Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wednesday wonderland

Help for newbies

I keep having to remind myself that what has long been familiar to me is not necessarily familiar to everyone else. So perhaps it's worth mentioning that Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow have produced a new version of their book about self-publishing, using new technologies. It's called 4.0.

These guys are of course in business, and charge for their wisdom; which is fair enough. But if you want an example of their work for free (actually it's Danny Snow's work alone) you can find a free download of his book about using Lulu.

Both these books are, by the way, published by Lulu, and both come in several different versions, which is an example of how Lulu lends itself to clever marketing to different niches at absolutely minimal cost. See, for example, this search page from Lulu.

Macmillan New Writing

MNW have now made available ebook versions of some of their publications, Dead Ernest and Homunculus among them. Richard Charkin, boss man of Macmillan, blogged about this development on 1 February, and he reveals a new management tool for improving the efficiency of your (English) staff: threaten them with embarrassment.

Another MNW writer, Jonathan Drapes, was given a warm welcome at Mostly Books, in Abingdon (England). The report gives a useful account of how he finally got the book published, after nine years and 41 agents, give or take a few.

Novel twist

Interviews with authors are common enough, but here's a twist: in this case it is not the science-fiction author Simon Haynes who gets interviewed but his lead character. On 26 January Hal Spacejock talked to The Specusphere; which is pretty clever, considering that Hal lives in the 35th century.

During the course of that interview, Clunk the robot gets in the way sometimes (he's inclined to be jealous, despite what they say about robots and emotions) and so he gets to have his own interview a few days later.

Guaranteed to cause offence

It's tempting to say that it's getting very hard to shock people these days. But of course it's not hard at all. It's just that today we're shocked by things which differ from those which did it in the past.

Fifty years ago, it was unthinkable that a magazine in England could publish a pin-up photograph showing pubic hair, but now you can print whatever you like. Actually it's still difficult to show girls' pubic hair, but that's only because they all seem to have shaved (or so rumour has it; I cannot testify from personal experience, of course).

But if you really want to shock and annoy people, to the point where they will do you physical violence, you only have to make rude noises about Islam and that will do the job nicely. Or make some allegedly 'racist' remarks about the courage of Italians or the sexual morals of South Americans.

And how stands the position about Christianity, I wonder? Again, fifty years ago, a woman gave a talk on BBC radio in which she suggested that perhaps Christianity might not be 100% correct in all its teachings, and the roof fell in. I remember the uproar.

But today? Take a look, for instance, at Matthew Moses' novel Anti-Christ: A Satirical End of Days. Is this going to generate leaders in the Times, and a stiff note from one of the Archbishops? Or are people just going to shrug their shoulders, yawn, and pass by on the other side of the street. So to speak.

For sight of the first three chapters, info on the author, and more, visit the book's web site.

Speaking of religion...

The 59th Carnival of the Godless has just opened on Aardvarchaeology. The Carnival features, I understand, 'lots of new blog writing from a non-credulous perspective'. The contributors are not expecting any reward in the afterlife, so they earnestly hope to earn a click or two while they're here.

Despite the slightly frivolous tone of the above para, the Carnival does lead to a whole mass of thoughtful essays, reviews, and think pieces on some very important issues. And some of this stuff will, I think, seriously annoy the godly. We have Dr Soderstrom, for instance, who argues that the Christian fundamentalists are the most evil people on the planet. And there's much more, dealing with the compatibility of faith with science, and the problem of ethics.

This is not a place to go if you're looking for something that only takes 35 seconds to absorb.

A likely story

Amazon have drawn my attention to a new book published by Entrepreneur Magazine, and entitled Start Your Own Blogging Business. It seems that no capital is required, no effort, zero time, and masses of money just falls into your lap. My advice: don't believe everything you read. Especially in advertisements for books.

Knows what he's talking about

James Aach's technothriller Rad Decision has been available as an online read for some time, but is now in paperback. The author is an engineer with over twenty years of experience in the US nuclear industry.

Mrs Thatcher's bunker

In the Guardian (thanks to son Jon for the link), Steve Boggan provides a graphic description of the 35-acre underground site where, had the Russians ever launched their bombers or missiles, the British government would have retreated to sit out the nuclear winter.

Boggan says that the existence of this site was secret until two years ago. If so, it was one of the worst-kept secrets of all time. The various entrances to the underground complex are at Corsham, just a few miles down the road from me, and most informed citizens in the locality were well aware of the site.

The associated tunnels and workings were mainly built during world war II, and a few years ago parts of them were open to the public. Various attempts have been made to find a commercial use for the miles and miles of storage areas; but, so far as I know, without success.

For further details, including books on the subject, see Wikipedia.

A.I. Bezzerides

The Guardian yesterday recorded the death of A.I. Bezzerides, the novelist and Hollywood screenwriter who was perhaps most famous for his script of Kiss Me Deadly. Adapted from the novel by Mickey Spillane, Kiss Me Deadly was filmed in three weeks, in 1955, by Robert Aldrich. It is one of the most famous examples of noir cinema.

The Guardian obit is a long and thorough piece, but then the Guardian has a thing about Kiss Me Deadly, as indeed do I. See, for instance, Alex Cox's piece from 2006. Of course, the intellectuals will have you believe that it's all a parable, or a metaphor, or whatever. But you don't need to worry about all that horseshit; it's just a damn good thriller.

The textbooks sometimes tell you that the film was never released in the UK, but it was; I saw it, c. 1957. And I never forgot it.

As with many films, the British censor hacked it about, and there are various versions of the ending. And it's now rated 12, I see; i.e. anyone over 12 can see it, which means, in practice, anybody. But it's worth seeing, in whatever version. Available on DVD.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't appear to be a whole lot new being said by the ardvarchaeologists, but I always feel a little safer when extremists are countered by extremists. I think. Long as neither straps on the explosive belts.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

Good grief! That Alex Cox review is utter twaddle. Is this the same Alex Cox who had to go to Mexico because no one would watch the wretched films he made in the U.S.?

The silliest part is his analogy between Aldrich's film and the current attempts to stop Islamic Jihadists from getting their own glowing suitcase.

Yeah, yeah, Alex, those busses blowing up were all part of the CIA/MI5 plot.

Martin said...

Andrew: as I understand things, there is very little incentive for us godless folks to take on suicide missions. I mean, no afterlife, let alone any afterlife involving houris or the drinking of sweet wine in leafy bowers. It's just game over. And personally, I rather enjoy playing the game.

Mike, thanks for linking!

Anonymous said...

Martin--Excellent point. I worked the humor a bit far. I do take comfort in knowing that free speech is kept alive and well by seeing such as your site. When it disappears I'll get very nervous. Game on!

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