Monthly Archives: June 2011

Perfectionist

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has labelled championship leader Sebastian Vettel a ‘perfectionist’ who ‘never ceases to surprise’ after watching the German cruise to victory in the European Grand Prix. “At one point [in the race in Valencia], we hadn’t told him we had put the prime (harder) tyres on Mark’s [Webber] car because we didn’t want him to push any harder,” said Horner. “But then he came on the radio and said: ‘What time is Mark doing on the primes?’ We all looked at ourselves and thought ‘Who told him?’ Of course, he was watching the big TV screen as he was going round.”
(Press Association)

Formula 1 gossip and rumours from international media [Monday 27 June 2011]

Radu

Risto Paalanen tells me terrible things and then informs me that it’s for my own good.

Terrible things like Radu.

Radu was, according to Ion Mihai Pacepa, the codename for a radiological weapon used against dissenters and critics by Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Securitate. “Radu” is a Romanian name and in this context it is a reference to “radiation”. The weapon was intended to lead to cancer which would result in death within months after the exposure.[1]

Radu (Wikipedia)

“It’s for your own good, young man.”

Now he’s telling me about other methods of execution used by dictators.

[taphead] Speaking of dictators and lovely methods of execution, Idi Amin had this wonderful little gag:
[taphead] “To save ammunition, one prisoner is forced to batter out the brains of another with a heavy hammer on te promise of a reprieve. The “executioner” is then killed in the same way by another brought from the cells with the same promise.”

Bastard!

Alt Fiction 2011

Alt Fiction is the cutest SF convention that I’ve visited in the country. (Mind you, I wasn’t at the Sonic event this weekend. A friend was. His write up made that fandom sound fun.) It’s a less shabby event than the two other SF conventions I’ve been to. Both Novacon and Eastercon borrow their atmosphere from an air raid shelter.

Unlike those other two conventions, Alt Fiction has natural light, fresh air and the outside world is easily accessible. It also felt like I was allowed to be a guest there instead of an unwanted hairy young invader smuggling in illicit literary fiction inside my satchel past fandom’s griffins.

Can’t remember much of the weekend. Did I end up on a podcast? No idea. Did I go to some actual panels? I think so. Was I irritated by them? Not really. I remember talking to a lot of friendly people as well.

The only source of hate this weekend was Derby’s illogical road network. And I can’t really count that against Alt. Fiction, can I?

How I Became a Fox

Hello.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Yes. Good. This won’t take long. :)

Then allow the two of us, William Ellwood and Calliope Den Ouden, to present a short Transrealist fantasy comic called “How I Became A Fox”.

Will’s Comments:

In the introduction above I mentioned that “How I Became a Fox” is a intended to be a Transrealist fantasy, this warrants, I think, some explaining. Transrealism is an approach to speculative fiction used by many, but formalized by the mad genius Rudy Rucker in his 1983 Transrealist Manifesto. It’s an approach to writing that I am sympathetic to and I have adopted many of its ideas as my own. The quick and easy definition of Transrealism provided by Rudy is: “… the notion of basing SF on real ideas and real emotions that I personally have, and using immediate reality-based perceptions.”

So what’s real in this Transrealist fantasy? Once, way back in Feburary 2010, I was walking from a friend’s house, past the train station and towards the bus station in Leicester, feeling rather sorry for myself for all the usual reasons, when a fox ran out in front of me and across a dual carriageway. This comic is an attempt to blend that image of the urban fox and the self-pity with the idea that transformation into a wild animal could be a form of magical palliative care.

Will

William Ellwood is a speculative fiction writer from Leicester, England who writes short fiction which comments on contemporary politics and hacker culture. He occasionally writes for the strange culture blog Ectoplasmosis. His personal website is located at www.will-ellwood.com

Calliope den Ouden is an illustrator from Utrecht, the Netherlands who draws and shapes illustrations. Annually she kick-starts the nanographicmo an international event that challenges creatives to create an 48 page black and white graphic novel in under a month. Her portfolio website is located at www.inktspatten.nl

Genre Sausage


Fiction produced for any genre written using the mechanically reclaimed ideas blasted from the carcasses of other stories and shoved inside a fatty skin of glossy marketing. As it is sold on the basis of quantity and low cost rather than overall quality and satisfaction, genre sausage is generally high in calories but low in overall nutritional value. Fine when eaten occasionally as part of a healthy and varied diet with regular exercise, but can lead to significant health problems if eaten in excessive quantities. Genre sausage can often be spotted by the cover copy advertising the book as the next X or from the citation of the one positive review from Publishers Weekly. Endorsements from friends of the author are also common sights on the packets of genre sausages.

Genre sausages rarely uses organic ingredients and instead relies on intensive factory farming methods to produce the required quantities of unrefined fiction. Not for vegetarians, vegans or people concerned about the environment.

Today’s Substances

Today I am relying on cliqhop idm radio, supermarket brand Extra Power Pain Reliever Caplets and Twining’s Everyday Tea.

There may also be curry later.

Old Habits


What I want are a games that I can play for a little while and then put down so I can go away to do other things. I don’t want any narrative, I have books for that. All I want is pure gameplay. I found the answer back in 2004 and really should try to avoid forgetting this. Rob mentioned Ikaruga at a BBQ on Sunday. In doing that he reminded me that I’m not so secretly in love with the games Kenta Cho puts out on his website ABA Games.

The short description provided on each the webpage for a selection of his games tells you most of what you need to know.

Abstract shootem up game, ‘Noiz2sa’.

Speed! More speed!

Speeding ship sailing through barrage, Torus Trooper’.

Strike down super high-velocity swooping insects.

Fixed shooter in the good old days, ‘Titanion’.

Defeat autocreated huge battleships. Shootem up game, ‘rRootage’.

And my favourite:

Defeat retro enemies modenly.

Retromodern hispeed shmup, ‘PARSEC47’.

These games are almost perfect because they each have a single purpose. Most of Kenta Cho’s games are variations on the 2D shoot-em-up but with a different gameplay twists. The graphics are kept abstract. Everything is minimal: the music, the instructions, the content, the file size. Most of the games have some randomly generated levels, but also these games have highly attractive endless modes where you play until it’s game over. (This helps keeps each individual session short.) All you can do with these games is play them to improve your high score. There is no creative thought involved, only reflex twitching.

Now excuse me because until the hammering stops from next door I’m going to play some Parsec47.

Arrietty

Released July 29th in the UK.

Via Bleeding Cool and posted here so I don’t forget, although I will.

Atwood

INTERVIEWER

Do writers perceive differently than others? Is there anything unique about the writer’s eye?

ATWOOD

It’s all bound up with what sorts of things we have words for. Eskimos, the Inuit, have fifty-two words for snow. Each of those words describes a different kind of snow. In Finnish they have no he or she words. If you’re writing a novel in Finnish, you have to make gender very obvious early on, either by naming the character or by describing a sex-specific activity. But I can’t really answer this question because I don’t know how “others” observe the world. But judging from the letters I receive, many others recognize at least part of themselves in what I write, though the part recognized varies from person to person, of course. The unique thing about writers is that they write. Therefore they are pickier about words, at least on paper. But everyone “writes” in a way; that is, each person has a “story”—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart, and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at twenty is seen as comedy or nostalgia at forty. All children “write.” (And paint, and sing.) I suppose the real question is why do so many people give it up. Intimidation, I suppose. Fear of not being good. Lack of time.

INTERVIEWER

Do you ever feel struck by the limitations of language?

ATWOOD

All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.

The Paris Review – Margaret Atwood, The Art of Fiction No. 121

To Gorky

YALTA,
December 3, 1898.

Shall I speak now of defects? But that is not so easy. To speak of the defects of a talent is like speaking of the defects of a great tree growing in the garden; what is chiefly in question, you see, is not the tree itself but the tastes of the man who is looking at it. Is not that so?

I will begin by saying that to my mind you have not enough restraint. You are like a spectator at the theatre who expresses his transports with so little restraint that he prevents himself and other people from listening. This lack of restraint is particularly felt in the descriptions of nature with which you interrupt your dialogues; when one reads those descriptions one wishes they were more compact, shorter, put into two or three lines. The frequent mention of tenderness, whispering, velvetiness, and so on, give those descriptions a rhetorical and monotonous character—and they make one feel cold and almost exhaust one. The lack of restraint is felt also in the descriptions of women (“Malva,” “On the Raft”) and love scenes. It is not vigour, not breadth of touch, but just lack of restraint. Then there is the frequent use of words quite unsuitable in stories of your type. “Accompaniment,” “disc,” “harmony,” such words spoil the effect. You often talk of waves. There is a strained feeling and a sort of circumspection in your descriptions of educated people; that is not because you have not observed educated people sufficiently, you know them, but you don’t seem to know from what side to approach them.

YALTA,
January 3, 1899.

Nothing is less characteristic of you than coarseness, you are clever and subtle and delicate in your feelings. Your best things are “In the Steppe,” and “On the Raft,”—did I write to you about that? They are splendid things, masterpieces, they show the artist who has passed through a very good school. I don’t think that I am mistaken. The only defect is the lack of restraint, the lack of grace. When a man spends the least possible number of movements over some definite action, that is grace. One is conscious of superfluity in your expenditure.

The descriptions of nature are the work of an artist; you are a real landscape painter. Only the frequent personification (anthropomorphism) when the sea breathes, the sky gazes, the steppe barks, nature whispers, speaks, mourns, and so on—such metaphors make your descriptions somewhat monotonous, sometimes sweetish, sometimes not clear; beauty and expressiveness in nature are attained only by simplicity, by such simple phrases as “The sun set,” “It was dark,” “It began to rain,” and so on—and that simplicity is characteristic of you in the highest degree, more so perhaps than of any other writer.

Quotes taken from Letters of Anton Chekhov by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Translation by Constance Garnett.