Monday, March 28, 2016


I've been listening to a few podcasts regularly for a couple of years, but in the last few months I've suddenly really gotten into them. One podcast mentions another, that one leads me to a third, and so on until I have an awful lot of podcasts I like and can't keep them all straight.

So I'll make a list.

The Flopcast
This is a fun and funny weekly podcast with a focus on geek culture.

Welcome to Night Vale
The only fictional podcast I listen to. It's just as good as everyone claims. I recommend you start at episode one.

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe
A weekly podcast. The focus is mostly on science and skepticism, with some geek culture references.

Short, interesting episodes looking scientifically at pseudoscientific or folkloric beliefs.

A fun podcast about monsters--folkloric, historical, fictional, and so forth.

Astonishing Legends
This one ranges from ghost stories to historical mysteries--I especially recommend the Laughing Indian for the former, the two-part investigation of Amelia Earhart's disappearance for the latter.

(From Astonishing Legends I discovered Dark Myths, which is a collective of a bunch of great podcasts. I'm still sampling them, but some of my favorites are below.)

Wonderfully creepy, thoughtful episodes with a focus on historical legends.

Strange Matters
A podcast of wide-ranging interests, from monsters and ghosts to serial killers and mysterious deaths. An interesting mix.

Night Time podcast
Creepy and interesting episodes about strange events, from mysterious disappearances to Canadian folklore.

Singing Bones
About fairy tales and other folk stories, with a focus on real-world connections.

The Podcast of Doom
Most of these episodes I find too depressing to listen to, but I have a ghoulish love of accounts of fires and other similar disasters and these are good.

The Vanished
Accounts of people who went missing under suspicious circumstances in the modern era.

Casefile True Crime
Solved and unsolved crimes in the modern era, particularly those in Australia.

A look at both serious crimes and quirky ones, historical and modern, with a focus more on the after-effects than on the crimes themselves.

Generation Why
Another true crime podcast, largely unsolved murders but with a good variety of other topics and interviews too.

Thinking Sideways
Unsolved mysteries, primarily crimes like murder and disappearances but wide-ranging in content.

Our Fake History
Well-researched, in-depth episodes examining historical events. Often funny and I love the host's voice.

Archaeological Fantasies
Excellent episodes where professional archaeologists dig (ha) into pseudo-history claims to find their sources and discover why they continue to be believed.

Strange events, both historical and modern. Atmospheric and nicely different.

Expanded Perspectives
A long-running podcast covering unexplained things. Maybe a bit on the credulous side of skeptical but a lot of fun too.

Movie Sign with the Mads
Witty movie reviews with Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu from MST3K, plus someone named Carolina Hidalgo who I don't know but I like her.

Out ov the Coffin
A monthly podcast featuring dark music, from goth and postpunk to death metal and everything in between. I find a lot of great new music here.

Alchemist in the Evening
Another dark music podcast, this one leaning more toward metal. It's sadly defunct now (hasn't been updated since last summer) but I keep checking back just in case....

Modern Drummer Mike and Mike podcast
Excellent weekly podcast talking about various aspects of drumming. Lowkey but intelligent discussion between the two hosts.

Behind the Kit
I almost forgot this one! These are interviews with various drummers.

(Expect this post to be updated frequently as I find new podcasts. I mostly just need a way to keep them all straight.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mini-interview with SF author Simon Rutter!

SIMON RUTTER is an Englishman who has largely wasted his life in a series of increasingly pointless middle management jobs in large corporations. This has, however, allowed him to see the world at someone else's expense and he has lived in the United States, the Middle East, Continental Europe and the Antipodes. He tweets and maintains a blog with the grim sense of duty and sclerotic rhythm of a rheumatic gravedigger because, apparently, one has to. He is a vegan, politically active on animal welfare issues and a competitive cyclist. He attacks literature and life with a savage joie de vivre. His strongest literary influences are Waugh, Orwell, Vidal, Lessing, LeGuin and Gibson.

WITHOUT A CITY WALL is his fourth novel but the first to be submitted for publication. You didn’t miss anything with the first three.

KNOTTED THICKET: What are some of your favorite books? Do you reread old favorites
or are you always working on your to-read pile?

SIMON RUTTER: I find the fiction that most resonates with me is strongly character driven and, usually, with some element of transformation or redemption for the protagonist. The novels I that regularly re-read tend to be those that had a huge impact on my when I was young. I regularly revisit books by Waugh, Greene and Orwell. In particular I greatly admire the Sword of Honour trilogy, Our Man in Havana and Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

One science fiction book that had a revelatory effect on me when I first read it was Neuromancer by William Gibson. I bought the first edition paperback in the winter of 1985 and read it while waiting for a train in King's Cross station. Today King's Cross is a pristine and glassy temple to consumerism with a Harry Potter gimmick but in 1984 it was a soot smeared, dimly lit cavern of junkies and prostitutes and therefore provided the perfect context in which to read Neuromancer. With the wisdom that inevitably accrues to the aged I now see that Gibson somewhat co-opted Neuromancer's heady blend of brand fetishism and nihilism from Ian Fleming but it is still a brilliant and genuinely groundbreaking book that I love.

KT: How much research do you do when writing science fiction?

SR: I do almost no active research. If I see or read something that will make a compelling theme or plot element I make a note of it for later use. One of the joys of being a science fiction author is that we get to strike the shackles of the mundane. I do take great pains to make sure that the science elements in the books are at least plausible and consistent within the bounds of my amateur knowledge.

A malcontent in my writing group, let's call him John, once challenged one of my stories for not correctly observing the effects of special relativity on near lightspeed travel. So I said to him, “OK, there's a device on the ship called The John Box which suppresses the effects of special relativity. Are you any happier now?”

KT: You've got a fun list on your blog of SF books you want to read but not write. How do you decide which ideas you want to develop into a book?

SR: For me it always starts with the characters. I usually blend characteristics from people I know and grotesquely exaggerate them for dramatic effect. Lucy in Without a City Wall is based on someone with whom I used to work. I thought she was an interesting individual and began to ponder the character's actions and reactions on a broader dramatic stage.

Also, if executed to a high standard, writing a novel is a vast amount of work; literally thousands of hours. Therefore I have to be rabidly enthusiastic about the themes and ideas in order to take it on. I usually have two or three book concepts in rough outline form and then select one as my next project. A quick glimpse at my notebook reveals that I currently have four ideas in outline form.

KT: What are some of your (non-writing-related) hobbies?

SR: I love linguistics and languages. In the past I've studied Russian and German but at the moment I am studying French and preparing for the Diplôme d'études en langue française B2 exam in November. I'm saving Arabic for my seventies.

I'm also a very keen cyclist and enjoy every aspect of it apart from the inevitable crashes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book recommendation!

I haven't been blogging much lately but I want to change that. To kick things off, here's a book recommendation!

J.B. Rockwell is a member of my writing group and an all-around awesome person. Her science fiction book SERENGETI was just released a few weeks ago by Severed Press. I've read it and it's fantastic!

The main character is the AI of a warship, Serengeti. When she's damaged in a battle and left adrift in uncharted space, she has to figure out how to save her cryogenically frozen human crew with only the aid of a few small robots.

The plot is fantastic, the characters warm and real, and it's a very different kind of story. I would have loved it even if I didn't know the author. The book is available as a Kindle ebook and trade paperback, and will be released as an audiobook in late April.