summertime and the reading is easy

Fiction, Holidays, Novelists, Psychogeography, Travel

It’s summer time, so the paper are full of people talking about the books they’re taking on holiday. I’ve found all the various lists rather frustrating as – with the exception of (of course) the New Scientist and a couple of mentions of Emily St John Mandel’s excellent Station Eleven – nobody’s recommended any science fiction, fantasy or horror at all.

So, to balance that out, here’s my list of holiday books. Oh, and it seems that, when writing this kind of thing, you have to mention where you’re heading to. So, there’s a certain amount of destination boasting in there too.

Anyway, first of all I’m going to be packing Imaginary Cities, by Darran Anderson. Here’s the blurb:

Inspired by the surreal accounts of the explorer and ‘man of a million lies’ Marco Polo, Imaginary Cities charts the metropolis and the imagination, and the symbiosis therein. A work of creative nonfiction, the book roams through space, time and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia and the afterlife, where time runs backwards or which float among the clouds.

It’s a wonderful, substantial tome and looks absolutely fantastic. Darran’s twitter feed is also well worth checking out, it’s a cornucopia of imaginary wonderments. I’m planning a long weekend tucked away in London’s Alsacia – it’ll be the perfect companion.

I’m going to follow that with some fiction. I’ve been meaning to check out Naomi Mitchison for a while – she seems to be both a very wondrous writer and someone who’s been rather unfairly written out of genre history. The Corn King and the Spring Queen looks like a great starting point:

Set over two thousand years ago on the calm and fertile shores of the Black Sea, Naomi Mitchison’s The Corn King and the Spring Queen tells of ancient civilisations where tenderness, beauty and love vie with brutality and dark magic.

Ms Allumination and I are off to Summerisle for a long weekend, it’ll be a great read on those endless Western Isle evenings. Sadly we’ve missed this year’s May Day celebration but at least there’ll those marvellous apples to try! And of course I’ll snag one of their famous “I went to Summer Isle and all I came back with was an understanding of the true meaning of sacrifice” t-shirts.

After that, it’s going to be time for a bit of a change of pace. Business is taking me to Neo-Tokyo – apparently the tech scene out there is about to explode. I’ll be stopping off in Hong Kong along the way, so Dung Kai-Cheung’s Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City will be the perfect traveling companion

Set in the long-lost City of Victoria (a fictional world similar to Hong Kong), Atlas is written from the unified perspective of future archaeologists struggling to rebuild a thrilling metropolis. Divided into four sections–“Theory,” “The City,” “Streets,” and “Signs”–the novel reimagines Victoria through maps and other historical documents and artifacts, mixing real-world scenarios with purely imaginary people and events while incorporating anecdotes and actual and fictional social commentary and critique.

And once I’m back, we’ve finally got a couple of weeks away for a proper summer holiday. We’re spending it in a rather snug bolthole somewhere in Sussex. Apparently Arran sweaters are de rigueur and I’m assured that the aga is in full working order. So, we should be able to avoid the local ambulant plant life, keep under the radar of any passing military survivalist cults and basically stay cosy in the face of any catastrophes.

While we’re there, I’ll be snuggling down with Aliette de Bodard’s by all acounts stunning The House of Shattered Wings:

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

I can’t wait! Though of course, family holidays aren’t just about reading. We’ll be passing the evenings performing Hamlet. In the original Klingon, of course.

Happy holidays everyone! Oh, and if you’ve got any summer reading recommendations, do share them (plus any strange and interesting destinations you’re heading to) in the comments…

A walk with Zali Krishna

Landscape, London, Photos, Psychogeography, Travel

Zali and I went for a walk the other day. We started at Thamesmead, then moved down the Thames past City Airport. Halfway through, we stopped and dug random quotes out of some books we had with us. I took several pictures. Here’s some of them, plus the quotes we found:

Dark water, distant towers

‘You will never know what just happened, or you will always know what is going to happen.’

Unbroken landscape

‘Here, once again, the machine could be used as a real liberator.’

Breakers pause

‘Inside the apartment, Coltrane played ‘My Favourite Things’. Outside, the builders shouted at one another.’

Fence in bloom

‘As I came through the desert, thus it was.’

Broken quay

‘As I came through the desert: all was black.’

Private sky

Here are the rest of the pictures I took. Here are Zali’s. And here’s a documentary about life in Thamesmead during the 70s:

Haunted by cosmonauts

Kosmische, Radio, Science Fiction, Travel

Another enjoyable night out last night, as I went to the rather wonderful Shunt space beneath London Bridge station, to listen to upcoming Radio 4 Afternoon Play ‘Listen Up’.

Inspired by a recent Fortean Times article, the play deals with two Italian brothers, Achille and Giovanni Judica Cordiglia, who – in the late 50s and early 60s – managed to tune in to broadcasts from US and Soviet satellites and manned spacecraft.

Such was their ingenuity that they were actually better at tracking Soviet space missions than NASA; in fact, they apparently listened in on several pre-Gagarin manned spaceflights that – because each one ended in failure, and consequent fatality – were never officially acknowledged.

I really enjoyed it; it’s a very evocative piece, at once uncovering part of the hidden history of the space race and very effectively catching the paranoid spirit of the early 60s.

And afterwards, I managed to chat to author Glen Neath about it, so I’ll leave it to him to fill in the details – pausing only to note that it’s the Radio 4 Afternoon Play at 2.15pm on Friday 29th April, and will then be on iPlayer for a week or so afterwards. Make sure you listen in!

 

(Hello, Hello) It’s Good To Be Back

Fantasy, Festivals, Gigs, Science Fiction, Travel

Well, hello all! I have returned from a truly fantastic two weeks in the States. We packed so much in, it feels like much longer – so where to begin when talking about it? Well, there were the wonders of Olympic National Park, the joys of Seattle, the sheer bounciness of meeting H’s various friends out there (hi all!), Halloween fuelled Queen / Elton John tribute acts, marvellous Northwestern booze’n’food, proper road tripping, New York haunted house mayhem, the nuttiness of Halloween (I have met Scrabble! And it wears very short skirts), much Met-ness, and of course World Fantasy Con, which was (unsurprisingly) just Fantastic.

So this is really a coming soon post, as there’s much to blog about having conned over the weekend. Again, where to begin? Ted Chiang set me straight on the relationship between science fiction and reality… I talked fiction-as-implication with Steven Erickson… Hal Duncan ranted unstoppably on the absolute need to read both Alasdair Grey’s ‘Lanark’ and Edward Whittemore’s ‘Jerusalem Quartet’… Lisa Tuttle was fascinating on her fictionally challenged Great-Grandfather… and so on…

All that’s coming up over the next few posts (coming soon!) – oh, and of course I’ve got to report back on the great Stellas comeback gig (one of the odder but more rewarding gigs we’ve done, it turns out) – but for the moment a very last minute plug for the great Jean Herve Peron (Faust bassist and all around Art Errorist), playing tonight at the Luminaire. Go here for details – what with the chainsaws, the solo-ness and the ace support, it’s going to rock (my attendance attendant on jet lag, alas…)

A bientot!

Holidays, Surrealism, Travel

Allumination has gone to Paris for the weekend – to eat fine food, drink fine wine, and explore in general, accompagne (of course) par la H.

There’s much to see – the Sainte Chapelle, the Arcades, the various art museums (this weekend’s particular target the Moreau Museum, I think), the place I used to live back in 1990 (how time flies!) – and of course, in pursuit of the weird, we might well be obliged to wander here…

Bon weekend a tous!