Monthly Archives: September 2009

Dead Souls & Grants Pass Launch – 26th September at Kulturnatten in Norrköping

Swedish launch of Dead Souls and Grants Pass

Launch report – Kulturnatten, Norrköping, 26th September 2009

So first was a rather lovely convention in England (previous post), followed by a launch of a rather different kind as this was Kulturnatten, Norrköping’s yearly celebration of all things of a cultural nature.

Now, before I get into too deep an analysis here, you need to know one thing and that is that Norrköping is about as cultural as a packet of soggy ready salted crisps…you’re getting where this is headed aren’t you?

To be honest I was not expecting any sort of success here, as this is not a convention and not even an event focused on books in general, as music, food, and folklore all had their place. My location today was at a table in the entrance hall of the town’s main library (yes it has a few, with no plans to knock any down – like I just saw in my hometown last week) and a rather good view of all the comings and goings at that location were afforded.

Everything started off well, as within twenty minutes of sitting there I was interviewed by one of the local papers (Norrköpings Tidningar) and had a good chat with a couple about Swecon, which the mighty Graham Joyce is at this year, and which Morrigan Books may well have a table in the dealers’ room – meaning I expect to see Mr. Savile and Mr. Duns there…

However, things slowed down pretty quickly and it wasn’t long before I was counting how many times I’d heard comments about not liking horror fiction, with my tired old response of ‘Do you like crime fiction then?’. Bet you can’t guess their answer…

One of the best examples of this cultural vacuum was the poetry readings, which took place behind me and had an audience of eight, two of which were part of the troupe and one who was one of the town’s drunks and quite clearly asleep. I know poetry isn’t one of the big things these days (or any days) but eight people? They asked if any of the audience wanted to come up and read a poem to fill in some time and I was so tempted to attack them with my witch poem, Maleficus, but I have trouble remembering two of the lines off by heart. I’d post that here but it’s just been accepted to a magazine and I am afeared in case it goes against contract.

So what did we sell? Well we sold one copy of Grants Pass, one copy of Dead Souls and one copy of the hardback of The Even (the latter bought by a massive Gaiman fan, who thought the blurb for Moore’s book sounded like his cup of tea). And I didn’t even have to look at my notes to remember them 😉

Still, I thought today was worth it, as I’m making people take notice of our company, I had a few requests for information, gave out several postcards and business cards and am fully aware that these things are totally necessary in this industry of ours.

I’ll keep you updated on our next venture.

Con report – Fantasy Con 2009

(Please note I’m writing this already aware that I am going to forget events and/or people during the report, nothing personal, just a normal human memory – I think.)

Not knowing where to start, I think I’ll jump in at the British Fantasy Awards, as not only were they arguably the main event of the con but Morrigan Books had a nomination for the Best Collection award, for Gary McMahon’s How to Make Monsters. Gary didn’t win, otherwise you’d have heard me from a radius of about 200 miles, but congratulations nevertheless to Allyson Bird for Bull Running for Girls and for Screaming Dreams for publishing it. I haven’t actually read the book yet, as I picked up my signed copy from Allyson at the weekend but I’ll let you know if it deserved to beat our Gary when I have read it… 😉

I was pleased to see Andrew Hook pick up the award for Best Small Press, as although Elastic Press have now closed their doors, Andrew did a hell of a lot for the small press scene and credit where credit is due.

Determined to get my hands on the Best Novella, The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon now. Not as much because it won or even because Tim is a damn fine writer but mainly due to his powerful acceptance speech about how the death of his mother, three and half years ago, inspired the story. My mother inspired me to read, which fuelled my writing, and she died in January 2006, which would make the deaths very close. Humdrumming is no longer so I think I will have to get in touch with Tim in order to get a copy.

Joseph D’Lacey won best newcomer and although I admit to not having read that much of his work, his attitude and his enthusiasm over the weekend were a joy to see!

Vincent Chong won best artist (again) and the man is a star, he really is!

There were of course other notable awards but if I’m going to put them all down then I might as well become the BFS myself…

I’ve mentioned, a few times, about me not enjoying Fantasy Con 2008 for various reasons. Some were very much of my own making, such as bumping my hire car at the hotel, as I was in an unnecessary rush to get checked in (and there was no need). Some were the hotels and the cons fault though, such as not getting the wine I ordered for the launch of our first three books and not booking the table in the dealers’ room that I asked for, forcing me to sit out in the corridor of doom until some nice chaps informed me of a free spot on Sunday morning.

This year was excellent and negative for very different reasons: the negative mainly down to a sales element. You know I’m coming down from Sweden and printing books and distributing books in England and when you don’t sell as many as you had hoped for then you do get a little down. I know Dead Souls is a fantastic book and there has been a lot of work gone into that. I wasn’t all together surprised though, as there weren’t many sales overall and the dealers’ room was empty on more than one occasion over the weekend.

I’m also a little bit disappointed by how questions to the society are answered sometimes. Usually I got all the help I needed and having the table in the dealers’ room was a big plus this year. However, try as I might I can’t get myself a launch for Morrigan Books, as every time I ask I get told that I might as well join the mass book launch which then changes day and time, while I’m planning my authors travelling over for a signing. It’s not even that I’m annoyed that these things happen, more that I don’t understand why the natural repsonse to the questions is “I don’t know who told you that” in a very dismissive tone.

That aside though, I had an excellent time this year, helped by the fact that my close friend and co-editor of one of our anthologies for next year, Greg Ballam came down with me for the weekend. I also spent quite a bit of time with Carole Johnstone, who has been published in three of our five titles so far and is due to appear in a couple more next year, and her sister, Lorna, who were just the best company ever! Two other writers also making our table at the bar lots of fun were two from the upcoming Morrigan Books’ publication, The Phantom Queen Awakes, Peter Bell and Sharon Kae Reamer. I managed to meet up with Gary Fry of Gray Friar Press, Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams and get some good advice from them (and Ian Whates of NewCon Press of course) about the world of publishing. Meeting Joseph D’Lacey was a treat and I’m really hoping he is going to be working on a future project with Morrigan Books too! Not only was he great to talk to but he introduced me to a new cocktail – which only took the bar staff around 45 mins to make…

It was great to have a good chat too with some of those appearing in Morrigan Books’ titles, such as: Ramsey Campbell, who is a gent, Paul Finch (lovely bloke) and that McMahon geezer. Apart from me having the extra joy of Burnley beating Sunderland on the Saturday, me and Gary (and Emily) had some good chats and it’s always a pleasure to see one of the best new writers around.

Managed a brief chat with Simon Unsworth and Steve Duffy and there are a few names I just did not get a decent chance to speak to (either because they were in demand or avoiding me like the plague) and amongst that number were: Tim Lebbon, Conrad Williams and Stephen Volk.

Stephen Jones got his copies of Dead Souls and Grants Pass and so we’ll see if any of those get into Best New Horror 21 next year.

For me, I seem to have enjoyed this year’s event more as I saw it more as a chance to network, to meet new writers and publishers and build up the connections with those I had already met before (or connected with online), rather than as a publisher coming to sell off some books. I have been building up the connections for the selling side over the last year or so and after the chats this weekend have some more ideas on how to go in the future.

I’d say I’m looking forward to next year, although I’m not sure I’m attending, due to the small matter of the World Con in Melbourne the same month. Of course there is a small matter of the World Horror Con in Brighton next March before any of that…

Thoughts on District 9 (contains spoilers)

I’m sort of wondering if one of the reasons I’m not jumping up and down about how great this film is, is due to the fact that I have heard so much about it, and pretty much all of it extremely favourable. It could also be that while I thought it was a very well done and thought-provoking film, there are things that I felt could have been done differently or not at all.
District 9

I’ll start with the good, as there was a lot to be admired here. I did enjoy the Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield camera effects and felt they added a nice touch to the documentary feel of the film at times. Putting us right in the action, with blurring screens and close ups of the conditions the ‘prawns’ lived in hit home a little harder than it may have done.

I also loved the character of ‘Christopher’ and the interaction between him and his son was so heart-warming and I admit to having a tear in my eye towards the end, first when his son came and sat on his knee and then when he died after telling his son they were going home. OK he didn’t die there but it was heavily implied that he would (from body language). Also the whole fact that he was treated as a ghetto ‘foreigner’ with no mind, when he was clearly of superior intelligence to us was done rather well too.

Having the unknown as the main character and a very ordinary character at that was a nice move, as we were able to watch the breakdown through his eyes and feel more of what was going on. I thought the actor did a more than commendable job and added to the realism of the film.

There were many political elements that were done well and the scene where a man could let military scientists have his son-in-law for research purposes, at the promise of money, was both tragic and expected. For this was science-fiction at its core, that the genre isn’t about the future but a social commentary of where we are today, that we are prepared to sell each other for profit, that we treat immigrants with less respect than household pets and that we have very offensive names for those we believe lower than us. The race in District 9 are called ‘prawns’ because not only do they look like them to us but that they are “bottom feeders”, a term I am sure has been used to describe those at the bottom of the chain in human society.

I first liked that the ship landed above Johannesburg, until I found out it was by accident and then I thought it became more of an overkill on the part of the writers, a case of, maybe the audiences won’t know we are directly relating to our treatment of the African ghettos and so we will put District 9 there.

I thought the representation of the military was stereotypical but warranted but also I agreed that there was a little too much action, too much of the ‘cool’ Alien weaponry and too many unnecessary head exploding shots. We got you the first few times, you didn’t have to keep doing it. The super robot, manned by our protagonist was a little too much he’s down, he’s up, he’s down, he’s up for me too.

All in all a very good watch with some excellent scenes, however, a lot less in the way of heavy action scenes and more on the dialogue and social commentary and it could have been a classic.

Now playing: Patrick Wolf – Battle
via FoxyTunes

Some days are bigger than others

Fans of The Smiths may notice my little play with the title there, epsecially as I am about to talk a little about weight today.

Stepping on the scales this morning showed me a weight of 80.3 kilos (177 pounds, 12 stones 6 pounds), which puts me under my BMI maximum for the first time since I was around 18 or 19 (memory hazy here and I do need to get back to England and dig out some old pics), meaning that for around half of my life I have been overweight. To have put myself in the ‘normal’ weight bracket for the first time in 20 years is massive and I am so pleased with how this has gone and the fact that at no time of this weight loss run have I resorted to fast track methods, meaning that keeping under this bracket should be much easier than it could have been. For this is the problem with various ‘no carbs’, or ‘Atkins’ methods is that at some point you have to go back to your normal eating day and it’s very hard to maintain. I am hoping that just aiming for eating healthier (and a little bit less) is good enough.

I’ve decided to go down to 76 kilos now, as I like the option of being able to go out and party, go to cons and not have to worry about being overweight when I come back.

As I said though, I’m very happy today and wonder how I should celebrate – fudge maybe? *winks*

Where is music at really?

I think the heading for this post suggests some grand theories are abound, when in reality, this is another one of those self indulgent posts all about me and my music (with a little stab at the band that shall no longer be named, for good measure).

Been getting more than a little irritated this week to see all the attention surrounding afore[un]mentioned band and a bloody computer game that will net them $40 million (USD) over the next few months and it’s got me thinking more about what makes great music and this, in turn, has lead me to ponder my top forty songs of all time, which actually is named in a mere one year and two months today. I am pleased that I have wittled my contenders for the big forty to 118 but as you can see that figure is a little higher than the final number and so much work is still to be done.

I have mentioned my love for over the last couple of years and that has enabled me to see some trends that I otherwise would not have had a clue on. These trends are my most played song, most played artists, number of albums by artists, etc. and the results give you, the reader (I’m going all Charlotte Bronte here), a better idea of just what it is that makes me tick (well sort of, as the stats even surprised me)!

Most played song of the last two years is actually Andrew Bird’s Anonanimal, which I only got in January, and that song is really racking up listens, being played nearly twice as many times as number two!

Most played artist is My Brightest Diamond, which shocked the hell out of the wife, closely followed by The God Machine (no surprise to anyone) and Michael Giacchino (mainly the Lost soundtracks).

An interesting stat for my friend Pete, which might just surprise a few is that the artist I have the most albums of is a band by the name of Front 242. They come very high on this machine, beating: Radiohead, Depeche Mode and The Smashing Pumpkins. Not that I lsten to all of Front 242’s stuff, as a lot of their albums are remixes of one song, but nevertheless an interesting stat.

And so on to the forty, and while the biggest and most overrated band in existence have been filling the blogosphere ad naseaum, it has made me think how popularity has never equated with quality. Otherwise Dan Brown and J. K. Rowling would be the best two authors in the world and James Cameron easily one of the best directors. The difference between these and that band is that you just cannot criticise the band because they are just the best, there is no question – fuck that I say! I also hate the fact that by disliking the band I am accused of only doing it to be devil’s advocate. No, it’s not true, I dislike them because they are an OK band who have got far more attention than they deserve and because people actually believe contemporary music needs to be judged against them for some reason. Well most of the stuff that wasn’t inspired by them is light years ahead of them and those that were…well I don’t know about you but I never did like Take That, The Lighthouse Family or Oasis much.

So what do I listen to then and what has being going on in this top forty selection apart from whining about a band? Well, I have noticed that there are a hell of a lot of artists with one song in the running, meaning a lot will be missing out. It makes sense that the select few will have more than one in there, whereas others wil have a passing tune.

Notable artists with one just now are: Nirvana, Kate Bush, My Brightest Diamond, Simple Minds, U2, Chad Van Gaalen, Rage Against The Machine, Genesis, The Doors, Andrew Bird, Patrick Wolf, Lambchop, Björk, etc.

The artsits that are most likely to be in the chart, and with more than one track are: Tom Waits, Eels, Smashing Pumpkins, Stina Nordenstam, Kristin Hersh, Pink Floyd, Joy Division, New Order, Radiohead, God Machine and Sufjan Stevens.

This week has been about going through classic albums and ticking off tracks as a maybe, no or a yes. My memory has served me well here but in truth it’s not enough, I need the help of some worthy listens too!

You reading enough?

Well you may think you are but honestly if you’ve not picked up at least one of these, then you really need to be changing some priorities over the next few months…

Allyson Bird: Has a lovely looking site, designed by the wonderfully talented Vincent Chong. Bull Running for Girls has been nominated for best collection at this year’s Fantasy Con and I’m lucky enough to be receiving my signed copy on arrival!

Jenny Blackford: Has released The Priestess and the Slave, I’m very much looking forward to this, and yes, I have ordered my copy – you got yours yet?

Carole Johnstone: Has a new novella out. Frenzy has already been released and guess what, yes, I will be getting my signed copy in September!

Kaaron Warren: Has already released Slights, and of course it’s excellent and of course I’ve read it!

Robert Hood: Released his collection Creeping in Reptile Flesh. I have my copy and have started it. Anyone not having read Hood should do so immediately!

Gary McMahon: Is releasing Different Skins at Fantasy Con. Lovely cover and I’ve no doubt fantastic work within. I’ll be buying a copy of that you can be sure!

Cate Gardner: Has released her little chapbook, The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon. Much shorter than I wanted it to be but some lovely imagery in there and well worth a read!

So, off you go, go buy some books!