Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wednesday roundup


Her Majesty's Stationery Office -- publishers and printers of many if not all official UK government documents -- ceased to be part of government in 1996, when it was sold to a group of venture capitalists. Now it's being bought by the Germans. Story in the Telegraph -- link from

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit fed up about this. I thought we won the war.


Marnie Schulenburg, whom I unaccountably forgot to name when discussing her book A Test of Survival on Monday, not only forgave me but also introduced me to a UK web site called Lablit. This is about the culture of science in fiction and fact, and contains a massive amount of good stuff. It may, however, upset readers who are not used to thinking in strictly logical and scientific ways. And even a few who are.

The bit I like best (so far) is the interview with Ben Goldacre, a science writer for the Guardian. He was the one, you may recall, who beat up Gillian McKeith and left her for dead -- not that it made much difference to her booming career and wealth. Anyway, here are a couple of choice questions and answers from the Goldacre interview:

What is your favorite film or novel featuring a scientist character and why?
The film Outbreak, because the lead character is a gun-toting public health physician. Also I think there's SPSS running on a computer screen somewhere in it.

What do you think is the biggest medical danger facing us in the present day?
Food, too much or too little, depending on who ‘us’ is.

SPSS, by the way, stands for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, which is one of the best jokes in the whole of academia, and eternal proof of the GIGO proposition.

Narcissism and blogging

Say what you like, brothers and sisters, but there is some extraordinary material out there.

For example, go to this post about Narcissism on the Dark Age blog. The author of said post is someone who signs himself longsword. Now, you may or may not want to read the essay itself -- though you will find yourself being made to think if you do -- but scroll right down to the bottom and read longsword's response to the comment. It's a thoughtful disquisition upon the delicate question of the interaction of blogs and books.

Thanks to the commenter, elberry, for the link.

Bronx River Press

Bronx River Press has an intriguing take on modern fiction. You might wish to take a look at their manifesto. But so far they only have one book scheduled, and are not accepting any submissions. Yet.

Riot Lit

Another gang who are determined to change the way things are done are Riot Lit, a writer's collective. Here's part of their manifesto:

The Riot Lit Collective refuses the passive role that writers are expected to embrace. They defy all preconceived notions of how a writer should create and thrive within modern culture. Their strength is their ability to maneuver outside of the literary establishment. They do not seek endorsements from talk show hosts. They do not write paint-by-numbers beach reads. They have united and they are here to change the dominant paradigm.

Riot Lit includes Daniel Scott Buck among its members. Also present is Tony O'Neill, who is the author, interestingly enough, not of a dodgy memoir but of a novel in which (he tells me) every word is true! Go figure. Both these guys write truly impressive stuff. Also present, surprise surprise, are N. Frank Daniels and Kristopher Young, both of them mentioned yesterday.

If I were a betting man, and I had to put money on who I thought would be read and remembered fifty years from now (as are Kerouac et al. from the 1950s), I think I would look here.

The Walrus

The October edition of The Walrus is now available. It's Canadian and not much of it is for free online.

Cuppa Joad

The Alibris web site, which is a resource for those interested in finding and buying secondhand books, also has an associated blog, which is known (I cannot explain why) as Cuppa Joad. On 22 September Lynn Wienck, of the Chisholm Trail bookstore, put up a post about other book blogs, including a generous reference to the GOB. Some of the blogs that she mentions were new ones to me, and may be to you, so you might want to take a look.

Robert A. Wilson

If the name Robert A. Wilson means anything to you, you might wish to know that he is broke and in ill health. Henry Baum at the Ash Tree blog has some details. And if you're wondering who Robert A. Wilson is, Wikipedia (naturally) has the answer. It's certainly been an interesting life, though his skills have not, it seems, included preparing for old age. (Info from Randy Radic.)

Robert A. Wilson is not, by the way, the same as Robert Charles Wilson, author of Spin.


Anonymous said...

I beg to disagree. The biggest medical danger facing us today is doctors.

James Aach said...

Regarding the Lab Lit site - it is unfortunate that there isn't more published fiction presenting an accurate portrayal of science and technology, since storytelling is one of the key ways in which the public gains perspective on any issue. I believe one reason for this is that people comfortable with science/tech go off on one set of careers, and those who are not comfortable head off into other areas, including literature studies and then fiction publishing. Nothing wrong with that, but I believe it does color what is published in the fiction world. If if a story is compelling, it may be judged to have "too much science in it". I have a humorous essay on this topic published at the Lab Lit site at 83

Jeff_with_a_J said...

Thanks for mentioning us at Cuppa Joad, the Alibris book blog. As for our name, we were looking for something interesting, memorable, and literary. We settled on "Cuppa Joad" because it remembers the Joad family from Steinbeck's classic The Grapes of Wrath and because it reinforces that book lovers can sit down and enjoy daily doses of our book reviews and news--with the steaming beverage of their choice, of course. Give it some time: The name grows on you, like a good cuppa joe! And speaking of growing on you, watch for our new Alibris U.K. site--with lots of benefits for U.K. and European book buyers--coming to you in a month or so!