Monday, 29 August 2011

Thoughts on Women in SFF.

This is one of those perennial arguments that crops up time and time again, frequently being wheeled out at conventions with plenty of piss and vinegar in the mix. Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City is next on my reading list, but the female authors in my collection extend as far as Steph Swainston and K.J. Parker, who may or may not be a female author. Hardly a great example. I also have Sophia McDougall’s Romanitas trilogy patiently waiting to be read, but the fact remains that I have a host of male authors on my shelves but very few female writers.

I’ve thought long and hard about why I gravitate toward male writers and I’m still no closer to an answer. It’s not that I shun female authors or think they write exclusively with “sentimentality, a narrow view of the world”.

With this in mind I decided to do something about it. Aside from just reading Zoo City.

I’ve recently landed a full time job with Blackwell’s Books on Charing Cross Road in London. I pitched the idea of having a ‘Women Writers in SFF’ promotion. A whole bay where we promote Science Fiction and Fantasy’s unsung heroes. Sorry, heroines.

There’s only so much shelf space of course, but it’s the thought that counts. With that in mind you can expect to see the likes of Gail Carriger, Fiona McIntosh, Sarah Pinborough, Ursula Le Guin, Karen Miller, Trudi Canavan and the afore mentioned Sophia McDougall and Steph Swainston adorning a dedicated section of shelves in a week or two. And I’m not just doing this for the customers, but challenging myself to read more female writers.A parting shot, and something to think about, women aren’t as under represented in publishing as you may think. Jo Fletcher is widely regarded as one of the finest SFF editors in the land (UK). The Jo doesn’t stand for Joseph incidentally. Then there’s Gillian Redfearn over at Gollancz. And let’s not forget Julie Crisp at Tor, or Anna Gregson at Orbit. I freely admit that none of these ladies are authors, but the fact does pour cold water on the idea that Shadowy Male Publishing Tyrants are preventing female voices being heard.

What female writers in SFF do you rate, and why?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thoughts on Equations of Life

A few months ago someone said to me (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘I’m not really sure it’s your sort of thing’, with regards to Douglas Huilick’s Among Thieves. As it turns out, that was a fair assumption. However, it got me to thinking ‘Well, what is my ‘thing’?

I’m have what marketers would call brand loyalty; I find an author I like and I stick with them, often fanatically. David Eddings, James Herbert and Terry Brooks were my ‘go-to guys’ when I was young. Whereas more recently, authors like Iain M. Banks, Steph Swainston, Richard Morgan, Neil Gaiman, Chris Wooding, Joe Abercrombie, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and China MiĆ©ville all appear frequently on my Amazon Wishlist. However, you’ll notice the second list doesn't have a strong thematic theme. So, what is my thing?

Recently I met James Long from Orbit Books for lunch. Like any good Geeks with a Friday afternoon to kill, we found ourselves in Forbidden Planet. That’s when James suggested Simon Morden’s Equations of Life, which is very much ‘my thing’.

As a massive fan of Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels and as someone who routinely suggests Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Ashraf Bey novels to anyone that will listen; it would seem to follow that I like Neo-Noir tales, or flat out Cyberpunk stories.

Equations of Life is a fun, fast and slick read. Morden carefully sets his protagonist, Petrovitch, on something of a redemption kick early on in the novel. This is just as well, as Petrovitch goes out of his way to be anything from frosty to outright hostile to just about everyone he encounters. It’s this redemption arc that leads Petrovitch not just into doing the right thing in the short term; but leading him to be a very unlikely hero in a sprawling sequence of events.

Petrovitch’s world is the London Metrozone, which exists in the shadow of a post-Nuclear war world. It’s a dark world, bitterly poor, often bleak but not without the signs of re-building and certain amount of status quo being maintained. Petrovitch himself is a physics student, albeit one with a past that is painstakingly concealed.

The inclusion of Russian mobsters and Yakuza feels a little lazy at first. However these are quickly fleshed out and add to the twisting plot that turns the pages of Equations of Life quickly. Morden also drops in more than a few film nods and quotes, this can date a book to my mind, but seeing as the films he references are geek classics he gets away with it. With two more Petrovitch novels already on bookshelves, and likelihood of a fourth; there’s plenty of material here for the Simon Morden convert.
Which I am.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Week In Geek

Congratulations to Tom Hunter at the Arthur C. Clarke Award and my confederates at Pornokitsch for luring the lovely Lauren Beukes to the British Library for a quick reading and talk before she jetted off to the US of A.

Lauren was on hand to sign copies of her books Moxyland and the award winning Zoo City. Despite jetting in from South Africa that very morning she was on good form and mingled with the fifty-odd attendees in the courtyard outside the British Library after the reading.

Also present were Adam Christopher, (soon to be published by Angry Robot), and Tom Pollock (soon to be published by Jo Fletcher Books) . It was a veritable who’s who of soon-to-be published authors.

There was also some excited whispering and mumbling about a ‘Project Panda’, which I’m deeply pleased to be a part of. More details on this soon...

Find out more about John Martin’s Apocalyptic art here.

A great deal of my week has been taken up with writing. Work is progressing on The Boy With The Porcelain Ears. I’ll spare you the details on word counts, suffice to say there’s been a whole lot of sword fights, intrigue, unrequited lust and unsettling deformity going on in my brain, and at my fingertips. You can read the first two chapters of Porcelain here.

I’d be remiss for not acknowledging the massive social disturbance that rocked London last week. There have been reams and realms of comment on the subject and I’ll spare you mine, especially when Laurie Penny does such a great job of it here. And she’s much more articulate about this sort of thing than I’ll ever be.

Until next time.