Friday, 25 May 2012

Friday Links

Charlie Stross on the future of science fiction - he finds it wanting.

io9 has a nice piece on a particular large, erm, haunted house.

Adam Roberts enjoys but gently mocks Connie Willis for her Medieval sloppiness (of her writing that is) in this pre-introduction-writing post.

Sorry, a short link list this week. Hopefully the intertubes will be busier next week.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Stone the Gargoyle Knitting Pattern

from the Allie Beckstrom novels
by Devon Monk


For the little gargoyle, 1 skein worsted weight wool. (I used Patons Classic Wool Merino, dark gray)
For the big gargoyle, 1 & 1/2 skeins wool. (I used 3.5 oz/100 grms Universal Yarn Inc. Classic Chunky Impressions)
Small amount white yarn (for teeth)
Small amount black yarn (for mouth and eyes)
Two buttons – optional (for eyes)

For the little gargoyle: US #4 double pointed needles (3.5 mm)
For the big gargoyle: US #11 double pointed needles (8.0 mm)
Gauge: Doesn’t matter, but you want a tight stitch so stuffing doesn’t show
Yarn needle
Polyfill stuffing
Pipe cleaners or floral wires if you want his arms and legs bendy

BO:  bind off
CO: cast on
K: knit
K2tog: knit two together
Kfb: knit into front and back of stitch
M1: make one stitch
P: purl
P2tog: purl two together
Pfb: purl into front and back of stitch
Ssk: slip two stitches as if to knit, then knit those two stitches together
Sl: slip one stitch



Cast on 10 stitches, join in the round careful not to twist stitches
Round1: [kfb] in each st. 20 sts
Round 2: K all sts
Round 3: [k1, kfb] to end. 30 sts.
Round 4: K all sts.
Round 5: [k2, kfb] to end. 40 sts.
Rounds 6-7: K all sts.
Round 8: [k3, kfb] to end. 50 sts.
Round 9: K all sts.
Round 10: K all sts.
Round 11: [k4, kfb] to end. 60 sts
Round 12-15: K all sts
Round 16: [k4, k2tog] to end
Rounds17-18: K all sts
Round 19:  [k3, k2tog] to end
Rounds 20-21: K to end
Round 22: [k2, k2tog] to end
Round 23-24: K all sts
Round 25: [k1, k2tog] to end
Round 26: [k2tog] to end. 10 sts
Round 27:[kfb] to end. 20 sts
Round 28: k to end
Round 29: [k1, kfb] to end
Round 30: K to end
Round 31: [k2, kfb] to end
Rounds 32-33: k all sts. 40 sts

Shape muzzle and nose. This is a little like turning the heel of a sock, and is worked on two needles:

Row 34: K6, kfb12 st, TURN
sl, p22, TURN
sl, k21, TURN
sl, p20, TURN
sl, k19, TURN
sl, p18, TURN
sl, k17, TURN
sl, p16, TURN
sl, [k2tog] 8 times
k55 to end (1 and a half rounds)

Working in the round again:
Round 35: K44 to end
Round 36: K9, [k2tog] six times, k23
Rounds 37-43: K to end
Round 44: [k1, k2tog] to end (k2tog @ end)
Round 45:[k1, k2tog] to end (k1 @ end)
Round 46: [k2tog]  (k1 @ end) Cut thread leaving long tail.  Thread through stitches, but don’t pull head closed yet.

Stuff body and head firmly, making sure to stuff snout. To make snout and nostrils, thread same color yarn on a needle and pinch nose and stitch it horizontally to make a “snout”.  Then pinch nostrils, (I used my thumb to make a half circle) and stitch along the curve of those until you have his snout looking how you want it too.  You can also skip this step and just have a round-nosed gargoyle.

For mouth, use black yarn in yarn needle. Stitch from “nose” to bottom edge of chin, then from bottom of chin to side of head.  Repeat on the other side. This creates Stone’s wide mouth. For teeth, use white yarn in yarn needle and stitch single stitches from black “mouth” yarn.

EARS: (Knit flat. Make two)
Cast on 10 sts.
Row 1: K all sts.
Row 2: P. all sts.
Row 3: K all sts.
Row 4: P all sts
Row 5: K2tog, k6, k2tog
Row 6: P all sts
Row 7: K2tog, k4, k2tog
Row 8: P all sts
Row 9: K2tog, k2, k2tog
Row 10: P all sts
Row 11: K2tog, k2tog
Row 12: P all sts
Row 13: K2tog, bind off

LEGS: (make two)

Cast on 18. Join careful not to twist, and knit in the round:
Round 1-2: K all sts
Round 3:  K12, ssk, k4
Round 4: K12, k2tog, k3
Round 5: K11, ssk, k3
Round 6: K11, k2tog, k2
Round 7: K10, ssk, k2
Round 8: K10, k2tog, k1
Round 9: K9, ssk, k1
Round 10: K9, k2tog
Round 11: K8, ssk (9 sts remain)
Round 12: K7, kfb, k1 (increase should be at the back of the “knee”)
Round 13: K all sts
Round 14: Kfb, k5, kfb, k3
Rounds 15-20: K all sts
Round 21: Kfb, k7, kfb, k3
Round 22-30: K all sts
Round 31: K3, rearrange stitches onto two needles, 7 on each and work flat.

The next part is like making the heel of a sock. Work heel flap above the increases below the knee.

Row 1: Sl, K6
Row 2: S1, p6, TURN
Row 3: S1, k6, TURN
Row 4: S1, p6, TURN
Turning the heel:
Row 1: Sl, k6, TURN
Row 2: Sl, p6, TURN
Row 3: Sl, k5, TURN
Row 4: Sl, p4, TURN
Row 5: Sl k3, TURN
Row 6: Sl, p2, TURN
Row 7: Sl, k1, sl
Instep decreases: (begin working in the round again)
Round 1: K2 pick up 3 sts from left side of heel flap, k7, pick up 3 sts from right side of heel flap
Round 2: K8, k2tog, k7, ssk, k1
Round 3: K7, k2tog, k7, ssk
Round 4: K6, k2tog, k6, ssk

Rounds 1-8: K all sts
Round 9:  Divide sts evenly between 2 needles, 7 sts on each. Begin working flat.
Row 10: [K1 st from front needle and k1 st from back needle together] three times, K1 from back needle, K1 from front needle, [K1 st from front needle and k1 st from back needle together] three times.
Rows 9-14: K2, p2
BO using Picot edge bind off:
[Cast on 3sts, bind off 5sts] to end
Insert pipe cleaner or floral wire (fold over & twist ends of pipe cleaner so it doesn’t poke out and scratch) stuff feet and legs leaving room at the knee so leg can bend. Weave in thread at “toe” end.


Right Arm:
CO 9 sts, join in the round careful not to twist.
Rounds 1-10: K all sts
Round 11. K6, TURN, sl, p5, TURN, sl, k4, TURN, sl, p3, TURN, sl, k2, TURN, sl, p1, Turn sl, k6
Rounds 12-26: K all sts
Round 27: k2tog, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k2tog.
Move all sts to one needle and begin to knit flat:
Row 28: p5
Row 29: k5
Row 30: p1, ml (I do this as pfb) kfb, p2, kfb
Row 31. [p2, k2] across
Row 32: [p2, k2] across
Row 33. [p2, k2] across
Row 34. [p2, k2] across
BO using Picot edge bind off:
[Cast on 3st, bind off 5sts] to end

Left Arm:
CO 9 sts, join in the round, careful not to twist.
Rounds 1-10: K all sts
Round 11: TURN, sl, p5,TURN, sl, k4, TURN, sl, p3, TURN, sl, K2, TURN, sl, p1, TURN, sl, k5 to end of round.
Rounds 12-26: K all sts
Round 27: k2tog, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k2tog.
Move all sts to one needle and begin to knit flat:
Row 28: p5
Row 29: k5
Row 30: p1, ml (I do this as pfb) kfb, p2, kfb
Row 31: [p2, k2] across
Row 32: [p2, k2] across
Row 33: [p2, k2] across
Row 34: [p2, k2] across
BO using Picot edge bind off:
[Cast on 3st, bind off 5sts] to end

Insert pipe cleaner or floral wire, (fold and twist ends so it doesn’t poke out or scratch) stuff, sew closed wrists, weave in thread at “finger” ends.

WINGS: (worked flat)

Right wing:
CO 35 st
Row 1: K15, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 2: P9, k1, p9, k1, p15
Row 3: K2tog, k13, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 4: P9, k1, p9, k1, p14
Row 5: K2tog, k12, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 6: P9, k1, p9, k1, p13
Row 7: K2tog, k11, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 8: P9, k1, p9, k1, p12
Row 9: K2tog, k10, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 10: P9, k1, p9, k1, p11
Row 11: K2tog, k9, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 12: P9, k1, p9, k1, p10
Row 13: K2tog, k8, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 14: P9, k1, p9, k1, p9

Cut yarn, leaving 16 inch tail. Thread tail in yarn needle and pull thread through remaining stitches on needle. Pull tight (this puts the curl in the wing) bind off.  You can weave pipe cleaner or wire through the outer edge of his wings if you want them to stand up a little better on their own. 

Left wing: 
CO 35 sts
Row 1: P15, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 2: K9, p1, k9, p1, k15
Row 3: P2tog, p13, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 4: K9, p1, k9, p1, k14
Row 5: P2tog, p12, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 6: K9, p1, k9, p1, k13
Row 7: P2tog, p11, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 8: k9, p1, k9, p1, k12
Row 9: P2tog, p10, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 10: k9, p1, k9, p1, k11
Row 11: P2tog, p9, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 12: K9, p1, k9, p1, k10
Row 13: P2tog, p8, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 14: K9, p1, k9, p1, k9

Cut yarn, leaving 16 inch tail. Thread tail in yarn needle and pull thread through remaining stitches on needle. Pull tight (this puts the curl in the wing) bind off.  Weave in pipe cleaner if desired. 

Ears–sew on sides of head facing “outward” with knit stitches facing inward. I think crooked is cuter.

Arms–sew at join of neck and body, making sure elbows bend outward and there is room for legs beneath.

Legs–sew on sides toward back of body, making sure “knee” is facing upward (so knee can bend) and feet are facing the front.

Wings–sew flat edge touching on back with knit stitches facing upward. You want the purl stitches to show facing forward (when you’re looking at his face) so that the lines of his “wing bones” (row of knit stitches) shows.

Eyes–with black yarn, knit eyes above snout or sew on buttons.
Weave in all ends.

And there you have it!  Your very own Stone the Gargoyle, your buddy and protector against evil spirits and other spooky things that go bump in the night.

If you find errors in this pattern, please contact me at my website and I will make corrections.

I’d like to thank wingedkamui, whose “More Than a Fish, More Than a Man” pattern gave me the basis for the modified arms and legs for Stone.

This pattern is copyright Devon Monk 2010-2011. It is offered to you for free in the spirit of community. Please enjoy the pattern for personal projects and gift giving, but do not sell the pattern or the items made from the pattern. That would anger the cute little gargoyle, and we all know what happens when a gargoyle gets angry, don’t we?

Thanks to Devon for sharing this with us.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Links

Robots the new underclass? A very old SF staple given some new life.

And more thoughts about genre over at Matt Cheney's blog.

SF is often said to be all about the 'sense of wonder' – but what about science itself? Here's Philip Ball.

What is weird fiction?

Straight white males - that means me – take note. The pipes of the intertubes were scorching after John Scalzi's latest thoughts on privilege.

Have a great weekend.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Friday Links

Charlie Stross (again) on the death of genre.

Neil Gaiman got the New Yorker to unlock this illustrated interview of Maurice Sendak by Art Spiegelman, drawn by them both. (Children aren't the innocent, sticky-fingered angels they would have you believe.)

The British Fantasy Society has announced this year's fantasy shortlists, to be announced at Fantasycon in Brighton, this September. Let's hope that this year the debacle toggle is set to zero.

Philip Ball provides an overview of Curiosity, his new work of science history/philosophy (and which I'm currently devouring – come on, alchemists, secret societies, egomaniacs out to change the world - what's not to enjoy?).

Abigail Nussbaum has an, as usual, thoughtful piece on the use and misuse of horses and women in the TV shows Luck and Game of Thrones (that is horses in Luck, and women in Game of Thrones, in case there is any confusion).

Nice post about the artist and writer collaboration in The Phantom Tollboth over at Pornokitsch (I like the one-upmanship on display).

Have a good weekend.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

May's Books of the Month - a feast of Monk

This post should really be author of the month, as we’ve got not one, not two but THREE novels by Devon Monk out tomorrow – Magic in theShadows, Magic on the Storm and Magic Without Mercy.

And here’s author Devon Monk to tell us all about her inspiration for her brilliant Allie Beckstrom series.

You know that saying: good things come in small packages? When it came to writing my first urban fantasy novel, that proved to be true. Magic to the Bone, the first in the Allie Beckstrom series, started out as a quick short story with this basic idea: what if magic were real and everybody could use it, but when we used magic, we had to pay a price for it? The price? Pain.

I had been writing short stories for years and saw an anthology looking for tales set in the modern day with a combination of magic and business. My magic-for-a-price story seemed a perfect fit for them. So I got to work on it. 

Magic for pain was such an interesting concept to explore. If we could all use magic and I mean today, right here, right now, what would we be willing to pay for it? Would we endure a headache to make ourselves look ten years younger or ten pounds thinner? Would we suffer a fever or flu so we could ace that important test or land that job? Would we endure a lifetime of agony to save a dying child or delay a loved-one’s disease?

I wondered if we might even accept losing pieces of our memories for our magic fix. One thing I knew for sure – someone would find a way around having to pay for the magic they were using. Someone would figure out how to make other people pay for them. 

All of a sudden my small package was much too small to hold the story I really wanted to tell. Nonetheless, I wrote the story of Allie Beckstrom who Hounds for a living and traces back illegal spells to their casters. She has lost a lot of her memories doing her job. But when her rich father who disowned her ends up implicated in a magical crime, Allie’s world goes from dangerous to deadly.

I was pleased with the story even though there were characters with secrets and questions of their own I couldn’t explore. That was okay. I still had a nice tight mystery set in an alternate magical today. I sent the story off to the editor.

You know that other saying: when one door closes, another opens? Well, my short story did not sell to the anthology. I was thrilled about the rejection. Now I could use the length of a novel (or three, or nine) to explore the concept of magic being real and at our fingertips. Now I could unveil the story of the mysterious Zayvion Jones who seems to know more about magic than anyone should. Now I could uncover the shady magic business Allie’s father has been engaged in over the years. A magic business that takes straight aim at Allie’s life. And pulls the trigger.


Other books in the Allie Beckstrom series:

Friday, 4 May 2012

Friday links

Paul McCauley has a nice montage of SPACE footage. Check out his self-published Quiet War short story collection (which I've just finished and enjoyed) here.

Neil Gaiman's interview with Stephen King (in case you missed it - what were you doing?).

Know your place in the universe.

Jane Rogers won this year's Clarke Award for The Testament of Jessie Lamb (a great evening, wonderfully hosted, as always, by Tom Hunter).

Jared at Pornokitsch takes an axe to most of the David Gemmell Legend Best Novel short list. Blood and brains everywhere.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The bookshop with no science fiction section

Photo by Brewbooks c/o Flickr
After attending the Eastercon panel Pushing the Boundaries of Genre, I came away rather unsatisfied. Instead of addressing the panel's title, the panel quickly retreated into the tired argument that often rears its head whenever the word 'genre' is mentioned.

The debate, such as it was, almost immediately became framed around the simplistic notion that the idea of genre is either a good or a bad thing for books – discuss. The various positions can be briefly paraphrased.

Some see genre as a useful tool: for writers it can provide a series of tropes with which they can tell a story or subvert conventions; for publishers, bookshops and readers it can be an easy way to get certain kinds of books in the hands of those who want them. Others see genre as a barrier: for writers it can be a creative straitjacket; for readers it can become a stultifying monoculture; for publishers and bookshops it can mean marginalising any books which do not fit into safe and recognisable categories.

Having followed some of this debate before, largely on the intertubes, I've often felt that little serious attention is given to the various individuals and organisations whose competing desires, needs and fears help create and define the genres themselves.

Authors, for example, want to reach the audience they have had in mind while writing their book. For some authors, this might mean simply selling as many copies as possible. Perhaps the book is a purely commercial proposition (which doesn't mean it is not good nor entertaining nor even art) as everyone needs to live and for some writing is the means to that end. For another, it might be a labour of love. Years of hard graft,  in which they have distilled the essence of something they feel in their hearts, to produce a piece of art. Selling many copies would be a bonus, but for these authors the book's publication is also a part of honestly getting the their message across if it is to reach its intended audience.

For the commercial author, genre publication will almost certainly limit their maximum sales to the audience for that genre. However, their book may go on to sell heavily in that genre. Ignore genre and perhaps you'll garner new out-of-genre readers, but will they offset or outnumber those seeking out genre who miss the book or who decide, on seeing the cover, that they don't read this kind of thing?

For the author unconcerned with genre but wishing to get their message across widely, genre could be considered a backwater in which their work is ignored or not taken seriously. Or it might be a means of reaching those who are most likely to engage fully with their work. Alternatively, publishing outside genre could lead to engagement with a new audience; or finding almost no audience whatsoever.

Publishers generally want to sell as many copies of each book at as good a price and at as low a cost to themselves as is possible. The only question that therefore matters to the publisher is: how do we achieve this? The question of genre is therefore not a philosophical or ontological one, but one purely of accounts. Whether a book will sell better in or out of genre is a guess based on experience, intuition and sticking a wet finger in the air to test the prevailing wind direction.

(None of which is to say that publishers do not take into account an author's feelings, as well as frequently taking risks on books, packaging, ideas, formats, innovation and so forth based on nothing more substantial than their gut instinct and love of a good book well published. Like authors, publishers can be as wayward as any human being.)

Not altogether different to publishers, the bookseller is trying to sell as many books as they can to stay in business. However, in the case of bookshops usually – though not always for larger chains – they have no choice in how the book itself is presented.

If it looks like a genre book putting it in a section outside of that genre is unlikely to be a wise move because potential readers may not find it. If the publisher has chosen not to make a genre book look genre, then readers outside the genre section may pick it up while those who do find it in the genre section might notice it because the book stands out from genre clones (I'm talking to you, mysterious dark-cloaked, sword-bearing figure who has launched a thousand epic fantasies – I exaggerate, a tad).

Of course the bookshop can refuse point blank to play the genre game and ignore utterly the usual bookshop categorisations. The issue of genre or not to genre then disappears. This leaves readers with a potential problem (and quite possibly one of bankruptcy for the bookshop).

According to former Booker judge John Mullan, science fiction books are found in 'a special room in book shops, bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other'. Take note, SF readers, you are special! His point, essentially, was that it is a self-enclosed world, one to which many people have no access. Some readers, like Mullan, find it scary and off-putting (and socially unacceptable, though this, I believe, is changing). Others, less concerned with judging a book by its cover, head straight there.

The reader in the genre section can be reasonably assured that they can find what they are looking for, the path to readerly satisfaction is clear. The reader outside the genre section is on their own, wandering a forest of books with only the signposts of cover and blurb to guide them.

So are you the kind of reader who wants to get lost, or would you prefer to tread a well-worn path? Like many readers, you probably like the pleasant surprise of getting lost sometimes, while at other times you might prefer the comforts of knowing exactly where you are going.

Shades of grey
Naturally, in my dichotomies above – between artist and hack; mercenary or nurturing publisher; readers who like what they know and readers looking for the unknown; pile-'em-high and specialist bookshops – there are many, many shades of grey, not to mention those who embody and revel in both extremes.

My point is that writers, readers, publishers and booksellers, unsurprisingly, are as variable as people and their motives for engaging with books are as various as any we ascribe to people doing anything. And they will have many and divergent views regarding each and every book, let alone whole categories of books.

So a simplistic question like is genre good or bad can never hope to provide a meaningful statement about an entire industry, or even one particular subsection which frequently complains about its apparent neglect.

One of the panellists – Robert V.S. Redick - described his confusion at visiting a bookshop and being unable to find its science fiction section. On asking a staff member where it was, he was told the shop did not have one – all the books were mixed in together, by author, A–Z. He said that it was something he'd wanted to see for years, had occasionally argued for, but when presented with what he'd called for, he realised that he no longer knew where to look to find something to read. He was at a loss.

In answer to the question is genre a good or bad thing, there is only one adequate response – what is best for each, individual book? The conversation starts and ends there.


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Joe Yule - A Publicists Life

First of all, I just wanted to say thank you to BCC for inviting me to post. I hope this might be of interest to some people.

My name is Joe Yule and I’m the Publicity Assistant for Michael Joseph, Penguin Books. Michael Joseph is the commercial division of Penguin; we publish quality crime, historical and women’s fiction, celebrity non-fiction and have an unrivaled cookery list. We also have a brand new SF/Fantasy imprint called Berkley UK.

First thing to say is...I am the only boy in a team of girls. I initially thought that having such privileged access to a female only environment would be very advantageous but, as it turns out, it has only given me crippling insecurities about my inadequacies as a man. The main part of my role is to support the publicity director and the rest of the publicity team. I’m the first point of call for all enquiries from journalists, authors, book stores etc. I love that my job involves a lot of interaction on a daily basis but I think you have to be quite a confident person to be able to communicate with all these different types of people effectively - sometimes journalists can be rather abrupt on the phone!

So in amongst all the fun, there are some quite demanding administrative aspects and I have to make sure I am super organised in order to stay one step ahead. Even so, I can often be seen sprinting up the corridors of Penguin HQ trying desperately to avert some kind of crisis!

I’m also responsible for planning all of our big author events/book launches. This is definitely the bit of my job I enjoy the most as it means I get to swan around looking at nice venues, tasting canap├ęs whilst pretending that I’m actually ‘working’.

However, as well as supporting my team and ‘working’ on organising book launches, I also look after publicity campaigns for my own titles. For example, I currently look after the PR for Berkley UK – and I suppose it is in this capacity that I’m posting today. As I mentioned at the top, BerkleyUK is Penguin’s brand new SF/Fantasy imprint committed to publishing the highest quality commercial SFF fiction. As a publishing brand, I suppose Penguin is a pretty well known bird but Berkley UK is still very much in its fledgling stage of development. Nevertheless, we have been welcomed with open arms by the community so thank you to BCC and everybody else that has supported us so far! We already have some fabulous US authors on our list and our editor will soon be looking to acquire some UK based authors which we are obviously hugely excited about! If there are any budding authors reading this with ideas for a fantastic new fantasy series – get your pencil sharpened!

For more information on some exciting new Berkley titles to look out for AND an exclusive giveaway then read the full post on the Book Chick City blog here :