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October 12th, 2014


10:17 pm - Elizabeth Bowen
Last night I finally finished reading "The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen". I borrowed it from my local library for the retrohugowomen project, and it has taken me the better part of a year to read my way through its 79 stories. Elizabeth Bowen was renowned for vignettes depicting the breakdown of the British and Anglo-Irish aristocracy's way of life, and the destruction of family units. The topics and writing style are not exactly my cup of tea - it took a lot of will power to continue reading the story in which a blister on her main character's foot was a symbol of his failing marriage. So why keep reading? Because scattered among the dreary tales of children who are disappointed in their parents, and parents who are bored of their children, are some truly wonderful speculative fiction stories.

The Apple-Tree (1934) is an extraordinary work of ominous imagery. The Cheery Soul (1942) has one of the funniest, most pointless ghosts I've come across in fiction. The writing style and narrative of Pink May (1945) blend together to create pretty much the perfect story. And Gone Away (1946) is... well, Gone Away is actual SF written by and actual Irish Women in actual 1946, and it is a beautiful unicorn that should be treasured.

And so, 79 stories later, I have a list of Elizabeth Bowen's Speculative Fiction Short Stories. You're welcome, Internet.

Speculative Fiction Short Stories
The Back Drawing-Room (1926)
Foothold (1929)
The Apple-Tree (1934)
The Demon Lover (1941)
The Cheery Soul (1942)
The Happy Autumn Fields (1944)
Green Holly (1945)
Pink May (1945)
Gone Away (1946)
Hand in Glove (1952)

Might-Be-Speculative-Fiction-Or-Might-Be-In-Their-Heads Short Stories
The Shadowy Third (1923)
The Storm (1926)
The Cat Jumps (1929)
Mysterious Kôr (1945)


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September 22nd, 2014


12:46 am - The SF&F Book Chat
Last week The SF&F Book Chat started up again after our annual summer break, and I have just realised I have been running this weekly drop-in book club for three years now. Three years! Time flies when you're desperately trying to find short-yet-interesting-books on a weekly basis having fun.

Over the years the core concepts of the Chat have remained the same - every week I turn up in a Dublin café to chat about a standalone SF&F story that is always legally available as an ebook or online - but we have made two significant changes since the Chat started:
  • From October of last year we've been putting the Chats up on Meetup.com. This has really helped the Chat break out of the friend-of-a-friend attendee pool that can hamper a club from expanding. If you're running any kind of regular event where strangers are welcome, I highly recommend spending the ~€3 a month required for an Organizer account.
  • The Chat was 3 months old when I had a Road To Damascus moment courtesy of Juliet McKenna and decided to make sure 50% of the books chosen each month were by women. That has been... a challenge, to put it mildly, but I have actually managed to achieve that target every month. And I have found it progressively easier to come up with stories by women each month, because now my brain has been trained to see them when they're right in front of me. Like Rubin's Vase. And my every-increasing Amazing Must-Buy Authors list is testament to the success of this strategy (Oh, that list is so long now...).
So if you're in Dublin, and you want to chat about SF&F stories, do pop in. The more the merrier.

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September 16th, 2014


08:47 pm - Indoor Tomatoes
As anyone who follows me on social media is aware (or even just anyone who has been in a room with me for more than five minutes) this year I have been growing a lot of different types of tomatoes. I have of course grown tomatoes before - in the ground, in pots, in containers, and in greenhouses. But none of those methods have worked out particularly well. Ireland simply doesn't have the climate to reliably grow tomatoes outdoors, and whenever I grow them in the greenhouse I find it very difficult to water them with enough regularity to prevent the fruit splitting.

But in March of this year I discovered "micro tomatoes", a category of tomato plants which stay under 18inches. "Yes!" I thought. "I can grow these indoors on my windowsill, and if they are actually in front of me I won't forget to water them."

"But," my next thought was, "there are so many micro tomato varieties. How can I know which will best suit my needs? The only possible way is to grow lots of different varieties! In lots of different conditions! Indoors, outdoors, on my windowsill, in 20inch pots, 8inch pots, 3inch pots..."

I often have thoughts like that.

I ended up growing 13 different varieties (listed below for the curious). And the winner is... Little Sun! If grown in a large container it spreads to about an 18inch globe, but fortunately it didn't spread in the smaller pots. Unlike some of the other varieties it did really well in the 8inch pots with a stake, and even produced fruit in the 3inch pots. And the fruit... oh, the fruit. About 30g, which is far larger than the average cherry tomato, and it had the sweetest fruit of all the varieties I tried.

So, if you want to grow tomatoes on your windowsill, I recommend Little Sun in an 8inch pot, tied to a stake. Oh, and use liquid feed once the fruit sets (solid tomato food was such a mistake. So many fungus gnats...)

But just because Little Sun was the best of these 13 doesn't mean it's the best of all the micro tomato varieties. There are at least 30 more varieties. And they really should be tested in 20inch pots and 8inch pots and 3 inch pots, on windowsills and greenhouses and in the garden...

    2014 Varieties
  • Heartbreaker Vita
  • Sweet 'n Neat Cherry
  • Sweet 'n Neat Yellow
  • Sweet 'n Neat Scarlet Improved (The nicest red tomato I grew this year)
  • Orangenie
  • Micro Tom (the smallest plant, at just 6inches, but very sharp)
  • Romanian Red Dwarf (not actually a micro tom, it turns out! It was about 3ft by 3ft)
  • Red Robin
  • Totem (Ugh. So dry. The only real failure of the lot)
  • Red Alert (A little too large for the windowsill at 2ft, but produced fruit a good month earlier than all the other varieties, which is useful in Ireland's short growing season. And tasty! I'll be growing this again, in the greenhouse)
  • Little Sun
  • Pick a Tom
  • Snacker


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January 4th, 2014


08:18 pm - Books Read In 2013
I once again kept a list on MobileRead of all the new books I finished during the year. In 2011 I read 63 new books, in 2012 I read 58 and in 2013 I read... 56!

Not bad, considering I was able to return to work in June. Roll on 2014!

1. The Magic World by E. Nesbit (ebook)
2. Clarkesworld Magazine #69 (Jun 2012) (ebook)
3. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (ebook)
4. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (paper book)
5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (paper book)
6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (paper book)
7. The Revolving Boy by Gertrude Friedberg (paper book)
8. London Falling by Paul Cornell (ebook)
9. The Kingdom and the Cave by Joan Aiken (paper book)
10. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (ebook)
11. Wood Beyond the World by William Morris (ebook)
12. Probability Moon by Nancy Kress (ebook)
13. Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations ed. Paula Guran (ebook)
14. Running with the Pack ed. Ekaterina Sedia ed. (ebook)
15. Living Alone by Stella Benson (ebook)
16. The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (paper)
17. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (paper)
18. Suited by Jo Anderson (ebook)
19. Dark Spires ed. Colin Harvey (ebook)
20. Hugo Award 2013 Novelette Nominees (ebook)
21. Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy (paper book)
22. Armored ed. John Joseph Adams (ebook)
23. Edge of Infinity ed. Jonathan Strahan (ebook)
24. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (ebook)
25. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (ebook)
26. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (ebook)
27. The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake (ebook)
28. Lightspeed Magazine #20 (Jan 2012) (ebook)
29. Analog Oct 2012 (ebook)
30. Beneath Ceaseless Skies #100 (ebook)
31. Strange Horizons July 2012 (ebook)
32. Apex Magazine #39
33. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (paper book)
34. Gold by Dan Rhodes (paper book)
35. The Complete Short Stories by Oscar Wilde (paper book)
36. World Fantasy Awards Short Story Nominees (ebook)
37. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear (ebook)
38. Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (paper book)
39. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (paper book)
40. The Gates by John Connolly (paper book)
41. The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan (paper book)
42. The Uninhabited House by Charlotte Riddell (ebook)
43. The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination ed. John Joseph Adams (ebook)
44. The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events #4) by Lemony Snicket (paper book)
45. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (paper book)
46. The Weekend Book of Science Fiction ed. Stuart Gendall (paper book)
47. Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds (paper book)
48. The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan (paper book)
49. Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor (paper book)
50. Sorcerer's Luck by Katharine Kerr (paper book)
51. Restoree by Anne McCaffrey (paper book)
52. The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events #5) by Lemony Snicket (paper book)
53. Bitter Angels by C.L. Anderson (paper book)
54. A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix (paper book)
55. The Ceres Solution by Bob Shaw (paper book)
56. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (paper book)

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October 2nd, 2013


07:20 pm - Books Read In 2012
Oops. While I did keep a list at MobileRead of all the new books I finished in 2012, I forgot to post it up here in January. Oh well, better late than never!

So, in 2011 I read 63 new books, and in 2012 I read *drumroll*....58.

Not bad!

1. Lightspeed Magazine #9 (Feb 2011) (ebook)
2. Lightspeed Magazine #10 (Mar 2011) (ebook)
3. Lightspeed Magazine #11 (Apr 2011) (ebook)
4. Lightspeed Magazine #12 (May 2011) (ebook)
5. Lightspeed Magazine #13 (Jun 2011) (ebook)
6. Fantasy Magazine #48 (Mar 2011) (ebook)
7. Fantasy Magazine #49 (Apr 2011) (ebook)
8. Fantasy Magazine #50 (May 2011) (ebook)
9. Fantasy Magazine #51 (Jun 2011) (ebook)
10. Clarkesworld Magazine #54 (Mar 2011) (ebook)
11. Analog Magazine (Jan/Feb 2012) (paper book)
12. Across The Universe (Across The Universe Trilogy #1) by Beth Revis (paper book)
13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (paper book)
14. The Wisdom of Dead Men (Wildenstern Saga #2) by Oisín McGann (paper book)
15. Embassytown by China Miéville (paper book)
16. Night Walk by Bob Shaw (paper book)
17. Dangerous Waters (The Hadrumal Crisis #1) by Juliet E. McKenna (ebook)
18. Irons in the Fire (Lescari Revolution #1) by Juliet E. McKenna (ebook)
19. Armageddon: The Musical (Armageddon Trilogy #1) by Robert Rankin (paper book)
20. The 2012 Octocon Anthology (ebook)
21. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (paper book)
22. Among Others by Jo Walton (paper book)
23. Beauty by Robin McKinley (paper book)
24. Nine Layers of Sky by Liz Williams (paper book)
25. The Mist by Stephen King (paper book)
26. Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis (paper book)
27. Taken At The Flood by Agatha Christie (paper book)
28. The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett (paper book)
29. Survivors by Terry Nation (paper book)
30. Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard (ebook)
31. The 2012 Nebula Award Short Story Nominees (ebook)
32. The Ragged Astronauts (Land and Overland Trilogy #1) by Bob Shaw (paper book)
33. A Shadow in Summer (Long Price Quartet #1) by Daniel Abraham (ebook)
34. Fledgling by Octavia Butler (ebook)
35. Fool's War by Sarah Zettel (ebook)
36. Empire of Bones by Liz Williams (ebook)
37. The Ant King and Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum (ebook)
38. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie (paper book)
39. Hugo Award 2012 Novelette Nominees (ebook)
40. A Dreamer's Tales by Lord Dunsany (ebook)
41. A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie (paper book)
42. Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie (paper book)
43. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)
44. Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia (ebook)
45. The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)
46. Worldsoul (Worldsoul Trilogy #1) by Liz Williams (ebook)
47. The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (ebook)
48. Governor Ramage, R.N. (Ramage #4) by Dudley Pope (paper book)
49. Into The Grey by Celine Keirnan (paper book)
50. Redshirts by John Scalzi (paper book)
51. Ringworld by Larry Niven (paper book)
52. Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees (paper book)
53. Who Goes Here? (Warren Peace, #1) by Bob Shaw (paper book)
54. The Monkey's Wedding And Other Stories by Joan Aiken (paper book)
55. Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine June 2010 (ebook)
56. Tides From the New Worlds by Tobias Buckell (ebook)
57. A Collection of Mystery Stories published by Hamlyn (paper book)
58. Valentina by Kevin McDermot (paper book)

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April 22nd, 2012


05:34 pm - Publicising a niche event in Ireland
At every SF/Fantasy/Anime/Comics/Gaming event I go to, people mention really great publicity channels to me. And whenever someone running an event asks for publicity ideas, I can't for the life of me think of anything other than "put up a poster in Forbidden Planet".

So, I hereby dedicate this comment thread to those brilliant ideas. Which is just a classy way of saying "Please help, I have a memory like a sieve."

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January 28th, 2012


01:18 pm - Not A New Year's Resolution
I don't do New Year's Resolutions. I demand the freedom to make a resolution in March and stick to it for as long as I damn well feel like it.* But last January some of the MobileRead site members decided to track how many books they had read. And I realised I had no idea how many new books I read in a year.

I reread a lot. I mean, a lot. I will reread books I don't like just to complain about them more accurately. And I will reread books I do like over and over and over and over until the cover falls off and the pages fall out.$ But how many new books do I read (and finish) in 12 months?

It turns out the answer for 2011 was "63". How interesting. I wonder how many I'll read this year?


* My "don't pirate ebooks AND don't buy DRM'd ebooks" resolution has been going very well for over 18months now.
$ Mental note: buy new copy of Lois McMaster Bujold's "A Civil Campaign".%
% Mental note 2: stop falling asleep on top of books.


1. The Crowded Shadows (The Moorehawke Trilogy #2) by Celine Kiernan (paper book)
2. March to the Stars (Empire of Man #3) by David Weber & John Ringo (ebook)
3. The Rebel Prince (The Moorehawke Trilogy #3) by Celine Kiernan (paper book)
4. Lightspeed Magazine #1 (June 2010) (ebook)
5. Lightspeed Magazine #2 (July 2010) (ebook)
6. Lightspeed Magazine #3 (August 2010) (ebook)
7. Lightspeed Magazine #4 (September 2010) (ebook)
8. Lightspeed Magazine #5 (October 2010) (ebook)
9. Lightspeed Magazine #6 (November 2010) (ebook)
10. Lightspeed Magazine #7 (December 2010) (ebook)
11. Analog Magazine (December 2010) (ebook)
12. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)
13. The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)
14. His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)
15. Out On Blue Six by Ian McDonald (paper book)
16. Ancient Appetites by Oisín McGann (The Wildenstern Series #1) (paper book)
17. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (July/August 2010) (ebook)
18. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (September/October 2010) (ebook)
19. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (November/December 2010) (ebook)
20. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (ebook)
21. Seeds of Change edited by John Joseph Adams (ebook)
22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (ebook)
23. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (January 2002) (ebook)
24. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)
25. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (February 2002) (ebook)
26. Susan, Bill and the Wolf Dog by Malcolm Saville (paper book)
27. Trillions by Nicholas Fisk (paper book)
28. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (ebook)
29. Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery by Nils-Olof Franzén (paper book)
30. The Deserter (The Boneworld Trilogy #2) by Peadar Ó Gúilín (paper book)
31. Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy #1) by Mira Grant (ebook)
32. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin (ebook)
33. The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (ebook)
34. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (paper book)
35. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (paper book)
36. Dracula by Bram Stoker (ebook)
37. Of Blood And Honey by Stina Leicht (ebook)
38. Jack the Giant-Killer by Charles de Lint (paper book)
39. Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton (paper book)
40. The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (paper book)
41. Farthing by Jo Walton (ebook)
42. Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter (ebook)
43. Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord (ebook)
44. Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest (ebook)
45. World War Z by Max Brooks (paper book)
46. Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (ebook)
47. The Magicians by Lev Grossman (ebook)
48. Orlando by Virginia Woolf (ebook)
49. With The Lightnings (RCN Series #1) by David Drake (ebook)
50. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (ebook)
51. Lt. Leary, Commanding (RCN Series #2) by David Drake (ebook)
52. The Far Side of the Stars (RCN Series #3) by David Drake (ebook)
53. Old Man's War (Old Man's War Series #1) by John Scalzi (ebook)
54. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (ebook/paper book)
55. The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley (ebook)
56. Primary Inversion (Skolian Empire Series #1) by Catherine Asaro (ebook)
57. Black on Black (Heyoka Blackeagle Series #1) by K.D. Wentworth (ebook)
58. In The Garden of Iden (The Company Series #1) by Kage Baker (ebook)
59. Stars Over Stars (Heyoka Blackeagle Series #2) by K.D. Wentworth (ebook)
60. Sunrise Alley by Catherine Asaro (ebook)
61. Debris (Veiled Worlds Trilogy #1) by Jo Anderton (ebook)
62. The Colours of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley (ebook)
63. Scarlet (King Raven Trilogy #2) by Stephen R. Lawhead (paper book)

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October 24th, 2011


06:39 pm - Placebo effects
At Octocon (OMG, so awesome! Everyone go next year!), after the The Science of Horror panel I was ranting talking to some people about the amazing, weird, complicated phenomenon known as The Placebo Effect. So here are some links on the topic:

How can you regulate doping in sport when just thinking you have been given a painkiller releases a measurable natural opiate?Cool, right?!


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October 13th, 2011


02:30 am - I Swear, I Am Not Making This Up
Saw this movie description tonight while channel hopping:
Face of Fear: "A mountaineer who lost his nerve, but gained psychic abilities in a climbing accident, is targeted by a serial killer who stalks him 40 storeys up in a skyscraper."

How could I resist?

As I switched on about an hour into the movie, I don't know why Our Hero stored all of his climbing equipment at the office in which he perfomed his new not-climbing-related-because-he's-scared-of-that-now job. But it seems being chased by a maniac will help you get over any abseiling-related fears. Good to know.

According to Wikipedia, the TV movie was based on a Dean Koontz novel, which means it is actually possible that the movie is better than the source material.

I miss having a life.

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September 10th, 2011


06:43 pm - Sitcom Terminology
Bill Prady is an executive producer on one of My Favourite Things, the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. We have a deep and meaningful relationship (i.e. I follow him on Twitter). Yesterday, he tweeted a series of TV Writers' Room vocab lessons:
  • A story, the main story of the episode; B story, the secondary story; runner, smaller than a story, it "runs" through the ep.
  • The final (hopefully strong) joke in a scene is the blow or the button.
  • Taken from music, a joke or a few off-topic lines before the scene proper begins is a downbeat.
  • The line before a joke is the setup. If the setup is phrased unnaturally to force you to the joke, it is bent and no good.
  • Exposition (facts the audience needs to know to follow the story) is called pipe. A scene full of it is too pipey. Biggest mistake made when laying pipe: characters telling each other things they already know just because you need the audience to hear it. Classically bad setup for pipe: "Hey, tell me again why we're doing this."
  • From the musician's term for a bad note, a hackneyed or overused joke is a clam. E.g. Snuggie jokes are now clams.
  • List jokes often follow the rule of 3 -- 2 items to establish the premise, a third to (hopefully in a funny way) break it. "It was a cheap hotel. You had to supply your own sheets, towels and roof" (Rule of Three structure)
Jargon makes me happy...

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