David Stevens

Archive for July, 2014|Monthly archive page

Dangerous

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Talentless, I am surrounded by skilful musicians, all of whom I hate deeply. (Is it a character flaw that my two greatest motivations are avoiding embarrassment, and jealousy?)

Here are Yetis with ‘Dangerous’, and our nephew Tom, a lovely boy, is the drummer with his eyes stuck shut. (I’m sure there is ointment you can get for that.)

Who you gonna call?

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

“Who you gonna call?”

Ghost riders, not in the sky

Ghost riders, not in the sky

Supernatural cycling incidents are obviously a greater concern and more common in Germany than I realised.

MH 17

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2014 at 11:12 am

My wife’s phone rang at 3.19am. It confused me, because my alarm does not make that sound. Mostly asleep, I thought of the time when the noise would stop, and I could submerge myself completely. My wife was obviously also not conscious.

“What’s that?” I asked, innocently.

“My sister is trying to call me.”

“Oh.” With no sarcasm, I said “Maybe you should answer it”. I was being helpful. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.” Again, no sarcasm. Sleep is a type of drug.

I didn’t think, who has died?, the way I would back home. 3am is 11am there. Not a time when anyone should call us, but a safe time nonetheless. Then I kept hearing, oh no … oh no … oh no … And then, no, he’s here. He’s asleep. In the room next to us.

In a six week period, I flew the Amsterdam-Australia route with Malaysian Airlines three times. The first time, just before I boarded in Sydney, I heard the news that one of their planes was missing. I didn’t know what was happening, but that didn’t worry me at all. Air travel is safe. Statistically invalid though it is, if I reacted at all, it was only to think that if here had been a recent disaster, air travel was for the moment, even safer. Only at breakfast the next morning in Kuala Lumpur, reading a local paper, did I realise the extent of the tragedy, did the selfishness of my glib reaction sink in.

My next trip was back home a month later, on the noon MH 17 flight. We flew over the Ukraine again, just as I did a fortnight later as I brought my family to join me in Europe.

My wife’s octogenarian uncle, spry and fit and still travelling the world, has been using our home here as a base while he journeyed around Europe. He was travelling home on MH 17 on Friday. We had gone to bed that night not knowing that Thursday’s flight had simply been shot out of the sky, killing everyone. Our family in Australia suddenly worried that they may have had the date wrong.

Half asleep, I dismissed their worry. I knew that he was safe and that he was travelling the next day, and I had not yet seen the news broadcasts. I later saw the horror, but connected only on an intellectual level. Viscerally, I think it was not until midday that it hit me. Flags at half mast here in the Netherlands. The number of Australians killed. (No more important than anyone else, just that I can relate a little more to that.) My daughter’s Dutch teacher, telling her that she was late for school as she had to prepare her son. His little friend had been killed, with all of his family. They had been going on an adventure to Australia, a trip long planned and hard saved for. All the class had been excited for them. AIDS researchers, their knowledge and skills built up over decades, gone in an instant. Good people, bad people, ordinary people, their bodies scattered over a field in the Ukraine after they fell ten kilometres from the sky.

I may have once, or thrice, flown on that exact same aircraft, like thousands of other people. I’ll never know. And I may have been served by the crew who died. And if my wife’s uncle had flown a day earlier, the shock and horror we would have shared much more directly.

There is nothing to learn. There are no new truths. All of our lives are so contingent. Our existences may be snatched from us in an instant. When powers conspire, they do not care about the effects. We are refreshed in the knowledge of the horror, and the veil is drawn away from our eyes for a moment. We carry on, because what else is there to do?

My wife’s sister will join us in a month or so. She says she won’t let the bastards stop her doing what she wants to do. We will worry for her while she travels. At some level, we worry for everyone all the time, because the moment you love, the moment you are connected to another human being, you are open to loss, and by the time you reach my age, you have lost, and know you will lose again. But still, love we must, and lose we must, for otherwise, we are less than human.

Most hits …

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2014 at 6:30 am

Thanks to Jonathan L Howards tweeting for the most hits ever here:

Next covers the books get, I want on the backs: “Warning: Contains High Levels of Smart Arsery”

Happy to be of service, especially when one considers the ways people are usually of service to his character, Herr Cabal. If you haven’t read him yet, start with Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. And if you haven’t listened to Devo, what is wrong with you?

Toil is stupid

A spud’s work is never done.

Speaking of Necromancers, though not Herr Cabal. I had to flee to the upper floor of a branch of the American Book Centre (my spelling, not theirs) in the Netherlands, as the ground floor was being dominated by the extremely loud voice of a dishevelled mother choosing to share every thought fart she might have with the rest of the store. ‘Look at the cover, Bobby, this is not suitable for a 12 year old. Necromancer? What’s a necromancer? “A powerful wizard raising the dead to help him …” That is just not suitable Bobby.’ ‘You said I could have a book, Mom.’ (His spelling, not mine.) ‘This is not suitable, Bobby. No, we will have to go home and google this author on line.’ ‘But Cindy got a book.’ ‘We need to google Bobby. Look at this, it is not suitable for a 12 year old. Its about necromancy.’ And on it went, until they reached the counter, where she said to the assistant, ‘My son wants this book and it is just not suitable for a 12 year old, look at the lurid cover, its about a necromancer.’

‘I would have read that when I was 12, and I would have loved it.’

A pause. Everyone in the store mentally applauded (well, me and my 19 year old at least, I checked with her later).

‘But we’re from the States.’

(As was the book. And a good portion of the other people in the store.)

It can be difficult for all parents. I didn’t object to the lady’s plight, or her desire to research further, it was the noise and the assumption that everyone agreed with her. (And the fact that Bobby was missing out on a promised book, especially when Cindy had hers.  Marcia was asleep in a sling around her mother’s neck. Names have been changed to protect my bad memory.) There were no ‘Young Adult’ books when I was a young person. I can recall many days in the school library, where we would move from John Christopher’s Tripod books straight to a Pan Book of Horror where a slasher was slicing  prostitutes wide with a can opener. Literary works were not of much interest to us, so we went from ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ to thrillers and the latest bestsellers such as ‘The Andromeda Strain’ and ‘Jaws’. I deliberately did not read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ because of the other people who read it at school, and I suspect I would have been the same with Harry Potter if he existed then. The 70s blockbusters I read were definitely not age appropriate, though many of them were childish in so many ways. As a father I empathise with the lady in the store, but the fact is, there is much wider range of age appropriate material, about things kids are actually interested in. And as a 12 year old, I would have gobbled up books about necromancers too, if there were such things then. (My great love was vampires, but I can recall only a handful of books I found worth reading in those days – Dracula, Salems Lot, and I am Legend – and I am still happy to re-read those. As a boy, I would not have approved of sparkly vampires or paranormal romance, and while I would not encourage anyone to read such things, neither would I deny them, they are just not, and never were, things that interest me.)

I am happy when my children read, I am happier when they talk about their reading with me and discuss the things they like and don’t, and I am happiest when they stop reading in order to write, whether stories, songs, fan fiction, poetry, blogs, whatever.

Johannes Cabal, Devotee

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Despite myself, despite (or because of) the smart arsery of the humour, I have enjoyed the three published volumes of the adventures of Johannes Cabal, Necromancer. Each time I have said, ‘Enough’, only to go crawling back for another serving. Noticing the third edition was published in 2011, more than enough time to have allowed the publication of several dozen more volumes (I expect others to write much more quickly than myself), I checked various sources, including the author’s website. Firstly, I discovered the next book is due out later this year, and it will involve war and Johannes’s vampire brother, who does not sparkle in the sunlight, so good all round. Secondly, checking out his spotify mix tape thingy on his site, I discovered that Jonathan L Howard is a great Devo fan. What greater recommendation could there be? Devo songs. Devo covers.  At least one Devo cover cover. I recommend his books (and his mix tape) to you.

Free Aurealis subscriptions

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Aurealis are offering free 6 month subscriptions, which is rather a bargain.

New editions

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2014 at 4:12 am

The latest editions of Aurealis and Three-Lobed Burning Eye are available now, always worth a look…

… recommended for your speculative reading pleasure …

Indeed

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm

(In the first book of ‘The Kills’, Parsons is looking for a suspected fraudster who may have stolen $53 million from one of those evil American companies doing work in Iraq. Scheming himself, he ends up in a bar in a yacht club in Malta, where there is a strange convention of female twins. Two of them begin to sing on stage, and “he thought that this was something of great beauty”.)

“The sentiment woke in him a longing. And where were his friends? A serious question: where was his room of people ready, rowdy, happy for him? Where were these people after all his years of labour, the constant moving, the broken associations, and the endless starts? Parson sang along, the table sang along, the women looking one to the other as if one common thought passed between them.”

Sutler, by Richard House

Ten cents worth of mixed lollies

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2014 at 8:51 pm

I was in Munich on the night of the World Cup final, and the buzz was fantastic. And while everyone has the right to be pleased and proud when their national team wins a big event, I think Germany of all countries should be a little careful with their hyperbole.  Newspaper declarations that Germany is now “Weltmeister”are a little too reminiscent of a time when Germany actually tried to be “Weltmeister”.  I have seen no references to “The Boys From Brazil” in the glorious toasting of Team Deutschland, which is for the best, it may be an allusion too far.

***

My youngest walked in on two teenagers watching “Narnia” the other day.  She watched for a few moments, then declared at the sight of Aslan, “I hope this doesn’t give any children the idea that they can just walk up to lions and pat them and talk to them. They’ll get their heads ripped off”.  C.S. Lewis was extremely irresponsible.

***

Though we all know that all internet rumours are true, apparently the story that Steven Moffat maybe involved in an upcoming Star Wars movie may not be true after all. Who knows?  But if it isn’t, will we be forever denied the Star Wars episode where Luke and Hans meet a giant space whale cruelly enslaved while trying to save English children? (And why should Star Wars fans be denied a horror that Doctor Who watchers had to endure?) They could do a cross-over with Star Trek IV, and someone could explain to me how whale song travels into space …

***

Walked through a wooded park in Augsburg this evening with two of my children. The sun had set, and we were enjoying the effects of the European twilight – with light behind us we could walk towards our last sighting of the sun as though walking into darkness; and then we could emerge from the gloom of the trees to a clearing filled with beautiful evening liquid light. Sitting very, very still on a bench hidden amongst trees, a woman whose features we could not make out.  Not very far in the distance, a pack of wolves howled, though of course it must have been dogs.  We stared at each other until I broke our silence with “bullshit”. Suddenly, I understood the Gothic.

***

Reading:  The Kills, by Richard House.  Watching: True Detectives. Humming: Das Model, by Kraftwerk.

Advice on the writing life from a holiday camp tenor

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2014 at 7:26 pm

” ‘We are all in hell,’ he said cheerfully, ‘we just don’t know what level. What a joy, to have a person of culture in a place such as this.’ … He asked me what I would do with my studies and with my life. I did have one half-formed and slightly ridiculous ambition, one that I tended to keep very quiet about but for some reason I blurted it out. ‘I’d like to be a writer.’

“He widened his eyes at me and then tilted back his head. Then he stroked his chin judiciously and leaned forward close enough for me to smell his coconut-scented hair-oil. ‘Then I advise you. If you go into this kind of life, you need a strong a-heart. And a strong liver. In some ways it is like show business. You need a strong liver because some days you only eat bread. And find a good woman. This is terribly important. Not one of these silly girls who likes shiny necklaces and bangles and such things. No.’ He summarised this advice for me. ‘Good heart; good liver; good woman.’ ”

‘The Year of the Ladybird’ by Graham Joyce

And if you haven’t read Graham Joyce, may I suggest that you do? I have in the last few years enjoyed tremendously ‘Memoirs of a Master Forger’ and ‘Some Kind of Fairy Tale’, as well as ‘The Tooth Fairy’.