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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

What I’m Reading!

 I’ve been downloading and bingeing recently. In the old days I had to wait until I could get to a bookshop, but now that you can just pay and download, why wait? The only problem is, getting through them. 

So, here are some books I have bought recently on either Apple Books or Kindle, and am still reading.

Today’s download was Eating With The Tudors by Brigitte Webster. It’s a cookbook with history. You get the originals but also adapted recipes because in those days recipe books were aimed at professionals who knew what they meant and didn’t need details.

I’ve actually read Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man. I assumed I had it in ebook, till I was telling a friend about it and realised I didn’t. I had to buy it , of course. I loved it! It’s basically a police procedural murder mystery set in a world where cops are telepaths, so murder shouldn’t be possible to get away with, but it happens anyway. Very clever, and provided the inspiration for a theme in Babylon 5, where they cheekily call the villainous head of the Psi Corps Alfred Bester. 

I got a free audiobook of Treasure Island, published by Apple Books. I’m listening to that now.

There are some mentioned on Twitter, usually by the author, and I couldn’t resist. 

The only print book in the lot is The Impudent Edda by Rowdy Geirsson. It arrived yesterday from Amazon. It is, as the title suggests, a reworked version of the Norse myths, written humorously by someone who really knows them well. I’ve just started. I couldn’t get it in ebook. The print book does seem to be available everywhere on line, though.

The same guy was reading a book called Seven Viking Romances, which he mentioned on social media and, of course, I had to buy it. I haven’t started it yet, but it looks good.

There has been a lot of discussion of the Princes in the Tower on Twitter recently, due to a documentary on the subject on the BBC. I haven’t seen it, as it has only been shown in the UK and the US so far, but there was so much discussion I just slipped out and bought The Survival Of The Princes In The Tower, the book by Matthew Lewis, whose work I first discovered in a discount bookshop, Book Grocer. He is big in the Richard III Society. Again - just starting it. 

I haven’t yet bought Philippa Langley’s book on the subject, though that was getting a lot of discussion on Twitter too. I thought she did a great job finding Richard III and I have her book about that and the film based on it, which has become one of my comfort viewing films, but I think I’ll wait till I have read some others first.

Just for the heck of it, I went to Project Gutenberg and downloaded some works by  Poul Anderson and Fritz Leiber, two of the classic spec fic writers whose stuff I love. I do have some of their later books in ebook and print, but their earlier short pieces are available on Gutenberg, so why not? 

There is a lot more, but I’ll finish here with one last book. I was in the mood to reread some Connie Willis books, so I  bought Passage, a novel about “near death experiences” in which the heroine, a scientist working on this, finds herself on the Titanic! I do have the print book somewhere…

Do you have a large TBR pile? Especially in ebook? 

Thursday, November 09, 2023

A Trip To Sydney!

First issue of the School Magazine.

So, I just got home from Sydney. I’ve been many times before, for SF cons, twice to children’s writers conferences and to visit friends. This time I went because I was invited to lunch by the NSW School Magazine, along with other contributors.The School Magazine has been around for over a century - 108 years next February - and I missed the centenary celebration when it was held several years ago, so I thought this time I’m going! And I did.

It has suddenly occurred to me that I’ve been writing for them for around thirty years! It all began when children’s writer Geoffrey McSkimming visited Melbourne for a library conference. Geoffrey used to write a hilarious series of children’s books about a character called Cairo Jim, who was a sort of Indiana Jones for children. Jim lived in Egypt in a village called Gurneh, after a real place where the villagers made a cosy living tomb robbing, and worked in the Valley of the Hairdressers. 

Anyway, while Geoffrey was at the conference, which I attended, he mentioned this magazine he worked for, and said it was a good market because they published four magazines for different age groups and each was four a year. And you don’t have to write for a specific one, they slot your work into whatever age group they think it fits. I started submitting and here I am, all these years later, still writing and submitting - my most recent article was published in September, edited by Geoffrey McSkimming. 

I’ve done a lot of articles about the space program - that one was about the Artemis project, which is going back to the moon, then on to Mars - but also about quirky bits of history and archaeology. A couple of times they invited me to submit items about specific subjects - once about Yuri Gargarin, another time about forensics. 

The thing is, at the time, the head honcho was a delightful guy called Jonathan Shaw, who eventually retired. Both in his time and for some time after, I could write to ask if they might be interested in a particular topic. If they said yes, I had a good chance of selling it. It’s a lot of research to do even a 1500 word piece and I’d hate to do all that only for them to say, sorry, we’ve just published something about that. 

Things changed over the years. For a while they were doing themed issues, which was a disaster for me. I’d written an article on a topic they had said interested them only to be told they needed to find an issue it would fit. Thankfully that system stopped soon and the article was published after all. 

These days you submit via the website, so I resubmitted it and they bought it. But at the time I thought there was no one I could email with an inquiry any more. And I found out on Monday, at the event, that you can, after all, still inquire and be answered. That made me very happy. I’m now researching a topic I think children will like, fingers crossed the good folk at the School Magazine will agree! 

It was an enjoyable afternoon. Lunch was really just sandwiches and sushi, with tea and coffee and cake on the side, but we had a fascinating talk about the history of the magazine. Afterwards, I picked up a copy of one of their best-of anthologies, along with a print of the very first edition. 

I met some folk I’d only known through correspondence, and the lady who pays us! There were the artists, who get a monthly “brief” and do the illustrations.

One of those was Queenie Chan, best known as a comic book/graphic novel artist, whom I met at a convention in Melbourne some years ago, and who told me she had illustrated some of my articles! Who knew when we first met that she would be illustrating my work one day? 

I was even more thrilled when I had a chat with Geoffrey, who said to me, “Keep them coming! I really like your work.”

A very nice ending to my visit to the offices of the School Magazine.

It was held in Paramatta, a bit of a way out of town, and I got lost on the way there! 

I saw my first jacaranda trees in bloom that day, something that has been compared to cherry blossom in Japan. 

Tuesday morning I met some fannish friends I have known forever and we took a trip to Manly by ferry, sailing past the Sydney Opera House. We caught up over lunch in the sunshine, fish and chips and lemonade, and watched people dressed for the Melbourne Cup walk past for some event of their own, then we walked on the beach with my friend Susan’s tiny rescue chihuahua, Pocket, whom she had brought along for a treat. Pocket was a breeder dog who was given away when she could no longer have puppies, so not a young girl, but a fine pet. 

In the evening I met my brother’s best friend, Michael, who enjoys talking about his family history and loves researching them. He really does a lot of research, and found relatives he hadn’t known he had, as well as finding, in the National Library’s newspaper archive, Trove, old articles about a relative who had been arrested and imprisoned for fraud! I also learned, after all this time, that he is a fellow Trek fan. We went for dinner at a favourite restaurant of his, with Israeli food. 

I woke up early yesterday morning to find the Internet was down, as was my phone. It wasn’t until I logged into the hotel’s wifi that I read the news that one of our major ISPs, Optus, had crashed all over Australia! If you live here, you’ll know about it. Really a disaster, with hospitals losing their connections, prop,e unable to call 000 for emergencies and trains in Melbourne getting backed up. My brother, who takes a train to work, got his wife to drop him off on the local tram line. I had to go home, so I used whatever wifi was available wherever I went; by the time I reached Melbourne airport, the crash was fixed. 

Still - much as I adore technology, it did show how much we rely on it. 

What do you think? Are we relying too much on our IT? Is it worth it? 

I think it is, but still…