The 400th Pseudopod

I’m amazed, and delighted, to report that Pseudopod hit episode 400 this week just gone. It’s been a long road between there and here and it’s one that’s got me thinking about horror, the past, the future and where we are as a show.

 

Trust me there are jokes too.

 

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LonCon Schedule, Moderation Notes and Mild Panic

 

Hello everyone!

 

So, tomorrow we’re off to LonCon. We’ll be there through to late Sunday. I’m looking forward to it, and, also, for the first time during the Month of Cons, I find myself sincerely nervous. Normally I have about six months to get past a con and ready for the next one and, here, I’ve not quite had six days. Days in which I’ve started a new job, real progress has been made on where we’re living next, two new projects have fired up and I’ve got into a serious of increasingly surreal fights with a company who claim to run buses but who I think are actually just performance irritation artists.

Oh and the latest Slingers volume, featuring some pretty chunky stuff for the fictional avatars of Marguerite and myself, is out.

Like I say, big week.

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Nine Worlds Ahoy!

Hello there! The last week has been dreadfully exciting, including;

 

-Finishing the 10th Doctor sourcebook.

-Finishing my night job. Which means I may soon be able to eat meals at the same time every body else does.

-Prepping to go to Nine Worlds for the first time in…an hour actually. Wow.

Anyway! Here’s my schedule:

 

Realities of Podcasting

11.45am – 1.00pm, Royal A

The panel will reveal some of the realities, both good and bad, that are faced by today’s podcasters. We also look at why podcasts end, the mechanics of podcasting, how do you define a successful podcast and if you can make any money from doing it.

Speakers: Martyn Havell, Debbie Timmins, Sol Craighead Wheeler, Gillian Coyle, Alasdair Stuart

 

Saturday

Blurred Lines: boycotting & buying in

6.45pm – 8.00pm

What’s a fan to do when the people responsible for a comic you love do things you hate? We try to plumb the ethical minefield of purchase-as-support.

Dan Hart, Melissa T, Alasdair Stuart, David Tallerman, Hazel Robinson

 

Sunday

Ask a Professional: all your questions about the book trade, answered

3.15pm – 4.30pm

Experts from every walk of publishing life, ready and willing to be put to the test. Feeling shy? Tweet questions in advance to @booksnineworlds

Q&A with Alasdair Stuart, Juliet Mushens, Ian Whates, Liz Gorinsky, Jenni Hill

 

I’ll also be enthusiastically in the audience for lots of stuff and Marguerite and I will be helping out the Greeter team and learning how to sword fight. See you there.

 

 

Open Mic Mondays: What’s in a Name? by Chris Brosnahan

Welcome to Open Mic Mondays. Today’s guest is one of my oldest friends. Chris Brosnahan was born in Ireland, lives in London and recently won NaNoWriWee. This was a contest, designed to mirror NaNoWriMo but with one difference; the novel had to be written in a weekend. Hence the Wee. Chris’ entry, POV, not only won but is out from HarperCollins Authonomy imprint as an ebook this week. It was a pleasure to see his talent recognized and even more of one to give him the slot this week.

 

 

 

 

There’s an old trope in fantasy that says that knowing the name of something or someone gives you power over them. It’s usually something involving demons or alien types (the Doctor is particularly fond of this. Remember Charlie Brooker summing up Tennant’s Doctor with the phrase “Ohhh, it’s you!”? It’s a telling trait in a character unwilling to divulge his real name).

 

Personally, I think the whole ‘having power over someone by knowing their name’ thing is entirely true, but it’s mostly confined to literary characters, and whether or not the author has any power over them.

 

Personally, I hate coming up with character names. Hate it. If there is one thing that is guaranteed to stop me in any kind of creative flow when I’m writing, it’s having to come up with a character name.

 

I start to write the scene, and it’s all going swimmingly, and then I get to the point in the sentence where I can’t avoid naming the character and I blank. Because I don’t know who the character is yet. And it feels like the name is an intrinsic part of the character.

 

Because of course names are important. Look at Charles Dickens. Mr Bumble. Noah Claypole. Fagin. Bill Sikes. The Artful Dodger. Oliver Twist. And they’re all from just one sodding novel, the talented so-and-so. Even the bloody dog is perfectly named. Bulls-eye.

 

Every one of those characters, it feels like you just need to read the names, and you immediately create an image of what they look like and who they are. But it’s a trick. Because while Dickens was great at creating names, he was better at creating characters. We remember the character names because we remember the characters. They fit because of course they fit.

 

At the end of the day, you define a character by what they do, not what they’re called. To use my own name, as an example – Christopher Brosnahan is a name that I used to think was unique. That specific combination of letters was something that I had complete control over. There was only one person with that name, and I got to define what that person was.

 

And then Google happened. So far, I’ve found at least a dozen Christopher Brosnahans out there, and more if we go with ‘Chris’ instead of ‘Christopher’.  There’s a chiropractor in Cincinnati, a real estate broker in New Zealand and a young man on youtube who apparently knows more about coding than I know about anything.  We all appear to be very different people.  Because you define someone by more than just their name.

 

So, recently, I threw myself in at the deep end with regards to character names. Earlier this year, I entered the 30 Hour Novel Writing Challenge (also known as NaNoWriWee, or National Novel Writing Weekend). The challenge was to write a novel (or, indeed, a novella) that was a complete story. Mega-publishers Harper Collins stepped in and offered the first-place prize of publication under their Authonomy brand.

 

When I sat down to start, I did so with nothing more than a netbook, pen and paper, my phone and headphones and a rough idea about the story I wanted to tell (which was going to involve nanotechnology, augmented reality and clones. Or something like that.).  But considering that my issue with names had held me up for long periods of time in the past, I needed something. A plan, perhaps. Maybe even just a trick. Anything other than doing what I normally do and just writing <NAME> until I think of something.

 

The previous time I’d got into trouble and just wanted to sit and write, I’d ended up looking at some nearby shelves and stealing names of authors. And even though I’d expected to have to replace them, because they were just intended to be temporary solutions, they ended up fitting perfectly. Because that’s part of the magic – once you’ve named them, you can start defining them, after all.

 

But a full story, with all-new characters? That was something I hadn’t tried to do before in one go. I’d usually sweated over those names, and waited and waited and waited to find the ones that felt right.

 

This time around, I tried something new.

 

I opened up the notebook and I tore out two pages. On the first page, I wrote ‘first names’ and on the second, I wrote ‘surnames’. And then I started thinking of comic book writers and artists, and started splitting their names between the two sheets of paper. I didn’t stop until I had twice as many as I needed.

 

Then I just started putting them together. Again, quickly. I just made the decisions and moved on, and didn’t give too much thought to what I was going to do with the characters, other than making sure I had a decent number of males and females.

 

Once I was done, I had a list of character names. I allocated them as appropriate (which one sounds most like my hero? Which most like the grizzled police detective? Which most like a tough lawyer? Which most like a young girl?) and moved on from there. I basically cast them and then, again, moved on.

 

It took me maybe ten minutes.

 

Maybe.

 

But it meant that I had all my character names sorted. And I could stop worrying about them then and there. Instead of waiting for the one that sounded right, I made the decisions and I then simply made them fit.

 

Because I had their names. And because I’d decided that, I had the freedom to start defining my character a little bit better. Instead of constantly second guessing myself while trying to establish the characters at all.

 

The rest of the 30 hours was hard work, but if I’d tried to puzzle out the names based on what little I had worked out about their characters, I would have maybe written a few hundred words rather than the novella I did write that weekend.

 

So there’s my advice. If you’re stuck, randomise the names slightly, then pick the best ones and cast them. You can, after all, always change them later. But at the end of the day, any names are better than no names in that first draft battle.

 

Oh, and I ended up winning that 30 Hour Novel Writing Challenge (he said in an off-hand manner) with my entry. It’s a 20,000 word novella called POV and it comes out from Harper Collins on September 26th under the Authonomy brand.  It’ll be an ebook release only, so you can pick it up for just 99p. I’ve thrown in a few bonus pieces in there as well, so hopefully you can’t go too far wrong for a quid.

 

And, if you’re interested, you can follow me on twitter – @chrisbrosnahan

 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Alasdair Stuart blogposts.

Thanks, Chris and congratulations on your win, your caffeine tolerance levels and what sounds like a gloriously nasty central conceit. My pre-order is in now and I’ll be running a review shortly.

 

In the meantime, do you have a thing, or indeed some stuff, you want to talk about? If so email me at alasdairstuart at gmail dot com and we’ll sort something out.

Sunday Moment of Zen: In The Foothills Of Deadline Mountain

Morning,

 

I’m catching up on the frankly demented amount of work I have on deck over the next couple of weeks. To make matters even more interesting, August and September were, with the notable exception of a lovely holiday, surprisingly shitty months and I’m still working off both that and the cold that’s decided my throat is actually a holiday home in Mallorca.

So, there’ll be new stuff shortly. Good new stuff too; I have a very odd theory about Riddick, there’s Al Dente galore inbound and no less than four book reviews. It’s just a matter of getting there from here. So, tomorrow, Open Mic Monday will look at one of my oldest friend’s richly deserved publishing deal and first book. In the mean time, today I give you a photo and a calling card. This is the red phonebox near my sister and her boyfriend’s home on the Isle of Man. The first version has my contact details written over it.  The second is just the photo.

 

Enjoy. I’ll see you on the other side of deadline mountain. Which you can see in the background of the photo actually.

And now without all those pesky words.

 

 

 

Thirteen Horror Audio Anthology Now Out

Horror, for me, lives in audio.  The Man in Black or, as it used to be called, Fear on Four, has run on BBC Radio 4 for decades. The idea was, and is, simple; the Man in Black is the mysterious host of a short radio play, introducing it, setting the stage then coming back at the end for a dryly funny bookend to the unremitting horror. The most recent incarnation sees the mighty Mark Gatiss take the role. It’s wonderful stuff and it used to scare the living hell out of me when, aged 12 and upwards, I sat in bed and listened to it. That show is the reason I love audio horror, it’s the reason I work in audio horror and once you listen to it you may notice a couple of beats that I borrow from time to time over at Pseudopod.

 

It’s also one of the reasons I’m delighted to be part of Thirteen. Edited by two fisted genius Scott Harrison, it’s an audio anthology designed to mimic the old audio horror anthologies of the 1970s which did for Scott what The Man in Black did for me. That by itself would have my attention, but Scott’s not stopped there. First off, it’s produced by Neil Gardner. If you’ve listened to any audiobook in the last 5-10 years and enjoyed it there’s a very good chance Neil produced it. He’s one of the best in the world in his field, as well as being a phenomenally nice guy and he’s on top form here.

Then there’s the cast, on both sides of the microphone. Take a look:

Here’s the full track listing:

Side A

1 – Hidden Track (part 1) by Scott Harrison read by Barnaby Edwards

2 – Dead Space by George Mann read by Greg Wise

3 – A Girl, Sitting by Mark Morris read by Jilly Bond

4 – Finding The Path by Kaaron Warren read by Trevor White

5 – The Hairstyle of the Devil by Martin Day read by Arthur Darvill

6 – Down by Gary McMahon read by Stephen Rashbrook

7 – Visions by Cavan Scott read by Michael Maloney

8 – Half Life by Dan Abnett read by John Banks

9 – Hidden Track (part 2) by Scott Harrison read by Barnaby Edwards

Side B

10 – With Her In Spirit by Stephen Gallagher read by Frances Barber

11 – Tabula Rasa by Alasdair Stuart read by Lalla Ward

12 – One Hit Wanda by Kim Newman read by Samuel West

13 – A Glass of Water by Mark Wright read by Gemma Arterton

14 – Ghost Pit by Simon Clark read by Jeff Harding

15 – I Wish by Johnny Mains read by Steven Cree

16 – Hidden Track (part 3) by Scott Harrison read by Barnaby Edwards

 

On the authorial side alone you have some of the best voices in UK horror contributing work. Dan Abnett, Stepehn Gallagher, Kim Newman and Simon Clark are huge influences on my work, both non-fiction and fiction and authors like Kaaron Warren, Gary McMahon, Cavan Scott, Johnny Mains and Scott himself are some of the very best voices working in the field today.

Then there’s the voice cast. Some of the most talented, most recognizable actors and actress in the UK worked on this thing and they all knock it out of the park. These are people you’ve seen, or heard, before and that sense of familiarity, combined with the horror of the stories, creates a delicious sense of unease. Arthur Darvill, who made his name playing the single most decent man ever to travel in the TARDIS is on here. Michael Maloney, whose Hamlet is one of the best I’ve seen is on here. Frances Barber, Samuel West, Gemma Arterton, Jeff Harding, time and time again you’ll hear familiar voices on this album and each one of them is telling you the most wonderful, horrible things.

There’s one line that’s my favorite though:

 

11 – Tabula Rasa by Alasdair Stuart read by Lalla Ward

 

That’s me.Sitting in between Stephen Gallagher and Kim Newman which is the single most thematically appropriate running order I’ve ever been on. And that’s Lalla Ward, best known for playing Romana II in Doctor Who, reading words I wrote, using my hands and my brain and everything.

The story itself has a very odd genesis, and changed a lot between the original draft and this version. I’ll talk about that in a separate blog post. I remain very proud of it though which is both rare and an immense relief. It’s a nasty, focused little story and I can’t imagine it in any other voice, or any better company, than it is. I’m deeply grateful to Scott and Neil for doing such an incredible job on the disc, to the mighty Matt Dillon for the extraordinarily good cover art and to Lalla Ward for doing an incredible job on the reading.

 

Thirteen is available now, the link is below. If this is a success, there’s a strong chance it’ll become a series of albums, giving even more writers and voice artists a chance to scare you in the very best way. If you like audio horror, if you’re a Pseudopod listener, a Doctor Who fan or just devour audiobooks like they’re made of chocolate, believe me, this is for you. Thirteen is so good, it really is scary.

 

Buy Thirteen here

 

Read a review of it here

What I Did in January 2013

Well the first thing I did was realize I need to keep better track of the stuff I’m doing. And then I cleaned up some admin left over from last year, and I signed with an employment agency and cooked lots of things, but that last one we’ve already covered. So, let’s take a look at the places you could find my stuff this month:

 

-Duane O’Brien is a game designer, and one with a brilliant idea. Octo: Games of Spring, is a collection, print only, of one page roleplaying games from some of the best, most innovative designers on the planet. Duane’s eating printing and shipping costs and all proceeds are going to some startlingly worthy causes. I talk to him about it here.

-I interviewed Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer on the new Captain Marvel series which, to my mind, is the first time the character has been truly great in years. Captain Marvel’s kind of a hot button topic for me, because a lot of her old look neatly embodied everything that’s wrong with how comics view women. Or to put it another way, if you put a highly decorated air force pilot in a pair of black thigh highs and a leotard, people aren’t going to ask about her flight credentials. What Kelly Sue’s done is make her not only fun but human and interesting. The book’s brilliant, Kelly Sue is a fun interview subject and you should read the interview, then order the book, here and here.

-Equally brilliant is Sarah Cawkwell, Black Library author, force of nature and one of the nicest people I’ve met. I talked to Sarah about writing, how she got started with BL, what it’s like to be a woman in an area traditionally viewed as male-centric and what pieces of writing she’s proudest of. The interview is here.

-I’m a newcomer to the work of James P Blaylock and it was a pleasure to get The Aylesford Skull to review and interview Mr Blaylock. Both these pieces can be found here, and here, whilst my review for SFX is here.

-Welcome to the Empyrean. You’re dead. That’s the bad news. The good news is everyone gets to go to the Afterlife and it’s FUN. Jonathan Lock’s Afterlife Inc was, initially, one of my favorite indie comics of last year. On reflection it’s now one of my favorite comics ever. The story of the new boss in the beyond, the…odd circumstances he came to power in and what happens when Heaven isn’t a place on Earth, but you can send soldiers there, this is dizzying, massively inventive and incredibly sweet fantasy. It’s a beautiful book in every sense of the word and the review is here.

-If you’re a DC Comics fan and you like movie versions of their characters, like me, then, well…I’m really sorry. The chain of disastrous choices that DC make about every movie that doesn’t have Christopher Nolan behind the camera seemed to continue this week when it was announced that the Justice League movie would only happen if Man of Steel did well. Or did it? In a moment of slightly desperate optimis, I talk about why this might be a really good thing here.

-It has been a fine, FINE month for nerdrage. Not only did we have the fact the BBC appear (Note that word) to be pretty seriously short changing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, the horror that a director that had touched/tainted/saved/obliterated the Star Trek series could be given Star Wars with the announcement of JJ Abrams as the director of episode 7, but we also had the confirmation that Princess Leia would not only be the star of the new Star Wars comic but fly an X-Wing! LOTS! QUICKLY! SOMEONE COVER HER ANKLES!

The responses to this ranged from welcoming to intrigued but troubled to ‘BUT SHE’S A WOMAN!’ and every repulsive derivation therein. So, myself and my learned colleague Steven Ellis put together two, two header pieces about the announcement; one a discussion, one a review. I’m all in favor of it, he’s interested but has issues, with Star Wars as a whole in fact. They’re interesting reading and can be found here and here.

-Anomaly is a vast, literally the thing’s a foot long, hardback graphic novel with staggering painted artwork, some fun AR components and a neat twist on the usual sci fantasy fare. I reviewed it here.

-The Wolfmen and Fall of The Wolfmen are a pair of excellent graphic novels set in a very nasty version of the London underworld. They’re also two of the huge range of great, varied books that Accord are putting out. I review the Wolfmen duo here.

-The Rose Black books are that rare breed; a modern vampire story that isn’t either A)A bad Twilight knockoff or B)A bad Twilight satire. Rose is a devout Christian, a spy and a vampire. She’s also in a lot of trouble in Demon Seed, in a story that neatly combines genetics with supernatural horror. Oh and if you look closely, you can see this exact book on the desk in the comic shop in Utopia, just before everything goes sideways. The review’s here

-Mephistos is another one of my favorite titles at the moment, following Maria, a quiet, friendly woman and her neighbour, who works in hell. But is actually quite nice. Even after she tries to kill him with a frozen chicken. Gentle, sweet and very funny, it’s a great book and the review can be found here.

-The nerdbait returns! Dredd has reached DVD and blu-ray (How long, I wonder, until we start saying that the other way round?) and I wrote a piece about what went wrong with the film’s marketing. The piece, in which I examine who killed the movie’s chances (Like a Judge, you see? Investigating a…crime…I’ll go), is up here.

-Finally, and also in nerdbait news, hilarity ensued earlier in the month when an interview with Rob Williams, one of the writers of Judge Dredd and on an absolute tear at the moment, was asked about ‘Closet’ an upcoming story dealing with homosexuality in Mega City 1. He was asked about Judge Dredd’s sexuality, explained how it didn’t really matter and…the quote was twisted into YOU ARE KILLING DREDD BY MAKING THIS MACHO FIGURE WEARING TIGHT LEATHER AND WIELDING A NIGHTSTICK A HOMOSEXUAL ICON! by fans who, apparently, don’t know how to read.  The piece I did about why 2000AD examining issues like this is why it’s great, is here.

 

-I’ve been incredibly lucky in my reading in the last couple of months. Firstly, after strep throat-induced MASSIVE insomnia for a fortnight, I was actually starting to panic about whether or not I’d be able to sleep. Which, of course, meant I didn’t sleep. Which, of course, meant I panicked and round we go. Anyway, Marguerite, being a genius and wonderful, suggested I read a chapter or so of a book before sacking out to help my brain close down. As a direct result, I’ve now read a couple of books I can see myself returning to over and over again. One of them, Warren Ellis’ frankly astonishing Gun Machine, is reviewed here.

-The new Star Wars comic I reviewed for SFX? I also reviewed for Bleeding Cool. It’s really good, sprinkles enough of the tone of the new Battlestar Galactica over the top to add some edge but is still recognisably all the bits of Star Wars I love. The review, which also re poses the age old question of which one would win, a Sopwith Camel or an F18 Hornet (It’s all in context, chaps, don’t worry), is here.

 

Neil Gardner, top audio producer and general all around good egg, has launched a new blog. Minifig of the Day is just that, a picture of a standard, or custom, Lego mini figure. Neil very kindly let me guest post, talking about my little Lego martial artist and what he means to me, and the piece is here.

 

SciFind is one of my favorite new sites, and they’re a pleasure to write for, because I’m basically completely off the chain for them. I wrote a wrap up of 2012, which gave me a perfect excuse to promote some of my favorite stuff, here. I also put together a reaction piece for them on David Bradley’s casting as William Hartnell in An Adventure In Space And Time here, and a piece about Duncan Jones getting the World of Warcraft gig here.

 

Who has two thumbs, speaks limited German and is the new co host of Escape Pod?! Da! Wait that’s wrong. Anyway it’s me, and I hosted three stories this month.

-Real Artists by Ken Liu is a chilling, and oddly cheerful, discussion of why certain stories have universal appeal and how they get it.

-Scout by Bud Sparhawk is a calm, considered, horrifying story about the exact nature of the self that’s lost during war.

-Concussion by David Glen Larson is equal parts sport story and desperate struggle for survival as a head injury allows a dying alien spacecraft to communicate with an American football player.

-Finally, Elias, Smith and Jones by Mark English is a glorious story about how a major propulsion breakthrough was discovered by a crew who specialized in ‘re-acquiring’ items from their owners. A must for Firefly fans, this one.

 

-Meanwhile, over at my true podcasting home, we had three fantastic stories hit in quick succession:

-The Persistence of Memory by William Meikle, explores grieving through music, the echoes we leave behind of ourselves and what happens when we let our past prey on us.

-Enzymes by Greg Stolze is brilliant, and unclassifiable, and sort of a love story, and sort of a tragedy and brilliant. Top five in the stories I’ve ever hosted for the show. Just amazing work.

-As is Venice Burning by AC Wise, equal parts horror story, romance, time travel and Lovecraftian fever dream. Venice has never looked so beautiful, and so very doomed.

 

So that was my January. As ever there’s about four or five things that didn’t quite make the date cut, but they’ll be covered next time. A good start to the year, lots of traction and I can feel my work load staying steady. In fact, a short word about that; I’m doing the Million Word Challenge, along with 11 other people. If you write 2700 words a day for a year, you hit a million words, which is widely regarded as the point after which your writing starts getting good. I’m on course for about 92,000 in January, so I’m off to a solid start. You can find out more here.

In the meantime, did I mention my book?

The Pseudopod Tapes Volume 1 is a collection of all the writing I did for Pseudopod in 2012, revised and expanded so you don’t ever have to read me ask for donations. You can just hear that. On the shows. Every week. And sometimes when you’re sleeping… It’s available in print or ebook form and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. Adele and the crew at Fox Spirit along with superlative cover artist SL Johnson did amazing work, as did the nice people that put it on cake for the launch party. So if you fancy reading me instead of listening to me, give it a try.

Want to talk to me about the article? Or hire me? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.


Al Dente: Man vs Klingon Parsnip

Let’s talk about soup, baby, as Salt’n’Pepa never, ever, ONCE sung. Soup is weird, not just because of the way the word sounds but because it’s very much the card trick of cooking for me. Some context; I was a teenage magician, which is, I know, the worst ‘50s exploitation teen movie never written.

 

I WAS A TEENAGE MAGICIAN! STARRING RICK RICKARDSON AS EL MYSTERIOSO! AND ORSON WELLES AS HIMSELF!

 

…Actually I’d watch that.

Anyway, the guy who taught me magic was a profoundly lovely man called Mike Clague who was endlessly fast talking, very funny and quickly recognized in me a fellow smartarse. I ended up scripting my last couple of shows with them, and still carry a lot of what Mike taught me in my world view. In particular, he based magic on three basic principles;

 

-Make sure the trick is loaded, prepped and if possible, basically done by the time you walk on stage. Then all you need is to remember the patter.

-Never, EVER say the word normal. Because if you describe something as ‘This perfectly normal handerchief’ or ‘This perfectly normal cabinet with holes in it, within which I shall shortly stab a beautiful woman repeatedly and remove her torso, and you will APPLAUD ME OR I WILL DO IT TO YOU TOO.’ Not only triggers the audience that something’s a bit weird, and they should maybe leave, but it also sounds stupid.

-Never ever do a card trick. There are 51 ways it can go wrong and exactly one way it can go right.

 

He’s right too, I only ever did one card trick and it was pre-loaded before I ever stepped on stage. Too many variables, too much chance for it to go wrong, and soup’s just the same, albeit replacing the whole ‘card’ and ‘trick’ elements of the equation with ‘vegetables’, ‘stock’ and ‘tofu’ with the end result hopefully being ‘deliciousness.’

 

Wait, what, tofu? Why yes, tofu.

And squash. You mean….

Yes. Yes I do. My old nemesis (Well the other half of him, but still) and I meet again. But will Squash, parsnip and tofu soup be my last bow or his Reichenbach?! Just with SOUP?! VICTOR! PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE IF YOU PLEASE!

So what do we have here then?

 

-Parsnips

-The bottom half of Doombringer the Unboilable

-Tofu

 

Here’s what I did with them. Firstly, the parsnips were peeled with prideful persipicacity…or something involving fewer Ps. As a rule I don’t tend to peel vegetables unless I have to but in this case I didn’t really fancy trying to blend vegetable skin with the remote control plane murderer of recent entries. So, they were peeled whilst Doombringer over there? He got chopped in two and roughly sectioned from there on down.

One thing you do have to do with Squashes, aside from hate and respect them, just a little, as we do all worthy opponents, is remove the spidery goop from the bulb. This is where the seeds and the cellulose around them is situated and it tastes lousy, so scoop that out.

 

 

This is Marguerite’s oil aerosol. It’s brilliant because it not only lets you control the amount of oil, and is very shiny, but it ensures you get  a uniform coating which helps everything cook faster. Plus you prime it by pumping the top in a manner which makes my inner 15 year old giggle. Plus it’s REALLY shiny.

 

So, with the partially suggestive mister…ahem…primed, I sprayed the tray and then laid out the vegetables on top:

 

 

And put them in the oven at about 200 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes.  Just before you pull it out, mix a cup of boiling water with some chicken stock and empty half the tofu into your bowl.

Yay.

Tofu.

It looks like Feta that failed its final exam, and has all of the structure but none of the structural strength. It’s cold, it’s lumpy, it’s runny.  It isn’t good. Stick with it, trust me and prepare for BLENDINATION!

Because the Squash? Is DONE.

Seriously, once it comes out? Go and do some form of triumphant dance and then peel the skin off. I didn’t do this before because, well, I don’t have a welding torch, chisel and swarthy band of Canadian mounties. Normally I wouldn’t do it at all but this was always going to be a bit of a hard blending job and I thought I’d minimize the impact a little.

Little did I know…

Add the chicken stock to the Tofu, get more worried about the Tofu and then pour the chopped roast vegetables in there. Then? UNLEASH HELL. This will take a while. Let it. This will make noise. Let it. You will sound like an entire swarm of tiny radio controlled planes are throwing themselves into the bowl. Let them. You will notice that it’s taking a while. LET IT. You’ll get a bit bored. ACCEPT IT.

You’ll notice a single piece of parsnip that will not die.

Seriously.

 


This Klingon parsnip was sitting under the blender for minutes. Nothing. Not even a scratch. I made have heard bubbling parsnip laughter. Unable to destroy him, I took a moment to admire his resolve. He was a vegetable samurai, a vitamin-enriched warrior. He deserved more than simple dissolution into soup. He deserved glory.

Turns out there was a lot of glory in the bin, which was fortunate.

Finally, blend it some more and you’re good to go. The soup is thick, creamy because of the tofu and slightly spicy because of the parsnips. And no playing cards were involved! Hurray! Soup: Achieved!

What I Learned

-Olive oil misters are both slightly innuendo-laden and very useful.

-Cooking techniques take slightly longer than I want them to, and I need to accept that.

-Squash dies a proud warrior’s death but it can be beaten.

-Tofu works surprisingly well in soup.

 

The book is launched, the cake is not a lie.

So I wrote a book. And Fox Spirit have published it and it’s available now.

A book.

A whole entire book.

I’m really, really happy with it and on Friday we had the official launch party. A small group of friends came round, a huge amount of chilli was prepared and The Pseudopod Tapes was sent on its way.

Plus there was cake!

The lovely people at Devine Cakes were able to put the cover on a cake which was apparently designed to only feed eight people, as it was the smallest size they sold.

 

It’s two days post launch.

 

It’s still half there.

 

It may be GROWING.

 

It’s also delicious, incredibly light and beautifully iced and no I can’t tie any of those metaphors to the book but I can say the launch party was brilliant, and that our first review is both in and very good, and also that this is a real highlight of my year. I’ve got a book out there:) Which of course means it’s time to plan the next one…

 

 

Announcing The Pseudopod Tapes Volume 1

I wrote a book this year. Want to see the cover? COURSE you do!

 

 

Isn’t that lovely? I am a sucker for old school microphones and the tentacle wrapping around it is just beautiful. That’s the work of S.L. Johnson, cover artist and genius. See the little Fox head on the mike? That’s the symbol for Fox Spirit Books, Adele Wearing’s publishing company who are putting the book out. Fox Spirit have got some amazing books on the roster and I’m in frankly humbling company, so I’m delighted not only that my first book (MY! FIRST! BOOK! THAT’S A REAL THING THAT’S HAPPENING!) is coming out but also coming out through them.

 

So what’s in it?

 

Good question Socratic dialogue version of me! It’s every endcap essay from this year, from Pseudopod. Every week I hosted the show, I wrote a short essay about something in the story that I’d noticed, or how the story had made me react. It’s a format I’ve sort of fallen into by default and I’m really pleased with how it works on the show, especially as it lets me simultaneously flex my critical muscles and spend some time leading the applause for the author and the story, which are, let’s face it, the stars of the show at Pseudopod.

Here though, it’s all on me. So, each one of the essays has been massively revamped, expanded and in a couple of cases completely rewritten to stop you constantly having to refer back to which episode I’m talking about and also to take advantage of a format where I don’t have to segue to a call for donations after 500 words. This was a good chunj of what I did during NanoJourno and the end result is 40,000 words worth of very largely new material.

In addition to the main essays there are two appendices. One is a complete listing of every ending quote from every episode which will, when read in order, confirm my deep fondness for Supernatural, the ’70s hair rock that the soundtrack to that show is crammed full of and Planetary. The second appendix is a complete breakdown of single inhabitant of this year’s Halloween parade, with running commentary on both.

 

We’re going to be publishing in ebook format for $5.99, and there’ll be a createspace option for anyone who wants a print copy too. Nearer the time, as in, in a couple of days, I’ll put up a post with full details of the launch date, the blog tour I’m going on to help promote the book and exactly when, and how, you can buy it. There’s a lot of work still to do, but not for now. For now, all that matters is that this is done, a thing I made is ready to go out into the world. I can’t wait to see what you think of it.