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Clarke Shortlist (Belated response)

I have never seen so many sweet violets in Sussex, never. Easter Monday, mild, weak sun through cloud. Tadpoles thriving, and gradually being moved to the wildlife pond, but sadly one of our fish, known only as Red One (we gave up naming them, due to rapid turnover, and then these two lived for years) has succumbed to the attentions of a fishing cat. It survived the attack, but died later in the emergency ward. . .

Deeply engrossed all last week in the grim interactive gothic novel my family is still enacting, but yes, with thanks to those who inquired, I have noticed that Spirit is shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke award. An unlikely candidate!, given various constraints, not least that it only got submitted by Gollancz after special pleading. Still, never mind. There are strong books on this short list, April 28th will come, and I'll be delighted for the winner.

Did you know, Escape Plans, the Ur-novel of this protracted sequence, was shortlisted for the very first Arthur C Clarke award, in 1987? Isn't that remarkable.

Hi Jesper, and thanks for your comment on the Dragon Tattoo. . .

I agree! In the first book Salander's computer-whizzness didn't worry me. This obviously isn't realist fiction, and I'm used to the same phenomenon in sf, where some applied technology (eg genetic engineering) works exactly like magic, but I'm supposed to suspend disbelief because the terms and language are "scientific". In the second book I thought Salander's "hacker" credentials really fell apart, and the third, even to my small knowledge of computers, was worse. Also left slightly feeling that if I winced at the computer stuff, real investigative journalists might be grimacing madly at flaws invisible to me. . . But this is still ace bestseller material. It's like a movie being Oscar material: a mystery when you look closely, instantly recognisable from the proper distance.

Digital Economy and Vulture Funds

Wednesday 24th March, very mild, cloud rising and clearing as the afternoon declines. Did I say, on that walk from Woodingdean to Lewes, I never saw so many sweet violets before. These, in the thumbnail, running all along the foot of an old wall by the Downs Hotel, unphased by busy road at their feet. The scent, a delicate blend of Parma sherbert and dog wee. . . presumably passing dogs either like the odour and give it their seal of approval, or else hate it and try to do everyone a good turn by providing their own Febreze.


If you were involved in the Drop the Debt movement a few years back, you probably got an emergency email a week or so ago, over the sabotaging of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill: a private member's move, that had cross-party support and was about to become law, to protect the poorest countries in the world from toxic lawyers. Here's the link if you'd still like to do something to support that: http://www.globalpovertypromise.com/vulturefunds Sadly, though we may have hoped that the toxic lobbying behind that last minute "objection" from Christopher Chope was private enterprise too, it seems that Mr Cameron may well have approved their attitude: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/11518

It shouldn't be this way. Justice and Peace should be the openly avowed objectives of the State, globally and locally. Greed and Hypocrisy, those two pillars of the English nation, should be the country's shadow-self, skulking in corners, afraid to speak their own names. Would it were so.


While I'm at it, here's news of another Bill that's going to be law before you know it: a link to Gill Spraggs' post on the Digital Economy Bill. An issue that definitely wants watching. Plus her detailed take on Clause 43

Small item in New Scientist: Surveys have shown that when people insulate their housing to the nth, the saving on energy consumption is considerably less than predicted, for the people are more interested in comfort than conservation, and having stuffed their cavity walls, filled the loft with foam and double-glazed everything else, they then tend to turn the heat up. Same sort of thing happens when Gordon Brown, who doesn't have a clue, or want one, on Environmental Issues, decides to embrace Greenwash. Hence the High Speed Rail Network proposal, a Big, Big, Flagship project that will Save the Planet (as less people will fly from London to Birmingham) so that means huge spending on a completely new build, while leaving the existing network languishing, is perfectly okay. It's having your cake and eating it too! Shame it isn't actually going to connect with Heathrow, but that's a footnote. Here's Christian Woolmar's take: http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2009/09/rail-626-network-rail-undermines-case-for-high-speed-line/

Hm. Maybe I should have headed this "please do not read unless you already agree with me". But though it sounds like a ranting set of links, that's because of my grumpy temper this afternoon. Your actual respondents are an even-handed lot, and worth anybody's attention.







The Red Needles, Chamonix

Tuesday 23rd March, low cloud and mist, cool. How quickly Spring catches up. Everything's changed since ten days ago. Such an epic winter it's been, I'm sorry to see it go, but I can never resist the spring.
Hazel catkins have expanded, primroses burst into flower on the banks, one of my native daffodils has opened, buds popping open on the hawthorn, visible on the little blackthorn where there were only dead-looking twigs. Frog action, modest but healthy, in the fishpool, clumps of spawn moved into the "wildlife pool" (it has yet to catch on with the wildlife, tho' a couple of frogs have been seen visiting). On Sunday Peter and I walked the Jugg's Road to Lewes from Woodingdean (Jugg's Road: the fishwives of Brighthelmstone carried jugs full of fresh fish to the nearest town this way, long time ago). It's a walk for skies and landscape curves, not detail, so much of the downs under the plough, price of wheat must have gone up again I guess. Very beautiful under that powdery blue sky of early Spring, and uncountable larks, shouting and shouting. We inspected the dewponds on Kingston Hill for amphibs, saw nothing but some charming little snails, tiny glittering beetles scooting around in the submerged grasses, tiny dots of smaller animals. Hey, since we doped our "wildlife pool" with genuine pond water (from the dipping spot at the Heart of Reeds) maybe we'll get some of these.

The Aiguilles Rouges are featured because that's a detail from the jigsaw that saw me through the winter (as some of you may know, I work on jigsaws while thinking out what to do about chapter seven, and is that character superfluous etc; yes, just like Ax Preston). I usually favour art-jigsaws, I thought it was because of my superior aesthetics, I now concede it's because landscape can be just impossibly hard, making nonsense of my writer's meditation technique. Still, I won't forget them, and they're on a must see list now. Got to walk that black bridge.

Reading/watching. The Brian Cox series on the Solar System, and liking it very much.

Also just finished the Dragon Tattoo books. Excellent best-seller material, wads and wads of simple journalistic prose hung on the hook of a textbook Grimm fairytale. Have to say, the second one was the weakest, possibly because the "diversion", an exposé of sex-trafficking (so well-done in the first, when it was an exposé of corrupt financier's empire), completely failed to deliver. Curious about the titles, I found a page discussing the phenomenon: where I learned that the translator's name is a pseudonym, because the real person, translator with a major reputation, had his name taken off the books. . . Also learned that the title "Men Who Hate Women" was rejected for the English version (though not for any other European market) "because people would think it was Non-Fiction, and be offended". Isn't that interesting!

Have to say #2: not to speak ill of the dead and all, and I do know how it probably happens and why (It's all in Clover, Men, Women and Chainsaws) But for a bloke who is so outraged about men hating women, Stieg Larsson has to have spent a great deal of time thinking about young, almost pre-pubertal women suffering aggravated rape, young women getting murdered by sexual torture, women of all varieties getting persecuted and insulted in all kinds of ways. And so it goes, that's what fairytales are always about, after all.

Have to say #3. The Handsome Prince goes missing. . . It's true what you've heard about the movie. Salander is played by someone who looks a lot less like a starved and alienated stray kitten than she should, but our hero is played by someone who is going to puzzle audiences very much indeed, as the second and third episodes appear, and all the fabulously beautiful intellectual bodybuilding ladies crawl at his feet, begging to have his babies.

Elizabeth, how kind of you to ask after the tadpoles. Here they are, getting on fine.




Tadpoles

Wednesday 10th March, a high-pressure dry blue sky, warm sun, keen breeze; not so bitterly keen as it was yesterday.

Update on the tadpoles. I now have two colonies indoors, one lively, feather-gilled and feeding on lettuce, the second a few days behind and with a few more casualties in the mix. Outdoors, development is much slowed by the cold, tho' I cover the tubs over at night. No more spawn has appeared, the single remaining mating pair returned to their endeavours today, after being under the ice since last week.

I brought my two clumps of spawn in thinking they might be dead, like last year; or that it would only be for a day or two. Now my goal is to rear at least fifteen or twenty froglets & I think I have them indoors for the rest of the month, unless the weather changes. I might buy a magnifying glass.

In my diary for 2009, same date, it says "this has been the coldest, longest winter for a decade". The truth is, by my record winters down here in Brighton have been colder, in terms of days/nights of frost, for quite a while: cold that I'd have thought unusual in Brighton thirty years ago, interrupting spells of well above average temperatures. Chaotic winters, you might say. We didn't get the overly warm periods this time.

Wonder what will happen in 2010/11?

The Spawn Dilemma ("frogs are my canaries" obsession#n)

Thursday 4th March, blue sky, bright sun, chill air but no ice or frost. This entry photo stars my cat Ginger, dressed in a table napkin. She's fond of dressing up. Napkins, newspapers, anything that could cover a cat. . .
What shall I do about the spawn? This time last year, our fishpool was a heaving mass of amorous frogs, but none of their spawn survived. Most wasn't fertile, maybe some succumbed to a March cold snap. Many individuals seemed very stressed (reddish skin, skeletal thin) though I didn't see any definite signs of the "red leg" disease. This year, let us say the over-population problem seems to have been resolved. There's one mating pair in the fishpool, nothing going on in the new small pool, and I have two batches of spawn. The first laid is fertile: I have commas indoors and creased oblong eggs outside.

I think I'll bring the whole of the first lot indoors, leave the second lot outside, see how that works.

Nicely done. . .

Tuesday 2nd March, white roofs blue sky, no commas yer. Second batch of spawn in the dead flag leaves, tightly pursed bundle of jelly, hope it's warmer inside there. To be moved from fish pool when small pool ice has melted.

Working as I do in a genre that has been assuming the imminent demise of printed fiction for decades, and expecting (with or without enthusiasm, depending whether you are an Orwellite or an Asimovian) total Panopticon culture maybe even longer, I don't know why I'm worried. I'll live in the unregulated chinks, for as long as they survive and same as I do right now. Much of my fiction/nonfiction is free online already & it gets distributed okay, or at anyrate better than I could expect from the Giant Nothing Evil Team.

However, the Google Book Settlement Resistance thing gathers momentum, run by people who are old fashioned enough to act as if they have a voice in the design of governance: and good for them. Here's Gill Spraggs' statement from the Google Books Breakfast last week: Discuss!


The Bookseller reported recently the government sees it as "right" that
the Publishers Association "leads" the UK's response to the Google
Settlement. I've been asked to point out that the rights that the
settlement would license to Google are rights to works created by
authors; rights that in a huge number of cases belong to authors;
publishers may hold licenses to them, but authors own the copyrights.
Many of the rights to out-of-print books have reverted to their authors.
Authors are very big stakeholders in this business; and many of us are
feeling that we are not being taken sufficiently into account. It is
authors who by their original creative work produce the value on which
the entire publishing industry depends.


In this country professional book authors who have looked into the
Google Settlement hate it. I am talking about authors who license their
books to trade publishers in return for an advance on royalties, and who
have built their careers wholly or partly round writing; authors who
sell books in large numbers, and authors who are hoping that their
latest book will break out into the big time. Witness the many UK names
on the opt-out list, an amazing range of talent that spans the genres,
the generations and the political spectrum. The debate among authors in
the run up to the opt-out deadline was focused on the best way to escape
from the thing: opt out, or opt in and remove your books. I know several
who have taken the latter course; anecdotally, I know there are others,
probably very many. Some are relying on promises from their publishers
to pull their books from Google's database. I can only find one
professional UK book author who has praised the settlement: Maureen
Duffy, Honorary President of ALCS and a representative plaintiff.


The Settlement has been a PR disaster for Google. Authors worldwide
write blogs that are read by fans, friends, family, and many wannabe
authors. In recent months, comments on forums and blogs have become
increasingly hostile to Google. This includes comments on news sites,
and even, remarkably, in geek strongholds like the famous Slashdot site.


Google claims that out-of-print books are of no economic value, and that
the settlement is the only way that authors can benefit from them.
Professional authors know this is nonsense. Winning an award; getting a
TV or movie deal; bringing out a new book in a series; writing in a
genre that comes into vogue, or on a theme that becomes topical; all
these things and more can 'breathe new life' into an author's
out-of-print backlist. Authors who believe their works have value, to
themselves, to publishers and to other entertainment media want deals
with advances and promotion, negotiated on the best terms that the
market for their works will bear. They are not impressed by the prospect
of being buried amid millions of books in some online bookstack. They do
not believe that mass-licensing arrangements for the benefit of content
aggregators is a way to run a healthy book industry, or make the
profession of authorship either economically tenable or creatively
appealing.


The Google Book Settlement is objectionable not just in its details -
though there are many objectionable things about it - but fundamentally,
in the way that copyright-owners are opted by default into a scheme for
reproducing, selling and sublicensing their works. I cannot put it
better than William Cavanaugh, the attorney who presented the case for
the US Department of Justice at the Fairness Hearing: he said that the
settlement 'essentially turn[s] copyright law on its head because it
eviscerates the requirement of prior approval from the copyright holder'.


Without prior approval, there is no copyright. Copyright is a right to
authorize reproduction.


Here's something else that Cavanaugh said: 'It is the right to control
one's work that creates the incentive to produce it.'


Every age gets the culture that it pays for: pays for in money, and pays
for in respect.


The market in e-books is taking off. If we let the market take its
course, then, a few years down the line, most in-copyright books of
value will be available, permanently, in e-editions. Given demand,
publishers, some of them specialists, will track down and negotiate with
the copyright-owners of those scarce but sought-after academic
monographs, those out-of-print novels whose authors still have a
following, and most of the rest of the misnamed 'lost books'.


Time enough after that to worry about the rest of the books, the
so-called orphans, and the books that nobody wants.


There is nothing new about reprint publishing. What is new is that the
web makes it possible to efficiently match the niche publication with
its readers, and the costs of keeping a digital work available are very
low.


We can have a diverse, innovative market in e-books or we can have a
Google monopoly. We can have a publishing environment in which authors
whose works are in demand will be properly paid, because there will be
competing outlets for their work. Or we can write RIP over literature
in the long forms: the novel, the memoir, trade-published non-fiction,
and Google Books shall be its mausoleum.


We don't need the Google Book Settlement: what we need is what we have,
a living culture, generating real value.

Get in touch with Gill, or join the author rights group, via the blog: http://blog.authorsrights.org.uk/

-----------

The Digital Economy Bill sounds as if it also wants watching. The danger of losing copyright law is bad enough, but our Government (and I don't just mean the party in power, they are none of them to be trusted), thoroughly corrupted by the War On Terrorism, shouldn't be allowed near anything that gives them further unregulated surveillance access.

--------

About three years ago (I think it was), I had a request from PS, would I write an introduction for Stephen Palmer's new novel? I think that would be okay, says I. Only I'd have to read the book before I could say yes definitely, wouldn't I? Send it along. Time passes, I'm not concerned, PS publishing is madly overstretched, they'll get round to sending me the script down the line. Eventually I forget the whole thing. Saturday morning last, packet arrives. It's the four colour printed ARC for Stephen Palmer's new novel. Uncorrected proofs, introduction by Gwyneth Jones to follow; due out in June. Whoa! I think I'm introducing this book! Never mind, it wasn't very likely I'd turn Mr Palmer down, I've read Memory Seed and Muzzeinland, it's only March, I'll just do what I can



Spawn

Tuesday 23rd February, not raining right now and the sky is a brighter shade of grey.

One ball of fresh spawn, though I've seen only one frog, definitely not carrying a freight of eggs, and no mating action. The spawn doesn't look too good but I moved it out of the fish pool anyway.

Last year there was a lot of action, but all the spawn died. Same complete loss in 2006. In 2007, 2008, tads survived and about 20 or so succeeded in becoming froglets.

BAND OF GYPSYS

Monday February 22nd, February fill-dyke. It's still winter further north, here it's just rain, a raw fresh air, huge puddles when I sneaked out between downpours.

Warning, this post is mainly of interest to Rock&Roll Reich fans.

Band of Gypsys 2nd edition free online

When he read Bold As Love (published Aug 2001), Kim Stanley Robinson told me it was one of the few books that year that could have been written after 9/11. I'm not totally sure what Stan meant, but in fact the first three Bold As Love books were "written" before September 2001. I had them all worked out, just had to fill in the details. I don't think it made any difference. People talk about "9/11": for me it was 03/03. It was March 2003 when I knew I'd woken up in a different world, and a worse world (of course, it depends on your point of view). As I've said elsewhere, by my reckoning "9/11" was a proposal. Hey George, sez "Osama". You're cute. How about you and me wreck Western Civilisation together, hell, we can wreck Islam too, I don't care. Let's destroy everything that's decent in both our worlds! C'mon, it'll be fun! In March 2003 the courtship was over, the marriage was consummated. Tony and George leapt joyfully into their mentor's arms.


So in my chronology, Band of Gypsys was the first post 9/11 episode. The consequences can be seen from page one, in which my "West Wing"-style benign US President gets written out of the script. That wasn't meant to happen: I just couldn't stand the sight of him. Another consequence is that the other three stories were out of my reach & the online 2nd editions had minimal changes. Band Of Gypsys is set in the world I'm living in now, and has had a complete overhaul.
It's still as loopy as ever, don't worry.

"Ax's government tried to sentence him to assisted suicide a few weeks ago, after an incident involving a high-ranking official. When he refused to cooperate they gave him a palace to live in and a tv show of his own, on which he'll continue to criticise government policy. . ."


In the original plan, this one was supposed to cover Ax's "Second Chamber Presidency", how it ended, and the whole adventure of the Chinese invasion. But the book got too long and unwieldy, I was running out of time and I didn't like the way the action fell into two completely different halves. That's why Band, unlike the other episodes, ends on a cliffhanger.

Moomins Unmasked (The True Deceiver)


Ash Wednesday, 17th February, clear skies, mouse ice, 9 shoots of native daffodils now, and a frog vertical in the weeds, seeming to look up from under the ice in the little new pool. Alive or dead? Can't tell until the sun warms it. Christmas reading feature, final entry

There are two women. One is young and harsh and good with figures. The other is an old, sweet-natured, unworldly artist. Both are outsiders in a small Nordic community: the old woman isolated by status in her big house, the young woman isolated by nature, and by her ambivalent status as the community's fixer; she solves minor business problems, but her solutions make people uneasy. There's a dog, controlled but untamed companion; there's the harsh girl's simple-minded brother. There are other characters, serving to illustrate the central problem. The young woman wants something from the old woman. Basically, she wants a share of the old woman's wealth, but the catch is that she cannot bear to ask for the money, to earn the money, or to deserve the money. Her self-esteem requires her to ask nothing of the world, she has to take. But she has to take by what she considers fair means, and that means (it turns out) by besting the old woman in mind games.

The clueless old woman paints pictures of the forest floor. Her ability to concentrate on the finest detail of what's going on in the living world, right under everyone's feet,is her obsession. Somehow, a population of cute rabbits, rabbits with flowery fur, invaded this passionate life's work. The flowery rabbits irritate her, but they have made her famous. She's plagued by floods of letters from little children, which she tries to take seriously, and floods of international business proposals: which she does not take seriously. She lets herself be cheated, because she isn't interested in figures and she doesn't care.

If you are a Moomin fan, and since this is Tove Jansson talking, you will get the picture. You loved The Summer House, you loved A Winter Book; you may find this one a little disquieting. You may find yourself thinking, hang on, I don't know if I want to know this. . .

The whole action of the novel is contained by the dark, icy snowlit months of a Nordic winter, during which the calculating young woman strips the old artist of her elective naivety about business and other matters, and the old artist strips the calculating young woman of her pride and her self-containment. It's a gripping introverts' adventure, I can't explain how such petty drama and unsparing candour can be so attractive. Like, let me see, Cranford distilled to a fiery strength, but with the cosy warmth and light surgically removed. I think it's the old artist who turns out to be the stronger (did you guess?) but you must make up your own mind.

Spoiler warning, don't get too attached to the flowery rabbits. But if you didn't know already that the Moomins are really people, showing the very peculiar, almost chilling, characteristics that quite ordinary people display (Nordic or not; when you look close, with an unsparing eye); then I can't help you.

Digital Future


Tuesday 16th February, much milder. A grey, damp, breezy morning, a charm of goldfinches squabbling

Here's something I've been waiting to post. Gill Spraggs analysis and investigation of the Google Book Settlement (spoiler warning: she's not in favour of those Do No Evil lads' approach to the Digital Future) now has a blog and a mailing list

If you're a writer and you think you've opted out but you've had no confirmation you can check your name on the lawyers' list of no-thanks responders: http://thepublicindex.org/docs/amended_settlement/Allen_declaration2.pdf


Look carefully, the name order is a bit weird

In the genre world, Ursula Le Guin is also being very active.

Now what? Just saying no is easy enough, if you have an ounce of bloody-mindedness in you, and what writer does not, you can easily skip through the Do No Evil team's obstacle course. Thinking of another way, and putting it into practice, especially supposing you are not incredibly rich and powerful: that's the challenge.

Candlemas: the morning news

Tuesday 2nd February, still raining. Candlemas did not dawn bright and clear.

Not likely to be any Fair Maids of February in my garden, either. Only two of my new native daffodils (responsibly sourced) are showing above ground, the rest of the narcissi not very far advanced either.

We interrupt this belated review of Christmas and New Year books with some other essential reading, just to show I'm not entirely cut off from the world.

PW on Macmillan vs Amazon

Gill Spraggs on the GBS

My agents, David Higham Associates, are pursuing this issue strongly too. Also from Gill Spraggs, this morning, in my Inbox, a call to arms. I'll post you the URL if I get one.

& here's two entries from Common Dream

Peace Prize President's War Budget


Afghan geological resources worth trillions

Now I can't think of a single other thing to do at this desk, so I'll have to do some work.

Stravinsky (Stephen Walsh) postscript:

Tuesday 2nd February, no frost, grey rain.

For completism.

I read the second tome of Stephen Walsh's Stravinsky biography (Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934–1971) in December when I had the flu. The massiveness of the book was a friend to me, when the misery of flu was making time pass very slowly, and I'll remember it fondly for that reason.

Whoever said (commenting on my first Stravinsky post), that biographies of artists/musicians are a bit of a pitfall she was dead right, but I'm always curious, it's the History of Ideas student in me. On the whole, I learned a little about Modernism, both brands, and that was interesting (and thanks for the Penderecky tip greywyvern, but I'm not really a convert. I'll dip in and out of Modernism, same as Jazz, but it's not for me). Stravinsky himself becomes more human as he gets older, sheds first the Enfant Terrible and then the HardNosed Marketplace Artist persona. He said, in the end "All artists are carried on the shoulder of tradition", (and went on to reference the St Christopher and the Christ Child legend, which kind of positions Stravinsky as the Christ, ha!; but never mind). He refused, withering the suggestion with scorn, to "interview" Shostakovich, when he visited the USA. "What's the point in talking to him? He is not free!", which shows more sense than other expats tactlessly trying to get the man to denounce the Soviet State.

I listened to a lot of Stravinsky, liked some of it very much (probably, apart from The Rite Of Spring, the least-Stravinskyish works: couldn't get on with the Sacred music at all), & the biography gave me the entry, because I'm the slave of words. But every biographer has a thesis, of course they do or it wouldn't be a book it'd be a list of dates. In Ian MacDonald's dramatic "secret dissident" reading of Shostakovich's career, it's about Soviet history and music-politics and relates directly to the music. Stephen Walsh's big idea is the unmasking of a third party: not Stravinsky, for all his faults, but Robert Craft, Stravinsky's amanuensis, companion, secretary, substitute son. Stravinsky, a "bad, hard-hearted father", who demanded his children's devotion and treated them like chattels, got his come-uppance when he fell into the clutches of a "son", maybe neither bad nor hard-hearted, who worked the old man into the ground, alienated him from his (first) family and treated him like property. . . You can't call this inadmissable, because nobody disputes that Craft did take over Stravinsky's papers. He controlled the composer's post-mortem reputation. If he suppressed, edited, deleted, "interpreted" anything he didn't like, that's got to be fascinating, also very annoying, for any biographer who comes after, and detects the traces. I'm not sure it's all that fascinating for someone trying to place the composer in his times. But you can read Craft's immensely detailed refutation here, if you're really interested.


Madame de Staël

Monday 1st February, bright clear day, fading now: hard frost, dead calm

Name a world-famous female UK artist, working now, who is also an outspoken and highly influential political figure. Doesn't have to be a novelist or essayist, can be anything: film-maker, painter, musician.

No, you can't have Tracy Emin. Complaining that you have to pay too much tax when you earn a lot of money doesn't count as a political opinion.

You're struggling, right? Maybe they manage these things much better in France, and if I were not so insular & ignorant, I could name a half-dozen arts-celebrity salonistas who make or break all the State's policies. But even if it were so, it's not the point: first because she has to be famous outside her own country, and second because she has to be a public figure in her own right, an independent voice, not a female power-behind-the-throne. I think we need to go further afield -ironically, to countries where the inequality of women's rights is far more openly acknowledged. Nawal El Saadawi ; Arundhati Roy
They'll do, though they don't operate on the same scale (realtively) as De Staël.

Why did she pretty much vanish from the halls of political fame? It could be because she was incapable of changing her mind.

When Napoleon stopped being the darling of the intellectual liberals, and ran a police state at home, while parcelling out Europe as his family's private fief, it wasn't a change of plan or a change of heart (at least I don't think so). It was more that the intellectuals and artists of the world, such as Beethoven, had been seeing what they wanted to see. In France most of them went on doing just that. Men in public life, or who wanted to be in public life, reverted instantly to the Ancien Regime mindset. You've got to have a position at Court. As you may remember, there were draconian laws in the Ancien Regime, forbidding anyone remotely "noble" from earning a living, but that was only part of it. You didn't have to be greedy for money, you only had to be greedy for influence, for visibility, for power-to-do-good even. In post-Revolutionary France everyone who was anyone, from the hardest of hard Left Jacobins to devout unreconstructed Royalists, started scrabbling for positions in Napoleon's Government. My old friend Francois de Chateaubriand among them (tho' he did resign when D'Enghien was assassinated, and he did it before he knew how his colleagues were going to jump). It was shameless, it was horrible. Germaine De Staël was disgusted & she refused to kowtow. She said destiny was not morality, and she would stick with morality. She ended up in exile, banished from France, her writing suppressed, her new books pulped. She knew she was ruining her children's lives, as they would never get a decent job. She had good reason to fear for her life, but she never surrendered.

Mind you, she didn't have a lot of choice, when it came to public office. The French Revolution had played out (for women) as several others have done since; cf Iran 1979. They womaned the barricades, they ran political clubs, they had impasssioned speeches made in defence of their talents, their rights. They ended up explicitly restricted to the domestic sphere by the Constitution, 1791, long before Napoleon got going.

But she could have been a salonista. Napoleon would have loved her to be his salonista. She wouldn't do it. She didn't change her mind because, like Albert Camus, she met one of those moments (Camus was speaking of fascism) when one has to decide, do two and two make four? Or do they not? She decided not to agree that two and two makes whatever the Emperor says it makes.

Now, why the full body scanner image at the head of this post? (The comments on the page at Jaunted are the most interesting part). It's about visibility. If you want to be a public figure, then you have to be visible, cost what it costs. In our day, that means, just for instance, you have to accept the War on Terror security lines, though you know it's appalling. You cannot say, this is too much, because you can't afford not to step on the plane. Where would, oh, I don't know, Jeremy Paxman be, or Stephen Fry, or any of our modern-day "intelligentsia" of the media, if they said: No, actually, I won't stand for this. . . You might be notorious for a week or so, but you wouldn't stay a public figure for long.

History isn't written by the victors, it's written by the writers (or film-makers, or journalists, or artists, or musicians). But mainly by the ones who are ready to do whatever it takes, swallow whatever they have to swallow; to stay in the picture.

"Gwyneth Jones" free book downloads

Monday January 18th, a mild damp misty morning; birdsong

Just a brief post, to point out that the three Bold As Love novels I've re-edited and Spirit are now available permanently on this site, see under "Webpage Links". And remember, if you download one of my pdf books it is yours to keep , just as if you'd bought print and paper. I can't delete it from your kindle access, I can't decide I don't like chapter five or that I should make the ending more upbeat, dip into your text and change it.

I was quite interested in the kindle idea, until I found out about the breaking and entering aspect. Tuh. People are such sheep!

NB, should you be in Brighton tomorrow and free at lunchtime, you could come along to the Chapel Royal, North St., where Gabriel is playing a recital. Here's the details. The Bach is the Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor from Book I

Spirit Or The Princess of Bois Dormant: Free Online


Wednesday 13th January, after dark, snow on the roofs, can't tell if it's freezing out there, I'm going to try and take the train to Manchester tomorrow:should be fine, wish me luck.

Holiday reading interrupted for a special announcement, it's the New Year, and as promised the full text of Spirit has returned, download here, free online. Soon I'll get all the online books on sidebar links on this new blog. If you want a word file not the pdf, just ask.

So Google are pulling out of China. I'm not saying they shouldn't, but what a blow. How abandoned all those people must feel.