It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


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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 But the story is about forty years out of date – in plot and in its somewhat offensive sensibilities – and suffers from some dodgy logic and some even worse dialogue.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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Top 10 Displacement Activities

Ten things you find yourself doing when you should be working on a short story or novel:

1. browsing the Internet
2. reading
3. watching telly
4. playing a computer game
5. alphabetising your book-shelves
6. re-tagging your MP3 collection
7. daydreaming about the short story or novel you’re going to write
8. thinking up a top ten list of something
9. housework
10. writing blog posts about displacement activities…


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Oops

It seems my last post on Beacon Books caused blogger.com to think It Doesn’t Have To Be Right is a spam blog. So they locked it and I had to ask for a review. Otherwise they would delete it. So perhaps sex and science fiction don’t mix all that well, after all.


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Consequences

I’ve just heard that Spandau Ballet are reforming, and I have to wonder if there is a side-effect of the credit crunch no one has considered….

All those terrible bands and celebrities of the last twenty-five years we’d happily thought had retired have also been hit by the credit crunch. So they’re relaunching their careers to bolster their dwindling incomes.

So yes, things are going to get worse. Much worse.


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Signs of the Times

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, newspapers used “monster” people – i.e., make some poor sod out to be a combination of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Gary Glitter. It didn’t matter if they deserved such treatment. It sold newspapers.

It seems the 21st century spin on this is to take some nobody who bludgeoned their way into the public eye, and pretend they’re Princess Diana come again. It doesn’t matter if they deserve such treatment. It sells newspapers.

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