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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Friday, 27 September 2013

MEEEEE!: My interview with Sharon Stevenson

Hello hello! It's time for  a blast from the past. It's been forever since I posted, so I thought I'd toss up an old interview here for your edification and enjoyment. Mind you, Synchronicity is now on the books for next year, because I'm rewriting the damn thing from scratch, but otherwise, well, it still applies. Stop by Sharon Stevenson's blog and pick up a copy of one of her excellent books. 

I had the chance to read 'Raised' and it was fantastic. It's still pretty new, but now that we're getting close to Halloween, I just had to mention it. 

Raised is one of the more unusual zombie stories I've read in a while. Think portals, Vegas, institutionalized necromancy, Scottish royals, and affable plump girls. I won't say anymore. Buy it; you won't be disappointed. 

And now for your blast from the past!


Multi-talented writer Michelle Browne has agreed to be interviewed! Michelle has written a Novella and Short Stories in the science fiction genre featuring awesome feisty female characters. Now she’s turned her hand to writing not only a horror novel, but a load of short stories too. Her horror anthology The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming is out now!

Q: Hi Michelle, thanks so much for allowing me to pick your lovely brain! So, to start I’m going to ask you for a single sentence synopsis that sums up your life so far…

A: Getting more interesting by the day, especially when it involves other writers and pursuing the things I love to do—also, very busy!

Q: Now a choice: You may give us a quote that describes your outlook on life, or you can compare yourself to an alcoholic beverage. What’ll it be?

A: I’d love a nice raspberry ale right now, and that sounds like a good self comparision, but I’ll give you the quote as well: "I was born for this. I am not afraid." Joan of Arc (attributed)

Q: Now let’s talk books! You’ve written, with a great deal of passion, fantastic sci-fi stories with themes of repression and censorship in ‘The Stolen: Two Short Stories’. Are these issues that are close to your own heart?

A: Well, I have a deep and abiding love for the great dystopian classics. That is where it all started. I also have strong feelings about censorship in the personal sphere—a lot of people say and do things against their nature to fit in, or hide secrets from their families and friends. I hate the way people repress themselves for the sake of some sort of ideal, and as a kid, having to repress myself was very damaging. Ever since I came out of the closet, and since I—more terrifyingly—admitted to myself that I really wanted to write, I have been much freer as a person. I really hope that my readers will also understand that listening to an idea just because people tell you to, and because it smoothes the way to help you fit in, always ends poorly.

Q: Your first novella was a sci-fi adventure story with a diary narrative in ‘And the Stars will Sing’, has a lot of appeal to a YA audience. Did you write it to appeal to YA readers, and what are your thoughts on the YA genre as a whole?

A: Frankly, I wrote my first draft in grade 10—so it really is a YA story. Regardless of the audience targeted, I love a good adventure story. I really like the fact that we have a genre transitioning between adult fiction and kid fiction. Lately a lot of books have been pushing the boundaries of YA fiction, which both interests and annoys me—I liked ‘The Hunger Games’ a lot, but dang it, why not just write a book like that as an adult novel?
I prefer to have YA novels that give teens a voice and introduce hard concepts, rather than going elbow-deep in gore and sex right away. There is a place for that too, and it will be interesting to see how it shifts as time goes on. People tell me my stories often fall neatly into YA, so I’ll let my readers decide—writing a good story is the most important thing, rather than just worrying about the audience.

Q: I found your feisty females a refreshing change in a largely male dominated genre. What made you decide to write sci-fi from this perspective?

A: It just happened. I grew up on Atwood’s stuff, and while I eventually got sick of her fairly whiny heroines, I still admired her sci fi. I work best with female characters because I am a female and fairly attached to being so. Really, the transition just made sense. I read about feisty, realistic girls in Diana Wynne Jones’ books growing up, too, so I knew they existed. I do identify as a feminist, but I was really just concerned with telling character stories that people could relate to—and hopefully, telling stories that would resonate with the many awesome geek girls I know, too.

Q: You’ve now written a horror anthology! Have you always been into horror or is this something that you’ve more recently found time for?

A: I have always been afraid of the dark and fearful of the moving shadows. Add some infrequent and chronic nightmares to the mix, and account for my too-vivid imagination, and you have a recipe for fear. I had written some scary stories, often based on nightmares, and I noticed that they all fit together really well.  Then I had a few more nightmares and…it snowballed.

Q: Tell us about The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming. It’s such an intriguing title for a horror book. Can you tell us what it means without giving too much away?

A: The stories are thematically related by topics right there in the title! I liked writing about love and loss even though it really hurt, just as a vicarious experience. There is a big fairy-tale theme and influence in the stories as well. The tales are literally about dreams, and love and loss. Believe me, that won’t spoil much at all for readers. Add in some cannibal urban fairies, evil dolls, a couple of dystopian stories, and even more, and…I don’t think I could spoil it if I tried; it’s diverse but I think readers will definitely feel the relationship between stories.

Q: Are you working on anything new right now? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

A: I am indeed! I am putting my first novel ever, “Synchronicity’, through final edits so I can release the damn thing after 11 years of work and waiting. It’s the story of six university students who sign up for a virtual reality game beta test. They quickly find themselves caught in a deadly revenge plot, a game of cat and mouse. It’s very character-driven sci fi, and I’m really looking forward to finally releasing it.

Lastly, would you mind ever so much giving us a little taster from your new book, a quote or a couple
of lines?

From the work in progress—
            The suit, lined with sweat, was no longer a second skin. The strange rush of fear and adrenaline, foreign-feeling, and the metallic-undertone of the scent particles filled her nose. Taurine, she’d been told, was the key--harmless and exciting in small doses. Well, this was more than exciting. Exciting had been days ago. Choking with fear, Phoebe pulled on the trigger of her laser M-16 over and over. The empty click signalled the worst—no ammo.
            Her limbs were hot and cold and seemed to be moving too slowly. Across from her, also facedown on the forest floor, was Mona, looking frightened enough to vomit. She was slowly inching up, raising herself to get a look at Geo, hoping he was all right. His face had a bad, bloodless look, but the gun hand poised beneath his body was steady.
            Phoebe heard Lex groan and panic seized her. Griffins, this early in the day, were bad enough, but it looked as though their motionlessness might be enough to make them pass by. She didn’t want a repeat of the chon-chon incident. More flying heads trying to take a bite out of her thighs, and she’d call it quits then and there.
            It didn’t sound as though they were going to be lucky. The beating of enormous wings was becoming louder. The griffins were coming back. ”

Thanks very much for speaking with me today, Michelle.


Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Ian's Blog: A flawed masterpiece: A review of "Iron Man 3"

Ian's Blog: A flawed masterpiece: A review of "Iron Man 3": WARNING: This review will contain spoilers! The first Iron Man was a solid, rousing adventure all the way around. I can’t think of ...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Missed It Reviews: Pandorum

Hello hello!

From time to time, I will post a quick review of movies and books I either a) miraculously missed, or b) just discovered, and c) definitely think you should not miss. Or, sometimes, d) think you need to miss as hard as possible, because it is e) embarassingly mediocre or f) soul-scarringly, chew-your-own-nuts-off-to-escape awful. Obviously, this means spoilers. 

Source. I wasn't afraid, just bored and mildly aggravated.

Tonight's feature is Pandorum (2009) featuring Dennis Quaid.


Two dudes wake up from hypersleep and phuquerie ensues. As scrolling text informed us, they are the last hope of humanity. They have lost their memories, and of course, as they go about figuring out why they've been woken up, hilarity ensues.

So, the in-depth version:  Just before we get action, we hear a message stating that Earth has blown up. Shortly after that, two blokes, Payton and Bower, wake up from hypersleep and wander around all confused-like. One of them goes down in the ship's innards and finds a dead body. He falls out headfirst onto the floor after unlatching a grate--miraculously managing to not break his neck--and finds a strange creature running around. I knew that would happen, and was equally unsurprised when he was then mugged by a standard Badass Female.

We soon discover that the creature--an orc-zombie thing in the requisite jagged armour--has friends. Knowing that Elysium was carrying 16 000 other passengers to Tanis, the Last Hope planet, I immediately figured out that it was some sort of mutated human. The characters, of course, did not. What ensued was depressingly derivative: people ran around, trying to get away from the ugly monsters. The female character--whose name escapes me--rasped and whispered in an unidentifiable accent. Clearly, having forgotten everything, she'd also forgotten where she was supposed to be from.

Wooden acting and the introduction of Dead Mea--I mean, other surviving crew members--occurs just as the characters decide they need to fire off the nuclear reactor at the core for...reasons. So we're treated to cannibalism by the orc-zombies, a mural sketched by the crazy cannibal chef (who was black...probably not the best casting choice, guys). While Our Heroes use the reactor core to kill the orc-zombies, the captain guy, Payton (hereafter known as 'Beardy') struggles with a random-ass attractive dude who shows up.

Of course, Beardy and Random Attractive Young Guy argue and we get hints that the voyage has been much longer than the advertised 3-hour tour. We learn that RAYG and his passengers may have had Pandorum, also known as a Magic Bullshit Virus, which makes you have nosebleeds and go on crazy powertrips. It's a result of deep space travel...I think? To be honest, I was doing dishes at this point, and leaving the TV to play in the backgrond. RAYG talks about pitting the crew members against each other in cannibal death-matches and convinces Beardy that he might have Pandorum, which Beardy, naturally, thinks that RAYG probably has. Of course, some idiot decided to inject all the passengers with an enzyme to make them evolve more quickly, so the death-matches resulted in the development of a cannibalistic, inhumane species and...*yawn* basically, Malthusian bullshit to justify having a bogeyman for the script. There were basic logic holes here that were depressing as phuque, and I remember yelling, "are you phuquing kidding me?" at the screen at least once.

Blah blah blah, RAYG is really Beardy, who has been alive for hundreds of years and practicing stuff on his crew. Also, somehow EVERYONE HAS BEEN ON TANIS THE WHOLE PHUQUING time. Someone finally turned on a light, and boom, we see pretty alien jellyfish outside. Also, apparently shooting a gun at a bulkhead designed to go into DEEP SPACE is enough to rupture it. I'm no engineer, but apparently the ones who worked on this ship--as well as the biologists--were all complete morons. I'll be right back. I think I need a drink to finish this review.


Okay, I'm back, and I have whiskey. I don't usually drink whiskey, but tonight, I'm making an exception. So, they rupture the bulkhead, and Bower and the BF with the mutating accent get all cozy in an escape pod. The water is pouring in, and they seal the coffin in and shoot to the surface. Of course, the confused Asian guy and the cannibal chef are both dead--no comment on whether it is because they are both ethnic characters, or because the writers were so lazy, we knew they were Redshirts from minute one. So Bower, who is conveniently divorced, and the BF shoot to the surface. We see an island Eden and a bunch of other pods shooting up in a slightly hilarious way. The closing screen tells us that it is 'Tanis, Year One', and we get end credits.

And now for the Special Guest commentary!

The Disarcade Version

Andrey figures that the Earth was subject to a population glut of engineers. Everyone became an engineer, with the exception of the 16,000 people on Elysium. They fired off the misfits into space, but because everyone still on Earth was an engineer, they soon blew the place up. Of course, the ship was also built only by engineers, so it was rife with problems and couldn't possibly detect that it had landed on Tanis. Therefore, engineers are to blame for everything that went wrong in the movie.

Source. I am still not sure whether this was supposed to be a small person or a child, but either way, what happened next was depressingly predictable.


Well, I'll give it this--it's mockable  and it's a good 'how not to' lesson. The biggest problem is that the movie is too dark in some places and...wait, I'm supposed to say something good about it here. Fine: it wasn't as bad as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, the worst and most unpleasant sci fi movie in history.


Normally, I would try to do some kind of analysis, but there's nothing to chew on. There's nothing intellectually challenging about the movie. I was hoping for a terse psychological horror where the two surviving crew members spend the whole movie figuring out what's going on and whether they can trust each other. That's how the movie is advertised. Instead, I got what was left over after Dead Space had evacuated its waste collection pouch. It's advertised as 'Lovecraftian horror'. I scare pretty easily, and I love B-movies, but this failed on both counts. It's not really self-aware enough to be fun, and it's almost mockable, but not quite.

Final Verdict

This was bad. This was...I don't even have words for how bad it was. It failed at basic fridge logic, it had a painfully predictable plot, the characters were boring and wooden, and it failed both basic racism and Beschdel tests. It's not quite Uwe Boll bad, and it did have some interesting ideas, but I'd skip this one if you value your sanity. A resounding 3 out of 10 for being bollocks.


As always, I hope you enjoyed today's batch o' fresh thoughts. There will be more feminism, more funny, more writing updates, some missed-it reviews. Keep an eye on new releases by following on Twitter, Facebook, and on Tumblr. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Flash Release--Nexus by Nicholas Wilson!

Hello hello!

I am right in the middle of an excellent new book, Nexus, and I had to share it. Just released by Nicholas Wilson, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more

I have been on a hard sci fi kick lately, and the quietly subversive setting is still full of excellent goodness--think Star Trek meets Galaxy Quest, with a bit of The Electric Church series thrown in for good measure. I have to recommend it. There's a few info-dumpy bits so far, but the main character's engaging voice, the dirty jokes, and the nicely logical setup of the world are irresistible. Cruising around space and meeting new cultures, and only phuquing them sometimes, should be overused--but the plot's compelling, and this was just too fun not to post. The nice thing is that Wilson doesn't require one to turn off their brain to enjoy the book. 

Both posters supplied by author. 

Incidentally, this seems like a good time to mention that I'll be uploading occasional short reviews from other books I've read--sci fi, a bit of fantasy and horror, and a stray paranormal novel here and there. Some will be old reviews from books I've already read; some will be new. They'll all be short, which means you can get your Michelle fix more often. I'm not currently taking review requests or recommendations, because my Kindle is ready to explode, but feel free to comment and share books for other readers!

All right--time to get back to editing for me. Then, I'll be rewarding myself with more Nexus.

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fear and Loathing in Koi Samui: An Interview with John Dolan

Hello hello!

I'm BACK, with another fabulous interview! Today's guest is the always witty and often snarky John Dolan. I first fell in love with Everyone Burns  after discovering it by chance. I'm not usually a mystery person, but the haunting, maddening tale of murder and longing on a tiny Thai island stayed with me. Naturally, when Hungry Ghosts came out, I knew I had to track down the hatted cynic and get him to talk about it. I love a good noire atmosphere, and Dolan delivers. So, without further ado, please welcome: John Dolan!


Q: Describe yourself in 20 words or less.

A: Smarty-pants, lover of all things arcane and obscure, chocolate addict, anal retentive, hat-wearer.

Q: Tell us about your novels.

A:  I’ve embarked on a seven-book series entitled “Time, Blood and Karma” which runs from the late 1950s up to present day and tracks across various parts of the planet. Although each book has a ‘complete’ story in it, they will all link up. The whole exercise is about showing how interconnected we all are; how when you throw a stone into a pond its ripples spread out; how you never fully know the way your actions and decisions affect others.

Q: ‘Everyone Burns’ reads like a love-letter to Thailand. Tell us more about how that came to be.

A: We’ve been living in South East Asia for a few years now – we have a house on Koh Samui – and it reflects our deep love for this part of the world. Thailand is not without its problems, just like anywhere else, but for now I can’t think of a better place to live (except maybe Bali, but that’s not a practical proposition for us at present). 

Cover photo supplied by the author. 

Q: How would you describe the role of Buddhism in the story?

A:  As I mentioned above, the whole series is about interconnection which is a key feature of Buddhist philosophy. Another central tenet of Buddhism is a focus on what ‘reality’ is, how the world as we perceive it is merely an illusion. You could say that the story is in a sense an illustration of Buddhism ‘in action’ – although that sounds a wee bit heavy. It’s impossible to write realistically about Thailand without interleaving Buddhism anyway: too much would be missing.

Q: Your protagonist’s actions are often (delightfully) morally questionable. Do you think they were justified? Why or why not?

A:  My protagonist, David Braddock, has his own peculiar moral code and acts accordingly. He is in many ways a damaged human being and although he may have some useful insights into life he also has some major blind spots. There will be times when the reader will want to strangle him (I’ve already had some book reviews to that effect). I leave it to others to decide whether his actions are justified. For myself, I can only say I wouldn’t do some of the things he does …

Q:  Do you feel your background influenced the main character, or was he inspired by external forces?

A:  There is some of me in Braddock. I think that’s unavoidable. We share some experiences and attitudes. However, he is also a creature of my imagination. I try not to make a habit of sleeping with other people’s wives. That sort of thing can get you into trouble, right? I’ve also just quit smoking – something Braddock would struggle to do.

Photo provided by the author. Also, in spite of being British, he's taller than you'd think.

Q: There are heavy noire aspects to the book. Which writers or films inspired you?

A:  The writings of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett, for sure, but also some of the wonderful old black and white movies – especially the ones with Bogart in them.

Q: What do you plan to write or publish next?

A:  The second book in the series – “Hungry Ghosts” – is hitting the internet ether right at this moment. It picks up where “Everyone Burns” left off. Then I’m having a month away from my laptop before starting the next book – “A Poison Tree” – which goes back in time to the events preceding “Everyone Burns”. I hope the time-jumps won’t be too confusing for the readers. There is also an upcoming project with writer Fiona Quinn: we’re co-authoring a novel. I’m pretty excited about that, although the logistics of her being in the USA and me being in Thailand are pretty formidable!

Q: Which foods do you absolutely hate?

A: Cement gives me acid reflux, and I’m not too keen on anything laced with arsenic. Other than those, I eat pretty much everything. Except people, of course.

Q: What is your favorite noire or black and white movie?

A: “The Maltese Falcon”, although the romantic in me wants to say, “Casablanca”.

If you would like a FREE taster of John’s writing, download a copy of his wickedly funny short story “Jim Fosse’s Expense Claim” from Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/260738

NOTE: For the launch period of “Hungry Ghosts” you can buy “Everyone Burns” for the special price of $0.99 (or 79p if you’re a Brit!).

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out!