Archives » 2009 » January

Gotta See Jane

Something about the Electric Prunes’ I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night reminded me of R Dean Taylor.

His classic Gotta See Jane starts (after the tyre screeching) with a bass line that sounds similar to Dream‘€™s.
There is also some Beatle-like cello after the first two “Gotta See Jane”s, and with the second pair the song gets into its stride by developing a driving beat (pun surely intended.)

The three high notes (which he seems to strain for a bit) at 1 min 38 seconds in, 10 seconds later and at 2 min 30, emphasise the desperation expressed by the lyric.

It all gets very Eleanor Rigby indeed in the instrumental middle passage.

It’s a somewhat literal video but: enjoy.

Dancing In The Streets Of Raith

I used this phrase to describe my latest short story acceptance. The ITN newscaster Alastair Burnett also said it on air one night after a Raith Rovers victory over someone or other.

Lots of people castigated him for this as, of course, there is no town of Raith. The Rovers, as they are known, are the senior football team of Kirkcaldy. Their ground is only a couple of hundred yards from Son Of The Rock towers.

There is a Raith estate nearby, though, after which I believe the club was named; so the announcement was perhaps warranted – if only in a small sense. They may, after all, have danced there that night.

Nevertheless, Burnett (English people pronounce his surname Burn-ette. It is of course more properly rendered as Burn-it) was Scottish and a football follower. He would have known well enough there is no town of that name. I think he was being ironic (as I was) – or even taking the piss out of people who didn’t know it, like his fellow newsreaders.

(Stands back and waits for pelters from Kirkcaldy folk.)

Stealing Light by Gary Gibson

Tor, 2008

Disclaimer: Gary Gibson is a (now detached? – he’s been in Taiwan for the past year) – member of the Glasgow SF writers’ circle and I have known him for quite some time.

Faster than light (transluminal) travel is kept under strict control by the Shoal, an aquatic alien race which restricts humanity to a relatively small volume of space accessed only by its coreships.
Dakota Merrick is a machine head. Her Ghost, a not quite AI implant, allows her to communicate almost telepathically with computers and especially with her space ship the Piri Reis. This ability led to her being part of a military expeditionary force whose command and control systems were subverted, culminating in a massacre. As a result her implants are now illegal. She is recruited by compatriots of the massacre victims to help resurrect and fly a derelict spaceship which apparently predates the Shoal but has a functioning transluminal drive of the type they use.
One of the Shoal is trying to prevent this development in order to avert a future war.
In the meantime, in the Magellanic Clouds, stars which ought to be stable are going nova.

The opportunities for conflict between characters here are many and varied and Gibson weaves all the strands together well, together with some flashback scenes illustrating the build up to, and commission of, the massacre. He does have a tendency to repeat the same noun very soon after a previous use, though sometimes within the same sentence. I find this distracting, but others may well have no problem with the practice.

There were faint echoes of Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels in Stealing Light but without quite the same quantity of visceral violence. This is partly due to the Space Operatic aspects of the setting and partly to the military/weapon wielding scenes.

Individual Shoal have ridiculous names, by the way. (Trader-In-Faecal-Matter-Of-Animals, anyone?) In the matter of names Iain M Banks has a lot to answer for.

The climax of Stealing Light involves a grand Science Fictional spectacle which I shan’t spoil here but about which I did have slight reservations concerning the timing of its events.

I can see where the book’s title comes from and what it is hinting at but for me it doesn’t really work. I suspect it may be more apposite to the sequence of books which Gibson’s blog implies Stealing Light starts off.

Of Gibson’s first three books this is by far the best. I look forward to the sequel – whose title seems to give the game away somewhat.

Books I Have Read (And Some I Intend To)

I’ve gone through the Guardian’s list of 1000 novels you must read to find the ones I actually have read. Italicised books await my attention.
I’ve kept them under the Guardian’s groupings.
Titles followed by question marks I believe I read during my schooldays but can’t quite be sure.

What this list says about me I have no idea.

Love (4)

Paul Gallico: The Snow Goose (1941)
Thomas Hardy: Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood (1987)
Boris Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago (1957)

Family And Self (9)

Kate Atkinson: Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995)
Iain Banks: The Crow Road (1992)
Lynne Reid Banks: The L-Shaped Room (1960)
William Boyd: Any Human Heart (2002)
Jim Crace: Quarantine (1997)
Charles Dickens: Great Expectations (1861)
Shusaku Endo: Silence (1966)
JD Salinger: The Catcher In The Re (1951)
Alan Warner: Morvern Callar (1995)

Crime (12 + 2)

Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868)
Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent (1907)
Joseph Conrad: Under Western Eyes (1911)
Len Deighton: The Ipcress File (1962)
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (1980)
Graham Greene: The Third Man (1950) ????
Peter Høeg: Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1992)
Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male (1939)
John le Carré: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)
John le Carré: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1963)
Thomas Pynchon: V (1963)
Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
Patrick Suskind: Perfume (1985)
Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time (1951)

Comedy (12)

Julian Barnes: A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989)
William Boyd: A Good Man in Africa (1981)
Richmal Crompton: Just William (1922)
Stella Gibbons: Cold Comfort Farm (1932)
Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows (1908)
Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana (1958)
Nick Hornby: High Fidelity (1995)
Bohumil Hrabal: I Served the King of England (1983)
AG Macdonnell: England, Their England (1933)
Magnus Mills: The Restraint of Beasts (1998)
Philip Roth: Portnoy’s Complaint (1969)
Kurt Vonnegut: Breakfast Of Champions (1973)

State Of The Nation (7)

Alasdair Gray: Lanark (1981)
James Kelman: How Late It Was, How Late (1994)
George Orwell: Animal Farm (1945)
Thomas Pynchon: Vineland (1990)
Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s Children (1981)
Salman Rushdie: Shame (1983)
Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)

War And Travel (33 + 6)

JG Ballard: Empire of the Sun (1984)
Pat Barker: Regeneration (1991)
William Boyd: An Ice-Cream War (1982)
Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness (1902)
Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim (1900)
Joseph Conrad: Nostromo (1904)

Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe (1719)
Len Deighton: Bomber (1970)
Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers (1844)
Sebastian Faulks: Birdsong (1993)
William Golding: To the Ends of the Earth trilogy (1980-89)
Anthony Hope: The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) ??
Richard Hughes: A High Wind in Jamaica (1929)
Thomas Keneally: Confederates (1979)
Thomas Keneally: Schindler’s Ark (1982)
AL Kennedy: Day (2007)
Primo Levi: If Not Now, When? (1982)
Alastair Maclean: The Guns of Navarone (1957) ??
Norman Mailer: The Naked and the Dead (1948)
Gabriel Garcia Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
Frederick Marryat: The Children of the New Forest (1847)
Iréne Nèmirovsky: Suite Française (2004)
Baroness Emmuska Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905)
George Orwell: Burmese Days (1934)
Thomas Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
Walter Scott: Ivanhoe (1819)
Nevil Shute: A Town Like Alice (1950)
Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon (1999)
Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped (1886)
Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island (1883)
William Styron: Sophie’s Choice (1979) ??
Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace (1869)
Jules Verne: Around the World in Eighty Days(1873)
Jules Verne: A Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) ??
Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
HG Wells: The Island of Dr Moreau (1896)

That makes a non-SF total of 77 (though some of them I would classify as SF.) Add in the 60 from the SF/fantasy list and I’ve read 137 of the thousand. I must be spectacularly ill-read.
The good lady notches up 145 with quite a few in common between our two lists.
I could also add the parts of series and the converted short stories from the SF list but that would only take me to just above 140.

Still a long way to go, then. I won’t have time.

For some of them I’ve seen a film or TV adaptation so feel I perhaps don’t need to read them.

A lot of the rest, however, I have no intention of ever picking up.

Berwick Rangers 1-2 Dumbarton

Shielfield Park, 24/1/09

Another away win at long last, another three points, but our record down there is nothing short of astonishing. According to Sons Mad we’ve won 21 and drawn 9 out of 47 games. There surely can’t be another away ground where our statistics are any better.

Two front men scored the goals as well, plus some other results went for us.

Berwick fans on The Pie Shop seemed to think we got the benefit of all the decisions. I’ve never been at a game where that happened.

So Soon?

I saw on John Stewart’s the Daily Show (aired on 23/01/09 in Britain) that American right wingers are after Obama already.

He’d only been President for one day!

Remind me again. Who are the real anti-Americans?

Books You Must Read?

The Guardian yesterday (22/1/09) published a list of SF/fantasy works as part of its 1000 books you must read series.

Ian Sales has commented on it on his blog from which I got the list.

Out of the 149 I have read 57 (marked in bold.) There are another five of which I’ve read either part of them or the short story on which they were based (marked in bold and italics.) One is on my to-be-read shelf (italics only.) In addition I’ve seen the TV series of Hitchhiker but not read the books. Ditto for the Disney film of The Sword In The Stone which I suspect had little to do with the TH White book, though Wikipedia says it is based on it. I also watched the TV version of Angus Wilson’s The Old Men at the Zoo.
There are 8 authors on the list of whom I have read other books of theirs (some of them not classifiable as SF or fantasy.) One other of those is to-be-read.

Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)

Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
JG Ballard: The Drowned World (1962)
JG Ballard: Crash (1973)

JG Ballard: Millennium People (2003)
Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)

Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)
William Beckford: Vathek (1786)
Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
Charles Brockden Brown: Wieland (1798)
Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

Angela Carter: The Passion of New Eve (1977)
Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)
GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)

Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
Thomas M Disch: Camp Concentration (1968)

Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)
Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
M John Harrison: Light (2002)

Nathaniel Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)

Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)
PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)

Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
Ursula K Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
Ursula K Le Guin: The Earthsea series (1968-1990)
Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)

Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
CS Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56)
MG Lewis: The Monk (1796)
David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)

Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)
Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
Frederik Pohl & CM Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)

John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
Terry Pratchett: The Discworld series (1983- )
Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials (1995-2000)

François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)

JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)
Geoff Ryman: Air (2005)
Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)
José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)
Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)

Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
JRR Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937)
JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)
Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)

Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764)
Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)

TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)
Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
Virginia Woolf: Orlando (1928)
John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

A startling omission (to me) is that of Robert Silverberg. If any one person is responsible for me continuing to read Science Fiction into adulthood it is him. The Man In The Maze showed me what SF could be, what it could aspire to. Yet it is a relatively minor work. So how can there be no Nightwings, no Son Of Man, no A Time Of Changes?

And no Roger Zelazny? Dear, dear.

Not to mention Alasdair Gray’s towering achievement Lanark. (But the list wasn’t compiled by Scots.)

An amusing aspect of this particular list is that before the turn of the millenium The Guardian compiled various bests of the 20th century. The SF book that topped the relevant list (it was an idiosyncratic choice it has to be said) does not appear in this one! Neither does its author.

Edited to add Brave New World to my read list. I somehow missed it on the run through.

Edited again. Up to 59 now. I’ve also read Lord Of The Flies, but it was donkey’s ages ago (so long I’d just about forgotten.)

Make that 60. How did I miss Nineteen Eighty Four? I must be going blind.

Reason To Be Cheerful

Let there be dancing in the streets of Raith!

Yesterday I signed and sent back a contract for a short story of mine to be published.

PS Publishing has accepted Osmotic Pressure for publication in its quarterly hardback anthology Postscripts (for the winter 2009/10 issue.)

I can’t emphasise how deeply chuffed I am with this. Not only is this my first sale for a while but Postscripts (the link is to the latest issue) is a prestigious publication with high production values and has previously published some seriously good writers. It is also a difficult market to crack. The website which lists outlets for writers’ work in effect says it’s not worth trying.

To be accepted, then, is reason enough to be cheerful.

There has also been no mention of amendments (nor of edits) needed to the story. The sale of a piece of short fiction has never before been so uncomplicated for me.

I’m not quite speechless, but close.
(I have of course polished it till it’s like a jewel.)

Get Me To The World On Time

So Barack Obama made it through his inauguration, then.

There’s a big burden of expectation on him.

Too big.

Speaking of psychedelia (as I was last time.) On You Tube that night, linked from The Nice clip, I also found The Electric Prunes.


This one has that tape-played-backwards sound in it and some echoes of the Tornado’s Telstar. It furnished me with the perfect title for yesterday’s post.

{ Edit:- The first link seems to have been removed for some sort of copyright violation. I’ve added a second.

End of edit. }

And this one gave me today’s.

I Had Too Much To Dream

I had a strange dream on Friday night/Saturday morning, during which I was crossing a road in Dunfermline and was honked at by a utility vehicle, a fire engine or some such. The weird bit about this was its horn sounded the musical phrase:- Daaah, da-da-da! dah, da-da-da! da-da, dah.

In my dream I recognised it was from a song and so while the dream was still running I kept on humming the tune until I got to the last line of the verse – when I knew what it was. And I felt great just to have worked it out. (Bear in mind I was still asleep.)

The song is The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon, written and performed by The Nice, formed as P P Arnold’s backing group but now better known as the first rise to prominence of Keith Emerson of ELP notoriety fame. It was the B-side of America, their first (only?) hit.

It’s a fine piece of psychedelia with TARDIS-like sound effects and some great bits of mellotron work but features almost impenetrable lyrics which a quick search on the internet can not shed light on.

The nearest I can get for the first verse is:-

The ??? stroked circles from the heads of all the heroes
And confusions caused by echoes
That’s not ???? for us to see
The sound of magic carpets (cobblers?)
Suddenly be seeking for the

Here it is on You Tube.

Can anyone decipher them? The lyrics, that is.

Edit (24/4/10): I see the original clip has been taken down.

Here is a new link.

Edit (20/7/17): I found the new link also inoperable so replaced it with the one above.

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