Well as the title says my dad turned 80 at the weekend. He’s had his challenges, medically, over the last few years – from cancer, to COPD, and heart failure – but he’s faced them all and is still here fighting so it was wonderful to be able to gather family around and celebrate a man who has done SO much (a career that has seen him in the police, in the Royal Air Force, in the military police, been awarded medals …but, you know, most importantly, just been filled with so much love <3 ) and see him enjoy himself with everyone.
Shallow Waters is the official monthly flash fiction
challenge hosted by the award-winning Crystal Lake Publishing. Every month a
new challenge is posted online, with authors submitting via email. The best
submissions are then posted on Crystal Lake’s Patreon page, where patrons read
daily entries and vote for the winner. What you’ll find in these Shallow Waters
anthologies include the most popular of our finalists.
Proudly brought to you by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.
tl;dr – I attended WorldCon and voted in the Hugos; that is
frikkin’ awesome!!! 🙂 I met people I haven’t seen in real-life in years, I met
people I’ve only ever spoken to on-line, I met people I’ve never met before,
and I met ‘famous’ people I’ve been fans of for years. Basically, I had a FABULOUS
Now the longer version.
As I said up there, I actually managed to attend WorldCon, or
more formally the World Science Fiction Convention, is a gathering of fans of
science fiction, fantasy, horror, gaming, cosplay, etc who come together to
celebrate that in all forms but especially in literature. They are MY people;
I never thought that I would manage to get to a WorldCon,
due to logistics of distance (as they are normally thousands of miles away) and
health (as planning anything in advance around me not getting ill, or
travelling and not getting exhausted, is onerous and normally doesn’t happen anyway)
but when WorldCon was announced for Dublin I knew it was my chance …so I leapt
at it; and promptly got ill a few days before the actual Con started but,
throwing caution (and copious amounts of medication) to the wind, I travelled
down to the Dublin Convention Centre …leaving my wife and kids mid-vacation up
North… and entered a venue with thousands of other people who were like me; no,
not falling apart and ill! Geeks. Nerds. Fans!
During the four days that I was there I managed to attend a
play called ‘ConEIRE’ written by KATE LATIEY and performed by the Fox Spirit
Skulk, which was enormously funny. Many panels on such diverse subjects as ‘Irelands
Legends and Lore’; ‘Northern Irish SFF’; Fairies and Irish folklore in YA’; ‘Imagining
Disabled Futures’ (about disability and accessibility in speculative fiction); ‘Irish
Horror and the Supernatural’; ‘2000AD and the Supernatural’; and more that I am
probably forgetting. I got to attend readings by ADRAIN TCHAIKOSVKY, PEADAR O’GUILIN,
and the fabulous PETER BEAGLE who was very generous with his time, talking to
me about his work, writing habits, and life in general. I bumped into, and
briefly chatted, with both JOE HILL (I did ask him about an outstanding interview
with his dad, Stephen King 😉 ), DIANE DUANE, and GEORGE RR MARTIN, he of the
Games of Thrones. I spent a lot of time in the open area where the stalls, ‘shops’,
and information desks were talking to publishers, book-sellers, jewellers, cosplayers,
and the guys from the BIG BANG comic shop, as well as the ever lovely DECLAN
SHALVEY (still Mackenzie’s favourite artist) and KEIRON GILLON. I bumped into
GARETH POWELL, finally, after being ships in the night all convention. I got to
watch a wonderful cosplay competition called The Masquerade, one evening, which
REALLY highlighted just how talented these people are because most of the costumes/make-up
on display wouldn’t have seemed out of place on stage or screen!
And then the Hugos. I voted on work that I thought was most
worthy of winning a Hugo for the first time in my life and I felt the pressure
of doing so; this wasn’t something that I took lightly. I have to be honest and
say that I didn’t sit in the auditorium for the Hugos, even though I was
intending to …I went and had dinner with friends instead, who realised that I was
very tired and sitting alone for 3-4 hours wouldn’t have been the best thing;
they were right. We watched the
ceremony, and results, via social media instead (as I would’ve done at home 🙂
) and some of the people I wanted to win, did, and some didn’t; that’s the
Hugos. I’m still humbled to have been
part of it. I want to take this moment to say 1/ how great it was to meet
ALASDAIR STEWART, finally, in real life and 2/ that his work is amazing and he’s
a winner in my eyes!
For me though the biggest and best thing about WorldCon was
the people! Meeting people and catching up with them after years. Meeting people in real life for the first
time after years of only communicating via social media. Meeting people for the
first time ever and connecting immediately. The people made WorldCon for me
and, even a week later, I am missing their presence.
So, let’s talk about those people:
First the people that I knew in real life but hadn’t seen in
ages. That was PAT MAHER and ALLEN
STROUD, who I used to run around in muddy fields with and hit people with latex
…that isn’t as rude as it sounds, but maybe, for some, it is weird, because I
am talking about live-roleplaying.; I did say I wore my geek/nerd credentials proudly, didn’t I? Seeing both of
these guys was really nice because, obviously, nostalgia, but both are just genuinely
lovely people too; through ALLEN I also got to meet KAREN, and we spent a lot
of time discussing things very relevant to my life and my children which I am
extremely grateful for …plus, thanks to Karen, somehow, I now find myself a
member of The British Science Fiction Association 😀
Secondly, the Otherworld NI crew. This is a grouping of lovely
local people involved and invested in the SFF community and scene. JO ZEBEDEE
is at the forefront of this and while we see each other occasionally this time
we got to spend some quality time together, as well as sit in on her panels, which
was great. SAM POOTS is a dynamo who was always everywhere but, thankfully, we
got to sit and chat too. PATRICK was
running an awesome D&D game, which seemed to be running non-stop, and the
feedback I heard about it was phenomenal (I’ve even told him he needs to run it
again for us local folks 😉 ). Then there was the ever-awesome KERRY BUCHANAN
who it doesn’t matter how many times I see her she’ll always bring a smile to
my face (and a hug, of course); her panel on disability in the future was
Next – and apologies if I miss anyone (please remind me if you see this and I’ve been a ditz!) – ALL the people I finally met who I only usually spoke to online: PAUL M. FEENEY is someone that I’ve been speaking to for years now, and I’m so glad that we finally got to meet and hang out; he is an awesome writer, and awesome guy, and I hope he realises how great he is! TRACEY FAHEY is part of the Fox Spirit Skulk, a great writer, an immense intelligence and fountain of knowledge, and just such great company and fun to hang out with; even though we’d never met before this weekend it was honestly like hanging out with an old friend. Speaking of the Fox Spirit Skulk I have to say that I finally got to pledge allegiance to the benevolent dictator herself, ADELE WEARING owner/publisher of one of the best presses around, after many years of only social media communication and signing contracts for her …everyone in the Skulk, MR. FOX 😉 (TOM), MARGERT, KATE LAITY, GUSTAV, and CHLOE AND PAUL YATES were just warm, welcoming, and so much fun! PENNY AND SIMON JONES were people I hadn’t spoken to much in the past (or at all 🙂 ) but meeting them was like talking to old-friends, and the hours spent in their company was fabulous. I also finally got to meet LYNDA RUCKER in real life; she’s so cool and as much a hugger as me! 😊
…and then there was DION. I’ve been speaking to Dion,
online, on and off for more than a few years but wasn’t prepared for the force
of nature that I met; I think that I probably spent more time in his company
than anyone else’s during the four days, and it was worth it. He is a very funny guy, but also extremely
warm and caring at the same time, and it was like spending time with the best
friend that you only see every year or so, not someone you’ve just met.
Through the ever-awesome MICHAEL CARROLL (read 2000AD and
Judge Dredd folks!) I met MICHAEL SCOTT and COURTNEY DILLON and, as you do at a
convention about sci-fi and books, we talked about Buffs (bandana type scarfs),
tattoos, and martial arts; I think that I found my other tribe there 😉
I only got to see her a handful of times (her panels were
amazing; Irish horror and supernatural was extremely informative , and the
2000AD panel, with Michael and WILL SIMPSON was the BEST panel I attended 🙂 )
but MAURA MCHUGH was as lovely as ever and has to be commended for the work she
did in putting this WorldCon together; thanks Maura, personally at least, as I
had a blast!!!
Ultimately it was a great experience – though one which
physically wrecked me! 🙂 – and took me a few days to come down for the ‘bubble’
I’d been in and recover from the ‘blues’ of not being there afterwards. Everyone involved in putting it together
should take a bow because I’m sure it was like a swan for you guys – a great experience
for us and madness underneath keeping it running. Thank you for doing it!
Coming out of it I’ve been asked to write for an anthology,
been told to write/pitch a novella for a shared world thing and am pitching an
anthology I’ll edit to a publisher which hopefully will happen. Also, more
locally, I’m hoping to write stuff for a couple of magazines too (I’ve been
asked so would be rude not to).
To sum up: thoroughly enjoyed myself, a little broken by it,
people made this event what it was, and WorldCon – you rocked! 🙂
…and you have to think that this year’s Campbell Award winner Jeannette Ng, and her wonderful speech (which can be read in full here) at Dublin 2019 WorldCon, had more than a little to do with it, where she said:
“John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.
But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.
And I am so proud to be part of this. To share with you my weird little story, an amalgam of all my weird interests, so much of which has little to do with my superficial identities and labels.”
So Jeannette will now be the last recipient of the John W. Campbell Award as, moving forward, it’s going to be known as the ‘Astounding Award for Best New Writer’ – and that is a MUCH better name! 🙂
Nor Cal Mythos is an Independent Game Design Studio based out of Salinas, California. The three lead designers have degrees and education in silly things such as Literature, Liberal Studies with Human Communication, Math, Business, and much more importantly approximately 70 years of combined experience in tabletop games including world design, mythology building, and relentless tormenting of parties with endless ravenous hordes of monsters seeking their deaths.
We have experience working in education, technology, editing, and business. Even better, we coach sword fighting to 7th graders, write fantasy novels, and have been building game worlds since we were 12, and one of us may or may not be the star of a majestic internet meme (too much fun was involved to be certain, and it was 15 years ago)… and one’s a cook!
Carbyne Jungle is not the first system that we have built, but it is the first we are publishing and by far the best work we have ever done. It is the culmination of decades of experience with various systems, tweaking rulesets, and determining what we believe would be the best gaming experience possible.
In Carbyne Jungle, we created a game system designed around everything we love in RPGs.
Story: Carbyne Jungle takes place in an expansive universe filled with fantasy and sci-fi elements, a deep backstory, and a rich setting filled with quest seeds to get games going.
Options: Our characters are completely customizable. Choose between hundreds of options of backgrounds for millions of possible combinations of abilities.
Fun: We designed our game engine with three styles of gameplay for players of all skill levels, all of which can be played simultaneously. Beginners can join right into the game using a simple ruleset and not miss out on any of the fun as they learn the Stock or Strategic rules.
Unique Gameplay: In addition to traditional roleplaying, we have an autorun game for times when no one wants to GM, and a card system to assist in gameplay and in creating random dungeons. Not only that, but we built an amazing combat system that really gets players into the game.
Game Decks: Our game decks make playing simpler, are used for the Flip N Fight rule set that allows brand new gamers to jump into the RPG, and also for premade games that the entire gaming group can play. Those decks can also then be shuffled in to create random quests for players.
Don’t take our word for it. Check out the free Playtest! While stripped down compared to the regular game, it has the full rulesets and several of the species and character types of Carbyne Jungle!
Flash fiction is something that I have become very fond of; part
prose, part poetry, and all wonderful narrative, telling a story in as few words
as possible can be as rewarding as it is complex. Distilling a novel’s worth of
experience into a few pages, or even a few paragraphs, means that you must pay
attention to not just every sentence that you write, but every word that you
choose. If done properly it should reward the reader too – hopefully – with a
concise and concentrated dose of literature where, in a lot of cases, mood and
tone maters more than plot because you are starting near the end of the story
And that is what makes it so addictive, as both a writer and
reader, to keep on doing.
I’ve been very lucky to have had my shorter work – six-word
stories, drabbles (100 word), micro fiction (less than 250 words), and flash
fiction – published but, more so over the last year I’ve had the absolute pleasure
of being invited to read at Flash Fiction Armagh events in various venues in
Northern Ireland. On the 19th September 2019 I’m going to do it
This time I’m going to be reading a dark fantasy/speculative
fiction piece (with a splash of humour thrown in for good measure), called ‘Playing
Both Sides’ which I wrote during Pride month and plays on my love of geekdom
and the underdog.
Flash Fiction Armagh this time takes place as part of the
award-winning Armagh Food and Cider Festival; the readings take place in a
teepee in the grounds of Crannagael House, which should be amazing! It promises
to be a lot of fun, with cider tasting, locally sourced food, music, and of
course all of the fabulous stories from the amazing writers (and me 🙂 ):
Gaynor Kane At Castleward
Maria Mc Gilly Green and Bitter
Csilla Toldy Wallflower
Jay Faulkner Playing Both Sides
Rachel Toner On The Shelf
Kerry Buchannan The Ages of Nan
Tim Hanna The Birds
Rosemary Tumilty The Homecoming
Ellie Rose Mc Kee The Caller
Brid McGinley Dogs in Space
Gerry Mc Cullough Not Quite Dead
Lorna Flanagan Boots Trudged Across the Yard
Yvonne Boyle The Silver Casino PlayerGary Hunter Rain and Smoke
With thanks, as always, to Byddi Lee and Réamonn Ó Ciaráin,
the organisers of Flash Fiction Armagh, for this opportunity!
The drone incident at Gatwick is the most disruptive airport trespass in UK history, and authorities have stated that (obviously) it is intentional but have stopped short at calling it a ‘terrorist’ act.
Gatwick’s runway has been shut since Wednesday night; About 110,000 passengers on 760 flights were cancelled at one of the UK’s busiest airports, having a knock-on effect across, literally, the world.
The Army has been called in to assist Sussex Police in the incident with helicopters and even snipers on the lookout for the perpetrators and potentially shooting down the drones.
In the past terrorists used guns and bombs to take lives but also to instil fear and disrupt elements of the running of critical national infrastructure and just our way of life. When this became harder to do they started using cars and vans to drive into crowded public areas, or attack us with knives and other ‘at hand’ weapons, again to not just take lives and injure, but to cause fear and disrupt our way of life.
… one of the UK’s busiest airports, a part of the Country’s Critical National Infrastructure and a gateway to Europe and the rest of the World, is currently shut down. There are approximately 11,000 people stuck at the airport and ten times that many people who simply have been left abandoned from their destinations. They been left in fear too because the news reports are saying how easy it would be for a drone to take down a plane; to cause a plane to crash. They are in fear because they are seeing armed police men in the grounds of the airport and Army snipers. They are seeing police helicopters. And they are far from home and stuck with nowhere to go.
If that isn’t the definition of ‘terror’ then I don’t know what is.
If terrorists started with bombs and guns, then moved to cars, vans and knives, could they now have moved to drones …to toys …to take down a massive part of the British transport system, right before Christmas, and instill a new type of chaos and fear, with such ease?
You know that advert, by Iceland (UK supermarket) – at the bottom of the post – which has been banned for being ‘too political’? Well it has made me think about the products which we use which contain palm oil in one form or another, and how I’m not doing enough to reduce what I use or at least try to start using products which are sourced/produced in a responsible manner.
I mean did you know that palm oil is the MOST widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet? It’s also in about HALF of all packaged products sold in the supermarket. The thing is that it isn’t always clearly labelled as palm oil so we don’t even know that is what we are buying! Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names, including: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol.
Seriously how many of us (unless we have life threatening allergies) really take time to look into, let alone understand, food labelling when it is as detailed as that?
Sometimes, it can be clearly labelled as ‘palm oil’ but it will be in the small print and only say it ‘contains’ and won’t be up in the major ingredients list so its easy to miss.
The thing about palm oil is that it grows in tropical rainforests, the habitat of endangered species, including the ‘rang-tangs’ or orangutans in the adverts, but also tigers, elephants and rhinos but also insects and flora as well as tress themselves that are cleared to make way for fore ‘harvesting’ of the oil.
Palm oil is NOT necessary in anything it is used for, it is simply useful: in some chocolate it is used in it makes it look shinier and helps it keep from melting for longer in higher temperatures; in lipstick it keeps it glossy and helps reduce it’s taste; in margarine it keeps it solid at room temperature; in ice-cream it makes it smooth and creamy; in instant noodles it helps pre-cook them so all you have to do is add water.
The list goes on but, simply put, palm oil helps make human life easier while DESTROYING pretty much all other life we take it from.
We DON’T need it!
The thing is, us humans don’t even need to cut it out of our lives completely either because that might be too difficult, and it also might put a lot of people out of jobs that they rely on to survive. What everyone CAN do, however, is to try to only buy products which were produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. If you can’t find the RSPO label then look for the Green Palm label! This label indicates products in support of the transition to certified palm oil. Proceeds from Green Palm certificates help growers fund the transition to sustainable palm oil. Both of these things will go a LONG way to help.
Also, if you live in the UK shop in Iceland and especially use Iceland’s own products because they won’t be using palm oil in ANY of their stuff from now on and that is an amazing thing so support them!!!
A Facebook friend in America has just posted that one of the drugs she takes for her myasthenia, a drug I also have to take, has increased from $14.70 to over $403 per month!
That’s a life saving at best, or life changing at worst, drug that’s being priced out of people’s range so companies can profit and screw the humans who are suffering as a result.
They’re not even pretending to provide health insurance anymore, let alone health care, it’s now just health for profit and if you can’t afford it is bankruptcy, suffering, or death. No civilised country should treat its people like this, but then I suppose that’s a very clear sign of spotting an uncivilised society when money and profit is worth more than peoples’ lives.
Thankfully, for now at least, the UK still has the NHS, where health care is seen as a basic human right, not a privilege, and it’s paid for and supported via taxation (not free as too many journalists mistakenly state) or otherwise, if I had to pay $403 a month for just ONE of my tablets – and then who knows how much for the other nine (including an opiate based one which I’m sure wouldn’t be cheap) – it wouldn’t matter that I earn a more than comfortable living, I couldn’t afford just my monthly medicine. The medicine that keeps me healthy. Keeps me functioning. Keeps me alive.
If I had to pay for my monthly medicines I’d be bankrupt fast, and suffering soon after. Then I’d probably be dead.
And I’m what’s probably best referred to as a high functioning disabled person.
There are people with more medical demands than me. There are people with less money than me. There are people with a combination of both.
So, if the UK ever goes down the route were it allows health care to become a for profit business, where a medicine or a prescription that one month cost £14 pounds suddenly, the next month, cost £400, the same as a mortgage payment, for ONE drug, people will go bankrupt. People will suffer. People will die.
And the scary thing is the fact that this practice in America is not just allowed, but openly tolerated and flouted as one of the world’s best health care systems, should be terrifying because the UK, and it’s Government, is slowly but surely privatising disparate parts of the NHS off; they are opening to tender whole dialysis units and allowing them to be run by private companies; whole hospitals are being built, managed, and run, by private trusts; and bit by bit the NHS as we know it is disappearing as the Government decries the missed targets and long waiting lists, but constantly underfunded and undercuts it, deliberately weakening it while giving more and more to the profit making private sectors.
So while we look on in horror at America when essential medicines increase ten or a hundred fold, and wonder just how the Martin Shreklis of the world could come to be, we have to be careful that we aren’t neglecting to keep an eye on our own back yard, and the slowly disappearing NHS because, one day, it could be us realising we can no longer afford our life changing, our life saving, medicine. But, by then, it’ll be far too late.
Through my whole career with Probation in Northern Ireland, from the moment I filled in the application form, I have been honest and upfront about my political and religious leanings and filled in my ‘Monitoring Form’ (where details about my ‘background’ such as gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, disabled status, etc are captured) completely honestly.
Northern Ireland is rather peculiar about the religious aspect in particular, as they try to force you to put Protestant or Catholic, even when you are not, and what you are ‘perceived’ as being depending where you went to school or lived. As I have no religious persuasion at all, and have moved around various countries, and many schools (including, state, catholic run, and public/boarding) I thought that I had passed their idiotic grilling 16 years ago when I pointed out that I was indeed an agnostic, I did indeed have family of both religions, I did indeed go to schools run by both (and neither) religions, and lived in an area which was neither predominantly Catholic nor Protestant and, also, as I had lived extensively outside of Northern Ireland and could be perceived as English, British, or even European in background, I didn’t think there was an issue …in fact I had even been ‘used’ in recruitment panels as ‘other’ when there was an imbalance in religion members on the panel.
I’ve also made a conscious effort to advocate for integration in Northern Ireland, putting both my kids to school where religion isn’t the driving factor (like in the majority of segregated schools here) and have discussed/argued extensively with MPs, MLAs, and Ministers on the topic.
So imagine my surprise (horror and disgust) to find out today that someone, at sometime, has taken it upon themselves to choose my community background/religion for me as ‘protestant’?! Not only that but when I raised it with HR I was told that it may not be changeable because it is now a matter of public record with the Equality Commission.
…i was told that perhaps someone decided I was ‘perceived’ to come from that background after all and they should have notified me. Well screw that. I don’t actually give a damn on either front. No-one has the right to decide that for me in the first place, it is MY choice what – if any – religion or background I have and, NO-ONE notified me about anything or I would have put a stop to it back then.
As for not being able to change it …WATCH ME!!!
If someone had decided my gender or sexuality for me, or decided not to accept my choice, do you think that we’d be having this conversation now? No, I don’t think so! So why should my religion/background be any different?
Also, for whatever reason – despite my disability being announced and known about in a business/corporate setting since 2001 (and me falling afoul of HR/sickness policies since then to date thanks to my disabilities) in the HR monitoring details I am not listed as being a disabled member of staff either.
So, looks like monitoring and correct capturing of information matters …but only when it matters to them!!!