19Jun

Borges’s “Book Of Imaginary Beings”

One of my favourite reference books is The Book Of Imaginary Beings, by Jorge Luis Borges.

If I have a problem with the fantasy genre at the minute, it is that, on occasion, it does not embrace… erm… fantasy. It can be quite conservative in the imagination department, and I wonder where the fantasy has gone. Well, this book is chock-full of great creatures that can be referenced. It is a bestiary of mythical creatures, including ones I’ve used, banshees, garudas and sirens, covering locations all over the world, and their origins. It’s not even that big a book, so it really is something worth picking up for any connoisseur of weird stuff, especially for writers, and then there really is no excuse for having standard fare!

16Jun

Kiva Microfunds

Now, I came across Kiva Microfunds and thought the whole thing pretty damn interesting. Apparently, Bill Clinton thought it a good idea too.

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

Give someone the chance to take themselves out of poverty, and more of your donation goes to good effect—that is, less percentage of money put forward gets sucked into paperwork and infrastructure. Can’t be bad.

16Jun

Severian:

“We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of hte Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life—they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of amrs. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to belive that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and supersitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.”

14Jun

J.G. Ballard

Nice little interview with J.G. Ballard at the Guardian website. There really is no one quite like him. A couple of years ago I read a few of his books in the usual author flings I have, where I buy up lots of their books and proclaim them the best thing that ever happened to me, only to look back on them with fond memories. I really recommend reading—and sticking with—The Atrocity Exhibition. Whilst not on the surface an easy read, it seeps into your mind the way surrealism can do so well, with dazzling images, metaphors, and a prose that just absolutely sizzles. This edition is very useful, since it puts many of the sections into historical context. Being only a nipper of the SF/F world, I needed it.

Science fiction was a “chance discovery. It touched a spark, but I never wrote the kind of SF that was typical of the time.” The novelist M John Harrison, who was part of the editorial team of New Worlds, the magazine that published many of Ballard’s most controversial stories in the 60s, points out that he was “never well received by generic SF readers and activists. His work is too clearly poetic, satirical, metaphorical – all of which discourages suspension of disbelief and the immersive experience of the exotic on which SF pivots

Now that’s an interesting point, isn’t it? Perhaps never more so than in the modern publishing climate, where so few experimental works are published. So, many are put off when SF is too much involved with these things. I know I’m certainly not, but I’m not the average genre reader, having being knee-deep in the industry for a while.

11Jun

Pursewarden Writes

Brother Ass, the so-called act of living is really an act of the imagination. The world—which we always visualize as ‘the outside’ World—yields only to self-exploration! Faced by this cruel, yet necessary paradox, the poet finds himself growing gills and a tail, the better to swim against the currents of unenlightenment.

—Lawrence Durrell, Clea.

11Jun

Springsteen Anthology Line-Up

I mentioned before about my inclusion in ut, but this great line up has been posted for Darkness on the Edge: Tales Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen. I’m apparently the finale…

I’m a big fan of the Boss. He’s second only to Dylan in intensity and depth of lyrics, but streets ahead in quality of composition, and consistency. In my opinion. I’m very proud of this, because it was quite a challenge to write a) something completely out of my comfort zone, b) based on a set of lyrics, and c) a short story, when I’m a broad-canvass sort of chap. I must thank Mr Darren Turpin, the web-artist formerly known as Ariel, for putting me in touch with Harrison Howe, the editor of the collection.

I’m in it for this anti-war song:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvWXRHalj4Y]
8Jun

Some Ideas On Why The E-Book Will Not Mean The End Of The Printed Page

Or at least the fiction market. Here are some things to consider:

1 ) The majority of people who read a lot of fiction love books, the physical thing. Period. They are unlikely to stop buying books because of this physical love. They like them on their shelves. They like walking up to them. Perhaps lending them to a friend.

2 ) People who don’t buy many books, but still read say a few a year, will not see any logic in purchasing an expensive device for such limited use.

3 ) You can’t see what someone’s reading—unfortunately a significant driver in fiction sales. (Those seeking to wear books as a statement of intellect, fashion etc)

4 ) Would you want to read an expensive device in the bath? Books are quite easily replaceable. And they dry out, too.

5 ) Books are pretty cheap, easy to transport, and durable as it is. You can annotate them properly, and underline stuff etc. Nothing needs improving (which may well be a factor of it’s own).

6 ) The major book buying market exists for more older individuals; perhaps they are not technologically savvy as those who drove the mp3 market.

7 ) Stop comparing things to the iPod! Music has always been played on a device—from early days etc to now. It’s just finding the perfect device. Well, books work as they are. They have never been ‘on something else’ apart from audio books, which play some role in the industry, but they’re for people on the go. Oh, and when Steve Jobs at Apple says there’s no point in an e-book device for his company, listen to him.

8 ) Individual mp3s were driving many of the sales behind iPods. The fact that you could hold a thousand tunes on one device was a wow factor. That’s not the same for books. People don’t read random chapters from many books. They read one book at a time.

9 ) Worth saying that this might work for some textbooks perhaps in schools or universities, where it becomes nothing more than a network search of specific subjects—a limited Internet.

10 ) Many book purchases are made on cover design. You have no cover for these things that people can browse over.

11 ) The Kindle is being sold as something to consumers in a too-persuasive way. When you saw what the iPod was, you just wanted to own one. You thought, that’s what I’m missing. I have to have it. The key to such a culture-changing product is that it sells itself.

12 ) Amazon were spinning the hell out of this: ’sold out after a few hours’ – note that they’re also not listing this in the electronics store, but the ‘kindle store’, so it can’t be compared to other devices in sales rankings. I suspect if we look past the hype, which is painfully obvious here, things aren’t so good.

13 ) The digital rights on this device sucks. No one wants their book usage dictated to by a table full of lawyers.

14 ) The gift value of books—you only have to look at the fact that the majority of book sales are in the Xmas period. Unwrapping an ebook, not so nice or practical.

15 ) The Kindle looks as though it was designed circa 1983.

These are more points for debate, really. Take a look at many of the articles on e-books taking over the world: those who are praising the revolution are often those who think they can sell their own e-book based product.

Don’t forget about the psychology of readers…