Archives » 2012 » January

Not Friday On My Mind 14: Anyway That You Want Me

Speaking of The Troggs, this was the first of their singles that I bought. Almost the first single I ever bought, it being two or so years since the previous one.

An example of the group’s more tender tendency.

The Troggs: Anyway That You Want Me

NGC 3239 and SN 2012A

Astronomy Picture of the Day for 27/1/12, NGC 3239 is an irregular galaxy, probably formed as the result of two galaxies merging.

NGC 3239 and SN 2012A

NGC 3239 is 25 million light years away. The bright object in the centre of the frame is a (much closer) star in our galaxy.

NGC 3239 contains the year’s first supernova, designated 2012A, arrowed – > < – in the photo. The light from it is of course 25 million years old.

There is also a lovely galaxy to the bottom right of the frame.

New e-book Publishing Venture

Gary Gibson (see here or click on my side-bar) has set up a new e-book publishing imprint* called Brain In a Jar Books whose blog/web page is here.

Gary’s aim is to bring back to life some otherwise out of print books never before made available for e-readers.

Most of the projected releases are by authors known to him – and to me, it must be said. I’m particularly glad to see Angus McAllister appear on the list.

I don’t have an e-reader myself (I’m a bit of a Luddite; I prefer reading ink on paper, where it won’t be a calamity if you drop it in the bath) but if I had I would be buying these.

*or whatever the equivalent e-thingy is.

Lethe by Tricia Sullivan

Gollancz, 1995, 384p

 Lethe cover

The book is set several generations after the devastating Gene Wars of the late twenty-first century. Varieties exist of humans genetically altered by what Sullivan terms virii (though why “viruses” would not have sufficed is difficult to see.) Unaltered, true humans cannot survive on Earth in the open but are confined to reservations, known as rez. Society is now run by a group of disembodied Heads – known as “the Pickled Brains” – who were found in the ruins of the buildings occupied by Ingenix, the company largely responsible for the Wars.

A series of interplanetary portals has been found at Underkohling, somewhere in the outermost reaches of the Solar System, from some of which no-one returns. The fugitive bosses of Ingenix were thought to have escaped through one of these. When indications show that travel back through this gate may be possible Daire Morales goes to investigate and is drawn through the portal.

On Earth, Jenae Kim, an altermode who has gills and so can breathe underwater – such altermoders can also communicate telepathically with dolphins – is employed by the Heads to help decode the data from the Underkohling gate and is aided by her dolphin pod.

Morales finds a strange world beyond the gate, inhabited by children and adolescents who only have time to reproduce before a “distortion” changes them into something inhuman and inimical. Those who show signs of distorting are driven out before they can inflict damage. The surroundings of this world – the lywyn – are a repository of memory mediated by the “ghosts” of those who have distorted. (Lethe is classical Greek for forgetfulness and was one of the rivers of the underworld.)

Jenae Kim gradually becomes drawn into conflict with the Heads and the threads of the novel draw together with a hijacked expedition to the gate.

This was Sullivan’s first novel and as such it is impressive. The main characters’ motivations are comprehensible and distinct.

There is always a problem in such a scenario with how to depict non-humans in the round. Too often they can be one or two-dimensional at best. Here the altered humans known as One Eyes are not particularly fleshed out – to be fair they are mainly background – but most of the children beyond the gate are merely ciphers while the main agent in this setting, their leader Tsering, has an attribute which is largely due to plot necessity and alters as a due result.

You may recall I had not been overly impressed with Sullivan’s Someone to Watch Over Me. Her last year’s BSFA Award nominee Lightborn was more engaging – and shows an interesting parallel with Lethe as regards motifs – but I still would probably not have bought this but for sighting it in a second hand bookshop (in Haworth.) It is good stuff, though.

Winter’s Shadowy Fingers? (vii)

This is the seventh time I have used this post title.

The question mark above appears because about two weeks ago – mid-January – we noticed a cherry tree flowering – a sign of the mild winter we’ve been having.

That Sunday, the 15th, I photographed it.

Cherry Tree Flowering in January

The same day the park’s pond was partly frozen over.

Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy, Pond

Further round the park was evidence of the wild storms we endured recently.

Fallen tree, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy

Some conifers had fallen in the area around the fountain – a fountain whose winter spectacle I featured in this post two years ago.

Fallen conifers, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy

Reelin’€™ In The Years 30: The Six Teens

If The Troggs were my musical vice of the 1960s the band which took that role in the 1970s was The Sweet.

Their early hits were mostly rubbish created by the songwriters Chinn and Chapman (who also were responsible for the band Mud and wrote for Suzi Quatro among others) but The Sweet began to hit their stride when they moved away from directly appealing to the young “teenybopper”€ market in 1973 with the harder edged Blockbuster which started off their biggest run of chart success.

Examination of their B-sides – which they wrote themselves, and leaned toward heavy rock -€“ reveals more than a degree of casual sexism: a feature mostly absent in the bands they aspired to emulate.

Some sources have it that lead singer Brian Connolly was related to the actor who played Taggart, Mark McManus. As Wiki says that Connolly was fostered this would not quite be the case.

The Six Teens was the most lyrically interesting of their big 1973/4 hits, referencing the disturbances of 1968, but it was the start of their popular decline.

The Sweet: The Six Teens, apparently live.

Refining Your Debt

I see the BBC has reported a British oil refinery has gone bust.

In today’s world, oil products – whether they be the petrol, diesel or fuel oil most directly obtained from refining crude or the plastics, chemicals, medicines etc derived by further processing – are the most sought after substances; excepting (possibly) illegal drugs.

So with markets like that, how the hell can an oil refinery go bankrupt?

To be fair, the headline on the news was a little misleading. It is the parent company which owns the refinery which has gone bust.

But the point still applies.

There has been a lot of scaremongering about the possible effects as the refinery supplies 20% of south-east England’s fuel needs; scaremongering no doubt put about to raise fuel prices. I would expect that some other company will take it over sooner rather than later.

Menawhile Britain’s debt has reached 1 trillion pounds* for the first time.

The Coalition cuts are working well to reduce the debt then, aren’t they?

I also see UK growth was -0.2% for the last three months. Not much scope for joy there.

Why are these idiots repeating the mistakes of the 1930s?

*That amount being illustrated on the BBC news last night as £1,000,000,000,000 is, to my old fashioned eyes, actually a million million or what we used to call a billion. Well, it was before we took up US descriptions of such things.

Edinburgh’s Art Deco Heritage 6. Comely Bank Road

We were in Edinburgh on Saturday and walked along Comely Bank Road, near Stockbridge but going west.

I’d always thought the houses there were in thirties style but since I usually drive along there hadn’t noticed the corner shop fronts.

This is a close up on the frontage of the shop which corners on Comely Bank Road and Learmonth Grove. Its deco features are obvious.

Close-up on Shop on corner of Learmonth Grove and Comey Bank Road, Edinburgh.

Below is the corner of Comely Bank Road and Learmonth Avenue. The shop in Learmonth Avenue (Shaw’s Fine Meats) still has thirties style windows.

Two Art Deco shops Edinburgh

Next is part of Learmonth Avenue in a view from the opposite side from the above.

Learmonth Avenue, Edinburgh

Clearly thirties. Note the long vertical windows on the stairwells. (Though the shops shown here have been “modernised”.)

This is one of the vertical windows on Comely Bank Road itself. I photographed this one because it’s been painted green.

Art Deco Vertical Window

A couple more photos from Saturday are in my Edinburgh Art Deco flickr set.

BSFA Awards Shortlist

It’s that time of year again. The BSFA Award nominations are out.

The full lists can be found here.

The fiction nominees are:-

Best Novel:-

Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (Newcon Press)

Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan)

The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)

By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)

Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

Of which I have (so far) read one.

Best Short Fiction:-

The Silver Wind by Nina Allan (Interzone 233, TTA Press)

The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s, July)

Afterbirth by Kameron Hurley (Kameron Hurley’s own website)

Covehithe by China Miéville (The Guardian)

Of Dawn by Al Robertson (Interzone 235, TTA Press)

I have read none of these as yet but only The Copenhagen Interpretation is not available online via the BSFA page linked to above. Presumably the booklet of nominated stories that the BSFA has produced for the past two years will be repeated this time around, too.

Saturn’s North Pole

Yes, Astronomy Picture of the Day again (22/1/12.)

This is really weird. It’s a storm on Saturn, located at its north pole. The source as usual is the Cassini probe.

Hexagonal Storm on Saturn

Quite how a storm can result in a hexagonal pattern is puzzling. More puzzling still is how it has lasted – since it was discovered in the 1980s flypasts.

This is the same storm in infrared (from APOD of 3/4/07.)

Saturn polar storm in infrared

This links to a photo of hexagonal cloud forms on Earth, the nearest similar meteorological phenomenon.

Here’s a time-lapse film of Saturn’s north polar storm. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

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