It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


A man of taste and distinction

Steampunk and science fiction author Lavie Tidhar, whose novel Osama was this year shortlisted for the BSFA Award but cruelly not for the Arthur C Clarke Award, has reviewed Adrift on the Sea of Rains on his blog. He writes: “This is probably the best piece of science fiction I’ve read so far this year, and would be a more than worthy nominee for a BSFA Award next year.” Which makes me most happy indeed.

Lavie’s review, in all its complimentary glory, is here. As he says himself, I urge you to read it.



Adrift on the Sea of Rains is now available on Kindle at both Amazon UK and Amazon US, as well as Amazons in Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Buy it here:,,,,

The Whippleshield Books website is still in development but should be live some time soon


I am literary

My contributor copies of The Maginot Line, the third anthology from The Fiction Desk edited by Rob Redman, have just arrived. It is not a genre anthology, and marks my first appearance in a non-genre venue.

The Maginot Line contains nine stories, one of which is by me: ‘Faith’. I’m not entirely sure how to describe ‘Faith’. It’s about the US and Soviet space programmes. Sort of. It’s about astronauts. Sort of. And it’s about nineteen turns.

The other eight stories look very good indeed, and I’m looking forward to reading them. For the record, the contents are:

  • Matt Plass, ‘The Maginot Line’
  • Mandy Taggart, ‘The Man of the House’
  • Justin D Anderson, ‘Automatic Pilot’
  • Benjamin Johncock, ‘The Rocket Man’
  • Andrew Jury, ‘Exocet’
  • Shari Aarlton, ‘The Pest’
  • Claire Blechman, ‘Trevor Gets Shot’
  • Harvey Marcus, ‘Blind’
  • Ian Sales, ‘Faith’

Now go buy a copy.


A – Z meme

Memes are cool; I like memes. I came across this one on David Hebblethwaite’s excellent blog Follow the Thread. He writes that he found it on the Musings of a Bookshop Girl blog. As memes go, it is beautifully simple… and bloody hard to complete. Just list a favourite book for each letter of the alphabet. To be honest, for a couple of letters I had so many choices, I wasn’t sure which one to pick. Other letters – you know, the high-scoring ones in Scrabble – were not so easy…

A The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell (1960)

B The Balkan Trilogy, Olivia Manning (1981)

C Coelestis, Paul Park (1993)

D Dhalgren, Samuel R Delany (1974)

E Evening’s Empire, David Herter (2002)

F The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles (1969)

G Glimpses, Lewis Shiner (1993)

H How Far Can You Go?, David Lodge (1980)

I Icehenge, Kim Stanley Robinson (1984)

J Jerusalem Fire, RM Meluch (1985)

K Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988)

L Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence (1928)

M The Master Mariner: Running Proud, Nicholas Monsarrat (1978)

N Nightwatch, Andrew M Stephenson (1977)

O The Ophiuchi Hotline, John Varley (1977)

P The Prodigal Sun, Sean Williams and Shane Dix (1999)

Q The Quincunx, Charles Palliser (1989)

R The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe (1979)

S Synthajoy, DG Compton (1968)

T Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland (1990)

U The Undercover Aliens, AE van Vogt (1950)

V Voyage, Stephen Baxter (1996)

W Where Time Winds Blow, Robert Holdstock (1981)

X X, Y, Michael Blumlein (1993)

Y The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon (2007)

Z Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (2010)

Sadly, it’s a poor showing on the gender parity front – only 15% women writers. There were a number I wanted to include, but I happened to like a book beginning with that letter by a male writer just a little bit more. Also, I am generally a bigger fan of the oeuvres of women writers than I am of individual works by them.

On the other hand, I hadn’t expected science fiction to make such a strong showing, though it has formed the bulk of my reading since an early age. The numbers go: sf 62%, mainstream 31%, and 1% apiece for fantasy and horror. While I find mainstream novels of a higher quality than sf overall, some of my favourite novels remain science fiction ones.

Finally, the 1980s and 1990s are the most popular decades, with 27% and 23% respectively. I’ve no idea why, since I may not have read the books in question during those decades. The first decade of the twenty-first century scores a measly 8%, and there’s only one book from this decade.


A good year for… something

Sometimes I feel like Bart Simpson when he keeps on reaching for the doughnut Lisa Simpson has electrified. Each year, I eagerly await the shortlists for the Arthur C Clarke and Hugo Awards; each year, I’m disappointed by the novels or short fiction chosen by one or both. I have already written about the Clarke (see here). I’d like The Testament of Jessie Lamb to win, but I expect Embassytown will. (Incidentally, it occurred to me reading Adam Roberts’ excellent report on the Clarke shortlist books here and here that his response to The Testament of Jessie Lamb mirrors mine to Embassytown; and vice versa. Sort of.)

Then there’s the Hugo Award shortlists…

The less said about the novel shortlist, the better. Oh, all right…

My thoughts on Leviathan Wakes are laid out quite clearly in my review on SFF Chronicles here. I am quite angry it has been shortlisted. I gave up on A Song of Ice and Fire several years ago after reading one of its humungous installments in which fuck-all happened. I gave up on epic fantasy as a genre a couple of years ago after getting sick to death of its shallowness, its use of rape as a trope, and its general lack of invention or innovation (though I will acknowledge there are some worth reading – RA McAvoy’s Lens of the World trilogy, Steph Swainston, KJ Parker, Carolyn Ives Gilman, A Princess of Roumania, for example). Deadline is the middle book of a trilogy about zombies. Zombies are passé, they have been done to, er, undeath. It’s time they were put to, um, rest. The world has moved on, it’s all krakens and sea monsters now. I think. Among Others I have heard mostly good things about, but I have not read it. And Embassytown, while I think it does not entirely succeed (see here), is probably the one book that does belong on this shortlist.

If I had bothered to pay for the privilege of voting, my choices would go: 1) Embassytown, 2) Among Others, 3) No Award

And the short fiction shortlist:

The Resnick is old-fashioned crap. As have been every one of his shortlisted stories in recent years. Clearly he has his fans; clearly they need to read a lot more widely. The Liu is what I think of as a “clarion-style story”. It is sentimental, uses a metaphor to illustrate its core emotional argument, and then beats that metaphor to death. I do not like such stories. The Scalzi is a jolly jape and does not belong within five thousand kilometres of a shortlist. Unless said shortlist was posted on April 1st. This one was not. Shortlisting Scalzi’s spoof does not prove that fandom has a sense of humour, it proves only that it thinks one of the best five stories written during the previous year was a stupid spoof knocked off in a weekend by a popular writer. That’s not only dumb, it’s a perversion of the whole concept of “best short story”. Nancy Fulda’s story is another “well-meaning parents try to use tech to cure autistic kid” story. There’s usually half a dozen of them published in any one year. Fulda’s is no better and no worse than most but, crucially, it brings nothing new to the trope. It’s also sentimental; I don’t like sentimental. The Yu is a piece of whimsy which threatens to mean more than it seems but never quite does so. It at least has some claim to a place on the shortlist.

My votes, had I paid to vote, would be: 1) E Lily Yu, 2) No Award.

I shall whinge about the novelettes and novellas in another post. I shall not bother with the other categories. I still don’t understand why fandom bothers with the dramatic presentation Hugos. The film and television industries have their own awards ceremony, and they spent a shitload more money on them than sf does. As for the remaining categories…

Did I say “bah humbug”? If I haven’t, take it as, er, read…

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Pimp and circumstance

Praise continues to trickle in for Adrift on the Sea of Rains…

On Twitter, Dave Hutchinson (@HutchinsonDave) tweeted: “I recommend that you beg, steal, borrow (but preferably buy) Adrift on the Sea of Rains by @ian_sales, because it’s a little cracker”, and then added on Facebook, “All people of good intent should read Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales, as I did today. I loved it.”

On Twitter, Martin McGrath (@martinmcgrath) tweeted, “Cracking novella (and appendices)”, and Stuart Wallace (@soapyfrogs) said, “just read and loved ‘Adrift On The Sea Of Rains’ … More please!”

On his blog, Early Days of a Better Nation, Ken MacLeod wrote about alt.fiction and mentioned that Adrift on the Sea of Rains was “very good indeed”.

Robert Day has written a very nice review of it here on LibraryThing, and Cliff Burns has given it a five-star review on Amazon here.

Plans to create an internet Whippleshield empire continue apace. I’m still working on the website, but as soon as it’s up and running I’ll make sure everyone knows. I am also now the proud owner of a copy of Scrivener, and I plan to use that to create EPUB and MOBI editions of Adrift on the Sea of Rains. So expect it to be available for Kindle in a week or so.

Meanwhile, I need to get cracking on with the second book of the Apollo Quartet, Wave Fronts, in which the first man on Mars investigates the disappearance of Earth’s first exoplanet colony and discovers something which will completely change humanity’s relationship to the universe…


alt.fiction 2012

Last weekend was the sixth alt.fiction, and the first in a new venue in Leicester. I’ve been to every one so far. The first alt.fictions took place in the Assembly Rooms in Derby, which I quite liked as it’s a well-known piece of Brutalist architecture. After a couple of years, it moved across the Market Place to QUAD, a cinema and arts complex. This year, however, alt.fiction has moved somewhat further – all the way to the Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester.

The move to Leicester doubled the journey time by train for me, but it’s still much closer than many other UK cons. I took with me a suitcase filled with my remaining copies of Rocket Science, and a few dozen hardback and paperback editions of Adrift on the Sea of Rains. Because of this, I took a taxi from the railway station to Phoenix Square, though it’s only a five-minute walk away. I arrived about eleven o’clock, so I missed the first item on the programme. (Some people had arrived in the city the evening before and stayed overnight.) As soon as I walked into the venue, I spotted Colum Paget and Iain Cairns, contributors to Rocket Science. (Later that evening, Craig Pay, another contributor, turned up.)

The day proved to be one of spotting people I knew, and saying hello but very little else. Some people I knew were present I never actually saw. I had several lengthy discussions, on topics as diverse as writing, science fiction and, er, programming methodologies. I didn’t make it to any of the programme items. So no change there. The dealers room, as at past alt.fictions, wasn’t very good. Terry Martin of Murky Depths had a table. And someone else was selling independent graphic novels. There was also a volunteer from Waterstone’s with a table full of paperbacks by alt.fiction’s guests. He kindly agreed to sell copies of Rocket Science and Adrift on the Sea of Rains. And he did a good job of it, too, selling most of the stock I’d given him.

I ate at Phoenix Square, and it was a pleasure to be able to say to the staff “no dairy”, and for them make no fuss over it and provide what I wanted in a dairy-free form. I hadn’t dared do that at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel during the Eastercon. I pretty much spent the entire day in the café/bar on the ground floor of Phoenix Square. In the evening, a large group of us went for a curry, which was much better than the one I’d had in Heathrow the weekend before. The restaurant was called, unsurprisingly, The Curry House. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel where we were all staying, the Ramada, and filled up the bar. I eventually went to bed about two am.

I’d enjoyed the curry, but I don’t think all of it agreed with me. I was fine when I woke up, and had the usual hearty hotel breakfast… Though I have to admit I think they’ve gone down in quality over the past few years. Somehow hotel chefs do something to fried eggs that makes them look and taste completely unappetising. I like fried eggs, I have one or two most Sundays. But those gelid primary-coloured things you see sitting in a bath of grease at hotel breakfast buffets bear only a passing resemblance to them. And the bacon… Do chefs have some philosophical objection to cooking it? Or do they get a kick from the thought of diners spending fruitless minutes trying to chew rubbery fat?

Anyway, by about eleven I was starting to feel ill, and I recognised the symptoms. Something I’d eaten had contained dairy. None of the meals I’d eaten had on previous occasions caused me any trouble… except I did have a tarka daal with my chicken saag and pilau rice in The Curry House. Perhaps there was ghee in the daal? I don’t know. I ordered a plate of chips for lunch in Phoenix Square, but I couldn’t eat it. I went outside a couple of times for some fresh air. I even went and sat in a programme item, to see if that would help. The panel was on “The Return of the Short Story”, which the panel members admitted was a misnomer as the short story had never gone away. I lasted about fifteen minutes before needing some more fresh air. I didn’t actually feel any better until I got to the railway station around quarter to two.

I’d only been there about twenty minutes when Ken MacLeod appeared on the platform. It seemed we were catching the same train, although he was getting off in Derby to catch a connecting train back to Scotland. I was staying on until the terminus in Sheffield. At Derby, Ken disembarked. When I reached Sheffield, I climbed the stairs from the platform… and saw Ken MacLeod looking somewhat lost. (He explained that his train had stopped for ten minutes in Sheffield, so he was looking for somewhere to buy a coffee.)

So that was alt.fiction #6. I like the new venue. There are less stairs than the QUAD, and the café/bar in the foyer is bigger and more pleasant. There was a terrace, but it was too cold to use it. Leicester city centre, or at least that portion where Phoenix Square is located, seemed curiously deserted throughout the entire weekend. So no marching brass band playing outside like last year’s alt.fiction in Derby. (Or drummers practicing in the room next to the bar as at a previous alt.fiction in the Assembly Rooms.) The hotel was modern and very pleasant, and conveniently close to Phoenix Square. It is, I think, an all together better venue for alt.fiction. I certainly plan to go next year.


Advantage Amazon

I am, I suspect, like most people: I know that Amazon is a Big Bad Monopoly and famous for screwing over publishers, but, well, the books and DVDs they sell are competitively priced and the service is good and… So I buy from them. I even link books titles on this blog to my Amazon affiliates account – it currently earns me about £15 a year. (To be fair, I have always linked small press books directly to their own site, in order to better support them.) I’ve also tried selling books on Amazon Marketplace, but given that I have to price them so low to get sales, and that Amazon take off around £2.80 in fees, many of them I’ve sold at a loss. And I don’t mean a loss when factoring in their original purchase price. I mean, it cost me more to post the book than I received from the sale. But I didn’t much care – at least the books were no longer cluttering up my house.

But now the shoe is well and truly on the other foot.

Last month, I started up Whippleshield Books, a niche small press to publish literary hard sf. I did it partly to self-publish something I felt I needed more control over than another small press would give me. I also wanted it out quickly, so I could launch it on the back of Rocket Science at Olympus 2012 last weekend. Which I did. It’s called Adrift on the Sea of Rains.

I bought some ISBNs, and I paid to have the book professionally printed by MPG Biddles. Since the book has an ISBN – two, in fact, one for the paperback and one for the limited edition hardback – it appears in Nielsen’s database, and so was picked up by Amazon. Where the two editions were offered for pre-order.

But the product pages on Amazon were very basic, with only title, author, price, artwork, publisher, pagecount and ISBN. I decided to add a blurb and some reviews. I identified myself as the publisher, and filled in the necessary online form. It would take five days to update the product page, I was told. A day or two later, the book could no longer be pre-ordered; it was now marked “unavailable”. Thinking this might have been a consequence of my editing, I contacted Amazon.

They assured me it wasn’t, and said it was simply because they “did not have a relationship with the supplier”. Amazon suggested I join their Amazon Advantage programme. Now, I’d only edited one of the two editions of my book. The other could still be pre-ordered. The whole thing smelled to me, but never mind… I signed up for Amazon Advantage. It costs £23.50 a year. This was much better, I thought. I had much greater control over the product page. For the small annual fee, this seems okay.

Then Amazon ordered a copy of the paperback edition of Adrift on the Sea of Rains, and I discovered things weren’t so good after all.

Amazon take 60% of the retail price. This is non-negotiable. For a £3.99 paperback, this means I earn £1.60 per copy sold. Amazon take £2.39. And they’ll carry as much stock as they think they can sell, which in this case is a single copy.

The paperback of Adrift on the Sea of Rains costs me £1.32 per copy to print (not including one-off set-up costs, or the fixed cost of the ISBN). So that’s 28p profit per copy sold on Amazon. A bit small, but never mind. Except… I have to ship the order. I have to pay for the postage and packing. At the moment, that’s 20p for a padded envelope and 92p postage for second class large letter. My 28p profit has now become 84p lost. If I have to supply single copies to Amazon, then for each copy I will lose £0.84. If they order 100 copies one at a time, I will be £84 out of pocket. I may not be a businessman, but even I can see this is no way to run a business.

It was always my intention to set up a website of my own for Whippleshield Books, and I would sell copies there. But only a microscopic percentage of the people who visit Amazon were likely to visit my site. So selling on Amazon appeared a good move. And so it would have been. If they’d ordered 100 copies from me at £1.60 for stock, I’d have made £28 (less shipping, which would be less than £28). But since I might have to supply each individual order… it’s untenable.

I’m going to withdraw my Whippleshield Books from Amazon. I am going to stop using my Amazon affiliates account (I’ll leave the existing links on this blog; I don’t have time to go back and remove them all). I am going to pull my books from my Amazon Marketplace account. And I will look elsewhere to buy books and DVDs. Even if it costs me more. (That may result in me buying less, which can only be to the good.)

Having said that, I will be providing a Kindle edition of Adrift on the Sea of Rains. I have no choice in that – the platform is popular and it is the easiest way for Kindle owners to purchase the book. I can also make a profit on each sale. And I hope to have the Whippleshield Books website up and running in the two to three weeks.


Sold lots, didn’t win award, am very hungover

The title of this post is the text of a, er, text I sent to a friend on the Monday morning of Olympus 2012, this year’s annual Eastercon in the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London. The Eastercon is one of the major events in British science fiction, but this year’s was especially so for me as I was launching two books: the anthology Rocket Science, and my novella, Adrift on the Sea of Rains.

Mark Harding, Mutation Press supremo, arrived at my place on Thursday night with boxes of Rocket Science. He stayed overnight and the following morning, after making my Breakfast of Champions (Vegetarian Edition), we drove to Morrison’s to buy wine for the Rocket Science launch and comestibles to consume en route, and then headed onto the M1. The journey was relatively painless, though when we hit the M25, traffic ground to a halt. In fact, it took us an hour to travel the twenty miles along the M25 from the M1 to the M4. We reached the Radisson Edwardian Hotel around two-ish.

I checked in and registered, and headed up to my hotel room to dump my bag. I’d forgotten what a labyrinth the Radisson Edwardian is. It didn’t help that I used the wrong lifts and ended up having to walk a couple of miles to find my room. Then it was down to the bar to find any familiar faces. I spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between the bar and the dealers’ room. I bought beer, I bought books. I talked with old friends, I met new friends. This is what you do at a convention. I didn’t attend any programme items that day. I always tell myself I will, and then fail to do so.

Back in 2008, the main bar was called the Polo Lounge, but it has since been remodelled and renamed the Bijou Bar. It has silver wallpaper. It was like sitting inside a birthday present. The staff were slow and mostly useless, and the drinks were expensive. On the Friday afternoon, I saw Sarah Pinborough buy a large glass of wine… it cost her £11. On the Saturday night, I bought a friend a vodka and coke and that cost £9.75. The staff routinely put a 12.5% optional service charge on all drinks bought. One pint I was served in the Atrium Bar had too much of a head so I asked the barman to top it up. He poured the entire pint away and poured a new one into the glass.

On the Friday night, a large group of us headed to a nearby Indian restaurant. A table for fourteen had been booked, but we were three over that number. So those three sat at another table. They ordered their food, received it, ate it, paid and left… before the rest of us had even received our food. Because it took two hours, I ended up having to wolf down my chicken saag (creamed spinach, not leaf), and dashing back to the hotel for John Jarrold’s party. He had laid on wine, and since I hadn’t had time to get a beer for myself, I started drinking that.


At some point during the night – I think it was about four am, after I’d been asleep for several hours – I apparently took a wrong turn after coming out of my en suite bathroom. And found myself in the corridor. Wearing my pyjamas. So I had to walk down to reception and get a new keycard. The first one they gave me didn’t work, so I had to go back down again. Perhaps they did it deliberately.

The Saturday was better. I had a proper look round the dealers’ room, and bought a number of books. In the afternoon, I was on a panel, How Not To Suppress Women’s Writing, with Amy McCulloch, Tricia Sullivan, Penny Hill, and moderated by Juliet McKenna. The preparation Juliet had done was awesome. I thought the panel went well, and from comments afterwards I understand others did too.

Saturday night, a group of us went to the restaurant attached to the Pheasant Pub. What a bizarre place. It’s like someone’s attic, but constructed of lots of little mezzanines and staircases and platforms. Happily, the food is excellent, and the service was very good. Back at the hotel, we stayed in the bar and talked. I lasted until about one am before calling it a night. At one point, I was approached by Amanda Rutter, who admitted she’d undergone something of an epiphany that day and was keen to get involved with SF Mistressworks. Since she prefers fantasy more than science fiction, I suggested she start up a sister site covering that genre. And so she has – Fantasy Mistressworks. Later, Michaela Staton decided that more recent sf novels by women writers should not be forgotten. And so she’s set up Daughters of Prometheus, a blog for reviews of twenty-first century sf by women writers.

I did not lock myself out of my hotel room that night.

Sunday was my big day – the Rocket Science launch, and then a couple of hours later, moderating a panel about the anthology. Breakfast was a joke. They put people in a corner of the restaurant, and then waiters stood around doing nothing, preventing you from getting to the food or returning to your table.

I always feel like a fraud standing up in front of a room full of people and talking – especially after seeing Juliet McKenna moderate the How Not to Suppress Women’s Writing so superbly. Fortunately – or, on reflection, perhaps not – we had brought that wine. So I did my spiel, I mentioned the Guardian review, and then introduced the writers who were reading excerpts: Iain Cairns, Deborah Walker, David L Clements, CJ Paget, Stephen Gaskell and Martin Mc Grath. Nigel Brown was also present but not reading. Afterwards, there was a massive rush to the front and we sold – and signed – lots of copies. I’m rubbish at signing – my signature is different every time, and the only thing I could think to write was “Enjoy!” We later worked out we’d sold about eighty copies of Rocket Science throughout the weekend, and about half that of Adrift on the Sea of Rains. We’ve already put in a second order with the printers for more copies of Rocket Science.

At 3 pm, I moderated ‘The Science of Rocket Science’. I’d not done any preparation for it as I was hoping the other members of the panel would do all the work – David L Clements, Martin McGrath, Deborah Walker and Iain Cairns. Happily, they did. The panel went well, and several members of the audience came up to us afterwards to chat about the topics covered. We even sold some more copies of the book.

Unfortunately, because of those programme items – and the BSFA Awards at 6 pm – I didn’t get much opportunity to eat, and ended up having a small bowl of chips in the Bijou Bar. It wasn’t enough.

The less said about the BSFA Awards ceremony the better. It was like watching a slow motion car crash – just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. And then more so. Chris Priest’s acceptance speech after The Islanders won almost made up for it. (Given the response to Meaney’s presentation, I am somewhat mystified by the inclusion of Leviathan Wakes on the Hugo shortlist…)

I was disappointed SF Mistressworks didn’t win, but I’d been pretty sure the SF Encyclopedia would take the award anyway. And so it did. Afterwards, I stayed in the Atrium Bar (mostly) talking to people and having a good time. A group of us did go to the panel on steampunk and colonialism, but I found it disappointing. I spoke to someone afterwards who told me Nisi Shawl is currently working on a steampunk novel. I’m not a fan of the genre, but from the description given her book did sound really interesting.

I’m not going to name-check everyone I spoke to. I’m sure to miss some, for a variety of reasons. But the conversations were fun and interesting, though less centred around writing than I recall from other cons. I never quite felt on top form throughout the weekend, but I think I managed to get away with it on a few occasions.

My last experience of the Radisson Edwardian was not a happy one. I was there for the Eastercon in 2008, spent more money crossing London than I did getting to the city, and that spoiled my mood for the con. So much so, in fact, that I didn’t go when the Eastercon returned there in 2010. And I’d have stayed at home this year if it hadn’t been for the Rocket Science launch. But I went and, despite my dislike of the hotel, I had a good time. Probably too much of a good time. As Neil Williamson has said, it was like a normal Eastercon but turned up to 11. Too much of everything. Except food. I could have done with more food (but being lactose intolerant makes that more of  a problem than it should be).

Mark and I left on the Monday after lunch. The drive home took a little longer than expected as we encountered a monsoon on the M1. Happily, we survived it. Once we’d got to my flat, Mark decided to continue on up to his home in Scotland, rather than kip over as he had done on the way down to London.

Since I’d travelled to the Eastercon by car, I’d imagined I’d buy lots more books that usual. After all, I wouldn’t have to worry about carting them home on public transport. I ended up buying twenty, many of them hardbacks. I actually found it difficult to find stuff I really wanted, though it was one of the cheapest dealers’ rooms I can remember. Anyway, here is the complete haul:

These paperbacks are for review on SF Mistressworks: Time Future, Maxine McArthur; Extra(Ordinary) People, Joanna Russ; Passing for Human, Jody Scott; Islands, Marta Randall; Starshadows, Pamela Sargent; Star-Anchored, Star-Angered, Suzette Haden Elgin; and the first two books of Jo Clayton’s Diadem series, Diadem from the Stars and Lamarchos.

And these ones I’ll read and review for Daughters of Prometheus: Homecalling And Other Stories, Judith Merril; The Maquisarde and The Child Goddess by Louise Marley; and Watermind, MM Buckner.

Some paperbacks by male sf writers. Well, one hardback and some paperbacks. But the hardback was as cheap as a paperback. The Helix and the Sword by John C McLoughlin was recommended by someone on LibraryThing. Wildeblood’s Empire is the third of Brian Stableford’s Daedalus Mission sextet. And I’ve no idea why I keep on buying Sutton’s novels as they’re early 1960s trash sf – perhaps it’s the covers.

Some hardbacks. Justice City is for the Compton collection. Einstein’s Question actually has equations in it, though it’s a novel. I couldn’t resist it. As for Osama, well, if we don’t reward Lavie Tidhar for writing books like Osama, he’ll only write the steampunk ones. And I’ve been a fan of Ian Watson’s sf for years, so a new collection is always welcome.

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A little lunacy…

I did toy with the title “A taste of green cheese”, but fortunately good sense prevailed. Almost. Anyway, you’ve seen a photograph of the boxes containing it, you’ve seen its cover-art, and you’ve even seen the first review ever of it… So I thought I’d give you a little teaser of Adrift on the Sea of Rains. Here are the first three paragraphs (and a relevant picture):

SOME DAYS, WHEN it feels like the end of the world yet again, Colonel Vance Peterson, USAF, goes out onto the surface and gazes up at what they have lost.

In the grey gunpowder dust, he stands in the pose so familiar from televised missions. He leans forward to counterbalance the weight of the PLSS on his back; the A7LB’s inflated bladder pushes his arms out from his sides. And he stares up at that grey-white marble fixed mockingly above the horizon. He listens to the whirr of the pumps, his own breath an amniotic sussurus within the confines of his helmet. The noises reassure him – sound itself he finds comforting in this magnificent desolation.

If he turns about – blurring bootprints which might otherwise last for millennia – he sees the blanket-like folds of mountains, grey upon grey, and a plain of the same lack of colour, all painted with scalpel-edged shadows. Over there, to his right, the scattered descent stages of LM Trucks and Augmented LMs fill the mare; and one, just one, still with its ascent stage. Another, he knows, is nearly twenty years old, a piece of abandoned history; but he does not know which one.

You’ll have to buy the book to read the rest of it. It will be on sale at Eastercon (6 – 9 April) and at alt.fiction (14 – 15 April). And I hope to have a website up within a couple of weeks where it can be purchased direct.