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Séance Fiction

Writers’ Bloc Presents:-

AN EVENING OF LITERARY NECROMANCY

31 OCTOBER – HALLOWEEN

THE BONGO CLUB

EDINBURGH

Doors – 7pm

Show – 7:30PM-10PM, £4 (£3)

WARNING: This show contains literary necromancy.

Not suitable for those of a nervous disposition.

WRITERS’ BLOC is Edinburgh’s premier spoken-word performance group, with a ten-year legacy of innovative and entertaining shows showcasing some of the capital’s foremost fiction writers. Recent shows include: Electric Lit Orchestra, part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Unbound strand; Brave New Words at the Edinburgh Science Festival; and FANtasia at Eastercon, the British National Science Fiction Convention, in London. Other events have ranged from Mr Big Society to The Slime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Doyle M for Murder (part of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature programme).

Now in preparation is a daring, dangerous and diabolical show for Halloween.

In the months running up to All Hallows’ Eve, the members of Writers’ Bloc have been contacting the spirits of the dead – invoking the shades of literary giants, and using spirit guides to produce terrifying tales of The Other Side.

On Halloween, Writers’ Bloc invites you to a thrilling live séance at The Bongo Club. Using black magic and cutting-edge technology, Bloc will command the dead to speak, or at least tip some literary tables over. You will see them rise from the grave, and catch a thrilling glimpse of the ghosts, demons and bogles who reside beyond this mortal coil.

Come and witness the birth of a new literary movement: SÉANCE FICTION.

www.writers-bloc.org.uk. You can also find us on Facebook.

Halting State by Charles Stross

Orbit, 2010, 376p, plus author interview.

 Halting State cover

Since Christopher Priest’s bemoaning of the Clarke Award shortlist in which Halting State‘s sequel Rule 34 is included I bumped this up my reading list.

The usual caveat applies to this review. I did see an early version of the first chapter or so, back in the day. The author is a fellow member of the East Coast Writers’ Group and of Writers’ Bloc.

The setting is a near future independent Republic of Scotland in 2016 or so. A bank in an on-line game is robbed, despite the levels of encryption involved. A panicked employee of Hayek Associates (the Edinburgh company overseeing the game) calls the local police. This leads to the involvement of our first viewpoint character, Detective Sergeant Sue Smith. The other two narrators are Elaine Barnaby, an insurance fraud investigator, and Jack Reed, an IT specialist just sacked from his previous job and on a bender in Amsterdam. An unusual facet of the book is that all three strands are written in the second person – a notoriously difficult authorial trick to pull off. Here the conceit is mostly effective. It only falls down a few times and after a while becomes almost unnoticeable. (Sue Smith’s narrative voice jars, though, at the times when USian creeps in – Defence with an ‘s’, ‘out back’ for ‘out the back,’ ‘fit’ for ‘fitted’.) As the story proceeds layers of complication add in, as not all is what it seems, even in the real world.

The dangers of writing SF set in the near future are apparent even only four years after original publication (2008.) The banking-crash-induced recession and our present day austerity are entirely absent and the ubiquity of the location software, of driverless vehicles and so on feels a bit premature. Not to mention that a Scottish Republic is unlikely in the short term. However, if read as an Altered History (which will actually be necessary in five years’ time) these problems disappear.

Such technologies’ vulnerability to hacking/decryption is foregrounded, highlighting our growing dependence on such things. (I would add that they are equally vulnerable to a simple loss of electricity supply to servers etc.)

One of Christopher Priest’s complaints was that Stross uses ‘Och aye’ dialogue. On this ground I acquit him. The book is set in Scotland after all. Not being Scots born it is more than commendable that Stross makes the effort to convey local speech – he still lives in Edinburgh – even if sometimes his ear is not perfectly attuned. (Oh, and the word dreich doesnâ’t have a ‘t’ at the end.) He even has one of his narrators display the Edinburgher’s antipathy to all things Glaswegian.

The book is clearly aimed at a target audience of games players in addition to SF readers. Small portions consist of the MMORPG which was hacked into; these integrate well with the main thrust, as indeed does game playing. In this respect, pace Mr Priest, outright literary quality might be considered to be a drawback. Horses for courses. Halting State is not deep and not pretending to be, but I enjoyed it. Whether a ‘light’ novel like this deserves an award, though, is surely a matter of subjectivity.

Writers’ Bloc at the Science Festival

Don’t forget Writers’ Bloc’s reading at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Brave New Words is tomorrow, 4th April 2012, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, 8-10pm.

Tickets are £8/6 and can be booked through the Science Festival.

Brave New Words

How many clones does it take to change a light bulb? Why did the chicken cross the wires? The members of Edinburgh’s premier spoken-word performance collective offer their unique perspectives on science and fiction in all-new stories. Warning: may contain rocket science, brain surgery and assorted nuts!

Writers’ Bloc’s latest venture is part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Brave New Words is on Wednesday 4th April 2012, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, 8-10pm.

Tickets are £8/6 and can be booked through the Science Festival.

Better Read Than Dead

Don’t forget the Writers’ Bloc tenth anniversary special tonight.
At the Canon’s Gait, 232 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DQ.
Time:- from 8pm.
Admission:- £4.00, £2.00 concessions.

Ten Years: Better Read Than Dead

The latest Writers’ Bloc show is a celebration.

As the show’s (and this post’s) title suggests, Writers’ Bloc has been up and performing for ten years and this Thursday’s show marks the occasion.

Day:- Thursday 27th October 2011
Time:- from 8pm
Venue:- Canon’s Gait, 232 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DQ
Admission:- £4.00, £2.00 concessions

The blurb below is taken direct from the Writers’ Bloc site.

10 years of soviet lunacy

Comrades,

To mark 10 years of Writers’ Bloc spoken word performances you are invited to the launch of our new 10 year plan:

Better Read Than Dead

Favourite stories from the past 10 years, plus new initiatives forged in the heat and sweat of the bars of Edinburgh. Presented by comrades old and new.

Highlights include:

Will our production targets continue to be gloriously exceeded?

Will our drinking consumption continue to be gloriously excessive?

Will the return of comrade Stefan – hot from the barricades of Aix-en-Provence – be prevented by the running dogs of revisionism?

What is revisionism?

Will the regressive ideologies of Halloween – Satanic worship, drugs and orgies – distract our pure-hearted footsoldiers of literary endeavour?

Not so much a 10 year plan as a way of life

Long live the revolution!

Writers appearing at Better Read Than Dead will include: Kirsti Wishart, Andrew C. Ferguson, Jane McKie, Andrew J. Wilson and Gavin Inglis, new members Helen Jackson, Stuart Wallace, Bram E Gieben, Mark Harding.

Plus a special appearance of comrade Stefan Pearson.

Upcoming Writers’ Bloc Activities

Don’t forget Writers’ Bloc at Word Power Books this Sunday (14th Aug.)

Also on the Writers’ Bloc website is a list of those members who are gigging at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe or other doing other events in August.

Some are individual efforts; others are Bloc ensemble events such as at Havers and Blethers on Fri 19th Aug and Electric Lit Orchestra on Tue 23rd Aug.

Writers’ Bloc at Word Power

Next Sunday (14/8/11) Writers’ Bloc is giving a free show at Word Power Books.

Here’s the blurb:-

After the sell-out success of their Mr Big Society show, Edinburgh’s premier spoken word performance group, Writer’s Bloc, presents: The Writers’ Bloc Think Tank.

Watch out for: derring-do and saboteurs in Operation Fairycake, monkey mayhem in a sleepy Suffolk town, as well as advice on social climbing for psychopaths and Rupert Murdoch’s exploding zeppelin in this free event of spoken word and unlikely social policy.

Writers’ Bloc is Edinburgh’s premier spoken word performance group. Its members include published and prize-winning poets, novelists and short story writers, who present original material with iconoclastic attitude.
Details of The Writers’ Bloc Think Tank can be found in the Edinburgh Book Fringe 2011 listings on Word Power Books’ website.

Venue is Word Power Books, 43-45, West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DB
Sunday 14th August 2:30pm, FREE

Wee Red Bar Gig

Don’t forget the Writers’ Bloc gig tonight, Wednesday 1st June, at the Wee Red Bar.

8pm, The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh College of Art, EH3 9DF.

Admission on the door is £4 (£2 concessions.)

I gave more details here.

Mr Big Society

Writers’ Bloc’s latest gig, entitled Mr Big Society, takes place at 8pm on Wednesday 1st June 2011.

Nice poster don’t you think?

Various Bloc stalwarts will make their contributions but so also will some new comrades!

In an innovation there will be Writers’ Bloc badges available for sale.

The venue is The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh College of Art, EH3 9DF. Admission is an affordable £3 if you book your ticket online, or £4 (£2 concessions) on the door.

Sadly I shan’t be able to attend as the day job intervenes (they do make me work evenings sometimes.)

But you can…

Follow the adventures of Mr Big Society and his friends!

Yes, it’s the Writers’ Bloc contribution to the big debate of our time. All the things you really wanted to know about The Big Society but were just too sensible to ask.

Original, unscholarly research on the key economic questions: What happens if you literally pay peanuts? What happens when ‘Fairy Cakes for Fire Engines’ collides with ‘Lemoncake for Lifeboats’? Is The Big Society fact or fable? Bird or plane? Can you return it if it’s the wrong size? Will Mr Big Society, Mr Banker, Little Miss Librarian, Mr Jihad and all the other friends have the best time ever? Or will there be tears before bedtime?

A revolution of the Public Services and Charity Sector – what could possibly go wrong? Or to be more accurate, what could impossibly go wrong?

The Writers’ Bloc Think Tank will present a night of unlikely social policy – short stories that blur all distinction between fact, fiction, sense, nonsense, inaccuracy, good ideas and bonkers brainstorming sessions.

Having trouble understanding The Big Society? Just wait until we’ve finished!*

* Not approved by the IMF, OECD or The Institute for Economic Affairs.

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