Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another Mess of Links

At the risk of becoming a bit random, a few more pointers to how I've been spending my (increasingly limited) online time in the last week or so.

A handful of feeds I've subscribed to recently:

FreakAngels. An online comic written by Warren Ellis, distributed in weekly chunks. The comics industry, like book publishing, is still trying to figure out what the digital age means for it; this is one of the signs of change, I guess. I think it's got an 'adult content' warning, by the way.

Alt.Fiction Day. A blog for the one-day sf/f/h event in Derby this April. The early versions of the programme I've seen are full of good stuff. Big names like Charles Stross, Ramsey Campbell, Mike Carey doing their things: well worth a ticket if you're in that neck of the woods, I should think. I should be there, doing the panel thing and generally milling about, so say hello if you bump into me.

Best of Natural History Radio. I like me some wildlife, so this BBC podcast is overdue as far as I'm concerned: features on all kinds of things that crawl, fly, grow and eat each other.

Stephen Fry's Podgrams. Stephen Fry is one of those rare people who can talk for 25mins without a script and be conversational, coherent and engaging. (He's a very well-known and ostentatiously clever UK actor, writer and presenter, for any non-Brit visitors who've never heard of him). This is his new podcast, starting off with a report on what it's like to smash your arm to pieces in the middle of the Amazonian nowhere (answer: not much fun).

And don't forget you can find a feed for this very blog here, if you've got an itchy subscription finger.

A couple of links to stuff I've noticed recently:

Neil Graf offers a list of notional Tintin titles fit for the 21st century. My favourites are probably Tintin in Darfur and Tintin Parties at the Everest Base Camp, not because they're particularly funny but because I can immediately all but see those comics: perfect topics for dark, seriously twisted takes on Tintin's world. I think someone should write/draw them. Someone unafraid of litigation, probably.

Another minor signpost on the road to the end of liertature as we know it: fiction originally written on, distributed by and read on mobile phones dominates Japan's bestseller lists. Japan doesn't always play its tune to the same beat as the rest of the world, so this might not catch on elsewhere, but it's still a sign of the times. It's all quite entertaining, the multi-stranded digital Ragnarok that seems to be slowly closing in on the worlds of publishing and writing. God knows where it will all end up, but I expect things'll come out OK in the end. Majorly different, perhaps, but OK. The world does get destroyed at Ragnarok, I know, but a new one comes along shortly thereafter (albeit with a rather different set of Gods, which undeniably might be a bit worrying if you're a current God of publishing).

And finally, this, for no good reason other than that I found it curious enough to watch twice. What firefighters get up to when there're no fires to fight:

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Friday, February 15, 2008

A Whole Mess of Links

Alt.Fiction is a one day spec fic jamboree in Derby on Saturday, April 26th. Sort of a mini-convention. I will be there, but fortunately so will a whole host of much more interesting and famous folk. Those who have been in previous years tell me it's a good day. If you like the look of that list of attendees, why not come along?

Here's one of the most deserved blog-to-book deals I've ever heard of: Strange Maps is to be immortalised in print. I predict a big success, especially if the publisher's got the muscle to get some offline publicity going.

Advance notice of a potentially cool addition to the podcasting world: the long-delayed PodCastle will finally be starting April. If the quality matches that of its stablemates PseudoPod and Escape Pod, it should be good.

This here is a pretty good comic. Just saying.

I mentioned Public Lending Right a few posts ago, and Lo! It is under attack. Not life-threatening attack, but erosive 'if we make lots of little cuts maybe they won't notice' kind of attack. In government terms the amounts of money involved are microscopic, but for many authors and illustrators (not me at the moment, but one day who knows?) PLR income is a big chunk of their total earnings from their creative work. If you're a UK citizen, and happen to think PLR cuts are a bad idea, there's an online petition you could sign. Only if you feel like it, obviously.

I know 2007 feels like a long time ago already, but here's Locus' summary of the sf/f books that appeared on the most Best of 2007 lists. That'll be the 'best of the best ofs' or something, then. I have read precisely one of the books mentioned, which is clearly a pathetic effort of which I should be ashamed, but hopefully it doesn't make me a bad person. The one I have read is The Terror, which is very good in all sorts of ways.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Questions, Answers and the Cost of Bridges

Every so often, you get a reminder of why the internet and e-mail are such fine things. A minor example: a flurry of e-mails from readers this week, and I can tell you, there are few things more likely to lift the spirits of a writer - it being, as everyone always says, such an isolated and potentially lonely old business - than hearing direct from the readers (assuming they're polite and friendly readers, of course).

The best thing is, it's a two-way process, so I can fire a random question out into the virtual ether, and get an answer back in basically no time at all:

"The title Zimowe Gody means more or less Winterbirth. 'Zimowe' means winter (as an adjective). 'Gody' is the traditional Polish name for a wedding, but also may be used for other festivities (like your book's Winterbirth)."

So now I (and you) know. Fantastic. Thank you, Pawel. Incidentally, googling 'Zimowe Gody' - an entirely pointless exercise due to my ignorance of the Polish language, but I couldn't help myself - did at least reveal one thing of which I was previously unaware: Poland appears to have a frankly staggering number of online bookshops. Dozens of the things, as far as I can see. No idea why so many.

And the two-way thing works in reverse, so people can ask me questions or make suggestions, like Andy, who wants an extract from Bloodheir putting up on the website or the Facebook page asap, please, thank you very much. A little bit of patience is required on this front, I'm afraid. Such a thing will be along before too long, but it's not going to be in the next few days or anything. There's a good chance it'll show up on the Facebook page first, but that's not certain. This is, in fact, a rare example of something showing up in print before it's online: I know, for I have seen it (and it is good) that Orbit US have produced a little sampler booklet containing short extracts from not only Bloodheir but many of the other fine books they'll be publishing this year. But that's not something you're likely to stumble upon unless you're in the publishing or bookselling trade, I imagine, so that's no great help to Andy or anyone else, really. Sorry.

And to end on a morbid note, when I talked about the Forth Rail Bridge a few posts back, the Millau Viaduct was flagged up in the comments (thanks, Simon), as another bridge-type thing laden with the Wow Factor. Quite true: it's a stunner, although it might be ever so slightly too perfect and clinical-looking for me to really love it. Not sure.

Thinking about these two amazing constructions raised a question in my mind, and thanks to the internet, finding an answer was trivially easy:

Number of construction workers who died in the three years (2001-2004) it took to build the Millau Viaduct: 0. Yes, that's precisely zero.

Number of construction workers who died in the seven years (1883-1890) it took to build the Forth Rail Bridge: No one really knows, but probably something like 98.

How things have changed. Those Victorians knew what they were doing when it came to putting together brick and steel; health and safety at work, not so much. Just last year, a memorial was finally created in memory of those who died working on the bridge. But what I find more moving, for some reason, is that you can go and see the name, age, job and the exact day they died for many of them right here. It's a strange experience, to scroll through those lists, and one that would be impossible without the amazing internet.

Of course, things have not changed so much everywhere. The death toll of construction workers is only one - and arguably not the greatest - of the costs associated with this infamous megaproject, but still: apparently, over 100 of them died. That's a lot of dead workers, if true. I wonder if they'll get a memorial? Or have their names listed on the internet?

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Map and a Zimowe Gody

There's a sneak preview to be had on Winterbirth's Facebook page: the new map that will be appearing in Bloodheir is posted in one of the photos albums there. I think the photos are one one of the things you can access there even if you're not signed up on Facebook, so anyone who reckons they know what new territories the action will be moving into in book two can go have a look and confirm their suspicions.

If you are a Facebooker, you might want to consider adding yourself as a 'Fan' of Winterbirth. There're likely to be one or two more bonuses showing up there for fans over the next few months, possibly even including the chance to get your hands on a free advance copy of Bloodheir.

And in other news, looks like the Polish version of Winterbirth has emerged into the light of day, published by Kurpisz. 'Zimowe Gody' defeats the Polish translation engines I've been able to find in a quick online trawl, but there seems to be a 'winter' in there somewhere, so maybe it's a more or less direct translation of Winterbirth. Should anyone fluent in Polish happen to be passing by, feel free to enlighten me.

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