Monday, April 30, 2007

Family stuff break

Her Babyship has to visit the hospital tomorrow, on account of a dislocated hip and resultant wonky legs.

So I'm too distracted to post any of the various things I have swimming around in my head.

I'll be back when it's all over.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Review - Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

Perelandra is a triple fried egg chilli chutney sandwich of a book. All the ingredients are wrong. The title: wrong. The science: wrong. The blatant Christian allegory: all wrong. But put them together and somehow it works. It becomes right.

Now, Out of the Silent Planet - that's a title to conjure with. Good story too, as it turns out - I reviewed it a while back. But Perelandra? A bit nondescript in comparison, IMHO. Although, admittedly better than Voyage to Venus, as which it was briefly published.

The science - now we've actually managed to get to Venus - is even more wrong than it was in Silent Planet. But, since no-one knew that 60 years ago, we'll let that go. Lewis has the planet permanently shrouded in cloud, and since that much is accurate, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief for the duration of the story.

A story which is (although the author points out that none of the human characters are allegorical) a thinly veiled allegory for the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, with the result that there is less depth to the story than there was to Silent Planet.

None of which, thankfully, prevents it being a good story - if only a good re-telling of the Eden story.

Here, the voice of evil is not represented by anything as innocent as a snake. Oh no, it's Professor Weston - the bad guy from the first volume of the trilogy, gone badder. At times he is just a human with some very bad thoughts, but for most of the story he is seen as the subject of a demonic possession. Indeed, the existence of 'demons' and their interest in the outcome of the story is present in the introductory chapters, in which Lewis, as narrator, goes to meet Ransom.

It is Ransom's task to provide a counter argument to Weston's attempts to subvert the paradise of Venus. In his attempts to do so, we not only encounter the varied landscapes of Perelandra, but also witness some fairly bloody scraps between the two men.

The whole adventure is almost like Narnia with all the nasty bits left in: the evil Weston is utterly evil, but not in the exaggerated way some fantasy can portray evil; he retains just enough humanity to make him all the more disturbing. Likewise Ransom, the good guy, is flawed, doubting his own ability to fulfil his mission, and so the initially simple premise is developed into something much more.

On the downside, at times the story is hijacked by the main characters philosophising - which is OK for fans of C.S. Lewis, because he does it so well, but kind of messes up the action if you're not interested in the reason behind the action (in which case you probably picked up the wrong book to start with anyway).

Ultimately, good wins out, as it is obliged to do, and this version of the Eden story ends without the fall of Perelandrian man. So apparently, one man can make a difference.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yoda on Mars: epilogue

I've just got a new scanner to play with, so here's a little epilogue to my Life on Mars related posts...

I was lucky enough to be the first person to show this pic to John Simm. It was obviously inoffensive enough for him to sign - the rest of the cast had gone for a pint. :(

And a few bonus Christian sf related links:
In the open space on The Chronicles of Riddick
The Lost Genre Guild on Kathy Tyers' Shivering World
and NewsBiscuit on the Second Coming (don't click if easily offended!)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Who is This God Person Anyway? (Fit the Fifth - Biscuits)

Readers familiar with the Hitchhiker trilogy will probably remember the story of Arthur Dent's biscuits. It's a story he tells Fenchurch, about an encounter with a stranger and a packet of Rich Tea at a railway station. You can find it in Chapter 20 of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, but to summarise:

Arthur was waiting for a train, sitting at the table with the Guardian on one side, a coffee on the other, and a packet of Rich Tea in the middle of the table. Sitting opposite him was a perfectly ordinary businessman. He didn't look as if he was about to do anything weird.
But he leaned across the table, picked up the packet of biscuits, tore it open, took one out, and... ate it. Arthur ignores this in his usual English manner, right up to the point of trying very hard not to notice that the packet was already mysteriously open when he came to take a biscuit himself.
The two of them went through a packet of eight biscuits, each taking one in turn, until only an empty packet was left between them and the stranger left to catch his train. And when Arthur's train was announced, he finished his coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and, of course, sees his own packet of Rich Tea, unopened.

Douglas Adams always claimed that this was based on something that actually happened to him, although that claim may well be apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate.

Wherever the story started, it seems to have developed a life of its own. Being overfamiliar with Douglas Adams' version of the story, I had to have an ironic chuckle when I heard evangelist J John give his version of the story - the crux of which is that God owns all the Rich Teas. We may think he's mean, expecting us to share our Rich Teas with the church, with this or that charity, or with Joe next door who is running a bit short on snacks this month, but if the time comes that we really need more Rich Teas, he will provide them. Like the stranger in the station, we are called to share, and not necessarily receive any thanks.

It's not quite as good as seeing it in person, but there's a transcript of a J John sermon including his take on the biscuit story here. (The biscuit part is about two thirds of the way down, and has a man eating doughnuts in the airport.)

More Deep Thoughts from the Hitchhiker trilogy next week.

Friday, April 20, 2007

miscellaneous bloggery 8

The latest in an occasional series in which I can't be bothered to come up with anything original to write about.

Regular visitors here will probably already have read about why the sci-fi catholic dislikes christian sf, and from there found out why Keith Strohm hates it.

Speaking personally, there's a place for 'evangelical' sf in my life. Although, having jumped on, and promptly fallen off, the Left Behind bandwagon of badly written evangelical sf, I'm duty bound to say that. :)

I guess any hopes I may have had that CBA fiction (to use the US term) might catch on in the UK following LB have yet to be fulfilled in any significant way. Even UK based writers of Christian fiction seem to be publishing in the US (the Nemesis, for a genre example, and Penny Culliford, just to prove that I know books do exist outside of the sff shelves, at least in theory).

I am increasingly of the opinion that maybe the place for Christian sf in my life is just for me to write it, as a means of making sense of my life in general and this Christianity lark, and doesn't need to be shared with the rest of the world for God to appreciate that I'm using the medium to communicate with Him. Besides, I've got a blog and a website. I can still inflict it on the wider world. ;)

Anyway, back to the bloggery. I came across this the other day too: The Christianity in Star Wars. I've always seen the Force as more a kind of eastern mystical kind of thing personally, though I suppose the arguments may be interesting. (Says me, in the midst of searching for Christianity in the works of Douglas Adams!)

And then, of course, there was this. The lovely Elliot has me tagged...

Name up to three characters (from books)...

1). You wish were real so you could meet them.
Rincewind, from out of the Discworld series (a rare exception to my 'not doing fantasy'!)
Obviously, The Doctor. Either the fourth or the current one. He's in books too!
Buffy Summers. Stretching the books concept again, but if you don't let her in, she'll come round with Mr Pointy.

2). You would like to be.
Ford Prefect. I have to pick somebody from Hitch-hikers, and he always seems to be having so much fun. Great name, too.
Dirk Gently. The idea of being a private detective has some kind of romantic appeal, and he just takes it to a whole 'nother place...
Thursday Next. Not only does she live in Swindon, but she has simply the best job in the known universe.

3). Who scare you.
This was kind of a tricky one, as I haven't read any especially 'scary' books lately. But:
Professor Weston in C S Lewis's Perelandra was very disturbing at points.
And I do like a bit of Stephen King - I could pluck any number of his 'better' bad guys but I'll settle for Mordred Deschain from the Dark Tower series (although his father, Roland, was scarier in his own way) and Annie Wilkes from Misery. One good reason to continue writing mediocre evangelical novels that nobody wants to read!

Just as a kind of self-indulgent experiment, and because my fellow CSFF blog-tourers have been mass-tagged already, I tag Alf, who claims to follow my blogging, and Matthew, who does occasionally drop by. And anyone from Swindon who wants to play.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CSFF April Blog Tour, part two.

CSSF Blog Tour

Here's a few random stops on the CSFF highway, for those who haven't been following the whole tour:

Some reviews of the series on the least read blog and the view from stonewater;

Interviews of Karen Hancock with Shannon and Chris D;

Giveaways courtesy of the Mir, Beth Goddard, Tina Kulesa and the author.

Or you could just click randomly on the list of blog-tourists in the previous post and see what you get.

Oh, and, just because my inner twelve-year-old can't resist adding this sentence: Rebecca Grabill talks about breasts. Something she may yet live to regret.

And once you've done that, pop over to amazon and buy Return of the Guardian-King. Unless you don't get fantasy, of course. In which case, maybe try Arena instead.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back in time

Back in time may or may not have been where Sam Tyler was. I know people visit here who haven't seen Series 2 yet, so I won't spoil the ending. I'm not even sure what I make of it myself at the moment - not really sure I liked it much. I don't much like the idea of a spin-off though - it's kind of like the Matrix sequels: once the premise had been explored, and you had come to your own conclusions about the nature of reality, however entertaining the rest of the story was, it never had the same edge.

Back in time was where the Doctor went to get his mojo back. Yep, The Shakespeare Code was proper old skool Doctor, mucking about in the past with a flagrant disregard the causal nature of the universe. Or something. Forward in time was where he went in the last episode, which was even better, and deserves a post of its own. Later.

Back in time is what I am - back in time for...

CSSF Blog Tour

This month it's all about Karen Hancock, and her rather splendid new fantasy novel, Return of the Guardian-King. I wonder if he was back in time?

Now, I have come to the conclusion that I don't get fantasy. I tried to read Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1) recently, and I was enjoying it while he was stomping round moaning about leprosy, but as soon as he got hit by a car and ended up in fantasy land, I lost the plot. He should've gone to 1973, as far as I'm concerned.

All of which digression is to explain why I won't be reviewing the book myself. I'll leave that to my fellow bloggers, at least some of whom I'm sure get fantasy....

Nissa Annakindt
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Shannon McNear
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Tsaba House Authors
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver
Dawn King
Rebecca Grabill
Jill Hart
and, of course, Karen Hancock

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chocolate break!

Yes, it's Easter, I'm off work for a week and I'll probably be doing something really exciting and not writing nonsesne here. I might even go out. Or I might stay in and watch sf movies for a week.

What I probably will do is a bit of writing - Project Seven has so far refused to settle into any of the sci-fi/fantasy settings I wanted for it, so I'm going to have a stab at just writing my protag's story instead (what I had originally planned as a dark past revealed in flashback) and see where that goes. It will probably end up with him being abducted by aliens or something anyway, knowing my imagination.

And if I do get to the PC, I should get the remaining pages up and running on my website.

Plus Yoda has his first car show of the season, the last ever Life on Mars is on telly (no spoilers, I promise!) and in between all that, there's chocolate to eat...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's bigger on the inside...

Your average 900-year-old renegade Time Lord probably hears that a lot on his travels. Those of us who have been vicariously travelling with him have heard it a few times too, so it's good to see that obligatory line served up with a healthy dollop of humour, as it was when Martha Jones first ventured into the ubiquitous blue box.

Yes, the hype started a few weeks ago, and the third series of the All-New Doctor Who Show finally landed, sans Billie, on Saturday. It wasn't the best ever episode (not a bad thing, I'm happy to wait a week or two for the show to get into it's new dynamic and deliver some top notch episodes), in fact, it was probably one of the more far-fetched moments in the Whoniverse, but Martha, having witnessed the destruction of Big Ben, survived the Christmas Invasion and lost her cousin to the Cybermen last year, takes all the bizarreness in her stride.

I couldn't help noticing though...

Separated at birth?
A Judoon from out of Doctor Who (2007 version)
Rocksteady from out of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (1987 version)
Actually there was more than a hint of Vogon in the Judoon, among other Hitchhiker-esque bits like the transplanting of a whole building from one planet to another, and the whole thing being put down to mass halucinations after the event. I commented a while back that the Tenth Doctor is in fact Arthur Dent, and as if any further proof were needed, there's even an episode this series called: 42.

Are we sure Douglas Adams didn't just regenerate?