Holding the first copy of your first novel in your hands isn’t quite as wonderful as first holding your first child, but the novel didn’t spray me with horrible green shit the second I picked it up. So.
May 9, 2013
January 10, 2013
The MP behind a law change to legalise gay marriage has slammed the “dishonest” argument by opponents that her bill will pave the way to polygamous relationships.
Labour Party MP Louisa Wall said she was frustrated by the more extreme arguments against her bill, which had prompted her to release research showing that no country had legalised polygamous relationships after legalising gay marriage.
The concern about creating a “slippery slope” to polygamy was raised at the first reading of the bill by National MP for Wairarapa John Hayes, and has been echoed by submitters to the select committee considering the legislation, in particular the lobby group Family First.
Family First founder Bob McCoskrie said he believed legalising polygamy was “on the long-term agenda”.
The most important point to make about this is that there’s a late-period Robert Heinlein sci-fi novel called Friday which (as Mr McCoskrie is no doubt aware) is about a sexy nymphomaniac bisexual female secret agent, and some of the action takes place in a futuristic New Zealand in which polygamy is legal, and large polygamous marriages are common-place. There’s also a space elevator in Kenya.
December 14, 2012
I’ve written a novel and it’s being published by VUP next July.
Now, I’m not threatening you guys, exactly, but no one wants this to become one of those writers’ blogs with endless updates about sales (‘Number 65 on the New Zealand bestseller list!’) or links to interviews (‘Here I am in the Jetstar in-flight magazine!’) and the easiest way to avoid this will be for Dim-Post readers to just pony-up and buy this book on pre-order when it goes on sale next year.
Jarndyce v Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce v Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce v Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce v Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.
- Charles Dickens, Bleak House
November 8, 2012
I didn’t follow the US election too closely, and I don’t have anything interesting to say about the outcome. So here is the only known color photograph of Tolstoy, taken in 1908 when he was eighty years old. When I saw it I thought the photograph looked very modern: the color palate, the slightly saturated light. Then I realised it looks like an instagram picture, so a look I think of is modern is really a digital imitation of a very, very old look.
September 28, 2012
Over the past couple days I’ve been rereading William Gibson’s Neuromancer. I say ‘rereading’ because obviously I’d read it before, some time in the early 1990s, maybe – but once I got past the second chapter I found I remembered nothing about the book at all. I suspect I tried to read it when I was too young – my mid teens, perhaps. (It was released in 1984), couldn’t penetrate it beyond the first few pages, and then it became such a pivotal text over the next decade I just sort of convinced myself I’d read the whole thing. There should be a word for this.
Anyway, for a novel about high technology in the near future there are some charming anachronisms. The main character hopes to get rich selling ‘megs’ of RAM on the black market. Wireless technology doesn’t seem to exist – the ‘matrix’ can only be accessed through physical connections (‘jacking in’). And the sinister AI Wintermute contacts the hero through a ‘pay-phone’. (Obviously the orbital resorts, ubiquitous biotech implants and famous cyberspace virtual reality environments are slightly more robust than current levels of technology.)
The most famous passage in the book – other than the opening line – is probably:
The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games. … Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.
The cliched – unfalsifiable – claim people make about that passage is that by imagining the internet Gibson called it into being. TCP/IP had been around for a few years before the novel was published so there was a certain about of inevitability about the commercialisation of network technology – but you gotta give him huge points for vision.
Neuromancer is a sci-fi novel – arguably the most famous and influential sci-fi book of all time – but in genre terms it’s a fusion of a 1940′s style crime caper and a 1970s style drug novel. I’ve enjoyed Gibson’s recent books, but Neuromancer is a class above them. I remember Count Zero as being pretty good (or at least I think I do) and I think about it almost every time I write ‘count = 0′ in a line of code, so I plan to chase that up next.
September 1, 2012
I’m reading Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon. This is (a) a very good book, and (b) cursed with one of the most annoying cover-blurbs I’ve ever seen:
For my part I know of no better way to pass the time on a plane from Nice to Athens or, say, from Rangoon to Singapore, than to read one of Simenon’s novels.
- Somerset Maugham
August 23, 2012
A couple of days ago I stumbled across this article in the Fortean Times about Dennis Wheatley, an occult thriller writer of the mid 20th Century. Wheatley was insanely popular in his day, mostly forgotten about now: his first success and most famous book was The Devil Rides Out, which I read when I was a teenager – probably because Wheatley’s books usually had naked women on the covers.
I’ve been meaning to re-read this book for years, and the Fortean Times article inspired me to track it down. The Victoria University library is a research library – not that great for fiction, but for some reason it has a huge collection of mid-20th century pot-boilers called ‘The Lyell Boyes Crime Fiction Research Collection’, which features a number of Wheatley novels. The first thing I did was check the author’s preface, which had stuck in my mind over the decades – with good reason. It is a masterpiece of marketing:
I desire to state that I, personally, have never assisted at, or participated in, any ceremony connected with Magic – Black or White….Should any of my readers incline to a serious study of the subject, and thus come into contact with a man or woman of Power, I feel that it is only right to urge them, most strongly, to refrain from being drawn into the practice of the Secret Art in any way. My own observations have led me to an absolute conviction that to do so would bring them into dangers of a very real and concrete nature.
The VUW edition of The Devil Rides Out doesn’t have a naked chick on the front cover, but it does have an ad for Oxo stock cubes on the back. And on the inside back cover we find:
This is why the publishing industry is in trouble: lack of revenue diversity. They’re not even trying any more.
Anyway, I’m about half-way through The Devil Rides Out. It is (a) a completely brilliant thriller, and (b) an unintentionally hilarious comic novel, due to Wheatley’s reactionary politics and incidental bigotry. The villains of the book are – in best Famous Five tradition – mostly foreigners, including ‘a bad black’ from Madagascar, ‘a grave-faced Chinaman wearing the robes of a mandarin, whose slit eyes betrayed a cold merciless nature’, ‘a fat oily Babu (he means Indian) in a salmon pink turban’, and a ‘red faced Teuton, who suffered the deformity of a hare-lip.’ The hero of the book is the wise and erudite Duke de Richleau, an exile from France after a failed attempt to overthrow the evil socialist government and restore the rightful Monarchy. Richleau is an endless font of pseudo-scientific wisdom. My favorite of his lines (so far) is when he’s contemplating a terrible Satanic ritual and warns his companion ‘Be careful. Half of those Satanists are probably epileptics.’
July 10, 2012
I’ve been reading a bit of classic science-fiction recently, and I just finished Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Which is a very good book. It’s about a representative of an interplanetary culture making contact with an isolated planet of humans which are all hermaphrodites. (There are no sex scenes).
I thought I’d read it before when I was about nineteen, and I remember loftily dismissing it as ‘feminist science-fiction’. What’s odd is that I read The Handmaid’s Tale’ at about the same age, loved it and went around recommending it to people. Anyway, I didn’t remember anything about The Left Hand of Darkness. Maybe I didn’t even read it? The back cover of the edition I bought last week describes it as a feminist classic, maybe that riled my nineteen year old blood? (Or maybe I just skimmed through looking for sex scenes?)
Although I don’t think the book is a feminist text. It’s about gender, sure – but that’s because the book is about identity, and gender is a huge component of that. It’s about relationships, nationalism and patriotism as much as gender, if not more. According to Wikipedia the book will be made into a film (eh) and a video-game, which makes me smile every time I think about it. (‘You are in estrus. Find a compatible mate in ninety seconds, or restart the level.’)
June 11, 2012
Strange Angel, by George Pendle. This is a biography of John Whiteside Parsons, a chemist and pioneer rocket scientist who helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Parsons was an occultist and an early disciple of Aleister Crowley; he was also a friend of L. Ron Hubbards, back when Hubbard was a struggling pulp sci-fi author. They conducted various mystical rituals together in the desert near Pasadena, until Hubbard swindled Parsons out of his life savings and ran off with his girlfriend, who he went on to found Scientology with.
(The official Scientology account of this is a little different:
Hubbard broke up black magic in America … L. Ron Hubbard was still an officer of the U.S. Navy, because he was well known as a writer and a philosopher and had friends amongst the physicists, he was sent in to handle the situation. He went to live at the house and investigated the black magic rites and the general situation and found them very bad. … Hubbard’s mission was successful far beyond anyone’s expectations. The house was torn down. Hubbard rescued a girl they were using. The black magic group was dispersed and destroyed and has never recovered.)
I commend this book to anyone who shares my interest in the history of science, cults, occultism and cold-war paranoia.