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11 October 2011

I was casually watching a fairly long ad while waiting for the real promgramme that I was taping and saw something that interested me, so I went back to check the ad later and realized what that was. In the before and after pictures, there looks to me to be no real difference at all between the people depicted – apart from one thing. In the after shots, they’re smiling widely and the lighting appears to be better. So that’s the trick to self-improvement? Smile widely and make sure you’re in the light.

6 October 2011

I trotted out to the mailbox this afternoon (carefully avoiding the gander) and found that a small solid envelope had arrived containing HALLOWEEN HELL-O-WEEN, Whortleberry Press’s new halloween anthology that contains my story, Neither Bricks Nor Stone. I was pleased to see that, Jean the editor usually has a good selection of tales and even though I don’t like a lot of horror stories, previous Halloween anthologies have still had work in them that I enjoyed. In this case, Music Hall, Music hell by Sherry Chancellor, and A.D. Spencer’s The Gourd, in particular. Nice presentation too. You can obtain copies from Whortleberry Press, or via the Bookstars website.

Keith(John Kingston)Roberts was born 20th September 1935 and died October 5th 2000. His first work appeared as short stories in Science Fantasy magazine in 1964. He is known mainly for two novels, The Furies, (1966) and Pavane (1968), although he continued to write into the late 1980s. Roberts also worked as an illustrator and his work includes covers and inside illustrations for New Worlds and Science Fantasy (a.k.a. Impulse.)
Keith Roberts was a talented and able writer but he was also a difficult personality and his disputes with just about everyone in the field were well known during the period of his work. He died of complications from the multiple sclerosis that he’d been battling for the last ten years of his life and I am happy to note that his earlier work is being republished by Wildside Press and others.
Roberts liked the ‘disaster’ field of novels, his first book, The Furies, deals with strange beings like giant wasps that invade England. But in a very minor key it also showed Robert’s disinclination to produce work on a specific theme without deviation. At the time a number of authors were writing fairly straight ‘post-holocaust’ books. The Furies was a post-holocaust’ of a sort, certainly there was a self-caused holocaust involved, but it was compounded by the Furies appearance, and it’s clear from the book’s opening and closing paragraphs that they were originally a form of non-material extraterrestrial although he also seems to be suggesting that they coalesced from a combination of ‘the keepers’ wishes, and our own fears.
His second novel, Pavane, the one for which he is most praised, is actually a series of interlinked stories which a number of reviewers do not appear to have quite understood. In fact an almost throwaway paragraph in the book makes it clear that this is actually a history of our world tens of thousands of years after our current civilization collapsed. It could, I suppose, be described as an alternate history, in that this civilization has castles, similar names, and the Catholic Church. But, to my mind, Robert’s reference to the previous civilization that is clearly intended to be ours in the current era, negates this. But the work is brilliant, and if you only read one of Robert’s works, read this one.
Many of his books are available at reasonable prices as secondhand copies on Amazon and other secondhand book sites.

Partial bibliography
The Furies (1966)
Pavane (1968)
Anita (1970) – linked short fiction
The Inner Wheel (1970)
The Boat of Fate (1971) – a historical novel set in Britain at the end of the Roman Empire’s power.
The Chalk Giants (1974) – arguably also a collection of linked
short stories
Molly Zero (1980)
Kiteworld (1985) – originally published as linked short stories
Kaeti & Company (1986) – linked short fiction
Gráinne (1987) – BSFA award winner, 1987
The Road to Paradise (1988) – a thriller, without fantastic elements
Kaeti On Tour (1992) – linked short fiction

Machines and Men (1973)
The Grain Kings (1976)
The Passing of the Dragons (1977)
Ladies from Hell (1979)
The Lordly Ones (1986)
A Heron Caught in Weeds (1987)
Winterwood and Other Hauntings (1989)

That gander has escalated his determination to make certain no one sets foot on the lawn that he doesn’t know about. I took mail out yesterday and glanced around. No sign of that big white feathered form anywhere. That was odd. I stopped and took a very careful look about – being cautious is better than being bitten unexpectedly in the pants from ambush. Then I spied him. Several years ago when I had an extra area added to the house, the people who did that had earth left over after digging the foundations. I had them heap it under the trees by the side boundary fence and they put it all in one heap like a small hill. Stroppy the gander was now perched on top of that, and it needed only a cavalry hat and a rifle to make him look like an Indian Scout. I hadn’t seen him at first because the dead tree behind him is also whitish and he was nicely camouflaged. Since then any time I’ve been outside there he is. But it goes to show he isn’t quite as dim as I’d thought. From that vantage point he can see all three of his nesting wives without having to run about checking on them, and he has a clear view of the front gate as well. Visitors beware.

1 October 2011

I wandered up the lawn to meet the mailcar on Saturday to find a smallish box was being handed over. It turned out to be the copies of Spirit legends:Of Ghosts and Gods, a Runewright anthology in which I had a story, (Hounded.) This is the first of their anthologies to which I’ve sold work and I was very happy to see that it’s of excellent quality. No typos that I noticed, good cover art, fine presentation, and – now I’ve read it – I can say I didn’t think that there was a dud story in the bunch. I liked some more than others: Salting Dogwood, Shadow of a Black Cat, The Saga of Anna Belgermaine, Shadows Lost, and Voices on the Wind, and some that I didn’t like so much. But all were well-written. A nice job, and if anyone wants to buy copies, it’s available from Runewright, Amazon USA or UK, Barnes and Noble, and other venues. It can be purchased as print or e-volume.

If I’d not noticed that before, I noticed it this week. One of the hens (Fawn Girl) is sitting on six eggs in the hay barn, all three girl geese are sitting (in three different places) on the front lawn – and the gander has gone completely crazy over his impending fatherhood… The raspberries have produced a million green shoots and leaves, and despite them having been pruned well back over winter, I’d say I could get a good crop in summer anyway. And the grass has caught up with all this and in the nearest paddock has rocketed up to ankle height in a week.
All of that (bar the gander) is excellent, I could use more hens, raspberries, and grass. What I could do without is a mad gander that currently chases my electric scooter all the way across the lawn any time I’m going to the shops, attacks the rural delivery mailcar any time it delivers hen food, and patrols the lawn like a crazed customs officer suspecting everyone of being a smuggler. Actually what Stroppy suspects is that they’re a kidnapper – after his wives, eggs, or – in due time and if the eggs hatch – his goslings. In quieter seasons friends have asked why I refer to the gaggle as ‘my watchgeese’? Right now Stroppy is demonstrating why – with all the enthusiasm of Homeland Security on the lookout for terrorists. And I wonder if they’d like a gander? That bird could make even terrorists think twice…

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