Simon’s Backup Weblog


Anniversary

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 31, 2002

Today marks exactly five years since we moved in to the East Putney Museum of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Comic Art (and Lending Library).

So we’ve just booked the builders for the loft conversion and paid the deposit.

More bookshelf and picture space! Go us!

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Oldest star found…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 31, 2002

… or is it just signs of a type II civilisation at work?

The BBC news story is here. But I can’t help but think of the Althean’s star in Jack McDevitt’s The Hercules Text, which had been constructed from interstellar gas…

More seasonal fun…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 30, 2002

…for the gamers amongst us, in the shape of Pokecthulu! A free RPG in PDF format, with input from Jon Kovalics (of Dork Tower fame).

Be afraid. Be very afraid…

Or Fluff will suck out your brains.

Scare friends and make a hundered million dollars or two along the way…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 30, 2002

…with these scary Halloween masks of disgraced CEOs…

(link found on Boing Boing)

The Wednesday Afternoon “Fun With CMSes” Review: Turquoise Days

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 30, 2002

Sensibly Golden Gryphon have decided to follow PS Publishing, and launch a line of limited edition novellas. The first in this series is Alastair Reynold’s Turquoise Days.

Set in Reynold’s Inhibitor universe of Revelation Space and many other novels, short stories and novellas (and like several other of Reynold’s stories, taking its title from the world of rock music), Turquoise Days is a story of alienation, of loss, and ultimately, some form of redemption. It’s a scalpel edged story, one that takes the planetary romance, pares it down to its essentials and unleashes it on the world, charged with the same dark energy as Reynold’s space operas.

Turquoise isn’t quite a lost colony world. The light huggers still make their way here, but it’s a long way off the beaten track and visitors come decades apart. As a ship approaches the isolated world, political and cultural upheveals are expected. What Turquoise gets is something it never expected.

There aren’t many aliens in Reynold’s galaxy. Those that survive the Inhibitors are too alien to understand, or are hidden away behind shrouds of congealed space time. The Pattern Jugglers are among the most alien of the survivors, straddling the dividing line between intelligence and instinct. They’re strangely useful too, making worlds with a Pattern Juggler population valuable assets – as they are natural recorders of minds, with the ability to layer an imprint on top of a living persona. And as their recordings go back millions of years, they’re a useful tool for historians…

Turquoise is a typical Pattern Juggler world, a cold waterworld with little land. Its human colonies are floating cities, drifiting under immense balloons. It’s a fragile existence, at the whim of wind, tide and Juggler. The visiting light hugger is here to investigate Turquoise’s Jugglers, a scientific mission. Reynold’s heroine, a scientist who’s sister has been absorbed by the Juggler mass, is suspicious of their motives. Proved right when the masks come off, she has to choose between saving her world and saving the Jugglers. It’s a huge decision to make…

Welcome to another window into Reynold’s dark vision of tomorrow. And yet, it’s strangely optimistic, and strangely beautiful. This is what happens when radical hard SF meets Jack Vance. Buy, enjoy. And if you can’t get the Golden Gryphon edition with its Bob Eggleton cover, there’s a combined edition of both this and the PS Publishing novella Diamond Dogs due in January.

Another one for China’s rant, methinks…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 29, 2002

China MiĆ©ville is an interesting person, who engages deeply with his chosen genre, and enters into a dialogue with it and its root texts. This is, I hasten to add, A Good Thing, and even where he draws on Michael Moorcock’s definitive essay on the Tolkienesque, Epic Pooh (collected in Wizardry and Wild Romance and sadly out of print), he is driven to illuminate the disconnection between fantasists and the real. The Tolkien route is one of conciliation, of acceptance of the status quo, rather than of exploration of the new, of discourse with the old, and of growth and change.

The same can be (and is) said of J. K. Rowling. Take this op-ed from the Washington Post, for example.

And all I can think, is “We need more John Brunners”. Or at the very least, an angry Pratchett.

Dangerous things to do on the way into the office (part 393 of several million)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 29, 2002

Pop into the local Waterstone’s just to see if Light is in early, and on spotting two copies, buy one. Then when the sales clerk reads the back blab, recommend her The Course Of The Heart and Signs Of Life.

Which of course puts me into the mood to just sit down and immerse myself in Mike’s wonderful writing. When I have a CMS to grok deeply…

Now I have to spend all day with a copy of Light just begging to be read.

Why does M John Harrison have to be such a good writer?

At least I have the new Tori Amos in the iPod…

Combined DVD video recorder and PVR – a Tivo on steroids

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 28, 2002

Or as they say elsewhere – I want one of these! The addition of the 40GB drive to a DVD video recorder is an excellent idea. Then there’s the Firewire I/O. Another reason to Switch?

Now, I wonder if it will work with a Sky+ system…

Today’s Flash games…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 28, 2002

Found on Boing Boing, a Flash paper plane simulator and a Flash bubble wrap popper

More fun with Amazon’s APIs (this time, actually coding to them)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 28, 2002

Working on this month’s XML column, I wrote my first simple search application for Amazon. It’s a very simple piece of Perl, and I haven’t bothered developing an XSL stylesheet for the returned XML yet (especially as I’m requesting the “heavy” version of the response XML). But, it does work. And the code to do it is surprisingly short. I am a bit annoyed though that Amazon has yet to release an updated version of WSParser.pm for the 2.1 version of their API – as the version in the 1.0 SDK is now broken…

Meanwhile I have yet to work out why the fresh install of Mandrake 9.0 on my home development system isn’t running CGI applications. I have a feeling it’s probably due to the Perl proxy support it has out of the box, but that’s just a guess so far… It’s annoying, as trying to debug that took up nearly 4 hours, time that could have been spent in actually writing body copy.

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