Dumbarton 0-1 Aberdeen

Scottish Cup, Round 3, The Rock, 3/4/21.

We should change our name officially to Dumbarton Nil.

Fair enough they are two leagues above us but they didn’t look great shakes. You might say they were there for the taking.

Admittedly they ought to have won by more then one goal since they created quite a few chances. We were indebted to Sam Ramsbottom and the defence for keeping the score down but on the other hand, that is their job.

But we could have played all week and not scored. (If only that Ryan McGeever chance had fallen instead to Jaime Wilson.)

In fact we have played all week and not scored (except for a deflected shot against Falkirk.) If you’re looking for a reason for our league position it’s right there.

So now we’re likely to be knackered and playing a very good Montrose team on Tuesday night and a not too bad East Fife on Thursday.

The three teams we’ve lost against since the restart are arguably the ones we stood most chance of gaining something from and those games are gone, with zero points to show for them.

Re-Coil by J T Nicholas

Titan Books, 2020, 357 p. Published in Interzone 286, Mar-Apr 2020.

 Re-Coil cover

When an author prefaces a novel with an epigraph from Shakespeare he (Nicholas in this case) is setting himself up for a fall. This book’s apparently oddly punctuated title arises from that quote. Coils here take the place that in Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels was occupied by what Morgan dubbed sleeves. Once you have shuffled off one mortal coil your backed-up personality, your core, is decanted, along with your memories (except of course those gained since your last back-up,) into another coil grown solely for these purposes. Hence Re-Coil. In effect people in this scenario are immortal. Unless something goes wrong. There are safeguards to the process. Supposedly. To guarantee quality control one corporation has the franchise and is held to exacting standards.

The economics of this are a bit obscure. Some sort of insurance means you are guaranteed back-up but not necessarily in a similar body or even one of the same sex. There are four grades of coil from the top-notch to the frankly worthless, used only to bank up credit for a better one next time. Nicholas does make a foray into the demographic implications of all this in terms of population increase but soon skates away from them. At the same time everyone has a connection to an internal AI, called an agent, which acts as a sort of personal internet, connected to the outside world. And nanites in the narrator’s bloodstream effect quick tissue repairs to any injuries.

That narrator, Carter Langston, is part of a spaceship salvage crew. He is the one tasked with entering derelict ships to determine whether there is anything worth salvaging. In one such he comes across scores of dead bodies, faceplates open. While he is engaged in the grisly task of retrieving the cores of the dead, one of the corpses reanimates and comes for him. The derelict, his coil and his ship are destroyed.

On reawakening in his new coil, he discovers there has been a glitch, data corruption, he nearly died for real. And then he narrowly escapes an assassin. Another of the crew did not survive. Someone is out to get them. Along with the crew’s computer whizz Shay Chan, a woman now uncomfortably re-coiled into a male body, he sets out to discover whom, and what is the big secret which needs such drastic protection.

Their investigations lead them to a megacorps called Genetechnic. It has created nanobots designed to seek out and remove bad memories from a coil. They called it Bliss. The nanobots between them formed an AI which decided any memories at all could be bad and wipes them all out, leaving behind blank coils. Worse, the nanobots can act like a virus and infect others – and they escaped the derelict ship. The Genetechnic operative sent to silence Langston and Chan decides their ship boarding expertise will be an asset in chasing Bliss down.

Langston affects to be sickened by the slaughter, indeed gore of any sort. Nevertheless the body count rises and rises and there is a certain fetishising of the mechanics of gun use. Nicholas here is attempting to disown his cake yet is still serving it up for wider consumption.

As in many other stories of this type the prose tends towards the utilitarian and a lot of the information dumping is clearly intended for a twenty-first century audience rather than being required for story purposes. Nicholas has also made several unexamined assumptions. Langston (and others) prowl spaceship hulls utilising magnetic boots, implying these spaceships are made of iron, a material surely too dense for the purpose. Despite being exposed to vacuum, a solvent, rather than evaporating instantly, still manages to dissolve a glue. In a fairly important scene set inside another depressurised spaceship the text implies oxygen (which the text acknowledges is absent) is a fuel. It isn’t. We are then told other fuels are available, running as gases through pipes on the walls. (Really? And to what purpose?) These gases are utilised to burn our heroes’ pursuers. Not without oxygen they wouldn’t. Missteps like these are detrimental to a suspension of readers’ disbelief.

If your tastes lie in the direction of shoot-em-ups rendered in the form of prose Re-Coil may very well satisfy your appetite. If you’re looking for anything even mildly approaching Shakespeare you should try elsewhere.

The following did not appear in the published review.
Pedant’s corner:- “The airlock opened into a short hallway, ending at another hatch at either end” (‘ending in another hatch’, or, ‘ending in another hatch at its end’. The hallway may have had hatches ‘at either end’ but cannot have had one and the same hatch ‘at either end’. ‘At either end’ means two hatches,) “almost before they got them out” (before he got them out,) “passages that lead to engineering” (text was in past tense, ‘passages that led to engineering’,) “to affect the retrieval” (to effect the..,) gasses (x2, gases,) “the laser-cutter doings its gruesome work” (doing,) acclimation “acclimatisation, ditto ‘acclimate’ for ‘accclimatise’, ) laying (lying,) “the edge of the sink caught my eye and lunged forward” (a neat trick, that; ‘and I lunged forward’,) “it might by me a few extra seconds” (buy,) “would have stuffed be back” (would have stuffed me back,) “to bled off” (x2, bleed off,) Deadalus’ (Daedalus’s,) “happened.,” (has an intrusive full stop,) “to be back on-board” (on board,) harness’ (harness’s,) “for whoever is behind this have found out” (for whoever is behind this to have found out,) “a trio … were pushing” (a trio … was,) “almost no one looked at raw footage, anymore” (almost no-one looked at raw footage anymore,) “the walk from the bridge, passed the airlock, and on” (past,) “still made from blindly” (either ‘still made blindly’ or ‘still made from blind’,) sprung (x2, sprang,) “from living room” (from the living room,) “for all intents and purposes” (to all intents and purposes,) “taking pressure of the wounds” (off the wounds,) “‘somewhere near Sol..’” (only one full stop needed,) “get ahold of” (a hold of,) Daedelus (Daedalus,) “Class One’s” (it was a plural, so ‘Class Ones’,) ditto Class Two’s (Twos. I note Class Threes and Class Fours were not apostrophised,) Ingles’ (Ingles’s,) “waiving the glass” (waving,) route (rout,) “that staid my hand” (stayed,) “where dropped down” (where he dropped down,) “instead I grit my teeth” (do USians really not say ‘gritted’?) nanines (nanites,) “sublimate every molecule” (sublime every molecule,) “the thrust from the shuttle’s engines were still giving us a simulated gravity” (the thrust … was still giving us …,) “like a pack downhill slalom skiers” (like a pack of downhill.) “He didn’t so much hit the coil as did overfly it” (no need for that ‘did’,) “‘confidant’” (x2, confident,) “to clear section of ship hull” (clear a section,) automatons (automata,) “she was taller than I” (than me,) O2 (x2, O2,) Bliss’ (Bliss’s,) cannister (x2, canister,) vitalness (vitality, I would think,) “the myriad computer systems than ran a ship” (that ran,) “now ran from tablet” (from her tablet,) “Shay’s asked” (\Shay asked,) “I waived one hand” (waved,) “demonstrated an amazing faculty in manipulating the archive system” (facility,) “repairs that needed to be affected needed to be affected right now” (effected, in both instances,) CO2 (CO2 – I also note the O2 and CO2 but the text eschewed N2 preferring ‘nitrogen’,) “Bilss-infected” (Bliss-infected,) “of inevitable press of” (of the inevitable press,) “around the hole that that” (omit a ‘that’,) “eggshell walls, one each bed, chair, window, bathroom, exit” (one each bed???) In the Acknowledgements; a parenthesis ending ‘?).’ (no full stop needed after the end bracket.)

Live It Up 77: Broken Wings

Mr Mister’s first UK hit.

Mr Mister: Broken Wings

Dumbarton 0-1 Airdrieonians

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 1/4/21.

Mince.

Utter mince.

Not a shot on target all game.

Only one real effort at goal, a Ruaridh Langan volley from pretty far out which went over the bar. And Ross Forbes managed to get himself unnecessarily sent off in the last minute. (I suppose that means he’ll get a rest before he plays again.)

But it only takes one goal to beat us. And again it was scored by a former Son.

God knows what Aberdeen will do to us on Saturday.

In front of a nationwide TV audience too.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Penguin Classics, 1996, 536 p (including 3 p Preface to the Second Edition, 34p Notes on the Text and 2 p Select Bibliography) plus xix p Introduction by Stevie Davis. Originally published in 1848.

This novel is effectively two different stories in one. The enveloping narrative is a series of letters addressed to J Halford Esq by one Gilbert Markham of Linden-Car. Enclosed within it, but much the most substantial part, is a personal testament via diary entries of the woman he comes to love, telling her life story up till she met him. She is, of course, the tenant of Wildfell Hall of the title, Mrs Helen Graham.

The arrival of this widow at the dilapidated Hall, only part of which is now inhabitable, causes much comment in the village, as do her secretive ways. Gilbert first espies her in the local church where he is more interested in her than the sermon. He eventually sets out to the Hall and meets her via an incident involving her young son Arthur, of whom she seems overly protective but whom Markham soon befriends.

Their relationship builds slowly, mediated through Markham’s friendship with Arthur. Mrs Graham has very few dealings with the locals – she will not go anywhere without Arthur and as he cannot walk far extended trips are impractical – but does visit the Markhams’ house where in one conversation he says to her, “When a lady does consent to listen to an argument against her own opinions, she is always predetermined to withstand it – to listen only with her bodily ears, keeping the mental organs resolutely closed against the strong reasoning.”

Slowly rumour and innuendo grow in the village around Helen’s past until Markham confronts her about the tittle-tattle whereupon she gives him her diary to read so that he can learn the truth about her. She is not a widow, but still married, to an Arthur Huntingdon, to whose attractions she had succumbed against her aunt’s better judgement. Her husband is of course a very bad lot indeed and his behaviour was such that she felt forced to flee taking their son with her to avoid his father contaminating his upbringing, her only recourse since divorce was impossible for a woman and as a wife she was in effect a non-person, with no legal rights.

The novel is implicitly feminist therefore not only in that Helen is portrayed as wronged but that she is a stronger, more moral and upright human being than her husband or any of his cronies. Indeed, she is more morally upstanding than Markham since his treatment of Mr Lawrence – who unbeknown to him till later in the book, is Helen’s brother – is thoroughly reprehensible (as well as criminal.) In fact Helen is almost saintly in her forbearance and her actions towards her husband when she discovers he has fallen ill.

It would not be hard to deduce from this book that the author was a daughter of the parsonage. It is saturated with Biblical allusions and quotations. Helen derives most of her consolations from her religious beliefs.

In human affairs things don’t really change that much. Despite complaints from reviewers at the original time of publication that the upper classes no longer behaved in the debauched manner of Huntingdon’s friends as Brontë portrayed them, their activities reminded me of nothing so much as the Bullingdon Club. The book’s feminism most likely also formed the grounds for the unappreciative nature of the original reviews, though Anne’s sister Charlotte also thought the work reprehensible.

To modern eyes the novel is perhaps overwritten and overwrought but Brontë was exposing an ongoing injustice. A degree of fire and venom is understandable.

Pedant’s corner:- window’s weeds (widow’s weeds,) a missing end quote mark, “‘that he is a sensible sober respectable?’” (needs no ‘a’,) ““till the gentleman come. ‘What gentlemen?’” (it was to be a group of men therefore ‘gentlemen’, for ‘gentleman’,) “‘might seem contradict that opinion’” (might seem to contradict that opinion,) plaguy (plaguey?) “in behalf of” (is this an early nineteenth century usage? – on behalf of,) an extra open quote mark in the middle of a piece of direct speech. In the Notes; Jesus’ (x2, Jesus’s,) paeon (paean,) Dives’ (Dives’s,) Mephistophilis (said to be in Marlowe. He spelled it Mephastophilis.)

Falkirk 1-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Falkirk Stadium, 30/3/21.

Well I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t see it at all. After Saturday I just wanted to crawl away into a darkened room so didn’t avail myself of Falkirk’s live stream. (It was £13.99 a pop too, A bit steep.)

From the comments on Pie and Bovril the Falkirk fans seem to think it’s their managers’ fault. (Yes they have two.)

They also said Sam Ramsbottom was man of the match. He apparently made four good saves. (Though one Falkirk fan disagrees, saying he only had one.)

The other surprising thing is that we scored. New boy Rabin Omar after a route one kick up the park according to the club website.

An unexpected and welcome point but we need three in every game at the minute.

Unfortunately Clyde won away at Peterhead so we’ve gone down a place, and they’ve got a game in hand on us too. Forfar got themselves a similarly unexpected point to ourselves at Partick.

Those losses at home in the past two league games are really hurting now.

Airdrieonians tomorrow night at home is the latest must win.

If we did it would put serious pressure on them.

So we most likely won’t.

Balbirnie House Gardens

Normally we skirt round the side of Balbirnie House Hotel when we take our daily walk to Markinch for the Guardian. (To the left in the photo below and round past the front of the building.)

Balbirnie House and Garden

During the first lockdown last year we felt able to take a stroll through the House’s gardens.

Balbirnie House Garden

Balbirnie House Lawn

Balbirnie House Garden

Garden, Balbirnie House

Balbirnie House Garden Arch

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden , Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

BSFA Awards Booklet 2020

BSFA, 2021, 64 p.

Ivory’s Story (extract) by Eugene M Bacon. (PS Publishing, 2020.)1

Ivory, or Izett, has suffered in a series of foster placements, her only stable influence a nun in a Catholic children’s home. This has hardened her. The only SF aspect of the extract here (very well written though it is) was in the opal pendant she wears which burns people who touch it if they are inimical to her.

All I Asked For by Anne Charnock. (Part of the Future Care Capital charity’s Fiction Series, edited by Keith Brooke.)2

An expectant couple spend their evenings counting the movements of Alice, their yet-to-be born baby, on the screen in their living room. Because the mother is forty-six her foetus was transferred to a baby-bag at twenty-two weeks gestation. (“We must do what’s best for the baby.”) Some mothers opt for the procedure but this mother (despite her own telling her that childbirth belongs to the Stone Age) feels disappointment at never having felt her baby kick inside her.
I note here that my own story about artificial wombs (Osmotic Pressure, in The Company He Keeps, PS Publishing, 2010, took a different tack.

Red_Bati (extract) by Dilman Dia. (Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora)3

The story relates the experiences of a robot dog who thinks he’s human and speaks ony to a holographic granny who walks through a forest. Impressed as a mining dog he has been damaged and faces shut down and total memory loss so is forced to take over the space ship he is on.

Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon (extract) by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, (Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora)4

This is set in a post-nuclear war African enclave, outside which lies corruption and mutation, and where the survivors recount the myths and legends of the god who saved them from the devastation.

In Infinite Tea in the Demara Café by Ida Keogh, (London Centric, NewCon Press) a man who has been stifling the memories of his dead wife for twenty years through simple routine – like a daily cup of coffee in a certain café – suddenly finds himself being transported between parallel worlds, where he finds others who have suffered loss give him new focus.

Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll by Tobi Ogundiran, (Shoreline of Infinity)5 is structured awkwardly, with a different view point suddenly thrown in to provide a necessary but up till then peripheral perspective. It is the tale of a girl’s affection for her doll shading into something more. Woven into it is a Nigerian folk-tale (whether invented by Ogundiran or not I am unqualified to judge.)

In the non-fiction we have a precis of each of the essays in Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Francesca T Barbinia; an excerpt from the introduction to from The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest by Paul Kincaid; an extract from Science Fiction and Climate Change by Andrew Milner and J R Burgmannb; It’s the End of the World but What Are We Really Afraid of? by Adam Robertsc; another extract, Estranged Entrepreneurs by Jo Lindsay-Waltond; and Books in Which No Bad Things Happen by Jo Waltone.

Pedant’s corner:- 1“flora and fauna and the way it behaved” (the way they behaved,) “a Joey in its pouch” (joey, capital not required,) sat (seated, or, sitting,) “was a foster dad after foster dad” (was foster dad after foster dad,) Zeus’ (Zeus’s,) “whose two speakers were scattered about the room” (I would humbly submit that the minimum for a scattering is three.) 2focussed (focused.) 3The first paragraph is repeated for some unknown reason. “-250o C” (-250 oC,) “-400o C” (presumably meant to be -400 oC but this temperature is impossible, absolute zero is -273.15 oC,) “16o C” (16oC,) “300o C” (300 oC,) “one of the tube’s data rod” (data rods,) “to fix critical damages to the ship” (why the plural? ‘critical damage’ serves perfectly well,) “space crafts” (space craft.) 4“with the savagery that made Morako swallow” (with a savagery,) “was no ordinary tales” (tale,) “in front Ologbon” (in front of Ologbon,) Igbo Igboya (x 1, elsewhere this is always italicised.) 5Should there not be a question mark at the end of the title? “fit” (fitted,) confectionaries (x2, confectionery,) “in the hopes that” (in the hope that,) snuck (x2, sneaked,) “who had fopund companion in a doll,” (either ‘found a companion’, or, ‘found companionship’.)
ain “New Frontiers in Romantic Fiction Relationships in Science Fiction Josephine by Maria Yanasak-Leszczynski that ‘Josephine’ is surely misplaced, Chambers’ (Chambers’s,) “E.T. A Hofmann’s” (either E.T.A. Hoffmann’s, or, E T A Hoffmann’s, not this mish-mash.) “Unrequieted love” (unrequited,) “Unrequired love” (unrequited.) bfocussed (focused,) H2O (H2O,) earnt (earned.) c“food for the imagination no the body” ([I didn’t realise Roberts was Scottish – joke.] It should be ‘not the body’,) “and yet is finality is a kind of deferment” (has one ‘is’ too many,) “in a way that is howsoever lame, at least, hearfelt way” (has one ‘way’ too many.) “most of the apocalypses we will be looking are gaudy dreams” (looking at are,) quick-sand (quicksand,) “some who insists” (insist,) “little-rear-view mirror fixed to lour heads” (mirrors,) “a world that stubborn;y persist” (persists,) momentarily (this is used in the USian sense = ‘in a moment’, rather than its usual sense = ‘for a moment’,) “we are woring on assumption that” (on the assumption,) “the glass if its shopfront” (of its shopfront,) Bayes’ (many times, Bayes’s,) “we’re not the centre around which the entire cosmos, but in fact are” (around which the entire cosmos turns, but in fact.) dtwo full stops missing. e“Raymond Briggs The Snowman” (Briggs’s) “no more than threats that pass over safely Cotillion does this” (needs a full stop after safely.)

New Reviewing Venture

NewCon Press, under the direction of Ian Whates, is starting up a new online SF magazine in the summer of 2021. Its name is ParSec.

There had been a suggestion that NewCon Press might be taking over Interzone but that did not come to fruition and Ian decided to go for the online option of a new magazine instead.

He did, however, contact me with a view to reviewing for ParSec and I was pleased to oblige.

The first two books of I hope many which I shall review for the new venture have now arrived. They are:-

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers, published by Hodder and Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker, an Angry Robot publication.

Both of these writers are new to me.

I’ve got a bit of leeway here. The reviews are not needed till June.

Dumbarton 0-1 Peterhead

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 27/3/21.

Well this was a must win – and we lost it.

OK it was a great strike but perhaps we shouldn’t have been allowing it. It came from Adam Frizell losing the ball in their half with trying to be too tricky. Not much is coming off for him at the moment, but that’s true for the whole team.

Their goalie didn’t have a save to make the whole game. Not that Peterhead had many efforts on goal. Typical the one that counted came from a former Son, Ben Armour, who’s making a habit of scoring the only goal of a game against us. He’s yet another player whose talents we never seemed to be able to harness when he was with us.

Looking at our fixture list I can’t see where even a single point is going to come from. And Clyde pulled back a point on us today too.

It’s beginning to feel awfully like a relegation season. And yet on total goals conceded we would be third in the league. That stat shows where our trouble lies. No creativity in midfield. On goals scored we’re rock bottom.

Tuesday night at Falkirk could be brutal for which I will not be tuning in.

Then there’s Airdrie at home on Thursday evening. Another eye-bleeding watch no doubt.

The hope’s not killing me just now, since I have none at all.

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