All posts by kate

How to Celebrate Hallowe’en with an Octopus

Have you come across Brian Kesinger’s Tea Girls on Facebook? No? It’s adorable. As well as drawings of Otto, there’s cartoons and other odd bits. Brian’s currently doing #inktober so there’s amusing extra cartoons most days!

If you like Otto and want the books, there’s guides on how to Walk Your Octopus, Travel With Your Octopus and Colour With Your Octopus. There’s also a guide to Dressing Your Octopus which is on Kickstarter at the moment, because of course that’s what everyone should have.

This is a pretty random PSA but I just think they’re adorable. Everyone needs a land octopus!


Review: Best of British Science Fiction 2016

The Best of British Science Fiction 2016

Editor Donna Scott has selected the very best short fiction by British authors published during 2016. Twenty-four stories, from established names and rising stars.

This anthology is an eclectic collection of science fiction with a very broad range of stories, writers and styles! It’s a fun read whether you’re into sci-fi or not, and it’s a brilliant introduction to the genre or an excellent selection of modern sci-fi, depending on your reading in 2016.

The anthology opens with a story I already knew from Fight Like A Girl: Joanne Hall’s Arrested Development, a wonderful and poignant story about a fighter just trying to win one more fight, one more paycheck. Peter F Hamilton’s Ten Love Songs to Change the World is next with a wonderful take on the 1960s hippy culture crossed with time travel, crossed with romance and the desire to change the world…

I admit the next couple of stories didn’t grab me quite as hard, although not through any fault of the writing. Eric Brown & Keith Brooke’s Beyond the Heliopause is a story of the edge of the universe and of home, a mix of sci-fi and faith: what is out there, beyond the heliopause? And what does that mean for humanity, and our relations to each other and the world around us? The Seventh Gamer by Gwyneth Jones takes the idea of the life around us in a different direction, looking at gaming culture, alternate realities, real life, aliens…it’s quite a long story and I admit I didn’t find the payoff entirely satisfying; it’s an interesting concept for a story though. Nick Wood’s Dream-Hunter has echoes of classic sci-fi: if you could control dreams in someone else’s mind, you could see their secrets – but what happens if you can’t control it? And Robert Bagnall’s Shooting the Messenger which, to be honest, I just found a bit weird: it’s a story of aliens getting in contact in a war zone, but no one believes it – I think?

The next few stories, however, I found wonderful. Neil Davies’ The Lightship is a brilliant mix of war story and horror: two races are fighting each other for control of an old ship, but something doesn’t like either of them…and Liam Hogan’s Ana is a wonderful, amusing metaphysical discussion of alternate universes from a child who’s scared of the monster under the bed. Jaine Fenn’s Liberty Bird has echoes of Arthur C Clarke, telling the story of a young man trying to win a race and fight for his future in a lovely mix of sci-fi and personal, and Sarah Byrne’s Joined is eerie and brilliant, with a story of the unforeseen effects of a technology to join two lovers together.

Heinrich Himmler in the Barcelona Hallucination Cell by Ian Watson is, I think, simply not to my taste: it’s a weird take on alt-history and time travel, with a dose of paradox theory thrown in, but would probably suit anyone with a taste for the absurd. I also wasn’t entirely sure about Una McCormack’s Taking Flight; it’s a story that weaves love, romance, politics, personalities and relationships, a futuristic take on how human creations would still fall into a tangled web of love and deception – but despite the excellent writing and the interesting narrator, I felt this could have been a stronger story.

People, Places and Things by Den Patrick is an eerie take on the apocalypse; people simple vanish, written out of existence – and how does that leave everyone else to cope? Paul Graham Raven’s Staunch is another take on the dystopian, with a small, loyal band struggling through the ruins of a broken England (and I loved the small touches in this) to get medical aid however they can, while trying to avoid talking about the secrets they hold.

The next couple of stories were definite favourites. Adam Roberts’ Between Nine and Eleven is amusing: I love the concept of the new weapon, and the story is a surreal and light-hearted take on the standard sci-fi space battles. Natalia Theodoridou’s Ajdenia is a beautiful, haunting story: sunlight is rationed, and a worker in a tunnel has to choose between a fleeting, brief hope of freedom, and getting that little bit of extra light – and I loved the tiny, beautiful twist at the end. And Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s To Catch a Comet made me laugh; it’s a fantastic take on the bureaucracy and paperwork that impede a scientist trying to warn the world about a comet impact.

The next couple of stories are longer. How to Grow Silence from Seed by Tricia Sullivan looks at relationships and the world around, silence and plants, what humans are doing to the planet – it’s a mix of strange and familiar. In Tade Thompson’s The Apologists, the apocalypse has happened with Earth mostly destroyed (accidentally) – and even though the handful of survivors get to recreate it, there are arguments about how to do it! Ian Whates’ Montpellier is an almost modern-day look at drugs, home and family: an envoy revisits their childhood home to try to negotiate a truce with the people living there. And in Neil Williamson’s Foreign Bodies, refugees from a broken Earth are trying to adapt to a new world, with the disjointed meld of familiar and alien that it brings.

The final couple of stories are a good round-up to the anthology. Michael Brookes’ The 10 Second War focuses on an AI fighting a war inside a computer system, with the eerie feeling that it could be Earth. In Possible Side Effects by Adam Connors, a patient is writing to a world that he left behind – and wondering if he can pick up a life that’s carried on without him. And E. J. Swift’s Front Row Seat to the End of the World -is a look at the apocalypse as it arrives on Earth, at the people waiting, and about the things that become important: family, friends, and the connections we share before it’s too late.

The anthology is a wonderfully mixed bag of stories, and well worth a read – if only to catch up on 2016’s eclectic, brilliant takes on what the future could bring!

I am the one in four

Advanced warning: personal post, and TW for pregnancy/miscarriage

I was prompted to write a post on this by my friend Ellen’s blog. October is pregnancy and infant loss month, and this week (9th-15th) seems to have been designated Infant Loss Awareness Week. You may have seen posts on social media saying this, adding ‘I am the one in four’ (1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage/stillbirth in their lives).

This has taken a fuck-load of courage to write, and even more to post.

I am the one in four.

I have had three miscarriages, one just before Christmas 2015 (that made for a fun Christmas…) and two in Spring/Summer 2016.

I think for many people, the strongest pain of a miscarriage is the potential: this could have been a child, this could have changed everything. But for me, to be honest, it wasn’t as devastating as the loss some people experience. My mother had two miscarriages, and so I was in some ways expecting it; I knew there was a family history, and knew it could happen. I took what precautions I could, and didn’t dare treat the pregnancies as real until 12 weeks – it wasn’t a child, it was just a tiny potential bundle of cells. And none of my pregnancies reached 12 weeks (two miscarried at 7 weeks and one at 5), and so… it was just a thing that didn’t happen.

For me, the worst pain was the uncertainty. Had I done something? Not done something? Somehow caused it? Could I have prevented it? I have been told, repeatedly, that there is nothing I could have done to prevent it. I accept that for the ones I have lost – it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t. Lifting things doesn’t cause it. Eating the wrong thing doesn’t cause it. Doing exercise doesn’t cause it. It wasn’t my fault.

But I can’t help take that burden of fear and guilt, and push it forward: if I try to get pregnant again at whatever future point, will I have another miscarriage? Another two? What’s wrong with me that means I can’t get past 7 weeks? Standard tests haven’t shown anything: there’s nothing immediately physically wrong, and blood levels etc were all standard. My body’s fine….it just couldn’t maintain any of the pregnancies. And I’m now past 30: what will that do to my chances?

The whole thing was compounded by a specialist at the local hospital, who quite bluntly (while trying not to offend me, she repeatedly insisted that she wasn’t trying to offend me) told me that essentially, I was lying. I had no medical proof that I had been pregnant, and therefore they weren’t miscarriages: I hadn’t got blood tests, scans, checks – this all prior to 12 weeks, on an already overburdened NHS, and when there’s nothing anyone can do to change a miscarriage at that stage if it did happen! I’m still deeply angry about her attitude and her accusations: I understand where she was coming from in that the best medical course was to assume that I wasn’t able to get pregnant and check that as well as the actual pregnancies, which is sensible, but she most certainly could have worded it a lot better, and been a lot less cruel and dismissive in her attitude to someone who was simply trying to get help and work out if there was anything wrong.

I did feel – and still do feel – incredibly alone and uncertain about it. It wasn’t something I could share at the time; I wasn’t going to tell anyone until at least 12 weeks anyway, and even the people I did tell couldn’t say anything that eased what is, at heart, a very personal pain. My partner at the time did his best to be supportive, but considering he wasn’t outwardly enthusiastic about children, it was hard for me to lean on him or share any of what I was feeling. And I didn’t want to try any of the resources or groups available – I struggle with interaction anyway, and I felt I had no place amongst people mourning for their child. I just carried on going with whatever the next step needed to be, be it doctor’s appointments or waiting or another try, and tried again and again until everything else broke around me.

Even putting this out now is hard. It isn’t the full story: I can’t process that yet, it’s too linked in with the divorce and emotions and all that. I don’t feel I have any right to support, and I don’t want sympathy. It’s something that happens: I don’t know why it happened, I did what I could, and I don’t have a medical explanation. It passed, it’s fine, and I want to try again someday. It’s all still a jumble, and I’m dealing with it all as it comes up.

But miscarriage happens, and it isn’t talked about. So – I’m talking about it.

I’m the one in four.

5 Happy Things: October 2017

Five things that are making me happy in October…

1.I started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I like it! I’m doing my Kate thing of watching with something else on (I find TV and films – and audiobooks, incidentally – stressful, even though I do like watching some things, so that’s the best way) and so far, it’s amusing. We’re only three episodes in but I’m planning on carrying on.

2.I’ve created my NaNo novel – I’m doing The Thief & The Seer. Wheeee!

3.Autumn colours. I’ve been getting out for walks every day, and seeing the trees change has been beautiful. I really need to start up my Instagram photos again…

4.Trello. ORGANISATION! I’ve made a board for my writing, and I’ve got one for my editing etc as well. While I do have a spreadsheet of submissions, it’s nice to be able to see what is in progress and needs to be worked on, and the dates.

5.Tidying. I’m moving house, and there’s something very satisfying about being able to organise! I have ridiculous amounts of shelving that’s empty, just for me (happy librarian!) and I’m currently packing my books up, planning where they’re going to go, thinking about storage and organisation….there’s definitely a reason why I gravitated towards libraries!

So that’s me for October for the moment – I’m moving on Wednesday so I should remember to do a post, but if I don’t, it’s because I’m filling a van with boxes and trying to ensure that the cat isn’t amongst them…