I Get Spam


Dear providers of ‘content’ with some vague relation to writing that you think I might want to reblog from you: I’m a writer. I make my own content. What you are doing is a bit like coming to the door of my amazing friend Sarah who makes her own chili sauce and offering her a packet of tomato sauce you found on the floor of a fast food restaurant. Except that her chili sauce is superior to my books in that it doesn’t come with too many adjectives in the sex scenes.

Dear person claiming to be a female Lieutenant General looking for a kind, sincere man; I am not a kind, sincere man. Sorry. I am also sorry to hear that your ‘health is regressing by the minute’, as that must be very painful for you. Nevertheless I can be of no help to you getting the money out of Afghanistan. I suggest you use it to buy the attentions of a very expensive gigolo.

Dear sellers of facebook likes: I don’t do facebook. I kind of appreciate your efforts to subvert its evil with your own evil, in the same way that I’d be entertained by seeing a giant octopus fight it out with a dinosaur-headed shark, but frankly I can get giant octopus versus dinosaur-headed shark fights any day of the week on the Syfy Channel and therefore have no need of your substitute.

Dear people who claim to be the United Nations and say that you are willing to give me £3.7 million to eradicate poverty with: I do not think that you are the real United Nations, because the United Nations does not operate out of a P.O. Box in Benin.

Dear SEO company named after an endangered mammal, may your business reproduce as inefficiently as your namesake.

Kisses, Ankaret.

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That Awkward Friend Of A Friend

Did you ever have a group of friends who you liked to hang out with, some of whom also liked to hang out with someone you weren’t all that keen on? Someone you met at parties and might say hi to, but probably wouldn’t invite to any parties of your own?

The friend didn’t have to be a bad person. Just someone that you wouldn’t choose for your friend. Maybe they were louder or more huggy than you could cope with, or they spent all their time huddled in corners and answered you in monosyllables when you tried to talk to them. Maybe you didn’t get their sense of humour or they didn’t get yours. Maybe they just pinged that precise area of your inner radar that said ‘Trouble’ or ‘Too much work’ or ‘Not in any way my problem’.

Or maybe they were pretty popular in general, and your friends seemed to have a great time with them, and you could see – or at least, you hoped – that they meant well, but every now and again they’d do or say something that made you cover your eyes with your hands. And your thoughts would be a curious mixture of ‘Thank God this isn’t my problem’ and ‘Actually, everyone’s seen me hanging out at parties with this person, I probably ought to have an opinion about this’?

This is me and traditional, con-going SF fandom.

I have friends who go to cons, volunteer at cons, love cons. I’ve been to steampunk conventions and enjoyed the heck out of those. I love SF and read it by choice. But there’s a lot of stuff associated with that particular way of doing SF fandom that makes it That Friend Of A Friend for me.

A huge amount of it, probably the largest percentage, is because I get overwhelmed very quickly by noise, crowds and talking to people. No one’s fault, just a mismatch in styles.

But some of it is down to the constant stream of gaffes and PR disasters that have come down the pike over the last few years. Many, many cons have gone off without a hitch in that time and not made the news. They’ve had great disabled access, they’ve listened to their members about what panels people really want, they’ve had clear safety policies that make it clear that if you’re harassed, the con has your back. Good for them. But there’s always that extra few that make it feel like ‘con’ is short for ‘controversy’. The latest one is Loncon’s choice of a celebrity to present the Hugos and the bizarre scolding Tweet with which they doubled down on their decision. And then there’s the constant and embarrassing growing pains SFWA keeps going through in the glare of the public eye.

It feels like there’s a certain segment of SF lovers who assume that their fandom, the fandom that’s been going on since the early years of last century, is how people show their enjoyment of science fiction, and they’re a little baffled and hurt that people can love books but be critical of cons. They’re even more baffled and hurt that people are expressing criticism but not volunteering to help make it any better. I have a lot of sympathy for both sides of this one. Organising events on that scale is hard work, time is limited, and people whose contribution to the discussion is ‘Why don’t we try doing this a different way?’ often sound like they’re saying ‘But have you considered reinventing the wheel?’

On the other hand, getting onto committees with people whose personalities and working methods you’re already at odds with is not most people’s idea of a fun hobby. People are entitled to go off and invent their own wheel if they want to rather than signing an indenture to work as an apprentice in your wheel workshop. Maybe one of you comes up with a trike and the other with a unicycle, but as long as they’re both roadworthy, no one’s hurt by the coexistence.

So that end of fandom is going to carry on being That Friend Of A Friend for me, I’m afraid. I really don’t think it’ll feel the lack of me, and I hope we can both continue to enjoy reading SF books and saying an awkward hi at parties.

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A repost from Valentines Day 2011:


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Steampunk for Simpletons


This is the ad for my work which is going to run in the announcements section of the upcoming book Steampunk for Simpletons. There’s still time to contribute to their Kickstarter and help them make their stretch goals!

I got the clip art from the wonderful Graphics Fairy website, who provide clip art for personal or resale projects – here is the original so that you can see what I desecrated. All I can say is that the original French typesetter clearly didn’t have the trouble I did fighting the Curve Bend tool in The GIMP. :)


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Today’s snippet


Today’s snippet, from a steampunk time travel novella that is one of the many projects squabbling for my attention:

‘The ibis is a bird that makes its living by poking around in mud and converses in quarrelsome honks; which is, one must presume, why the dynastic Egyptians chose to graft its head onto the god of academics.’

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Non-binary genders in the real world and elsewhere

Foz Meadows of Shattersnipe.com has compiled An A-Z Of Non-Binary Genders. Real-world only and non-insulting, so do not go over there and suggest epicon or scrat.

When I was first planning Requite, it became obvious that there would be people there who didn’t do the gender binary thing. As I suppose most writers do, I’d assumed that humans a couple of thousand years in the future would mostly be like humans throughout the rest of recorded time, with such changes as were necessary for world-building or forwarding the plot. Again, like most writers, I’m not sure I’m doing as well at this as I might, but at least I’m trying. (I even put some sports fans into Heavy Ice, and I’m really not into sports fandom – though while I’m here, congratulations to the England womens cricket team on their Ashes victory!)

I coined epicon from the word epicene, and I always thought I got ‘scrat’ from the big Cassell Dictionary of Slang but it’s not in there, so goodness knows where that came from. I ended up calling Innes ‘it’ throughout the first two books because that’s what Lois McMaster Bujold did with her herms and I thought I’d better follow her example if I wanted to get published, but I’ve moved to ‘they’ from Heavy Ice onwards because calling a person ‘it’ just felt like adding to all the dehumanising crap that people who don’t do the gender binary thing already have to put up with on a regular basis.

People do occasionally ask me whether the epicons think of themselves as third-gender, dual-gendered or genderless, but the rather unhelpful answer is that it depends on the individual epicon.

As for some of the other cultures kicking around in the Requitiverse and their attitudes to gender binaries:

There are transgender KinHarzin and KinHarzin who are temporarily living as a different gender to usual for business or religious reasons. No one thinks this is weird (at least, no one thinks the way their own Clan does it is weird, though they might chunter about the odd ways some other Clans handle it) any KinHarzin over the age of about six has a sophisticated enough understanding of their society and its particular mixture of ‘very stratified and formal’ and ‘utterly cut-throat and manipulative’ to take it in stride. KinHarzin who identify as outside gender binaries tend to leave the KinHarzin as soon as possible. This is because of the KinHarzin’s continued loathing for Nakia Considine, the Barefoot General.

The FSSI want to know what to write on their forms, but other than that are far more concerned about whether people are over or under 25 and whether or not they are lucky enough to have a full work contract.

And the Bind welcomes everybody who fits their genetic criteria. As far as the Bind are concerned, this welcome is mandatory. :)

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New year, new house, new Kindle Paperwhite, new plans.


So here I am settled into a new house, with a new Kindle. (The picture is of me reading Meg Kingston’s The MonSter and the Rainbow, for her competition to win a copy of her new book. Go and enter!) Only one of these things was expected.

My old Kindle died the afternoon of the day after we moved in, which had also included (a) the new storage heaters releasing eye-stinging fumes, (b) me opening a window to release the eye-stinging fumes, (c) the sudden worry that the World’s Stupidest Cat had escaped out of the window, (d) the discovery of the World’s Stupidest Cat hiding safely in a drawer of my husband’s desk, and (e) very soon after this, the electricity going out just as a new washing machine and fridge were due to be delivered. It’s all got a lot better since.

I’m getting on better than I expected with the Kindle Paperwhite – I really like the way it makes it easier to flip back and forth within the book, and the features I didn’t want were easy to turn off. I also appreciate the seamless integration between reading a sample and reading the book itself once you’ve bought it. I’m still a bit perplexed as to why it wants to connect to the Internet every time I add something to a collection, but I’m sure it’ll all shake out.

I’m plotting out a short project and doing slow, careful worldbuilding for another project which will almost certainly not be short, and there’s also the Requite-through-the-ages story and poem collection on the back burner, so I’m hoping 2014 will be a productive year. At present I’m really enjoying being in the early stages of writing again, which I think is understandable when you consider how long it took me to write Heavy Ice.

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