Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Arts Council Keep Digging

So, at last, on Friday I got a reply from the Arts Council in which they thanked me for me application. If they had read my email they would know I made no application. So obviously, even though it was only five lines long, they didn't even bother to read it. In their arrogance they supposed it to be an appeal for funds and treated it with the disdain with whcih they treat all such requests. They will be in touch, they said. So keep watching for the next six months and I'll let you know if they ever bother to follow up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Arts Council Nil

So six days ago I contacted the EU (a vast bureaucracy which cares about no-one and nothing according to many) and got a reply in minutes. On the same day, as a follow up, I contacted the Irish Arts Council, as suggested by the EU, for assistance. I'm still waiting t hear back from them.
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 Both of them had their entire funding withdrawn this year.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

Format Query

Those wonderful people at Albedo One (am I allowed say that as I am one of them?) are forging ahead with new issues of the magazine. There is a proposal on the table for an all fiction issue and I thought I would ask a question of you all - if there are indeed any of you out there.
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

Little Feat - Return From the Planet of the Anti-Poets

Last night I went, with Stacey, to see Little Feat at the Academy in Abbey Street, Dublin. Okay, so no Lowell George, but then that wasn't a surprise. But they were really good and they played a lot of the old numbers. The sound was a bit muddy - not much separation so everything got mashed together a bit - but I listened to Dixie Chicken (2nd album) and you know, their sound was like that on record. They did a couple of extended workouts and an absolutely magnificent version of Willin', the only slow number all night.
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

Aeon Award Winner in Translation

The winner of the inaugural Aeon Award for short stories (2005), My Marriage by Julian West, is to be published in French by Galaxies magazine.
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.

EU at the speed of light.

Philip K Dick wrote a short story about the postal service in which an Earthman discovered the wider alien community through the postal service - he discovered that the further away the address on the letter, the quicker the response.
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

Chancing My Arm

My Albedo One colleague, Roelof Goudriaan, sent me a link to an article on translation in the EU. I read it then followed one of the links in the article, and then another and so on. Unfortunately I did not find what I was looking for - details on EU funding for literary translations - so I resorted to clicking the 'contact us' button.
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

Interesting Fact Number 2057B

Last year I bought a CD called The Trials of Van Occupanther by a new(ish?) band called Midlake. Uncut Magazine (absolutely spot on for boys of a certain age) put a track from the album on their free CD one month and I was impressed enough to speculate a few sheckels. Most of you who are going to mirror this foolishness have probably done so already, so I'm probably not going to lose them any sales. However I do think that the CD is a bit samey - pick any track and it sounds pretty much like any other track.
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.

See, Hear?

Despite the poor reviews I went to see Wolverine. It passed a couple of hours in a pleasant way but the reviews were right, it's not really up to scratch. And Hugh Jackman coasted through it on auto-pilot. That's two movies I've seen him in recently in which he was less than wonderful. I also, as punishment for some sin in a past life I feel, went to see Australia as a SO-CALLED FRIEND WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS BUT YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOU B......D recommended it. It was the greatest waste of my time since Batman And Robin, and that says a lot. My backside was aching by the end of it. Have you ever noticed that the pain in your nether regions is inversely proportionate to the quality of the movie?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beneath The Planet of theAnti-Poets

Yesterday my wife, Stacey, flew to the UK. As usual she travelled by Ryanir as we have been for several years now due to their low fares. However, Ryanair won't be the first site she checks in future and may not even make the list.
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.

Sheep Flights

Fascists bleat,
I was only following orders.

The Deafening Silence - Shattered

Wow! Not one but two Brazillian writers have been in touch - see the original Deafening Silence post - offering their help in getting Brazillian SF into Albedo One. This is fantastic, though a little outside our original remit. The magazine's motto is, however, Things Change, it's on our masthead, and so the translation project will change and grow in line with the contributions of fans and writers no matter where they are - as long as they speak enough English to communicate with me.
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

Greed Culture

There was, up to today, a huge garden shed (ten by sixteen feet) in my back garden. But it needed to be replaced and we have bought something different to replace it. In the contract for the new 'shed' I noticed an item - 1800 euro for removal of the old shed. Now I may be crazy but I thought that this was JUST A BIT EXCESSIVE (a friend told me that using caps was a bit like shouting).
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.

A Result

Thanks to Cheryl Morgan the Finns have been in touch and are keen to be involved in our fiction in translation project. Could this be the acorn that we need? I hope so. The best Dutch story of last year is currently being translated and we're still on a promise from Galaxies in France. That would mean translated stories in five issues in a row would be possible. We also have a story from an Argentinian writer in inventory, though he has been widely published in English. But the theme is there to see. Now all we need is to keep the momentum going.