March London BSFA Meeting: Suniti Namjoshi Interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn

Location: Upstairs, The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND

DSCF5135

On Wednesday 25th of March 2015Suniti Namjoshi (fabulist and poet) will be interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn (critic and Professor).

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

Map is here.

FUTURE EVENTS:

22nd April 2015- Den Patrick Interviewed by Gillian Redfearn

27th May 2015- Edward James interviewed by TBA

24th June 2015-Sarah Pinborough interviewed by James Barclay

A PAIR OF ANTHOLOGIES BY ANY OTHER NAME, by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)

 

I am not by nature, much of an anthology fan – I find it hard-going to keep up with all the novels and novellas I really want to read, without resorting to reading several smaller stories compiled into one bumper collection, some of which may or may not be particularly good. This, I guess, is a common predicament for many readers, so it’s with a mix of sadness and delight that I can categorically say that both these anthologies have gone a long way toward my conversion into a more accepting and less discriminatory reader. Bravo to the pair of them, and bang goes all hope of me trying to catch up with my “Really Want to Read” list anytime soon… Bah, humbug!

 

DEAD MAN’S HAND

Edited by John Joseph Adams

Titan Books, 409pp large format softback, £8.99 cover price

DMH

Dead Man’s Hand is edited by John Joseph Adams, and dubbed a “Weird West” anthology themed around the classic American Old West, complete with all the terror and heartache associated with such turbulent times, especially if you happen to have a soft spot for the humble horse and/or those regularly involved in the odd Cowboy/Indian shootout at whatever Corral is flavour of the week on any given day!

 

Over the last few years, I’ve been convinced there’s a big gap in the market where cross-genre Westerns with a supernatural, fantasy and/or science-fiction bent should be sitting (in a similar vein to Defiance and the tragically short-lived Firefly TV series for example), and this anthology serves as a reminder there is a whole vista of endless possibilities surely going begging in this particular market? Interestingly (to me), the graphic novel/comics scene doesn’t suffer quite as much on this front, with titles like Jonah Hex, Rawhide Kid, Caliber, Wyatt Earp and Preacher among others all familiar to fans of this medium – these are still perhaps not “funky” enough to be considered “Weird West” (granted, some of the stories can be, though!), but nonetheless show that it’s a market that still has its fans. Walking Dead is arguably a “modern” western, but that’s an altogether different story, I suspect.

 

Featuring great work and a sparkling roll call of genre authors, there are some fabulous tales to be found herein – of alien gold fever, dodgy playing cards, clockwork gunslingers, and reanimated corpses among others. And despite a distinct “steampunk”-ish feel running through a number of the stories, they are all definitively set in the traditional “Wild West”, showing a marked variety in both theme and tone…

 

Rather than trawl through every story and commenting on each, I’d like to mention a handful that really stood out for me, while still offering an inkling as to how varied the content is, sooo…

 

Joe R Lansdale’s “The Red-Headed Dead” sees the classic return of his Reverend Mercer character in another supernatural battle with evil, and kicks off this collection in fine style, while “Second Hand” by Rajan Khanna takes the concept of a deck of cards and throws a whole new meaning of “dangerous death-dealing” at it…

 

“Hellfire on the High Frontier” by David Farland, “Strong Medicine” by Tad Williams and “Red Dreams” by Jonathan Maberry all play on the trope of an artificial gunslinger finding its place in the Wild West, yet all of these tales approach it from wildly differing angles, with Farland’s “Hellfire…” leaning particularly heavy on the concept of the new age supplanting the old, as it were…

 

“The Man with No Heart” by Beth Revis and “The Old Slow Man and his Gold Gun from Space” by Ben H. Winters both run with the idea of travellers from another world in a Wild West setting, with the latter sporting a particularly amusing take on the concept.

 

“The Hell-Bound Stagecoach” by Mike Resnick is another of the more light-hearted in this collection, and somewhat far away from the tale you’d be forgiven for expecting, given the title.

 

With names like Orson Scott Card, Walter Jon Williams, Elizabeth Bear, Alan Dean Foster, Alastair Reynolds, Tad Williams, and Christie Yant also among the contributor list – none of which I suspect will be lost on many BSFA members – this really is an excellent showcase of their work and adaptability.

 

FANTASY- FACTION ANTHOLOGY

Edited by Marc Aplin & Jennie Ivins

Fantasy-Faction Publishing, 313pp standard paperback,
available direct from the fantasy-faction.com website as paperback or ebook from £7.00

FFA

In stark contrast to Dead Man’s Hand and the Weird West, I suspect there is no real shortage of fantasy anthologies nowadays. Alas, many are on a set theme, be it Magic, Wizards, Dragons, Zombie Elf Demons, etc. so it came as a very pleasant surprise that the standout thing about the Fantasy-Faction Anthology – for me at least – is the fact that it also carries Non-fiction. That’s right, and you did read that correctly, this also has several Non-fiction essays in it; and frankly, they’re a delightful addition to an already great collection. I’ll talk more about that a little later.

 

Although this anthology can be considered very much a new kid on the block for fantasy fans, the website itself, www.fantasy-faction.com, has been around since 2010 (and seen over 3m visitors up until mid-2014 apparently – I suspect it’s a lot more nowadays as there’s some cracking stuff on there). One can hardly say this first anthology was rushed, either – Marc Aplin, one of the co-editors for this and also the “ff” website founder, thought it a good idea to open this anthology up to all his website visitors with an ambitiously generic “just write fantasy” caveat… 1700 submissions and two years later, and this is the result – but my, what a wonderful little package they’ve put together!

d1 d2 d3

 

This is a stirring collection and a marvellous volume in its own right, but as mentioned above, is made all the more entertaining because the stories are interspersed with non-fiction pieces. I’d like to stay on this point as I think it’s one worth celebrating. Those of you with older heads and greying hair may well recall that back in the late 70s there was a paperback magazine published by Ace Books called Destinies, edited by James Baen – this carried a number of fabulous science fiction tales by the likes of Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Joe Haldeman, Gregory Benford and many other genre stalwarts (it did tend to be an “all-male party” back then, so I apologise in advance: that’s a different topic entirely)… but crucially, also featured articles dubbed “Speculative Fact” (later “Science Fact”) from Jerry Pournelle, Charles Sheffield, Frederik Pohl, and a number of other “science writers”. Similar magazines were around, but Destinies and the revised New Destinies were among the most prominent here in the UK if memory serves (and it doesn’t always, so forgive me if I’ve got that wrong).

 

Anyway, returning to the Fantasy-Faction Anthology and the non-fiction to be found therein, we have Richard Morgan to thank for “Killing the Magic (And Putting it in a Box)” which effectively tells all you naysayers and “fantasy realism” buffs where to park your troublesome thoughts on the so-called authenticity (and otherwise) of fantasy fiction. In stark contrast to this, we have both Anne Lyle and Kameron Hurley writing about bringing some consistency to your fantasy worlds, the former in a well-informed piece about “Historical Research for Fantasy Writers” and the latter discussing the thorny topic of “Creating Better Fantasy Economies: Who Does All The Work?” On a more light-hearted note, James Barclay covers “The Preservation and Evolution of Elves” with his usual wit and candour, while Mark Charan Newton writes a piece entitled “Advice I”d Give My Younger Self” that really does speak to the writer in us all.

 

So that’s the non-fiction well covered, so what about the fiction?

 

There were many standouts for me, but Mark Lawrence’s “The Dream-Taker’s Apprentice” and Richard Ford’s “The Halfwyrd’s Burden” both struck me as simply “Fantasy done right”, whilst “The House on the Old Cliffs” by Adrian Tchaikovsky, “Misericordia” by Rene Sears and “The Dealer” by Miah Sonnel all took the generic fantasy setting and made good with it in a twisty, gnarly “let’s shake things up a bit” way. Lastly, both “The Unsung” by Jessalyn Heaton and John Yeo Jr.’s “Overdue” remain touching and poignant tales that lingered in the mind for a good while after I read them.

 

In summary, a lovely collection of both fiction and non-fiction, and a very high bar with which to set the standard of future volumes to come… And I know there’ll be more to follow, but at least Marc has agreed to draft in some extra help for the next one, to ensure it doesn’t take quite so long to compile. I wish him and the rest of the fantasy-faction.com team the very best of luck in maintaining this kind of quality and consistency, however, because I suspect they’re going to need it. Highly recommended.

 

 

March BSFA London Meeting: Suniti Namjoshi interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn

Suniti Namjoshi

Title: March BSFA London Meeting: Suniti Namjoshi interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn
Location: Upstairs, The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND
Description: On Wednesday 25th of March 2015, Suniti Namjoshi (Poet and fabulist, author of Feminist Fables and the Aditi children’s books, amongst many works) will be interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn (Hugo and BSFA-Award winning academic and writer).

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

FUTURE EVENTS:

22nd April 2015- Den Patrick Interviewed by Gillian Redfearn

27th May 2015- TBA

24th June 2015- Sarah Pinborough interviewed by James Barclay
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2015-03-25

David Gemmell Ceremony Date Announced

The ceremony for the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy – the award which recognises the very best in fantasy fiction and artwork each year –  is now confirmed to take place at Nine Worlds Geekfest, and will be taking place at 8pm on Saturday 8th August.

 

The Legend Award

The ceremony will see the three 2015 awards presented, with the Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel, Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut and Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art. Attracting a wide host of writers and publishing professionals, the glitzy ceremony is always a highlight of the fantasy fiction calendar.

Stan Nicholls, Chair for the Gemmell Awards, said: ‘I couldn’t think of a better event for us to partner with than Nine Worlds, and we look forward to bringing another superb awards ceremony not only to our regular attendees but a whole new audience on 8th August.’

Nine Worlds Geekfest runs from the 7th-9th August at Heathrow.

BSFA Stand at International Women’s Day, Guildhall Northampton

Title: BSFA Stand at International Women’s Day, Guildhall Northampton
Location: The Guildhall, St Giles Square, Northampton, NN1 1DE
Description:
The International Women’s Day event will run from 11am to 3pm and hundreds of women of all ages are expected along to enjoy the activities on offer. Throughout the day there will be a host of free activities, workshops, talks, demonstrations and performances that women can take part in, including henna tattooing, arts and crafts, and well-being. There will also be information about opportunities and services for women locally.

Donna Bond of the BSFA will have a stall at the event where you can come and discover some of the local and national opportunities for readers and writers of science fiction literature, and get some recommended reading.

If you have anything you think may be of interest for the stall please get in touch with Donna at chair@bsfa.co.uk
Start Time: 11:00
Date: 2015-03-07
End Time: 15:00

SFSF Social #2 Sunday, 1st March 2015, 4pm-8pm

Title: SFSF Social #2 Sunday, 1st March 2015, 4pm-8pm
Location: The Old Queen’s Head, 40 Pond Hill, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 2BG
Link out: Click here
Description: Joining us for the SFSF Social #2 this time are author Ian Sales (ahem – the BSFA-Award-winning Ian Sales!), and author and theatrical sordfighter Dana Fredsti.

Ian Sales has published three volumes of his hard science fiction/alt-history Apollo Quartet through his own Whippleshield Books; the first volume, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, won a BSFA award in 2012. The final volume in the series, All That Outer Space Allows, will be published this year – as will the first book in his new space opera trilogy, A Prospect of War, which will come from Tickety Boo Press.

Dana Fredsti’s a theatrical swordfighter, whose film credits include Army of Darkness. Her Ashley Parker novels, Plague Town, Plague Nation, and Plague World are published by Titan Books.

There will, once more, be giveaway prizes to be had, and once the upstairs readings and talks are done, we’ll be sticking around for a good old chat in the bar too. Please do use the Eventbrite listing to let us know you’re coming, and spread the word to anyone who might be interested! We hope to see you there!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sfsf-social-2-tickets-15724514446

Start Time: 16:00
Date: 2015-03-01
End Time: 20:00

BSFA Awards 2014 – Shortlist Announced

We are pleased to announce the following shortlisted nominees for the BSFA Awards 2014.

Voting will now be opened to BSFA members and attending members of Eastercon. The  winner will be announced at a ceremony at the 66th Eastercon aka Dysprosium, taking place at the Park Inn, Heathrow from 3-6 April 2015.

Watch this space for details of the presenters and MC for this event, which will be announced shortly.

Once again, BSFA members will receive a commemorative BSFA Awards booklet with details of all the nominees.

Best Artwork:

Richard Anderson for the cover of Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, published by Angry Robot Books.

Blacksheep for the cover of Bête by Adam Roberts, published by Gollancz

Tessa Farmer for her sculpture The Wasp Factory, after Iain Banks.

Jeffrey Alan Love for the cover of Wolves by Simon Ings, published by Gollancz

Andy Potts for the cover of Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall, published by Egmont

Best Non-Fiction:

Paul Kincaid for Call and Response, published by Beccon Books

Jonathan McCalmont for ‘Deep Forests and Manicured Gardens: A Look at Two New Short Fiction Magazines’

Edward James, for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and the First World War

Strange Horizons: various authors for The State of British SF and Fantasy: A Symposium

Karen Burnham for Greg Egan, published by University of Illinois Press

 

Best Short Fiction:

Ruth E J Booth for “The Honey Trap”, published in La Femme, Newcon Press

Octavia Cade for The Mussel Eater,  published by The Book Smugglers

Benjanun Sriduangkaew for  Scale Bright, published by Immersion Press

 

Best Novel:

Nina Allan, for The Race, published by Newcon Press

Frances Hardinge, for Cuckoo Song, published by Macmillan

Dave Hutchinson, for Europe in Autumn, published by Solaris

Simon Ings, for Wolves, published by Gollancz

Anne Leckie, for Ancillary Sword, published by Orbit

Claire North, for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, published by Orbit

Nnedi Okorafor,  for Lagoon, published by Hodder

Neil Williamson, for The Moon King, published byNewcon Press

 

  • The number of nominees in this category is due to a tie for fourth place.

 

Congratulations to all the shortlisted nominees, and thanks to our members for nominating.

February BSFA London Meeting: Scott K. Andrews Interviewed By Jason Arnopp

Location: Upstairs, The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND

HeadShot

On Wednesday 25th of February 2015, Scott K. Andrews (Author of Abaddon’s School’s Out trilogy and the new Timebomb series from Hodder & Stoughton) will be interviewed by Jason Arnopp (author of Doctor Who: The Gemini Contagion, Friday The 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat and Beast In The Basement).

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

Map is here.

FUTURE EVENTS:

25th March 2015- Suniti Namjoshi interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn

22nd April 2015- Den Patrick Interviewed by Gillian Redfearn

27th May 2015- Sarah Pinborough interviewed by James Barclay

Ninth Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism 2015

The Ninth Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism will be held from Friday 17 July to Sunday 19 July 2015

The SFF Masterclass involves three days studying texts supplied by three class leaders.  It is a great way to broaden your critical perspectives, sharpen some critical tools, and to make contacts with other people writing on SF and Fantasy.  The class leaders are drawn from professional writers, academics and fans, and this is a great opportunity to learn from people experienced in their craft.
Anyone interested in writing seriously about science fiction and/or fantasy, at whatever level they are in their careers, is welcome to attend.  This includes not just critics and reviewers, but historians and other scholars.  Those who have attended past Masterclasses are also welcome to apply (though we will prioritise applications from those who have not been previous students).
Past students have found these events immensely beneficial, and often return.  For some reports and endorsements from past students and class leaders, see the Facebook page for the Masterclass;
We are pleased to announce that the venue will again be the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, founded by Charles II in 1675, and the home of the Prime Meridian.
Price: £200£150 for registered postgraduate students.
The Class Leaders for 2015 will be:
Pat Cadigan, multiple Clarke and Hugo Award-winning author of Synners and Fools, and Official Queen of Cyberpunk.
Nick LoweBSFA Award-winning critic and writer of Interzone‘s ‘Mutant Popcorn’ column.
Graham Sleight, Hugo Award-winning Managing Editor of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia.
To apply please send a short (no more than 3,000 words) piece of critical writing (a blog entry, review, essay, or other piece), and a one page curriculum vitae, to masterclass@sf-foundation.org.  Applications received by 28 February 2015 will be considered by an Applications Committee consisting of Tony Keen, Andy Sawyer and Kari Sperring. Applications received after 28 February may be considered if places are still available, on a strictly first-come first served basis.
Information on past Masterclasses can be found here.

EU VAT Action Survey

Acclaimed author Juliet E. McKenna has been in touch regarding changes to new EU VAT regulations, which are bound to affect many of our members who have their work published digitally.

If you’ve glanced at my blog or other social media over the last two months, you’ll have realised I’m currently involved in campaigning against the new EU VAT regulations, as part of the EU VAT Action Team. www.euvataction.org . That’s the website to head for, If you’re still not really clear what all this about.

 We’ve managed to get some minor concessions from HM Revenue & Customs to keep some small  businesses trading that might otherwise have closed on 31st December but these are temporary concessions at best.

 What we must do now is gather solid information on the impact of this, and the impossibility of complying, to lobby the European Commission. There’s a key consultation scheduled for February.

 The more information we have, the better the chances of getting this damaging legislation reviewed and reworked.

 Could all  those whose businesses are affected please complete the EU VAT Action survey https://docs.google.com/forms/d/10GWseoeGY46uW1bXsRVyKODCnwDq6o0Ubx6uimqs7TE/viewform

 Now that the legislation has arrived, please could those directly affected email me directly at juliet.mckenna@gmail.com to let me know the following –

 If you as an author have stopped direct ebook sales from your own website rather than tackle the complexities of compliance.

 If you as a small press which is publishing your titles has similarly stopped direct ebook sales rather than tackle the complexities of compliance.

 If you either as an independent author or a small press, have abandoned any business plans for 2015 such as launching ebooks to complement hard copy publishing or starting independent sales ebook sales from your own site as well as using Amazon. Google Play, iBooks etc.

 What losing direct sales is likely to cost you in terms of income. (Round figures, anonymously if you wish).

 If you are attempting to comply, in order to continue direct sales, what is the cost in terms of additional fees/software licenses and working hours taken to set this up?

 What problems you are aware of, if you are now only using 3rd party resellers who say they will handle the VAT issue.  For instance, using Nook now seems impossible given French and German retail price harmonisation requirements.

 Anything else you’d like to raise in relation to this, really. If for instance, you hadn’t even heard about this before now.

Many thanks,

Juliet E McKenna.

BSFA Awards Deadline Approaches…

Dear Members,

As members of the BSFA you are all eligible to nominate for the BSFA Awards.  This is a membership only nominations system and these are your Awards..

I am writing now to ask you to raise awareness that the nominations period closes on 31st January.

The BSFA committee met in December and discussed our objectives with the award.  We want the BSFA Award (and the BSFA itself) to represent the full range of the genre and the diversity of talent and ability behind those working across the spectrum of short fiction, novels, art and nonfiction. Our starting point is to make sure that the suggestions list is as complete and representative of the best work as possible.

Please consider using your nominations.  You’ll see that this year we’ve asked people to put forward four nominations per category for the Awards and then click on this link to add to the recommendations section as well.

This is designed to promote as many authors and artists as possible.

If our Awards are going to reflect the best in SF published in Britain in 2014, then we need members to actively help to promote that quality. We hope you will support our aims.

It could well be that many of our members are biding their time, but we’d really like to hear from you. Everyone is just as qualified as everyone else to make their nominations.

Lastly, for your information, the rules are:

Nominations are restricted to four per category.

  • Nominations shall open in October each year and run to January 31st.
  • A minimum of three nominations will be required for a work to be
    included on the ballot; if there are fewer than three works achieving
    this level of support, the category will not be awarded.
  • You may not make multiple nominations for a single work.
  • Please do not nominate your own work.

Find out more about how to nominate here:

The deadline for nominations is 31st January 2015.

Happy New Year and best wishes

Donna Scott

Chair

 

January BSFA London Meeting: Anne Charnock Interviewed by Adam Roberts

Location: Upstairs, The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND

Charnock-2

On Wednesday 28th of January 2015, Anne Charnock (The Kitschies and Philip K. Dick Award Nominated author of A Calculated Life) will be interviewed by Adam Roberts (award winning author and academic).

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

Map is here.

FUTURE EVENTS:

25th February 2015- TBC

25th March 2015- Suniti Namjoshi interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn

22nd April 2015- Den Patrick Interviewed by Gillian Redfearn

The Sum of Mars

On now until Saturday 6th December, a new play inspired by a quote from Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End is being performed at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham.

Sum of Mars is a new play by Susan Gray, a writer and performer from London who has had a number of successful plays performed since 2012. She is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Writing and Practice Based Research in Royal Holloway, University of London, researching the staging of Science Fiction in the Theatre.

SUM depicts characters who have entered a ‘hivemind’ contract to share themselves in a much more intimate way than social media can provide. Who is the pioneer of the technology? Who will use it for good (whatever that means in this reality), and who will use it to further their own ends? Should everyone be able to connect?

Staged by Stars or Mars Theatre Company,the play is directed by Chris Callow Jr. and stars Eleanor Russo, Briony Wyatt, Lydia Kay, Melanie Crossey and Susan Gray herself.

Tickets are £8 and are available here.

Brian Aldiss OBE at the Big Green Bookshop 2nd December

This Tuesday, 2nd December, Brian Aldiss OBE will be appearing at The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green London.

Brian will be in conversation with Scott Pack, from The Friday Project. The Friday Project have been republishing a Brian’s works of fiction and non-fiction since 2012, and last month published the first volume of  Brian’s 300+ short stories, which are being collected together for the first time. This will be an excellent opportunity to hear the eminent author of many SF classics, including the much lauded Hellicona Trilogy, talk about his work and have books signed.

This event takes place from 7pm-8.30pm. Tickets, £5, are available here.

Podcast: Claire Corbett interviewed by Colin Harvey

On Monday 24th November, our guest at The Artillery Arms was Claire Corbett, the Ned Kelly Award-shortlisted author of When We Have Wings. She was interviewed by academic writer Colin Harvey and the conversation gave a fascinating insight into her research of the mechanics of flight, as well as a discussion of considerations of the morality of such bodily modification and how working as an editor on Jane Campion’s gorgeous film The Piano helped her with the writing process.

We recorded the interview here for the benefit of members who couldn’t be there, but we don’t have fancy equipment so please note that not all the audience questions are picked up, and there is a little background noise too. Live is best, so we do hope to see you at one of the events on our calendar soon. We are scouting for more towns and places to run events in, so watch this space.

Next London meeting, the Philip K Dick Award-shortlisted Anne Charnock, author of A Calculated Life, will be interviewed by BSFA Award-winning author Adam Roberts. That’s on 28th January.

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUND-UP

Graphic Novel Round-up – by Alex Bardy

Comics and graphic novels remain an under-represented genre in much of the mainstream press, and a quick scour of the regular internet ‘SF sites’ suggests this is the case even within conventional science fiction and fantasy circles.

Here at the BSFA we’re hoping to start changing this, and the introduction of our newest column, Sequentials, in Vector #276 (by the awesome Laura Sneddon — who will return from #278) is hopefully just the beginning.

Even the word ‘comics’ is considered derogatory by some, suggesting as it does, spandex-clad superheroes suffering major personal angst while labouring intensively to save the planet from all those big bad nasty D’s: Death, Disease, Destruction, Destabilisation, Dystopian Dread, etc. I have no such preconceptions: comics are varied and many, a visual medium that’s constantly breaking boundaries and pushing the envelope, and while troubled superheroes have their part to play in that, the majority of graphic novels tend to be a collection of said comics in all their forms.

Increasingly, we’re seeing work that is conceived from the very start as being suitable for the graphic novel format, and this is characterised by all of the ones I’m looking at here…

mmRUBYFirst up is Michael Moorcock’s Elric Volume 1: The Ruby Throne, a gorgeous adaptation featuring everybody’s favourite albino emperor. Written by Julien Blondel with artwork by Robin Recht, Didier Poli, and colouring by Jean Bastide, this is a sumptuous affair, and boasts an exclusive introduction by Moorcock himself. The story features Elric’s cousin, Yyrkoon, as heir to the throne, troublemaker and tormentor, deriding the absence of chaos within the Melnibonéan Empire and concerned the lackadaisical malaise of excessive drinking and poor entertainment will make it appear weak and a target for its enemies. Needless to say the empire does get attacked, the Lords of Chaos are called upon, and Yyrkoon does get his wish, albeit not quite in the form he was expecting…

mmRUBY1mmRUBY2mmRUBY3I won’t ruin the rest for you, but I will add that the artwork is fabulous, the writing well-paced and the various ‘added extras’ at the back a welcome bonus. A very nice and neat package which will be loved by fans old and new alike — the next one, Elric Volume 2: Stormbringer is due early next year.

NGVC

Next up, and another equally splendid offering, is Violent Cases written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. Typically of Gaiman, even the title here is an accidental misnomer by the main character, who struggles to recall everything succinctly and always leaves things open to wider interpretation. Written in the style of a fractured childhood memoir, this is a very dark piece of work indeed — even the palette of colours is miserable: black, white, greyish-brown and the odd splash of red for the nasty parts…

NGVC1

For many, this is also considered a ‘break-out’ piece for both Neil and Dave — the original series appeared back in 1987, and crossed so many traditional boundaries of genre and style that it virtually created a new sub-genre all its own, that of arty comics with strong cinema-style storytelling and mixed media visualisation. Even today, this is evidently a stand-out piece of work — it’s subtle blend of violence (suggestive and otherwise), deeper narrative meaning, and the underlying backdrop of Prohibition America (even Al Capone gets a walk-on part) allows it to straddle a plethora of accepted ‘crime’ and ‘noir’ categories, all the while remaining true to itself as a story about child abuse, the fragility of memory, and the realisation that danger can indeed lurk under any surface.

This is strong stuff, but it’s also an example of creative genius in full flow — indeed, at one point the narrator and the artist have their own little ding-dong discussion about what one of the main characters (an osteopath) may have actually looked like… It is brilliantly done, and this particular edition is elegantly presented and a stunning visual feast.

Ordinary

 Ordinary by Rob Williams & D’Israeli is an altogether more colourful and significantly lighter piece of work, but nonetheless still an excellent example of what can be done when you turn the whole superheroes thing on its head. In the world of Ordinary, everyone has superpowers, except Michael Fisher, a miserable, lonely loser who bears more than a passing resemblance to actor Simon Pegg (not that the two are related if you see what I mean), or at least I thought so. Indeed, Michael is so hopelessly useless he even gets rejected by women in his own dreams, is bullied by Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, and can’t seem to do anything right for trying. So why is this guy the star of the show? That’d be telling… ;-)

Ordinary1Ordinary2

Packed with extras, this is a colourful, clever story, and even boasts an introduction by Warren Ellis. It’s a doozy as our American cousins might say…

GBonslaught

And finally, by far my favourite of the lot thus far, is Dr Grordbort presents ONSLAUGHT, an anthology of tales from the retro sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort, both written and beautifully illustrated by Greg Broadmore who is obviously a very talented and sickeningly twisted human being… J

ONSLAUGHT is by far one of the funniest and most hilarious things I’ve read in a long time. It’s accurately subtitled “Excessive Space Violence For Boys and Girls” and I can assuredly inform you this is most definitely not suitable for younger children. The first story is called “Lord Cockswain in Into The Lair of the Space Wa*~&ers” for example, and the whole affair is chock full of serious political incorrectness that will see you either rolling around in stitches or seething at the pointy end…

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As well as several stories that see Cockswain destroying the virulent wildlife of Venus and spearheading an excursion against the dastardly Moon Men and associated Moon Menaces, Cockswain is also the poster boy for a variety of steampunk-stylee invented weaponry from Dr. Grordbort, the Head of Grordbort Industries and self-styled master of maniacal mechanisms. His wares are featured herein through a variety of “Contrapulatronic” catalogue excerpts which includes headlines such as: “Be a Better Man with a MANMELTER. Your wife may come back to you!* (some assembly required)”, “Absolutely No Compensation Given for Accidental Limb Loss”, “By Jingos those socially inept boffins have done it!” and some classic weaponry like the Grordbort 66 Sonic De-Stabiliser, the Saturn 67 Luminiferous Aether Igniter and Lord Cockswain’s Ray-Blunderbuss: ‘The Unnatural Selector’ which is scientifically proven to “render a yard-wide aperture in a giraffe at 60 feet, and give a blue whale a nasty rash through 200 yards of saltwater”…

There is also a Bestiary of the Cosmos (mostly covering Venusian wildlife), a number of Testimonials, a Hall of Gits and plenty of gung-ho, rebel-rousing ‘support our finest’ retro-style inspirational posters that had me crying with laughter.

 

This is a sparkling collection of wickedly comic tales, all involving excessive violence, swearing and the odd slaughter of harmless alien pond life, and really is heaps of fun. I cannot recommend this highly enough as a Christmas treat for any fan, and the artwork throughout is gorgeous — it’ll plaster a foot-wide smile on your face for weeks, and you will definitely love “how fabulous it looks with all its fandangly whatchimacallits and thingamajigs”.

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You can discover more about Greg Broadmore’s crazy universe here: drgrordborts.com

 

Sheffield SFSF Social with Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jo Thomas 24th January 2015

In association with BFS and Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction Social Club:

On 24th January 2015, at 4pm, please join us upstairs at Eten on York Street in Sheffield for the very first SFSF Social. Our guests will be the following wonderfully talented authors and swordfighters:

Jo Thomas

Chat, book talk, good company and the chance to win awesome prizes.

Free entry!

Do register on Eventbrite if you can, as it gives the organisers an idea of who’s going.

 

BSFA London Meeting 28th January 2015 Anne Charnock

On 28th January 2015, from around 7pm.

The Artillery Arms Public House (Upstairs)
102 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8ND (map here)
ANNE CHARNOCK

Anne Charnock

The Kitschies and Philip K. Dick Award Nominated author of A Calculated Life)
will be interviewed

Interview commences at 7.00 pm, room open from 6.00 (and fans in the MAIN bar from 5.00
There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of SF novels as prizes.
FUTURE EVENTS:
February 25th- TBC
March 25th- Suniti Namjoshi interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn
April 22nd- TBA
ALL WELCOME
(No entry fee or tickets. Non-members welcome.)
For further information about the London meetings, contact Audrey Taylor, London Meetings Organiser, bsfa.london.meetings@gmail.com

Steampunks in Space! 29/30 November

The National Space Centre in Leicester is playing host to a weekend of Steampunk shenanigans from 29th-30th November 2014.

The Steampunks in Space event boasts multifarious delights from a cake and jam competition, tea-duelling, the marketplace, real steam-powered engineering to the science of afternoon tea.

There are also goings-on in the library, where authors do what authors do. You can meet a number of them there, including Pax Britannia writer Jonathon Green, Steve Turnbull, Liesl Schwartz and The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter (book one in the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series) writer Rod Duncan.

…also gin tasting and moustache waxing will be happening. Of course!

If you buy a ticket for Saturday daytime, you can upgrade to a free annual pass when you collect your tickets. This will allow you entry on Sunday daytime at no additional cost:

  • £13 per adult
  • £11 per concession (child/NUS/senior/disabled
  • Under 5 free
  • Carer free (when accompanying a disabled patron)