More From Interzone

 Palestine +100 cover
 Interzone 282 cover

Busy, busy.

Interzone 282 has arrived and it does contain my reviews of The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, and Beneath the World, A Sea by Chris Beckett.

By the same post came Palestine +100 edited by Basma Ghalayini, the first ever collection of SF from Palestine. This, along with This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (see a few posts ago) is for review. To appear in Interzone 283.

Inverness War Memorial (i)

Inverness’s memorial to the dead of the two World Wars of the twentieth century is an impressive sandstone construction surmounted by a Celtic cross, situated by the side of the River Ness.

Approach:-

Inverness War Memorial From Approach

Below, seen from River Ness.
Burma Campaign Memorial to foreground, inscribed, “To the memory of those who served in the Burma campaign 1941-1945.
Highland Counties Branch Burma Star Association.
When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.
The Kohima Epitaph.
This memorial was dedicated on the 11th November 2006.”

Inverness War Memorial

War Memorial side view:-

Inverness War Memorial From Side

Rear view. River Ness in background:-

Inverness War Memorial Rear

Field of Remembrance, Inverness War Memorial. Dedicated 7th November 2011, dedication includes the Kohima Epitaph. The cross is in remembrance of Passchendaele, the slab behind commemorates Nurse Edith Cavell. River Ness behind:-

Field of Remembrance, Inverness War Memorial

Gardens in front of Inverness War Memorial, dedicated to Nurse Edith Cavell:-

Cavell Garden Gates, Inverness

A Pass in the Grampians by Nan Shepherd

Part of “The Grampian Quartet,” Canongate, 1996, 120 p, plus vi p Introduction by Roderick Watson. First published in 1933.

 The Grampian Quartet cover

The village of Boggiewalls lies in the lee of the Grampians; beneath a pass through which various military commanders have travelled on their transitorily important campaigns. It is one of those deceptively sleepy communities wherein lie universal human dilemmas and dramas, hidden or otherwise.

From it the Kilgour family had spawned scholars. His three brothers had all gone off to University and made a place for themselves in the world but Andrew Kilgour had preferred to stay on the farm. The impact of two deaths, his wife’s and his son’s (in the Great War) had led his daughter Mary first to give up her ambition to follow in her uncles’ footsteps until the second provided the chance for the widow, Milly, to come, with her daughter Jenny, to tend to the house – allowing Mary to fulfil her desires, and eventually set up a typing school in London. Jenny is the apple of Andrew’s eye but, now she has grown, her friendship with elderly local shepherd, Durno, who lives with his spinster sister Alison, is seen as no longer seemly.

But now the return of well-known singer Dorabel Cassidy, the one-time Bella Cassie, whose mother Peggy had fallen to her death from a hayrick in Andrew’s farmyard and whose welfare he had seen to by taking her in as part of the family – leading to the inevitable gossip – before she took off to make her way in the wider world, her building a modern house within sight of the Kilgour farm, her unconventional behaviour, all threaten the delicate balance of the relationships in the village. Dorabel has a capacity to enthrall others. She has an artist, Barney, in tow, on a string, obedient to her every whim and Jenny, too, falls under her spell. Andrew Kilgour is less enamoured.

There is an awful lot packed into these 120 pages, a network of complications, obligations and acceptances. A whole existence of self-abnegation is summed up in a phrase relating to Milly’s “eternal grey jersey – this year’s, last year’s, sometime’s.” We all know uncomplaining women like this. And it is conveyed in just eight words.

Shepherd’s usual eye for landscape description is demonstrated and the economy with which the plot unfolds, we find the true reasons for Peggy’s death, and the real identity of Bella’s father is exemplary.

There is an aside on good Scots stories, “For salt and subtlety these ….. were unmatched, and, at their best, great art, in which, as in a perfect lyric, not a word could be altered.” You could say the same for Shepherd’s writing.

Pedant’s corner:- a missing comma before a piece of direct speech.

Dumbarton 1-4 Queen of the South

Scottish League Cup* Group E, The Rock, 20/7/19

Well.

This isn’t looking good, is it?

I know they’re a division above us but still. Annan drew with them in midweek after all – and Annan aren’t very good.

I hate to think how many Motherwell will put past us on Tuesday night.

*Betfred Cup.

Man on the Moon

The Moon landings were faked up on a Hollywood backlot, right?

What a load of utter tosh!

It astounds me that anyone would prefer to believe that something which would have had to be kept secret for so long by quite a large number of people (people moreover, cinema technicians etc, not truly invested in the “deceit”) would not have leaked by now. But it hasn’t leaked.

And why hasn’t it leaked?

Because it would need proof of such a conspiracy to fake.

And there is none.

And why the desire to deny the endeavour and the expertise which went in to the making of man’s greatest adventure, not to mention the sheer bravery of the men who made the voyages? Buzz Aldrin was quite right to take exception to the guy who accosted him, a guy who has not one thousandth of the guts and integrity. What is it about some folk that they cannnot rejoice in others’ achievements but must find some way to denigrate them?

And the Soviet Union did not claim that the US Moon landings did not happen – which as a propaganda coup they most certainly would have – because they knew perfectly well that they did. (Compare that to now, when Russia does claim that things that happened didn’t and things that didn’t, have. And so, too, does POTUS, T Ronald Dump.)

Besides, some of the experiments the astronauts placed on the Moon are still sending back data, even fifty years on.

So, raise a glass and drink a toast to a magnificent accomplishment, a demonstration of humans’ ability to perform amazing feats of focus, cooperation and enterprise.

It’s just a pity we gave up on that enterprise so soon.

Interiors, House of Dun

See here and here for my previous posts about the House of Dun.

I forget the tale about these cartouches. One of the Jameses and his wife I think:-

Cartouches in Hall, House of Dun

Mirrored fireplace:-

Mirrored Fireplace, House of Dun

Plasterwork:-

PLasterwork, House of Dun

Fireplace and fireguard:-

Fireplace and Firguard, House of Dun

Overmantel and clock:-

Overmantel, House of Dun

Room and windows:-

Room, House of Dun

Clock and sideboard:-

Clock and Sideboard, House of Dun

Bed:-

Bed, House of Dun

Rudimentary shower:-

Shower, House of Dun

Something Changed 24: Man on the Moon

It’s a day early for the fiftieth anniversary of the real moon landing and the lyric actually has nothing to do with it, but hey, it’s a good song.

REM: Man on the Moon

Evolution by Stephen Baxter

Grafton, 2003, 766 p.

 Evolution  cover

You can’t fault Baxter for ambition. This is potentially a daunting undertaking, to tell the story of human evolution – from those first small, nocturnal mammals scrabbling about under the feet of the dinosaurs all the way through modern Homo Sapiens to its far future descendants – via incidents from the imagined lives of individuals living at possibly pivotal moments in that great chain. It wouldn’t have been an easy task for anyone.

The story is told in three sections Ancestors, Humans, and Descendants, topped and tailed by a Prologue and Epilogue and interrupted by an Interlude between sections One and Two. There is a further episode set in the same time as these three framing passages though it is included as the last chapter in Section Two.

By its nature the narrative of Evolution tends to the episodic and that, for a novel, can be a problem. The reader is no sooner taken into the lives of our various protagonists than is brought out again, hurrying onward ever onward, usually leaping millions of years, jumping from habitat to habitat. But that, of course, is evolution. Our own experience of life, of story, is not even a blink in those terms.

The early chapters – set in the days immediately before the impact of the Chicxulub meteor (Baxter has it as a comet, with its huge “Devil’s Tail” spanning across the sky in its approach) – can at times read as the transcript of a lecture on palæobiology. Baxter has clearly done a power of research (and of course without that his story would have been much the poorer) but the way he introduces some of the creatures is usually not novelistic. Then there are the information dumping paragraphs describing the geological processes altering the animals’ environments and the Earth’s climate: necessary to the overall picture, but again not novelistic.

The influence of Richard Dawkins on the author’s vision is perhaps evident in the importance Baxter gives to sex, the passing on of genes, in the motivations and actions of his ‘characters’. There is a persistent insistence on the compartmentalisation of early primates’ brains. The beginnings of religion are described as an attempt to make sense of the forces shaping the world via a new way of thinking. The importance of food scarcities on the development of certain human behaviours is noted. By contrast the effect of the beginnings of agriculture on the health of human teeth (not good, the grit in the resultant bread from the grinding of the wheat between stones wearing them away) and of nutritional health more generally (lack of dietary diversity leading to deficiency disease, stunted growth) is almost a throwaway. But ‘civilisation’ lies this way. And its fall is due to the same impersonal forces of nature as did for the dinosaurs, though with a different mechanism. (Sixteen years on such a natural cause need not necessarily be looked to. As a species many of us still seem inclined to blindness to our own possible contribution to a mass extinction event.)

So; does it work? The book is an intellectual undertaking but not on a Stapledonian scale. A lot of the scenarios while differing in detail tend to the similar in their outline; ancestors, humans, or descendants encountering some new phenomenon, species, or climatic pressure. Baxter’s strengths as a storyteller lie in this sphere rather than in characterisation. His protagonists and those with whom they come into conflict are in this case too pragmatically designed to fulfil the niches assigned to them to fully come alive. Some of the future scenes also seemed to owe more than a little to H G Wells. (Baxter has of course since written a sequel to War of the Worlds.) As an introduction to the convoluted history of human evolution, though, this is a good starting place even if more recent discoveries have rendered it slightly out of date.

Pedant’s corner:- Written with USian spellings. Otherwise; “The smoke from the volcano” (we’ve previously been told that the smoke was due to forest fires,) “like an featherless” (a featherless,) “his clan were gone: (was gone,) “forever looking over their shoulder” (shoulders,) “was a kind of primates” (a kind of primate,) a missing full stop, auroras (aurorae,) “the laellyn group were overcome” (the group was overcome.) “But Capo’s troop were responding” (Capo’s troop was responding,) “‘one group of experimenters were’”” (one group was – but this was in dialogue,) “in the shape of their backs, skulls, trunks” (in the shapes of their backs, skulls, trunks,) epicentre (centre,) “Dust had already laid down by the fire” (lain down,) fitted (despite, earlier – and later – the USian form of the preterite, fit,) “just as his spear had flow” (had flown,) tepee-style (tepee-style,) a missing full stop, “where the sun was staring to set” (starting,) “that was why there was so many of them” (there were so many of them,) “raised to shoulder, height above the ground” (no comma after shoulder.) “It took Hononus and Athalaric many weeks reach Jordan” (It took Honorius and Athalaric many weeks to reach Jordan,) Neandertal (is this a USian spelling of Neanderthal?) A sentence lacking a name – or pronoun – as its subject (on page 671,) “for these pits were mouths. These deadly maws” (maws are not mouths. They are stomachs.)

Garden, The House of Dun

Like most National Trust properties the House of Dun (see previous post) has a well-kept garden.

Formal garden from one of the house’s windows:-

Garden

Pergola. It looks a little like a spider-

Garden pergola

Box hedging by house:-

box hedging pano

Stone in box hedging commemorating the house’s opening by the Queen Mother in 1989 after its restoration 300 hundred years after the house’s designer William Adam’s birth:-

Box hedging dedication

Some of the planting:-

Garden , House of Dun, Montrose

Morton 6-1 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup*, Group E, Cappielow Park, 16/7/19.

Ouch!

We could have done without such a thumping.

I suppose it’s a sign of our lack of cohesion. The team hasn’t had any time at all to gel. But it’s a bit of an embarrassment nonetheless.

Still, we lost 7-0 at St Mirren in the League Cup in August 2008 and went on to win the league that year.

Do you hear the sound of someone clutching at straws?

*Betfred Cup

free hit counter script