Sunday, 13 October 2019


Breakfast in the Ruins Podcast  

Episode 01 - Elric Part 1 - The Dreaming City



Join Loz and I as we discuss the first published Elric story, The Dreaming City.

As discussed in the episode, be sure to check out the Stormbringer episodes of The Grognard Files (available at https://thegrognardfiles.com/tag/stormbringer/)

Music on this episode is:

Birth of Liquid Pleiades by Tangerine Dream

Intro music is Veteran of the Psychic Wars by Blue Oyster Cult

Outro music is Baptism by Giantkind (also Loz’s band)

Thanks to Neil (@nelbert1 on twitter) for the ace support and Jonny Royale for the enthusiasm and positivity that ensured I got on and did this.

Friday, 11 October 2019


Breakfast in the Ruins Podcast Episode 00 - Introduction


It's taken a while, but after deciding earlier this year that I needed a hobby I've finally managed to get the introductory episode of Breakfast in the Ruins together.

Inspired by the books given to me by my grandad in the early 80's, helped out by friends old and new, we'll discuss the books of Michael Moorcock and others and the way they shaped our tastes in fantasy fiction and charged our imaginations.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Review: Lud-in-the-Mist

Lud-in-the-Mist Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that, over the years, I've attempted to read on a couple of occasions but something never quite clicked. Originally recommended to me back in 2013 or so by a friend, Lud-in-the-Mist is equal parts fairytale whimsy, vivid world-building and reflective melancholy and I loved it. For some reason, on my third attempt it clicked. Perhaps I had more patience with the rich prose after having been relaxing on the coast for a few days (I did the same with The Silmarillion many years back - it, like Lud, wasn't for me a bedtime book in between working days at t'pit (euphemism only, I'm not really a miner)).
Hope never wrote any other fantasy novels and this one appeared to have languished in some obscurity for the thick end of a century, only being kept alive in those wonderfully covered 60s and 70s pulp paperbacks, but it's had something of a renaissance in recent years. Lud-in-the-Mist has been championed by the likes of Neil Gaiman and it made number 11 in Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks series and deservedly so. I finished it around 6 weeks ago and the end is still lingering at the back of my head, becoming ever more profound with each successive rumination.
I suspect I will return to it more than once.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 9 March 2019

World Building Part 4 - Радио станция УВБ-37 (Radio station EOD-37)


This popped back in to my head recently after a couple of twitter posts in my feeds regarding number stations and home -brewed gaming settings.  As with previous entries about Brunnen 1795 this was a work in progress as a hack of Simon Washbourne's most excellent Barbarians of Lemuria/Everywhen system, before I got distracted and moved on to other things.  It's underdeveloped and no doubt grammatically terrible, but has some of my ideas for a weird science/horror/russian Quatermass style game. I may dust it off again at some point though.  Thanks to Old Scouser Roleplaying (@nfbenson on Twitter) for the interest.

Радио станция УВБ-37

(Radio station EOD-37)


And a good morning to you tovarisch.

As it's past noon and the factory is closed for Sunday afternoon, I'm sure you'll all join me in raising a glass to our fine leader, and Hero of the Union, Comrade Kruschev.

Of course our comrades in the electronics and radio workshops will have knocked off already (part timers).

So, for brevity, it is 1960. You live and work in the small southern Russian town of Beslan in the North Ossetian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Beslan has a population of approximately 15,000. Its chief industry is assembly of tractors and heavy machinery, but it also has a number of other opportunities to serve the Soviet Union, including land work, textiles, and within the chemical plant a distillery that keeps Ossetia largely self-sufficient in terms of vodka.

In many ways, being a caucasus republic, Beslan is part of the great Soviet cultural bulwark against the influence of Western decadence that seeps across borders and weakly carries on the ether, nevertheless polluting the airwaves with rock and roll, the imperialist BBC and US Armed Forces Europe, and even the revolutionary, youth driven Turkish pirate radio stations.
Turkish jazz comrades!!!

Even the muhammadans are susceptible to the morally weak Western traitors.
As it is just 15 years since the great patriotic victory, you may have served in that greatest endeavour, the defeat of Nazism.

Man or woman, you answered the call.

If younger than 32 and male, too young to be an active combatant in the Great Patriotic War, you will nevertheless have been subject to two years national service.

Women under 32 may have attended the Beslan technical college, studying electronics, engineering, textile design and manufacturing or something else useful to society.
Ossetians are also deeply spiritual, for the most part, and the high percentage of ethnic Georgians give the area an unusual concentration of Georgian Orthodox chapels and churches, particularly in the open country and the hills to the south that border the Republic of Georgia. The sepulchre in the Church of St Ekaterina has been a key focus of festivals and ceremonial formalities for generations.
This of course does not mean that Marxist-Leninist Atheism is not heavily represented in Beslan, particularly in the more political classes, but by and large the opposing belief systems just make for animated debates after a late night on the vodka.


In recent years Kruschev's great electrification programme has lit up the republics and ensured fair and equitable access to power for all. For some corners of Ossetia the light bulbs we take for granted in the towns and cities are a thing of wonder...

Even as some stubbornly resist change (as is their right, earned by hardships endured to usher in a brighter future for all comrades in our new paradise), but Babooshkas are wise in their wariness... New power and technology brings wonders, but also dangers...


 BUT WITH IT, AND WITH OUR INDOMITABLE SOCIALIST SPIRIT, WE WILL CONQUER THE AETHER!

 You are the crew and staff at Radio Station UVB-37, a combination of local radio for the Beslan area and, less openly and somewhat more secretively, a jamming station that targets western radio carrier wavelengths and fills them with a variety of materials intended to block the offending material.
You may be a radio engineer, a producer, a presenter, a janitor or any combination of the above.

The Station is overseen by Comrade Doctor Bukovsky, the head of radio and electronic studies at Beslan Technical Academy.
If you are a radio technician / electrical engineer you studied with Bukovsky and he recruited you. He's kind of... Groovy... But very serious about the business at hand.

He takes your work extremely seriously and often spends weekends at the station, surviving on rye bread, thick black tea and Petra brand cigarettes whilst intensely tuning and re-tuning the wavelengths feeding his black, war era headphones. They rarely leave his ears, even when he sprawls his long limbs and torso on the old, moth-eaten divan by the West facing window that overlooks the foundations of C-mast.

Things are looking up in Beslan. The land is yielding bumper harvests and the state has relaxed the once ubiquitous rationing in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, the memories of the ravaged land you grew up in are reinforced everywhere you go, in everything you see.

Memories...

Families vanishing from their homes, even before the Germans arrived...

Chasing cats and dogs through rubble... Then when they were too hard, or too few, helping your mother cut shoe leather into strips to boil with nettles and roots...

Doing your best to ignore the foetid smell of the recent dead when filling old pots and pans from the river...

Dodging patrols to loot meagre rations from dead and dying comrades, or the salty, dry biscuits and cured meats from dead Germans, although there were always far fewer of them...

Despite current lines of thinking and 'official' history that suggest the Germans died in their droves before our vengeful comrades, their always seemed to be far fewer corpses dressed in their field grey. And they were always more rigorous in policing their dead, at least in the early years.

By the end of course, all that remained after the thaw in Spring 1943 were corpses, often in various bizarre states of undress as their 'kamerads' had taken to desperately looting their dead to combat our greatest ally, the harsh winters that had blown in from the east.




Today, they are long gone, buried in pits, the stains of their presence replaced by the recovery of the things that were there before. Even managing to steadily grow around and over the wreckage of their machines... As if reclaiming them... As if they'd always been part of the land.

It took many years for the land to fully recover. Your bellies still ache from the hardships and sacrifices of post-victory. But your experiences were transformative. You, the people, the land, the war, even the vanished, all are part of the progress that will ensure a glorious future for our people. That hard won peace enables us to live, learn, grow and, most importantly, work for the common good and achieve our goal of a socialist utopia that works for the good of all.

We enter a new decade looking not to the past and dwelling on loss, but to the future. As Professor Bukovsky regularly says, technology is the key to achieving the socialist dream.

By conquering our surroundings we were able to live off the land.

By navigating the rivers and the oceans we were able to conquer even the furthest horizon.

Soon, rocket power will see us conquer not only the sky, but beyond.

But here, and now, we are conquering the very air around us... The aether...
Despite the pollution of the airwaves from the west, and increasingly from all stations of the compass, there are depths and... spaces... as yet untapped. At least by us... (Bukovsky is rather passionate, to the point of wild eyed obsession at times, particularly after vodka).

It is June 1961. The national holiday, declared by Comrade Kruschev to celebrate the heroic orbit of the Earth by Hero of the Soviet Union Yuri Gaga run, is over. This great, socialist achievement encapsulates the distance we have travelled since the yoke of the Tsars was broken and cast aside, swiftly followed by the power of the church. Spirituality is not a crime against the people, but mindless devotion to a sect is.


 Бога Нет
"There is no god"
 Hunger has been conquered by the strength of collectivity!







Sunday, 3 March 2019

Breakfast in the Ruins - a work in progress

It's been ages since I blogged and a few years since I tried anything new hobby-wise, particularly anything t'interweb related beyond twitter and generally using it for all of the general reasons we use it (gifs, cat pics, buying things I don't need etc).

However in recent years, whilst doing lengthy commutes, I found that podcasts had moved on somewhat from the type I'd been exposed to previously, with less of the 'yuck yuck' interactions between podcast hosts that felt the need to be artificially heightened, and more of a naturalistic and joyous approach to a specific subject matter that drew me in to feel part of the conversation. Combined with this new found interest I've been needing a hobby and outlet for my creative energies, such that they are.

A few years back, for similar reasons, I started this blog to have a good rant, but also to link to the online articles I'd written for thequietus.com. I didn't really keep that up with any regularity though, so it fell by the wayside.

Anyway, it struck me a few weeks ago that a sudden upsurge in interest amongst my friends in fantasy fiction, and particularly Michael Moorcock, had generated a number of conversations that I really enjoyed participating in. We were also having particular discussions about how to best model Moorcock in a table top role playing game. One night I started typing up some thoughts regarding my approach to it and, reading it back, it was written in a conversational style and for a split second the idea of a podcast themed around Michael Moorcock's books and other associated art seemed appealing. A few sherries later I'd ordered a USB audio hub and a condenser microphone and the next day recorded a five minute podcast introduction as a proof of concept. I shared it with some like-minded friends and, following feedback, decided to give it a whirl. I then took the plunge and set up Breakfast in the Ruins on WordPress and an accompanying twitter account @breakfastruins.

Michael Moorcock as a subject seemed the natural choice, for reasons that may become apparent during the introductory episode. I look forward to chatting with you in Derry and Tom's Roof Garden.

From a podcasting perspective, thanks for the inspiration to:

Dirk the Dice and Blythy at thegrognardfiles.com

Conrad and Fox at Spacespinner2000.com

Chris and Rachel at rachelwatchesstartrek.com