Good heavens, I have the 25th highest rated livejournal!

That is, on their new social capital algorithm (non-Cyrillic); I am just behind , and ahead of and .

For whatever that is worth. As I said during the Klout debacle, any attempts to reduce one person’s impact to a single number should be treated with suspicion; I also note that when I first checked the LJ ratings a week ago I wasn’t even listed on this scale, despite having ticked all relevant boxes. But it’s a data point I suppose.

(Sorry for lack of posting this week – my back went out on Friday a week ago and I have been trying to keep up with other stuff.)

Posted in Uncategorised

Wednesday reading

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (almost finished)
The Complete Stories of Zora Neale Hurston (just started)
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (just started)

Last books finished
Miradal: Erfgoed in Heverleebos en Meerdaalwoud, by Hans Baeté, Marc De Bie, Martin Hermy, Paul Van den Bremt and Sara Adriaenssens
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
Afspraak in Nieuwpoort, by Ivan Adriaenssens
Hunter’s Moon, by Paul Finch
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl
TARDIS Eruditorum – An Unofficial Critical History of Doctor Who Volume 3: Jon Pertwee, by Philip Sandifer
Something Borrowed, by Richelle Mead

Next books
The Jagged Orbit, by John Brunner
A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
Desert, by J. M. G. Le Clézio

Books acquired in last week:
Something Borrowed, by Richelle Mead

LT Unread books tally: 447

Posted in Uncategorised

Finding the tree

Way back in February 2006, I helped F with the ceremonial planting of his municipal tree.

Fergal plants his tree

The commune dedicates trees to all the children turning seven in each calendar year. Most people pick up their trees for their own garden; we don’t really have room, so opted to have it planted in the municipal garden. We were the only people to turn up to do the planting in person, along with two municipal gardeners and the journalist who took this picture.

I went back today to try and find it, and I think we succeeded:

F is now more than twice as old as he was in February 2006, and he has clearly grown more than the tree has!

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 15) Miradal: Erfgoed in Heverleebos en Meerdaalwoud

De geschiedenis van een bos en een landscap is het resultaat van samenwerking tussen verschillende vakgebieden. Voorjaarsbloemen en archeologisch erfgoed hangen bijvoorbeeld beide af van de bodem. Het verhaal van prachtig gekleurde loopkevers die 'gevangenzitten' in een oud bos omdat ze hun vliegvermogen verloren hebben, is een boeiende mengeling van biologie en geschiedenis.

The history of a woodland and a landscape is the result of cooperation between difference disciplines. For instance, spring flowers and archaeological monuments both depend on the soil. The story of beautifully coloured beetles, 'imprisoned' in the old woodland because they have lost the ability to fly, is a fascinating mixture of biology and history.

This is a big beautiful book about the woodland near our house, which I have already been using to locate nearby tumuli. Despite the gorgeous illustrations, it's not really a coffee-table book, with eight very carefully researched chapters about various aspects of the area's history and ecology. Given my own interests, I admit I found the geology and history more interesting than the biology bits (I have difficulty telling an oak from a rhododendron), but even so it was pretty interesting.

In particular, I love the idea of hidden landscapes; the first chapter on the geology drew my attention to things like the London-Brabant massif (here just the "Brabantse sokkel", but looking it up led me also to the lost continent of Avalonia) and the Diestian Sea. It's also interesting to reflect that the number of tumuli, both Bronze Age and Iron Age, and various other Gallo-Roman remains in the woods, all suggest that the woods themselves are a comparatively recent historical development and that much of the area was in fact agricultural in ancient times. Historical maps show the woods actually advancing over the last few centuries. (Ents? Triffids?)

It is, I'm afraid, all in Dutch, edited by Hans Baeté, Marc De Bie, Martin Hermy, Paul Van den Bremt and Sara Adriaenssens, and published by the Davidsfonds, as part of their wider project of promoting Flemish culture and heritage: a good example of this sort of thing.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 14) The Gondola Scam, by Jonathan Gash

The canal runs straight from the landing-stage into the heart of what is left of Torvello’s great square. Now it’s not even a village green. The great stone arches of the fifteenth century bridges, the dazzling fondamento, the might of empire literally fallen and overgrown.

This is a reasonably good illustration of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Lovejoy books. On the plus side, Gash actually uses both Lovejoy’s home setting in East Anglia, for the first quarter of the book, and then a richly imagined Venice where he becomes part of an industrial scale forgery operation, the details of the manufacturing fake antiques outlined in all their loving complexity. On the downside, women continue to throw themselves at Lovejoy for no apparent reason, he continues to treat them abominably, and the actual forgery plan is baroque to far beyond any point of plausibility, and the supposedly comic ending is almost identical to that of The Vatican Rip, published three years earlier. I think those who don’t know the Lovejoy novels could take this as a fair sample of what they are like.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 13) EarthWorld, by Jacqueline Rayner

Anji opened her bag and fished for the slim black phone. No network. Surprise surprise. So they were in the past – or on an alien planet – or, just possibly, in Wales.

This is one of the books repackaged as part of the 50th Anniversary collection, but as it happened I read it because it is next in the series of Eighth Doctor Novels as I have been progressing through them. I liked it a lot, though it is fairly heavy on continuity – the Doctor is still suffering from amnesia, new companion Anji is mourning the death of her boyfriend in the previous volume – and I see this is a bit of a barrier for some of the GoodReads reviewers. This picks up the murderous amusement park referenced in the title, but also lots of mad alien stuff and entertaining misinterpretations of Earth history, all stuff that has also been riffed on by New Who. Rayner is rarely less than solid, and I enjoyed this one a lot, as part of the ongoing Eighth Doctor story arc.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 12) Starship Fall, by Eric Brown

Had she still bee in love with Ed Grainger, and used me to get to him, guided by drug-induced visions of her future? Or had she merely been a slave to the drug, and craved knowledge of her destiny?

Sent to me by the BSFA last year as a freebie, a novella from Newcon Press about the narrator’s love affair with a once-famous actress who has a secret past of mind-altering alien drugs. Not doing anything terribly new, but does what it does well enough. I haven’t read anything else by Brown, but I will now look out for more.

Posted in Uncategorised

2013 Hugos: Best Graphic Story

I found this a particularly tough category to rank (of those I had read), and I'm also aware that my own tastes are particularly out of sync with those of other voters here, so it may not matter that much. For what it's worth my order of preference is:

No vote: Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler. I rated previous volumes last in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and felt no need to try again last year or this. The previous volume came fourth last year.

4) Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez – a brilliant opening episode, but much of the rest depended rather on the reader having more knowledge of previous volumes of the series than I had. No doubt some voters will vote for the series as a whole; the previous volume came third last year, behind Digger and Fables vol 15.

3) Saga, Volume One, written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples. As noted earlier today, I loved the art here, but was less overwhelmed by the story.

2) Grandville Bête Noire, written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot. Witty and artistic, and a very tough choice as to whether I should put this top; I might yet change my mind.

1) Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka. A story about UFOs and an American presidential campaign: perhaps not as High Art as Talbot, but tickles own peculiar tastes a good deal more, so gets my top vote. Probably.

This is a good list; it was in no way a chore to read any of these.

See also: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Related Work | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 11) Saga, vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Last of the Hugo nominees for Best Graphic Story (well, the last that I will read; I will skip Schlock Mercenary as I did last year).

The only other Vaughan I have read was the last volume of Y: The Last Man, similarly nominated four years ago, and I was underwhelmed by it. I like this a little more. Fiona Staples' art is fantastic – she has a great way of bringing our the characters (memorable characters here include a spiderwoman who is clearly related to the Queen of the Racnoss, and a giant lynx which only speaks when others lie) and also does superb set-piece big picture scenes – this is her only listed work on LibraryThing, hopefully the first of many.

I'm much more dubious about Vaughan's story; there is a very dodgy episode set in a space brothel; and various bits of the setup don't make much sense. I wonder whose choice it was for our heroine to have wee fairy wings, and our hero manly horns? Edited to add: Ian points out in comments that she is obviously an angel, and he a demon, which means we needn’t waste much time worrying about originality.

Not one I'll be adding to my regular purchase list, but glad to have read it this year.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 10) PR Urban Elections in Ulster 1920, by Alec Wilson

This is an exciting document. [First sentence of the introduction by Robert A. Newland.]

This is one of those nuggets that all connoisseurs of Northern Ireland's electoral history are vaguely aware of. Back in 1920, proportional representation was brought in for all local government elections in Ireland, in preparation for the elections to the Home Rule parliament then envisaged (which ultimately became two bodies, the House of Commons of Northern Ireland and Dáil Éireann). All urban councils held elections in January, followed by County Councils and rural district councils in June. This book was originally published between the two sets of elections, and was then reissued, topped and tailed with a preface and bibliography, by the Electoral Reform Society in 1972, just at the point that proportional representation was again being introduced for Northern Ireland local government (having been abolished as almost the first act of the Unionist regime in 1922).

But if I " plump '—Do I Not Help My Man? [quote from a leaflet entitled 'The P.R. "Catechism."']

It's not only about the results; there is a brief history of PR campaigning in Belfast, and a roundup of the voter education campaign run by the PR Society (as it then was) in the runup to the election, reproducing the texts (but alas not the formats) of a number of the leaflets and fliers circulated, including a poem by a Nationalist Party supporter in the Falls. One gets the sense that much of the literature (though probably not the poem) was drafted by the same hand as the rest of the report, Alec Wilson being a Presbyterian liberal who was chair of the Ulster Committee. (Its president was J. Milne Barbour, who became one of the more liberal members of Craigavon's government – though this is not setting a high bar – and ended up Minister of Finance during the brief gerontocratic tenure of Craigavon's successor J.M. Andrews.)

In conclusion, we may express our opinion that P.R. as applied to the Belfast Municipal Elections has carried into practice all that its advocates have ever claimed for it.

Then as now, Belfast City Council had nine electoral districts, three of whose names survive to the present day (Pottinger, Victoria and Falls, the last of these now split into Upper and Lower), with between 6 and 8 seats; Falls had the most candidates though it was only a six-seater, with Nationalists and Sinn Fein putting up a full slate each and four Labour candidates, three independents and a Unionist bringing the total to twenty. Falls, Cromac and Shankill all went to fourteen stages of counting. A Unionist won a seat in the Falls, and a Nationalist in the Shankill, neither of which would be likely today. A Mr Zimri Stewart stood in four different wards simultaneously, and unsuccessfully, as an independent candidate. He got 14 first preference votes in Pottinger, 8 in Woodvale, 3 in Falls, and none at all in Shankill (though he picked up a Labour transfer there, before being eliminated). I should like to know more about him.

Wilson goes on to give some details – infuriatingly incomplete – of the elections in the other towns of Ulster (including, of course, Counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan) with a little more focus on Lisburn – where at least vote totals for each of the three wards is given – and some details also of Derry and Bangor. It is also noted that there was no contest in those towns where only enough candidates came forward to fill the seats available: these were Armagh, Ballybay, Banbridge, Dromore, Gilford and Keady. Of these only Dromore was a single-party council (presumably Unionist). I confess I had to look up where Ballybay is – it's now a small border town in County Monaghan, and still has a nine-member local council (4 FF, 4 FG, 1 SF) where elections remain a bit weird.

Anyway, the rather bold opening statement of Robert A Newland's preface, that "This is an exciting document", may not hold true for everyone. But for us electoral anoraks, it definitely is, and I'm very happy to have tracked it down.

Posted in Uncategorised

Links I found interesting for 22-06-2013

Posted in Uncategorised

Links I found interesting for 21-06-2013

Posted in Uncategorised

What they said about abolishing the #Seanad in 2011

The Irish Parliament is in the midst of debating the abolition of its upper house, a proposition apparently supported by almost three quarters of those voters with an opinion on the matter. Some in the political classes are grumbling at the potential removal of dozens of sinecure positions, so I thought I might check the positions of the parties at the last election to see what people actually voted for.

Fine Gael:

. Fine Gael will reduce the total number of Oireachtas members by a third by abolishing the Seanad and cutting the number of TDs by 20. (page 7 of manifesto, repeated on page 62.)
Labour will abolish the Seanad (page 5 of manifesto)
Fianna Fáil:
If our proposals for the reform of the electoral system and of government are enacted we will support the abolition of the Seanad. (page 30 of manifesto.)
Sinn Féin:
Abolish the Seanad in its current form. (pages 9 and 34 of manifesto)
Díothófar an Seanad mar atá sé faoi láthair. (page 13 of manifesto)
Socialist Party:
“some of us have long pointed out that the undemocratic Seanad should be abolished” (Joe Higgins on party website, March 2010)
People Before Profit Alliance:
“Abolish the elitist senate – create citizen’s assemblies at a local and national level, based on re-callable, non-professional delegates from workplaces, communities, young people, students, pensioners and sectoral groups.” (statement by Richard Boyd Barrett, 7 Feb 2011)
Workers and Unemployed Action Group:
The Seanad as constituted serves no useful purpose and should be abolished. (website)
So every single party which actually won seats in the last Dail election went into it with a manifesto commitment to abolish the Seanad, though conditional in the case of FF (who had their worst election result in history) and qualified by “in its current form”/”as constituted” in a couple of other cases, both of which still use the word “abolish”. The idea which I’ve seen in a couple of places recently that the abolition of the Seanad was not properly raised with voters is simply not true, and the sight of representatives of all parties trying to wiggle out of their previous statements is pretty unedifying. God help me, I was so impressed with Labour’s arguments on this at the last election that I endorsed themmeans what it says – their Chief Whip now intends to vote against his own party’s manifesto commitment.

It is also not true that no alternatives were put to the electorate. One other party manifesto contained these thoughts:

• A cap on the number of Senators at 50 (a cut of 16%).
• Ending the practice of Taoiseach’s appointments.
• That 10 Senators would be elected from a panel consisting of graduates of third level institutions across the country.
• The remaining 40 would be elected from a list system, divided across four regional panels based on the European Election constituencies. The possibility of allowing Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and abroad voting for a number of Senators would also be examined.
• Persons choosing to exercise their right to vote on the graduate panel would not be entitled to vote on the regional panels, ensuring each person had only one vote in Seanad.
• Investigate the feasibility of facilitating the election of a number of Senators by Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and overseas.
This was the Green Party, which was rewarded for proposing reform rather than abolition by losing all of its parliamentary seats and coming eighth in the popular vote. OK, I admit that there may have been other reasons for that result, but the point remains that this reform proposal went the same way as all other reform proposals over the years; a nice set of ideas which will get nowhere. History has demonstrated that change of the Seanad isn’t really an option, however hard you may wish for it, because nobody is really interested in putting in the time and energy into reform – and that very much includes the voters.

Posted in Uncategorised

Wednesday reading

Miradal, by Hans Baeté, Marc De Bie, Martin Hermy, Paul Van den Bremt and Sara Adriaenssens (nearly finished)
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco (a quarter of the way through)
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson (a quarter of the way through)

Last books finished
The Gondola Scam, by Jonathan Gash
EarthWorld, by Jacqueline Rayner
Saga vol 1, by Brian Vaughan
PR Urban Elections in Ulster 1920, by Alec Wilson
Starship Fall, by Eric Brown
Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig
Head Games, by Steve Lyons
The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century, by Brendan Bradshaw

Next books
Afspraak in Nieuwpoort by Ivan Adriaenssens (birthday presents still)
Hunter’s Moon, by Paul Finch (New Who)
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl (if I can find it)

Books acquired in last week:
The Road to Middle-earth, by Tom Shippey
PR Urban Elections in Ulster 1920, by Alec Wilson
Harvest of Time (Doctor Who), by Alastair Reynolds
Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
AA Illustrated Road Book of Ireland (1970)
From a Clear Blue Sky, by Timothy Knatchbull

LT Unread books tally: 452

Posted in Uncategorised

Links I found interesting for 19-06-2013

Posted in Uncategorised

Links I found interesting for 17-06-2013

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 9) Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig

“The first rule,” Miriam says, “is that I only see what I see when skin touches skin. If I touch your elbow and you’re wearing a shirt, then nothing. If I wear gloves – and I used to, because I didn’t want to bear witness to all this craziness – then it prevents the vision from happening.”

Another from this year’s Hugo Voter Pack – and the last of the novels by Campbell nominees – this is actually fairly far into dark fantasy, a novel about Miriam Black who can see when people she touches are going to die. It has a strong start, grim and very violent; I felt it didn’t quite deliver on the premise at the end, but it is a very good ride.

(Now to read the short stories submitted by Cho and Lafferty.)

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 8) Head Games, by Steve Lyons

‘We’re heroes,’ Dr Who proclaimed loftily. ‘We have come to arrest you, you evil miscreant.’

Next in the sequence of New Adventures, this is the only spinoff novel (as far as I know) which unites Mel with the Seventh Doctor (and Ace as well, along with current regulars, Benny, Chris and Roz), in a slightly surreal tale where the Doctor must deal with his alter ego, Dr Who, emanating somehow from the Land of Fiction and threatening the universe, or at least the planet Earth and another world. It’s a sequel to Lyons’ earlier Conundrum, and I confess I had forgotten many of the salient plot points so found it a bit confusing in places. But it’s interesting to see Lyons’ style developing; he is now one of the better Who spinoff writers, and this was published almost two decades ago.

Posted in Uncategorised

The Plunkett-Roosevelt correspondence

Going through my files, I came across my copies, taken in the mid-1990s, of the 1912 correspondence between veteran Irish politician Sir Horace Plunkett and former US President Theodore Roosevelt, who at the time was gearing up for his run as an independent candidate for that year’s presidential election.

There’s a three-page letter from Plunkett, dated 27 July, asking Roosevelt, in effect, what the heck he thinks he is doing, to which Roosevelt sends a densely typed and hand-corrected six-page reply on 3 August, admitting that he expects to lose to Wilson but setting out in detail why he thinks the fight is worth fighting anyway.

The correspondence is well known to Roosevelt scholars, though I note a couple of the hand-written amendments have not made it into canon, presumably because the historians have worked from Roosevelt’s own carbon copy rather than the manuscript letter that was actually sent – eg the word “narrow-mindedness” is omitted from scholarly versions of the sentence, “Until he [Woodrow Wilson] was fifty years old, as college professor and college president he advocated with skill, intelligence, narrow-mindedness and good breeding the outworn doctrines which were responsible for four-fifths of the political troubles of the United States.” (Emphasis added.) It rather changes the thrust of the sentence!

There is also a short exchange of notes following the assassination attempt which wounded Roosevelt on 14 October; Plunkett sends his sympathy and support on 23 October, and Roosevelt responds on 2 November, three days before the election, saying “We have a chance, but I think no better than one in four. However, the movement is so eternally right that I cannot help thinking it must in the end prevail.”

It’s an 8.4 MB PDF, and I’ve uploaded it to here.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 7) The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century, by Brendan Bradshaw

What made the liberal formula unique was its strategy of conciliation. Where the moderate radicals proposed to achieve the assimilation of the Irishry by compulsion, the liberals envisaged achieving it by consent.

This is an in depth look at the Irish policy of the later part of the reign of Henry VIII, arguing that Thomas Cromwell was (as in everything else) a key actor in dismantling the old regime, of leaving Ireland to muddle through under the Earl of Kildare, and that after his fall, two relatively obscure figures from Irish history, Anthony St Leger and Thomas Cusack, engineered the policies of surrender and regrant and of making Ireland a kingdom under Henry VIII in its own right (previously English kings were “Lords of Ireland”). In both cases this was doggedly carried through in the teeth of resistance from the old guard and of vicious court politics in London; it is particularly interesting to see how the officials persuaded Henry to agree to their plans after he had expressed characteristic opposition, or alternatively where they just went ahead and did what they wanted anyway knowing that he was on the other side of the sea and had no easy way of punishing or replacing them.

The claim of the book’s title that this was a “constitutional revolution” is a little exaggerated; the old system was overthrown, sure, but that is not really Bradshaw’s focus; and the St Leger / Cusack reform policy, after a promising start, wasn’t followed through as Henry ran out of money and time, and his successors had other concerns during their brief reigns. (St Leger continued to serve as head of the Irish government, off and on, under both Edward VI and Mary I.) But it’s convincing to say that what was going on in the 1530s and 1540s was a genuinely interesting and different constitutional experiment, to incorporate the peripheral but troublesome Irishry into the English-rules realm, and it had a lot of contemporary resonances for me with my own work on unrecognised states.

I caught two possible family notes. When Wexford is seized by the Crown in 1536-7 (from its previous absentee English ruler), Bradshaw notes that the three men charged with running the town and surroundings, all “in close contact” with Thomas Cromwell, included one James White of Waterford as justice of the liberty. This James White is presumably my ancestor who was poisoned in London ten years later. The second is a brief account of a treatise written in 1555, extolling the virtues of the St Leger / Cusack approach and urging a continuation of those policies; the author is not known but appears to have been a Palesman living in London, possibly studying at the Inns of Court. The Treatise was never published but survives in the papers of the Cecil family. This is an interesting fit with James White’s son, Nicholas White, who was certainly a law student in London and as far as I can tell was a tutor to Cecil’s son Thomas in the mid-1550s. More research necessary (as ever).

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 6) Clockworks (Locke & Key Vol 4), by Joe Hill

I enjoyed this volume of Joe Hill’s series about a group of teenagers exploring the mysterious Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, more than I had the previous one. In particular, the first of the six issues collected here, a flashback to the revolutionary era from the present day, I found very effective. But it is rather difficult to appreciate the full scope of the story starting more than halfway through, and I’m not sufficiently swept away by it to want to get the earlier volumes to catch up.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 5) The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng

In the dream I watch Aritomo walk on a path in the rainforest, pushing aside the overhanging branches and vines. Here and there the path narrows or crumbles into the river. He is not far ahead of me and I have the feeling that I am pursuing him, quietly, stealthily. Several times he slows down, as though allowing me to keep him in sight. Not once does he look back.

This novel is set in Malaysia, mainly in 1951 but with flashbacks to the Japanese occupation, and itself told as a flashback from the 1980s. It was interesting to read this so soon after Ballard’s autobiography, and not all that long after I read A Town Like Alice. There is also a particular personal point of interest for me: my father was born in Penang in 1928, not very far in space or time from the novel’s protagonist, where his father was involved in various rubber plantation enterprises which all collapsed a few years later in the Great Depression.

Even without that personal interest, I think this is a brilliant book. “Evening Mists” is an estate in the Cameron Highlands, the core resort of the Malay peninsula; the narrator is Yun Ling Teoh, and the story, told from her mid-1980s viewpoint as she retires as a judge and contemplates death, concerns her experiences as a Japanese prisoner during the war and her relationship with the Japanese gardener and artist Aritomo a few years later, during the Malay insurgency. I found it a fascinating meld of art, war and personal histories, in a part of the world which I have always wanted to know a bit more about, with a very neat plot twist at the end regarding Aritomo’s hidden final work. Strongly recommended.

Posted in Uncategorised

Links I found interesting for 15-06-2013

Posted in Uncategorised

2013 Hugos: Best Related Work

I found this a pretty easy ranking.

No vote (probably): Writing Excuses Season Seven. This is a podcast and I just don’t think I will get around to listening to a representative sample of these, and unlike last year I don’t think I will have time to hunt out the scripts.

4) “I have an Idea for a Book …”: The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg. This has roughly six pages of introductory text and is then basically what it says on the tin, a list of books edited by Greenberg. Rerally not very interesting.

3) Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, ed. Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis. This is more like it, a compilation of fan essays, some of which are very good, but on a part of the genre that I know less well.

2) Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who, ed. Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles. Good fun, on one of my favourite topics, with a couple of very good essays and a couple of rather poor ones. Loses a couple of points for charmingly confusing internal organisation. Will probably win anyway.

1) The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, ed. Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn. Very good indeed, and will still be around for years to come. Not completely included in the Hugo Voter Packet which may harm its chances, but really you should go and get it.

See also: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 4) The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, ed. Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn

Fantasy is not so much a mansion as a row of terraced houses, such as the one that entranced us in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew with its connecting attics, each with a door that leads into another world.

One of this year’s Hugo nominees for Best Related Work, this is an excellent set of essays on various aspects of the fantasy literature, with a very strong historical introduction (apart from a bizarre chapter on children’s fantasy), a middle section on various literary approaches to the genre, and a concluding section on various subgenres or “clusters”, with a much better chapter on children’s fantasy. When I read books like this I want i) a better understanding of books I have already read and ii) suggestions of books I might read in the future which may appeal to me, and I was fully satisfied on both points. In particular I note that many chapters referenced Rosemary Jackson’s Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, which I must now look out for. (Other individuals with more than ten references in the index: King Arthur, Jorge Luis Borges, John Clute, Sigmund Freud, Neil Gaiman, Alan Garner, Elizabeth Hand, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Ursula K. Le Guin, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, George MacDonald, Farah Mendlesohn, China Miéville, Edgar Allan Poe, Philip Pullman, and – way in the lead – J.R.R. Tolkien.) Strongly recommended.

Posted in Uncategorised

June Books 3) Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

The anthem begins, but there are no faces in the sky tonight. The audience will be restless, thirsting for blood.

Sequel to the very impressive The Hunger Games, the second book in the series has our heroine Katniss once again forced to take to the combat arena for brutal contest with the champions of her world. I could see the end coming from about a quarter of the way into the book, so was a bit impatient with the characters who weren’t expecting it, but the pace of the writing about short-term survival and loyalty to friends and potential lovers in extreme circumstances carries it. I went and bought the third book yesterday, so I hope it is a decent climax.

Posted in Uncategorised