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St John's Eve

Wednesday 23rd June, light breeze, clear and very warm. In the evening, having set aside my various struggles, I sit out on the patio re-reading "Life" so I'll know what I said about the "disappearence of the Y chromosome", should anyone ask me at the Seeing Further Cafe Scientifique next week. Balmy air. Swifts hawking and shrieking in the clear sky, those Nordic tiger moths, who seem to have settled down and colonised the gardens, batting about up in the treetops, a big white three quarter moon on the rise. It's midsummer, soon be July and time to pack up and go away. The squirrels have taken all our strawberries, it's nearly the end of another working year.

Black Ops

Friday 18th June, grey skies clearing to blue, it's going to be a warm calm day, a break from that chill breeze. Good swift-watching over the Crescent Gardens, am.

I'm trying to see both sides of the US Government's scrap with BP, and I'm failing. I keep seeing only one side, a falling-out among thieves. I keep seeing Hayward as the latest Saddam Hussein, Congress have their disgraced tool in the dock, they're pounding on him, all self-righteous. The Black Gold Saddam's stonewalling because he just doesn't get it, he's saying to himself, but they told me it would be okay, they ALLOWED me to break the rules, they told me all the crimes against humanity would be over-looked, as long as I made myself useful. They may not like me but they NEED me. . But now they're playing the old We never met you, game, and Hayward is thinking it's just a show trial, I just have to sit tight and say as little as possible, it'll be over and business as usual again

Sucker. I have no sympathy, and none with your Secret Masters, either.

Frog Nursery catastrophe. I moved the bowl to clean the tabletop, and the froglets' rock fell on Red Snail. I heard an awful little gasp, rescued the trapped casualty and put it in a water glass, where it slowly seemed to recover. I'm hoping it's okay, it is walking around again. But the rock crushed half the rim of the ramshorn, and I don't know what all else. Poor red snail, so sorry.

Frog Nursery Eschatology

Tuesday 14th June, blustery breeze, cloudy skies, cool. None of the promised thunderstorms for us as yet.

When you get your four legs, you are taken away. Nobody knows where, nobody knows why, nobody comes back. It's a kind of death.

Hello, a result. Incredibly, there may be five varieties of the Higgs Boson.
I never doubted it!

Red Dawn. . .

Sunday 13th June, cool and cloudy. The frog nursery is emptying fast, and the tads in the plasterer's tub are getting legs. I'm hoping I'll have them all safely transferred to the wild by the end of the month.

Safely, mm, lot of cats out there, and little frogs like to get out of the water and roam. . . Well, my part will be done.

How do you feel about racist 80s invasion film Red Dawn being remade with America being occupied by China instead of the USSR? Perhaps they'll take a leaf out of Rainbow Bridge and accept it… or perhaps not.

In answer to your query, dear plashing, I haven't really thought about it. I don't suppose I'll be tempted to go and see Red Dawn II if I even get the chance* However, now that you've poked me into looking up Red Dawn I, I may have to add it to my Love Film list.

I don't remember paying any attention to Red Dawn I in 1984, but I do remember watching the first V that summer, and finding it great fun. Despite the slightly disquieting notion of a great big country like the USA indulging in a not-fair-we-never-got-occupied-by-the-Nazis wish-fulfillment fest.

A nice little piece of news for me this morning. A couple of months ago I was searching "Universe" images, to get ideas for the cover of my next US short story collection, and fell in love with a quirky poster that turned out to belong to CERN (it's from Microcosm, their educational wing). Kath Wilham of Aqueduct Press wrote to them, nothing daunted, and asked what their terms for use might be. Our terms would be that we'd need to read some of the stories first, came the reply.

Ah, well, I thought. That's torn it.
But no, we have permission!
Excellent, and thank you Microcosm

*(Oh dear, it's just occured to me, maybe the mysterious delays dogging the release of this highly undiplomatic Homeland war movie are caused by a cunning decision to change the alliance. Now it's going to be the despicable Brits helping the Chinese out!).


Friday 11th June, at noon a lightening and clearing sky.

Rain. Real rain at last, drenching rain all night, brimming the pools. This morning everything in the garden beaten down, and looking fresher for it tho' in places precarious. The yellow flags in the fishpool, threatening to go splat, may need some remedial help to get back on their feet.

And at last I have the official letter, confirming that the long, troubled marriage between Gollancz and Gwyneth Jones is over. I'd been planning to leave since the firm treated Rainbow Bridge rather shabbily, and then they did the same with Spirit (a publication date of "29th December", plus "muddled" failure to submit her current novel for the Clarke award, sends a pretty clear message to an author). Fair enough, best for both sides. This situation made the Clarke award shortlist & event a little embarrassing, but never mind, it passed.

It's taken me ages to disentangle because I wanted to secure custody of the kids. Arguably I should have quit them long ago, for there was never, ever a good time, I'm a feminist, for heaven's sake: but I am so lazy, plus, fatally, I don't write for money. Anyway, no recriminations, so long, thanks for a modicum of fish, I'm glad it's over.

It's been such a long association, I decided I felt like making an announcement, quietly: but I didn't and don't mean to start a discussion on this, I'm just moving on.

Cave Of Ordeals

Wednesday 9th June, warm and overcast.

I beat the Cave of Ordeals! Last night, about ten minutes past midnight, I finished off the last Darknut, Level 49. I am so proud. It only took me about ten tries.

(This is my only tip. Don't save until you've beat it, there's no point.)

You may laugh, but how many other 58yrold female klutzes, whose FIRST KINETIC COMPUTER GAME was Pong, who remembers being in a cave full of twisty passages all the same...who have tackled Zelda TP's most absurdly extended and plot-token-free slaughterfest sidequest, and come out the other end triumphant do you know?

Tell me that!


Tuesday 8th June, soft grey sky, a dropping rain.

Saturday, warm and clear, a great day for swift-watching. To And's for a bbq in the afternoon, where I got into an argument with Lulu, and I think Suzy also, about the seal of the confessional of all things. When you come up against these long-ex Catholics, totally unbelieving Catholics, who once kept the rules by rote when they were children, and find them still defending the wicked ways of the organisation, while not meaning anything by it at all: well, it's an eye-opener. . . They really knew what they were doing, the great minds of the Mediterranean World, when they put that mighty machine together, circa 17 hundred years ago (when the Mediterranean World stretched from Britain to the Sahel).

I shouldn't be allowed out in public. I have opinions. Returned home in the June twilight, chastened by my inability to mingle, and we sat out on the patio for a long time, watching the swifts. Perfection in the evening garden, the young green plums, the clustered spires of aquilegia, foxglove towers, rising from drifts of forgetmenots, all the pale colours, instead of fading, coming out clearer as the twilight deepened.

Sunday I destroyed the moment, by ripping out the forgetmenot tangles, shaking them for seeds & planting in the Mediterranean Mix I've been nuturing in home grown plugs in the greenhouse, a haven of safety. Then it rained, at last, & the slugs came out. This morning I've lost the lot, except for a few refugees I dug up again and carried off to the concrete corridor. It's awful what slugs can do, to gardens where pesticides are forbidden. & if you tell me, like those coy Organic Gardening Articles, about garlic, sharp sand, beer traps, I will BITE you. Just because I believe in the impossible doesn't mean I'm stupid, or naturally subservient, or that I never think about it.

We go on trying, and find the plants that will survive.

Israel Raids the Aid: Check this out

Friday 4th June, cloudless blue a clear warm day, how quickly roses open, from buds to fullblown, the moment there is actually heat in the air.

This is from the comments box on a Common Dream link to the Guardian story of eyewitness activist accounts. I've heard of Israeli dual citizenship high ups in the US government, eg that Home Security fellow, before now, but I never knew it was like this!

From Common Dream:


"AMERICAN / ISREALI >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Dual Citizens
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> in the American Government

Attorney General - Michael Mukasey
Head of Homeland Security - Michael Chertoff
Chairman Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Richard Perle
Deputy Defense Secretary (Former) - Paul Wolfowitz
Under Secretary of Defense - Douglas Feith
National Security Council Advisor - Elliott Abrams
Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff (Former) - “Scooter” Libby
White House Deputy Chief of Staff - Joshua Bolten
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs - Marc Grossman
Director of Policy Planning at the State Department - Richard Haass
Trade Representative (Cabinet-level Position) - Robert Zoellick
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - James Schlesinger
UN Representative (Former) - John Bolton
Under Secretary for Arms Control - David Wurmser
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Eliot Cohen
Senior Advisor to the President - Steve Goldsmith
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Christopher Gersten
Assistant Secretary of State - Lincoln Bloomfield
Deputy Assistant to the President - Jay Lefkowitz
White House Political Director - Ken Melman
National Security Study Group - Edward Luttwak
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Kenneth Adelman
Defense Intelligence Agency Analyst (Former) - Lawrence (Larry) Franklin
National Security Council Advisor - Robert Satloff
President Export-Import Bank U.S.
- Mel Sembler
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families - Christopher Gersten
Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Public Affairs
- Mark Weinberger
White House Speechwriter - David Frum
White House Spokesman (Former) - Ari Fleischer
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Henry Kissinger
Deputy Secretary of Commerce - Samuel Bodman
Under Secretary of State for Management - Bonnie Cohen
Director of Foreign Service Institute - Ruth Davis "

Anyone reads Swedish?

Tuesday 1st June, cool and overcast, three swifts shrilling over my head at 7.30, haven't seen the newts for days as toads have muddied up the pool.

News from the frog nursery: my second little frog also died, and when I changed the water I found a tattered corpse in the silt, so the cats were innocent. Some frogs must disintegrate, or maybe I wasn't feeding them right. Now I have a new four legged froglet and two more coming up fast. Feeding them on pond larvae (for when they can eat live food) and tropical fish flakes. Heartening sight at the end of our walk on the High Weald on Sunday, through woodland drenched in birdsong and buttercup and sorrel dry pasture. . . the mill lodge at Bateman's Mill (where Rudyard Kipling got his electricity from) teeming with big fat black tadpoles. Putting my puny pets to shame.

Anyone reading this who reads Swedish and wd like an Ann Halam book? It's riktigt spännande, and I know that's good (the rest of the review nb may not be so rosy). I have a spare, and I will send it to you if you contact me.

Serial Reading/Singular Reading

There was a time, long ago, when I only valued, personally (I mean, as opposed to appreciating books on reading lists, unavoidable classics, books on my parents' shelves) books I believed were entirely singular. I found my treasure, by chance, in second hand bookshops, on stalls, at Jumble Sales.You couldn't buy books like these from a shiny branch of Waterstones, you would never see them reviewed. Arthur Machen's stories came into this category (every singular one of them). I was thrilled when I found a collection of his works, some with uncut pages, lurking on the P stacks in Sussex University library.

Now the dusty backstreet bookshops where lost treasure could be found are rare, lost treasures themselves, and even The Golden Centipede has a web presence. (I love the fact that the cutting I've linked is from NZ. I once found A Campfire Girl's First Council Fire in a charity shop in Auckland, when all I knew of the Campfire Girls came from intriguing references in the Abbey Girls series), & I recognise a different kind of singularity. Genre is serial, genre readers know the plot, they read to find out exactly how things are going to turn out this time. Proper highbrow mainstream writers write singular books, each one a new start.

Still, occasionally I find a book, such as The End Of Mr Y. I'd never heard of Scarlett Thomas, I just saw this book in the library, picked it up every now and then, and put it down a few times. I assumed it was to do with sex chromosomes, and confused it with the comic book series Y: The Last Man. In the end, I took it home with me, & discovered, terrific, wonderful, it's not the Y chromosome at all. It's Mr Y as in Mystery, or maybe Mr Why?, if you want to preserve the motif of a Virgilian guide to the Underworld. A young woman living the life of an Arthur Machen character, starving scholar, obsessed with strange semi-occult C19 mysticism. She finds a weird book she has longed to find, in a dusty backstreet shop, and. . . and I was absolutely sold until about p.206, when the seedy, desolate half-world reverie (Arthur Machen is back, decor updated for the C21 and he's a girl!) suddenly gave way to a paranormal thriller plot with holy water homeopathy & renegade men-who-stare-at-goats and my attention wavered. I looked up the mysterious Ms Thomas, something I'd promised myself I would not do until the end, & found she's teaching creative writing at Kent, & has a "classy oddball" sheet a mile long.

What'll I do now? The trouble with singular writers is that each is a genre in his or herself, as unmistakable and specific as Westerns, SF, Thrillers etc. As you may know, Gravity's Rainbow is one of my major touchstones, but I don't value anything else by Pynchon. No, it's no use, it's like reading the same book over and over again & noticing everything that jars. What if the "girls' boarding school" bit is the true Thomas? I don't like fiction about the mean thoughts of mean girls, so I'll be repelled. . .

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt of course, no matter how the end of mystery turns out. Classy genre writing gets called oddball, and she seems to have a detective series going. Excellent.


Saturday 22nd May, warm and clear, a fine day for taking Australians to see Lewes, with a proper castle, cream tea, cucumber sandwiches & everything but the beach. Beach at Newhaven, the only actual sand for miles around, has been cancelled, due to a dispute between Lewes Council and Natural Heritage or some such who run the carpark. Ah, well. Time to get in some birdwatching.

You had to be there, but this was such fun.
What d'you think? Do I have a career in conceptual art? Be honest, don't be afraid of hurting my feelings. . .

Four lions: Fools Rush In

May 20th, early morning mist swiftly burned off, a clear blue sky, a truly warm day shaping up.
Went to see Four Lions last night. The Duke's was stuffed, which was not the case for AGORA! I laughed, or snorted, occasionally, but I find I mainly agree with the uneasy reviews. It was funnier, much better acted, altogether a better product but in the end as jarring as Nathan Barley. I don't know. Maybe it's generational, or maybe the punters around me, relentlessly roaring with laughter all the way through, stopped me from seeing the virtue and profundity of this comic turn.

It's amazing what people will laugh at, esp the English. They get primed, they've been told it's cool to find something funny, so they laugh and they just go on laughing, without ever engaging brain, when all the laughter should stop, and silence should fall.

Six swifts hawking in the gulf of blue evening air last night. It's not enough for a screaming party, but better news of this year's migration on the Swiftwatch page.

Finally did that housekeeping on Gwynethann, the Wild Hearts correction, and updated the Books page to reflect current stocks.

That Volcano: The fallout has reached me! All the cheap advance fares to Manchester, in commuter hours, have been booked, through to August. Auggh. Oh well, I suffer but I'm compensated, domestic air travel has been judged not worth counting on.

Social Networking: AGORA

May bouquet
Wednesday 19th May, clear and fair, warmer weather continues. Deep mist at 6am, clearing to a dimmer version of yesterday's brilliant blue and silver morning.

Dear "friends", it's like this. A long time ago, longer ago than most of you can possibly remember, when I was first introduced to communication via the amazing internet, I noticed something and told my mentor, the Viridian Pope as would be: Bruce, this is a public place. You can tell me the community of digerati trust each other and revere freedom of speech, fine, but one cannot communicate anything one would not write on the back of a postcard, or discuss on an old fashioned telephone like with the operator listening-in. . .

The internet is not a private place, the nature of the beast forbids it. But people who live their lives on Facebook or similar are accepting something else, besides the open line. It's like those rabbits in Watership Down, the ones with the highly developed social lives, who lived in a warren where the local humans mysteriously provided all amenities and delicious treats. . . Tragically, rabbits kept disappearing from this delightful place. Secretly everyone knew what was going on, but it was worth it. Those lovely treats! Facebook addicts are being eaten, and maybe it's the way of the world: we are a food source for the profit machine, whatever we do. But I don't often change my mind* so I'm still a contrarian here, same as I was nearly twenty years ago. (*Know thyself, I've said this in my old fragment of an autobiography on Gwynethann). So this is how it goes. You can "friend" me any time you like, and I'll probably say yes, although most of you I've never met and I never will. You can send me Facebook messages & I'll respond. Occasionally I'll "join" the whatever it is that's suggested. Otherwise, I'm inert.

I keep this occasional diary, which has no affiliations, no advertising, no status as a reviewing blog. I maintain (occasionally) Gwynethann, the site where I post free fiction and non-fiction, and sell books; where anyone can find my email address and "personal details". To me that seems like plenty.

Went to see AGORA last night. Loved it. Cosmology and a Cultural Revolution, seriously well-produced: now that's a rare treat indeed. Rachel Weisz was wonderful, her supporting cast of Roman Citizen good guyes and Rampant Christian bad guys were also great. References to another Cultural Revolution, ie the Spanish Civil War, aka first round of the War Against Fascism, inevitable and to my mind justified. Books get burned, Fascists are going to be referenced. Church as force for moral corruption, likewise. I'm not so sure about the Mingella character, Davus the troubled slave. Lusting after his mistress and then hating her and turning to Christianity because she patted him on the head and snapped at him: that's fine, very 1793, only something failed, his strand was muddled, too minor, possibly it was the acting, or maybe the 12A cert. But how handsomely staged! I loved the sweeps out from that perfectly formed model of 5th C Alexandria to the blue planet hanging in space, and the great starry sky.

I didn't mind at all that Hypatia was discovering elliptical planetary orbits etc, twelve hundred years before Kepler. It was wonderful to watch her, fascinated, concentrated, obsessed. (Yet not too obsessed to stand up, when it came to the point of accepting house arrest, or nobly taking the consequences.). We don't know what she did, we weren't there: and that's part of the point, hence the expression "Dark Ages". Didn't mind that young Orestes (later the nice, troubled Prefect) paraphrases Alfonso of Castile's dry, possibly apocryphal, C13 reaction to the Ptolemaic system in all its weird glory (If God had consulted me, I should have reccomended something a little simpler). I did mind that Hypatia was depicted as the only woman with any clout, the only woman at all indeed, with any speaking part, in 5th Century Alexandria. This does not make sense. Even the Apostle Paul, in first century Judea, was depending on donations from successful businesswomen, all the time he was ranting against uppity females from the pulpit (the shameles hypocrite). Hypatia was a rare person, a genius, I can believe it. But women were there. They were priestesses, they were independently wealthy entrepreneurs, they influential hostesses with salons, they were over-educated daughters. The women are always there, in political and cultural dramas of human history, but sometimes they get remembered and most times they don't & this is not a good time. Ironically, you'd have seen more women with more influence on the action in AGORA if the movie had come out in 1951, with Ava Gardner in the part.

Long post. Too long. I may come back and correct it, later (I did).

Little Gods

Thursday 13th May, brilliant blue morning sky, a little warmer today.

Cold and grey, cold and grey. Just before six, yesterday evening, I shut up shop and went down to the garden; knelt on the cold wet grass at the margin of the fish pool to see what I could see. Three brown and gold mottled frogs, in different spots, crouched on the bottom and among the roots of the yellow flag, looking as if they'd been gently flattened. Not doing much. The two newts, walking around at a leisurely pace, the male's crest clearly visible. Peter says they might have been coming here for years, and we just never spotted them. The flag roots make a wonderful tangled underwater cavern, now I can see them, and until last year there was the water lily (which we got rid of in the end, it was taking up too much space, tho' I liked bringing the lilies indoors). He could be right. Far overhead, one swift came tossing and fluttering out from above the houses, and then vanished again. I said the swifts are here, they're not really. I saw a tiny band of them arrive, at the end of April; since then only fleeting glimpses. I'm afraid the population, in my neighbourhood at least, has diminished beyond the point of no return. They will be gone, like the sparrows.

Did you know, newts can live for 20 or 30 years. The smooth newt's family name is Triturus vulgaris / Lissotriton vulgaris. I have two Tritons staying in my garden. Did you know, male newts lay eggs, (spermatopheres, hope that's spelled right) which the female newt fertilises in her cloaca? Now there's a neat model for reproductive sex role reversal, wonder if anyone has used it?

In the garden at Number 10, two fresh-faced public schoolboys stand behind lecterns. They already have their act worked out, but it's a bit crude as yet. Cameron speaks. Clegg turns toward him, adopting a faintly Byronic pose, and gazes soulfully for a count of eight, nine, ten seconds, then glances modestly away; then gazes again. The blushing bride. When Clegg speaks, Cameron does exactly the same thing: adopts the pose, gazes soulfully (he doesn't have to look up, however), glances aside, resumes his shy adoring gaze. The bashful swain.

Clegg has to do a lot more of the gazing and glancing part: which I suppose is fair.

I wonder if Cameron really will cancel the third runway at Heathrow. I think the Lib Dems are going to be eaten alive, they'll help the Tories to be better people the way gut bacteria aid digestion.

No, I think the Lib Dems are going to be like Hove, actually. More respectable, but just, well, not Brighton. The bit tagged on the end.

Sad News From The Frog Nursery

Monday 10th May, brilliant blue sky at 7am, swiftly shrouded: heavy cloud now with sun breaking through. Cold, dry, grey-skies Maytime weather pattern persists, same as it has for a decade. Except a bit colder.

Tragedy has struck. Overnight, between Saturday and Sunday, one of my froglets mysteriously disappeared. There's a faint chance it disappeared under its own steam, and we'll find a tiny shrivelled corpse under the furniture one day, but they don't usually climb out of the water until their tails have practically vanished. I'm afraid a simpler explanation comes to mind. I spent a couple of hours yelling at both the cats, whenever I saw them.



I'm sure that did a lot of good. Bowl now has a swiftly improvised cat-proof perspex cover.

On the plus side, a pair of newts have turned up in the fish pool, which is beautifully clear now. (And this possibly explains why there are zip, nada, not a single frog tadpole left alive in there) I hoped they might be Great Crested, which I have never seen in the wild, because one of them does seem to have a crest, but internet id swiftly proved them to be Smooth Newts. I wonder are they just passing through (newts get about a lot) or will they stay!

Many thanks to Matthew Johnson for a correction to my essay "Wild Hearts In Uniform". The correct derivation of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin's nickname will be added on Gwynethann real soon now. I meant to work on that site on Sunday, but I am a wastrel and made another attempt at the Cave Of Ordeals instead. (My last attempt was in March; then our big Wire fest, and other less pleasant things intervened, so RPG playing was put on hold). I have lost my edge, one loses an edge swiftly at my age, but I'll get it back.

I like it when people pay attention. & I like it very much when people who don't necessarily share my opinions find my criticism thoughtful and interesting. Not so happy about being found to be "angry", as in Farah Mendlesohn's review on Strange Horizons. You'd think, wouldn't you, that it would be a bigoted sf-misogynist, who would review work like mine and announce "Oooh, lookit that angry feminist! She's so angry". But I'm sure these female reviewers don't mean to be destructive. On the contrary, I feel I'm somewhat being used as a human shield. Gwyneth is "angry" because Farah can't afford to be; Gwyneth is "angry" because Cheryl can't afford to be (that was for Life in 2004). At least Cheryl's not so sure she's a feminist herself, these days (cf her review of Spirit,where we learn that "the feminists" are down on transexuals). . . And good for her on that. I don't think I'll ever convince Farah that her kind of feminism, a feminism that offends nobody in the boys' club, does no good to anyone. It doesn't even work as appeasement, because nowadays, the whole world having taken such a lurching swing to the right, at the dawn of this century, the hardline sf misogynists cannot be appeased.

It's not easy but it is possible to be out as a feminist, in UKSF. My long survival proves that. It'll be uncomfortable at times, and your books will catch a few mean, unscrupulous reviews: but whose books do not, no matter what their politics? And on the plus side, the respect you gain, for yourself and for feminism, from men and women of goodwill who may or may not share your opinions, will be the real thing.