All the Things You Shouldn’t Talk About?

Death, money, politics.

I haven’t blogged much this year. Partly that’s because I’ve been social media-ing on behalf of BristolCon, and maintaining two blogs has been a bit much for me, and partly it’s because of the state of my brain, trapped in a web strung between my health condition and the medication for my health condition (both make it hard to think). I’ve written a few obit posts, and not published any. I’ve made lists of things I wanted to talk about, and not written the articles. There’s been too much to say.

I’m writing now from what should be a very dark place – is, in many ways, a dark place, for me and the world. Lots of people who meant something to lots of people have carked it, mostly not young, but we mourn them all the more; they were our icons. Just today, Leonard Cohen.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

The political situation I won’t bore you with; Brexit, Trump, the rise of the Right, post-factual politics, wars and famines. People I know and love are shaken and afraid. What slight optimism I’d started to feel about the world addressing climate change and global hunger and poverty is out the window; we are not going to do this the easy way. We are going to send the world up in flames, and devil take the hindmost.

On a personal level, I had found an equilibrium, this summer. Although not well enough to write, I made my peace with focusing on editing, and got some great manuscripts to work on. The Fight Like a Girl anthology was well received. Charley-dog repaid my faith in him, after I resisted calls to have him PTS back in March, by putting his faith in me. With mutual trust, having him around became a source of joy rather than stress. He has become genuinely beneficial to my health and wellbeing, as I’d hoped he would be.

This past month, Charley’s had to be in and out of the vets, first with injuries and then with some systemic problem that makes him itch all over. His hair’s falling out. His kidney function may be compromised. It seems he’s allergic to dust mites, but I’m afraid that won’t be the whole story.

A month ago, I was bumped off ESA onto JSA. From being in the Support Group (considered ill enough to require additional funds to manage my illness) to being asked to sign on weekly and pursue full-time work. I scored zero points in the work fitness assessment, despite the fact that I am more ill than I was when I was put into the Support Group. The assessor didn’t ask me about half the stuff she put in the report, she told me it wouldn’t harm my claim if I didn’t do the physical, which she acknowledged I was too tired and in too much pain to do, then scored me as if I had done all the physical tests without issue. In fact I was unable to stand by the end of the interview, and had to be assisted from the room. That didn’t make it into her report.  My benefits have been cut in half, and whereas on ESA I was allowed to work up to 16 hours a week and keep up to £400 a month of earnings, on JSA I have all income deducted from my benefits, regardless of when I did the work I’m being paid for, and there is no way to offset business expenses against business income, so I will actually make a loss, as my outgoings remain constant but my income is effectively confiscated.

With the help of my friends, I will be appealing the decision, but this is, as you might imagine, a source of immense stress, and everything about it is incredibly time-consuming. My editing work has had to go on the back burner, and I’m feeling incredibly guilty and miserable about it. My authors and lovely publisher all deserve better.

And I’m sick. And tired. Fibro is one of those invisible disabilities, but it’s very, very real. I may not tick any of the DWP’s boxes; I can stand up and sit down and walk around; but I can’t do much of anything and I can’t do any of anything without pain. I’ve sat here far too long typing this. I won’t be able to work my legs or arms afterwards. So it goes.

Then there’s BristolCon. After eight years on the committee, I’m standing down as Media & Publications this year. I may stay involved, I will certainly minion, but as soon as I have the interim changes made to the website that I promised for this year, I will be handing over to someone new. It’s been fabulous, amazing, but with the limited energy I have, I have to prioritise and I can’t do the role justice any longer.

Why, then, am I not in a dark place? In a hole, in the dark, with an owl? Because I have a plan. A cunning plan? Maybe. Maybe only in the Baldric sense. Watch this space.

Fight Like A Girl Launch

Jo_RozOn April 2nd, Joanne Hall and I hosted the launch of our latest collaboration, the anthology Fight Like A Girl. It took place in the Hatchet Inn, which is one of several pubs that can lay claim to being the oldest in Bristol (it’s complicated).

Being BristolCon, we don’t believe in doing something easy when we could be doing something spektaklier, so with a little help from the Foundation fund and a lot of help from our friends (Hi John Bav!), we ran what attendees were soon calling a ‘mini-con’, with readings from contributors Lou Morgan, Sophie E Tallis and Danie Ware, whose idea it all was, and a panel discussion hosted with exquisite expertise by the lovely Cheryl Morgan. We had demonstrations of sword fighting from School of the Sword ladies Lizzie Rose and Fran Terminiello (also a contributor) and the astonishing Aikido black belt Juliet E. McKenna (Also a contributor.)

Cheryl has audio from the mixing deskfran and will no doubt be producing a high-quality podcast of the readings and panel in due course. I had video from my iPhone, supplemented by clips from Pete Sutton and photos from Sophie (cheers!), and have produced a lo-fi highlights reel of the afternoon’s entertainment, which you can view on YouTube here.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped make both the book and the event happen!

 

Fight Like A Girl GoodReads Giveaway

It’s tough to be a sword for hire when nobody’s hiring, but if you’re a bit short of funds to spend on your copy of Fight Like A Girl, enter our special Goodreads Giveaway. It runs from now until April 30th. The book launches on April 2nd, and features stories by female writers including Juliet McKenna, Gaie Sebold, Danie Ware, Lou Morgan and Julia Knight.

Enter using the widget below and please don’t forget to add the book to your To-Read shelf. Best of luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Fight Like A Girl by Joanne Hall

Fight Like A Girl

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Fight Like A Girl

Fight Like A Girl cover by Sarah Anne Langton

The date of the launch party for Kristell Ink’s new anthology Fight Like A Girl has been announced: The launch will take place at The Hatchet Inn, Frogmore Street, Bristol (one of only two surviving medieval inns in the city centre) on Saturday April 2nd from 1pm-5.30pm.

This is my 3rd collaborative anthology project with the lovely Joanne Hall, one I wasn’t initially supposed to be working on but due to the original editor being unable to continue, I was drafted in. Whilst it’s a shame that she couldn’t do it, I feel very fortunate to have been involved in this book, which is, well, arse-kickin’ good.

The launch should be a cracker, too. There’ll be swordplay from contributing author Fran Terminiello and friends, readings from the anthology and discussion of the role of women in SF&F. There will also be a buffet to munch. You can see Fran’s skills in action in this video of an impromptu display in the bar at FantasyCon in 2014. Also showing off her moves in the video is Juliet McKenna, another of our contributors, who will be at the launch and could well be persuaded to throw someone to the floor with her little finger; always a treat.

Copies of ‘Fight Like A Girl’ will be available to buy on the day. RRP £9.99

Tickets are available from eventbrite – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fight-like-a-girl-flag-launch-event-tickets-20658444965

The entry price of £5 per head is entirely to cover the cost of the buffet. The extra 95p is a fee charged by eventbrite to cover their administration costs. So if you want to join in with the buffet, please buy a ticket so we know how many people want feeding!

You can also join in the fun on our Facebook Page.

The Charley Report #1

Meet Charley. Charley’s mostly collie, a little bit something else. Possibly beagle, possibly Tasmanian Devil (well that’s Joanne Hall‘s theory).
IMG_5321
Charley came into my life in April, and took over. This was a dog who, at nine months old, couldn’t walk on a lead, had no training except ‘sit’ and ‘shake’, who bit when scolded, climbed on tables, stole food, had a panic attack at the sight and sound of any normal household activity, nipped and mouthed continually, systematically destroyed things in front of you to get your attention, barked hysterically at strangers, and widdled on the carpet. He was also, underneath it all, clearly a friendly, outgoing dog with ridiculous smarts.

So for the past few months I’ve spent my days managing the dog, training Charley being more of a way of life than a discrete activity. I’ve learned a lot about dog psychology, or at least a lot about what people think about dog psychology. There’s a huge noise-to-signal problem with dog training advice, and a lot of people out there ferociously attached to various methods almost none of which are supported by any evidence, or even sensible theories. We muddle through as best we can, and to be honest it’s been tough. Two broken fingers, one visit from the dog warden, and plenty of tears. All the way through this process I’ve been thinking I should be blogging about it, because it’s been a hell of a journey, but the website has been malfunctioning and just surviving Charley has kept me too busy to think about it, much less fix it. But we’ve reached a point where he can let me sit at the laptop for half an hour without biting my feet or eating the nearest hardback, and BristolCon is over, and I’ve fixed the website, so maybe now I’ll write more…

I’ve managed to do almost nothing else but Charley-wrangle since April, but there have been one or two things, about which separate blog posts will follow. Promise.

WordPunk launched (softly, softly) and Stories for Chip released

WordPunk, the new incarnation of the audio fiction magazine Dark Matters, is now live online. Episode 17, the first under the new branding, contains 4 short stories, one of which is my own ‘Offerings’. It’s a soft launch; updates to the website are not 100% complete; but the stories are there and you can hear them for absolutely nuffink, free gratis.
The official release of Stories for Chip happened last week, with a reading in Seattle. Sadly no wormhole opened up to deliver me to the University Bookstore. I’d have given a lot to be there, but transatlantic flights are about as likely for me as wormholes, on my current budget! Looks like it went really well, and the book is garnering some great reviews. There are some links on the Rosarium Publishing facebook page.

North by Southwest Launch

The North Bristol Writers group, of which I am a member, launches its debut anthology North by Southwest this Saturday 28th March at Forbidden Planet’s Bristol Megastore. The launch will be an informal event, which may involve some short readings. Most of the authors will be there, as will the editor, Joanne Hall.

We are also hoping to put on a reading event at Central Library in the near future, so look out for news of that!

The ToC for NbSW is as follows:

Miss Butler and the Industrial Automation Group – John Hawkes-Reed
A Bristol Pound – Jemma Milburn
Lye Close – Ian Millsted
Christmas Steps – Pete Sutton
Gardening Leave – Clare Dornan
Fisher of Men – Justin Newland
Top of the Hill – Clare Dornan
A Halloween Tale – Margaret Carruthers
House Blood – Ian Millsted
Latitude – Pete Sutton
Uncle Lucas – Clare Dornan
Hater – Pete Sutton
The Taxi Driver – Desiree Fischer
The Noon Train – Roz Clarke
Like Giants – Kevlin Henney

The anthology is available from Forbidden Planet, of course, from the publisher, Tanget, and and as an ebook from Amazon.

Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany

The Table of Contents has now been released for Stories for Chip, an anthology of stories put together to celebrate the work of Samuel R. Delany, multiple award-winning author of ground-breaking novels such as Dhalgren and Babel-17 and a truly fascinating fellow.

I was lucky enough to be taught by Delany at Clarion West. The story I wrote in the final week, the week Chip had us for, when we were all sleep-deprived and more than half crazy, was a cheerful little number called Haunt-type Experience. 

The anthology is edited by Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell, and I’m chuffed to bits to be able to tell you that they’ve accepted Haunt-type Experience. It’s a true honour to be on this list.

  • Christopher Brown – “Festival”
  • Chesya Burke – “For Sale: Fantasy Coffin”
  • Roz Clarke – “Haunt-type Experience”
  • Kathryn Cramer – “Characters in the Margins of a Lost Notebook”
  • Vincent Czyz – “Hamlet’s Ghost Sighted in Frontenac, KS”
  • Junot Díaz – “Nilda”
  • Geetanjali Dighe – “The Last Dying Man”
  • Timmel Duchamp – “Real Mothers, a Faggot Uncle, and the Name of the Father: Samuel R. Delany’s Feminist Revisions of the Story of SF”
  • Hal Duncan – “An Idyll in Erewhyna”
  • Fabio Fernandes – “Eleven Stations”
  • Jewelle Gomez – “Be Three”
  • Eileen Gunn –  “Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005”
  • Nick Harkaway – “Billy Tumult”
  • Ernest Hogan – “Guerilla Mural of a Siren’s Song”
  • Nalo Hopkinson & Nisi Shawl – “Jamaica Ginger”
  • Walidah Imarisha – “Walking Science Fiction: Samuel Delany and Visionary Fiction”
  • Alex Jennings – “Heart of Brass”
  • Tenea D. Johnson – “Each Star a Sun to Invisible Planets”
  • Ellen Kushner – “Delany Story”
  • Claude Lalumiere – “Empathy Evolving as a Quantum of Eight-Dimensional Perception”
  • Isiah Lavender – “Delany Encounters”
  • devorah major – “Voice Prints”
  • Haralambi Markov – “Holding Hands with Monsters”
  • Anil Menon – “Clarity”
  • Carmelo Rafala – “Song for the Asking”
  • Kit Reed – “Kickenders”
  • Kim Stanley Robinson – “Introduction”
  • Benjamin Rosenbaum – “The First Gate of Logic”
  • Geoff Ryman – “Capitalism in the 22nd Century”
  • Alex Smith – “Clones”
  • Michael Swanwick – “On My First Reading of The Einstein Intersection”
  • Sheree Renee Thomas – “River Clap Your Hands”
  • Kai Ashante Wilson – “Legendaire”