On the Small Things in Life:

I have always been interested in the minutiae of life – as ex-Talking Head David Byrne once memorably said: in the magical in the mundane and the magical in the mundane. That is why I once wrote a play that featured superheroes having a night off and eating pizza.

fabmanfront

I mean, ‘What do you do on the Night After You’ve Saved the Universe’ after all. On stage we had a fab invisible C-Thru Girl, and a fab Fabman who could cool the beer with his freeze-breath. Speedo brought the pizza all the way from Italy and Minuscule Man who was so small you’d think he wasn’t there, ate a whole 24th of a slice and Lady Luck paid for it all with a lottery ticket.

They sat round and chewed the fat like you do after a hard day’s work.

And with fantasy, I love the tales of heroism naturally, but I always did wonder what happened after the Big Bad Guy went down the drain. I mean you can’t commit genocide – so all those goblins need to be integrated into society, and what would happen when somebody started the first ‘Save The Dragon’ campaign and what if somebody introduced democracy?

Shake well and leave a couple of thousand years and you might just end up with a place like Widergard, which is where Master Detective Nicely Strongoak hangs out.

Continue reading On the Small Things in Life:

Confessions of a FantasyCon Virgin (Nicely’s going home, he’s going home)

Nicely at Fantasycon2015

Detective Nicely Strongoak has just returned to his spiritual home, as an excited me went back to the University of Nottingham for Fantasycon 2015. Yes, it was here on the Nottingham campus where, after work as an ultrastructural morphologist, I first put down my ideas for the dwarf detective in a modern(ish) fantasy world, on a Apple computer so old it was actually a Pip. And I was now here talking about him.

Officially I was there discussing comedy and fantasy on an excellent panel, with top writers Donna Scott, Frances Hardinge, Steve Jordan, Heather Lindsley and Craig Saunders, and doing a little bit of reading from A DEAD ELF. Unofficially I was getting my first introduction into the current state of fantasy writing in the UK, and very healthy it appears to be.

Continue reading Confessions of a FantasyCon Virgin (Nicely’s going home, he’s going home)

World-building, word building and mac’n’cheese

The second time it happened I was in the bath. The first time I had happily been watching TV. Then up pops some commercial (it was Channel 4, not ITV, I should clarify) for Sainsbury’s and they mentioned a recipe for mac’n’cheese.

WTF?

I was informed it was an Americanism for macaroni cheese, a dish that we have a perfectly good name for, recognisable by generations of UK school children, so they’d immediately know to avoid it on school dinner menus.

Then this morning, in the bath, I was reading the otherwise excellent Jay Rayner restaurant review in the Observer and there it was again: mac’n’cheese! Mac’n’fn’cheese!

mac and cheese
The only Mac and cheese I’ll ever need!

We don’t need your mac’n’cheese, thank you. It’s unnecessary and irritating and just smacks of desperate ‘trendy’ promotion.

I should add at this point that I do not have a general problem with Americanisms. In fact, truth be told, this was part of the joy of first discovering the writing of Raymond Chandler. I loved his 1950s American world full of Chesterfields and Davenports, sharpies and shamuses (shami?), ‘dropping my nickel’ and ‘clam juice’ and if I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, it didn’t matter! It was all part of the joy, the magic of his world, the poetry of the street. And you could work out what was going on even if the exact provenance of a word or expression wasn’t immediately clear.

It was almost inevitable that when I started writing I shouldn’t just get into world building but word building too. The Citadel is a different kind of place and my dwarf detective Nicely Strongoak, does things differently too. So it’s not surprising, with a different history too, that they have different words and expressions too. It’s all part of creating a wonderful space for other people to come visit and it’s great fun too.

So, here are a few choice terms from my work in progress that I’m particularly pleased about: ‘filth-fellowship’, pop-the-pea’, ‘going bite-size’, ‘ground-hugger’, ‘thumb font’ and ‘bleach’. If you don’t understand them now, you’ll soon pick them up, and I hope you’ll enjoy them too, as much as I did the Chesterfields and Davenports and sharpies. Continue reading World-building, word building and mac’n’cheese

Some of My Favourite things

Hey! When somebody asks you your favourite things, there really is only one way to answer – yes? In song! Hit it Maestro!

Heinlein and Hammett and Chandler and Butcher
Most Douglas Adams and some Arthur Koestler
Lloyd Biggle junior Lord of the Rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Forward and Pratchett and Kerr’s Bernie Gunther
Patricia Highsmith and lyrics by Lerner
Then Robert Holdstock and Easy Rawlings
These are a few of my favourite things

Asimov’s robots and Dalziel and Pascoe
Shardlake and Sam Spade and Umberto Eco
Dragons that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the orc bites
When the blade swings
When I’m bleeding bad
I’m simply remembering my favourite things
And so I don’t feel too bad.

Continue reading Some of My Favourite things

The Day I Didn’t Meet Douglas Adams

The day I didn’t meet Douglas Adams was a Thursday. I’m not sure of the month or year, but I do remember it was a Thursday – I thought it was rather appropriate. That, by the way, was a ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ reference. If you didn’t get that you might be better off reading another blog.

It was in Cambridge, where I didn’t meet him, which was also rather appropriate as Douglas (I can call him Douglas as I never met him) was both born in Cambridge and went to university there. I did not go to university in Cambridge, but at the time when I didn’t meet Douglas, I was working at Nottingham University. I was a Macintosh Research Station. Actually, I was part of a larger multi-media development group, but as I was the only one using the Mac, and we were sponsored by Apple, that made me ‘the station’, or so I liked to think.

The Apple sponsorship took the form of the use of their very latest computer – one that incorporated ‘Hypercard’. I was using this rather fab little program to show how, if pictures and information are classified using the BBC’s hierarchical Telclass system, a specially written search engine could assemble a subject node, without using text searching. This method could, in theory, produce ‘new’ information not noticed at the time of classification. Yes, pretty cool – Douglas would have been excited I am sure, if we had ever met.

A Very Well Read Book - and a pen
A Very Well Read Book – and a pen

Apple were impressed, when I did my demo to them. I’d assembled a short subject node about tigers with drawings I’d done of tigers and mammalian locomotion, muscles and the like. They stood behind me and said:

Continue reading The Day I Didn’t Meet Douglas Adams

Physical, Got To Get Physical!

The ebook is here to stay. Of that there is no doubt. It’s a wonderful boon for the reading public, compact and accessible. One ‘click’ and you can be perusing the latest work from whoever takes your fancy – and because it’s cheap you can take a chance on a new writer without breaking the bank.

My own Kindle is amassing a nice library, with books tucked away for holidays and for future reference. I’ve taken some chances and been very impressed. Also, I need never worry again about W.H. Smith’s being closed and the scarey prospect of a bookless train journey lying ahead. And yet…

Isn't She Lovely?
Isn’t She Lovely?

The paperback version of my own book, the comedy fantasy ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ came in the post this week. The parcel was opened with the glee of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. I took the book out with me. We went to London together, we slept side-by-side and last night we went out for a curry with some other writers.

Continue reading Physical, Got To Get Physical!

Paperback book trailer release.

Well, looky* here! Some moving pictures and such like all in honour of Nicely’s paperback appearance. Not long now for all you ebook refuseniks

*an alternative form of the imperative look ye! Similarly, the linguist Andrew L. Sihler indicates that ye, the now-archaic subjective form of the English 2nd pers. plural pronoun, “is fossilized in looky (here)