Book Promo

I don’t usually do book promotions (except inept ones for the cat) but I did just buy a couple of books and hey, it might be nice if others bought them as well.

This fantasy tale looks like the start of an interesting series:

And it has a sequel!


On a different note, I was asked what other ways could readers help ensure that writers get paid? Good question made up voice asking me questions to provide appropriate prompts to answers! One way is a thing called a Patreon – essentially a way of providing a small but steady flow of money to writers.

Here is an example of a Patreon:

Looks like a worthwhile place to spend your money.

Dave’s little list

OK, it maybe Victorian cultural appropriation but time for a bit of light comic opera from Gilbert and Sullivan:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found
I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with ’em flat —
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that —
And all third persons who on spoiling tête-á-têtes insist —
They’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed!

He’s got ’em on the list — he’s got ’em on the list;
And they’ll none of ’em be missed — they’ll none of ’em be missed

Still on Dave Freer. In comments at Mad Genius, Dave has been demanding of sceptics of his theory to list others.

I’ll happily consider it IF you come up with set possible alternatives, who fit in ALL of the following subsets, all from Camestros statements or obvious corrolaries (such as for example spending thousands of hours of what has to be work time at times on fandom, sf, hugos, basically requires that the person should be interested in the same) Subset 1) Be an Australian Academic working in academia. 2)From that subset demonstrate a respectable working knowledge and use of Maths, AND Philosophy. 3)Of that now relatively small sample be an ardent follower (or have good reason to be an ardent follower) of sf/fantasy fandom particularly the Hugos – a good reason for example might be having your wife as potential winner. 4) Of that subset – which is by now very small if not down to one — have been in the UK (in Aberdeen) just when the record shows that Toby was and 5)Of that subset having moved back just when both Toby did and Camestros posted about doing. And 6)As both parties claim not to know or have met each other, within the tiny tiny world academics in the same arena, and indeed town, and fandom which is not huge in Oz – for some reason, to never to have attended the same faculty meeting, co-operated on papers, or have attended the same conferences. Come up with a list – perfectly possible to try and do, requiring no genius, just legwork and patience – the records are all public – and I’ll certainly entertain the idea that it could be someone else. But I think you’re going to find it is a short list of one. (sigh)

Dave overestimates the time I spend on things but hey, obviously he is impressed by the quality. On to the list:

    1. “Be an Australian Academic working in academia.” I’m not an academic working in academia. Dave just literally crossed me off his list. I cannot be me. I am an Australian citizen but as regular readers here know – I’m actually British.
    2. “A working knowledge of maths and philosophy” OK granted I have that but not at a PhD level. The technical term is ‘a smart arse’ – I thought that was obvious.
    3. “be an ardent follower) of sf/fantasy fandom particularly the Hugos ” The venn diagram of “likes maths & philosophy” with “likes SF/ speculative fiction” isn’t quite a circle but its close…As for the Hugos, the thing that made me ARDENT rather than just interested was…the Sad Puppy campaign.
    4. “have been in the UK (in Aberdeen) just when the record shows that Toby was” – never been to Aberdeen. Haven’t been to Scotland this century. Moved to Australia some years ago.
    5. “having moved back just when both Toby did and Camestros posted about doing” – the timing was Brexit and it was a joke about people saying they were going to leave Britain and move to Australia. The joke was that I already moved to Australia not that I had just or recently moved. Here’s me drinking an Australian beer, in an Australian pub in…note…an Australian (NSW) beer glass in 2015
      And here I am again in sunny Aberdeen…I mean…China in 2015
      Now true, I drink a lot of beer from a lot of places (including Scotland) in a lot of places (not Scotland though – not for a longgg time and frankly Glasgow is a bit of a blur). So not a great argument but then good enough to counter balance my Brexit sarcasm as evidence that I’m mirroring somebody’s movement. An astute observer will note many Australian beers in my consumption.
      Oh heck here’s me drinking a British beer in London just before Brexit (confused yet?) but how! There are a thing called “airplanes”- I don’t like them but my capitalist bosses make me go places in them! So, I’m in Australia and China when I’m supposed to be in Aberdeen and in London when I’m supposed to be in Australia? How’s that supposed to work? I’ve been living in Australia for a many years – I do travel to other places from time to time when work makes me but not to Aberdeen. Never to Aberdeen. Aberdeen is forbidden to me by an ancient spell of interdiction. One day Aberdeen – you know what you did and that old hermit’s spell won’t last forever.
    6. Oh dear, look at point 1 again. I need so need a GIF of Good Place Janet saying “Not an academic”. I mean I’ve talked to people at Universities and things but not regularly and about my actual work which isn’t being an academic. Don’t get me wrong, it would be a good gig and I’d be the BEST at lecturing.

So here is a revised list:

  1. British
  2. Travels
  3. Drinks a lot of beer
  4. A smart arse



Unfortunately MGC Can’t Publish IP Addresses

While I’m keen for Dave to show us his “proof’, when looking at the terms and conditions for WordPress hosted blogs (like this one and Mad Genius), the section defining ‘Private Information” says:

We consider publication of certain information to be a privacy violation. Information that we consider to be private include:

  • Social Security or national ID numbers (e.g. passport).
  • Credit card numbers.
  • IP addresses.
  • Unlisted/non-public physical addresses, email addresses, or phone numbers.
  • Birth dates.
  • Passwords.
  • Unauthorized, private nude images.

Dave would need to expressly ask me for permission first. I wonder if he will? I’m really curious to learn when I was in Aberdeen.


Star Trek Discovery – What’s Past is Prologue

Smash bang@! Pew-pew! Boom! Arrrrgghhh! Zap!

Look you can’t say this wasn’t fun. Sure there were lots of plot holes but they were classic Star Trek plot holes (mainly). Maybe ‘let’s jump the guards’ is not a good plan but canonically it frequently works in the Trek universe.

There’s not much to say about the story, it mainly ran on its own gravity. Lorca is now the bad guy and Emperor Georgiou was the lesser of the two evils. Much scenery chewing and villainous acts in a surprisingly empty starship as big as a city. Sense it didn’t make but for a space opera, it delivered its arias in the right spots.

The best aspect of this episode was that the bridge crew got to say and do a lot more than usual. In some cases, this was the evil versions of themselves. Saru got to make some rousing speeches and even Lorca got to say how great they were. More of the rest of the crew, please.

Less review here but oh so many bits and pieces.


  1. Episode 9: Into the Forest I Go
  2. Episode 13: What’s Past is Prologue
  3. Episode 12: Vaulting Ambition
  4. Episode 3: Context is for Kings
  5. Episode 10: Despite Yourself
  6. Episode 4: Seriously stupidly long episode name
  7. Episode 2: Battle at the Binary Stars
  8. Episode 6: Lethe
  9. Episode 11: The Wolf inside
  10. Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
  11. Episode 5: Choose Your Pain
  12. Episode 1: The Vulcan Hello
  13. Episode 7: Seriously WTF Discovery Scriptwriters? [revised title]

Bits and Pieces

  • Lorca does a Darth Vader impression: “I find your lack of vision disappointing” or something like that. The Terran Empire began when Star Wars fans got carried away with the Imperial Stormtrooper cosplay.
  • Nobody likes evil Stamets.
  • I thought we were going to have a sub plot in which the two Stamets had swapped ships but apparently not.
  • The fight scenes were great but Michael needs a better go-to plan than “then I’ll hit someone”.
  • Lorca is not just merely dead but positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably really dead.
  • But we don’t know where good Lorca is though.
  • I mean he wasn’t too bad considering…
  • Michael now has an evil Georgiou of her own. In terms of poor emotional choices, it is rather like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but without the clever songs.
  • No Tyler-Voq subplot this week but it looks like the Klingon war is back on the agenda next week.
  • Saru’s threat-ganglia tell him that maybe their suicidal attack on the Imperial Palace Ship might not be suicidal…but then his threat-ganglia also said nothing about the psychotic Captain Lorca from an evil mirror universe for several months.
  • Ewwww – I didn’t think about it last week but Lorca was from a society that ATE Saru’s species as a delicacy. Was Lorca spending all that time as captain looking at Saru and thinking “yum”?
  • No great lines for Tilly this week. If she ever does say ‘You did what now?’ I’ll explode.
  • No tardigrade cameo.
  • A bit of global warming analogy going on and some digs at the empire’s short-term thinking.
  • The missing shuttle pilot will take over the empire during the power vacuum.
  • Look, there are multiple parallel universes, so there’s no pointing wondering too much about continuity questions with the mirror universe.
  • There aren’t infinite parallel universes because the universes themselves are finite and therefore the number of possible combinations of stuff that make up a universe is a finite number – even if it is a very LARGE number. If there were infinite parallel universes most of them would be the same and hence not actually different universes. I’m just saying, that’s all.

Two Posts Relevant to the Freer Piece

Jim C Hines has answered Dave Freer’s post here:

Foz Meadows has written a very moving piece here:

There’s a core issue here. Dave Freer appears to literally be unable to imagine the various people he is attacking now as human beings. The people applauding his honesty at Mad Genius, when a simple 2 minute Google search would reveal some of his assertion are demonstrable lies, are actively hiding from truth.


An Open Letter to Dave Freer

My previous attempts to explain this don’t seem to have sunk in yet, so let me say it again. I am not in anyway that I am aware of related to, married to, employed by or have ever even met Foz Meadows or Toby Meadows. All I know of them is what I’ve read on Foz Meadows blog in the past and information that has been publically shared in the past week. Don’t know them, haven’t met them. They seem like nice people but then I tend to think that about most people. Heck, I even thought you were just somebody having a hard time thinking clearly rather than actively nasty.

Yes, I *get* that you feel angry when somebody challenges what you say. That is natural. A healthy response is not to try and find desperate ways to make that other person feel angry. It genuinely is not good for you in terms of your own well being.

Directing those kinds of attacks at the WRONG person? I think even with your less than stellar reasoning powers should be able to see that is less than wise.

I won’t address much of what you wrote other than to say that it does you no favours. You seem now to have fully transferred your previous anger towards me onto the Meadows family. Foz Meadows is a better and more articulate writer than I and she has strong clear-headed friends. I don’t believe she needs me to fight her battles but it saddens me that you have decided to malign her and her family because I critiqued your arguments (in a way that even you acknowledge at least appeared to be polite).

However, there are a small number of elements in your post that do pertain to me which I’d like to point out.

“If I had wanted to break his anonymity, I’d do it.” – as I pointed out in my previous post I don’t know who set-up Lou Antonelli.

“I doubt it was either Dave Freer or Richard Paolinelli, despite their names being associated with this whole flap. Dave is too subtle (he’d rather have continued to make dark mutterings for longer) and Paolinelli is the exact opposite (he’d have just announced it himself if he had thought it was worth saying).”

“So: the question was asked as to why Fieldsy was so frantic to deny. After all, it would make him a hero among puppy kickers.” – I was ‘frantic’ to deny a false claim because:

  • it was false
  • it was clear that the Meadows family would be (at a minimum) threatened and verbally attacked. As you know, that did occur – indeed you were the source of one of the verbal attacks with your lurid speculation.

It is interesting that you see it as a flaw in my character to deny a false claim and to be concerned for others. I do not see those as flaws and I do not know why you do.

As for making me “a hero among puppy kickers” – it is true that public attention to this blog and my other writing has increased, as has my public profile. So, yes you are literally helping my reputation with this. Even so, I would rather you stop not only for the Meadows’ sake but for your own. I don’t believe in a supernatural soul per-se but I do believe that malicious actions hurt the person who perpetrates them in a personal way. At a minimum you are eventually going to feel very silly and not a good ‘silly’ either but rather the bad silly – the silly where you have unwittingly made a fool of yourself.

“It doesn’t help that Fieldsy went on the offensive against the book about one of MZB and Breen’s child victims” – I can only guess you mean Moira Greyland’s book ‘The Last Closet’ – I haven’t gone on any offensive with regard to her book. I haven’t read the book or reviewed it. I discussed her essay that was nominated for a Hugo in 2016. I assume you are thinking of somebody else. Given the confusion you are having with my identity it is possible that you may think I am yet some other person. I don’t know. However, I would suggest that if you wish to be known as a truthful person it may help you if you speak truthly. I have always found that helps me.

“addressing him as ‘Fieldsy’ (his name is Meadows) and having his endless turgid flow suddenly vanish along with him” – this seems like odd behaviour. I explained to you in 2016 that if you did not wish for me to comment at Mad Genius Club all you had to do was ask. Engaging in a complex “logic puzzle” and inventing a name strikes me as an impractical solution to a problem.

On to this piece:

“I’ll give another bit of advice to Fieldsy and Foz. When you’re in a hole, stop digging. There’s a lot of worse that I don’t think you’ve thought of that you could bring down on yourselves – and not from me. Nothing to do with me. At moment you could walk away with a bit of bruising and 10 years down the track everyone will have forgotten. Keep going and that stops being true. I don’t think you’ve thought of these things because you’re not very logical and not a quarter as bright as you think you are. I’d rather not spell them out in case you start blaming me when they do happen.”

I’m sorry but despite the caveats that certainly reads like a threat. Even give the most favourable reading of it sounds very much like you are saying OTHERS in the wider circle of the right wing science fiction/fantasy writer will attempt to silence myself (and Foz Meadows) if we “keep going”. Taking the reading that does you the most favours (i.e. a genuine warning) implies the people I discuss are the kinds of people who will attempt to silence their critics.

As an argument against my continued pseudonomity somebody saying something akin to ‘shut up or somebody will make you’ is a very, very poor one. However, sadly, here I think you are being more honest. You know what your allies are like, perhaps better than I and you characterise them aptly there. Yet this is also a continued reason to stay vocal – I already knew there are bullies out there. In the long run it is best not to be silent in the face of them but also to be cautious.

You let the cat out of the bag later on, although you reverse the players: ” if you can stop people saying what they think, you can convince them they’re isolated and possibly wrong. ” Yet here you are – angry at people saying what they think and muttering ominous warnings against them for doing so.

Anyway, in the unlikely event that you have read this far I will reiterate the core points. Whatever you may think of me please be aware that your current actions harm others more than they do me. Yes, I find the spectacle upsetting but truly, I am more of involuntary spectator than a participant.

Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

I made a bad personal choice on reflection – I should have saved this novella for a different week and found a comfort read. Instead, I read this in a surreal rollercoaster week and while this isn’t a specifically Le Guin like the book there are enough elements (one in particular with a human negotiating with other sentient beings) that kept me thinking of that loss. So no – not a comfort read. This is an angry book on tragic events and it made me cry but, as I said, probably a week I should have gone for comfort reads.

In a future (not ours but one so close to ours that it would be indistinguishable aside from some very specific semiotics) a woman is negotiating. A solution has been found to a long-term problem – how to mark the burial of dangerous radioactive waste with a long half-life in a way that will be a warning for future generations. A solution has been found but that solution requires the cooperation and consent of a tribe of elephants.

Using sign language an offer has been made to the elephants. They will receive an area of land in perpetuity but in exchange, they will be given a genetic modification that will result in them glowing in the dark. The long memories of elephants (here particularly long in the sense of a deep and extensive oral history) and a specific association among humans with regard to elephants and radioactivity.

The future strand of the story assumes an alternate cultural history for us – one with Disney cartoons we haven’t seen and associations we don’t make. The other strands of the story look at those in turn. One looks at the imagined narrative history of elephant culture and a deep mythology. The other strands weave together two parts of our own history.

The Radium Girls were women who worked in factories in the early twentieth-century painting watch dials with radium paint so that it would glow in the dark. Assured that the substance was harmless, they were encouraged for efficiency purposes to lick their paint brushes into a fine point, leading to even higher exposure to radiation. The resulting diseases and deaths were appalling.

A different tragedy, here time-shifted somewhat, is the tale of Topsy the elephant. Topsy was a circus elephant who killed a spectator in 1902 and was regarded as dangerous and violent. As a consequence and for more cynical commercial reasons, Topsy was executed by poison and electrocution in 1903 at Coney Island.

The core strands of those stories imagine an alternate history in which there is a shared history between these two events. Together the themes of institutional abuse, neglect and misuse of people for profit are brought together.

The prose is complex and shifts between lyrical and fierce. The inner thoughts of the elephants as an intelligent species with a language and a cultural history are convincingly and empathetically portrayed.

The events have an inevitability to them, drawn as they are from real historical events and heavily foreshadowed but there is sufficient suspense that there is a constant tension amid the tragedy.

Powerful and intense. Not an easy read and I hope it doesn’t sound negative to say that I’m glad it was short. The writing demands attention and it is a book probably best read when you are wide awake and in one sitting – and probably when you aren’t feeling emotionally vulnerable.

Review: The Shape of Water

Underneath, there is a shallow plot that could have been a children’s adventure story – and that is a good thing. What if…Beauty and the Beast and beauty was the creature from the black lagoon? What if…ET but filmed so it looked like The City of Lost Children complete with accordion music? A confident film is aware of its connections and the tropes it makes use of without apologising for them or belabouring them. What if…a fairytale but weird and violent and sexual and sexy as fairytales often are.

Del Toro makes this look easy and natural and also obvious – but in a good sense, as if he was filming a story we all knew and expected. A cosy, oft told tale of a cleaner at a secret US facility during the lead up to the Cuban missile crisis and her love (both romantic and physical) with a scary fish monster. If it has a lack as a story it arises out of the familiarity that Del Toro creates which keeps surprises to a minimum.

It is clumsiest in its handling of disability (discussed better than I can here ) notably in a sequence in which the central character Elisa, who is mute, sings in a fantasy sequence. That’s not say Sally Hawkins performance isn’t incredible but it is a mistep. The resolution of the film…well it rightly avoided a different cliche (the disabled person being ‘healed’ of their disability) by attempting to subvert what that might mean. Did it do so succesfully?

Sex and sexual desire runs through the film both as perfunctory act and as desire and as a threat and as comedy. Elisa and her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discussing sexual anatomy as they push their cleaning carts is one of many genuinely funny parts in the film. At other times sex is shown as ugly and selfish (at least for the bad guy Strickland – played by Michael Shannon), lonely but satisfying (Elisa’s daily timed mastrubation) and unobtainable (her neighbour Giles, an ageing gay man, and his infatuation with the server in a franchised pie shop). That true love and great sex are found in unlikely places is a classic Beauty and the Beast trope but typically the sex part is glossed over – not here, there is no ambiguity that Elisa and her Beauty share more than an emotional connection (hence the anatomy discussion).

Doug Jones (currently Saru in Star Trek Discovery) is incredible as the amphibian man at the centre of the story. Plausibly human-like and yet uncomprisingly a fish monster or an Amazonian river god or a sensitive lover.

Great acting, visually beautiful. Hawkins and Spencer are a great double act but Hawkins and Richard Jenkins (playing Elisa’s neighbour Giles) also have some great moments. Shannon’s villain is more one-dimensional but even there Del Toro adds some great touches – such as him studiously reading ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ like he is the proto-type of the modern day alt-right arsehole. Michael Stuhlberg’s Bob/Dimitri – a conflicted scientist slash soviet spy, rounds out the core cast with his own sub plot that combines its own sharp tensions between comedy and fear.

There’s a light touch here and gelatine desert sweetness that Del Toro both lampshades and cuts through with violence, horror and tension but which is also tempered with genuine human connections via friendship and love.



Was Antonelli Set Up?

This piece isn’t an attempt to evoke sympathy for Lou Antonelli or suggest he isn’t responsible for his own actions but I do genuinely wonder if he was set up by others.

I’m still piecing together recent events. There are two elements here:

  • Dave Freer’s nutty theory about me.
  • Lou Antonelli’s doxxing attempt*.

Looks like I get to star in my own conspiracy theory folks…

Continue reading “Was Antonelli Set Up?”