September Fringe: Chloe Headdon & Anna Smith Spark

Thanks to some very fast work by Tom Parker we have Monday’s Fringe readings available already.

Our first reader for September was Chloe Headdon, who had so impressed us in the April open mic.

Ever since she was little Chloe has wanted to be either a writer or a knight, so she now combines a bit of both. Chloe’s work is inspired by myths and legends, especially King Arthur, medieval history, and the British landscape. She is currently working on a young adult fantasy novel as well as other short stories. In her spare time, Chloe practises Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) and can regularly be found fighting people twice her size with swords.

Chloe read from the opening chapters of her novel. Before she got going, I introduced a guest from the USA.

Next up was Anna Smith Spark. She lives in London, and loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model.

The first book in the Empires of Dust series (The Court of Broken Knives) was published by Harper Voyager in June 2017. Anna read from the opening chapters of the book.

Finally there was the Q&A. I talked to Chloe about hitting people with big swords and her job in the heritage industry. I have huge admiration for her willingness to get in an arena to fight Francesca Terminiello. I talked to Anna about epic poetry, studying ancient history, what she feeds her shoes, and whether she had any advice for Chloe about getting published. Then Justin Newland asked a philosophical question about history and we discovered that, with three historians on a panel, the discussion can go on for ever. The conversation touched on the sex life of Alexander the Great and tasteless bathroom conversions in historic buildings.

Pete Sutton previewed this year’s Bristol literary festivals, of which BristolCon will of course be a part. The festivals seem to be breeding as we now have a horror convention and a poetry festival in October as well as the Festival of Literature. There are rumors of a festival devoted to Westerns as well.

There is no Fringe next month, but there will be an open mic at BristolCon. The guests for November are Jonathan L Howard & Baylea Hart.

Forthcoming Appearances

Here are a few places where you will be able to find me in the coming weeks.

First up we have BristolCon Fringe on Monday, featuring the legendary Anna Smith-Spark, owner of the deadliest shoes in the writing business, and Chloe Headdon, one of the best readers from the last open mic event. As usual I will be hosting, and interrogating the readers afterward. I may ask Anna what her shoes eat.

If you happen to be in London, on September 30th I will be at this conference on being trans, intersex and gender non-confirming in academia. I’ll be talking about trying to do trans history when many historians believe that people like you didn’t exist before the 20th Century.

October sees the annual Bristol Festival of Literature and we will once again be doing the ranty feminist author panel. I may talk a bit about Space Marine Midwives. And Dreadnought, always Dreadnought.

I won’t be at BristolCon this year as I will be in Bologna for an academic conference. I’m also doing one in Melbourne early in November, though only by Skype. If you are interested in either, let me know.

And on November 4th, if all goes according to plan, I will be at LaDIYfest in Bristol. Watch this space for details on what I might end up doing there.

August Fringe – G.V. Anderson & Lucy Hounsom

For the August Fringe meeting we were delighted to welcome G.V. (Gemma) Anderson whose first professional sale, “Das Steingeschöpf”, is a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards. Naturally we are all very proud of her. Because she had an early train to catch I did some quick Q&A after her reading, focusing on her sudden success and the crowdfunding campaign to get her to San Antonio for the World Fantasy Convention.

Our headline guest for August was Lucy Housom whose second novel in her Worldmaker series, Heartland, was published that week. The series will conclude with Firestorm next year and we have already booked Lucy to come back and read from it.

Much of the Q&A involved covers and marketing. Lucy’s books have recently been re-launched with dramatically different covers. Because she works for a well known major bookstore chain, Lucy has a special insight into how books are marketed. Lucy also discussed her podcast, Breaking the Glass Slipper, which is nicely feminist but seems to need more cake. There was also some mention of gin theft.

As we still had some time before Gemma had to leave for her train, we were able to do a joint Q&A with both readers. We continued to address issues of covers and marketing, including why Gemma writes under her initials but Lucy does not. We also talked about use of foreign and invented languages.

We seem to have got the audio working much better now that the microphone feeds directly into the recorder. However, this does mean that when people shout questions from the audience the recording will not capture them.

Fringe Tonight: G.V. Anderson & Lucy Hounsom

The August edition of BristolCon fringe will take place tonight. We will have a first ever appearance for World Fantasy Award nominated author, G.V. Anderson. At it is a warm welcome back to fantasy novelist, Lucy Hounsom.

If you are able to get to Bristol, full details of the venue and schedule are available here. And if not we expect to have the podcasts available for you some time next week.

Fringe Tonight

It is tine for another BristolCon Fringe event tonight, so I shall be off into Bristol shortly. We have an excellent show lined up for you.

First up will be Justin Newland (also known as “the man who asks questions”). Justin was born in the tenth ember of 1953, making him a Capricorn. Hey, someone has to be one. Today, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills, in Somerset, England and writes historical, fantasy and speculative fiction with a supernatural bent.

Our headline guest tonight is Virginia Bergin. She studied psychology and (briefly) fine art/film and video at university. She has had lots of different jobs — so many she’s lost count — and she even got paid to write for documentary, corporate and e-learning projects. She lives on a council estate in Bristol, UK. She likes science, archaeology, nature, art and walking.

Virignia will be reading to us from her recently released novel, Who Runs the World, in which men have gone extinct. Was this all caused by a woman being cast as Doctor Who? I can see I will have to ask her that question. Come along and see what she says.

As usual we will be in the Function room of the Naval Volunteer. The readings start at 7:30pm.

May Fringe – Emma Newman & Piotr Świetlik

Huzzah, we are up to date!

Our first reader for May was local author and sometime radio show host, Piotr Świetlik. He read part of a science fiction story set in Pennsylvania (but not that Pennsylvania).

Our headline guest for May was Emma Newman. She read the first chapter of her novel, After Atlas, which is a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. This introduces us to the main character in the novel, Carlos Moreno. He is a detective, but also the son one of the passengers on the Atlas, the colony ship from Planetfall. This story takes place many years after the Atlas left Earth.

When introducing Emma, I mentioned some top secret news that I couldn’t divulge at the time. I can now reveal that Emma will be the Guest of Honour at Åcon 9 in Flnland next year. The piece I wrote about Emma can be found here.

Finally for May, Piotr and Emma are put to the question. Emma and I go off on a bit of a feminist rant and we more than earn our explicit tag on iTunes. Piotr explains where Pennsylvania is. There is some discussion of tea, jeopardy and mild peril.

Tom cheekily asks a question that Emma used on a guest during a recent Tea & Jeopardy episode: what science fiction trope would the panel most like to see the back of, and which one would they be happy to see more of?

Peter Newman reveals what he will be reading when he headlines Fringe in June.

The full schedule for the rest of 2017 is now fixed. You can find it here. And with any luck we’ll now have each month’s podcasts up shortly after the event.

March Fringe

Thanks to some great work by Tom Parker are very close to being caught up on the Fringe audio. Here we have the March readings.

For March our readings went all creepy and horrific, starting with local writer, Steph Minns. She read a story of a man (probably) coming to a sticky end on the narrow country roads of Darkest Somerset. Did he deserve it? Listen and make your own decision. Steph does a great Gollum voice.

Our headline guest for March was Paul Cornell, who should need no introduction. Paul treated us to a preview of his latest novel, Chalk (due for publication the following day). He read two excerpts, one of which introduces us to the landscape of the novel, and the other featuring an innovate form of divination based on pop singles. The book is set in the 1980s and Pauls’ publishers, Tor, have put together a great YouTube playlist to go with the book.

Finally for March we have the traditional Q&A session with our readers. I ask Steph and Paul about the dangers of the West Country landscape, adultery, who was the cutest member of Duran Duran and many other things. Did you know that the West Country is as full of supernatural horrors as Lovecraft’s New England? Given that I was born there, probably yes.

Paul plugs the Fairford Festival of Fiction, which has an amazing guest list. Sarah McIntyre! Emma Newman! Daleks! Some guy called Moffat. Tickets are still available. The date is June 3rd.

The April readings (including part of my Amazons in Space story) have been edited. I’ll post them for you next week.

February Fringe

This evening I will be off to Bristol for the May Fringe event featuring Emma Newman and Piotr Świetlik. Emma will be reading from her Clarke Award finalist novel, After Atlas, which is a fabulous book.

For those of you who can’t be there, I have the podcasts from February available. Sadly the audio quality is not great. I’m still learning the new venue. It is great to not have any background noise, but the speakers are up on the wall so it is hard to get a recording that focuses on the speaker rather than anything else going on in the room. Hopefully we’ll be getting some new tech soon that will allow us to record direct from the sound system.

Anyway, with profuse apologies to our readers for the poor quality, here’s what we have for you from February.

First up there is Gareth L. Powell. He read the whole of his short story, “Entropic Angel”, which is also the title of his new short fiction collection. It isn’t quite as sweary as an Ack-Ack Macaque book, but it does still get an explicit tag. Some of you may remember that the story was initially published by Wizard’s Tower Press in the anthology, Dark Spires.

Our second reader for February is another well-known local name, Pete Sutton. He read to us from his debut novel, Sick City Syndrome. It is more supernatural thriller than anything else (it has ghosts), but Pete managed to find a fairly science fictional bit to read for us.

Finally for February we had the Q&A. Gareth tells us more about what’s in the the short story collection, and Pete tells us more about what you can expect from his novel. We discover how “Entropic Angel” was inspired by pigeon poo, and we discuss whether science fiction is a better way of understanding the world today than so-called “realist” fiction.

Tom and I are managing to get caught up on the audio. Hopefully we’ll have March (with Paul Cornell) up soon. I have an incentive, because April is the open mic and therefore has me in it.

Fringe Tonight, And January Readings

Tonight sees the return of the legendary BristolCon Fringe Open Mic, at which a whole host of lovely people get just five minutes to wow us with their fiction. I have to catch a train to Plymouth tonight because I’m doing training first thing tomorrow morning, so the event will be primarily hosted by the fabulous Tom Parker. If he lets me go on early you might get a very rough piece from the space marine midwives story that I’ve been working on (also knows as the Amazons In Space story). We’ll be at the Volley from 7:00pm, with the first reading starting at around 7:30pm.

For those of you who can’t be there, I have instead the recordings from the January event. Our first reader that night was Amanda Huskisson whose work we have very much enjoyed at previous open mics so we got her back to read more from her Egyptian fantasy, Melody of the Two Lands. We get to learn a lot more about her characters in this.

The second reading came from Tej Turner who joined us all the way from Cardiff in Welsh Wales. Tej writes fix-up novels about mostly queer characters. The stories revolve around goings on at a night club in a small town. As you might expect, there’s plenty of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and a significant amount of magic too. It kind of reminded me of Charles de Lint. I have since read and enjoyed The Janus Cycle, and am looking forward to Dinnusos Rises which was launched a couple of weeks ago.

The Q&A was basically me showing off my knowledge of Egyptian history and investment banking. Sorry folks. At least I wasn’t showing off my knowledge of eating psychotropic mushrooms.

And because I love you, here’s an example of Egyptian flute playing so you can get some idea of what Neferu’s music sounds like.

BristolCon Fringe November 2016

I have some more Fringe podcasts for you. We don’t have audio from September because I was Very Sick and no one else had any recording kit, so we move on the November, which was a Kristell Ink Special. Editor extraordinaire, Jo Hall, brought along two of her favorite acquisitions to delight us with their fantasy novels.

First up was author, podcaster, dyslexia activist and accidental political comedian, Joel Cornah. He read from The Sky Slayer, which is about pirates and curses and the like.

Our second reader for November was Jessica Rydill. Her Shamanworld series was part-released by Orbit several years ago, but it fell victim to the all too regular “you only get one chance to be the next JK Rowling” syndrome. Thankfully Kristell Ink has picked up the entire series so fans of the early books will get to find out what happens at the end. In the meantime here’s Jessica with a reading from the first book, Children of the Shaman.

At the end of the evening I put our two readers to the question. There is talk of giant penguins, Helsinki, nuclear power stations in France, the End of Civilisation As We Know It, and Jo’s plans to set up a resistance movement in the Welsh Marches.

The January podcasts are already done and hopefully I will have those for you next week. Huge thanks to Tom Parker for taking over the editing duties.

Forthcoming SF&F-Related Events

Here are a few things happening the the Bristol/Bath area in May.

On Friday, May 5th China Miéville will be doing a Festival of Ideas talk at @Bristol. This is not about his SF, he’s doing a tour to promote October, his new book about the Russian Revolution. I’m teaching at Bristol University that day anyway so I’ll pop in and say hello.

That same evening, Robin Hobb will be at Toppings in Bath. Obviously I can’t be at both. You get to make a choice.

And finally, on Tuesday, May 30th Alan Lee will be at Toppings to promote a new, illustrated edition of Beren and Luthien. There’s a limited edition slipcase edition available at a whopping £75, but thankfully the ordinary hardcover appears to have the illustrations too.

Fringe is Moving

As of next Monday’s event, BristolCon Fringe will have a new home. It is: The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer, 17-18 King Street, Bristol BS1 4EF. We will be in the function room on the first floor. The move should give us more space, better audio equipment, and no interruptions from noisy parties in the next bar or ghosts. (Though it was cool to have ghosts, their conversation was very boring.)

If you are in the area, please do join us from 7:00pm on Monday February 20th when our readers will be local favorites, Gareth L. Powell and Pete Sutton.

Gareth is best known for his alternate history thriller Ack-Ack Macaque which won the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel and spawned two sequels. Gareth will be reading a selection of work from my new short fiction collection, Entropic Angel, which will be released by NewCon Press in April.

Pete Sutton is a contributing editor of Far Horizons Magazine as well as one of the organisers of the Bristol Festival of Literature. He will be reading from his debut novel, Sick City Syndrome.

And of course there will be the usual thing where I put the readers to the question.

Fringe 2017 Underway

The new year of BristolCon Fringe got under way last night. The schedule is a little fuzzy because Jo is handing over the management of the events to Tom Parker, so we don’t as yet have confirmed speakers for the months ahead. However, we did have a cracking event to kick off the year.

Amanda Huskisson had read an open mic events before, but this was her first time as a main guest. We got to hear a bit more from her novel, Melody of the Two Lands. I’m afraid I shamelessly took the opportunity to question her about Egypt. We had a great chat about religion and history. Amanda’s book is very feminist, and I was not surprised to learn that it is set during the reign of Hatshepsut.

You may have seen some things online about this woman pharaoh being a trans guy, but you only have to look at the magnificent tomb she had built for herself at Deir el-Bahri to see that this was someone very much concerned with women’s issues. Her problem was that in order to be pharaoh she also had to be an incarnation of Horus, which I’m sure presented a lot of challenges. Images of her tended to look more male, but in inscriptions she is always referred to as a woman and her name means “Foremost of Noble Ladies”.

One of the more interesting historical facts that came out of the conversation is that the Egyptians used exactly the same instruments as were used by the priests of Cybele in Rome. The double flute and sistrum were used by both cultures, over 1000 years apart.

Amanda’s book still doesn’t have a publisher, but I hope to be able to read it one day.

I’d not met Tej Turner before this event. Jo found him at FantasyCon and, as he’s not far away in Cardiff, coaxed him over the Severn to read for us. Jo has an excellent eye for talent. Tej is working on some epic fantasy, but in the meantime he has one book out from a small press and another (which he read from) due later this year.

The Janus Cycle is essentially a fix-up, with each chapter being a short story narrated by a different character. The book is urban fantasy, but more in the vein of Charles de Lint and Emma Bull than the hot chicks in leather with werewolves thing. There is an overarching story centered on a nightclub called Janus. Tej tells me that each one of the characters has a different gender. There is a lot of alternative culture involved. It isn’t as over the edge as Kathy Acker, but the subject matter does get close to that edge at times.

For Fringe Tej read from the sequel, Dinnusos Rises. Dinnusos is an alternative name for Dionysus so you can see that we have a theme going here. The extracts that Tej read were very funny, and very pointedly political. I think a lot of you folks would like his work. And if you don’t believe me, try this five-star review at Rising Shadow.

Tom has big plans for Fringe, including possibly locating to a different venue with more room and better audio equipment. Hopefully we can also get some budget to pay travel expenses and bring in some bigger names. The original plan was to have one big name writer as the main attraction and one local writer as the support act, which will give the local folks a much better audience.

One of the announcements we had at the end was from Jo. Kristell Ink currently has submissions open for no less than three science fiction anthologies. The deadline is the end of January, but if you write fast or have something in the trunk you should be able to make it. Details here.

Fringe Tonight

Tonight sees the first BristolCon Fringe of 2017. We have two great authors lined up for you.

Amanda Huskisson is a writer of historical fantasy. She will be reading the opening chapter of her debut novel, Melody of the Two Lands. A story set in Ancient Egypt about two girls, one living and one deceased, whose lives are inextricably entwined.

Tej Turner is a writer of fantasy, horror and speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Janus Cycle, was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015, and he has also had several short stories featured in anthologies. For the event he will be reading an extract from his second novel, Dinnusos Rises, which is due to be published later this year.

As usual we’ll be at The Shakespeare Tavern, 68 Prince Street (round the back of the Arnolfini). I hope to see some of you there.

Fringe Tonight

seastoneswordThe next BristolCon Fringe event will take place tonight (7:30pm, Shakespeare Tavern, as usual). The readers will be two fantasy authors currently signed to the fabulous Kristell Ink: Joel Cornah and Jessica Rydill. Their adoring editor will doubtless be there to cheer them on. I will be hosting as usual. I hope to see some of you there.

I know I am horribly behind on getting the podcasts done. We are making some changes to how Fringe is run for next year. Hopefully that will improve matters.

Bristol Weather Hates Me

When I did the event with Stuart Milk at Bristol University in February it rained heavily. Bristol traffic is bad enough at the best of times, but when it rains the city hits gridlock very quickly. The combination of bad weather and impossible traffic puts people off attending events, no matter how good.

Last night was the first evening event I had arranged at the University since then. It rained heavily. Traffic hit gridlock. And yet out of 46 people registered to attend 32 turned up. We had some great contributions from the panel, and some equally good feedback from the audience. I was very pleased. Thank you, everyone.

There’s no recording of the event as far as I know, but a reporter from ShoutOut Radio was there and she’ll be doing interviews with some of the panelists for a show at a later date, so the discussion will go on.

Alan Clark’s book is very funny, and less than a fiver on Kindle. Jane Traies’ book is very accessible for an academic text. It is inevitably hugely expensive, but if you still have a local library you should be able to order it.

Bristol LitFest Reminder

Tonight I will be chairing a Bristol Festival of Literature event at Bristol University. It is titled “Ageing in the LGBT Community” and we’ll be looking at the issues through fiction and history with the help of authors and experts in social care. Details here.

Sadly Alan Clark is unwell and may not be able to attend, but he has sent me the extracts from his novel, Rory’s Boys, that he intended to read. They are very funny, and we will be reading them.

Also on the panel will be Dr. Jane Traies talking about the lives of older lesbians, plus Dr. Paul Willis and Berkeley Wilde talking about what this all means in the community.

It is a free event, and there is space, so do come along if you are in town.

Talk Like An Egyptian

I spent the afternoon in Bristol so that I could attend the Egyptian Stories event at Bristol Museum. While it was billed as being in the Egyptian gallery, that clearly wasn’t going to happen because there are too many display cases full of interesting artifacts. Instead it took place in the Assyrian gallery which contains little save a bunch of magnificent wall carvings from Nimrud, a city located just south of Mosul. They show King Ashurbanipal II (that’s him with the bow) and some attendant supernatural beings that the museum calls “demons” and I prefer to call “angels” because they are clearly protecting the king. Being an Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal was doubtless busy plotting how he could conquer the puny Egyptians, but he refrained from killing anyone so presumably he approved of the stories.

The four readers are (left to right) Piotr Świetlik, Amanda Huskisson, Jean Burnett and Justin Newland. Piotr and Jean read short stories, while Amanda and Justin read extracts from novels. Amanda tells me that she’ll be performing at BristolCon Fringe in November, so you’ll get to hear some of her work once I have that podcast.

The event was well attended, but could probably have done with an audio system. Reading and projecting at the same time takes practice. Having a microphone means people have one less thing to worry about (provided that they remember to use it).

Trevor Coombs, who is on the museum’s staff and also an historical fiction writer himself, hosted the event. He says that he’s hoping to do more events like that in future. I do hope so. I’m sure that Ishtar wants me to read about her in that room.

Bristol Festival of Literature Events

The full publicity for my two events at the Bristol Festival of Literature is now out.

The “Stories of Strong Women” panel only exists as a Facebook event. You can find that here. Apparently we have 85 people going already, which is awesome.

I have created an EventBrite event for “Ageing in the LGBT Community”, which you can find here. I’m hoping we’ll get good attendance from people who work with the elderly, both via the NHS and the voluntary sector. I certainly got interest when I mentioned it at some of the trans awareness courses I have been doing.

While I’m here I would also like to highlight the Annual General Meeting of OutStories Bristol (of which I am co-chair). This year Bristol University has kindly provided us with a beautiful venue, and we are lucky enough to have the brilliant Dr. Jana Funke of Exeter University to come and talk to us about her research into the archives of Radclyffe Hall. Jana is a great speaker. She did a short version of this for me in February as part of the LGBT History Festival. She’s got twice as long this time. I’m looking forward to it.