I’d probably have a whole other list if I did this next month, but I thought it’d be fun to rattle through my five favourite podcasts right now, off the top of my head. I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, so there’s an absolute heap of deserving stuff I’m not mentioning, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And one other thing: these aren’t exactly recommendations. I’m entirely ignoring the question of whether these particular podcasts might appeal to anyone other than me. They appeal to me enormously, for sometimes personal or idiosyncratic reasons, and that’s all it takes to get them on this list … you have been warned …

In no particular order:

Revolutions – a great history podcast that’s working it’s way through a load of the world’s most significant revolutions, one per season. The British Civil War and American Revolution have been covered, now we’re deep into the big daddy of revolutions: the French. Each episode is reasonably short, the tone is accessible and very appealing. Full of fascinating details and wry humour. Great.

Let’s Talk Comics – there’s no particular shortage of interview podcasts relating to comics out there, and I listen to several, at least now and again. This one is frequent, well-produced and delivers pretty meaty interviews with a pretty wide range of people involved in the mainstream comics industry: artists, writers, publishers etc etc. Tends to take a life-story approach, and it’s always interesting to hear how people first got started in the medium, as both reader and professional creators.

Hello Internet – some folks will just not like this one, I suspect. It’s a fine example of the ‘two guys talking’ podcasting school. No specific theme, though many recurring topics, so its appeal depends entirely on how interesting or engaging you find the two guys and the subjects they choose to talk about. Me, I’m interested and engaged. These guys make their livings from their YouTube channels (in fact, they’re both quite famous YouTubers), and I find stuff relating to that fascinating when it comes up. One of them also has a highly distinctive and structured view of the world and of life that you may or may not always agree with (or even find palatable) but it makes for entertaining, thought-provoking and often amusing listening at times.

Wait, What? – my favourite comics-related podcast. I like it so much I pay for it, via Patreon! Another entry in the ‘two guys talking’ category, this time talking very specifically about comics. All sorts of comics. It’s sometimes meandering, sometimes tangential, sometimes doing a deep-dive into stuff I know very little about, but for whatever reason I always enjoy it.

TetZoo – and here we are at the quirkily unique end of the podcasting spectrum. What’s podcasting for if it can’t produce the kind of audio you just would never, ever hear anywhere else? This is a scientific podcast with a focus on tetrapod (i.e. anything with four limbs) zoology. I’ve got a lot of zoology in my educational background, so I can follow most of what’s going on, but fair warning: quite a bit of jargon is involved. However, because this is podcasting rather than radio, there’s also a lot of silly humour, cryptozoology, sf movie talk, running jokes, vaguely disorganised unprofessionalism. I really like it. Once again, it’s ‘two guys talking’, and it’s very like eavesdropping on them just having a rambling chat in the pub.

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This is the week – I think technically this is the very day, in fact – when The Free becomes an actually published book you can buy and read. It’s out there, online or bookshops, ready and waiting for you, right now! It’s in print, e-book and – an enjoyable first for me – audiobook format. I’d love to hear from anyone who listens to it, incidentally: fascinating to know how it works in audio for the new reader/listener.

Some folks have said nice things about it, if you need encouragement:

‘ … mesmerizing, magical and human.’Publisher’s Weekly starred review

‘ … complicated characters and vivid descriptions elevate this far above run-of-the-mill epic fantasy.’ - Library Journal starred review

‘ … a gripping read … a lot of fun …’Graeme’s SFF

‘ … a blast to read, merging the standard medieval fantasy with Seven Samurai, complete with phenomenal set pieces of warfare and magic.’- Staffer’s Book Review

You can even go read the whole first chapter, entirely for free (appropriately enough), over at the Orbit Books website. That’s got to be worth a try, right?

If you really want to make happy, though, the solution is simple: buy the book!

The Free Cover gif

The Free Cover gifAs with all my books, my local specialist sf/f bookshop, Transreal Fiction, offers a handy-dandy service for those interested in buying The Free: signing, dedicationing, personalising, that kind of thing.

If you’re at all interested in getting a copy that has been defaced adorned with scrawlings by my own fair hand, check out the options available at the Transreal website. For the measly price of cover price plus post & packing, you can require me to sign, dedicate or otherwise inscribe a brand-new copy of The Free just for you.

It’s a win-win, you know? Get yourself a unique copy of the book, support a real-life bricks and mortar store, entertain me. Smiles all round.

The Free is not the only book I’ve got out this autumn, you know. Oh, no. The Free‘s just my October book; my September book (i.e. this very month!) is a handsome collected edition of the comic I wrote earlier this year: Rogue Trooper: Last Man Standing.

I’m quite proud of it, to be honest. Future war, lone warrior, talking gun, conspiracies and chaos. How can that not sound like fun to any right-thinking reader?

RT-Vol1-cover-gif

You can get it in paper-and-ink form or e-form alike, and if you’re tempted but need a little help taking that all important next step of ordering the thing, here’s a nice succinct five star review from bigcomicpage.com to do the helping.

Here it is on Wordery, look (I know the cover’s different, but that’s it, honestly). I really am being helpful today. I might need to go have a little lie down.

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Well, the title says it all really.

More info to come, though. Stay tuned.

Or if you don’t need more info, you could pre-order it of course. That would be nice. Maybe at wordery.com? (free world-wide shipping, you know!)

More photos! Those who follow me on twitter might have seen one or two of these already, but here they all are together. Photos from a recent visit to Jupiter Artland, a cool privately-run art park/estate just outside Edinburgh. It’s a place with a fantastical, surreal vibe – big art installations scattered through the landscape, mostly wooded, nestling in with Nature.

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Took a little break in a nice bit of Scotland last week: Aberfeldy, which is in one of my favourite – because pretty and loaded with Nature – areas of the country.

Cue photos of the Birks of Aberfeldy, a wooded gorge (birks = birches) made famous by one Robert Burns who visited and wrote a song about the place. There’s a statue of him there in the woods, sitting contemplatively in the dappled sunlight. Nice.

Nice that they put the great man on a bench, so that you can sit beside him, don’t you think?

Couple of verses, just to round things off:

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the crystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

While o’er their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blythely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

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Time to get back to the blogging business, I think. And here’s some trailers to grease the rusty wheels.

Hellblazer was one of the more important comics of the 1980s, for my money. It was one of the key foundation stones of DC’s Vertigo imprint, which punched way above its weight in terms of profile and significance in the industry as a whole. And it was a bit of a flagship for the transformative ‘British invasion’ of the US comics scene.

It had a damp squib of a Keanu Reeves film adaptation, under the title of its lead character Constantine, a while back (which I confess I always thought was sort of not totally terrible as a movie, just not very good as a Hellblazer movie). Now it’s coming to TV – again as Constantine. The first trailer, a few weeks back, didn’t really do much for me but now there’s trailer v2.0 and it’s looking better, if you ask me. I might actually be able to get on board with this …

And talking about things that were important in their time, they don’t come much more important for me personally than Mad Max. The first two films – let us not speak of the third, which was a sad misfire if you ask me – made a big impression on young me when I saw them, videotaped of course. A new outing for the franchise has been floating on the horizon for years, tantalisingly never quite coming to fruition. Well, now it’s actually going to happen, in the shape of Mad Max: Fury Road and here’s what it’s going to look like:

More promising than I feared, even if not quite everything I would have hoped. Looks to be plugging right into the vibe of Mad Max 2, and doing it with a certain style – the visuals and the music are on the moody money, I’d say. Plenty of tone and ‘voice’ in there. The actual action that dominates the trailer looks a bit less moody and a bit more in-your-face, though – I kind of hope the final movie isn’t just wall to wall chasing and driving and mayhem (fun, and indeed essential, as all that is), and retains something of the bleak tone hinted at in the trailer. But hey: it’s Mad Max, it’s Tom Hardy and it looks interesting. That’s enough to put a smile on my face.

Truly, and I mean this without a trace of irony or sarcasm or exaggeration, we live in an age of total, unremitting sf, fantasy and horror saturation. We – those of us who always liked this stuff – are not so much inheriting the media world as consuming it, monopolising it.

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I’ve been slowly sinking further into the Twitter lark over the past few months. Baby steps, you know? But I’m really quite immersed now. Which is another way of saying: if you’re actually curious about what I’m doing, seeing, thinking etc., you should probably follow me on Twitter these days. I show up over there a whole lot more than here nowadays.

As a sampler, just three things I’ve talked about, or tweeted about, or retweeted over there of late:

An Inventory of crap on the ocean floor.

A vaguely surreal, cumulatively creepy drive through the streets of the world capital of mad and sad: Pyongyang, North Korea. The longer I watched it, the more I found myself thinking ‘this is just … weird.’ So clean, so empty, so lifeless. So few people.

See what fun I’m having over there? Honestly, this is what fun looks like. Really. Anyway, feel free to follow my fun.

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Found this thanks to a recommendation on the TetZoo podcast. It’s strange, striking and I like it quite a bit.

Sounds like a hybridisation of rap and ancient poetic story-telling, looks like a creepy monster horror movie waiting to be made. It’s by a guy called Brian Engh, who describes himself as a freelance artist/musician/monsterologist, and his website is alarmingly easy to spend a lot of time exploring and enjoying. Seems like a multi-talented fellow.

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