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Not A Rocketship In Sight: An Evening With English PEN

Wednesday 8th October, torrential rain in the morning, rolls of thunder, clearing now, I've been staring out of my window watching the trees tossing their branches about, just happy that autumn seems to have arrived at last, though all the leaves I can see are still green (or dark red, in the case of the Maple). Did I mention that the squirrels are back? They vanished, after two-doors-up had a family of the little darlings evicted from their loft. (We have never had the courage to ask by what means). Our crocus corms were unmolested, bird tables were for the birds. Then, at last, a brave outlier or two appeared. The other day our neighbours down the hill came home to find Summer and Buddha (terrier and cat) leaping around the house, beside themselves with pride and joy. Why? Turns out they'd left a liittle furry corpse displayed on the patio. Cue adult consternation, weeping children, shocked, silent teens, a solemn burial. But I bet that'll be the only lesson necessary. Squirrels will now be back to normal levels of insolence and impunity.

Not A Rocketship In Sight

Science Fiction the natural home of literary activists? Huh? The only activism I've ever seen at work in sf, unless you count active involvement in nefarious US government warfare and weapon projects, is feminism, and that revolution wasn't a resounding success: more a case of the wiser rebels heading off to found a new colony, and those who stayed behind going underground. Dear PEN, are you perhaps, and understandably, confusing "activism" with "writers expressing common sense opinions"?

But my mistake, the discussion wasn't about taking action, it was about ideas; and about generally, helplessly, sharing the problems of Cassandra. You tell people, in the course of your story, something bxxxding obvious (eg, global warming is a real threat to our civilisation, and maybe it's already too late), and they react as if you invented the danger on purpose to annoy them; or even created it, you pinko tree-hugging scare-monger . . . But how refreshing to see what a good, varied crowd had turned up. Almost as if the barrier between science fiction and proper literary activities had become porous at last: as melty as the barriers between all the other genres. Maybe it was the Loncon effect, maybe I've just not been paying attention (except I have) but I felt I was sitting between two boddisattvas (Nick Harkaway and James Smythe), neither of them women, but you can't have everything: who had achieved the impossible quest, succeeding where the New Wave, Feminism, the Cyberpunks, and who knows how many other heroic expeditions, had struggled, left a few footprints and fallen back, defeated.

It's not that I don't like rocketship fantasies. I like some of them very much. It's not that I don't take fairytales seriously: I do. It's the exclusiveness/exclusion thing. I don't like it, I never did.

Time will tell, but I went away strengthened in my determination not to have SF on the spine of my books ever again (okay, an easy enough rash vow when you're a sixty plus female feminist, and you don't live in the US, but it means something to me). Since Spirit came out, I haven't tried to get another sf contract, and I'm not going to. One day, when I've tied up all my loose ends, and Ifinally have a new book to offer, something that doesn't have to have SF on the spine, I'll take it to market and we'll see. Meanwhile, the DIY route. Publication date for The Grasshopper's Child POD coming soon: there have been a few issues. Ironically, one of them was identifying a publisher, as Create Space doesn't accept that responsibility. Luckily it wasn't hard.


House of Cards, the US, Kevin Spacey version. I'm finding it addictive, but gradually getting interference from memories of the 1980s version, which I did not like. Is there more gravitas to the story when the prize is getting to be the ci-devant Leader of the Free World, rather than the PM of the UK? Or do I just like the US actors better? Especially Robin Wright, very cool turn as the Lady Macbeth character. Black farce.

Looking Forward To

Activism of the active kind:

Global Frackdown, 11am Saturday 11th October

and Parliament Square 2.00pm Saturday afternoon, opposing the TTIP.

Gabriel Jones and Marianne Wright, premiering a new song cycle at St Nicolas Church Dyke Road Brighton, Wednesday 22nd October, lunchtime 12.30pm

&Marianne's opera debut is the week after, in Britten's Turn Of The Screw; more on that later

And Kristin Scott-Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic, which apparently is the original script, so for my homework I will have to look up Sophocles on line


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