David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘Ken MacLeod’

Philip K and other stuff

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Sitting in the cinema with my mate Stephen back in another lifetime, as the opening credits for Total Recall unfurled. The year before, I had had a job which involved some proof reading of a corporate newsletter. We were told not to bother with certain parts, as they had been there for years. One of the new guys disregarded his instruction, and found an error that had been sent out to clients for years. (I laughed a lot, and learned a lesson.) You reach a point where mistakes just hit you in the eye. And there it was. Our favourite writer’s name misspelled in the credits as Phillip K Dick.

The world didn’t end. I knew I was right though, because back in primary school, we received a booklet every year that was supposed to be an educational resource but was mainly industrial puff pieces for major corporations operating in Australia. Philip Electronics made a big deal that their name was spelled with only one ‘l’ – just like electron. And for some reason, whenever I meet a Phil(l)ip, that sticks with me. I knew PKD was like the electron.

Anyway, nearly 30 years on, watched the start of Total Recall again earlier today, and waited for it, and there it was, PKDs name still misspelled. And still, the sky did not fall. And why do I remember this stuff?


Some science fiction people I sometimes read – Charles Stross and Ken Macleod – wrote / spoke recently and separately about how they don’t read / haven’t read much science fiction from the past (respectively one and two) decades. No judgement here – I gave up on speculative fiction entirely at one stage, and at another realised that all I was reading was non-fiction. Sick of tropes, sick of same-same, sick of same but different. I understand / sympathise / empathise completely. I never required that Len Deighton read non – Len Deightons.

It made me think, though, as a person who is not a member in any sense of any speculative fictional community – no conventions, fandoms, gatherings, groups, first name bases, whateverseses: could something similar be said about most genre writers, or at least, established genre writers? So when people are on panels together, are they largely speaking past each other, without engagement, or perhaps at best, only momentary engagement?

Does it matter? I suppose my mind comes back to it a bit because (again as an outsider), I always thought that somewhere else out in the world there were all these sf writers reading and commenting on and fighting about each others work (reinforced most recently by reading “The Night Ocean” by Paul La Farge). I may have just assumed that all sf writers were Brian Aldiss, with many thoughts about such things. But these were childish, unexamined thoughts, perhaps.

Maybe Margaret Thatcher was right (did I really just write that?) – there is no such thing as society, or at least, speculative fiction society. Say it isn’t so! šŸ™‚


On the recommendation of a trusted reading friend, I have the first three Bernie Gunther novels of Philip (spelt correctly!) Kerr sitting on my bookshelf. I will read them. Seeing Kerr’s obituary the other day, I felt a little guilty. Honest, one day, I will. They sound right up my alley – noir, Berlin, WW2 and after, etc. What’s stopping you?, asked my friend. I admitted it: I did read one book he wrote, and I read it to the end, and it was one of the worst books I have ever read. My friend looked at me like there was something wrong. I wanted to like it, I added quickly. The subject matter was interesting. You know I like horror, and my interest in religion, and I race through a good thriller. Hang on, he says, what was it called? “Prayer” I said. His face changed. Oh yeah, that! He almost spat. I had blocked it out. That one’s fucked. But the others are good.

So I shall read the others


Reading …

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I once had many blogs, and one that I really wanted to do concentrated on my best and worst reading experiences. I think I managed 3 entries. The final post dealt with the first volume of a steam punk alternative universe trilogy, which I did not like, especially the way it dealt with the grandfather paradox, as though no one had thought of it before, and I expressed myself very clearly. I then found out that the writer read it, and I was mortified. I discovered (no, learned anew) that I am a moral coward, and I felt bad that I may have hurt his feelings. I agree that shows I have no place being alive, or that I need to develop a thicker skin before reviewing any more books.

However, why should that stop me mentioning some fun things I have read? I confess, the tag line used on Ken MacLeod’s ‘The Execution Channel’ dragged me in some years ago: “The war on terror is over. Terror won”. I am always up for a bit of near future dystopian nastiness, and I have some fondness for MacLeod’s red rag (or red flag) waving. The best part for me was the “Oh bullshit!” moment I had at page 358 of the Orbit edition – woo hoo, I didn’t see it coming. I won’t spoil anything, just let me know when you get to that page. Now, that was some time back. I started his ‘Intrusion’, but it was packed away with most of my other books when I went into exile. All this is just to lead into thatĀ I picked up ‘The Restoration Game’ cheaply at a local book store, and again enjoyed the red whatever waving and the machinations involved in post Soviet regimes. Best of all was the anomaly that appears on page 276. Again, let me know when you get to that page, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything (did I mention that I am the world’s worst book reviewer? I mean, if I was any good, I wouldn’t be talking about books from 2010).

The 2014 edition of Michael Kelly’s ‘Shadows and Tall Trees’ was delivered by The Book Depository official (aka The Postman) this week, a lovely looking and feeling paperback anthology. Not being a proper reviewer, I do not have to wait until I finish it to say nothing very much at all. For a change I thought I would read the stories in the order in which they are presented, I must be growing more conservative in my old age. I was tricked by the title of Eric Shaller’s ‘To Assume the Writer’s Crown: Notes on the Craft’ for a moment or two, into thinking I was reading an essay. It is a sly thing with a punch which brought an uneasy smile to my face at its cleverness and nastiness. Just started (and enjoying) the second piece, ‘Onanon’ by Michael Wehunt, notwithstanding that it is a story about a writer, which always worries me a little.

InĀ a similar vein to this anthology, I note that Faber is releasing new paperback editions of Robert Aickman’s stories, at a more reasonable price than has been available until now, and I enjoyed the 50 year old collection ‘Dark Entries’ recently.

Waiting patiently for me are ‘The Year of the Ladybird’ by Graham Joyce, ‘The Adjacent’ by Christopher Priest, and ‘The Ninth Configuration’ by William Peter Blatty, enough to keep me going for a while.

There, you really needed to know all of that, didn’t you?

(If you want to read something good, then read ‘Feral’ by George Monbiot. I really enjoyed it. It moved me. It fascinated me. How is that for a review, folks?)

And just to prove I never waste my time nor my money …

Toil is stupid

A spud’s work is never done.