Boggling

If you had told Very Young Me that the next time I read the same Harry Harrison/Stainless Steel Rat book, I would be using the gentle weight of a palm-held microcomputer, capable of a hundred million different functions (and capable of doing all of these things without any form of cabling), to hold down the pages against the breeze, I strongly suspect Very Young Me would have a largely boggled brain.

Searching for inspiration

I’m looking for a domain name.

I get flashes of inspiration that occasionally produces solid gold possibilities, but when I check them out I find someone has got there before me.

The domain name is for the new media website that I have finally finished designing.

All I need is a name.

I thought I had the perfect one and nearly spent money buying it.

Just in time, before I pressed the ‘buy’ button, I noticed the typo.

Yeah, that could have been embarrassing.

So I’m still looking.

I can’t go in to details here, but if you’re feeling creative, leave a comment/drop me a line and I’ll email you the basic details.

It’s a dangerous life; moving in transit

Sporting injuries. I’ve had a couple. During my first inter-school cricket match, I took a beamer to the face and had to retire from the wicket without offering a stroke. Many years later, whilst playing for a 2nd XI in the North Somerset League, I ripped a Quadricep during a gut-wrenching sprint to stop the ball from crossing the boundary. Because I couldn’t run fast until the wound healed, I was forced to spend the next seven matches fielding at Silly Point which is the most dangerous fielding position on the cricket pitch. Ironically, whilst fielding in that position I didn’t incur any injuries and somehow managed to take three wickets. I’ve only had one other sporting accident; when the horse I was riding struck a cross-country fence and I was catapulted out of the saddle, and the horse, for good measure, rolled on top of me and then, in his haste to get to his feet, shredded my leg with his steel-shod hooves. The injuries I got that day resulted in five operations and kept me on crutches for 8 months. But today, a new era in sports injuries has dawned. This evening Soph came home with a sporting injury.

the mother of all sporting injuries

To give you something to judge this horrendous injury against, here’s the other one.

A terrible injury, as you can see. And how did this dreadful wound occur, I hear you ask? She was playing… Rounders.

Recently I was in a Twitter conversation with Andy Johnson (@andyjohnsonuk) about British SciFi authors. Andy was raving about John Wyndham. I said I favoured Edmund Cooper (a much more prolific author, a more poetic writer and, in my view, a person in possession of a more challenging imagination). The trouble is, that started me remembering all of the Edmund Cooper works. And then, because my head works in this way, I drew up a mental list: The Top Five Edmund Cooper books. Number 1 was an easy choice. Transit (first published 1964). I’ve owned three copies of Transit. I lost one on a C-130 Hercules when we were deployed from Germany to Cyprus. I don’t know where I lost the second copy, but it was probably in Hong Kong or Singapore, or somewhere between the two. I know precisely where I parted company with copy number three. It was when I was moving from the company apartment in Manhattan to my first apartment which was on Madison Street, NYC. I lost a lot of stuff in that move, and learned a valuable lesson of having an itemised checklist! Anyway, a few nights ago I was so fired up by thoughts of Edmund Cooper that I went on Amazon and found a used copy of Transit for… wait for it, wait for it… £1. So I bought it. It arrived today. I’ve just opened the envelope and inside was…

transit, a scifi novel, by edmund cooper

As soon as it fell out of the padded envelope, Soph seized it. Because it *is* a book, after all. I looked at the front and said, ‘That’s the 1973 edition’. She flipped open the front cover, read the publication date and her mouth opened in amazement. Sometimes I know too much about things that I really shouldn’t.

A sad loss

However people choose to look at the man and what he has or has not achieved, today’s passing of former champion jockey, Dick Francis, will be a moment of sadness for many.

Me included.

I don’t care if Dick Francis or his wife Mary wrote the many books that were published under his name.

For me that’s incidental.

Without his detailed technical knowledge the novels would not have been as fundamentally accurate, in things equine, as they undoubtedly were.

Are.

I say ‘are’ because, coincidentally, I’m re-reading one of Dick Francis’ novels at the moment.

It’s a respite; the words pour over me, they are effortless to read and many aspiring authors could do worse than examine the style of prose that was published under the name Dick Francis.

He was, without doubt, a talented jockey.

Was he the author of the many novels published under his name or, as a number of people believe, were they primarily the work of his late wife Mary?

Who cares.

Though the older works are very dated, I have read every single one of the Dick Francis novels at least once and, while living overseas, have read some of them so often I’ve lost count.

The writer understood people and also understood the connection that horses have with people.

And the writer had a gift for storytelling, but making it easy for the reader.

A sad loss.

Plant life

This weekend we finally got around to clearing the decks, settling down on the couch and watching the latest BBC adaptation of The Day Of The Triffids.

I’d been looking forward to it since it aired, not because of anything to do with the cast or production, just because I’ve read the book a squillion times.

I can’t remember the first time I sat down and opened the book. I can’t even remember if it was the first of John Wyndham’s works I’d read, but I do know that I have read and loved and reread The Day Of The Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) and Chocky (1968).

John Wyndham was a legend. One of the founding fathers of post-war British SciFi, he was such a magnificent influence on my early life that my reading flowed, quite naturally, from Wyndham to Edmund Cooper and his epoch-defining works: Transit (1964), Five To Twelve (1968), Who Needs Men (1972), The Cloud Walker (1973) and The Tenth Planet (1973).

These men, these talented writers brought SciFi home to Britain from the transatlantic-flavoured worlds created by foreigners such as Isaac Asimov and Robert A Heinlein.

Wyndham and Cooper wrote with skill, they defined situations that had relevance to a British readership and they did it with panache and style and total – near clinical – craftsmanship.

Oh I was so looking forward to the BBC’s adaptation of The Day Of The Triffids.

Sigh.

The key elements of Wyndham’s work are clearly defined in the BBC’s production.

But gone is the brevity, absent are the clinical touches and the deft incisiveness is.. nowhere to be seen.

The BBC have given us an over-written, over-produced mess of a project that is to televisual craftsmanship what the chariot race in Ben Hur is to considerate motoring.

I have to admit, in all fairness, that the characterisations worked; the casting was almost completely comfortable and some of the performances bordered on – given the shortcomings of the project – heroic.

But the script the actors were given to work with can only be described as…

  • Lamentable
  • Risible
  • Pathetic, and
  • Lacklustre

There were so many examples of awfulness that one’s already suspended sense of belief had to be suspended a second and even a third time whilst still being suspended the first time.

I could list the shortcomings of The Day Of The Triffids, but what would be the point?

No, really, what would be the point?

If a production as awful to endure experience as The Day Of The Triffids can slip through what passes for ‘quality control’ at the BBC, listing out the many flat points in the show would have what benefit?

The crushingly relentless mediocrity that the BBC almost rammed down the throats of the viewer in this production just about stifled the life out of us.

In this house we jokingly called it ‘a futuristic sitcom’, but the truth is the writing seemed to have been contributed by a collective of 14 year-olds and the production was delivered by a Star Wars fanboy.

The Day Of The Triffids: a truly awful experience.

John Wyndham, RIP.