Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Not-Twitter, and Yet More Crushed Penguins

I am not a Twitterer. Not yet, anyway, and probably not soon. Maybe not ever, since I seriously doubt I have the staying power to turn out a regular stream of tweets, or twits, or twitters or whatever they're called. But if I was on Twitter, things I might have Twittered in the last few days:

- Aren't staples brilliant? Man, I wish I'd invented staples. That would have been a life well spent.

- Finished Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. Is good.

- Seen some old X-Files recently. Also some old Friends. Thought the latter has aged far better than the former. What does this say about me?

- Sunshine! Sunshine! I almost felt warm just now. Every winter, I forget how good that feels.

- How to tell something (i.e. Twitter) is about to head down the far side of the cool parabola: I start thinking 'Hmmm. Maybe I should get me some of that action.'

Me, I have other means than the 140 character outpourings of countless Twitter pros to amuse myself online. Amongst them is googling the phrase 'crushing the frantic penguins'. I've been doing it on and off ever since I first stumbled upon this means of trawling the depths of the internet for oddities last August. Strange behaviour, you say? Well, I'm not going to argue.

Anyway, I thought it was about time I shared my findings. Because I just know the world has been eagerly waiting to hear what new waymarkers have appeared on the virtual trail of once frantic, now flattened penguins since last we checked. And the answer is:

the complete text of the rather good HP Lovercraft story in which the noble phrase first appeared. (Specifically, it turns out, in Chapter 11 of said story).

a Lovecraftian monstrosity made of batteries. Like it.

an entire range of perfumes based on the works of HP Lovercraft. No, really. Call me unimaginative, but wouldn't have occurred to me as an obvious source of perfumey inspiration, but the one relating to crushed penguins - Shoggoth - does actually sound quite nice: peony, lemongrass, coconut, lime etc. If they'd included 'essence of dead flightless birds' as an ingredient, I might have been tempted.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Trio of Trifles

So there's this book tournament going on see, over at bookspotcentral. It's a knockout deal, and Bloodheir's in the first round - but going no further unless it gets the votes! So should anyone happen to be a member over there, maybe voting for Bloodheir might be a possibility? Not saying you have to, just saying ... you could. You know. If you wanted. If you've nothing better to do.

Arguably better to do would be browsing a fun website for writers, aspiring or otherwise, and readers and viewers come to that: tv tropes. It's got seriously extensive lists and descriptions for all kinds of themes and conventions that show up in fiction of all sorts, not just TV writing. Handily organised into sub-categories, too, including one devoted to speculative fiction. Hours of diverting browsing. Plus it's a wiki, so the whole thing's user generated and edited.

And many a true word is spoken in jest. In support of which contention I direct you towards this instalment of Penny Arcade.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Three Quick Things

World's briefest interview! In terms of the number of questions asked, at least; not in terms of my answer. While you're at that site, check out the huge library of links to online reviews of fantasy novels in the sidebar. Very handy if you're wondering what to buy next.

I've got to admit I'm not a big fan of Torchwood. Not even a small fan, really, though I kept watching the occasional episode in the vain hope of falling in love with it. But I quite like this idea: a special radio episode to mark the switching on of CERN's now famous Large Hadron Collider. You can download the mp3 of it here, but only for the next five days or so. It's not remotely enough to turn me into a fan, but it does make me wonder: might I actually have liked it more if Torchwood was a radio series instead of on TV? On this evidence, I think there are ways it benefits - or could benefit - from the different constraints and opportunities of the audio medium. And from having to comply with the requirements of a pre-watershed broadcast slot, for that matter.

And this is my idea of a top quality movie trailer: Quantum of Solace. I'm looking forward to this more than I've looked forward to a Bond movie in ... well, ever. Although there were a few doubting voices when he was first cast, Daniel Craig now looks - to me, anyway - as though he was born to play the role. The tuxedo fits.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Stuff Various

So, the great big signed Bloodheir giveaway on Facebook has drawn to a close. To be honest, until I actually signed up for Facebook I was a bit of a sceptic about the whole social networking thing. I still don't think I'm really quite on the right wavelength, but I'm starting to 'get it' a bit more. I'm prepared to concede that they do actually offer a new kind of dynamic and structure to the whole internet thing that nothing else does in quite the same way. Anyway, now that the giveaway's done, I should mention, as I traditionally and predictably do at such moments, that signed and dedicated Bloodheirs are available to all sundry - socially networked or not - from Transreal Fiction. I quite like stopping by to sign them, so don't you worry about putting me to any trouble. It's a pleasure, really. So you're buying yourself a signed book, and me a little bit of pleasure. Everybody wins.

The latest must-read blog for sf/f bibliophiles: Enter the Octopus. Lots of good content, most significantly the huge, more-or-less daily, round ups of book-related links.

Pre-release reviews and rumours about this suggest that something interesting is on the way, and I'm gradually allowing my expectations to get high enough that I'm virtually inviting disappointment to come and stomp all over me:



Rumours abound that this chap is being lined up to be the new Dr. Who. Like him very much indeed as an actor, but Dr. Who? Maybe, so long as they went the not-too-manic route. Guess we'll see in due course. Or not, these being rumours of the plausible but entirely unconfirmed sort.

Strange Maps, which is one of those sites that pretty much justifies the invention of blogging software all by its lonesome if you ask me, has an interesting post on a wildly silly proposal to drain the North Sea, put forward in 1930. It kind of sums up everything I like about the blog: fun maps and loads of semi-obscure geographical and historical info.

Funny/Clever (via SF Signal, which unlike Enter the Octopus is a long-established must-read site for sf bibliophiles):

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Just to say ...

... for those thousands (dozens? couple?) of folk who might have been worrying my recent lack of posting indicated some cataclysmic silence-imposing development, such as my kidnapping by the aliens recently revealed to be swarming the UK's skies, the good news is it's only because I've been busy, and keeping a low internet profile. It's actually quite refreshing to do a bit of internet detox now and again: I've been pretty much restricting my attention to e-mails and whatever my feed subscriptions harvest from the virtual ocean, and it turns out that's plenty to keep me feeling vaguely in touch with the 21st century. Probably means I've missed all types of excitements, fascinating chance discoveries, flamewars, announcements of earth-shattering importance etc. etc. Still, since I don't know about them, I can't regret missing them, can I? Ignorance is bliss.

Slightly more substantive posts should follow before too long, but in the meantime:

The succession of Steven Moffat as showrunner for Doctor Who is awesomely good news. I've actually been a bit remiss in keeping up with the current series - I've mostly liked what I've seen of it without being hugely engaged - but am now much more interested in what Mr. Moffatt may come up with in years to come. His latest Who episodes, pretty much certain to be leading candidates for the best in the series based on past form, hit the airwaves on 31st May and the week after.

Want to know if your ancestors were criminals? Maybe it's just me, but I think it's extremely cool that documents detailing something like 200,000 criminal cases tried at the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1913 are freely and easily available online. Plug in your family name (or any other keyword you want to give a run out) and start wandering through the lives of the guilty and the innocent from centuries past. There's loads of fascinating stuff in there. Could be a great resource for writers of historical fiction, alternate history, Victoriana, steampunk, whatever ...

And finally, turns out there's a Kindle edition of Bloodheir. See? I can pretty much tell just by looking at photos of the thing that the Kindle isn't the breakthrough device as far as my personal aversion to reading fiction on-screen is concerned, but there's no doubt Amazon's proactive involvement in the whole e-book adventure has livened things up a good deal. And the Kindle reader itself, despite looking over-priced to me, is still No. 1 in Amazon's own electronics sales chart, so what do I know? If anyone does buy the Kindle version of the book, let me know how the experience goes, would you?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Reads and The Watches and The Listens

I've just finished Vol 2 of The Walking Dead, which is one of those things that used to be called a comic back when I was buying a lot of these things, but now that they put them out in nice fat collected editions we get to call them graphic novels. Anyway, I'm liking it lots. Really, you should give it a try if you like your fiction with word balloons. It may be set during a zombie apocalypse, but hard as it might be to believe, it's not actually about a zombie apocalypse. It's about people trying to get along together in a distinctly pressurised situation. And like all the best comics, as it goes along it gathers layers of chronology and relationships and backstory that make the whole feel greater than the sum of its parts.

Way back in the early days of this blog I spent a happy couple of posts complaining about Torchwood. By the end of that first series, I'd watched almost all the episodes, and had lost a big chunk of self-respect along the way. I really didn't like it, for specific and to me glaringly obvious reasons, and yet I kept watching the damn thing in the foolish hope that they could salvage something from the pheromone-soaked wreckage. They never did, really. Apparently some people liked it, but me ... not so much.

So now series two is underway, and I dutifully watched the first episode, and lo and behold I think I might actually have quite enjoyed it. They've tweaked the tone in a pretty major way, and it works a lot better for me: bit more humour, taking itself fractionally less seriously, a few more one-liners, marginally fewer holes in the plot. Definitely enough to get me to come back next week.

And over on ITV, we've got Primeval starting its new series too, and the first episode of that was OK too. It's a lot clearer - and a lot simpler - about what it's trying to do than Torchwood is: let's have some sf-ish fun with CGI monsters and secret organisations. The actors play it pretty straight on the whole, but it's in the service of straightforward, fun entertainment. A perfectly harmless way of spending an hour or so in front of the telly. It's kind of cool to have two UK-made sf series on the box both at the same time, and for them both to be watchable (so far).

And finally, since that's a lot of entertainment to be inserting into your brain through your eyes, here's something interesting that goes in through the ears: The Reality Check podcast interviews the man behind the Escape Pod fiction podcast. Escape Pod has turned itself into a definite fixture on the sf short story scene, and it's interesting to hear a bit about where it came from and where it's going. Well worth checking EP out, if you haven't already.

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