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The Great Escape/The Games

Monday 30th May, cold and grey and still no rain for the south east.

As You Like It on Friday night was great, the birds sang, the wind even died down. We were almost warm on our rug, and glad to be groundlings (though I think actual C16/17 groundlings stood up, or walked about like promenaders?); those who had brought chairs being condemned to what looked like rather chilly isolation. The Great White Silence was grim in parts, especially the counter-tenor singing Abide With Me, and although I remembered them fondly from Ponting's book "The Great White South", I wd have to agree with those who have complained there are too many penguins & not enough sightings of Scott. But a fascinating record, amazing survival of early film-making. Didn't make it to the Freedom Picnic after that, as the hour was getting late and the weather so miserable. & so farewell Brighton festival, for another year. Absolute stand-outs for me were As You Like It, and Lief Ove Andsnes at Glyndebourne, but Craig and Max's set at The Foundry (was, Pedestrian Arms) pretty nice too.

Howthelightgetsin#n: have just posted "The Games" on my homepage. This is in response to a briefing discussion with Rhian Sanville last week, on "The Great Escape" panel about Fantasy. It's a long essay, and of course long out of date, but NB even in 2002: How strangely far we've come from the deserts of the mid-C20th, when only a few oddly talented and/or unhealthily obsessive adults could still process fantasy at all. And the way my thirteen and fourteen year old respondents were well aware that His Dark Materials in print was far richer than the games that currently obsessed them, and impossible to compress.

Bold As Love On Kindle

Friday 27th May, weather hasn't changed.

When I discovered, about a month ago (thanks to Boing Boing) that Amazon Kindle had made its restrictive practices optional, the time had come. It seems to have taken ages, despite being a very simple process, but anyway, here's the first wave: the second editions of all five of the Rock and Roll Reich books are on Kindle.(The link to Kindle UK is on the sidebar to your right nb).

Next wave will be Ann Halam's mid-period backlist (from Dr Franklin onward, Orion has the e-rights).

The older books, eg the Daymaker trilogy, will take a little longer, because they'll have to be scanned. It'll be a while before Escape Plans gets the treatment I'm afraid.

Besides Attack the Block, I've been watching Heimat 1; also looking forward to Inception, which lovefilm has just sent me. I had great expectations when it came out, but then felt what I'd seen was just a caper with fancy special effects that were (fatally) not v. well integrated with a rather slight plot, shades of The Matrix in fact. So I'm keen to see it again.

& of course Brighton Festival. This evening As You Like It outdoors, Beaufort 6 breeze and cold grey clouds, just so we know what the joy of exile in the forest really feels like. We'd better wrap up warm.

The Higgs and I: A Science Fiction Writer's Apology

Friday 28th May, weather same as it was an hour ago, minus some wind chill and plus a few reluctant drops of rain.

The Ultimate Particle? Back in 1984, I think, (of course, I was a mere child at the time) I found out about the Higgs Boson -and bubble universes, and the possibility that we're living in the middle of a cosmic void (fooled by lensing effects that seem to show a busy neighbourhood)- in a series of articles for New Scientist by Stephen Hawking. The science fiction novel I wrote under the influence of these things is called Escape Plans, an adventure set on a far future alternate Earth. Very little read, it's just too impenetrably geeky, as obviously I had to strip out all identifying features such as terms like "Big Bang" "Standard Model" "Higgs" "waves" and so forth. Also, I was convinced I had to write it in a special SPACE RACE COMPUTERESE jargon I had devised...

I decided I would bite the bullet and re-read it myself, first time in twenty-odd years, and I have tracked down the Higgs Boson passage, see below:

"A long time ago," I said, "there was a lab assistant called EAROM*, a highly skilled science Code Reader. She was working on a project to librate the mass of the universe. As you know, that's impossible. The equations just won't stabilise. For a while after we discovered we were in a trapped region this was looked on as a hopeful line of research. EAROM imagined an esosteric particle with a property called co-presence-"

"Connection," murmured Dat

"Sorry. An esoteric connection. The 4-dimensional mass of these particles, or connections -or this connection- would make up the balance. EAROM said that if these particles existed they must exist in the whole universe. If you see what I mean. Not just in our area. I suppose Yolande thinks Millie must have co-present particles in her, and that this proves we have them too. We have to find them, and that's the way it's done."

Himem frowned.
Dat smiled.

"You've described the Intersection, Alice. The solution that all Subs hope for... In the beginning light and matter were one. Something tore them apart, and in that event we were trapped here. The Intersection is what closes the gap again..."

*Electrically alterable read only memory. All the characters had computerese names, the high class folks had acronyms, the underclass had instructions, mostly from Basic.

Anyway, just thought I'd share that with you.

On a more intelligible note, we went to see Attack the Block last night and it is FANTASTIC. The best rollercoaster ride I've had at the movies in a long, long time. Never a dull nanosecond, truly. In Wyndham Tower, by Ballard Street, one dark Bonfire Night in South London, a heroic battle is fought and won. Very lively triffids this time round!

Speak Friend, and Enter

Friday 28th May, cold grey and blustery morning.

Have just spent about three quarters of an hour studying the Serendipity support pages in abstruse depth, trying to figure out how to link from my blog to the Gwyneth Jones Kindle store entires, bewildered by the fact that I seemed to have had no problem last time I did this and consistently failing to notice the bit where it says "Some plug-ins are very simple". Hahaha. Very funny.

NB, comment from Alison Smith, sorry you've had to wait for a response. I'll get back to Mme de Stael soon

Fracking Unlikely: Protect the children of Fukushima

Thursday 26th May, cold grey and blustery. That's Chris the climber, by the way. The swift box is up, and now we have to advertise, with our "swift cries" CD, and see what happens. Yesterday evening, while I worked, the swifts were hawking after insects in a gulf of blue beside me, shrilling faintly, black arrow wings trilling, but so few of them. Ah, well. It's an act of hope. Two more froglets made it to the fourlegged stage, but sadly Christina fell by the wayside, as sometimes they do. Shakira released on Tuesday, same location as Biggy (who has been seen since release, looking lively though very tiny, so that's good to know).

So now I'm told that the fracking off the coast of Lancashire is perfectly harmless, and fools like me ought to shut up and trust the Energy Industry. Don't we know there's a war on? Well, yet I do, but my war is not about fighting for the shareholders' right to large dividends. Nor yet the people's god-given right to cheap fossil fuel energy. You see, I'm not an expert. I don't know exactly how the methane got into the drinking water around the US fracking, to such an extent that the water would catch fire if you applied a matchflame, and I don't know how the toxic chemicals got into the ground water (is there some kind of by-catch of non-fuel gaseous compounds? That has to be released to wander off wherever it likes?). What I do know is that the Deep Water Horizon spill was not an "Act of God", it was an act of human error and human negligence, driven by human greed, arrogance and contempt for regulation. This has been publicly acknowledged. Likewise, the meltdown at Fukushima... (oh, come on, call a spade a spade). My god, you can say "the risks are small", but how would you like to live there, and be one of the people wondering if your little child would be one of those get the cancers? Anyway, Fukushima wasn't an "Act of God" either. It was an act of not replacing dangerously obsolete technology, in a blatantly high risk situation. Driven by same forces as above. Okay, I know the Nuclear Industry is doomed to high risk situations, and that problem is bound to get worse (without any acts of deliberate malice, if that distinction means anything), it's the nature of the beast, given a reactor's huge appetite for water, but that's not my fault, and if the insurance against accidents would be cripplingly expensive, that's for a reason. Really, if you were my eighteen year old son, Nuclear Power Industry, and you were trying to convince me it was okay for you to drive without insurance, because honestly, there's never going to be a problem what do you think I should tell you?

So no, I don't trust you. Try behaving like grown ups, and I might. Oh, but wait, which grown ups?

The trigger for this renewed spluttering is here:

And the petition about Fukushima is here:

Welcome to Heaven

Monday 23rd May, cold grey and blustery. Still no rain for the South of England.

Welcome to Heaven, sisters and brothers. Or maybe hell, who knows. Of course, what is puzzling those people who think they are the Chosen who failed to get Raptured, to one or the other of those destinations, is that they don't know that really, everyone got raptured, but they are now mere shadows (maybe without souls, like vampires?), left with the rest of us to make sure we damned, or blessed, don't spot that the end of the world really happened...

This whole 21st century zeitgeist thing is getting amazingly baroque, don't you think? And however weird, the US heartland is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Me, wherever I am, I'm happy because Gabriel and Alex won the John Halford Contemporary Music prize for a pianist and composer duo last week. Down for the weekend, he played the Stockhausen for us yesterday. It's mysterious how a Stockhausen piano piece manages to be so gripping, it's like magic. And Alex's piece is great, it's a river, see, flowing into a lake, but the lake is a mathematical lake.

I would probably follow Gabriel anywhere, & so would Peter, but I'm really glad it's this strange, compelling C20 music. My ears probably couldn't take a lot of death metal at their age

Anyway, I just thought I'd tell you I've posted The Grass Princess, my World Fantasy winning story, which I've been meaning to do for a while.

Going to put the swift box up today, and if we survive that, more later.

Fracking Impossible

Tuesday 17th May, weather the same as last week:thick grey cloud, breaking to sun, cool air, chilly nights. Six weeks since we've had significant rain in the south of England. Even the dimmest and chirpiest of weather persons have stopped congratulating us.

I haven't seen much of the swifts, but I'm not extra concerned, I don't know what they do but we don't see much of the few who still return, in poor weather. I've still ordered my swift box, because I promised myself I would, and intend to risk life and limb (well, somebody's life and limb) affixing it high up and in shade, under our eaves. Symbol of good faith.

Avaaz, 38degrees, RSPB, Soil Association, Compassion In World Farming, the roll call grows. Uganda death penalty for gays got offed, at least a respite, now what? I'm looking for somewhere to register my protest against the fracking wells off the coast of Lancashire, so far no petitions: only found the local group and WWF.

The Alchemists. Now this is a puzzle: Cameron discovers Green (again), & starts making a noise about his Super Renewables agenda, at the same time as he's eagerly encouraging and handing out permissions for the worst form of fossil-fuel barrel-scraping yet devised. He's going to prove how GREEN he is, by injecting viciously toxic chemicals into Lancashire's drinking water. Hard to believe, eh? It's happening, right now. What on earth's going on? Please, don't attempt to believe both, you'll hurt yourself. It's simple, really. One of these two projects is a complete fabrication, a con trick feeding on the follies, vanities and vices of mankind, most notably greed-induced credulity. Guess which.

On a more positive note, the first froglet of the year has been launched. Biggy, always the most hench of the LC5, got his or her four legs last Friday, and proved so anxious to leap out of the bowl we transferred the little escapologist to the swamp (was "Wildlife Pool") on Saturday. Bon voyage, Biggy. NB, call me superstitious, but there is not a Tupac tadpole.

Summer, summer

Wednesday, 11th of May. Still morning, neither warm nor cool, a quilt of gilt and grey cloud. Tantalising feel of water in the air.

Both the yellow roses are in fine bloom, Chris the climber and The German Rose. These are nicknames: Chris was bred by a man called Chris, the German has a fugitive scent like fragrant German wine. The pears and plums have set, pears already decimated by cursed tree rats. Greenhouse is a wilderness of desperate seedlings, triage well overdue. I vow I will, will, save some of their lives today.

Where have I been all this time? Well, I was on holiday, and it was very nice thank you, but then other things happened, for instance my cat Ginger has been poorly, which means a lot to me. She's better now & I hope she stays off the sicklist. Also Brighton Festival previews, inc a private view last Friday, over the hill and across the Park in leafy Surrenden, where I actually bought a painting! (Ha, no I didn't, I couldn't afford the painting, but am now proud possessor of a short-run print of Lost In A Rage, by my friend Jacq Aris.) & the world has changed dramatically, of course. Not. You will have noticed that Osama Bin Laden has been offed, unfortunately rather not James Bond style (in the sixties, these things were managed so much more discreetly); and the response of the US President will have chilled some. We must conclude that it takes worse, darker times than the spasms of our current global politics, to wake the spirit of humanity. It took the Thirties (which were not nice!), six years of war, and an industrial scale genocide in the heart of "the Developed World" to get to Nuremburg. Shall we congratulate ourselves that the evil is no longer "banal", it's all exciting and video-gamey these days? Don't think so.*

May I draw your attention to Fukushima Prefecture? One of those inconvenient wars that has been purposefully forgotten, eh? So, if I'm so clever, do I have an answer to the awful energy gap? YES I DO. USE LESS ENERGY. That's not a sackcloth and ashes austerity programme, it's a wide open field for investment, enterprise, ingenuity.

Enough of this frivolity. My freebie-sheet for "How The Light Gets In" turned up in my inbox yesterday (or maybe last week? Things have been a little slack at this desk). I never know what to do, am I supposed to ask for one small piece of cake, like a good girl, or should I check a variety of boxes, on the assumption that most of the talks/events will already be subscribed by paying customers. Anyway, I've chosen The Islamist Inquisition Maryam Narnazie (really keen to hear her) (Event 307); Cyborg Nation Kevin Warwick (Event 309); the Shooting Star Party on Saturday night & following DJ night; a Platonic breakfast walk along the Wye on Sunday morning (Event 341), and Genes, Memes and Temes, Susan Blackmore, (Even 339). & me, I'm only scratching the surface of the second weekend. I think you can tell from this greedy buffet plate how spoilt for choice you will be yourselves, if you decide to add this fest to your summer plans.

*Eerie thing about the Nuremburg sites, they all home in on the "banality of evil" quote (which used to drive me nuts when I was a young writer and it was very popular in uksf circles). And then they go on to make the German war criminals sound so much more like Barrack Obama, David Cameron than say, any Feudal Despot nutcases of North Africa and the Levant, ostensibly perfectly normal, decent men, "they couldn't fully appreciate the human consequences of their career motivated decisions". Ouch!

And the swifts are back. They arrived here last Friday.