Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Far Too Much Ranting Here

Wednesday 20th July

Ah, I see that the prick who chucked a shaving foam pie during that Murdock inquiry was a member of the Labour Party. Wow, what a surprise. Meanwhile BBC reporters are interviewing Guardian reporters about this in a nepotistic glee-fest whilst Labour Party politicians continue to use it all to gain political capital, which of course is much more fun than examining how they screwed over the country for a decade and a half then trying to figure out how not to fuck up the next time they are in power. Bored now – move on.

Thursday 21st July
Whilst statist dick heads call for more control of the media because of this phone hacking, further statist dick heads in Brussels call for more centralized power over Europe’s finances because, as expected, the PIIGS are coming apart at the seams. You see, just give more control to the politicians and everything will be better, which they tell you time and time again, despite the fact that most of them couldn’t find their backsides with both hands and instructions issued by a focus group. Of course, following these power grabs to their conclusion you get ‘the Committee’ in The Departure, but unfortunately without anyone like Alan Saul on the scene.

Look forward to a future of zero asset and societal asset status citizens, state ownership of everything with everything being issued to you on the basis of how useful you are to the state. Look forward to ID implants and cameras monitoring you in your home, state ownership of the media to ‘free it from commercial concerns’, public protest put down by pain amplifiers, political officers on every street, a government controlled Internet and a monolithic nightmare bureaucracy. And, once all this is established, look forward to a Chairman Alessandro Messina or a Serene Galahad using a ‘pragmatic approach’ to solving Earth’s population problems...

Welcome to the future.

Friday 22nd July
Ah, I see that to deal with the debt crisis European leaders have decided that the private sector will voluntarily ‘take a hit’. This is an interesting use of the word ‘voluntarily’ don’t you think? I guess our government is of the opinion that we all voluntarily pay taxes, that smokers voluntarily forgo cigarettes in all public buildings, that burglars voluntarily go to prison, that people with macular degeneration voluntarily forgo the drugs they need and voluntarily go blind and that Gadaffi will voluntarily die if NATO forces manage to drop a bomb on him. Orwell called it ‘newspeak’, which is much more concise than my ‘disconnected from reality politician prat speak’.

I note that America is boiling at the moment and we must feel sorry for those poor little darlings who aren’t working in air conditioned offices there. Gosh how they are suffering what with having to wear less clothes and drink more. How can they possibly get through this? Of course there has been a death toll, just getting into double figures, but please, get real. There are always people who are in spitting distance of the grave – a bloody lot of them in a population of getting on for 300 million – and if the heat doesn’t carry them off then the next bug they catch will or, more likely, the next winter will. You see, the reality is that winter cold kills more of the vulnerable than summer heat, but of course your local tambourine waving hair-shirt environmentalist doesn’t want you to know that.

Wow, though my contempt for government, any government whether Labour or Conservative led, is boundless, I have to tip my hat to whichever politicians or civil servants were involved in drafting the new ‘simple’ tax return. All Gordon Brown’s accumulation of totalitarian snooping into my financial affairs, which are none of his damned business, has been binned. This tax return has extended the simple three-figure accounting beyond its previous limit of £15,000 and so resulted in large portions of the self-employed populace breathing a sigh of relief. And this is a smart move: if you’re not getting angry with the damned thing you’re more likely to just fill it in and send it off, rather than agonize over the details, spend out on an accountant firstly because you’re confused and secondly to try and reduce your pay out, and then wait until the last minute to send it in.

Now what we need is for some bright spark to realize that increasing the tax load on the self employed, so that the more they earn the more they pay, results in many of them saying, ‘Fuck you, I am not paying your 40% (well, over 50% with NI). What I am going to do is simply stop working once I’ve earned up to that limit. Ever heard of the Laffer curve you bunch of parasites?’

In fact, I submit that if governments wanted more revenue generated, as well as a cut off point below which individuals don’t pay tax, they should have a cut off point above which no tax should be paid. Or, alternatively, tax should not escalate but be at a flat rate, thus negating the increasing resentment of those who are smarter and work harder and thus earn more. Ack, enough, this has been gone over ad nauseum elsewhere.

Monday 25th July
I think Biafra was the first name to stick in my head in connection with war and starvation in Africa and now Somalia is adding itself (again) to a lengthy list. Here’s an idea for the people of Africa: build up your infrastructure, store food and water, and stop having so many kids. Also, when someone cries, ‘God is great!’ and ‘I will die for my god!’ or ‘I will die for Jesus!’ or ‘The Umbaluba tribe is first and I will die for my tribe!’ or ‘I will die for the red flag!’ then oblige them with a bullet through the back of the head and spend the rest of the day digging a well. Because you can be damned sure that what they mean is that others should be doing the dying. And you can also be damned sure that no Koran, Bible, Communist Manifesto or shrunken head on a stick is going to put food and drink in your dying child’s mouth.

So, Norway has joined much of the rest of the world in the unhappy nutcase with a grudge club. The guy who detonated the bomb, and who went on to murder eighty plus teenagers before calmly putting down his weapons when the police arrived, now has legal representation and is pleading ‘not guilty’. So where are Gene Wolfe’s Severian and Guild of Torturers to deal with this sort of crime? Perhaps his punishment should be the same as the one the Turks visited upon the Cretan revolutionary Daskalogiannis, when they skinned him alive in the central square of Iraklion.

Oh, and, as I half expected, some prick in the Norwegian police, or some prick in the BBC misquoting, said, ‘This was a mad man and not an Islamic terrorist.’ I see, that would be because the religious and political beliefs of Islamic terrorists disincline them from blowing up and shooting innocent people? One would have thought that this guy ensuring he wasn’t there when the bomb went off puts him slightly higher on the sanity scale.

Also note the oddity of people going to church to pray for the victims of this right-wing Christian nut-job.

And on a final note today, ‘No—no—no—’ was the wrong answer Amy.

Less ranting next time – I promise.

Tuesday 26th July
With Zero Point off at Macmillan I’m now focusing my attention on Jupiter War which, at over 70,000 words is now past my guestimate halfway point but which, if Zero Point is anything to go by, has yet to reach it (Zero Point was over 150,000 words). Even as I write this next book, which isn’t due in to Macmillan for a year or more and probably won’t be published until two years hence, I’m considering where to go with the remaining books of my contract. Some of you may have read the story Owner Space, which I think was published by Gardner Dozois – I’ll have to check. I may head off in that direction and write about the Owner’s first encounters with the Grazen hive and the subsequent ‘misunderstanding’.

I got asked by someone yesterday how many books I’ve written and, as ever, found myself losing track. Did he mean ‘How many books have you had published?’ and should books that have been published then updated and released again by a new publisher be discounted? Do novellas count? Can we please try and narrow the question down a bit? Before Macmillan I had one book published by Gordon MacGregor called Mindgames: Fool’s Mate, then two books published by the small press publisher Tanjen, these being The Parasite and The Engineer. In contractual order Macmillan have published Gridlinked, The Skinner, The Line of Polity, Cowl, Brass Man, The Voyage of the Sable Keech, Polity Agent, Hilldiggers, Line War, Orbus, The Technician with outliers being Prador Moon, The Shadow of the Scorpion (both of these first published by Nightshade Books) and the short story collection The Gabble. Wildside Press publish a book containing two novellas with the overall title Africa Zero, along with the updated version of The Engineer called The Engineer ReConditioned. So, discounting the last of these since it’s sort of a reprint, I have had eighteen books published. (Have I forgotten any? Oh and this list will do for the guy who asked on Twitter about the order of publication.)

However, if you want to specifically stick with ‘how many have I written’ one can then add The Departure and Zero Point, then the books that have been sitting in my files from a time when my hair wasn’t grey. These are the fantasy trilogy The Road to the Yellow tower including The Staff of Sorrows, Assassin out of Twilight and The Yellow Tower. Also there’s the first book of the next trilogy, Creatures of the Staff, then a novel that was once contemporary called Frog Wine, bringing the total of written books up to twenty-five.

Fuck that’s a lot of words.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting Hacked Off with Phone Hacking etc.

Wednesday 13th July

Well, apparently ‘the public’ is ‘shocked and horrified’ by this ‘phone hacking scandal’. Personally I’d like to know where we can find this public (first name Joe?) so as to tell him to stop it so we can get back to some interesting and relevant news stories. Of course the cynics amongst us might note the relish with which Murdock’s competitors are attacking him. The BBC presenters and reporters are positively dribbling at the mouth as they wheel out endless bumf about how horrifying it all is, meanwhile quickly skimming over unimportant stuff like wars, earthquakes, financial collapses, plagues and assassinations (of course the elitist lefty pricks at the BBC have no interest in who ends up in control of BSkyB, ho ho). They even had the temerity to take the hockey mask off a tearful Gordon Brown so he could witter on about how terrible it all was for him. Oh yeah, well I think a few more tears have been shed by the millions of people that Anti-Midas butt-fucked over a decade and a half. Next, after a few other outraged Labour Party MPs, we got the goggle-eyed millipede demanding controls and jail time for anyone who does not love Labour. What a wanker. The Cameroon got a bit of air time too, for balance, but I couldn’t distinguish him from the previous lot.

Still considering things political I see that now Ireland’s credit rating has been cut to junk status, now joining Greece and Portugal (and Italy soon). Meanwhile the Euro MPs demand controls on and sanctions against the credit rating agencies involved. Nothing must stand in the way of the European project, not even reality. Of course the MPs aren’t getting into a panic because of how the financial collapses of countries might affect those who live in them, but because their whole project seems to be falling apart and that could result in a termination of the flow into the Brussels’ trough.

Ack, enough of that. I’m working my way through Zero Point and should be sending it to Macmillan by the time you are reading this. I think you’ll like it but, of course, neither you nor I will know for a year or more.

Thursday 14th July
Ah, I see the Murdock has been forced to drop his attempt to take full control of BSkyB, but now lefties across the world are howling for blood. Like the cowards they are they see a weakness in an enemy and scoot out of the shadows to get the knife in and, of course, this is all a wonderful chance for them to grandstand, make political capital and a distraction from how they are just sacks of wind (Milliband being a prime example). Certainly the Democrats in America are finding this a welcome distraction from 14.3 trillion dollars of debt. Ooh I love the smell of burning witches in the morning...

Friday 15th July
With hints that the phones of 911 victims were hacked, the ‘phone hacking scandal’ grows upon the smell of a compensation feeding-frenzy in America. The Murdock-haters are doing the best they can to keep it running, but I guess Murdock himself, more than anyone else, is aware of how today’s front page news is tomorrow’s chip paper. And, regarding his dumping of News of the World, running a media empire he’s also aware that this decade’s newspaper is the next decade’s profitless website...

Now why am I writing about this? It’s a morning reaction to the news of, ‘Oh not that load of wank again’.

I’ve finished the read-through and addition of chapter starts to Zero Point – rather quicker than I expected – and have now returned to Jupiter War. I’m 66,000 words into that and presently resolving some plot points. I need certain things to happen all over a short period of time and need them to be both plausible and not too chaotic a mixture.

Okay, back to Crete and its environs. A number of years ago I bought some succulents from one of the roadside sellers in Sitia. These produced excellent flowers and I collected the seeds from them to grow them again the following year. I then bought more with different colours, and collected the seeds from them too. This year I’ve grown these succulents from seed in red, yellow, cerise and salmon pink. They’ve come up a lot better this time and there are a few crosses, mutations or reversions in there, because white and orange ones have appeared now too. Maybe I’ve asked this before (and forgotten the answer) but does anyone know the name of these?

We’ve had guests in the ‘ruin’ over the last week (Caroline’s parents) and they seem to be finding it comfortable enough. Having separate accommodation like this certainly has its advantages: no need to put on pants when going to the toilet in the night, no need to cook a breakfast for four, breathing spaces and periods of needed privacy. And thinking on the last of these I see that the Cretan family, who were the bane of our lives for a couple of years with their inability (or plain refusal to) to understand the concept of privacy, have now attached themselves like leeches to the new Belgian neighbour. Perhaps he’s quite happy with that, I don’t know. We weren’t and it took me, after much agonizing, finally losing my English politeness and starting to shout to get them to back off.

It’s interesting here to see how various expats have dealt with similar problems. I see a lot of compromises around me where people are perpetually invaded by their ‘Cretan friends’ and kid themselves that this is all okay, not a problem and ‘aren’t we integrating well’. Others put up fences and have to ensure that their doors are locked, whilst still others have come out the other side of the home invasions when surrounding Cretans have either accepted their need for privacy or grown bored with the game. As a foreigner you are a source of entertainment, a curiosity, someone to be pontificated to about the correct way to do things and a person whose home can be invaded at will. Of course, if you stroll into a Cretan’s home in the same manner, demand coffee and start picking up items and asking how much they cost, you soon discover that the traffic is all one-way.

Saturday 16th June
This Belgian guy moving in next door has raised all sorts of unpleasant memories of our initial time here. Wandering back from Makrigialos a couple of nights ago we noted the Cretan female neighbour, and one of her small sons, sitting out on their roof. Now what’s the problem there you might wonder, it’s a beautiful little Cretan village with wonderful views. Well, no, they were sitting facing the Belgian’s front garden and courtyard, staring and waiting.

How reminded we were of her sitting in our house, staring, whilst I struggled with my Greek to find some way to explain to her that no, we don’t like her stepping over onto our front terrace and pressing her nose up to the glass doors, then immediately stepping inside, uninvited, when I open them and, really, we’ve got a leaking roof that needs fixing and we’re living in a dump sitting on plastic chairs and I have books to write and would she kindly piss off? And oh, incidentally, could she please stop her kids coming inside when we leave any door open, since this is our house and not their playground and our belongings are not their toys?

I actually wrote more about our first two years here but then decided it best not to publish it on this blog, it being potentially libellous. I’ve dumped it into a file named ‘Cicada Scream’ which will be the title of a book about our time here, if I ever get round to being able to concentrate on it without wincing. Some stories, really, can be too painful to tell.

Monday 18th July
I see that there’s been loads more about the ‘phone hacking scandal’ with resignations, arrests and further lefties (like the Australian Greens, who might have some desalination plants going cheap) leaping onto the bandwagon. Numerous are the cries about media monopolies and more control of the media. Okay, so who is going to ‘control’ the media and decide what monopolies should be broken up, the same people presently conducting this witch hunt? That will mean that the BBC monopoly will continue untouched because it is on-message, whilst you can guarantee that if the newspaper concerned had been the Guardian the whole damned thing would have been played down. Don’t for one moment be fooled into thinking this is all about integrity in the media, it’s about partisan politics.

The temperatures are zooming up here now. This morning at 9.00 it’s 27 in the shade and steadily on the rise. Interestingly, just lately, the addition of those roof windows and them letting in the early and late sunlight has resulted in the inside temperature being fractionally higher than the temperature outside (where the sensor is on the front wall) when, previously, the temperature inside was always two or three degrees lower. Maybe this will result in us having to use the bedroom fan – which we haven’t used – and maybe we’ll end up getting quite hot in August, but the benefits from this in early spring and late autumn will certainly outweigh that.

Oh, and here’s a picture from Revans Bar. Once, last year, I glanced over to Kostis behind the bar then, just half a second later found him standing by our table serving our drinks. I was certain I hadn’t drunk enough to start experiencing blackouts then, after a little confusion, and a ‘hang on what the fuck is going on here’ moment, it all came clear. Kostis is the one on the right and is older than his brother Lefteris by maybe five or ten minutes.

Tuesday 19th July
Oh dear, more resignations and now a death. Now if Murdock had had someone bumped off because of all this then that would be an interesting story. But it seems unlikely and really the whole farrago is just uninteresting and irritating now. Harriet Harman was this morning relishing this as a way of attacking Cameron because he hired one of those involved. Really, those at the top of Labour over their decade and a half reign should really be hiding in shame, or they should be in prison. Oh hell, Millipede and the Anti-Midas Brown again, and more about how ‘the nation has been shocked and horrified’. I feel sure that the wankers at the BBC are as disconnected from ‘the nation’ as the politicians. Only the professionally offended are shocked and horrified by this circus, the rest of us have lives to live.

Advice to foreign home buyers everywhere: make sure your house is too small to accommodate visiting relatives. Remember that people you can tolerate for one evening become potential murder victims over two weeks.


Well, the last ever US shuttle mission is drawing to an end. I wonder how long it’ll be before the space station is abandoned whilst politicians on Earth concentrate on such critical occupations like bombing Arabs, wasting money on windmills, buying off large numbers of those who vote for them by employing them in pointless bureaucracies, taxing businesses to extinction whilst pocketing huge salaries and expense claims and growing increasingly disconnected from reality by their perception of how important they are.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And Another One

Here at World in Ink...

The Orwellian intro had me utterly hooked right from the start. I simply couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end. Like an addict trying to ration out a limited supply I forced myself to take things slow and over the course of four days I completely lost myself in the far too plausible 1984-esque future Neal brings to life.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Departure Reviews

Here's one at the Fantasy Book Review:

This is not a Polity novel. Anyone expecting that is probably going to find this book a bit of a shock. There are no snarky, gun-toting battle AIs, no planet-vaporizing weapons, and augmented humans are in their earliest phase of evolution. This could well be our world a few years from now. The story is predominantly set on Earth, partly on Mars and the Argus station, all under the dictatorship of the Committee. The top 20% of the population live a life of luxury, while those less ‘useful’ citizens are consigned to ZA – Zero Asset status – to starve in the wastelands of a once-fertile Earth. Say the wrong thing, object to your status, and you’ll find yourself being ‘readjusted’ or sent to the digesters.

Roof Windows and NUTS.

Thursday 30th June

Perfectly in line with my previous comments about state-sector parasites I see that public-sector workers are coming out on strike in Britain today to protest against the cuts (not forgetting that the only cuts we’re getting are in the increase in spending). Seeing who is involved I fail to see what effect Inland Revenue workers going on strike will have, other than causing a concerted cheer. I also fail to see what effect a Border Agency strike will have, other than a day in which blue-rinse grannies won’t be searched for explosives and smokers won’t be illegally hassled for the amount of tobacco and cigarettes they buy.

The teacher NUTS were out in a mass of corduroy and facial hair waving their placards and shouting, ‘Cameron out!’ which tends to imply, ‘Miliband in!’ and didn’t the Labour Party do a great job last time? I wonder what their answer to the national debt is, oh yeah, tax the private sector because of course it is a bottomless well of free money. Meanwhile it’s perfectly right that private sectors workers should work harder, for longer, and have smaller pensions. It’s quite frightening that these tossers have control over the development of young minds.

Wednesday 6th June
Well, on the Thursday above the builders turned up to start cutting holes in our house. First the solar panel had to be moved to make room for the one over the kitchen, then the intention was to cut through with a big diamond wheel cutter and chisel out the rest. However, the belt snapped on that so they resorted to a smaller cutter and electric chisels. I now see that the roof is a lot thicker than I thought i.e. the builders who renovated this house laid the new roof over the top of the old. During the next two and a half days it was all noise and the resultant dust and rubble. Luckily we now have the ‘ruin’ which, that evening and the following evening, we moved into for the night. Here’s some pictures of how it was:

On Friday the air vents went in and finally on Saturday morning the windows were fixed in place. They tidied up nicely but like many Greek and Albanian builders here their finishing left a lot to be desired. I rather suspect that using silicon as tile grout isn’t a great idea:

Afterwards I went up there and finished the job myself: