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States of Independence

March 19, 2011 1 comment

Went to States of Independence today. This was an event with independent small presses, workshops, readings and the like. I wasn’t involved in any of the readings but thought I’d scope it out. There were three sessions I wanted to go to but as usual (for me anyway) they were all running at the same time. Oh well… I have the programme, I have the links to the other things I wanted to investigate and I can follow them up later.

I went to the Shortfuse readings, which this time were short stories and flash fiction (and a haiku) by people who’ve been in a recent creative writing workshop series. They were all good. I personally liked some more than others (unsurprising) but the surprising thing to me was that the pieces dealing with topics like old age and housework were the most interesting. Huh? Quality of writing or because I feel I’m getting old? Both, maybe.

Went round the fairly extensive display of stalls. Only bought one book – well, I have about a yard of books at home waiting to be read. The one that caught my attention and where I bought a history of the Vikings was run by the Masked Booksellers. They’re charmingly eccentric but with a serious point at the same time.

The Masked Booksellers perpetuate the work of Josiah Saithwaite, a small-time Manchester businessman of the late 1800s, also a non-conformist preacher and socialist who believed that everyone was entitled to education as a right. Among other activities he sold second-hand books cheaply to the working classes, on the basis that books were a means of self-improvement. His strategy was that “Working people need to take pride in the purchase of their personal libraries by their own efforts” while the profits from sales went to charitable causes.

The masks came about because Saithwaite’s belief was that doing good should not be a matter of personal aggrandisement, and hence should be done anonymously. Apparently – and I didn’t know this until today – there are still groups of Masked Booksellers up and down the country, and indeed in several other countries as well. The money they made at States of Independence was going to a charity dealing with the needs of refugees. So given my own principles how could I not buy something from them?

Good day all round, except I managed to miss someone I was going to meet there because I didn’t check my email first and figure out where I was supposed to meet them. But I did meet one of the Speculators there. I should go more often to the meetings, but they run at the same time as other stuff I’m involved in so I rarely get the chance. Looks like my relationship with the group will continue to be largely by email rather than in person. Such is life.

I should be working…

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

… and indeed I am, quite hard, which is why I haven’t been posting much.

But I thought I’d share with you the story of how everything goes to hell during a zombie apocalypse just because it’s funny.

There’s also a comic about the pleasures, perils and pitfalls of working from home, the worst of which, as you’ll see, is the degradation of social skills. Not a problem in my case, I never had any to start with…

I didn’t find these my myself – well, I sort of did, but someone in the Speculators writing group sent us all an email link to another bit of the site, a comic about the proper use of the semicolon; apparently it can be used in many ways other than to indicate a wink when sending a text;

Now it’s time for some special high caffeine coffee and back to work. And watch out for that zombie apocalypse…

Random bits and pieces

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been away in London for a bit, and that means I’ve been off the keyboard. While I could technically check emails and blog from my mobile phone it’s a bit of a pain so I don’t bother.

Normally when I go away, I come back to a massive inbox of interesting and gratifying emails – stories accepted, enquiries about whether I can take on new projects, that kind of thing. It’s as though people wait until I’m not near the puter and then hit ‘send’.

This time… nothing. Oh well.

I have some pen-pictures of London – sadly I didn’t think to use the camera on my mobile to create an illustrated post…

It amused me, walking past Pentonville prison, that the cafe opposite is called Breakout. If you really want to see it, put ‘HM Prison Pentonville, London, UK’ into Google Maps and use streetview to look on the other side of the road – it’s there.

It also amused me (though you won’t see it Streetview) that in Stratford there’s a place offering ‘Fresh Mad Continental Coffee’. So did the signwriter screw up or is that what they sell? It reminded me of an old story about a shop with a deliberate mis-spelling on the sign, and the owner left it there because of the number of people who came in to tell him about it – and then bought something.

[rant]

On the whole, though, I find London depressing these days. For one thing you know who almost everyone is, because they’re all badged – virtually every workplace issues some form of ID and looking around as I walked the streets, somewhere between half and two-thirds of all the people I saw were wearing some form of ID. You can walk along fairly ordinary roads and pass CCTV cameras every few yards – crime prevention street cameras, shops, small factories monitoring their parking bays and so forth. Are there really people watching that many cameras? Given the statistics on how many crimes are prevented and detected, it seems like overkill, in fact almost like the contemporary equivalent of a talisman or fetish. And no, I’m not going to do the academic thing and quote figures, most of the relevant reports are available from the Home Office Research Development and Statistics website.

[end rant]

To cheer me up, though, it appears The Speculator issue 1 (the limited edition newspaper with SF/fantasy/horror stories in, including mine) is available as a PDF from here even though there’s no direct link to it yet from the Speculators WordPress front page, an oversight I think is intended to be fixed in the next few days.

Out soon – The Speculator

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m an occasional, inconstant member of The Speculators, a Leicester-based SF/fantasy writing group that came up with the idea of an occasional newspaper-format publication with members’ stories.

Issue 1 of The Speculator is now printed, I’m pleased to say including one of my stories.

The newspaper as a whole has 17 short stories, a news article, editorial and a bunch of artwork, which is a lot for 12 pages.

The plan is to distribute the paper free at the upcoming Alt.Fiction event on 12 June, a one-day festival of alternative fiction including horror, fantasy and SF in Derby (UK). Thereafter, I think the idea is that the PDF will be available online from the Speculators website (no, it’s not there right now – be patient!).

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