Blog posts needed!

This call is just for female identifying folk.

There was a thread on twitter today, started by the lovely @Odrah, regarding those click baity ’10 things’ lists often associated with women’s magazines. You know, 10 ways to keep him interested, 10 ways to wear a wrap, 10 things women over 40 shouldn’t wear (the skins of our enemies?) etc etc. The initial thread was about alternative types of 10 things articles. I have the go ahead to run with the idea for a blog series.

While we are not in anyway opposed to women’s magazines with their shoes and make up and bikini body tips (how you woman is entirely up to you) we  do think that for balance it would be nice to see ’10 best places to eat cheese’ or ’10 work outfits that have actual proper pockets’, ’10 women in politics worth following on twitter’, ’10 sword techniques you can practice in limited space (living room), ’10 things to ask a tattoo artist before you commit’.

So that is the blog call. £10 token payment per post, no word limits, thought for guidance, 500 – 1,000 usually works well for blogs, short and snappy is fine though! I mean a literal list of 10 hilarious points works. Subjects, I am particularly keen to see representation from HEMA and other marital arts, clothing that has nothing to do with fashion (pockets), food posts that are about pleasure not weight, and frankly anything you wouldn’t expect to see generally. Have fun, that’s the whole point, we aren’t trying to shame people who enjoy women’s mags, I do on occasion, we are just playing with alternative versions of the concept. 

You can tweet me if you want to check the subject before you write @FoxSpiritBooks and articles should be emailed to adele@foxspirit.co.uk along with your paypal address for payment. 

 

 

We Are Seven

Well, I have to say when I agreed to do one book, on split proceeds in 2012 I didn’t expect to be here celebrating our seventh birthday and over 70 titles. I am so proud of what we have accomplished and the stories we have put out, of all our authors and artists and the behind the scenes team of editors and formatter and others who work their tails off to make FS what it is. 

Over on twitter we are doing random giveaways all month and other bits and bobs. We also have, throughout June a 25% discount on the FS ebook store (shop ebooks above) with the voucher code ‘skulkis7’.

I ordered this cake for my birthday a year or two ago, but it seems fitting. 

We will be getting the newsletters going again this weekend, after a brief hiatus (I changed day jobs) and there are even more exclusive short stories on the members page, along with a long term discount on the store and more stuff to come, so please do consider joining the skulk. 

We have loads of amazing titles coming out this summer, so there will be updates coming on those too. 

I would also like to do an update on our authors who are out in the world doing other stuff, so if you have ever written for Fox Spirit and have books recently out or coming soon, award nominations, events, or anything else please let us know. We want to spread the good news this month as we are full of birthday joy.
It’s also Mr Fox’s actual birthday soon so there is so much cake going on at Kettu talo!!

 

Fox Spirit is Seven! #skulkisseven

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Fox Spirit is Seven! How did that happen?!

Did you know there’s an ebook store right here? And that you can use coupon code ‘skulkis7‘ to celebrate our 7th birthday with 25% off throughout June!! What are you waiting for?

It’s a milestone that makes you thoughtful. Shakespeare talked about the ‘seven ages’ of human life in his ‘All the world’s a stage’ speech. The first is birth which he describes as

At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Fox Spirit managed to avoid that unpleasantry: it was born with a song in its heart, a laugh in its mouth and a pub on  its mind — the Nun & Dragon. It was meant to be a one off, but here we are seven years later! Which in Bill’s words means:

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

I suppose we can see a little bit of that: hands up skulk members who would rather be writing/drawing/plotting than creeping to our jobs and other duties? Yes, you can put your hands down now. We itch to have the luxury of time, but there are always new responsibilities. In the mean time we can remember that we are yet young and have so many ways to grow.

What will the next anniversary bring? More books? More multimedia efforts? Games? Skulk Island? World Domination?

Time alone will tell — but the skulk has ambitions, you can bet your floof on that. All kudos to our fearless leader Adele!

Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times. As geeks, as people who are alive in the ocean of digital information that 21st century life is, we assemble our armor from what attracts our attention. That top line is from Hamilton by way of Brooklyn Nine Nine. I’m writing this wearing an Autobot symbol t-shirt, on an iPad with a sticker of Hunk from Voltron on the case. Why Hunk? He’s a big, articulate, kind dude who likes cooking. Why the Autobot symbol? Have you met me? All this stuff is intellectual property, and yes all we do when we interact with culture is keep IP’s alive. Go too far with that and you get to the kind of extremism that lives on the outskirts of very dark places. But be aware of the dangers of over-investment and culture becomes the lock pick for the door of life. You understand the world through the culture you use to interact with it. It’s why far left folks in the US default to Harry Potter metaphors. It’s why far right folks in the US invoke Newt Gingrich. It’s al so why the ‘don’t politicize fiction’ argument is just a massive Kaiju of willful idiocy, stomping across he innocent city of modern life. Like the song goes, yes it’s political, everything’s political.

But at the core of any cultural interaction is emotional engagement. Emotional engagement is the fuel that drives story, its what’s makes us care about everything from soap opera to Shakespeare and everything in between. Stories are mirrors. You can’t see what they’re reflecting without truly understanding it and that understanding has, as the price of admission, caring. We laugh at Jon Snow kissing Dani with one eye open and focused on her dragons. We cry as Leia hugs Rey, knowing whatever happens we’ll never see one of them on the big screen again. We prepare the re-hydration salts for Endgame, as an epochal crew of portrayals prepares to take its final bow. We know this will wreck us. We know we’ll learn and be stronger in the broken places. HEMINGWAY understood this for God’s sake. But the exact people who’d carry his boxing gloves for him and drink only Big Ernie approved whiskey seem to have forgotten this lesson. Instead, they listen to this guy.

Don’t do that.

The last few years have unleashed an impressive barrage of awful phrases onto the battered, flaming hulk of the English language. ‘Fake news’ is far and away the worst but ‘snowflake’ is the most insidious and, for me, the most toxic. It’s most commonly used to attack people who’ve dared to express an emotional response to something. Like, for example, not being happy about their rights to exist as humans being debated. Or pointing out demonstrable hate speech on a social media platform run by a sentient beard who thinks you can minmax yoga. It’s a terrible term, a blunt instrument used not just to insult your opponent but insult the very idea of emotional engagement. Linguistically, it’s a nuke. Everyone’s got them and they lay waste to everything around them. Every time it’s used, someone gets pushed further away. It’s a weapon designed to not just mock the idea of emotional engagement but the idea of emotional engagement with others. And what’s one of the biggest ways we engage with others?

Shared cultural joy. Fandom.

Gate-keeping in fandom is, often, what’s for every meal. This particular stripe of it instantly pushes my rage buttons because I’m a cishet notional and have fought the stiff upper lip my whole life. I was tremendously lucky to have awesome parents who weren’t afraid of their own emotional responses. I still took twenty years to realize that my emotions were something I was supposed to release in a healthy fashion as opposed to burying them. I honestly think this is one of the reasons why the default response for so many people is hipster snark. If you laugh at something you push it away from you and you focus your attention, and others, on what it is not how it’s affected you. That’s understandable. I’ve done it myself, more than once and will again.

But it never lasts. And it never should.

Kate Bush once sang just being alive, it can really hurt and she wasn’t lying. Modern life is exhausting and at times like this, when the support structures we rely on are evolving, it can be even more so. At times like these it’s all too easy to fall back on defensive behavior and cover up instead of letting yourself get affected. But affected doesn’t always mean hurt, and covering up just means no one else can see you. Now more than ever, we all deserve to be seen.

So, the stiff upper lip is bullshit. Hipster snark is bullshit. Laughing at other people for their emotional honesty is bullshit. All clear? Great. I’m off to load up on tissues and re-hydration salts before seeing Endgame again. See you next time

Tales of Desperation – Love is a Grift Launch

Graham Wynd is back with another fantastic collection.

Love is a Grift.

Cover by S.L. Johnson

How does obsession begin? For one hit man it starts with a target he just can’t kill. She leads him on a deadly spree across Europe. With every step he’s in deeper. Each crime binds them together like a vow and only death can part them. But will it be his… or hers?

Love is a Grift and the other stories in this collection offer a fresh take on a classic genre, that begins with obsession and most often ends with death.

Available now from our own estore (in mobi and epub formats – both available to download after checkout) or amazon kindle

Paperback coming soon…

In the mean time you can enjoy this incredible theme tune for the book, but Victoria Squid!

LOVE IS A GRIFT
1. GALWAY—The Salt House
2. BRUXELLES—À la Mort Subite  
3. HELSINKI—Ravintola Saari
4. DUNDEE—The Tay Bridge Bar

OTHER TALES OF DESPERATION
PSYCHO MOTORCYCLE DOLLS (1966)  
BONNIE & CLYDE 97 THE TENDER TRAP
DON’T CALL ME DARLING
SMALLBANY
TOY MONKEY
HAM ON HEELS
BONKERS IN PHOENIX 
MESQUITE 
LIFE JUST BOUNCES
MASQUERADE
INEVITABLE
BROKEN BICYCLES
THE CABAL 187 THE OVEN
BLOODY COLLAGE
THESE TOYS ARE FOR TOUGH BOYS
SOMEWHERE IN SLOVENIA
REPETITION
COPPED IT
SPIRITS IN THE NIGHT
DO ANYTHING YOU WANNA DO
I’VE TOLD EVERY LITTLE STAR
REBELLIOUS JUKEBOX
30 VERSIONS OF ‘WARM LEATHERETTE’ 

Not The Fox News: The Spielberg/Netflix War

 

So, let’s talk about movies. Specifically, let’s talk about the mildly confusing, and somewhat upsetting, news that Steven Spielberg is going to war with Netflix. Spielberg, word is, will lobby the Motion Picture Academy to change the rules covering the theatrical eligibility period for the Oscars. This is apparently in response to Netflix’s growing success at the awards. Spielberg is on record as saying he feels Netflix content is better suited to the Emmys because of how it’s delivered and this seems to be the next escalation of that belief. Like I say, it’s kind of a downer. Like discovering that the cool Uncle who leant you all those great movies thinks the internet is a fad and insists on calling it ‘electronic mail.’ I wanted to find out more about this, especially as the LOUD WORDS!/Content ratio on this story has been way off. Here’s what I dug up.

Spielberg’s point of view first off. He’s a passionate advocate for the movie theater experience. So much so he feels that if a movie isn’t designed to be seen in a theater, it’s not really a movie, hence the TV movie/Netflix/Emmy thing. That informs his argument now, which is that Netflix is essentially gaming or breaking the system by putting Oscar contenders in theaters for minimum runs to ensure their eligibility. And the thing is, he’s right and also wrong. Here’s why.

He’s right because Netflix is playing the system, in the exact way every distributor does but with vast amounts more financial muscle. That breaks down into two sub issues. The first is Netflix movies taking up space other films would notionally have. The second is the sense of Netflix being the millennials at the gate; kicking the doors in, squatting in a movie screen for a week and showing up to the Oscar ceremony in a hoodie. The only one of those problems which actually needs attention paid to it is the first and the rumored proposal would certainly do… something. Apparently, the plan is to extend the minimum eligibility requirement to a month in theaters. It’s not actually going to do anything substantial, because Netflix paid $100 million for another year of streaming Friends the same way you pay for a Freddo. But it’ll cost them money and that’s a line in the sand. Even if a big red N shaped tank is going to roll straight over it.  As for the millennials at the gate, honestly, my one response is ‘Good.’ And to see if there’s a quick release switch.

Spielberg’s right about the theatrical experience too. I love the movies, even taking the eternal gamble of ‘Will the audience be terrible?’ into account. When I was a kid growing up on a tiny rock it was a magical wall that transported me to other places. When I was an adult who hated very nearly everything in his life it was an escape. Now, in my ongoing war against becoming a living deadline homunculus, it’s two hours off from my head. The movie theater is my church. It’s where my hurt gets healed. And the only reason I can manage that is the theater is ten minutes away on foot and costs five pounds a ticket. A lot of people aren’t as lucky. Spielberg doesn’t seem to be able to see past his privilege in that regard, and that’s the first place he’s wrong.

Privilege or idealism also seem to be at the heart of his second mistake. The idea of Netflix movies taking up space that ‘proper’ films deserve more on screens and at awards is a willful refusal to both acknowledge the minimal times they spend in theaters and to see how distribution actually works now. The movie industry, like every industry in this entirely-too-late-capitalist hellscape we drag ourselves over is very VERY broken and distribution is a perfect example of that. Revenues shrink, blockbusters turn a profit so that’s all theaters show and smaller movies get squeezed out long before Netflix drops its designated golden child for the year into a half dozen locations for a week.  In those instances, it seems likely the changes Spielberg is proposing could damage the very movies he’d view as ‘deserving’ those slots more.

But while I don’t agree with it, I can see how, from Spielberg’s point of view, that looks profoundly unfair. Movies not designed for theaters taking up space in theaters. Taking spaces that other voices need and deserve more. Plus, this is just the beginning and if Netflix isn’t curtailed here, how far will it go? It’s a compelling mindset and one that a friend and colleague perfectly summed up by describing Netflix as a Super PAC. Their advertising spend for Roma was massive, possibly unlawful and makes his point. Money talks. Or in this case, screens.

On the plus side, the millennials may be at the gates, but they’ve brought some really cool movies with them. Netflix often enables risky productions to find a home and through that home some serious recognition. Ava DuVernay is a vocal advocate for them and it’s impossible to argue with her points. In particular that the only picture she’s directed that ever received wide international distribution was 13th, and it got that release through Netflix.  She’s not alone either, and the platform has done a great job of baking diversity in at a programming and creative level in projects ranging from Sense8 to 3% and last month’s Oscar winner, Roma. Which, as director Alfonso Cuaron pointed out, would have struggled to find a home anywhere else.

The fact those movies are available at all is a game changer. The fact they’re available in your home is another and the closed captioning that’s available on them is a third. The existence of streaming services does an undeniably vast amount for accessibility in the exact way most theaters simply can’t. Or to put it another way, the theatrical experience loses it’s shine when only one screening has closed captions or is autism friendly. Even outside those concerns, parents have access to streaming libraries and a volume control meaning they can still interact with movies without getting a sitter. And a parking space. And tickets. Time and again it comes down to money, both personal and corporate. Corporate because Spielberg, with some justification, looks at Netflix as paying to play. Personal because sitter, transport and ticket are all costs that renders Spielberg’s beloved theaters from an affordable necessity to an occasional luxury for most of us.

But, to quote Billy Crudup in the best Mission: Impossible movie, it’s complicated. Because while this plays more than a little like cloud shouting on Spielberg’s part, Netflix are far from the wounded innocents they’re being played as here by any means.

First off, they did were a massive part of the death of the DVD rental market. On the one hand, industries evolve. On the other, as a former retail worker myself, that doesn’t make redundancy suck any less. Especially as Netflix’s own DVD rental service is, somehow, still going.

Then there’s the odd way they pay for movies. Or rather, when they pay for movies. Syndication and payment splits between initial costs and box office take are commonplace everywhere but Netflix. Instead of paying up front and then after the fact, they pay more than most up front. The upside to this is if your movie doesn’t perform you’ve still got a payday. The downside is that if your movie performs brilliantly, you’ve…got the same payday. It’s less of a gamble but also less of a jackpot. It’s also worth noting there’s repeated anecdotal evidence that the residuals actors and crew get from Netflix are very, very low. Like freelancer journalist level low.

Not to mention the organizations’ weirdly cagey and almost certainly gamed ratings. And the counter-intuitive gap between Daredevil’s ratings and the decision to cancel itAnd the intimidatingly brilliant figures BirdBox figures were so great people were openly skeptical. Remember, Netflix is a venture capital backed company. That means it’s in their interests to look more valuable than they are. It also means, sometime soon, the people who put the initial money up will want a return and if that return isn’t high enough, things are going to go badly. Because in the end, with venture capital backers, they always do.  As a mildly chilling side note to this, Netflix paid very close attention to what choices people made through Bandersnatch and they aren’t saying how long they’re holding onto the data or why.  All of which means even if Netflix isn’t the bad guy, and on at least two fronts it absolutely is, it certainly understands a lot of the bad guy’s viewpoints and feels we should hear him out.

So, we opened this piece with: Cool Uncle Fights The Internet which is a headline no one wants to read. Here’s what it looks like now:

Cool Uncle Fights What He Thinks Is The Good Fight For The Wrong Reasons Against Morally Bankrupt But Creatively Game Changing Mega-Corporation

It’s not punchy but it’s way more accurate. Discriminating against ‘TV movies’ doesn’t hold weight anymore and hasn’t for this entire century. Netflix isn’t going anywhere even if the Academy shuts it out of the Oscars. More importantly, for Spielberg to focus on this is inherently conservative and backward facing at the exact time when the #metoo and 4% Challenge movements could do so much more with someone like him in their corner. Hell even if he didn’t want to throw his power behind them, the best way to save the theatrical experience he loves so much is to help change the economic model behind movie theaters to reflect the changing way people watch films. Build the future, don’t defend the past. To be clear, I think the fact he wants to protect movie theaters is admirable. But he’s in the wrong field, he’s yelling at the wrong people and he’s facing the wrong way.

Then there’s Netflix. The simple fact they’re a global entertainment mega-corporation should make them basically impossible to back or trust but we live in a world of occasionally slumbering Corporate Kaiju whose tectonic movements affect us like the weather and offer us about the same control so Cultural Stockholm Syndrome is very much a thing. I love a lot of what they do. I hate a lot of how they go about doing it and perhaps if this fight indirectly makes them more honest, that would be a good thing. But I can’t help feeling there are better, more necessary fights for everyone involved. And the time to have them is long overdue.

 

Sources:

IndieWire

Steven Spielberg: The Greatest Contribution a Director Can Make Is the Theatrical Experience

The Spielberg vs. Netflix Battle Could Mean Collateral Damage for Indies at the Oscars

Netflix Fires Back After Academy Backlash and Steven Spielberg’s Push for Oscars Rule Change

Variety

‘Bird Box’ Ratings: Nielsen Backs Up Netflix’s Claims That It’s a Big Hit

Alfonso Cuaron Says ‘Roma’ Is Better in Theaters

Netflix Responds to Steven Spielberg’s Push to Bar It From Oscars

Spielberg to Voice Concerns Over Netflix Oscar Competition at Academy Meeting

Industry Debates Theatrical Distribution vs. Netflix Amid Academy Rule Change Speculation

 

Wikipedia

Freddo the Frog

Political Action Committee

#metoo

 

Others

ASI Conferences

This Is What Steven Spielberg Is Saying About Netflix And The Oscars

Deadline

Den of Geek

EW

 

Forbes

No Film School

The Verge

ScreenRant

 

Launch Day – The PseudoPod Tapes 2 – Approach with Caution

If you are not already familiar with Escape Artists horror podcast you should check it out. The whole Escape Artists podcast family is professionally put together and brings great stories and fabulous narration right to your ears!

For the horror podcast, Alasdair Stuart is the host and this is the second volume of his outro essays, in this case covering 2013.

Alasdair is a gem of genre journalism, as anyone who reads his newsletter The Full Lid, or our own, Not the Fox News will be familiar. He is a veritable geekpedia of knowledge, mixed with a rare openness that makes his writing extremely personal.

We are delighted to welcome the tentacled horrors of PseudoPod and their host back to Fox Spirit.

Ebook is available now from our own store and will be appearing on amazon worldwide as we speak, the print edition will be available from Monday. 

 

I Saw E Store!

I have an old rhyme in my head lately, so forgive the title. Still, did you know we have our own ebook store now? Sporting almost all of our titles? 

There are some exceptions.
Our HEMA titles under the Vulpes line; the Giganti, Alfieri and Docciolini do not lend themselves to e-versions.
Our poetry titles, Multiverse by Jan Siegel, And the Fox Crows by V.C. Linde and The Velocity of Constant by Hardeep Sangha, likewise make such a feature of the formatting we decided to offer them in paperback only.

Of course the FS Books of Monsters, touring the world continent by continent to explore the darkest lurking terrors, are designed as coffee table books and will only be released as paperbacks. 

Beyond that we have a few titles left to get caught up with:
Respectable Horror, Starfang vols 2&3, the last five fox pockets, and You Left Your Biscuit Behind, will all be joining the site soon, along with our new releases. 

Check it out, there isn’t a single book over £3.99, we will be doing some value bundles for £9 coming online in due course and if you Join the Skulk at the bottom of this site you can claim 10% of every basket. 

And if that isn’t enough! Our Buy Stuff page has links to other amazing small presses, art and merchandise by some of the artists we have worked with, quick links to find our books on Amazon and more. 

The best thing about our own estore, is even more of the money you spend goes to the authors you love!

Film for a Friday: The Tale of the Fox (1930)

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Le Roman De Renard is a wonderful stop-motion animated feature made by Iréne and Ladislas Starevich [Władysław Starewicz] and scripted by her as well. The Reynard stories were exceedingly popular across Europe in the Middle Ages and continue to be so (you may see some Reynard references in a Fox Spirit release later this year!). When they ran out of funding for the film in France, Germany came through with funding, so the first version premiered in Berlin. It was only the third animated film to have sound.

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 13.39.01

The animation is amazing and inventive. Reynard is accused of all kinds of mischief (including eating chickens, of course!). Here’s the corpus delecti. But Reynard is too clever even in the face of such evidence — and with the help of the Badger Barrister.

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 13.40.32.png
The poor little chick! There are so many wonderful animated animals — from the troubadour cat to the terribly nervous rabbit who tries to get Reynard punished but quickly loses his nerve. The fox has no shame!

Eventually the king has had enough of the trickster and lays siege to Reynard’s Castle.

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 14.13.36

But the fox is ready for him and defends his home with the help of his family and a host of very Home Alone-like tricks for the would-be invaders, who end up with bumps on the head or face down in the moat.

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 14.15.54

Best of all it’s out of copyright and available online for your amusement.

It will leave you with a sunny feeling. Celebrate the Fox Spirit!

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On Representation by Danie Ware

Representation of LGBT characters is changing – and high time. From films like ‘Priest’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’ which focused on the agony and tragedy of a same-sex relationship, and in a community or society where such a thing was deemed shocking, we’re seeing better and fairer representation of LGBT characters on our screens – Killjoys, for example, or Wynnona Earp, or Legends of Tomorrow

And we’re seeing those changes in fiction, too – that LGBT relationships should just be a part of the overall narrative. There needs to be wider representation, and storylines that treat LGBT characters exactly the same as they treat straight ones – with a whole raft of troubles and plotlines and daemons that have absolutely nothing to do with their sexuality. We should have LGBT stories that are not based in tragedy or denial, stories where ‘being gay’ is not an illustration of being troubled or alone, stories where gay relationships can develop with all the normal hiccups that plague us all, gay, bi, straight, or anything else. When I wrote Children of Artifice, this was something that I really wanted to get right.

I’ve chosen five of my more recent SFF reads, each featuring an LGBT character or relationship, and taken a look at how things are changing – and for the better!

Paul Cornell – London Falling (Shadow Police)

All credit to Paul Cornell, the sheer amount of research that goes into his work is astonishing, and, as this book picks up pace and information, we see the narrative unfold through the eyes of each of the central characters. It’s very cleverly done, and allows a thoroughly detailed, police-procedure plot to take shape with wonderful effect.

As one might expect, Paul’s thread of inclusivity carries on through all three books in the series. Unlike the Morgan, the gay relationship/character is not the focus of the story, rather the sub-plot as Sefton, one of the PoV characters becomes involved with a new boyfriend. And while he has his daemons to battle, the remarkable thing about it is… that it’s so unremarkable. As the relation progresses and they move in together, they ‘re just two people, becoming involved, surrounded by the craziness of the main storylines, and falling in love as they should.

More narratives like this one, please.

Natasha Pulley – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

If there was a book that I wanted ‘Artifice’ to emulate, then this is the one.

Entwined, subtle, beautifully written and very character driven, it follows a crescendo of events that tear Thaniel, the central character, between multiple loyalties. It’s a delightfully cunning tale – but even with that in mind, its core relationship took me completely by surprise.

And the set-up is just too clever – the sub-plot of Thaniel’s involvement with Grace seems writ large from the beginning. So, the beautiful moment where Thaniel actually reaches out to Mori is so completely unexpected, and has a wit and gentleness to it that just aches with sincerity and insight.

Plus – who doesn’t need a clockwork octopus?

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Violence, politics, sarcasm and deliciously biting courtroom wit – if you like the vicious and genteel savagery of the upper classes, then this is a title not to be mised. It’s also available on audiobook with a full-cast ensemble, and it’s pretty spectacular. And Swordspoint illustrates the case as flawlessly as one might expect.

The title features a gay lead character, Richard St. Vier, and his lover Alec – indeed almost all of the supporting cast seem to be bisexual – but any hint of romance is only ever implied, a part of the colour and richness of the background, and that’s all. They story focuses on the duelling of blade and wit and intrigue, and does so with a polish (and a sarcastic humour) that’s truly glorious.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

 A Clarke winner, and deservedly so.

A book about the magic of little things, how tiny touches and moments spin into the critically important, how the smallest of objects becomes precious. A book about how things interconnect, and about how a word can carry across miles and generations.

It’s also book that also has only one straight white male – the narrative’s focus, who dies in the first chapter. And yet Arthur provides the centre of the Venn Diagram that binds the rest of the story together – most notably, Arthur’s best friend Clark, who follows a wonderful narrative arc of his own. From the processions of his youthful lovers, to the normality of having breakast, to finally being the curator of all those obsolete and magical wonders – and re-finding himself (and his youthful haircut) after years of being supressed by society’s expectations…

The important thing to note is that the suppressions were about the mundanity of his ‘normal’ life and nothing to do with his sexuality.

Aliette de Bodard – The House of Binding Thorns

In the second book in the series, following The House of Binding Thorns, Aliette takes us back taking us back to her beautiful, dystopian Paris.

Woven with plot-threads, politics and flashbacks, and threaded through with flickers of Vietnamese myth, this is a story like darkly woven lace, and as intriguing as what lies beneath the waters of the Seine…

And there are whole sequences of LGBT relationships in this book. Gay couples lead both major houses, the characters all completely entwined in the ongoing narrative. And it’s a perfect example of a book where gay relationships are just present – they’re not played for drama, or for cool points, or for shock value.