Thursday, September 29, 2016

UFC article in The Guardian, some background info. and additional comments

My opinion piece in The Guardian on Mr McGowan's promise to legalise cage fighting if elected was always going to cause a stir. Any writer taking on an industrial behemoth like the UFC expects this. I actually admire the athletes and what they are capable of, but this is about more than that - it's about people's long term health, the human cost and the cost to the community.

I'd like to personally thank Robert Reid from the Australian Medical Association (WA) for his ongoing support, communication and information; the editor of The Guardian, Lucy Clark for her work on the piece, and my wife for the medical papers on concussion and brain disease (not linked to the article).

This was a relatively long piece for The Guardian. I'd like to thank them for publishing it - it's a brave move as the UFC and MMA lobbies have passionate fans.

With this genre there are cuts due to word limits (the subtitle was The Guardian's too). I respect their decisions as they know the medium and the nature of the internet far better than I do. I've supplied some dot points below.

  • my wife is a rehab doctor who has worked in Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and also studies it. I didn't mention this in the article but I have room to here. She directed me to numerous articles on the subject of concussion and brain atrophy and also brain trauma. Doctors in the ABI ward are deeply disappointed by McGowan's promise. I've just listed a couple of medical research articles that my wife sent me, which are worth pursuing - but there is a heap out there on the long term effects of brain trauma and concussion: 
  1.  David E. Ross, Alfred L. Ochs, Jan M. Seabaugh, Michael F. DeMark, CaroleR. Shrader, Jennifer H. Marwitz & Michael D. Havranek for the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative have written about progressive brain atrophy in patients after mild traumatic brain injury
  2. James H. Cole, PhD, Robert Leech, PhD, and David J. Sharp, PhD, for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative have written about the prediction of brain accelerated atrophy after traumatic brain injury  
  • MMA causes brain damage. There is brain shrinkage in both boxing and MMA (boxing slightly higher), but what most articles (outside of medical journals) don't cover is that concussion also has strong links to brain atrophy in the long run. I'm not concentrating on deaths, I'm concentrating on the human cost in the long run and the cost to the community. 
  • Concussion has been strongly linked to long term brain disease and long term brain atrophy.  The danger is that these effects appear years, often decades, later ( the medical and neurological journals are clear on this - the two papers referred to earlier are a good start if you're interested in the latest research). MMA has more blows to already unconscious people than any other sport: an incredibly high average of 2.6 head strikes to already unconscious fighters. 
  • Without the Cage, the MMA is currently on the wane here in WA. It has not gone underground. It's just dwindling.
  • I'm not the one calling for a ban on the cage - I can't as cage fighting is already illegal in WA. Opposition Leader, Mr McGowan, however, has promised to make it legal if elected. This comes after meetings in Perth with the UFC executive Tom Wright. Wright has also assured a UFC fight in Perth if the sport is legalised. I'm calling on McGowan to not legalise the cage.
  • The move to legalise the cage over East just fuelled the sport. The fact is the less people involved the better for all. So the 'Safety' call regarding a cage is not at all true.
  • I do care about a range of other issues like the environment, refugee policy, egalitarian values, wildlife, education, the arts etc. I've chosen to write about this as I've an uncle who worked with 'punch drunks' as a GP (boxing), my wife works in medical rehab... and more importantly, I don't want McGowan introducing a bloodline-injection into the sport via his promise to legitimise the cage. He's trying to pull the wool over our eyes. 
  • McGowan's actions, fuelled by business interests and UFC dollars, run contrary to Labor's traditional prioritisation of Health. The Australian Medical Association strongly condemn the move. The science on concussion and the sport is irrefutable - both short term and long term. The figures over East condemn the move. AMA (WA) and its President Dr Andrew Miller justifiably condemn the move.
I do realise and appreciate that this topic may polarise people. Conversation and debate and dialogue are always welcome. I'm happy for all your comments to be put up over at The Guardian but I won't be open for comment here as I rarely view my blog and won't have the time to reply. All the aforementioned points are just to provide further context for those interested. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Interview with Angela Slatter about my latest story 'Crossing' in At the Edge, Reviews of At the Edge and Thanks

Interview with Angela Slatter about my latest story 'Crossing' in At the Edge ; reviews of At the Edge by Alisha Tyson of The New Zealand Listener and Angela Oliver of NZ booksellers ; interview from the Editors, Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray & Thanks &  Current Reads.

I've read four stories so far by World Fantasy and multiple Aurealis Award winning author, Angela Slatter. All four are very good and three of them: 'The Coffin-Maker's Daughter', 'The Hall of Lost Footsteps' (co-written with Sara Douglass) and 'The Badger Bride' are superb. And I've also a number of Slatter's collections on the shelves awaiting to be read (a couple by the lethal Lisa L Hannett & Angela Slatter combo).

I feel of late that Angela Slatter has had influence on everything I've been in: we shared a story home in the anthology The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, 2011 Ed. Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene. One of my stories 'Reading Coffee' was mentioned alongside her story 'Brisneyland by Night' (which I'll have to read) as two  recommended Australian stories recently at Fossick Book Reviews, and Angela Slatter has played a role in the last two anthologies I've had works in: she wrote the back cover blurb for Bloodlines Ed. Amanda Pillar, and then moved to the inside pages with a beautiful foreword for the anthology At the Edge Ed. Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray.

And there's a little more irony, I just attended an honorary dinner for Angela at the KSP centre here in Perth, where she read aloud her exquisite tale 'The Badger Bride'.

Angela Slatter has been conducting individual interviews with all the writers in At the Edge, which makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in reading or writing or for those simply intrigued by the genesis of stories.

My interview with Angela Slatter on my latest story 'Crossing' can be found here: (interview link)

And for all the other interviews so far:(link)

I'm yet to read Angela Slatter's recently released novel Vigil. It's available in all good bookstores and online too. If it's anything like her short work, I think it would be more than worth the read. 

More on At the Edge

I was fortunate to have 'Crossing' mentioned alongside a few other great stories as a standout in a couple of reviews, and an editors' interview. Naturally, all reading is subjective and so far I'm finding something to appreciate and admire in each individual story:

Angela Oliver's celebratory review at the I Love Books: NZ Booksellers blog includes a mention of 'Crossing' as one of Angela's few standout tales, along with 'Narco' by Michelle Child, 'Street Furniture' by Joanne Anderton, 'Hood of Bone' by Debbie Cowens,  'Call of the Sea' by Eileen Mueller and 'Responsibility' by Octavia Cade.

Here are a few of the stand-out tales in my opinion...

We also have ‘Crossing,’ by Anthony Panegyres, a ghost story with a difference. Poignant, bittersweet and something of a lesson in letting go of the past, it tells of Jane Self, separated by a cruel twist of fate from her husband and desperately seeking closure.
And I've been informed by the editor Lee Murray, along with book afficianado and friend, Jasmine Yee, and the lovely Juliet Marrillier that The Listener is a respected publication and a long standing household name in the Land of the Long White Cloud. I've pasted the review by Alisha Tyson below (congrats to other writers mentioned: Carlington Black, Phillip Mann, David Stevens):

And an interview where the editors of At the Edge (Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray) comment on their personal favourites here (briefer mention here) at Ragnarok Publications.


I'd like to thank my writing group: Daniel Simpson, Annette Ong, Jolleh Ashbar and Laurie Steed for their feedback on the story along with Stephanie Gunn, who I traded stories with. And I'd also like to thank two of my former very talented creative writing students last year: Kate Enright and Paige Spence, for their love of the story, which led to me sending it out.  Whether or not the gifted duo pursue writing, I believe they'll both have bright futures. Kate and Paige's passion for the craft made them a pleasure to teach.  

Currently Reading: The Maze by Panos Karnezis (shades of Grahame Greene and Gabriel Garcia Marquez); and also the collection All the Time in the World by the wonderful E.L Dottorow; and naturally, the anthology At the Edge. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Writers [on Writing]: Carol Shields

The imaginative side of fiction writing is always hard to describe to non writers, those tunnels in the unconscious, those flitting responses to what might have been, what possibly could be. 

Carol Shields, Opting for Invention over the Injury of Invasion

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Writers [on Writing]: William Saroyan

My uncle, Terry Pitsikas, introduced me to the Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan, back when I was in high school. His work still resonates with me.

How do you write? My answer is that I start with the trees and keep right on straight ahead.
                          William Saroyan, Starting with a Tree and Finally Getting to the Death of a Brother


Friday, June 3, 2016

Interviewed here by the lovely Louisa Loder; Latest Read: East of Eden and Latest Story

The lovely Louisa Loder manages to get me rambling away.  For the interview see the link below.

Latest Read: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. An utterly intoxicating melodrama, which explores American identity. It's humorous in parts, yet also moving, reflective, considered and visionary. The critics are right – the sporadic intrusion of the first person narrator doesn't quite suit. Still, I don't believe it impacts on the overall quality of the novel.  Superb

Latest story: The anthology At the Edge ed. Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts, which contains my latest story 'Crossing' will be launched at Au Contraire in Wellington this weekend. I look forward to reading it myself. It will be sold at various bookstores and will also be available from Amazon Books and Book Depository.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Celebrating Australian Short Spec Fic at Swancon; and Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar wins an Aurealis Award

 Australian short spec-fic panel: a celebration

Where: Swan Con Panel at the Pan Pacific Hotel

When:  8:30 - 9:30 Easter Sunday

Panelists: Anthony Panegyres, Liz Grzyb, Stephen Dedman, Guy Salvidge, Leonard Goulds

I'm both host and a panelist in this celebration of short spec-fic down under. We'll have great book giveaways, including Aurealis Award winning and short-listed anthologies. I anticipate that like last year we'll have an audience led discussion. We'll most likely cover recommended reads, recommended writers, the market, the craft, the submission process, payment, publication houses and journals. The list goes on. Come along for an informative and fun night. Feel free to field questions too - we encourage it.

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar wins the Aurealis Award for Best Anthology!

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (which I've a story in) won the best anthology category at the Aurealis Awards!

Here's the impressive list of world-class finalists:

Hear Me Roar, Liz Grzyb (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Meeting Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (ed.), (Solaris)

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 9, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Solaris)

Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction, Tehani Wessely (ed.) (FableCroft Publishing)

Congrats to Amanda Pillar along with the 16 writers, who all contributed to the award:
  • Joanne Anderton "Unnamed Children"
  • Alan Baxter "Old Promise New Blood"
  • Nathan Burrage "The Ties of Blood, Hair and Bone"
  • Dirk Flinthart "In The Blood"
  • Rebecca Fung "In the Heart of the City"
  • Stephanie Gunn "The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth"
  • Kelly Hoolihan "The Stone and the Sheath"
  • Kathleen Jennings "The Tangled Streets"
  • Pete Kempshall "Azimuth"
  • Martin Livings "A Red Mist"
  • Seanan McGuire "Into the Green" (also writes as Mira Grant)
  • Anthony Panegyres "Lady Killer"
  • Jane Percival "The Mysterious Mr Montague"
  • Paul Starkey "The Tenderness of Monsters"
  • Lyn Thorne-Adder "Lifeblood of the City"
  • S. Zanne "Seeing Red"
The complete Aurealis Award Winning List is below (congrats again to all the winners and finalists). Here in Perth we had a fantastic time at the Pan Pacific Hotel, where the great gang at Swancon had it streamed live from Brisbane on a big screen (with food and alcohol catered for). Wonderful night and it felt as if we were almost there.

A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia) 

The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)                  

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press) 

“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press) 

“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press) 

“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)

“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)

To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin) 

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications) 

In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin) 

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing) 

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin) 

The Watergivers [The Last Stormlord (2009), Stormlord Rising (2010), Stormlord’s Exile (2011)], Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

Letters to Tiptree, Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Awards and Reads and Releases

 Congrats to All: Aurealis Awards and Ditmar Award Finalists

It's Ditmar and Aurealis Awards time in Australia. The shortlists are out and it's a thrill to say that the latest anthology I've a story in, Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications), is a finalist for both awards.

There are plenty of great writers on the lists here and rather than congratulate everyone individually I've attached the links to the short listed works below.

Congrats to the editor of Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar, along with Ticonderoga Publications. I would also like to personally congratulate fellow Perth writer, Stephanie Gunn, whose novella from the same anthology has been short listed in the category of Best Fantasy Novella (Gunn is also a finalist for another novella in Hear me Roar ed Liz Grzyb).

Aurealis Awards Link

Ditmar Awards Link

Short Story Recommendations

It's not often you find Australian short fic being recommended so I feel humbled that Fossick Book Review has recommended one of my stories. 'Reading Coffee'  (originally published in Overland 204 in 2011) was the first story that I was truly proud of and it's recommended here alongside, Angela Slatter's (who is a giant of short spec-fic) 'Brisneyland by Night'. Once again the link is attached below.

Twenty One New Zealand Books We're Looking Forward to in 2016

The next anthology I've a story in, At the Edge ed. Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray is on this list of New Zealand books to look forward to reading. It's released in June.

21 NZ Books to Look forward to 2016

Lee Battersby's launch of Magrit

On Saturday I attended Lee Battersby's launch of his new novel for children Magrit. Battersby usually specialises in dark spec-fic (often with a comical edge) so hearing Battersby read so well to a much younger audience than usual was an enjoyable surprise. The story had all the wit and evocative imagery that readers expect from Battersby's adult work too. Lee ran a fun launch and Stefen Brazulaitis of Stefen's Books (check the store out in Shafto Lane if you get the chance) organised a great pub lunch post-launch too. 

Latest Read

Just finished Nights at the Circus by the incredible Angela Carter. It's a genre defying tour de force, well worth savouring and it deserves all the kudos it has received.  The perpetual dichotomy of the winged heroine, Fevers makes for one of the great characters in literature. It's already one of my all time favourite novels.

Currently Reading
  • I've a few pages to go in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. And yes, Harper Lee ironically passed away when I was about midway through.  It was a sad day for literature but what a legacy Lee left behind her with TKAM. I can see why it's deemed an all time classic; the narrative voice of Scout is both innocent and gutsy, allowing for a beautiful observational voice. I don't think I'll read the recently released prequel/sequel Go Set a Watchman though. From the snippets I've read about Go Set a Watchman, I wouldn't want to tarnish my reading of what I believe the Finch family stand for in TKAM.
  •  The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. Interesting look into Shostakovich, his music, and his relationship with the totalitarian regime (what Barnes aptly labels "his relationship with 'Power'"). The prose, as always with Barnes, has a pure feel due to his strong use of nominalisation throughout, and let's face it, little imagery. I'm almost at the end of this novel too. I've enjoyed it so far, but to be honest, at times I wanted a little more from the narrative, especially after reading Barnes' captivating Arthur and George a couple of years ago. Still, a good, solid read.

Political Gripe: Okay, we can't really say too much Down Under after the rise of Tony Abbott but at least he's now fallen. Yet the Americans have trumped (or drumpfed if you've seen John Oliver's comical segment) us in the Mad Tea Party stakes. What's dangerous about the far right is that it plays on fear and division rather than inclusiveness. Wake up, America! This guy, Drumpf, is leading you down a foolishly dangerous and bigoted path.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Writers [On Writing]: James Salter

I understood, of course - it was dogma - that a true education was based on being well read, and for ten years or more I read all I could. These were wonderful years of voyage, discovery and self-esteem. 
James Salter, Once Upon a Time, Literature. Now What? 

Friday, January 1, 2016

33 Highly Recommended Short Stories from my 2015 Reading

Top Short Stories Read in 2015: A Celebration

I read 122 short stories in 2015. I’ve decided to put up my top 33 reads for the year (only a handful though are from 2015 publications). I suppose these yearly lists are a confusing fusion of styles and content but as varied as all the stories listed are there is something I love about each and every story. Some of these stories resonated strongly with me; others simply entertained.  Within the brackets I've indicated the anthology I read the story in (in a few cases I've attached prior foundational homes). I'm happy to discuss and provide further comments for any of the mentioned works. 

 ‘Jon’ George Saunders  (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from In Persuasion Nation: Stories)  
‘Johnny Bear’ John Steinbeck (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The Long Valley)                                                                                    
‘Fireworks’ Richard Ford (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from Rock Springs)

‘Patricia, Edith, and Arnold’ Dylan Thomas (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog)                        

‘The Hitchhiking Game’ Milan Kundera  (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from Laughable Loves Milan Kundera)             

‘Too Early Spring’  Stephen Vincent Benet(Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benet 1933)
‘First Confession’ Frank O’Connor (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The Stories of Frank O’Connor 1951)                                                 

‘Bad Characters’ Jean Stafford (Points of View)
‘The Moon in it’s Flight’ Gilbert Sorrentino (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from The Moon in it’s Flight by Gilbert Sorrentino)                  

‘The Five-Forty-Eight’ John Cheever (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                                            
‘Unighted Lamps’ Sherwood Anderson (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                         
‘Fever Flower’ Shirley Ann Grau  (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                                                
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)

‘Unnamed Children’ Joanne Anderton (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                      
‘Heavy Metal’ Cherie Priest (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)
‘The Meaning of Love’ Daniel Abraham (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)                                                                                                              

“Bazaar of the Bizarre’ by Fritz Leiber (Selected Stories by Fritz Leiber)             

‘Maria Concepcion’ Katherine Anne Porter  (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                         

‘Red Rose, White Rose’ Eileen Chang (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from Love in a Fallen City)  

“Born and Bread” Kaaron Waaren (The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene)                                                                                       
‘By Bone-Light’ Juliet Marillier (The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene)

Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)

‘In the Blood’ Dirk Flinthart  (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)

‘The Stone and the Sheath’ Kelly Houlihan (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)        

‘The Tangled Streets’ Kathleen Jennings (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                                       

‘A Better Way to Die’ Paul Cornell (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)                                                                                                                             

‘Azimuth’ Pete Kempshall (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                                     

‘A and P’ John Updike (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The New Yorker) 
‘The Suicides of Private Greaves’ James Moffett (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                              ‘The Signal-Man’ Charles Dickens (That Glimpse of Truth: 100 of the Finest Stories     

What Do You Do?by Gillian Flynn (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)                                                                                                                                      
“The Flowers that Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth’ Stephanie Gunn (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                                                                                                                                               
‘Almost Beautiful’ Angela Rega (The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene)                                                                                      

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Reading Review

2015 Reading Review

I keep my private life largely out of this blog - it's more about reading and writing. So if you're after something more personal I apologise but if you're after a few recommended books you've come to a welcoming place. 

I read 32 books this year, which is up from my norm of late. I read a number of strong books, which I’d happily recommend. Let me know if you want specific thoughts on any of those listed below (happy to hear yours too).

Books Read in 2015

The Shadow Year Jeffrey Ford                                                          

The Prestige Christopher Priest
The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie

The Year of the Ladybird Graham Joyce

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro ed. Jeffrey Eugenides (anthology)

Points of View: An Anthology of Stories ed. James Moffett & Kenneth R. McEelheny
Before They Are Hanged Joe Abercrombie 

The Last Argument of Kings Joe Abercrombie 

We Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson                                                     

Tallula Rising Glen Duncan 
Peace by Gene Wolfe 

Station 11 Emily St. John Mandel                                                                         
Behold the Man Michael Moorcock (novella)

The Man Within Graham Greene 

My Cousin Rachel Daphne Du Maurier
 The Princess Bride William Goldman
A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara 

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (anthology)

The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed. Liz Grzyb (anthology)

The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro                                                               

The Roving Party Rohan Wilson 

Love and Romanpunk Tansy Rayner Roberts (collection)                                                                                                 
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Selected Stories Fritz Leiber (collection)                       
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms N.K Jemisin                                                  

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz                                        

Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds John Pickrell  (expository)

The Sleeping Sorceress (Elric #4) Michael Moorcock  

Thief of Lies Lucy Sussex (collection)  

Bad Brass Bradley Denton (novella from Rogues ed. George R.R. Marin & Gardner Dozois) 

A Dark Matter Peter Straub 

Inside Creative Writing: Interviews with Contemporary Writers ed. Graeme Harper (expository and a complete dud)

Novel Highlights

I thought I’d mention my top 4 novel reads for the year  - many  came close.

 The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

A wonderfully reflective novel relating to family, childhood and the neighbourhood, more like a memoir, but peppered throughout with a dark mystery. Superb.  Deserved its World Fantasy Award. 

The Prestige by Christopher Priest.

Dueling rival magicians from different backgrounds weave webs of deceit and illusion. Though there is a contemporary first person thread the text is largely epistolary, which suits the late Victorian and Edwardian era in which the novel is chiefly set.  In a structural sense, along with its intriguing unreliable narrators, The Prestige is a masterpiece. Very clever. 

The Blade Itself  by Jo Abercrombie

Love Abercrombie's short stories and I now say that I’m now a fan of his longer work too. Not everyone’s cup of tea but Abercrombie’s characters are vivid, there’s plenty of escapist action and acerbic humour and his lively active prose has dollops of impressive imagery. Perhaps Abercrombie tries too hard to subvert genre narrative conventions at times; the red herrings and overt subversion make it fall a little short in terms of overall plot but there are plenty of exceptional scenes. Gripping, fun and you’ll enjoy the series. 

The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce

Joyce’s passing was a sad loss to the world of literature this year. The Year of the Ladybird is a gentle read and a wonderful love story. Set in an old fashioned summer entertainment camp in coastal Skegness, the novel’s nostalgic setting allows for an array of colourful characters. It explores a vanishing culture, nationalism, love and coming to terms with one’s past. A lovely summer read. 

Two anthologies really stood out for me (not including anthologies I have stories in or in recommended reading lists here as that just seems unethical): My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro ed. Jeffrey Eugenides and the old classic Points of View: An Anthology of Stories ed. James Moffett & Kenneth R McEelheny.

Like most anthologies there are a few stories I dislike,  but there are also many incredible works in these two anthologies. A few featured on last year's short story list and more will be on this year's (I'll put it up in soon) 

Wishing you all a fruitful, thoughtful and happy 2016.