Jemma, my wife, is a force of nature when it comes to Christmas shopping. She started about a month ago and I think has pretty much nailed it already.
Now, I like to think that she is the exception rather than the rule in this regard, and if this is true, then most of you reading this will still be in search of some prezzies for your loved ones this Chrimbo.
Well, Sputnik can help. It’s great to see the quality work out there emanating from guys connected to our collective, and it could just be what you need to complete your gift buying mission.
Here are 6 Sputnik stocking fillers that we’d thoroughly recommend:
An Android Awakes by Mike French
Just over a year ago, Mike French released this, his fourth novel- a collaboration with illustrator Karl Brown. It’s set in a future where our culture is shaped by machines, and part of that shaping is done through the Android Publishing Program. In short, robots provide people with their reading material. The catch is that each android only gets 42 attempts to get their work published before they are deactivated.
‘An Android Awakes’ is the story of Android Writer PN121928 who, after a series of rejections, only has 14 attempts left before deactivation. What follows then are these attempts, intertwined with the narrative about the android novelist’s life and particularly his fears as he gets closer and closer to the potentially definitive rejection. Therefore, it’s partly a short story collection and partly an extended exploration of a dystopian future.
And it scores on both fronts. The short stories are consistently bizarre, funny and poignant and give Mike full rein to let his imagination really go to town. On the other hand, the whole set up is coherent and well fleshed out and both serves as an interesting and disturbing vision of the future and a fable about the plight of very human writers in the here and now.
“The questions of what makes us truly human and what life means isn’t anything new within the genre, but the presentation of those timeless questions here is exemplary and fresh” (AMO MAGAZINE)
Who’d like it in their stocking? Anyone into Philip K Dick or 2000AD. I’d also probably better add a 15 rating on to it too, in case some over eager parents were expecting Hagbane’s Doom with robots (anyone remember Hagbane’s Doom? Oh, it’s just me then).
The Parables of Pythagoras by The Praying Mantis
The Praying Mantis is an exceptional wordsmith and vocalist. His lyrical ingenuity and authoritative delivery have been apparent for years both in his live shows and through his previous releases, but I don’t think that they’ve ever been showcased as effectively as on The Parables of Pythagoras, his latest album. The beats are gritty and hard hitting (lots of ominous strings and snapping snares) and the rhymes are classic Mantis.
Who’d like it in their stocking? Within the rap genre, there is an opportunity for in your face unapologetic statements of faith and Mantis seizes that opportunity with both hands. However, whereas many Christian rappers fill their verses with such theological detail that they ensure that only Christians will connect with their material, Mantis crafts his work in such a way that anyone into gritty, street hiphop a la late 90s Wu Tang Clan will be happy to see in the New Year to The Parables of Pythagoras.
How can I get it? It’s on band camp. It’s also available on a physical CD (I know because I’ve got one) however Mantis is hiding them all away in his warchest, so you’ll have to put some work in to get your hands on one.
Humanization (Issues 1 and 2) by Josh and Steve Whitehouse
Nothing says Happy Christmas like some dystopian sci fi. An Android Awakes is a case in point, as are the first two issues of Josh and Steve Whitehouse’s Humanization comics. Issue 1 came out about a year ago, but the second issue has crept into being under most people’s radar. Not any more!
Humanization is set in a world where humans are extinct, but the internet that they left behind has developed consciousness. Servers, websites and programs of all kinds have become living beings and the comic follows their adventures focusing on CADRA, a common farm girl working on the code fields and her pet dragon, Mutt.
The story opens up in an intriguing manner and, as you’d expect from Josh, the illustration is crazily good. And as for detail! Seriously, if you ever get the chance, get him to talk you through the bar scene in issue 2- for every item on every shelf has a meaning and significance. Every item!
Who’d like it in their stocking? Um… who wouldn’t like it in their stocking? It’s got a cute dragon sidekick, a a zombie Paul Simon, and Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple personified as dictatorial overlords. Can I narrow it down? People who like things that are good. (Actually, people who like things that are good who are over 15. Same reasons as above)
How can I get it? You can get issues 1 and 2 for a mere fiver from jowybean’s etsy page. Bargain.
Sojourner by Stewart Garry
If you’ve been following this blog at all this year, you should have caught up on this one already, but if not, Sojourner is one of my favourite projects of the year full stop. Stewart is an insanely nimble fingered acoustic guitarist par excellence and was ready to record his second album some time a year or so back. However, it wasn’t coming together in a recording studio. Cue Chris Donald, head honcho of Minor Artists, musical super producer, and more often than not a man with a plan. Chris suggested that the two of them should record the album in some of the places which inspired Stewart in his craft. So they did. One song is recorded in a whiskey distillery, one in a lighthouse, another in an old church. And all the songs are recorded visually too, making the album actually a series of music videos, with commentary from Stewart, letting us in a little on his creative process.
The music is beautiful. The visuals let us into the physicality of Stewart’s skills. The whole package is a wonderful example of how to do a creative project properly.
Is it a film? Is it an album? Both, of course, and Sojourner is also a unique presentation of an artist and his music. (Folking.com)
Who’d like it in their stocking? I’ll be honest, I’m not usually a fan of instrumental acoustic guitar music, but I love this. The videos made Stewart’s music accessible to me, but even without these, it is a great album. ‘Patience is a virtue’ even made it on to a Mellor Holiday mix CD. That’s a high bar, right there!
How can I get it? It’s available from Minor Artists’ website either as a download or as a physical CD/DVD.
Ocean by Joanna Karselis
Did I say mix CD? Well, if you, like me, partake in the creation of such things for holiday jaunts to see family or just to compile favourite tunes of the year, this is a shoe in. Jo has never sounded more vital and arresting. Just listen to the intro and it will come as no surprise that this is the lady whose brutal strumming was responsible for slicing the top off one of her fingers while performing earlier this year. Hardcore!
Who’d like it on their Christmas mix CD? The intro reminds me of early Ani Defranco, and anyone who likes their music passionate and authentic will value this highly.
How can I get it? Bandcamp once again. Don’t be shy to give a bit more than the required amount either. (You don’t want 3 ghosts to visit you at night do you?)
Customised pencil sketches by Benjamin Harris
In september, Ben’s bike got nicked, so to fund a new one (and his upcoming volunteer work in Tanzania) he has started doing pencil sketches of basically anything you’d like. Rather geekily, we got him to make a piece of GK Chesterton. My mum got him to draw my sister’s dogs (yes, he really will stoop that low). They range from £30 (A5) to £40 (A3) and you won’t be disappointed.
Who’d like it in their stocking? We commissioned a piece of GK Chesterton (see above). My mum got him to draw my sister’s dogs. So basically anyone.
How can I get it? Here’s the deets.