Note to Self – don’t need books, don’t walk into bookshops

It even has a cool abstract cover!I’m quite lucky.  Where I live we have a wide selection of bookshops.  In fact I am doubly lucky that I have two great charity bookshops that not only have a great selection but you get that “I’m doing good” glow by buying from them.  Cheap too.

I found this gem on the shelf:  Interzone – The 1st Anthology.

The reason I picked it up was that I was quite impressed by the authors published in the book.  They’re not all who I would’ve thought of for mid 80s SF. It’s quite a list:  Geoff Ryman, JG Ballard (!), Kim Newman and… Angela Carter (!!).  I am quite surprised by this last one as I wouldn’t have expected to see her listed in a SF anthology*.  In fact it was this breadth of talent and reputation and got me to pick up and buy the book.

Now I might be over generalising but it seems to me that, these days, anthologies seem to contain only work from people known within the genre.  Perhaps the borders of what constitutes a worthy story are much harder.  Or perhaps I am just not reading as many anthologies as I used to.

The first paragraph of the introduction, written in 1985, seems oddly prophetic today:

Here are thirteen stories about the way things are going to be.  It has been a long century for the world, and there is much to talk about. In 1985, we have already been told a good deal.  We have been told that the fabric of life, having gone rotten in 1914,has been replaced by synthetic fibres, which itch terribly.  We have been told that the novel, through which earlier generations learned how to make sense of life, has died, because the stable organic culture it described has given way.  No longer, we have been told , can fiction cope with the harrowing speed and indeterminacy and scale of the catastrophes presently shaking this small planet apart.

14yr Old Stephen King’s submission letter online!

Stephen King’s submission teen submission letter is now available online.  Read it!

Paul WS Anderson… I hate you

This is an open letter to the other Paul Anderson.  The hack one.  The one who makes terrible films. If you are the good one please stop reading.

Dear Paul,

Please stop making films. Just stop, desist, cease – find a new hobby, do something different.

You made the reasonably enjoyable Event Horizon and then what happened to you?  You made Solider, you made The Sight and then AVP: Aliens versus Predator – a film so bad even its name is nominatively redundant. I look at your spiralling career and I wonder if this is the path you sought when you left film school.  “What have I done ?” I hear you ask.  What have you done… you have made this:

Yes this.  What were you thinking?  What is this?  What were you on when you made it?  Why didn’t you at least attempt to make this?  That is not only a great piece of cinema but an excellent adaptation of the books – it even has a great cast.  Instead you hired Milla Jovovich (your wife) and … Orlando Bloom in some sort of crass faux renaissance France crapfest.

I am led to believe you are trying to remake The Long Good Friday.  My head is in my hands,  I weep at the contempt you evidently feel for other’s work.

Please just stop …

Pretty please.

With a cherry on top.

Books Belong In Bookshops…

… and in our hands.

Heather Collins over at the Scottish Booktrust writes on why Books deserve to be sold on the highstreet.  While I don’t care for the comparisons with Fairtrade and Organic food I do agree that part of the fun is browsing.  I love to browse.  I like to walk in and spend ages wandering back and forth looking in books, admiring artwork and generally enjoying myself.   The thought that this might stop fills me with a lot of sadness.

Even the Guardian asks Will Books Vanish With Bookshops? I hope not.   There’s a part of me that wonders if we’re living in interesting times.   I’ve lived through:  the fall of the Soviets, I’ve seen space shuttles explode and watched genocide happen Live on television. So will I also watch the end of one of our most important cultural artefacts?  Again I hope not.  If the future is one where we never leave our homes, where we spend our lives more connected and more distant then it’s a future I don’t look forward to.

As Ray Bradbury said (PDF):

Magazines and books didn’t sell any more. Everything went on in the tomblike houses at night now, he thought, continuing his fancy.  The tombs, ill-lit by television light, where the people sat like the dead, the  gray or multicolored lights touching their faces, but never really touching them.

Lion says vote for me!

We here in the wacky olde U of K are going to have some elections soon.  Up here in the cooler areas we’re voting in our next group of illustrious leaders while down south it’s the party minions and at the same time we’re going to have a vote to decide how we’re going to vote next time.  At the moment we have First Past The Post (FPTP).  On the surface it’s simple and fair with ever citizen eligible getting one vote for their local representative and ultimately which the group they belong to.  Eventually one group will win and we will have a new government.  all very and fair and simple you’d think except it’s not.  And here’s why:

OOooh that evil Gorilla!

Well we’re being given a choice:

Hm.  It’s not much better but it’s a start.

So I’ll vote Leopard at in the booth and for AV.

It was a dark and stormy night …

… in the distance an owl hooted.

Is this the most clichéd opening line in history?  Probably and it’s certainly the first example trotted out in writing classes.

Perhaps the journalists involved in this gem skipped that class?

The black police dog winced as its paws touched the thorns on the bushes by the side of a remote beachside highway …

Or how about the closing line?

The wind whistled through the reeds and the brush crackled as the cadaver dog carried on sniffing.

You have ask yourself what the journalist was on when they wrote that article or more appropriately what was the editor thinking?   It feels fairly disrespectful to write about murder as though it were a few paragraphs in a trashy thriller.  I know that it’s fashionable to pass journalism off as stories – with added real stuff – but please guys just tells us the real stuff with added story.

Bygone Eras?

I quite like historical fiction.  The reason I mention this is that I am currently watching I, Claudius.  I’ve never got around to reading the book but I must say that I am completely hooked by the 1970s TV series.

It’s superb television.  Visually nothing much happens:  battles happen off stage, cast members come and go through a succession of small rooms and there’s very little in terms of titillation aside from an occasional nipple (which surprised me).  I am completely absorbed by the people talking to each other.  I can’t see the Beeb ever making something as good again.

Certainly if trash like Spartacus the TV series and The Tudors is what passes for Historical fiction on telly then is it any wonder that people have funny ideas about the past?  Yes I know it’s just meant to be fun but I can’t help but wonder if these sorts of shows do a great deal of harm to our cultural perception of the past.

And I’ve just added the book to my basket on Amazon.

Oh, and before I forget… Some of the best books I’ve ever read are historical fiction.  Read the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian and be amazed.