Archives » 2009 » March

Elgin City 0-2 Dumbarton

Borough Briggs, 31/3/09

Back up to second.

I’d have taken a scabby one-nil, but two is even better.

And a welcome clean sheet; away from home.

Pity Stenny won too.

Sets up Saturday nicely, though.

We could drop down to fifth then.

Porn On The State

What can you say about the Jacqui Smith affair?

One odd thing occurred to me, though.

Bizarrely, most of the coverage I have seen concentrated on the fact the expenses claim had included on it two porn films. But there were other (non porn) films on the same invoice. Why are these more acceptable?

Apparently MPs can claim for cable TV in their “second” home.

For what possible reason?

Internet and telephone I can understand. Arguably MPs need to keep in touch with constituents, their office and the like and these are perfectly reasonable ways to go about it.

But cable TV?

How on Earth does access to cable TV help an MP to do his or her job?….

Holland 3-0 Scotland

Amsterdam ArenA, 28/3/09

It’s been a long six months since the last of these posts.

Too long considering the expected defeat; which duly emerged.

We have a good record against Iceland – which bodes well for the midweek game at Hampden – but never underestimate a Scotland team’s ability to shoot itself in the foot.

In any case, I can’t see us beating Norway away to reach the play-offs.

Fourth

From second to fourth without kicking a ball. Not quite the worst case scenario – Forfar and Annan both winning both their games this week would have seen that. As it is, they both dropped points in midweek and today the Shire got a last minute winner at Berwick while Forfar lost their derby to Montrose.

It’s tight, though. Too tight. Only six points between second and seventh; ten between third and ninth! Everybody but Elgin could still achieve a play-off place.

On Tuesday night we could be as low as sixth. (Or we could have reclaimed second spot.) Hope you have long fingernails, folks.

Either way, the game at Stenny on Saturday is huge and we don’t do well at Ochilview…

Then there is the final game in hand at Forfar. Nerves will be shredded.

BSFA Awards

The BSFA is the British Science Fiction Association, of which I am a member.

Every year the members can nominate works of Science Fiction from the previous year for an award. These nominations are collated and a final ballot paper sent out to members. Attendees at Eastercon (the annual British Science Fiction Convention – this year taking place in Bradford) may also vote for the awards. This year’s BSFA award shortlists are given here. (The award part of the BSFA website was down when I tried to link to it. They’re in the middle of revamping the site.)

Every two months or so BSFA members receive a mailing containing the Association’s review magazine Vector and (less regularly) its mag for writers, Focus. Non-members can buy these separately from the Association.

This month’s mailing dropped through my letter box today. It was conspicuous by its unusual girth.

Along with the normal goodies there was a small chapbook containing the four short-listed stories in the best short fiction category along with the ballot form for all the awards. This was a surprise as it is the first year we have been treated to the actual fiction in this way. Normally, if you hadn’t read any of the stories, you would have to get hold of the magazine or anthology etc. where they were published; and time between ballot paper and Easter is usually quite short. Now all four are in the one package – no excuses for not reading them! Congratulations to the BSFA for getting this together.

And there’s more. There was a handsome sample booklet of Postscripts (PS Publishing) containing ten stories published there over the past few years. (Postscripts – now publishing as a hard back anthology – is where I recently sold my story, Osmotic Pressure.)

In addition this month’s Focus contains the winning entry (plus the runners-up) in the BSFA’s recent short story competition.

Looks like I’ll be reading a lot of short fiction in the next few weeks.

Information on joining the BSFA is here.

Book Sales Again

Someone else has noticed the strange book sale policy of Fife Libraries.

I was there again on Saturday morning (21/3/09) but this time didn’t find anything I hadn’t already got.

I did notice that they had an unread paperback copy of Richard Morgan’s Steel Remains* which unlike the version here on Amazon had no cover art. On the front instead there was a written passage from and puff for the novel. It was also stamped on the fly leaf – not with “Kirkcaldy Libraries – Withdrawn” but, “Waterstone’s, High Street, Kirkcaldy.” Bizarre!

Was it perhaps a review copy?

*The hardback is on my to read list.

Alternate Generals III Edited by Roland J Green and Harry Turtledove

Baen, 2005

I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff. Alternate History, as it’s called, is where historical events are re-imagined as they might have been, but weren’t. Here the focus, as in Alternate Generals I and II, is on military matters.

The main interest in tales like these is on the speculation. In this volume we get; Joan of Arc not burned, but re-tried, and inadvertently starting her own religion; Mark Antony winning at Actium but suffering ever more attempts to restore the Republic, MacArthur captured on Corregidor and, in a different story, it is Eisenhower who is charged with defending the Philippines; Gengis Khan converts to Judaism and instead of a Pleasure Dome is building a new Great Temple to hold The Ark Of The Covenant; Robert E Lee, victor at Gettysburg, is ambassador to Britain when a second existential crisis hits the Confederacy; a US Special Forces team is sent outside the chain of command by President Nelson Rockefeller to assassinate Ho Chi Minh in his cave hideout near the Chinese border.

Enjoyment of a story is not necessarily related to how much background knowledge of the situation the reader already has. In The Burning Spear At Twilight Mike Resnick has Jomo Kenyatta use propagandistic methods to gain Kenya independence. I’m afraid I didn’t know enough about the Mau-Mau “emergency” to be sure where all the speculation lay but the story succeeded on its own terms.

Harry Turtledove’s Shock And Awe needs some comment. He has Jesus of Nazareth – biblical quotations and all – as a rebel leader (of “ragheads,” to their opponents) against the Romans (who are “western imperialists.”) The conceit of using modern day language like this, and in the Roman soldiers’ mouths, in order to point out the parallels quickly wears thin and is a rather heavy handed way of eliciting sympathy for the underdog. And did Turtledove really intend to invite comparisons of Saddam Hussein with Christ? At one point we could have had an “I am Spartacus” moment but in the end Turtledove sticks too closely to biblical outcomes for the story to be satisfying.

Brad Linaweaver’s A Good Bag features the theosophist Madame Blavatsky but is extremely lightweight and really no more than drivel.

Coming from this side of the Atlantic I always find it amusing when the British are the enemy. In Roland J Green’s “It Isn’t Every Day Of The Week…” the war of 1812 follows a different course. The story culminates in a British invasion of Georgia. Due to the tale’s epistolary nature we are told the events rather than shown them and as a result the story doesn’t quite cohere. In this history the British don’t seem to burn the White House….

As a Scot, I found Lillian Stewart Carl’s Over The Sea From Skye more interesting. A defeated Duke of Cumberland flees Bonnie Prince Charlie’s followers and ends up on Skye where he encountters Flora MacDonald. The story itself is superfluously topped and tailed by extracts from Boswell’s journal which seem to be there only to shoehorn in a reference to the still loyal American colonies, and also has an unnecessary afterword. The author also suggests the original Union Jack incorporated bits to represent all four constituent nations of the union.

This would have been highly unlikely. In reality the Irish cross of St Patrick was only incorporated in 1801 and the gold and black Welsh cross of St David (whose colours would clash with the red, white and blue) never has been.

Esther Friesner’s First Catch Your Elephant, about the reasons for Hannibal abandoning the Alps crossing, is meant to be humorous but is tonally askew, psychologically unconvincing and, in the end, succeeds only in being annoying.

Not so much a good bag as a mixed bag, then. Too many of the stories strove for relevance in the actual world, but on the whole the book was diverting. Don’t pick up Alternate Generals III if you’re looking for literary excellence, though.

Dumbarton 0-2 Annan Athletic

The Rock, 21/3/09

Not a good time to lose the unbeaten home record in the league (since August.)

By the next time we play we could be as low as fifth.

Three away games coming up so don’t look for an improvement soon.

Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin is one of the best, if not the best, Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of the past fifty years. She is now 80.

You can still (until 24/3/09) catch on the BBC iPlayer an interview with her by China Miéville, broadcast on Tue 17/3/09.

Thanks to Zornhau for bringing this to my attention.

My review of Le Guin’s novel Gifts is at Infinity Plus.

I’m A Boy

It wasn’t till I caught this clip on You Tube that I realised how much this song resembles punk.

Or should that be how much punk owed to the Who?

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