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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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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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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Over my five years teaching at Chichester University, its been a pleasure to get involved in West Sussex literary events, including the annual Poetry & Jazz cafe and the Havant Literary Festival, where I will be appearing again this autumn. Poetry audiences in the region, I’ve discovered, have been keen, Green and open to a wide range of verse from Hardy to performance poetry.   It was a treat, then, to be asked to bring my fiction to the Festival of Chichester this month. I’ll be reading from Astra (Jo Fletcher Books, 2014), my new science fantasy novel about a young warrior heroine coming of age in a post fossil fuel world. I will also take questions about the book, my research and my first science fiction novel, Seoul Survivors (Jo Fletcher Books, 2013). If you’re in the neighbourhood, please do come along. Waterstones Chichester // Monday July 7th 6pm…

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So here we go, one of those writer’s tag games.  The multi-versifying poet, performer, celebrant and sailor Sarah Hymas has asked me to share a little about my current writing project, and then pass the baton along. I’m going to keep this brief-ish, because really I ought to be working on my current writing project! Which is the second novel in The Gaia Chronicles series, and a sequel to Astra, which was published last month by Jo Fletcher Books. I will blog about Astra next week to celebrate the Brighton launch, and in fact I can’t say too much about the new novel, because that would spoil the ending of Astra. Sorry! But I can safely reveal that The Gaia Chronicles is a Science Fiction or Science Fantasy series, depending on whom I am trying to convince to read them . . .  The books are about a young girl,…

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On Advising a Young Man from Galway To Do a Second MA in Biodiversity And evening full of the linnet’s wings — WB Yeats Not sparrows, not dusty summer robins — linnets. Her tidy brown self; His Nibs, top-nobbing the fence posts in puffy pink vest, white epaulettes. Linnets. Not the slender, moth-grey echoes of Inishfree and Jenny Lind I’ve smuggled to Mayo in the rickety cage of my mind, but barefoot ballad mongers, ha’penny paper sellers, three-walnut-shells-and-a-pea players; fancy lads and freckled lasses on a Kilmainham council estate, shadowing a stranger, then like laughter snatched by the wind, whisking away in a riffle of reshuffled cards, the purring flight-path of an arrow. Strutting little linnet, you take a flattering interest in us but we’ve hardly returned the favour: not made you a greeting card icon, just a fleeting emblem of the orchestral Irish air. So, young man at the…

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For a poet, used to fretting over lines and images for months, writing a novel in a year is a fascinating, not to say teeny-tiny bit terrifying challenge.  I am enjoying it, though, and starting to really trust the process – there’s something immensely reassuring about the way the words flow onto the page, and one chapter springboards into another.  Though I do need lots of wiggle breaks, and online research time to answer questions like ‘what is artificial meat grown in?’*,  ‘are otters endangered in Anatolia?’** and ‘can renewables really provide for global energy needs?’*** I’m certainly in awe of those who write a novel in a weekend! It was also reassuring to find a good foster home for an early chapter of the book.  Subsequent drafts have already wrought changes in this growing girl, but if you’re curious about Astra, and can’t wait until 2014, she makes her…

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