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Last Week, Sunday 26 January 2020

Bye Bye January

Pixie and GeigerThe month of January appears to be unfurling correctly, preparing to flip us into February. I’ll be glad to see its end. I fell back into a darkness at the end of December and it’s taken this long to haul myself out, or more likely, wait for the hole to lift me up to the surface again. This was pretty much the subject of our podcast recording on Sunday evening, so it will get a more complete airing when we get round to putting that episode out and add to the sound pollution with which we shall conquer the cosmos. 

So, this week gone by then. Part of the reason I’m starting this up again is in the hope of actually remembering the things I do, especially the good things, instead of letting it all slide into a deep grey quagmire, in which only bad things are buoyant enough to bob to the surface. Progress! It’s almost (but definitely isn’t) a new year’s resolution…

Reading: Night of Knives by Ian C Esslemont

I finished a fine pair of novels this week; I’m glad to be hitting a decent reading speed again. First up Ian C Esslemont’s Night of KnivesI’ve already read the complete Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, which was a serious undertaking of ten titanic epic fantasy novels in quite possibly the deepest and most complex world I’ve had the pleasure of drowning in.  I spent a few days flicking between books, unable to find a realm I wanted to dwell in for a few days, and the magic and battle-saturated landscape of the Malazan world is very familiar to me, and oddly welcoming, for all its horror and bloodshed. I’d been quite curious about Esslemont’s series exploring the world he and Erikson created together, but just hadn’t found the right moment. Imagine how delighted I was to discover that Night of Knives is roughly half the length of Erikson’s bricks. It’s a taut and exciting read, focusing on one specific night in one specific place (unlike the Book of the Fallen, which spans aeons and continents). It’s hard to explain any of the Malazan stuff without half a million words of context, but this one is about the previous Malazan emperor and his assassin sidekick returning from the dead to take the next step in immortal ascendancy to the throne of Shadow (kinda, there’s a lot more to that summary…) I had a lot of fun in the familiar places and peoples. Looks like all of Esslemont’s series fall substantially shorter than Erikson’s, which is great news as at 1200 pages from book six onwards, they became quite intimidating to fit in. I’ll definitely be back for Return of the Crimson Guard soon. 

Reading: The Custodian of Marvels by Rod Duncan

Leicester author, Rod Duncan’s The Custodian of Marvels is the last in his alternate history The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, which came out shortly before I came on board at Angry Robot. We subsequently oversaw the beginning of his sequel trilogy.  There’s a huge amount to love here, from the intricately crafted alternate England overseen by the International Patent Office who have an iron grip on technological advancement, and as it turns out, history itself. I’m wholly in love with the protagonist Elizabeth Barnabus who’s sought to avenge the destruction of her family by a thoroughly wicked bastard of a man, the Duke of Northampton. This entry gets us a lot of the satisfaction we’ve been building up to. Unlike the previous two, The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter and Unseemly Science, this is a neat heist movie of a novel, and I’m very reluctant to spoil it for anyone here. Simply put, Duncan’s prose is sublime, he paints places and characters in the alternate 2000s that seem more real than the ones we had. It also ends on a killer last line which had me laughing out loud. Cheers Rod. Looks like I’m gonna have to read The Map of Unknown Things… Also, stunning covers by Will Staehle.

Watching: His Dark Materials

We missed the huge BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy at Christmas, but we’ve finally caught up. I remember loving the first two books in particular, but it turns out I remember almost nothing from Northern Lights, other than daemons (want), a bad lady forcibly separating children from their daemons (an extension of their soul), and armoured polar bears. The series is a pretty good way to experience the world, and it’s filled with all the grim religious intolerance of the novels and magic of the daemons which the movie adaptation sliced away (to it’s doom), pretty good special effects and a very satisfying cast. Definitely worth a watch.

Watching: The Personal History of David Copperfield

I don’t have a lot to say about this film. It was quite fun to watch, but at no point did I know whether we were five or fifty minutes in. It’s a curiously disjointed show, despite amazing comic performances all round (Capaldi finally gives us the Doctor Who we deserved) and a witty, often heartwarming script, I’m left feeling like it’s a real mess. I dunno – see it for yourself. 

Doing: The Improvised Trial

Somewhat busier week than usual, with two rehearsals for MissImp‘s upcoming improvised justice show for Light Night at the National Justice Museum: The Glowstick Trials. It’s the only child and family-friendly show we really do, and it’s tightly formatted for playing in a genuwine courtroom in authentic wigs and gowns! With Ben and Richard as our director/producer team, they’ve reworked the show from 2018-19 and I think made something even more fun out of it. I’ve very much enjoyed the rehearsals, although I’ve kinda dreaded allocating the time to rehearse in.  Just the dress rehearsal to come before the big night! We’ll be performing every half hour on Friday 7 February from 6.30pm – 9.30pm. Tickets are a mere £3.50 and you get a glowstick! Pick em up here.

Doing: We Are What We Overcome – the Podcast 

We Are What We Overcome - 26 January 2020As I loudly alluded to above, careening out of the Christmas bubble has not been easy this year. We met up at the New Art Exchange in Hyson Green on Sunday night to record some thoughts about it. Wes got hideously stuck in traffic and wasn’t able to make it in time, which sucks. I think Matt and I just about succeeded without too much meandering (Neil will be the judge…), but his absence was deeply felt. Hopefully Wes will enjoy our attempts to say what he might have said. We were blessed with a nice little audience who were very attentive and asked smart questions at the end, all of which I’m going to have to think about some more.  Essentially, I don’t like having a period of self-reflection foisted on me, and I need new/old strategies to keep myself together when my daily routine is absent, and be more mindful about keeping track of what I’ve been up to. Hence this whole thing!

That’s probably enough stuff for the week, right? Well no, I also acquired more Lego, played with our beautiful cats, sat around a lot, did some good stuff at work, and probably some other things too.


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