29 March 2005

Brides of the Autons

The most impressive thing about the Doctor Who episode Rose was its sheer contemporariness. The tight scripting and editing allowed enough material for a four-part Doctor Who story (an hour and a half in old money) to play itself out in 45 minutes; and the televisual vocabulary and grammar in use throughout were those employed in Russell T. Davies' earlier, impeccably modern drama series: Queer as Folk, The Second Coming and the like.

The second most impressive thing about the episode was the way this traditional Doctor Who plot -- and it was traditional, with a hidden monster-mind controlling the ground-level menace, and the Doctor having to employ a repertoire of technological McGuffins to track down and defeat it -- was seen entirely through the viewpoint of a normal person who hadn't a clue what was going on. The specialist fan in the audience, having naturally seen Spearhead from Space, may be able to decipher the underlying plot, but young Ms Piper is as in the dark as the mainstream viewer. And that's how it should be, because this story isn't about how the Doctor defeated the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness. It's about how he met Rose -- or rather about how she met him.

For make no mistake, Rose is the central character: baffled, exasperated, furious and comforted by this bizarre Northerner who claims to be an alien and appears to have the inexplicable toys to prove it. It's An Unearthly Child with sexual tension. What's more, Rose's storyline (as Not Invented Here has pointed out in this very venue) follows a very old and archetypal pattern, vacillating in the face of the call to adventure, seeking outside help and descending into the underworld from which she cannot return unchanged. It's the strongest introduction of a Doctor or companion which Doctor Who has given us to date.

The third most impressive thing about Rose was the dialogue -- not quite as sharp and witty throughout as we've come to expect from Davies, but with some smart lines from the Doctor and others. The "Lots of planets have a North" line is bound to be the most quoted, but for my money "It's a disguise!" (its proud owner's explanation of the TARDIS's surreally incongruous 1950s exterior) was the funniest.

Surprisingly, though, it's only when we get to number four on the impressiveness list that Christopher Eccleston's performance as the Doctor gets a look-in. Fantastic actor though he is, and highly charismatic though he was in the part, he still seemed a little unconfident. He overplayed the Doctor's cheery, smiling enjoyment of adventure -- as if the character's other moods (his anger when arguing with the Nestene, his various arrogant dismissals of Rose and her species, his enigmatic weirdness shortly before he first enters the TARDIS) were somehow less valid. Apparently Mr Eccleston wants to cast off his reputation for playing miserable gits, psychopaths and traumatised survivors, but it is possible to swing too far in the opposite direction.

For certainly none of this is to suggest that Rose was without faults. On the contrary, they become more apparent with the time that elapses since the broadcast. Ms Piper's performance, while light-years from the disaster some fans feared, was competent rather than stellar. The "anti-plastic" plot device seemed contrived even in a story where the plot explicitly didn't matter. The computer-generated special effects were frankly on the naff side. The belching wheelie-bin came precariously close to snapping the thread on which the disbelief of viewers over ten was suspended.

And if anything, rather too much of the original series was kept in place. There was no need for Eccleston to comment on his own face, particularly when the programme ensured that the records of his historical appearances all showed him looking as he does now. The TARDIS design is probably too iconic to change, but the episode would have benefited from a revamped dematerialisation noise -- equally eerie, but less antiquated and, above all, shorter. Wierder still, the Auton dummies sported the wrist-guns they wielded in Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons, despite the fact that we had already been shown at least three ways in which living plastic could kill without them, and nothing in the extant plot prepared the viewer to expect shop-window mannequins to be fitted with projectile armaments.

But none of this matters. The very brilliance of Rose lies in the ease with which it covered up these problems, which in any other series might have been disastrous. And these missteps, these teething problems, almost certainly arise from the fact that this is the first episodic Doctor Who to have materialised since 1989.

In fact, I think I may have been wrong about the most impressive aspect of Rose. Because what got me most excited -- the single thing which impressed me the most on first viewing, and continues to impress me now -- was the trailer for next week's episode, The End of the World.

While it's always fun to see the Doctor in a contemporary setting, it was the imagination of the otherworldly stories -- the alien planets, the far futures -- which formed for me the original series' strongest appeal. No longer concerned with introducing us to the Doctor and his world, episode two can look outward, introducing characters we now know well to an altogether weirder, stranger place: a future where humanity is extinct, and the Earth itself is dying; a world populated by giant disembodied faces, living trees and a woman made from a stretched-out sheet of skin.

All of which, or most of it, seems to be done with models and make-up, rather than with computer animation. In effect, The End of the World promises to be The Curse of Peladon with decent special effects.

And that, if nothing else, would have been worth waiting sixteen years for.

27 March 2005

He Is Risen

Well, wasn't Rose magnificent?

I'm using my in-laws' dialup connection at present, so I can't go into much detail beyond "Wow". But, well, my fears that it would be not to my taste, or aimed overly at the kiddie market were unfounded entirely.

Christopher Eccleston was marvellous. Billie Piper didn't suck. Russell T. Davies' script, with its use of modern T.V. styling and technique, was quite, quite miraculous.

Tonight B. and I'll be heading home, to where I hope to God my V.C.R. has recorded it properly (the one here didn't). Tomorrow's going to be a busy day working on the S.F.-crit proposal, but I'll try and post some more coherent thoughts about the episode at some point in the next few days.

But yes, Rose is fab, and there's every reason to hope the rest of the season will be every bit as good.

He is risen indeed. Happy Easter, everybody.

25 March 2005


This S.F.-crit proposal is taking far longer than I anticipated. I'm obviously way out of practice in estimating these things. I'm going to have to keep working through this weekend as well, despite visiting the in-laws.

I had been rather looking forward to this Easter -- a change of scenery, time with B. (whose work has stopped driving her like a horse now), perhaps a trip to church (also a fairly rare occurrence) and new Doctor Who. As it is, I'll have to take along the palmtop, keyboard and probably a dozen or so reference books. Argh and knickers.

(Nothing in the world would make me miss Doctor Who, though.
Little-sister-in-law's boyfriend and I have insisted, as a condition of our attendance, that the rest of the family promise to maintain strict silence throughout the first episode, and only to articulate their questions and comments afterwards. It remains to be seen whether this will have any practical effect on anyone's behaviour but our own.)

23 March 2005

Busy, Busy

Well, the weekend vanished altogether as I worked up a revised proposal for this (tentative and potential) co-authored critical book on S.F.

It's been three years since I passed the viva for my doctoral thesis, and since then the only criticism I've done has been the occasional desultory book review. What's more I've written some 180,000 words of prose (longer than the thesis even when it was horribly in need of cutting), in a radically different, imaginative mode. It's proved extraordinarily difficult to wrench my brain back into the configuration required for producing that kind of writing, although I've found it pretty stimulating as well. I think, if this book goes ahead, that I'll need some kind of creative project running parallel with it in order to retain my sanity.

On the other hand, maybe sanity is overrated, and a decent sabbatical from fiction is just what my brain needs to come up with loads of exciting new ideas. Time will tell.

Yesterday I was on a Library I.T. course thing for work, which being a Library I.T. course thing was largely dominated by librarians asking our preternaturally patient (and possibly even sedated) trainer questions like: "Hang on, what did you do just then?", "No, I mean the bit before that?", "Won't our students find this far too complicated?", "Can't you just make the computer clever enough to spot when I've made a mistake?", "Why can't things just stay like they were in the seventies?" and "No, I still don't understand the thing you did half an hour ago".

Today I'm back at St Brad's, but tomorrow is Maundy Thursday and therefore the last day of term, so hurrah. I'll have a total of 18 days of not having to come in to work at all, during the course of which I get to watch three episodes of new Doctor Who. So hurrah again.

Details are currently sparse to non-existent, but it is now looking as if I should be talking at the Greenbelt festival again this August, whether at "Between the Lines" as before or in one of the larger venues. Hopefully it will be the latter, as, my preferred topic this year is (predictably enough) "The Spirituality of Doctor Who".

So, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed -- and taking notes come Saturday evening.

17 March 2005


I've finally got together a first draft of the web blurb I've been needing for the short story in Wildthyme on Top. It still needs some tweaking before it's quite ready to go up on the website, but this is basically it:

Miss Iris Wildthyme's jaunts through time and space with her friend Tom have left them both well-versed in history's vagaries. But when they face the sight of Queen Elizabeth I welcoming ‘envoys from the lunar sphere’ into her court, the pair are at a loss.

It may be history itself is near collapse, but Iris couldn't give a toss. The old Queen needs a mentor (and chauffeur) for England’s delegation to the Moon –- and Iris learns the satellite is her and Tom’s idea of Heaven. Pretty soon she’s out carousing and, well, partying her socks off.

She may even get to sing...

It's been substantial hassle to write, and the really annoying thing is that virtually no-one who reads it is even going to notice, let alone realise why.

A sneak preview of "Minions of the Moon" goes to the first person (who hasn't read the story already) to spot the clever bit...

[Edit 21/3/5: The blurb's now up at my Wildthyme on Top page. Click on the © symbol at the bottom to see the clever bit.]

16 March 2005

Lives and Times

Well, I promised a long time ago now that I'd blog the entire writing process of my next writing commission after Of the City of the Saved... -- and, apart from the tentative and confidential early stages, I've pretty much managed that with Peculiar Lives. I've been doing it since May, in fact. Back then, Peculiar Times was still called Peculiar Lives and Peculiar Lives was called A Man Apart. During that time I've written a short story, seen another short story published and moved house.

Since I know some of you at least are still reading, I'm assuming that this hasn't been too dull, or at least that some of you are capable of skipping the boring bits.

Anyway. The writing process in question is now over, barring unexpected pre-publication crises as at the weekend I completed the handful of fairly minor rewrites which had been requested by the editor. Not all of them were things I agreed with, but that's OK -- it's why we have editors as well as writers. The text of the novella is now in a form which the publishers, as well as I, consider usable, which is, I must say, a pleasant relief.

I'm expecting the publishers to announce the book on their website any day now. Mind you, I've been expecting that for a number of weeks, so we'll have to see what happens. Rest assured, you'll read about it here the moment it becomes public domain.

Culture Update

What with the cat crisis, the virus and some heavy work-related demands being made on B. with knock-on domestic demands on me, it's been ages since I posted anything of substance (last week's rant about Nathan Barley being the one exception).

I've also failed to follow up my first Speculative Cityscape with any of the other nine in the projected series. This I'll be trying to rectify soon, possibly with something about Istanbul.

Meanwhile, here are some notes on all the stuff I've been watching and reading since, ooh, ages ago now.


Natural History by Justina Robson. A fabulous work of hard S.F., made all the more palatable for me by the fact that most of the science is the one I'm interested in, biology. Robson's posthumans are among the most sympathetic and convincing I've read about, managing to be both alien in outlook and clearly human in their psychological heritage: the first chapter shows a bioengineered deep-space probe discovering the first signs of non-terrestrial life whilst listening to "American Pie". Robson's "unevolved" characters unfortunately become a little insipid in comparison, but it's a reasonable trade-off.

There's some astonishing imagination at work here, and when the big central concept is revealed, near the end, it makes sense and is convincing rather than being empty technobabble. I gather Robson's earlier books are classical cyberpunk, which (since I've read rather a lot of it) makes me less keen to try them. But Natural History is very much worth reading, and I'm looking forward to whatever she comes out with next.

Raw Spirit: the Search for the Perfect Dram by Iain Banks. This is Banks's only non-fiction book to date, and to be perfectly frank I can see why. His style of writing is always entertaining, and the ostensible subject -- whisky -- is one I'm interested in but know little about, which is always a winning combination. Unfortunately, the focus on whisky is extremely loose, and the other things Banks seems keen on banging on about are very much less interesting to the reader than they are to him. If he was talking about writing, science fiction or even politics I'd probably have found it fascinating even so -- though others perhaps wouldn't. These subjects do come up on rare occasions, but in between times Banks treats us to interminable descriptions of his various cars and what they're like to drive, andecdotes involving his mates (often not even about drinking whisky with his mates), and -- the ultimate turn-off for me -- a digression about football.

This is a great big shame, because the stuff about whisky is absolutely fascinating, and really makes me wish I had the money to do some serious investigation of the distillers and varieties he recommends. Which, unfortunately, I don't.


Nathan Barley. I forgot to watch or record it on Friday, so I have no idea whether Morris & Brooker's opus became any funnier or more relevant during the week. I'll have to try and remember to tune in for the final episode, in the hope that it ends with a blackly humorous massacre of all the characters. Although Blackadder made that a cliché years ago, of course.

Firefly. God, I could write screens and screens about this. I finished watching it in February, having been given it for my birthday in November. It's bloody excellent. Pretty much anything I say about it here will be inadequate -- every aspect, from scripts to sets to acting to the underlying S.F. worldbuilding, is absolutely consummate. Of the fourteen episodes that were made, only one -- "Safe" -- struck me as having naff elements. That's a better strike rate than any other genre show, and certainly better than Joss Whedon's two better-known fantasy series. Some mainstream dramas like Six Feet Under bear the comparison, however; and indeed, the drama in Firefly is so character-based that it's easy to forget it's science fiction. Even the theme song is gorgeous. For a first season, this is quite simply phenomenal.

So naturally Fox cancelled it.

Desperate Housewives. No no, honestly, listen, this is a lot better than you think. The subject matter (four bored housewives in the suburbs) may seem unpromising, and I could personally do without the Sex and the City-style voiceover narration, but both of these elements are assiduously subverted right from the start. The narrator is dead, having killed herself in the very first scene, and observes from some unspecified afterlife as her four friends seek to uncover the reasons for her suicide. This arc story -- which so far has involved blackmail, human remains, child abuse, a contract killer, a brutal onscreen murder and an escape from a mental hospital -- runs more or less in the background while the lives of the four protagonists play out their more mundane dramas of rivalry, divorce, romance and parenthood. The scripts are crisp and witty, and even the sunny suburban setting takes on a sinister X-Files tinge after a while.

With the exception of Teri Hatcher, whose "kooky" act could do with being turned down a couple of notches, the main cast are all excellent as well, my particular favourite being icy redhead Marcia Cross as the Stepfordish domestic tyrant Bree.

...OK. So I just jettisoned the whole of my remaining credibility in one go, didn't I?


I'm having trouble remembering the last time I went to the cinema, actually. It may well have been before Christmas. You'll have to make do with the following on DVD:

Cypher. Intriguing and clever S.F. thriller revolving around questions of identity. I particularly enjoyed the way it started off as a dour, noirish technothriller and built up slowly into James Bond secret-base territory, with colour slowly seeping into the washed-out palette as it did so. Mind you, with the right binoculars the big climactic twist would have been obvious from Belgium.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This was great fun, much as you'd expect, but veering so close to substancelessness as to be effectively indistinguishable from it. I was intrigued to know whether the pulp-adventure style events were supposed to be taking place in our own history or an alternate one: for a story apparently set in 1939 (the characters watch The Wizard of Oz at the cinema) and featuring German scientists, the complete lack of any mention of Nazism is at least a little surprising. I'd have liked to see some connection made between the retro-futurist machinery and architecture (not to mention Tibetan mysticism) which Sky Captain pastiches and iconises, and that which was actually constructed or planned as part of Hitler's Reich. There was, to say the least, a lot of implicit fascism in the pulp fiction of that era, and the filmmakers skirt around this rather.

They did include an awful lot of cool explosions, though, so never mind.

12 March 2005


This came to me in my sleep last night, although I had to check the facts at Wikipedia.

Q. What did Nebraska say to Kansas after they were split apart in 1854?
A: "Kansas, I don't think we're in toto any more."

[Edit to add: Bugger. It seems that other people have thought of this already.]

09 March 2005

Cold Discomfort

My week so far's been dominated by a rather vicious virus (of the wetware kind), which has prevented me doing any writing, or indeed coming into work as I should have done yesterday. While the symptoms mimic those of a cold with uncanny accuracy in order to make me look a wimp, this virus is actually much, much worse -- having managed to take out my ability to sleep, to walk around without feeling like I've got a rhino on my back, or to think logically (or indeed, at times, sequentially).

It's actually not as bad today as it was on Monday and Tuesday, which is why I'm in work, but I'm seriously wondering whether I actually ought to be. My employers seem troubled by no such scruples, though. Never mind.

At least I've had some time to embark, following your advice, on House of Leaves. I'm 100 pages in and so far it's satisfyingly creepy -- about a third of the time. Other parts of it are either overly pretentious or unduly annoying or both... although I admit I may be crankier than usual. On the other hand, I also started Newton's Wake today, and am enjoying the chapter and a half I've read so far. It hasn't got political yet, mind you.

I've realised that yesterday's marathon Nathan Barley review was the first time I've written anything much about books, TV or film for quite a while now. I must rectify that.

One thing I will not be reviewing, however, until after 7pm on Saturday 26 March at the very earliest, is the first episode of new Doctor Who -- which, as widely reported, has been scurrilously uploaded onto the internet by an unscrupulous employee of a Canadian broadcaster. It's naturally being watched by every single Doctor Who fan equipped with sufficient computer literacy and insufficient patience -- which, as you might imagine, is an awful lot of them.

Reviews are springing up all over the web, making it increasingly difficult for those of us who wish to preserve intact our thrill of anticipation (or our legal inviolability) to avoid the buggers -- a fact which I find deeply annoying. Although as I've said, I may be rather cranky at the moment.

Joe Public

Thanks to Stuart (and indeed to Ken MacLeod, who makes the long-overdue "Joe Blogs" joke)for pointing out that Joe Gordon, famously sacked from Waterstones for writing about his working life on his blog, has been given a job -- not only working for Forbidden Planet in Edinburgh, but actually running their official weblog. There's still poetic justice in the world.

08 March 2005

Urban Cultural Dispatj

Ah, yes. Nathan Barley. A.K.S. trashbat.co.ck. Here's the credos.

I've always had a slight problem with Chris Morris. It isn't that I fail to find him funny, or even to recognise his vituperative, corrosive genius. Our modern world needs its own Swift, taking venomous delight in excoriating its faults, and rarely more so than now. No, my problem with Morris is simply that his works fulfil their purpose by making me, very often, profoundly uncomfortable. It generally takes a number of viewings before I can really appreciate the excellence of his work, whether it be the savagely contemptuous celebrity satire of Brass Eye or the heart-of-darkness sketch comedy of Jam.

(Despite numerous attempts, I don't think I'll ever manage to desensitise myself to the "Plumber Baby" sketch. I've taken to fast-forwarding through it on the DVD.)

So, when I heard that Morris and Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker were collaborating on a sitcom of London media life, I expected to find it difficult to get into. What I didn't expect was for it to be rather naff.

There are jokes -- at least, there is vicious (and occasionally powerful) irony, and there are characters it's possible to point at and laugh. Most of the actual funny stuff happens in the background, on posters or signage -- making Nathan Barley a DVD-era comedy as well as an internet-era one, but also one it's difficult to appreciate as a broadcast programme. Even these ephemera fail to achieve the joke-to-time density of Brass Eye, let alone The Day Today.

Nathan Barley suffers from a fundamental problem of identification. None of the central characters are ones with whom we can sympathise -- yet drama (even comedy) without sympathy is meaningless. If we find Basil Fawlty appalling, it's because we know we share many of his faults. We find ourselves cringing with every embarrassment he suffers. However morally dubious Edmund Blackadder's behaviour may be, he's charming enough that we're all rooting for him anyway. We loathe David Brent -- but then so do his employees. Without at least one character who affects us emotionally, situation comedy loses all its interest.

So, Nathan Barley is forced to manipulate us into throwing our lot in with one character or another, when none has done anything to deserve such respect. The eponymous Barley is an anti-hero in the Brentian grotesque mould (disconcertingly so, for of us who admire Morris for his originality) -- yet his embarassments and, on occasion, triumphs (as when he gets one over the snobbish couple in the restaurant) are events we are invited to care about. The Office never expected us to do the same with Brent.

The other supposed viewpoint character is Dan Ashcroft, a man with the wit to perceive that he is surrounded by idiots but lacking the moral impetus to do anything about it other than limply denounce them. Even his attempts to escape their milieu are doomed to failure by his own apathy. The episode which casts Dan as the "Preacher Man" seems to be suggesting that we are to consider him a Holy Fool, the jester to Barley's royal court of imbeciles -- with the twist that all of the other characters look up to him, and respect him for "telling it like it is" whilst never considering that any of it might apply to them. The idea has a certain power, but is ruined by the way the same episode unleashes upon Dan the series' one true moment (to date) of genuine Morrisian moral indignation, as we see him gambling on an online tramp-teeth-pulling contest. He is a man for whom, ultimately, we can have no more respect than we have for the unselfconscious Barley.

Even the third string, Dan's idealistic sister Claire, fails to engage our sympathy. Like the only other recurring female character, she's drawn as a conscious contrast to the male idiots she associates with, but -- unlike the receptionist at Dan's workplace -- she suffers from a chronic inability to see through even the limpidly transparent Barley, whose one motivation where she's concerned is to get inside her knickers.

There are other problems. The structure of the storytelling is poor, suffering at times -- despite such scenes as Nathan's attempt to combine the arts of rap and cunnilingus -- from plotting which would not have looked out of place on BBC2 in the 1970s. When Barley admires Ashcroft's hairstyle -- which Dan has accidentally created by sleeping with his head in a large quantity of paint -- and demands the same cut from his stylist, it's a comedic inevitability that the "geek pie" will become intensely fashionable by the end of the episode. However, this is stored up as a final punchline and -- in an almost offensively 70s touch -- attributed to the agency of a gullible Japanese fashion reporter.

Even the basic joke, of the complete cluelessness of everyone in Barley's environment, becomes strangely compromised in this episode. Nathan is proud of the "geek pie" when he thinks it is fashionable, but when he discovers his mistake he tries to hide it by wearing a handbag on his head -- which he knows full well isn't fashionable. If he's prepared to brazen it out with the handbag, why not with the geek pie? Why does his date, who accepted the bag without question, laugh her head off when the hairstyle is revealed? This relies, not only on attributing a degree of discrimination to people who, the script repeatedly insists, have no such thing, but on turning it on and off at the scriptwriters' whim.

Some reviewers have blamed the series' failure on Morris' collaborator (unlikely, since Brooker, formerly responsible for TV Go Home where the Barley character originated, is also very funny), or simply on the fact that he's collaborating at all (again unlikely -- see Jam, The Day Today, or indeed Why Bother?).

In fact, the problem is that Nathan Barley attempts to be a dystopian vision of a world run by cretins -- but it's a dystopia whose entire scope is that of a couple of square miles of London. The insular isolation of the media trendies who live and work here is one of the things we are supposed to laugh at, but the scripts themselves are guilty of a similar short-sightedness. The fact is that, while these may be the people whom Morris and Brooker have to deal with on a daily basis, they don't run the world -- they barely even impact on the lives of most people.

To someone living in, say, Hoxton, this is probably swingeing satire. To the 52 million or so Britons who live outside London but still receive Channel 4, it's meaningless. It's satire without target, statement without referent. With the single exception of that teeth-pulling scene, Nathan Barley hasn't made me feel uncomfortable once. (I'd like to say it makes me squirm in embarrassment, but actually it's not nearly that bad.)

Yes, these people are idiots -- that's perfectly clear. So what? They bear no relationship to anybody I know or care about.

I look forward to Morris' next project -- I can't imagine him ever ceasing to be a comedian whose work was worth seeking out -- but I do hope it makes me feel worse than this.

03 March 2005

Gone Home? Good.

Isn't predictive text wonderful?

This morning I texted B. in an attempt to warn her that the roads were a bit icy. My phone informed her that she might find them "a bit gay".

02 March 2005

Sleep Cycle

This morning I was caught in one of those nested dream-sequences which you sometimes enter when you're in the really deep sleep stage of your sleep cycle, but you nevertheless know that you have to get up very, very soon now: where you keep on waking up, seeing the time, going "Agh!", getting out of bed, experiencing stressful and / or surreal events for several minutes, and then waking up again going "Agh!" and starting the whole process off once more.

This chain lasted for a good dozen iterations, in the course of which I must have had a good couple of hours' worth of panic squeezed into the space of fifteen minutes. As a consequence, I've been suffering all day from the hazily uneasy expectation that at some point I'll realise that I've inadvertently driven my moped into the library, or be abruptly surrounded by bonobos.

At some point during the morning's antics I remember meeting Dawn from Buffy, who had a third nipple and twelve-year-old twins: they (the twins, not the nipples) were being read a bedtime story by Captain Jack Sparrow.

I also came up with a particularly good design for duckling-shaped cuddly toys which would be ideally suited to being held in bed. I may see if I can get someone to make them and sell them -- or at least to make me one. It might help me sleep properly.


I'm trying out the facility for creating free polls at Pollhost.com, so consider this to be something of an experiment.

On the other hand, I am feeling genuinely indecisive at present, so would welcome your opinions on the following:

Which book should I read next?
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke
The Prestige by Christopher Priest
The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson
Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Free polls from Pollhost.com
[Edit to add: Hmm. Not sure about that huge blank space there. Or indeed the pop-up window when one views the results.]

01 March 2005

33 1/3

I seem to be a third of a century old today.

Assuming that 100 years is a plausible life expectancy for someone of my generation -- a thesis which involves a large number of substantial assumptions about the progress of medical technology, the persistence of civilisation and its infrastructure, and my starting to lose weight and do some exercise at some point very soon now -- this means, among other things, that from now on it's going to be rather difficult to claim not to be middle-aged.

On the other hand, I've achieved a reasonable amount in the past few years, and it's not as if I have to go through all that tedious business of childhood, puberty and schooling again. So actually, I'm reasonably sanguine about this.

More so than my beloved seems to be about her imminent 30th birthday, anyway.