Not much in the way of actual writing being done at the moment since I’m reading backwards through Jupiter War. I read one paragraph at a time working backwards through the book. This way I don’t get involved in the story and am more likely to pick up on mistakes (many of you reading this have of course read this before). Another thing this technique helps me pick up is repetitions and the boring bits – the latter are doubly emphasised because reading backwards through a typescript is boring enough in itself. I’ve been finding myself putting the words CUT THIS DOWN or THIN THIS OUT on a few occasions, in red ink, underlined.
I’m doing this with the printed typescript, marking in corrections as I go, then I’ll work through it again from the start as I make the corrections to the document on my computer. After that it’ll be time to send it in to Macmillan, followed either by a return to the Penny Royal thing or time spent writing up the synopses and blurbs for Jupiter War. I haven’t decided yet.
Today, however, even less work is being done, since we went to see Woman in Black. The John Carter movie we’ll save for next week – a film I’m a little dubious about having read this review from John C. Wright. What else? Oh yeah, I should be getting a phone call from the US publisher of the Owner series tomorrow night so I should be able to give you some more news on that anon. That’s all for now.  

Soldier – Kurt Russell

Having an HDD/DVD recorder, numerous free view channels and ease of recording through a contents list is a wonderful thing. I’ve been picking up on some excellent documentaries repeated on BBC4 and elsewhere (particularly like Versailles recently, and some repeats of Horizon) and a few films I missed out on or wouldn’t have bothered recording if I’d needed to go through the whole set-up rigmarole. Also enjoyable on free view are repeats of QI on Dave, and the historical stuff on Yesterday.
I recently watched Hell Rider, which was dreck, but I also recorded one called Soldier – an SF film I’d never heard of and recorded only on the strength of it having Kurt Russell in it. I’m glad I did.
The film started out with scenes of children being raised as soldiers, much of their training, followed by battle scenes that caused a sinking sensation in my gut. I thought I was going to be watching another load of dreck like Hell Rider. As the film progressed I realized that this could have been a really crappy film. However, the acting carried it. Kurt Russell as the brain-washed dehumanized soldier, rediscovering his humanity, was superb. It was interesting too to discover that a co-writer of Blade Runner – David Peoples – wrote this as a ‘spiritual successor’ to that film. It was, and not just because one of the battles happened to be called Tanhauser Gate.

This is well worth watching, in my opinion. Screw the negative reviews. 

Science Fiction Singularity

I had gone off Horizon programs because of how dumbed down they’ve been, how so often they were lacking in content – what content they had often being spread over an hour when, if you cut out all the pointless camera shots, they might have filled twenty minutes – and by the frequent righteous environmental preaching. However, I did record one called ‘Playing God’ (a title that put me off straight away), and enjoyed it immensely.   

This was about synthetic biology – essentially genetic modification – and how far advanced it is now. In the program we see the spider goat – a goat that produces a useful spider silk in its milk – and a pre-production plant for making diesel from GM yeast as simply as alcohol is made from the normal kind. The advances are coming at an ever increasing pace what with people being able to do this stuff in home labs. They can buy ‘bricks’ which are chunks of DNA that express certain characteristics, over the Internet, and mix and match them. For example, a bunch of enthusiasts pasted a jellyfish gene into e-coli to make luminescent bacteria – this in the kind of lab any of us could put together in a garden shed.

This is massive; this is a game changer. As the presenter noted this is like Bill Gates putting together a computer in his garage.

Of course the presenter had to whiffle on about the ethics of it all and whether it should be done. All the objections were based on either the Abrahamic religions or the ones springing from the Church of Environmentalism, and of course the terror of change they like to stir up. However, it is far too late to put this one back in the box.

It has been said (well by me at least) that nothing dates faster than science fiction, and this program brought it home to me. In science fiction there’s a lot of talk about various kinds of singularity. It’s usually related to the creation of AI and is seen as an ‘intellectual event horizon, beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict’. It occurs to me that science fiction itself is facing its own singularity of exactly the same kind. We’ve reached the stage now where between writing a book and it being published, part or all of the content of that book can go out of date. Of course with e-books the gap between writing and publishing can be closed but, in maybe just a little time, we’ll reach the point where even as we speculate or extrapolate we will be going out of date, then the point when we’ll simply be well behind the curve.

There has been (for a very long time) much talk about ‘the death of science fiction’.  Maybe that will occur when the need for sensawunda, which we all look for in SF, is supplied by the news every day, or even in our day-to-day lives. If that happens I’m not sure I’ll be particularly upset about it.   


The other night we watched two episodes of something Caroline had taped – Borgen – then went on to watch another two episodes shown on Saturday night. It is a political drama set in Denmark and surprisingly, since it involves politicians, I’ve been enjoying it. Stuff like this perfectly illustrates how successful politicians will compromise their idealism to the point of non-existence so as to get their noses in the trough. We’ve seen this sort of stuff before in dramas like State of Play and House of Cards and in what can only loosely be described as a parody: Yes Minister.

The female who rises to the position of Prime Minister is an idealist politically-correct twat of the kind we know well from Labour’s years in power here. This being TV, which is dominated by lefty twats of a similar stripe, her initial portrayal couldn’t have been more saintly if she’d walked around with a CGI halo hovering above her head (I should also add that she was unbelievably naïve for someone so high up the greasy pole). Of course the good guys always want more welfare spending, love Islam and immigration, want to piss money away on International Development. Equally, those depicted as conservative or to the right are racist authoritarians with horns growing out of their heads.

However, I’m hoping this is not going to be too simplistic. Already our saint is finding it necessary to lie and cheat as she scrabbles for power. Quite possibly this will be a riff on the ‘power corrupts’ aphorism, or maybe even something more adult about how idealism fails when it impacts with reality. I will watch it to the end.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

We went to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yesterday – a film we were looking forward to after seeing that Daniel Craig was in it, and after one glimpse at the actress playing Lisbeth Salander. The title sequence was gobsmacking: James Bondish but in an oily and dark and somewhat disturbing way, thereafter I found the music a bit annoying at first and got that feeling of, ‘Oh dear, they’re doing the intrusive music to cover the crap content,’ but this turned out not to be the case.

As Blomkvist Daniel Craig was excellent, but then he’s excellent in just about any role he takes, though of course he is always Daniel Craig. I’d add that he was excellent in Quantum of Solace and that the reason the film was crap had more to do with the story and direction. Rooney Mara, as Salander, was simply brilliant. I think my criticism of the Swedish version was that both these roles weren’t filled adequately and, certainly, the Salander of that version wasn’t anywhere near enough as edgy, dangerous and disturbing. I reckon it was Mara’s bleached eyebrows that tipped it. The rest of the cast were great too. Christopher Plumber of course could be relied on to deliver the goods, and Salander’s new guardian did a very good job of being thoroughly detestable.

I could see where bits of the book had been excised and I could understand the reasons why. A large book of course has to be cut to fit into the film format and the need for the plot to head in a relatively straight line to the end. I was slightly annoyed by the cutting of what I will call the ‘Australian bit’ but even then could see why it might have been removed. It didn’t fit the tone and texture of the film and was, in essence, after the dramatic ending – subtext.

Thoroughly recommended.  

John Carter (2012) Trailer 2 HD 1080p

Okay. I watched one trailer and wasn’t convinced, but seeing this one I now know I’ve got to see this. I think John Carter of (on?) Mars was about one of the first SFF books I ever read. It was the big four-armed green bugger on the cover that attracted my attention.


I was looking round for the cover picture of ‘John Carter of Mars’ which shows you how your memory plays tricks with you. The first of these books I read was ‘A Princess of Mars’.