Digital Communications Reading List

One of the posts that’s seemed to generate more responses over the last year was my SF and Fantasy reading list for Genre Studies.  Perhaps that’s not surprising, given the demographic of this blog’s readership.

Perhaps there’ll be as much interest in Digital Communications, which I’m taking in the third year, the elective geared toward writing for the digital media.

This is my reading list for the next year for the subject:

Katherine wrote; “There are many digital entrepreneurs and gurus out there, what follows is just a selection. They usually have websites and twitter sites where you can find out more.”

(*essential reading)

*Anderson, Chris: Free:  The Future of a Radical Price: The Economics of Abundance and Why Zero Pricing Is Changing the Face of Business (Random House, 2009)

And read his blog: as well as Malcolm Gladwell’s responses to Anderson’s work (Google these).

Ellis, Mike: Managing and Growing a Cultural Heritage Web Presence: A Strategic Guide (Facet, 2011)


Darnton, Robert, The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (Public Affairs, 2009)

Fried, Jason, and Heinemeier Hansson, David, ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever (Vermillion, 2010)


Gladwell, Malcolm, Outliers: The Story of Success (Penguin, 2009) and his website:

Godin, Seth, Tribes (Piatkus Books, 2008) and see his website and work on the Domino Project for Amazon


Poke the Box (Domino Project, Amazon, 2011)

Jenkins, Henry, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York University Press, Revised edition, 2008)


Kawasaki, Guy, The Art of the Start (Viking, 2011) (ex-Apple Macintosh)


Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions: How To Woo, Influence and Persuade (Viking, 2011)


Leadbeater, Charles, We – Think: Mass innovation, not mass production (Profile Books, 2009) (paperback) and see his website

Marsh, David, Guardian Style, (Guardian Books, 2007) (2nd revised edn):

Print and online (this version updated regularly)


Oxford Style Manual (Oxford University Press, 2004)

*Reed, Jon: Get Up to Speed with Online Marketing (Wiley, 2010)



Rose, Frank, The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue and the Way We Tell Stories: Entertainment in a Connected World (Norton, 2011)


Search Engine Optimization for Dummies, 3rd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, 2008)


Shirky, Clay, Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens when People Come Together (Penguin, 2009)


*Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (Penguin, 2011)


Smith, Jon, Get into Bed with Google: Top Ranking Search Optimisation Techniques (Infinite Ideas Limited, 2008)


Quinn, Stephen, Digital Sub-editing and Design, (Focal Press, 2004)



*Vaynerchuck, Gary, Crush It!: Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion (HarperBusiness, 2009)


Weinberger, David, Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (Henry Holt & Company Inc., 2007) and his website:


The Bookseller’s FutureBook blog

Wired magazine

Literary Platform


Huffington Post

Guardian Media; Word of Mouth blog




• August 1st, 2011 • Posted in Education • Comments: 0

This Last Week

On Saturday, I indulged a little home-assembled time travel. I managed to blag a spare ticket from a friend to the 2011 Graduation Day, and a foretaste of what I may be doing in one year’s time – assuming that I pass my exams. I suspect that I won’t be too observant next year, that the  day will fly by. But unless the uni make wholesale changes, I’ll have had a useful dress rehearsal.

That was about the only relief last week from a punishing schedule – I’ve now delivered a sample chapter and synopsis for the new book, but getting it done that every spare second was eaten up – I even ate at times staring at the laptop.

This week should be a little easier, starting with the monthly meeting of the Bristol SF and Fantasy Society.  A few drinks, some good company….

• July 25th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

An Unsatisfactory Ending

One of the drawbacks of real life when compared to the tidy plotlines of story, is that it refuses to be shaped into any kind of ending, let alone the uplifting ones beloved of Hollywood.  When it’s the lives we’re living, where does one fade out, run the credits and play the epic power ballad?

So it is with the series of posts on the blackbirds outside our back door that I’ve been running for the last three or four months.

Last week I reported that Mrs Skanky, widowed, was trying to bring up three chicks on her own. We didn’t know if she’d kill herself in trying, or bring back insufficient food for all three chicks, leaving only one or two to survive, or whether all three would grow to adulthood. What we’d forgotten about is that real life is seldom that conclusive.

For four days it looked as if, against all the odds, she and her chicks were going to prosper.

Then on Friday morning, we heard the sounds of blackbird scolding (and boy, can she scold!) outside the kitchen. Mrs Skanky was sitting high at the top of the hedge, well away from the nest. The nest itself was empty and tipped over.

Kate checked the small bushes at the base of the wall, where a fluffy ball the size of an apple  opened its mouth in an obvious ‘feed me’ gesture. Kate righted the nest, scooped up the chick and dropped it back in the nest. A few minutes later Mrs S returned to her now solitary offspring and examined the nest as if to say ‘what the hell happened here?’ We assumed that something, perhaps a cat, perhaps an adult magpie had attacked the nest, but we couldn’t know.

For the next two days she continued to feed the last chick, and then yesterday we looked, and it was empty. We’ve seen Mrs S around; she may have moved the youngster to cover, and hidden him somewhere; we couldn’t find a body, although a predator could have carried him off.

And then yesterday afternoon, I heard a little quiet birdsong from the main flowerbed, on the opposite side of the the garden, some fifty yards from the nest. Mother must have smuggled him out at first light, but there sat the missing chick, with Mrs S in attendance.

This sort of happy ending is that rarity in life, a moment of uplift, so I’ve decided that I’m going to draw a line here under the blackbird saga, because it’s the nearest we get to a happy ending.

• July 18th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Widow Skanky

Regular readers of this blog will know that among the assorted birdlife in our garden, one particular blackbird has staked out  his patch. Skanky, whose tattiness belies his formidable powers of reproduction has managed with his wife to produce two, prossibly three broods such as the one pictured, all of which -with the exception of one chick- made it to fledgeling-hood.

Sadly, Skanky has been MIA for some weeks now. We’ve never seen a body, although by the length of time the greedy little bugger’s been absent, some predator or old age must have got him.

We assumed that another male would move in on Mrs. Skanky, but incredibly, not only has she carried on alone, but she’s laid another clutch of three eggs. Because there’s no mate, we can only assume that they’re Skanky’s Last Hurrah.

The old girl’s trying to rear her new hatchlings on her own, and to be honest, there’s nothing we can do to help, short of making sure that she has a good supply of food laid in, by scattering mealworms within sight of the nest. But we’re really unsure whether she can keep them alive until they fledge…

• July 11th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

All Over The Place

Today is the third Monday of my summer job for this year, and my first week solo: My predecessor -and my trainer for the first two weeks- Heather, has moved on. Suddenly I feel like a tightrope walker who’s had their safety net removed. There are a million and one things to remember, and I’ll be  handling cash, which leaves no margin for error, although there’ll be checks on checks on checks.  

My day the same as in the previous years, and indeed my Mondays over the last university year except that I walk Alice around the park before catching the bus three days a week, and the bus is into Bristol, rather than the bus to Bath. The ride is a lot less interesting or scenic than toward uni, as the traffic crawls along through the crammed streets of Bristol.

Geographically I’m very close to where I worked before; the Abbott’s House is just behind the Eye Hospital, that little building crouching among the surrounding behemoths that loom over it. In many other ways though, it’s a million miles away from previous years.

I’m working in a small office that belongs to Above & Beyond, part of a quasi-autonomous operation that’s staffed by only fifteen people, mostly young, and all enthusiastic, so there’s a definite buzz to the place. They are a charity specifically set up to support the nine (or is it eight? Or ten?) hospitals that make up the United Hospitals of Bristol Trust (or UBHT – the NHS likes its acronyms).

But. This year I’m working 3 full days, from Monday to Wednesday, 9 until 5.30. During that time I’m pretty much offline, so virtually all the jobs that I need to do to keep the business ticking over has to be crammed into four days. And that’s before I start writing.

Three, actually; the last two weekends, we’ve spend part of it away. Last Sunday we went down to the in-laws before hurtling back, while on Saturday, I travelled up to Derby (and back). It’s made it almost impossible to work out a routine, and ironically my one absolutely free day -Thursday- has been spent doing odd little jobs that have become overdue during the intervening three days.

I’m gradually easing toward some sort of routine, but I still feel all over the place, both physically and mentally. Somehow I need to find enough energy in the evenings to sort out some of those niggling, time consuming jobs -like ordering printer catridges or posting parcels- during Monday to Wednesday, either during the evening or in my lunch break.

It’s helped that I’ve managed to sort out some problems with a horror story called ‘Razorbill Island’ that I’ve been bogged down with, and get about two thousand words done over Friday and Saturday, and Alt.Fiction has been put to bed for another week. That went very well from the perspective of entertaining and educating the audience -at least I hope it did!- but book sales were on the floor for everyone, except for those offering one and two pound second-hand books. Dark Spires sold no better than anyone else’s work.

I think it’ll  be some time before I’m completely comfortable with the new routine. Who knows? It may take all of the eleven weeks I’m scheduled to be at Above and Beyond….

• June 27th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

The Second Wave

It seems that there’s no stopping Skanky. Our tail-less Lothario has been at it again. Not content with raising one brood, he’s now fathered a second wave, such as the little blighter in the picture.

At one point we thought that he might even have fathered a third brood; at one point on Friday night we had six, maybe even seven blackbird chicks hopping in and out of the big flowerbed at one side of the front lawn. Every time Kate turned around from where she was standing in the flowerbed, another fledgeling was cheeping at her.

Then we saw the second male, much less…well…skanky, full grown tail feathers, sleek black plumage…but no match for our resident bruiser who glared at him from the top of the greenhouse. Perhaps it was the presence of the youngsters that kept Skanky from launching himself at the interloper. in all likelihood, half of those fledgelings were his.

To be honest the birds are becoming more reliant on us for food than I’d like, but there seem to be many less bugs and pests than in previous years, and if the alternative is that they starve, then a few quid each week on mealworms and sunflower hearts is worth it.

• June 20th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 2

The Alarm Clock Returneth

Ugh. Drat that alarm was my second thought this morning. My first was actually aaagh!! wassat? Before I remembered where I was, and more importantly, who I was. I hate that moment of dislocation more and more with each passing week.

Yes, Kate was back to work this morning, and despite the fact that it’s still officially the Easter holidays for us studenty-types, it’s back to work for me. So I posted something on the Film Mumblings blog, and I’m writing this, my 500th post here.

Most of this week -I suspect- will be given over to the final MAF blog, which is worth either 6 or 12 marks (I can’t remember which — it’s bloody important, though) and trying to whip the Genre critical piece into shape.  Although some thoughts about e-books are bubbling away, prompted by a news item about their burgeoning popularity, and I have some critiquing to do.

So I’d better get on with it…Abyssinia!

• May 3rd, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

April Stats

Gosh, is it that time already? Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?

I was surprised when I added up the April stats — this has been the month with the longest hours yet, barring the adjusted November figures (Click on the link for an explanation). But despite working an average 60-hour week throughout the month, I’ve been nowhere near as stressed as November, which proves to my satisfaction that it was the complexity caused by a third job that posed the problems then.

The switch over to the summer schedule means that uni work has taken a back seat during the second half of the month, once assignments were completed and -depending whether I include reading- only twenty to forty per cent of my time was spent on coursework. Feature Journalism accounted for almost forty per cent of that, and thirty per cent was spent on Writer’s Workshop; those were the subjects with assignments due in the first half of the month, although I also wrote an essay  for a student competition as part of my FJ hours.

But over twenty per cent of my April hours went on just three projects — a story sub to Asimovs, a synopsis for a planned wip, and most importantly of all, as I mentioned yesterday, editing for Transtories.

I have three more pieces of work to do in May for uni, and perhaps a couple of tutorials to attend to get my marks fed back to me, and then I’ll be fully on the summer schedule. I’ll be a little sad in a way, because that’ll be the end of another academic year.

Note to self; don’t think too much about that — live in the moment, instead.

• May 1st, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

On Holiday…Or Not

I realized yesterday as I posted the review of Interzone that it was my first post for a week. Given that I’ve been fairly quiet on other venues as well, a few of you might be forgiven for thinking that I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.

You should be so lucky.

As I write this, at the same time last week I was on my way over to Gareth‘s place, to set off for Eastercon. Two days of long periods of relaxation, interspersed with frantic running around to get to and from signing sessions to promote Damage Time. Six of us ended up coming back from Birmingham Waterstone’s in a taxi to get back in time for the Illustrious signing.

That should have sounded a warning – the railway station was in chaos, which was only going to get worse by the evening. I duly found myself stranded by the chaos, although I eventually got home only an hour late by leaping in a taxi at Bristol Temple Meads.

So off on holiday on Sunday morning down to Poole. On the plus side, we were going on holiday. On the downside, I had a shedload of work to get through, and was suffering from tendonitis, preventing me from walking more than a few hundred yards without having to take painkillers.

In a way that injury was a blessing. Unable to go out, and with minimal distractions -since I couldn’t go for our usual long walks in the Purbecks or on the beaches, I had no option but to buckle down to editing Transtories. (More about that tomorrow) And since the weather was so good, I was able to read in the garden in the afternoon.

But it’s meant for a strange, claustrophobic existence that doesn’t really feel like a proper holiday at all. So I shall have no option but  to take another one, later this year…

• April 29th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Elisabeth Sladen, 1948 – 2011

So that’s it then. The shadows have lengthened, the world seems -all of a sudden- to be a slightly shabbier place. Time to turn out the lights on another part of yesterday.

Elisabeth Sladen wasn’t really Sarah Jane Smith, of course. Lis Sladen married in 1968 at the age of 20, and had a daughter in 1985, and played other parts, although I don’t think I ever saw a single one of them. Not because I avoided anything else she was in, but because the parts were usually so fleeting, or off my radar. That was her fate, for better or for worse, to be so tied to one role. Did she feel that to be a blessing or a curse, I wonder? Maybe both, at different times.

Because to tens, even hundreds of thousands of people, maybe more than that, she was the girl who burst onto our screens in 1973 and for three years tried to do more than look cute and scream when the monsters entered. And my God, how she succeeded. I always felt that a scriptwriter with sufficient balls would have had her lean back and drop-kick the monster in the nuts. From 1973 to 1976, when she left, as far as my teenage self was concerned, she was The One.

So much so that for a year -in protest- I stopped watching Doctor Who when she went, and when I did -grudgingly- start watching it again, I suddenly noticed how rubbish the effects were, and I never forgave the girl with the loincloth, and the increasingly pretty-but-vacuous successors for usurping her. It was almost a relief when the Beeb killed the increasingly crappy series off in 1989. Maybe that lingering sense of betrayal is why I’m so damned impatient with the old guard. The BBC had already killed it for me, thirteen years earlier, and all they were doing in 1989 was applying the bullet instead of the slow death.

But of course, the truth was, the truth my teenage self couldn’t see, was that Lis Sladen had a life, wanted a family and a career. I hope she got everything she longed for. I’m sure she did.

I really expected the worst when the show came back, but RTD surprised and delighted me. And when she returned in 2006, he gave a belated rationale to why she had to go. Finally…closure. And her return was proof that sometimes –not very often– but sometimes we do get a second chance.

Then, joy of joys, a grown up SJ with kids, because it would have felt wrong for her virtual life to have been so empty, even if (as I’m sure) her real one was so rich.

I’d like to have met her, to ask if she ever resented having this strange dual life,  a virtual half-life to go with the real one, but I also know that it would have probably broken the spell.

So goodbye, Lis Sladen, who wasn’t Sarah Jane, and sympathies to her family, who are the ones who have really lost someone, and someone real at that. At least we still have the re-runs.

• April 20th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0