1. Rebelling against the old Arab adage, the Palestinian novelist Emile Habiby ‘believed that it was possible, and even useful, to “carry two watermelons under one arm” – that is, to take up both literature and politics’. The risk, of course, being that you will drop and smash both. Everyone who knows me knows I care about Palestine. And Ukraine. And Syria. And feminism, and diversity in media and publishing, and climate change and the godawful iSore tourist tower planned for Brighton seafront . . . But this year I realised that I could not do two full-time jobs – write an SF novel a year and be a 100% committed activist – and two part-time jobs – teach and read Tarot cards – and stay sane, let alone keep even one of my passions tucked snug in my armpit. I decided to prioritise my writing and, while always allowing…

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The publication of Seoul Survivors made 2013 a busy year for my writing career. With the next two SF novels pawing at the door, however, at times I feared my reading was suffering. In line with my random book-grabbing habits, I made a haphazard effort to post reviews on Goodreads, but found it impossible to keep up regular appearances. So when Charles Boyle kindly asked me to contribute a title or two to his cbeditions Books of the Year blog post, the invitation provoked a bout of serious year-end reflection. Compiling the following more fulsome list helped me to pick out recurring themes in my reading and writing, and set some intentions for 2014; it may also bring to your attention titles that may otherwise have flown under your radar. For those who really like this sort of thing, The Rules were: 1) Contenders did not have to be published…

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Midnight Mass isn’t really my tradition. I was brought up a Quaker, and while my ex-Anglican parents would occasionally take us to a hymn service at Christmas, I much prefered being tucked up in a duvet on the sofa listening to Twas The Night Before Christmas, read to us from a little red book with a sellotaped spine. Christmas was also pink grapefruit with brown sugar for breakfast, a Terry’s chocolate orange, a snowy walk in the Saskatchewan prairies, then home to the traditional feast served on a pink and orange tablecloth. After my parents’ divorce my mother’s staunch commitment to the decadance of the holiday became more apparent: while my budget doesn’t stretch to a shopping trolley full of speciality alcohol, and my own taste in decorations runs to pine-cone hedgehogs and felt robins, I always pick up a box of liqueur-filled chocolates in her memory, and adore tinsel-dripping…

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