Envie d'un snog?

As I ask you to focus on...

Bowie. Funny, I never used to think I was a Bowie fan. I listened to the music, of course, but... fan? Then one day I looked at just how many of his albums I had. And I reflected on the films he'd been in I'd seen (I made sure, I remember, that I got in to see The Man Who Fell to Earth at the GFT the first chance I got), and acquired in various formats. Really, I couldn't pretend to be anything other than a fan.

I'm remembering it all again today, now he's, unbelievably, gone.

I recall the journeys I spent with earphones plugged in, passing the time listening to his music - on cassette, first, later CD, eventually as software. I recall clearly how on a couple of lengthy flights I listened to Tin Machine repeatedly.

I recall, too, just how often I had played Changesonebowie - how that disc never wore out I don't know. And then there was Diamond Dogs. And Ziggy Stardust. Aladdin Sane. At one point I did have all his albums except the very first one on the Deram label.

I remember the first time I bought a music video on VHS, it was Bowie's music from Tonight - now there's an album I thought was all right on its release which I have thought steadily more of as years go by.

There was the time there was a major cock-up in an exam at Uni, three quarters of the class (and there were about 200 of us in the class) were up for a pass/fail viva. I wasn't one of them - fortunately, I had worked out what the question was supposed to be saying as opposed to what it did say - but I ended up in the Extension bar comforting one of those who was and was freaking out. The music playing was "Heroes".

I remember all the times I listened to his music to lift my spirits, or console me. And I remember thinking of much of this on Saturday when I listened to Blackstar, now his last album, only released days ago. This one, I felt, would grow on me.

Beyond the music and his films, he was the first person I ever heard of who was identified as "bisexual". With Marc Bolan (with whom I saw him sing "Heroes" on Bolan's TV show), he showed that people didn't need to be constrained within traditionally sterotyped gender roles. Just seeing him on TV (I recall the Top of the Pops when he sang Starman - WOW!) expanded the ideas of how people could be.

I've been listening to his music since before I was a teenager. And now I can't get my head around him being dead. It's been a pretty awful time recently for good people dying, but somehow I never thought he would go; silly, I know. He seemed to operate by different rules.

Just... Damn.
The Doctor

Overdue post about Eastercons

I actually started writing this a month or more ago. Other things got in the way, including some health problems (sinusitis so I couldn't really read well didn't help).

Dysprosium, this year's Eastercon, was at Heathrow in a hotel I hadn't previously been in.  It had a slightly odd layout, but was friendly and comfortable enough. The con was fun. I saw some programme (I know!), it was interesting and amusing, did some Ops shifts — the usual, really. The main fun is hanging out with old and new friends, and there were plenty of them.

Next year's Eastercon.... They are supposed to be bid for two years in advance, but last year no one bid for 2016. There was quite a bit of chat about this in the hotel bar on the Thursday. The indefatigable Dave Lally had done some preparatory work and been in touch with VisitManchester. This blossomed into the Mancunicon bid, led by Pat McMurray. This literally was brought into being on the Thursday night before Dysprosium, and voted in at the Sunday bid session. It will be held in Manchester from the 25th March to the 28th. Hotel is still to be finalised, but the team is looking at four potential venues in the city. The The con will be held in the Hilton Deansgate, in probably the most striking building in the city. Guests of Honour are Aliette de BodardDave ClementsIan McDonald, and Sarah Pinborough.

The year after, Eastercon will be in Cardiff. Pasgon (it's pronounced pass-con, basically). Now I can talk about something which stunned me speechless (I tell no lie, ask those who saw me at the time) at Loncon III. The Pasgon team have asked me to be one of their Guests of Honour. This is an immense honour, and quite humbling. The other GoHs are Jo WaltonLyndon Evans and Judith Clute. I am looking forward to this immensely... when I can get my attention away from the ever-approaching Mancunicon.

Envie d'un snog?

Solaris - new translation

The English translation of Stanisław Lem's Solaris that's on sale everywhere is widely known to be not very good. (Lem himself was not happy with it.) Hardly surprising when it's a a translation of a French translation from the Polish that's apparently not brilliant. A guy called Bill Johnston has produced a new translation, more faithful to the original... but the catch is that the rights to the book are not owned by Lem's heirs but by the publisher, so it can't be published as a book. An audio book, though, is a different matter, and it's available.

The really good news is ebooks are also a different matter, so the new translation is available for Kindle and other readers. Nice! I have only had time to glance at it, but it seems fine with one or two small formatting errors (adjacent words run together; it's occasional, not constant from what I've looked at). It is pretty inexpensive, too. Other reader formats can be found via Premier Digital Publishing.

Holy Shergar!

Earlier, at my mother's getting my stuff together after accidentally staying overnight (sounds better than saying I fell asleep in the chair and woke up at 4a.m.), she had the TV on while they were getting ready for the Grand National. (She wasn't watching it, in fact she was asleep, I think, which is pretty common these days). There was a list of all the runners; my eye ran down the list and when I read Bellabriggs (actually, I think it's Ballabriggs, but I misread it at the time) I thought, That'll be the winner, then. I left before the race started.

Why do I never get thoughts like that when I am near a betting shop or otherwise able to do something about it?

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Envie d'un snog?


I like LJ less and less, though using Firefox on my usual boxes it's OK, because that's adblocked to the gills. When I have to use another browser or even FF on another machine, which occasionally happens, the experience is bloody awful. In fact, the last time I did I gave up because the site was unreachable behind an ad layer that wouldn't go away. Things like that piss me off. DDoS does too, but that isn't LJ's fault. Obtrusive ads, that's LJ's fault. If I didn't have decent adblocking plugins, I would be off.

But I'm not going away. Yes, I have a Dreamwidth account. That's where I post stuff, actually, including this, it just automatically crossposts to LJ. (If you are wondering, my username there is DC.) I don't mention it all the time because where you want to blog/read is your business, and I am not going to leave LJ, there are too many people here I want to keep in touch with. Just saying that in case a prolonged silence leads you to think I've buggered off.

Envie d'un snog?


It's been interesting, this election. I'm not surprised at the impact that the debates have had, or that Nick Clegg has made a bit of an impact now he is actually getting airtime on an equal footing. I have been surprised at how comfortable Gordon Brown looks in the debates, and astonished at how rubbish David Cameron has been. Whatever one thinks of his politics, it would surely be expected for his education to have prepared him for this sort of thing? Apparently not. The description by a debate analyst (i.e. someone who assesses debates in general) last night of Cameron remaining becalmed seems spot on. It was striking that the only people who have tried to claim Cameron did well were YouGov in a poll for the Sun and Sky, neither of which are disinterested parties. (loveandgarbage has an interesting post on the first debate showing Sky's initial claims and rapid backpedalling.)

A couple of months ago, thinking about the looming election, I was in a quandary. Labour's period in office hasn't made me enamoured of them, what with their illegal war and their propensity to jump straight to making draconian laws at the slightest excuse, not to mention the ID card business... No, not enthusiastic about their re-election at all. Their recent discovery of something like enthusiasm for some electoral reform is a good thing, if a cynical one under the circumstances. The Tories, though... OK, they would scrap the ID scheme, which is a good thing. That apart, they would be catastrophically bad. And, to focus on just one thing, I really don't want that bunch getting their hands on the BBC. I did think that the best outcome I could envisage would be a hung parliament which would force some inter-party cooperation, moderate the bad policies of the main parties, and hopefully lead to at least some level of electoral reform so that future elections would better reflect the views of the electorate. (The results of first past the post are outrageously undemocratic — see this illustration of how seats might be distributed should the three main parties each take 30% of the vote.) This is now looking a lot more likely, I'm pleased to see. And if you'd like to see a hung parliament, here's a guide on how to vote to achieve it.
The Doctor

New Scientist SF special

This week's New Scientist apparently comes with an SF special (well, they call it a Sci-Fi special, but that term always makes me shudder; it's Irene Handl's fault*). Anyway, the special's guest editor is Kim Stanley Robinson, who says that SF tells the stories of now, says very complimentary things about British SF and that, really, SF novels should be winning the Booker. (I have sometimes imagined a future in which spaceships are plying the solar system, space elevators run constantly at the equator, there are permanent colonies on the Moon and Mars.... and the Booker prize is still going to stories of the First World War or the dying days of Empire.) I don't imagine the Booker people will pay the slightest attention to that (they are effectively rewarding authors in a particular genre, but pretending otherwise), but what he has to say about SF, British SF in particular, and its ability to address our lives now is something that's good to see being said outside of the genre's magazines.

There's a pleasant surprise you get when someone mentions approvingly something you yourself have enjoyed; lately I have been telling people about Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia, which is a story about SF writers, alien invasion (or possibly not), conspiracies, and an amusing comedy of life in the USSR. This is the book Robinson suggests should really get the Booker this year.

Oh, NS have come up with the novel idea of having a pub meet with Robinson on Friday, for anyone in London who is interested: you need to book (free) and take a copy with you.

[*I can't see it without hearing her talk dismissively of Sky-Fi on a BBC 2 programme a long time ago; it scarred me, I tell you.]