Thursday, July 8, 2010

Poetry Rant

I regularly workshop my fiction with some of my colleagues on the Albedo One editorial team. Recently some of them - you know who you are you **star*s - have brought along poetry. Now, I'm famously broadminded, but my opinion of poetry remains unchanged from school days when Keats and Shelley were rammed down my throat. But I was on a plane a while ago, atempting to sleep in a seat designed by a Spanish Inquisitor with a hatred of anyone above the height of five four. So, not much sleep, then. But I awoke with a poem in my head and it wouldn't go away. So I wrote it down and left it on my desk where, naturally, random papers accumulated on top. This morning I found it and, fairly radiating with a love of all humankind, I decided to sling it out into the void. It doesn't even have a title but what the hell, here goes:

Two monochrome giants bend solicitously over me,
Their huge mouths scream noise at me in a register that only my obsolescent fillings can sense,
As I race heedlessly through my mayfly existence.

If the psychiatrist is in he might just take a look at that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ungentlemanly Conduct.

I have been watching the World Cup for the past while and become more and more frustrated at the over-paid and over-indulged children who play the game at the top level. I know that the Premier League will argue that it is indeed the top level of the sport as will the Champions League, but despite the continuing erosion of the importance of international football I still believe the World Cup to be the premier competition in World football.
Unfortunately FIFA have allowed the 'beautiful game' to be devalued connstantly by the playground antics of so-called professionals that consistently go unpunished leading our own children to believe that this is the way the game should be played and indeed the way that they should go through life. If our children are allowed to watch sporting superstars, some of their most important role and life models, continuing to act like thugs and get away with it - disrespecting the laws of the game, the officials placed in charge and their fellow players - attempting to cheat to gain an advantage at every hand's turn - feigning injury in order to have a 'colleague' dismissed from the field of play - why are we surprised to see the children's behaviour deteriorating and their respect for authority diminish almost daily.
But more importantly - as I am sure Bill Shankley would have said - it's ruining football.
Rugby has been described as a gurrier's game played by gentlemen (though less so since the arrival of professionalism) and football as a gentleman's game played by gurriers. Certainly the latter is more true now than ever before. Can these guys not see themselves making asses of themselves, the sport, referrees and the viewing public by throwing temselves to the ground feigning injury when the tackler missed by a couple of feet. They watch continuous replays of matches - don't they feel embarrassed in the slightest when the camera proves what a lying, faking cheating wanker they are? I also blame the pundits who think it is reasonable for a forward to drag his foot so that it hits the goalie or the defenders outstretched leg to gain a penalty. I also blame the officials and the interpretation of the laws, Surely there must be intent for a foul to be given. Surely the forward intentionally kicking the goalkeeper is the foul and should be penalised. If referees weren't so afraid of offending players they might more often go with their gut instinct and book the cheating bastard rolling about the penalty area as though he had been reversed into by his WAG's beemer or shot by a sniper in the crowd.
The real question is why has cheating become a way of life for highly paid professional footballers. Why do their own fans not turn on them and demand that they play fairly? Why do their managers not punish them for their on-field indiscretions so that they stop embarrassing us all with their theatrics and their unmitigated cheating and thuggery? The sport may soon become unplayable if a solution is not found. Already the game has become almost non-contact. When there is a tackle the referee seems to assume that the guy who lost, and is naturally writhing about on the floor, was fouled and gives him a free kick. I think the referee should be allowed to give these blokes a good kicking. Stick the boot in. Shout abuse at him. Insult his mother. I know it sounds radical but it might at least give us a good laugh, because there'll be no good football left to watch, merely a series of free kicks advancing a team up the park until they get close enough to attempt a shot from the next free using a ball that refuses to fly true so the goalkeeper can be made to look a prat as often as possible. If it wasn't for the money no child in his right mind would want to play the game. I heard on the radio the other day a group discussing why skills coaching was so essential now that kids no longer kick footballs about in the street endlessly. And why don't they? Because it hurts like f**k if you throw yourself to the ground on tarmac or concrete. Rolling about on the street will get you a kicking from the opposition or even your mates. They know you're faking. Sure you skinned your knee. Big deal. Get up and get on with the game. Act like a man.
Was that last sentence politically incorrect? I don't think it should be. Learning to act like a man was one of the important things football used to teach. Now it's how to act like a gutless, cheating twat.
On a serious note I suggest the introduction of video evidence to be checked by a citing panel after games (like gentlemanly rugby) to deal with incidents where players are suspected of attempting to fool the referee or if they may have got away with cheating. Huge fines and suspensions would soon change their attitude to fair play.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Harbinger Relay Award

Someone put me on a list, so I got an email about the above award. It sounds really interesting and is yet another activity that is passing us Anglophones by. The content of the email is posted on the Albedo One facebook fanpage and is really worth a look.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hicks & Gillette - the best thing to happen Man U - EVER

So, the Yanks have finally succeeded in turning England's most successful football club into a bemused rabble. 'Sir' must be laughing himself sick. And he can probably indulge himself for the next year at least. The papers are full of speculation about who will manage the Reds next, with such luminaries as Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill to the forefront. Last time the job came up the board took a huge punt on Rafa Benitez - after all he had only won two Spanish league titles and a EUFA Cup (or whatever it was they were calling it that week). Now they're worried that Liverpool might not be attractive to the like of these? How have the mighty fallen.
Whatever you may think of Benitez, the one thing you can say (pun intended) was that he bled red. No-one ever doubted that he loved the club. So did Rick Parry, and see where that got him. Fernando Torres may be Spanish but I believe his love for the club is genuine - not this ***king badge kissing you see all over the show these days from mercenary tossers who have parked their Ferraris in the players car park for the past fifteen minutes and claim that makes them lifelong fans. How much do you think it will take to pry this irreplacable asset away from Merseyside? I guarantee that it will be twenty million less than he's worth. But don't worry, they doubtless have the irrepressible Bobby Zamora lined up - after all he's just had a (single) good season and that makes him a potential superstar. And they can probably get him for only 25 million (and two signed Torres shirts for Fulhams new owners. What, they haven't been sold this month?)
Then we get to Steven Gerrard, the onle player at any club in Britain that is truly irreplacable. It's not just that he is the best player in his position (or many positions, unfortunately) in.... choose from England/Europe/the world... but that he also encapsulates the spirit of the club and its supporters. But it's not hard to imagine him following Michael Owen's brave trail to Real Madrid (and look how that worked out for his career - and his medal haul). Imagine how that money would look knocked off the clubs debts.
Naturally Jamie Carragher would have to go. Great servant that he has been, they'd let him go on a free to Tranmere Rovers or maye even Stoke City. And there you have it, Liverpool FC gutted. And the problem with this scenario? It's not even all that unlikely.
Fine, sell Torres and Gerrard if you are prepared to spend the money on replacements. The pair could go for 100 million of the board play their cards right (though they are such useless ***kers you could see them letting the pair go for under fifty). 100 million would buy quite a decent team. And might persuade Mascherano to stay put. They could do worse than build a team around him. But you know, I doubt that's going to happen. We'll get a second rate manager (though one of the best of the second-raters) and sell out to another bunch who haven't got the funds to back their bluster and consolidate for a couple of seasons with prospects up from the Championship or the Betfred Premier League (apologies to Jonjo Shalvey).
Then all true Liverpool fans can prepare for trips to Grimsby and Hull with the odd Wembley adventure at the Freight Rover Trophy or the FA Vase.
At least they can't take away the nineteen or the five that will still decorate the flags.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cooking For Blokes

Subtitle: Earn her respect and the key to the bedroom by cooking her a simple meal (with the utmost respect to girls of all ages).
I called to a friend's apartment (they used to be flats when I lived in one) a while ago. He warned me in advance that if I wanted food - the invitation was for casual dining - it was Chicken Korma or nothing, cause that was the jar of sauce he had and he couldn't cook anything else except... one other thing, can't remember what but he didn't have a jar of that anyway.
It got me to thinking about how many blokes go through life handicapped by the inability to cook a decent healthy meal: it is merely a laziness of mind and body. So I thought, stick out some simple recipes that even brain surgeons will be able to cook. It's purely a community service. Why should guys be allowed to stand in front of a cooker and flutter their hands about in front of their faces and claim: "I've no idea how to even boil water." Or some such bo***x (hint - too many letters for botox).
So here goes: Lesson One, Spaghetti Bolognese for morons.
one pound of minced beef (best quality you can afford).
one chopped onion or a pepper (red or green) or both.
one OXO cube - not necessary if you've got good quality meat but nice all the same (in US this might be a problem - it's a sort of stock cube).
a handful of mushrooms
basil leaves - fresh if you have them
salt and pepper to taste
a dollop of Mascarpone cheese or soured cream (optional, takes the edge off the tomato sauce)
one jar of a branded spaghetti sauce like Ragu or Dolmio or Newman's Own - whatever.
You can leave anything out except the minced beef and jar of sauce and you can add anything in the cupboard that you think will enhance the flavour once you've tried the basic recipe and know what flavours you are dealing with. I usually vary the type/brand of sauce every time as this subtly changes the flavour of the dish and prevents your palate from getting bored.
Brown the mince in a heavy saucepan or frying pan. Add the OXO. Season. Add basil. Add onion. Cook until onion begins to soften. Add jar of sauce.
Now, put some pasta on the stove and cook per instuctions on the pack.
Add mushrooms to the meat sauce. When the pasta is ready, serve it all up.
This tastes great the following day. Microwave leftovers with a baked potato (also cooked in the microwave).
The sauce is also great as the base fo a Lasagne.
Cook this for the mot (Dublinese for girlfriend/wife) and amaze her at your culinary skills.
By the way, the cook never washes the dishes. That's a rule.
PS I wrote this from my perspective so I made it a boy/girl thing. But it can just as easily be reversed or changed to boy/boy or girl/girl. Like the recipe, you all can mix and match.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spolier Alert

I went to see Robin Hood the other day as I thought it was a safe (Hollywood blockbuster) bet, even though reviews have been luke-warmish. But I was wrong. It really is something that might have been propelled from the wrong end of a camel. I heard that Russell Crowe threw a bit of a knicker fit when a journo had the temerity to suggest that his accent might have sounded a little Irish. Perhaps it was Russell's tribute to the late, great Marlon Brando whose accent in The Missouri Breaks swerved alarmingly through Irish, English, Australian and other modes. Or perhaps he simply wasn't bothered. After all, we should be honoured to offer up our tenners if he deigns to swish across the screen, and especially if he gets his tits out. But his accents were appalling. Yes there was Irish, but I also spotted Liverpool and Yorkshire in there as well. That is, apart fromt he generic non-BBC, regional accent with which he had been coached.
Usually you don't need to actively work on suspension of disbelief in a movie: they've got you in a theatre in the dark and you're loaded up with popcorn and fizzy drink. However, with R. Hood esq. I found myself questioning that suspension regularly as they trampled all over the legend (as we've heard it to date) and attempted to re-make the Hood persona into a character fit to carry several sequels.
Had the climactic battle not happened right at the end I definitely would have laughed out loud. And then walked out. So, we've got the French landing on a beach beneath towering cliffs - that's okay if you feel the invadees deserve whatever advantages are going. Then R. Hood esq. (our hero) deserts his post with the archers - this part of the legend they left in tact as he was portrayed as an actual archer with a bow and arrows and everything hooray! - and charges on horseback (he presumably learned to ride expertly after stealing a nob's horse in France) after the cavalry. Somehow, though he left last, he arrived at the battle at the head of the charge. Having abandoned his bow he then proceeds to hack the living daylights out of the expert swordsmen arrayed against him, with a sword. But the real laugh arrived in the form of Maid Marian, in form-fitting girl armour (probably it was a full body chastity suit thingy - they all had them back in the dark ages) at the head of a band of munchkins on toy horses. Okay, they were supposed to be rebel children on ponies but they just looked so comedic and out of place that my resistance to hilarity ran out of steam.
Oh, and one last thing. the eegit in t e Sunday Times (Cosmo, you know who I'm talking about) tried to claim that this was a good movie, well acted and well scripted. The acting was lazy and the script was execrable. But Russell did get his tits out, girls. Maybe that's why Cosmo (the guy not the mag) gave it four stars out of five.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Real Lottery

I've been buying vinyl LPs on ebay for a couple or three years. I have yet to buy a new LP - they are far too expensive; I can buy them in Dublin cheaper and that's a real indictment. My limit is about ten euro, including postage. So I need to be patient and take lots of risks. So far it's working out okay. I've bought lots of old LPs - stuff I never owned back in the day or replacements for long lost gems.
I grew up buying my books second hand. For two reasons: one, I didn't have money to buy new books and needed to trade the stuff I didn't want (or my dad took his eye off) in order to feed my habit. Two, none of the REAL bookshops stocked much SF and none of them carried American comics. So I've still got a taste for second hand bookshops - I guess it's the thrill of the chase. You walk into an ordinary bookshop and you have a vast choice, but in a second hand shop you have to search thoroughly and be lucky and smart to find decent books. I suppose buying Lps on ebay replicates that feeling.
Today, even though it's Good Friday and the pubs are shut, the postman came and delivered to LPs. Today I got the worst LP of my short ebay career. Did you know that some surface scuffing translates into 'This was used extensively as an ashtray in the seventies and has been buried in my garden for the past decade.'Light marking on the cover apparently means, 'You may recognise the contents from the evidence of the cover, if you have training in forensics and a really good imagination.
Still, the second LP looked just as bad but it played perfectly. However the problem is that the first LP is one I never got around to buying back when: Dark Side of the Moon, would you believe? And anything quiet is drowned out by the sound of frying chips (cooking French Fries, to our colonial cousins) and Money turns out to be about one minute fifteen long due to skipping.
I guess I'll simply have to roll them dice again and hope for a better result. Still, it's my first snake eyes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Translation News

Despite the Irish Art's Council's continued disinterest in the written word in general and Sf in particular we continue to forge ahead in our efforts to bring fiction from other languages into English (or as close to it as we can get in Ireland). Through the good offices of UK author Colin Harvey, I may have discovered a way to circumvent the Arts Council and get to the EU directly for funding for translations and perhaps also for some aunthologies. If anyone reading this has any interest in European fiction as a writer or publisher they should contact me. If you comment on this piece I can probably track you down, or you could leave a comment on the Albedo One fan page on Facebook.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


For both of you not familiar with computer speak, the title refers to the advice that used to be given to all computer nubes: read the $%^king manual. This sage advice applies to virtually every walk of life but nowhere is it more relevant than to the writer submitting on spec.

Firstly you must remember that every time you submit a story you are entering a contest with every other poor eegit who has sent a submission to that particular market during that particular reading period. In many ways this is like a beauty contest and you need to put your best foot forward right from the beginning. So, even before an editor reads your piece he (or she) will have begun to judge you.

So how many ways are there to get it wrong before your one-man judge, jury (and more than likely, executioner) even gets to word one? Firstly, as you may remember from a previous blog (ELP, read it now, if you haven’t already) there is the cover letter. Nonexistent and it is unlikely the editor will bother to read your submission at all. Too short is forgivable, too long shows a lack of consideration for the poor, overworked, underpaid sap who is already reading far too much for far too little reward.

So what information does the editor require? And here I refer you to the title of this piece which now transmutes into RTFG(uidelines). That’s where the editor will have set out the information that you need in order to SUCCESSFULLY submit to his market. Take a moment to jump away from this blog to check out a random sample of guidelines on, for example, Many of them will be similar but there are many more who insert things like – submit in this exact format or your submission will be binned without being read – and that exact format may include things like file extension (.RTF), font (Times New Roman or Courier), format of manuscript (often detailed minutely, such as line gaps between each paragraph or two spaces after a full stop. You just never know what will be the trigger that will prevent an editor from reading all the way through your story. And if he doesn’t read all the way through then he won’t be buying it.

One of the magazines that ploughs a similar, though professional, furrow to Albedo One, regularly receives 800 submissions per month. They likely average out at about 6000 words each. Do the maths. The readers at this magazine are just waiting for the first excuse they can find to stop reading and reject your story; if that’s in the cover letter or in the formatting so much the better. It is your job to make it beautiful enough to be read, at least cosmetically and by their standards, so that if it fails to please it is because it is a crap story. And at least if you follow the guidelines you will be guaranteed that your story will be judged fairly and on its own intrinsic merits. Which means you will learn from each submission. It might only be that this particular editor dislikes your work, your style or has no taste in fiction.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Big Hole

Having had a week to think about my initial reaction to the Grand Cayon I am now ready, upon mature reflection, to share my views.
We went to Tucson for a gemshow. It is in the middle of a desert. We brought summer wear as every day on our previous visits (eight in the past ten years) it was about seventy degrees farenheit. This time it rained. This time we had arranged a couple of days off to do tourist stuff - like the Canyon. And this time it rained on us. Twice. And it was cold.
Now call me ignorant, 'cos I am, but I thought the Canyon was a hole in the ground. But it turns out to be over seven thousand feet up int he mountains. And the weather was bad. Seven thousand feet up in the mountains there was three feet of snow, so we were told. We'd need cold weather clothes, we were told. Have you ever tried to buy an overcoat in the desert? Not easy, believe me. We spent most a day searching, but finally we found a couple of warm jackets.
Anyway we got coats and went to the Canyon. The snow was there. Three feet deep. And the sun was out. And the temperature was about seventy. Everyone was in tee shirts. We abandoned the coats. And our sweaters. Kept our shirts on. Not everyone did.
So, I saw the Canyon. It's a big hole in the ground, high up in the mountains. Very impressive. But I saw enough in ten minutes. Still, Stacey enjoyed it and took loads of photos.
At least I don't have to go back.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Endearingly Irregular

I would hate to be predictable but my on-again off-again love affair with blogging continues at the same pace as ever. Except this time I've got an excuse for abandoning ship temporarily: I'm off to Tucson, Arizona on business. Thankfully, Stacey is coming with me this year; company is always welcome on these trips. Apart from buying gems and semi-precious beads we will be taking a side trip to The Grand Canyon. I've been going to the Tucson show for over a decade and this will be my first tourist venture. So, I'll be away from the blog for about twelve days.
Maybe I'll have something interesting to say when I get back, although mostly I only get energised by things that piss me off. However, I've read a couple of wonderful submissions to the magazine lately and one of the Aeon Award winners is one of those stories that I will still be talking about in ten years time: the sort of story that makes you say, "Shit! I wish I'd written that." Keep an eye on the magazine and see if you can spot it.
By the way, I bought the new Eels album (End Times) on the day of release. It inspired me to check out Shootenanny again. Maybe it's time for me to reassess that one. I may have unfairly consigned it to the scrap heap. I'm still waiting for something from Mark Everitt to equal Daisies of the Galaxy. For me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rude, Thoughtless and Annoying (Almost as bad as ELP)

Over the past seventeen years I have been sent a lot (technically more than two, but a lot more than two... and so on) of fiction submissions for Albedo One magazine. From early on we accepted email submissions because we are out on the borders of civilization (Ireland) and contacting us by post is very expensive. To illustrate the postage problem it costs about five times more postage for us to send out a subscriber's copy of the magazine than it does for Galaxies in France, more than twice the cost of printing an issue, even with all the ancillary costs added on. The postage costs also meant that we were getting a small number of submissions per month (less than a hundred) and we felt more submissions would help to raise the quality of fiction in the magazine. Accepting emails immediately increased the number of submissions and has genuinely contributed to an increase in the quality of stories we have to choose from.
However, I have a couple of observations about email submissions. And both of them, in my mind, relate to care and attention.
The first point is that there is a significantly higher acceptance rate of stories submitted by snail mail. What this suggests to me is that some writers, a lot in fact, take less care with their stories if they are submitting by email. Or maybe they will only send stories they are more confident about by snail mail. Or perhaps the ease of submission means writers are not truly polishing their stories before sending them out. I don't know. It's just a thought backed up by little in the way of evidence. However, I'd be interested in hearing from other editors who accept both snail- and e-mail submissions. Is there a similar correlation of quality in your submitted stories?
My second observation refers directly to the title of this piece (though not Emerson, Lake and Palmer who were merely due a dig) and is aimed directly at writers.
Of late I have been getting a lot (not as much as the previous lots but a significant number all the same) of stories sent by email without even a Dear Sir or Hi at the front, never mind anything resembling a cover letter or even a request that we might read the enclosed story. I have even been sent blank emails with an attachment. These I delete instantly as we state in our guidelines that we do not currently accept attachments. But I'm thinking that in future if writers aren't even bothered to say Hi, or introduce themselves, or show even the slightest sign of investing in the social contract that for centuries has ruled communication, I think I'm going to dispose of these emails also. There is a statistic which suggests we won't be missing any great works of genius as to date none of these unlovely submissions has made it through the process.
So maybe rude equals untalented or maybe the writers who have time to observe the niceties of correspondence are also the ones who take care over their stories. I would be interested in comments from writers and editors alike because, really, I'm just thinking out loud here.
But I am reminded of a writer (in a film) who couldn't understand why his repeatedly frantic letters regarding publication of his book were being ignored. In the end he decided to write a letter which could not be ignored. It began: Dear Bastard...
I sometimes think that no greeting at all is simply shorthand for this.