Saturday 30 June 2007

Review: The Ragchild by Steve Lockley and Paul Lewis

This is a contemporary urban fantasy. There is a sentient 'alternate Swansea', co-existing with the present-day one but stuck in a 1940s timewarp. It is possible for some people to travel between the two Swanseas, and the alternate one has a small population of misfits. While in the alternate world, they do not need to eat or drink, fall ill, grow old, or die of natural causes.

The plot concerns a threat to the alternate Swansea by a being called the Ragchild. There are various plot threads, following characters in both Swanseas whose lives gradually converge as the final contest draws near.

For once, a short book which I finished in a couple of sessions. Not a book for children; it's quite brutal in places and the language is strong. The 'sense of strange' of the alternate Swansea was quite well done, and the main characters well drawn. I liked it because it was so different - as a result I suspect it will stay in my mind for a long time, and I will keep it for a future re-read.

On publishing fiction

I have been observing the fiction publishing field for a while now, with a mixture of incredulity, hilarity and despair. Just as I think that things can't get any worse, events prove me wrong. My initial book-publishing experiences were in the non-fiction field, which is by comparison boringly predictable and straightforward. This did not prepare me for the game of chance (with the deck heavily loaded against the author) which the hopeful novelist has to enter. I have been more of an observer than a participant in this, because for my first novel I made only a brief attempt to have it traditionally published before time pressure (there was a particular deadline I wanted to hit) caused me to switch to self-publishing. That proved successful for me, so I took the same route with my second novel. However, I am very much aware that self-publishing has problems and disadvantages as well - they're just different from those of traditional publishing. I decided to put my experiences (plus those of others) and thoughts down in the form of an article 'On publishing fiction' on my website. This has been updated several times as new information emerges, and is still a 'work in progress' - you can read it here:

Thursday 28 June 2007

Welcome to my blog!

As this is my first post, I'll start by explaining that I want to use this site to post on a range of subjects related to SFF, including reviews, articles on writing and publishing, and information about my writing. You can get a flavour of my tastes by glancing at the list of my favourite twenty SFF novels on the left - that one took much headscratching to cut down from a much longer list. As you will see, my preferences cover a wide range of both science fiction and fantasy, old and new. As I did most of my reading in the 1960s and early 70s, books from that era still have a strong (if sometimes nostalgic) appeal for me. In my view, SFF is about all about creating that "sense of wonder" (if you'll excuse the cliche) , and I find that tends to be particularly strong in earlier books. Many modern novels often have more literary merit and superior character development, but I don't regard that as adequate compensation if it results in a slow and uninspiring story. As a writer of fiction, I see myself as a storyteller first and foremost - I write the kind of books I like to read.