Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Year's Best Science Fiction 31.

In the new millennium, what secrets lay beyond the far reaches of the universe? What mysteries belie the truths we once held to be self evident? The world of science fiction has long been a porthole into the realities of tomorrow, blurring the line between life and art. Now, in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection the very best SF authors explore ideas of a new world in the year's best short stories. This venerable collection brings together award winning authors and masters of the field such as Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Damien Broderick, Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley and John Barnes. And with an extensive recommended reading guide and a summation of the year in science fiction, this annual compilation has become the definitive must-read anthology for all science fiction fans and readers interested in breaking into the genre.

Some familiar names here in this just released collection. Check out the right hand side of the dust jacket. Then go and buy a copy!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Aw Nuts

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Insomnia again.
Where's my axe?

So Much to Learn

One does learn some interesting things in the mountains of Crete, and sometimes in its beachfront bars when conversation rises above the tedious.

I have learned in detail how the Beaufort scale, which they use here in weather forecasts, is supposedly obsolete. I’m guessing this might come as a surprise to the Met Office but who are they to question the wisdom of the Quizmaster General? *snigger*

I learned, when someone brought in a dead one after his swim, that the puffer fish is here called the lagos psari (rabbit fish). Why this should be the case is a bit of a puzzle to me, when one considers Walking Dead implications of trying to eat one of the buggers. On a side note, I wonder what killed the fish, and what killed the turtle washed up here a few weeks back. One of the restaurant owners swiftly snatched up this item – most likely for the value of its shell and hopefully not to turn it into a few hundred servings of soup. Of course, in reference to recent news articles about Crete, I do wonder when the crocodile steaks will be appearing in restaurants in the Rethymnon area... 

I learned that an underwater camera, wifi linked to a smart phone, is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike, since the range between the phone and the camera is about twenty feet.

Another one I keep learning, from those who see me using an electronic cigarette, is how terribly bad for me this device is. Quite often, those who anxiously wish to inform me of this ‘fact’, are in the process of making a roll-up or sparking up a Marlborough. I have thus far managed to restrain myself from telling them to stop talking bollocks and again tiredly inform them about the vested interests trying to kill the electronic cigarette (governments, big pharma, big tobacco, and the rent-seekers in the health activist industry). I then go off and swim the three-quarters of a mile I could never manage before without coughing up something nasty.

And here in the mountains I learned that people without dogs sadly don’t understand how owners see their pets as members of the family – like one of their children. I must say the information has come as a revelation to me, because I wasn’t aware that parents allowed their children to yap repeatedly and bite people. Then again, in one bar, I learned of a woman fostering some twins who she has had to teach basics like eating with a knife and fork, so barking and biting are not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Current mood: tetchy.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A Blasted Heath

I was on the beach the other day when someone said, ‘Is there a fire up there?’ From the mountains, in a long swathe, the sky was stained umber. ‘Probably the power station,’ said someone else, and the matter dropped from my mind (The power station up the coast often spews out a filthy plume – probably when it’s ramping up output to compensate when the wind turbines have stopped ... because it’s too windy). 

On a following morning Tim phoned me from Armeni to check if everything was all right at Papagianades – if the fire had reached that far. He then described the Armageddon occurring in the mountains behind my house and to which I had been oblivious until then. Only after that phone call did I walk outside and notice the helicopters flying over to pick up tons of seawater to drop on this fire.

After hearing that the fire was out, I determined to go up and look, and take some pictures. I was especially concerned because the fire had burned across the areas I had been walking over during the previous months. The following morning turned out to be unseasonably cloudy, so good for a walk. I charged up my camera, found the bloody thing had decided to give up on me (the lens comes out then immediately goes back again – maybe a new battery required?) so picked up my Ipad and took that. The walk I took was a 6.5 mile circuit that sort of encompassed the fire. At no point, once I was outside of Papagianades, was the fire damage out of sight.  
On the way up to the top of the mountain about a mile behind my house. 

Higher still.

The view back towards Papagianades.

Up at the top. The wind turbines had been protected since they were surrounded by unburned growth. Chunks of melted fire hose scattered here and there were testament to the battle fought up here over a few days.

Some areas looking like those Var and Saul tramped through.

Burned out hill lying maybe two miles away from where I was standing.

View along the line of the turbines.

Towards Handras.

Must do a compare and contrast with this picture. Earlier in this blog you'll find exactly the same view, though in the Spring...

A couple along the line of the turbines again.

Burnt out slopes on the way down to Handras.

Slightly sick looking olive grove. Not sure how far beyond what you see here the fire went. It might have gone on for miles more.

Looking back towards the mountains from Handras.

Fire tenders in Handras.

One of the many sentinel tenders parked all around the fire. Apparently they stay in the area for days just in case the fire flares up again.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Mr Brick-in-Sock

I’ve had quite an odd day today. Mr Insomnia’s opposite Mr Brick-in-Sock visited me last night and cold-cocked me for eight hours. I then got up and had a large breakfast whereupon he crept up behind me and knocked me out again for a further two hours. I felt absolutely knackered. I guess this was payback for lack of sleep and miles of swimming over the last few weeks. However, by midday I was starting to come around and started working on the copy editor’s notes and queries for Dark Intelligence.

This, for some reason, I found quite difficult, so diverted myself by cleaning my house. It was about time. Though I’m quite neat when it comes to putting things away and washing up etc, I have been neglecting the dusting and mopping. Next, at about 3.00PM, I felt hungry again so made some sandwiches. Obviously, this was Mr Brick-in-Sock’s cue to pay a visit again because after eating I collapsed for a further hour.

Now I’ve finished off the replies to the copy editor, done some ironing, swept up outside and am now wondering what to do with myself. It’s time, I guess, to get back to working through the next Transformation book: Factory Station Room 101 (working title until my editor tells me its too long, or something). Somewhere, in one of the notepads on this desk, I wrote down the page number I’d reached...