Don’t Frighten The Children

A memory returns: one day, I suspect around May 1980, I asked my dad a question. The question had been on my mind for some time as a result of things that I’d heard and read and seen, in books, newspapers and on TV. The question was this: “What will we do if there is…

Sexual Contagions: vampires and tuberculosis

This is the outline of a talk I gave earlier this month at the Symposium for the bi-centenary of the publication of John Polidori’s The Vampyre, the book which changed our relationship with this supernatural monster forever. According to Sir Christopher Frayling, all-round genius and nice guy, The Vampyre was ‘the first story successfully to fuse the…

Undiagnosis no 3 – July 2018

This is a short newsletter this month, some news about the four UK book festivals I’m taking part in. 21st July – The NYALitfest, Preston 26th August – The Edinburgh Book Festival, where I’ll be doing two events. First, I’ll be in conversation with Frances Hardinge, and second, I’ll be debating which is the ‘better’ novel,…

Undiagnosis newsletter no 2 – June 2018

Last time out I threatened something more in depth – so this is a (fairly) technical post for writers. Every now and again on this newsletter I’m going to talk about writing from a creator’s point of view. But note; these will not be the top-ten-tips-for-writing type of thing with which the internet is filled. That’s partly…

New things…

This is the first video from a newsletter I’ll be writing every month or so – it’s called Undiagnosis, for reasons that may or may not become clear. I’ll be talking about books and writing and whatever other matters seem relevant. Today’s it’s just a quick hello and a couple of bits of news.  …

“You can’t teach writing, so why go on a course?”

Always one with his finger on the pulse, I’ve been feeling for some time that I would like to say something about creative writing courses and their worth. In an up-to-the-moment riposte, I’ve been thinking about Hanif Kureishi’s comments just over four years ago that “most [courses] are going to teach you stuff that is…

No two are alike – what the snow has to tell us.

It’s fuzzy and a little hard to see, but in this photo that @aliveeverywhere took last winter is something that’s supposed to be impossible – identical flakes of snow. I posted last year about Wilson Bentley, the most famous and all-time best photographer of snowflakes, and how he gave to the world the idea that…

Wind Resistance

The Artist Fights Back..? Being a long-time fan of the music of Karine Polwart and finding her performing a solo show at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, a literal stone’s throw from Vanishing Point’s Tabula Rasa at the Traverse, the decision of how to spend Saturday afternoon in Scotland’s capital was easy. First things first – Wind…

Tabula Rasa

Or, what music do we die to? Last night I attended the opening of a new co-production by the theatre company Vanishing Point and Scottish Ensemble. Being a hybrid of more than one medium, it’s hard to quickly explain what the piece is all about. Here’s what they themselves say: Two of Scotland’s foremost performing…

Walls don’t work

My favourite quote (of many favourite quotes) by the late veteran observer of life along the Mexican/US border, Charles Bowden, runs as follows. Bowden was interviewed for a radio program one night, not in a studio, but out in the Arizonan desert, in a national wildlife refuge near the border town of Sasabe. A couple…

I had a lot of lovely emails about Snow. And then there was this…

I post here, verbatim, the entire text of an email I received about my book Snow. I’m posting it as it shows what we’re up against, in some cases, in discussing climate change. Incidentally, there were no opening or closing formalities or pleasantries, there was just this. “Enjoy”. — London, in 1665, an epidemic began….

I made a playlist of snowy songs in lieu of the real thing.

It opens with the music the BBC used for the Radio 4 adaptation of Snow, as Book of the Week, and closes with a song written especially for the book by the excellent Bookshop Band. In between are some pieces of music I mention in the book, as well as some of my favourite other…