Archive for the ‘Random wifflings’ Category


When in York the other day I popped into Games Workshop. I usually try to go to the local GW when I’m in a town. Sometimes, I buy stuff.

As always, the store dude approaches and asks if I’m looking for anything, what army I’m into, that sort of thing. Well done GW store training programme – your store managers never fail in this regard. Partly to short-circuit the whole process, and partly because I want some recognition, dammit, I say who I am, and point out some of my books. There’s a third, slightly mischievous desire here. I do it because I want to see how the store dude reacts. Nine times out of ten there is a flicker as their mind changes gear, and their faces become neutral. A slight disengagement enters the interaction. You can see them thinking. Is he really who he says he is? Is he a lunatic? Is this a test? Sometimes that’s it. They leave me alone. (As happened in this case). Either way, BL author or a lunatic, I don’t need their enthusiastic spiel. If the shop’s less busy, after I have established that I am not, in fact, a lunatic, then conversation is forthcoming. If I were more modest, I probably would not do this at all. It’s slightly egotistical, perhaps even a little bit mean. But I don’t get out much. And writing is lonely. And I crave validation.

Sometimes, after credentials have been established, they really don’t know how to act. This is the “magic author” effect, and it happens to me sometimes. This is where folks treat you like you’re somehow special, and they say things like “You’re really talented” or somesuch, and I think, “Er, am I? Are you sure? Have you got the right man?”

Provided I don’t become convinced that the magic is real, or rather, as long as I remember that the magic might be subjectively real for the reader, but that it does not actually make me in any way special, I should avoid becoming a total knob. I’ve seen it happen many times. It can happen to anyone with even a vaguely public profile. Sometimes people buy into the magic lens they are seen through and forget the shortcomings of the person living inside their skull. This especially tragic when the person is a writer with a humble following, and not, for example, Johnny Depp.

There is only one Johnny Depp.

So we must hold on to our secret feelings of fraudulence, we writers. And I must always keep in my mind that the only magical thing about me is that I am a goblin living in a man’s world.

Lunatic and BL author. That’s probably the right internal response for future contactees.


spaceHulk_boxI spent a delightful few hours in the capital yesterday. And by that you will know I of course mean York, capital of Yorkshire, and not London, which is some big place full of bankers in another country. I was there to meet Lee Harris. Lee published my first novel, with Angry Robot, and has gone on to achieve great things. There was some talk of possible future projects. If any come to fruition I’ll let you know.

Mainly I was there in the name of having a life. After six years in the parental bunker with my son (no one gets in, no one gets out. It’s a bit like being that guy Desmond in Lost, pressing buttons, only with wailing in place of sixties hits as a soundtrack), he is now reaching an age where he is a little more independent, so I’m engaged in the pleasant process of reconstructing my social and professional networks. Baby steps – Benny is still only young and thus needs a lot of looking after – I’ve not left him to fend for himself on the streets or anything. But it is nice to get out of the house.

While in York, I picked up the Dungeons & Dragons starter set (for Benny, I’m starting him young) and also Space Hulk (for me, because I’m a terrible nerd). I missed Space Hulk last time it was released, and have regretted it ever since. This time I had to have it, although I couldn’t really afford it. (Don’t worry Mrs H, if you’re reading this I promise no hobby spending until December).

Funnily enough, I never played it the first time it was out years ago. This is despite my brother Aidan having all the expansions and everything. I dismissed it somewhat foolishly as “not proper 40k”, and to be honest the banana-fingered plastic terminators came off poorly in comparison to the metal models of the day. Forgive me, it was early days for plastics back then. Through playing it with Jes Bickham after the last release I learned that it is one of the best board games ever, so more fool me.

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Look! It’s chock full of stuff!

I bought it after a two-pint lunch, and I kind of forgot that I was cycling back from the station. Now, Space Hulk is immense. The box is large and packed topped to bottom with stuff. It is the best value gaming product I have bought this year. Great! But so full is this box that it weighs as much as a small horse. Riding a bicycle home while dangling a massive slab of a game out of one hand is not easy. There were some physics at play, pendulums and so forth, but I just about managed. I’m a real man me. Or a 41-year-old nerd struggling to get his toys home on an unsuitable mode of transport while trying not to look like an arse. I will let you, dear reader, decide


I don’t usually talk about contentious issues here. My one attempt left me quivering with anxiety. In general, I dislike arguing over complicated issues on the internet. The medium encourages foolish hyperbole. It is too swift to force proper reflection, too slow to allow timely reaction, too distancing to facilitate rapport. It makes it too easy to see those who disagree with you as enemies. Misunderstanding, tangential ranting, rage escalation, lack of complexity and outright twattery are the sorry results. And that’s just on my side. I avoid it. If you’re brave enough for it, more power to you.

Actually, the above is fairly contentious. I’ll take my initial statement back.

Never mind all that. Today Scotland is voting on independence and I want to say something, hence the exception.

I hope the Scots don’t go. If the UK breaks up, what does that say? The world’s full of states teetering on the brink of fragmentation, and fragmentation increases the scope for conflict. Britain’s time as a world power will be well and truly over. The split will be acrimonious and cripple both nations for years to come. I like Scotland. I like Scots. I never thought I’d see a time when the island of Great Britain played host to two separate states. It makes me genuinely sad. (more…)

A typically English exchange

Posted: September 12, 2014 in Random wifflings
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Today I was riding back from Benny’s school. A small white dog stepped onto the canal towpath, five or so feet from my bike. I braked gently. “Sorry,” I said to a woman with another dog coming toward me. “Sorry,” she replied.

It was the dog that surprised me. I came nowhere near it, and it was not the woman’s in any case.


October 027

Benny and Magnus in the garden of 15 Hillside View, October 2009.

I’ve been meaning to write about leaving Somerset for the last couple of months, but what with one thing and another I’ve been terribly lax. First the packing got in the way, then moving, then writing… Unforgivable. But here goes.

Emma and I first moved to Bath in 1997, when I started work on SFX magazine. I was the tender age of 23. We lived in the area for six and a half years, before leaving for Nottingham for three where I worked on White Dwarf. We returned in 2007 when I got the job on Death Ray. All in all, we spent fifteen years in Somerset. The majority of my adult life. The first stint there we lived in several places, but for the entirety of our second time we lived in a village called Peasedown St. John six miles outside of Bath, in a place called Hillside View.

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Yesterday most of us went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a favourite venue for mass family outings (and ‘most of us’ yesterday meant all five brothers, four wives/girlfriends, three of our children and my parents. One wife and child were absent). A great place to celebrate my mum’s birthday.

The sculpture below is perhaps the most striking there. Called ‘Sitting’ by Sophie Ryder, it’s a giant naked woman with a lagomorphic head, cut in two to show a man-sized cavity inside. I figured it was all about women being seen as breeding machines, like rabbits. Only it’s a hare’s head, so what do I know? Anyhow, it’s an interesting sculpture that fascinates and disturbs (or, as we said “That rabbit headed woman’s a bit freaky, int it?”).

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