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The Ironing...

A stormy, grey windy and rainy day, clearing to soft skies, and this apparently is the weather that tadpoles like: the inhabitants of the tub outdoors, so reclusive I wondered if they were all dead, are romping around, & I have moved 2 four-legs to the swamp. Inominate hip-hops, as only pets have to suffer the indignity of cute names.

Good news this week, MIT TR are going to use my story in their Fall SF project, which I was afraid they would turn down as I stretched the brief a bit, my innovation not exactly close-to-the-market.

The story that attracted TR's attention "The Voyage Out" is one I wrote for Lynne Jamneck's well-received anthology Periphery, back in 2008, soon to be released as an ebook by Untreed Reads. "The Voyage Out" also features in Tales For Canterbury, a benefit anthology for the New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake appeal.

Moving in mysterious ways, God has caused me to do the ironing. I Never do the ironing, Peter is going to be stunned. It's purely the result of trying to write 600 words for the Guardian on a Friday afternoon.

Spoilt Rich Ladies

Wednesday 6th July, the brief spell of fine weather broke last night, rain at 7 this morning, now cool and clearing skies, a fresh breeze.

Sunday 2nd we went walking, from Beeding Hill to Devil's Dyke along the South Downs Way, then down to Poynings and back along the bottom land, where the barley is in a parlous state, between the rows cracked clay in hexagonal patterns like pack-ice forming; seems like the year can't recover from that terrible long dry spring. But already it's July, and everything has changed, the grasses seeding, the trees in their heaviest green, purple hardknott, indigo bugloss, straggling bedstraw and coarse cow parsley in the hedgerows, scabious and bird's foot trefoil, selfheal and wild thyme in the cropped turf, a flock of shorn ewes lying and strolling, still lovingingly close to their plump full-grown lambs. Purple and yellow flowers, fizzing stars of Traveller's Joy it's Bold As Love time again. I realise I've missed a whole season, or at least the whole of June disappeared. Never saw the orchids, and that's a sharp loss, since the number of orchid seasons I have left is getting far too easy to count.

Sadly, the Royal Oak at Poynings is no longer the home of the best pub sandwiches in the world, ever. It has become a huge, bustling gastro-pub, teeming with sunday lunchers, cuisine school of TTFWYCG. I had the razor clams, a Great British Menu type delicacy (obviously favoured for looking cool, like rhubarb), just about edible on this showing, and I shan't be trying them again unless I really am a shipwrecked sailor. No bread, though they came served in a bowl of milky sauce, (bread has become a luxury trimming; which is an essay in itself). Anyway, serves me right, but what about those awful "baby ribs"?

I think Spoilt Rich Ladies is fair. We were spoilt rotten, my generation, born in a socialist Utopia: free health and education for all. But if we hadn't been spoilt, kids with cr*p accents from lower class backgrounds going to University instead of into factories or into service, leaving home on a sort of government funded mass-market Grand Tour, making our souls when we should have been learning a trade or buckling down to make babies and mind machines, how would we ever have imagined we could change the world? & some of the changes did stick, & became widely appreciated & are still rated as normal. As Charles Darwin himself would have agreed, fitness selection is a terrific insight, but this should not blind us to the fact that it's the survival of the unfittest that counts...or how would change ever happen? How would the spoilt girls who became feminists ever have woken up to the plight of women worldwide, and been open to join the struggle against appalling injustice, if we had not been arrogant and trusting enough to believe our own problems with patriarchy could be fixed?

Even in the US, according to Joanna Russ, Feminism was midwifed by economic growth boosted by WWII. Hence the bitterness of the generation of Squashed Women, who brought up feminist-to-be daughters determined Not To Become Their Mothers. I've had a correspondence about this with a Facebook friend of mine, Fariba Parvizi, when she was studying sf in Tehran: what's obvious is that young women, recruited for the war effort enjoyed formative years of economic independence and self esteem in the work place, felt demoted and dumped when relegated back to household duties. What's less obvious is that in fifties US the role of household manager was vanishing too, domestic skills commodified, housewives demoted to consumers, the Age of the Desperate Housewife was dawning, idleness & cheap readymade food going mass-market, so even the poor took the hit. Double whammy, as they say.

Anyway, so I'm not all that ashamed of being spoilt, and "not knowing I was born" as a young woman. Sometimes it takes privileged innocence to say, enough is enough!

Slightly ashamed of the razor clams, however.

More links. Watch this video from Fukushima prefecture, it's pretty startling.

This charmer's explanation for talking such insulting nonsense? He didn't want doctors to flee the area.

Miss Dynamite has joined the swamp. Jay-Zee sadly did not make it. That's seven.

Didn't Buy. Won't Pay!

Friday 1st July, a cool, clear blue morning, the swifts, brilliant sun.

A rather harsh reading of The Cherry Orchard, NT live at the Duke's with Gabriel last night. Excellent cast gave fine performances but funny how a production setting out to be funny, "as Chekov intended" makes it hard to pity anybody, even (or especially not) the Turgenevish starry eyed young leads. The younger generation's verdict was harsh too, too much making speeches (he's right about that) but we both thought it picked up after the interval.

Just for the record, and in no way advocating any breaking of windows or chainings to railings, this member of the public is fully in sympathy with the 30th June protesters. My husband is a maths teacher in FE (or was, he spends at least half his time making and fixing databases these days). Long ago, knowing full well he was settling for a low salary, with the compensation of good benefits, but that if he remained a teacher he would never get any richer, he chose to work in the public sector, not for BP or Lloyds Bank. Money's not everything, he was able to spend a lot of time being a proper father too. He is not responsible for the financial services disaster. Why should he be the one paying for it, while the bankers whose pathological model of money management made the mess, stay rich and get richer? Let the bankers bail out the government.

People can and do make this connection, you know. No matter how earnestly our lovely PM wrings his hands over the irresponsible behaviour of the modestly paid.

Shora to Shari'a

Thursday 30th June, Nordic summer weather: cool breezes, showers, flowers, a pretty blue and white sky. Yesteday evening little Justin was released, and that makes six hip hops.

At the end of May I was at the Hay on Wye Fringe Festival, “How The Light Gets In”. A refreshing weekend all round, but I was gripped by a solo talk on “The Islamic Inquisition” by Iranian broadcaster, and exiled campaigner against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Maryam Namazie.

It was trenchant stuff, a fearless condemnation of the vile, totalitarian movement that has overwhelmed Islam: fearless condemnation of “sexual apartheid”; of the brutal indoctrinaire bullying that is the rule, not the exception, in UK Muslim Schools and in Islamist-dominated UK universities like Bradford. Fearless condemnation of the savage misogyny displayed by many Muslim women themselves, under Islamist regimes. Ban the Burqua she said. Don’t hesitate, just do it. Ban all Faith Schools, it’s the only way, you can’t pick and choose. Adult women can decide to wear a headscarf of their own free will, but the veiling and muffling of little girls is child abuse. Name it so. She struck us all as extraordinarily courageous. One man said he feared for her so much, she ought to have an armed beside her. But the real issue for us was not Namazie’s heroic defiance. It was “liberal” UK society’s reflex response to Multiculturalism. Multiculturalism, says Namazie, gives rights to cultures and religions, and strips rights from individuals. It gives the bullies power. Shari’a “courts”, already operating in the Islamic Community in the UK, deny women’s and children’s civil and human rights. They create a state within the state, where women and children are legally abused, and this is the UK’s idea of respect and support...

I went away chastened, wondering what I could do, and what I couldn’t do. I could petition against Shari’a law in the UK, and I’ve put my name to that. What about banning Faith schools, what about the burqua? I believe her about the schools, I know about the heartbreaking state of affairs at Bradford uni, I agree about the burqua, in principle, but think of the fall-out. Denounce Islam itself, wholesale? I can’t do that! The brave see everything in black and white, for the rest of us it’s not that simple.

In Bold As Love I wrote about an Islamic State of Yorkshire, in our near future, and a pocket-sized shooting war. I wasn’t kidding, but I was dreaming hopefully, which is why that fictional episode ended reasonably well. But it’s a different world now, from the way things were in 1999. However we got here, and the so-called Western Powers know how deep, dirty and twisted that story is, anyone who says today that Islamism is an aggressive totalitarian movement, inflexibly bent on world domination, is stating an obvious truth. So take a stand. But what if you take a stand, only to find your organisation seems to have aligned itself with a different set of monsters? How do you untangle all the strands, in this information and counter-information drenched world, to be sure who you’re working for before you sign your name?

What if you insist that Multiculturalism is a Feminist issue? That a woman has a right to her traditional lifestyle, and then she chooses a way of life that appalls you?

I still have a couple of Riot Grrl stickers up on my wall (one of them, ironically, partly obscured by a framed James Tiptree Jnr Award poster), but I’ve never really seen the point of Third Wave Feminism. It was a recruitment drive, to attract a younger crowd. Okay, but what for? Not for political activism, we were shelving the boring, dreary sexual politics. No breaking windows or chaining themselves to railings to overthrow the system, then... So what are the cool young feminists going to do? Vote for the Feminist Party’s pro-Woman manifesto, like any other gullible self-interested punters? Is that all? It was outreach, for groups and ethnicities excluded by Feminism’s Spoilt Rich Ladies (I'm sorry, I mean White Middle Class College Educated North American) image. Fine, but why the new brandname? What was it about the message that was too hard for People of Difference, the world over, to grasp? The GLBT community knows nothing of discrimination on the grounds of gender? Non-North Americans, and even Non-White Americans, aren’t bright enough to spot inherent abuses in the social construction of sexual difference? It doesn’t make sense.

I decided I’d be one of the people who stuck with the original script. Live and let live, it’s a personal decision, and I’m a writer with feminist opinions, no kind of Feminist authority. But I’ve become concerned, I was concerned before I heard Namazie speak, about some side-effects of the Third Wave that perhaps nobody could have foreseen.

Back in the nineteen sixties a woman called Alice Sheldon decided to use a male pseudonym for her stories and novels: then as now, it’s much easier to get the sf public to read work by men. The sexual content of her work was thrilling, the feminist thought and the analytical mind behind the stories impressive. She was showered with honours, by Great Men of the genre, fans and pioneering feminists alike, until the day she was unmasked. For decades, nobody could deny what Alice’s masquerade had proved. She had made injustice visible, and the modern history of feminist sf would have been very different without James Tiptree Jnr. But Alice Sheldon was a woman who found being a woman difficult: this is blindingly obvious in her writing, published and private. What if there’s a Third Wave, totally apolitical solution to the predicament of the Angry, Difficult Woman? Who cannot be contained in her society’s feminine mode? You don’t like being a woman? You probably aren’t a woman! Stop tormenting yourself, change your gender and all will be well.

Losing Tiptree to friendly fire is startling. A low blow to any woman, in any field of endeavour, who has had the temerity to stand up and say, no, this is not a man’s world, I am your equal here... And what if those who control our destinies got onto this neat idea? Non-elective re-assignment for unwomanly babes and cissy men?*. But aside from throwing up a cunning way to suppress women’s writing, she wrote it but she was transgendered, and a scifi scenario, the real, natural multiplicity and fluidity of human sexual identity is a legitimate challenge for feminism. Multiculturalist “Feminism” is something else.

& they say Multicultural, but I've noticed it’s always Islam, really. Even if that term is being used in ignorance or too carelessly (me guilty; I believe Namazie knew what she was doing):

If you’re even reading this post, I hope and believe you’d never contemplate declaring that Female Genital Mutilation is empowering...

(My own view on this subject has been unshakeable, since an AIUK Women's Action Committee conference I helped to organise, where two extremely competent and forthright West African feminists from FORWARD lead a workshop, out of which came our successful campaign to get AI to name FGM as torture)

... Or that a woman wearing trousers (or a skirt, or tied her scarf too high, or tied her scarf too low, there is no fixed rule) deserves the lash. Or that an adulteress deserves death by stoning; correction, that anyone, whatever their alleged crime, deserves death by stoning. Or Shari’a is a good system for women, relieves them of responsibility and teaches them contented submission. You wouldn’t say any of that, surely. But it’s a slippery slope, and I know the Third Wave is on it. I don’t care who you are, I particularly don’t care what colour your skin is, where your grandparents were born or how you worship. If you are even close to the place where you might agree it’s okay to hold a little girl down and cut off her clitoris*, because she’s a Kono, it’s part of their ancient tradition, and we have to respect that... You horrify me, frankly.

I just don’t know how Third Wave Feminism got started on reverencing blatantly misogynist traditional practices. Don’t you remember? How your mothers, your grandmothers and great-grandmothers, had to fight like the devil against the misogynist practices of their God-fearing, traditional communities? Fight against the tears and outrage of their “shamed” families? If they hadn’t defied the laws of family, church, or embodied in state legislation, that said they couldn’t have an education, couldn’t join the professions, have the vote, couldn’t have their own money; had no right to bring up their own children, there wouldn’t be any Feminism. You wouldn’t exist.

It doesn’t mean you have to give up baking apple pie, you know. Or celebrating your culture’s feastdays, or observing your culture’s fasts. Nor, on the other hand, does it mean insisting people who come and live in the same country have to adopt your comfort rituals. Tradition is like the social construction of sexual difference: it’s not worthless, it’s good in parts, it’s just not, ever, a moral force in itself. And most of it, at any given time, isn’t ancient at all, by the way... Let all that stuff go into free fall, let it sink or swim, let nostalgia and affection look after the cultural trimmings.

For any kind of women’s liberation tradition is exactly what has to change, but tradition does change. The pernicious form, Fundamentalism, is the real enemy. But I won’t start on the US-generated varieties of that poison. Or how I feel about the Third Wave’s creepy relationship with the sex-traffic industry, either... This was supposed to be about Islam; Maryam Namazie; speaking out.

To me feminism is not about numbers, or academic territory. Or world domination, or building a Fortress of Specialness. It’s about making injustice visible, and working to remove the abuses. It’s about Utopian, One World politics, certainly (because it’ll never change, unless the whole thing changes), but never at the cost of failing to engage with the here and now. I think it’s far, far too soon to say it’s not about the battle of the sexes anymore. On the contrary, the battle gets more baroque and more blatant as this bizarre century finds its feet: this age of intensifying selective female infanticide, of genitoplasty to make little girls into ersatz little boys, of industrial scale sex trafficking, of forced marriages and "honour" killings and domestic slavery still rife, and of course, rape as a weapon of war. All these vicious war against women "traditions" wholely unimpressed by economic growth, professional status or sophisticated lifestyle nb. But most of all, and here comes the heresy, to me feminism isn’t about Feminism. It’s about feminist reforms, getting them across to the general public, getting them accepted as normal, ordinary human decency. I think the Second Wave (if you insist on this PRish Waves thing) covers all that. And if I could ever write the books and stories I want to write, and the public could read them and call them interesting, exciting, unusual, annoying, whatever, but never even notice that they were also feminist, I’d call that winning.

Meanwhile, wherever women are prosperous the Pro-Woman party keeps growing: cheerfully self-interested. Oblivious to the evils of the system —based on permanent warfare and run by psychopaths— that gives them their self-affirming careers, their pretty finery; the shiny cars, the smart gadgets, the Lady Gaga shows. Convinced, despite the occasional brush with a “male sexist dinosaur”, that tomorrow belongs to them. A mixed blessing, the Womanists, but there you go, without the water the fish will die, and maybe this is the way it has to be. Two tribes, competing for the same territory; until the balance tips. Remember what Karl Marx said? The right conditions for revolution will be created by capitalism itself, and woe betide you if you try anything before then. The Russian Marxists wouldn’t listen, they went ahead and held a revolution anyway, and Joe Stalin betided them. I think we can do without another one of those.

But does tomorrow belong to anyone? Would you want it? Last week they told us the oceans are dying, really dying, really fast. Did you notice? Are you scared yet?


*This what if? Can be found explored, sort of, in Shadow Man, Melissa Scott

*If you are adult, and your need is compelling, by all means have your own clitoris cut off. But maybe also consider therapy?

Before I forget...

Wednesday 29th June, cooling breeze, clouds gathering.

Up to the British Library yesterday, to join a panel called Aliens and the Imagination, but I'll have to imagine most of it, as I was waylaid (delightfully, I love adventures) by a torrential rainstorm and a lightning strike, and forced to take a wandering ride in a swish coach requisitioned by National Rail, around the Sussex countryside, before finally, by a pleasing coincidence, catching a train to the Ufologists meet from East Grinstead, home of the Church of Scientology. I just caught Gareth Edwards presentation on "How I made Monsters" and it was very cute, sort of the 21st Century version of Blue Peter "I used a wiggly piece of string and it really looks like giant tentacles, if you squint a bit". Except with creative use of library of basic digital effects, bit of photoshop and that, it really did! Impressive can-do attitude.

Anyway, before I forget, I promised I'd post my 100 word vampire story, inexplicably passed over by Timmi Duchamp when she was choosing stuff for The Universe Of Things. It genuinely is posted on my website, but you'd never find it without a search party:

The Vampire

(An Internet Romance)

He admired her wit; guessed at beauty. At first she spoke through software agents, soon her blood was sweet. She was a princess, he a creature of the night. The virtual world was their wonderland, their passion was exquisite, they agreed to meet. His prey could be a hairy-fisted trucker, what does the body matter? Souls unite.The restaurant was bright, cool fountains played. He wore his cape, she wore the wreath of flowers she had promised. He saw her eyes light up with joy, but he walked away forever. She was twelve years' old, and he was not a monster.

Also before I forget, it's Clarion Write-a-thon time again, and here's the URL:

It'll be fun, and it's a good cause. All proceeds go to supporting student scholarships and investment in future courses.

Either/Or:Progress vs Utopia

Tuesday 21st June, a grey solstice, not raining right now, & warmer than the last few days. Awful slugfest going on in the pretty flowers I admired last post.

Either/Or? In support of the guest blogpost I did for the British Library Out Of This World Blog (Perfect Worlds), I've put up the notes and images for the presentation I did at the Danish national convention a couple of years ago (that's Copenhagen in the keynote photo, btw). Musing on the real world history of Progress versus Utopia in the years since the Declaration of the Rights Of Man, and on the reflection of this history in the mirror of science fiction. Here's the link:

You may think the format looks sinisterly familiar. Yes, I did. I gave them a Powerpoint!
(Well, I thought it was funny...)

Never Again

Friday 17th June, a dark and stormy morning.

Here's one of those links I should have added earlier this week: the Never Again anthology, published by Grey Friar press, edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane. A stellar collection, a passionate statement from the writers of the weird. The storynotes posted by simon marshall jones are well worth looking at.

Anyway, if you are in Brighton and can make it to the Amnesty Bookshop on Sydney Street 7.00pm to 8.30pm tomorrow evening, you will be rewarded with readings by Tony Richards and Roseanne Rabinowitz (but not, unfortunately, Lisa Tuttle, who can't make it).

Lauren re-joined the wild, yesterday evening, and that makes five. There'll be a pause now. Lauren's been by far the most forward of the Next Generation of hiphops (the first being the Liszt Concert Six, as you'll remember). None of her brothers and sisters even has back legs yet.

Rain, wonderful rain. Suddenly the garden is flowery again, first time since April really. And my tuberoses have finally deigned to make an appearence, so I should be happy but why can't we have any flashy bits. Flashy bits all over the weather map last night, what did Brighton do wrong? It's so unfair.

The Elms: This Anomalous Region I Live In

Tuesday 14th June, clear blue morning after a wet (good!) stubbornly cold (have they really broken the Gulf Stream? #file under fantasists, be careful what you wish for) and ominously windy weekend... a handful of swifts hawking high over the valley.

Apparently two of the great elms in Preston Park fell in the strong winds on Friday night, which does not mean we had a hurricane here, it probably means the trees were on the way out anyway. I can hope they'd reached their natural span (and therefore not infectious, just sadly cannot ever be replaced), but on the way to the station on Thursday, up to London for Gabriel's final recital at Trinity, we spotted this ringed tree from the bus. It's that dreaded time of year again. I went to have a closer look yesterday, and saw what the Dutch Elm Disease watch calls "flagging", which doesn't mean exactly what you think, it means a visible flag of dry dead leaves, on an otherwise okay-looking tree, showing up brown in the green of early summer foliage. This means the tree must be felled, as it is a danger to its neighbours, and there is no treatment, no cure. It's awfully sad. It hurts, and I'm not alone in feeling this way. I've seen people, just any old people in my part of Brighton, where the remaining elms round the Level are such an icon, touch a condemned elm, and just stand there, poor thing, so sorry. When I was taking this photo, same thing happened, just another passer-by, so sorry. Everything must go. What would be my perfect world? It's gone, and I'm afraid its not coming back. It was the one where we could look at the trees, at the natural world, and think I'm ephemeral, you are forever.

There's a site where you can sign up to be a Dutch Elm Disease Volunteer. I've done that, even though I'm guessing it only means walking around in this last, failing refuge, and spotting another doomed tree, but I don't expect to be called. It'll be like the time ESSC asked for lookerers to watch the sheep on our bits of urban downland. They'll be snowed under.

Gabriel's recital was lovely. The boy done reasonably good, he felt and we felt. Lot of beer and white wine, with the young people and Philip Fowke, their teacher: sunshine and showers, roses on the walls of the Brewery Garden, and so long, the Old Naval College, the River, the glittering towers of the Isle of Dogs. The everlasting period-setting film crew invasions (If it wasn't Little Dorrit it was Johnny Depp.)

A Links round up seems to be called for, looking at my inbox:

Writers, if you didn't like the Google Book Settlement and cheered at its apparent defeat, you should check this out, from the indefatigable Gill Spraggs who is still on the case. All is not well.

Fairytale enthusiasts, on Seven Miles of Steel Thistles Kath Langrish is starting another round of her "Fairytale Reflections" from a posse of illustrious authors (and eventually Ann Halam). Terri Windling kicking off.

&the BartoBar crew have captured Al Reynolds this time

Not going to bother telling you about 38% and Health Reform. That one seems to be over.

I thought there were more but never mind. Enough, for now.

Meeting The Beasts

Tuesday 7th June, a cool and rain-washed morning, me returning to my desk after a long, fun & very refreshing weekend. Finally got the photos I took of Ai Wei Wei's Summer Palace animals processed off my phone onto Picasa. I took these the day I went up to London to do the item on Woman's Hour on "is sf still a male dominated genre?". (I hope the flurry of media interest in that question has passed. Every time I've been asked, I've felt more strongly that this is a UK fandom issue, it isn't for me to address & I really should not be commenting). But anyway, not all bad: I have Woman's Hour to thank for getting me to Somerset House before the 26th June, which was a real favour. Iwish I'd taken at least one of the whole Fountain Court, but I didn't think my camera phone could handle the pitiless, brilliant light of noon that day (which was when I got there), so I only snapped a few of the beasts for form's sake. Unexpectedly successful.

Yet another example of what a false path reverencing the randomness of art is. Art Is Not Random. I did wonder why Brave Ai had decided to make these charming Chinese Zodiac animals (i think I liked the Rat best), but then, duh, made the historical connection. I remember the Looting of the Summer Palace from researching Rainbow Bridge (this is how I learn most of what I've ever learned about my world, so you see, writing sf is good for something); and the bronze animal heads, lost among so much precious national treasure. The Opium Wars are less than a huge deal to me, being spoiled for choice, among so many shameful military operations in my country's past & present...but that incident still means something to China. And here they are, reborn, beautiful and compelling simplicity. Why on earth have the Chinese put this patriot, this great artist, so eloquent for his country, in prison? It's really nuts. Hm, that didn't quite come out right... no more nuts that putting so many others in prison, no more nuts than China's defiant devotion to the death penalty.

Frog culture update: Dre and Lil' Kim have now joined Biggy & Shakira. Dizzee, an exceptionally lively little rascal, will be making his debut in the swamp this evening. & That's all the survivors of the Liszt Concert Six, not a bad rate. What a tiny operation this is, compared to Mother Nature's way, and the way things used to be even in our small garden, but ah well.

Have re-viewed Inception, and now know exactly when I lost interest 1st time, it's that interminable Lara/Bond snow fortress sequence, there comes a point when you think, sorry, but I'm just bored now... But that was a long way in, after all, and the byplay between (fantasy science) exposition and the special effects really fun. Didn't mind the comic book plot either & found most of the ensemble extremely watchable. Still didn't like the Dreamlike Lost Wife And Kids strand (soon to be reprised in Shutter Island). The problem is that "Mal" is never seen in life, only post-mortem as a figment of Cobb's imagination. Making her, by definition, no more interesting than any of the other dream-artefacts that look like people, and all the time spent on her story bit empty.

Strange hauntings of modernity#: Sunday afternoon, the Great Escape panel team had a conversation, sparked off by Andrew Copson, about our late entry/general lack of interest in twitter. This had the weird effect of causing me to twitter in my head all the way home, eg This Great Western sandwich is so vile, I wonder how old it is, and how the bread became so dank and tacky... But there were hundreds. I tweeted one of them, posthumously as it were, just to mark the moment. Probably the last twitter will hear from @annhalam until Avaaz's next poke.

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.