(Burger) Bunfights at the Point of a Pen

There’s a war going on.  It’s filled with religious themes,  where the combatants are split down tribal lines. It’s replete with bitterness, personal feuds, recrimination and accusations that the other “did it first”.  It’s not a new war either because we’ve been here before.  No, not Afghanistan,  I’m talking about the row over what constitutes a good book.

The eye rollingly named Edward Docx* has had a minor rant published in the Guardian.  He claims, with no irony, that no matter how you dress up a burger it’s still a burger.   Burgers being is his oh-so-clever-never-heard-that-before metaphor for the sin of genre.

How very droll of you Mr Docx.  I challenge you to an eating contest.  On the one hand we will eat the filth that McDonalds serves the poor masses and then on recovery we will consume hand crafted tasty burger-treats.  If you still cannot tell the difference then I will bid you good day and recommend you have your taste buds checked out.

You see the problem I have is that Mr Docx  conflates the word genre with bad.  Even as he stresses that there’s bad Michelin starred linguine restaurants you can sense the clenching of  teeth or a titter  hidden behind a single hand.  My my a chip so large that it can’t fit into a McDonalds deep fat fryer.  I feel the urge to put a consoling arm around his trembling shoulders and tell him it’s ok to admit that any book from any form can be horrifically bad.

And that’s the problem.  It’s not that genre is bad, it’s that there are bad books.  I can’t comment on Larsson’s The Girl With…  books because I’ve not read them.  However I can say that if I could, I would  go back and prevent Dan Brown learning to write.  A man like Dan Brown represents all that is bad in book writing.  He is the very epitome of what happens when you give marketing departments a budget and tell them to sell the feculence from the side of the road.  The Da Vinci Code is, for want of another metaphor, a Big Mac:  plastic, bland, lacking in nutrition and bearing only a vague resemblance to the picture on the board.

And yet people do buy Big Macs…  yeah Mr Docx I am puzzled by that too but then I am not the one confusing one type of burger for another.

We can stretch his metaphor further.  Has he never been in an alien city and unsure where the good places to eat are?  Has he never stood on a street and wondered whether it was the Chinese or Indian tonight?  Or had trouble when the group decided that it’s Italian for tea even though he wanted Michelin rated linguine.  Even then, when he’s sat down (presumably alone because he bemoans the lack of sales) for his Michelin meal it seems that he’s not sure what’s going on because even in these sorts of restaurants they’ll only make you what’s on the menu.

Docx goes on a tirade about the constraints of genre, arguing that genre means that the writer has limited paths he can take to tell his story.  While he’s doing this he doesn’t mention that genre is a marketing concept.  He doesn’t seem to grasp that many authors are unsure if they are going to write genre and that these are attached to them at a later point.  He doesn’t understand that some literary fiction authors have a wide following.  In fact he doesn’t seem to understand very much.

So why is he in the Guardian pontificating?

Or is this a clever ploy to increase his sales?**

* (ho ho ho I see what he did thar… )I don’t normally indulge in a bit of the old Ad Hominem but considering Docx’s press photies look like this I hope he’s got a sense of humour about him.

** In which case I have to salute him because I bet his Google search rank has gone up.

Care in the community!

Do your parents ring you at all hours of the day or night asking you what the computer-thing is doing?  Do you ever get asked to look at their computer only to wonder how on earth did they do THAT!?

Never fear for help is at hand.  Now you can send friendly geeks to their email and all you have to do is click here and fill in a form.

Now help is only a click away!

Colouful concepts

When I was a kid I remember picking up one of my dad’s SF books and being fascinated by the cover.  It was the bright orange cover of Asimov’s Foundation’s Edge.  When I was next in the library (remember those?) I searched around till I found a book of SF concept art.  I can’t remember the book title but there was one picture in particular that has stuck in my head.  It depicted a crashed spaceship in a jungle on an alien planet.  Out of the smashed cockpit hung the remains of the pilot.  Tendrils were growing from everywhere: out of the suit, all over the ship, from the eye sockets of the pilot’s skull…

I’ve been a bit of a sucker for alien landscapes ever since.  Today I came across this neato blog.

Pretty cool?  Click on the pic for more.

Lies, Damn Lies and… the Joy of Stats.

I never thought I would admit to being excited by a television show about statistics* but BBC4’s new show is brilliant.   For once I am not going to complain about the BBC’s obsession with chasing after the ITV crowd.  Instead I’ll refer you to  this article by the Guardian.  Watch the video.  This is science (mathematics anyway) displayed in a manner that’s entertaining and educational.  If only my maths teacher had had the tools to do this I might be doing a different job now.

The Joy of Stats is currently on BBC 4.  Watch it.

And this isn’t the only show that the Beeb has made recently that’s actually impressed me.  There’s also the Beauty of Diagrams and David Attenborough’s First Life (which I hope they come back to and do more episodes).  It’s been a golden month for documentaries.

* Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised because I did watch a fantastic documentary about fax machines a few years back.

Anonymous Critiquing Bonanza

Quite a productive evening tonight.  I attended my first meeting of the Inky fingers group here in Edinburgh.  It was very interesting.  Seven of us submitted sample short pieces in advance,  these were anonymised and passed around.  We read the each and then had a discussion.  I really enjoyed myself.  There was a preponderance of poetry – that’s true – but I have to say that the standard was high so I didn’t mind.   My main enjoyment came from spending time with other authors and hearing their thoughts.  Everything was constructive and fair.  No one was picked on.  All in all it had a great atmosphere and hopefully I’ve made some friends.  I came away with a fresh perspective of what I had written and some notes on improving it.

It did what it said on the tin!

Thanks to everyone who was there!


The Forest Cafe is under threat.  The charity that owned and operated it has gone into administration.  Other arts venues owned by that charity have already been shut.  The folks at the cafe have been corageous and are attempting to take it under their own wing.  It is a unique venue.  Vist their site and make a donation if you can.


The Forest Cafe is not the only place that is under threat.  The Assembly Rooms on George St are due to be closed for renovation.  The reason for this renovation appears to be an excuse to install yet more shops (that won’t be used) and a restaurant (as if Edinburgh needs more of those).  Artsy types are rightly up in arms.

Please go take a look and see how you can help.


In brief.  This is a major venue that’s part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  Edinburgh has become a mecca this sort of thing.  You’d think that the council would ensure that it’s global reputation remained but this is also the same council that really doesn’t give a toss about Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Under the Influence…

Here I am  trying and failing to write.  In my blocked state I turn to the interwebs and what do I find?  A recommendation that, if in doubt, booze and drugs will get you out of your fug.  There’s even a helpful chart.

Now if someone had plotted this with some X and Y coordinates then perhaps we would find the perfect combination drugs and creativity.

Yeah it’s pretty cold and pretty…

I’ve held off mentioning the weather.  It’s a perennial  favourite of us people from the top country in the 2nd tier of the world.  My guess is that it’s because weather here is so… interesting.  I once went to a gig where the band performed during a strange mix of sunshine, rain, lightning, hale, sleet and snow before the sun came out as they left the stage.  They were a black metal band* so it’s entirely probable they’d organised it with the bloke downstairs.  Fast forward a few years and this is what I am putting up with:

I love snow.  It’s great:   I love the way it looks, the effect it has on whatever it touches and the way it adds texture.  I hear constant whinging about it** – some people seem to suggest we’ve never had it so good –  and then there’s the whinging when we don’t … I say enjoy it while it lasts!

* I have to insist that I not be associated with this sort of music as I find it incredibly tedious.  Not so the girl I was going out with at the time.

** This one really gets on my nerves.  When did this country become home to 66 million Scrooges?