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So, that was 2014

2014 was a mixed year, for me. The year started well, work-wise, but after a short while, background issues at one of Angry Robot’s sister companies caused the investment company who owned the Group to re-evaluate its presence in publishing, and although Angry Robot was a profitable imprint, the owners decided to act like complete arseholes and thus a period of several months of anguish began. It’s worth noting that Osprey (the most senior of AR’s sister companies) behaved professionally, throughout, with the exception of one senior member of staff, who had been thrust into a situation beyond his ability to manage (the Peter Principle in full effect, here), and so he – along with the investors he reported to – made a number of very bizarre calls. That was a very bleak few months, as we were largely kept in the dark as to the overall plans for the group, and what little we were told, we were prevented from relaying to our authors and their agents. I’ve moved away from Angry Robot, but I still keep an eye on them, and I’m delighted by the fact that they were bought out by someone who actually has a love of publishing, and not a quorum of bankers looking for a quick buck, with no regard for the actual people involved. Long may Angry Robot sail the publishing oceans!

In May, Tor.com announced a new novella programme, and announced they were looking for a team to run it, including a Senior Editor. The job looked like it had been plucked directly from my subconscious, and so, despite the fact that they wanted someone based in New York, I decided to apply for it. Weeks of interviews commenced, and in early July I was offered the role. At one heartbreaking meeting with my friend and mentor, Marc Gascoigne, I handed in my notice at Angry Robot (the only company in my working life I have ever been sad to leave). It was a very difficult decision, but I couldn’t pass up what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to found a new imprint with the best major genre publisher in the world! Naturally, the timing was unfortunate (Angry Robot was working through its issues at the time), and naturally, a bunch of people added 2 and 2 and reached 7.6, but the move was the right one for me, at this stage in my career.

I joined Tor.com in August, the day before the World Science Fiction Convention descended on London. It was a good WorldCon (see my report, here). What made it extra-special for me this year (apart from the exciting new gig) was my Hugo nomination. In 2014 I became the first ever British editor to be nominated for a Hugo. Which was kinda cool. From the instant I heard about the other nominees, I pegged Ginja Buchanan as the winner, and win she did. That I was convinced she would win took all of the stress away from the event, and I was able to enjoy the ceremony without any of those frustrating “what if I were to win?” concerns. I do hope that another Brit is nominated next year – there are so many that are way more deserving than I (though I won’t decline if I’m nominated, again). Odd to think that I’m still eligible for Best Editor (Long Form) this year and next, due to books I’ve already worked on, and next year I’ll move into the eligibility for the Short Form category, where the competition is just as scarily tough!

In September I Chaired my first convention – FantasyCon in York. There were a number of behind-the-scenes problems that were stressful, but dealt with (largely by the brilliant front-of-house Redcloak team). A significant number of people told me it was their favourite convention to date (or favourite FantasyCon), so that helped.

The only other major event of 2014 happened in December, when my Dad died. I won’t write of it, here, as I blogged about it, already.

So, what about 2015?

Well, I want to lose some weight (2 stone would be good – that’s about 12 kilos), and get fitter (I ran a lot in the second half of 2014, but it dropped off a bit). I’m also going to be at my first Guest of Honour gig at CONvergence in July (the single best convention I have ever attended, and easily my favourite).

And, of course, the first novellas I have acquired (with my brilliant assistant, Carl Engle-Laird) will come out (this coming summer).

It’s going to be an exciting 2015, folks!

 

 

Bacon journalism at its best

bacon_sandwich_1379365cIt’s time to talk about that most important of subjects – bacon sandwiches at York train station. It’s unbelievable that a scandal of this proportion has not been picked up by the national media. I blame the Tories, myself.

For the weary traveller, there is nothing quite like a bacon sandwich to help kickstart your day (with tomato ketchup as the first stretch goal). So important is the bacon sandwich to the national psyche, that even vegetarians who fancy one every now and then would find that everyone else turns a blind eye, whistling, while pretending there’s something really interesting in the corner of the room – right there, by the ceiling.

It is with much regret, therefore, that I have to inform you that a good hot bacon sandwich is nowhere to be found at York train station.

Oh, it’s not for want of retail outlets – there are several options if you fancy a nibble of a bacon sarnie. No – the problem is that none of them are any good.

Let’s take a look at the main contenders:

The West Cornish Pasty Company
These sell bacon rolls by the bucketload. Unfortunately, they make so many, so far in advance, that they have to keep them warm under a heat lamp. This means that by the time you get to the station to buy one – even before 6.00am – the rolls have crisped up under the heat, feeling dry and stale, even if they were fresh that morning. Every now and then you’ll get one where the bread is soft and fresh to the touch, but it’s a game of Russian Bacon Roulette – and are you really willing to gamble on this most important of breakfast snacks?
3/10

Burger King
I’m one of the 1.07% of people that actually like Burger King breakfasts. Unfortunately the York station Burger King is never open when I get to the station in the morning. I know they do open – I’ve seen them after my return journeys. And on the (extremely) few occasions where I’ve bought anything from them they’ve always appeared to cook the food to order, which is a good thing in a sit-down restaurant, but less-so in a (theoretically) fast-food takeaway.
0/10

The Upper Crust
Everything always seems fresh at this stand. Good news for the bacon aficionado, surely? Oh, how I wish! Upper Crust bacon sandwiches come with scrambled egg (yay!). Unfortunately, the scrambled egg is of a powdery consistency that crumbles out of the sandwich when you bite into it. Not that it’s any great loss, as the flavor appears to have been extracted from the egg with scientific precision. And what of the bacon? Ah, well here’s where the real disappointment lies. The pieces of bacon in Upper Crust sandwiches are so thin one can only assume that they must have been sliced under laboratory conditions using unfathomably expensive equipment. Just because we can cut material to two atoms’ thickness, doesn’t mean we should! And the bread? Well, the baguettes they present are perfectly acceptable, but they are never sliced all of the way through – or even most of the way. This means that half of the width of the sandwich is bread only, and the other half is overfilled with the powdery egg stuff, on which is balanced the less-than-paper-thin rashers of bacon. Disappointing. The bread is responsible for most of this sandwich’s score.
4/10

Pumpkin
One of those pre-wrapped microwavable sandwich things, beloved of no-one, and only ever purchased out of sheer desperation. Feels like it’s been grown in a vat and been given the all-clear by a quality control specialist who only ever once read about a sandwich in an old book.
3/10

East Coast Trains’ on-train sandwiches
Until recently these were perfectly adequate snacks. Freshly toasted bread in a choice of white or brown, with optional slices of tomato. Nothing wildly exciting about them, but they were decent enough. Unfortunately, East Coast must have realised that their bacon sarnies were not universally despised, and decided to do something about it. Now, instead of a choice of bread you get a panini. Nothing wrong with a good panini, of course, but now they’re not toasted – they’re microwaved (and nothing says fuck-you to your customers quite like microwaved bread). Microwaved paninis are tough to eat – rubbery, with a soggy undercarriage (and a soggy undercarriage is beloved of no-one). So, no choice of bread, and an inappropriate method of heating. Anything else? Oh, yes – they’ve taken away your tomato option. You can’t have it, you’re not to be trusted with it. And in removing your choice of bread, your choice of tomato and the grilling facilities they’ve increased the price by 50p! Well, they’re going to have to pay for extra customer complaints staff somehow, aren’t they?
Previously 6.5/10 but now
3/10

And so concludes this exposé of York train station hot bacon sandwiches. I’m surprised Louis Theroux didn’t get here first!

A poem wot I didn’t nick

Based on this story from This Is Cornwall:

A prize-winning poem in a prestigious West Country literary competition has caused a storm – because it bears a striking resemblance to an earlier work… Apart from a handful of words, the poems are the same, word for word.

There once was a poet called Ward
Who refused to lay down on his sword.
When accused as a fake
He claimed “Just a mistake”
When he’d stolen a poem from Mort. 

Now, from whom do I claim my prize?

What I want to do this year

I suppose you could call them resolutions, but as I don’t make New Year Resolutions (I only make promises to myself that just happen to begin around the beginning of January), I’m going to call them targets. Or goals. Or something else. Whatevs.

So, this year I aim to:

Exercise more
By “more”, I of course mean “some”. I did appallingly, last year. I had a couple of trips to Go Ape (superb fun – go do it if you’re in the UK) but that’s about it. I need to exercise. Which leads neatly into:

Lose some weight
By “some” I mean “quite a bit, and hopefully close to three stone”.

and finally:

Read more books for pleasure
I love my job, I really do, but I do find it difficult to find time to read books other than for work. I have a colleague who reads around a hundred a year – that’s not possible with a family and a job like mine, but I should be able to do better than last year’s paltry three.

So – one a month minimum. And at least 75% of the books I read this year will be books by friends, as I have plenty of those on my to-read shelves.

That’s it – move along, now. Nothing more to see, here.

Lee’s been a silly boy

Note: This blog post originally featured on my LiveJournal (remember those?) page on January 28th, 2010, but I don’t use LJ, now.

 

So, a couple of weeks ago I published a very silly, and very flawed opinion piece on the SFX website about the Best Editor (Long Form) category in the Hugo awards. The piece was ill thought-through, and was – quite rightly – scorned by a number of professional editors. The crux of the piece was that the work of an editor is largely invisible, and that voters have little way of knowing a) what books an editor edited, and b) the amount of difference they made to a particular book.

Well, a) is reasonably easy to find if you care to look – there’s a Wikipedia page that encourages publishers to list their editors’ titles, and you often only have to look at the acknowledgments section of a book to see the editor thanked by the author (not always, but often enough that it’s a good metric) and b) the actual editing part of an editor’s day is just a small piece of the work they do to help a book on its way to the bookstores – the fact that a book reaches the shelves at all is a major indication of the faith and editor has in – and the work an editor performs behind the scenes on – that particular book.

So, no – the Best Editor (Long Form) category isn’t as straightforward to vote in as, say, Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) or Best Short Story, but it’s a valuable way to thank the editors for the work they do in publishing the very best books they can. And for the avoidance of doubt, I’ve already chosen the editors I’ll be nominating, this year.

And in the (highly unlikely) event of me ever being nominated for such a thing, I will accept my good fortune with good grace, and feel ridiculously embarrassed by my rather daft blog post.

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