Thursday, April 15, 2010



Soon I'm going to have to plug Twisthorn Bellow with a degree of excess. It's my duty. But not this week. Instead I'm going to talk about how hiking and camping weather has returned at last! Fires and beer on the beach! Doubtless this time of spring joy won't last long, especially as a cloud of volcanic ash is on its way south from Iceland to blot out the sun. I would be tempted to believe that most of our Council Tax is used to make our weather worse through sinister atmospheric experiments, but are Welsh engineers really competent enough to take advantage of an erupting volcano in this way, to alter the direction of the winds and manipulate localised air pressure? One is forced to conclude that our Council Tax is being wasted on useless sinister atmospheric experiments. Bah!

The trees are in blossom, which is another wonderful thing about spring. My knowledge of botany isn't great, but nectarine, peach and cherry blossoms are pink, while plum, apple and almond blossoms are white; so the tree in this photo must belong to the latter list. Don't know which type it is though. Tell me, if you know! Blossom, of course, attracts pollinators: butterflies, bees, little birds and... the noses of human beings? Why not! We seem to have a compulsion to visit many different trees, sniffing as many flowers as possible. Who will categorically deny the possibility that the noses of humans are also one of the natural pollinators of flowers? Evolution has done stranger things. Look in the mirror if you don't believe me; my mirror, if you wish.

Talking about pollination and pollinators reminds me that my story 'The Pollinators' has just been accepted for The Worlds of Philip José Farmer, a forthcoming tribute volume to the great PJF himself. Details of the book can be found on the official PJF webpage here. As may be readily discerned by anyone who visits this page, the volume will be a limited edition product and only a few dozen copies more than the pre-ordered amount will be printed. This is an interesting way to determine a print run. I'm not aware of anyone else doing this before, but it may catch on. My own story was inspired by PJF's famous novel, The Lovers, which I read as one of the three PJF works contained in the Strange Relations omnibus (pictured here on the beach with its hideous Baen cover). Needless to say, The Lovers is one of the most important novels in the history of SF and I worked hard to make my story worthy of such a classic tome. Why not buy the tribute volume to see if I've succeeded or failed in this venture?

The Lovers is a swipe at repressive regimes and a plea for tolerance, but the satire it contains is never ambiguous. The reader knows precisely who are the good guys and who the bad. If I had to list my favourite SF writers, PJF would definitely be in my top 10, together with Lem, Aldiss, Bayley, Sladek, Vance, Moorcock, Ballard, Delany. That's 9 names. Room for one more, but who? Zelazny? Bradbury? Disch? Or maybe the underrated Norman Spinrad, whose satire frequently was ambiguous, too ambiguous sometimes. I have discussed this matter briefly in an Incwriters blog entry called 'When Satire Goes Too Far', a text that can be found here and makes special mention of Norman Spinrad's amazing novel The Iron Dream, which I am currently reading.

I hated Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron so much that I've never read anything else by him. It seemed nothing more than a white guy's fantasy of having both white privilege and black "authenticity".
That's an interesting point. I do recommend The Iron Dream though! Spinrad is one of those authors I keep forgetting about, even though I enjoy his work. Some authors are like that, for some reason: forgettable but good. Weird!
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