I used to be a performance poet. Wearing an eyeliner moustache I’d throw myself around the stage like a deranged Russian count, or adopting an ersatz German accent I’d impersonate a formidable Frau on the warpath. I never got nervous before these appearances: it wasn’t me up there, what was there to worry about? When I began writing SFF novels it came as rather a shock, therefore, to realise that only very rarely would I get invites to read my work, or even to discuss it. Instead, I was expected to come to conferences and festivals and talk about all sorts of other things, sometimes only tangentially related to my fiction, to audiences who – given I’m an SFF late starter – generally knew far more about those things than I did. It took a good couple of years to adjust to this blow to my theatrical ego. Initially I…

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Shivering through the cruellest month? Didn’t book your Eurostar ticket to Paris? Never mind, London is blossoming too, at least for this Brighton lilac – it would be lovely to see you at one or t’other (or both!) of these upcoming literary flowerings . . . a Red Hen Press poetry reading at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon Rd, and Spicing Up Sci Fi: The Dunes Strike Back, a panel discussion on Islam and the hybrid imagination at the British Library.    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *…

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After the gusty gales of the past four months it was fabulous to celebrate turning a corner in my cancer treatment this Thursday night, when I read some new poems at the Red Hen/Pighog Pigbaby Rides Again poetry party, sharing a stage in the glamorous Paganini Ballroom of Brighton’s Old Ship Hotel with transatlantic barnstormers Maria Jastrzebska, Ciaran O’Driscoll, Hugh Dunkerley, Tom Sissons, Brendan Cleary, Red Hen Press editor Kate Gale and Pighog host John Davies. It being Day 8 of Chemo 5 I’d been worried I’d flag, but somehow my eyes remained open and my legs vertical til midnight – a taste of my new wild self, or perhaps I’d been turbo-charged by Bob Dylan’s surprise Nobel Prize. As a balladeer, I take Dylan’s win as a tribute to oral literature which should not be honoured simply as the root-field of all poems and novels, but in its own…

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Trapped in a box with a radioactive particle that would inevitably at some point decay, triggering the release of a fatal poison, until the lid was lifted, Shrödinger’s cat was infamously (and ridiculously in Shrödinger’s mind – his thought experiment was designed to critique a branch of quantum physics) both dead and alive. The indeterminate feline was much on my mind earlier this summer, when I spent two weeks wandering the ravishing streets of Prague, in full view and undeniably alive, but psychologically in a state of impossible simultaneity: feeling both gloriously healthy and terminally ill. In May I had discovered a lump in my left breast. My GP said it was mobile – a good sign – but also large and hard: worrying. An ultrasound revealed the lump was definitely not a cyst, and also discovered swelling in a lymph node. On the verge of a teaching job in…

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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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As FB friends know, I’m just back from an incredible two weeks in the Middle East; first in Lebanon, as a member of charity Interpal’s Bear Witness women’s convoy, visiting refugee camps; then the West Bank, where I was exploring the Palestinian eco-resistance to the Israeli occupation. I chose to write about my trip on Facebook partly because I didn’t have time to travel, share on social media *and* blog, but also for security reasons: Israel and Lebanon are not the best of mates, and I was worried about storing my photos of the camps and Beirut on my camera and laptop, which Israeli airport guards have been known to rifle through. Posting my pix each night to Facebook was the answer, and it was only natural to turn my albums into photo diaries, a habit I continued in the West Bank, again because I wanted to delete any evidence…

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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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Home from ten days in Greece, a defiant indulgence in the face of my own turbulent finances, and my fourth trip to the country, the first I ever visited in continental Europe. A three month stay during the first Gulf War resulted in a sequence of prose poems; two trips in the noughties with my then-partner produced a stormy DIY arthouse video and a three generation family holiday. For me the blue waters of Greece are emotional reservoir and creative wellspring. With their secluded beaches and balmy climate, blazing bourgenvilla and silvery olive groves, kids zooming about like fireflies as their parents welcome artists, writers, history and sun seekers, if you’ve got a little spare cash the islands offer intense beauty, and the timeless illusion of freedom. But what I’ve also always loved about the country is its sense of political urgency, born perhaps of its place in the crosscurrents…

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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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I have been wondering about Green politics in Ukraine: as all over the world, it seems that the more energy self-sufficient a country is, the better it will be able to resist dependency on any foreign power. My correspondent in Lviv, political analyst Lyuddmyla Pavlyuk, answered my questions, and with her permission I share her letter here. Green Voices in Ukraine: a Letter from Lyuddmyla Pavlyuk Green voices in Ukraine are individual than rather than party-related. The official structures of the green movement are not really popular. For example, the Green party of Ukraine had parliamentary representation only until 2002. The reason is very simple: Ukrainian oligarchs wanted to use the party’s brand to get to parliament, and people felt that the party was not really independent and concerned with the environment. So, if ecological problems appear at the nationwide or local level, people create problem-oriented groups and look for…

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