The Sci Fi Weekender

BeachOkay, I admit: I went to the Sci Fi Weekender with a certain set of pre-conceptions – and a certain set of thermals. The memories of the previous year’s skull-freezing shower will haunt me ‘til I’m old and grey.

But sometimes, it’s good to be wrong.

One warm caravan; one hot shower. One view of mountains in the morning. Ducks that waddled past our window, in that businesslike way that only ducks can manage. All-in-all, the Weekender turned out to be an excellent event – and the business wasn’t just about the ducks.

IMG_2152Behind the trading table, we saw the most fantastical costumes – from a trio of Deadpools to the gorgeous armour of the Chaos Marine, from Su’s Death of Rats to the beer-drinking, cross-play Leia. It seems the event has become all about the dressing up. Everyone was getting into it, and not just for the Masquerade – I find myself wondering if I can still fit the more interesting end of my wardrobe, but hey, that’s another story.

IMG_2157And on the subject of stories, I thoroughly enjoyed my fiction panels – the books stream had a series of interesting topics, a lot of energy and insight, and a good and positive audience. There was a lot of feedback, people getting involved and asking questions – and that was how it should be. Well done, Sam – that’s never an easy job!

Snapping the SnapperIt was also one of these events where your twitter people come out of the woodwork, introducing themselves and putting faces to @labels. It was lovely to meet so many of you for the first time, and to realise just how far Ecko has reached. Knowing that your book had actually touched people’s lives will never, ever, cease to be amazing.

Louis Spins a TuneOther surprises included Sci Fi London’s Louis Savy spinning a mean seat on the Thursday night, and discovering I can apparently still dance – thought that was to Pat Sharp (who else?) on the Saturday. And might have needed beer.

Simon BisleyAnd props to both Bisley and Fabry, bless them, for being so helpful!

Deadpool's New Reading
All-in-all, the Sci Fi Weekender has taken on a new look – and as cosplay becomes more and more popular, who knows where it will go?

More pictures here.

The #Rabbit: Social Media and Enthusiasm

RabbitAfter a remark on Twitter this morning, this is a little conversation about enthusiasm and social media marketing. I call it, ‘The Rabbit’…

Person 1: I want to give your business a rabbit!
Person 2: A rabbit.
P1: Yes, a rabbit. It’ll be free – we’re not going to charge you for it – and it’ll be a fantastic social media win. Think about it, cute creature, it’ll go viral in fifteen minutes.
P2: You want to put a rabbit in my business.
P1: Yes, absolutely. In the window! It’ll have our logo shaved into its fur. It’s part of a nationwide promotion—
P2: A nationwide promotion of rabbits?
P1: Well, you know what they say! No, seriously, we’ll be encouraging people to take pictures of them and hashtag them #rabbit – it’ll be fantastic, we’ll be trending in no time. And we’d love you to be a part of it!
P2: Okay, okay, hashtagged rabbit, I get it. But I have a couple of questions.
P1: Go for it!
P2: I take it you’ve already sourced this rabbit?
P1: Yes, it’s a black one – we saw it and thought of you.
P2: Great, thanks. So – how are we going to feed it?
P1: Oh, that’s easy. You can just bung it some lettuce or something.
P2: And how about water? And cold? And who’s going to look after it?
P1: You must have an animal lover on your staff – they can take it home with them in the evening.
P2: On a London Tube? And if this poor thing’s in the window, then what about hay, and bedding, and rabbit poo? And who’s going to keep shaving the logo – your logo – back into its fur?
P1: Um…
P2: And then I really have to ask: if you’re nationally hashtagging this wee beastie #rabbit, and it’s bearing your company logo – then how does its presence benefit us specifically? How it does it make us stand out? I don’t mean to be corporate, or anything, but if I’m going to offer you essentially free advertising space, how does this #rabbit actually benefit my business?
P1: But – cute creature, on twitter, everyone will love it! They’ll take pictures! Be like that street bloke and his cat!
P2: Look, I get where you’re going – of course everyone loves a cute bunny, and there will inevitably be pictures. But it requires a lot of management, it carries your logo rather than ours, and it doesn’t differentiate my business, or make my brand stand out. And, forgive me, unless this rabbit’s pooing chocolate drops, it doesn’t give me something that I can actually sell.
Person 1: So – you’re saying no to a free rabbit? In your window? Twitter viral win?
P2: With the best will in the world, I’m not sure this one is going to work for us. Come back to me when you’ve got something in a #wampa. That’s right up our street, and that shit, I know we can move.

Social Media enthusiasm is great. But when you’re making a proposal, please think it through.

Do You Know What Being a Single Mum is Like?

Being a single Mum is like getting the early shift every morning. It’s like endless questions – like being a teacher, and a scientist, and an encyclopedia, and a Prophet of the Great Avatar Google. It’s like listening to someone enthuse about their favorite subject, over and over, for hours and hours. It’s like having the share that enthusiasm, whether you’ve had enough or not.

Being a single Mum means someone in your company absorbing everything you do. Your speech, your moods, your habits, your reactions – every time you move or open your mouth, you teach him something whether you want to or not. It’s like having to watch yourself, to be conscious of your own behavior and emotional reactions. Being a single Mum means having someone that needs you – no matter how big he may seem to be. He comes to give you a cuddle and look at you out of baby-wide eyes, and then he licks you and farts.

Do you know what being a single Mum is like?

It’s like your personal life ends at 3:15pm. It’s like a scheduling nightmare, like running endless errands. It’s like never having any money. These days, it’s like being a political scapegoat, spattered over the front pages of the right wing press, like cringing every time you read the propaganda of your own demographic.

It’s like being a demographic.

Being a single Mum is like never going out. It’s like never being able to manage a routine at the gym. It’s like setting up events, doing all the background work, and then not being able to attend them. It’s like seeing evenings you’d love to attend pass by, time after time after time. It’s like seeing friends roll their eyes – at first tolerantly, eventually in exasperation – when they invite you out and you can’t go. Again. At last, there comes a time when they, one after another, stop asking. And you can’t really blame them.

Do you know what being a single Mum is like?

It’s like creeping in to your son’s room just before you go to bed, and seeing him sleeping – his hands raised into chubby fists as if he were a tiny child. It’s like standing there in wonder at this thing, this miracle, this best of friends; like touching his hair with no idea as to how he grew so big, so fast. It’s like wondering where his childhood went, and wishing you could give him a real cuddle without him going ‘ewwwww MUM!’ and trying to punch you in the ear. It’s like knowing the next years will fly by, and he will be grown beyond you before you know it. It’s like love and awe and poignance – you know you will have to let him go, and that that distance is starting, even now. God knows, you may be claustrophobic at times, but watching him sleep, you know it will all be gone too fast for you to follow.

And one day, you know, and all too soon, you will be standing there, a somewhat threadbare cuddly cat in your hands, looking up at your son’s bristling chin and wishing with all your heart that you could trade all your independence for one more sight of your wonderful and clever and funny and sleeping child.

I’m not prone to poetry. But being a single Mum can do that to you.

Sleeping Cub

Ecko on Audible!

UnzippedA very VERY short blog post: -

Over the MOON to be able to announce that Audible have bought the rights for Ecko Rising and Ecko Burning! (Insert massive leaping-up-and-down-SQUEEEEE here). Have no schedule yet, but more news as it comes to light (sound?)

It’s a funny feeling – in some ways even stranger than Ecko becoming a book, or a book cover. In my head, he has a very clear and distinctive voice, and he’s had that voice for a long time. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and the idea of hearing him in someone else’s mouth, as it were, is a peculiar lack of control, another step back from the content.

But, as we know all too well – complete control went out the window the day that book deal was signed. And that can only be a good thing!



VulgarI’ve had flack for Ecko’s use of the word ‘fuck’ – he does use it like a fucking comma. If I was going to be a fucking smartarse, I’d explain that the presence and absence of the verb ‘to fuck’ was one of the manifest fucking differences between the London and fantasy worlds… but it seems that was too fucking subtle.

Which is ironic.

So – in celebration of a word we (almost) all fucking use, of its versatility, its energy, its teenage angst and its raffish defiance, and of the simple satisfaction of fucking using it…

SmurfsFuck is a command. Someone pisses you off, you tell them to Fuck off. Simple. Fuck is an expletive, as in Fuck me, Fuck you, Fuck this. Fuck is verb and emphasis, like Fucking jerk, or Pass the fucking salt. Fuck gives you a way to tell someone they’ve overstepped the line, Shut the fuck up, Go fuck yourself.

Fuck is creative and immensely satisfying. Telling someone to Go take a flying fuck (at a rolling doughnut) will make them step back a pace. Fuck expresses and emphasises confusion like no other word, What the fuck, What the fucking fuck?

Other GodsFuck is a word for a night in the pub, Fucked again. Or for those who give you grief while you’re there, Fucktards and Motherfuckers. It can be used on the way home, or in the morning, to great and colourful effect, My God, I’m never fucking drinking again.

Fuck is rebellion, teenage or otherwise, Don’t fuck with me, Don’t do me any fucking favours, Fuck the system, Who gives a fuck?

Fuck expresses depressive anger, Fuck the world, and equally, the encouragement that’s its opposite, Don’t get fucked up, fucked over, She isn’t fucking worth it.

Fuck expresses confusion, Who the fuck are you, What the fuck is this, You’re fucking kidding me. It expresses exasperation, You dumb fuck.

GraffitoWith the right character, Fuck is a word that adds an underline to almost any emotion, that exaggerates speech and reaction, that can be put fucking everywhere, to fucking enhance anything, and still make fucking sense.


POOP – Say No to the ‘P’!

Poop!And on the subject of linguistic idiosyncrasies…

Where did the word POOP come from? Who first used it? How did it slide into our language – it wasn’t there when I was a cub. How did there come to be poop games, poop songs, poop machines, Justin Bieber eating his own poop? Did it come from dog-walkers and their poop-scoops? Did Justin invent it himself? What?

A poop is a DECK, for Gods sakes, a deck on a ship. It’s not the ship’s latrine, unless you’re sticking your ass over the side. I’ve stood on the Poop deck of the Golden Hinde and I’m pretty sure I would have noticed. Pooped means fatigued. The Poop is a constellation. Poop is onomatopoeic – Gordon the Big Engine says ‘Poop, poop, poop!’ when he laughs at the smaller engines’ misfortunes. When you go for a pee, you don’t go for a PEEP, do you? Then why the hell has the word POO suddenly grown an additional and entirely unnecessary consonant?

Enough! Enough with the pooping!

Every time you use that extra letter, a bathroom fairy loses its wings. And the poor thing could land anywhere.

Please, think of the fairies. Say no to the ‘P’.

2013 – A Year of Crashing Plates

PlatesIt’s been a ‘no idea where it’s gone’ year.

In these posts, you’re supposed to write about wonderful things, epic and terrible things. But not this year – it was January, and then it was summer, and then it was chaos, and then it was Christmas again, and then it was me looking at the Facebook ‘12 best moments’ and going ‘fuuuuuuu…’


2013 has seen my son flow from boy towards teenager – the ‘whatever’ years now lurk on the horizon. Yet Isaac has also grown in maturity and responsibility, and I’m more proud of my son that I could ever articulate. But I guess you knew that.

2013 has seen Ecko Endgame written and in – the end of a project that’s been with me for twenty years and more. I wrote that closing sentence and then burst into tears – regret and relief and fulfillment and loss and a little fear. Something that huge being ‘over’ is a very weird.

And 2013 was a frenetic year at FP – as the heatwave hit in July, so work became a sledgehammer of stress, more events than we could cover or handle. My ten-year anniversary passed in a suffocating cloud of panic, and I began to realise an inevitable truth…

More PlatesMy life is a constant juggling act – child and work and writing. Cramming it all in. Organising up the arse, and no social life to speak of because I never have time. It’s bonkers. People say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it’, and this was the year I had to face a truth that I didn’t like very much…

I don’t. This summer, the plates wobbled and all came tumbling down, slo-mo.

It was just too much. Work reached critical mass, Isaac is my son, Endgame was handed in late, and then by gritted teeth and willpower – I think the tears may have been as much about sheer exhaustion as anything else. But I did it. By some miracle. Just.

Before those falling plates hit the floor and shattered into a million broken pieces.

Too Many PlatesThis year has taught me that I’m not Wonder Woman. That my time and abilities are finite. That if I take on too much, I will fuck it up. Next year, I’m going to take a step back and be happy with less. Spend more time with Isaac and family and friends. Play computer games. Laugh. Spend time – hell, days! – doing fuck all and not feeling guilty about it.

In 2013, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lifelong ambition finally achieved. In 2014, I’m going to be very bloody glad to not have to achieve it any more.

World Fantasy Con – All The Hoopla!

PopcornOne word for this – that word is ‘family’. With all of the fussing and fighting, my friends, that led up to the event, one would’ve expected fireworks and drama and fuck knows what else…

ALL THE BOOKS!…but what we got was a old school, traditional Book Convention and (from what I’ve seen) one enjoyed by all. An event run, you might say, by the book.

Titan BooksFor me, it was about family. About the Forbidden Planet family, with the huge agenda of signings and events that bracketed the weekend. About the UK SF/F family, the thing that supports us all. About the international family, the thing that surrounds us. And on a personal level, about the Titan family – the thing that came into its own at the WFC weekend.

Dealers Room

Dealers Room

As ever, I’m rather caught behind the Dealers’ Room table, but I did manage to escape for long enough to share a signing event with Francis Knight and her awesome Cake Noir – an hour that championed everything I’ve always harped on about as regards cross-pollination of readership.

Cake NoirAnd for long enough to attend the Titan party, a Saturday afternoon win complete with wine, popcorn machine, crossbows, and a signing table shared with Guy Adams.

IMG_1795Though it was rather surreal seeing people trying to win Ecko on a hoopla stall…

IMG_1790Family, too, in events run by Team Gollancz and their gin, Team Tor and their music, and by Jo Fletcher Books – though I’d been on my feet for twelve hours by the last of these and my appreciation may have faded to a weary croak that needed wine badly (thank you Snorri Kristjansson!)

Nice HatIn conclusion – an awesome Con. Something that surpassed its own rumblings and reminded all of us why we actually do this stuff.

Ten Years at FP – my Top Ten Memories

Secure Beneath Watchful Eyes10. The Launch of the London Megastore

The first event I ever did for FP – I hadn’t even started in the position and I was slung in at the proverbial deep end. Meeting GoH Ray Harryhausen left me genuinely speechless, and watching all of the journos and publicity types was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

FP are very fond of telling people to ‘hit the ground running’ – and they really weren’t kidding!

9. Signing Ecko.

Absolutely bloody surreal for all the reasons we know – but made doubly bizarre as John Barrowman were signing upstairs at the same time. As I changed hats from publicist to publicised, he was sat in the staffroom, gloriously foul-mouthed and completely at home.

Bless him for putting the icing on the evening!

Stephen Donaldson8. Fangirl Moments (cough).

Meeting Stephen Donaldson – wonderfully sarcastic, and a very drily funny man. And meeting Claudia Christian – along with getting the chance to don the classic Bab5 jacket. Insert fangirl squeee here.

7. The Gentle Giant World Tour

Karl Meyer of Gentle Giant Studios had whole Rock God thing going on, and a queue that waited for him for ten hours plus – fans that literally cheered him upon arrival. We had competitions, tour exclusive toys and tees, a party atmosphere in the store itself – the launch of the Commander Bly bust was absolutely massive.

As part of the event, we also had in store the full 3D head-scanning technology that made Gentle Giant’s busts and figures so perfectly sculpted and unique. Kind of like an MRI scanner for toys…

Gentle Giant Head Scan6. Stealing William Gibson’s Pen.

He’d actually come in to sign Spook Country, and his London fanbase was there in force to meet him. It was the afternoon Reverend Rat gave him the ‘Secure Beneath Watchful Eyes’ poster that he’d been looking for since ‘02 (I love it when that stuff happens, it’s really magical) and I watched the Godfather of Cyberpunk be struck suitably speechless by the gift. Lovely man, telling tall tales of the basement of Denmark Street in the 1980s (and I’ve heard a few of those, as well).

He only handed me his e-signature pen so I could have a look at it!*

5. Andy Serkis signing Return of the King.

I’d been at FP two months when Andy Serkis came in to sign the DVD release of Return of the King – and I’ve never seen a guest work so hard at a public event. The queue was huge as you’d expect, and the children were coming in and holding up little plastic One Rings to him, saying ‘Look! I’ve got it and you can’t have it!’ In response, he would surge over the counter at them, his whole face and attitude shifting, manifesting Gollum right before our eyes.

Andy SerkisHe did this four or five hours with no break and no let-up – and every kid was as wide-eyed as the first one.

4. Kevin Smith signing Shootin’ the Sh*t.

A consummate retail professional on top if all his other capabilities, Kevin Smith was absolutely aware of (and a part of) his fanbase. The thing that sticks in my head is him walking the store after the event had closed, commenting on stock and layout and visual merchandising – all with the eye of a man who knows exactly what you should be doing and why.

And one would expected to find him loitering outside with Jason Mewes.

3. Ray Harryhausen.

One of the first jobs I ever did for FP was escorting Ray Harryhausen back to his house in a taxi, listening to him talk – about being in LA during the war, and about how much he hated CGI. He was a very insightful and gentle man, still with a wicked twinkle, and it’s one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Ray HarryhausenLater, we took books to his house for him to sign, and our attention as Ray’s house to be signed, and we sat in the kitchen like kids, looking at the artwork in the walls and the miniature Talos on the cabinet beside us.

No words.

2. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost signing Shaun of the Dead.

One the first signings they did for us, promoting the original movie release of Shaun (the signed poster is still on the staffroom wall). I was there to run the event, and five months pregnant with Isaac. Quite aside from trying to persuade me to call my son ‘Simon Nick’ or ‘Nick Simon’ they were a great laugh, like Kevin Smith they were at one with their (substantial) audience, and fanboys to the core.

Specifically, Nick Frost won my heart by answering the business telephone and getting his mitts on a price gun… we so should’ve given him a job!

Kevin Smith1: Gerard Way signing The Umbrella Academy.

Huge. Bigger than huge. Fecking enormous. I’m forever retelling this, but it’s the only time we’ve ever shut the store for an event. It was like something out of a zombie movie, fans’ hands and faces pressed against the glass, screaming and chasing his car as he left. Love-lorn teenagers queued for hours (some from the previous night) – they burst into tears when they saw him and were absolutely unable to speak… that much was fair enough, but when it was their mums, ladies my age – that made me goggle.

Have to say, though, props to the man himself for being absolutely lovely.

And a special mention must also go to Max Brooks, and his affinity with the zombie goodies crafted by Nimba Creations. Fantastic afternoon, proving that, sometimes, legends really do come to life :)

Max Brooks


*I should point out that I didn’t, in fact, steal Mister Gibsons’s pen. I forgot I had it in my hand (I swear!) and he was extremely polite in asking for it back…




Last Night’s Book Launch!

BooksSometimes, you sit behind a table with a pen and it’s all terribly formal.

Cakeage!And then sometimes, you don’t actually get to sit down because you’re so busy, chatting, greeting old friends, putting names to faces to twitterhandles.

Sometimes, the energy generates itself and the tables are groaning under the weight of Krispy Kreme (thank you Stephen J Sweeney!), chilli chocolate cupcakes and gloriously sugary cinder toffee honeycomb (as we couldn’t have branded matches, it seemed like the next best thing)!

Sugar Rush!Sometimes, everybody just gets into the spirit of the evening and has a fantastic time – through that might have been fuelled by sugar.

Sometimes, the rather staid image of the traditional ‘book signing’ just goes straight out the window and people make a community all of their own.

Tees!With thanks to Titan Books and Lou Hellbaby, last night was awesome.