Reprint: Violence

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I’ve nearly finished gathering together all of my Cognitive Mapping columns from Vector. This is the penultimate one, and it first appeared in Vector 193, May-June 1997. Continue reading

Time of Arrival

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On Saturday evening we finally got to see Arrival (insert usual and deserved superlatives here). On Saturday afternoon, I came across a review of the film; I haven’t sought it out again, I haven’t linked to it, because something so wrongheaded doesn’t deserve the link. At one point the reviewer said, in so many words, the subplot about the daughter is unnecessary but at least it’s not sentimental.

Well, he’s right about it not being sentimental. Otherwise … Continue reading

Reprint: Banks, Holdstock, Kilworth, MacLeod Poems

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I’ve been meaning to get back to using this blog as a resource where I can keep as much of my writing as possible online, so let’s start with this review of Poems, Peoms & Other Atrocities by Garry Kilworth & Robert Holdstock, and Poems by Iain Banks & Ken MacLeod, which first appeared in Foundation 122, December 2015. Continue reading

Joy through weakness

There is an excellent article by Neal Ascherson in the current issue of The London Review of Books (17 November 2016) which chimes with some of the ideas I started to put down in my last post here. “England prepares to leave the world” (such an apposite title) reminds me of something I’ve been thinking, in a rather inchoate way, over the last few months: all of the current shenanigans over Brexit are the result of weakness, not strength. The government is weak, and all of the political parties in Britain are weak, and everything that is happening in British politics at the moment is the result of a desperate effort to hold on rather than anything serious, thought-through and controlled. Continue reading

Electors and elected

In the deep dark hours of the morning, in despair at the results coming out of America, I began to think that democracy is broken. Then I thought again. No, democracy isn’t broken, it worked perfectly over Brexit and over Trump. We may not like the results, but the machinery (and that’s all that democracy is, a machine) worked exactly as it was intended to.

But what is broken is the system powered by that machine. And that system is politics; not government, not the will of the people, nothing like that, just politicians. Voters are the motive force that turns the machine, and politicians are what is spewed out at the end of the process. When commentators talk blandly about the Whitehall bubble or the Washington bubble, as they do with ever greater frequency, what they are saying, without ever examining it, is that there is a growing disconnect between the two ends of the process. Continue reading

The Moving Toyshop

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‘Let’s go left,’ Cadogan suggested. ‘After all, Gollancz is publishing this book.’

the moving toyshopI knew about this novel long before I read it, or indeed anything by Edmund Crispin. Maureen kept quoting the line about turning left at a junction because Gollancz was publishing the book. It was a knowingness that amused me. But not enough to make me pick up any of his novels and read them.

Then Maureen re-read this book, and said it might amuse me. So I read it, and there was the famous scene. But by then the self-referentiality of the book was well established. Not long before, when Fen and Cadogan had been locked inside a cupboard, Fen spends the time loudly proposing titles that Crispin might use for his next novel. Indeed, before the story even starts, there’s a note:

None but the most blindly credulous will imagine the characters and events in this story to be anything but fictitious.

Continue reading