"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" - O.W.

Current Study

Recently Completed Study:
Ph.D thesis: "Mapping Planet Auschwitz: The Non-Mimetic in Anglo-American Fiction of the Holocaust"

Current Sub-Studies

Areas of Interest:
> Non-mimetic depictions of trauma
> literature, trauma, and ethics
> Science Fiction and Alternate History
> 20th and 21st century literature
> Comics
> Paratexts

22 October 2017

SF Interviews Oct-Nov '17

I may post about these in more detail later, but for now here's a schedule.

I've got a busy few weeks ahead of me interviewing a real variety of excellent writers of SF, if you're around then central London then some of these talks might be of interest to you:

Mon 30th Oct: #SciFiSessions no. 2 with Alison Littlewood and M.R. Carey in Waterstones, Gower Street [Tickets]
Weds 8th Nov: Cory Doctorow and Ada Palmer in Waterstones, Gower Street [Tickets]
Thurs 9th Nov: Gary Budden and M. John Harrison in Waterstones, Gower Street [Tickets]
Weds 22nd Nov: Anne Charnock for the BSFA monthly meet, upstairs in The Artillery Arms [FREE]
Thurs 23rd Nov: #SciFiSessions no. 3 with Nick Harkaway and Paul McAuley in Waterstones, Gower Street [Tickets]

I've given myself a hell of a lot of reading to prepare for all these, but it's going to be worth it to meet and chat to so many excellent writers about so many marvellous books. Please do join us if you're able.

27 August 2017

#SciFiSessions 1: Adam Roberts

I'm really excited to be able to announce a new series of monthly events at Waterstones on Gower Street in Bloomsbury. Each month I'll be talking to some science fiction, fantasy, or horror writers about their work. The aim is to showcase some of the most mind-expanding, exciting, innovative, and fun fiction in our genre today and we're calling these events Sci-Fi Sessions!

Our first session will be held on September 25th at 6.30pm and I'm delighted to be welcoming Adam Roberts, three times-nominee for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, professor of 19th Century literature at Royal Holloway University, and a leading scholar of science fiction. Adam will be discussing his latest novel The Real-Town Murders: a murder mystery thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock, set in near-future England. Adam has been a keynote speaker for me for both CRSF and Sideways in Time, and I wrote a chapter for the collection of essays based on his work edited by Anna McFarlane and Christos Callow and published by Gylphi in 2016. I've known Adam for a number of years now, and been a fan of his fiction for even longer, so I can be sure this will be an entertaining and insightful conversation.

As a bonus, he'll also be joined by another exciting writer who will be announcing in the coming days. Watch this space!

Tickets for the event are £6 (£4 for students), you get a glass of wine on arrival, and if you buy a book on the night you can claim your ticket price as a discount. You can buy them in store or online, here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/sci-fi-sessions-adam-roberts/london-gower-street



26 August 2017

Madness is Better than Defeat

On Wednesday 13th September I'll be conducting my first interview as a resident of London: talking to Granta Best Young Novelist (2013) Ned Beauman about his fourth and latest novel Madness is Better than Defeat for Waterstones Gower Street.
Ned Beauman is the author of Boxer, Beetle, The Teleportation Accident, and Glow. His books have been nominated for numerous awards and are filled with a love and appreciation for science fiction, narrative trickery, and darkly wicked humour. It should be a good evening.

Tickets are £6 (£4 with a student card), you get a glass of wine on arrival, and if you buy a book on the night you can claim your ticket price as a discount. You can buy them in store or online, here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/madness-is-better-than-defeat-an-evening-with-ned-beauman/london-gower-street

12 March 2017

King's College London Speculations - 23rd March, 6pm


On the 23rd March I'll be a giving a talk as part of King's College London's new series of talks "Speculations". To be held at 6pm at K6.63 King's Building, Strand Campus, King's College London

My talk is entitled Blurred Lines: Interplay between Biography and the Fantastic in the Graphic Memoir

Comic books represent a narrative medium which fuses visual information with text in a manner very likely unique, certainly amongst commercial markets in the West. Perhaps because of their pulpish origins, and their recent history of writing themselves into literary respectability, comics and graphic novels have an unquestioned ease of association with speculative fiction and the fantastic. This presentation will examine a subset of texts which exploit this association by blending elements of the fantastic with the non-fiction of graphic memoir. These fictive breaks within otherwise realist narratives challenge traditional notions of biography and memoir and their necessary adherence to mimetic representation.

As such, these blurred narratives become especially useful when discussing experiences which challenge the limits of communicative narrative: trauma and ill mental health, as such this examination of fictive incursions will use examples from Steven Seagle’s It’s A Bird, Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow and Paul Dini’s Dark Night, amongst others.

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The talk is free to attend so if you're in the area please do come along.

I was invited to present my paper by the series organiser SinĂ©ad Murphy.

The facebook event for the talk is here.

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'Speculations' engages in current research in speculative and science fiction, but with a particular interest in intersections across a spectrum of disciplines which engage in varieties of speculative thought.

'Speculations' is supported by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at King's College London.

25 February 2017

A Conversation with V.E. Schwab (August 2016)

A Conjuring of Light, released 21.02.17
Disclosure: I got this copy free courtesy of Titan Books,
as I did with my copy of This Savage Song for the interview
A Conjuring of Light, the final book in V.E. Schwab's fantasy trilogy Darker Shade of Magic series has been released and I'm looking forward to diving into it. Victoria has also announced that following a bidding war the series has now been optioned by Sony, with Gerard Butler's production company G-BASE set to produce, the intention being to turn this colourful and exciting trio of books into a limited run series, with Victoria herself writing the pilot!

With all this going on, it seemed that it was the perfect time to finally get around to doing something with the audio recording I made when I interviewed Victoria for an event in Waterstones Liverpool in August 2016. I was asked to sit on the audio for a couple of months because we accidentally leaked some teeny details about the book cover for A Conjuring of Light which weren't supposed to be out in the world at that time, but then I got really busy finishing my thesis and all that entailed and so this audio just sat in on my hard drive for a while.
Interview in action
At some point I'll come back and transcribe the interview, and re-post it here, but in the meantime have a listen to the original audio. We mainly discuss the first book in another V.E. Schwab series This Savage Song as that was the book being toured at the time, but we also cover Darker Shade of Magic stuff, some Vicious stuff, and some other nice anecdotes. Overall it was a fun interview and Victoria was the perfect subject. Thanks again to her, Lydia at Titan Books, and Waterstones for making it happen.
Some of the audience in Waterstones Liverpool
NB - For now I've left the questions from the audience in the audio. Because we only had two mics it's almost impossible to hear the actual question so there are quiet pauses towards the end of the recording, but I paraphrase the questions where I can. Later I might come back and try to do something to improve the quality here if I can.


22 June 2016

Space in Science and Popular Culture

This week I was delighted to be invited to chair a panel at the International Festival for Business 2016 being held at the Liverpool Convention Centre. Organised as part of their "Blue Skies" programme in collaboration with Liverpool's Writing on the Wall literature festival. Tricia Sullivan had been invited to participate but was unable to make it.

I was the chair of the panel which also included Ra Page (founder and editorial manager of Comma Press) and Andy Sawyer (librarian of the Science Fiction Foundation Collection). We had a really interesting conversation about the interplay, overlaps and inconsistencies between space travel and exploration in reality and in science fiction.

L-R: Me, Andy Sawyer, Ra Page

We touched on the new space races between developing economies such as China, India, Nigeria and others, and the race between different commercial companies, mainly in the USA. The panel also highlighted that co-operation, as well as competition, has been at the forefront of humanity's space adventure with the International Space Station as an obvious example. Andy commented about how this would likely please Arthur C. Clarke and how elements of contemporary space science are still within the realms of what he was interested in, despite how far we've come from many of the ideas of science fiction in the early days of space travel.

There was some scepticism about relying on commercial bodies to push us onwards in our space endeavours because of both the financial risks they may be unwilling to take, but also because their visions can often rest on one enthusiastic entrepreneur who won't always be around to pursue the projects into long term goals: Richard Branson driving Virgin Galactic forward for example.

The militarisation of space was talked about, both as a risk in the future but also as a present day danger given how little we know about what is floating above our heads. This connected with the dangers of space given how crowded the immediate vicinity is becoming with junk, Gravity (2013) depicting these dangers on the screen.

In front of Writing on the Wall's time machine
We spoke about the contrasts between science fiction's fondness for dystopia or disaster fiction in space versus the actual space programmes we've embarked upon which are largely presented as being utopian in design and aim.

It was also underlined that science fiction has certainly had an influence on space travel on a personal level with a great  many of the men and women who are engaged in space science citing reading and watching science fiction as being amongst their earliest inspirations. This becomes evident when you notice, for example, that of the five Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) constructed and flown by the European Space Agency, four were named after European scientists and the fifth was named Jules Verne. (Similarly, the robotic barges used by Space X in their ambitious rocket landing procedure are named after ships in Iain M. Banks's Culture novels: Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You; not to mention the space shuttle test vehicle Enterprise and the Virgin Galactic ship of the same name).

It was a fun event to do, if in (for me) a slightly unconventional setting of a business festival. Thanks to IFB2016 and WoW for having me and to my co-panelists for being great conversationalists.

20 April 2016

Call for Papers: Vector Special Issue: Science Fiction and Music

We are seeking to publish a few special themed issues of Vector: The Critical Journal of the British Science Fiction Association in coming years, tackling various themes and topics which we feel are under represented in the articles we see more regularly. The first of these will be a special issue on Science Fiction and Music.

We are seeking 4000 word articles on the topic of science fiction and music, if you would like to discuss a concept or submit an abstract prior to submitting your article then please get in touch, but this is not a necessary requirement.

We are interested in papers on all aspects of science fiction and music which may include, but not be limited to:

  • Specific artists or groups
  • Specific pieces or albums
  • Comparative studies of musical pieces against each other, or against literary texts
  • Papers on popular music
  • Papers on classical music
  • Papers on soundtracks and scores
  • Papers on the use of music within science fiction of all mediums
  • The representation of music in literature
  • The representation of literature in music

Articles are due by September 19th, and accepted articles will appear in print in an issue of Vector at the end of 2016, or the beginning of 2017.

Please send your papers with a short bio note to the Vector editor e-mail: vector.editors@gmail.com
Feel free to also send any queries to this address.