New Story: Memory Spider

Happy new year! My short story “Memory Spider” is now up at Abyss&Apex. It’s about mourning the dead, life with a famous parent, and a giant robot spider (but don’t worry, she’s friendly)

Editor Wendy Delmater had this to say about the story on Facebook:
““This is, to me, a quintessential A&A story. If you want to know what we buy? Study it.”

Click here to read the story for free

LEXX 3.06: K-Town

The LEXX crew are forced to from the inhabitants of K-Town (whose schtick is that they like throwing rocks at people) through a warren of brutalist tunnels, and before you can say, “has this series made enough of the concept of everyone in the Light Zone having a Dark Zone double?” they’ve encountered the Dark Zone double of Mantrid, and have to enlist his help in rebooting Light-Zone Kai.

For me this was the weakest episode so far, partly because it’s the first one that’s had serious continuity with Season Two, and I confess I’m starting to forget some of the details.

On the plus side, the location footage is great, and there’s some, erm, pornographic surrealism as we find out that Kai’s control switches are located in an area which for most men is simply a *metaphorical* control switch, and Xev, well, literally turns him on.

LEXX: 3.05: Gondola

All the regular and recurring characters bar our-universe-Kai and May are attempting to fly over the deserts of Fire in an air balloon that’s sinking rapidly, and before you can say “isn’t this the LEXX version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 survival movie Lifeboat?” they’re facing the problem of which of them to throw overboard so the rest of them can survive. There’s some good twists, particularly regarding the identity of the inevitable traitor. I’m rather liking how the longer series-arc format is allowing the writers time to take diversions, and the practice of reincarnation on the part of some of the people of Fire and Water is shaping up as a surprisingly versatile recurring plot device.

LEXX 3.04: Boomtown

And before you can say “Didn’t Russell T. Davies write a story by that name?” I can answer, “LEXX beat him to the punch by eight years”. Also, even though there’s at least once instance of LEXX doing a story which anticipates a RTD one surprisingly well, this one has nothing in common with the Doctor Who episode bar the name.

Anyway, this one does have more of a plot than last episode. Civil war breaks out on Fire as Duke squares off against Prince, and we learn that everyone in the Light Universe has a Dark Universe double, yes, even Kai. Meanwhile, on Water, the crew of the LEXX have sex with the locals in various ways and combinations. I’d say this one was entertainingly bonkers, in all senses of the word.

Also: shoutout to Bunny, who will be one of the few reasons to watch Season 4.

Guest blogging on “Gangsters”

This month, I’m guest blogging for the Oxford Doctor Who Society about one of my very favourite series: “Gangsters”, the Birmingham-made surrealist postcolonial crime drama you might not have heard of, but which runs through the DNA of every series you love, including Doctor Who! Read it here— you can buy a print copy of the society magazine at the link too!

LEXX 3.02: May

I’d expected the series to play with parallel storylines– Stan and Xev on Fire, Kai and 790 on Water– for longer, but Kai finds a damsel in distress, the titular May, and before you can say “that makes sense in the context of developing parallel narratives, Prince as a love-interest for Xev and May for Kai,” Kai is off Water and meeting up with the others pretty fast, so that’s the end of that.

We don’t actually learn a lot about Water, and certainly it’s unclear which, if any, of the narratives the characters spin about it are true (May, apparently the Water equivalent of Prince, is no less manipulative). We do learn that Prince can regenerate, and possibly May can too. Kai definitely gets all the lines this episode, but Xev seems to have developed a terminal case of naivete, apparently falling in love with Prince despite him being clearly dodgy AF. I should say, though, that I’m really being won over by Xenia Seeberg’s performance as Xev; she slithers about like a lizard and sniffs people and things in a credibly non-human way.

Finally, the crew of the LEXX appear to have abandoned their mission to roam the universe trying to get laid, presumably because they’ve got enough opportunities where they are.

Where I am at British FantasyCon

I’m off to British FantasyCon! I’m on two panels, Representing Sexuality (Saturday 1:30 PM) and “No, Seriously, We Have Always Fought: Developing Historical Awareness in SFF” (Saturday 6 PM).

To explain the latter, it’s to discuss strategies for making people aware of older SFF works that deal with what people think of as “modern” themes, without dismissing the experiences of newer SFF readers or falling into the trap of prescribing a “canon” of literature.

Otherwise, I’ll be helping out with the Eastercon 2024/Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid table intermittently throughout the event, so if you want to say hi, come round!

LEXX 2.12: “Norb”

The LEXX pick up Norb, the child who escaped the hillbilly clans in episode 2.8, drifting in space, and before you can say “it’s been a while since they touched base with the Mantrid storyline,” he turns out to be an undead Trojan horse for Mantrid’s self-replicating autonomous zombie arms.

This story has some great moments of genuine horror, with the sense of strangeness reinforced by the fact that, 790’s usual protestations of love for Xev aside, this is a completely sex-free episode. On the downside, they again have more episode than plot, and while the effects are again on the upward curve there’s some rather obvious repetition of footage.

LEXX 2.11: “Nook”

The LEXX discovers an all-male monastic society who reproduce by cloning and have never seen a woman in real life, and before you can say “party’s at Xev’s place!” it is. A generally cheerful, life-affirming, sex-positive and even queer-positive story (Stan initially rebuffs the advances of one of the monks, but eventually decides, Chuck Tingle fashion, that love is love), with an interesting philosophical twist (the monks are the guardians of all the knowledge in the universe, but only one of them’s allowed to actually know what it is– and he’s the one who disapproves of all this sexual hedonism). I also liked the implication that Stan is getting over the trauma of his previous same-sex encounters and is at least theoretically capable of forming a positive relationship with a man. The CGI backgrounds are outstanding, but Kai seems to be bizarrely in angry mode, and also strangely insistent that only heterosexual sex can lead to reproduction, which is surprising since at least three of the people he shares a ship with weren’t created through it.

The Whitby and the Whitby

I’ve just come back from my first holiday outside the house since 2019, namely a week in Whitby, Yorkshire.

Unexpectedly, Whitby turns out to be very much like the overlapping cities in China Mieville’s novel The City and the City (Wikipedia link if you haven’t read it and want a quick summary). In that you are either Here For A Seaside Holiday, or you are a Goth. And people from both groups walk in the same spaces, go to the same attractions, eat at the same restaurants, and yet do not acknowledge each other’s existence.

This insight brought to you after the umpteenth time of being blanked by a citizen of Ul Seaside, since apparently I live in Gothzel, and to see me would cause them to commit Breach.

This is also not a matter of self-assigning necessarily, nor is it possible to belong to both Whitby simultaneously. I expected to be able to speak with the citizens of Ul Seaside at least when I was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, but it seems that if those jeans are purple and the T-shirt depicts Dolores Abernathy from the television series Westworld, you are too Goth for Ul Seaside and are immediately consigned to Gothzel.

There seems to be one time when it’s legitimately possible to do this (apart from if you’re a shopkeeper, who seem to be able to sell to anyone), and that’s when you’re admiring someone’s dog. You can cross over and say “who’s a lovely Staffie then?” But after that it’s back to your Whitby, and stay there.