Monthly Archives: March 2008

Late-night London photography

These are some I took at 3am a few weeks ago. I was waiting for a bus on Waterloo Bridge, turned around, and saw the London Eye through the concrete helter-skelter of the South Bank, so I had to go take some photographs. Most of them turned out uselessly blurry (I’m still getting used to this phone camera – a Samsung G800. 5MP, 3x optical zoom, but it has a really long exposure time) but I managed to sort these out to keep.

South Bank concrete

Waterloo Bridge, looking north at 3am

Reflections on the life of Arthur C. Clarke

I was brought up on his work, alongside Asimov and Harrison, and I wouldn’t have missed out the attitude he gave us, We can do anything – we can be anything – the future is not to be feared, for all my hopes of resurrection and eternal life amid the stars.

I want to highlight one aspect of his life and work – we all know that he was one of the very first to envisage and promulgate geostationary communications satellites. His work was cited as prior art against a patent application, in fact – because of him, nobody owns the idea. Nobody controls the fleet of steel stars that relay our words across oceans.

Music

I picked up two rather good folkish albums recently, and wanted to pimp them out a bit.
The first is Bellowhead’s new album. It’s called Burlesque, but apart from the cover picture I don’t really see the connection. It’s based on traditional English folk, with some rock influence and brass, but it’s also good happy noisy bouncy music with your basic angry social message. And some seriously nice dancing tunes.

Their website plays sound at you. However, the sound it plays is this full-length recording of what I think is their best song – a live recording from the Roskilde festival. The studio version, on the CD, is much more polished. There are some more samples on the website, and on their Myspace, though I don’t know how many are full-length.

The second is Kila’s album Gambler’s Ballet (Amazon). It wouldn’t be too unfair to describe it as Irish nuclear folk, but basically it sits firmly in the musical genre of ‘awesome’. Gaelic singing, a fascinatingly eclectic instrument choice fiddle, bodhran, uilleann, hammered dulcimer, bass guitar, banjo, saxophones, tablas, clarinet, and something referred to as a stormbone. I’m really quite interested in finding out what that is now.

Tor.com

As has been seen in various fine establishments around the Internet, Tor Books are launching a new website devoted to Science Fiction, Science Fiction Fandom, and Thynges of Interest to Science Fiction Fans. Which, of course, consists of Nearly Everything.

There will be a very decent helping of free non-DRM’d content, and in fact they’re emailing out links to free SF&F ebooks every week already. So for your convenience and entertainment, reviews.

  • Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson is the designated successor who’ll be finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series – when I first read about that, I thought ‘who?’, but he’s a pretty readable writer. It’s a shame, really, that I can’t say more than that to his credit. He writes Very Thick Fantasy books, safe and fluffy, that won’t challenge readers or present potentially unwelcome new ideas – the characters are all made of pure, noble, upstanding cardboard, and the themes are in the fine spot-the-inspiration tradition of Big Fantasy. The principal point of both Mistborn and Elantris seemed to be for both the main character and the reader to work out how the magic system worked. Nevertheless, despite all that, and despite his almost complete lack of technical ability as a writer, he still managed to keep me interested and more than happy to read to the end and pick up the next one. The closest similar writer, and I didn’t think I’d ever say this about a fantasy author, is Jilly Cooper. Sanderson : Eddings :: Eddings : Tolkien.
  • Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi. Modern classic SF, military but not militaristic, extremely good. It’s very much written in an SF sensibility, so I don’t know whether it’d make a good starting point for people without the SF reading protocol hardwired into their brains.
  • Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson. Good solid SF – reminds me a bit of Alistair Reynolds’ Century Rain and a bit of John Barnes. Some interesting messing with time, but mostly it’s about people.
  • The Outstretched Shadow, by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Very readable fluff fantasy with elves in it, book 1 of a trilogy.

Next week’s is Farthing by Jo Walton, which I’m very much looking forward to.

Anyway, yes, obligatory visual arts content – Tor are also offering desktop wallpaper versions of SF&F covers. My current background is John Jude Palencar’s cover for Charles de Lint’s Someplace to be Flying, trimmed to present the girl and the crows without the text. (No link to the Tor version, since it’s temporary – two new ones each week.)

Red & blue deco panel

Done using acrylic enamels on Daler board. It’s a bit messy in patches, and I hadn’t allowed sufficiently for the simultaneous globbiness and translucency of this particular kind of liquid plastic, so I count it as a technical failure overall. On the other hand, they have a lovely glowing quality, so I’m going to want to use these again.

Red & Blue Deco Panel 1