Driven by a giddy need to make up for lost time, my first full year post-cancer treatment was full tilt with travel, art galleries, books, family and friends. I also finally learned how to use my iPhone camera – you touch the screen to focus, doh!  Fizzing with this epiphany, I even signed up for a iPhone photography course, way back in February, but what with my madcap work pace haven’t had time to start it yet.  I also remain confused by Instagram – it seems you can’t use the app on a computer, only your phone, and I like curating albums, which Facebook, for all its multitude of sins, is pretty good at. Still, I did migrate from the insanely perplexing iPhotos (I spent an hour at a festival with an award-winning filmaker trying to clear storage space without deleting all my photos, and she gave up too), to…

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  A hole in the Gatwick main runway, transport chaos across Europe due to unseasonal storms, a cross-continental epidemic of terrorist attacks, including the assassination of Jo Cox, the flames of Syria still raging unabated while the UK news is all of Brexit, British political convulsions, and the Clinton-Trump mud-flinging match: it’s been a pretty tempestuous summer so far, and if I’ve been quiet about it all that’s because I’ve been dealing with a crisis closer to home – more of which anon, in a later post. Today I just want to celebrate an event I’ve been dreaming of  for many years, and only recently discovered would actually happen: the North American release of my first novel, Seoul Survivors. How this day came about is a tale entwined with the fortunes of the global publishing industry, which you may or may not be interested in, but if the latter, hopefully…

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    Dec 31st and not only do I realise I haven’t blogged since July, but I find myself unable to post the traditional list of the year’s top ten books, films, or significant events. Far from this being the year of living listlessly, I am afraid the only tallies I can provide right now are a sad roll call of friends who have died in the last four months, and a long unscrolling moan of all the marking, household chores and writing projects that the year will now leave undone. Since September I’ve been teaching full time (though unfortunately not for full time wages), and the Christmas season, lovely and indulgent as it’s been, has seen me careening madly from tissue paper hats to stacks of undergraduate poems, essays and novel chapters. Work, especially satisfying work, does help stave off grief, and as well as staying up late to…

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  As the Greeks vote a resounding NO to austerity, here in the UK disabled activists prepare again to storm Westminster on Wednesday to protest the abolishment of the Independent Living Fund – everywhere the war on the poor is cutting deep, and people are fighting back. We living in desperate times, and yet also there’s an exciting spirit of defiance in the air. My dream is of a global grow/volution – a gradual and profound revolution, the transformation of our cruel and corrupt global economic system into one rooted in the principles of human rights and respect for difference. Gradual, because while sudden change is a great catalyst, too many radical upheavals breed insecurity and violence, while the creation of a just society requires reflection, compassion and co-operation. Just back from Blind Creations, a 3 day micro-arts festival and conference on the relationship between blindness and the arts, held…

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Ahoj! Here I am back from Prague, where esoteric author Cyril Simsa had arranged for me to bring The Gaia Chronicles to the Renaissance bower of the Anglo-American University, and troubadours John McKeown and Lucien Zell had invited me to read poetry at Pracovna, an ultra-chic café and ‘co-working space’ built from repurposed factory palettes and hub caps. There’s no pic of me and Cyril sadly (our conversations were far too occult for digital snaps) but I look pretty happy with the poets in Zizkov, and really it’s true, I had a radiant time. It was my first visit to Prague, but as I wrote before I left, thanks to a childhood friendship I believe my imagination owes a debt to Czech SF and I was keen to research the history of the genre in the city. My first purchase was a slim book of tales of the Golem, that…

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I head to Prague tomorrow, on a trip I’m starting to think of as a pilgrimage – a chance to pay homage to the silvery Czech spores that seeded my science fiction fate . . . I’m recalling here my best friend in Canada in grade eight, a Czechoslovakian girl called Nora, with whom I collaborated on a ‘space opera’ epic that expressed our pubescent emotions and burgeoning awareness of the politics of power, but also, I now suspect, her Czech literary heritage. I knew Nora in the late seventies, and I assume her parents had fled Soviet rule, though I can’t recall if I was ever told the story of their emigration. Nora would have been an infant during the Prague Spring of 1968, and it’s entirely possible her parents took part in the creative and non-violent resistance that characterised that brief period of hope. Did her mother go…

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Rook Song: Book Two of The Gaia Chronicles my Science Fantasy epic from Jo Fletcher Books launches in Brighton Feb 6th – please come & help it fly the nest in style! Continuing Astra’s adventures, Rook Song opens her world up to many people’s stories – it’s eco-dystopia meets radical resistance, a polyphonic hymn to human diversity. To celebrate accordingly, I’m hosting an Open Mic at Brighton’s fabulous Red Roaster. Please come along and read, sing, chant, recite (or just listen to) poems, raps, songs, flash fictions, manifestos, on the theme of Birds & Revolutions. Entrance is free and books will be on sale at prices even a magpie would pay. We’ll sort the Open Mic list on the night, so if you’d like to perform, please prepare 3 minute slot and come on time to sign up. Friday February 6th 8-10 PM Red Roaster 1 St James St, Brighton…

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Farewell 2014, but may your turning tides continue to sweep us between the icebergs and whirlpools of political despair and environmental collapse, toward the hard-won shores of a fairer world. For though global disasters and injustices only seemed to intensify this year – climate change, Syria bleeding into Iraq, Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza, Ebola, Boko Haram, racist executions on the streets of America, and in the UK the continued dismantling of the NHS and the ethnic cleansing of the poor, to name but a few on-going explosions – it was also a year of significant victories for participatory democracy. Everywhere, people power is steadily rising, and with it a tangible sense of my favourite metaphor of 2014: sea change. For if Scylla and Charybdis also represent the Right and old Left, the nimblest ships sailing through them are whole new political paradigms – personally, I’m entering 2015 buoyed up…

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From Palestine to eco-literature – my autumn events are rippling out into planetary concerns. Many thanks to the Havant Literary Festival (Oct 3-12) for inviting me to read from Astra at the eco-literature event on their programme this year. I was leaf-tickled to hear that my friend the wonderful eco-poet Helen Moore has been added to the bill! A half-day conference on ecologically inspired literature Sun Oct 12 2pm – 5.45pm Bosmere School, South Street, Havant £10, £8 concs. We start the afternoon with Dr Rebecca Welshman of the University of Liverpool, who is the leading authority on the life and work of West Country naturalist and writer Richard Jefferies. A long-time TB sufferer, Jefferies died at 38 in 1887. Environmental catastrophe and the human place are themes of his adventure novel After London (1885). Those who admired and were influenced by him include Edward Thomas, John Fowles and Raymond…

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Getting excited! Sept 19-20 I’ll be taking part in the second Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival, organised by Haringey Justice for Palestine. The festival is a free weekend of literature, politics, music and Palestinian food, held at the West Green Learning Centre and featuring an international cast including Ghada Karmi, Selma Dabbagh, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Brian Whitaker and Sarah Schulman. Guests will be exploring topics including Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Travel, SF, LGBT in the Occupied Territories, and – you can’t discuss Palestine in the UK without it – the Balfour Declaration. The full programme is available as a flyer here or a funky slidehow here. On Friday night I’m chairing the travel panel, with the intrepid Sarah Irving and the legendary Dervla Murphy. On Saturday I’m reading from Astra on the Middle Eastern SF panel, and discussing science, religion and Islamic SF with archivist and scholar Ruqayyah Kareem and Chair Yasmin…

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