Friday, January 18, 2019

Tapping The Admiral Liner Notes 2

 Notes on my story On The Rock.

Liner Notes 2

A prize court determines if a ship (“prize”) has been lawfully captured and if so to whom the proceeds of selling it go to. I have grossly misrepresented the actual division of monies in the Royal Navy. In a fleet action such as occurs off Cape Laurel the total prize money would have been divided amongst the companies of all the ships involved. And involved has a maximal interpretation in this case: any naval vessel within sight is included. (This provision, theoretically because any ship in sight effects the actions of the enemy, encourages ships to follow orders rather than hare off to capture prizes.)

I have made The Rock a haven of smugglers and also corrupt officials. If it were based on a real place I would have to apologise to the inhabitants of it, but fortunately it is completely fictional, and also based on actual events.

Though when I say actual events, the flying snakes and the magician are made up. There’s more to the fantasy elements than the ambiguous and mysterious effects of the brandy in this tale and the stakes will only rise.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I Read Books: Broken Homes

Broken Homes

More magic police action. A murder, a suicide and a stolen book all point to the actions of the Faceless Man, a black magician – ethically challenged magic practitioner. It’s just as well that Peter Grant’s attempts to diplomatically prevent conflict between the courts of the two deities of the river Thames are working out. But there are twists and turns and betrayals on the way as well.

There’s magical architecture, and some gruesome crimes and a big twist. This is the fourth in the series, and they may not be getting better, they are consistently good and always introducing new and interesting elements.

Read This: If you are into magic and police and urban fantasy stuff.
Don’t Read This: If you don’t care about any of that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

I Read Stories: The Standard of Ur

The Standard of Ur by Hassan Abdulrazzak

A curator from the British Museum visits a future Iraq to determine if the country is stable enough to return the Mesopotamian mosaic-decorated box, The Standard of Ur (a non-fictional artefact). Climate change has made water scarce and going outside unprotected in daylight impossible.

The solution to sectarian violence in Iraq is science fictional. The curator has an ulterior motive. There is a newly excavated temple that has been mysteriously closed up. And not everyone is who they seem, or rather they are exactly who they tell you they are, but you weren’t listening.

The result is a somewhat disjointed but interesting exploration of several ideas, none of which quite seem to get the attention they deserve.

Read This: For some speculation into future and past Mesopotamia and the politics of artefact repatriation.
Don’t Read This: If you want detailed discussion of any of the topics raised.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

I Watch Films: Expresso Bongo

Expresso Bongo (1959)

A sleazy music agent (Johnny Jackson) discovers the musical talent of Bert Rudge (Cliff Richard) and through a combination of luck (the BBC are filming a documentary at the strip club his girlfriend works at), lies and brass-necked impudence, and some actual work (naming him Bongo Herbert) makes him a star. Of course he’s getting 50% of the money. Having hitched Bongo to the third comeback tour of the seven-times married American star Dixie Collins (Yolande Donlan), she takes him under her wing and gets him out of the contract.

In the meantime we’ve had a very cynical satire of 1950s music industry which is both timeless (everybody is trying to take advantage of everyone else) and very specific (when Johnny talks his way on to a BBC discussion panel about youth culture, the host is smoking all the time on screen; all the kids are in espresso bars etc.) It’s quite funny, and sometimes very funny. For the first forty minutes or so it forgets that it’s a musical as the song and dance sections are people performing songs and dances in film, so it’s a bit surprising when they start singing to each other in the street or their bedrooms.

Watch This: For a funny, silly, look at the 1950s music business.
Don’t Watch This: If light-hearted fun about people exploiting each other is not your cup of tea.

Monday, January 14, 2019

I Read Comics: Stag Town


This is a webcomic by M Alice LeGrow, and the site it’s on seems to be picking up a bunch of very good people. How about that? Maybe I should look into why that is. If I were a journalist rather than a guy who writes whatever rubbish I feel like I probably would.

Anyway it’s about Frankie who returns to her spooky town (Stagtown) after college to discover it’s still weird and spooky. In the first story cameras appear all over town. Her paranoid neighbour is badly effected by this and then it gets (by turns) deadly, weird and even creepier.

Apparently she drew the first storyline, Surveillance, in ten days, which explains a few awkwardly composed panels, and the protagonist’s face is a little... I don’t know, roundly blank? Stylised? For my taste. But if you want a free scary comic then go read this.

Read This:
Because you need a cool scary comic
Don’t Read This: If you think comics are for kids, unless you are a kid in which case it’s probably a bit too horrific.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Map for On The Rock

Map for my Age of Sail Fantasy story On The Rock. Yes, The Rock is based on Gibraltar.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I Read Books: Kil'n People

Albert Morris is a private detective in a future in which people can copy themselves. The copies only last 24 hours, are made of clay, and tend to be specialised – green for basic menial work, ebony for concentration, silver for high quality copies needed for a meeting and so on. You can download the experiences of the copy, though not everyone does (or can).

He’s on the trail of Beta who is involved in copyright theft (making illegal copies). But things are more complicated than they look, and he gets caught up into murder, politics, war crimes and even stranger events, so new they may not be technically against the law.

Brin creates an enjoyable story, exploring reactions and extremes that feel like real outgrowths of his wacky and bizarre world-building. There’s a tremendous amount of golem references for example, and he draws links between this new technology and the most ancient – clay tablets from Mesopotamia, terracotta warriors from China. His use of different viewpoints – all Al Morris in different bodies, often seeing the same events from wildly divergent angles – is very clever. And then he pushes it still further in the finale, suggesting a new stage of evolution for intelligence.

Read This:
For a really imaginative future crime thriller that takes it’s bizarre but interesting set-up very seriously, and uses it not just in the writing but in the structure of the novel.
Don’t Read This: If all this golem stuff sounds nonsense.