Notes from genre author Stephen Palmer

South by Merlin Coverley

I picked this up in a Waterstones sale on the strength of the blurb. It’s quite a quirky book, essentially a survey of attitudes to the concept of south. Part history, part cultural survey, it has four main sections: European south, the south Pacific, ‘magical’ souths (including Jorge Luis Borges), and Antarctica.

Illuminating and well written, if a little dense in places, this is a good read for sure, with the second part particularly good. The comparison with northern attitudes is well done.

Not for everyone then, but certainly worth a read if you spot it anywhere.

Live Readings

Local to Shrewsbury? Come on down!

Metazoa by Peter Godfrey-Smith

This terrific book is nothing less than a history of the likely evolution of the animal mind, starting from nothing, or, at least, from a past so distant there are almost no fossils. Published last year, it has already won many plaudits.

It begins with the simplest known multicellular animal types, focussing on glass sponges. In this and subsequent fascinating chapters, the author develops a theory of the animal mind using sensing and movement as his core processes. The chapters then go on to self-sensing, the crucial importance of knowing whether a stimulus comes from self or from the world outside, and then a look at how ever more sophisticated mental models evolved – and why.

Brilliantly written, compelling and fascinating, this is an excellent book. The author also has a go at analysing the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness, qualia. He is a materialist monist, so in my view he comes to a highly plausible declaration, which is that the mind is not something created by the brain, it is the brain, that is, when the brain is doing all its usual things. The mind in other words is not a thing or a consequence, it is a process. This leads to an excellent demolition of the usual SF AI tropes of mind-uploading, etc, which I had a go at in my novels Beautiful Intelligence and No Grave For A Fox (reviewers had differing opinions of the results).

This book comes highly recommended from me for non-specialist and specialists readers alike. The author’s first book on octopi, Other Minds, has been acknowledged a classic. I’ll be seeking out a copy soon.


Dan Jones and Phyrebrat of SFF Chronicles have begun a podcast covering various aspects of the genre, and I’m delighted to be their first guest. We spoke about Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, before heading off into my own career as an author.

To listen to Chronscast, check your podcast provider, or use the links below. They are hosted by Anchor by Spotify, but are also listed at the places below.

Apple Podcasts



Google Podcasts


Radio Public



Chronscast RSS Feed

Monique Orphan Reading

Big thanks to Joe Shooman of Shrewsbury Library for preparing this video of me reading an excerpt from Monique Orphan. This was at the library book launch in November.

TD book new review

Great review here from Prog Magazine: ‘Palmer… is an eloquent narrator and applies strong and perceptive analysis to Edgar Froese and co’s evolution from instrument– mangling experimentalists to futurist electronic visionaries… Walkthroughs of the albums’ contents are offset with archive quotes from the key players (and a couple of original interviews), and illuminating context… Palmer’s dedication to digging up that kind of long-lost material results in a compelling deep dive into the story of a band whose influence continues to be felt half a century later.’

2022 Signposts

I thought I’d signpost a few possibilities today, New Year’s Day, to throw some light on what might happen for me during the year. These are signposts only, though, none of them leading to a confirmed destination! I hope some or all of them do, however…

1. The Humour Mines & Other Unlikely Stories. Written and audio.

2. June 6th is the 25th anniversary of the publication of my second Orbit novel Glass.

3. I sold my near-future internet novel set in China Cybergone to White Cat Publishing.

2021 Round Up

2021… a difficult year. I’m notorious for not speaking about my private life; suffice to say, it’s been extremely difficult, gruelling and relentless. But there is light at the end of the tunnel…

My year as an author has been good. At the start of the year I was much engaged with the FCCs Fictions project, which concluded in the summer with an internet debate including all four of us authors – a fun experience. Though I’ve not written much of note during the year, I did, with the great and insightful help of my editor Keith Brooke, prepare my Conjuror Girl trilogy, published this and last month by the Infinite Press. Two reviews so far have given it much praise, which I’m thrilled with. I also finished and had published my book on Tangerine Dream, with SonicBond Publishing, which I much enjoyed writing.

Elsewhere, I continued working with Joe Shooman of Shrewsbury Library for the Writer’s Lab, including a good few special guests.

On 4th April I celebrated the 25th anniversary of the publication of my Orbit debut Memory Seed, for which I designed a brand new cover. I also sold to White Cat Publishing my near future internet novel Cybergone. I only had one short story published during the year, for the Newcon Press anthology No More Heroes, edited by Ian Whates. This story celebrated the surreal life of the late, great Edgar Froese.

Monique Orphan new review

Very pleased to read this long form review of Monique Orphan by Mark Hayes. His response to the first volume of the Conjuror Girl trilogy is exactly what I was hoping for.

Conjuror Girl review

Really pleased with this review of my Conjuror Girl trilogy by Nimue Brown.