Lewes War Memorial

On leaving Rye we travelled along the south coast through East Sussex using the A 27, past the Falmer Stadium (known as the Amex) on Brighton’s outskirts, just before the turning for Lewes, the county town.

I didn’t see any Art Deco but there was a War Memorial, perched on a traffic island halfway up the High Street.

It’s topped by a winged figure of Victory. Apart from the dedication, the shields attached to the base of the memorial bear Great War names:-

War Memorial, Lewes

From north:-

The right-hand shield at the bottom here has the dedication, “In memory of the men of Lewes who died for their country and for mankind n the Great War 1914-1918.” The column above it is inscribed, “Likewise remember those of this town who gave their lives in the war 1939-1945.” The rectangular plaque has names for World War 2:-

Lewes War Memorial

From west:-

Lewes, War Memorial

From east. The column is inscribed, “This was their finest hour” and again the rectangular plaque has WW2 names:-

War Memorial, Lewes, Sussex

Incomplete Solutions by Wole Talabi

Luna Press, 2019, 270 p. Published in Interzone 284, Nov-Dec 2019.

 Incomplete Solutions cover

This collection’s title may allude to the proverb from its author’s Nigerian homeland, “Starting a thing is not as crucial as seeing it through to completion,” but can also be seen as an explicit nod to Gödel’s famous theorem. Yet finishing things doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for Talabi. Twenty stories in a first collection, all of them published in the last five years, is not a low count. As a result it probably contains something for everyone. Often set in Lagos and frequently taking inspiration from Nigerian mythology and folk-tales the contents range from intellectual explorations to straightforward what-ifs.

In Parse. Error, Reset, alters are electronic neurosocial profiles of humans, with a ninety day deadline for disposal, to be used when you need to keep up with social obligations. A Short History of Migration in Five Fragments of You is told in the second person in five sections tracing the lineage of the captain of a Nigerian mission to land on Europa.

Drift-Flux starts arrestingly enough with a spaceship exploding but soon degenerates into a race-against-time to foil a plot to destroy Earth, interlaced with a crudely characterised conspiracy by those prejudiced against enhanced humans and tinged with ancestral beliefs as a ward against nosiness. Its fight scenes are a touch unconvincing, though. A Certain Sort of Warm Magic is a love story, conventional in every way yet worth reading just the same. In the post-Singularity, post human-AI war, neural interfaced world of Necessary and Sufficient Conditions a man travels to the home of the murderer of his mother to exact revenge.

Tales within tales within tales saturate Wednesday’s Story, a meditation on the art and purpose of storytelling taking as its inspiration the rhyme about Solomon Grundy, here half-Nigerian, as told by a creature from outside time, who along with his six siblings is named after a day of the week.

An object falls from the sky in front of a pre-teen African girl in The Harmonic Resonance of Ejiro Anaborhi. When she touches it she becomes fluid, inhabiting two places at one time. In Crocodile Ark the protagonist becomes the front man for a revolution on a theocratic habitat orbiting Mars. He knows the history of revolutions and their children, though. Told mainly in the second person, Nested follows a chain of deaths towards the ultimate creator.

Two years after an event when green light fell from the air and water rose into the sky The Last Lagosian scours his home city in search of the water he needs to survive. In If They Can Learn a cyborg police officer has killed a young black man without good reason. The Borg had been programmed with neural nets using input mostly from human twentieth- and twenty-first century US police officers. Nneoma is a stealer of souls who manifests as “the kind of woman that entire religions, cultures and civilisations concoct elaborate legends and myths to warn men like me about.” She appears again in I, Shigidi where she pairs up with that Yoruba god.

Polaris is the life story of Tunde, a convict exiled to Mars, a dumping ground for those Earth has deemed undesirable. Connectome, Or, The Facts in the Case of Miss Valerie Demarco (Ph D) is the tale of what happened when Connectome made the first memory map of a human brain. An entity calling itself Valarie Demarco holds forth from the lab’s loudspeakers. (We must infer that different spelling of Valerie is deliberate.)

In The Regression Test a woman is called on to perform a confirmatory Sorites test on the copy of her grandmother’s personality stored in a computer, while Eye is a philosophical exploration of the benefits and drawbacks of having true foresight.

Mars is inhabited by human and alien immigrants in Home is Where My Mother’s Heart is Buried. Tinu is influenced by her Chironi lover to let her younger sister go her own way. The longest story in the book, Incompleteness Theories, is a traditional SF tale about the extension of teleportation technology to living beings.

Finally, in When We Dream We Are Our God the internet has become conscious and gone on to ignore humanity except for those few humans who have become networked together themselves via a process called Omi Legba.

Talabi certainly can write and while not all the stories here are equally successful Incomplete Solutions is one to add to the growing presence of SF from beyond its historical bounds in the Anglo-American imagination.

The following did not appear in the published review.
“She started to explain with a question, such a uniquely Nigerian thing to do,” is a sentiment expressed twice here. Is it unique to Nigeria?
“Fela Kuti was on a small make-shift stage singing something socially scathing while simulating strange, savage sex with a sweaty, skinny seductress to scintillating sounds from a splendid saxophone,” takes alliteration a bit too far.

Pedant’s corner:- “that allowed her function” (that allowed her to function,) “the network of pipelines, cables, equipment, and rigging, that kept” (doesn’t need those last two commas,) (ditto in “space, time, energy, matter, spirit, and life, are considered”) (ditto in “ fire, lights, and panelling go by,) (ditto in “remained visible, from high above, a spectre”) “before continuing. ‘… That” (comma after continuing instead of full stop,) “in a smiled” (in a smile,) Adadevoh drive (spelling is sometimes Adedevoh,) “the solar systems economy” (system’s,) “the short man pretending to Mwanja Mukisa” (pretending to be Mwanja Mukisa,) “the squad that had meet then” (that had met them,) “where the fire raged most fierce” (fiercely,) “a large group …. were” (a large group … was,) “the cluster nearby asteroids” (cluster of nearby asteroids,) bioplasium (previously bioplasmium,) “‘my ships interface’” (ship’s,) “the middle of control deck” (of the control deck,) “‘Its drift-flux.’” (It’s,) “the ships basecode” (ship’s,) “trying to recall her what he’d been taught” (no ‘her’,) “allowed him access even the deepest layer” (allowed him access to even the deepest layer, or, allowed him to access even the deepest layer,) “the ships hardcoded path” (ship’s,) “and he edges” (the edges,) crenulated (crenellated.) “Under of all that hair” (Under all of that,) “allowing my tongue dance a private gentle waltz” (allowing my tongue to dance a private gentle waltz,) “mindless watching something silly” (mindlessly watching something silly,) “allowed them sink in” (allowed them to sink in,) “other times like brisk and efficient agent” (like a brisk and efficient agent,) “‘I just need you acknowledge your crime’” (‘I just need you to acknowledge your crime’,) “‘a nation of African people are the dominant hegemony’” (a nation of African people is the dominant hegemony’.) “The sharpness of its arcs flare and wane” (The sharpness of its arcs flares and wanes,) “his daughters initials” (daughter’s,) “the wood-carvers hands” (wood-carver’s,) like talon (like a talon,) the hunters head (hunter’s,) maw (it’s not a mouth!) “with he and his wife” (with him and his wife,) “went home the hunter” (went home with the hunter,) “the sphere that was chasing the ship matched their manuever [sic]” (matched its manœvre,) themselves (themselves,) to allow something like explosion to occur” (like an explosion to occur,) “allowed her senses re-engage” (allowed her senses to re-engage.) “The fear she’d developed for her mother” (the fear … of her mother was meant,) “made her pull hand away” (made her pull her hand away,) solider (soldier,) “as anyone who as ever read” (has ever read,) “one of the prophets many VR centres” (of the Prophet’s, lower case ‘prophet’ occurs frequently. In all cases since it is a particular individual it ought to be ‘Prophet’,) artic wasteland (Arctic,) “of the Earths destruction” (Earth’s,) “letting it explode like bomb” (like a bomb,) “what I imagined to be stately voice” (to be a stately voice,) vocapohone (vocaphone,) “how disengage from orbit” (how to disengage,) wold (would,) “they might have even succeeded” (they might even have succeeded,) Arinamaka (the spelling starts off Ariannamaka then begins to vary between the two forms,) “the Prophets records” (Prophet’s,) “‘Do you remember wat came before your birth?’ He asks. ‘If there was nothing before, why do you all believe something mist come after?’ He inquires further’” (Both those ‘He’s ought to be ‘he’,) “it finally it roared into life” (has one ‘it’ too many,) “beyond deaths reach” (death’s,) “like gates of a city” (like the gates of a city,) “pointing his gun Chuka’s face” (at Chuka’s face,) “allow him wrap his thick, veined hands around” (allow him to wrap,) “that don’t make a lot sense to me” (a lot of sense to me,) “the presence of things far and unseen reaches me” (the presence … reaches me.) “The bright, strobe lights” (the bright strobe lights,) “gathered the gathered the sheets around me” (remove one ‘gathered the’,) “it was written in wetness of her eyes” (in the wetness,) lay (lie, x6,) “to allow myself be recruited” (to be recruited,) shrunk (shrank,) maw (it’s a stomach, not a mouth,) vermillion (spelling used a page later is vermilion.) “The real madness when I still worked for you” (the real madness was when I still worked for you,) “allowing everything that was me become fluid” (to become fluid,) “in readiness for was sure to come” (in readiness for what was sure to come,) “as he allowed her unzip his corduroy trousers” (as he allowed her to unzip his corduroy trousers,) seven unindented new paragraphs, bidurnially (bidiurnially?) “Synthesized water began to take back what was their ancient, ancestral home.” (Synthesised water began to take back what was its ancient, ancestral home.”) [He] “allowed himself forward to the control panel” (I know what it means but it’s a very odd construction.) “He pressed the pressed the ‘transmit’ button” (only one ‘pressed the’ needed,) “something that resembles like a bony ridge” (either, ‘something that resembles a bony ridge’, or, ‘something like a bony ridge’, not ‘resembles like a’,) “her sons life” (son’s,) “with fist full of naira” (with a fist full,) “I allowed myself feel” (is this missing ‘to’ after ‘allowed myself’ a Nigerian idiom, then?) “She brushed a stray strand of her from her cheek” (of hair, I think. Brushing a strand of her from her cheek would be in a different story entirely,) “a doctor with a kind smile and bald head whose name was Arogundade” (the head has a name? ‘a bald-headed doctor whose name’,) “clear sliver fluid” (silver, methinks – but if it was it could not have been clear as silver is not transparent,) “allowing it connect” (here is that missing ‘it’ again,) one doubly indented new paragraph, a paragraph continued when it puth ti have been a new one for a fresh speaker, “on her laps” (on her lap,) “‘I don’t want do this’” (want to do this,) “had been bleak affair” (a bleak affair,) “that would-be worm meal” (that would be worm-meal,) “to allow herself think” (again a missing ‘to’ after the verb allow,) “allowing …. fade and abrade” (yet again, ‘to fade’,) “in your way your progress” (‘in your way’, or, ‘in the way of your progress’,) was the point at which they were at” (remove one of those ‘at’s,) a logical followership of the facts presented” (followership? Following, surely?) laying (lying.)

Twisted Chimney, Rye

On the walls of Lamb House, Rye, were a couple of paintings of interest.

The first was of the house itself, showing how it looked before the Music Room was destroyed in World War 2:-

Painting of Lamb House, Rye

The second was a street view from one of the windows painted by Beatrix Potter:-

Beatrix Potter Painting in Lamb House, Rye

I took this photo of the same view. Note the twisted chimney on the building which partly obscures St Mary’s Church:-

View from Lamb House, Rye

This is from street level:-

Twisted Chimney, Rye

Closer view:-

Rye, Twisted Chimney

Reverse view:-

Rye, Twisted Chimney, Reverse View

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times – Andrew Crumey

Again the books for Judith’s Bookshelf Travelling meme now overseen by Katrina are on my shelf of Scottish books.

Eight idiosyncratic novels by Andrew Crumey.

Books by Andrew Crumey

I have read all of these since I started my blog and hence reviewed them all over the years. You’ll find them listed below in order of reading, with links to the reviews.

Though not all of his fiction deals with the subject, his background in theoretical physics colours some of the books. One of his accomplishments is that he has managed to illustrate quantum mechanical concepts in fictional form – and without sacrificing comprehensibility. His interest in historical figures and mathematics also permeates his work and he is aware, too, of the hinterland of Scottish literature. There’s not a dud here.

Mobius Dick
Sputnik Caledonia
Music, In a Foreign Language
PfITZ
D’Alembert’s Principle
Mr Mee
The Secret Knowledge
The Great Chain of Unbeing

Interior, Lamb House, Rye

I have posted about Lamb House, Rye, previously.

The staircase faces you as you enter:-

Staircase, Lamb House, Rye

The study is to the right hand side:-

Cabinet and Fireplace, Lamb House, Rye

The books in the glazed bookcase above this fireplace must have got hot when the fire was on!:-

Lamb House, Rye, Study

To the left of the staircase lies the drawing room:-

A Room in Lamb House, Rye

Window and Furniture In Lamb House, Rye

The dining room is at the back of the house from where doors lead out to the garden:-

Room, Lamb House, Rye

Round Window in Lamb House, Rye

Peterhead 1-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Balmoor Stadium, 21/11/20.

Well. Normal service appears to have been resumed. A good start with a draw, two wins and three clean sheets has been overtaken by two defeats in a row. Mind you according to the club’s view of the game we again, as a fortnight ago, might have got something from the game.

We now have three very hard matches indeed in a row against Falkirk, Partick Thistle and Cove Rangers respectively, all of whom are above us in the table.

My spot in front of the computer is booked for the live stream on Tuesday night.

Automatic Eve by Rokurō Inui

Haikasoru, 2019, 315 p. £10.99. Translated from the Japanese Jidō ibu (自動イブ,) by Matt Treyvaud. Published in Interzone 284, Nov-Dec 2019.

 Automatic Eve cover

How necessary is it to suspend disbelief in order to appreciate, or perhaps persevere with, a work of fiction? Conventional wisdom suggests it is at least a necessary condition. Automatic Eve suggests that might not be the case.

The plot of Inui’s novel hinges on the existence of elaborate automata. Not toys, not merely small things like crickets, but better than android–like simulacra of human beings. Things of convincing, warm, outer human appearance but internally consisting of metal, cogs, gears, wires – each with a pendulum for a heart. Yet the automata here are effectively so realistic that they appear to be completely human to everyone involved, even to the extent of being able to have sex convincingly, to inspire love and devotion, and to experience these things for themselves. Even capable of being convinced that they themselves are human – until, perhaps, they find otherwise. And that’s a leap that’s a big requirement to ask of a reader. (This one always had nagging doubts.) Yet, to carry on, to keep faith with the story, said reader has to take this on trust. (And, maybe, later, write a review.)

It is a mark of Inui’s writing, and his translator’s ability to convey it, that the necessary perseverance isn’t a problem. The story here is engaging enough to keep you turning the pages. It helps that the central concept is introduced fairly gradually.

The setting is a little odd though. The characters know of Chemistry, electricity and clockwork, yet the society in which they are embedded has a mediæval feel. It is obviously closely based on Japan, but not a Japan which ever existed. Yes, we have sake, bathhouses, sumo, cricket fights, meticulous gardening (albeit also a cover for spying,) a certain pleasure in fine objects, finely wrought – not to mention the goings-on in the building known as the Thirteen Floors. There is, too, intrigue between an Imperial court and a shogunate, but the divine figure is an Empress, and the succession goes through the female line, to a female. It is a Japan tweaked just so, to enable the story. A fantasy, then.

Would-be Sumo wrestler, Geiemon Tentoku, has fallen in love with the Eve of the title and selflessly seeks to release her from her indenture in the Thirteen Floors to restore her to the man he thinks she loves. Kyuzo Kugimiya learned all he knows about the construction of automata from Keian Higa, who had plotted the overthrow of the system before being executed after his plans were betrayed to the authorities. Under the instructions of the Imperial Gardener (really a spymaster) Kihachi Umekawa, the shogun’s spy, Jinnai, is investigating Kigimiya’s activities. All these are actors in the overall plot, which concerns the contents of the Sacred Vessel, a sealed container within the Imperial Palace.

The existence of convincing automata leads a couple of characters to question the nature of humanity. Kyuzo thinks, “A pregnant woman’s body was home to not one soul but two. Where did the life in her womb come from, and when? If souls came from elsewhere to reside in the human body, was it not possible that one might take up residence in the infant automaton they were building?” Later, Jinnai wonders, “Where did the soul come from? Where, in the body or brain, did it conceal itself while a human still lived? …. Automata like Eve showed human behavior [sic] as a response to the care and love they received from humans.”

Such metaphysical considerations are invited by the subject matter – and are arguably the raison d’être of literary fiction – but Inui doesn’t let them bother the thrust of his story for too long.

There is a slight flaw to the book’s structure, however. Rather than a novel it is a succession of seven shortish novellas, albeit featuring ongoing characters. That the narrative viewpoint changes between these sections is not a problem but certain repetitions of information suggest that they may not have been conceived or written as a whole but subject to a later fix-up. And Automatic Eve herself is more like an absence than a protagonist. Though she does appear in them all she is neither the focus nor viewpoint character in any of the seven segments.

None of that, however, takes away from the overall effect. It may lack innovation in its central idea but Automatic Eve is still a well-written, solid piece of fiction.

The following did not appear in the published review:-

Pedant’s corner:- “none were too explicit” (none was too explicit.) “The master of accounts were responsible for” (the master … was responsible.) “None of these new revelations were the answers Kakita sought..” (None of these new revelations was the answer ..) “none of them understand the situation” (none of them understands the situation.) “None of the spies were supposed to know” (None … was supposed to know.) “The attendant’s quarters” (attendants’ quarters.) “The group made their way…” (The group made its way,) “‘I gather that neither of those fates await those who are careless?’” (neither of those fates awaits those, plus the sentence isn’t really a question.) “Mounts of leftover soil and worktools ..” (‘Mounds’ makes more sense.) “‘The palace has decided to keep the news to themselves for now’” (to itself is more grammatical,) “for this automata” (for this automaton.) “These question had always bothered Jinnai.” (These questions.)

Lamb House, Rye

One of the reasons for visting Rye was to see Lamb House, home to various writers over the years and visited by many more. We looked in the morning we were due to leave Rye.

Lamb House, Rye, East Sussex

I suppose the house’s most famous inhabitant is Henry James but the good lady is an advocate of E F Benson who was mayor of Rye for a while and set his series of novels about the goings on of Mapp and Lucia, in a fictionalised version of Rye. The books were admirably brought to the small screen in 1985 by London Weekend Television. The BBC version in 2014 was less successful in capturing the look and tone.

This is the gate to the garden. (The gate wasn’t open but we accessed the garden through the house):-

Lamb House, Rye, Garden Gate

The black plaque reads, “In Lamb House lived E F Benson from from 1919 – 1940 and A C Benson from 1922 -1925. Brothers and writers.”

Lamb House, Rye, E F Benson Dedication

Lamb House gable end from the garden:-

Lamb House, Rye, Gable End

Another notable former inhabitant of Rye – though not a writer – was the war artist Paul Nash. He liver in this house, as attested by the blue plaque:-

Paul Nash's House, Rye

Friday on my Mind 196: Fire

A piece of utter craziness from 1968. On the face of it Arthur Brown was just a little bit mad what with wearing a helmet of burning fuel on his head. Catchy, unforgettable and a world-wide hit but not easy to follow-up.

As seen on Top of the Pops. (The video looks like someone filmed it off a TV screen.)

Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Fire

Ray Clemence and Des O’Connor

I was sad to hear of the death of Ray Clemence, one of the best goalkeepers of my lifetime, with a medal haul it would be difficult to surpass. About the only one misssing from his collection was a World Cup medal. Had it not been for the presence of Peter Shilton as a contemporary his total of 61 international caps would have been substantially higher.

England goalkeepers have not habitually been prone to error but Clemence is probably best remembered in Scotland for exactly that. In a game against Scotland he misjudged a weak Kenny Dalglish shot, allowing it through his legs for a goal. I noticed that his obituary piece on the BBC news featured a clip of that incident. Perhaps the compiler was a Scot with a sense of irony.

Judge for yourselves:-

Raymond Neal Clemence: 5/81948 – 15/11/2020. So it goes.

A day earlier, Des O’Connor, butt of many jokes from the mouth of Eric Morecambe, had passed away. O’Connor first came to my attention via his chart success with Careless Hands and I Pretend, not songs to my taste. His comedy was perhaps on the bland side and, contrary to Morecambe’s jibes, which he took in good part, even playing up to them, his singing was perfectly acceptable. He made a successful career out of them in any case and the attention from Morecambe may in fact have boosted it.

Desmond Bernard O’Connor: 12/1/1932 – 14/11/2020. So it goes.

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