A short(ish) review of 2016…

Hi!  Nice to see you all again. I seem to have floundered into a once-a-month posting rut at the moment, but at least it’s an improvement over the complete lack of posts through the Summer. To be fair, I was working on a book at the time, just in case that small detail somehow slipped past you. The book is about the rather spiffing Magic The Gathering CCG (Collectible Card Game) and written/designed primarily as an introduction to new and returning players – and yes, it is very good, and still selling, albeit slowly – you can find it here: Magic The Gathering: A Primer 2016/17. As well as Amazon’s standard ‘See Inside’ preview for Kindle books, there are a few two-page spreads to be found here as well if you’d like a peep: MTG Primer Preview.

Those of you keeping track may already be aware that 2016 has been something of a struggle for me – after a spate of book reviews and associated posts at the beginning of the year (I managed to post 25+ book reviews in January), February and March saw me running out of steam pretty sharp-ish – an addiciton to the XCOM 2 computer game on PC really didn’t help…

A little something I wrote in Summer 2016


This had a major knock-on effect for the rest of the Spring because there followed a steep decline in other activities, in particular I started to slow down both my reading and book review activities (I have never been a fast reader, anyway). Ironically, the US-based BTS Review e-mag I wrote a regular book review column for also closed shortly thereafter – nowt to do with me, I assure you!  You can still read the majority of my columns for this mag here, however: My BTS Columns – these will take you near to the end of 2015, but there are still a few more to be posted, which I hope to get done early in January…

I also chose to take a major step back in my approach to the layout of Vector and FOCUS (and other stuff) for the BSFA – I had broached the subject late last year, but basically decided I did not want to be that guy who beats the drum for everyone else and chases the editors down for their material every time a new issue of the magazine is due. Alas, no-one else has volunteered or stepped into that role either, it seems (yup, I appreciate it’s all voluntary), which hasn’t helped in terms of BSFA magazine production. I’m pretty sure I lost several weeks worth of BSFA work on FOCUS earlier this year too (my own fault, nobody else’s) which contributed in no small measure to the delays. As things stand, I have stepped down from my FOCUS layout duties, but agreed to carry on with the production of Vector (when the material arrives) and the BSFA Awards booklet – both of which are relatively easy time-wise, even if the latter is always a mad dash and sprint to get done and dusted in time for EasterCon.

This would probably be an opportune time to mention that the 2016 BSFA Awards nominations process is just about to end (Saturday 31st December 2016). The categories are Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Artwork, so get nominating if you haven’t already: BSFA Award Nominations Form 2016.

The second stage, in which the shortlists for each Award are drawn up, ends on January 30th, at which point the process of putting together the next BSFA Awards booklet will begin for me…


So… having eschewed half my regular responsibilities re. book reviews, column-writing, and magazine production in the first half of the year, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d have more time devote to organising more York Pubmeet events and such-like… Umm… Oh dear… Yup, that didn’t happen, either. Oops!

What did I do instead?  Actually, having fallen into a pretty deep rut (and feeling low most of the time), I opted to start writing a book about one of the few things that was giving me any joy at all, namely Magic The Gathering. When I finally completed XCOM 2 y’see, I became really withdrawn and opted to return to spending a lot of my spare time in two worlds I genuinely loved: Skyrim (Elder Scrolls V) and the Multiverse of the Magic Duels computer game (and the Magic The Gathering CCG, of course). Indeed, MTG became one of the few things that kept me socialising in any shape or form (excl. work and family of course), for which I will be forever thankful, basically.

My  convention/event appearances for 2016 took a similar slump, resulting in Edge Lit 2016 being the only ‘major’ event I managed to actually make it to this year. And very good it was, too, although the lack of an Edge Lit Quiz this time round probably helped me keep a much less vocal, low-key profile throughout – not a bad thing, mind: I suspect at least a few people this year appreciated the lack of posturing and/or gloating usually associated with the Edge Lit Quiz (albeit all meant in jest)!


The rest of 2016 (from Sept/Oct-ish) hasn’t been without incident, of course, but it’s been a slow and prolonged period of adjustment for me, leading to bouts of activity interspersed with a number of stop-start scenarios, both at home and at work. I’m still stumbling from one malaise into the next, but at least I’ve begun to take on a bit more book review work to keep me focussed, as well as subscribing to Geek Monkey (great mag btw) and Tabletop Gaming (very good if you’ve an interest in card/tabletop gaming) – small but nonetheless vital steps in maintaining my interest in all things genre-related.

To be fair, ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’ aside and as filled with woe as it has been (especially the number of genre ‘celebrities’ we’ve lost), 2016 did at least give us Deadpool and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a memorable series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! plus any number of great new Netflix TV series’ showing promise. Your own opinion about all of these may  differ from mine o’course… :p


RIP – Carrie Fisher

Many people knocked the new Star Wars movie, but I for one was impressed – a very good and effective introduction to the Star Wars universe for those not fortunate or old enough to remember the original films back in the 70’s and 80’s. It also did a brilliant job of blending seamlessly in with the start of the trilogy (that’s Episodes 4-6 in modern parlance, btw) – and although Episodes 1-3 may already be considered a curious misstep, at least Episode II: Attack of the Clones actually felt like a Star Wars movie. The jury is still out on The Force Awakens, I fear, although a lot depends on what the 2017 instalment will bring…


I’ve also made a concerted effort to play more boardgames recently (and MTG of course), in an effort to get back into the swing of socialising again.

In summary, I am taking things one step at a time, and am pleased in the first instance to say that we already have a couple of fantastic York Pubmeet events planned for 2017…

In January (on Sunday 15th to be precise), we have “An Evening with Joanne Harris (MBE)” – interviewed by our first York Pubmeet guest author, David Tallerman. More details (and FREE tickets) can be booked here: 1st 2017 York Pubmeet.


In March 2017, we hope to have author A. J. Dalton doing a short presentation on the socio-history of fantasy sub-genres, as well as reading from his own work and fielding questions from the audience.

As for April and beyond, I’m not really sure what’s going on, to be fair a lot could happen between now and then, but I will try to keep you informed as and when closer to the time.


Here’s hoping 2017 proves
a better year for all of you!