets, with an emphasis on award-winning material, so there's as much of a guarantee of quality as you could reasonably hope for.  The pitch on the website is basically "why is there no Spotify for short fiction?" along with "short fiction is really great for reading on mobile phones," and I agree wholeheartedly with both of those statements.  In fact, this seems to me a lot like an app based version of what Digital Fiction Publishing have been up to, and I've made no secret of how I think that's a great concept.  So I feel safe in saying that Great Jones Street is shaping up to be something pretty amazing, and that it's well worth checking out.

With that in mind, you can get more details and a link to the App Store here.  And here's a rather long (and probably already out of date) list of the stories already available.  You may, if you're careful, spot my name among them...

"Visitation" Corinna Vallianatos
"The Mourning Door" Elizabeth Graver
"Grad School" Fred G. Leebron
"The Idiot, or Life in Wartime" Fred G. Leebron
"When It’s You" Fred G. Leebron
"That Year Off" Fred Leebron
"In Other Words" Jennifer Haigh
"The Truth and All Its Ugly" Kyle Minor
"Going To The Big House" Tom Bailey
"Ruby" Tom Bailey
"This Is Not A Love Story" Tom Bailey
"Zombies" Tom Bailey
"A Neighboring State" Corinna Vallianatos
"Islands Without Names" Elizabeth Graver
"Paramour" Jennifer Haigh
"A Wild Night and a New Road" John Dufresne
"Between" Elizabeth Graver
"Ghostreaper, or, Life After Revenge" Tim Pratt
"Jenny's Sick" David Tallerman
"Great Black Wave" David Tallerman
"Mono no aware" Ken Liu
"Paper Menagerie" Ken Liu
"The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" Ken Liu
"Enter A Soldier" Robert Silverberg
"Keeper" Steve Adams
"Hart and Boot" Tim Pratt
"Impossible Dreams" Tim Pratt
"The Secret Beach" Tim Pratt
"Why We Came to Target at 9:58 on a Monday Night" Andy Roe
"Eagle, Globe and Anchor" Geoffrey Becker
"A Time and A Place" Hugh Sheehy
"The Experience Collector" Hugh Sheehy
"The Last Days" Hugh Sheehy
"To Build a Fire" Jack London
"Saving Bambi" Janet Burroway
"The Mandelbrot Set" Janet Burroway
"Cliff Walk" Jessica Treadway
"Down Here" Jessica Treadway
"Ghost Story" Jessica Treadway
"Dirty" John Affleck
"Fine Arts" Karin Lin-Greenberg
"Paying by Check" Karin Lin-Greenberg
"Theft" Katherine Anne Porter
"A Kidnapping in Koulèv-Ville" Kyle Minor
"Till Death Do Us Part" Leslie Pietrzyk
"Remember Me To The One Who Lives There" Michael Parker
"Sredni Vashtar" Saki (H. H. MUNRO)
"Junk Food" Sarah Harris Wallman
"Only Children" Sarah Harris Wallman
"The Dead Girls Show" Sarah Harris Wallman
"Saint Petersburg" Scott Laughlin
"The Fish" Steve Adams
"Holiday" Terri Leker
"What We See" Leslie Pietrzyk
"Benefit" Brett Beach
"Slim Jim" Brock Clarke
"You Would Have Told Me Not To" Christopher Coake
"Compliments" Erin McGraw
"L.A." Erin McGraw
"Love" Erin McGraw
"Crossing Cabot Strait" Geeta Kothari
"Dharma Farm" Geeta Kothari
"Small Bang Only" Geeta Kothari
"Given Ghosts" Jane McCafferty
"Game Winner" John Affleck
"Immaculate Obsession" John Affleck
"Winter Practice" John Affleck
"Small Worlds" Karin Lin-Greenberg
"The Splashing Carp" Karin Lin-Greenberg
"Eight Track" Matt McEver

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Film Ramble: Drowning in Nineties Anime, Pt. 15

It's reassuring to know that there are still classics out there to be turned up.  In fact, this latest round sees a couple of the highest highlights yet - even if one of them does shoot itself in the foot at the last minute.  Still, months after the point where I'd begun to worry I'd exhausted every financially realistic avenue, it's conceivable that the best actually lies ahead for these posts: be it by hovering around E-bay or tracking down Korean releases with English language options or just stumbling over widely available releases I'd somehow missed, I'm still keeping the to-watch shelf stocked with exciting treats.

This time through we have: Ranma 1/2: Nihao My Concubine, Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, Sol Bianca and Silent Möbius...

Ranma 1/2: Nihao My Concubine, 1992, dir: Iku Suzuki

The criticism most often thrown at the second Ranma movie is that it has exactly the same plot as the first Ranma movie, and this is entirely fair.  You could perhaps justify the fact by appealing to the rules of sequel escalation: where the first film's villain only kidnapped female lead Akane to be his bride, the second film's villain has off with pretty much all of the female characters, so as to give himself a broader selection of fiances.  But really, you have to wonder what the makers were thinking; is this truly the only direction in which you can take a show in which the protagonist switches sex when they get wet and half of the characters turn into animals?  Was there no other plot line for a feature length Ranma 1/2 episode than "female characters get kidnapped for purposes of forced marriage, male characters win them back"?

You might argue that this is offset by the fact that Ranma spends a far larger proportion of the running time of this one in female form.  But that doesn't altogether help, given that female Ranma passes most of that time in the skimpiest clothes imaginable, or in one scene - inevitably involving the pervy old midget that hogged so much of the first film's running time - not even that.  But honestly, trying to parse the sexual politics of Ranma 1/2 would be a whole essay in itself, and not one I feel myself especially equipped for.  The only point that significantly bothered me on that front was that, contentious case of Ranma aside, only the male characters got to get involved with the fighting.  Explaining to the audience how kickass your women are and then not actually letting them kick any ass has always seemed to me a failing that anime tends to sidestep by comparison with Western media, but not so here.

And again I'm trying to analyse the gender politics of a cartoon from twenty-five years ago in which a boy turns into a girl when he gets wet, which isn't going to get us anywhere.  Nor does it really tell a great deal about whether Nihao My Concubine is any good.  And yes, it is; I'd certainly say I enjoyed it as much as the first film, and I think I preferred Iku Suzuki's direction over that of original director Shûji Iuchi.  There's perhaps a touch more sophistication to the animation, and some noticeably lovely backgrounds: the villain's floating island base, for example, has more than a dash of Miyazaki's Laputa about it.  Nihao My Concubine is also a little more low-key than Big Trouble in Nekonron, China, and that turns out to be a good thing, because it's also less frantic and exhausting.  Arguably the fact that it's only an hour long compared to the first film's seventy-five minutes helps there too.  And with all of that said, I find myself falling back on exactly the same conclusion as last time.  If you're down for what Ranma 1/2 is about then there are plenty of worse ways to waste an hour, but it's hard to see this making fresh converts.

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, 1999, dir: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, the OVA prologue to the well-respected series Rurouni Kenshin, has a reputation for being something of a classic.  And so it turned out to be - for all except its last ten or so minutes.  It's a real shame, then, that those last ten minutes are so frustrating as to nearly ruin everything that comes before.

But let's address the positives first: Samurai X is genuinely adult storytelling of the kind that's all too rare in anime, or outside of anime for that matter.  It tells a sparse and brutal tale about a child who chooses to become a killer, based upon somewhat shaky perceptions and an inflexible moral code, and is then ruthlessly encouraged to do precisely that by adults who may or may not share his desire for a better world - but certainly see the boy, Kenshin, first and foremost as a weapon.  Much anime trades in violence, but Samurai X takes violence as its theme, and then examines that theme unflinchingly; it's profoundly unapologetic about showing the effects that swords have on human bodies, but also about showing the consequences that killing takes on human lives.

Watching Samurai X, it occurred to me that most anime, and even much good anime, rarely gives the impression of having been directed with any sort of an agenda; in that sense, traditional animation is certainly more restrictive than film.  Yet Samurai X is full of clear directorial decisions, and most of them are terrifically good.  There's the way, for example, that Furuhashi uses moments of stillness and images of nature to make the brief bursts of violence seem aberrant rather than exciting.  But this is technically pristine work on all fronts, and it develops in a rewarding direction, as the boy assassin Kenshin encounters a mysterious woman named Tomoe and learns that just maybe there's more to life - even as Tomoe develops into an increasingly fascinating and complex character in her own right.

Then we get to the end, and discover what all this character building and moral greyness and gut-wrenching violence has been for, and - well, let's say, charitably, that it's less than it could have been.  I don't want to spoil that ending, but even a few hints will give it away to the attentive reader, so if that's you and you don't want to know then look away now.  Suffice to note that Samurai X is a prequel and that Tomoe isn't a character who appears in the series, and moreover that the ultimate aim here is to turn the damaged boy Kenshin into the show's presumably more sane and heroic version of the character, and you can probably fill in the blanks.  Or, to go a step further, I could add that there are many lousy ways to make use of a strong female character and Samurai X opts for the one that I personally find least tolerable.  Though, frankly, even that's only half the misstep: it's staggering how all of the show's carefully built ambiguity has leaked out by the time the climax is over.  For an hour and fifty minutes I'd assumed that Samurai X shared my concerns about the use of mentally unbalanced children as assassins.  By the time the credits rolled around I was less sure.

Ah, well.  I can't honestly not recommend Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, so much of it is beyond brilliant.  If you have the slightest interest in nineties anime, it's certainly a must see.  And I'm fully aware that the majority of viewers won't be half so bothered by that ending as I was; judging by other reviews, most like it just fine.  All I can say is that for me it turned what would have been a genre-transcending masterpiece into a painful near miss.

Sol Bianca, 1990, dir's: Katsuhito Akiyama, Hiroki Hayashi

If you ever needed proof that we're living in a broken parallel of the real universe then Sol Bianca is it.

In the real universe, every anime fan has heard of Sol Bianca, and it's familiar outside the fandom every bit as much as works like Akira and Ghost in the Shell.  Commentators routinely point out how it helped to inspire western shows like Farscape and Firefly, with its charming but immoral protagonists and its perfect mix of comedy, action and drama.  The show is held up as an exemplar for its diverse, mostly female cast, its imaginative manipulation of space opera tropes and of course for its marvelous animation, which in the remastered blu-ray edition looks like it might have been made yesterday.

But that isn't our universe.  In our universe, Sol Bianca got cancelled after two episodes, having failed to prove popular enough to justify the remaining parts that would have wrapped up its story, despite having won best OVA at the 1993 Anime Expo.  And the only way you're likely to see it is on a hard to find DVD edition that looks like someone transferred it from VHS.  While drunk.

But hey, we have two episodes of Sol Bianca, and those two episodes are entirely great, so I guess we can only make do.  The first, a thrilling fifty minutes that throws the piratical crew of the titular space ship into the middle of an interplanetary war, is perhaps the better of the two; the second is more interesting on its own terms, but spends a larger degree of its running time setting up the arc plot that will never be finished, which grows increasingly painful the more the intriguing questions pile up.  Either way, though, it's terrific fun, and I can't stress just how lovely it looks at points.  In particular, I don't think I've seen better hand drawn character animation anywhere: the crew of the Bianca blink and tilt their heads and generally behave exactly like human beings do, even though the extra hours of work that it must have taken to achieve that level of realism beggars imagining.

If it's not clear by now, I urge you to track down Sol Bianca; it's exactly the sort of lost treasure I started these posts hunting for.  There's no doubt in my mind that if it had been finished it would be considered one of the masterpieces of eastern animation, but even one incomplete half of Sol Bianca is wittier, more exciting and more elegantly drawn and designed than the vast majority of what I've talked about here.  It's great anime and great sci-fi, and shame on those contemporary audiences who didn't appreciate the treat they'd been handed.

Silent Möbius, 1991, dir's: Kazuo Tomizawa

I've always thought it an odd trend in anime that lengthy series - in this case, twelve whole volumes - were so often adapted into OVAs of a length that couldn't possibly hope to do them justice.  But it occurred to me after watching Silent Möbius that perhaps that's no more strange than a comic book movie that crams decades of continuity into a couple of hours.  The question, then, is not whether the notion is basically sound but whether it's done well - and the problem that it so frequently isn't.

Silent Möbius, which is fifty minutes long plus credits, does it pretty well.  There's only so much you can cram into fifty minutes, even when your basic setup - futuristic Tokyo, invading demons, hot supernatural police ladies - are rote enough to not need a great deal of introducing.  Silent Möbius's rather clever solution is to focus on one significant incident and then to use that as a jumping off point for a lengthy flashback exploring the background of a single character, which in turn folds back into the modern day crisis.  The result is a story that satisfies on its own terms - though at the same time fails to feel terribly unique.

Which isn't by any means to say that Silent Möbius is bad.  The design work is appealing - certainly more so than that in the TV adaptation that would eventually follow - and the backgrounds are lovely, taking on much of the heavy lifting of portraying a weird, off-kilter cyberfuture that feels wholly impractical and yet delightfully complete.  And the story succeeds perfectly well on its own terms, with a few standout scenes, some genuinely memorable imagery and enough intrigue and character development to give the sense of a feature length in what amounts to half the running time.

It's good then - better than most of these demons-invade-Tokyo things, in large part because of the sense of a fuller, more thought-out world that we're only seeing the edges of.  But that's not to say that it can overcome its inherent limitations, or that it's outstanding in its craftsmanship or ambition.  Silent Mobius is an engaging, attractive, rather too short slice of Cthulhupunk, and that's no bad thing to be, but it's also all you get.


Considering how good everything was this time through, it's strange to look back over this post with a vague sense of heartbreak.  But oh how wonderful Samurai X should have been, and oh how extraordinary Sol Bianca would have been if it had only been finished.  Flawed masterpieces are great and all, but unflawed masterpieces tend to be even better.

Still, you have to take your wins where you can get them when you're compulsively reviewing all the nineties anime you can get your hands on, I suppose!

[Other posts in this series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13, Part 14, Part 16Part 17Part 18Part 19Part 20Part 21Part 22Part 23Part 24Part 25Part 26 Part 27Part 28Part 29Part 30, Part 31Part 32Part 33Part 34Part 35Part 36Part 37Part 38]

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Short Story News, September 2016

I remember thinking a few weeks back that nowhere near enough had happened on the short story front to warrant another of these posts.  Somehow, by the time I reconsidered, far too much had happened to reasonably cram in.  But I'm going to anyway, it's been a rotten week and a post full of good news might be just what I need to remind myself that 2016 hasn't been altogether a horror.

Firstly, I have books out!  At least, there are anthologies out with my stories in - a whole three of them, in fact.  Two of those are from Digital Fiction Publishing, making my total number of DFP anthologies out now a number bigger than I can be bothered to work out right now, but certainly no less than six.  And the reason I keep submitting to these things, other I suppose than that I keep getting accepted, is that they're really good.  I get the impression, as well, that readers are increasingly waking up to that fact: they've been pulling down some pretty tremendous reviews, one or two of which come from readers who've liked one book enough to try another, which is a heck of an achievement for a still relatively new small press.  Anyway, gushing aside, this time around I have Black Horticulture in the fantasy collection Uncommon Senses and Passive Resistance in the SF collection Operative Sequence.  That particularly story also recently got its own individual e-book release, as all these collected tales do: you can find it here.

Nextly, the Mysterion anthology that I seem to have gone on about quite a lot over the last few months is finally out to buy.  You can pick it up on from Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  It only really occurred to me as I was thumbing through my contributor copy that perhaps it's strange that I, an avowed atheist, would have a story in a collection subtitled "rediscovering the mysteries of the Christian faith."  And to my eyes, Golgotha is a story upon the topic of religion clearly written by a non-believer, albeit one who's always found the subject fascinating.  But honestly, I think that's why (asides from the gorgeous cover) I've been so enthused about this project from day one: Donald and Kristin have put together exactly the book that they promised, one that digs about in those weird and fascinating corners of Christianity that normally get politely overlooked.  This spirit is nicely summed up in a comment from Kristin's introduction: "Mysterion is about Christianity.  But we're not sure it is Christian."  From what I've seen, I'd agree, and for that reason among others, I do hope this book gets the attention it deserves: it's a genuinely interesting project upon a genuinely unique topic, which is more than many anthologies can claim.  And Golgotha is among the top tier of short fiction that I'm proudest of, a nasty, wriggling thing full of difficult questions and uneasy answers.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, I've been selling more stories.  What's particularly unusual this time around is that fully half my sales from the last couple of months were effectively commissions; that's definitely never happened before.  A couple of those I can't talk about yet - I wish I could, they're exciting! - but the other two I probably can.  In perhaps my most surreal sale ever, Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner, respectively owner and editor of Cast of Wonders, happened to be in the audience when I was reading from The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories.  And they enjoyed the story that I read - the deeply screwed up My Friend Fishfinger by Daisy Aged 7 - enough that they decided they'd like to podcast it.  Would that all readings went that way!  Meanwhile, at around the same time, one of my favourite editors pushed new publisher Great Jones Street my way, and they picked up both Jenny's Sick and Great Black Wave, with possibly - finger's crossed! - a couple more to follow.  (Great Jones Street, by the way, I'm sure I'll be talking about more, as they're up to some rather interesting and exciting things.)

The traditional sales front hasn't been going so shoddy either.  Br(other) is down for the middle volume of the three volume Let Us In anthology from Time Alone Press, which is due to start appearing next month.  And I enjoyed last year's Gaia: Shadow and Breath anthology enough that I thought I'd try for this year's entry in the series; as such, they'll be publishing my Feet of Clay, Mind of Coal, which I probably do no favours by referring to as my golem sex story.  (Hey ... I see an overlooked niche and I jump on it!)  Finally, I overhauled one of my earliest publications and gave it the title I realised it should have had approximately the moment after it saw print, and now Old Skin for the New Ceremony will be appearing in the sci-fi issue of Creepy Campfire Stories (for Grownups).

I'll finish up by noting that my slush reading for Digital Fantasy Fiction has come to a temporary halt, as they're closed to subs for a few weeks, but it was fun while it lasted.  Now I'm getting excited for the fact that at some point there's going to be an anthology coming out where I picked most or all of the stories, which is certainly as close as I've ever come to wearing an editor's hat.  And as much I may have grumbled at points, we did get a few really good subs, along with a couple of absolute stunners; if both of those make it into the same volume then I'll be very excited indeed, and probably pushing it a lot harder than I ever do my own stuff!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Notes on the Inaugural Meeting of the Humber SFF Society

Me reading.
I do like the word "inaugural", and it's not often I get to use it, even less often I get to use it correctly.  So that made it all the more of a pleasure to be invited to read at the inaugural event of the new Hull based genre meet-up group Humber SFF, along with fellow author Daniel Godfrey, whose Titan debut New Pompeii came out a mere couple of months ago.

It occurs to me only now that I've inaugurated two of these things now; I'm pretty sure I read at the first York event too, which is nice but makes me feel kind of old.  (Although, at least I got to type inaugurated, so that's something.)  Anyway, this one was put together by the brilliant Shellie Horst, with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm and the common sense to realise that Beverley would provide a much nicer venue than Hull would.  (In fairness, this may have something to do with the fact that Shellie lives in Beverley.  Still, credit where it's due.)  The Monk's Walk pub was very cool and medieval, as you can sort of see in the pictures, though a bit on the noisy side.  I suspect Daniel got the worst of that, but his reading still got me excited for New Pompeii - because who doesn't love time travelling Romans? - and afterwards I regretted not buying a copy when I had the chance.
Daniel Reading.

For my part I read from my soon to be announced next novel - code-named Super Secret Project Andromeda for no other reason than that's the name I just made up - instead of The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories like how I was supposed to.  But no one seemed to mind and I had fun, because I've been itching to field test this one for a while now.  I'm comfortable enough with these reading things now that I've started trying to differentiate the characters a little, and of everything I've written Super Secret Project Andromeda is just right for that, because it's absolutely all about the characters.  At any rate, people seemed to enjoy it, and I got some good questions afterwards, which is always nice.

Of course, about half of those questions came from Alex Bardy, who you may know as the raconteur and dilettante behind the York incarnation of these things, or from one of the other hats he wears; oh, and while I remember, Alex, huge thanks for giving me a lift home!  Generally it was a good crowd, and I got talking to some interesting people, whose names I of course immediately forgot - but at least one of whom I think I persuaded to give this year's Fantasycon a go, so that's something.

Hopefully this will be the first of many meetings for Humber SFF, and I urge anyone who's at all interested to give the next one a try, this and the similar groups in York and Sheffield are always a great deal of fun.  I'd also suggest that you pick up a copy of New Pompeii, from what I heard it sounds very good indeed.  And while I can't exactly encourage you to buy Super Secret Project Andromeda, at least not until it gets announced under its actual, proper title, I may as well end by pointing out that you can pick up my collection The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories in paperback, e-book and hardback.