Category Archives: Uncategorized

Soup Of The Day with sci-fi author and poet Kevan Manwaring

Two of my favourite people in one blog post!

Blake And Wight . com

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is poet and science fiction author Kevan Manwaring! Good morning Kevan, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your hat?

Thank you most kindly. What a lovely place you have here.

Why thankyou dear! Now then, have a seat here by the window where it is a little cooler. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you weren’t waylaid by any land pirates or…

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Black Box – a review

Black Box is a science fiction novel from Kevan Manwaring. It is a text poised to be unleashed upon the world and I think it’s exactly the kind of story we need right now. Set against the backdrop of a dying Earth, the story manages to both square up to the disaster we are unleashing upon ourselves, while refusing to give up all hope. It is, in every possible way, a journey into utter darkness. As the story leads us to gaze into the abyss, it reminds us how brightly small lights can show at such times.

This is a very hard book to review without spoilers. Not least because the plot revolves around some serious uncertainties about what is real and what isn’t. Kevan handles this with absolute style, requiring you to read the story, aware that multiple explanations may exist. The story calls upon the reader to navigate between what they fear may be true and what they hope is happening, making you feel like you are an active participant – that you are the observer whose very act of observation might somehow change everything.

I spent the first third or so of the book lurching back and forth between possible explanations. In the middle third I really felt the pull of disparate realities, incompatible truths and ways of being and seeing. I spent the final third of the book trying, and failing to guess where it was going and wondering how on earth, or for that matter in space, the whole thing could possibly come together in a coherent way. It did. By the end I felt that my brain had been pounded to mush and my heart squeezed through a mangle. It is a story that will make you feel things.

What holds it all together, I think, is a fine thread of humour – dark humour often. Sometimes the humour is so self-conscious that it dissolves the forth wall and reminds you that you are engaging in a story, not a reality. As this is a story that is very much about navigating between possible stories, these moments of deliberate dislocation through humour have all kinds of effects. And of course the darkness is more effective when it’s not relentless. We can get used to anything. We can be ground down in misery. Laughter will keep you human and keenly feeling, which of course means the author can keep cranking up the intensity.

This is an incredibly imaginative book, full of surprises and strangeness. It explores what ‘alien’ means, and alongside that, what human means, at its best and worst. It asks ‘what of us will survive?’ a question not just for this piece of speculative writing, but for humanity as a whole. We are not yet obliged to plunge into the abyss, other options exist for us. Highly recommended.

Black Box is with Unbound and coming out via a subscription publishing method. What this means is that you can dive in now and put down the cash for a copy, and when enough people have done that, the book happens. Please do that thing if you can – this is a book that deserves to be out there. Hop over here and look at the options in the right hand column, and pick your level… https://unbound.com/books/black-box/


Survival Manual for the Human Race

I’ll be posting a proper review soon for the book this relates to, but let me say now that it is brilliant and please do hop over and read the post. The stories we share are such an important part of how we make the present and shape the future. We need better stories, and this is one such.

The Bardic Academic

Friday, 13 April 2018

2013-09-21-bigeuropa002

Things may seem pretty bleak out there at the moment – geopolitical unrest, climate chaos, displaced populations – and threats are real not only to the peace and security of our families and communities but to the very existence of humankind as the dominant species upon this planet. It all feels like The Eighties: the sequel. It was back then, living in the shadow of the Cold War as a teenager, that I first started to get seriously interested in science fiction as a way of speculating about the future. Alternative versions of now. For SF holds a dark mirror up to the present day. It has done this since its inception, in Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, published 200 years ago, but haunting us still about the perils of playing god, of science running amok. In the 30s Aldous Huxley explored the spectre…

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Hopeless, Maine comes to Time Quake

Things we’ve been up to recently, and some insights into Hopeless Maine, my steampunk enthusiasms, and so forth. Somehow, Tom managed not to get his photo into this, but there’s a bit of me and also my very grown up offspring!

The Hopeless Vendetta

Last weekend, we had a bit of an adventure and brought Hopeless, Maine to Manchester (UK) We are basically hobbits (Eldritch Hobbits, naturally) and can only be lured away from our shire for the most excellent adventures. This was one such. Time Quake was a bold experiment put together by the same people who bring you The Asylum Steampunk Festival.  (Which is the largest, and my opinion, best steampunk event in the world) Thier involvement meant that this experiment was bound to be a success (Spoiler- it was)

We set up as the Hopeless, Maine tourist information stand and prepared to educate the unwary about life on our strange little island off the coast of Maine. We were armed with creatures, books, strange bunting, oddities, and the lovely tourist info posters drawn by the esteemed Cliff Cumber. Also- we had leaflets on island history and a piece by the mysterious Eldrich…

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Life with a donate button

There are a number of ways of putting a donate button onto a blog. I’ve looked at two – if you upgrade your paypal account to a business account, you can have a paypal donate button. There’s also this – ko-fi.com which is free, and I’ve chosen to go with it. I can recommend it as an easy thing to set up, although it does require you to have paypal.

So, what happens when you donate to me, or to any other creative person, be it via this platform, paypal, patreon etc?

First up, donations are a huge validation. We live in a culture where money has a massive role, and is linked, whether we like it or not, to sense of worth. Most creators don’t earn much for their creativity, and small donations can be very powerful as a consequence.

Secondly, that thing about creators often being relatively poor. You may be helping buy a person time when they don’t have to work on other jobs. You may help them pay their bills or buy food for that week. If enough people donate, you may be moving them from their former employment towards doing the thing you love them doing, full time – Patreon is an especially good platform for this. If you want more of what a person does, this can be a way of helping make that possible.

Donations can help a person save up to cover costs – that might be studio time for recording, new equipment, courses, research materials, print runs and so forth. It might mean under-writing the cost of going to events – its hard to get seen and build an audience if you don’t do events but transport and accommodation aren’t provided for free if you aren’t already a big name.

Donations help a creator take risks. If you have to make every creative venture pay for itself quickly, and for your time on it, and cover your rent, then its hard to take risks. Getting a big, original project moving takes time, and involves risk. You can help make magic things happen.

The idea that creativity should happen for love has serious implications. It means creativity is for the independently wealthy, those who are financially supported by a partner, the already successful, and those well enough and with the energy to work a job and work on their thing in their spare time. The idea of creativity just for the love of it is an idea that excludes a lot of people from creative options and keeps creativity for the rich and privileged and I am not cool with that. It might be different if supermarkets gave away food for the love of feeding people and landlords made homes available for the love of sheltering people, but that doesn’t happen.

Donating to me, specifically will help me with study and research. It means I can keep Tom from having to take on paying gigs for illustration so that he can put his time into our projects instead. It helps me afford the time for unpaid work – which most often means supporting the creativity of people who can’t afford to hire a publicist.

You can support me on Patreon if you’re inclined to make a regular donation – https://www.patreon.com/NimueB

Or I now have this for one-off donations (there’s a permanent button on the right hand side of the blog)

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

 

If you’re wondering whether to donate or not, let me add that I’m debt free, and can afford a social life. I don’t have to choose between heating and eating. But train fares for events terrify me. If that suggests you are more marginal than me, please don’t donate, look after yourself and enjoy what I’m giving away.


Poem: Sometimes by Meredith Debonnaire

I’m a big fan of Merry’s poetry.

Meredith Debonnaire

This is relatively new – a few months I think. I really like reading this one out loud – it’s got an urgency that sort of builds (I think).

Sometimes
In the night I can hear the echoes
of a river that never ran through this street
and the creaks of the not-boats drifting like leaves along it.
Sometimes
in the night I can  hear the pigeons
squabbling and doing magical mundane pigeon things
six feet above me on the roof
and
I don’t sleep,
sometimes,
because to sleep would be to admit another day is coming.
The river is full of secret nighttime commerce,
happening quietly around and beneath the loudmouthed drugdealers
and
I heard from beneath the sounds of my neighbours’ party
mingling with the deep voice of some beast
who stalks me, curious, and is interrupted by Basshunter again.
I try to keep moving
like a shark

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Of dustcats, lullabys and singing snails

Here’s something I’ve been working on recently, which Tom has blogged about over on the blog that deals with all things Hopeless Maine. It’s not so Pagan, more cute and silly, but I suspect some of you of being susceptible to cute and silly, so, here we go…

The Hopeless Vendetta

Hello people! (and others)

We have begun a thing.  We are making and publishing tiny books. Our first one (Lullaby for a Dustcat) took about two months from concept to having it out there among you. This is *Very* exciting for us because it creates a more immediate relationship with the book, as an act of creativity, and with all of you. (Yes, we love our publisher, Sloth, who brings out the graphic novels, but one a year is the limit there) So, Nimue and I will be making more of these. Probably three annually.

They really are tiny books. A6 size, which means that they can be sent instead of greeting cards in the same sort of envelope. They are very young-human friendly too.

This has also been made possible by Nimue’s Patreon people.  One level is that of Dustcat and she writes letters to them. (as though they…

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Resolution time!

I like the end of year opportunity to check in with my previous year’s resolutions, see how I did and set some intentions about how I wanted to move forward. So, this time last year my goals were as follows:

Improve my stamina so that 2 hours of fun stuff (walking, dancing) does not challenge me at all.

Remove the mute button, and be as I am with more people more of the time.

Ceilidh

Write songs. Even if I only sing them twice in public, before I go off them, I want to do more of this.

Cause more fun stuff to happen.

Pick up some new skills (maybe craft skills, I don’t know, we’ll see what comes along).

How did I do? I can’t count on being active for two hours, but the likelihood of being able to be more active without taking a pasting has greatly improved, so good enough, and more of that in the future.

I don’t know that I’ve got very far with removing the mute button, although I’ve successfully cut down on the time I spend with people I feel obliged to mute around. So that moves things the right way.

Ceilidh – total fail. That’s not my fault, the local dances keep happening on nights when I’m already doing something else!

Write songs – win. I’ve written a couple of songs I really like this year. I feel more confident in my song writing.

Cause more fun stuff to happen. Win. And also, I’m spending time with people who cause fun stuff to happen so it isn’t all coming from me.

Pick up some new skills – well, I’m learning things about making small films and I went to a couple of writing workshops, so, good enough there. I also learned a fair bit about ecolinguistics.

What’s next?

High quality sloth – not just down time, but really good quality downtime with better sleep, better soul nurturing stuff, more happy stuff, more good. Not being so tired that I can’t have good down time.

More local events. Because travelling to do events is a lot of work and the trains are silly.

Making more time for my creativity, more time for creative collaborations and more time for spaces where I can happily share creative stuff in an un-pressured sort of way.

Being much more guarded about my time, energy and resources and being willing to be more selfish about what I need for me, and more willing to say no to people. Saving my energy so that I get more opportunities to say yes to good things that I actually want.


In which we are associated with the Skelton Crew

This one comes from the fictional side of my life, Hopeless Maine has some cool stuff going on that might be of interest. You may not be shocked to learn that tentacles are involved…

The Moth Festival

Hello people! (and others)
This is going to be longish-apologies.
When we started Hopeless, Maine, more than ten years ago, we decided that if it took off (and there was much daydreaming about this. We haven’t got to the “riches” end of the spectrum, but this was definitely a “rags”time for me) We decided that there would be no mass produced tat associated with the story. (Sal would be cross) We thought maybe we could invite crafters and other makers to make things and mention where the things came from, sort of a thing. Moving ahead in time to last year, I spotted a company who was making *very* cool lovely things in limited editions around some comics I very much admire (Hellboy, BPRD, Locke and Key etc.) These are the sort of things that would be kept and treasured (and not end up in landfills) So, I sent…

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Fluffy doom!

This year, craft and writing have collided for me as Tom and I explore the possibilities of a Hopeless Maine arts and crafts movement. Making things for a fictional island has a definite charm. I’ve been using the approach to rag rugging featured in this blog for some years now (strips of fabric pulled through the hessian backing) . With this piece I was pretty much at the limits of what the form can do – if you click through to the original post, you can see the difference around the teeth between the back and front.

The Hopeless Vendetta

The Hopeless, Maine arts and crafts movement is go!  See the fluffy doom!

We are preparing for an immersive Hopeless, Maine exhibit this Autumn, and are making sculptures, Painted trays (Hopeless, Maine willow pattern!) and now, this fluffy taste of doom- The gravestone skull rag rug! The design is based on the skull motif found on New England slate gravestones. Nimue has made this because she is a genius and made of gothic win (and dark puppies) Below the back of the rug of doom, as it shows how it was done, and also looks rather like a grim mosaic.

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

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