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Today was Open Monument Day in Flanders, when various historical sites are on display and particular activities laid on for the interested public. F and I struck eastwards, to Neerwinden and to Tienen, both places which I already know well but where there was a little extra being provided.

In Neerwinden, site of a terrible battle in 1693 (and again 1793), Wim from the local historical society was providing a guided tour of the battlefield. Here he is at the chapel of the Holy Cross, north of Neerwinden, taking us over the course of the battle.

Alas, the battlefield itself doesn't give tremendously good photographs, since it is quite literally a set of fields. However another local enthusiast demonstrated the use of contemporary firearms for us:



Apart from Tristram Shandy and Lord Perth, quoted in my previous entry, Wim told us a couple more anecdotes worth following up. One concerns the Duke of Berwick, son of James II and Arabella Churchill, who was fighting on the French side of the battle, got cut off and tried to escape posing as an Allied officer, and had the misfortune to encounter his own uncle - not the future Duke of Marlborough but his younger brother Charles - and was captured by him. In fact, here it is in Berwick's own words:



This interests me particularly because in 1695 Berwick married Honora, the young widow of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, who died of wounds sustained in the Battle of Neerwinden and is apparently buried in Huy. Honora's brother John was my 5x great-grandfather.

The other fascinating story, which I must now chase down, is that another of the soldiers captured during the battle (but this time the other way round, an Irish soldier fighting for the Allies but captured by the French) was actually a disguised woman, known variously as Christian Davies or Mother Ross, whose story was told many years later in a book attributed to Daniel Defoe. I must have a closer look at that.

After that F and I went into Tienen for lunch, where we bumped into a man with a Siberian eagle-owl on his arm. As you do. The owl's name is Siba.


The Three Tumuli, as reported previously, have been massively cleaned up from their condition when I first visited them, and today was the official opening day.

We met up with P, who was a big part of F's school career, with her daughter M, to see what was up.

There was Roman re-enactment.

And a Celtic band.

By now P's wife E had joined us, and their older daughter S. We were treated to a very gory explanation of Roman battlefield medicine. S took it all in with such great interest, and helped out with extracting a slingshot projectile; I wonder if a medical career lies in front of her.

A lovely warm day, and the exercise did me no harm at all.

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Jenny - the Doctor's Daughter

Cue excellent theme tune.

Big Finish have scored a major coup by persuading Georgia Tennant to return to her brief role as Jenny, the Tenth Doctor's cloned daughter, for more sfnal adventures across space and time, flanked by Sean Biggerstaff as the innocent but mysterious Noah, and both pursued by Siân Philips (who was Livia in I, Claudius forty years ago) as a vengeful cyborg, the Colt-5000. (Georgia Moffatt, as she then was, had a part in a Big Finish audio back in 2000, when she was only 16.)

The first of four stories here, Stolen Goods by Matt Fitton, brings back the established Big Finish character of Garundel, a venal and rather camp space frog (played by Stuart Milligan who was President Nixon on screen), who attempts to get the better of Jenny in a complex but well-portrayed insurance scam. The plot doesn't occupy a lot of the hour, which leaves plenty of time for exposition and scene-setting, ending with the introduction of Philips's cyborg bounty hunter. The dialogue sparkles and Jenny is clearly established as a character to look out for. Also glad to hear Clare Corbett, who is a favourite voice actor of mine, though not that impressed that her character is coded as non-white.

The best of the bunch is the second story, Prisoner of the Ood, by John Dorney (who gives himself a small part as a grumpy writer called John). The narrative jumps forward a bit from the first story, and we gradually find out what happened in the meantime by via flashbacks. Jenny finds herself in a contemprary English village, and quickly makes friends with newly moved in Angie (played by Arabella Weir, herself a former Doctor); but the Ood, led as on television by Silas Carson, have arrived and only slowly does it become clear who they are looking for. It's played for laughs to a certain extent but is also rather chilling in places.

Neon Reign, by Christian Brassington (a new writer for the Whoniverse who played the showman in The Silver Turk and is briefly seen in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, and is incidentally godfather to the Tennants' younger son) has good bits and less good bits. It is a well-realised soundscape of a Blade Runner-like future world, ruled by the mysterious Dragon Lord, where all men are addicted to stupefying drugs and all women work themselves to the bone to keep things going. The story's take on sexism isn't especially subtle or sophisticated, and though Moffatt and Biggerstaff keep up the energy level as they plot the inevitable revolution, it's the weakest of the set, with background info about Biggerstaff’s character rather heavily inserted. Pik-Sen Lim, seen in The Mind of Evil back in 1971, has a welcome return to the Whoniverse. (Most of the incidental characters are played by Chinese actors.)

Finally, Zero Space, by Adrian Poynton, takes Jenny and Noah to a place in the universe where there is nothing but a space station inhabited by clones of its two founders, all brilliantly played by Adele Anderson and Anthony Calf (whose first TV role was in The Visitation, where he is killed three minutes into the first episode, and also played Colonel Godsacre in The Empress of Mars). The set-up is very good, and the small cast (joined again by Siân Philips, with a "surprise" cameo at the end from someone else) excellent, but I felt that the script muffed a couple of key points - it's not at all clear why Jenny being threatened with being cloned should be such a big deal; it's treated as if it would be fatal to her; and the ending leaves us with something of a reset button, the mystery of Noah's origins unresolved. It's also unexpectedly short - 45 minutes, whereas the other three are over an hour. The rest of the space is filled with the excellent incidental music of Joe Kraemer.

There's a nice behind-the-scenes disc as well. I generally liked this box set, with reservations about the fourth and especially the third installment; I do think it would be pretty acessible to fans of the Tenth Doctor era who had not listened to any other Big Finish, and could even be a gateway drug for them. You can get it here.

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Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

Second paragraph of third chapter:
But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It. Only the big units like this one have their own doors. Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators. These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.
This popped to the top of one of my lists just at the moment that I have been reading some of the other award winners from 1994. Snow Crash was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (won by Jeff Noon's Vurt) and the BSFA Award (won by Christopher Evans' The Aztec Century); also on both of those shortlists was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree. The Hugo for Best Novel was shared between A Fire On The Deep and Doomsday Book, the latter winning the Nebula as well; Snow Crash was on the Hugo long-list, but nowhere for the Nebula. (It did win two awards in French translation, and one in Spanish.)

This is surely one of those cases where the awards in general (and particularly across the Atlantic) failed to spot the classic in the making: Snow Crash now has more owners on LibraryThing than any two of the other books named above combined (which is why I read it; see below). I think it's much the best of them. It's the very breathless tale of Mafia pizza deliverer and swordsman Hiro Protagonist, and teenage skateboard courier Y.T., in a fractured future West Coast America where sovereignty has been downsized to micro-nation enclaves guarded by cyborg dogs, and many people spend much of their time online in the Metaverse. In the middle of all this, an evil evangelical Christian leader is planning to take mass control of human brains through a combination of the latest software developments and an ancient Sumerian curse (the Snow Crash of the title). The whole thing is packed with lore in a way that Stephenson later went overboard with. I know that Neuromancer is generally regarded in high esteem, but I have always bounced off it, and Snow Crash is the archetypal cyberpunk novel for me.

There are some points that have not aged well. The Metaverse inspired many games (including Quake and Second Life) but in fact it turns out that virtual reality is as Balkanised as the meatspace of Snow Crash, with every company and franchise holding onto its own walled gardens. I can't see this changing; perhaps some virtual spaces in the end will grow and dominate, but there isn't an underlying systemic reason for them all to unite Internet-like. It's also notable that everyone who logs into the Metaverse arrives at the same point and then must virtually travel to their desired locations, rather than logging into the place they want to be. 1993 was probably the last year that a novel like this could be written without mobile phone technology; Y.T. has to find land lines to call her mother from. You can only log into the Metaverse from fixed terminals. Stephenson's characters zoom around California at high speed, but are more tied to the ground than we are.

Also it has to be said that apart from Y.T., all the major characters are alpha males (including the cyborg dog Fido). It's a book of its time. Apparently Amazon are making a screen version. Meanwhile you can get the book here.

This was the top book on my shelves that I had already read but never got around to blogging. Next on that list is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon.

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Second paragraph of third chapter ("Pulling Ourselves Out of the Mud", by Yao Yiyu):
In 2001, we managed to develop and launch our next-generation switch, iNET, in a stunningly short time. What awaited us was not ovation or praise, but harsh reality: the customer did not want our product in their network.
A couple of weeks ago I read the companion volume to this, Huawei Stories: Pioneers, which looked at the geographical challenges faced by a Chinese company on its way to becoming a global phenomenon, and really enjoyed it. This volume concentrates on the technical challenges that have faced Huawei, and the difficulties in overcoming them (and they were almost all overcome); it's therefore a set of true-life Heroic Engineer tales. To be honest, I am not sufficiently well versed in mobile phone technology to appreciate the advances that were being made. There is one very entertaining chapter whose narrator, Xiong Ying, drives around his region of China looking for thunderstorms to test his equipment's resistance to lightning strikes. Another team testing equipment in Tibet found that it was affected by sunspots. The one non-Chinese writer, Renato Lombardi, tells the story of setting up Huawei's microwave research centre in Milan, and the process of cultural blending that was needed. But in general I preferred the first book. Still, you can get it here.

This was my top unread book by non-white authors. Next on that list is Seychelles: The Saga of a Small Nation Navigating the Cross-Currents of a Big World, by Sir James Mancham.

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The Laertian Gamble, by Robert Sheckley

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Linc was a graduate engineering student from Bajor University of Science and Art. He wanted to be a spacegoing engineer like O'Brien, had gotten assigned to an assistantship to O'Brien, and already he had learned more than he would have done in five years of regular practice on Bajor. He idolized O'Brien, tried to copy him in every way.
A Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel by Sheckley, who was a pretty prominent writer at one stage, though I confess I think the only things I have read by him were his comic collaborations with Roger Zelazny and Harry Harrison. This isn't terribly special; I'm aware enough of DS9 to appreciate that Sheckley captures the established main characters and puts them in a new situation; the specifics, however, didn't quite convince me - that an interplanetary gambling dispute with Quark could put the entire station (and ultimately the universe) at risk, and the odd pacing of the crisis on DS9 and Kira and Dax's excursion to a conveniently nearby planet to try and sort it all out. First DS9 book I've read - not in a rush to read more. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2012. Next on that list is The Stone Book Quartet, by Alan Garner.

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Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively

Second paragraph of third chapter:
For a moment we are still concerned with structures, with the setting of the stage. I have always been interested in beginnings. We all scrutinise our childhoods, go about the interesting business of apportioning blame. I am addicted to arrivals, to those innocent dawn moments from which history accelerates. I like to contemplate their unknowing inhabitants, busy with prosaic matters of hunger, thirst, tides, keeping the ship on course, quarrels and wet feet, their minds on anything but destiny. Those quaint figures of the Bayeux tapestry, far from quaint within their proper context, rough tough efficient fellows wrestling with ropes and sails and frenzied horses and the bawling of ill-tempered superiors. Caesar, contemplating the Sussex coast. Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, Captain Cook… all those mundane travellers preoccupied with personal gain or seized by congenital restlessness, studying compasses and dealing with the natives while they make themselves immortal.
I thought this was a tremendously good book - the story of Claudia Hampton's life, her lovers, her family, her travels through the world of the twentieth century; there are many memorable scenes, particularly from the wartime section set in Egypt. The narrative style combines first-person, a bit of onmniscience, and tight-third, the last of these sometimes from other perspectives than Claudia's (occasionally recapitulating the same scene from a different point of view), creating the sense of a life story that consists of many pieces that can be observed from different perspectives and in different ways as they are assembled to make a whole. It really grabbed me. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book by a woman, and also my top unread non-sf fiction book. Next on those stacks respectively are Byzantium, by Judith Herrin, and Burr, by Gore Vidal.

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Monday reading

Current
Byzantium, by Judith Herrin
Vurt, by Jeff Noon
The Guermantes Way, by Marcel Proust

Last books finished
Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson
Huawei Stories: Explorers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson

Next books
Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett
Dark Satanic Mills, by Marcus Sedgwick
Missing Adventures, ed. Rebecca Levene

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Second paragraph of third chapter:
Jackie had never felt fear in her entire life. She had felt caution, and unease, and sadness, and joy, which are all similar to fear. But she had never felt fear itself.
I don't think I have previously written up here my thoughts on Welcome to Night Vale, the serial podcast about life in a very strange town somewhere near (but perhaps not quite in) the Southwestern USA. The audio version, in hour-long episodes, is anchored by the reassuring tones of Cecil Baldwin as radio presenter Cecil Palmer, reporting on the horrific absurdities of the town and musing on the latest findings of his scientist boyfriend. (Incidentally, I always pronounced "Cecil" as /ˈsɛsəl/, to rhyme with "trestle", but the US pronunciation seems to be /ˈsiːsəl/, almost rhyming with "diesel".) I listened to every episode from the beginning to about the middle of 2016 and then got out of the habit, mainly due to the competing attractions of Duolingo and Pokémon GO absorbing the time that I had been spending listening to it. I still really enjoyed it, particularly the arc in which the station intern Dana Cardinal, played by Jasika Nicole, becomes mayor of Night Vale.

The novel isn't quite the same. Two women protagonists go in search of a secret which takes them out of Night vale to California; meanwhile we have interjected commentary from Cecil's radio show which isn't really connected to the plot, such as it is. I thought that the Cecil sections were funny and sinister and kept the spirit of the podcast. I was less impressed by the main plot, which started promisingly, faffed around a lot in the middle and finally reached something like a conclusion. I didn't get a strong feel for the main characters' motivations. It is a decent enough read but not as epic as the original medium. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2016. Next on that list is Hardwired, by Walter Jon Williams.
Second scene (as broadcast) from third episode:
INT. MINEHEAD POLICE STATION, INTERVIEW ROOM - NIGHT

NORMAN, exhausted, still covered in blood, faces the TWO CONSTABLES. Going over it for the fifth time:
  NORMAN
I'm sorry. But it's true. I had a homosexual relationship with Jeremy Thorpe, and if anybody wants to see me dead, then it's him -
...breaking off, puzzled, as the taller CONSTABLE, smiling, stands, beckons with a crooked finger for Norman to follow.
  NORMAN (CONT'D)
What?
He's beckoning Norman over to the wall. Norman disconcerted, but he's obedient, follows. Like it's a secret conversation:
  CONSTABLE
Now tell me that again.
      NORMAN
I had an affair with Jeremy Thorpe -
The Constable grabs Norman's head, bangs it against the wall.
  CONSTABLE
Jeremy Thorpe
            (bang)
Is a Member of Parliament
            (bang)
And a highly respected man
            (bang)
He is not
            (bang)
To be abused
            (bang)
By a lying little queer.
We missed this excellent mini-series when it first came out in June. For Who fans there is the immediate attraction of Russell T. Davies’ script and Murray Gold’s music (and a small part for Eve Myles); for British politics fans of my age and above, there is the compelling memory of a major political story revived (I met David Steel last year); for any fans of drama, there is Hugh Grant at the height of his powers, inhabiting and transforming the personality of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party accused of conspiracy to murder his former lover. (This was Hugh Grant's first acting appearance on British TV since his two minutes as the Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death.) The supporting cast are never less than solid, with standouts being the other two male leads, Ben Whishaw (who hugely impressed me as Richard II) as Thorpe's lover Norman Joliffe/Scott, and Alex Jennings (who I think I had only previously seen as Prince Charles in The Queen, which was also directed by Stephen Frears) as Thorpe's friend and fellow Liberal MP, Peter Bessell, who eventually turns against him. Michelle Dotrice, memorable from my childhood as Betty in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, also does a great vignette as pub landlady Edna Friendship.

The success of the three episodes lies in the combination of farce and high drama - the completely botched attempt to kill Scott, combined with the supremely high political stakes; but also Grant's combination of emotion and determination in his Thorpe, and Whishaw's blending of vulnerability and integrity in Scott (which Scott himself was reportedly unhappy about). There is a characteristic scene in the first episode which is both a diversion from the main drama and a crucial reinforcement of the background, where Labour MP Leo Abse visits Lord Arran, who keeps pet badgers but is motivated by family tragedy, to discuss the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which of course is the social issue that makes the queer sensibility of the entire drama possible.

The one bit where we do have to suspend our disbelief is in the ages of the actors. Grant, 58, plays Thorpe between the ages of 32 and 50; Jennings, 60, plays Bessell from 40 to 58; and both characters appear more or less the age of the actors portraying them on screen throughout. (There is one jarring line referring to Thorpe's being very young for a major party leader.) Whishaw is 37, but in better shape than Scott was at 38 in 1979. Grant's on-screen mother, Patricia Hodge, is only 14 years older than him. We've seen worse (notably, Derek Jacobi aged 58 playing Alan Turing, who died shortly before his 42nd birthday, with Prunella Scales, only four years older, as his mother), and I guess most viewers will roll with it.

We also caught Tom Mangold's 1979 documentary, The Jeremy Thorpe Scandal, which was prepared in the expectation that Thorpe would be found guilty and then (literally) canned when he was unexpectedly acquitted. I was much less happy with this, and if I'd been the commissioning editor in the BBC in 1979, I like to think that I'd have asked for more work to be done before broadcast, even if it had been decided to go ahead. For the first half of it, Mangold's argument seems to be, not that Thorpe's homosexuality was tolerated by the establishment at a time when other men where being persecuted and imprisoned (there's a story there, of course), but that Thorpe's homosexuality was a dangerous blackmailable character flaw which ought to have prevented him from achieving high office and that the establishment dangerously undermined Britain by allowing him to reach the heights he did. This is fundamentally a homophobic message, and interestingly Mangold's interviews with Peter Bessell (then) and Norman Scott (then and now) do not really support the narrative that he is trying to push.

Mangold is on firmer ground with his account of the murder conspiracy - and there really can't be any doubt that Thorpe was guilty as charged, and acquitted through George Carman's expert defence and the bias of the judge (famously mocked by Peter Cook). Though even here, Mangold suggests that the establishment, at the highest level, helped cover up Thorpe's involvement in the shooting of Scott's dog, and it's not clear to me that that is really supported by the facts; Newton, the hit-man, appears to have stated both to police and at his trial that Thorpe had nothing to do with it, changing his story only when he got out of prison, after which the justice system moved pretty fast, only to be derailed by the events of the courtroom itself. Thorpe's friendship with Harold Wilson (not referred to in RTD's script) is interesting colour, but irrelevant after Wilson's resignation in 1976, six months after Newton shot Rinka the Great Aane. Mangold's scoop in finding another hit-man who claims to have confessed to police at the time after also bottling out on his mission isn't quite as impressive as he seems to think; a much less gifted lawyer than Carman would have torn that story to shreds in seconds.

Anyway, you can skip the documentary, but do watch the series.

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Rare Unsigned Copy, by Simon Petrie

Second paragraph of third story (Fomalhaut 451):
Zia’s gloved fingers jabbed out the control sequence again, but she knew it was futile: the hab was dead this past year. She’d been sent from Central to discover how, why.
The author ran a contest several years ago offering free copies of this book to the the three people with the most interesting namesakes as revealed by Google, and of course I was up for that challenge and won. The book took a few weeks to reach me from Australia, and it took me a lot longer to get around to reading it. It's a collection of short stories, most of them very brief indeed, with a bit of a tendency to go for last-minute twists or punchlines (à la Asimov, but a little better, which is not difficult). There are several about near-future detective Gordon Mammon investigating various murders. The two that stick in my mind are "Running Lizard", which takes the unpromising concept of were-dinosaurs in the present day and carries it off very well, and the non-sfnal "Scratched" about a little girl, her brother and a mouse. I will keep an eye out for more of Petrie's work. You can get it here. (See author’s note about availabilty in a comment to this post.)

This was the sf book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next in that pile is Hybrid, by Shaun Hutson.
Second frame of page 3:

I read the first two parts of this series a couple of years ago, and have now got to volume 3 (of 6). Suske and Wiske are trapped in the devastated future world of 2047, at opposite ends of the island of Amoras, subject to the machinations of the evil Krimson. Suske has hooked up with the attractive and dangerous Jérusalem; Wiske with other unsavoury types. Meanwhile in the present day there is a parallel plotline with a young woman called Marie, in a hospital with Aunt Sidonie. There seemed to be less fanservice and more world-building in this volume, which is a good thing. Charel Cambré's art remains outstanding. The plot sometimes jumps between storylines in mid-page, which is a little disconcerting. I would have enjoyed it more if I had come back to it a bit sooner after the first two, and will get to vol 4 a bit quicker. You can get vol 3 here.

This was my top unread non-English language comic (the pilot's words in the frame above are an exception). Next on that pile, I'm glad to say, is the first of a new series by Leo, Retour sur Aldébaran.

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August Books

An amazing thing happened last Saturday: I was actually up to date with bookblogging for the first time in about two years. Of course, it couldn't last, and I am now behind again. But It was a nice feeling, for about 24 hours.

The holiday gave me another respectable total this month.

Non-fiction: 7 (YTD 37)
The Politics of Climate Change, by Anthony Giddens
The Life of Our Lord, by Charles Dickens
Huawei Stories: Pioneers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng
Wroxeter Roman City, by Roger H. White
Fair Trade, by Laura T. Reynolds, Douglas L. Murray and John Wilkinson
Women and Power, by Mary Beard
Huawei Stories: Explorers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng



Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 22)
In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, by Marcel Proust
The Deer Hunter, by Eric Corder
Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively



sf (non-Who): 12 (YTD 88)
High-Rise, by J. G. Ballard
“Ill Met in Lankhmar”, by Fritz Leiber
The Region Between, by Harlan Ellison

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Anno Dracula - Dracula Cha Cha Cha, by Kim Newman
Missile Gap, by Charles Stross
Rare Unsigned Copy, by Simon Petrie
Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
The Laertian Gamble, by Robert Sheckley
Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson



Doctor Who, etc: 6 (YTD 27)
Now We Are Six Hundred, by James Goss, illustrated by Russell T. Davies
Doctor Who Files 7: The Daleks, by Justin Richards
Doctor Who Files 8: The Cybermen, by Justin Richards
Doctor Who Files 12: The TARDIS, by Justin Richards

Time Lord, by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans
Nobody's Children, by Kate Orman, Jonathan Blum and Philip Purser-Hallard



Comics: 1 (YTD 21)
Amoras deel 3: Krimson, by Marc Legendre and Charel Cambré


~5,000 pages (YTD ~52,100)
6/29 (YTD 79/201) by non-male writers (Reynolds, Beard, Lively, Waters, Jansson, Orman - as fas as I know Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng are men)
2/29 (YTD 23/201) by PoC (Tian/Yin x2)
4/29 (YTD 12/201) reread (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, “Slow Sculpture”, Comet in Moominland, Snow Crash)

Reading now
Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson
Byzantium, by Judith Herrin
Vurt, by Jeff Noon

Coming soon (perhaps):
Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett
Dark Satanic Mills, by Marcus Sedgwick
Who I Am, by Peter Townshend
Beast Master's Planet, by Andre Norton
Putting Up Roots, by Charles Sheffield
Brewing Justice, by Daniel Jaffee
Ringworld, by Larry Niven
Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
Seychelles: The Saga of a Small Nation Navigating the Cross-Currents of a Big World, by Sir James Mancham
The Sound of his Horn, by Sarban
Retour sur Aldébaran, tome 1, by Leo
Hybrid, by Shaun Hutson
Hardwired, by Walter Jon Williams
Burr, by Gore Vidal
The Stone Book Quartet, by Alan Garner
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
Moominland Midwinter, by Tove Jansson
The Cloud Roads, by Martha Wells
Larque on the Wing, by Nancy Springer
Missing Adventures, ed. Rebecca Levene

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The Deer Hunter, by Eric Corner

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Thumping noises sounded from the bedroom above. They grew louder. There was a crash, then another, as furniture was hurled about. The a loud thud, follwoed by silence.
I saw the Oscar-winning film when I was a teenager, and was somewhat confused by it, knowing a bit about the Vietnam war but much less about the blue-collar culture which turns out to be the main theme of the story. It's a very effective film, in sound and vision, and some of it has lingered with me for three decades. It will be some time before I reach it in my current viewing sequence, however. The novelisation is a poor substitute, reminiscent of the least energetic Doctor Who novelisations; it feels like a direct transcription from the screenplay, with very limited authorial insight into the thinking or experiences of the characters. I guess that back in the ancient days of the late 1970s, before there were easily available video tapes, this was the most accessible way for fans of the film to re-experience it. If you want, you can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2011. Next on that list is Beast Master's Planet, by Andre Norton.

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Monday reading

Current
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
Huawei Stories: Explorers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng

Last books finished
The Deer Hunter, by Eric Corder
Amoras deel 3: Krimson, by Marc Legendre and Charel Cambré
Rare Unsigned Copy, by Simon Petrie
Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively
The Laertian Gamble, by Robert Sheckley

Next books
Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson
Vurt, by Jeff Noon
Missing Adventures, ed. Rebecca Levene

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Women & Power: A Manifesto, by Mary Beard

Third paragraph of first lecture, with illustration:
What interests me is the relationship between this classic Homeric moment of silencing a woman and some of the ways in which women's voices are not publicly heard in our own contemporary culture, and in our own politics from the front bench to the shop floor. It is a well-known deafness that's nicely parodied in an old Punch cartoon: 'That's an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it'. I want to reflect on how it might relate to the abuse that many women who do speak out are subjected to even now, and one of the questions at the back of my mind is the connection between publicly speaking out in support of a female logo on a banknote, Twitter threats of rape and decapitation, and Telemachus' put-down of Penelope.

'That's an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.'
2. Almost thirty years ago the cartoonist Riana Duncan captured the sexist atmosphere of the committee or the boardroom.
There is hardly a woman who has opened her mouth at a meeting and not had, at some time or other, the 'Miss Triggs treatment'.
Third paragraph of second lecture:
There are all kinds of irony to this tale. One joke that Perkins Gilman plays throughout is that the women simply don’t recognise their own achievements. They have independently created an exemplary state, one to be proud of, but when confronted by their three uninvited male visitors, who lie somewhere on the spectrum between spineless and scumbag, they tend to defer to the men’s competence, knowledge and expertise; and they are slightly in awe of the male world outside. Although they have made a utopia, they think they have messed it all up.
Though billed as a manifesto, this is actually a collection of two lectures delivered by Beard for the London Review of Books in 2014 and 2017, looking backward rather than forward - but looking very clearly. It is powerful, well-founded stuff, looking back at how women's voices have been marginalised from the political discourse of power since at least the days of Homer. It is brief but punchy - a telling illustration shows how women aspiring to power are always caricatured as Medusa (and men never are). She ties this into the phenomenon of internet trolling, which is much more visibly directed against vocal women than men. Many good points made very effectively and swiftly. Well worth getting, and you can get it here.

This was actually second on my non-fiction pile after Byzantium by Judith Herrin, but someone else was reading that so I skipped ahead to Women & Power (and did not regret doing so).

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