The End of WordPress

Anyway this looks like the end of WordPress for me.

I started this year with a resolution to do more on my WordPress blog. I have just under 400 posts dating back to 2009 – when I transferred from My Space to WordPress. Now at that time I’d Just written the first draft of my very first attempt at a novel; 60,000 words of violence, end of the world, strange mutations, bleak savagery and more end of the world. As you do. Until then my blogging had consisted of daily / weekly notes on the blogging section of Myspace (who remembers MySpace?).

There’s a feeling and a vibe coming from things that ain’t going too well, Myspace had it – blog functionality was being downgraded and it was getting difficult to find posts. What was the point of a blog where you couldn’t find your posts? I began reference my work (this was Myspace remember) creating appendices so I could find things. It got worse, Myspace was devolving almost daily. I was deep into getting my first draft done – writing a novel is tough when your command of the language is poor and you don’t know the first thing about writing – and didn’t have the energy to curate my blog.

I looked around for free blogging platforms and hit on the blogging platform provided by the London Daily Telegraph: MyTelegraph plus I chose the former because the platform also hosted a creative writers group (which I joined). As I was deep into the creative process, I saw it as a way to describe my writing journey. WordPress was for current events, sport etc and my stuff on Myspace was an archive which I would sort out later.

The matter of Myspace soon came to a head: it finally ended its almost impossible to use blogging side, and then gave notice that existing content would be archived. I realised if I didn’t want to lose my posts, I’d have to follow through and download their archive of my stuff. I did so with the intention of moving it somewhere… eventually. Reason being there was stuff I didn’t want to lose sight of such as my notes on Plato’s The Republic.

Meanwhile the idea of creating a blog of my writing journey just didn’t work. The learning curve was steep and I didn’t know what lay at the end of the path: was it a hobby? would I create anything worth reading? what was my audience? how could I fix my many flaws? I was so dirt-poor and the process was so arduous I couldn’t imagine that kind of tale would interest anyone.

Then late in 2014, the warning signals that MyTelegraph was nearing the end of its days began. DT staff were moved away from the platform and the comment areas which were a hybrid of WordPress and Disqus, began to fill up with spam. Some of the groups were defended better – the creative writing group kept going through automated spam etc until 2016, when the platform was switched off. I took a copy of the entire history of CWG discussion boards with the view that some time in the future, those archives could be reconstituted onto the net. That hasn’t happened yet and may never happen.

Before the inevitable end of MyTelegraph I moved my blog onto the WordPress.

I have several blogs on WordPress and normally I access them through the interface – e.g click ‘My Sites’ in the top left hand corner. The access method has changed recently and all I get now is a blank page with the following reference:

Other areas of reduced functionality include: Me

When I click the button to add a new post I get another blank page under the reference

Even the reader no longer works:

So how have I produced this post?
When the classic WordPress interface is invoked, the classic interface allows me to add new posts. I can no longer, however, directly upload media files as the Block just shows an error. The work-around is the upload directly to my media library and add to my blog post from there. The signs are that WordPress will continue to evolve and in doing so, leave some unable to use it… which brings me to the point where the struggle with technology becomes pointless. I have conquered my writing demons as best I can.

There are many fine and popular bloggers in the community so there will be no loss if I can no longer be heard. For my part, by sticking here, I will be wasting my energy. I do not think I will stay with WordPress. I am a fan of change but when it silences you, your voice can no longer be heard.

With luck, a fair wind and plenty of time, I might continue to figure out how to make use of what has become limited functionality. But it isn’t fun.

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Door Witch

When I bought my first Studio Ghibli film

Image result for Grave of the Fireflies studio ghibli

Grave of the Fireflies

I didn’t realise how large Anime was but gradually, through outlets like Crunchyroll I have been educated, and gradually I have developed a taste for it. Anime originated in Japan and what first drew me was was its use of scenery, bringing the world to light in stunning ways; then I fell for the characters and the drama. Japanese Anime is more than Studio Ghibli,

Image result for spirited away studio ghibli

Spirited Away

there are all kinds of shows on Crunchyroll: Fantasy, Romance, Sci-fi, Horror…

If It's for My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord

If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord

Those I have seen focus on MMORPGs – MMORPGs are online role playing games where players from all over the world interact and play in the same game world, one in which they slay monsters, loot treasure, go on quests and raids and in general hang around with their online buddies, even adventure solo.

Log Horizon

Log Horizon

The pull of such online adventures is new sights, new sounds, new experiences new rewards – all as ‘toons. ‘Toons: realistic looking but ultimately cartoon personifications.
Those who follow this kind of media will know that Anime is largely derived from Manga which in turn has roots in the Japanese Light Novel. A Japanese Light Novel is printed in A6 format and might have around 300 pages.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II

In Door Witch (which is my current work in progress) I am reversing all that. Sivitiya is a door witch who gets sucked into the real world. She doesn’t think of herself as a ‘toon – her job is real – guarding the property of Akalito. She isn’t powerless and can wield magic to some effect in the game world, but will that power carry over into the real Earth? Also, her world is a pastoral paradise… for wayfarers and heroes. It isn’t built up and has no cities, travel, technology, fast food, business, shows, transport, libraries… and certainly no masses of people. These are all things she has yet to witness and discover.

Door Witch is a Western reflection on the Eastern anime-manga-light novel phenomenon. It will be realistic but there will also be magic, quests and skulduggery. In short Anime with a make-over to make it plausible. It is a fantasy romance — real world crossover.
In manga / anime genre terms this is Shojo (girls 10 – 18) Seinen (young men 15 – 24) and Josei (slice of life).

Current state of play:

Draft 2/3 complete
Wordcount: 20,000
Point of view: First person narrative alternating male and female
Genre info: Adventure + realism + magic + moderate violence
Age range: 16 +
Book cover: Looking an for artist to do Anime style illustration.
ETA: Early 2020

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MMORPG themed stories.

A quick catch up. Work pulls me away of the social media world – no bad thing given the number of projects I have on the go. Currently I’m on with a couple of MMORPG influenced stories. These are:

At The Haunt
This story was written with Halloween in mind as Davy Dipskit, newbie Knight (level 1) goes on a Halloween themed blind date to The Haunt – the place where the vampires, werewolves and zombies all hang out. His date: Epheramie of the Dercevii (the headless people). It’s all on MMORPG: Darkness Falls, so Ephermie must surely be an NPC. So take it away Davy and Ephme!!

Door Witch
Akalito is a Magister of the 7th level on MMORPG: Earth Myth. He has had his house built in the wilds of Eald Widu… you do stuff like that to stop newbie Raids. It is called House Batezz. When he logs, Akalito returns to a life of bills, credit card debt and a zero-hour job. Yep, Earth Myth makes the the real life of Alan Bates worth living… just about.
Then Sivitya bursts into his life – literally.
So who’s Sivitiya? She’s the Door Witch hired to defend House Batezz when he’s not there. Just an NPC… everyone hires them. Except in defending House Batezz from a high level monster, she is unexpectedly propelled into the real world.
Akalito’s problems are just beginning. For a start, in the real world he’s just plain and simple Alan Bates – few skills, no powers and only a tatty bedsit. His credit cards are nearly maxed out and his Door Witch, Sivitya, has just burst into his life. Or has she? Could this just be a con by other players to wind him up?
My artist, Slothmeister, is hard at work generating appropriate Anime style illustrations, when her day job permits. One cannot live on art alone.

Theme / genre: MMORPG / hero / romance
Manga / anime genre: Shojo, Seinen, Josei,
Age range: Teen and older.
Due out: 2020

Other things.

I’m still working on Men for the Stars. This is a re-take on how we get to the stars. As a fan and reader of SF, many years ago, I always wanted more narrative on how we got from here (planet Earth) to out there (managing an interstellar civilisation). Men for the Stars dwells on the here and now: the Ogallala aquifer, reflections on the lot of the American Indian, the Mexican Wall, an independent London, and links these to a near future in which the Earth is contacted by aliens. It’s a personal project. I enjoy the process of working a story through to give it those little touches of authenticity. The hero in this case is an accidental hero: Johnny Burco. Name ring familiar? Well we take our influences from anywhere no matter how obscure.
Still a long way to go on this – currently detailing the impact of a riot following a bad tempered football (soccer) derby fixture between Watford and Luton.

ETA: sometime after Door Witch is complete.

Lancashire Authors have invited me to do a podcast. I will put the link up once it is done. Lancashire Authors are supportive of local dialect and they are also supportive of the very many gifted writers (present and past) so sadly ignored by London based literatii, and media. Hang your head in shame The Guardian for being ‘Captured by the Bubble’ – you lot dally with the enthusiams of the capital while normal people are once again ignored – that’s how it is.

ETA: unknown

Work things: we authors cannot survive on the meagre pickings of the traditional publisher route and the self-publishing model is very heavily gamed (Amazon, hang your head in shame) so the rent must be paid for by a day job.
That’s how it is.
For those with an interest in the business of finance, I’ve currently set up an Asset Validation project, I’ve a couple of papers to deliver on IFRS 9 (Financial Instruments) and IFRS 15 (Revenue from Contracts with Customers) plus I’m well-stuck into the gubbins (tech term for innards!) of analysis and reporting of Provisions.
When I go home at night I rub my hands in glee and declare “This is what I was made for!” Seriously this kind of stuff means finding the correct location for the required pov….. say somewhere beyond the Rings of Saturn.
Okay, ha-ha1 Just testing to see whether anyone was left awake.

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If it’s for my Daughter I’d even Defeat a Demon Lord

If it’s for my Daughter I’d even Defeat a Demon Lord is an enjoyable excursion into a world of adventurers where top ranking adventurer Dale, becomes guardian to the recently orphaned Latina.

The series is set in the land of Laband which is settled by humans and demi-humans. Adjacent to Laband are lands such as Vassilios – ruled by the First Demon Lord and settled by demons (sometimes they are called devils)… then there’s the Third Demon Lord who is Demon Lord of the Sea. Demons differ from humans by being much better in magic. Magical beings / beasts can be dangerous to humans which is where adventurers come in.

Dale very quickly learns Latina is demon born but, taken in by her innocent helplessness, he quickly moves from being rescuer to becoming her guardian.

Dale is based in the city of Kreuz and so they head there to his lodgings at the inn, the Dancing Tabby Cat. In between excursions into how inn-life functions, Latina gets to grip with how human society works. The Dancing Tabby Cat is frequented by adventurers. Latina may seem too innocent to some but in remembering my youth, her lack of guile and the reactions of those about her feels right. Her disposition is endearing and the reaction of the adventurers to her rings true.

As the series progresses, hints are dropped that suggest a larger (and darker) story – we discover more of Dale’s background but despite some clues, Latina remains a mystery.. Just as there is conflict between humans and demons, there is internecine human conflict. It is plain to me that aspects of the larger story arc must revolve around this. The keen eyed will pick up the hints but I won’t spoil this for those who haven’t watched. Having watched up to episode 10 I am left in no doubt that the story tellers will not flinch if future episodes call for darker deeds to be portrayed and the later episodes leave no doubt of the ability to carry this off.

Most anime suffers from ‘next episode we must have a bigger and better disaster’ syndrome, this show isn’t one. It strays from familiar MMORPG gamer territory into ‘Hey this has a realistic feel’ and ‘Heroes with a human side… actually I like it’. Will suit those who prefer a softer, more human side to adventuring and its heroes.

Glitches: the translation could be tightened up e.g. Demon appears to be interchangeable with Devil. Episode titles could be snappier as there is a preponderance of ‘The Little Girl’ and ‘The Young Man’. This appears to be a stylistic trait but these are largely superfluous after the opening episode.

Rating: Worth watching – you may even need a handkerchief!

Availability: Crunchyroll – a subscription anime streaming service.

Language Japanese, English sub-titles

Style Anime

Originally published: as a Japanese Light Novel series,written by Chirolu and illustrations by Truffle + Kei. Available in English by J-Novel Club



Website for the show:

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Burnley Central Library

Shut now… but open in our hearts.

Also a prompt for Angel in my Heart

to be published: in the near but indeterminate future.

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Commemorating Kafka

Just to mention that today, 3rd July 2019 is the 136th anniversary for one of my favourite writers: Franz Kafka who was born in 1883, into a middle-class family in Prague – then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austro-Hungarian Empire highlighted in map of Europe pre-1914
Austro-Hungarian Empire pre-1914

By background he was a German speaking, Bohemian Jew. He had a troubled relationship with his Jewish side which fluctuated between fascination and alienation, and he would often contrast the Jews of Eastern Europe with those in the West. Although self-conscious, he went on to form numerous short term and sometimes intense relationships with women he met. These would sometimes provoke a productive period of writing from him. He never married. Kafka blended realism and telling characterisations of the state with the fantastic. Most of his work was in German. Few of his works were published in his lifetime.

Collage of Kafka published in Penguin, UK - Metamorphosis, The Trial
Front covers to The Trial, Metamorphosis, back cover to the Trial

He died in 1924 from tuberculosis. He left his unpublished works to his friend and literary executor, Max Brod with instructions for them to be burned. Most were unfinished and their narratives were disorganised so Brod began the process of preparing them for publication. Gradually they began to attract attention. His works dealt with alienation and persecution. The term Kafkaesque (reminiscent of oppressive and nightmarish qualities of Kafka’s works) has entered the English language. Not all Kafka’s papers have been published and they continue to be the subject of an ongoing legal wrangle.

Franz Kafka in 1906

Particularly liked: The Trial (Der Prozess)

Kafka offers important weapons to the armoury of the speculative fiction writer

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Fantasy Lands

Fantasy Worlds

Story setting is important in fiction however some things can be taken for granted depending on the genre e.g. Regency fiction is deemed to be set in Great Britain with the customs and manners that surrounded the period 1811 – 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, was instated as his proxy as Prince Regent… it is a ready-made time and place into which authors can populate their stories. In Fantasy peoples, nations and histories have to be built from the ground up. This is world building. I’ve created several fantasy worlds. Before I talk about then I’m going to look at the worlds built by fantasy greats:  JRR Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert E Howard and Jack Vance.

Middle Earth

The grand-daddy of them all is Tolkien. His masterful generation of new English Myth is gentle, sweeping and definitive in the genre, full of hidden surprises – no one who’d read LOTR (Lord of the Rings) expected that origin of the orcs until the hints, once the Silmarillion was published made it plain, erudite, and was imbued with gravitas (not twee – stand up all you imitators who aimed for ‘twee’). Middle Earth could be overlaid on our Earth. If this was done there were easy connections. First though you have to step back in time to an Earth of the Middle Ages when the main bastion of the West was Byzantium, which equates to Minas Tirith defending the lands of Arnor and Gondor from the multitudes to the south (the Haradrim) and the Easterlings of Rhûn. So let’s do this.

Gondor and Mordor, including the lands of Near Harad
  • Minas Tirith becomes Byzantium, and just as the land of Gondor was west of Minas Tirith, so the hinterland of Byzantium – Greece, Thracia and other holdings such as Sicily were to the west of Byzantium.
  • Rhovanion becomes Kievan ‘Rus (which later grew into Russia)
  • Rhûn with its Easterlings become the Central Asian steppes and the nomads
  • Haradwaith, which used to be part of Gondor, and its sea lords, becomes the former provinces of Rome in Asia – Syria and Mesopotamia which under Islamic rule make the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake.
Annotated contour map showing Minas Tirith and the surrounding lands
Annotated contour map showing Minas Tirith and the surrounding lands

Tolkien denied his work was a reflection of recent events (two world wars), but would he disassociate his work from my map-based comparison? As a student of civilisation and the maps that go with it, such speculation has long been second nature to me. He was a great map maker; indeed he used those maps to plan out Sam and Frodo’s journey, which is how we come to have such detailed geography of his literary genius. And his elves were brilliant game changers; like Sam Gamgee, I wished I could meet them.

Before Tolkien

Fantasy as we know it was changed forever by Tolkien. He breathed life back into a genre that had lost its way. That isn’t to say there were no other decent fantasy writers when LOTR came out. Jack Vance’s Dying Earth (published in 1950 which was before LOTR) depicted a far future Earth where the beings, powerful artefacts and landscape were clearly delineated. Jack Vance was economical with words but he mapped out a world that hung together well. Then there’s Robert E Howard’s Conan, a savage hero in a sorcerous world that, more so than Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Howard’s Hyborian Age maps well onto Europe and he made it plain that this was intentional. His Conan lives in a time before the nomad hordes of the east (Hyrkanians) crushes civilisation.

Map from the the Age of Conan (the Hyborian Map) which RE Howard places circa 10,000 BC (the Hyborian Map)
Map from the the Age of Conan (the Hyborian Map) which RE Howard places circa 10,000 BC

Let’s skip to post-Tolkien. So: the world has changed. Ace Books has tried to rip off Tolkien’s work and failed (and eventually pays the price for sharp business practise). But there’s new life in Fantasy as Andre Norton begins her depiction of Witch World and the High Hallack. Her first six works came in the 1960s, telling the tale of Simon Tregarth, his witch trained wife, Jaelithe and the adventures of their three offspring in the lands of Escore and Estcarp. Also in this f is the first of many tales of the High Hallack.

Andre Norton’s Witch World

Witch World is pre-industrial revolution, but it does not map onto our Earth. It is old and so is its magic. In its past, the witches of Estcarp cast a spell that twisted and rove the mountains to seal off Estcore from lands to the east known as Estcarp. In Estcore, magic can only be cast by the witch-trained and only by women who haven’t been with a man. This restriction doesn’t apply in Escarp whose adepts create gates into other places at whim. Estcarp is full of powerful magic wielders and dangerous , often magical, monsters.
The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.
The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.

Witch World map showing Estcarp andEscore,  including the High Hallack and Arvon
Witch World map showing Estcarp andEscore, including the High Hallack and Arvon

Andre Norton was the by-line of Alice Mary Norton and she went on to write many books in her Witch World series. Her stories feature respect for the old ways and coming of age, and they resonate; yet her work went under the critical radar. She was of American Indian blood and had a love of cats.

Fantasy Worlds I’ve Created

When I write Fantasy I start with a status quo that is about to be disturbed. The hero or heroine rarely knows what their actions will lead to. Each setting is different and these are the themes:

  • Myth brought into the Present Day
  • Mercenary for Hire
  • The Gates to Faerie
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Seekers and Quests


Status: published on Kindle
Title: The Turning Stone
If you’d like to support me please mark this as Want-to-Read on Goodreads

Imagine a world in which the collateral damage due to the wars between elementals is so destructive it threatens to destroy all life on Earth. This is the setting for the Turning Stone. Thousands of years ago, long before that start of human civilisation, there was war between the beings of fire and the lava elementals. The conflict affected all: old myths, new myths, star-seekers and of course the humans.

The Turning Stone cover
The Turning Stone
(a star-seeker)

Mercenary for Hire

Title: Brant
Status: incomplete

Imagine a fantasy world where the hero doesn’t believe in magic. Magic has retreated from human lands but is never far away, especially in the darker corners of the world. This is the world of the Northland Steppes where the armies of the Khaif have forged a mighty empire and where there’s plenty of work for mercenaries. From the banks of the West Caulderin in the far west, comes Brant. He’s still new to the game of mercenaries for hire but knows the best odds of staying alive are in joining a reputable mercenary company. If he knew anything about guarding runaway princesses, that would come near the bottom of the list – the only likely pay being an unmarked grave.
The town of Orby in Brychon Woods is under threat by mercenaries with Princess Aralie (who is hiding there) as prize. Unconcerned by these affairs of state, Brant walks the forest trail that leads to Orby. Not far from Orby, Ysarie, a very powerful (and beautiful) magical being makes plans to snare the next unwary adventurer.
This is a world of soul-bleeds, night-frights, muut-inimes (floating people), and the magical mirror realm of Turalam.

Soulbleed in Brychon Wood
Soulbleed met in Brychon Woods

The Gates to Faerie

Title: Blue Belle
Status: complete but not yet published

Far to the west of the Northland Steppes lies Angelynn, capital city of a realm with many parallels to medieval Britain. In that realm lies Pleasant Wood. It marks one of the ways into faerie and so it is well guarded by wood nymphs; all ways to the lands of faerie are guarded by the fae. The fae live in harmony with nature so there can be no increase in population. Eventually one of the wood nymphs decides to sample the delights of man. her actions have repercussion for the nearby village of Tranby which has its own secrets that tie it to other guardians of Faerie: the Seneschal of Light and the Seneschal of Night.
Meanwhile, the Augeruch, who rules men from the city of Angelynn decides on a foreign war, with unexpected consequences to Tranby and Pleasant Wood.

Nymphs of tree, storm, ice and sea
Nymphs of tree, storm, ice and sea

Dark Fantasy

Title: Erisse of the Illyany
Status: incomplete

Imagine a world of dark fantasy set in the present day. A New Silk Road is being built to bring prosperity to the ancient cities of the Old Silk Road. Construction work means disturbing archaeological sites. When it does, the experts are called in. Nearby Urumqi is a melting pot of humanity where East meets West, and there is where an American contractor meets a girl with a strange past. She is one of the Illyany, a people who have kept their connection with the dark world, where death and life are terrifyingly merged.

Quests and Seekers

Title: A Sending
Status: Incomplete

Quests are the currency of heroes. A quest can be to steal or loot (Conan), to rescue (many of Andre Norton’s works), or to lose a ring (Frodo). Imagine a world driven by quests.
Deep in the lost realm of Harether, in the tundra’d forests where icy winds blow most of the year round, are two sentient sparks. Ting and Ming. A party of Seekers approaches them. The Seekers are headed by Beau Wanderlode. He used to be of the Ghovarian Guard from the county of Ghouv’d which lies in the princely state of Tokui. Of late, Tokuish has been overrun by the Rosekhi and its heroes have been banished.
This is a world of Seekers and it is uber-quest driven. Beau Wanderlode was a hero but when his homeland of Tokui was conquered he was bound by an unbreakable geas and sent on a quest to wild and uninhabited lands. Though he doesn’t know what he seeks, he cannot turn away and so can’t, for example, foment rebellion. He is a Seeker. All the warriors and heroes he once knew have, like Beau Wanderlode, become Seekers.
Ting and Ming are both magical and capricious. They have scoured their forest haunt for miles around and cleared it of all animals and birds.

Ting and Ming
Ting and Ming

Note: this blog post was produced using the new WordPress Gutenberg block editor. It’s not clear to me yet how to make this work better on mobile for which my apologies.

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The UK and Brexit

Nothing can prepare you for the intricacies and myths propounded on this subject (many by people that should know a lot better). What is needed is imaginative thinking that directs the trivial into productive channels while simultaneously dealing with the impasse felt in Westminster.

There have been so many Remain options that didn’t pass in Parliament so, this being the cae, there should be a multiple choice Remain referendum – the leading Remain option should then be thoroughly debated and a commission of Guardian think-tankometers should examine the issue in great detail -and as this is a matter of the greatest urgency to some, the deliberations should be held away from the public eye, so that the results can be stored in a suitably nondescript location, say the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet for the Lets Revive Old Sarum campaign. Biennial updates on the condition of the cabinet could be issued regularly

While this goes on a decent exit should be arranged so that we can get on with our lives.

Window Lights (Horror Fiction)

Okay, I’m not gonna’ talk Brexit no more (on here anyway). So leaving aside my gentle skit, I have recently completed a short story: Window Lights. This is a genre area I rarely visit, Horror. It concerns an inquisitive young man who, at the time this piece is set, would have been termed a Nosy Parker. The first Nosey Parker was held to be Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-75). He had a reputation for prying into the affairs of others. Window Lights is set somewhat more recently, during the mid-twentieth century. Anyway the young man in my story pries into the affairs of vampires and fairies and in doing so, makes an unpleasant discovery.

Once I have exposed this piece to my critics (i.e. my ‘Alpha Checkers’ – by reading it out to them) I will return to my story about a near future containing a Mexican Wall, a US in which the giant Ogallala aquifer has run dry and a London that declares independence. Oh and aliens.

It’s called Men For The Stars

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In The News This Day

I’ve always been a great admirer of the institution of news and in this spirit, here’s my take on the events of this day, 26/06/19.

Columnist asks why writers are still sniffy about SF. As an SF writer, I think there’s plenty wrong with the genre. All she needs to do is dip into the largest source of SF sales, Amazon’s Kindle.

Lib Dems will never break into mainstream politics by behaving like student politicians.

Except a crumbling Tory Party is a soft target.

These green targets waved through by MPs will make the cost of no deal look like small change.

British politicians are posturing on the basis of hairshirt economics at home which will have negligible impact on the main polluters. China will leap into gaps left by local enterprise. This aside, a hypothesis that, regardless of levels of public belief, is more a boutique of agendas than science, needs to step up from the shadow of manipulating data sets.

Our obsession with “offence archaeology” (comment trawling) is robbing young people of a carefree childhood.

Limit access to your comment history to those who know you, and make loosening of those strings conditional – of course this would wreck Facebook’s business model.

Want to end the reign of public schoolboys at the top? Build more grammar schools.

Well do I remember Burnley Grammar School. I wrote an account of its last few years:

Surviving Tiananmen: ‘I might have been one of the hundreds or thousands who lost their lives’.

A telling quote from this harrowing account: “Within months of the Tiananmen massacre, world leaders were rushing back to Beijing to do deals”

Oliver Twiss and Martin Guzzlewit – the fan fiction that ripped off Dickens.

In a similar way e-books devour traditional publishing. High brow papers could do much to identify the well written.

Stan Lee’s ‘first novel for adults’ to be published this autumn.

Stan was an ok guy. I still dwell on how Marvel misread Jack (King) Kirby. A long time ago.

“Publishers hit by surprise 5.4% fall in 2018”

Which was no surprise. They’ve temporarily arrested the decline and last year trumpeted it as a great victory… Is there not a single person in publishing with strategic grasp?

Democrats prepare for first showdown as 2020 debates loom

Maybe they’ve learned that Hillary plus money doesn’t mean they can ignore everything outside metropolitan areas…. Naaah!

Poor Jeremy Hunt. The perfect Tory for a party that no longer exists (Rafael Behr)

Is this meant to be ironic? Labour squatted on the centre ground for the Blair-Brown years, a centre ground that has since fragmented. Why bother name checking anyone else?

Labour can’t afford to lose its working-class heartlands by backing remain (Jon Cruddas)

Except they already have – long before there was a remain. This observation is a long, long time after the event. Message to Labour revel in the trappings of power and lose your connection with the people.

Also on this day

In 1243 AD, the Mongols achieved a decisive victory over the Sultanate of Rum, a state ruled by Seljuk Turks in the Battle of Köse Dağ. The Mongols were nomads as were the Seljuk Turks. The Mongol objective was twofold: loot and dominion over all nomads. They hunted down any nomads who refused to pay allegiance to the Mongol Empire.

And in 1907, The Tiflis Bank Robbery took place and around 40 people were killed in the attack (which is now in present day Georgia). This triggered a chain of events that split the Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks, and propelled adherents of  Communism into a position where they could rape, murder and pillage lands and people across an entire continent. They duly did.



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New Wave SF in Retrospect

Looking back is easy. All you need is wisdom after the event and a message (or agenda). I’d place the starting point for New Wave SF as the writer’s workshop set up by Judith Merril, Damon Knight and James Blish; the workshop offered helpful feedback so that SF authors could improve their craft. It mutated and by the time I began reading the genre, it was unrecognisable. Where did I pick up on this? In the mid 1970’s. I’ll start with my favourite bête noir: The New SF.

The New SF front cover

The New SF

When I first read The New SF I took a gamble on the blurb ‘a totally new literature, a Space Age fiction’. There were no rocketships or aliens on the cover, just text. But I read it and I was frustrated – not at being short changed but at the arrogance and conceit that delivered the work. Its message was: you’re reading clap-trap and what you should read is this. That might have won plaudits from some in the Arts Council of England, but the reality was great effort had been put into delivering a poor reading experience. Yes, at the time this kind of work was immensely frustrating. This work epitomised the attempt by a few in the UK to rail at the poor quality of SF pouring out of the US with all its mechanical SF plots and wooden SF characterisation.

As an aside this was a logical outcome of Hugo Gernsback’s philosophy of sell it cheap, don’t pay royalties, drive the market down. Thus was SF kept in the literary ghetto that New Wave SF railed against. Gernsback went on to have fan awards named after him.

Though I rarely found New Wave Science Fiction an entertaining read, I accepted the view that much could be better. It’s now fifty years on; there’s been plenty of time to reflect on what was achieved and what went wrong. Brian Aldiss’s forays into this area The Eighty Minute Hour, Frankenstein Unbound, Barefoot in the Head… were unexceptional. Michael Moorcock preached New Wave but resorted to writing planetary fantasy pot-boilers to pay the bills – his Jerry Cornelius might have sated Arts Council backers but never moved beyond a Moorcock potpourri. Harlan Ellison, editor of Dangerous Visions, was a fellow traveller who seemed more intent of courting controversy than quality.
Using its own tools I’d call New Wave SF a failure. It was a dream of betterment that produced unedifying works. A key outcome of the movement was was to keep the genre on the fringes – how could publishers make money from bad art? It distracted publisher interest from good art. There has been no follow on author to Robert Heinlein who was head and shoulders above others in genre.

Heinlein Grumbles from the Grave edited by Virginia Heinlein, cover from 1989 Orbit edition

He was successful because he had a deal, he delivered and his work sold. The New Wave SF camp often sniped at Heinlein (Aldiss in Billion Year Spree stands out) and in doing so muddied the path of succession. His experience might have helped others take the first step on the path – many in New Wave SF turned their noses up at what worked.

Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss, cover from 1975 Corgi edition Michael Moorcock, The Champion of Garathorm, cover to Mayflower 1973 edition

Key players producing better quality and more challenging fiction were already there such as Philip K Dick and Ursula K LeGuin. With the benefit of hindsight, New Wave SF was a distraction. Having made a successful transition into paperback in the 1950s, the genre was ready to grow. Instead the premier UK SF magazine, New Worlds, was destroyed as part of a financially unviable art project (courtesy of Michael Moorcock and his mates). They should have known better. You can’t go back and deliver a sharp literary cuff about the ears but at least the record can be set straight.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, Cover to Panther 1972 edition The Dispossed by Ursula Le Guin, cover from 1975 Panther edition

So, who will follow in Heinlein’s footsteps? I’m still waiting for an answer. In part this explains why I write.

This post forms part of a series looking at the state of SF:

Raymond Chandler and Science Fiction
Robert Conquest – Obituary
What’s Happening to Publishing? All I can see is E-Pulp
New Worlds
The New SF

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