Simon’s Backup Weblog


Travels 2002: a summary

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 31, 2002

For a year I thought would end up spent mostly at home, 2002 was actually pretty widely traveled – involving 3 continents and 7 countries (8 if you count autonomous provinces).

  • Lanzarote – wonderful volcanic landscapes and a warm winter break. I think we may well be going back in 2003.
  • France – a wedding in Paris and a reception at a small manor house in the Normandy countryside. And of course, suitcases full of cassoulet.
  • Spain – a conference in Barcelona, with wonderful sea food and interesting panels – and the most amazing architecture.
  • Jersey – several trips, including the British National SF convention and a family weekend on my home Island. And I got to show and her mother the sights… And sunbathing on the beaches of yesteryear…
  • USA – two weeks in Northern California and Silicon Valley for the San Jose Worldcon, which became a wonderful holiday in the warm late summer staying with and . Hummingbirds, sea otters and bookshops, oh me, oh my. And Highway 18, twisting and turning over the Santa Cruz mountains…
  • Belgium – a weekend’s gourmandising in Bruges with the gathered clans of cix:gourmet. Chocolate and canals, and a wood-fired grill that we will definitely be visiting again.
  • Ireland – another weekend visit, this time to the Irish SF convention, Octocon. Much fun, much Guinness, and much rain…
  • Denmark – another conference, in Copenhagen. Cold and crisp, with plenty to think about – and excellent meals to brainstorm the mobile Internet.
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The Newt still lives…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 31, 2002

…and thanks to this little application you can sync it with OS X! Time to dig out the old 2100 and the eMate and see how they work with the TiBook…

The Friday “Morning After The Holiday” Review: The Dragons Of Springplace

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 27, 2002

Single author short story collections have now become the province of the small presses. While this means they have disappeared from the shelves of bookstores, and vanished from the midlist, it also means that they have become high quality hard cover collections, something that will last for generations.

Robert Reed is an unusual, and powerful writer. His poetic hard SF touches on similar issues to Robert Charles Wilson’s: dealing with the questions of immortality, of singularities in society, and the long term future of mankind. But where other authors may offer answers, Reed asks questions. Even in the vast expanses of his galaxy circling starships there are no certainties, no solid ground: nothing today is as it will be tomorrow, there will always be changes, and new challenges.

Dragons Of Springplace brings together 11 stories from the 1990s, originally published in either Asimov’s or F&SF. They include two tales set on (or in) the immense world-sized starship of his novel Marrow (“The Remoras” and “Aeon’s Child”). Closer to home, the title story is one that deals with the issues of long term nuclear storage, with the eponymous dragons the stolid guardians of our poisonous effluvia. Meanwhile “Stride” is a new take on that old trope of alien hunters and human ingenuity, mixed with the loneliness of the long distance runner. “Guest of Honor” is a sad tale of immortality, cowardice, and voyeurism taken to extremes.

Reed is a lyrical writer, who extracts imagery from the most improbable of directions, pulling his readers towards a dark future, shot with strands of hope. This is the human condition writ large, stretched out on the fabric of millenia and seasoned with the subtle taste of xenophilia. We may not want to live in Reed’s futures, but we need to read them, need to experience them – and above all – need to learn from them.

Wonderful stuff, from a wonderful writer, Dragons Of Springplace is challenging and entertaining – well worth adding to your SF bookshelf.

Avoiding CD copy protection corruption…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 26, 2002

Worried that the next CD you buy will have so much copy protection it won’t play on your car CD player, or on your PC? Then keep an eye on this list of CDs…

There are some on that list that I have that do work fine for me, but of course things vary all over the world, so it’s best used as a check if you do have problems, and need to organise an exchange…

A Boxing Day Review: Spiritfeather

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 26, 2002

Publishing fads come and go: a fickle tide of ideas and projects that appear one day, spawn a huge variety of similar projects, and then vanish in a twinkling. Young adult publishing is more often than not a victim of these fads. Recent trends in the success of ghost-written and single author series bounced off the genre shared-world concept and gave us several sequences of novellas in common backgrounds – all written by well known genre writers. Orion’s Dolphin imprint came up with the The Web, a SF sequence which sold well, and was collected in two adult focused collections. However, other sequences didn’t make as much of a splash, and vanished, often uncompleted.

One of these (from the editorial team that brought us The Web) was Dreamtime, a series of fantasies that riffed off Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The gap between reality and the world of dreams has thinned, and all over the world people are stepping over the threshold. It’s not as simple and easy as that, though, for the Shadowman is attempting to control dreams – and reshape the Dreamtime into his dark vision. The choice of authors included Clarke Award winner Colin Greenland.

His installment Spiritfeather takes us to south India on the eve of the monsoon, and to a family coming to terms with remarriage and a new home. Roshana, the eldest child, finds herself caught up in dark dreams, dreams that lead to the disappearance of her baby brother. She must face her fears: both here in the real, and in the shifting relam of the Dreamtime. Only then will she stand a chance of rescuing her brother.

Greenland captures the sights and sounds of the end of the dry season, and gives us a glimpse of life in a family that isn’t Western. We live so much in our closeted world, reinforced by media views of our way of life as good and right, that it’s important to read stories like this, stories that put the West on the periphery – not in the centre; stories that approach the world from a different set of values and visions. Greenland makes a brave attempt, and nearly succeeds. But he is British, born into the West, and filtering everything through his culture. He bravely throws away much of what he is, but you can still see glimpses of England in his words.

A brave attempt, and an intriguing little fantasy. But what would Rushdie have made of Greenland’s subject matter?

Summing up the year: Dork Tower style

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 25, 2002

But after the trials and tribulations, we’re still hanging on. So, seasons greetings to you all!

Living on the edge of the singularity…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 24, 2002

…and Delta thrives, dropping us images and words from her blog – 50 years from now. A wonderful piece of graphic SF from the folk behind http://www.e-sheep.com/flash.shtml.

“Right now I want to tell you about this flying cat. Little Nemo, the famous postfeline aviator swooped past my house at 3:57 pm local time, presumably to check out the dead whale still floating nearby. I was stunned.”

(Not work safe)

The real reason why CD sales have fallen by 10%…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 23, 2002

production of new material has fallen by 25%… which means that in real terms CD sales are actually up…

And these are the people who want to control just how we listen to music?

Steven Hawking: Gangsta Rapper

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 23, 2002

Find out all about the great man’s other career, here

Complete with MP3s and lyrics. Entropy looks to be a grower…

Wonderful stuff. (Link found on The Sideshow)

A Monday Afternoon “Upgraded Laptop” Review: Impossible Places

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 23, 2002

Alan Dean Foster’s short story collection Impossible Places is the latest collection from one of the more prolific SF writers around.

Impossible Places is the sort of book where you can dip into a story before you go to sleep, or flip your way through four or five in a bath. His style is very televisual – it’s easy to see many of the stories as a 40 or 45 minute Twilight Zone style drama: the trucker who met Marilyn Monroe, the stoners on Mars. It’s also very National Geographic, with stories from the four corners of the world (and in one case, quite literally the seven seas). Foster is a globe trotter who visits inaccessible and unusual places – ideal fodder for his stories – especially the mainstream “Pein bek Longpela Telimpon”, a transliteration of classical fairy tale themes into the underbelly of modern New Guinea.

Foster’s style varies wildly, from fantasy to SF, via non-genre fiction. This is a book where nothing it is quite what it seems at a first glance – even the story that’ll make most people buy it, a new Flinx and Pip short.

While everything here is good, light fiction, a word of warning: don’t go expecting anything deep and meaningful. But then, where reading Alan Dean Foster here, not China Mieville or Tim Powers, and Foster never sets out to write literature: just stories. If we get to see a bit more of the world than we might have through these stories, then all to the good.

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