It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


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Book haul

Things must be bad – I’ve not done one of these posts for a couple of months, and yet there only seems to be about a month’s worth of book purchases to document. Of course, this has resulted in a small victory in reducing the TBR, although it’s still somewhat mountainous… I’d actually planned to keep my purchasing at low levels for a couple of months but, of course, as is the way of things, several authors whose books I read all had new works out – August and September seems to be a popular time to release books. Unless you’re Whippleshield Books, that is…

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Some new first editions and an old one. Research is Philip Kerr’s latest, and about a James Patterson-like writer who’s framed for the murder of his wife. Let’s hope it’s not a James Patterson-like book… Dark Lightning is the fourth in Varley’s Thunder and Lightning series, following on from Red Thunder, Red Lightning and Rolling Thunder. I initially thought these were YA, but I don’t think they actually are. All Those Vanished Engines is a new novel by a favourite writer, and the first from him since the Princess of Roumania quartet back in 2005 – 2008. I am excited about this book. Finally, Rubicon by Agnar Mykle is one by mother found for me. I looked it up and it sounded interesting so she got it for me. Mykle seems to be Norway’s answer to DH Lawrence – his Sangen om den røde rubin (1956, The Song of the Red Ruby) was confiscated as immoral and obscene. Rubicon is the third book in a loose trilogy begun with The Song of the Red Ruby. If Rubicon is any good, I might track down Mykle’s other works.

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Some recent paperback purchases: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves I bought because Karen Joy Fowler. I’ve been following Kinsey Millhone’s career for a couple of decades and W is for Wasted is the most recent installment. Grafton has kept the series’ internal chronology consistent, which means this one is actually set in 1988. Which sort of makes it historical crime fiction. Milton In America was a charity shop find. And Eric sent me a copy of his latest, a steampunk set in India, Jani and the Greater Game.

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Now this is very annoying. I’d been impressed by Léo’s Aldebaran and Betelgeuse series, so I was keen to read Antares. From Wikipedia, I learnt there were five episodes in Antares, so I waited until the final volume was published in English by Cinebook… and then bought all five books. But it ends on a cliff-hanger! Argh. It’s not finished. So now I’m going to have to wait to find out what happens.

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The DH Lawrence collection continues to grow. My father had the first two volumes of the Cambridge biography of DH Lawrence – The Early Years 1885-1912 and Triumph to Exile 1912-1922 – and I hung onto them. But I hadn’t realised it was a trilogy, and when I started looking for a copy of the final volume, Dying Game 1922-1930, I discovered that hardback editions were hard to find. But I found one. I also have a couple more 1970s Penguin paperbacks to add to the collection: St Mawr / The Virgin and the Gypsy (a pair of novellas) and England, My England (a collection). I probably have their contents in other books, but I’m trying to build up a set of these particular paperback editions.

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Some critical works on women science fiction writers. The Feminine Eye, edited by Tom Staicar, includes essays on Tiptree, Brackett, Moore, Norton, Cherryh and others. Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts is a collection of Joanna Russ’s essays on feminism. And The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction is a study of, from the back cover blurb, “the role of women and feminism in the development of American science fiction” and I really need to read it for Apollo Quartet 4…

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More books for the aviation collection. USAF Interceptors is a collection of black and white photos of, er, interceptor jet aircraft from the Cold War. Not as useful as I’d hoped. Convair Advanced Designs II is the follow-on volume to, um, Convair Advanced Designs, this time focusing on fighters and attack aircraft. And for the space books collection, Russian Spacesuits, which I used for research for my Gagarin on Mars story – and will likely use again at some point.

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Finally, more books for the underwater collection. The Greatest Depths by Gardner Soule is a quick and not especially, er, deep study of underwater exploration and exploitation. It covers the main points, including the Trieste’s descent to Challenger Deep and the Ben Franklin’s journey along the Gulf Stream. A Pictorial History of Oceanographic Submersibles does exactly what it says on the cover. It was cheap on eBay (although I demanded, and received, a partial refund because it turned out to be a bit tatty). And The Deep Sea is a glossy coffee-table book containing some nice photos of things at the bottom of the sea.


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A Post-Christmas Post

That’s one lot of festivities / commercial frenzy over. Next up, the New Year – a celebration of an entirely arbitrary point in time. Bah humbug.

I saw Avatar on Christmas Eve. It was… a spectacle. The 3D is excellent. The film looks beautiful, if a bit too much like the cover art from a Yes album. But the story is about forty years out of date – in plot and in its somewhat offensive sensibilities – and suffers from some dodgy logic and some even worse dialogue. Nevertheless, it is surprisingly involving for its length and, happily, the screen is not always so busy – as it is in many recent sf films – that you’re overwhelmed. Even more happily, it is not monumentally stupid, as Star Trek XI was. Worth seeing – worth seeing in 3D, in fact.

Christmas Day passed in the usual fashion. I watched the Doctor Who episode – the first of a two-parter to be completed on New Year’s Day. It was the usual mad logic-free rush to extend New Who’s mythology. First, they lathered on the angst – he’s the last of the Timelords. Then he drifts a little towards the Dark Side… But now the Master has been resurrected, so he’s not alone any more, and… oh wait, is that the Timelords? Where did they come from? Admittedly, I’ve never understood the logic behind the destruction of a time-travelling race – because they would be present throughout all history, not to mention aware of their destruction so they could avoid it…

Anyway, I have some good watching and good reading ahead.

I even lucked out on a couple of books for the 2010 Reading Challenge. Just before Christmas, I entered a Harper Voyager twitter competition… and won a mystery book. Which proved to be Magician by Raymond E Feist – one of the fantasy novels I’d selected for my reading challenge. So, ta very much to them. And on Boxing Day in a cut-price book shop, I found a copy of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie for 99p, another book for the challenge.

I’m still working on the final 2009 Reading Challenge post on Robert A Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. It should be appear shortly.


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Being Resolute

So, the year ahead… 2010, another science fictional year. This is a good time to think about my intentions for next year. Not resolutions – they exist to be broken. And not plans – that’s far too… fixed a word. Besides, plans always go wrong. These are things I’d like to do in the coming twelve months.

First up is the 2010 reading challenge. Each month I will read the first book of a modern fantasy series I’ve not read before, and I will write about it on this blog. Should be… interesting. Some I’m quite looking forward to; others I suspect are going to be hard work. See here for the full list of books I’ll be reading.

I also hope to read more mainstream books by selected authors – WG Sebald, for example… Michel Houellebecq… Kazuo Ishiguro… Paul Scott… I have a long list of them, anyway. I’d also like to tackle some of the sf series I have sitting unread on my book-shelves – The Marq’ssan Cycle, L Timmel Duchamp; Bold As Love and its sequels, Gwyneth Jones; Destiny’s Children, Stephen Baxter; Canopus in Argos: Archives, Doris Lessing… Again, I have a list. There are also a lot of other sf novels by assorted authors which I’d like to read. Yup, there’s a list. And I’d like to be a bit more regular in reading and reviewing books for my Space Books blog.

On the writing front, I have several intentions. I’d like to submit at least one short story a month to magazines. I’d also like to finish one story a month, although that may be beyond me. Because I’ll have other projects on the go – specifically, a new novel-length piece; although, I’ve yet to decide which particular one. Of course, I’ll be majorly chuffed if I sell a novel in 2010. I shall certainly do all I can to make that more likely. I’d also like to sell more stories in 2010 than I did in 2009. I can improve my chances of that by writing more and better, and submitting more.

Conventions… Sadly, I’m not going to the Eastercon in Heathrow. I do plan to attend alt.fiction and Fantasycon. I’ll definitely be at the latter – that’s where they’re launching Catastrophia. I’m also considering NewCon5 and Novacon 40. But we shall see…

I shall, as I have for the past couple of years, attempt the gig-a-month. Didn’t quite make it in 2009, and so far 2010 isn’t looking like it’s going to be too good for live music. Having said that, 2009 didn’t start off too auspiciously either, but it did pick up around April / May. There’s always Bloodstock and Damnation, anyway.

I think that’s enough for the time-being. I don’t want to tempt fate too much, and we all know which road is paved with good intentions. Things will happen, or they won’t. As they say in the Arab world, “life is like a cucumber…”


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New Host, Not So New Blog

Those of you who followed my blog at its previous address will have noticed that it was down for five days. This is because it was locked by blogger.com on suspicion of being a spam blog. In the civilised world, where people are innocent until prove guilty, the process would have gone something like this: blogger.com’s anti-spam bot flags a blog as a spam blog, a human checks the flagged blog and determines that it is indeed a spam blog or is perhaps a false positive. In the latter case, the blog is left untouched. But no, blogger.com prefer a more direct approach. Lock the blog and wait for the owner to complain. Yup, the blog owner is guilty, and must ask to be investigated in order for their innocence to be determined. They screwed up, and I had to beg them to fix their mistake.

So I have moved to WordPress. And I encourage anyone else on blogger.com to do the same.

As for why my blog was mistakenly locked as a spam blog… No idea. Blogger.com’s definition as a spam blog includes the phrase “…with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site.” So it could have been my Amazon associate links. Or it might simply have been that my name is Sales.

At the moment, and probably for the next couple of weeks, I will be moving in here, rearranging the furniture, repainting the rooms, etc… Undoing all of blogger.com’s nasty HTML, adding in all the widgets and links and stuff I had on my old blog… So this blog may change appearance a bit. Not to worry, the content will be just as it was. If that’s a good thing…


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Having my mind melded

Sf Signal asked a bunch of people for their picks of the top five genre books, films and television of 2009. I was one of those people, and you can see my response here.

I’ll be doing my usual best of the year here on this blog as well, of course, but it won’t be limited to science fiction, fantasy or horror. And I’ll admit now that at least two of the books in my top five are mainstream (as are many of the honourable mentions). Likewise with the films. And, rather than television, I’ll be doing my best albums of the year.

My best of the year post should appear in a couple of weeks – I don’t think I’ll do it early because I still have a few books lined up for which I have high hopes…


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Science Fiction is the literature of the future

And by that I don’t mean that science fiction is stories set in the future.

At this moment in time, in purely commercial terms, taking the genre as a whole, fantasy is outselling science fiction. Mark Charan Newton gives some reasons why on his blog here.

But that means what, exactly? That sf is at risk? that it’s dying? that if this terrible state of affairs keeps up, there’ll be no more science fiction?

Of course not.

These days, I suspect it’s wrong to even call sf a genre. It’s more of a culture set. Its styles and tropes, anything which might readily identify it, have been picked up by other genres, have been spun out to create yet other genres, have become in many respects a significant part of our cultural landscape.

(This doesn’t mean I buy into the “we live in a science fiction world, so people don’t want to read it” argument. The 1950s – atomic bombs! – and 1960s – the Apollo programme! – were pretty much science fiction worlds, and the genre was going strong then.)

As I said, science fiction has spread out into a number of diverse cultures – some it has infected, some it has generated fully-formed from its own brow. Cyberpunk, steampunk, military sf, for example. It has invaded popular film and television and computer games.

So sf is no longer a monolithic genre or culture. Add up everything that can be called “science fiction” and I think you’ll find it outsells fantasy. It’s not just literature anymore. Neither, of course, is fantasy – just look at the success of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films. But fantasy is not yet as pervasive as sf in the western cultural landscape.

(Yes, some forms of fantasy play a significant role in western culture; but not the form usually identified as fantasy literature – unlike that which is usually identified as science fiction literature.)

So yes, science fiction is the literature of the future because it is not just literature. It is a culture, it is pervasive. It is populating, and may soon dominate, our cultural landscape. Science fiction is not just the literature of the future, it is the future.

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