Category Archives: Fiction

Is That The 12″ Remix? – New Book featuring Pansentient League!

fcoverRob Grillo (author of “Picture This” and “Anoraknophobia“) has just released his new book Is That The 12″ Remix?

Originally released in 2010, “Is That the 12″ Mix?” returns in this newly expanded edition for 2016 (and an appropriate moniker tweak).

With an exclusive introduction by Martyn Ware (Heaven 17), “Is That the 12″ Remix? narrates the history of the twelve inch mix and of the remix evolution in the early and mid-80s. The book also includes a chapter on¬†obsessive¬†fans of 80s music. That’s where I come in ūüėČ

Before this blog, I ran a website (also called¬†The Pansentient League) where I posted my remixes of Human League songs along with much better mixes from other (proper) remixers and bands. I also mucked about with creating videos, comics, short stories and fake sci-fi mythology, all centered on my favorite band. It’s quite mad you know. Rob interviewed me for his book (he calls me a fan that’s “a little more left-field” and an example of “just how obsessive some music fans can become“); you can read my contribution in the chapter about¬†The Fan(atic)s. :p

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Edinburgh Science Fiction Book Group – 10 Year Anniversary

The Edinburgh Science Fiction Book Group first met 10 years ago this month. Started by Joe Gordon (who now writes the blog for Forbidden Planet but at the time was a bookseller at Waterstone’s), the group’s remit is this:

We take it in turns to select books to discuss, with regulars getting a month each to pick out a book. The criteria is pretty flexible – we take in traditional SF, modern and classic, horror, fantasy, graphic novels and slipstream/speculative fiction works which may not be considered SF&F by many but do contain some SF elements. The main aspect really required in a choice is that it contains elements that will generate some discussion.

I joined in 2006 for the discussion of Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe Of Heaven. My first pick was a couple of months later, when I chose Under The Skin by Michel Faber. Since then, the dozen or so of us have read and discussed over 100 books, including:

  • Old-school classics by Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, John Wyndham;
  • Golden age classics by Alfred Bester, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Roger Zelazny, Philip K Dick, Olaf Stapledon;
  • Fantasy and New Weird by China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Gene Wolfe, Jeff VanderMeer, Diana Wynne Jones, George RR Martin, Lauren Beukes;
  • Hard SF by Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, Vernor Vinge, Kim Stanley Robinson, Hannu Rajaniemi, Greg Bear;
  • Contemporary SF by William Gibson, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Ken MacLeod, Chris Beckett, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Tony Ballantyne, Hugh Howey, Tim Maughan, Paolo Bacigalupi;
  • Literary SF by Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Michael Chabon, Kazuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy, Nick Harkaway;

For the 10th anniversary we had a little party and a survey to vote for our all-time favourite book group book and to highlight any particularly memorable books or book discussions.

sfbookgroup

Once all the votes were counted, the top three favourites were revealed to be the following:

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

This one (or four) book probably prompted the most chat, especially when we discussed “Books You Loved That Everyone Seemed to Hate.” Obviously there was a lot of love for this, although I must confess it wasn’t for me.

In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield

I was especially pleased to see this one ranking so highly, as it was one of my own choices. I did worry that it would be a little bit far from the “robots & spaceships” choices I was known for, but as Kay said at the party:

There can’t be many SF groups that would enthusiastically contemplate a book about royal French mermaids. But we did, and most of us enjoyed it too!¬†

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

This fantastic and fantastical novel topped our poll, and it was one of the very few books I’ve given a 5-out-of-5 rating on Goodreads. Its post-war take on English folklore and legend wonderfully captured our imaginations

 

The¬†Edinburgh Science Fiction Book Group¬†meet at 7pm on the last Tuesday of every month at¬†Henderson’s, where we find a table (and I find a glass of wine) then spend an hour or so discussing the month’s book pick.

Feel free to drop me a line if you fancy coming along, or check out our new blog!

My Top 5 Spotify Concept Playlists

Among¬†the many album-based playlists I make, I’ve also created several “concept” playlists which all have a bit of back-story, inclusion dilemma, structuring precisions and multiple viewpoints.¬†So here’s a list of¬†5 Concept Spotify Playlists¬†that I’m especially pleased with. They’re not my most subscribed (this¬†Drive soundtrack playlist has nearly 4,000 23,000 subscribers!) but these five I consider proper mix albums and showcase both the selected artists and the amazing creative potential of Spotify.

Included are playlist stats and links to the “sleeve notes” that accompany each playlist, as well as embedded Spotify Play Button widgets to check out the tracklistings. Ideally play with your crossfade set to 7 for all playlists except the space one ¬†(Edit > Preferences > Crossfade tracks).

For your listening pleasure:


A Fool For You

Tracks: 32 / Subscribers: 273 / Genres: Pop, Rock, Folk / 
Sleeve Notes

Something for the Weekend

Tracks: 25 / Subscribers: 95 / Genres: Downtempo, Trip Hop /
 Sleeve Notes


His Majesty’s Starship Derbyshire:
A Science-Fiction Story with Spotify Soundtrack

Tracks: 30 / Subscribers: 86 / Genres: Retro-Electronic /
 Sleeve Notes and Full Story Here!


Afront’s Hauntronica

Tracks: 28 / Subscribers: 138 / Genres: Haunted Pop, Witch House / 
Sleeve Notes

 

The Easter Egg Project (Part One)

Tracks: 16 / Subscribers: 8 / Genres: Eggcentric / 
Sleeve Notes

My Favorites of 2011

Here’s an end-of-year list of my favorite movies, TV shows, books and games from 2011. I’ve added links to Spotify where soundtracks are available. Happy New Year!

 

My Favorite Movies of 2011

 

My Favorite TV Shows of 2011

 

My Favorite Books of 2011

  • The Quantum Thief¬†by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • Sea of Ghosts¬†by Alan Campbell
  • Finch¬†by Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Windup Girl¬†by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • A Snowball in Hell¬†by Christopher Brookmyre
  • The Technician by Neal Asher
  • Kraken by¬†China¬†Mi√©ville

 

My Favorite Games of 2011

 

Audio Books and Fiction on Spotify

Spotify is more than just about music. We’ve already covered some of the stand-up comedy (here and here) and excellent Blake’s 7 audio dramas, but did you know that there’s also a whole feast of classic audiobooks, audio drama and plays on Spotify too?

 

Audio Books on Spotify

While there aren’t any modern audiobooks on Spotify yet (Amazon’s audible.co.uk has seen to that), there are still quite a few classics recorded in the mid 90s and read by many famous names: Hugh Laurie, Joanna Lumley and Nigel Davenport for example.¬†Here’s a small selection (more here):

You’ll also find a whole series of Sherlock Holmes stories, read and acted by¬†Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson. Here’s Volume 1 with the first four stories.

One word of advice when searching for more audiobooks: avoid the Eternal Classic Audio Books series. While unabridged, they’re read by a computer-generated voice and sound¬†absolutely awful!

 

Classic Plays on Spotify

EMI UK has made a series of classic plays available on Spotify, starring some the finest actors and thesps of the 20th century. These include:

  • Harold Pinter’s “The Caretaker
    (with Alan Bates, Donald Pleasence, Peter Woodthorpe)

 

Shakespeare on Spotify

Argo Records have lots of classical content on Spotify, including many of their recordings of the complete works of William Shakespeare. Cambridge University’s Marlowe Players performed the plays, which by the mid-60s grew to include many professional actors. Here’s a few:

You’ll also find Romeo & Juliet, Measure For Measure, Two Gentlemen Of Verona and many more. Unfortunately the label search is a bit wonky here, so you’ll just need to search for each Shakespeare play by name.

 

Special thanks to Stuart Ian Burns (writer of the excellent blog Feeling Listless) for pointing out all these audio books and plays. Please let us know in the comments if you find any more drama or fiction on Spotify!

His Majesty’s Starship Derbyshire: A Science-Fiction Story with Spotify Soundtrack

Towards the end of 1980, His Majesty’s Starship Derbyshire, the pride of the British Space Agency fleet, blasted off into Outer Space on a mission of imperial urgency. The Derbyshire was crewed by six of Britain’s finest astronauts, hastily trained to prepare for a task of extraordinary circumstance. Jodrell Bank had detected an alien spacecraft briefly entering the inner solar system before retreating to an orbit around 90377 Sedna, the distant red dwarf planet that theoretically belongs to humanity. This attack on British soverign space could not be tolerated by the ruling Earth empire of the day, and so the Derbyshire mission was devised.

The HMS Derbyshire launched covertly on the 23rd November, 1980. All seemed well until it passed Saturn, when all radio communication was lost. Its crew were never heard from again. This is their story.

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My Top 10 Favourite Podcasts

I have my HTC Desire wired up to listen to in the car when I’m commuting to and from work each day. I’m often not in the mood for music until later on in the day, so to keep me entertained I subscribed to a selection of podcasts (a podcast is a kind of radio show you can subscribe and¬†listen to whenever you want). I was initially overwhelmed at the sheer volume, variety, and quality of podcasts out there: most bad, some good, and a few essential selections. After checking out many different podcasts over the past few months, I’ve whittled it down to what I think are the very best technology, media, science, comedy and sci-fi podcasts around. Read on for my pick of the Top 10 Best Podcasts!

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The Politics of UK Science Fiction Writers

In this week of the UK general election, several science fiction writers have declared their voting intentions for their prefered political party. English SF writer Neal Asher recently said “I judge books, not a writer’s politics. There’s a lot of books out there by some real hard lefty types, and a lot of those books I really love.” I agree that it’s the book not the writer’s beliefs that matter, but since these are writers whose job it is it speculate on the future (and they’re also guys I admire and respect) I thought I’d post a summary of what political leanings British SF writers have admitted to.
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Is That The Twelve Inch Mix?

Is That The Twelve Inch Mix? is a forthcoming book about the history of remix culture from author Rob Grillo (Anoraknophobia). With an exclusive introduction by Martyn Ware (Heaven 17), the book narrates the history of the twelve inch mix and of the remix evolution in the early and mid-80s. The book also includes a chapter on fans of 80s music. Rob had liked what I’d done for the original Pansentient League site and thought it showed someone who’d “gone a bit further in their obsession.” He got in touch and we subsequently exchanged a number of emails as he interviewed me about my mad remixes and strange website. The book also includes contributions from Peter Saville (Factory Records artist), Malcolm Garrett (Heaven 17), Richard Price, Rob Windle (Electronically Yours), Richard Evans (RememberTheEighties) , and Dave Beevers (The Human League).

Is That The Twelve Inch Mix? will be published by Bank House Books sometime this summer. Until then, here’s a short teaser video featuring my remix of Blue Monday.