Reading Hard: The Golden Bough

I’ve been neck-deep in preparatory reading, ahead of writing my next book. I hesitate to call it ‘research’ because I’m not exactly studying; this process isn’t about acquiring precise knowledge of any one thing. Instead I’ve been steeping myself in mythology and folklore from multiple historical sources – everything from Icelandic sagas to Yoruba folktales to the Mabinogion to the Bible – trying to pack my head full of potential reference points. This isn’t going to be a fantasy novel, but it is going to require a rich seam of diverse cultural narratives if I’m to have any hope of pulling it off.

One of the books I thought I’d skim through, and ended up reading cover to cover, is The Golden Bough by James Frazer, a seminal work of early comparative anthropology. My edition is a 1981 reissue of the original 1890 text, which I bought well over twenty years ago; Frazer’s work had been referenced during my own undergraduate studies in anthropology in the late 80s, and I thought that I should some day acquaint myself with it more fully. It became one of those books that I’ve packed up and moved from house to house and country to country, never quite knowing why, but with a nagging sense that I might one day find it useful.

It’s turned out to be a treasure trove of information and inspiration, albeit one that’s very hard to read from a modern perspective. Nominally an investigation into the succession rites of the priest-kings of a sacred grove in ancient Italy, The Golden Bough is where Frazer sets out his overarching theories about folklore and the development of religion, and notes the similarities between the practices and beliefs of widely disparate peoples. It’s as jam-packed as a Victorian curio cabinet with details of customs, beliefs and ritual practices from around the globe, and interesting (though not always accurate) connections, comparisons and parallels are drawn between them.

Unfortunately, however, Frazer’s otherwise sharply analytical mind fails entirely to scrutinise his own presumptions of social and cultural superiority. The assertion of a civilisational hierarchy, in which the educated European or Briton occupies the top tier, is never questioned. The terminology of “savages”, “rude peoples” and the “peasantry” to refer to the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America, as well as the rural working classes of Europe and Britain, is employed casually and unselfconsciously throughout.

And yet many of his insights, despite the hugely problematic context within which they’re presented, and the fact that much of his theoretical analysis has since been soundly disproved, remain powerfully evocative. Take this observation on the transition from the supernatural to the empirical:

But when, still later, the conception of the elemental forces as personal agents is giving way to the recognition of natural law; then magic, based as it implicitly is on the idea of a necessary and invariable sequence of cause and effect, independent of personal will, reappears from the obscurity and discredit into which it has fallen, and by investigating the causal sequences in nature, directly prepares the way for science. Alchemy leads up to chemistry.

Or this surprisingly sympathetic – and acute – commentary on the worldwide phenomenon of taboos, in which certain classes of people are segregated from the wider community:

Thus the rules of ceremonial purity observed by divine kings, chiefs, and priests, by homicides, women at child-birth, and so on, are in some respects alike … the common feature of all these persons is that they are dangerous and in danger, and the danger in which they stand and to which they expose others is what we should call spiritual or supernatural, that is, imaginary. The danger, however, is not less real because it is imaginary; imagination acts upon man as really as does gravitation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of prussic acid.

Indeed, Frazer’s rather wry conclusion that religion derives not from some initial revelation, but develops over time to explain already extant cultural practices, seems to me both audacious and unexpectedly modern:

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason; to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.

Whether he applies this reasoning equally to religion as practiced by the academic elite of Trinity College, Oxford, is not addressed. But for all his errors of fact and arrogance, Frazer acknowledges the kinship between his own civilisational cohort and those whom he otherwise observes with condescension; and acknowledges too that the presumptions on which he now relies for his analysis may one day prove just as false as he considers their ancient beliefs to have been. It’s a moment of empathy and self-awareness that I frankly didn’t expect.

For when all is said and done our resemblances to the savage are still far more numerous than our differences from him; and what we have in common with him, and deliberately retain as true and useful, we owe to our savage forefathers who slowly acquired by experience and transmitted to us by inheritance those seemingly fundamental ideas which we are apt to regard as original and intuitive … Therefore in reviewing the opinions and practices of ruder ages and races we shall do well to look with leniency upon their errors as inevitable slips made in the search for truth, and to give them the benefit of that indulgence which we may one day stand in need of ourselves.

It struck me that I – geneaologically, culturally and intellectually an equal descendant of both the “savages” and the elites, and a woman to boot – am precisely the sort of unknown, unfathomable inheritor from whom he foresaw that forbearance might one day be required. Across the centuries of bitter colonial history, it’s a strange moment of connection.

TFFX: 10 Years of The Future Fire

Today I welcome Valeria Vitale to the blog to talk about The Future Fire, a magazine of social-political speculative fiction which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, TFF is crowdfunding an anthology: TFFX will include new fiction and artwork, plus reprints of some of the best work from the past ten years.

Valeria is one of TFF’s editors, and is also co-editor of the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean horror anthology. She has a soft spot for ghosts, vampires and old mythologies, but enjoys all sort of stories. When she’s not busy writing and reading (for pleasure or work) you may find her staring at ancient objects in museums or modelling buildings in 3D. At night, when she can’t sleep, she makes toys.

How did you first get involved with The Future Fire? Without looking it up, what is the first story you can remember buying for the zine, and what did you love about it?

Valeria Vitale: My first contact with TFF was as a reader, with issue #24 and I was really impressed by the quality of the stories and illustrations published. Discussing stories is pretty much my favourite activity, so I started doing it with other readers and with the editors, and, before I realised what was happening, I ended up being more and more involved with both TFF and the FFN (Futurefire.net Publishing) anthologies.

The first story that I remember strongly recommending for publication was Rebecca Buchanan’s “Sophie and Zoe at the end of the world.” It is a good, short story that points out issues of race, class and privilege. But what really struck me was the portrayal of the relationship between the two young girls. It felt so honest that it catapulted me back in time, to when I was that young, and very close to my best friend. It reminded me how our bond was built on sharing experiences, thoughts, and things we both loved. As for Sophie and Zoe, those things were, often, books. While reading the story, I knew that, if I had been in Sophie’s shoes, I would have given my leaving-for-a-hibernation-program soul mate a big, ridiculously heavy bag full of books too.

Do you have a favourite word and/or one that you hate?

VV: As many readers (and wannabe writers) I do love words. And I like learning them in other languages, and comparing them. It allows you to look at words from outside; to discover their strength, beauty, or fascinating precision like a foreigner visiting for the first time a place that, although awesome, is ordinary for the people who live there. My absolutely favourite word comes from the pages of French author Raymond Queneau who, I believe, minted it. The word, (in its Italian translation) is: “nottinauta”, traveller of the night. I fell in love with it at first sight. Because I think it suits me and my nocturnal attitude, my love for ghosts and vampires, for dreams and celestial bodies, I even made it my twitter handle.

There are a few words I hate, too. Usually those that _I_ tend to use too much. When I realise it, I start loathing them. But to be fair, it’s not really their fault.

What TFF story would you like to see adapted for the big screen?

VV: The first I could think of is Sara Puls’s “Sweet Like Fate.” Although part of the circus’ charm is definitely in the bold colours, I imagined the adaptation as a short movie in B&W. I think it would take the “glitter” away from the atmosphere and be more effective in showing things from the perspective of the artists, for whom that is a place of hard work and, in the case of Lambeth, of humiliation.

It’s a bit obvious, but I would use high contrast lights to show close ups of the (horrible) people in the audience. I could say in the style of Lang or Welles, but let’s not be too heavy handed. Kaurismaki’s style should be enough! The camera would show that the magic is not happening on stage, but behind the scenes, among the two main characters. Like in a Fellini movie, the tender, the oneiric, the surreal will take over reality. I also imagine it to be without spoken words, as Tati would have done it: with sounds, and only indistinct voices from the other characters. No dialogue between Ru and Lambeth, but looks, smiles, hesitations. The only words, those appearing on the acrobat’s skin.

What would be the most important thing for you to hold onto if civilization started to break down in your city?

VV: I happen to work with one of the most iconic cases of sudden disasters: Pompeii and Herculaneum. When reading the archaeological reports, it always strikes me how differently people reacted to that tragedy, and what they decided to take with them when they left their houses thinking that the world was ending. Some people made practical choices taking lamps, weapons, medical equipment. Other people tried to carry their most precious goods. But not everyone was that rational. Other people preferred to take amulets and religious statuettes, for protection. And others were found with objects that don’t have, in our eyes, any immediate practical or ritual use and maybe were just things that had an emotional value to them. I’m afraid I belong to the last category. If the world was collapsing and my house burning, I would take something not particularly useful but meaningful to me. Likely because it is a gift. Something I could look at when I need to find some inner strength. I suppose it will be one of my toy crocodiles (I have a few. Don’t ask…). And then I will start looking for some more sensible person to be my companion in the survival attempt.

Tell us more about the TFF tenth anniversary anthology and fundraiser?

VV: I see two main reasons for this initiative. The first looks at the past and is celebratory. Ten years is a lot of time for a small publishing house. We survived a few crises but we’re still here. And we want to ideally toast with all the authors, artists, and readers.

The second looks at the future. We keep receiving good stories and illustrations, but we feel we don’t give our authors the full recompense they deserve for their work, and we would like to change that. Many of the stories in the anthology are already available for free on the TFF website, but we’re also publishing new stories, flash-fiction sequels to earlier stories, poems, illustrations and Borgesian pseudostories. If you enjoy reading our illustrated stories and want to read more of them, please consider supporting the fundraiser. We have a list of nice perks to tempt you with—story critiques, artwork, or I’ll knit a zombie doll that looks like you!—or you could simply pre-order our 10th anniversary anthology featuring some of our very best stories plus new, exclusive extra content.

§

Many thanks to Valeria, and to editor-in-chief Djibril al-Ayad for making this interview possible. Do head on over to the fundraiser page; the TFFX e-book can be yours for only US$5, and there are great book bundles and other perks to be had. I plumped for the five e-books …

Here’s to you, readers. Thank you.

It’s the final day of 2014: traditionally the watershed moment in this season of lists. What was best about the year that’s gone? What resolutions should one make for the year to come?

I am a great list-maker when they are a tool for getting things done; not so much when it comes to ranking experience. Or aspiration. I read sublime books this year; but the most valuable may have been the two I started and didn’t finish because, despite interesting ideas and potentially engaging characters, the writing was pedestrian and the editing was poor. No writer can hope to appeal to every reader, but those novels reinforced my commitment to make sure that if someone doesn’t finish reading one of my books it will not be because of a lack of care or craft on my part. Nor did I achieve everything I intended to when the year began, and the things I did accomplish happened at different times and in different ways than I anticipated. Priorities shifted. Plans changed. Life intervened.

On reflection, there is little that I could wish had happened differently.

This year my second novel was published here in the UK; my first was released in North America; and I finished writing my third and sent it off to my publisher. Given that on this date three years ago my first ever manuscript had not yet been put in the post for submission to potential agents – much less me actually having an agent, still less a publisher – that feels astonishing. Meteoric. It’s a thing to be proud of, and I am. But there is an interesting duality here, because it turns out that the flip side of being proud of what I’ve accomplished is to be profoundly humbled by its effects.

Much of my intellectual and emotional life has been bound up in books. I was lucky enough to be raised by loving parents in a stable and happy family, and my world was less conventional and narrow-minded than many. But it was still small, still constrained by the realities of the place and time in which we lived. There were limits to what was understood and expressed and aspired to by the people around me; but I was a precocious reader, and I learned early that the universe expanded within the pages of a book.

Other concepts of how to live and think and be; other truths and mysteries; other information about the world, other ways of understanding it, other times and places were there, in those volumes that were always bigger on the inside. Reading has been a transformative experience for me, over and over again. I learned the power books have to take you elsewhere, to touch the soul. I have collapsed in laughter, or in tears; had my perspective profoundly altered; and from the depths of a novel rethought what it means to be human, and to carry the weight of all our histories.

I never anticipated that I could ever have anything remotely like that effect on others. I never sought it out; I suspect few writers do. I had a story to tell and I wanted to do it as powerfully, as delicately, as sensitively and with as much of my own depth of feeling as I possibly could, knowing all the while that my best is unlikely ever to feel quite good enough. At least, not to me.

And yet the seminal events of this year for me have been the reactions of readers: in tweets and direct messages, online reviews and private emails, in person at conventions and signings. One by one, here and there, from places near and far, readers have told me that my stories touched and thrilled them. That they made them think, and see things differently. That they mattered, that they were important.

The bookseller from Illinois, who on a trip to London told me how much my stories meant to her, and to her friend at home who finds too few fictional characters whose lives speak to her own experience.

The woman I went to school with in Jamaica more than a quarter of a century ago, who contacted me through Facebook to tell me that her children are captivated by Gemsigns.

The people who found me at Eastercon and Loncon and Nine Worlds, and very shyly said thank you, and asked for more.

I want you to know that I did not expect this. It never occurred to me that one day something I wrote might be, for someone else, bigger on the inside.

Thank you. You are wonderful. You are amazing. I am immensely grateful to you, and for you.

I have been asked if living up to your expectations now feels like a responsibility. Yes it does, but it is also a very great privilege.

So here is my promise, readers, for next year and every year: I will do my best to deserve you.

Happy 2015. Let’s keep going.

Get on board and Holdfast! Online spec-fic magazine crowdfunds first anthology.

Holdfast is a free quarterly online speculative fiction magazine that’s been going for a little under a year now. It features original fiction, artwork, essays, author interviews and more. Founded by Laurel Sills and Lucy Smee, it’s a beautifully curated, high quality venture with a clever premise.

Each issue is themed; the theme is comprehensively reflected in the work of a featured author, carefully chosen short fictions, non-fiction essays, an open ‘Letter to …’ a writer whose work has been particularly influential, a bookshelf of recommended titles, a playlist of songs, and a selection of related offerings in other media. I love the breadth of that approach, and the intelligence and sensitivity with which it’s executed, and I’ve been hoping that it wins Laurel and Lucy the recognition and success that they deserve. Issue no1 was Speculating on Speculative Women, featuring Emma Newman; no2 was Animals, Beasts & Creatures with Sarah Pinborough; no3, out now, is Objects, Artefacts & Talismans and features Frances Hardinge.

Now Holdfast is moving to the next level, crowdfunding a new anthology of previously unpublished fiction along with essays and original artwork. The print edition is going to be a beautiful object, and they’re already 30% of the way to their target as I write this. They’ve rounded up an impressive array of milestone incentives and rewards for supporters, but there’s a way to go yet and I really want to see this project happen; so I’ve promised to donate an original unpublished poem once they hit the £2000 target.

Also! Verses from said poem will be inscribed by me into four copies of my novels, which will be bundled with a print copy of the anthology and Holdfast badge and bookmark. There are other great prizes as well. Check them out, contribute, tell your friends and share on social media. Here’s that link again.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/holdfast-magazine-anthology

Nine Worlds! New Voices!

I spent the weekend travelling across worlds — the Nine Worlds Geekfest, to be precise. It’s hard to imagine a better celebration of fandom in all its wonder, weirdness and glory. There was something for everyone: from academic studies of trends in fan fiction, to the fantasy authors playing a locked-room Call of Cthulhu, to panels on time travel, cyberpunk and superheroes, to cosplay that covered the gamut from steampunk to Sharknado.  And while clever programming is definitely something to crow about, the diversity and inclusiveness of the con is, for me, its biggest win.

Among the highlights were the New Voices sessions, featuring five minute readings from unpublished and debut authors. I had the pleasure of MCing on both Friday and Saturday nights; here’s a list of the authors and their works.

FRIDAY 8th August 2014:  

JY Yang: Harvestfruit

Available to read on the Crossed Genres website.

Vincent Holland-Keen: Billy’s Monsters

Available from Fox Spirit Books in November 2014.

Angus Watson: Age of Iron

Available to buy from all good bookshops in September 2014.

Chele Cooke: Fight or Flight

Available now from all major online retailers.

Laura Lam: False Hearts

Available from Tor/Macmillan in January 2016.

Pete Sutton: Roadkill

Not yet published.

Anna Caltabiano: The Seventh Miss Hatfield

Available at Waterstones, Amazon, and other bookstores.

Cleland Smith: Sequela

Available in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

Matt Suddain: Theatre of the Gods

Available now from Jonathan Cape/Vintage, in all formats from all major outlets.

 

SATURDAY 9th August 2014

KT Davies: Breed

Available from Fox Spirit Books in September 2014.

Tade Thompson: The Last Pantheon

Co-written with Nick Wood, and will be released later this year in the AfroSF2 Anthology.

Rhiannon Thomas: A Wicked Thing

Available from February 2015.

Stephen Aryan: Battlemage

Available from Orbit in 2015.

Stark Holborn: Nunslinger

This is a serialised work; books 1-9 are currently available in ebook format, the final 3 instalments will be released in September, and the full paperback omnibus is due for release in December 2014.

Anne Charnock: A Calculated Life

Published by 47North, available as an eBook and paperback.

Peter Newman: The Vagrant

Published by Harper Voyager, available in May 2015.

Taran Matharu: Summoner: The Novice

Available in Spring 2015.

Tiffani Angus: Threading the Labyrinth

This is a Creative Writing PhD project, and should be available after Tiffani graduates in 2015.

Ten books that have touched me

A different kind of list this time: yesterday I spotted a Kate Keen* post about a Facebook meme which asks you to name ten books that have touched you. I usually avoid those things like the plague, because I can never narrow my influences down to ten or five or twelve or whatever the chosen magic number is. But this specification is an interesting one; it implies a book that generated a strong emotional reaction when you read it, which is not the same thing as being the most loved, most challenging, or most influential (although they may be that too). It’s asking not about the books that made you think, but the books that made you feel.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are ten (actually eleven) that did it for me. Numbers 1-4 are from my childhood and adolescence; the others got me as a grown-up.

1. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

I suspect this is going to top many, many lists. It’s the immersion, which makes the reader care deeply about what’s at stake; and the sense of fellowship with the characters that begins at the very beginning of Fellowship. My mother gave it to me when I was nine, and what it did to my head and my heart is, I am quite certain, the reason I’m a writer today.

2. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Has there ever been a bright, bookish, slightly odd and outsider little girl anywhere in the world who didn’t identify with Jane? She made me cross, she made me cry, she made me believe that things would get better. And that if they didn’t you could bloody well make them better. Or move on.

3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe / Roots – Alex Haley

I should be able to choose between these two, but I can’t. I read them both when I was around 10-13 years old** and they made the reality of what slavery had actually meant accessible to me in a way no history lesson ever did, before or since. They made me sick to my stomach, they gave me nightmares, and I’m glad of it. If we could build that level of revulsion into the mind of every kid, we’d clear ourselves of violence and bigotry in a generation.

4. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

Well overdue for a reread, this one, but I still remember the emotional highs and lows of reading it for the first time. Dickens doesn’t just tell us about social inequality and the class system here, he makes us feel every vile moment of it. Through it all runs a complex web of love, friendship, family and sacrifice. Overwrought and melodramatic at times, but completely captivating.

5. Black Man – Richard Morgan

What?! I hear you say. An ultra-violent grimdark tech-noir thriller? Yes, absolutely. This is a novel about what it is to live within the constraints of an altered physicality and psychology; to never know if the things you want, the things you do, and the things you fear are really you, or what’s been done to you. It’s about damaged people who know they’re damaged trying endlessly to negotiate that line. And it makes us live through the death of a character we’ve come to admire and respect. Gut-wrenching.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Anger, horror, anger, contempt, anger, sorrow, anger, fear, anger. Did I mention anger? Atwood’s current MaddAddam trilogy is intellectually engaging and artistically accomplished, but it doesn’t do anything for me on an emotional level. Handmaid left me so furious I couldn’t speak.

7. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

I avoided this for years – unappealing cover, unappealing title – until I discovered that it was, actually, about time travel. I thought I wasn’t particularly enjoying it until about two thirds of the way through – kept feeling like I should chuck it in and not read any more – until the moment I found myself in floods of tears. And then I couldn’t stop reading, and could barely stop crying. That was when I understood the source of my reluctance: it drags you into the emotional lives of the characters whether you like it or not, into the heart of their incredible, doomed, love story, and makes you live it with them. Gorgeous and heartbreaking.

8. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

I wrote about Lolita last year; less a review of the novel than of my reaction to it. It’s another book that will break your heart, for completely different reasons. The narrator’s capacity for self-deception, for reframing the horrific and focusing on the banal, has the effect of completely dehumanising the young girl he claims to love. What’s shocking is how seductively he does it.

9. The Book of Night Women – Marlon James

James’s second novel left me profoundly shaken. It’s the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation, told in the colloquial language of the enslaved; unlike Beecher Stowe and Haley, told from the inside. The litany of atrocities suffered from birth to death, the way their lives brutalised both the abusers and the abused, what it took to endure and what it cost to survive, are simply part and parcel of the existence of people who feel as real and visceral as any people you know. It’s a stunningly good book that should be widely known and read, but I warn you now – it will hurt you.

10. The Language of Dying – Sarah Pinborough

I read Sarah’s beautifully written, achingly sad novella a couple of weeks ago, so it’s fresh in my mind – but I think it would have made this list anyway. The account of a woman’s vigil at the bedside of her dying father, it’s about family and love and loss, what brings people together and what tears them apart. It’s about facing the inconceivable. Anyone who has lost a loved one will feel how true it is – it took me back to the death of my own mother seven and a half years ago. And yet, strangely, it doesn’t leave you devastated. It ends with a sense of renewal and wonder; a hint at the possibility of magic.

And that is my list. Over to you – what’s on yours?

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* Kate is on Twitter as @ladymoonray

** Because those were the halcyon days before the invention of YA fiction, and the rise of the corollary notion that because there is now a category deemed ‘appropriate’ for young readers, other books must perforce be ‘not appropriate’ – but that’s a rant for another time. (And is not, by the way, a criticism of YA books or writers, many of which/whom are wonderful; what I have a problem with is the creation of a barrier to other books.)

#WomenToRead and Reviews

A quickie post to draw your attention to two cool things that happened yesterday, both discovered by me during what *should* have been a fifteen-minute tea break. One was the #womentoread meme on Twitter, started by Kari Sperring in response to the Strange Horizons analysis of SF book reviews in 2012, broken down by gender of author and gender of reviewer (the not-so-surprising conclusion: more books by men were submitted; more books by men were reviewed; more reviewers were men).

The analysis is interesting but hardly surprising, certainly not to anyone who’s been paying attention to the storm of controversy surrounding the Hugo and Clarke awards shortlists and the broader and deeper issues they illuminate about the challenges facing female writers of science fiction. For those who haven’t, the headlines are: it’s felt that it is generally harder for us to find an agent and/or publisher; that our books are less likely to be stocked by bookshops; and less likely to be reviewed, either by bloggers or more mainstream critics.

(I have to pause here for a moment to shout from the rooftops that MY AGENT AND PUBLISHER ARE EXCEPTIONS! Ian Drury represents a clutch of female authors who write SF, and Jo Fletcher Books has published not one, not two, but THREE science fiction novels by women so far this year: Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds in January, Naomi Foyle’s Seoul Survivors in February, and Gemsigns by yours truly in March. Gemsigns is being carried by most bricks-and-mortar retailers – and is being added by more – and all online retailers. And I’ve been getting a steady stream of reviews, long may they continue. That doesn’t mean the problems people are talking about don’t exist, of course; just that so far I personally have nothing about which to complain.)

The #womentoread hashtag unleashed a torrent of names, in which I was flattered to find myself included several times by several contributors. For an author who has, as of today, been published for all of a month it feels like a real validation. But more importantly, there are literally dozens and dozens of authors listed there – maybe hundreds by now – writing in all genres, from all over the world. They are the writers other writers turn to for inspiration, instruction and entertainment, and they are well worth checking out.

The second cool thing was another good review of Gemsigns, by Sophie Atherton for Starburst Magazine. Thank you Starburst and Sophie – both for the review itself, and for bucking the trends described above.

I should note that, as promised a couple of weeks ago, I have reorganised the menu structure of this site in order to put up a Reviews tab. I’ll post links to every review I’m aware of there (unless they contain unflagged spoilers, which I will NOT link to, no matter how good the review might otherwise be). And I do mean every review; so far they’ve all been really positive, and of course I hope that continues to be the case, but as I said in an earlier post I expect – and respect the right of – reviewers to not all like the same thing. So as long as reviews are decently written, not spoiler-y and not abusive, I’ll include them.

How to Help Debut (or, really, any) Authors

A really great primer from Laura Lam on what debut authors need from their readers.

Laura Lam

I’ve had quite a few people (well, okay, like 5) ask me the best way to support me, and so I thought I’d collate the information I’ve learned. Obviously, this isn’t a completely altruistic post (as evidenced by my clever buy links) and it’d be wonderful if you use this information to help Pantomime, but some of this was new to me, it might be for you as well, and you can use it to help all the wonderful books that need a little extra love.

Buy the book

Yes, seems obvious, but really the best way to support an author is to pay with your dollar/pound/currency of choice. Debuts especially live and die by the numbers, especially in the early months. These numbers can have a huge impact on the writer’s career, such as if further books in the series are commissioned.

If you can’t buy it: request…

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World Book Night: one amazing story

World Book Night is well under way. I did my bit early, taking my two dozen copies of Good Omens to the local college where library staff had assured me that the student population were not, in fact, regular readers beyond what was necessary for coursework. So I expected it to be a bit of a struggle. But in the end it wasn’t; I teamed up with a fellow giver, and, armed with free books and lots of chocolate, she got them to spend time with a delusional shopaholic while I persuaded them that the end of the world, as imagined by Messrs. Pratchett and Gaiman, is incredibly funny. I left a couple of young guys already nose-deep in their books, and came home happy.

But I am left with a sneaking suspicion that it may have been too easy. I’m delighted to have shared the books where I shared them – it’s true that no one we spoke to had read either book before, and I doubt that many of them are avid readers in general. But I don’t think the books they got today are likely to change their lives. The same can’t be said for another giver, whose story was posted  on the WBN blog. I won’t steal her thunder; please click the link to read. All I’ll say is that it’s left me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

A very moving Givers story.

What are the most profound quotes from the Calvin and Hobbes series?

I have been genuinely L-ingOL all the way through this. Pure genius. Calvin: the voice of a generation.

Samarth Mohan’s answer to Calvin and Hobbes: What are the most profound quotes from the Calvin and Hobbes series? – Quora.

  • Stephanie Saulter

    I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it. In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

  • Upcoming Events

    • Science Fiction Foundation AGM | Guest of Honour June 17, 2017 Imperial College, London
    • 2017 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass | Class Leader June 30, 2017 – July 2, 2017 Royal Observatory, Greenwich
    • Worldcon 75 August 9, 2017 – August 13, 2017 Helsinki
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