Surveillance in Britain

This was originally posted in 2013 — and it’s time for a repeat airing:

Rod Rees writes: In researching my book Invent-10n it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the surveillance side of State intervention in our lives – the employing of cameras and digital-communication intercepts to collect data about us – that we should be worried about but the use that is made of that data. And this, in turn, led me to the belief that there are now seven truisms regarding the surveillance-pervasive Britain of 2013.

Truism 1: We’re being watched.

Although statistics on the subject are difficult to pin down, the consensus seems to be that, by some margin, the British are the most watched people on the planet, with there being one CCTV camera for every fourteen of us (a conservative estimate, by the way). Now that’s an awful lot of surveillance and as none of these cameras are regulated, there is no information regarding the data they collect, for how long it’s held or who has access to it. The reality is that no matter where we are, we’re being watched.

What this also signals is how obsessive the British authorities (be they police, security services or local councils) are with CCTV surveillance: they have become the most avaricious voyeurs in history. The British authorities like to watch.

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Something Remains blogged


Allen Ashley, one of the esteemed contributors to Something Remains has written of his story “Natural History” in the book.

Joel gave us some of the finest short fiction you could ever hope to read. And now he has given me this story “Natural History” which would never have existed without his notes, his inspiration. The same is true for the other pieces collected in “Something Remains”: meticulously, even tenderly, written by those who loved and admired him.

Read the full essay on Allen’s website, here.

Something Remains is available as a paperback or eBook for the Kindle via Amazon and, probably, other online dealers.

The book is officially launched at FantasyCon later this month.



The Timber Wolves of War

David Jon Fuller, whose story “The Wolves of Vimy” features in Kneeling in the Silver Light edited by Dean Drinkel (published a couple of months ago by The Alchemy Press), has written an informative blog on the background to his story, about the Canadian Aboriginal people who fought in the Great War. Essential reading.

” By the early 20th century, the government of Canada was depriving indigenous people of their lands, instituting residential schools and encouraging white settlement. Despite this, many aboriginal people enlisted to fight in the First World War.”

The article is available on the Winnipeg Free Press website.

The Alchemy Press Newsletter: September 2014

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Here we are just past the autumn equinox and still reeling from our recent successes. For those who may have missed the news, THE ALCHEMY PRESS was winner of the 2014 British Fantasy Awards for Best Small Press, presented at FantasyCon 2014. To prove we aren’t resting on our laurels, we launched a number of books over the FantasyCon weekend in the historic city of York:

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Christine Morgan interviewed

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Christine Morgan’s “High School Mythical: Asgard“ appears in The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2. She answers a few questions here:

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I love language. It’s like Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience that, with patience and practice, can make almost anything you imagine. Among my childhood friends, I was the storyteller who came up with ideas for let’s pretend, and constructed elaborate scenarios for my toys. As a teenager, I got into role-playing games as another outlet. Once I began attempting to write for real, I started with ‘traditional’ fantasy … but horror was my true calling. These days, it’s mostly historical horror and dark fantasy, with an emphasis on drawing from mythology, folklore, and various ancient cultures.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

I have a teenage (only teenage for a couple more months, egads!) daughter, and in watching her with her friends, her with her shows, the way some attitudes seem universal to the young … it got me thinking about the gods of various mythologies. Being immortal, being eternally young, having that sense of invulnerability and freedom from responsibility … and what a dangerous thing that is among those who have power. The behaviour of the Norse gods in the stories, and the Viking heroes in the sagas, can be seen a real high school / frat boy light, brash and boasting, drinking, fighting, sex, joking around. Plus, I grew up on those 80s teen movies, so it all fell together from there.

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Lou Morgan interviewed

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Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a novelist and short story writer, and I bounce infuriatingly between any kind of genre that takes my fancy. So far, that’s urban fantasy and horror for both adult and teen readers, because at the end of the day, I just like telling stories.

My first novel, Blood and Feathers, was an urban fantasy involving hellmouths and sarcastic angels with drinking problems, handguns and secrets, and which was nominated for British Fantasy Awards in both the best newcomer and best fantasy novel categories. The sequel, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, picks up the story, and has also been nominated in the best fantasy novel category for this year’s BFAs. I’ve also written short stories for people like PS Publishing, Jurassic, Fox Spirit and Solaris – and Alchemy Press, of course.

And I have two cats, because that’s the law if you write fantasy.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

The idea behind “Death and the Weaver” came from Breton folklore. I spent a lot of time in Brittany growing up, and still go back most summers, so I know the stories pretty well. My favourite was always the Ankou,  a skeletal Grim Reaper figure whose role was to collect the souls of the dead from each parish. On the face of it, it doesn’t sound that unusual, but the interesting thing about the Ankou is that he is always one of the parishioners himself: the soul of the last person to die in the year serves as the Ankou for a year and is then replaced. I love the idea that this could (and probably would) mean it was someone you knew – and I started to wonder how that would change your relationship with death.

Bringing the Ankou up to date was a lot of fun. I read as many versions of the legend as I could, which stretched my French about as far as it could go! In most of them, the Ankou is very tall and usually has long white hair and a head which constantly revolves (so no death escapes him). He carries a scythe with the blade pointing forward and rides a cart pulled by two horses – one fat and one thin. Not all of these would work in a modern setting … but the C in a Citroen 2CV originally referred to “chevaux” (horses), so…

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Alchemy Newsletter: May

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The Alchemy Press Newsletter: May 2014

April was a really busy month here at Alchemy Towers. Our main event was the publication of Merry-Go-Round and Other Words by Bryn Fortey. Merry-Go-Roundwas launchedat the Birmingham Independent Book Fair, held at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham on 12 April, where we met up with fellow publishers and editors from Shadow Publishing, Pigeon Park Press and Boo Books amongst many others. It was a good day with an excellent reception of a fantastic book. Books, in fact; The Alchemy Press’s table featured an impressive display of our titles.

In addition to local stalwarts (local to the West Midlands, that is – Mike Chinn, David and Sandra Sutton, Chris and Pauline Morgan, James Brogden, et al), we also had visits from Stephen Jones, Mandy Slater, Johnny Mains, and Rod and Nelli Rees. In the evening a number of us repaired to the Malthouse for drinks and a meal – the very pub where Bill Clinton, the then US President, ate a plate of chips (he was in Birmingham for a G6 or 7 or 8 or whatever-number-it-was conference).

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Google Glass

From Rod Rees:

An interesting article in this week’s The Economist’s entitled ‘Ubiquitous Cameras’ discusses the implications of the widespread use of Google’s Glass headset.

Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that can also take pictures. Now most of the debate about Glass has centred around ‘oh, won’t it be terrible all these Glass-equipped people going around taking surreptitious photographs of us and invading our privacy’, this countered by the inevitable ‘if people don’t want their business archived in a photo, don’t do guilty things in public’.

Read the article here.

Angela Merkel doesn’t play poker…

Rod Rees writes: John Rhys-Davies (who played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) once opined that: ‘Spying is like chess: sometimes you have to withdraw, sometimes you have to sacrifice one of your pieces to win – preferably a knight rather than a king or a queen.’

Unfortunately Rhys-Davies was wrong on two counts. The first is mechanistic: you can’t sacrifice your king in chess. But the second is more philosophical.

When you sit down to play chess you can see all the pieces – those belonging to yourselfand those controlled by your opponent – and, moreover, you both know the rules governing the playing of the game. This is not the case in the topsy-turvy world of espionage. Here each side does its damnedest to hide its pieces from the opposition and the breaking of rules is not only expected but positively encouraged. Further, in espionage there is never only one opponent: a nation’s enemies are numerous and even those who evince friendship might, if push comes to shove, reveal themselves as in league with the bad guys.

Read the rest of this post on the Invent-10n blog.



Seven Truisms

cover 003bRod Rees writes: In researching my book Invent-10n it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the surveillance side of State intervention in our lives – the employing of cameras and digital-communication intercepts to collect data about us – that we should be worried about but the use that is made of that data. And this, in turn, led me to the belief that there are now seven truisms regarding the surveillance-pervasive Britain of 2013.

Read the full article on the Invent-10n blog