realthog: (Default)
2013-03-29 07:06 pm


As you've probably heard by now, Goodreads is selling out to Amazon.

To say that I'm less than 100% gruntled about this would be savagely to understate my feelings. I've put quite a lot of effort into Goodreads, including the "publishing" of hundreds of reviews there, activities I undertook in part because it suited me so to do but also in part because I wanted to contribute to the community that was Goodreads. What I wasn't aiming to do was expend my precious bodily fluids for the sake of contributing, in however minuscule a way, to Amazon's already ginormous corporate profits.

Does anyone know if there still exists an independent equivalent to Goodreads? I've done some quick searching, but without success. Well, I found one site whose lead blog was by a guy promoting his self-published "literary novel" -- that was a site I exited PDQ -- and a couple of dead ones. And then I thought I'd be better off asking around, which is what I'm doing now. Assuming I do find a Goodreads substitute, I'm currently of a mind to shift all my Goodreads content to it.

realthog: (Default)
2013-03-02 07:07 am
Entry tags:

sequestrian thoughts

As most will know, a measure called the Sequester went into effect last night -- a complex of spending cuts so severe that everyone sane thought that even the modern Republican Party would regard it as a Weapon Too Dreadful To Use.

That faith in humanity was ill placed. Rather than allow an extra cent of revenue to be raised by closing tax loopholes or increasing taxes on the corporations and the ultra-rich, the Republicans in the House of Congress chose to inflict quite unspeakable suffering on those Americans least able to fend for themselves -- the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the elderly. Scientific research, including into lethal diseases, is to be savagely cut back. Education likewise. All predictions are that this will severely damage the US economy, perhaps even the global economy.

One of our guilty little secrets is that our local Congresscritter is Scott Garrett. Garrett isn't as flamboyantly nuts as Tea Party favorites like Todd Akin, Paul Broun and Michelle Bachmann, but he's every bit as vile. His record of voting against the environment is a staggering 100% -- he seems to be entirely in the pockets of the polluting industries, including the fossil-fuels industries. Natch, he's a climate-change denier. He was one of the few House Republicans to vote against New Jersey residents -- his own constituents! -- being given Federal money to help clear up in the wake of Storm Sandy. He's an NRA darling. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act the other day -- thus in effect voting for a rapists' charter.
The list goes on and on. The guy was one of the Congressional Tea Partiers before the term had been invented.

It obviously takes a real special breed of scumbag to vote to persecute the poor, promote the spread of lethal diseases, cost lives, starve kids and destroy their opportunities, exacerbate poverty and work actively against America and its interests -- all the while wrapping oneself in the flag in the pretense that one's a patriot. But that seems to be what the modern Republican Party, as exemplified by Garrett, is all about.

About a decade ago, someone stuck up the website I don't know who was responsible (it hasn't been updated in years), but it reads less like a partisan effort from the Democrats, more like the creation of independents and moderate Republicans horrified by what they'd elected. Here's a taste:

With considerable help from the extremist Club for Growth, Scott Garrett helped drive moderate Republican Marge Roukema out of the House seat she held for decades. Since taking her seat in 2003, his first-term voting record has been driven by an ideology that is out of place in our state. Scott Garrett is the Christian Coalition’s poster-boy in New Jersey. Garrett has voted against the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation - Republicans and Democrats - an astounding 43 times! His positions are so extreme that he doesn't publish his votes on his own website.

We publish his votes here because, as concerned citizens, we believe his constituents should know the real record of Scott Garrett. We have documented the sources and specific votes Garrett cast as a freshman congressman - votes that are so at odds with his constituents that he refuses to discuss them.

It's the faux-patriotism that's in a way almost the hardest to swallow. If patriotism is, as Johnson said, the last refuge of the scoundrel, then it's hard to find anyone more scoundrelly than Garrett and his ilk in Congress. They're a shame to their country.

As a pacifist, I find it hard to wish ill on people, no matter how despicable they are, but I have to admit a part of me hopes that Garrett will be hoist by his own petard, that the policies he himself has promoted will one day come back and bite him, that he and his kids* will have to cope with the same kind of misery and hardship that he has so gleefully inflicted on other people and their kids. Of course, it'll never happen -- except perhaps when, like all the rest of us, he has to face up to the consequences of the climate change he so assiduously denies.

Gloomy thoughts for a gloomy, gray morning. I've got lots I have to do today, so I'd best get moving . . .

* Okay: Not his kids. It's not their fault what their father does.
realthog: (Default)
2013-02-12 07:18 pm
Entry tags:

once upon a time . . .

. . . there was a writer called Fredric Brown. He wrote a bunch of significant hardboiled novels, of which The Screaming Mimi is the one that, for obvious reasons, comes to my mind first. He also wrote lots of f/sf stories, including many that fell into the category of short-short -- that is, he told a complete story in just a few hundred words. Probably the best known of these, "The End", is only about (from memory) fifty words long -- it may be even shorter.

These weren't flash fiction, at least according to my (admittedly fuzzy) understanding of that term. They were full-scale stories, just very short. Roger Robinson's two anthologies of drabbles contain a few extraordinarily short stories -- just 100 words -- that fall into the same category. (The John Brunner one is a classic.)

The point I'm meandering toward is that Fredric Brown was able to publish these extremely short stories. Magazines and, I assume, anthologies were prepared to publish short-shorts; he wasn't the only one doing this (remember Damon Knight's "To Serve Man"?). Yet, had Brown been writing them today, he might have had some trouble finding a market. Me, I've more than once suffered sight-unseen rejections because stories were less than -- gasp! -- 1000 words long. I'm sure that far better authors than I am must have come up against this same arbitrary barrier.

I mention this because I've been looking at a story I wrote a year or so ago, when I did a bit of quick moonlighting from the film noir encyclopedia: I had time to write the story, but not to fart around trying to find places that would let me submit it -- because, you see, it weighs in at a triumphant 780 words or so. Today, I read it and still liked it really quite a lot. I immediately went to check the guidelines of a mag I thought would be ideal for it. Forget about an under-a-thousand-words restriction: they look at nothing under two thousand words.

So what's happening to all the modern equivalents of those Fred Brown stories we love so much? Do they just get stuck up on their authors' blogs, and therefore become entirely lost by tomorrow? Quite a few years back, I recall, Stefan Dziemanowicz tried to do something about this with his "365" anthologies for Barnes & Noble Books; I think those are still in print. They're amazing bathroom books.

Today I was looking (in completely different context) at the guidelines for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. They specifically mention short-shorts as a category in which submissions are welcomed. Is f/sf missing something?

Look, Mr Shakespeare, 14-liners are out. Go back to Liverpool.

realthog: (pic#234237)
2013-02-11 09:25 pm
Entry tags:

and talking of tomorrow . . .

. . .it's Darwin Day! A moment to pause and celebrate the slow triumph of rationality over superstition.

realthog: (Default)
2013-02-11 09:09 pm
Entry tags:

fighting back the forces of ignorance and darkness

If you're looking for a (short: 10 minutes) movie which Carl Sagan might have applauded, a staunch rebuttal of the "demon-haunted world" -- the Santa Claus view of the universe -- you could do a whole lot worse than watch Tim Minchin's Storm -- The Animated Movie.

It's animated. It's free. It's often extremely funny. Your mom might not approve of some of the language.

We live in a universe that's vast beyond understanding and of beauty that dumbfounds. Why do so many people prefer Bronze Age myths that don't capture the imagination, but kill it?

realthog: (Default)
2013-02-10 09:56 pm
Entry tags:

Vivaldi galore

Someone's put up on YouTube a version of The Four Seasons (here described as Forma Antiqva) that's very exciting indeed. I'm not sure if the posting is legal or how long it'll stay there: you might want to check it out while you still can.

Even more exciting is the piece composer Max Richter has created called Vivaldi Reimagined. I heard one of the movements on the NPR site before Christmas and raved about it to friends, some of whom have since reported they bought Richter's CD. And now NPR has put up on its site an HD live recording of the piece, along with some of Richter's other music.

If you enjoy Vivaldi at all, you really owe it to yourself to at least sample these pieces, and ideally listen to them both in their entirety with the Volume Turned Up Very Loud.

realthog: (Default)
2013-02-10 03:53 pm

life imitates film noir

Dang! There goes another potential film noir plot down the drain. It's happening in real life.

The Beeb has the full story; here's the start of it:

Twins' DNA hinders France sexual assault investigation

Police who are investigating a series of sexual assaults in the southern French city of Marseille have arrested identical twin brothers.

The 24-year-old unemployed delivery drivers, named locally as Elwin and Yohan, were placed under investigation on Friday.

Officers say they are sure that one of the two men carried out the attacks, but that they do not know which.

Standard DNA tests are unable to differentiate between their DNA.

realthog: (Default)
2013-02-08 06:08 pm

it's done!

As some of you may be aware, I've spent much of the past 20 months or so writing a book whose title, after much negotiation, has been settled as

A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir
The Essential Reference Guide

The work has been especially intensive over the past few months, which is why I've been so rarely posting here. It's also why my beard is halfway down my chest, there are bags under my eyes, and I can't watch so much as a YouTube video without my hand reaching instinctively for a pen to make notes.

Well, finally, today, the Introduction -- the last piece to be written -- went off to the publisher, Limelight Books. (The vast bulk of the text went in on Wednesday.) Of course, because the northeast is suffering Storm Nemo at the moment, already under several inches of snow with lots more to come, as far as we can establish there's no one actually in the Limelight offices to receive this final little attachment, but it's there for when they next log on.

The book's a shade under 700,000 words long, which means it's about two-thirds of the length of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and about half the length of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Of course, for those two books there were teams of contributors; here it's been just me. It's well on the way to being as long (about 80%) as all twelve of the Legends of Lone Wolf put together -- except, of course, that encyclopedia-words are, because of their informational density, worth 3-4 times as much as fiction-words. As far as I can recall, the final, biggest edition of my solo Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters was about half the length of this new book, although of course the Disney volume also had about seven million illustrations.

The noir book has a trifle over 3,500 individual movie entries, with basic details of a further few hundred movies (possibly as many as a thousand) -- sequels, remakes, etc. -- appearing within those entries. Before you ask: No, I haven't watched all 3,500 movies. At a guess, I've seen about half of them, and, beginning three or four years ago (i.e., long before the project was contracted), I watched and noted about a quarter of the 3,500 specifically for this book.

I can hardly believe the job's over. Well, it isn't, of course. I have to contribute ideas for the illustrations, of which fortunately there aren't going to be too ginormous a number. (My editor rejected flat-out my request that they all be of Veronica Lake, Lizabeth Scott and Elizabeth Sellars, with perhaps a sprinkling of pix of Gene Tierney and Jane Greer and Jean Simmons thrown in. How philistine of him!) There'll be liaising with the copyeditor and then proofreading -- the latter a major, time-consuming task; in fact, everything's a
major, time-consuming task when you're dealing with a text this size. (When I printed out a hard copy for my own editing purposes, it took me two trips to carry it through from the printer to my desk in the next room, because the prospect of dropping a stack of ~2,400 pages . . . And, as the scribbled-on pages mounted up to my right, I had to move stacks of them away from time to time because they were blocking the light from my desk lamp!)

Tomorrow I'm going to start looking at the various story ideas I've filed over the past couple of years, and perhaps over the next few days I'll even write some of them. I also have to finish the proposal for The Young Person's Guide to Bullshit, a job I started last summer or so but had to abandon when I realized I was making a hash of it. (That's what watching too much Elizabeth Sellars will do for you, you see.) I have a number of other proposals I need to work up. Not much rest ahead, obviously, although my every instinct is telling me I should go to bed for a week with a stack of good books.

Just for this evening, though, I'm basking in relief that the biggest solo book I've ever written is finally did, over, done, delivered, dammit.


realthog: (Default)
2013-02-08 03:44 pm
Entry tags:

startling news

According to today's Daily Beast's email update, "Cheat Sheet":

Nemo Bares Down on Northeast

I'm clutching my trousers tightly as I type.

realthog: (Default)
2013-02-03 08:06 pm
Entry tags:

my latest realization

Today's Superbowl is not in fact happening. It's been faked by Stanley Kubrick and Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

Both of whom, naturally, were secretly born in Kenya . . .

In other words, Paul's just days away from delivering his ~700,000-word encyclopedia of film noir, and has been working too hard . . .

realthog: (Default)
2012-12-16 09:31 pm
Entry tags:

here's a useful phone number

According to the website of the NRA, should you want to phone up and ask them about their contribution to the Connecticut massacre (and all the other massacres that have gone before):

You may also contact us by phone at (800) 392-VOTE (8683), Monday-Friday, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., EST.

Of course, this may not get you too far when you're trying to extract an answer from infantile people who disclaim all responsibility for their actions. The blogger James321 tried it, and reports:

After pressing number four to speak to a representative, I was put on hold -- for just a few seconds -- and then spoke to a rather smug unidentified man.

I asked him if the NRA would be apologizing for yet another atrocity facilitated by their actions. His smug words -- dripping with contempt -- were: 'We don't have anything to apologize for.' After explaining how the NRA's lobbying efforts lead to more gun deaths in the United States than any other country on Earth, he repeated his talking point and then hung up on me.

But, hey, the more of us call that number tomorrow, the more those irresponsible little toads might feel that, finally, they should think about the consequences of their lobbying for the weapons merchants.

realthog: (Default)
2012-12-15 05:30 pm


And, for once, one that I agree with:

What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?

----Nicholas D. Kristof, "Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?", New York Times, December 15 2012

realthog: (Default)
2012-12-05 12:11 am
Entry tags:

what kind of blithering idiot *is* this man?

. . . and what kind of monster?

"I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society."

----Senator James Inhofe, explaining why he voted against US acceptance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which would have made it illegal to discriminate against people on grounds of disability.

Yet again, Republican ignorance, stupidity, paranoia and just plain mean-spiritedness bring shame upon the US.

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-28 07:48 am

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy: Online, Searchable, Free

I keep forgetting to mention that, thanks to this clever technology thing and the expertise of David Langford, the text of John Clute's and my The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) is now available online in searchable form. Here's the place to go.

I should stress that it's a 1997 text (with a few revisions up to 1999). More recent developments aren't covered -- although very many of them are treated in the new, massive, online, bogglingly huge version of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-25 09:42 pm

moi, interviewed

Jon Gibbs foolishly interviewed me for his An Englishman in New Jersey blog, and the results are here.

It may be something from my Scots Puritan background, but I always cringe when I see the results of my being interviewed: witness this, I'm acting as if I might have anything interesting to say, the hubris of it, oh yes. Well, fingers crossed I don't in this instance come across as any more self-absorbed than usual.

Tonight's job is either to watch/write about the Polish neonoir Palimpsest (2006) or just to keel over sideways. I'm not sure which will the seem the best course after a belated supper . . .

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-22 10:48 pm

a nice surprise

I discovered by accident a couple of days ago that my story "Only One Ghost", which appeared in the 2010 Peter Crowther/Nick Gevers anthology The Company He Keeps, got a jolly friendly review at the time from none other than Locus's estimable reviewer Lois Tilton. Here's what she says:

Richard suddenly finds that all his books have his own signature written in them, in faded ink that is older than he is. The discovery seriously unnerves him. His wife Lynda minimizes the situation until she sees that her books now have her own signature in them as well.

Only old dip pens and fountain pens had those bifurcated nibs. Perhaps lawyers still used them. No ordinary human beings ever did — we used rollerballs and ballpoints and gels. Pens that had not been in widespread use, if invented at all, when Lynda’s books were signed, to judge by the fading of the ink…

Here is a bit of strangeness that remains unexplained, although the narrator proposes a number of possible theories. Seemingly a small thing, yet it shakes their sense of self and threatens to undermine their relationship with each other. It is a bibliophile’s story, and a large part of the enjoyment is in going through the bookshelves, full of nineteenth-century novels, that mean so much to these characters. Very nicely done.
I was, of course, completely calm about this -- no running around the house telling the long-suffering Pam that a reviewer had spotted exactly what the story was about. Instead I was just, you know, like, cool. Discovering good reviews you never knew you had is one of the great pleasures all those dumb self-help books never mention.

Today's my birthday; it's been declared a public holiday. And I got a good review. Pope Benny, Ross Douthat and various others have made idiots of themselves. A friend said I got an early birthday present a couple of weeks ago and shared it with the rest of the American people. My Thanksgiving blessings are counted.

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-16 08:17 pm
Entry tags:


But it won't fail, and Republicans know this. They know that once the law is fully implemented, people will love its provisions ensuring nearly complete health care coverage, covering those who now seek free care (which costs the rest of us) at emergency rooms, blocking insurance companies from kicking people off their plans just when they need them most, and covering people even with preexisting conditions. It will prove popular, and the Republicans who said it would bankrupt the nation and create armies of freeloaders will be revealed as liars and frauds. They desperately want to block Obamacare because Americans will turn to Democrats in gratitude, much as they did when Medicare saved the elderly from poor health and early death and social security gave them a chance to live out their years with some measure of dignity.

-- Thomas O'Donnell

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-12 10:46 pm
Entry tags:

book porn

Okay, I want one of
these . . .

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-12 10:27 am
Entry tags:


No, no: this isn't about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Each year author Jon Gibbs organizes the Meager Puddle of Limelight Award for Best Book Title, a contest run on his Live Journal blog
An Englishman in New Jersey. The books concerned must be the competing authors' own and they must be genuine books, whether already published or being actively developed/written.

And this year the winner is . . .

The title concerned is The Intelligent Child's Guide to Bullshit. I've more or less completed the proposal for this, but have had to put it aside while sprinting toward the finish line on The People's Encyclopedia of Film Noir (or whatever the book's finally called). One slight embarrassment is that I'm in two minds about what I want to call the book: which would be better, The Intelligent Child's Guide to Bullshit or The Young Person's Guide to Bullshit? Do feel free to offer an opinion, pretty please!

realthog: (Default)
2012-11-05 10:51 pm

reviews 'n' stuff

Grrl Scientist has given a wonderful plug to Denying Science in her Guardian blog; I keep meaning to talk about it here but failing to do so because there've been exciting developments on my three earlier science books, Denying Science, Corrupted Science and Bogus Science, that I want to talk about at the same time. More on those developments later.

In the meantime, though, David Hebblethwaite has said kind things about my recent PS Publishing novella The Lonely Hunter on his Follow the Thread blog. Here's some of it:

[T]his novella from PS Publishing is as good as ever. . . . As a murder mystery, The Lonely Hunter plays the game with its red herrings and twists. But Grant’s novella is about more than that: Emil is open about the fact that he has changed some of the identifying details of his tale, and muses over the differences between real life and fiction. This is what I think is at the heart of The Lonely Hunter: individuals creating stories about themselves and others, to the extent that they become fictional characters, of a sort – and you’ll close the book wondering exactly where the boundaries between reality and fiction lie.

Although, because of the film noir encyclopedia, I've had virtually no time over the past two years or so to write fiction, I find my inclinations turning more and more toward a sort of noirish form of fantasy, as exemplified in The Lonely Hunter, my earlier novella for PS, The City In These Pages, and a bunch of other short stories. That said, the next longish fiction I want to write -- and this'll not be until spring next year, at the earliest (how frustrating this is!) -- concerns Ellery Queen tackling something that looks a bit like the parallel worlds hypothesis but in fact isn't.