Category Archives: Non-fiction

Sorcerers, Magicians, and Warlocks – What’s the Difference?

We are a bit spoiled for choice, in the English language. When we need a word, and another language has one that’ll do the job, we’re quite happy to appropriate it – words like schadenfreude, or (my personal favourite) l’espirit de escalier (“the spirit of the staircase”, which is the French term for that moment that you come up with a cunning riposte, moments (or hours) after it’s too late.

But, crucially for the discussion I’m about to have with myself, and that you can see right here, right now, on the screen of the device of your choice, is about synonyms. And then we’ll get into the cool stuff people should put into their fantasy novels bit. That’s coming, I promise. And this little bit about synonyms leads directly into it.

It’s not much of a tangent.

Now, the synonym group that I want to talk about in particular are words that are related to practitioners of magic.  Continue reading

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Spring-heeled Jack

This is the second post in a (currently) short-running series on weird things from history that I want to see in Fantasy/New Weird/Steam Punk stories. Get on that, ok?

Here’s the first: SPANKO!

And here’s the second: Spring-heeled Jack.

We are continuing the theme of weird assailants from London – Spring-heeled Jack sprung up during the Victorian era, rather than the Restoration, but he was much more elusive than the Whipping Toms. He was probably much more invented than those three men though…

Continue reading

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So, I’ve had an idea – been nursing it for a little while.

The idea is to try and put together a list, of things that I find interesting from history, things that I’d like to see in a New Weird or Steampunk or Fantasy setting. History is an interesting place, one that you can drop in and visit, but one that (fortunately) you cannot live in. For all those people out there who just started thinking about how swell it would be to live in a Steampunk setting, in Victorian London, I’ll just point you in the general direction of some history books, and this article I wrote a little while back about what I like to call Slumpunk. Some of them I’ve already seen in those settings, so, when we come to those, I’ll point you in that direction.


To give you an idea of what, exactly, it is I’m talking about, here’s the first in this little series of demi-articles:

Gustav Dore – “Over London”


The Whipping Toms

Continue reading

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Relics from the Stone Age of Aviation

Hey, y’all! My latest piece is up on Atlas Obscura –

Before Radios, Pilots Navigated by Giant Concrete Arrows –

a little piece about an oft-forgotten piece of history.

The Emperor’s Old Roads

Hey hey! My latest piece on Atlas Obscura has gone up – The Beautiful Network of Roman Roads.

Let me know what you think!


My latest piece on Atlas Obscura explores 10,000 years of Artificial Cranial Deformation, an ancient practice that still goes on today – a link to humanity’s past.

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What’s the Oldest Still-Operating Company in the World?

What’s the oldest, still-operating company in the world? The answer might surprise you…just how long it’s been operating definitely will. My latest piece for the Atlas Obscura has the answer.

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A History of Wanking

So I wrote a little something about a big something: the history (and the Future) of wanking, over on the Archer website.

Another New Non-Fiction Piece

Photograph by Melissa Toh, reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Licence.

I’ve got an article up on The Lifted Brow (yikes!), a brief history of hacking:

What Colour is Your Hat? From Phone Phreaking to Political Hacktivism.

Check it out, let me know what you think!

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