Friday, December 25, 2009
So, although it hasn't been a wonderful year - my insurance broker is ready to disown me after four claims in three months, but he's family so I'm safe for the moment - I still have so much to be thankful for.
I hope all of you have a warm, safe and joyful Christmas.
Count your blessings.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Anyway, I bought a vinyl LP while my amp was being fixed, or not. It was Big Star's No. 1 Record. It's recommended in the 1001 records you've got to hear before you die and Big Star have been touted as comparable to sliced bread by Uncut, a music magazine for boys of a certain maturity. I got their greatest hits (best of) on CD a few years back 'cause that was all that was available at the time. But I never really got it. Until now.
First thing played through my new amp was Big Star. How were they never the next big thing, at least? No. 1 Record is absolute brilliance. It defines the power pop genre and blows away most of what came after (though I will still listen to Fountains of Wayne). Yeah, I know, you've never heard of Big Star and couldn't give a monkey's. Or you've heard them and just couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Well, I'm off to the shops to see if they've got either or both of the other two Big Star records.
The Big Star is dead, long live Big Star. Oh, and long live vinyl.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I have held onto my 3D spex and will post a photo on Facebook as evidence.
Avatar is about what everyone was saying it would be. But like all James Cameron films it is too long. A judicious half hour off the running time and it would be pretty hard to beat. I enjoyed the 3D experience though it is difficult to say if it actually added to my enjoyment of the film. It may indeed have detracted from it as I was often distracted by the 3D effects.
From a spectacular/epic viewpoint i was great. Storyline was predictable from the off and there were absolutely no surprises in the plot.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: Worth seeing but is it worth going to see?
If you are interested in i at all do not wait for the DVD. This needs to be seen on the big screen.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Well, I guess it was inevitable that I would disagree fundamentally with your post, Neil, and with Von Post ( a coincidentally aptly named poster of a comment on Neil's post). As an editor who does not pay professional rates to the slush pile, that is inevitable. But I am also a writer who has sold his work for pennies and been happy to do so for the exposure and the possible feedback and the chance to be seen and read and for reasons too many to enumerate (thank God for the spell checker on this thing).
But, like life and business, there is a food chain in the marketplace and everyone should have a chance to find a place in it. Why should amateurs and wannabees be paid the same as professionals. They aren't in any other business. When you're starting out people don't want to pay you the full rate until you have proved yourself. It's only natural. Also, there are businesses that can only afford to pay minimum wage. This may be because of profit margins in the industry or overseas competition or whatever. But their failure to pay top whack doesn't mean they are not doing a valid or even vital job in their market or within a given economy. So lighten up guys. If there was no-one paying low rates then there would be no premium market for the big fish to inhabit. Surely everyone being paid the same rate smacks of (I'll call it) socialism. But everyone is not equal in our Western society. And I believe that the best people should get the best pay. And just because someone doesn't offer the best pay rates does not mean that their market lacks validity or worth.
There are a lot of e-zines out there who pay pro rates. And that's fine - even if they do not present the writer with an actual product to hold in his hand and to archive. I happen to like hard copy and believe it has a value. That is why Albedo One has remained as a hard copy item even though the costs of production are outrageous and it costs more to post a copy from Ireland to the outside world than it does to actually purchase some magazines. But people like what we do (some of them) and some writers feel it is worthwhile to support our efforts even though our rates of pay are poor.
We have been struggling to keep our hard-copy magazine afloat in difficult circumstances in a minute market (about four million people live in Ireland) and we do it for no pay - yes we're amateurs - because we believe in what we're doing. I'm sorry so many people, writers and non-writers feel so strongly negative about low paying magazines. You have not shaken my resolve, but you have left me feeling saddened and absolutely unappreciated.
Friday, December 4, 2009
So we started saying, half joking, to everyone we met, 'You got a contact in the ESB?' And visiting a sick friend Stacey asked another visitor - (Saint) Michael - that question and he said, 'Yes.' and he contacted the guy on the spot. I emailed details of what was going on to Michael and he sent them to his friend.
Tuesday morning, eight-thirty I got a call from an ESB Engineer. He wanted to meet our electrician. They met at lunctime. He asked for some changes to be made and made an appointment to re-connect us on Friday. All we had to do was apply (again) to be re-connected. I did that Tuesday at five forty-five.
Wednesday morning at eight thirty I get a call from another, different ESB engineer. 'Is you electrician on the premises? I was hoping to do this call first thing.'
Wednesday the person/b***h rings our insurance loss adjustor all sweetness and light to ask if everything is going okay.
This afternoon (Friday) the lights in Yellow Brick Road were turned on for the first time since September 11th (no, not THE September 11th).
In Ireland there is an old cliche that says, 'It's not what you know but who you know.' In this, as in all things, the cliche proves true. So thanks to all those who wished us well during our 'interesting' times. We will be open for business in our usual premises in about a week. Watch the Yellow Brick Road fanpage or website www.yellowbrickroad.ie for details.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I've been trying to post this review for a while but the blog wouldn't let me. Is it because it is a shameless promotion for the magazine I edit (with friends)?Anyway, it originally appeared on the Western Writer's Centre website. That's in Galway, Ireland by the way.
ALBEDO MAGAZINE NEW HAVEN FOR EUROPEAN WRITING
The Dublin-based Irish journal of alternative and explorative literature, Albedo 1, has broken very new ground by making contacts with European masters and apostles of imaginative fiction and producing an issue which features some examples of their work. Australia hasn’t been left out, either. The Editorial explains all: “We thought about the amount of excellent fiction that must be out there in other languages, even if we’re simply looking at Europe. So we talked to the Poles and the Germans and the French and the Swedes, along with a couple of Americans . . . .” Now it would be hard indeed to get any contemporary Irish literature magazine that would devote this kind of energy to escaping the stifling and unmoving satellite of Irish writing. There are reviews, interviews, short stories, even one by Sarah Joan Berniker, whose work has appeared in Playboy. Notice too of the illustrious French journal, Galaxies (www.galaxies-sf.com) The cover art is mind-blowing. Submissions and enquiries to email@example.com Why in God’s name isn’t the Arts Council, who fund magazines whose repetitiveness and predictability make them akin to journals kept by inmates in someone’s guest-house, fund this exciting and richly-diverse magazine? Well, I have a story about the why not of it all, and siffice it to say that the Arts Council of the Republic do not take speculative fiction seriously. They don’t see it as literature, dontcha know. One Arts Council personality some years ago declared it would be more than their job was worth to advance the argument. In fact our Council rather ridicule it, which indicates, in truth, that they’d never have funded Orwell to write 1984 or Stoker to complete Dracula. Yet for years they’ve had the neck to keep a portrait of a famous alternative fiction writer and solid Dubliner hanging in their foyer at Merrion Square. Safe to do so, one supposes, because he’s dead and therefore reasonably unlikely to look for funding.
Albedo 1- Issue 37. €5.95. Pbck with card covers in colour. 2, Post Road, Lusk, Co. Dublin, Ireland. ISSN: 0791 - 8534 63pp
Thursday, November 19, 2009
However, it's not really football I'm going to moan about, though I will be referencing it... a lot.
Last night Ireland played France in Paris in a (football) World Cup qualifier. We were beaten as usual, And we got beaten by a bad refereeing decision. Sour grapes, I hear you think. Well, yes and no. But the goal that put France through was scored after two, not merely one, handballs, an offside in the run up and a possible foul on an Irish defender. The other two incidents can happen, but a guy handling the ball twice - it hit his wrist then he controlled it with his hand - should never go unseen by the officials. And there are a lot of people who feel it would not have gone unseen had it occurred inthe French box. This is not a claim of prejudice on the ref's part merely that he succumbed eventually to the incredible pressure exerted on everyone concerned by FIFA. They made it very clear with every action that they wanted France to qualify. It was probably not the referee rahter the linesman who succumbed to the pressure. The (Irish) players all thought he had a good view of the incident. But he chickened out. The referee had only just refused (correctly - Anelka, the cheating Chelsea ~~~~ dived) a French penalty claim and disallowed a goal for an obvious off side. But he did't see the hand ball.
It was suggested on Irish TV that the player - one Thierry Henry - might have been asked by the referee if he had handled. In other sports players admit to breaking the rules and will sportingly penalise themselves. Henry glanced fearfully towards the lineman - there's a great shot of his horrified/worried face just as the goal goes in - but afterwards he smeared an enormous smug grin over his self-satisfied mug and even claimed o one Irish player that he had not handled, though he later admitted it, insisting that it was accidental. I've played the game. You know when you've handled and you know that although your hand may be drawn instinctively toward sth eball, when I played you would try to stop yourself. Nowadays the dishonesty is so ingrained in the game that even the pundits have accepted that cheating is a vital part of their SPORT. You hear them all the time. "Oh the lad touched him. He had to go down." No, he didn't. Yes you have to fall down when th eother played kickes the legs from under you. But not if he brushes past in an attempt to go for the ball. Throwing yourself to the floor as though shot by a sniper is called CHEATING, in any man's language. But you feel that if a player didn't throw himself to the floor looking for a penalty - when he's got no chance to score but someone has waved a foot near him - then that plyer's manager and club might just fine him a couple of weeks wages. FOR NOT CHEATING. You listen to the ex-players who are now managers or commentators or analysts (yes the word anal is deeply entrenched in there) and all of them will agree that ifyou're touched in any way when in the penalty box it is fair to look for a penalty. it's not. And it's making people sick of the game. That and the way players treat the game. It is not a sport. They are now entertainers. Superstars. Celebrities. So it's all about money.
In the final analysis, that's why Ireland went out of the World Cup last night. France are a bigger draw on television. Worth more money to FIFA and the TV companies. And reall, that's what sport is all about isn't it?
What happened to the sheer joy of taking part? Very soon football will only be ;ayed for money. There will be no-one left who wants to play for the plweasure of it, or for the exercise, or for the social aspects of the game. Because they (which used to be all-important) are now totally unimportant to the game.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Writing has been much on my mind of late, as always. Unfortunately not much has been hitting the page. Yet again life has jumped up and stolen all my free time. At the moment I’m living a Chinese curse – May you live in interesting times. For me interesting is not the half of it right now.
Three months ago my car was set on fire in the driveway of my home. Somebody carefully places a plastic 7 Up bottle on the bonnet (hood in
Eleven weeks ago my business premises (a shop called
So, over the past three months I have done almost no writing. But I have done quite a lot of thinking about writing.
So I got to thinking about writer’s block and thinking about writing rather than writing has to be one of the most effective definitions of writer’s block I can think of. I would love to hear other writers’ definitions and anecdotes as WB is something that every writer must fear, if they think about it at all.
But you’ve got a great excuse, I hear you say. There was the car faire and the Gardai and buying a replacement car and the fires in the shop and putting your business back together and all of that stuff.
And you’re right. All of that is valid. But it didn’t eat up all my available time, it simply swallowed all my head-space. I could have sat down ad wrote a short story or maybe even a book review on several occasions during my interesting times. But the point is that I didn’t. Even when I had the time and a touch of motivation. And I have to take responsibility for that.
I don’t claim to have WB but that may be because I am in denial. What I am going to do, however, is take responsibility for the fact hat I haven’t been writing and say that it is one hundred percent my fault. I am in control of my life. If I want to write I will.
Look, Ma, I’m doin’ it right now.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
It must be well over tthirty years since I read the original novella and then the expanded (short) novel version. god, that makes me feel old. But it is one of those novels where the idea possibly transcended the actual work itself sand left an indelible mark on everyone who read it and, eventually, on society itself. I guess it's one of those books that everyone feels they've read, or possibly should have read, though i wonder how relevant it is to society today. Perhaps there is an internet version waiting to be written.
The graphic version - The Authorized Adaptation - is by Tim Hamilton, with an introduction by Bradbury himself. Relying on memory it seems to be a faithful interpretation and even maintains that period feel SF of this era (forties/fifties - the first version was written n the forties, the rest in the fifties). And i'm still trying to work out whether I like it that way or not. At first I thought the artist/adapter had missed a chance to sybtly update the piece and make it more relevant to today. the I thought tha tit was more effective as a period piece. Now, I'm not completely sure. I'd love to hear from others who have read it as to how they feel. In the end i was a little disappointed, mostly because Idon't think the story is particularly visual in conception or in execution. This si a book about words - surely the very antithesis of agraphic novel. But that is possibly merely my own prejudice.
For those who don't know the plot - check out Wickipedia, it's essentially the same as the book.
I guess this is a pretty good (and painless) introdcution to what might be considered one of the true classics of the genre. Unfortunately I feel that it does not bring enough to the table in an of itself to make it truly worthwhile. Though I wonder how much more i might have taken from it had I not been so familiar with the story already. And I must also wonder how any of the target market could have avoided the essential details of the original which seem to be ingrained in the very molecules of the air - a bit like 1984 really.
(Published by Harper, Voyager. paperback, 150 pages, £10.99)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Last night I got up to check noises outside the house - at the behest of Stacey. Holy Crap, Batman! My car was on fire. According to the police someone walked into my driveway and, not a dozen feet as the crow flies from where I sleep, poured petrol over my car and put a match to it.
Fortunately we got everyone out of the house safely and the fire brigade arrived before the flames spread to the interior and the highly flammable upholstery, or even the petrol tank.
I have a theory but it is extremely slanderous or libelous or whatever. But the police have taken away the remains for forensic examination in detail. They seem to think there was something more than malice in the act. There was also coincidence.
I bought the car less than six months back. The dealer has had the car for six weeks of that time trying to fix a problem. They lied to me about significant details prior to purchase. I have evidence. The police told me they are prosecutable. They had agreed, much to my surprise, to replace the car. I was due to bring the car back this afternoon.
Coincidence or what?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Had a ball at Worldcon. Met lots of good folks but it just gave me a taste for more regular Worldcon attendance. Unfortunately I won't be able to afford to go to Australia next year. So it's going to be two years before my next one. I've got withdrawal symptoms already.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Despite that it was a lively and interesting panel. Jacob Wiesman (apologies for the spelling if necessary) from Tachyon Publications told us about his latest product - a novella by Jim Morrow called Stumbling Towards Hiroshima. The premise sounded fascinating: the US government during WWII ran a secret project to breed fire brreding dragon from genetically altered lizards. Unfortunatley they were too docile to use as a weapon so the gov. hired an actor - based on Lon Chaney Junior - to don a Godzilla suit and kick the shit out of a mocked up Tokyo to scare the crap out of the enemy.
Also on the pael were Ben Jeapes, formerly of Big Engine and Ron Drummond whose company, Incunabula, are producing a 25th anniversay edition of Little, Big by the incomparable John Crowley. This edition will feature 300 illustrations adapted from the art of Peter Milton and will be cloth bound on acid-free paper. It sounds beautiful and at least two of the Albedo team will be buying copies when available. The bad news is that it will cost $95.00 plus a lot of postae - the book weighs in at seven pounds apparently. It is also unlikely to be ready for a while. It has been in proscess for six years so far. Check it out at www.littlebig25.com.
Then of course we went to the Delta hotel to party. I may be wrong but I think that for the first time I went to a party at Worldcon to which I was actually invited. Will wonders never cease. The host was Claude Lalumiere whgose latest latest collection, Objects of Worship was being launched by CZP. Lots of free beer and great company. Claude is a wonderful host and may actually be part -Irish. He certainly drank like it. Also there was Neil Clarke who chatted long into the night and introduced me to Mary Robinette Kowal winner of the 2008 Campbell Award.
Robert Silverberg dropped by but I unfortunately did not get the opportunity to speak to him. Probably just as well as i may have been a bit the worse for wear. Hard to believe, but true.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
More importantly there was a disaster at the party hotel last night. Too many punters turned up and security stopped access to the party floors of the hotel. We arrived late and joined the queue, but we're not great at standing in line. So we went to the bar. By the time we finished in the bar it was too late for partying. But today we will not be stopped.
Yesterdays panels were on What Fans don't understand about Publishing and Writing Across Boundaries. The first was on distribution and marketing and turned out to be very interesting (surprisingly). I learned a lot about the physical distribution of books that I didn't know and we discussed newer distribution methods - mostly electronic, through the internet.
Writing across boundaries was moderated by Melinda Snodgrass who may be the best - certainly the most friendly and least arrogant - moderator I have experienced. I look forward to sitting on panels with her in future. Unlike most, she was more interested in getting across the message of the panel than hearing the sound of her own voice.
Coming soon - Size Doesn't Matter.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Then we went to the Tor room party. Met Bill Fawcett and his lovely wife, Jody Lynn Nye, whom I haven't seen in years - not since a long-ago night in the (now sadly defunct)Tree of Idleness restaurant in Bray.
Bill introduced me to Larry Niven but unfortunately I'm not important enough for the likes of him. Or maybe he's gust a grumpy old ******* (how many letters in person?).
We also met up with Colin Harvey who is not yet too important for the likes of Albedo One. But he might be soon. Will he still drink with us when he's a superstar? We'll still be drinking anyway.
Two panels this morning. One at the ungodly hour of nine a. m. on editors who write and how it afects them. Good panel, though Mike Resnick found it too early in the morning to show.
Next up was a time travel panel. But its focus was on movies and television. I love movies and television but I really knew very little about the specifics of the relevant movies. So I spoke off the point as usual and made inappropriate jokes.
Two more panels later on . I'll update tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
See you in Montreal.
Stop me and buy one.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Title: Albedo One
Session ID: 572
Hopefully this item will be attended by more than just me and Dave and John and Frank (also known as Team Albedo). We'd love to see any of you there to discuss small press and magazine publishing in general and, obviously, Albedo One in particular. But it does help to have people to talk to at this sort of thing. So, don't be shy. Come along and talk to the Paddies. We'll probably be hungover (I think there's a line in our visa that requires it) but we'll do our best to be friendly, entertaining and informative.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Oh my goodness you're having a heart attack.
Hold on a moment my cellphone's ringing.
Also, regarding a foreign language Hugo, if there is anyone out there who is a member of this year's Worldcon in Montreal and would like to discuss the idea, I suggest that you suggest it as a panel item - as a member of the con you have that facility. If nothing elase I think it could make for an interesting panel discussion, which is surely what the con should want.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
A while ago I was at a literary event in the wilds of Galway which I may have mentioned in passing before. Sitting in a room full of pets, reading their poems aloud, everyone politely clapping each reading as it would be in no-one's interest to bring a critical spotlight to bear on the affair, I struggled to stay awake despite the endless provocation of the poetry.
I chatted with a really nice poet whosat nervously waiting to read. The reading was appalling and the poetry beyond awful but the applause was the same as for the headlining act - who actually seemed to be a real poet with a real book to his name.
And once again I was inspired to scribble a few lines on the back of a beer mat for the sake of posterity.
A Death in the Family?
Drone on, you bastards.
I'm only sleeping.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Could it be that I am interested in literary pursuits? I only know directly of two groups in Ireland who received funding from the Arts Council last year for writing-related activities. The Irish Writers Centre in Dublin and the Western Writers Centre in Galway. And guess what? Both of them had their entire funding withdrawn this year. I know the biggest Irish book publishers get support and a literary magazine called the Stinging Fly, and they probably still get the money. But the fact is that without that money both of these endeavours would cease.
Which is one reason that Albedo One has decided that we will never accept Arts Council funding. Once you've had it you cannot survive without it. So we'll soldier on without their money.
But all I'm looking for is some adivce on how to obtain EU funding for a trans-national project - we still do't want Irsh money and they still couldn't give a monkeys about giving us a hand.
And you know, Irish tax-payers (that includes all of the Albedo One team) are paying the wages of these fine upstanding un-fireable civil servants. I don't know what it's like where you live but in Ireland civil servants can only be fired directly by the Government Minister in whose department they work. Maybe if they were answerable to the public OR EVEN THEIR MANAGERS for performance, they might be a little keener to be seen in pursuit of their functions. God forbid the public should see them as anything other than a joke. In the sixites (I think) Milo O'Shea played a civil servant in a TV series called Tales of the Lazy Acre. How come the ineptitude and laziness of our civil servants is still a ***king joke decades later. At least back then we were a third world country. How come such an important sector of our society still has a third world outlook?
By the way, the title of the piece relates to the score that the Arts Council would receive if they were competing in a Eurovision style contest where the audience phoned in their votes.
The Arts Council (Ireland)
Helping starving artists?
Maintaining the status quo.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Many of us collect all sorts of things and I am assured that there are faithful collectors of Albedo One - I even know some of them personally - who have every issue right back to number 1. But just as a general sort of enquiry I wondered if anyone thought it would be a negative if there was a change of format for an all fiction issue would people object or feel miffed by it if, for instance, the all fiction issue came out as a paperback book instead of the usual A4 magazine. WE ahve already changed format once from A5 to A4 but that was permanent and considered by most, if not all, a great improvement. This would only be for one issue.
I remember when I did a lot of reviewing I was particularly miffed by Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun. It was sent to me in Hardback to review and pretty much each of the volumes was a different size. I know it is petty, but they just didn't look like a set oon the shelf. And as I was reviewing 'for the love of it' my only payment was the books.
Anyway, if anyone has a thought on the subject, or can teach me anythign from experience, I'd be glad to hear from them.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Unfortunately we had to sit through a warm-up band; a couple of guys with guitars actually. At the start the singer announced that they would be with us for seven songs. Can't be bad, we said to one another. By the end of the third song my mind had turned to thoughts of blood, running in the aisles, even though there were no aisles, but I needed something to think about to shut out the pain. If these guys had brought their guitars to your party and played this shit you'd have chucked them out. Or at least insisted that they play old Simon and Garfunkel numbers - Hey! so everyone can sing along. You gotta be polite 'cos artists can be sensitive. Which, I guess, is why people kept clapping each song. Though by the sixth you couldn't really hear the guitars or the words above the shouted conversations. But still, they clapped, and still the singer said thanks after each song. I wonder if he thought that it was a good gig for him? Should we have told the truth and chucked stuff at the stage? I don't know.
I know that no-one hesitates to reject my stories if they think they're not good enough. And they're not always polite about it. I remember when I worked on FTL, a previous Irish SF magazine, and we had the temerity to suggest that a piece of art that was intended as a cover might have some changes made. The artist went apes**t and I thought to myself, it's rubbish but we're still not rejecting it. If only writers could afford to be this precious. But, as a writer, I appreciate the honesty with which I am treated by editors and I hope that writers appreciate my honesty as an editor - if Albedo One publishes your story it's because we think it's good, or even better, 'cos good isn't always enough these days.
Anyway, I felt a fraud clapping away for a couple of guys I thought were crap. Am I a bad person for thinking that? Answers on a post, please. So I wrote another ***king anti-poem which goes something like this...
An Audience With Little Feat (and friends)?
Sipping my beer,
Clapping at the end of the songs
With all the other frauds.
We should call ourselves Little Dicks.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The fourth Aeon Award is currently running with a top prize of €1000 and, it would seem, exposure to a wider international audience. Entry costs a paltry €7.00 and the second quarterly judging will be upon us before you can say Spider Robinson (end of June). Check out the rules at www.albedo1.com and give it a go. You never know, it could be the first step on the road to fame and fortune.
The EU got back to me about funding for translators almost before I had hit send. Or so it seemed. One of their recommendations was that I contact he Irish Arts Council, who are the local cultural contact, for assistance. That was yesterday. I'm less than ten miles from the offices of the Irish Arts Council and hundreds from Brussels. Naturally the Irish Arts Council has yet to respond.
Maybe Philip K Dick had a point.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I've set out the Albedo One scheme for a system to translate stories into other languages and asked if there is any EU funding available.
Watch this space.
Monday, May 11, 2009
One thing the reviews agreed on was that it was a throwback to the 70s. But I didn't realise how much of a throwback until I bought an LP (that's vinyl, baby) on ebay called Manassas, by Steve Stills and some mates. Take a listen to track one, side three of Manassas - It Doesn't Matter is the name of the track. It's Midlake. It's The Trials of Van Occupanther. It was all said in 1971. And a lot more concisely. I just put on the Manassas album to check that I wasn't imagining things. It's uncanny. I wonder what song they'll use as the template for their next album?
Just thought some of you might be interested.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Five minutes before boarding she was queuing at the boarding gate behind an eighty-year-old lady. A uniformed jobsworth from Ryanair approached the old lady and informed her that she could only bring one piece of hand luggage on board and she would have to do something with her duty free. Now the woman had several bags of duty free - presents for her family of chocolate and booze and the usual duty free junk. There was no way she could fit it into her carry-on bag and she looked helplessly at the official.
"I don't make the rules, I'm merely carrying them out," she said, then suggested that the old lady should distribute the chocolate and booze about her person - "Under you coat," was the exact phrase.
What is the point in this? She would be carrying one bag but bringing the same weight aboard, no matter how the load was distributed.
Other passengers backed up the lady, who asked why she had been encouraged to buy duty free if she was not entitled to carry it aboard. One gentleman, an Australian, was more vociferous than the rest and demanded that the old lady be left alone and allowed onto the plane. The jobsworth insisted she didn't make the rules and repeated her suggestion regarding the duty free and the old lady's clothing.
Next, the jobsworth turned her attention to my wife, stating that Stacey's carry-on bag was too big and pointing at a measuring device. The bag was slightly bigger than the dimensions but very light. She redistributed some gear from the front pocket and this changed the dimensions sufficiently to pass the measurement test.
While Stacey was doing this the Australian man asked the official why she was hassling Stacey as there were plenty of passengers in the queue who had bigger bags. The old lady was still looking lost and increasingly distressed. The jobsworth insisted she would not be able to get onto the plane unless she got rid of her extra bags. The Australian demanded that the old lady be left alone and be allowed to board. Two more Ryanair functionaries appeared and asked the man to step out of the queue. They told him that if he did not stop causing trouble he would not be allowed to board. So Stacey and several other passengers said they would refuse to board the plane unless both the man and the old lady were permitted aboard. When the flight was called no-one moved. The attendants called for people to board but nobody at the head of the queue was prepared to approach the gate.
Unfortunately one weasel (Stacey's description) pushed his way through the crowd and marched toward the plane. Once the line had been crossed the rest of the crowd broke ranks and pushed through like sheep. Eventually the Australian and the old lady were also allowed on board.
However, I just thought that the description of the events and the way the vociferous Australian gentleman was treated smacked of Nazi thuggery. Is this what things have come to in the pursuit of buck?
Obviously Ryanair's low fares business model is no longer working, or possibly it is just not producing the level of profits required. So Ryanir is now attempting to load extra charges onto its passengers at every hand's turn. Apparently we will soon be required to load our own luggage onto the plane. What are the security implications of this? I would certainly favour loading my own luggage if I wished to get a bomb on board - I'd hate to trust a delicate timing device to careless baggage handlers.
I for one will be prepared to pay an extra twenty or thirty euro on each flight in order to avoid the fascist thuggery and I hope there are plenty more like me. Ryanair do not deserve the support of decent people if they do not know how to treat their customers with dignity. But if we are prepared to put up with their contempt then we deserve it.
I was only following orders.
I do feel that I need to re-state our original aims - to encourage other European writers/groups/magazines/national organisations to begin the process of designing a system in which fiction can be translated into other languages. Albedo One is prepared to show how it can be achieved, but we need the support of others.
I was informed at Eurocon in Copenhagen that if we could arrange for stories to be published and translated into four different European languages that there is EU provision for paying the translators, so the magazines would not have to expend badly needed funds on the translations. So, what we are actually looking for is other magazines and national groups to enter a system in which the best story from their individual countries would be published in the participating magazines every year. If the magazines have a quarterly schedule it would mean putting one translated story into each issue. It would mean a small reduction in editorial choice and power but I believe it would be worth it in order to establish a distinct European voice in SF.
Imagine, if you will, that you have just been named as winner of the (for instance) Irish national SF short story contest and part of your prize is publication, not only in your own country, but in four others, in four different languages. I don't know about you, but it would give me a bit of a buzz - might even encourage me to enter in the first place.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I cast my mind back to when we changed our central heating from oil to gas. The changeover left us with a redundant oil tank in the back garden, So I consulted the Yellow Pages and telephoned a SPECIALIST in tank removal. The bloke hemmed and hawed for a while saying things like, "you're on the other side of the city." and "it'll take two men most of the day," and "we can fit you in next week, maybe," and other comments that raised warning flags. "700 quid," he said, without sounding in the least embarrassed. That was pre-euro and would be over 1000 euro in today's money. So I made another call. "I can be there in the morning," this one said. "Eighty quid." It took him and his mate twenty minutes to remove the tank..
So, I knocked the 1800 euro for shed removal off the quote and said I'd get rid of it myself. Those that know me will be aware of my aversion to DIY and physical labour. So I put the shed on ebay, sold it for 156 euro and the buyer is dismantling it as I type this out.
You know, if the quote had been three or four hundred euro I might have let it slip by. How long is it going to take tradesmen in Ireland to realise the gravy train pulled out of the station last year and we're not on board any more. If they weren't so greedy there was a nice little earner in it for them. Thank goodness they weren't that smart. By my calculations I'm up by 1956 euro and it's gong to take a while to wipe the grin off my face.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Anyway, for once I got some value out of an inspector though he remains necessarily unaware of his small place in my life.
The Bus Inspector
The tall inspector gouges his hairy eye.
The cuffs of his trousers dance maniacally across his insteps.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Over the past few months the worldwide recession has been much in the news and much on the minds of the general populace. In Ireland, prior to the recession we had the wonderful beast known as The Celtic Tiger to keep us warm at night. We all became rich, or so it would seem - every Taxi driver I ever talked to on the drive home after missing the last bus seemed to own at least one apartment overseas. Everybody was investing in property. We couldn't spend money as fast as it kept on accumulating. Or so it appeared. House prices were astronomical and rising so fast it would make your head spin. Rents were worse if anything.
Myself and my wife were contemplating moving and consulted a mortgage broker. He visited us twice. The first time he was driving a Porsche the second he had just bought himself a brand new Bentley - he saw it and fell in love with it and just couldn't resist, even at a price of around 200K. He proudly told us he was buying a second premises on the other side of the city for an expansion of his business - it just wasn't worth renting commercial property and finance was so cheap.
I drove past his original office building the other week - the one he inherited from his father, who started the firm - and it was up for sale. The doors were locked and the windows shuttered. The Celtic Tiger has left the building. Like Elvis, it is dead. And so my latest non-poem is about that dear departed and it goes something like this:
The Celtic Tiger
Blinded by greed
Devouring its own balls.
But where are the other foreign language stories? I emailed several European magazines, whom we had talked to about this project previously, and guess how many editors bothered to reply? I bet you guessed this one - absolutely none.
Honourable mention must go to Galaxies - thanks for the support Gillian - who sent us a copy of their latest issue with an article on Irish SF in which the wonderful Albedo One is heavily featured. But as of now there will be no translation in the following issue because no-one has bothered to send us one.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Myself and my wife run a Bead and Crystal shop in Dublin city called Yellow Brick Road - call in and see us next time you're passing. On the days when I work at the shop I travel by train - the DART as it's known, which stands for Dublin Area Rapid Transit or transport or something like that. Anyway, I get off the DART at Tara Street station and every morning, except Saturday, there are piles of junkies hanging around outside the station, drinking coffee from paper cups and dealing drugs.
Now, Dublin has a serious drugs problem and naturally, the police allow junkies to buy and sell drugs on the street no matter how offensive this may be to citizens and distasteful o the few poor tourists who stumble onto the wrong bits of the city - mostly the city centre which used to be the pride of our nation but is now overrun by drug addicts nodding out in the streets or on the expesnively built Boardwalk that runs along the Liffey for a short while and is now owned by the low life's - with the greatest respect to any low life Boardwalk owners who may be reading this.
I could go on about this for hours but you're probably bored already so I'll consider enough background filled in so that i can get to the anit-poem. It's called...
Why are there so many junkies outside Tara Street?
Are they addicted to trains, or what?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Down the park, me and the dog,
Our fragrant companion, a bag of shite.
So here's a new thought for me.
I have never really liked or understood modern poetry and with the greatest of respect to all writers of all types and especially those friends who are poets or poets that I consider friends, i have been inspired to become what I think of as an anti-poet. Now maybe some of youse will think me a genius - that was a joke by the way - or worse, a poet, but still I'm going to soldier on.
I've been to a few poetry readings over the past year - for my sins, which are many - and observed that the poets doing the reading usually give a little speech before each poem to put it in context, so here it comes, my introductory bit before the poem.
I was at the Dublin launch of the Cork Literary Journal last year and most of the speakers were poets. However, there was a break or two for readings by prose writers and one for music by John Sheahan of the Dubliners. Now John played several tunes and, as with the poets, he told little stories in between. One of the stories concerned poetry and how he had begun to write it in the past few years, particularly Haiku.
Haiku, as you may know, is a very specific form but as I am an anti-poet (not pope, poet; what sort of godless idiot do you take me for), and Irish, I can do what the feck (check the spelling, that's an e in there) I like. but while listening to John's beautiful music I was moved to write a Haiku myself and this will feature as the first of my series which I am calling
Haiku, My Arse.
Although inspired by John Sheehan and all the long-winded bastards that read that night (apologies to their parents) I was also inspired to be a particular type of Irish poet, and that inspiration came form the wonderful Father Ted TV series. If you missed it, pick it up on DVD and discover what a joyful experience it can be to be Irish.
So, here it is, my Haiku, which is called:
Mrs Doyle's Lament.
Give us a Haiku, John.
Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.
Thank you and good night.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I have sold stories all over the show and few of them were at the pro rate. But I'm proud of these stories and will continue to write and continue to accept payments that often amount to no more than a token.
My latest sale is to Nemonymous edited by the estimable Des Lewis where stories are published anonymously (I can tell you I've got a story in the Cern Zoo anthology but not what it is called). I love the idea, but it is probably not commercial - you'd have to ask Des. I feel this is where the small press is at its strongest - trying something different, experimenting, encouraging writers to try something different. Good on you, Des. And thanks for existing.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The blog title also refers to a project I have recently embarked upon with my colleagues at Albedo One magazine. We realise how difficult it is for writers whose first language is not English to gain access to the major markets. So we're hoping to provide a forum for short fiction in translation with the help of overseas fan groups, non-English language magazines and national fan organisations.
Anyone who has any interest in the subject should contact me and we can see if there are areas of mutual interest to discuss.