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Look To Windward . . .

Tuesday 18th July, a hot sunny blue sky day outdoors, thunder and lightning promised tonight: me contemplating: but what does it mean, look to windward . . . ? What did T.S.Eliot mean, what did Ian M. Banks mean? A Goodreads mav suggests: "look to change, look to the future, look forward. . .?" Which sounds inspiring: but not really, not at all. Leeward is looking to the future, to where the wind is sending you. Windward, if you're in a sailing ship, and by rights you must be, for this Eliot quote to make sense, is where the wind is coming from.You look to windward to see what's coming to get you, basically.

At this point we should admit the Culture novels, like all space operas, are not massive on plausible extrapolation. There will be a post-scarcity culture (got to happen some time?) There will be great big enormous galactic-faring intelligent mother-ships (not very likely, on present showing) as huge as Mum looks to a very small boy, that will now and then commit war crimes on a staggeringly vast scale, for reasons as puzzling as their names are insouciantly inventive, although really, honestly, because that's what the storyteller and audience both enjoy. . .

This all came up in relation to a Joanna Russ essay (not one of the famous ones, more a pentimento, replaced by Towards An Aesthetic Of Science Fiction). It's a metatextual, derived from a paper Chip Delany read at a meeting of the MLA in New York,1968; on science fiction's "subjunctive" relationship to reality, and how to describe this position precisely, science fiction is about what hasn't happened yet but isn't absolutely impossible . . . The teasing out of Delany's youthful bright idea gets too complicated to be interesting after a while, but on the other hand (or OTOH) "science fiction is entirely about the present" (Wm Gibson et al), is only true, in my humble opinion (you can tell I've been reading ancient fanzines) if you're a lazy bugger, and don't actually care what happens next in the greater scheme of things, as long as you've got hold of the latest gaming console. I decided I prefer look to windward. Here I am, riding on the cutting edge of the past: the whole weight of events back there, and up to this edge, propelling me forward, what do the pressures that are tossing me about right now imply for things to come?*

My Fracking Round Up

Many if not most sf writers, needless to say, never worry about such concerns: no more than if they were writing Star Wars sequels. It's a genre, it has typical scenarios, decor, properties, costumes . . . Plug in and play! But then again, there are times when the wind at your back is giving you such a pummelling, such a perfect storm of daunting and contradictory messages, it's a tough call to respond, no matter how much you like a challenge.

What can I tell you on the future of unconventional oil and gas** in the UK? It's booming, that's what! Seems like only yesterday, fossil fuels were on a permanent slide, except for a couple of rogue states, and the "fracking" issue was invisible: almost like a conspiracy. Suddenly they're everywhere, out and proud: congratulatory questions in parliament. The frackers are the only people in the country for whom the recent general election was a victory. Up in Lancashire, all through Yorkshire, Derbyshire, all over the shop, it's a proper bonanza. Down here in Sussex, UKOG is gearing up to extract 10 billion barrels of oil from the Weald, starting any day now. Investors in the scheme from all over the country have flocked to register their support with WSCC. Meanwhile anyone who stubbornly believes that embarking on a new fossil fuel industry right now is madness cannot protest: except by protesting, if you see what I mean. We can no longer object, because WSCC has moved the planning-permission goalposts, specially.

Not that it matters, of course, because planning permission is no longer necessary: with the Tories there are no rules. But it does adds insult to injury, that "I support this because it will make me rich" is a sane and valid comment, and "do we really want irreversible catastrophic climate change down on our charge sheet?" is not.

Traffic noise: don't despise traffic noise. Rural quiet. It's about all there is left on the board. Besides dressing up in black and yellow hand knitted goods, eating cake and walking slowly . . .

My Movies

The Other Side Of Hope

Sort of Wes Anderson-ish, low key low budget story of a Syrian refugee in Finland. Definitely worth a look

Trainspotting 2

Nah. Just not very interesting. There's only one Trainspotting

The Handmaiden

Two very pretty, very naughty girls, having lots of fun, and of course some regrettable giant cephalopod action. Not a patch on Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. Don't do the Director's Cut. It goes on forever and ever.

My Library Books

Wolf Winter, Early One Morning. Two fine novels, "Wolf Winter" is just wonderfully, darkly atmospheric, "Early One Morning" more prosaic, but equally absorbing (if you happen to have been a naive UK teenager in Italy circa 1973, it will certainly grab you; if your family was in any way involved in the fate of the Roman ghetto in 1943, more so). In each case, alas, the denoument was written by committee, and the committee said, ow, let's not upset the readers . . . Leave 'em smiling!
What the term deus ex machina used to mean, and fine, but I felt a bit cheated.

Karin Fossum, Hellfire

It's Karin Fossum. Of course you're not smiling. "Heartwrenching," but for Fossum, that's standard.

I really must try a different genre.

And Finally. . .

A long, appreciative review of Proof Of Concept, from Shikeguni.

Wow. I never knew that novella was so deep (to coin a phrase). I just loved the Abyss, and Kir and Altair and the rest of my cast. And the echo-chamber worlds of the GAM hives, which I don't think is a far off future at all.

& Here's a link I forgot to include in my Proof of Concept post: Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men: (to cut and paste)

One last thought, about islands. A windward shore, where the weather hits land, is likely to be stormy, but fertile. A leeward shore, that the prevailing winds can't reach, is calm, but barren

*I have not read Look To Windward Consider Phlebas is my source for the quote

**Purely for old time's sake, nb. Nobody, but nobody, is fracking anymore. Whatever the unconventional oil and gas exploration men plan to do, to your neigbourhood, your countryside, your lives and your environment, it's definitely, absolutely NOT CALLED fracking.


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