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That Tuition Fee Scam, Links roundup

Friday 26th November, a cold dry day, frost on the roofs, ice on the pools. Frosty nights, Orion clear and bright framed in the long window on the landing, the stars of the sword sadly faint, betelgeuse an orange spark; and in the dark before dawn, Venus a dab of brilliant green glitter in the south east. Maybe it'll snow down here tomorrow...

That tuition fees scam. Correction, the students aren't protesting and their teachers aren't supporting them because the students are resentful of a price hike that's part of the country's much needed austerity drive. Many of those out on the streets are out there in despair, having good reason to fear they never mind those who come after them will never be paying the massively increased fees: since their earnings will never reach the £21,000 p.a. threshold. They will be in debt for life, effectively indentured to the State. The protest is against the Government's cunning plan (following in New Labour's footsteps, let it be said) to use Higher Education as a source of direct revenue. The increased fees are meant to finance more university places, the irrational goal is to have, at the least, around 50% of all eighteen year olds absorbed by perfectly useless "degree courses" in what will still be called "Higher Education"; while at the same time funding and staffing cuts make it completely impossible for the universities to provide goods fit for purpose, in teaching and knowledge resources.

It doesn't make sense. Seed corn must not be ground. But it's Capitalism's most evil dream come true. More and more customers, higher and higher prices, less and less value. That Nice Mr Cameron should be happy, and why not? The window-breaking will pass, the poor children will have to stop crying and eat their cold porridge, which is as it should be. But That Nice Mr Clegg is a marvel, isn't he. He ought to be in pictures. Something by Hogarth, I think. The Liberal's Progress, what d'you think?

Oh, excuse me, of course the elite will be fine (students and institutions both) because they are rich to start with. I shouldn't forget to mention that.

The photo is one I took in Paris, November 2003, the now-legendary Anti-Pub action. It seemed to fit the bill better than a police kettle and window-breakers montage.

Links round up:
Al Robertson ("Golden") reprises Wm Gibson's Gernsback Continuum, with the wry 21st century twist that visions of a shiny perfect future that never happened bring hope and longing rather than disquiet. Somebody's messing around wickedly with a rockstar's most personal intellectual property, in the P K Dick continuum revisited by Chris Butler ("Have Guitar, Will Travel"). A feisty and well-connected heroine, in a far future space opera setting not a billion light years from Mr Ian M. Banks's Culture, has adventures on the edge of time and space (Lavie Tidhar, "Lode Stars"). . . The one I liked best (it's still lingering in my mind right now) was the more contemporary-feeling "Dolls", (Colin P.Davis),somewhere in Fred Pohl territory, and as a bonus there's a whimsical miniature from Tanith Lee. Respect for the traditions of genre, uniformly solid writing and a refreshingly international feel, what more could you ask? Cunningly placed for Christmas shoppers, The Immersion Book of SF bodes well for Carmelo Rafala's Brighton based Immersion Press.

I hadn't heard from Mute Magazine for quite a while (original home of a very dirty, Swiftian story of mine, I Am An Anarchist, warning this is not pleasant material). Have they just found me again, or are the art and culture radical zineists having a growth spurt? Anyway, check them out. There seems to be a lot going on & I wish I could make it to the launch of No Room To Move. I'm very interested in public art at the moment.

Last but not least, don't forget From-Bar-to-Bar. Still running the most innovative and daring sf/related interviews on the planet. Charles Stross and Jeff Vandermeer are two of the victims to look out for.


Wednesday 17th November. First white roofs of the season, yesterday, but this morning milder air returns with more wind and rain. No floods yet in Sussex.

Walking out in the autumn woods on Sunday, Angmering estate. The woodland paths were not dry! We got wet, and found the sweet chestnuts long gone, rotted or eaten, the fungi sodden, but the beeches in the last of their autumn glory as always seeming more beautiful than ever. Holly bushes thick with scarlet, amazingly intense in the gloom of a dark November afternoon (it means there was a hard winter, you know; not that there's going to be one. See how even weather myths change and evolve? I picked up that new one somewhere recently, can't remember where). I'd show you the pictures, but they were on Peter's phone, which sadly he mislaid at Belfast airport yesterday.

Next time we visit those woods it will probably be for the bluebells.

Finished restoring Phoenix Café last night. I've just sent it off to Kath Wilhelm at Aqueduct Press, so that's a job done (I hope, and barring a few queries). The Ebook Aleutian Trilogy, all new, revised edition, is on the road again, and off my hands. Just for fun, (it really is funny), here's a recent discussion of the Gollancz edition Or rather the cover, a far more amusing topic.

And finally! Lovefilm is sending me Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. I've only had that movie on my list, high priority, (on reserve from the moment I found out it was going to be re-released) for about three years.

All Students Are Equal

Up to Manchester again, a bright chilly day in the middle of a week of wind and rain. Seen on Victoria station: the sme hand written legend repeated on several teeshirts: "ALL STUDENTS ARE EQUAL. SOME STUDENTS ARE MORE EQUAL. . . and they'd run out of space, for "THAN OTHERS". Thus a literary heritage is debased by copyists' errors, even while being sincerely revered. Good on you, kids, I thought. You won't win, but, but, it's the refusal to shut up that matters. It's saying something that distinguishes you from a doormat.

Also thought of walking up to one of these bobbing gaggles and straggles of bright-eyed youth, on Victoria and on Euston concourse, and expressing my good wishes, but decided against. Contented myself with looking at the young women's feet; was glad to see their footwear was uniformly sensible. None of those wicked toe-cleavage ballet pumps.

Autumn leaves picked up in the park for my mother. "I'll never go there again", she says, tragically. Though sorry to burst her bubble, I pointed out we could take a taxi to go tree-peeping right now. But she didn't feel well enough. "When I'm better". Yes, I know when that will be.

And back in time to watch the Derby in Brighton: United proudly maintaining their flatlined, not-losing form. Sigh.

On the Level

Tuesday 9th November, less rain and wind than yesterday (which was a day for sandbags at the back door); thick cloud suffused with light; a fresher air. To whom it may concern: if you either live in Brighton and Hove, or you'd like to see urban green spaces preserved, spare a thought for The Level, a wide open flat green space in the centre of Brighton, bordered by the last stand of European Elms, historic preserve of fairs, festivals, football, people practising their juggling, tai chi, staggering babies, dogs racing after sticks, lunchtime escapes to fresh air under a wide sky, or just a place to sit and talk, lie down and stare at the clouds. They say that underarm bowling (or was it overarm, I forget) was established here: anyway, some of the rules and customs of cricket were hammered out on the Level, two hundred years ago. The Council has been muttering about developing this resource, or "restoring the Level" (where are those spending cuts when you need them, eh?): this now turns out to mean a large chunk being cut out of the North End, the open green space: for the provision of a new skatepark, and a cafe. There's a cafe at the South End of the Level, and a skatepark too. It needs refurbishing, so by all means let it be refurbished. Leave the North End green.

So, here's the petition. Please sign up.

About that (Space) Opera Thing:

Finished restoring North Wind for the ebook edition, and sent it off to Aqueduct. It's a favourite of mine, of all my books (cf Midnight Lamp, must be something about middle episodes) White Queen*is Wagnerian, tragic and seems more contemporary now than it did in 1990 (the near future being eerily upon us, my subject being "how does a decent, moral person become a terrorist?). Phoenix Cafe is weird and decadent and shockingly sexy (Puccini). North Wind is a fairytale of forgiveness (Mozart), an adventure, a romance of the Great Game, written in those innocent years when people believed war was wrong, and something we should be trying to put behind us.

You don't need to read the Aleutian Trilogy before you read Spirit, that's like saying you have to read the Silmarillion before you can tackle The Lord Of The Rings. The earlier stories are very different, and the narrative connection's very slight. But North Wind is the one I'd reccommend, for its own sake.

Although possible not for your average UK sf fan.

*Speaking of "Speaking Aleutian". Funny thing, in 1991 when I arrived in Madison Wisconsin, courtesy of the Tiptree Award win, I had the feeling that the people who'd read the book (ie the Tiptree judges) were expecting Braemar Wilson. I felt the weird disjoint, when Gwyneth Jones turned out to be me, not an exquisite, cynical. tortured soul of a hyperfeminine media star.

Even scrubbed up, I'm not much of a natty dresser.

Also just finished reading Alone In Berlin, Mm. I suppose it does deserve all those five star reviews, but in the end, it has no fresh insights, no revelation. The resistance of ordinary German people to the appalling Nazi machine was a painful, long-drawn out and isolated, pitiful little business. Think we knew that.

Red Sky, Purple Sage, Crushed Pine, Autumn Falls, Meteor Silver. . .

Red Sky in the morning, a flamboyant dawn, Monday 25th of October. On the Saturday night we'd had people round for dinner (My B'stilla went very well, to my amazement; I believe Peter's signature chicken and preserved lemon tagine has been better). Half term week, we said. We're going to decorate the stairwell! A slightly anxious silence ensued. The biggest room in the house, said Dinah. Those high ceilings. . . But we always do our own decorating, except that one time when we went off on holiday, leaving ourselves at the mercy of the colour scheme we thought we'd picked out from those pesky colour cards. . .and spent the next twenty years sleeping in a neapolitan candy ice cream parlour. Undeterred, we plunged into dust bunnies and sugar soap, knuckle-eating sanding blocks, evil hateful extending ladders and paint-rollers on poles.

There must be an easier way. Something brilliant and new.

There probably is, only we are ignorant of the modern world, and only know the way to B&Q

Are you sure about Purple Sage, Peter? Please try to put The Grateful Dead connection out of your mind, and visualise how long we're likely to live with this.

That bxxxxxd Silver Meteor. I hate it. It lacks the single most important characteristic of paint. It sticks to nothing except me, and anything I wish I hadn't touched.

By Wednesday afternoon we had discovered Green, and though Green swiftly discovered a lot of places it should not, we felt we were in sight of the distant goal.

Thankfully, we always cook for about twenty and then invite four people, so that dinner party was still sustaining us with high-grade leftovers.

Friday evening, oh, I was so tired, and somebody left the door to the basement open. A cat came up the stairs. If it had been Milo. . . well, it was Ginger, curious and unperturbed, sniffing at the sticky crushed pine skirting boards, eyeing up the ladders. There was a moment (for which I take full responsibility) when I should have grabbed my paint kettle, and I grabbed for the cat instead.

My God. Alas, how easily things go wrong. . . and in classic style, I suspect it wasn't the accident, it was our frantic attempts to recover the situation. She's on my knee now, wearing an Elizabethan Collar of clear plastic. I hope and believe she's going to be okay, but after we'd got the paint off, the fur fell out of her right inner thigh and her armpit, and she licked the raw places and got herself an infection. Meanwhile, my right hand, savaged with furious determination in the vet's office, swelled up like a balloon, and Peter has interesting puncture scars inside his left elbow.

We'd been planning to go and see the late night show of Enter The Void . We went to see it on Saturday afternoon instead. Not really the right ambience. The trippiness had to struggle to get through the painkillers, far as I was concerned. But a good cult movie, nonetheless.

Trouble is, I've really gone off Crushed Pine.