Author: Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.
30Apr

SFX Shoot

Yesterday I had a photo shoot for SFX magazine, where apparently there will be a double page feature of me, you poor, poor readers. There was an accompanying phone interview earlier in the week, but worryingly, they required a full-page shot. Let it be known that cameras and myself do not get on, and as a writer all I want to do is be a hermit (well, a hermit with wireless internet access and an Apple computer).

So after a few tentative snaps around the area just outside of Nottingham Castle, we ended up going into the Trip to Jerusalem, one of the oldest pubs in England, and in which, I shit you not, knights gathered before heading off to the Crusades in 1189AD.

Hats off to Digby, the cellar manager there, who spotted us taking pictures and then let us use the cellar which is part of the cave system. Actual caves! What a great location – and surrounded by so many barrels of ale. I think (hope) the photo they’ll use is one of the many which were taken of me perched on a piece of sandstone, alongside a sabre and helm (yes, they were down there), and it was dark and atmospheric enough so that you can’t see me all that well. It was a fantasy protagonist’s wet dream. Digby even helped by holding the flash to one side and lighting the candles behind me. Clichés, perhaps, but fun clichés, and I was all over the opportunity like a bad aftershave.

Afterwards I bought Digby a pint for his help, hospitality, and his fascinating history of the pub’s cellars.

The things a writer has to do…

30Apr

Old Videos Of J.G. Ballard

From Youtube trawling. Thought I’d give them an airing.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA8lXDcA8KA]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efSG2DM6ww0]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw5_ovaGDTY]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IqXaJkd3GQ]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBaCh9cXai4]

And of course there are a couple of others on the site to finish off, should you have got this far!

30Apr

Sci-Fi London News

The link on this Twitter page got there before me, but this is something that has been circulated around SF/F community inboxes: a press release, backed by China Miéville. For those of you with an interest in politics and are thinking of attending Sci-Fi London this weekend, I think this is something important:

Open letter to the organizers and attendees of Sci-Fi-London ❘nternational Festival 2009

Israe❘i Apartheid is not Fiction!
Cancel the special tribute to ❘srae❘ in the London Sci-Fi Festiva❘!

Open letter to the organizers and attendees of Sci-Fi-London Internationa❘ Festival 2009

Rama❘❘ah, 29 April 2009

The Pa❘estinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israe❘ (PACBI) is writing to the organizers of the Sci-Fi-London Internationa❘ Festiva❘ of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fi❘m to urge you to cancel the special “Focus on: Israe❘” in your festiva❘ in London from 29 April – 4 May. We also urge the attendees of this festival, if its organizers insist on the special tribute to Israe❘, to protest the inc❘usion of this session and to boycott the focus on Israe❘. Honoring Israe❘ in any field right after its massacre in Gaza shows either apathetic disregard for the lives and rights of the Pa❘estinian peop❘e or, worse, comp❘icity in Israe❘’s grave vio❘ations of internationa❘ ❘aw and human rights princip❘es.

Read the statement in full.

30Apr

Character Continuations

I’ve just finished reading the superb Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard – more of a memorial read for his recent passing. A very accessible Ballard novel, dissecting the psychologies of the residents of a Spanish holiday resort and again going in-depth at how surroundings shape us. But I couldn’t help notice that one of the minor characters reminded me of another one of Ballard’s from The Drowned World. Something about the dialogue, the attitude, the mannerism, if not his actions.

And it’s something I’ve noticed, now and then, and a fact that isn’t a problem, more of a curiousity: do writers recycle, subconsciously, the same characters throughout their writing history?

29Apr

Fantasy Book Critic Review

Another one in, this time from the major blog Fantasy Book Critic. And it’s rather nice.

…not only did “Nights of Villjamur” fully meet my expectaions, it exceeded them, being a novel that I plan on re-reading several times in the future…

…a book that I couldn’t help but savor, lingering on several memorable passages, although there are various points when the action heats up so much, that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The novel re-reads extraordinarily well too since knowing what happens and having a better grip of the setting actually adds to the enjoyment.

My only complaint with the book is that I now have to wait a while for the next installment 🙂

In the end, even though it’s early yet, Mark Charan Newton’s “Nights of Villjamur” has established itself in my mind as a contender for Best Fantasy Novel of 2009.

27Apr

The Onion: Concerts Held To Wish World’s Poor Good Luck

Ah, the Onion. Where would we be without it?

The $200-a-ticket event raised more than $80 million, which will be put toward thousands of good-luck cards and balloons for developing countries and a fund for future charity performances. “I hope you will all join me in extending a hand of friendship to the have-nots, shaking their hand once, and walking away,” Al Gore said in a special message via satellite.

26Apr

Authors & Commenting On Reviews

Speculative Horizons has an interesting debate on whether or not authors should comment on reviews of their books.

The article cites the example of Peter V. Brett, who recently commented on a review of his novel The Painted Man over at The Book Smugglers as he felt the need to explain the reasoning behind a particular sexual scene in the book. After Peter left the comment, the conversation died a bit of a death – something he admits on his blog.

Now, maybe this was because the conversation had run its course. But maybe it was because readers felt reluctant to get involved once the author had posted a comment of his own. So, do authors kill debate by getting involved in online discussion, or does it depend on the nature of their contribution?

My opinion? It’s a question of etiquette really. Authors have never had the opportunity to really comment on reviews prior to the interwebs. It is important, I think, to correct any factual errors – there is no excuse for a reviewer being shoddy with the details, but in terms of offering opinions, I find myself reluctant in supporting that. Not out of a logic of whether something is good or bad; merely, that online, we must remember Godwin’s Law being the end result of many of online debates, and that’s an undignified situation for an author to be in. Besides, if a review is bad, and an author gets embroiled in an online battle, it only serves to draw attention to such negativity… Perhaps a stiff upper lip is required, because no single book can be liked by everyone.

25Apr

The Biodiversity Realisation

Threat to European biodiversity ‘as serious as climate change’.

A report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) to be published next month sounds the alarm that most species and habitats across the continent are in poor condition and the risk of extinction continues to rise.

New figures for the UK also show that even the most important and rare plants and animals are suffering: eight out of 10 habitats and half of species given the highest level of European protection are in an “unfavourable” condition.

Species at risk in the UK range from insects like the honeybee and swallowtail butterfly, to mammals and birds at the top of the food chain such as the otter and the golden eagle, said the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).

The losses threaten to undermine vital ecosystem services like clean water and fertile soils, which underpin both quality of life and the economy, said Jacqueline McGlade, the EEA’s executive director.

Biodiversity is crucial, and it’s about time it rose up the agenda, even if they have to focus on the economic impacts. Putting aside the moral arguments of intrinsic value, ecological systems are hugely important for more practical reasons: we are entirely dependent upon them. In addition to the above, it’s worth knowing around 80% of our food supply comes from around just 20 plant species, which just goes to show how fragile our reliance already is. It only takes a few viruses or events to wipe out some of those crop species and leave huge swathes of the world in a dire situation; and a diverse ecosystem is stable and more resilient, so we should be doing more to prevent their destruction.

24Apr

Kid Koala — Moon River

I blogged another version of this a while back, but that’s no longer available. But, with this, you get the idea. The most un-DJ-looking dude outclassing most other DJs. How many times do you hear “Moon River” at a gig these days? The trademark stuff kicks in at around 1 minute 30 – a totally haunting method for this tune.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSsErpzoqr0]
22Apr

Manufacturing a Food Crisis

Old article, but worth a read if you can spare a few minutes.

When tens of thousands of people staged demonstrations in Mexico last year to protest a 60 percent increase in the price of tortillas, many analysts pointed to biofuel as the culprit. Because of US government subsidies, American farmers were devoting more and more acreage to corn for ethanol than for food, which sparked a steep rise in corn prices. The diversion of corn from tortillas to biofuel was certainly one cause of skyrocketing prices, though speculation on biofuel demand by transnational middlemen may have played a bigger role. However, an intriguing question escaped many observers: how on earth did Mexicans, who live in the land where corn was domesticated, become dependent on US imports in the first place?

The Mexican food crisis cannot be fully understood without taking into account the fact that in the years preceding the tortilla crisis, the homeland of corn had been converted to a corn-importing economy by “free market” policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and Washington. The process began with the early 1980s debt crisis. One of the two largest developing-country debtors, Mexico was forced to beg for money from the Bank and IMF to service its debt to international commercial banks. The quid pro quo for a multibillion-dollar bailout was what a member of the World Bank executive board described as “unprecedented thoroughgoing interventionism” designed to eliminate high tariffs, state regulations and government support institutions, which neoliberal doctrine identified as barriers to economic efficiency.