Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tv antennas, critiques, writing etc

Hi all,

My holidays end this week - next week I will back at work in my part-time library position - so I finally got around to doing some of the things that I need to do while I've got the extra time. I visited the optometrist and finished up getting two new pair of spectacles, one for reading and one for watching TV etc. The pair I was using for reading has now become my computer glasses and the pair that were my computer glasses don't really preform any function any more. I will be interested to see if I make fewer typos now I've finally swapped computer glasses. The shop had a buy one, get one free deal for the glasses so there purchase didn't break the bank.

I finally went looking for a new pair of runners. It would have been nice to get a pair similar to my last pair which lasted for 13 months and about 2000 walked kilometres. We had a new Athlete's Foot open in Wang and they had a sale on last month, but their sale prices were more expensive than Sportspower's normal prices. I do make it a bit harder for myself by refusing to buy Nike because of their continued disregard for the sweat-shops their products are made in. Surely they could give some of the 100 million sponsorship of Tiger Woods or the 80 million sponsorship of Venus Williams to their workers.

Lightning struck the transmission tower for all the commercial television channels in Wang on Wednesday night knocking out all the channels on our televisions. I thought something had happened to our antenna so I went up on the roof and had a look, and naturally couldn't find anything wrong with it. I then climbed under the house and fiddled with the connector and I've been fiddling with it ever since, having spent about six hours in three attempts to get the fickle reception going again. I could get the reception right on two televisions, but not the third, and as soon as the third one was okay, one of the others faded. The constant static electric shocks from the cables didn't help my mood - my thumbs are still sore. The main problem ended up being an overstretched antenna connection plugged into the back of the televisions, so I replaced the cable. At least I hope that was the problem. I could really identify with the guy on the Amazing race who freaked out when he couldn't get his car into gear.

I did my first critique of the year. As usual I read the story, wrote a few notes, and then waited until the next day to re-read the story, this time writing down a lot more and correcting anything I saw as I went. It was just as well I read it a second time because I missed a crucial plot point the first time around. I posted the critique and got a response from its author answering some of the questions I had raised. I hope the story's writer realises that, if he is to satisfy a reader like myself, he must put those answers somewhere in the original story. But it may just be me, I might have no concept of the subtleties of literature. Anyway, it was a very good story.

I finally got my newspaper reading up to date, Yaaa, and now feel a lot more qualified to comment on currents events. I do hope the federal government's Sorry to the stolen generation is successful, but I see the rednecks are circling. I wonder how much different Aboriginal society might be today if there wasn't a rampant policy of assimilation and land dispossession, and if Aborigines had been paid for work they did last century when thousands of them were ripped off by their white masters.

I have been writing every day, so I am starting to feel like a real writer, but the word count is still not that good and has dipped in the past two weeks as I have been editing what I have written so far. So I must now go and do some writing.


Monday, January 28, 2008


Hi all,

I went and saw the new science-fiction/horror flick Cloverfield last weekend and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys monster movies. It contains plenty of thrills and frights, but very little humour. Its gimmick, like the Blair Witch Project, is that it is filmed as if filmed on video by one of the main characters. So the camera jiggles around a lot, especially when they are running, and lingers on ears and boots. If you sit there hoping that the film will revert to normal cinematic conventions, it doesn't.

Like the under-rated science-fiction film "Signs", the film follows one group of people and there are only fleeting glimpses on televisions as to what the authorities think is happening. The film leaves a lot unexplained, so it's up to the viewer's imagination to fill in the gaps: this is not a film for someone who needs everything neatly resolved and explained at the end.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The future of books

Hi all,

A number of articles I have read lately have questioned the novel's future. One article in the Age concerned a report from the National Endowment for the Arts in the US. It said 19% of 17 year-olds and half 18-24 year-olds never read for pleasure. The article did not have figures from previous years for comparison. I know I read very little from about age 16 to 30. During my last two years of high school I suffered the usual dislike of books because of the way we had to analyse them and come to the same conclusions as the teacher and examiners (They have not heard that the Author is dead and it's up to each individual reader how he or she interprets a novel, a scene, an action, a smile.) At Uni I read LOR and the six book "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" for pleasure and that was about it. And then work came along, along with the hassle of finding my place in the world. I actually think it is normal for people in these age groups not to read for pleasure, with many becoming hooked on books again after they become bored with alcohol and drugs and have settled down (not that I've settled down).

In an article in the July 1999 edition of Asimov, Norman Spinrad says that the percentage of people reading speculative fiction is decreasing. He puts this down to the fact that the overall percentage of people reading for pleasure is decreasing. He says, like many other commentators, that people have too many other forms of entertainment these days. He makes an interesting point that people can get their action and thrills from TV and computer games and therefore feels that the only novels that have a future are those with elements that can't successfully be shown on film or played in a game. He thinks that novels that rely heavily on the innermost thoughts of their characters will survive, whereas simple action, thriller and detective novels will die as their readers turn to games and film. Interestingly, I read a review of "The Golden Compass" that said the film pales against the award winning book it is based on, "Northern Lights" by Philip Pullman, because it can't show what is going on inside the main character's head. I have read "Northern Lights", but not seen the film yet, and it spends a fair bit of time inside Lyra's head. I also know that many of my favourite novels, like "1984", "The Scar" by China Melville, "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman and the above mentioned "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant", spend a great deal of time inside the main character's head - this is probably one reason that the Chronicles have not been made into a film.

I try to write fiction that gets inside the heads of my characters.

Further to the future of the book, Picador in Britain have announced that only literature novels that have a guarantee of making a profit will be released in hardback. I think a few of their authors might be annoyed with them. Having said that, I rarely buy hardbacks, the few I own were Christmas presents or purchased secondhand.

Finally, to my surprise the recently released collection "Best Australian Short Stories 2007" edited by Robert Drewe has at least two speculative fiction short stories in it. One by Sean Williams and the other by Paddy O'Reilly. Here I was thinking that many in the literature world thought that speculative fiction was a load of pulp. Perhaps the award winning "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy has helped persuade a few people that speculative fiction can be, and is often, tremendous writing.